The Rise of Islam and the Arabic Language
Islam has played a very important role in the role of Arabic today. As the official language of Islam, Arabic has grown with the religion since its commencement. The rise of Islam began after the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632. However, some scholars argue that the initial date should be considered 630, with the Conquest of Mecca. The years after 632 brought a rapid expansion of the Muslim Arab Empire, with the Muslim Conquest ending in 732. However, expansion and control over certain territories continued. Some would even argue that the growth of Islam continues to today, through commerce and global expansion. The consequences of this vast expansion resulted in the mass conversion of Arabs to Islam as well as the conquering of vast amounts of territory. In fact, during its pinnacle the Empire stretched from Spain, to central Asia.
What is considered the first phase of Islamic expansion, occurred under Muhammad and consisted of the entire Arabian Peninsula. Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet was a city renowned for the Kacba. This was a shrine where people from numerous tribes would store their religious statues. For this reason, Mecca was seen as one of the religious capitals on the Arabian Peninsula. The religion at the time was largely pagan and after Mohammad had his revelations from god, or Allah, he initially had a hard time converting the people to the new religion. Pilgrimage to the city to worship the pagan deities was a major source of income for Mecca. Mohammad’s monotheistic claims angered the leaders and he was even threatened with death.
Perhaps the first major movement in the expansion of Islam came when Mohammad took his pilgrimage to Medina in 622, in order to flee from his enemies in Mecca. He was invited to Medina to mediate between the Jewish and Christian inhabitants. He eventually was able to gain many more followers through his actions in the city and was even responsible for exiling many Christians and Jews who refused to convert. Mohammad gained a position of power in the city and was then able to return to Mecca with an army to capture what would become one of the holiest cities in Islam.
After the conquest of Mecca, Mohammad removed all of the pagan idols from the Kacba, and rededicated it to Allah. He also established the Pillars of Faith. When he died in 632, he was succeeded by religious and state leaders known as caliphs. The first four of these are known as the Rashidun, or the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and they expanded Islam from about 632 to 655. Under these leaders, the empire expanded outside of the Arabian Peninsula to cover parts of North Africa, and the modern-day countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria and parts of Turkey. These territories were captured from the Sassanid Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The Muslim Conquest entirely defeated the Sassanids, while their capture of territory greatly diminished the Byzantines.
The second phase of leaders in the Arab Empire was the Umayyad Dynasty caliphs, from 661 to 750. Under this period, the Empire expanded further to include the entirety of North Africa and Spain, as well as modern-day Pakistan, Afghanistan. Although the caliphate had conquered massive amounts of land, the fifth largest contiguous empire to ever exist, the people within the Empire were mostly non-Muslim. This changed under the next Dynasty, the Abbasids.
The Abbasid Caliphate controlled the Arab Empire from 750 until 1258. The Abbasids were formed form descendants of Mohammad’s uncle. During these two centuries, the Muslim population increased. At the end of the Umayyad Caliphate, the Muslim population outside of the Arabian Peninsula was less than 10%. However, under the Abbasids, large groups of people began to convert to the religion. Another development under the Abbasids was the proliferation of the sciences of theology, law and philosophy, among other areas. This time is also known as the Golden Age of Islam. The development of Arabic as a world language today is due to both the rapid expansion of Islam and the Arab Empire, as well as to the resulting Golden Age of Islam.