How and why did the rise and spread of Islam affect shifts in world trade and power during the first millennium following the death of Mohammed? Think in terms of the Byzantine Empire and Christian Europe. Provide examples.

The rise of Islam after Mohammed’s death in 632 CE altered world trade and power in the form of military conquests, trade, and religious conversions. Arab Muslim armies conquered Byzantine territories throughout North Africa, weakening Byzantine political influence, and Muslim merchants in the Indian Ocean spread peaceful new trading rules that helped them connect with and convert people from around the world.

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Muslim warriors were highly motivated because they believed they had a duty to convert others to their faith. The importance of this religious zeal for Muslim expansion cannot be overestimated. Alexander the Great's men, on the other hand, mutinied because they wished to return to Greece. Although Alexander was a phenomenal leader, he was not a god.

History has seen other military conquerors achieve rapid success, but their successes were often ephemeral. Alexander's empire did not survive him. Adolph Hitler's Third Reich and Napoleon's empire lasted less than fifteen years. But Islam was a potent and expansive force for many centuries. There were times when it seemed that Islam would overwhelm all of Christian Europe.

Islam's territorial growth was not just a result of military prowess. Jews and Christians living under Muslim rulers were allowed religious freedom. Also, the taxes they levied were usually not too onerous. The political entities that came from Islam (Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottoman, etc.) were formidable. Extensive and thriving trade networks linked remote territories.

There were few obstacles to Islam's spread for its first few centuries. The Byzantines were unable to contain the threat, and Constantinople nearly fell on several occasions. (Constantinople finally fell in 1453.) The Persians and Egyptians collapsed entirely, and both peoples converted to Islam.

Christian Europe belatedly met the Muslim threat with the Crusades and the Age of Exploration. The Crusades temporarily seized the Holy Land from Islam, while the Age of Exploration was motivated, at least in part, by the European desire to secure its own trade routes to Asia—without relying on Muslim middlemen.

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How and why did the rise and spread of Islam affect shifts in world trade and power during the first millennium following the death of Mohammed? Think in terms of the Byzantine Empire and Christian Europe, etc. Provide examples. Pay particular attention to the Muslim Conquest of Spain as well as the spread of Islam across south Asia.

After the death of Muhammad, his father-in-law, Abu-Bakr, became caliph of the multitudinous Arabic tribes, subordinated them to the authority of Islam, and spread the influence of Islam northwards, beyond the borders of Arabia into direct contact with the Byzantine and Persian empires. From roughly 636 C.E., Arab victories over foreign armies were almost continuous, and succeeding caliphs were able to secure more territory for the expanding Islamic empire. By the 650’s, Islamic forces had turned westward, and began sweeping over north Africa. They conquered Egypt in 646, and from 661 to 750, the height of the Umayyad dynasty, extended further west all the way to current-day Morocco and all the way up the Spanish mainland until the Pyrenees Mountains.

The Umayyad capital was centered on Damascus, and the economic and military connections made by decades of expansion contributed to the enrichment of this city and the broader empire. The Umayyads were a highly urbanized society, and built longstanding infrastructure in Egypt, Syria, and Persia. Conversion to Islam actually guaranteed an individual access to the markets and trade connections facilitated by this new infrastructure, and thus the Umayyad dynasty was able to encourage many foreigners to its ranks.

Furthermore, Islamic expansion into parts of South Asia brought them into prolonged contact with Chinese traders. This introduced, among many other commodities, the technology of paper to the Arabs. Paper was cheaper than either Egyptian papyrus or European parchment,...

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and allowed an intellectual revolution to occur in the Islamic world. Bureaucratic record keeping, high literacy rates, the authoring of many books, philosophic and theological investigation, and even the cursive Arabic script all proliferated because of the opportunities brought by the introduction of paper.

After the Shi’ite-Sunni Schism, many older European empires could use the Umayyad-Abbasid rivalry to strengthen their own imperial position, as early Umayyad expansion had crippled their position internationally. The Byzantine Empire, for example, allied with the Abbasid caliphate. The Abbasids succeeded in surpassing the Umayyads in the 8th century, relieving military pressure at its southeastern borders. The Frankish king Charlemagne engaged in long-term trade with the Abbasids. In exchange for Abbasid silver, which flowed through Russia, into the Baltic and then down into the Frankish Rhineland, the Franks provided furs, wax, honey, leather, and slaves. In the long-term, the emergence of the Islamic empire provided new points of contact on the north African coast and a new potential trade partner for Europe and Asia’s older empires.

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How and why did the rise and spread of Islam alter world trade and power during the first millennium following the death of Mohammed?

Islam spread rapidly in the millennium following Mohammed’s death in 632 CE, reaching parts of what is today Western Europe by just 750 CE. Mohammed’s rule was initially followed by four successors who came to be known as the “Rashidun” or the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” These leaders began the spread Islam as it happened in three primary ways: military conquests, trade, and religious missionaries.

Islamic expansion throughout North Africa and the Middle East, in places such as Egypt and Persia, was primarily carried out through Arab Muslim armies. Arab nomads violently conquered many territories that used to be under Byzantine control. Many of the Arabs fighting to conquer Byzantine territories were successful because they had previously served in Byzantine armies and could anticipate their opponents’ strategies. This period was thus one of intense turmoil for the Byzantines. Their land was being conquered and damaged, their population was shrinking from attacks and conversions, and the armies' travels led to the spread of diseases. Overall, as the Islamic empire expanded and flourished, the Byzantines lost a great deal of power.

In the region of the Indian Ocean, Islam spread mostly through trade, as this area was already a popular international trading hub. Muslim merchants brought a new style to the trading world because they had their own set of strict yet peaceful rules. Their approach to trade ensured fair and nonviolent exchanges that other merchants from around the world favored. This motivated many non-Muslims to convert to Islam, because it was easier to communicate and trade with people who practiced the same religion.

Before Islamic expansion the Byzantines had been profiting off these Indian Ocean trade routes. The success the Muslim merchants and missionaries had in this region thus led to more economic problems for the Byzantines.

After the Rashidun Caliphs, Islamic power became dynastic. The following Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates centralized the power of the expanding empire, giving it more structured political influence throughout the world.

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