The History of the Middle East

Start Free Trial

How did Islam spread all over the world?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Trade and conversion played major factors in the spread of Islam. Islamic traders controlled valuable roads to Asia. Arabic traders spread their influence into North Africa as well. Though the Arabic world was not as unified as the Roman empire, its influence could be felt from the Indian Ocean to West Africa. In many places, such as Palestine, many were encouraged to convert to Islam or else pay an additional tax.

Islam also unified a large portion of the ancient world. Arabic replaced languages such as Aramaic and Greek. Arab coins soon became a popular currency all over the ancient world thanks to the availability of gold. Arabic advances in medicine and other sciences would eventually lead to the spread of the Renaissance in Europe after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

One final reason for the spread of Islam was the overall fragmented nature of the fallen Roman Empire in the fifth century. Islam was able to take back North Africa due to the weakness of Christendom to defend it. It took serious efforts from monarchs such as Charles Martel of France to keep Islam out of Western Europe, though North Africans converted much of Spain during the Middle Ages. While Christianity made inroads into Islamic territory during the Crusades with Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land, these were relatively short-lived. Through controlling trade and overall prosperity, the Arabic world was able to surpass the Christian world throughout the Middle East and even into southeastern Europe.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Islam spread in many ways throughout the world. Following the Prophet Muhammad's death, the growing Arab Empire conquered vast swathes of Asia and the Middle East, using various methods to encourage or enforce Islam. Some regions were allowed to practice free religion but slowly saw a transition to Islam by the simple virtue of following Muslim leaders and customs for so long. Other regions were threatened with punishment, up to death, if they refused to convert—though this was more rare and radical. In other areas, simple acts of mission and proselytizing converted many people to Islam, just like any other modern religion.

Perhaps one of the biggest and most lasting ways it spread was through trade and mercantilism. Because the Arab empire had many resources, as well as skilled scientists and mathematicians, they were able to trade extremely successfully. Through their trades, Islam was preached far and wide, and people converted because of their awe at the impact of the people of that religion.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a number of reasons why Islam spread around the world, and this spread began even before the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Islam spread quickly because of the appeal that this set of beliefs offered, as an alternative to Polytheism. The first Islamic communities, or caliphates, were established soon after the death of the Prophet, and due to the success of their military operations, both on land and at sea, these caliphates grew quickly.

While Jews and the early Christians treated Islam with suspicion and derision, the Islamic way of life, and the prosperity that came with it, was greatly appealing to the nomadic people of North Africa.

By the time 100 years had passed since the death of the Prophet, the message of Islam had spread, by means of battle, across large parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After Prophet Muhammad’s death (pbuh), followers of Islam were organized into caliphates and the spread of the religion was majorly through propagation, missionary activities and trade. The Arab world saw the emergence of powerful empires that conquered vast territories in Asia, Middle East, parts of Europe and Africa. The conquered people were mostly allowed to practice their religion, but they were required to pay a special tax to the conquering administration. Over a period of time, the conquered people gradually converted to Islam. Reasons for conversion may have been due to restrictions imposed on non-Muslims by the administration. In the Far East, Islam was spread through trade. The people interacted with the Muslim traders and were attracted to their conduct. The situation led to increasing conversion among the native population. In addition, migration of the Turks to Anatolia and Balkans saw the spread of Islam in those areas.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial