Why were the Arabs able to conquer such a vast territory so quickly? What role did Islam play in the Arab conquests? How did the Arab conquests change Islam? Armstrong, K. (2002). Islam: A Short...

Why were the Arabs able to conquer such a vast territory so quickly? What role did Islam play in the Arab conquests? How did the Arab conquests change Islam?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Arabs were able to conquer a vast territory because, as Karen Armstrong writes, "the Arabs had been through a profound experience" (page 20). Following conversion to Islam, they had, for the first time, experienced what it was like to live in a community without constant fighting. They therefore were unlikely to rebel against Abu Bakr, who succeeded Mohammed. Islam played a major role in unifying the Arabs, and, once unified, they were in powerful position to conquer new territories. Before Islam, Arabs were used to going on raids against each other, but Islam prohibited these raids, called ghazu (one who went on the raids was a ghazi) against other Muslims. Therefore, Arabs were more motivated to go on raids against non-Muslim territories. In addition, according to Armstrong, Muslims were wary of following a king but would follow a military leader, so military conquests helped the caliphs maintain power and unity. However, as Armstrong points out, these wars were not religious in nature at first but were intended to maintain political unity among Arabs. 

After winning a series of victories in a relatively short time against the Persian and Byzantine empires, Arabs' faith in Islam was reaffirmed and became stronger. As Armstrong writes about the victories, they "endorsed the message of the Quran, which had asserted that a correctly guided society must prosper because it was in tune with God's laws" (page 29). Therefore, military victories increased Arabs' belief in the Quran.