The Growth and Spread of Islam
With over 1.5 billion followers in over 232 countries, Islam has grown to be one of the world’s largest religions. Many Muslims live in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The growth and spread of Islam began when the Prophet Muhammad began sharing his divine revelations and spreading messages he received from Allah (god). He and his followers were persecuted and had to flee to the neighboring city of Medina in 622. There he and his followers were welcomed and the faith grew. After much conflict they were able to return to Mecca in the year 630 and it became the center of Islam. After Muhammad’s death in 632, the teachings of Islam spread rapidly to many people and places in the Middle East.
The period following Muhammad’s death is known as the Rashidun Caliphate that lasted from 610-750. During this empire a Muslim administration and government was established and ruled the Middle East. The Caliphate was governed by The Righteous Caliphs, or spiritual leaders. By 644, these four leaders helped Islam spread and grow far and beyond the Middle East through conquests of major cities like Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. North and Western parts of Africa were also conquered effectively taking control over much of the Byzantine and Persian territory. The third Caliph Uthman created a version of the Quran that became standardized and widely used throughout the Islamic world in newly established schools that taught the Arabic language and Islamic studies. This was also a period in which hundreds of mosques were built throughout the empire.
After the death of the last caliph in 661, the Umayyad Caliphate took control of the empire and ruled until 750. Historians regard this caliphate as the most powerful and expansive of the caliphs. The Umayyad Caliphate grew the Islamic Empire to its peak and expanded its control from the Middle East to parts of Asia, India, Northern Africa and parts of Europe. The growth of Islam in these areas helped unite nomadic people into a more unified culture by creating common currency, making Arabic the official language, and standardizing measurements. This led to a “Golden Age” during the Abbasid Dynasty which came to power by overthrowing the Umayyad in 750. During this period science, math, astronomy, medicine and literature flourished. Libraries and schools were built and arts and architecture thrived. This period lasted to 1258.