What was the political, social and religious background to the emergence of Muhammad and the rise of Islam? (NB: No bibliography)

Essay by vp245University, Bachelor'sB-, October 2006

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The rise of Islam can be recognised as one of the most critical events in world history. The way in which the area now termed as the Middle East was overwhelmed by the nascent religion of Islam can be understood as a historical phenomena only through understanding the circumstances of the time - as conducive to the assimilation of a new religion, to military conquest and overthrow and to a new social order. As well as the response of the region to the rise of Islam, the nature of the movement itself in the form of Muhammad's ideas and actions requires an insight into the political, social and religious currents at work on the eve of Islam.

The situation of the Near East may have been for centuries dominated by the two great empires of Byzantium and Sassania but the 'Cradle of Islam' itself, though hitherto historically insignificant, is the key to comprehending the emergence of Muhammad and his tradition.

The society of Arabia was a reflection on its geography - mostly arid and unforgiving, the desert fostered a resilient, resourceful nomadic people conscious of the precariousness of their existence and bound to the tribe to which they were born. Without his tribe, an Arab had no protection, assistance or guarantee - bloodline was the one enduring thing in Arab society and mentality. The ascendancy of tribal values abated with expediency when the transition was made from nomadic society to settled one. In the greater part of Arabia this was only made possible as far as concerned Byzantine trade. Because in Arabia itself there existed no dominant power, political influence was related primarily to trade, and pockets of power centred around important trading sites and routes, primarily between Byzantium and the far east and India. The Sassanian dominance of the...