Custom «Islamic Empires» Essay Paper Sample
Islam is believed to have been started in the 7th century by Prophet Muhammad. Specifically meaning submission to the will of God, it gained prominence with the acceptance of Muhammad as the messenger of God and the Quran as divine message. The main features of Islam are the five pillars – creed, prayers, purifying tax, fasting and pilgrimage. Furthermore, Muslims believe that there is only one God and that Muhammad was the last of his prophets, sent to correct the corruption of the previous messages. Muslims also believe in forgiveness of sins and Judgment Day.
Muhammad was succeeded by caliphs, the first four of whom had been his companions. During their rule (632-661), Islam rapidly expanded to include the Persian and Byzantine Empires as well as North African and Syrian territories. The rapid expansion of Islam was made possible by, among other factors, jihads, simplicity of the doctrine and Prophet Muhammad as a true human model of discipline and character.
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There are two major denominations of Islam. Sunnis were the mainstream majority. However, conflicts arose that provided a basis for political and religious divisions. Protesting over matters of pay and privileges, mutinous troops murdered Uthman, the third caliph, and installed Ali as the new caliph. This created a new group called Shi’ah. The Shiites had seven pillars of Islam as opposed to the usual five. The other two were jihad and the requirement to do good works and avoid evil. Distinct from the Sunnis, they also promoted the Imamate. According to them, the successor of Mohammad should be more than just a political leader. He was also required to be a spiritual leader.
While Sunnis are the majority in most of the Arab world, Africa, South, South East and East Asia, Shiites make up most of the population in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. Although they have significant religious differences, political and demographic differences have been known to be major triggers of conflict between the two groups.