Religions Spread Through Conquest



When studying history, both in a professional and academic

sense, we try to make connections between civilizations and time

periods. Historians have attempted to discover universal conezts of

human nature, a bond that forms from continent to continent, human

being to human being. Is there a conezt quality that all peoples

posses, and is reflected in all civilizations? Indeed, it is

extremely difficult to make generalizations about centuries of modern

history. To say that something is true of all of history is virtually

impossible, as a counter-example exists for just about anything that

can be said of any group of civilizations. To say that all religions

are spread by violence is equally unfair and untrue - because

contrasted religions has been spread in exceedingly diverse regions of

the world, by vastly different cultures. Islam, as a prime example,

has been characterized inequitably by historians and the media as a

religion of violence. To put it bluntly, as this article does, "Islam

was mainly spread through Arab territorial conquests (Sudo, 4)."

However, upon examination, it is not fair to make the generalization

that Islam is a religion of violence, and one notices when looking at

world religion on a whole, one finds that Islam was no more violent

than any other religion. In fact, not only is Islam not a

fundamentally violent philosophy, but we can also see that many other

religions normally considered "non-violent," such as Christianity or

Hinduism, have been spread through bloody conquest. Thus, in

searching for a universal conezt of history, we ought not fall into

the "fallacy of abstractions," as Sydney J. Harris keenly puts it, and

assume that because of isolated incidents and conflicts of territorial

ambitions, that all religions have violent tendencies.

Islam has, throughout the centuries, been somewhat a victim of

circumezce - indeed it has been perceived by many as oppressive and

cruel. This belief originated over a thousand years ago, when Islamic

peoples first threatened the western world. As they slowly undermined

Byzantine authority, Christians became terrified of their presence,

resulting in widespread animosity and aversion. Hindus and Buddhists

of the South Asian subcontinent lived under Islamic law for hundreds

of years (Ahmad, et. al., 186), and eventually, in the twentieth

century, split the region into angry factions (Ahmad, et. al., 207).

Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was a great warrior. This invariably

lead defeated peoples to believe that he begot a cult of war and

violence. Over the centuries, it also has developed the ability to

instill a sense of holy purpose onto its believers and soldiers, where

they go into a battle of certain death for their faith in the jihad,

or holy war. Even today, the jihad is still a potent source of

conflict and aversion, as the many of the problems in the Middle East

center around the issue of Islamic Fundamentalism and the jihads.

Originally, Islam was perceived by western historians as a religion of

violence and conquest; "by preying on the caravans of the Quraish,

[Mohammed] weakened them to the point of submission (Mohammed and

Islam, 1)." In fact, Mohammed was a warrior, aristocrat, and

brilliant strategist - a stark contrast to many other holy men of

history. He was forced to both defend his cities and force

submission, as the passage had shown, because of the strong military

powers of his religious predecessors and oppressors, the pagans of the

Middle East. Islam means "submission" according to the Islam

discussion in class - and one might assume that the submission was

attained through military and forceful means. In fact, while Mohammed

preached peace from 610 to 622 AD, he attracted few converts and was

persecuted by the current ruling paganistic regime. After the visions

of 622 AD, he realized that his cause was even more urgent than

before, and only at that point did he begin to utilize his military

skills (Class Discussion). However, despite the more violent nature

that his quest took, even after the revelations by Gabriel in 622 AD,

"by reciting his revelations aloud, Mohammed made many converts,

(Mohammed and Islam,1)." Mohammed was not a purely violent man, but

also a great speaker and demagogue (Mueller, 2). He did not solely

attack the pagans of the Middle East, he also attracted a great deal

of converts by the truths he spoke. "If he could be ruthless, he