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Islamic Religion

Essay by   •  September 4, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,826 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,979 Views

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Islam has been characterized inequitably by historians and the media as a religion of violence. Islam was mainly spread through Arab territorial conquests. Upon examination, it is not fair to make the generalization that Islam is a religion of violence. One can see when looking at world religion on a whole 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 constant of history, we should not fall into the "fallacy of abstractions," and assume that because of isolated incidents and conflicts of territorial ambitions, that all religions have violent tendencies.

Throughout the centuries Islam has been a victim of circumstance. It has been perceived by many as oppressive and cruel. This belief originated over a thousand years ago, when Islamic people 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 from the South Asian subcontinent lived under Islamic law for hundreds of years. Eventually, in the twentieth century, split the region into angry factions.

Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was a great warrior. This invariably led defeated people to believe that he begot a cult of war and violence. Over the centuries, it 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 holy war. The holy war is still a potent source of conflict and aversion, as many of the problems in the Middle East center around the issue of Islamic Fundamentalism and the holy wars.

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" (Anonymous, 1996). 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. Because of the strong military powers of his religious predecessors and oppressors, the pagans of the Middle East. One might assume that the submission was attained through military and forceful means.

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. 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" (Thomas, 1988). Mohammed was not a purely violent man, but also a great speaker and politician. He did not solely attack the pagans of the Middle East, he also attracted a great deal of converts by the truths he spoke. Another non-violent way of spreading Islamic culture was through the merchant system, which developed around its new centers of trade and culture in both Mecca and Medina. People from all around the region would come to those cities to trade, and were attracted by the religion.

As Islam developed and spread rapidly, its control quickly began to encroach on Byzantine territory where it found diverse groups of people, who resented the foreign control of the flailing western power. The people viewed the Middle Eastern Islamic conquerors as liberators from the oppressive Byzantine Empire, and welcomed both Islamic soldiers and religion. In addition to other non-violent means of conquest, when Muslims actually did militarily gain territory, they allowed other religions to grow around them. They did not force conversion by slaughter in the name of Allah. The Muslims were tolerant of both foreign religions, peoples, and traders. They welcomed Far Eastern merchants into their territory. In India, while they did gain control of the South Asian subcontinent, they never forced conversion, nor did they enter the territory with a religious intent. The reason that the Hindu and Muslim clashes arose was based on religious differences, which were largely initiated by the Hindus, who viewed their conquerors as heretics. The Koran was very tolerant, accepted many beliefs, and was another basis for the peaceful spread of Islam. The Koran appealed to the impoverished and the destitute. People from all walks of life could embrace the Koran because it was targeted at them, not at the government-ranking aristocrats that most other religions were centered around. Those religions had been created for the purpose of social control, rather than deep spiritual convictions or for spiritual well being. The Muslim needs no priest nor intermediary to pray to Allah the only spiritual transmitter to god he needs is prayer. Islam does not even require a mosque or temple for litany. The actual religion of Islam preaches decidedly against violence and speaks out against aggression.

The concept of jihad refers to inner spiritual struggle of Muslims for self control in order to do good. Actually, the average Muslim is not violent, nor is he driven by holy conquest. Islam has been unfairly depicted as a religion spread through The Holy War and the lure of riches and conquest. But Islam, the most unlikely of candidates, has been a relatively tolerant religion. It has never believed in any form of religious genocide, nor had any inquisitions or messianic crusades, as religions of many other parts of the world did. In fact Akbar I of 1556-1605 AD, the third ruler of the Mughal Empire, took the ultimate steps toward tolerance, by marring a Hindu princess, and allowing Hindus a strong role in the government. The wars that Islam fought have been rather secular, despite the fact that their government often was not. The same cannot be said of Christian, Hindu, and Aztec government, all which had strong ties to both violence and conquest, and indeed, while often are characterized as non-violent forms of religion (with perhaps the exception of Aztec), are equally as violent as Islam, if not more so.

Perhaps the religion that has perhaps shaped the world more than any other religion has been Christianity. This is not to deny the roles

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