Influence of Europe Before 1650

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 constants of
human nature, a bond that forms from continent to continent, human
being to human being. Is there a constant 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 constant 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
circumstance - 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