Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Precursors Of Islam (m8 3000 BCE–500 CE)


 
Adherence to Islam is a global phenomenon: Muslims predominate in some 30 to 40 countries, from the Atlantic eastward to the Pacifi c and along a belt that stretches across northern Africa into Central Asia and south to the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent. Although many in the West consider Arabs and Muslims synonymous, Arabs account for fewer than one-fi fth of all Muslims, more than half of whom live east of Karachi, Pakistan. Despite the absence of large-scale Islamic political entities, the Islamic faith continues to expand, by some estimates faster than any other major religion. A very broad perspective is required to explain the history of today’s Islamic world. This approach must enlarge upon conventional political or dynastic divisions to draw a comprehensive picture of the stages by which successive Muslim communities, throughout Islam’s 14 centuries, encountered and incorporated new peoples so as to produce an international religion and civilization.

In general, events referred to here are dated according to the Gregorian calendar, and eras are designated BCE (before the Common Era or Christian Era) and CE (Common Era or Christian Era), terms which are equivalent to BC (before Christ) and AD (Latin: anno Domini). In some cases the Muslim reckoning of the Islamic era is used, indicated by AH (Latin: anno Hegirae). The Islamic era begins with the date of Muhammad’s emigration (Hijrah) to Medina, which corresponds to July 16, 622 CE, in the Gregorian calendar.

The term Islamic refers to Islam as a religion. The term Islamicate refers to the social and cultural complex that is historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, even when found among non-Muslims. Islamdom refers to that complex of societies in which the Muslims and their faith have been prevalent and socially dominant.

The prehistory of Islamdom is the history of central Afro-Eurasia from Hammurabi of Babylon to the Achaemenid Cyrus II in Persia to Alexander the Great to the Sasanian emperor Nushirvan to Muhammad in Arabia; or, in a Muslim view, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad. The potential for Muslim empire building was established with the rise of the earliest civilizations in western Asia. It was refined with the emergence and spread of what have been called the region’s Axial Age religions—Abrahamic, centred on the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, and Mazdean, focused on the Iranian deity Ahura Mazda—and their later relative, Christianity. It was facilitated by the expansion of trade from eastern Asia to the Mediterranean and by the political changes thus effected. The Muslims were heirs to the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Hebrews, even the Greeks and Indians; the societies they created bridged time and space, from ancient to modern and from east to west.

Islamic history / edited by Laura S. Etheredge. Britannica Educational Publishing
(a trademark of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.): New York.

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