A Study of Islam: Lesson 5 – Early Spread and ControversyWritten by 9th Avenue Church of Christ on Apr 13, 2016 in - No Comments
Islam was spread, even during the life of Muhammad, by a combination of preaching and military might (force).
It was thought of Muhammad that he could be both a ruthless military leader to some and a kind and good ally to others.
If one died in a battle for Islam, Paradise was assured by the teachings of the Koran. Miller suggests (page 30) that this gave the fighters “an immediate advantage over their foes.”
In AD 630, Muhammad was in full control of Mecca. A group known as the Quraysh gathered to fight Muhammad, but became afraid and three leaders even converted. After this, Muhammad rode into Mecca, straight for the Kabah and demanded that all 360 idols be destroyed.
His power basically unquestioned, hundreds converted that day and many more in the coming days/weeks.
During this early 10-year period of Islam, Muhammad personally led 27 military campaigns, nine of which contained hard fighting. He also sent out leaders and soldiers on an additional 38 campaigns to bring converts to Islam.
The “Farewell” Pilgrimage
Keeping the tradition of a pilgrimage to Mecca and the Kabah, Muhammad announced (at age 63) that he would lead this pilgrimage, but that it would be the first in centuries to not have any reference to idolatry. Over 30,000 men and women joined him on the pilgrimage.
Later, based upon the response to this pilgrimage, he sent out a messenger through the crowds, saying that all tribal feuds should end and that Islam was to be the ultimate community. On this day, he also uttered the final words that would be part of the Koran (Surah 5:3).
Sometime after this pilgrimage, Muhammad developed a severe headache and fever. His wives relinquished their “turns” with Muhammad (serving him) to A’ishah, since she had been with him the longest.
Unable to lead any campaigns or teachings, Muhammad appointed Abu Bakr to take his place during his illness.
After a morning call to prayer, Muhammad lost consciousness. An hour later, he revived, but then slipped away quickly and died that day. He was 63 years of age.
Confusion of Leadership/Suni and Shia Divide
While Muhammad had named Abu Bakr as the leader while he was ill, there was never an official appointment made of who should lead Islam following Muhammad’s death.
Muhammad was (and is) considered the “final prophet,” so the new leader would not be fully taking his place, but would be more of a community leader and voice.
Many backed Abu Bakr, but some felt that one from Muhammad’s own family should lead and but forward Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law).
Those who felt that a family member should lead were known as “Shiate Ali” (shia Muslims).
Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont gives this short description:
“Shia believed that leadership should stay within the family of the prophet. And thus they were partisans of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis believed thatleadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally thatpolitical division that began the Sunni-Shia split.” (http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2007/02/12/7332087/the-origins-of-the-shiite-sunni-split)