How Did the Islamic Empire Impact the Areas it Ruled?
After the formation of Islam, it took 3-4 centuries to work out the structures of the religion. One of the first things that happened was the creation of Islamic law. The empire was based on the religion and surrounding cultures. As the empire expanded, lands were divided into different political entities. The Sunnis and the Shiites began to form; they originally branched off over conflicting opinions on who Muhammad’s true successor was. The trading system caused the Islamic Empire to become very wealthy. Nomadic tribes from the steppes invaded the Islamic areas between 1,000 and 1,450, but eventually settled down and converted to Islam. One of these groups, The Seljuk Turks, controlled the trade routes among Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The Islamic Empire
After the formation of Islam, it took 3-4 centuries to work out the structures of the religion and actually establish an empire based on religion. One of the things that Muslims did was create law. Islamic Law was created based on the religious structures. A new class of religious leaders and scholars emerged who played an important role in society. Because this society was based on religion, these leaders and scholars that knew a lot about religion were going to be looked upon highly and relied upon for information.
Muslims took elements from surrounding cultures as they developed their empire. They did base it on their religion, but some parts of it were going to be based on cultures that existed nearby. The empire was first ruled by a caliph and a small Arab elite. There was one ruler known as the caliph and then there was a small group that helped him rule. As the Empire expanded, this didn’t work out very well. Lands were divided into different political entities.
Different groups wanted to rule things differently. They weren’t very good at being united under the one caliph if the caliph was way over here and they lived way over here. They ended up saying, “Okay, we’ll have different rulers for our different areas, and we’ll just divide up the land, but we’ll all still be part of the Islamic empire.” Factions began to form within the Islamic empire. These were more political religious factions, but they all considered themselves Islamic.
Most notably are the Sunnis and the Shiites. They originally branched off being one big group of Islamic empire to Sunni and Shiite groups based on their conflicting opinions over who Muhammad’s true successor was. One group thought the true successor was this person, or so many people down the line of successors were recognizable, and the other group disagreed and had a different opinion on who Muhammad’s true successor was and how far down the line of succession was actually authentic before it became just people being voted on.
The split originally happened because of that. There were other things, but that was the primary reason that they split up. Since then, the Sunnis and Shiites have defined themselves a little more and have some other things that define them as different groups, while still holding to the basic Islamic principles. They’re still going to follow the five pillars. They’re still going to believe in and read the Qur’an, and they’re still going to have faith in Allah.
They do still have things in common, because they all still belong to the Islamic culture, or the Islamic religion, but they do not share the exact same values. They have some different belief sets. The Islamic Empire became very wealthy, because the Muslims used a common system of trade. If your trade system was going to be different than people around you, it’s going to be harder to trade with them, but because pretty much everyone who converted to being Islamic was using the same system of trade, the Islamic empire grew very wealthy.
Then, between 1000 and 1450, nomadic tribes from the steppes invaded Islamic areas. These were nomads. These are people that traveled around and didn’t really have homes. They saw the Islamic empire. They saw growing, becoming more wealthy, and they invaded, but then they settled down. They stopped being nomadic, settled down, and became tradesmen.
They saw there was a lot of wealth to be made being a tradesman, trading with other people within the Islamic empire. They did that. Many converted to Islam. They were living in Islamic areas, even after they’d invaded. It was so primarily Islamic people living there, and they converted to Islam. One such group was the Seljuk Turks. They controlled the trade routes for a while among Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Yes, they converted to Islam, but they still said, “Okay, we’re going to take over this. We’re going to control the trade routes. You’re going to have to pay us money to use our roads, get through, and be able to trade your goods. Don’t worry. You’ll still make a profit because of all your stuff, but you’re going to have to pay us a little money. We’re going to profit too.” They made a lot of money that way, but then all of the now-settled tradesmen continued to fight amongst themselves.
The Seljuk Turks fought amongst themselves. Any other smaller groups that it invaded were fighting amongst themselves, and they became targets of new invaders. They still weren’t able to unite themselves under one caliph. There was no one leader to unite all of the Islamic empire, and it still had a lot of fighting amongst the people within the Islamic empire. An empire that has that kind of civil unrest wasn’t able to unite have one common goal and expand further. While the religion may have still spread (it definitely still spread), the Islamic Empire was not able to do so.