Analyze the similarities and differences between the affects and practice of Islam in India and one of the following:
You probably had that figured out already, huh?
BP1: What distinguished the first centuries of Islamic history from the early history of Christianity and Buddhism? What similarities and differences characterized their religious outlooks?
Islam differed distinctly from Christianity and Buddhism because its founder was not only a religious figure but also a political and military leader. (Huge)
Also, from the start the Islamic community was established as as a state. (No separation of church and state here!)
There were some similarities in their religious outlooks: all three religions were founded by single historical figures who had powerful religious experiences; all three provide a clear path to salvation; and all three proclaim the equality of all believers.
However, Islam’s conception of monotheism was stronger than that of Christianity (holy trinity);
... and each religion was shaped in part by the cultural traditions in which it emerged. Duh!
BP2: How might you account for the immense religious and political/military success of Islam in its early centuries?
Me? How would I account for it? Well, as an historian, not a religious leader...
It's like this dudes; for the first time a shared faith (um, Islam) allowed the newly organized state to mobilize the military potential of the entire Arab population. Powerful. No dying on the cross or wandering around begging here.
The Byzantine and Persian empires were weakened by decades of war with each other and by internal revolts. The two empires also underestimated the Arab threat. "Terrible he rode alone..." (See the period page if that didn't make sense.)
Merchant leaders of the new Islamic community wanted to capture profitable trade routes and wealthy agricultural regions. And they did.
Individual Arabs found in military expansion a route to wealth and social promotion. I'll be bringing my scimitar to class as a means of insuring leaning in January.
Expansion provided a common task for the Arab community, which reinforced the (fragile) unity of the Islamic umma.
Arabs were motivated by a religious dimension, as many viewed the mission of empire in terms of jihad, bringing righteous government to the peoples they conquered. Sound familiar?
Islam experienced success in attracting converts: Muhammad’s religious message was attractive to many, while Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians could find familiar elements of their own faiths in Islam.
Conquests called into question the power of old gods, while the growing prestige of the Arab Empire attracted many to Allah. This is a point the Mongols will make later too: "If your God is powerful, why did 'he' let us conquer you? Just saying."
Although forced conversions were rare, living in an Islamic-governed state provided a variety of incentives for claiming Muslim identity. I mean hey, if everyone on the block is doing it, right? Merchants found in Islam a religion friendly to commerce and in the Arab Empire a huge and secure arena for trade, people aspiring to official positions (you know, politicians) found conversion to Islam an aid to social mobility.
I'm looking forward to reading your posts!