The history of Islam concerns the political, economic, social, and cultural developments of the Islamic civilization. Despite concerns about the reliability of early sources, most historians (non-Muslims) believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century. Muslims however believe that it did not start with Muhammad, but that it was the original faith of others whom they regard as Prophets, such as Jesus, David, Moses, Abraham, Noah and Adam.
In 610 CE, Muhammad began receiving what Muslims consider to be divine revelations. Muhammad's message won over a handful of followers and was met with increasing opposition from notables of Mecca. In 618, after he lost protection with the death of his influential uncle Abu Talib, Muhammad took flight to the city of Yathrib (Medina). With Muhammad's death in 632, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community which was eventually resurrected leading to the First Fitna. The dispute would intensify greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Muhammad's grandson Hussein ibn Ali was killed by the ruling Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, and the outcry for revenge divided the early Islamic community.
By the 8th century, the Islamic empire extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus river in the east. Polities such as those ruled by the Umayyads (in the Middle East and later in Iberia), Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks were among the most influential powers in the world. The Islamic civilization gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable astronomers, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam.
In the early 13th century, the Delhi Sultanate took over northern parts of Indian subcontinent. In the 13th and 14th centuries, destructive Mongol invasions from the East, along with the loss of population in the Black Death, greatly weakened the traditional centers of the Islamic world, stretching from Persia to Egypt, but in the Early Modern period, the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals were able to create new world powers again. During the 19th and early 20th centuries most parts of the Muslim world fell under the influence or direct control of European Great Powers. Their efforts to win independence and build modern nation states over the course of the last two centuries continue to reverberate to the present day....LESS
This book applies philosophical and critical textual scholarship to the traditional Islamic narrative in an attempt to distinguish between its historical and interpretive elements. It allows the narrative to be preserved with due respect for its significance and distinctiveness, but in a way that frees it from the ease with which it can slip into the hands of literalists and fundamentalists in order to serve a purpose which is at odds with its original spirit and intention. When radical Islamists use social media to try and convert young followers to a Jihadist cause, they refer often to the narrative about the Prophet, the original Islamic community (Ummah), and the holy book (Qur'an). The references usually imply that these are under threat by infidels, either non-Muslim Westerners or Muslims themselves who follow allegedly errant forms of Islam. The narrative itself is, however, never questioned; it is taken as merely factual with every word to be taken literally, including words that appear intolerant of difference and given to violence. As such, it can serve well the forms of fundamentalism that lie at the heart of radical Islamism and Jihadism. Because of a shortage of critical scholarship about Islam's central narrative, the radical Islamist understanding of it differs too little from that of mainstream Muslims. Neither tends to take sufficient account of the context of the writing, its original purpose or the many interpretive elements that have been overlain. This makes it difficult for mainstream Islamic authorities to counter effectively the radical Islamist discourse or to distinguish moderate and liberal forms of religious practice from radical breakaway forms. In turn, this causes confusion among Muslims, who know the radical Islamists are in error but find it hard to say just why, and even greater confusion and angst among non-Muslims, for whom the allegation that all of Islam is inherently violent and to be feared is clearly being heard by an increasing number. This book sets out to address this problem by applying forms of scholarship that can preserve the best of the Islamic narrative while, at the same time, illustrating just how errant is the radical Islamist understanding of it.