Robin Derricourt
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Vision, faith and conquest
The source and power of Islam
in Creating God
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In the middle decades of the 7th century, armies from the Arabian Peninsula achieved the rapid conquest of territories extending from Afghanistan to North Africa, seized from the weakened Sasanian and Byzantine Empires. They created new settlements and fortifications, and taxes were now payable to the new rulers. However, for much of the next century, the conquest did not transform the material culture, economic or social pattern of most of the peoples of the Levant. The unifying ideology of the conquerors from Arabia was adherence to a new religion, Islam, but the Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity in newly controlled communities continued to operate and develop without enforced conversion. Politics rather than religion ruled. The Islamic community and its military and political strengths were brought together by the man who declaimed the key religious texts. Muhammad ibn ʿAbdullah was a merchant from Mecca in the Hijaz region of western Arabia, who proclaimed from ca. 613 to his death in 632 his religious revelations, which would be brought together as the Qur’an. Our main sources for the origins of Islam were compiled by Muslim scholars some six generations after the death of the Muhammad. Modern scholarship has considered the context in which Islam emerged, in a world of competing monotheisms and polytheism, and asks whether Mecca was indeed the important trading town these traditions suggested. Historical debates indicate we should be less confident than we once were about the origins of Islam.

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Creating God

The birth and growth of major religions


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