The Importance of Autonomy in Islamic Empires

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“In 622, a small community of Muslims gradually migrated from Mecca to Medina” (Cleveland 11) they were in effect kicked out of Mecca because their leader, Muhammad “posed a challenge to the social, economic, and religious structure of the city” (Cleveland 10). By 750, this small group of outcasts had gained power over “an empire that stretched from Morocco to India” (Cleveland 17). The religion of Muhammad, Islam, grew even beyond this first empire and became the driving force behind future expansions for a millennium. There are quite a few factors that played into the initial success of these Islamic empires and by extension, Islam. However, the strength of its empires was not only in their ability to gain power but also in their ability to sustain it. As each Islamic empire grew, the number cultures and religions within it grew as well. The Koran provided some guidance on how to manage these different regions in addition; each empire devised creative methods of dealing with the immense diversity. The strength of these Islamic empires lied in their ability to maintain a strong centralized government firmly based in Islam, while adapting to accept vastly different cultures. Prior to the introduction of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula was made of Tribes. Fighting between these tribes was common as resources were scarce. This created a culture based around continuous warfare. According to the text, “The widespread experience of Arabs in warfare was to be a significant factor in the early expansion of Islam” (Cleveland 7). Another factor, which helped in the spread of Islam, was simply timing. These empires emerged at a time when the rest of the world was relatively weak. The two prevailing Empires preceding the rise of Islam, the Byz... ... middle of paper ... ...adical reform. Unlike Mahmud II, Isma’il’s gave considerable power to European powers rather than strengthening the Egypt’s central government. He hoped stronger ties with Europe would lead to modernization. The result, however, was large amounts of debt and a complete loss of political autonomy (Cleveland 97). The third reformer was Nasir al-Din Shah of Iran. Much of the power in Iran in the nineteenth century lied with the Shi’a leaders, the ulama, and local tribes. Unable to centralize power, Nasir al-Din’s reforms failed and he was forced to sell concessions to European powers out of desperation for money. All three reformers tried similar techniques to modernize their countries; yet, the success of these reforms was varied. The biggest factor in deciding whether reforms would be successful or not was a country’s ability to maintain a strong central government.
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