Transformation of Islam: Islam in the societies of Central Asia

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Arab conquest led to the spread of the Arabic culture within Central Asia, including the spread of the Arabic language as the state and literary language. However, from 700s the authority of Arab governors and military leaders declined, and the flowering of the literature in non-Arabic languages began under the rule of the Samanids and the Karakhanids. Non-Arab peoples adjusted the Islamic religion to their way of life. Therefore, this decline in the prestige of the Arabs in politics did not symbolize a failure of Islam, but represented a transformation of Islam in Central Asia. This paper will evaluate how the gradual changes in the social status of Arabs and non-Arabs from the 600s to the 700s affected development of Islam. In order to characterize the transformation of Islam, this essay will first look at the biographical notes of Ibn Sina. Then, Ferdowsi’s “Shahname” will be discussed. Last, Islam during the period of Turkic rules will be analyzed.

As a result of the Islamization process, the Arabic language became an important element of the spiritual, political and social life of the conquered nations (Soucek, page 69). Islamization was accompanied by a transformation of the Arabic language and literature to popular and prestigious means of communication. Due to the fact that the Koran was written in Arabic and translation of holy texts was forbidden (Soucek, page 71), in order to understand Islam conquered tribes had to learn Arabic. Thus, they eventually became carriers of Arabic language and culture. Proficiency in Arabic was an important condition for well being, especially as guarantee of political success (lecture 2, week 4) and prosperity. Moreover, Arabic also became language through which scholars studied and wro...

... middle of paper ... not restricted only in Arabic.

In general, to be Muslim in 600s was not the same as in 700s. If at 600s propagating Islam meant being ethnic Arab, and if not, strictly obeying shariah, comparatively, since 700s new elements in Islam began to emerge. Core concepts of Islam combined with ancestor’s cult, belief in omens, and belief in fire power formed new liberal Islam in Central Asia. This transformation is evident in ibn Sina’s works, which promoted Islam as a religion hospitable to science, in Ferdowsi’s “Shahname”, which offered an example of new form of Islam containing local elements, and in the Turks’ conversion to Islam. Overall, it can be assumed that main principles of Islam remain the same; however, people adjust religion to their lifestyle by introducing local features, and, apparently, these transformations positively affect actuality of Islam.

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