Q. 1. When was Islam founded? Discuss its religious beliefs.
Ans. Islam was founded in around 612 CE by Prophet Muhammad. In this year, he declared himself to be the messenger (rasul) of God. He preached a new religious doctrine. Those who accepted the doctrine were called as Muslims. All of them were part of a society, known as Umma.
Religious Beliefs of Islam. Religious beliefs of Islam are incorporated in the Holy Quran.
They are as follows:
(1) Allah alone should be worshipped.
(2) Man would bear fruit of his deeds on the Day of Judgement.
(3) Each Muslim must follow these five principles:
(i) Allah is the only God and Muhammad is His Prophet.
(ii) He should pay namaz five times a day.
(iii) He should distribute alms to the poor.
(iv) He should keep rozas during the month of Ramzan.
(v) He must pay a visit to Mecca once in his life time.
(4) No Muslim should worship idols.
(5) He should not indulge in interest-making and should abstain from theft.
(6) He should follow fixed rules of marriage and divorce.
(7) He should believe in equality of people.
(8) He should be liberal and full of good qualities.
(9) He should consider the Quran as the holy book.
Q. 2. Describe the expansion of Islamic State and main aspects of society under Prophet Muhammad.
Ans. Prophet Muhammad created a political order in Medina which gave his followers the required protection. He also resolved the ongoing civil strife in the city. The Umma was converted into a wider community so that the polytheists and the Jews of Medina could be included under the political leadership of Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad also added and refined rituals (like fasting) and ethical principles. In this way, he consolidated the faith for his followers.
Expansion of the Islamic State. Initially, the Muslim community survived on agriculture, trade and on alms tax (Zakat). Except this, Muslims also used to organise raids (ghazw) on Meccan caravans and nearby oases. After some time, Mecca was conquered by Muslims. As a result, Muhammad’s reputation spread far and wide as a political leader and religious preacher. Many tribes, mostly Bedouins, were impressed by Muhammad’s achievements and they converted to Islam. In this way, they joined the Muslim society. So the alliances of Muhammad began to spread in the whole of Arabia. Medina became the administrative capital of this emerging Islamic state and Mecca became as its religious centre. The Kaba was cleansed of idols. It became necessary for Muslims to face the shrine while offering prayers. Just within a short span of time, a large part of Arabia was united by Muhammad under a new faith, community and state. The early Islamic polity remained, for a long time, a federation of Arab tribes and clans.
Q. 3. How did the Islamic authority expand under the Caliphs?
Ans. After the death of Muhammad, a number of tribes broke away from the Islamic state. Some of them even raised their own Prophets to establish communities on the basis of Umma.
(i) The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, launched a number of campaigns to suppress the revolts.
(ii) The second Caliph, Umar, adopted the policy of expansion of the power of Umma. The Caliph was aware of the fact that Umma cannot be maintained with the small income which comes from the trade and taxes. For this, a lot of money was required which is why, the Caliph and his military commanders mustered their tribal strength so that the lands of Byzantine Empire in the west and Sasanian Empire in the east could be conquered. The Byzantine and Sasanian both empires had huge resources.
Christianity was promoted by the Byzantine Empire and Zoroastrianism was patronised by the Sasanian Empire which was the ancient religion of Iran. On the eve of the Arab invasions, strength of both of these empires had declined because of religious conflicts and revolts by the aritocracy. That is why, it became very easy for the Arabs to conquer their territories through wars and treaties. Arabs brought Iraq, Syria, Iran and Egypt under the control of Medina with three successful compaigns (637–642 CE).
Arabs became successful because of military strategy, religious fervour and weakness of the opposition.
(iii) The third Caliph, Uthman, launched further campaigns to gain control over Central Asia. In this way, just within a decade of the death of Muhammad, the vast territory between the Nile and the Oxus came under control of the Arab-Islamic state. These lands remained under Muslim rule to this day.
Q. 4. What do you understand by the ‘Abbasid Revolution’? Throw light on the decline of the Umayyad dynasty and the foundation of the Abbasid dynasty.
Ans. The Umayyad dynasty had to pay a heavy price for their success in centralising the Muslim polity. The Abbasid revolution was a well organised movement, called dawa, launched by the Abbasid to end the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. In 750 CE, Umayyad dynasty was replaced by the Abbasid dynasty. The Abbasid’s called the Umayyad regime as evil and claimed that they will restore the original Islam of the Prophet. Abbasid Revolution and Decline of Umayyad Dynasty.
The Abbasid revolution started in the distant region of Khurasan in eastern Iran. This place had a mixed culture of Arab-Iranian. The Arab soldiers here mostly came from Iraq. They disliked the dominance of the Syrians. Arab population of Khurasan also disliked the Umayyad regime. It was so because they had made promises of tax concessions and privileges which were not fulfilled.
On the other hand, the Iranian Muslims were exposed to the scorn of the race conscious Arabs. That is why, they were eager to join any campaign to remove the Umayyad dynasty.
Success of Abbasid Revolution. The Abbasids were the descendants of Prophet’s uncle. They promised different Arab groups that a messiah from the Prophet’s family would liberate them from the oppressive Umayyad regime. In this way, they legitimised their bid for power. Their army was led by Abu Muslim, an Iranian slave. He defeated Marwan, the last Umayyad Caliph, in a battle at the river Zab. In this way, the Umayyad dynasty declined and the Abbasid Revolution succeeded.
Q. 5. How did the Caliphate break up in the Arab Empire? Why did the Buyid rulers keep the Abbasid Caliph as the symbolic head of the Sunni subjects?
Ans. From the 9th century, the Abbasid state became weaker because of the following two reasons:
(i) There was a decline of Baghdad’s control over the distant provinces.
(ii) There was conflict between pro-Arab and proIranian groups in the army and bureaucracy.
A civil war broke out in 810 CE, between the supporters of Amin and Mamun, two sons of the Caliph Harun-al-Rashid. It led to deepening of factionalims. It also created a new power bloc of Turkish slave officers (mamluk). On the other hand, Shiism again started competing with Sunni orthodoxy for power. As a result, many small dynasties came into being. These small dynasties included Tahirids and Samanids in Khurasan and Transoxiana and the Tulunids in Egypt and Syria. In this way, Abbasid power remained limited only to the areas of central Iraq and Western Iran.
In 945 CE, Baghdad was captured by the Buyids which was a Shiite clan from the Caspian region of Iran (Daylam). Consequently, the Abbasid rule completely ended.
Reason for keeping the Abbasid Caliph as the Head of the Sunni Subjects. The decisions of Buyid rulers of keeping the Abbasid Caliph as the symbolic head of their Sunni subjects was a shrewd one. It was so because another Shiite dynasty, the Fatimids, was making plans to rule over the Islamic world. This dynasty, the Fatimids, claimed to be descended from the Prophet’s daughter Fatima. Due to this, they claimed as the sole rightful rulers of Islam. They conquered Egypt in 969 CE and established the Fatimid Caliphate. They made Fustat as their capital instead of old capital of Egypt, Qahira (Cairo).