Spread of Islam – Wealthiest Man in History

The Pre-Islamic Arabian World

The Kaaba is a cube-shaped building in Mecca held to be sacred both by Muslims and pre-Islamic polytheistic tribes.
Map of Mecca from c. 1700. Courtesy Mirza Meraj

Did you know during the pre-Islamic Arabian world, it was dominated by pastoral tribes who worshiped many gods?

This sounds ridiculous considering Islam is a Monotheistic religion meaning believing in only one god, which is Allah the one and only God in Islam. Well, there’s a common misconception that Muslims don’t believe in Jesus or that they are not interested in him but in pre-Islamic Arabia, their beliefs came from polytheism, Christianity, Judaism, and Iranian religions. It was only until during the 7th century when the founder of Islam, “Prophet Muhammad” was believed to have been visited by the angel Jibreel, known as Gabriel in English, and Allah who revealed to him revelations that would later become the Qur’an.

What is the Qur’an? The Qur’an is the main sacred text of Islam that contained Islam’s primary beliefs, it was revealed to the prophet Muhammad in 610 AD. (basically an equivalent of an “Islam bible”)

What makes Islam different from other religions? It didn’t just call for spiritual changes but for social justice, this helped establish a belief-based state that ran on Islamic law.

Afro-Eurasia Trade Routes

In the post-classical era 1200-1450, there was already a great amount or volume of trade in Afro-Eurasian trade networks. The Afro-Eurasian trade network that we’ll be mainly focusing on is the Trans-Saharan route and the Sub-Saharan route because empires that traded along these routes benefited the most.

What are trade routes and why do they exist? Honestly, the meaning lies in the name trade routes but according to google, it is a long-distance route along which commercial goods are transported. Trade networks could exist because different empires want to distribute resources and get resources that they do not have, this is the primary reason that trade routes formed. Basically, supply and demand. Ideas and art also traveled along these routes, soon enough in places like the trans-Saharan trade route there was a push in spreading the ideology of the Islamic world, this push is providing a strong privilege for the citizens to leave their home place and trade while being Islam or spreading Islamic ideology. Most religions and social structure/hierarchy during this time of the world looked down on merchants, especially in China they believed that merchants were leeches that leeched on other’s hard work.

The main reason why Islam was able to spread in the Afro-Eurasian areas is because of conquest, merchants, and Sufi missionaries. Most people converted voluntary overtime because of the privileges of believing in Islam, the most notable evidence is Mansa Musa the king of Mali in West Africa, one of the richest empires during those times because of the supply of gold. He converted to Islam for trading benefits.

The spread of Islam did not affect the people’s tradition in Africa because of Islam’s religious tolerance, at that historical context of time this was quite an impressive thing because people were able to believe whatever they want but they were still classified as second-class citizens (dhimmis). However, a tax that was put on non-Muslims known as the jizya, and non-Arabs were also not allowed military service, made people voluntarily. 

The effects of the Islamic spread along the trade route wasn’t just on the economy, it also benefited from the new technologies and knowledge. Technologies like the compass were introduced from the Chinese thus sea-routes were possible and easier to navigate. An example of this marine trade route is the one from Great Zimbabwe to India, Melaka and other sea route stops.  By the new technologies of newly developed modified boats like the Chinese junks and Indian/Arab dhows worked better to navigate the monsoons and also the evolving versions of the magnetic needle or compass that helped merchants to be able to trade even on a more “global scale”. Through this convenience, trade flourished even more thus Islam was able to spread even more. The most notable evidence is the Islamic presence in Indonesia because of the religious tolerance and the flexibility of the missionaries, they were successful in converting the body of people. 

Mansa Musa-The Richest Man Who Ever Lived

a photocopy of the Catalan Atlas map from 1375

Did you know Mansa Musa has a network of approximately 418 billion dollars?

Mansa Musa was born in 1280. He was born into the ruling family, his brother named Mansa Abu-Bakr ruled until 1312 when he went on a voyage to the Atlantic Ocean. According to 14th Century Syrian historian Shibab al-Umari, Abu-Bakr was fixated on the Atlantic Ocean and what lay past it. He went on a voyage to the Atlantic Ocean with 2,000 ships and thousands of men, women, and slaves. They never returned.

Mansa Musa inherited the kingdom from his brother. There were many great resources in this kingdom, especially gold and salt, Mali was able to flourish because of its resources. Even though Mecca had all these rich resources, its name was not well known but all of this changed when he converted to Muslim and went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. He left with a caravan of 6000 people, officials, food, and gold. It was basically a moving city along the desert. He had a hundred camels and each camel carried hundreds of pounds of pure gold. He gave away gold along his journey, so much so that he crashed Cairo’s economy. It took 10 years for the economy to recover, even after 12 years of his presence in Cairo the people still talked highly of him.

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