(The Islamic World in 1700)

For a thousand years, Islam was the dominant religion of the planet. Why was it so successful?

Islam was the greatest religious revolution in history. In the 200 years since its founding, it became the most important religion on the planet. The majority of the world's Christians converted to Islam after it was founded. In the east it completely destroyed the Sassanid Persian Empire and the majority of its citizens converted to Islam. Zoroastrianism largely ceased to exist as a major religion. In the year 750 AD, the armies of the Islamic caliphate defeated the armies of the Chinese emperor at the battle of Talas in Central Asia. As a result, Islam conquered Central Asia. The people of Central Asia abandoned Buddhism and adopted Islam.

One of the reasons for the success of Islam historically is the fact that classical Islam was a religion of tolerance.

Since Christianity seized power in the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Christianity had unleashed one wave of persecution after another. Many of these persecutions were a result of contradictions in the Bible, which caused Christians to persecute each other. When Islam came into power, this kind of religious madness ended and a system of tolerance was put in place. While this wasn't one hundred percent tolerant in practice, it was more tolerant toward different religions than the Christians were in the West.

In the Quran it states the following: "There shall be no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:256)."

In the Islamic societies, other religions were allowed to continue practicing as long as they paid a tax called the jizyah.

Starting in the 11th century, Islam began a conquest of India. Unlike in other areas of Islamic conquest, Hinduism maintained its hold over the majority of the people of India. Yet Islam completely superseded Buddhism in India as it had in Central Asia. Today Buddhism is largely non-existent in the continent where it was born.

During the Mongol conquest, Islam looked like it had been superseded by the Mongols, but this did not happen. The power of faith was far too strong, and the Mongols ended up converting to Islam in the areas that they conquered. As a result of the Mongol conquest, the size of Islam actually expanded, expanding all the way into southern Russia.

Farther to the east, Islam began to expand into Indonesia in the 16th century. The details of Islam's expansion into Indonesia are not clear but it was definitely part of a commitment to tolerance and respect for other religions. Today, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Starting in 1700, Islam began to decline. One of the reasons for the decline was the intolerant policies of India's last major Muslim emperor. This shows the importance of tolerance as a factor in the success of Islam.


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