The Rise of Islam During its First 50 Years
"Read! In the Name of your Lord Who Created. He Created man out of a leech- like clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Benevolent -- He Who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not." [Al-'Alaq: 1-5] These were the first five verses of the Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, through Angel Jibreel, starting Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam's, Prophethood.
For the first three years of his Prophethood, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, preached secretly within his family and relatives. Then Allah commanded him to preach Islam publicly. The majority of the Makkans (who were pagan idolaters) were very angry and started persecuting the Muslims very much. Only a few became Muslims, but those Muslims were very strong in their belief, so the number of Muslims continued to grow. When persecution became unbearable, some Muslims migrated to Abysinnia (now Ethiopia), where a Christian king provided protection for the Muslims and later became a Muslim.
Life in Makkah became so unbearable, that Allah commanded the Muslims to migrate to Madinah, where the majority of people had become Muslims. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, migrated to Madinah in his 13th year of Prophethood (622 CE).
In Madinah, the Muslim State was established under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The Muslims were free to pray on their own, etc. The Makkan idolaters did not like that and they attacked the Muslims in Madinah several times to crush Islam. But the Muslims resisted attack after attack. Finally a peace treaty was drawn up that was in the favor of the unbelievers. Though the peace treaty was in their favor, the unbelievers broke the treaty by helping their ally in attacking one of the Muslims' allies. But, the Muslims had grown very strong by now, and since the treaty was now null, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, decided that it was time to conquer Makkah and cleanse the Kaaba from all the idols put in it. All the preparations were done secretly and no news about that reached Makkah.
Conquest of Makkah
During the 8th year after the migration from Makkah, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, left for Makkah. Upon arriving at Makkah, the army numbered ten thousand. Many of the unbelievers had become Muslims and the tables had turned. The Muslims had become very strong by now. The Makkans were very afraid of the Muslims. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, could have easily killed every single person in Makkah who had tortured and oppressed the Muslims for so long, but he was a man of peace and mercy. He ordered the Muslims not to fight unless they were attacked.
He told the Makkans that whoever closed their doors, laid down their arms, took refuge by the Kaaba, or entered Abu Sufyan's house (who was one of their leaders) would be safe. The whole entry into Makkah was peaceful. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, destroyed all the idols in the Ka'aba. He then turned to the Makkans and asked them what treatment they would expect from him. They replied: You are a noble brother and a noble cousin. Then Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said, "Go for you are free." Most of the Makkans became Muslims that day.
After that, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, went back to Madinah. Many deputations kept on coming to Madinah from various tribes to become Muslims. In the 10th year after migration from Makkah, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, left for Makkah with one hundred and fourteen thousand of his followers for his farewell pilgrimage. There on the plain of Arafat near the Mount of Mercy he delivered his last sermon.
After the pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, went back to Madinah. The whole of Arabia had now become Muslim and was under his rule. In the 11th year after the migration from Makkah, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, became ill. After an illness that lasted 13 days, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, breathed his last on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal (Rabi-ul-Awwal is an Islamic lunar month). He was 63 years old.
Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu
After Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam's, death Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu became the Caliph, or successor to Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The first challenge he faced was from the people who had refused to pay Zakat and some false claimants of prophethood. He dealt with them strongly and all of those people were defeated.
Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu, also took steps against the Persian Empire that was a constant danger to the Muslims. It had helped the people who had rebelled against Islam. In the first battle against the Persians, the Battle of Chains, the Muslims emerged victorious while the Persians suffered a humiliating defeat. Thousands of Persians were killed and taken captive. Next, the Muslims fought the Battle of Mazar against the Persians. Again the Muslims won. In the battles of Walaja and Ulleis, too, the Muslims won the battles against the Persians. They also conquered the kingdom of Hira. The Muslims also conquered a fort named Ein-at-Tamr.
The Muslims also fought against the Byzantines. In the battle of Basra, the Muslims emerged victorious against the Byzantines. So were they victorious against the Byzantines in the Battle of Ajnadein. The Muslims also laid siege to Damascus, which was lifted because of the death of Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu.
Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu
Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, became the next Caliph after Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu's, death. Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, continued the war against the Persians because of the continuous troubles they were causing for the Muslim State. The Muslims fought the Battle of Namarraq against the Persians. The Muslims won this battle. After that the Battle of Jasr took place. In that battle, the Muslims were defeated. Then the Muslims fought the battles of Buwaib, Qadisiya, and Jalula. The Muslims won in all of these battles. The Muslims also conquered Madain, Shustar, and Jande Sabur. Then came the Battle of Nihawand. This was one of the most decisive battles in history and it sealed the fate of the Persian Empire. It also proved to be the gateway for Muslims to Persia.
Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, also fought against the Byzantine Empire. The Muslims conquered Syria after the Battle of Yarmuk. The Muslims then conquered Jerusalem and Egypt.
In Russia, the Muslims conquered Azerbaijan and Tabaristan.
Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu
During Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu's rule, there were uprisings in Persia and in Byzantine. Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu, crushed these revolts and made his grip on the territories firmer. During his rule, the Muslims conquered the whole of North Africa. It included countries now known as Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. The island of Cyprus was also conquered during his time.
Campaigns were also sent against Khurasan (in present-day Iran), Armeain, and Asia Minor (now Turkey).
Muawiyah, Radi-Allahu anhu
During Muawiyah, Radi-Allahu anhu's rule, the Muslims founded the city of Qairowan in Tunisia. They conquered Kabul, captured the island of Rhodes, and occupied Samarkand (in present-day Uzbekistan) and Tirmiz. Campaigns were sent in Khurasan (in present-day Iran). Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan) became a vassal state.
Factors That Led to This Rise
The Muslims spread their empire at lightning speed. Within half a century after Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam's death, three continents had come under the Muslim rule and both super powers of the time, the Persian and the Roman, had been defeated. It was their faith, character, and courage that was responsible for this phenomenal achievement.
Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, had left a great number of trained companions. The Muslims knew they were fighting for the sake of Allah and so they did not plunder the lands that they acquired nor did they treat the citizens of the conquered lands harshly. They were brave, courageous, and not afraid of dying.
They were not greedy people or people seeking worldly pleasures. Rather they were very generous people often leaving themselves with hardly anything while fulfilling the needs of others. The commanders of great armies that conquered the Persian Empire, etc. were not the least bit different from the soldiers in their army regarding their lifestyle. Their lifestyle was simple. Their clothes were just enough to fit them and their foods were scanty. Often they went hungry for many days. If they got food, it would be no more than a piece of bread or dates and some water. Their clothes would have so many patches in them.
In stark contrast to the pomp and show of both the Persian and the Roman empires, the Caliphs' lifestyles were no different from the citizens. Often when a dignitary from a different empire would come to meet the Caliph, he would have a hard time recognizing the Caliph because he was the same as a normal citizen. The Caliphs kept no guards and did not feel a bit insulted in washing their own clothes and mending their own shoes or doing work for others such as milking the neighbor's goats, etc.
They were very kind to the people of the lands they conquered. They never destroyed any temple or church after conquering the place where the temple or church was. They were very just. They only resorted to war if it was inevitable. Often they would sign treaties assuring the subjects of total safety. Only the subjects would have to pay a small amount of tax called Jizyah for the protection they were getting from the Muslims. At the same time, they were exempted from paying Zakat and participating in military campaigns.
The Muslims' character impressed many and many became Muslims after observing their character. No person became a Muslim under compulsion. The people became Muslims totally because they wanted to.