This is also true of Islam. The close associates of Muhammad were the chief missionaries that caused the geographic boundaries of Islam to spread after the prophet’s death.
The spatial realities of this spread where very different, however. Christianity was planted, largely in urban areas by the disciples of Jesus following his death. The urban areas of the Roman world were places of trade, some of them being extremely cosmopolitan. Christianity spread from person to person, with core groups of believers growing up in these urban areas. They were neither the majority nor were they important economically or politically for any centuries after the foundation of Christianity by Jesus. In a geographical sense, the first several centuries after the foundation of Christianity saw pockets of Christians establish themselves in urban areas throughout the Roman Empire.
Islam’s geographic spread was much more dramatic and much more rapid. The foundation of Islam is born in conflict and conquest. Muhammad’s followers invitation to flee to Medina and their subsequent triumphant return to Mecca sets an example of conversion through conquest that was perpetuated for the next decades by the Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed Muhammad. Actually, Muhammad himself oversaw much more of the geographic expansion of Islam than Jesus personally orchestrated the expansion of Christianity. But what is so striking about the geographic spread of Islam is the fact that very large chunks of the earth’s surface became peopled with Muslims in a very brief amount of time. This can be attributed to the fact that conquest was the primary means of spreading Islam in the early years. Islamic warriors, not missionaries spread the new religion to lands they conquered militarily and politically. As a result, entire kingdoms where converted to Islam while Christianity’s early ...
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