Learn more about Islamization
Islamization (also spelt Islamisation, see spelling differences) or Islamification means the process of a society's conversion to the religion of Islam, or a neologism meaning an increase in observance by an already Muslim society. The English synonyms, mohammedanisation and muslimization, in use since before 1940 (e.g., Waverly Illustrated Dictionary) convey a similar meaning.
 Controversy of the Term
The term, as with its antecedents, may be considered derogatory by some. Critics sensitive to usage of these terms claim that they were coined by modern Orientalists in light of the historically dominant Christian attitudes; both popular and scholarly that colored the views towards Islam; of fear and hostility and regarded it as a rival<ref name="Devin">Devin. pg 3-5 </ref> in what was seen as a Muslim-Christian conflict. Medieval Europe was building a concept of a "great enemy" in the wake of the quickfire success by the Muslims, through a series of conquests shortly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, as well as the lack of real information in the West on a mysterious East.<ref> Watt, Montgomery,Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Oxford University Press, 1961. from pg. 229</ref> The attitude was seen as condemning and tritely explaining away Islam's rapid growth as due to "forced conversions through the sword", whilst disingenuously ignoring the expansion of their own civilization by means of military conquest and events such as the Crusades<ref>Numerous Crusades were launched against Eastern European pagan's and other sects considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, in addition to those attempting to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims.</ref> and the Inquisition.
Orientalists are attributed with the formulation that the successful conversion of non-Muslims to Islam was due to compulsion and "ill treatment of non-Muslims", such as by oppressive and discriminatory tax codes. Muslims point out that Islamic law does not mandate conversion to Islam, but that non-Muslims in an Islamic state are expected to pay a special tax, "Jizya" in return for protection by the state and right to refuse military duty during emergencies. In contrast, Muslims do not have to pay Jizya, but rather "Zakat" (a religious tax directed to charity rather than the state) and are required to defend the country during foreign invasions. Conversely, a tax code that warrants different tax classifications for citizens based on religious affiliations, a concept alien to modern Western democracies, leaves the Islamic system, vulnerable to presentist criticism. An alternative hypothesis forwarded is the gradual assimilation of Islamic culture by populaces in lands newly conquered by Muslims or demographically transformed through mass Muslim migration putting forward a gentler image of conversion through acculturation, religious education programs in newly conquered lands and marriages among Muslim conquerors/migrants and the local people.
 Prevailing Stereotypes
The process of Islamization is a poorly studied field in relation to its social, historical, affective or psychological aspects.<ref name="Devin2"> Devin, pg 17.</ref> The conceptualization is dominated by two stereotypes; the first popularized and captured by Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is of a fanatical Arab horseman riding forth from the desert with a sword in one hand and the Quran in the other offering victims a choice between one of the two<ref name="lewis">Lewis pg.3-5</ref>, however such "old notions of forced conversions have been abandoned, at least in scholarly literature".<ref name="Devin2"/> The other image is one of an interfaith, interracial utopia where different races and peoples lived together in harmony has also been discredited for more shaded and complex views<ref name="lewis"/> such as; an acculturation of Arab-Islamic social norms and language,<ref name="Astren">Fred Astren pg.33-35</ref> or a process of dialog between the monotheistic Arabs during the Muslim conquests with other faith traditions <ref>Berkey pg.57</ref>.
Originally conversion to Islam closely followed the rapid growth of the Arab Empire in the first centuries after Muhammad's death. Muslim dynasties were soon established in North Africa, the Middle East and Iran and the conversion of the population was a protracted process. Non-Muslims were not excluded from the political and economic elite during the Caliphate. Often high ranking officials in the administration were Jews and Christians. In later periods when the proportion of non-Muslims in the population had become much less, non-Muslim officials of course, became greatly reduced.
Although the expansion of the Islamic empire eventually slowed, conversion to Islam continued in other ways. Muslim countries dominated trade in the Indian Ocean and the Sahara and it was through trade, and interaction with locals, that Islam grew in areas such as the Sahel and the East Indies.
 Phase I (610-750)
In the first century the establishment of Islam upon the Arabian peninsula and the subsequent rapid expansion of the Arab Empire during the Muslim conquests, resulting in the formation of an empire surpassed by none before.<ref name="Goddard"> Goddard, pg.126-131</ref>
 Phase II (750-950)
Expansion ceased and the central disciplines of Islamic philosophy, theology, law and mysticism became more widespread and the gradual conversions of the populations within the empire occurred. Significant conversions also occurred beyond the extents of empire such as of the Turkic tribes in Central Asia and regions south of the Sahara in Africa through contact with Muslim traders active in the area and sufi missionaries. In Africa it spread along three routes, across the Sahara via trading towns such as Timbuktu, up the Nile Valley through the Sudan up to Uganda and across the Red Sea and down East Africa through settlements such as Mombasa and Zanzibar. These initial conversions were of flexible nature and only were only later purified of their traditional influences.<ref name="Goddard"/>
 Conversion within the Empire: Umayyad Period vs. Abassid Period
The Umayyad period was marked by the rule of small Arab military elite that ruled over indigenous populations and the "dhimmah" being set up to increase taxes from the dhimmi to benefit the Arab Muslim community financially and by discouraging conversion.<ref name="Astren"/> Islam was associated with the ethnic identity of the Arab and required formal association with an Arab tribe and the adoption of the client status of mawali.<ref name="Astren"/> Governors lodged complaints with the caliph when he enacted laws that made conversion easier. During the following Abbassid period an enfranchisement was experienced by the mawali and a shift was made in political conception from that of a primarily Arab empire to one of a Muslim empire<ref name="Tobin">Tobin 113-115</ref> and c. 930 a requirement was enacted that required all bureaucrats of the empire be Muslim.<ref name="Astren"/> Both periods were also marked by significant migrations of Arab tribes outwards from the Arabian Peninsula into the new territories.<ref name="Tobin"/>
 Conversion within the Empire: Conversion Curve
Richard Bulliet's "conversion curve" and relatively minor rate of conversion of non-Arab subjects during the Arab centric Umayyad period of 10%, in contrast with estimates for the more politically multicultural Abassid period which saw the Muslim population go from approx. 40% in the mid 9th century to 100% by the end of 11th century.<ref name="Tobin"/>
 Phase III - (950-1450)
Expansion in the wake of Turkic conquests of Asia Minor, Balkans, the Indian subcontinent.<ref name="Goddard"/> The earlier period also saw the acceleration in the rate of conversion in the Muslim heartland while in the wake of the conquests the newly conquered regions retained significant non-Muslim populations in contrast to the regions where the boundaries of the Muslim world contracted, such as Sicily, Al Andalus, where Muslim populations were expelled or forced to christianize in short order.<ref name="Goddard"/> The latter period of this phase was marked by the Mongol invasion and after an initial period of persecution, the conversion of these conqueror's to Islam.
 Phase IV (1450-current)
Through commerce, Sufi's, Missionaries, and migrations; especially in South-East Asia.<ref name="Goddard"/>
 Islamization by region
It used to be argued that Zorastrianism quickly collapsed in the wake of the Islamic conquest of Persia due it's intimate ties to the Sassanid state structure.<ref name="Berkey"> Berkey, pg. 101-102 </ref> Now howeever, more complex processes are considered, in light of the more protracted time frame attributed to the progression of the ancient Persian religion to a minority; a progression that is more contiguous with the trends of the late antiquity period.<ref name="Berkey"/> These trends are the conversions from the state religion that had already plagued the Zorastrian authorities that continued after the Arab conquest, coupled with the migration of Arab tribes into the region during an extended period of time that stretched well into the Abbassid reign.<ref name="Berkey"/> While there were cases such as the Sassanid army division at Hamra, that converted en masse before pivotal battles such as the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, conversion was fastest in the urban areas where Arab forces were garrisoned slowly leading to Zorastrianism becoming associated with rural areas.<ref name="Berkey"/> Still at the end of the Umayyad period, the Muslim community was only a minority in the region.<ref name="Berkey"/>
 Inner Asia
Little is known about the timeline of the Islamicization of Inner Asia and the Turkic peoples who lay beyond the bounds of the caliphate. Histories merely note the fact of pre-Mongol Central Asia's Islamicization.<ref name="Devin2">Devin pg. 19</ref> The Bulgars of the Volga are noted to have adopted Islam by the 10th century <ref name="Devin"/>. When the Friar William of Rubruck visited the encampment of Batu Khan of the Golden Horde, who had recently completed the Mongol invasion of Volga Bulgaria, he noted "I wonder what devil carried the law of Machomet there".<ref name="Devin"/> Another contemporary known to have been Muslim, was the Qarakhanid dynasty of the Kara-Khanid Khanate which lay much further east.<ref name="Devin2"/> However, the modern day history of the Islamicization of the region - or rather a conscious affiliation with Islam - dates to the population of the ulus of the son of Genghis Khan, Jochi, who founded the Golden Horde.<ref name="Devin3"> Devin pg 67-69</ref> Tatars, Uzbeks and other Muslim populations of the Russian federation trace their Islamic roots to the Golden Horde<ref name="Devin2"/> and while Berke Khan was the first Mongol monarch to officially adopt Islam and even oppose his kinsman Hulagu Khan<ref name="Devin"/> in the defence of Jerusalem at the Battle of Ain Jalut, it was only much later that the change became pivotal and the mongols converted en masse<ref name="Brown"> Daniel W. Brown, " New Introduction to Islam", Blackwell Publishing, Aug 1, 2003, ISBN 0-631-21604-9 pg. 185-187</ref> when a century later Uzbeg Khan converted - reportedly at the hands of the Sufi Saint Baba Tukles.<ref> Devin 160.</ref>
Following the brutal Mongol invasion of Central Asia under Hulagu Khan and after the Battle of Baghdad (1258) Mongol rule extended across the breadth of almost all Muslim lands in Asia, the caliphate was destroyed and Islam was persecuted by the Mongols.<ref name="Brown"/> In 1295 however the new Khan of the Ilkhanate, Ghazan converted to Islam and two decades later the Golden Horde followed suit.<ref name="Brown"/> The Mongols had been religiously and culturally conquered, this absorption ushered in a new age of Mongol-Islamic synthesis<ref name="Brown"/> that shaped the further spread of Islam in central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
 Xianjing and the Kazakh Steppe
In the 1330's the Mongol ruler of the Chagatai Khanate converted to Islam, causing the eastern part of his realm called Moghulistan to rebel.<ref name="Xian">S. Frederick (EDT) Starr, "Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland", M.E. Sharpe, Apr 1, 2004 ISBN 0-765-61317-4 pg. 46-48</ref> However during the next three centuries these Buddhist, Shamanistic and Christian Turkic and Mongol nomads of the Kazakh Steppe and Xianjing would also convert at the hands of competing Sufi orders from both east and west of the Pamirs.<ref name="Xian"/> The Naqshbandi's are the most prominent of these orders, especially in Kashgaria where the western Chagatai Khan was also a disciple of the order.<ref name="Xian"/>
 Southeast Asia
Islam came to Malay Archipelago, first by the way of Muslim traders along the main trade-route between Asia and the Far East, then was further spread by Sufi missionaries and finally consolidated by the expansion of the territories of converted rulers and their communities.<ref name="Camb"> P. M. ( Peter Malcolm) Holt, Bernard Lewis, "The Cambridge History of Islam", Cambridge University Press, pr 21, 1977, ISBN 0-521-29137-2 pg.123-125</ref> The first communities arose in Northern Sumatra (Aceh) and the Malacca's remained a stronghold of Islam from where it propagated along the trade routes in the region.<ref name="Camb"/> There no clear indication of when it first came to region, the first gravestone markings date to 1082.<ref name="colin"> Colin Brown, A Short History of Indonesia", Allen & Unwin, Jul 1, 2003 ISBN 1-865-08838-2 pg.31-33</ref> When Marco Polo visited in 1292 he noted the urban port state of Perlak was Muslim<ref name="colin"/>, Chinese sources record a Muslim delegation to Chinese emperor from the Kingdom of Samudra (Pasai) in 1282<ref name="Camb"/>, other accounts provide instances of Muslim communities present in the Melayu Kingdom for the same time period while othersrecorded presence of Muslim Chinese traders from provinces such as Fujian.<ref name="colin"/> The spread of Islam generally followed the trade routes east through the primarily Buddhist region and a half century later in the Malacca's we see the first dynasty arise in the form of the Sultanate of Malacca at the at the far end of the Archipelago form by the conversion of one Parameswara Dewa Shah into a Muslim Muhammad Iskandar Shah<ref> He changes his name to reflect his new religion.</ref> after his marriage to a daughter of the ruler of Pasai.<ref name="colin"/><ref name="Camb"/> In 1380 Sufi missionaries carried Islam from here on to Mindanao.<ref name="Nazeer"> Nazeer Ahmed, "Islam in Global History: From the Death of Prophet Muhammed to the First World War", Xlibris Corporation, Dec 1, 2000, ISBN 0-738-85962-1 pg. 394-396</ref> Java was the seat of the primary kingdom of the region, the Majapahit Empire, which was ruled by a Hindu dynasty. As commerce grew in the region with the rest of the Muslim world, Islamic influence extended to the court even as the empires political power waned and so by time Raja Kertawijaya converted in 1475 at the hands of Sufi Sheikh Rahmat, the Sultanate was already of a Muslim character. Another driving force for the change of the ruling class in the region was the concept among the increasing Muslim communities of the region that only the descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (Sayyid) were fit to rule them causing the ruling dynasties to attempt to forge such ties of kinship by marriage.<ref name="Nazeer"/> By the time the colonial powers and their missionaries arrived in the 17th century the region up to New Guinea was overwhelming Muslim with animist minorities.<ref name="colin"/>
 Ottoman Empire
 Modern day
Although modern European countries are tolerant of all religious persuasions, a sector of European thought that is archly critical of Islamization suggests that an Islamization of European culture is to be resisted (see for example Jean-Marie le Pen). Islamists contend that the reason behind French resistance to the possibility of Turkish entry into the European Union is associated with concern over the rapid growth of Muslim communities in Europe, in contrast to the declining birthrates of non-Muslims.
- Devin De Weese, Devin A, "Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde", Penn State Press, Sep 1, 1994, ISBN 0-271-010738
- Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam", Princeton University Press, Sep 1, 1987, ISBN 0-69100-807-8
- Fred Astren, "Karaite Judaism and Historical Understanding", Univ of South Carolina Press, Feb 1, 2004 ISBN 1-570-03518-0
- Tobin Siebers, "Religion and the Authority of the Past", University of Michigan Press, Nov 1, 1993, ISBN 0-47208-259-0
- Jonathan Berkey, "The Formation of Islam", Cambridge University Press, Jan 1, 2003, ISBN 0-521-58813-8
- Goddard, Hugh Goddard, "Christians and Muslims: from double standards to mutual understanding", Routledge (UK), Oct 26, 1995 ISBN 0-700-70364-0