God's Caliph and World's Judge: The Caliphate as a World Empire
God's Caliph and World's Judge: The Caliphate as
a World Empire
The political rise of Islam was rapid. Only one century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the caliphate stretched from the Atlantic Coast of Spain to the Indus River. Achaemenid and Roman Empires, which ruled over much of the territories the caliphate later claimed, also had been large empires. What made the caliphate unprecedented was however its ability to create a political culture based on Islamic monotheism. The caliphate realized, for the first time in human history, the Universal political manifestation of monotheism, Abrahamic and Zoroastrian. It incorporated previous heritages in the conquered territories into its social and political spheres and expanded their spread over much of the old world through peaceful means: gradual conversion, commercial contacts, missionary activity, and intellectual exchange. This monotheistic political culture inspired the rise of enduring social institutions, such as mosques, charitable foundations, and colleges, which assured the continuity of the sense of a common identity based on diverse manifestations of Islamic piety and the critical role of the community, umma, in public and private life. The universal discourse of unity beyond territorial demarcations, manifested rather boldly in jurisprudence and political thought, helped not only the continuity of social cohesion after the collapse of the caliphate but also inspired renewed universal ambitions. New dynasties, such as the Seljuks, the Mongols, and the Ottomans, were inspired by and attracted to such universal ideals, which proved to be adaptable to distinct cultural orientations, resulting in the formation of new potent polities under the aegis of Islamic spirituality.
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