The Birth and Rapid Rise of Islam, Animated (622‑1453)

To any­one unfa­mil­iar with the his­to­ry of Islam, it comes as some­thing of a shock that it got start­ed less than a mil­len­ni­um and a half ago. In that rel­a­tive­ly short span of time, Islam has become the world’s sec­ond-largest reli­gion, a fact that becomes more under­stand­able when you see the run­ning start to which it got off visu­al­ized in the video above. Cre­at­ed by Ollie Bye — pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his car­to­graph­i­cal ani­ma­tions of the rise and fall of the British Empire, the spread of writ­ing, and the his­to­ry of the world — it depicts the spread of Islam, which began in earnest after the death of its founder, the prophet Muham­mad, in the year 632, and whose lega­cy is the “Mus­lim world” as we know it today.

“By con­quest and con­ver­sion, the new reli­gion spread quick­ly west­wards through the ter­ri­to­ries of the Byzan­tine empire,” says the Vic­to­ria and Albert Muse­um’s page on lux­u­ry objects of the peri­od. “By the 640s, Mus­lim forces were advanc­ing across North Africa, con­quer­ing Sici­ly in 652 and the Iber­ian Penin­su­la in 711.”

Let’s pause to give that achieve­ment due con­sid­er­a­tion: Islam over­took Spain just a cen­tu­ry after its foun­da­tion, a con­quer­ing speed that puts the Roman Empire in the shade. (The Mus­lims also man­aged to get the upper hand of the Per­sians, who’d pre­sent­ed such a stiff chal­lenge to not just the Romans but the Greeks before them.) “By the ear­ly 8th cen­tu­ry, Islam­ic ter­ri­to­ries had almost encir­cled the Mediter­ranean.“ ‘

“Dur­ing this time Mus­lim rulers, sol­diers, traders, Sufis, schol­ars, poets and archi­tects all con­tributed to the shap­ing of dis­tinc­tive Islam­ic cul­tures,” says the site of Har­vard’s Plu­ral­ism Project. “Across the wide-reach­ing Islam­ic world, tran­sre­gion­al Islam­ic cul­ture mixed with local tra­di­tions to pro­duce dis­tinc­tive forms of state­craft, the­ol­o­gy, art, archi­tec­ture, and sci­ence.” (Nor should we neglect the delights of Moor­ish cui­sine.) This Islam­ic Gold­en Age, like all gold­en ages, even­tu­al­ly came to an end. The cen­ter of civ­i­liza­tion had shift­ed unde­ni­ably by the time of the Euro­pean Renais­sance — which, accord­ing to the Plu­ral­ism Project, may nev­er have tak­en place “with­out the cre­ativ­i­ty and myr­i­ad achieve­ments of Mus­lim schol­ars, thinkers, and civ­i­liza­tions.” And giv­en that Islam remains the world’s fastest-grow­ing major reli­gion by births, it sure­ly has­n’t exert­ed the last of its glob­al influ­ence just yet.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the World’s Five Major Reli­gions: Hin­duism, Judaism, Bud­dhism, Chris­tian­i­ty & Islam

Ani­mat­ed Map Shows How the Five Major Reli­gions Spread Across the World (3000 BC – 2000 AD)

The Com­plex Geom­e­try of Islam­ic Art & Design: A Short Intro­duc­tion

How Ara­bic Trans­la­tors Helped Pre­serve Greek Phi­los­o­phy … and the Clas­si­cal Tra­di­tion

A Visu­al Map of the World’s Major Reli­gions (and Non-Reli­gions)

The His­to­ry of the World in One Video: Every Year from 200,000 BCE to Today

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.