Social Scientist. v 3, no. 33 (April 1975) p. 22.


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ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER

Origin and Development of Islam

THE religion of Islam has to be studied against its historical and social background if one subscribes to the theory that the socio-economic formations of a period replicate themselves in an ideological movement. As Maxim Rodinson points out in his book, Mohammedy

there are those whose enthusiasm has rendered them incapable of seeing anything in the development of ideas beyond complete, perfect and well-ordered systems appearing mysteriously in place of others of the same kind. What I am trying to show here is that an ideology was, on the contrary, built up from the elements imposed on a man by his situation and adopted by a society by reason of its situation.1

There has hardly been any attempt in India, or for that matter in any other country, to analyse the available material on Islam which is by no means scarce, and to put one of the most significant religious movements in its proper perspective. I propose in this article to examine some oil) the socio-economic factors which can be said to have decisively influenced the birth of Islam.

Arabia is the south-western peninsula of Asia, the largest peninsula on the world map.2 Geologists arc of the opinion that the land once was the natural continuation of the Sahara (now separated from it by the rift



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