Was the Arab Expansion Inevitable, and Can It Happen Without A United Faith?

Genuinely curious about this.

There have been several topics over the years about a "no Islam" scenario (where Muhammad dies, or isn't born, or nobody believes him, or whathaveyou), but one thing that pops up quite often is the idea that the Arabs would expand from Arabia regardless of whether they were Muslims or not. I guess my question is around that; without Islam, would there be an Arab expansion out of the Middle East? If so, does it need a unified religion?

Call me crazy, but I was imagining a scenario where the Arabs wind up something like a near-eastern equivalent to the Mongols. The core group would have their own religion (Tengriism for the Mongols, but perhaps something else for these Arabs, perhaps the Cult of Hubal, or some version of Christianity) but they wouldn't favour one religion over another. So when they do expand, they aren't doing so to convert their neighbours to whatever faith they follow, and are in fact just expanding for the sake of expanding. Is something like that possible? Or likely?

Religious history isn't my strong suit but I'm always interested in a more religiously 'diverse' world free from Big Faith.
 
I'd suspect that yes, an Arab expansion would still occur even if Muhammad died as a child. The economic, technological, and geopolitical factors that enabled the military expansion weren't caused by Muhammad alone - there were other prophets and political figures in Arabia who could have sought or did seek to unite the Bedouin, such as Musaylimah, Tulayha, Saf ibn Sayyad, Sajah, and others contemporaneous to Muhammad.

I think you're entirely right to see VIIth Century Arabs as kind-of like the XIIIth Century Mongols. They were ready and able to expand militarily, and all they needed was a unifying leader who would give them a reason to do so.
 
I think they were going to expand regardless, but the *degree* to which they expanded was not pre-ordained.

it was not a guarantee that they'd conquer an empire stretching from Spain to India
 
Kick
Nope arabs where disunited and weak ,plus a lot of early Muslim come very rivals tribes If anything they remain the desert dogs as roman called the pre islamic Arabs.

This place selling short islam is disgusting
 
Nope arabs where disunited and weak ,plus a lot of early Muslim come very rivals tribes If anything they remain the desert dogs as roman called the pre islamic Arabs.

This place selling short islam is disgusting
What in G-d's name are you talking about? Modern scholarly consensus has agreed that the idea that the Arabs were all a bunch of uneducated weak groups is ex post facto horse-shit meant to emphasize the role of G-d as opposed to the actual capabilities of the sophisticated Arabs.

The Arabs were sophisticated, wealthy, well-integrated into the rhythms of civilization in the region for centuries and had reached a sufficient population with a lot of experienced warriors ready to go conquering in the situation where their neighbors had kinda hit their nadir.
 
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Islam did reinvigorate the Arabs, and gave them one the mainrl reasons for conquest, which was to spread their religion

Arabs would most likely still have an empire, but without Islam, it would be quite a bit smaller, as rapid victories in the early Caliphate conquests convinced both Arabs and Non Arabs that Islam was real and was working miracle as such many more joined the empire more voluntarily
 
Islam did reinvigorate the Arabs, and gave them one the mainrl reasons for conquest, which was to spread their religion

Arabs would most likely still have an empire, but without Islam, it would be quite a bit smaller, as rapid victories in the early Caliphate conquests convinced both Arabs and Non Arabs that Islam was real and was working miracle as such many more joined the empire more voluntarily
It enabled them to be united, yes. But the idea that the Arabs wouldn't go *conquering* at all without Islam is just *silly*.

So I do agree with you.
 
I'd suspect that yes, an Arab expansion would still occur even if Muhammad died as a child. The economic, technological, and geopolitical factors that enabled the military expansion weren't caused by Muhammad alone - there were other prophets and political figures in Arabia who could have sought or did seek to unite the Bedouin, such as Musaylimah, Tulayha, Saf ibn Sayyad, Sajah, and others contemporaneous to Muhammad.

I think you're entirely right to see VIIth Century Arabs as kind-of like the XIIIth Century Mongols. They were ready and able to expand militarily, and all they needed was a unifying leader who would give them a reason to do so.
Not necessarily, figures such as Musaylimah came about as a direct reaction to the growth of Muhammad's influence. Islam was revolutionary in the region due to its ability and capacity to unite the Arab tribes, whether such unity manifested itself in conversion or on the other hand, coalitions to destroy it is another matter. These "false-prophets," as considered by the Muslim community, were a direct result of the growth of Islam in the region, their claim to the Prophethood sought to emulate the influence and power Muhammed yielded or as an attempt to succeed him.

As leader of the Ummah, Muhammed succeeded in developing a pious community of followers that transcended pre-Islamic social norms. As a result, the early Muslim community essentially formed a new identity, one that disregarded the divisions and social structure of the past, with a new set of laws believed to be ordained by God. Thus the squabbling of various Bedouin tribes concluded as these tribes united under the concept of brotherhood in Islam. That is not to say divisions were rendered non-existent, but Muhammed proved very capable of subsiding such fissures. In the heavily divided tribal society that was Pre-Islamic Arabia, this was ground-breaking; A low ranking member of a tribe leading a state of diverse followers from widely varying origins and social classes. The power vacuum after Muhammed's death would lead to rise of these "false" claimants. Therefore I would argue that without Muhammad, it would of been very unlikely that such figures would have appeared.
 
No they were not inevitable in the slightest, in fact I would say they were fairly unlikely all things considered, the circumstances that allowed the Arabs to expand were unique and them overcoming their various early civil wars was also hardly natural.

I'd suspect that yes, an Arab expansion would still occur even if Muhammad died as a child. The economic, technological, and geopolitical factors that enabled the military expansion weren't caused by Muhammad alone
What are those exact factors? What technology did the Arabs that they didn't have before? How are geopolitical factors inevitable?

- there were other prophets and political figures in Arabia who could have sought or did seek to unite the Bedouin, such as Musaylimah, Tulayha, Saf ibn Sayyad, Sajah, and others contemporaneous to Muhammad.
Who says they will succeed, are you saying that somehow any random prophet with worse charisma was going to succeed too? Why can't Arabia end up being divided religiously if so many prophets existed? Why must one not only succeed but his community outlive his life?

I think you're entirely right to see VIIth Century Arabs as kind-of like the XIIIth Century Mongols. They were ready and able to expand militarily, and all they needed was a unifying leader who would give them a reason to do so.
Except the 13th century Mongols weren't going to inevitable conquer anything either, they relied on good leadership that was not a given.

Nope arabs where disunited and weak ,plus a lot of early Muslim come very rivals tribes If anything they remain the desert dogs as roman called the pre islamic Arabs.

This place selling short islam is disgusting
Nobody cares what you find "disgusting" and creating caricatures of people you disagree with doesn't do anyone any good.
 
It enabled them to be united, yes. But the idea that the Arabs wouldn't go *conquering* at all without Islam is just *silly*.

So I do agree with you.
What did the Arabs conquer in the 1400 years before Islam from when they entered the scene in the Assyrian period? Nabatea? A couple of small kingdoms in the Jazeera desert or Charakene? I don't think the Arabs were destined by climate or history to conquer more than this, especially considering that arguably most of their expansion run in the opposite direction before Islam(toward Yemen)

I think those ancient states are the basis for what a weaker/decentralized Arab expansion would look like, maybe the Lakhmids expanding into Mesopotamia or Ghassanids holding more of the Levant but I doubt this would even lead to Arabization of the Aramaic speaking Levant-Mesopotamian region without a religious and political turnover.
 
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It's always possible, but much less likely. Islam gave the Arabs a unifying principle, without it you'd have a substitute idea. The Arabs were also fortunate in that both the Roman, and Persian Empires were in a weakened state at the time. Christian Egypt was divided by religious conflict which made foreign conquest seem more acceptable, then the efforts of Constantinople to impose orthodoxy on them.
 
I mean yes it can be possible the arab invasions could be possible from the 5 caliphs , khalid al walid , Muawiyah etc there were many talented political and tactical geniuses or at least competent enough to make a collation

It is totally possible for one of these men can politicaly unite the arabs but I don't think their empire would have been as big and they would have presented more challenges like talking longer to unify arabia and not been as untied as the Muslims of the olt also the problem of assimilation with out islam the arabs would assimilate in to the local culture .

And the like mongols it's likey the arab empire breaks of in the arab kingdoms just some decades after their initial conquest .

Another option is like the germanic tribes ( and the mostly likely) we see a series of migrations and some confederations may prop up etc from the arabs moving north to the sassanid and roman territories .
 
I don't think anything in history is really inevitable. The course of history is incredibly path dependent, and even situations that favour particular results don't mandate them happening. I think we have a tendency to assume things are inevitable because the brain is a sense-making machine, and we seem consitutionally uncomfortable with the idea that the world is a chaotic place and things can happen or not happen for any or no particular reason.
 
No they were not inevitable in the slightest, in fact I would say they were fairly unlikely all things considered, the circumstances that allowed the Arabs to expand were unique and them overcoming their various early civil wars was also hardly natural.
What are those exact factors? What technology did the Arabs that they didn't have before? How are geopolitical factors inevitable?
Who says they will succeed, are you saying that somehow any random prophet with worse charisma was going to succeed too? Why can't Arabia end up being divided religiously if so many prophets existed? Why must one not only succeed but his community outlive his life?
Except the 13th century Mongols weren't going to inevitable conquer anything either, they relied on good leadership that was not a given.
Factor :
- use of Camel as Desert logistics train.
- proto Arab Agricultural Revolution which create
- large population of Arabs
- climatic factors that damage agricultural empires and push Arabs to expand
- spread of Monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that replacing old religious system
- increasing pressure from surrounding Empires (Romans, Persian and Axum)
- political and military knowledge absorbed from surrounding states

Leadership :
- various Prophet would fight each other, eventually one would emerge victorious, Arabia is small and internationally connected to have multiple regimes, while surrounded by expanding Empires.
- Genghis Khan mongol empires is not unusual, there are Liao and Jin predecessor and Oirat, Dzungar, and Manchu succcesor. so periodically Eastern steppe would have one leader who unite them.
- Arabia had arrived at same condition. Eventually some unification occur and Arabs spread. Only when there are technology and demography rebalancing occur, surrounding Agricultural Empires can suppress Arabia desert again
 
I don't think anything in history is really inevitable. The course of history is incredibly path dependent, and even situations that favour particular results don't mandate them happening. I think we have a tendency to assume things are inevitable because the brain is a sense-making machine, and we seem consitutionally uncomfortable with the idea that the world is a chaotic place and things can happen or not happen for any or no particular reason.
I actually like this line of thinkg a lot, even though I tend to think that history has a way, with major exception, of following the path of least resistance.

Genuinely curious about this.

There have been several topics over the years about a "no Islam" scenario (where Muhammad dies, or isn't born, or nobody believes him, or whathaveyou), but one thing that pops up quite often is the idea that the Arabs would expand from Arabia regardless of whether they were Muslims or not. I guess my question is around that; without Islam, would there be an Arab expansion out of the Middle East? If so, does it need a unified religion?

Call me crazy, but I was imagining a scenario where the Arabs wind up something like a near-eastern equivalent to the Mongols. The core group would have their own religion (Tengriism for the Mongols, but perhaps something else for these Arabs, perhaps the Cult of Hubal, or some version of Christianity) but they wouldn't favour one religion over another. So when they do expand, they aren't doing so to convert their neighbours to whatever faith they follow, and are in fact just expanding for the sake of expanding. Is something like that possible? Or likely?

Religious history isn't my strong suit but I'm always interested in a more religiously 'diverse' world free from Big Faith.
There are some unknowns about the era and area, but it would appear that some various Arab tribes were quite likely to attempt expansion outside what's usually considered arab land for the usual reasons: food, resources, power and failure in normal arab land.

What Islam did was allow for a concentrated movement. Suddenly combined Arab armies appeared and were strong enough to conquer, for instance, North Africa. I have doubts about single or small numbers of tribes accomplishing more then limited turf grabs, possibly not ever passing the Nile.

**It should be noted as a possibility that any potentially unifying ideology or clan that found significant success could (in theory) trigger the cascading, unifying effect among the arab tribes that Islam did.

If, for instance, an alliance of tribes took over the Nile, one might see the other tribes fall in line.

--

If TLdr:
Even if never unified, arab controlled land would certainly, as with other borders be fairly elastic.

Without the unifying force of Islam or something comparable to create conglomerate arab armies, the Arabs are unlikely to push through the North African areas, let alone the logistical nightmare if invading Western Europe across the Mediterranean or the black sea area.
 
Nature abhors a vacuum... so does geopolitics.
For the Arabs to expand into the Levant, Egypt, North Africa, sans Islam, wouldn't be that surprising to me... would hardly be the 1st time a foreign power had muscled their way into those areas. (Longevity in maintaining control is another matter).
Persia, though, is another matter...
 
There was an Arab population boom going on at that time. So very possible. Though rather than 1 united arab empire, it could be multiple 2 or 3 arab empires running the show
 
Genuinely curious about this.

There have been several topics over the years about a "no Islam" scenario (where Muhammad dies, or isn't born, or nobody believes him, or whathaveyou), but one thing that pops up quite often is the idea that the Arabs would expand from Arabia regardless of whether they were Muslims or not. I guess my question is around that; without Islam, would there be an Arab expansion out of the Middle East? If so, does it need a unified religion?

Call me crazy, but I was imagining a scenario where the Arabs wind up something like a near-eastern equivalent to the Mongols. The core group would have their own religion (Tengriism for the Mongols, but perhaps something else for these Arabs, perhaps the Cult of Hubal, or some version of Christianity) but they wouldn't favour one religion over another. So when they do expand, they aren't doing so to convert their neighbours to whatever faith they follow, and are in fact just expanding for the sake of expanding. Is something like that possible? Or likely?

Religious history isn't my strong suit but I'm always interested in a more religiously 'diverse' world free from Big Faith.
As mentioned in my previous post, Islam served as the catalyst for the unification of Arab tribes. Without some sort of equivalent social movement/unifying factor akin to Islam serving as a factor for the tribes to coalesce around. The tribes proved remarkably competent in taking advantage of the power vacuum within the Middle east and North Africa, and had many extremely capable warriors amongst their ranks, yet in pre-Islamic Arabia were disunited and were plagued by feuds and rivalries. The nature of such tribal factionalism was also heavily class divided (the earliest followers of Islam tended to be of lower status in the Quarysh). Islam in many senses operated as a social movement, bringing revolutionary changes in transcending rigid pre-existing social norms to create a radically different society, uniting the Arabs under a concept of brotherhood. Quite ironically it also united its Pagan enemies to form coalitions in an attempt to destroy it, yet those quickly fell apart due to conflicting interests and infighting. Therefore without some sort of Islam-like movement to unite the tribes under a singular interest, such expansion would be unlikely.
 
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