Lesson 3: Topic 2 of 14

Islam likewise is a religion that has had a notable impact on various cultures throughout history. The religion spread rapidly throughout the Arabian Peninsula during the 7th century. This was largely through the military conquests of Arab armies. Muslim forces under Genghis Khan later swept through much of Central Asia at the end of the 12th century, cementing the Islamic faith in the region into modern times. Africa and parts of East and South Asia have significant Muslim populations, as well. India, China, and Russia have sizable Muslim minorities, while Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population. 

Some of the most lasting effects on world cultures came through the development of civilizations. As Islam had spread throughout the 7th and 8th centuries, academics made significant contributions in emerging fields such as science, mathematics, medicine, and literature. The development of Arabic numerals, which are in global use today, originated with Muslim scholars. Additionally, Islamic Golden Age poets such as Rumi and Hafiz have influenced world literature, and their works are still in print. 

Emigration of adherents into western nations has expanded the reach of Islam.

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Islamic law, or sharia, is still used as the legal system in many Muslim-majority countries today.  In Saudi Arabia and Iran, sharia is used as the official legal system and is closely tied to the government. In contrast, in countries such as Turkey and Tunisia, sharia plays a less prominent role in the legal system and is more closely tied to personal religious practice. Additionally, the Islamic faith has been a major force in shaping the political and social landscape of not only the Middle East, but also Central Asia and North Africa.