Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread of Islam
The term Silk Road was coined by the nineteenth-century German explorer Ferdinand von Richtofen. The Silk Road refers to a loose network of overland and see trade routes stretching from the Mediterranean to East Asia. Historical documents point out that textiles, gems, spices, animals and religions were all traded along this vast expanse, starting around 1000 B.C. and continuing for millennia. For much of this time, most Silk Road traders coming from western Eurasia were Muslim, and as one would expect, they brought their beliefs and rich culture to millions of people along the route. Around the eighth century, Muslims of the Arab world began to expand their religion and stopped thinking of Islam as the “Arab religion” with geographic borders and began seeking converts along the Silk Road. The benefits of conversion to such a widespread religion were many, as Muslims of the time preferred trading with other Muslims. Today the Hui, a Muslim Chinese minority numbering five million, are widely thought to be the descendants of Muslim merchants who settled in China at the end of their Silk Road journeys.
The diversity of ethnic, and religious groups along the Silk Road has contributed significantly to its importance. This paper addresses the cultural, social, political implications of the Silk Road from a historical perspective, and how Islamic culture has contributed to art, social and political norms along the Silk Road.
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