This introductory chapter begins with a historical perspective of the Islamic world. Islam has grown consistently throughout history, expanding into new neighboring territories without ever retreating (except on the margins, as in Sicily and Spain, where it was expelled by force). It began in the seventh century as a small community in Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula, led by its messenger the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), who was eventually to unite all the Arab tribes under the banner of Islam. Within the first two centuries of its existence, Islam came into global prominence through its conquests of the Middle East, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, the Iranian lands, Central Asia, and the Indus valley. In 2014, the year 1435 of the Muslim calendar, the Islamic world was estimated to account for a population of approximately a billion and a half, representing about one-fifth of humanity. The remainder of the chapter discusses the evolution of Islamic political thought; foundations of Islamic political thought; and Islamic political thought in the early Middle Ages (750–1055), high Middle Ages (1055–1258), late Middle Ages (1258–1500), early modern period (1500–1800), and later modern period (from 1800 to the present).
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