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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Monday, November 1, 2021

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Muhammad, the example of Christianity and the allure of Empire

His life as a merchant would have shaped his world-view.

by Ferdinand III


Was 7th century Muhammadan Arabia a ‘desert backwater’?  The Arab states by 620 A.D. had long been in contact with the Roman Empire (since the time of Constantine in the early to mid-4th century) and the Persian or Sassanid empire in the Mesopotamian basin.  The Arabs were significant long-distance merchants, and their camel convoys were an important logistical supply train within the Near East.  The ‘frontier’ tribes would have been well acquainted with both Rome and Persia and by default, these tribes would have been acculturated to the accoutrements of higher civilisations.  It is not entirely accurate to state therefore, that the Muslim Arabs erupting into the area of Syria and Mesopotamia in 636 A.D., were completely savage or ‘barbarian’.


Many Arab tribes were Christian as well as Jewish.  No one knows the demographic or religious breakdown in 7th century Arabia, but it is understood that the richest settlements were Christian and Jewish and populated the entire peninsula, including Yemen.  Given the long-distance trade routes and the active Christian and Jewish communities along these routes, it can again be surmised that not all of Arabia was a barbarian land.  It was the very presence of numerous and wealthy Christian and Jewish settlements which lead to the formation of Muhammadanism, itself a melange of pagan beliefs, misunderstood stories from the Old Testament and fragments from the New.  It was not a heretical Christian sect as wrongly perceived by the Byzantines (Chalcedonian-Orthodox) and Syriac Christians (Nestorians), when the Muslim armies swept into the Eastern Roman and Sassanid empires. 


Muhammad himself was a merchant, first working for, and then marrying a wealthy merchant widow Khadija, who was much older.  He would have been a long-distance carrier of goods and merchandise, heading across the Roman and Persian borders to entrepots and trading centres.  Undoubtedly, he encountered the richer Christian and Zoroastrian cultures, and would have seen the wealth of both empires.  Both states had a unifying culture centred on religion.  He would have seen the power of a centralising and unifying aegis of belief.


In Byzantium the heartland down to the coast of Judea and Egypt was Orthodox-Chalcedon, agreeing that Christ was both man and divinity, and that the man died on the cross and rose again to show he was divine.  For the orthodox the nature of Christ as both God and man and was indivisible and occurred in the womb through the immaculate conception.  In this view, Christ was of two natures but a singular God-man, God died with the man on the cross and both rose again on the 3rd day after the Crucifixion.  In Syria and spreading across Persia into Western China were the Nestorian Christians who viewed Christ born to Mary as a human, that the divine nature of Christ did not exist in the womb.  Mary was thus, not the mother of God.  Nestorians believed that the divinity of Christ was given outside the womb.  


There were many complications and divisions within Eastern Christianity and much fierce debating and theological theorising and design.  The Arab Christians would have been involved in such disputes which were at the core of Christianity.  Who was Christ?  How can a man be a God?  Why would God choose Mary to birth the Christ?  Is the Trinity indivisible?  Or is the God-Man who is the word, divisible?  What is the nature of the Trinity?  These are complex issues and not easily understood nor resolved.  Muhammad and the pagan Arabs were likely aware of them and of the great energy and passion that went into such debates within Christian communities.


Importantly, Muhammad would have seen first-hand, just how ruptured and horribly crippled both Persia and Eastern Rome were by their endless, vicious wars, which included widespread raiding, slave-trading, and wanton destruction of farmland and city.  By 630 both empires were exhausted, depleted, financially unstable and the entire Near East, desirous of peace.  This depletion of imperial power and deprecation of manpower and wealth, would have been obvious to the traveling, alert merchant.  This must have made an impression on Muhammad and is probably why before he died (632), he wrote arrogant, imperious letters to both the Roman and Sassanid courts demanding they submit to Arab-Muslim rule.  His appreciation of their weaknesses was not without great merit.


It is not an exaggeration to state that Muhammad’s experience as a merchant, his interaction with wealthy, urbanised and sophisticated Christian communities, his observation that a unifying religious belief could weld a single population into a potent force, shaped his ambition to change Arabia from a peripheral land, with disparate, disunited tribes, into an unified empire which would spread and dominate the Near East. 


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