World History Essay

Submitted By jbenrached
Words: 6219
Pages: 25

World History/Dr.Lujan
A History of Islam
Its Origins, its Rise and its Decline
Muslims refer to the age before Mohammed as the "age of ignorance" (or "Jabiliyyah"). (8) The Arabian peninsula was a relatively anarchic place, where different social and political entities coexisted. On one hand there was the Beduin tradition, that provided the backbone of the social organization. The Beduins were, first and foremost, nomads organized in tribes. They were also warriors, specializing in the "ghazw" or "razzia". (4) The North Arabian saddle was an invention that transformed the camel into a means of transport and a combat animal. The Arabs had become skilled traveler, specializing in long-distance travel across the deserts that had blocked the expansion of the Mediterranean powers.(3) Camel-breeding nomads controlled the commercial networks of the Arabian peninsula, frequently interacting with the neighboring empires of Rome (and then Byzanthium), Nabatea (in today's Jordan) and Persia. The poetry of these nomads was far from primitive.(2) Both the "qasida" (desert encampment ode, usually an exaltation of one's tribe with references to the loved one) and the "ghazal" (love poem) were refined forms of literature. These people spoke the Arabic language, a language related to the Hebrew of the Jews, and a script to write it evolved from the Nabataean/ Syriac variation of the Aramaic alphabet. The Bedouin life was organized around the tribe. There were endless wars among Bedouin tribes, but there was also a complex network of alliances. (1) Within each tribe there ruled a spirit of social egalitarianism. A "shaykh" was elected as first among equals to keep peace within the tribe and demand respect from other tribes, but he was not a king (the job was not hereditary). A "hakam" played the role of the judge. Decisions made by hakams made up the "sunna", the ethical code of a tribe. Different tribes had different sunnas. (4) In general, though, women were the property of men, and the harem was the status symbol of a shaykh. Both men and women practiced polygamy. There was no individual inheritance. Paternity was unimportant because the Beduin society was matrilinear. Cities were created by two trends: Beduin traders becoming more sedentary, and Jews migrating from Palestine. (3) The Jews were expelled from Palestine by the Romans after the 70 and 132 insurrections. Yathrib (Medina) is an example of an Arabian city that was originally settled by Jews. There were Jewish merchants, Jewish Bedouins, Jewish farmers, Jewish poets, Jewish warriors. There developed a symbiotic relationship between Jews and Arabs (Jews heavily Arabized, but Arabs heavily influenced by Jewish beliefs). One city played a unique role in the Arabian peninsula: Mecca. Mecca was not situated at the crossroad of any major tradingroute, but it was situated near a oasis marked by a black cube, the kaba.(2) Legend had it that the kaba was placed there by the first man, Adam, and then rediscovered by the Jewish prophet Abraham. Over the centuries it became a sanctuary for many gods. The Mecca before Mohammed was a model of religious tolerance. Pilgrims came from all over the peninsula to worship their gods, particularly during an annual pilgrimage (haji) to Mt Arafat. There were idols to the Nabataean gods (e.g., Kutba), to the goddess Uzza (Isis, Aphrodites), to Jesus and Mary. (7) The chief god was Hubal, the Syrian god of the moon, chief god of Mecca. There was also a god named Allah, lord of the kaba, the Arab name for Enlil, an ancient Mesopotamiam god. who had three daughters: Manat, Allat, AlUzza. Oracles (kahin) interpreted the gods through ecstatic poetry, a procedure modeled after Delphi's oracle. Since there were 360 idols and the Pilgrims were expected to rotate around the kaba seven times, Mecca was probably also a cosmic metaphor (360 days of the year, seven astral bodies). The only monotheists were the "hanif" (poets and