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The March of Islam: TimeFrame AD 600-800

de Time-Life Books

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On cover: The prophet's quest-Byzantium under attack--Christianizing Europe--India adrift--An enduring dynasty for China--The kingdom of the rising sun.
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Exibindo 3 de 3
Looks at the seventh and eighth centuries in Arabia, Byzantium, Europe, China and Japan, and discusses the role religion played in each culture
  riselibrary_CSUC | Jun 5, 2020 |
Looks at the seventh and eighth centuries in Arabia, Byzantium, Europe, China and Japan, and discusses the role religion played in each culture
  riselibrary_CSUC | Jun 5, 2020 |
There has been no neglect of Islamic history in the East or the West. It is in the Middle East, where the history of Islam -- along with the history of everyone and everywhere else -- has been sadly neglected.

This work is an example of archeological and historical studies of The Prophet and Islam -- completely negating the competing myths of Islamicists and "believers".

The work begins with an essay on "Warriors and Warlords". The hit-and-run tactics of desert raiders were adapted to large-scale campaigns of plunder. Skilled fighting men were available to generous lords, from China, across the Indus to the Frankish kings of Gaul.

Invocations of divine authority added piety to rapaciousness. Mohammad blessed his raiders: "May Allah keep you safe and bring you much booty." In Europe, the age of "chivalry" dawned with the pledges of knights to aid against the Islamic invasion of the Iberian peninsula. Charlemagne contained the Moors, and then forged an empire from the Pyrenees to the Rhine with his own invasions. In China, the Tang dynasty, noting the civil strife that brought previous regimes to ruin, established an elite force of halberd infantry, supported by armored cavalry. In Japan, a similar corp guarded the Nara lords. Ultimately, the practice of appointing unskilled "nobles" as the officers eroded these elite forces.

{The history of this period speaks volumes against relying upon an "aristocracy" for, well, anything. The impulse to parcel posts to well-born or tribal lords without demonstrated aptitudes is sphexish. It has never worked, but it is repeated.}

1. The Prophet's Quest.

Two great imperial states confronted each other: Byzantium and Persia. Each assumed itself to be at the center of civilization, and while diverted by other neighbors, each invoked increasingly intense religious justification for their mutual conflicts and suspicions. Constantinople was taken over by a cult calling themselves "Christians" {wholly estranged from the teachings of Christ}. In Persia, the Sassanians were caught up with fire-worshipping Zoroastrianism. Under King Chosroes II, Persians rampaged through Asia Minor and the Middle East. {60} In 613, a Persian force destroyed the bustling Syrian metropolis of Antioch, and in 614 fell upon Jerusalem, specifically razing religious monuments. In 619 Egypt fell to the Persian swords choking off its trade routes.

In response, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius built up armies to respond. To do this, he stoked the fires of religious fervor. {60} He couched the campaign as a religious war to recover the True Cross which had been pried out of the Holy Sepulcher of a Church in Jerusalem and taken to Ctesiphon as booty.

{The favorite heresy between these two cults was the synthetic teaching of the Prophet Manes. The role of his religion--the most dominant in the period-- is inexplicably overlooked in this volume.}

In 622, Muhammad was exiled from Mecca -- this is now known as the hejira, the "flight". The days are numbered from that year, with the notation "AH".

Also in 622, Heraclius led his army into Armenia and after four years, was unable to achieve a decisive victory over the Persian occupiers. While engaged, however, 800 miles from the Bosporus, the Persians laid seige upon Constantinople. The patriarch Sergius and a general named Bonsu "proved to be a remarkably formidable pair". The entire city throbbed with religious processions, and images of Christ and the Virgin Mary were painted on the city gates. Under cover of this activity, General Bonus destroyed the fleet of seige boats. The Persians withdrew, clearly a case of "divine deliverance". {61}

At his headquarters in the field, Heraclius broke the stale-mate by making a treaty with the Khazars, a Turkic tribe with a dependable hostility to Persian occupation. In 627, Heraclius led a small disciplined army over the Armenian highlands into the plan of the Tigris. They won a series of battles, captured the city of Dastagird, destroying its sacred structures. Humiliated by this bold strike at the heart of Persia's Empire, Chosroes II's ministers murdered the monarch in 628, and sued for peace. In 630, Heraclius returned the True Cross to Jerusalem.

The period of peace was disrupted by religious disunity and the empires were vulnerable as a result of exhaustion. The Semitic tribes in the region between the two empires in this contest took advantage. {29 Quraysh, conversions to Judaism and Monophysites, Laikhmids, Ghassanids, Nestorians, etc. Bedouin, Hashemite clan of Muhammad {34}}. Just six years after his victory over Chosroes II, the ageing Heraclius faced the uprising of Arab tribes. He died feeble and broken in 641, and Arab armies never lost a land battle with Byzantium thereafter. {63}

Essay on "The Structures of Islam" documents the fact that the first Muslims lived in tents of camel hair, and one of Muhammad's wives installed the first mud-brick wall in his compound, earning his criticism -- he said "The most unprofitable thing that eateth up the wealth of a Believer is building".{49} The Prophet built NO mosques during his lifetime.

2. The Changing Face of Europe.

In 610, a thirty-five-year old warrior named Heraclius, guided by sea-faring Moors, led a fleet from Carthage to Constaninople. He overthrew the Emperor Phocas, who had seized power from Maurice by murdering, his wife and eight children. At his execution, Phocas was confronted by the new emperor, and spat out this challenge: "You do better!"

In the 7th century, the centers of power in Europe were shifting. Constantinople was embattled on all its frontiers and the population was literally starving. In central Europe, the mounted Frankish warriors were uniting barbarian tribes and by the 8th century established the Carolingian dynasty (Charlemagne).{58} Christian missionaries arrived in Britain. Each king had a retinue of warriors whose ability to to accumulate treasure was crucial to his power, and was celebrated in sagas. Beowulf, the saga of a dragon-slayer, was an Anglo-Saxon ballad. The book presents the treasure of these kings -- including the trove found at Sutton Hoo.

Charlemagne's fifty-acre private residence at Aachen was also the seat of government. He prayed in the chapel three or more times a day in the Palatine chapel next to the Roman spa reknowned for its mineral springs and mild weather.{81}.

3. Empire Building in the East.

Includes an essay "Inscribing the Sacred Word" - documenting this period of illuminated texts crafted by scribes from China to Ireland. Pictures of earliest parchments containing Koranic text in Kufic script, one of the earliest written forms of Arabic, and containing a human form depicted in the chapter seal.{120} Pictures of the Diamond Sutra, inscribed on hinged gold leaves, from a Buddhist temple in Korea, and wood block text from the Silk Road's Tunhuang, illustrated by the Buddha tatooed with a swastika on his chest, attended by guardians, angels, and two dogs. This is the world's oldest dated printed text.

Illuminations seem to emphasize the beginnings. Not only Gospels, but letters of the saints, are examples--for example the translator Jerome with his Vulgate.{126} The Lindisfarne monastery Gospel (god-spell, or "good tale") with its intricate chi-rho monogram of XPI. Page from the Book of Kells showing very clearly the Celtic motifs developed long before the birth of Christ.

4. The Kingdom of the Rising Sun.

In AD 735, a smallpox epidemic swept through the kingdom of Japan. When it reached the capital of Nara, it claimed many notables of the imperial court. Understanding that the heavens were unhappy, the emperor Shomu determined to build an enormous image of the Great Buddha, which would show universal spiritual unity.{131} One of the obstacles would be to obtain the approval of Japan's traditional deities.

The arrival of Buddhism in Japan was the occasion of ferocious fighting between its converts and those who viewed it as a threat to the existing pantheon. Yet for centuries they had coexisted in harmony. To ensure harmony, the Buddhist priest Gyogo was dispatched to the shrine of Amaterasu, the ancient sun goddess, from whom all emperors claim descent. Speaking in a melodious voice, Amaterasu repeated a Chinese poem in which she says she welcomes the plan as she would a boat at a crossing or a torch in the darkness. {131}

The remained numerous problems. Revolts had to be put down in the western provinces, funds ran short, and the Japanese metal-workers did not know how to complete the task. A Korean metalworking master undertook the work. And in a sign of divine approval, a vein of gold was discovered in a northern province, in a region always lacking in valuable minerals.

In final form, the Great Buddha was consecrated in AD 752. An Indian ascetic monk named Bodhisena painted the pupils into its eyes. Japan came of age, progressing from an isolated insular condition into a civilized empire in a remarkably short time. The Japanese devoted great effort to importing improvements, each of which they stamped with their own indelible characteristics.{133}

This work touches upon the unique geography and the Stone Age developments. The Jomon subsisted as early as 10,000 BC using roughly chipped stone tools, living in pit-huts with their dogs as pets. The Ainu, short, robust, hairy and Caucasian, were also early arrivals. The first Mongol peoples inhabited the regions closest to Korea. The Yayoi, unlike the Jomon, were sedentary farmers who grew rice in irrigated paddies. They smelt iron, and produced wheel-turned fire-hardened ceramics.

Between the 4th and 7th centuries, thousands of burial mounds arose--some more then 1000 feet high-- in the narrow plains of Japan. A unique "key-hole" shape was used.

Essay on Designs. Photographs of art show global influences. A cut-glass bowl with sexogonal facets may have been made in Roman-occupied Middle East where it was common, traded on the Silk road, through the Tang court from China. A bronze mirror depicts Mediterranean lions, birds, and grape vines. Ivory from Indo-China was the material used to inlay a sandalwood measuring rule. Among the artifacts, the lacquer and gold leaf wooden petals of a bronze censor used to invoke the lotus revered in the influential scripture, the Lotus Sutra.
  keylawk | May 14, 2011 |
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On cover: The prophet's quest-Byzantium under attack--Christianizing Europe--India adrift--An enduring dynasty for China--The kingdom of the rising sun.

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