Thursday, September 6, 2012

Islam: The Untold Story

Allahu Akbars are raging at  historian Tom Holland  and his  documentary which aired a few days ago in the UK.  What else is new, eh?!  Very interesting comments at the link below.

Ed West writing at TheTelegraph
....Last night’s Islam: The Untold Story will have made uncomfortable viewing for some people. It certainly seemed to be for one of the featured experts, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Iranian Islamic philosopher who had the look of a man whose faith is facing the rising tide of scepticism and godlessness. It is one Christians from the past century and a half, from the early days of higher criticism to the recent plummet in religious attendance, will recognise well.
In this atmospheric and intelligent documentary Tom Holland, whose recently published In The Shadow of the Sword took the burgeoning study of early Islam to a popular audience, looked at the early history of the religion and sought to explain what evidence we have for the traditional history, as viewed by the faithful.

“The evidence is almost nonexistent,” he says. “When you start looking, everything is up for grabs.”
The peoples of antiquity, whether Persians, Greeks, Egyptians or Romans, saw the Arabs as a backwards, obscure people from the desert. As for their religion, they worshipped a number of deities, including cubes, although there were Christian and Jewish communities scattered along the Arabian Peninsula.
But in the seventh century these “despised” people rode out of the desert and embarked on a series of conquests that would soon have them running an empire that stretched from central Asia to the Loire Valley.
And yet the strangest thing about this period, known by posterity as “the Muslim conquest”, is that there is little evidence that they were Muslims at all. When the Arabs arrived in Jerusalem in 636 under Caliph Umar Ibn Al Khattab none of the chroniclers of the period have anything to say about what religion the new conquerors were.

Palestine had been under the control of the Byzantines, who had expanded the number of churches and encouraged Christian settlers, leading to much friction with the Jews. The new masters, who had just smashed a Byzantine army five times as large, seemed to look at Jewish sites with reverence, which led some Jews to see them as saviours and many Christians to feel paranoid about a Jewish reconquest.
And yet no one describes them as “Muslim”; nor does the Arab ruler of Jerusalem mention the Prophet Mohammed anywhere.

Most puzzling of all is the fact that Mecca, birthplace of Mohammed and holiest place in Islam, is not mentioned until a century after the Prophet’s death, and appears just once in the Koran – otherwise the book mentions "Bakkah", which in Muslim tradition is another name of Mecca. Yet as Holland points out in the book, the Koranic Mecca, a place where Christians and Jews lived, does not seem to fit with the distant Arabian town of that period. From a historian’s point of view the description of the city given in the Koran far better matches various settlements in what is now Syria or Israel, the same regions that “the believers”, as the Arabs were first called, were settled in when the Koran first started to be written. So it's possible that Bakkah was located around there. Holland even visits the site of the first known mosque, which faces not towards Mecca but east.

The implication is clear – that what came to be called Islam developed much later than the Prophet Mohammed’s life, and by Arab leaders in more northerly lands who now found themselves in control of a huge, diverse empire filled with Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians........

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