Re: Can someone here quickly sum up the bible history for me
Same goes for anyother religion.
I know that you're just looking for something brief here, so maybe you can file this in your "later on, when i have more time" folder:
The Arabs: Journeys Beyond the Mirage
, by David Lamb, Vintage Books, revised edition 2002
is one of the best contemporary reads i could offer on the history of the Arabs and of the rise of Islam--which are subjects so intertwined as to be inseparable before the advent of the Seljuk Turks. The major schism in Islam, comparable to the split between Catholic and Protestant, occurs within the first century of Islam. One of the great heroes of Arab/Muslim mythic history is Ali. Mohammed and his followers, known as The Companions, were originally a small, hunted band of "fanatics," forced to flee the old home town. When they began attracting younger followers, Mohammed's first cousin, Ali joined them. The early annals are full of the entertaining, but rather unreliable accounts you can expect in that type of history, in which they record long, praise-worthy dialogues between the historical figures concerned--a kind of "You are there!" style of "mytho-history." It is certain that Ali was one of the most vigorous of young holy warriors, and he married the Prophets daughter Fatima. Later, when the Arabs had knocked down the already crumbling Sassanid empire, they founded the city of Baghdad, and fissures began immediately to appear. Ali in his maturity became somewhat of a mystic. THe power structure of that theocracy was centralized autocracy with priestly review, and the surviving Companions became the first religious monarchs, the Caliphs. The Caliphate survived until the arrival of the Seljuk Turks, after which point the Caliph became simply a religious figurehead of the much more successfully war-like Turks.
Ali was the fourth Caliph. Mohammed and the Companions had survived in their flight (the hegira) by adopting a sunna
. This refers to an Arab custom more ancient than Islam. The sunna
can best be translated in to English by not doing so, and rather, translated into Lation, modus vivendi
. The first Arab nomads to come into contact with the Greco-Macedonian empires which rose and fell in that region after Alexander III had swept through, having been impressed by the Greek and Macedonian warriors, were less than enchanted with the Greeks, Akkadians, Jews, Egyptians, Abbysinians whom they met at the relatively new, little oasis towns. In fact, with an extreme pride, and a tradition of extreme violence and an almost paraonoid care for their own persona, these desert warriors needed to learn how to get along, if they were to take advantage of trade with these people, something like a thousand years before Mohammed. They developed the sunna
as a code of their conduct which would allow them to move through that world with a rough justice, and a reduced risk of sparking violent reaction, or resorting to violence themselves. This largely involved a contemptuous ignoring of the locals, who were eager for trade in the fine horses they might get and sell for great sums in Tyre, or Alexandria or Jerusalem. So everybody learned to get along. Mohammed answered the concern of the Companions with the possiblity of contamination from contact with the infidel--and worse, the pagan--by elucidating a sunna
for the faithful, the Al-Din, whereby they could live righteously among them. Not surprisingly, the Companions in the caliphate felt the same way about dealing with conquered peoples. So long as they paid the capitation--head tax--from which the faithful were exempt, Jews and Christians were tolerable, and very useful in a variety of ways. The Pagans hadn't a snowballs chance in Hell save instant conversion--otherwise, they were toast. And Ali did not agree.
The first four Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman [Osman in Turkic, the Arabs re-translated that as Utthuman, and hence Ottoman
Empire] and Ali) are known as the Orthodox Caliphs, and Muawiya and all of his successors represent dynastic caliphates. The man who eventually became the fifth Caliph bitterly hated Ali, and opposed him sub rosa
, but not overtly. When many in this core of the Muslim world as it then was grew to object to and oppose Ali's visionary and largely intolerant world view, Muawiya backed the play of another petty leader in an uprising against Ali's authority. The uprising was crushed, but Ali's authority was fatally damaged. Thereafter, the mainstream of Islam became "Sunni," meaning those who followed the sunna
, which while certainly not representing an ideal of tolerance, was much more tolerant than were most religious dogmas of that time, or of most times in history, for that matter. Ali was a visionary who wanted to follow the path or the way, the Shi'a, to eventually attain an apotheosis of being subsumed into the person of God himself. Since then, a line of teachers, of mullahs
has succeeded Ali, and for the Shi'ite faithful, different adherence to the teachings of specific Imams has determined their sectarian character (neither Sunni nor Shi'ite Muslims represent monolithic sects). The Mother of All Battles had occurred in the desparate conquest of Persia (Iran) in the 640's (641, i believe) during the rule of the Orthodox Caliph, Umar. Ali had been not only a fervent holy warrior, he had been the focal point of a near cult among Arab holy warriors, and Ali's mystic vision spread quickly in Persia, genuinely inspiring religious fervor, and not simply being a case of convert or die. Today, Iran is essentially an officially Shi'ite state. Saudia Arabia could be considered the home of the Sunna. Iraq is an artificially created state, which Hussein had made secular, although he is essentially a Sunni Arab tribal leader. The region of Basra is the "natal" home of the Shi'a. Baghdad was the center of Muslim authority for centuries, even when simply a Turkish puppet. The Kurds have been a proudly independent nomadic and tribal people with a surprising unity and lack of internecine strife for millenia--although they are Sunni, they have never displayed any particular prejudice against Shi'a, apart form a general and regional contempt for the Arabs. Kurdistan has been a fluid concept, but we know that it has existed at least since the time of Xenophon (from whence, xenophobia), whose Annabasis
(The March Upcountry) describes them before the time of Alexander.
Other salient points in this "brief" history of the spread of Islam: The holy warriors continued east from Persia, even battering against the rock walls of Afghanistan. These Muslims remained largely free from the Sunni/Shi'ite controversy, and aherence is more casual among them. They have, however, retained a stong core fanaticism, which is still evident today in the Indus river valley (i.e., most of Pakistan) and the mountain fastnesses of Kashmir. The tide rolled on, against stiff resistance, until the Holy Warrior bathed his horse's legs in the tides of Timor in East Asia, north of Australia. The immense distances involved have assured that there is a great variety of belief and practice among the Muslims of that part of the world.
To the west, Egypt fell rather quickly, and a new ethnic mix entered into the idea of "Arab." With the death of Ali, the Muslims of Egypt took up their own form of modified, in some respects more mystical (the mysticism did not last, but the fanaticism has) Sunni Islam, which they attributed to Fatima, Ali's widow and daughter of the Prophet. Their dynasty is known as the Fatamid dynasty (the suffix -id, or idae [in it's latinized form] comes from classical Greek, and means a family--the children and family [who actually existed] of Herakles [Hercules in Latin, who is likely largely composed of whole cloth] are the Heracklids, or Heraklidae; the children of mythic Arachne, condemned to eternally spin and weave, are the Arachnids, Arachnidae--the spiders).
Further to the west, the native populations of North Africa were collectively known as Berbers (from Greek ridicule of their speech, and with the same root as barbarian), and followed a semi-nomadic, pastoral existence similar to that of the ancient Arabs (then becoming progressiely sophisticated). These boys saw eye to eye. North Africa was under the control of crumbling German monarchies, principly of Vandals and Goths. The Berbers embraced Islam with a vengeance, which vengeance was directed at the Vandals. They swept within a generation to the Pillars of Hercules. They crossed to the Iberian penninsula, and here met stiffer resistance from Vandals, Alans, Avars and other tribes who had established healthier kingdoms. The "Christians" (the term must
be used loosely in this context) were either swept back into the arid mountains, or were bowed, unbroken. The Berbers named this land Al-andalus, mimicing the name of the Vandals--Andalusia. They pushed as far as the Pyrenees, and then crossed over into France. Arab historians like to characterize that operation as a raid, or a reconnaisance in force. Their case is a weak one, as it will not explain why Charles Martel, Charles the Hammer (Charlemagne's grandfather) required the services of all of the Salian Franks, the Burgundians and the Lombards in an all day battle at Tours, in 732, the centennary of the Prophet's death--to finally halt the onrush of Islam into the West. The Franks, Burgundians and Lombards were no slouches, they had conquered the western half of the Roman empire--come on, Arab Historians, that's one hell of a big reconnaisance in force. In all fairness, "Christian" annalist are no more likely to admit or take notice of defeats.
Across the river Oxus, beyond Persia, a nomadic people from the Central Asian Highlands, speaking a Turkic language and styling themselves Seljuk's--after a Chieftan, a King or Kahn--had been successfully hiring out as mercenaries to the increasingly enfeebled Caliphate throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries. The Turks traditionally referred to their Kahn as the Sultan (Sool-tahn, with the accent on the first syllable), and although they eventually asserted control of Baghdad and the Caliph, and their lands spread from the Roman Empire (a.k.a., the Byzantine Empire) all the way East to the Central Asian Steppes--they in their turn fragmented from internal ambition. As soon as any Turkic general successfully conquered a city--Antioch, Tyre, Damascus--he declared himself Chieftan, and set up for himself. (This is a very simplified account of the extremely complex, more than byzantine [ :wink: ] intrigues by Pesians, Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and many, many others which lead to the decay and final collapse of the Caliphate authority--but you asked for brief, and i really am giving you brief). In his Perfect History of the World
, at the time of the First Crusade, 1095-6, Ibn Qu'linisi complains of the lack of leadership, and denounces the defilement of Islam by the Crusaders. The nominal supreme Sultan of the Seljuks was spending more time and resources fighting other Turks. One enterprising general fought his way into Baghdad with the expertise of Kurdish mercenary officer, Ayyub. He was soon driven out though, and Ayyub accompanied him in his exile, a very uncommon loyalty in the then cut-throat world of the Turk. When his master died, Ayyub took up the staff of office, and lead what turned into a largely successful campaign against rebel Chieftans, and the Christians. He was seconded in the effort by his nephew, Yussuf (Joseph), who was to take back Jerusalem and hold it against Richard Coeurdelion (Lionheart)--Saladin, "Peace to the Faithful." There is an ugly irony in Saddam Hussein erecting a huge monument in Baghdad to Saladin, the greatest man in Kurdish
Yussuf was eventually sent off to conquer Egypt by Ayyub, and remained to become the second member of the briefly-lived Ayyubid dynasty. He broke the power of the Fatamids, but did not meddle in their culture or relgious belief. Saladin became to the Muslim, for "saving Islam," what Charles Martel had been to the Christian, for "saving Christendom." After the death of Yussuf, a predictable tribal pattern asserted itself. His sons squabbled over the "empire," and his brother then conquered them all. The Ayyubids did not last long, and put a petty Sultan on a shakey throne in all the major cities of the heartland of Islam. The arrival of the Mongols put everybody out of business, Muslim and Christian alike. They were only stopped in the Sanai, and more because Chingiss the Khan (Genghis Khan) had died, and everybody was in a rush to get home and dispute the succession than because of the military excellence of their opponents. (Geeze, does everybody do this all the time ? ! ? ! ? I'd say yes . . . ) Those were the Mamelukes, from a turkish word meaning "owned," or "slave." By the 13th century, it had come to be commonly a military slave--and many rose to prominent positons, as high as Visier (chief advisor), general officer and Al-miral--admiral. The Mamelukes basically returned from the Sanai saying: "We stopped the greatest terror on the Earth, we're in charge now." Ironically, the favored source of Turkish military slaves was the tribes of the Caucasus. Caucasians and Circassians became fearsome light cavalry using scimitars sharpened like razors. Some of the whitest people on earth originally, they were burned a deep walnut by the time horrified French peasants faced them at the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798, when Napoleon finally put an end to their rule.
When the Mongol dust settled, a virorous young Turkish tribe, named for their Patriarch, Osman (remember, Uthman=Osman=Utthuman=Ottoman), decided they could pick up the pieces, and promptly demonstrated the truth of their conviction. The Osmanli empire was originally a very vigorous, and unique dynasty in middle eastern history. Somehow, this tribe learned to let sleeping dogs lie, and concentrated on the military excellence, leaving local customary religious and legal beliefs alone, so long as two conditions obtained: the state remained Muslim, and everybody paid their taxes, the gentleman over there with the horse tail hanging from his lance will take that, thank you. Which was probably no worse than the blood sucking which had been inflicted upon the population previously, and surprisingly offered stability after nearly 600 years of chaos. They pushed past the rubble of the Roman Empire, leaving Constantinople in its splendid isolation and plunged headlong into a century of war with the Serbs and Bulgars, with Adrianople (largest city in European Turkey) taken and retaken by the opposing sides at least seventeen times in less than a century. When the Bulgars collapsed, the Turks pushed the Serbs out of the Danube Valley, and then west to Kosovo, definitively defeating them in the 14th Century. They would eventually twice push to the gates of Vienna in the 17th century, finally driven back forever (although the Austrians sure as hell didn't know that at the time) by the great Polish King, Jan Sobieski.
While that was going on, the Turks surrounded the last glorius remains of the Roman Empire, now two millenia old, and dead on its feet. Despite a good deal of empty saber-rattling from the west, and a Quixotic expedition by Genoese adventurers, the city of Constantinople was doomed. Sultan Murad was obliged to turn to the east to defeat Timur Lank (Iron Arm), known in the west as Tamerlane, and he also swept through Anatolia (the heart of modern Turkey) and tidied up all the ill-mannered Turkish Emirs. His son, Sultan Mehmed, took the city in 1453.
Their authority fragmented fairly quickly, and the states of North Africa eventually became more or less independent. The Spanish Reconquista
drove the "Moors" from Andalus/Spain by the end of the century, and they were in no mood for Turkish nonsense. The Turks retained a surprisingly extensive control, nevertheless, holding much of the Balkans, Anatolia, the whole of Tigris-Eurphrates valley and the Arabian Penninsula, and Egypt--the latter dependant upon the willingness of the Mamelukes to acknowledge a highter authority. They, the Turks, were able to guarantee the safety of the hadj
, the pilgrimage, to Mecca and Medina until they collapsed before the English in the First World War. Assuring the safety of the Faithful on pilgrimage was the crucial attribute for asserting authority in the Muslim world, as it is to a lesser extent today. When they lost that, the Turks were on their own. They had had a proto-facist coup before the First World War, when Enver Bey and his Young Turks took over, basically shoving aside the corrupt and eneravated Sultanate. The only hero to emerge from the experience of the war in Turkey was Mustafa Kemal, the hero of the defense of Gallipoli. He organzied the mostly modern, sorta secular state of Turkey, and so was dubbed Attaturk, the father of the Turks.
After the war, Clemenceau basically told the Brits to carve up the middle east as they likely, he was buy elsewhere--just make sure we get our cut. So, an aged Arthur Balfour and an energetic and exuberant Winston Churchill in his forties sat down and redrew the map. They put their buddies the Ibn Saud clan in charge of Arabia, and for their part, the Ibn Sauds conspired with the radical fundamentalist sect, the Wahabbis, and Saudia Arabia was formed. They handed Syria and the Lebanon to France (Egypt was already theirs, they had previously stolen it, fair and square.), and then they made one of the biggest blunders of which you all to unfortunately can conceive. They took three Turkish provinces, Basra, Baghdad and Kurdistan, known from time immemorial for cutting one another's throats, and they combined them . . . into Iraq.
Ain't ya glad ya asked.
(Disclaimer, this is totally off the top of my head. I welcome anyone's criticsims and corrections, and will likely ignore them, as i have no doubt of Centroles 'abilities to google anything i've written, and make his own decision. Consider it a road map, Boss.)