Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Review of Post-Biblical History (3)

This is part 3 of chapter 8 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

Islam was invented by Ubu’l Kassim, who was born in 570 in Arabia. He proclaimed that visions from an angel told him to change his name to Muhammad, which means “highly praised.” He orally passed on his visions, because he could not read or write. As opposed to Christianity, which was spread by suffering, the faith of Muhammad was spread by the sword, as Muslims violently raided neighboring regions.

The city of Mecca thought Muhammad was foolish, so they sent him away in 622; he went to Medina, where his message was eventually accepted. Mecca later surrendered under the sword of Muhammad and his raiders in 630. Muhammad died in Mecca in 632, where he is still entombed today!

Abu Bakr succeeded Muhammad, uniting several unruly Arab tribes under Muhammad’s teachings. Ruling for only two years, Bakr was succeeded by Omar, which means “the sword of God.” Omar led these barbaric Arab tribes to conquer Syria, Persia, some of the Byzantine Empire, Egypt, and present day Palestine, including Jerusalem in 638. Omar was assassinated in Medina and succeeded by Othman of the Omayyad clan.

Twelve years later, Othman was assassinated and succeeded by Muhammad’s son-in-law and nephew, Ali. Muhammad’s widow protested this succession, because it left the Omayyad clan out of the loop. Ali defeated the protesters at the Battle of the Camels, but then he was assassinated just five years later.

Ali’s successor was Muawiya, who reigned for eighteen years, but failed in his bid to conquer Constantinople. At his death in 680, Muawiya was succeeded by his son, Yazid, but many people protested this succession as well. They wanted Ali’s son, al-Husain, to succeed Muawiya. There was a battle at the present day Iraqi city of Karbala, and al-Husain was killed. The split between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims developed in part over these succession issues.

In 685, Malik led the Arab tribes again to unity, putting an end to the internal strife. Approximately seventy years and several generations after Muhammad’s death, his sayings were recorded as the Koran, and Islam was founded. The Muslim faith continued to spread by the sword all the way to India in the east and Spain in the west, until it was halted in France at Tours in 732 by Charles Martel. In 749, the Omayyad clan was practically wiped out by the great-grandson of Muhammad’s uncle, a member of the Abbasid clan.

The Muslim Caliphate, similar to the Roman Catholic Papacy, reached the height of its power in the ninth century, when Baghdad was the cultural center of the kingdom. Islam had gained much territory and influence over that territory’s inhabitants by forcing neighboring nations and tribes to convert; it was well positioned to survive the Crusades, which occurred over a period of 200 years.

The Crusades, an effort to free Christians who were living in persecution under Muslim rule, were a series of at least eight military campaigns carried out by so-called Christians from 1095–1291 primarily against Muslim occupied territory in the Middle East and especially directed at Egypt and the region known as Palestine. We will look at the implications of the Crusades, which occupied much of the Dark Ages of Europe and the Middle East, in the next section of this chapter.

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