“The ones loitering on the edges of the civilised world, the most despised amongst all the peoples on this earth; hardly known of their existence, if known at all” - thus described by one of the ninth century prelate, the patriarch of Antioch, recalling the happy times when nobody even heard of them.
The fourth century Latin historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, contemporary of Julian the “Apostate” could not even name them correctly. Describing their customs he wrote: “neither for friends nor for enemies are they desirable. Wherever they sweep upon with swift flight, like the red kite, they desolate everything, then, grabbing their spoils, just disappear” What is described here by the Latin author is obviously a desert “round up”. Manifesting the astonishing truth about those masters in world conquering of later years, that in fact they did not know how to fight a real war, their knack was just “round ups” only hardly other than lightning sweeps. They set upon the caravans belonging to hostile tribes, loaded with goodies, they grabbed slaves, baggage and, as if the earth had swallowed them up - they disappeared with the lot.
Ammianus still mixes them up with the Saracens, and he is not sure where exactly their habitats are being found.
Yet they were the self-same Arabs who, in the sixth century queered the game of Heracleios . In four great battles (during which, in around 623, raised to the ground the “holy city” of Thebarmes where the founder of the faith Zoroaster was born), after conquering the Persians, the emperor hoped for a new flowering of the Eastern-Roman Empire - the might of Byzantion. Especially after the news that the Great King Khosroes was swept away by a palace revolt. From Ktesiphon in triumphal march arrived home the reconquered Most Holy Relics, and the True Cross could adorn again the dome of the Million this monument counted as the first milestone, from where the distances on the roads of the empire were measured. However, dispirited, aged, sick and wearied by the dynastic scheming of the Palace, the emperor had to be disappointed in all his hopes.
These were the self-same Arabs who, by devilish luck, in the moment of the collapse of the Persians and right at a propitious political constellation, happened to find a super-Hitler in one of the members of the powerful Quraish tribe. He was a calculating, ambitious (epileptic) wheeler-dealer of sharp acuity, Mohammed by name. Even in the mythology of Islam, modelled on the Christian legend of “the correspondence of Abgarus” we can find pious stories about the Prophet’s calling in a “letter” the emperor Heracleios that he should submit himself to Allah, convert to the true faith with all his subjects and to become the Moslem’s Caliph in his empire.
These were the self-same Arabs who, with their privateers strafed the Medi-terranean Sea and, in a century and a half, stopped the sea-commerce of the Christian world; and if it is true that the corn-producing littoral part of North Africa was the granary of the Eastern Empire, one can imagine what a disaster it was for Byzantion the cutting-off the life-line of their corn-carrying ships.
These were the self-same Arabs who recognised themselves as the “Hagarites” the “Ishmaelites” in the myths of the old testament and amongst the “Abrahamite” monotheisms, the pecking order wherein they placed theirs at the very top: they set up Abraham and his son Ishmael as models for the world; “behold the two “hanifs” - the first true believers”.
They looked upon the foundation of their faith as unshakeable, identical with the Order of Nature, an irremovable anchor-sheet of the mind. Therefore, according the Koran everywhere on earth everybody was and is to be born a“naturaliter” Moslem. As to the Infidels, pseudo-priests peddling spurious doctrines, Heathen swindlers/ imposters grabbed them in the cradle and inculcated into their minds unacceptable, false beliefs.
These were the Arabs whose campaign during several centuries was tantamount to a Peoples’ Landslide - the Arab avalanche. All it started hardly six years after Heracleitos begun his operational moves against the Persian fighting machine that was to cut up his empire, truncating its territory to one-third. And all this just a couple of decades after Mohammed flew from Mecca, where the tribes turned against him and forced him to escape to the friendlier Yatrib (later named Medina).
these were the Arabs who, starting from 633, conquered Syria, Palestine, Jeru-salem, Alexandria, the whole of Egypt, Armenia on the North and Afghanistan in the East: and it seemed to appear on the far horizon as a spectral menace - the overrunning of the Indian subcontinent, the incorporation of the Punjab as well5
by 711-12 they dashed along North Africa, on the blown-up ruins of what was the Vandal Empire. They occupied Carthage and with their fighting camels, marshalling their Berber hordes, they appeared on the Iberian Peninsula. In a weeklong heavy fighting by Poitiers - barely 200 kilometres from Paris Carl Martel succeeded to stop them and then it was not the defeat that made them to retreat, rather the fact that their lines of logistics were being stretched too far 6.
One wonders who could recall the memory of the Ghassanids those Christian Arabs who, once fitted into the community of Byzantion. Their Monophysite heresy was overlooked, because they were useful bridges towards the Arabian world (when this world was still in statu nascendi). The Philarchs could rose to generalship in the vanguard of the camelback fighting units of the Foederati and, being equal to the patricians, could claim the title of Clarissimi. Under Julian one of them, Arethas ibn Jabala as chief Philarch, became Basileos of the Arabs.
The Christians Arabs were famed by their piety. According to the chronicles, at the end of the fifth century they built such a dazzling cathedral that, with its interlocked treble cupolas, its towers, its enormous dimensions and marbled magnificence was a match for Hagia Sophia (in any case it predated that one by a good decade). And what became of the Ghassanids? What else could have been: so near to Islam, with the Arabian might in the ascendency, they melted away like snow under the sun.
The idiotic blunder of the crusades also had its reaction.
Albeit after the half-hearted fights lasting for 800 year which now relented, now renewed, the Half-moon was expelled from Al Andaluz, yet Hispania, the “little” Spain - was negligible compared to half of Europe: for, after conquering Con-stantinople in 1453, “in exchange” the Osman Turks took possession of half of Europe, the whole Eastern side of the continent, so much so, that the horsetail flags did not stop until they have reached Vienna...
They were the self-same Arabs who, to begin with, wrenched out the shaping of history from the hands of the emperor Heracleios and, through him, from the hands of Europe. For well and truly, as far as facts are concerned, grabbed together in a rough and ready manner - these are the facts of history, as bequeathed to us by the Arabs.
FIRST CORRECTION. The illiterate Mohammed never wanted to start always to continue something. Like a sharp-witted, rich merchant, all the time he was looking for the company of rich merchants of his ilk, be they Nestorian/Mono-physits/Maronite Christians as well as Zoroastrian or Jewish merchants.
Albeit he dictated his random, higgledy-piggledy thoughts for 22 years to his literate scribe, as he heard them in the cave of the mountain Hira dictated by Djibril the Archangel: but whether what the Archangel revealed to Razul “the messenger of Allah” who was writhing in epileptic fit wrapped from head to foot in his cloak - was there in these revelations any really mystical, esoteric, so called “religious con-cepts”, according to our European notions?
Yes and no.
Let us forget that sanctimonious, piously preserved scandal which, after the elimin-ation of the 232 stone-godheads , the three Gharaniqs (the Ones soaring Above), al-Lat’s, al Uzza’s and Manat’s interlude caused, and granted that the retaining of these “intercessors” in their godly character was prompted by Saytan, nevertheless their topics in the Koran keeps up returning. Though this also rather confirms the impression that in spite of all these seraphic revelations, against their importance and violent hullabaloo, they were merely d e c o r a t i o n a l characters on the arena of a tribal rivalry
even if they keep to stuff full their hagiographies with the miraculous element of the sensus numinis, if we take at its face-value the Ishra (K 17;1 - that the Prophet flew in a wondrous manner in one night from Mecca to Jerusalem where once stood “the Temple of Solomon” and, as a befitting pretext, in 690 a great mosque with golden cupolas should be built where He left his footprint) and we believe the miradzh (that on his prodigious horse, the Buraq Mohammed rode up to Heaven, where He made a circular tour and saw Allah face to face) - even so
no matter how much it is denied by the following mystic Sufis, miracle workers, seers in a trance and legions of eminent theosophers, the sterling truth was that from the beginning to date, it was about nothing else but power struggle, rivalry, feud of dynasties: power politics, internecine wars, haggling, distribution of spoils according to the achieved hierarchy; the setting off of military expeditions, jihads, arbitrary or ordained; the holding on to looted provinces, towns, countries, robbing to them neighbouring states for aggrandizement’ sake; ransoms, tributes, head money (jizya) recovered; holding on to the inherited administration, and/or Islamising the same; and primarily and above all: succession. Caliphs, sultans, emirs, padishahs, down the smallest bashis of janissaries - the lot. It is well known, that even by the very beginning of the legends, at the cost of bloody battles and murders, it was the question of the succession which broke Islam into two to Shiites and Sunnis
and while the canonical hair-splitting, pious moralising and non-stop legislations - on the basis of Usage and Sacred Tradition - kept going on and according of trends, tendencies and schools kept swelling, religion’s mystical meaning never dominated as much in the Islamic theologian’s world of ideas, in the kalam, as it did in the scriptoriums of Christian schoolmen
according to today’s concept, Islam was an “s e c u l a r “ movement, though being clad into the burnouses’ and turbans of the bigoted
bluntly; the history of Islam is the history of a successful fascism.
SECOND CORRECTION. In their first century, though they were dazzling with their world-conquering campaign, these assaults were never “invasions”. Arabian tribes gave the leading fighting elite, which in turn gave individually enlisted “auxiliary people” and roped-in countries, Bedouins/Berbers/Moors-(Saracens), later Islamised nations, Persians, Armenians, Afghans, Indians; but before the establish-ment of the Ottoman empire, one could not speak of giant armies, overrunning landmasses.
Iran would have been far too great a mouthful to arabify; they had to resign them-selves to concede that in Islam, Farsy should be an honoured companion language of kalam and falsafa theology and philosophy. But anywhere else they ground down the mother tongues of the conquered people and from Afghanistan to Tunis they ruined all linguistic obstacles and arabified the bulk of their believers.
They left in peace the conquered native inhabitants, exacted harsh ransoms, but originally, during the first 100 years to convert was not and could not have been their primary aim there was not enough of them. Only after the first phase followed another kind of Islam which did not know mercy, converted with the sword, by brute force, child-snatching, devastating fire and persecution, inquisition and book-burning. Filling to the brim the fuel-reservoir of zero-tolerant intolerance which is nowadays known as “fundamentalism” the Wahhabite movement was a later development.
THIRD CORRECTION. Let’s have a taste from the changes of the diplomatic language - how it mirrored its epoch and the enlargement of the idea of the “known world”
“ - Most majestic of Gods, Ruling King of the Whole World over: Son of the Great Hormisdas, I, Khosroes, to his brain-dead servant, Heracleios. Thou who are re-luctant to acknowledge Our Domination above thee as it behoves, make yourselves called Lord and Royal Highness, snatch and give away squandering all those riches which are Our Due. Thou, beguile with promises our servants, thou, who disturb Us unceasingly with your rapacious bands! Was not I who crushed the Hellene hordes? Thou keep harping on about thy god who will defend thou for thyne idiotic trust. Why then that that lord-god of thyne could not wrench Caesarea, Alexandria, Hyerusaliom from my hands? Is there anybody in my way when I want to trample upon Constantinople to Our lofty pleasure?”
(From a letter of Khosroes Persian great king to Heracleios Basileos I., in around 622)
Although it might lack any historical basis, sounds quite improbable and rude that “letter” of Mohammed to Heracleios, urging a nationwide conversion, even so, during the following three and a half centuries the world changed out of recognition. By then a good four-fifth on the maps of the known and explored world was painted to the colours of Islam, for the scene of geopolitics was shifting. By a wink of the Caliph of Damascus heads were rolling in the distant emirate of Cordoba. In the ninth century, with technology imported from China, paper-mills were built in Baghdad , and like the silk once travelled the “Silk Road” to Rome thus the Chinese silk, ceramics, porcelain travelled to Baghdad, which became a metropolis the population of which exceeded those of Byzantion and Rome.
The tone of diplomacy also changed, and a princely letter is unimaginable without due gifts. The Caliph of Caliphs, Harun al-Rashid, sent as a gift an elephant with his ambassador Isaac the Jewish merchant, to Charlemagne in Aachen. The court admired it greatly. The animal kept living for a few years in the “elephant-house” of the palace until, during the military expedition against the Danes, it perished. According to the chronicles the Caliph thus endeavoured to satisfy an expressed wish of his “Mighty Brother”. Charlemagne asked for an elephant and he got one. This was the only one of Harun al Rashid and he had to part with it. The piquancy of the pious anecdote of which Charlemagne never heard: that the name of the elephant was Abul Abbas - thus he should honour the memory of Abu l’Abbas the first Caliph, founder of the Abbasid dynasty.
We should not be blinded by the historical aura of Charlemagne, because already in his time came to pass the inward turning of Europe in matters of power politics, in its commerce, in its body of dogmatic faith. European galleons hardly ever crossed the waters of Mare Nostrum, the hosts of pilgrims to the so-called “Holy Land” decreased and towards the end of the tenth century they ceased. The conclusion of the eminent historian-monographer, John Moorhead cast light upon the true situation: “the rise of Islam had relegate Western Europe to being an unimportant backwater, from which it would take centuries to emerge” the rise of Islam condemned Western Europe to be an insignificant backwater; it took centuries to emerge from this lack of an outlet .
It means that Eurocentric Europe, with all its countless wars of conquest, religion or succession, during the centuries of Islam’s domination was no more than a sideshow.
THIRD CORRECTION. The hedgehog when attacked, curls up on itself. But what can it do when it is as large as an elephant? Europe itself. From the crucial 7th century, Europe, like the hedgehog-elephant protected itself against Islam’s pincer movement.
To the degree the Arabian-Persian World of Islam kept driving in races of Central Asia, peoples of the Indian subcontinent and the fringe of China into the ENTELECHY of Islam (meaning a world concept of their own, a commercial network of their own, claiming sovereignty of their own on regions not yet discovered), the World of Islam as a whole lost their interest in Europe, although their Masters kept an eye on it - their overall strategy never changed, their dogged aggressiveness never abated.
The continuously aggressive sequences of Islam had a decisive role in our history; sapienti sat
this is that GLORIOUS PAST OF BYGONE TIMES which haunts in the subconscious of the fundamentalists. And be they ever so uncultivated, the pressure of this colossal PAST shows on the pressure gauge of their body of beliefs. This fills up the reservoir of their impatience up to the brim, so that their Zero-Tolerant Intolerance (fuel tank of all FANATICISMS and world-conquering JIHADISMS) will suffice to the whole of the third millennium. And while we run out of Christianity, sooner or later we will have to shape and strengthen our defences and the whole of our atomic shield. We must not forget either and this should be the third and last correction to this review of our history
for it not only lacking in our “subconscious” there is not a trace of it anywhere
that the source of our mediæval and modern history, that shaping-and-shrinking of our world-map lies there, buried in that catastrophic century which passed from the war of Heracleios the Byzantine emperor, up to the battle of Poitiers.
Translated by H. PRISCILLA PRÁGAI