PROPHET’S ACADEMY – INSTITUTE OF ADVANCED PRACTICAL SUFISM
ISLAMIC HISTORY - HONOURS LEVEL – UNIT 2
BRIEF REVIEW OF WORLD HISTORY BEFORE AND WITHOUT ISLAM 2
ISLAMIC HISTORY IN CONTEXT 11
1. THE RIGHTLY GUIDED CALIPHS 13
2. THE KHILAFA OF UMAR RA 18
3. KHILAFA OF UTHMAN RA 24
4. KHILAFA OF ALI RA 28
5. THE UMAYYAD AGE (661-750) 34
6. THE ABBASID AGE - RISE AND APOGEE 39
7. ANDALUSIA – MUSLIM
8. DECLINE OF THE ABBASIDS – DYNASTIES PROLIFERATING 47
9. THE TWO PESTILENCES – 1. THE CRUSADES 52
10. THE MONGOLS COME 61
11. OTTOMAN ERA (AND
12. THE OTTOMAN APOGEE 73
13. ZENITH AND STABILIZATION – AND SLOW DECLINE 78
EPILOUGUE – LESSONS FROM ISLAMIC HISTORY 93
It is a fact that different continents as well as often different parts of a given continent produced at one time or another different civilizations both in type and level of advancement. By advancement I mean technological, organizational and spiritual accomplishments.
Earliest advanced civilizations known to history were the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Persian in the West and Chinese to the East later to be joined by the Indian. These go back to three to five millennia BC and mature about 2000 BC. All share one common character- they grew on the downstream parts and around mighty rivers. Downstream because these rivers attained their highest volume of water per hour while the lands around them became flatter and flatter until they reached the sea. Additionally the silt so rich in nutrients brought by these rivers built an ever growing delta on which both agricultural production and transport of the produce became greatly enhanced.
Another factor was warmth. The warmer (without becoming too hot) the climate the more successful the civilization. So, we find the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Ganges and the
Against these we have the much less successful civilizations of both the too hot and too cold and also too arid regions of the globe. All regions north of 55th parallel froze so long during the long winters that initially nomads like Vikings, Eskimos and Laps could survive.
Another factor was degree of isolation. The more isolated were races and tribes the less chance each benefiting from and building upon each other’s discoveries. It was for this reason that the utterly isolated Australian deserts and jungles could only maintain primitive civilizations.
Both the too infertile desert and too fertile central
In the severe deserts the same applied but with less effect. The effect of the deserts were to reduce the population and make it mostly nomadic. But it did necessiate developments in shelter and dress because the effects of excessive heat in daytime and excessive cold in the night had to be countered.
As already briefly mentioned cold climates also discouraged advancement. In the rather cold climates like the Europe north of the Alps water and vegetation were too plentiful like central
I am pointing these out in order to show that the level of civilization a people builds has little to do with their racial qualities and much to do with their geographic fortunes. Once a ‘backward race’ moved their habitat their civilization changed. The nomadic Turkish peoples who had brutalized and terrorized others for centuries became as civilized as any once they changed habitat and began to settle in more fertile lands like the Mediterranean basin and for example produced the Ottoman civilization which at least for three centuries was the most brilliant and successful on earth in most departments of social and political achievement. In learning they often more than equalled the West; in art they selectively created more elegance if not size and in technology they again excelled in many subtle ways. For example Ottoman naval vessels were smaller than the European but much more manoeuvrable and therefore more successful in sea battles. In humanism they simply were ages ahead as we shall have occasion to see. Almost nobody was persecuted for their beliefs or never burnt at stake. The ever-persecuted Jew found his USA-like safety and comforts only in the Ottoman lands. Essentially anybody of any faith could sue any Ottoman power-holder at a court of law and be given his rights if he had any genuine grievance. There was no class structure, no nobility and no serfs. Son of poorest subsistence farmer could rise to any position sheerly on account of his personal qualities and industry. And all this was due to ISLAM of which the Ottomans were the most eminent representatives. Of course they were far from perfect; but they looked near perfect at the time when compared with their Western rivals.
THE INTRINSIC BARBARISM OF NON-ISLAMIZED SOCIETIES (WHICH INCLUDE MANY MUSLIM SOCIETIES)
The sad fact is that there has always been a gaping chasm between what man is and what he might be. As an animal man needs and is bound to act like all other animals in order to survive but unlike in the case of lower animals, it does not necessarily follow that man must suffer in the hands of man at least as much as he has been suffering so far.
When wolves make a kill they share it without wanting to share it. Each wolf would like to have the whole for itself except when a mother and then she is instinctively tolerant of her cubs. Men also can be as savage as wolves, sometimes are even in our modern society. We deplore the too selfish among us and may well call them wolves for the savagery of their struggle to get the lion’s share in every situation. There are of course subtler ways of wolfish selfishness. Various ways of cheating the rest are examples. Evasion of paying the full amounts of taxes applying to oneself is one. Here we have a citizen who wants to enjoy citizenly rights at the cost of those others who pay up. What is even more sobering, had payment of taxes left to the citizens’ conscience (i.e., without systems and controls like PAYE- ‘pay as you earn’, regular cuts by the employer for taxes) only God knows what small minority would pay them at all (incidentally income tax is one of the many follies of Western law which seems never quite able to get anything right). Which means the bare animal is still the ruler in most of us. And seems destined to remain so. It is very unlikely that a day will come when a society shall exist on earth which society, because its members will be so honest and kind that no police, no courts, no strict government will be necessary to keep peace order among them.
But it is again a fact that most men are born with enough moral and spiritual potential to be modified into a more sociable character and altruistic mind-set. That only leaves us with a defective minority who cannot mature into responsible adults but keep their wolfish nature no matter what incentives and deterrents are applied to modify them. Again it is one of the incurable mistakes of trendy Western sociology to blame each and every man’s inadequacies on the society as a whole rather than admitting that genetics are at the root of many character failures. We see the crucial role of genetics in our pets. Kitten adopted from various sources grow up into different characters under the same roof. While some are very cuddly, sociable and look almost humanly intelligents others may be cool and distant and terribly selfish and defensive. Added to it the epileptic fits some are prone to and genetics comes into the picture with a vengeance.
In the human society we have similar inadequates born genetically so. Neither preaching nor rewards, neither criticism nor prison can move them; they simply cannot acting selfishly and sometimes criminally- whatever educational talk you make to them they stare back without registering anything like domesticated reptiles and must and will re-offend at the first opportunity. From their ranks we get our life criminals and often sometimes also most powerful politicians. Mind you, these criminals are not idiots. There are many idiotic or psychotic criminals who sometimes have to be kept in mental hospitals or looked after in some social care centres if not in prisons. But a lot of criminals are as intelligent in an IQ sense as the rest of the society and some are outright geniuses; such geniuses in fact as to engage in big crime all the time, confound the forces of law all their lives and escape even a single conviction and may end up having a hero’s burial.
But morally modify and improve man we can and must do. All civilization benefits from this improvability of man and the more we have it the better.
But how we go about it? Well, we know that man is moved by two often interacting motives: Biological need and belief. Biological need, for man must eat as best as he can, for example. So he will look for gainful employment and work properly in that to avoid dismissal. In other words we can control him through his stomach. Even animals respond to that and become domesticated (a form of civilization- for in the wild they woulnd’t be so docile and cooperative). The second motive is belief. If a man believes that there are goods for him in direction A and not direction B he will walk in direction A. Here comes in religious faith and in fact all social and ethical values. The society tries its best to inculcate in each and every citizen a set of non-negotiable values and not so negotiable beliefs. The citizen must believe that violence and cheating are bad. The citizen must believe that bad acts will eventually be punished however secretly committed because an omnipotent moral god is seeing and taking action. So there has been no single society in history that did not have a religion to help sort out its desperate moral needs. Only modern societies largely dispense with religion and it is too soon yet to predict what effect this denial will have on the moral side of these societies.
But some clues are there. Social ties from family to the national levels are weakening and isolation, fragmentation and individualism are increasing. Many modern citizens are basically content to limit their social relations to superficial dealings and stereotyped niceties with work colleagues on the one hand and minimal intimacy with close family members for as little amount of time as possible. Even a mother nowadays is shy of her offspring, cuddling and suckling her newborn minimally and cannot wait to return to her job while the baby is looked after by several others who do it for money and as profession. Modern urban child is often a parental love-starved wreck and a potential avenger of its loss on the society. Minimalization of intimate contact and comradeship is depriving growing persons of the sense of loving responsibility for others and the sense of belonging to a closely-knit social unit (like family) with the loss of emotional nutrition and support such unit could give.
The society at large which may number in millions is simply too vast and indifferent (and also dangerous) an environment for a young person to bond with with enough emotional reward. Starved of a lot of moral, emotional and social development the modern individual becomes a cog in the impersonal machinery of modern economy and his pleasures from living become reduced and confined to eating, drinking, working at a job, engaging in sports, finding ways for quick sexual fixes and killing the resultant depression with mind-altering drugs from alcohol to cocain. Social care for the weak in general has lost all its tender emotional elements which nurture the soul of both the givers and receivers of the care and have become institutionalised. The lonely moderner, unable to belong to a closely-knit warm-hearted human group tries to meet his or her needs for such socialization by adopting a pet or pets and lavish hrer love and friendship on them unaware that they hardly need or appreciate it but would be happier in the wild living as they were meant to- finding their own food, mating and reproducing freely.
Who can say that depositing if not dumping the granny at an old people’s home and then visiting her a few times a year is as humane as looking after her from close quarters and with warm feelings mutually reinforcing each other? Even disabled sons and daughters are being increasingly institutionalised today to allow parents to earn more money and have less caring responsibilities (in fact basically paying the care home fees if they are not already paid from public coffers) but more leisure for more entertainment, sport and sex. I have seen mothers kissing good-by to their teenager disabled children whom they hand over to a care institution for life. Both the despatched children and the mothers are very sad and heart-broken for it but the mother either believes that she has her own life to live and enjoy or the new boyfriend wants more care with more sex or both factors work together to cruelly send away the unlucky youngster who thereby fails the Darwinian test of survival of the fittest. All of which indicate an increasing decline of conscience as the basis of morality and its replacement by convenience.
The new man behaves himself if he behaves himself at all not because an inner voice tells him so but because he wants to avoid trouble with others. So long he can keep others placated by means of formal, feelingless good manners and also keep the forces of law off his back by avoiding risky crimes he feels both justified and entitled to get his way in anything at the cost of any crime that will look to him almost impossible to detect or prove. From skilful tax evasions practiced by almost all big earners to stealing anything which invites its stealing (e.g. a piece of jewelry carelessly left exposed by its owner) and from giving and receiving bribes to buy an unfair advantage to exploitation of opportunities for sexual abuse immoral acts have become almost morally neutral acts. In other words manners are cultivatec with the cynical aim of projecting them as morals and then take the mask and gloves off when an opportunity of cheating others of their rights is found.
In fact politics have always been based on such moral hypocrisy and what modernity is doing is spreading the same hypocrisy among the masses. Now everybody is as polite and tactful as a foreign minister and equally unscrupulous to invade and rob or bring down others. It is then not for nothing that all kinds of crime are increasing despite the universal public education of citizens from age 5 to at least 16 and reports are that half of all crimes are committed by those under 17 and most of them are serious or violent or both. Drug peddling and use have become epidemics, sexual sins are increasingly being exonerated and perversions glamorised. As a result both sex-based crime and venereal illnesses are proliferating. It must a very sad and despairing observation that among the wealth, welfare and glitter the modern Western society represents, millions are suffering and perishing from venereal plagues and abuse of drugs while other millions are living immorally fabulously on the astronomical proceeds of undetected crime and cruelty, from prostitution to drug dealing and from contract killing to corruption in high places. This cannot be the civilization we need.
Perhaps the best example of replacing manners with morals and harvesting the prizes is a top gangster. That epitome of the modern gangster, namely Al Capone is a case in point. The boss of the bosses in 1920s in America Al Capone’s manners in public were impeccable, his image and bearing charming and his apparent charity and generosity legendary. Very quick witted and hospitable he would charm the hosts of newspaper reporters questioning him on his practically obvious but legally as yet never proven many crimes and he would disarm and ingratiate them at no time and daze them as well with his luxury hospitality at big hotels. He would give charity lavishly to his poor relations, pals and even total strangers he came to know or made themselves known to him but would be even more lavish with his bribes to congress, government, municipal or police bosses who were made to understand that the alternative to receipt of gifts could be delivery of ‘slugs’ as gangsters called bullets. He both killed his enemies and had them killed by his hitmen often in extremely cruel ways after terrorizing the victim for hours with a cat and mouse game.
Of course not everybody in a society can become so masterfully hypocritical and savagely cruel. But the modern Western society is basically pushing its members to that very same direction of persistently faked good manners and utter lack of moral scrupples under the mask so built. The brazen lies and more lies to excuse lies and nepotism and gerrymandering, lucrative complicities with powerful lobbies from legitimate weapons industries to big crime syndicates US politics. It is an exhibition stage of the immorality that modern industrialized and full-employment- oriented society can throw up. The same for all other powerful countries. And also the elites of poor nations.
As for ‘muslim’ countries, their elites are lagging behind their Western counterparts only in the financial size of their sleaze while the humbler part of their populace are trying to keep to their brotherly and neighbourly traditions and warm and intimate emotionalism and mutual charitable convictions with the desperation of the game wardens of an endangered species. They want to let their children to get a good education and come somewhere high in the society at large but at the same time know that the higher in national hierarchy and farther into modern urban life the children move the more they shall lose their traditions and join the cynical masked ball of the elites.
What makes both non-muslim and modern secular societies barbaric rests squarely on the lack of a Divine Law. Secular laws however carefully enacted always leave something awkwardly unresolved and it is often the case that when the courts pass a judgment on a case they also regretfully observe that due to the defects and limitations of the laws applying the culprit got away lightly while the victim was hard done and went largely uncompensated. The judge ruling may say “My hands are tied”.
Islamic Law never allows this. A muslim judge is absolutely free to find the justest judgment no matter the letter of the laws applying, by simply explaining his decision as one of ‘istihsan’; that is a judgment most appealing to conscience and wisdom.
One of Islamic law’s unequalled merits is the requirement that no harm caused to anybody either by mistake or deliberately must be compensated by the causer of the harm or his representative group, like family or government. In secular law the victim must pursue his claim if he dares at all and pay up all the legal expenses or owe them to their claimants after the case is ended one way or another. The injustice being so built into the system (for how many citizens can dare a litigation?) breeds endemic resentment and depression among the masses and contributes to their own crimes which serve as vengeance on their part.
But religious laws based on other than Islam are often no less defective and often worse than the secular. Hindu religious law divided Allah’s servants into four grades of worth with Brahmins (BORN priestly class) the nearest to God and in absolute command of others. The bottom the ‘untouchables’ (can you see the atrocious insult) who form the majority are and must remain the despised slave servants of all castes above. They are told, the Brahmins are created from the head of God, the untouchables from God’s feet. Full stop!
The same law stipulated that the wives of a dead husband should be burned along with him in the cremation ceremony- so even child brides had to (and sometimes still) burn alive to ashes. Christian laws condemned to burning ‘witches’ who often were no more than either eccentric or deranged women (anyhow madness was regarded as satanic). It also burned ‘heretics’ who were often none other than theological or ritual slight deviants or just priestly or political rivals be got rid of. Sect burned sect on account of a difference like “Is baptism to be given to the newborn or after the person knows what is it about?” Why such terrible and shameful features in religious laws? Because all such religions had become out of touch with their possibly Divine roots or were invented by various men who pretended to speak for God or gods. So all their ignorances and prejudices (like misogyny or class structure) went into the recipe.
The fact is that a genuine prophet and messenger of the True One and Perfect God, namely Allah, can only declare and legislate for an across-the-board equality, justice and charity for all mankind. And only Islam and exclusively Islam has ever fitted the bill.