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Islam Meets Eastern Christianity

February 28, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 178

Arab armies, energized by the new social, political, and religious ideas of Islam in the mid-seventeenth century, quickly advanced north out of Arabia. We witness here a classic encounter of the old and the new. It was the great Byzantine province of Syria that was the scene of the first military encounters between Christianity and Islam. And as we look at the sweep of Arab armies north into Byzantine territory in the Levant, some striking features emerge. First is the hostility so much of the mainly Semitic Fertile Crescent felt toward Western attempts to rule them-and for these regions, the "West" meant not just Rome, but Greek Constantinople as well. We are talking about lands whose histories and cultures are essentially eastern and Semitic-long a part of the contested turf between various Persian empires and Greece. There is little love lost for Greeks or Byzantine here. So we encounter deeply rooted anti-Westernism-meaning resistance to invasion and control from Greece to Rome-even before Islam arrives on the scene.

Second, we see again and again how religion provided the rallying cry for this resistance against Rome or Byzantine. These cities regularly embraced 'heresies' as symptomatic of their opposition. It wasn't simply that they were Monophysite and hence opposed Constantinople. It was partly that they opposed Constantinople and hence were inclined to embrace theologies hostile to central rule. Thus, Muslim conquest of these great Levantine cities of the Byzantine Empire was facilitated by long-standing anti-Byzantine feeling within them.

Finally, these conquests by Muslim forces in one sense seem to have transformed the religious world, but in reality at the time they tended more to change control of the state. The actual mechanics of how Arab administration spread provide fascinating insight into how little religion lay at the center of these struggles. Instead, they suggest how mush Islam was primarily the latest banner under which old geopolitical struggles of the Middle East were perpetuated; the great prize was enjoying the fruits of rule.

It would be absurd, of course, to entirely exclude the role of Islam itself from the dynamics of struggle among Middle Eastern cities, provinces, and rulers. After all, Islam very much represented a fresh spirit on the scene. But the Middle East region, in effect, was ripe for some kind of new galvanizing force that could empower fractious local rulers and cities to rise up against the existing central power of Constantinople. Ideology, wherever it exists, is almost invariably pressed into the service of local geopolitics. In short, we witness the role of anti-Byzantine impulses facilitating the Islamic conquest in many of the Semitic regions.

Prior to become a full-time freelancer Waleed Khalid has completed his bachelor degree from Punjab University.

Source: EzineArticles
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