15 April 2007

Thoughts About Islam and History

I simply pass this along folks. A participant at a listserve to which I belong (usually as a humble lurker) represented himself as a student of Middle Eastern history and made the following statements about the early history of Islam.

It seems plausible, but what do I know? Nothing. So I'll be happy to learn.

"Historically, very little is known about Muhammad, except that he
preached what can be called an Abrahamic monotheism at the time of the
Roman-Persian wars (603-630) which Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians
interpreted according to their respective apocalyptic traditions. Both
Muhammad's biography and the Koran are works dating in their beginnings to
no earlier than the 690s. When the Syrian and northwest Arabian Arabs
conquered their Mediterranean-Southwest Asian kingdom there was no
developed Islam around about which anything can be said with certainty.

"(2) The full-blown Islam as we know it today is the result of religious
scholars writing in Iraq during the 800s and 900s and nostalgically
projecting a pristine religious community back into the desert of Arabia.
(There is no archaeological proof that Mecca existed before the Arab
conquests.) This projection took place in a cosmopolitan, sophisticated
Iraq in which wine, poetry, Greek philosophy, and the Sassanian royal cult
were freely celebrated. Religious scholars designed a utopian community in
the past in opposition to the 'worldly' caliphs, their court, and the
empire at large, hoping it would eventually overcome the 'immoral' behavior
they abhorred."

Sound right?

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.