15. Islamic Conquests and Civil War

Part Two. I know there’s a lot of new
terminology, new narratives. The things that I want you to
keep in mind are what we’re really going to focus on today
and that is the Islamic conquests, which certainly take
place partly because of religious motivation, but
nevertheless are not accompanied by some fanatical
desire to convert the world. The Muslim conquests have to
be understood in terms of religious motivation but not in
terms of a determination to wipe out Judaism and
Christianity. What appears to be a paradox
makes this era a little hard to understand. Namely, the paradox being that
you would have such a rapid expansion of the Arabs and the
religion that they carried, which eventually would extend
from Spain to India. And at the same time that the
Islamic population would be a minority in most of those conquered regions for centuries. There is not a demand for the
conversion of the population to Islam, and that although
the conversion does take place, in many, in most parts
of this imperial caliphate. It doesn’t take place
immediately and it doesn’t take place under
great pressure. I say apparent paradox because,
in fact, the two things are different. The motivation provided by the
religion to conquer does not necessarily mean that you
require that everybody that you conquer embrace
the religion. Indeed, in part, this is
because, as Berkey emphasizes, the distinctiveness of the
religion was worked out over the course of its first century,
beginning as we said last time in Medina but not
fully articulated until the change of dynasty in 750 from
the Umayyad to the Abbasids. But the other reason is that
there’s no logical connection between conquest
and conversion. It’s perfectly possible to be a
motivated conqueror and not to require that other people
embrace your religion and this is for reasons that we’ll see. The other apparent paradox, and
here I think there really is a paradox, is that the
Islamic conquests are accompanied by internal
division within Islam from 650 AD. By the time of the Abbasid
succession, it is a century later these two parties
can be identified as Sunni and Shiite. And you’ve read that and
you’re aware that this continues to be a division that
defines an awful lot of the Islamic world today. It is particularly a problem
in those countries such as Iraq, for example, that have
both Sunni and Shiite populations. It’s not a problem in Morocco
where everybody is Sunni. And it is less of a problem in
contemporary Iran where a very large majority is Shiite. But it is a problem that
defines both Islam as a religion and the politics of
many countries to this day. And so one of the things we
have to talk about in a lecture entitled “Islamic
Conquest and Civil War” is the origins of the split
within Islam. The paradox is that the
conquests keep on going even while it would seem
that religious unity is falling apart. Now as you remember, I hope,
after Mohammed’s death, there was no clear succession. He didn’t have a son, and it
wasn’t clear what anyone would succeed to. If he was the seal of the
prophets, then you couldn’t succeed to prophecy. Was he a religious ruler, was he
a military ruler, was he a judicial arbitrator? His father-in-law, Abu Bakr,
who we saw was one of the first of his followers, was
elected caliph–, caliph meaning “successor,” simply. Succeeding to what was not
defined, but to some kind of combination of religious
and secular rule. As we said last time, religious
and secular rule are, in a fundamental way, not
separated in Islam, although as we’re going to start to see
and as you’ve read, there are some ways in which they do
start to separate out, particularly in the later
Abbasid period. Abu Bakr was elected, that is
the followers of Mohammed, the people who were thought to have
some sort of original religious authority,
elected him. His rival was Ali, the cousin
of Mohammed and the son-in-law, at the same
time of Mohammed. Ali had married Fatima, the
daughter of Mohammed. But this election was not
recognized by many of the tribes that had regarded their
loyalty to Mohammed as personal loyalty to Mohammed,
not to some institution and not to some permanent coterie
of caliphs or successors. So they refused to recognize Abu
Bakr’s authority and there ensued what’s called the ridda,
R-I-D-D-A, or apostasy , where the tribes rejected the
authority of Abu Bakr and Abu Bakr militarily compelled
them back into submission or recognition of his authority. Abu Bakr ruled for less than two
years, but he had already started on a key aspect of the
ridda, the apostasy , and, that is, turning the resistance
to the apostasy into a war against
external enemies. In other words, the military
energy that had to be devoted to bringing these tribes back
in, once they were brought in, was continued to turn their
military energies outward. And outward means to the north,
out of the Arabian desert and to the direct north
and slightly northeast, meaning Persia, to the
northwest meaning the Byzantine Empire. And already under Abu Bakr ,
it was discovered that the Byzantine Empire and the Persian
Empire were hollowed out and that what began
as raids to keep these discontented tribes happy with
a spot of plunder turned into a conquest. And as success
breeds success,– and I don’t think there’s
anymore dramatic lesson of that cliche,– the ambitions of the conquerors
changed very quickly; well the ambitions of
the raiders changed very quickly, from booty to conquest,
from plunder to an expansion of territory. Remember that the Persians and
the Byzantines had fought each other, that in 626 Persia
besieged Constantinople unsuccessfully– 626, four years after
the Hegira. So from the Islamic/ Muslim/
Arab point of view, the timing was great. These two great empires had
exhausted each other militarily and to some extent
spiritually as well. In 634, in other words two
years after the death of Mohammed, the city of Damascus
fell to the Arabs. Damascus, the capital of
Byzantine Syria, indeed one of the oldest cities in the world,
mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, an
extremely important center of government, commerce,
and religion fell. The Byzantine Empire was
defeated near Jerusalem. Abu Bakr died in 634 and again
Ali was passed over in another election in favor of another
companion of Mohammed, Umar, another one of those original
followers that we mentioned in the last lecture. Umar would rule from
634 to 644. He was a startlingly
effective ruler. In the ten years of his
caliphate, the Arabs conquered the Persian Empire entirely. An empire that had lasted for
centuries, that had been one of the great world empires,
collapsed and was taken over by Islam, by the Arabs. The Byzantine Empire didn’t
completely collapse, but in this period it lost Syria,
Palestine, and then its richest agricultural
province, Egypt. Alexandria, capitol of
Egypt at the time, surrendered in 642. We can list the factors that
favor the Arab conquest, though they’re mostly sort of
favorable soil, as it were, not the plant itself. Weakness of Persia
and Byzantium, I’ve already mentioned. A mastery of desert warfare. We’ll see this with
the Vikings at the end of the course. There are peoples who have been
able to take advantage of an adverse environment that they
are able easily to swim through, travel through, and
that a less mobile adversary cannot deal with. So the similarity between the
sea and the rivers of Europe and the desert of the Near East
is that you can pick and choose your battles. You appear off the
coast. “Uh oh. There’s an army there. We’ll just go back and then
we’ll raid somewhere else.” The same is true
of the desert. You appear out of the desert
where the urban dwellers cannot easily field an army. And you discover that there’s
nobody defending the city and you take it. Or you discover there is
somebody defending the city. You go right back into the desert; they can’t pursue
you there and you pick somewhere else. So the mastery of desert warfare
is in part a question of mobility and the ability
to move in the desert freely, easily. Another aspect of the weakness
of Persia and Byzantium is the discontent of their religious
minorities. Persia was ruled by a
Zoroastrian elite and had other religious groups that
felt, if not persecuted, at least discriminated against.
And as we’ve seen, the Byzantine Empire had a
substantial Monophysite population that was persecuted
by the orthodox. These people might not exactly
fight for the invader but they certainly weren’t unhappy when
the invader showed up. Indeed, remember that
I said that in 655, there was a naval battle. How could the Arabs have sailors
if they hadn’t seen a year-round river until a few
years before this battle? Their sailors were, most of
them, from Monophysite populations of Egypt
and Syria. They were able to recruit people
who would fight for them who were not Muslim. The third is the channeling of
a war-like society towards external fighting. This is like a problem of
conservation of energy. You have a certain amount of
energy that is being expended in external fighting. If you can turn all those
electrons or whatever in the same direction and make them
go outward, they will be extremely powerful. Limits of my scientific
knowledge, unfortunately, you see displayed. But you understand what
I’m talking about. That is, the internecine warfare
is now turned outside because the plunder is better,
the motivation is better. And then motivation is
a fourth reason. Religious motivation is this
thing that is called jihad. Everybody knows what
this means. And we’re going to have to
grapple with it because our understanding of it is perhaps
partial and distorted. Jihad means struggle. It is a struggle against other
religions or against other tendencies within Islam. There’s plenty of energy, as we
will see, devoted to fights within Islam. Internecine religious fighting
if not tribal feuding. So we use the term jihad
with some reservations. It is wrong to think of the Arab
conquest as an expression of jihad in the sense that
guys with knives in their teeth ride out and offer a
terrorized population the choice of death or conversion. Once again, it is possible to
have a religious motivation and yet not necessarily want
to kill or convert the conquered people. The Quran itself has plenty of
information about the jihad but it is not completely
consistent. Certainly there is
a sense that the unbelievers must be combated. A sense of martyrdom even–
that those who died in the struggle to advance
the religion will receive special favor. But there is also a respect
accorded to people of other religions, in particular,
Jews and Christians. And if you think about it, it is
psychologically possible to be convinced that God
is following you. God must be following you. After all, you just conquered
Jerusalem, you just conquered Alexandria, you just came out of
the desert and have started to a roll like a tsunami- an
image I don’t think is really in the Quran.– Well, let’s say roll like the
sands of the desert over ancient civilization. So God must be with you. But the fact that God is with
you may indicate that you’re an elite and that the people
that you conquered are simply going to stay that way. Or that if they want to become
Muslim, that makes sense. Obviously Got favors Islam. If they don’t want to become
Muslim, that’s their lookout. So it does not mean
that you have a hostile conquest policy. Jihad is, in this context, not
incompatible with tolerance. “Tolerance” is a word I use
with caution as well. Because it’s not as if they
have a modern ideal of tolerance, of individuality, of
“You have your religion, I have my religion.” It is more
that they are not bothered by the presence of people
of other religions. And we’ll see some
of why that is. So, number five, a policy of
allowing conquered people to maintain their religion,
livelihood, and private lives. So there are other rapid
conquests in world history, and there are other rapid
conquests by people who are technologically or culturally
or certainly economically behind the people that
they conquer. The Mongols conquer an
incredible territory. The Vikings, which we will end
the course with, are certainly less developed, economically,
less civilized, than the Carolingian Empire that
they plunder. What is unusual about Islam, and
I reiterate something that I’ve said already, perhaps more
than once is that it has a permanent effect. Rather than disappearing back
into their yurts, like the Mongols, or disappearing back
into the tundra- well that’s an unfair description of
Scandinavia- but disappearing back into the north like the
Vikings, the Islamic powers not only stay as occupiers
but become, themselves, a cultivated, wealthy, highly
civilized empire. What is unusual about the Arabs,
then, is their ability to consolidate and to hold
onto their conquests. OK, I think I said before there
are three startling things about Islam: the career
of Mohammed, the rapidity and extent of the conquests, and
this business of the cultural adaptability, consolidation,
of the Arab conquerors. Questions so far? I think that the conquest part
of this is clearer than the internal divisions. So let’s proceed with the
conquests rapidly. There’s no single regime,
there’s no rule issued by the Caliphate for conquest policy. In general, if the population
surrendered on terms the way Alexandria had in 642,
that was fine. Then the people were allowed to
keep their local customs. In other words, they were
allowed to keep their houses, their jobs, their religion,
their property. The Arabs were intent
on plunder, however. Why didn’t they just pillage
these people? Some of it is just wisdom. They are thinking they’re going
to have to govern these places and that they might as
well harness the industry and enterprise of the population
rather than kill them or disperse them. Some of it was, I think, that
they had so much plunder available to them from other
sources that they didn’t have to bother with some middle-class
artisan’s wealth. They could plunder churches. They could seize Church lands. They could take the
state treasury. Between them, the state and the
Church held so much wealth that the Arab conquerors didn’t
really want to bother with mere private property. The leading nobles
tended to flee. They allied their interests
with the state. They were very large property
owners; that land could be confiscated. And the reward to the conquerors
was to be settled on lands of their own, with
tenants of their own, and these lands tended to have
belonged to the state or to the Church. They received long leases for
these lands from the Caliphate and they paid a religious tax, a
kind of tithe, as members of the umma, the religious
community. Non-Muslims were allowed to
keep their property, their land and other property, but
they had to pay two taxes that Muslims did not. They had to pay what is called
in the English-speaking world a poll tax, which is basically
just a head tax. Every person or every household
pays a certain amount of money. It’s actually kind of like a
flat tax, but it has nothing to do with income. It is simply that you as a
person living in this polity pay this as a tax. And then a land tax. Land tax obviously more variable
depending on how much land you own. If you own x amount of
land, you pay a tax. If you own 8x amount of land,
you pay eight times that tax, at least that is the theory. And given that, as we said, as
far back as Diocletian, you need to have very good records
to keep track of taxes, then they kept on the old officials
who had those records. So the language of
administration in Syria remains Greek for quite a while;
in Egypt, it remains Greek; in Persia, it remains
Persian, because the guys that are running it are basically the
same guys who are running it under the old empire. Why would the Arabs want
to get rid of them? They would want to get rid of
the high officials, the nobles, but the functionaries,
the bureaucrats, stayed on. Most people who were Christians
or Jews paid no more tax to the conquerors than
they had to the Byzantine or Persian Empire. In other words, they were
conquered, their lives did not radically change, their
taxes did not go up. They didn’t really miss
the Persian or Byzantine imperial regimes. The question, however, is why
are the Arabs so tolerant? And this surprises people who
assume that Islam has always been spread with a kind of
totalizing militancy. In fact, for a time, the
conquerors didn’t encourage conversion because you can see
the consequences of conversion for taxation. If eighty percent percent of the
population is Jewish and Christian, then eighty percent
of the population is in a high tax bracket. If you are running things, it’s
to your interests that they not convert to that very
low ten percent tax bracket or whatever the zakat, the
religious tax is. “Go ahead and have fun. It’s Sunday go to church, don’t
bother me, pay your taxes,” would be a fairly common
attitude on the part of the conquerors. And of course there’s a respect
for Christianity and Judaism that I’ve already
mentioned. Some of it is confidence
eventually people are just going to see that Islam
is more successful. Up until the Abbasid regime,
750, a vast majority of the conquered territory remained
in the religion that it had had before the conquest. In
other words, in Egypt in 750, a majority of the population
were Christian. And indeed in Egypt, to this
day, ten percent of the population is Christian. Certainly, Islam would gain. And certainly now, ironically,
much more than in 800 AD or 1200 AD or 1500 AD or 1900
AD, it’s tough to be a Christian in Egypt. This is a problem of modernity,
not of the period we are dealing with. So the process of conquest
is very rapid. The process of Islamization
is not. They are not to be confused. Amidst all these triumphs, the
caliph experiences divisions that culminated in a civil
war between 656 and 661. And the origins of it seems
to be the murder of Caliph Umar in 644. He was murdered by a
Persian Christian. So it’s not a Muslim
assassination. But it ushered in another
disputed election. And Ali, poor guy, presented
himself yet again as the successor of Mohammed. And again he was defeated,
this time by Uthman. Uthman, along with Abu Bakr and
Umar, we mentioned him as one of the original followers
of Mohammed. Uthman was a member of a
prominent clan, the Umayyads, a high status Mecca family. High status, but the Umayyads
had opposed Mohammed. Uthman was an exception but his
family were among those people of Mecca who had been the
most steadfast in opposing this upstart guy. So to some, especially the
followers of Ali, Uthman appeared to be a representative
of a not really staunch Islamic family. They were not fervent
new followers. Why was Ali passed over
so many times? It’s not clear. Here again, we are in a very
controversial area in which a lot of later tradition
elaborates reasons for things that may not have anything
to do with what the reality was in 644. You start to have pro-Ali
parties or traditions. This is what would become the
Shiite party and pro-Umayyad or pro-Caliphate traditions,
that of the Sunnis. Neither of which is completely
to be relied on because obviously they are biased. Under Uthman, the pace of
conquest continues. This naval battle in 655
took place,– the Battle of the Masts,– in which the Byzantine navy was
defeated by the Arab navy. This meant that islands in
the Mediterranean start to fall to the Arabs. Cyprus was conquered in
649, Rhodes in 654. Meanwhile, in the former Persian
Empire, the eastern part of Iraq, tending over
towards Persia, was conquered in 651 – 653. Armenia, north and west of
Persia, east of Anatolia, the area where the earthquake
was recently, was conquered in 653 – 655. But Uthman was particularly
disliked by much of the population. Unlike Umar, unlike the early
caliphs, he was regarded as lethargic and as a sensualist
let’s say. Lethargic and profligate, a
lover of luxury, a monarch rather than a leader,
a corrupt ruler. And he was murdered by
a Muslim in 656. Here we have the first
assassination of a caliph by another member of
the faithful. And Ali was proclaimed
as caliph. The problem here is that Ali was
proclaimed caliph by the people who had assassinated
Uthman. Or at least he was perceived as
taking the title from the bloodied hands of assassins. Whether he knew in advance
of the plot against Uthman is doubtful. But he starts off in a somewhat false position as caliph. He is opposed bitterly by
the Umayyad family. But more than that, his claim to
the caliph is tarnished by the circumstances under
which he came into it. And an Umayyad rose up against
him and starts the first civil war of Islam. This is Mu’awiya, the governor
of Syria who revolts in Damascus and leads a party
against Caliph Ali. In fact, this gives rise to a
militant group of people who hate both claimants. Ali is assassinated, and
Mu’awiya is wounded. Now Mu’awiya survives but the
tendency within Islam to dispose of enemies by violent
means has been sanctioned by the events of this period. So 661, the civil war is over. Mu’awiya moves the capital
from Medina to Damascus. He establishes the Umayyads as a
dynasty, and they would rule as caliphs until 750. What does this move from Medina
to Damascus mean? It certainly is a part of the
de-Arabization of the definition of the caliphate. Damascus is not an Arab city,
at least in its origin. It was part of the
Byzantine Empire. It is more centrally located
than Medina in terms of administering the Empire. It’s also more cosmopolitan. It has a lot of different
kinds of people. So the move is away from the
Arab heartland to a place where the population is
not necessarily Arab. It is part of the transformation
of the caliph from what we would call
religious leadership to that of a kind of monarch, king. The caliph lives in a city. He lives in a palace. He has an immense entourage. The days of the tents in Arabia
or of quasi-nomadic followers of Mohammed are
definitively over with the defeat of Ali. Defeat, but it’s not
a complete defeat. Sh’ia means party or to
its opponents faction. And for a long time, the Shiites
are like the perpetual losers who cannot at the same
time be eliminated. They are a minority
within Islam. They are, at various times,
seemingly overwhelmed by the wealth, armies power
of the caliphs. But they never go away and
they never abandon their claims. They form, thus, a
permanent dissenting group within Islam. What is the nature
of that dissent? What don’t they like
about Islam as it’s practiced by the majority? Any sense of that from this
admittedly busy reading? It’s key that you understand
what Shiism is and what its grievances are. STUDENT: Do they reject the
caliph as a religious figure? PROFESSOR: They
reject the caliph as a religious figure. Do they reject him because
he’s not the descendant of Ali? Partly. Part of this is a succession
question. They reject the caliph because
he’s illegitimate. So it’s kind of like a
dynastic question. The only real caliphs– and they don’t use
the term caliph. They start to use the term
“imam” as you’ve read. The only real religious leader
is not the guy sitting in Damascus in his palace with the
splish-splashing fountains and scented perfumes
everywhere. But to what extent do they
reject the caliphate as such apart from the dynastic
question? How would you describe Shiite
political theory? If the Sunnis are monarchical,
if they are comfortable with a caliph who rules over an Empire
of unbelievable extent, what might the Shiites
prefer to see? OK, Spencer? STUDENT: The government of the
consensus of the umma, the community of the faithful. PROFESSOR: And
something more informal. Indeed, although I hesitate
to use this term, they are republican. Republican, not in the
twenty-first or twentieth century American sense. What does republican mean
in this context? STUDENT: Choosing
representatives to then carry out the will of the people. PROFESSOR: Yes,
anti-monarchical. They regard the caliph as a
sort of George III of the Muslim world. They don’t want to have a
single ruler who is a political ruler. They’re comfortable
with rulership in at least some sense. But the rulership should be
either elected or inspired. They are radicals, in part
because they’re dissenters. They’re on the out. In part because they are
really angry and they countenance violent tactics
of opposition. They are egalitarian and that’s
sort of what I mean by republican. It’s not so much that they
necessarily believe in a representative system as that
they believe in a system in which one class of believers is
not exalted over another. And one person is not ruling
merely because he comes from a certain background. Now what happens when religious
movements are frustrated? That is, when they are objects
of repression? Because indeed the Shiites
were not particularly tolerated by the caliph. Often, such religious groups
become fixated on a future in which their claims will
be vindicated. This certainly makes sense. The Christians persecuted under
the Roman Empire wrote the granddaddy of all prophetic
texts, prophetic of the destruction of your
enemies, the Book of Revelations. I suggest that you take a look
at that anyway as it’s always interesting reading. And it is the book of the
Bible that has the most relevance, for better or worse,
to the current world we live in because it’s the one
that talks constantly about the future and what’s
going to happen. Is that future the Apple
computer future where everybody’s wonderfully
connected and we all can just float in some kind of great
brain that we participate in? Or is the future some terrible
ecological disaster in which we’ll be cannibals and stuff? Or is the future the visitation
of those angels, those candlesticks, those
flowing rivers of molten metal as in the book of Revelations? Trumpets all over the place. Will one-third of the population
be wiped out one day and then another
third the next day? The narrator of the Book of
Revelations cannot wait for this to happen. It is in the nature of
apocalyptic thinking that it is violent because your enemies,
who are right now persecuting you, are going
to be confounded. And they’re not going to be
confounded in the, “Oh gee, I’m really sorry I persecuted
you,” sense. They are going to be split
apart and pulverized. And you’re going to be watching
and you’re going to be applauding while they’re
split apart and pulverized and tortured. That’s the nature of messianic, apocalyptic thinking. Apocalyptic meaning the end of
the world in some kind of conflagration, messianic
meaning the presence of a savior. The two are not the same thing,
but they tend to go together because there’s going
to be somebody who’s going to come and, amidst the bloodshed
and the fire, usher in a millennial world. That is to say, a world
in which bad things have been purged. And that messiah may be Jesus
Christ at the second coming. It may be the messiah
of Jewish tradition. Or in Shiite Islam, it
may be the imam, the rightly guided imam. The Shiites have a leader. I just said that they are
republican and egalitarian, but they’re not some kind of
Occupy Wall Street, we don’t have any leaders,
anarchic group. They have leaders but they are
leaders who are inspired not merely administrators of
a huge bureaucracy. And these imams succeed each
other and are recognized by the Shiite faction until the
death of the eleventh imam– the death of the eleventh imam
without any obvious successor. Who is the twelfth imam? And we enter into this period
of what the book calls “occultation.” Not a word
that you find used. Well, it’s got some sort
of medical meaning too. Occultation, meaning what? Come on, this is
in the reading. He’s gone into hiding. Occult means hidden. There is a twelfth imam. We just don’t know
where he is. He’s in a cave somewhere. And there are imams and
imams after him. Either he is deathless or there
are other imams. But they’re all hidden because
they’re not ready yet. But when they are ready,
centuries of grievance are going to be revenged. So there’s a notion of a corrupt
and misguided Islamic establishment and of a true
subterranean occult, righteous level of the practice
of the religion. So Shiism tends to apocalyptic
thinking, to prophecy. It exalts Ali and
his followers. And it feels that it is in
touch with the original desert, austere, egalitarian
roots of Islam that have been corrupted by the monarchical,
suspect purity of the Sunni caliphate. Who becomes a Shiite? This is a hard question to
answer because it is more than just a party or faction. If it was just a party or
faction, it could not have lasted into the contemporary
world with the force that it has. Who is discontent under Islam? It would seem logical that the
people who would be discontent would be non-Arabs because there
is increasingly, as the Islamic world takes shape, a
population of people who do convert to Islam who
were not Arabs. We’ve said that the pace of
Islamization was slow but, nevertheless, it was persistent
and logical. It’s logical that people should
have converted to Islam, not only because it is
a religion that to this day attracts lots of converts
because it has a religious appeal and, as I have argued,
it’s a doable religion. It’s a religion that does not
have a huge number of self-mortifying precepts. It is a way of living a
righteous life in the world and performing certain duties
that are not tremendously onerous or very subtle and
involve a lot of mental internal dialogue. So people are converting
to Islam. These people are known
collectively as mawali, singular, mawal. A mawal is a non-Arab Muslim. In the early years, by
definition, a convert. The day that Damascus fell,
there were no Muslims in Damascus except maybe for
some Arab traders. As of the death of Mohammed,
all Muslims were Arabs. But within decades of this,
with the conquests and conversion, there are lots of
non-Arab Muslims. They may need to learn Arabic to
understand the Koran. They’re supposed to go to
Mecca and so forth. But they are not Arabs. Are they equal to Arabs? Well, Arabs are always, to
this day, going to feel themselves to have a special
relationship, a special status should we say, because Mohammed
was an Arab and the movement starts in Arabia. But as I’m sure you know, the
largest countries from the point of view of population
that are Islamic are not Arabic, almost at all. Indonesia is the largest Muslim
country in the world. India is the second largest
Muslim country in the world even though its population is
so large that Islam is a minority there. Pakistan is the third
largest, I think. These all are countries
without Arabs. Iran is not Arabic. It is, as we all know,
an Islamic republic. The world of Arabs is very
numerous but the world of non-Arab Muslims is more so. And it is starting to become
that way in the period that we’re talking about. The Arabs are simply a small
number of conquerors. And particularly in Persia,
where the pace of conversion is faster than that of say Egypt
or Syria, there are a lot of mawali. At some point, some of the
benefits of conversion, the fiscal benefits of conversion,
are eliminated because the state, the Caliphate can’t
afford to have a population that is only paying the
low religious tax. So it would seem that the moment
at which you say, “OK, we’re happy that you’re
becoming a Muslim. You’re still paying land and
poll taxes because we can’t actually aspire to make all
Muslims equal from a fiscal point of view.” At that point
you would have some angry malawi, at least so
one would think. And so, one would think, these
would be proto-Shiites or Shiite recruiting grounds. There’s a lot of debate
about this. Berkey kind of skirts
over this issue. Other scholars doubt that
this is the case. They don’t actually think
there’s such a close connection between the Shiite
party and discontented people. Or at least there is a
connection between the Shiite party and discontented people,
but the discontented people are not discontent because
of their tax position. The presence of discontent
within Islam is a constant. The presence of prophecy within
Islam is a constant, even though the teaching of
the religion has been that Mohammed is the last prophet. It’s very hard to put a stop to
prophecy in the Christian religion, in the Jewish
religion, in the Muslim religion. Once you have started to talk
about inspired religious leaders, they’re going to crop
up even after you’ve declared an end of religious charisma. And the consequences of
that and the splendor, nevertheless, of the Abbasid
Empire will form our subject for the next lecture.

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