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Origins of Islamic Civilization [contested term]. Reli 180 Introduction to Islamic Civilization. Brief history of “Civilization”, 1. Aristotle on development of life in cities Al-Farabi (d. 950) calls this tamaddun تمدن , from “city” ( madina مدينة )

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Origins of Islamic Civilization [contested term]

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Origins of islamic civilization contested term l.jpg

Origins of Islamic Civilization[contested term]

Reli 180

Introduction to Islamic Civilization


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Brief history of “Civilization”, 1

  • Aristotle on development of life in cities

  • Al-Farabi (d. 950) calls this tamaddunتمدن , from “city” (madinaمدينة )

  • Ibn Khaldun (d. 1382) refers to urban or sedentary life as hadara حضارةand opposes it to nomadic life in the desert (badawaبداوة ), as the two main forms of human society (`umranعمران)


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Brief history of “Civilization”, 2

  • Dr. Samuel Johnson rejects the term “civilization” from his dictionary (1775)

  • French and English authors nevertheless start using the term around 1790

  • Denotes only European countries as opposed to barbarians of Asia, Africa, America

  • Justification for colonialism (French “mission civilizatrice” or civilizing mission)


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Brief history of “Civilization”, 3

  • Samuel Huntington (quoting Bernard Lewis) in 1993/96 writes on Clash of Civilizations in post-Soviet context

  • President Khatami of Iran proposes “dialogue of civilizations” (guft-o-guy tamaddoni گقت و گوی تمدنی) in 1996; adopted as theme by UN in 2001


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Aims of Egger’s book [preface]

“the tension between adherence to tradition on the one hand and adaptation to changing conditions of the other” (xii)

“intellectual and political development receive more attention than social and economic history”

Stages in historical development, varieties of expression of Islam

“Muslim political unity was shattered”


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Formative period, 610-950

Continuity of Islamic identity in the absence of central religious authority

Consequent religious differences among Muslims

“Arab Empire” – why not “Muslim”?

Continuities with Roman (Byzantine) and Persian empires


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The Middle East in the sixth century CE


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Southwestern Asia in the seventh century: Byzantine Empire

Hellenistic [Greek-ish] civilization after Alexander – dominance of Greek language

resentment of Byzantine dominance, religious dissent by non-Orthodox

Various Christians -- Monophysites: Coptic (Egypt), Jacobites (Syria), Armenians; Nestorians; Orthodox

Arabs in the Byzantine world: Palmyra, Ghassanid kingdom


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Sasanian Empire (226-642 CE)

Desert surrounded by mountains

Agricultural valleys of Central Asia (Transoxiana, “beyond the Oxus”)

Dense population South of the Caspian

Religious ideas of Zoroastrianism: Resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell, Satan, Messiah (adopted byJews)

Large Christian and Jewish communities in Persia (Iran)


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Imperial Persia: Ctesiphon


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Imperial Persian: Persepolis


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Capture of Roman Emperor Valerian by Sasanian (Persian) Emperor Shapur


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Irano-Semitic culture and rise of Arabs

Nabateans (Hellenized Arabs) engaged with Greeks, Hebrews, Romans

Academy of science and philosophy at Jundishapur

Arabs in Iraq (Christian), client Lakhmid kingdom with poetic tradition

Exhaustion of Byzantine and Persian empires


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The Arabian Peninsula

Petra

Marib Dam

South: Yemen, luxury trade; oases

North: Petra, capital of the Nabateans


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Changes in the Arabian Peninsula

  • Domestication of the camel, 500-100 BCE

  • Nomads and semi-nomads, tribal society

  • Relations with Ethiopia (Axum)

  • Jewish rule in Yemen, Christian invasion

  • Islamic period: Arabs as nomadic groups outside the cities, strong sense of tribal genealogy

    • modern times: nationalistic concept of Arabs as anyone speaking Arabic


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The Rise of Islam -- Mecca

Regional trade

Religious background: monotheistic “hanifs”, Jews and Christians [Allah]

Emphasis on God’s unity, “conscientious use of wealth”

Opposition of Meccan pagans

Shift to Medina in 622 (beginning of Islamic era)

The economy of raiding


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Text, Page 28: the Death of the Prophet

  • Creation of a polity in Arabia as a substitute for tribal membership

  • Ideal of ultimate loyalty to God rather than one’s tribe (a tension never resolved)

    Question: what are the continuities with the past in the new Arab regime?


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