For Ianus Arabization and Islamization of Egypt
Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Mar 20, 2007 at 14:20
I'm sorry, but again my time is so limited, so i will be as brief as I can as there are indeed many similarities between the Arab invasion of let us say Egypt, and the Turkish invasion of the Byzantine empire. Again I'm trying to make something simple when it is not.
Just to go back one step: Anthropologists have the following model in the case of what happens when the barbarian invade the land of the civilized? The answer is the barbarian becomes the civilized (and this is one possible outcome of the invasion of Europe at present by Muslims or the melting pot theory) as the barbarian will adopt the language and the the religion of the civilized.
However, it is very clear that the outcome of the Arab as well as the Turkish invasion of let us say Egypt in the first instance and the Byzantine empire in the second instance was very different. There was religious as well as linguistic/cultural shift.
In the case of Egypt, Hellenism was very different from Arabism: Hellenism was a phenomenon of the cities and the Greeks expected whoever wanted to be hellenized to move to Alexnadria or the capitals of the Nomes (districts of Egypt) and this very much could explain why the Egyptian/Coptic language (Coptic has 20% Greek loan words and compare this wiht 20% of Farsi are loan words from Arabic and for this see below) did not die during 1000 years of Greek presence in Egypt and even in the city of Alexandria the district of Rakoti (the Egyptian name of Alexandria) was populated by Egyptians and the spoken language there was Egyptian.
Arabism on the other hand, was very different: The arabs came to your front door demanding to get their Jizya and be landed gentry without any regard for learning or culture. The Copts in effect were running the country and collecting the taxes and the only way to communicate with the Arabs was to speak Arabic.
I also suspect that Egypt was in the process of a cultural shift for reasons we still do not understand and the Arab invasion was only a catalyst and adoption of the Arabic language (see Whorf Sapir) was only a manifestation of such shift and I believe that this must be the only explanation of why did the arabs that invade Egypt not adopt Coptic/Egyptian as their language as expected from the above model and it also explains why did the Copts adopt Arabic as their language and abondoned their language Coptic/Egyptian (see Becker).
And no it is not ture that the importation of Arabs into Egypt was of any significance in actual fact it was very limited (see gastom Weit). And do you know why? Because it has been estimated that 200,000 Arabs invaded the Middle east strarting in 633CE and this would have been a drop in the bucket as the population of the middle East at the time was estimated to be aroun d 30M.
So we can safely say that the linguistic shift from Coptic to Arabic was an internal Egyptian shift.
One real problem with the above is that if you examine what really happened in Iran (the only other nation state in the Middle East like Egypt) a different picture emerges as following the arab invasion we find the following variables:
1. Farsi is still the national language albeit with 20% Arabic words
2. Arabic just vanished except in Mosques with hardly anyone knowing arabic anymore.
3. But the real difference from Egypt is that Iran had a very significant secular literature and the propagation of such literature might be the reason for the survival of Farsi and I do think that the engine that got this moving was no other than Firdawsi's Shahnemah (Hafiz and Omar al-Khayyam for sure helped).
Now Islamization was a very separate process and the turth we have no evidence that there was indeed islam as we know it now in 632CE when Muhammad died. The evidence points to the fact that islam was in process of still of being formed, and for reason we still do not fully understand, it was being formed in the Middle East and not in Arabia and it did not become fully fledged until the 3rd century of Islam (the word Islam does not appear in th Islamic literary sources until the building of al-Masjid al-Aqsa in jerusalem and the word Muslims (Muslimeen) does not appear in the literary sources until 767CE or some 150 years after the death of Muhammad.
The Arabs had no reason to see non Muslims converting to islam or to what was to become islam as this would have meant that the arabs will not be collecting the jizya tax and this is why we see the concept of mawali or if you want to convert to islam you must become an Arab first (see Q14:4) and you have to be sponsored by an Arab Wali or master. And this is why we have two separate things going on:
1. Arabization first.
2. And then islamization.
Now why did the majority of Egyptians convert to islam? We stll do not know. Wasserman tells us how it happened but he does not explain the why! i think that it would be too simplistic to attribute it to the jizya or the the fact that the Qur'am is such a great book I still think this is an area of great research.
I suspect that the conversion of the majority of Egyptians to islam was part of this cultural/linguistic shift that was taking place and we still do not really undrestand as we would have expected the invading arabs to be part of the Coptics and to become Christians but this is not what really happened.
No simple answers.
Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".
Reader comments (2108) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes