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Islamism has become like Rome, and will fall

Reader comment on item: Will Islam Survive Islamism?

Submitted by Dave (United States), Nov 16, 2021 at 18:15

In Stephen Shoemaker's "A Prophet has appeared: The rise of Islam through Christian and Jewish eyes", seventh century documents written by Jewish and Christian witnesses are examined as a way of understanding the events that led to the establishment of the vast Arab empire under the leadership of Muhammad and his companions. Shoemaker's is one of those rather obscure, leading-edge, research works with a limited readership, but which unlocks some key mysteries of the past, and could serve as a guide to the future.
One question I've always had was how could the Arabs, who are always bickering amongst themselves, manage to conquer so much of the world so quickly. The most common explanation is that the Byzantine and Persian empires had weakened themselves by fighting, leaving a vacuum that the Arabs exploited. That may explain some of it, but Shoemaker describes how Muhammad formed a group of Believers drawn from all kinds of monotheists, who banded together to throw off the hated imperial yokes of Rome (Christian Byzantium) and Persia. These Arab successes were probably realized thanks to broad coalition building based on religious inclusion, harnessing dissatisfaction with imperial rule. The evidence shows that Muhammad had rebuilt Solomon's temple, now called the Dome of the Rock, for his Believers, and had reversed the Roman prohibition on Jews being able to reside in Jerusalem. Despite the fact that his troops were fighting Christian Rome, Christians were nevertheless accepted and respected in his group.
It was much later, during the Abbasid caliphate, that Islam was formalized as a religion and a Believer was then redefined as only a Muslim, all others being redlined as inferiors (though Jews and Christians still had some special status as People of the Book). The Sharia was also developed, and the discriminatory, divisive and repressive Islam of today was born.
Some conclusions from all this. Early Arab successes came from religious inclusion and coalition building. No narrow-minded Mullah-like religious fanatic could have inspired such a zealous following. It was the Romans who were the heavies: they excluded Jews from Jerusalem and had brutally put down their rebellion. Also, the Roman and Persian rulers had antagonized the nomads and many Christians with their heavy-handed taxes and regulations, and corrupt rule.
Sadly, as happens inevitably in empires and civilizations when the founders die out and rule passes to mediocrities not familiar with the original ideas which animated the successes in the first place, the inheritors (in this case the Abbasids) bollix up the original winning ideas and the long slide to the fall begins.
By fatally altering the original genius of a broadly-based coalition, religious intolerance and civil repression under Sharia seeped in, gradually destroying the cohesion and freedom of the seventh century empire, resulting in Islamist rule replacing Rome as a modern source of fear and loathing.
Yet, history seems to be repeating itself. More and more people are rejecting religious intolerance and Sharia repression. Just as in the seventh century, they want their rights. Unfortunately, they don't have leader like the actual Muhammad (not the canonical one) to corral the dissidents into an effective force for change. Nevertheless, change will come, sooner or later, and Rome will fall.

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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".

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