Most of the Middle Eastern countries are predominately Arab countries. There are other peoples in North africa and the Middle East (Jews, Kurds, Persians, Turks, and others). It is useful to consider the arabs as a group before launching knto the invidual country histories. Thus there is a certain continuity and connection between with the history of the Arab people since the Islamic outburst from Araboa (7th century). The resulting Caliphate was one of the jewels of human civilization, both in tolerance and creativity. As the power of the Caliphate wained, the Christians crusaders struck back after four centuries of Islamic expansion (11th century). And at about the same time what was left of the Caliphate began to hrden into a narrow Islamicism resticting the free flow and discussion of ideas. Islam spred to many far-flung areas of the workd, but in the Arab hearland strict fundamentalism took hold. Thus in the Arab lands there would be no Renaissance, no Reformation, and no Enlightenmnt. Since that time the Arabs have not produced virtually no scientists, physcicians, or mathemoticans of any importance in sharp contrast to the flow of learning during the height of the Caliphate. . The Mongols devestated the Arab heartland (13th century). From that point on the Arabs became a subject people ruled by Persians, Mamelukes and most importantly the Ottoman Turks. Finally the Europeans (19th century) seized control of most of North Africa (19th century) and than after World War I the Levant and Mesopotamia (1919). nd the Europeans arriving in the arab world found a world tht time had largely left untouched. Photographs taken in the 19th century or even the early-20th century often create images tht could just as easily been taken centuries earlier. Thus in addition to the individual countries we are constructing, it is useful to construct a general history of the Arab countries. There is a Pan-Arab spirit although it hs not proven string enough to overcome the strength of nationality and in some case tribal affinities. There have been attempts at political union, epecially during the Nasser Arab Socialist era, but the attemps have proven fleeting and unsuccessful. The Pan Arab spirit continues with Islamicists with dream of recreating the Caliphate. The Arabs have undergone similar ideological waves, although the imporance of the different threds have varied over time and from country to country. Before World War II, many Arabs were impressed with Fascism and the NAZIs in part because the NAZIs challenged the British and French who were tge principal colonial powers. After the war The different threds have included Arab socialism, fundamentalist monarchies, Arab socialism, military rule and autocracy, and now the Arab Spring. What the Arabs have not yet tried is tolerant open societies with democracy and free market capitalism. The Islamicists say that the weakness and poverty of the Arab world (unless oil is present) is because the Arab Socialists and autocrats foresake Islam. More moderate voices, often unwilling to speak openly, believe that is the austere versions of Islam prevalent in the Arab world that they have kept the Arabs backward and limited crearive thinking which is the hallmark of humanity.
Arab is a modern term, but originally was the people of the Arabian peninsula. Proto Arabs appear to have originated as a result of the geographic connection between Africa and the rest of Eurasia. The Arabian Peninsula stands betweem Africa abd Eurasia which means it was involved in the hominin dispersals out of Africa. The Arabian Peninsula experienced extreme environmental change, especially begfore the arrival of humans. The area has been poorly studied. omn part because of the very rugged and harsh conditiion, bit waht we now know as the Empty WQuarter was nit akways an empty wasteland. One source writes, "Recent years, however, have seen major developments in environmental studies and archeology, revealing that the region contains important records that should play a significant role in future paleoanthropological narratives.1–3 The emerging picture of Arabia suggests that numerous dispersals of hominin populations into the region occurred. Populations subsequently followed autochthonous trajectories, creating a distinctive regional archeological record. Debates continue on the respective roles of regional hominin extinctions and population continuity, with the latter suggesting adaptation to arid conditions." [Groucuttand Petragua]
The Arabs were the little-known people of the Arabian Peninsula. they were organized into innumerable tribal groups. They were involved in both splits and confedrations. Their history has been called a 'kaleidoscope of shifting allegiances'. There were long periods of tribal anarchy which at times approached some defree of centralized government but never reached real unification. Various tribes have become powerful over time, largely because impressiuve leaders leding to a measure of tribal cohesion, but only briefly until Mohmmed. In the ancient world, economoes were primarily based on agriculture. That is why the most impressive civilizatiins were the rich river valley civizations. Cities like Petra come become rich on trade, but large socities initially needed agriculture. Even socities like the Phoneciuans, Greece, and Rime needed an agriucultural base. And here the Arabs were at a distinct advantageb becuse of the austere, arid Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs were amomg the poorest peopole of the ancient world which is why they raided settled agricultural people. There were City Arabs and Bedouin pastoralists. For centuries they busied themselves with fraticidal wars and raids. Outside religions had made some inroads into the native Animism. Ghassanide Christianized in the north, Monophisites. Lakhnids in the northeast more connected with Persia and Zorionatism. There were also Jewish tribes. The Yemenis in the south were non-Arab speaking, The Arab tribes are probably best known in ancient history as the nomdic tribes that plindered the settled agricultural people of Mesopotmia from the south. This was opart of the developing conflict between agricultural and nomadic hearder societies. Mesopotamia also daced attacks fromn the Stepoe People. Egyot was motre protected by the syrrounding deserts. The Arabian Peninsula provoded important trade routes leading between the Mediteranean and Africa/India. Particularky important was the frankincense trade. The Arab tribes were important because they were never fully controlled by either Egypt or Mesopotamia, the two great civilizations of the Middle East. The Romans also failed to conquer them and ened uo hiring Arab tribes to guard the southern Levant which they incorporated into their Empire. Guardinh important trade routes was essentially paying protection money.
With the fall of Rome and and the Byzantine Empire's focus on ther West, a conflict developed between Ethiopia (Axum) and Persia for control of Arabia. The major attraction was control of the trade routes across Arabia. An Ethiopian Army invaded the Arabian Peninsula and seized Yemen. They defeted Arab Jewish tribe, the Du Newas, at the Battle of the Elephant (535). The Ethiopians in turmn were defeated at Mecca by the Meccans backed by the Persian Sassanids (570). This was the year Mohammed was born. Mohammed's family was keeper of the Kaaba, but was driven from Mecca.
Mohammed was born some time around 570 AD. He grew up in a trading community and was influenced by the many religious traditions swirling around the Middle East. He came to see himself as God's final prophet. The Arabian Peninsula at the time was racked by warring tribes. Mohammed's familt belonged to the Fihr or Quarish/Koreish tribe. This was the dominant tribe in the southern Hijas (Hedjaz) around Mecca. Even before the advent of Islam, Mecca was the both the major religious and commercial center in the Arabian peninsula. The Fihr acquired considerable prestige from their role as gardians of the Kaaba in Mecca. The Kaaba even before Islam was an object of reverance among the Arab tribes who visited Mecca in annual pilgrimages leaving offerings and tributes. Mohammed married Khadija who was a wealthy widow. Mohammed had religious vissions which were set down in the Holy Koran. He tried to convert his tribe in Mecca, but was rejected. Two exceptions were Ali, his son-in-law who married his daughter Fatima, and Abu Bakr. When the people in Mecca tried to kill him, he fled to Medina (622 AD), This is known as the Hegira. Islam bases its calendar on the Hegira. Safe in Medina, Mohammed created a theocraric state based on Islam. War with Mecca followed until Mohammed returned in triumph (630 AD). The prestige of the Fihr was important to Mohammed when he began his religious reform and political effort which led tp the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula and the joining of the various tribes into a single Arab nation with a common religion and legal code a common sacred sanctuary. As an older man Mohammed acuired additional wives, including Ayesha.
The Prophet Muhammed provided a religious system that for the time included many advanced themes. In particular in ended fracticidal warfare. Rather the fighting spirit of the bedouin was directed outward. Beedouin warriors who fired with the relevations of the Prophet and the lure of booty burst into the settled lands of the Middle East (7th century AD). The result was one of the most rapid and significant military cazmpaigns in human history. The Arab lands today steach 5,000 miles from Iraq in the east west to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean. The Arab world straddles two continents, Asia and Africa. The Arab lands have coasts on importan bodies of water, including: the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Arabs oversaw one of the great cultural flowerings of human history--the Caliphate. And for the time the Arabs were a rare island of tolerance and learning. Time has, however, passed the Arabs by. There was nothing in the Arab world resembling the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Reason in the West. The West tends to look forward. The Arabs in contrast are obsessed with tradition and looking back at the great achievements of the Caliphate. [Lamb] For the Arabs, if a concept isn't inshrined in the Holy oran or otherwise tied to tradition, it is suspect. Islam strongly encourages this outlook because as Arab and other Muslim readers have told us, the Holy Koran is just as relevant today as it was for Muhammed and the Arabs of the 7th century. The result today is a failed Arab society.
Islam is one of the great monothestic religions. The religion is set forth in the Koran which teaches that there is but one God and Muhammad is his prophet. The word is also used to descibe th civilization and countries in which the Islamic religion dominates. Islam for several centuries while Christian Europe fell into the dark ages and intolerance prevailed, Islam developed a rich often tolerant society which developed science, mathematics, literture, and art. Much of this was based on mjor precepts of the Koran. One of those precepts was tolerance for other civilizations and religions, especially people of the Book. Islam has played such a central role in the hostory of the Arab people that readers interested in the Arabs shoukd study the Koran. Today many of these basic precepts of Islam are questioned by Fundamentalist Islamic scholars.
he Arabs swept through the Holy Land and Mesopotamia, driving back the Byzatines and defeating the Persians in 637 AD. At the time most in the pople in th region wre Christians and Zoroastrians. The Arabs set about spreading the Islamic faith, but allowed much more religious diversity than was the case of Christian Europe. Islam when the Arab conquet began developed approches for dealing with the "conquered peoples". The conquered peoples were "protected persons" only if they submitted to Islamic domination by a "Contract" (Dhimma), paid poll tax - jizya - and land tax - haraj - to their masters. Any failure to do so was the breach of contract, enabling the Muslims to kill or enslave them and confiscate their property. The cross could not be displayed in public and the people of the book had to wear special clothing or a belt. Their men were not allowed to marry Muslim women, their slaves had to be sold to a Muslim if they
converted and they were not allowed to carry weapons. They had to take in Muslim travelers, especially soldiers on a campaign. This took place after a decade when Muhammad was dead and when his second successor and son-in-law Umar announced these terms to conquered Christians.
The resulting inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis was geared to a steady erosion of the latter communities by attrition and conversion. While these provisions seem draconian, they were less rigorous at the time than the approaches taken when Christians conquered Islamic principalities.
Depite the overwealming military victories, the force of Islam was imerilde in 661 in a fight over sucession. It was at this time that the schism betweenthe Shiites and Sunis developed. This developed along the Middle Eastern fauntline between Persians and Arabs.
The town and beoudinsArabs by the 8h century had acquired the civilization of the people they conquured. They founded a new capital at Bagdad (762) which became a bustling center of world commerce and culture at a time that civilization of the West was mired in the Dark Ages. The Abbasid Caliphate is seen as the golden age of Islam--the pinnacle of Arab culture.
The resulting Caliphate was one of the jewels of human civilization, both in tolerance and creativity. While Christian Europe after the fall of Rome descended into a dark age, there was an outpouring of learing and culture in the Islamic world. Baghdad in particular became a renowned center for learning, including science, mathematics, philosophy and literature--especially poetry. Renounded universities, libraries, and public baths were built at Bagdad. The Caliphiate was seized by the Seljuk Turks (1055). As the power of the Caliphate wained, the Christians crusaders struck back after four centuries of Islamic expansion (11th century). And at about the same time as the Crusades, what was left of the Caliphate began to hrden into a narrow Islamicism resticting the free flow and discussion of ideas. Islam spred to many far-flung areas of the workd, but in the Arab hearland strict fundamentalism took hold. Thus in the Arab lands there would be no Renaissance, no Reformation, and no Enlightenmnt. Since that time the Arabs have not produced virtually no scientists, physcicians, or mathemoticans of any importance in sharp contrast to the flow of learning during the height of the Caliphate.
As the power of the Caliphate wained, the Christians crusaders struck back after four centuries of Islamic expansion (11th century). Christian pilgrims after the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries had to travel through Islamic lands to venerate the great shrines in Jeruselum and other Biblical sites in the Holy Land. In addition the Ottoman Turks were increasingly encroaching on the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. The Turks apparently preyed upon Christian pilgrims. Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, perhaps concerned about the plight of the pilgrims, more likely seeking allies against the Turks, wrote to a friend Robert, the Count of Flanders, in 1093. He recounted the alegeded atrocities inflicted on the pilgrims by the Turks. Count Robert forwarded Comnenus' letter to Pope Urban II. Pope Urban like Emperor Comnenus perhaps concerbed about Christian pilgrims, more likely seeing a political opportunity, decided to promote a military crusade to seize the Holy Land from the infidel Turks. European Christians at the time were locked in intractable dynastic wars in England, France, Italy, and other domains, destabilizing large areas of Europe. The Pope sought to redirect the fighting to an infidel adversary. Pope Urban's crusade, the First Crusade, was launched in 1095. The Crusaders effort to retake the Holy Land, brought Europe in contact with the advanced civilization of the Arabs. These contact were to fuel the revival of learning in Europe.
The Mongols played an enormously important role in world history. Although a relatively small population, the Mongols established the most extensive empire in histoiry, streaching from Korea to Eastern Europe. Only the Japanese suceessfully defied the Mongols. The Mongols swept out of trackless plains of central into Mesopotamia. Hulagu Khan sacked Bagdad and massacred its people in 1258. The leading figure in the Arab world, the Caliph was executed. The Mongols destroyed the irrigation system that supported the rich harvests in the Tigris Eurphrates Valley. Mesopotamia became a barren, arid plain. Bagdad and the civilization of the Arabs was devestated. Never again would Arab civilization be a great world center of earning and enlightenment.
From that point on the Arabs became a subject people ruled by Persians, Mamelukes and most importantly the Ottoman Turks.
The Arab world after the decline of the CAliphate ws not a creative area. Few good were actually produced in Arab lands. This had economic consequences. The Arabs had one great advantage--geography. They were at the Western terminus ofvthe Silk Road and Spice Route. And there wee psitined beteen India and Europe. Thus Arab traders could benefit from the trde between Euripe abd the East. The European voyfes of discovery radically changed this dynamic. By going afound Africa and launching a seaborn trade with the East, the Europens cut the Arabs out of the lucrative trade they had dominated.
The Arabs and theirvOttoman allies contested control over the Arabian Sea with the Europeans at the battle of Diu (1509). Economic dnd scientific decline had neant a decline in the means to wage war. Without this trade and without priductive industries the arab world continued the decline with the fall of the Calophate. The rb kands becanme some of the poorest ahd most backward in the world. And in this condition they coukd not fend off politucal cintrol from the Ottomans and Europeans.
Gradually the Otomon Turks became the dominate power in the Islamic world. The Ottomons presed on the Byzatines, taking Constanople in 1453. They then conquered the Balkans, driving deep into Europe, only beeing stopped at the gates of Vienna. The Ottoman Turks in 1453 seized Constantinople and by 1460 controlled most of Greece. Thousands of Greeks went into exile in Christain Europe and had an important influence on the European Renaissance. The Ottomons conquered Mesopotamia in 1533. For the next three centuries, the regional Christan powers (Venice, Austria, and Russia) warred intermitently with
the Turks and Greece changed hands several times. Photographs taken in the 19th century or even the early-20th century often create images that could just as easily been taken centuries earlier. Thus in addition to the individual countries we are constructing, it is useful to construct a general history of the Arab countries
Millions of Christians from Spain, Egypt, Syria, Greece, And Armenia; Latins and Slavs from southern and central Europe, henceforth lived under the shari'a. Christian majorities survived in most of the Balkans under thge Ottomans. This appears to have changed in modern times. What has happened to Christian majorities in the Middle East, North Africa, Bosnia and Kosovo, has happened to the Hindus. Pakistan had over 25 percent Hindus, now only 1.5 percent remained. If you are not a Muslim and living in an Islamic country now, you are sub servant to the Muslims.
Finally the Europeans (19th century) seized control of most of North Africa (19th century).
The Europeans arriving in the Arab world found a world that time had largely left untouched. The French began colonung North Africa (1830s). They attempted to turn Algeria into a part of France. The British established Indian Ocean outposts s part of their effort to end the slave trade. because of Suez made Egypt a protectorate (1888?). Morocco was made a protectorate (1905). The European colonial touch was much lighter in other Arab countries. Italy seized Libya from the Ottomahs just before Workd War I (1912). The Ottoman Empire entered World War I (1914-18) on the side of the Central Powers. The British during the War drove the Ottomans from the Arab lands. The Arab Army which a British officer, Col. T.E. Lawrence, helped orgnize played a rile in the military effort. After World War I, the British and French ruled the Levant and Mesopotamia (1919) as a League of Nations mandates. The British gradually ceded power to the Hasemite monarchs which had organized the Arab Army. Before World War II, many Arabs were impressed with Fascism and the NAZIs in part because the NAZIs challenged the British and French who were the principal colonial powers.
There is a Pan-Arab spirit although it hs not proven strong enough to overcome the strength of nationality and in some case tribal affinities. There have been attempts at political union, epecially during the Nasser Arab Socialist era, but the attemps have proven fleeting and unsuccessful. The Pan Arab spirit continues with Islamicists with dream of recreating the Caliphate.
Most Arab countries achieved independence in era after World War II. Arabia achieb=ved independence after World war I, but most Arab countries became indeoebndenbt after Workd War II. Algeria was a rare excption to a generally peaceful decolonization. Until independence, the arabs could blan=me their back=warsnes in their colonial masters, although the Europeans introduced most of the modern infrastructure that had ben sorely lacking during the Ottoman era. Unfortunately, few Arab countries have made much success at building mofdern states or economies. The Arabs unless they have oil to exploit have lnguashed in poverty. The Arabs tend to blame the West or of course the perenial scape goa--the Jews. Rarely do they look realistically at their own scocities. This is not uncommon in any scociety, but especially in the Arab world where critics face arrest by autocrats or theocrats or attack by religious fanatics. The Arabs have undergone similar ideological waves, although the imporance of the different threds have varied over time and from country to country. After World War II. The different threds have included Arab socialism, fundamentalist monarchies, Aab socialism, military rule and autocracy, and now the Arab Spring. What the Arabs have not yet tried is tolerant open societies with democracy and free market capitalism. The Islamicists say that the eakness and poverty of the Arab world (unless oil is present) is because the Arab Socialists and autocrats foresake Islam. More moderate voices, often unwilling to speak openly, believe that is the austere versions of Islam prevalent in the Arab world that they have kept the Arabs backward and limited crearive thinking which is the hallmark of humanity.
The Arabs who complain biterly about European colonialism which ironically introduced them to the modrn wirld are now involved in a vast colonial effort to trasform the moderate Islam of Africa into their strict Whabite and other austere versins. Using oil money and guns, they are tiday making comsiderablr headway in the Sahran countries which is bleding over into the morthern areas of West African Gulf of Guinea countries..
Groucutt, Huw S. and Michael D. Petraglia, "The Prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula: Deserts, Dispersals, and Demography," Evolutionary Anthropology Vo. 21 (2012), pp. :113–25.
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