Islam: the Cultural Aramaization of the Arabs
Islam: the Cultural Aramaization of the Arabs
Islamization: Cultural arabization of the Aramaeans or Cultural aramaization of the Arabs? To answer the phenomenon of Islamic Terrorism, we must understand clearly what Islam was, and to what extent it has been misinterpreted by both, Colonial Powers and Islamic Terrorists.
By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis, Orientalist
In a previous article, ‘The Aramaeans' rise will transfigure the Middle Eastern Chessboard’ (http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/8-9-2005-74536.asp), we stressed on the importance of the Aramaeans as a factor of peace and civilization throughout the Middle East, underscoring their role as break wave against Islamic Terror. We insisted on the Aramaean identity of the Arabic speaking people in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, SE Turkey, SW Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirates. We highlighted the fact that the arabization that followed the islamization in these parts of the Middle East was limited only to linguistic level, whereas at the racial – ethnic level any amalgamation led to total absorption of the few Arabs (of the area of Hedjaz) among the vast Aramaean masses.
Islamization: Cultural arabization of the Aramaeans or Cultural aramaization of the Arabs?
Now, we are going to focus on an even more crucial issue, the repercussions of which on today’s political and social developments are crucial. If at the linguistic level Arabic language prevailed over Aramaic, and if at the racial – ethnic level the heavily populated Aramaic masses throughout the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire of Iran absorbed the scarce Arabs who moved outside Hedjaz, what happened at the cultural level? This is even more important because Culture more than Language is at the Epicenter of National Identity.
We have therefore first to revisit the cultural milieu of the Aramaeans and the Arabs on the eve of the preaching of Coran by Prophet Muhammad. At those days, the bulk of the Aramaeans were Christian, either ‘Monophysitic’ or ‘Nestorian’ (we have to admit that the terms are conventional and questionable since given by the opposite ‘Diophysite’ (Orthodox) Patriarchate of Constantinople).
There were still some Manichaeist Aramaeans, followers of the religion introduced by the Persian philosopher and erudite savant Mani, the ‘Ambassador of the Light’ at Ctesiphon (Tesifun) in 240 CE. Within the Sassanid Empire of Iran (and more particularly in areas such today’s Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the Emirates, the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf, the modern province Khuzestan of SW Iran, but also in Central Asia, namely Bactriana, Sogdiana and Transoxiana) there were Aramaeans practicing older forms of Aramaean and Iranian religions, namely Chaldaeanism and Ostanism – two Gnostic systems –, Mithraism, Zervanism and Gayomardism).
However, all the non Christian Aramaeans represented a minority of the people that expanded from Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) to the borders of China. It is essential to bear in mind that Aramaeans (calling the Christian Aramaeans as ‘Syriacs’) were among the pioneers in the Christological disputes, and the School of Antioch was a mighty opponent of the School of Alexandria. Although brutally massacred by the Sassanid Persian emperors, the Aramaeans preserved Christianity in the vast empire at the East of Euphrates, and in their outright majority ‘Persian Aramaeans’ were ‘Nestorian’, whereas ‘Roman Aramaeans’ were ‘Monophysitic’. Aramaeans may have been the best merchants throughout Asia, but they did not have any nomadic culture anymore, having been settled people for more than 1500 years!
Arabs were not Christian; with the exception of few ‘Monophysitic’ and ‘Nestorian’ Christians, and even fewer Jews, Arabs preserved their earlier religious beliefs that testified to poor religious establishments, ignorance, lack of culture and education, let alone Science and Art, extensive nomadism and barbarism (see also: http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/8-4-2005-74218.asp), and last but not least insignificant social, economic and political structures.
Contrarily to the Arabs in Hedjaz, the (non Arabic) Yemenites had adhered to Christianity in greater numbers, although the majority among them preserved the highly sophisticated pre-Christian Yemenite religion. The Yemenites were preponderantly ‘Nestorian’, especially the Metropolis of Najran, and that is why Caleb, the ‘Monophysitic’ king of Axumite Abyssinia, had been asked by the Romans to make an expedition in Yemen to control the situation, which he did, but was expelled by the Iranians, who did not wish to let Axumite Abyssinians prevail in Yemen, a circumference of Iranian influence, and control the Indian Ocean trade to the benefit of the Romans.
How can we interpret the arrival of Islam among the Arabs, and its diffusion among the Aramaeans?
Contrarily to Aramaeans, who had accepted Christianity, and to Aramaeans, who even earlier had accepted Hebrew religion and Judaism, Arabs did not have any cultural – religious contact/exchange with the world of Mesopotamia, out of which Abraham emanated, or with the world of Canaan – Phoenicia – Israel, where so many developments had taken place.
Names and topics, subjects and issues such as the Flood, the Babel’s Tower, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), the Exodus, the Torah, the States of Israel and Judah, the Books of Kings (Baselieion in Septuaginta) and Chronicles (Paraleipomenon in Septuaginta), the Prophets, the Maccabees, the Second Temple, the Aramaean Samaritans (rejected by the Pharisees and so markedly accepted by Jesus), the Septuaginta translation accomplished at the Pharos Island of Alexandria (the epitome of the Judaic value and significance of Egypt), the confrontations between Greeks and Jews in Alexandria, the tremendous intro-Jewish (but yet so global of consequences) clashes between Pharisees, Zaddok (Sadducees), Essenes (Was Jesus one of them, if we focalize on some of the Manuscripts of the Dead Sea?) and Zealots, the gradual linguistic Aramaization of the Jews, the Phoenicians, and the Babylonians, the Talmud itself and the various Targumim, the formation of Christianity, the Areianism and all the Christological disputes (involving the Cappadocian Fathers, the Schools of Alexandria and Antioch, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Eutyches, and Nestorius, Origenes and Clement of Aalexandria, and others), the monasticism, all these cultural developments that had formed the entire Mediterranean, European, North African and West Asiatic worlds, bringing so many different peoples together, Aramaeans and Aramaized peoples, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, Goths and Kushitic Berbers of the Atlas, meant nothing to the isolated Arabs of Hedjaz, who were involved only in the desert roads trade between the Sinai and Yemen.
All these names were - culturally speaking - nothing to Arabs, and there had never been an Arab to distinguish himself in another land. Nestorius from Germanicia became Patriarch of Constantinople, and Mani traveled to Central Asia and India, whereas Strabo moved from Amaseia to Rome, and then to Egypt, Lucian settled in Athens. Never an Arab had done something similar to the aforementioned illustrious scholars, distinguishing him(her?!)self in Letters, Sciences and Arts. There was never an Arab Bardaisan, an Arab Kartir, an Arab Mazdak, an Arab Tatian, an Arab Eratosthenes.
And if we want to be fair and not to accept everything through a modern Greco-Romano-centric viewpoint (which over-accentuates the role and the essence of the ‘person’), we will add that there were never an Arab author of Pistis Sophia, an Arab author of the ‘Periplus of the Red Sea’, an Arab author of the Chaldaean Oracles, and Arab author of Physiologus (or an Arab translator like the Axumite erudite translator who is at the origin of the Gueze version of that text, Fisalgos).
All this was strange to Arabs, and Arabs were strangers.
Suddenly, through what may be believed by many as Divine Intervention and Prophetic Mission, or through what may be interpreted by many as a colossal work of an erudite college of Savants around a high Person of Intuition, another world, namely Islam, came to the Arabs. Through Coran and the interpretations offered by the Hadiths of the Prophet, Jonas, Abraham, the Flood, Jesus, Moses, Solomon, David, Pharaonic Egypt, Alexander the Great, Jews and Nebukadnezzar, the Concept of the End of Time (Al Yom al Ahar), Jesus, and so many topics from the aforementioned milieu invaded the daily life, the thoughts, the subjects of concern and discussion, the beliefs and the faiths of the Arabs.
How can we interpret Islam, if not as the Ultimate De-Arabization of the Arabs?
All the elements of the previous, genuinely Arabic, culture had to be eliminated. No more idols in the Kaaba of Mecca! For prayer, turn to the Great Faraway Shrine (Al Quds ash Sherif), as Jerusalem named in the Coran! An unprecedented transposition of the aforementioned Biblical, Talmudic and Christian milieu among the Arabs!
At the very original level, Islam was diffused among Arabs and Yemenites to whom Ali, Muhammad’s son-in law, preached Islam two years before the death of the Prophet.
When it was propagated outside the peninsula, Islam was originally viewed as another Christological dispute, another Christological system as a prolongation of Nestorianism. Not only we have sources testifying to this, but we can - through common sense - safely conclude that if Islam transferred among Arabs what constituted the cultural milieu for Aramaeans, Egyptians, Greeks, Jews and Romans (as we explained), then automatically it would look as another interpretation, as a recapitulation of the milieu’s elements among the peoples to whom the elements and the milieu had already been known. If we read the Medieval Greek Historian Theophanes or the famous Chronicon Paschale, we automatically realize this reality.
Islam would stay as part of Eastern Christianity, if the Roman Emperors accepted Muslims within their territory in the 7th and 8th centuries, as they had done with ‘Monophysitic’ and ‘Nestorian’ Christians.
But the Constantinople emperors were tired after centuries of terrible Christological conflicts, so they accepted the secession rather easily, losing therefore all their Asiatic provinces at the south - east of Taurus and Anti-Taurus Mountains, and all their African provinces.
Of course, the great easiness by which Aramaeans accepted Islam in all the Roman and Persian provinces they were living (the area that corresponds to modern Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, SE Turkey, SW Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirates) testifies to:
the Aramaic indignation with the two capitals, Constantinople and
What the scarce Arab armies brought to Jerusalem, Antioch, Damascus, Edessa (Urfa), Amida, Nasibina, and Ctesiphon during the brief period 638 – 641 was just a new interpretation of elements known and believed, shared and evaluated. That is why that system, once accepted by Aramaeans, became truly a viably existing religion, able to be diffused to further provinces of the Roman Empire and the collapsing Sassanid Iran. And the early Aramaean proselytes guaranteed the victory of the Islamic armies in Nihavend and Merv (in Iran) and in Alexandria (in Egypt).
Modern scholars, presenting events through viewpoints shaped after preconceived schemes and political needs, failed so far to answer the following two questions:
- For God’s sake, why a ‘Nestorian’ Aramaean of Ctesiphon, who had been prosecuted for almost 300 years under various Shapurs and Khusraws, would not accept the new interpretation (which was Islam) of the cultural – historical – religious elements of his heritage, and not fight the Persian administration of his own country, taking revenge for three centuries of persecution?
- For God’s sake, why a ‘Monophysitic’ Aramaean of Damascus, who had been prosecuted for almost 300 years under various Constantines and Justinians, would not accept the new interpretation (which was Islam) of the cultural – historical – religious elements of his heritage, and not fight the Roman administration of his own country, taking revenge for three centuries of persecution?
But what goes beyond the two questions – and it was conspicuously hidden by the colonial historians – was the reality that Islam is the Cultural Aramaization of the Arabs.