Você está na página 1de 30

Byzantium and Islam

The Collision Between Christianity and Islam

The Collapse of Rome

Under continued internal strife and external pressure by the Visigoths, Vandals and others, the once proud empire of Rome finally collapsed in 476 CE and in its wake left the Christian (Catholic) church, the Germanic Empire of Europe, Byzantium or the Christian empire of the Greeks, and a power vacuum in Asia which was soon to be filled by a new potent force Islam In this section we will examine the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium and the rise of Islam from obscurity on the Arabian Peninsula to a truly global force.

The Byzantine Empire

The Eastern Empire or Byzantium pre-dated the collapse of Rome as the Roman Empire expanded its rule was divided east and west. The western empire was decidedly Roman, with its capital city at Rome and its official language being Latin. While the eastern empire tended to a Greco-Roman influence with its capital of Constantinople, a Christian city built by Emperor Constantine, was officially established in 332 CE upon the ruins of an even older Greek city, that of Byzantium, and its official language was Greek. Constantinople, located on the Bosporus connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas at the extreme southeastern periphery of Europe. Stood as a Christian bulwark against the forces of Asia until its capture by the Ottoman Turks led by Mehmed II in 1453 CE

The Reign of Justinian (527 565)

Justinian comes to power in the 6th century and proves to be one of the empires most remarkable leaders. He marries Theodora, a daughter of a lower-class circus trainer, but proves to be exceptionally strong-willed woman and supporter of her husband. Justinian is determined to re-establish the Roman empire in the Mediterranean world and like others before him, faces revolt in 532 CE, but moves quickly to suppress his critics and begin his re-conquests. Belisarius, his Roman general, is a most capable military officer. He sails for Africa and in two battles defeats the Vandals. From Africa he moves to Sicily in 535 to attack the Visigoths and finally defeats them in 552, reconquering Italy. Under Justinian the army extended the empire to include the lost territories of Italy, Spain, North Africa, Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria. The success proved short-lived however, for just three years after Justinian dies, the Lombards enter Italy forever weakening the eastern empires grasp on its territorial possessions

The more enduring legacies of Justinians reign, other than his territorial expansion, are his contributions to western legal thought through the codification of Roman law and his public works, especially his building program.
Thoroughly trained in Roman law, Justinian sought to codify and simplify the body of law that consisted of: laws passed by the senate and assemblies, legal commentaries of jurists, decisions rendered by praetors, and the edicts of emperors. Justinian tasked the jurist Trebonian to systematically compile imperial edicts. The result of his work was the Code of Law, the first part of the Corpus Iuris Civilis (the Body of Civil Law) completes in 529. By 533 two other sections were completed, the Digest, a compendium of commentaries by Roman jurists, and Institutes, a brief summary of the principles of Roman law. The fourth and final section of the Corpus, the Novels, consisted of a compilation of the new edicts issued during Justinians reign.

The codification of laws complied by Justinian, originally written in Latin then copied into Greek, served as the basis of law in the Byzantine empire until its collapse in 1453 and, in its Latin variant, served as the basis of western legal thought to the present.

Justinian essentially rebuilt Constantinople following the fires that literally destroyed the city during the 532 revolt Within the massive defensive walls of the city that had been built during the earlier reign of Theodosius II (408 450 CE), Justinian modernized the palace complex and the arena, the Hippodrome (gladiatorial fights and chariot races a special passion), and he added new roads, bridges, walls, public baths, courts, and an underground reservoir containing the citys water supply. He also added hospitals, schools, monasteries, and churches the most famous was the Hagia Sophia (meaning- Saint Sophia), later converted to a mosque

At his death, the eastern empire was once again overextended, fiscally drained, and suffered both from the plague, which greatly reduced the population, and external security pressures to its frontiers.

New Challenges to Empire

As the empire expanded under Justinian it became more complex to manage. In order to survive Byzantium developed a new administrative office known as the theme in effect it was the combination of civil and military authority in the hands of one individual. This action tended to make the empire more militaristic in its response to both internal and external pressures. Justinian purged those whom he felt were disloyal, including his most capable general, Belisarius, who was blinded and condemned to beggary. By the 7th century, it became apparent that the restored Mediterranean empire was beyond the financial and military resources of the government of Byzantium and the east increasingly turned away from the Latin west a breach that ever-widened in both political and religious terms

The most serious challenge to Byzantiums hegemony in the east came from the rise of Islam in Arabia in the 7th century
Battle of Yarmuk in 636 CE, Islamic forces defeated the eastern Roman armies and Byzantium lost the provinces of Palestine and Syria (the former Seleucid Dynasty)

The Arabs also conquered the Persian Empire

In 717 CE the Arabs failed in their attempt to besiege Constantinople but had successfully conquered much of the mountainous eastern frontier of the Anatolian Peninsula and continued to challenge eastern Roman armies.

The northern borders of the empire were challenged by the arrival of the Bulgars, a warrior tribe from the central Asian steppes, who moved into the Balkans earlier in the 6th century and by 679 CE had defeated the eastern Roman armies and took possession of the lower Danube valley establishing the Bulgarian kingdom
By the 8th century, Byzantium had been greatly reduced in size; consisting only of Greece, the eastern Balkans, and Asia Minor. It was during this time that the characteristics of the empire changed remarkably and all vestiges of Rome had disappeared Byzantium was a Greek state! Latin fell into disuse and Greek became the official language. Constantinople was founded as a Christian city and by the 8th century the influence of the religion the great many churches found throughout the city, the artistic outpouring into the church imbued its ceremonies and rituals permeated the consciousness of its inhabitants.

Christian Schisms and Controversies

A number of controversies arise during this period that cause a rift or schism to develop in the Catholic Church
The wide-spread use of religious images in the form of icons provoked charges of idolatry by iconoclasts those who oppose the use of icons. Supporters of icons explain that the images are not worshipped, only used to help the illiterate understand their faith. The Bishop of Rome opposed the use of icons, thereby creating tensions between the Pope and the Byzantine patriarch. Emperor Leo III outlawed the use of icons in 730 CE, faced opposition by the monks, and inadvertently enhanced the prestige of the Greek Orthodox patriarch. Later in the 8th century the Byzantine rulers reversed their position regarding the use icons and the church edicts.

During the reign of Michael III (842 867) the empire experienced a revival with the abolishment of iconoclasm in 843 CE and reforms made in education, church life, the military, and peasant economy.
Photian Schism Patriarch Photius, leader of the eastern Orthodox Christian church condemned the pope of the western church as a heretic for accepting a revision in wording of the Nicene Creed The conversion of the Czar Boris I of Bulgaria The Arabs completed their conquest of Sicily but were halted in their further advance In 860 861 Byzantine forces defeated the forces of the Russians in the north

The Macedonian Dynasty (867 1056)

Following the murder of Michael III, Basil I (867 886) of Macedonia ascended to the throne. Basil had co-ruled with Michael, conspired with Michael to murder his uncle Bardas who had served as Michaels most trusted advisor until he had come of age, and then murdered Michael to assume sole rule of the empire. Basil ruled capably, reforming Byzantine finances, protecting small-hold farmers against the landed aristocracy, modernized the code of law enacted by Justinian I, and improved trade with western Europe, especially in the sale of silks and metalwork. The Macedonian rulers benefited form a much improved prosperity, Byzantine cultural influence increased as did the opportunities for the missionary work of the church. In 987 CE, the prince of Kiev converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity which led to the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox church in the Russias.

Under the influence of the Macedonian rulers, such as Leo VI (886 912) and Basil II (976 1025), the role of the civil service greatly expanded and improved, the military gained in professionalism and conquered the Bulgars, annexing both eastern and western Bulgaria into the empire. They added Cyprus and Crete and defeated the Islamic forces in Syria, expanding the influence of the empire to the Euphrates River valley.
Leo VI continued the work of his father Basil I. He completed the modernization of the legal system known as the Basilica, issued edicts for the army and the navy known as Tactics, and wrote the Book of the Prefect describing the official duties of that office, especially in regard to its jurisdiction over the guilds of Constantinople. He attempted to end the controversy of the Photian Schism, but had little success as the western church objected to his four marriages. Basil II, a former soldier, faced a number of challenges including a period of rebellion known as the Sclerus revolt (976 989) by the landed aristocracy because of his enforcement and strengthening of the laws protecting small-hold free farmers. He annexed Bulgaria, although gave it considerable autonomy, and extended the eastern boundaries of the empire into the Caucasus. At the end of his reign, the empire was threatened in the west by the Normans, in the north by the Pechenegs (a nomadic Turkic tribe from the Urals who settled in the lower Danube region), and in the east by the Turks

New Challenges to Empire

The question is raised over the quality of leadership following the Macedonian dynasty, was it of poorer quality or simply faced with both internal and external pressures that could no longer be contained? The increased militarism of the Macedonian rulers helped breed a group of ambitious generals who sought political power and an aristocracy that wanted greater power over the free peasants. Both groups greatly weakened the traditional backbone of the empire that of the warrior-peasant who primarily served as the infantry and cavalry for the empire. The differences between the eastern and western church intensified in 1054 CE when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius formally excommunicated each other because the Eastern Orthodox Church refused to recognize the sole authority of the Pope as head of the Church. At the battle of Manzikert in 1071 the Seljuk Turk forces defeated the Byzantine forces and the Turks gained access to the agriculturally rich areas of the Anatolian Peninsula. Peasant farmers, exploited by rich landowners, readily accepted Turkish control over the area.

A new dynasty under Alexius I Comnenus (1081 1118) restored order. On the Greek Adriatic coast Alexius I defeated the Norman threat, in the Balkans defeated the Pechenegs, and stopped the Turks advance on the Anatolian Peninsula.
Alexius I lacked the resources to continue his campaign against the Turks and turned to the west for military assistance this led to the launch of the Crusades, something that Constantinople would regret.

The Crusades

Beginning in 1095 CE and lasting two centuries the Crusades were a series of seven major and many more minor expeditions launched by the western church and an endless number of European monarchs to wage holy war against the unbelievers (Islamic forces) that threatened Constantinople. (See Chapter 12)

The tone set by the First Crusade and later repeated, clearly indicated an interest on the part of the west to proceed as it saw fit and that the security needs of Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox Church were of secondary importance.
The disastrous Fourth Crusade in 1204 CE, led by the Venetians, resulted in the crusading army being involved with a succession dispute and the sacking of Constantinople and they established a Latin Empire of Constantinople in an attempt to eliminate an economic competitor. Parts of the Byzantine Empire survived, however, and in 1259 Michael Palelogus, a Greek military leader took control of the western Kingdom of Nicea in Asia Minor and led the Byzantine army in recapturing Constantinople in 1261 CE.

In a weakened condition and greatly reduced in size, the Byzantine Empire survived for two more centuries until 1453.
The only positive event of the Crusades from a European perspective was that Islamic control over the Mediterranean Sea had been broken and southern Europeans were able to re-establish trade networks and dominate international trade once again.

The Rise of Islam

Why do we study the rise of Islam and is it important or even relevant? The obvious answer to both questions is a definitive and resounding yes! In the modern world Islam is the religion, way of life, and common thread that binds over 1.2 billion Muslims, one-fifth of the worlds population, people of diverse nationalities and ethnic groups. Islam infuses the everyday lives of Muslims with existential meaning, spiritual strength, and inner peace. In its perverted form, it is abused by some in promoting violence and death to achieve political aims benefiting a few elitists.

Understanding Islam

In the Arabic language Islam means to submit or to surrender. More recently in the context of submitting ones will to that of God (or Allah) as recognized by Islams emphasis on tawhid (the absolute oneness, unity, and uniqueness of God) that is expressed throughout the Quran. Who is Muhammad and why is he a significant figure in history?

Muhammad (570 632 CE) was born in Makkah (or Mecca), a city in the Arabian Peninsula, and was orphaned by the time he was 6. His uncle served as his guardian for 46 years Muhammad earned a living as a merchant trader and in adulthood witnessed the poverty, indignities, and suffering around him. He acquired a reputation for honesty and integrity, a man of impeccable character and charismatic personality a perfected man he married his boss Khadijah. In his 30s he meditated regularly in the cave of Hira on the outskirts of Makkah. In 610 CE, when he was 40, he was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, who revealed to him that he should preach the message of Islam

The revealed word of God, in part transmitted by the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad and continuing throughout his life, was written in the holy book known as the Quran. It consists of 114 Surahs (or chapters) and each chapter is divided into Ayats (or verses): there are approximately 6200 Ayats in the Quran. Muslims believe that the Quran is Gods final guidance to humankind everywhere until the last Day of Judgment. Muhammad is, therefore, the last of Gods prophets.
Islam is built upon five articles of faith: belief in Allah; belief in angels; belief in Gods prophets, with Adam as the first and Mohammad as the last; belief in the holy books revealed by God the Torah, the Bible and the Quran; and, belief in the last day of Judgment.

In addition to the five articles are the Faraidh or also known as the arkan ad-din or the Five Pillars of the Faith:
Shahadah Arabic for witnessing or declaring. Muhammad is seen as a role model and Muslims follow his hadith (words or sayings) and sunnah (exemplary deeds) Salat the ritual of daily prayers. Muslims pray five times daily and hold communal prayers on Friday noon Zakat almsgiving, providing to the poor and needy Sawm the obligation for all adult males to fast from dawn to dusk during the 9th Islamic calendar month of Ramadan Hajj the obligation for adult males of sound mind and body to make a religious journey to Makkah, at least once in their lifetime, between the 7th and 10th days of the Islamic calendar month Dhul-Hijjah, which is the 12th and last month.

Muhammads Flight to Yathrib, 622 CE

The merchants of Makkah disapproved of Muhammads message and persecuted his followers forcing Muhammad to flee to Yathrib (modern Madinah or Medina) with a small band of followers. There he brought his message to Jews and other non-believers. After nine years he had a number of followers, established the first Islamic state, and organized an army that he used to conquer Makkah, where he accepted the conversion to Islam of his former enemies. Shortly thereafter Muhammad died leaving behind a young and dynamic faith.

Muhammads death left his followers in a quandary as there was no plan for a legitimate succession.
After his death Muhammads followers developed the Sunnah (Arabic meaning the way or the path) which comprises all of the customs and examples of the Prophet Muhammads behavior, reliable reports about his sayings and deeds, as well as hira (or stories about his life). The Quran and the Sunnah comprise what is known as the Shariah, the comprehensive, eternal, immutable, and divine laws of Islam. Islamic scholars (ulama) use the discipline of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Hadith, ijima (consultation and consensus), and the qiyas (analogy). The Shiah Muslims commonly substitute iijtihad (independent reasoning) for qiyas. For a Muslim country to be called an Islamic state, it must impose the shariah as the law of the land

The Reign of the First Four Caliphs

Following the death of Muhammad, the influential Muslim leaders of Makkah nominated one of the first converts and close associates of Muhammad, Abu Bakr (632 634 CE) as the first khalifah over the ummah (community of believers). During his brief reign, he suppressed the rebellious Bedouins, consolidated his rule over the Arabian peninsula, and sent his armies to conquer Iraq and Syria the first jihad (meaning striving in the way of the Lord). His successor, Umar ibn al-Khattab (634 644 CE) contributed significantly to the spread of Islam. Umars armies conquered Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, the greater part of Persia, Tabristan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and some parts of Turkey. He was the first leader to assume the title of supreme commander of the faithful and as a competent administrator, he established a bureaucracy that included a police department, welfare service to the needy, and an education department. Umar also organized a sound financial system, constructed several fortifications and established new cities throughout the empire, and established a consultative body that deliberated on public policy and guided him in its implementation. A disgruntled non-Muslim Persian slave assassinated Caliph Umar.

Uthman ibn Affan (644 656 CE), a wealthy merchant, among one of the first converts to Islam, and, who had married two of the Prophet Muhammads daughters, was selected to be the third khalifah. His armies conquered much of Persia and North Africa. His reign saw the completion of the process to collate the Quran and codification of Islamic law which had begun under Abu Bakr and Umar. He oversaw the publication an distribution of the standard edition of the Quran throughout the empire. Before he was murdered he also introduced the first organized news service in Islamic history. ibn Ali Tahib (656 661 CE), the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the first convert to Islam after Khadijah, raised by the Prophet until, at 24, he married Muhammads daughter Fatima, became the fourth khalifah. He was also the last of the four rightly guided caliphs. Shiite Muslims believe that, on account of Alis piety, knowledge, valor on the field of battle, and closeness to the Prophet, it was Ali who was nominated by Muhammad to succeed him as the first Imam (religio-political leader) of the Muslim world. This belief has led to what is known as the Shia heresy and a major division in the Islamic world that has not yet been resolved. Rival factions believed that Ali was involved in the murder of Uthman. In 661 Ali was assassinated and the governor of Syria, Muawiya, one of Alis chief rivals, replaced him, establishing a hereditary caliphate.

Umayyads and Abbasids

Factional struggles within Islam did end the expansion of the Arab


By 710 CE, the Arab army, having conquered the Berbers, a pastoral people in North Africa, moved against Europe by crossing the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain. In 717 CE the Arabs also sent an expedition to capture Constantinople and destroying the Byzantine empire. The Byzantines use of Greek fire an incendiary petroleum mixture containing quicklime and sulfur led to the destruction of the Muslim fleet. By 725, most of the Iberian peninsula was under Arab control with the Islamic capital established at Andalusia. In 732 CE, at the battle of Tours (or Poitiers), the Arab intrusion into southern France was halted by the Frankish army of Charles Martel.

Alis second son, Hussein, led a dispute challenging the legitimacy of Umayyad rule and incited his supporters to revolt in 680 CE. His supporters later become known as Shiites ( from the Arabic phrase shiat Ali meaning partisans of Ali). Husseins forces are later defeated and massacred at Karbala. Umayyad rule, always more political than pious created resentment in several quarters. Their decadent behavior contributed to their own demise when, in 750 CE, they were overthrown by Abu al- Abbas, a descendent of Muhammads uncle. This led to the establishment of the Abbasid dynasty (750 1258 CE) in what is now modern day Iraq.

Under the Abbasids the distinctions between Arabic and non-Arabic Muslims began to be broken down which led to greater political, economic, and cultural unity in the Islamic world. All Muslims were now allowed to hold civil and military leadership positions
Many Arabs began to intermarry with the peoples of conquered territories In 762 the Abbasids built a new capital in Baghdad, a strategic position astride the caravan routes from Asia and connected to the riverine and maritime traffic thru the Persian Gulf. This move also encouraged a change in cultural perspective allowing the emergence of the Persian influence.

The Abbasid Golden Age

Throughout the reign of Harun al-Rashid (786 809 CE), also known as Harun the Upright, and his son and successor, Mamun (813 833 CE) the empire experienced its Golden Age. The Arabs had conquered the richest provinces of the Roman empire and this alone contributed to the increase in wealth and prosperity. Baghdad was at the center of a vast economic and trading empire that extended to Europe, Central Asia, and Africa which promoted exchanges in culture, technology, and ideas. Mamun, as a patron of the arts, promoted the translation of the classical Greek works into Arabic and founded an astronomical observatory. The Arabs , by the 9th century, knew that the world was a sphere a subject still disputed in Europe up until the 16th century Paper was introduced to the Islamic world from China and then passed on to North Africa and Europe. Crops from India and Southeast Asia, such as rice, sugar, sorghum, and cotton were carried by Muslim traders to the West while items from the West, such as glass, wine, and indigo dye were transported by Islamic traders to China. Muslim traders sailed the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Ultimately, the combination of both power and wealth led to various abuses and discontent as the accumulation of both seemed to undermine the strict moral code of Islam. Economic inequality, the abuse of power, sexual promiscuity and wide-spread homosexuality, divorce, and the use of alcohol all acted in concert to bring down the Abbasids The changes within the armed forces and civil service system as provincial leadership took a more dominant role contributed to the rapid disintegration of the Abbasid dynasty In 750 CE Spain separated from the empire when a prince of the Umayyads escaped and established himself there Morocco became an independent entity and in 973 CE the Fatimids established a new Shiite dynasty in Egypt The empire held together only by the common threads of the Quran and the Arabic language.

Perhaps the greatest threat posed to the Abbasids came from the Seljuk Turks. Originally a nomadic peoples from Central Asia, the Seljuk Turks, who converted to Islam, served the Abbasid caliphates as mercenary soldiers whose reputation in battle had been made because of their skill as mounted archers. They were rewarded for their service with a land grant of territories along the eastern edge of the Anatolian peninsula.
By 1055 CE the Seljuks had become a potent military force and seized Baghdad, taking control of the empire. The Abbasids served as the chief Sunni religious authority, but the true political and military power was in the hands of the Seljuk Turks. In 1071 CE. The Byzantine emperor sent his armies against the Seljuk Turks and they were decisively defeated by the Turks at the battle of Manzikert. This victory allowed the Seljuk Turks to control most of the agricultural rich Anatolian peninsula, thus triggering the Byzantine empires request for help from Europe.