The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Instapundit on l'Islam primitif

Glenn Reynolds:

If I recall correctly, in the early days of Islam it wasn’t clear to everyone that it wasn’t a heretical Christian sect, a hardcore version of monophysitism. The other thing I seem to recall is that the rampaging armies of Islam in those early years of conquest were actually heavily Christian, because it was cheaper to pay the discriminatory dhimmi tax than to pay the existing taxes levied by the Byzantine Empire and other rulers.

And one way of thinking about Islam — from a memetic-engineering standpoint rather than a strictly theological one — is that it was an ideology that did well in appealing to marginalized people, especially men, in a rigid, bureaucratic, emasculating, high-tax/low-opportunity society. Luckily, things are very different now.

This is pretty much what Fred Donner has said, and more so Zaotar in CEMB. I'd quibble about this or that. (Like - what's "memetic"?)

My most important point of departure is on the Mono-/Mia-physite position, which at its weakest form was also the Maronite position which was Imperial dogma at the time. This position was (and, among the Copts, remains) Monothelitism: that God's Will is undivided in the Triad. It follows that some part of God Himself died upon the Cross, to be brought back into being upon the Resurrection. The Church of the East, later self-identified as "Nestorians", never accepted that dogma. That rejection of Monothelitism is shared with the Muslims - to the extent that the Arab invaders actively mocked the Cross. (As least, so I'd argued last winter in "Early Umayyad Theories of the Cross". I haven't received any counter-arguments yet.)

I also question to what extent the crusading zeal of Heraclius's imperium can be considered "emasculating". The man won a world war for Chrissakes. (Literally.) George Pisides wants a word with you. And if that fabled Byzantine "rigid bureaucracy" extended far beyond the Aegean and maybe Alexandria, especially in the wake of that war, this is something that I'd like to see a proof of, before I can just assume it.

Insofar as world-wars result in tax increases, and fewer resources available to collect on said taxes: on that much, I shall defer to the Americans on what might happen next. And as far as the dhimma / jizya goes (here I admit more ignorance): in Islam's first years it seems the Christian Arabs didn't have to pay it, and since they were landless they had no means to pay the kharaj either. So Reynolds' summary holds up well here, too, as far as I know.

UPDATE 3:20 PM - Synchronicity! Tom Veal posted about Fred Donner at the exact same time I did. (Mr Veal also mentioned Tom Holland, more dangerously. Which is not to say that Holland was wrong.)

posted by Zimri on 12:05 | link | 0 comments

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