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The Arab people and the early Islamic period

Nahyan, Khaled Bin Zayed Al (2008) The Arab people and the early Islamic period. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This MA thesis, entitled The Arab People and The Early Islamic Period, has been written in response to the post 9/11 interest in the Arab people and early Islam among Western academics. It gives a brief account of pre-Islamic Arabia, the beginnings of Islam and the philosophies and ideologies contained in the religion in an attempt to address the following two fundamental questions: 1. Are there any real grounds for the widely-held perception of the Arab people as a backward race, uncivilised, fragmented, unwilling to develop and making no contribution to the international community? Does their history support this perception? 2. Do the origins of Islam and the way it developed and expanded during its earliest days support current criticisms that Islam itself is an inherently violent religion? A study of the theories of the Arabs as a Semitic race, their geographical distribution and civilisations, the tribes of pre-Islamic Arabia and the ruling powers which influenced the region up to the 6(^th) century will be presented, before an examination of the origins of Islam, from the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in AD 570 to the death of the fourth Caliph in AD 661. It was during this period that Islam reached its zenith as a religion. During this time the essential, fundamental Islam can be surveyed - before imperial Islam was born, before it was adapted to suit differing needs and before it fragmented into sects. All original knowledge of Islam came from this period, what followed merely being derivatives of it. By examining the nature of the expansion of Islam - whether it was spread by military force or through trade and missionaries - we attempt to address questions concerning the Prophet’s confrontations with the enemies of Islam. Were he and his caliphs impoverished, power-seeking imperialists or did they just respond to challenges resulting from what they saw as a duty to make the Prophet's ideology known to people? The conclusion will argue that the Arab people, those of pre-Islamic Arabia as well as those of today, are direct descendents of the early inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, bound by common history and language with no ancestral discontinuity. Arabia is the birthplace of the earliest civilisations and has always been the home of many religions and ideologies. This region has always played an important role in other civilisations, in terms of imperial expansion, trade and the exchange of ideas. Many of its qualities were adopted and encompassed within those other civilisations. That Arabia became the birthplace of Islam seems natural, given that it has always been a region rich in ideas. Its emergence was also timely, as the other two monotheistic religions had been, coming at just the right moment for humanity. Islam embraces other faiths and religions, does not call for the enslavement of mind or body and does not encourage violent acts. The negative perceptions of Arabs as anti-establishment and violent and of Islam as a dangerous religion which threatens humanity is ill-founded. The reactions to Islam currently being witnessed mirrors events of 7(^th) century when the Byzantine and Sassanian superpowers sought to secure land and natural resources under the pretext of ideological differences. It is likely that this region will always be a theatre of conflict, due to its geographical location as a crossroads between continents. This study is divided into the following four chapters (excluding introduction and conclusions):Chapter 1 : Ancient Arabia and the World Leading to the 6(^th) Century Chapter 2: Prophet Muhammad and the Birth of Islam Chapter 3: The Rāshīdūn Period Chapter 4: Islam - The Ongoing Legacy. In surveying and summarising such a large span of time, from the early history of man up to the century, this work gives a broad overview rather than going into great detail on any of the topics covered. Whilst referring to other civilisations, such as ancient Egyptian, Greek and Persian where pertinent, this work focuses on the Arabian Peninsula and on the civilisations within that geographical region. In addition, there are few references from the time of the early Muslim expansion which reflect the opinions of opposing sides. References from the 9(^th) century onward are more widely available. Therefore, it was decided that presenting a history of the misrepresentation of Islam was beyond the scope of this MA. given that extensive research would need to be carried out in order to present an accurate, balanced account. This work is addressed to non-Arabic speaking readers. Regarding research, a decision was made to rely for sources on Western books and references easily available to examiners and readers. It was considered that the use of Arabic references could prove problematic, as understanding them without full knowledge of the Arabic language would be difficult. As there is no linguistic aspect to the scope of this thesis and given that it is addressed to non- Arabic speaking readers, a standardised simplified transliteration system has been used.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:33

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