The Drought That May Have Led to the Fall of a Jewish Kingdom in Arabia, and Paved the Way for Islam

June 20 2022

By analyzing stalagmites in a cave in northern Oman, a team of scientists have found evidence of a severe draught that struck the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the beginning of the 6th century CE. Reading the data they collected in the context of the historical record, they concluded that lack of rainfall contributed to the demise of the Jewish kingdom of Himyar that once dominated the region, thus creating a geopolitical vacuum that facilitated the rise of Islam. Ariel David writes:

The Himyarite kingdom was founded in the late 2nd century BCE in today’s Yemen. It gradually extended its control over most of southern Arabia by conquering neighboring states, including Saba (or Sheba), the ancient kingdom whose queen of biblical fame supposedly visited King Solomon. During the 4th century CE, the Himyarite elite abandoned its ancestral polytheistic beliefs and converted to Judaism, followed by an unknown percentage of the broader population.

The choice of Judaism as a state religion may have been a way to maintain neutrality among various rival regional powers: the Christians of the Byzantine empire and of the kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia, as well as the Zoroastrians of the Persian empire. All these powers eyed the lucrative spice trade of Arabia that enriched Himyar and they eventually played a part in the kingdom’s demise.

Until the 6th century, Himyar managed to fend off foreign encroachment, but around 525 it suddenly fell to an invading Ethiopian force. . . . With Himyar definitely out of the geopolitical picture, the Byzantine and Persian empires were now free to vie for influence over southern Arabia and its rich trade in myrrh and frankincense. But very quickly these two powers would also cripple each other in a long and bloody conflict that lasted from 602 to 628.

With the economic turmoil and political fragmentation of the period it was only a matter of time until the tribes of Arabia united under a new leadership, which they ultimately found in the prophet Mohammad and his successors from the 620s onward.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Near East, Arabia, Islam, Jewish history, Yemen

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter