Seeing eye to eye

Olof Heilo
2010 unpublished
Byzantine sources often seem to ignore the religious cause of controversy with Islam: they refer to Muslims as "Arabs", "Saracens", "Ismaelites" or "Hagarenes", names which had already been used to denote the pre-Islamic Arabs. The Byzantine point of observation on the universalist claims of Early Islam is, thus, not quite clear. There are, however, several clues to the assumption that the early Caliphate aimed at the integration of the former Roman subjects in the Near East. These efforts
more » ... red a final blow at the gates of Constantinople in 717/718, when the new emperor Leo III took power, accompanied by Messianic expectations. Thirty years later, the 'Umayyads fell victims to the 'Abbasid Revolution, and the Islamic world oriented itself, literally speaking, towards the East, enhanced by a rising number of non-Arab converts in Iran and beyond. A structuralist analysis of beliefs and religious practices in the borderlands between Byzantium and the Caliphate point at the limits of a strictly constructivist approach to the subject but also make it clear that a religion with universalist claims will find it difficult, not to say impossible, to make a lasting historical impact if it lacks a stable geographical context. To understand the identification of theological distinctions with political borders it is necessary to consider the emergence of historiographical traditions distanced themselves from early Christian and Muslim eschatological view upon the world, and instead struggled to integrate the ancient historical, literary and scientific heritage of other cultures with their own religious epistemology of universal history.
doi:10.25365/thesis.10921 fatcat:iw732o37ebhgbaxmkw3zvhez2e