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How prevalent was pork in Arabia before Arabs conversion to Islam?

How prevalent was pork in Arabia before Arabs conversion to Islam?


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Before Islam and its prohibition of pork, was it a commonly eaten food? Or was it already prohibited by other religions/cultures? Or was it a kind of uncommon food, which was then prohibited? We also know that Jews (who were in the Middle East during Muhammad's time), also prohibit pork

Pigs doesn't seem to be the kind of animals that live in the area, although maybe it only appears that way now because of the Islamic prohibition…


The short answer to your question is that the general avoidance of consuming pork meat is not unique to Islam, and dates back at least roughly to the ancient Egyptians.

The oldest confirmed evidence of pigs domesticated and kept for pork meat come from Hallan Cemi in Southeastern Anatolia from about 8000 BC. Shortly thereafter, the consumption of pork appears to have spread rapidly around the region, with domesticated swine becoming all but ubiquitous in the area by the year 5000 BC.

Pork meat at this time was an extremely common food, and as far as I can tell, was not banned or eschewed by any particular group. In fact, in several of these early cultures, pigs actually had a religious significance. For example, both the ancient Greeks and Old Kingdom Egyptians sacrificed pigs to a variety of deities.

However, all of this began to change very rapidly in a variety of communities around the region starting roughly 1000-1500 BC. Around this time, in ancient Egypt, pigs acquired a reputation for being unclean, a view that seems to have stuck through modern day. While lower castes of Egyptian society were not prohibited from eating pork, it was discouraged, and the priestly caste was forbidden from it entirely. Slightly later, the Israelites banned the consumption of pork. This law was later written down in the Bible (Leviticus), stating that pigs are not fit to eat because they are not cud-chewers. Various Jewish and Christian sects still adhere to this rule to this day.

While these specific groups were not by themselves a majority of the population in the Middle East, these groups did manage to spread the reputation of pigs as "unclean animals", which greatly decreased the consumption of pork in the region, even where they weren't explicitly banned.

Thus, from roughly 500 BC to the time of the founding of Islam, pork was an uncommon meat in the Middle East. Though pigs were occasionally raised and consumed, it was still not an encouraged practice for most people.

My main source for this post is The Cambridge World History of Food's page on Hogs.


Matriarchal: Pre-Islam Arab cultures in Arabic Peninsula?

First, Arabic tribes are as ancient as antiquity it appears that the first time the word “Arab” was discovered in manuscripts was in 853 BC as a coalition of Arab tribes, associated with Syria and a few Israelite tribes in northern Palestine to counter an Assyrian incursion in the Levant (Near East region of current Syria, Lebanon and Palestine).

Second, many “Arabic” stories and myths were altered and recounted by bordering Empires to fit their environment and culture.

Third, Arabic tribes extended to the desert region between the Euphrates and Tiger Rivers, to the vast stretch of land bordering the Red Sea, to Southern Palestine and Jordan, to the Sinai Peninsula, and to the lands bordering the Persian Gulf.

Fourth, the Arabic tribes languages and cultures were influenced by the urban civilization in Yemen, the various Persian Empires and India, and the various Western Empires of Greek, Roman, and Byzantium Empires before the advent of Islam. I am inclined to believe that India civilization was the most influential, particularly in the separation of genders at home and in public, and the “hareem” tradition…

Fifth, the dominant Empires at every period paid tributes to coalition of Arabic tribes in return of keeping the peace on demarcation borders, facilitating trade caravans, and for gathering intelligence on the enemy as advance signs of changing policies, and for joining in battles.

In the origin, ancient Arabic tribes had matriarchal social structures.

A tribe had higher standing compared to others when its matriarch owned more husbands, particularly, captured enemy men. It was women who took the initiative of selecting their men. More often than than not, disputation for acquiring men resulted in tribal wars.

The Command of a tribe was in the hand of the woman who had the most of husbands.

Thus, it was common for the victor tribe to mutilate the husbands of vanquished tribes. It is no enigma why the three most venerated idols were women warriors such as Manat, Uzzat, and Lat. It is no enigma why the Prophet Mohammad was ready to strike a compromise with the tribes of Mecca, before being chased out of the city, to considering the three goddesses as valid supporters to the all-encompassing God Allah.

Fact is, there was an idol called Allah who was considered to be above all idols, but he had no particular talents for business and didn’t generate donations to the clan that owned it. It is no surprise that most love poems alluded to female camels and horses that had names .

With time, women realized that it was not a good policy to mutilate “enemy” men, but that sexual attraction skills were more beneficial in wooing husbands. Thus, the development of garment, aromatic, and jewelry industries. Textile art witnessed great expansion mainly in veils to guard against sun rays and desert dust.

Public duels within a tribe were among women who danced best and seduced most men.

Belly dancing (raksa) were restricted to women who knew the language of the message to send. The raksa was based on fast paced rhythm of monochord percussion instruments. For example, choreographic dances were selected according to the alphabetic string of characters forming a word or a sentence.

This dance language was known by women. Men were totally ignorant of what was being said or discussed in the dances.

Most probably, patriarchal structures supplanted the previous structure due to influences of Jewish tribes and the tribes that settled in Syria and Iraq. Thus, more male idols were imported to strengthen patriarchal societies within Arabic tribes.

Thus, as you read about pre-Islam cultures of Arabic tribes you should keep in mind thousand of years of traditions and customs. Pre-Islam Arabic cultures are lumped by the new emerging Islam as “Period of Ignorance (Jahilyya)” meaning ignorance of the One and Unique God Allah.

Fact is, many Arabic tribes were already Christians or what is labelled “heretic” Christians, because they had dogmas different from the Byzantine Orthodox dogma. Fact is, many Arabic tribes were Jewish

Fact is, many more believed in Mazda (the dominant religion in Persia.)

Fact is, most of the idols that Arabic tribes venerated were imported from Syria, Persia, and India. Islam became the common denominator religion among Arabic tribes during the Prophet Muhammad life.

I might describe a few of the pre-Islam poets and cultures in a third articles. What follows are a few pre-Islam saying extracted mostly from “The enigma of Qaf” by Alberto Mussa:

“When I tell a lie, am I not restoring an ancient truth?” (The Arabic Scheherazade)

Two write: The one with a lousy memory and the other who lacks verbal expression skills”

“I love women who, when naked, are never totally nude” (Poet Imru2 al Qayss)

“Honor is but another form of fear” (Poet Shanfara)

“Is there any greater glory than being ignored by hyenas?” (Poet Amru ben Kulthum)

Three are stupid: the one who does not know that he doesn’t the one who knows that he doesn’t and the one who doesn’t know that he knows.” (Poet Labid or Lubad)

“Having respect for your enemies is celebrating a cult to the dead.” (Poet Antara)

“O beauty! O Women! O desert!” (Anonymous)

Three possess faith: The Persian in his horoscope, the Jew in his laws, and the Arab in his camel.”

Two are innocents: A beautiful girl and an armed man.”

“What you don’t own, steal it” (Ali Baba)

Why ask of God what I can buy on the market?” (Mundhir)

“The greatest merit of an atheist is that he does not believe in demons.”

Four are pleasures: laughing, eating, loving, and knowing.”

I love the concept of woman, and only that concept. This one woman, the other one: Who can tell me the difference?” (Poet Imru el Qayss)

“True wise men can never be happy.”

Even talking about a single evident fact requires that you have read a thousand book.” (Malika)

“Ask the dead if they really want peace!” (Poet Tarafa)

“Realising your desires is the work of an imbecile.” (Aladin)

“I have never forgiven: I have not the pretension of possessing a virtue attributed to God.”

Nothing is that grand to merit being taken seriously.” (Poet Al Aasha the dim sighted)

“We don’t kill a pork without soiling the knife.”

“I love the tribe of bats: Every female is beautiful.”

“The best in life are those that we have no use of them.” (Poet Zuheir)

I am immortal: I will never know when I died.” (Harith bi Hilliza)

“I don’t like everything that I possess, but I possess everything that I love.” (Poet Nabigha al Zubyani)


Introduction

“Islam is an evil religion.” “It promotes violence.” These are some common labels used against Islam by the rightwing Christian media. Such bias is based on the historical stereotype that the Arabs forced the non-Arabs into the Islamic faith. In the recent past it was not uncommon to see books with drawings of an Arab riding his horse with sword in the one hand & the Qur'an in the other.

So let us see how Islam spread in the world: by sword or by conversion?


Pre-Modern Medicine in Islamic Experience

There are no specific codes for medical treatment of physical illnesses in the Qur’an. In Islamic tradition the difference between health and illness was, and still is, perceived as balance and imbalance or the Humoral Theory. Muslims have historically sought the Qur’an as a healing source in times of psychological and spiritual distress. When experiencing physical illness, Muslims have also been open to the rituals and medicinal practices of different traditions, including those of non-Muslims. The following sayings of the Prophet are used to encourage patients to seek proper treatments in time of illness:

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.” Volume 7, Book 71, Number 58

“Taking proper care of one’s health is the right of the body.” Bukhari as-Sawm 55, an-Nikah 89, Muslim as-siyyam 183, 193, Nisai

“The Prophet not only instructed sick people to take medicine, but he himself invited expert physicians for this purpose.” D.o.H. p.50, As-Suyuti’s Medicine of the Prophet p.125

Historically, there has been a close relationship between religion and medicine and its practices. Muslims have been open to accept, use and improve non-Muslim as well as pre-Islamic healing rituals. They have adopted and improvised many practices such as home-made herbal and medicinal tonics, dietary restrictions, and amulets to ward off bad spirits. They also have adopted practices such as male circumcision, cupping, bloodletting, cauterization and ligaturing. During the pre-modern era, Islamic medical and other sciences leaned heavily upon local medical practices, as well as on works translated from Greek. These influences resulted in the further advancement of medical sciences, especially in the 11th and 12th century.


Formation of the Arabic Empire

Islam united the Arabs and launched them into rapid military expansion between the 7th and 8th centuries.

When Muhammad died, leadership in Islam was exercised by caliphs – the successors of Muhammad. The first caliphs were chosen among the prophet’s relatives. Under their rule, the capital was the city of Medina and the Muslims conquered North Africa, Syria, Palestine, and the Persian Empire.

After the death of Caliph Ali (661), the Umayyad family seized the caliphate and made Damascus their capital. At this time, the Muslims conquered Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula. Their rule extended to the Indus River and Turkestan to the east.

In the middle of the 8th century, after fierce fighting, the Abbasid family displaced the Umayyads and moved the capital of the caliphate to Baghdad.

From the 10th century, Islam underwent a process of political disintegration due to religious conflicts, the emergence of independent regional dynasties in Spain, Morocco and Egypt, and Turk and Mongol invasions.

The Economy in Arabic Culture

Trade was the main uniting factor that linked the Arabic Empire. From the 8th century, Muslims dominated the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean’s maritime routes, with their extension to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. They also controlled the major land routes in Africa and Asia.
In this way, the Arabs took over the most precious commodities: East Asian spices, Indian precious stones, Chinese silk, and Sudanese gold and ivory. They also had the best fleet and the most active ports of their time.

The use of their own currency, the gold dinar, made the Arabs independent from the Byzantine economy. Moreover, to avoid carrying many bags of coins, Muslims devised two new methods of payment: the bill of exchange and the check.

In spite of the great importance of commerce, the main resource in Arabian culture was agriculture and it underwent remarkable development between the 8th and 10th centuries.

Agriculture mainly developed in the western areas of the Mediterranean, as the Arabs introduced new irrigation techniques there: canals, waterwheels, and many others.

They also introduced new crops, such as sugarcane, apricots, cotton, and saffron.

Imperial Administration

At the head of the enormous Islamic – or Arabic – Empire was the caliph, who was the successor of Muhammad and the representative of Allah.

The Koran entrusted the caliph with maintaining order and prohibiting evil. His authority was total in both religion and politics.

Caliphs were elected at first, but the Umayyads later made the office hereditary.

The great expansion of the empire made it necessary to create a vast administration, which was inspired by Byzantine and Persian models:

In the provinces, governors, called walis or emirs, had civil and, with time, even military authority.
In the central administration, viziers, or ministers, were in charge of the main services and worked with the caliph. In Spain, there was an intermediate figure between the caliph and vizier: the hayib, or prime minister.

For judicial administration, the caliphs appointed judges, or qadis, in every city in the empire.

The army secured great conquests: they enjoyed the benefits of excellent organization, in which cavalry was the main contingent. With the Umayyads, they recruited strictly just among Arabs. The Abbasid caliphs introduced foreigners and, after the 10th century, mercenaries.

Arabic Cities

After religion, the second hallmark of Arabic culture was their enormous urban development. Despite their nomadic origins, the Arabs quickly became accustomed to urban life. This is why, in contrast to what was happening in Christian Europe, cities flourished everywhere in Arabic culture. Arabic cities were fundamentally mercantile centers. Life there revolved around the mosque, which was where they prayed, and the souk, or market. Near the mosque was the ‘alcaicería’, where precious products from abroad were stored, and in the most important cities, there would be a mint and an exchange market. Colorful and labyrinthine shopping streets, as well as houses, intersected around this core.

Baghdad

The Abbasids moved the capital to Baghdad. From then on, Baghdad became the most splendid and populous city in the Arabic Empire, comparable only to the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Baghdad, the current capital of Iraq, is on the banks of the Tigris River, in a very fertile area that intersected with the great trade routes of Asia. It was, at the time, an important river port. Baghdad had two walls and was defended by 28 towers. It could be accessed through four gates located at the four cardinal points.


Why do Muslims abstain from pork?

The prohibition of pork in Islam is derived from the following verse of the Glorious Qur’an:

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah.”

Let us examine various aspects of this prohibition:

1. Prohibition in Earlier Scriptures

Islam is a culmination of the same monotheistic religion that was revealed to earlier prophets. Although the Glorious Qur’an is the only revelation that is extant in its original revealed text, some remnants of earlier revelations can be found in the Bible.

The Bible prohibits the consumption of pork, in the book of Leviticus

“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud he is unclean to you”.

“Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch, they are unclean to you.”

Pork is also prohibited in the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy

“And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you. Ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass.”

A similar prohibition is repeated in the Bible in the book of Isaiah chapter 65 verse 2-5.

2. The Nature of Pork

The main utility of pigs in the ecosystem is as scavengers. They live and thrive on muck, feces and dirt.

It could be argued that in developed countries, pigs are bred in very clean and hygienic conditions. Even in these hygienic conditions the pigs are kept together in sties, and so the chances of them consuming filth are very high.

3. Health Aspects

Research has shown correlation between pork consumption and several diseases. Eating pork can expose the individual to various helminthes (worms) like roundworm, pinworm and hookworm. One of the most dangerous of worms is Taenia Solium, which, in lay man’s terminology is called the pork tapeworm. It harbors in the intestine and is very long. Its ova i.e. eggs, enter the blood stream and can reach almost all the organs of the body. If it enters the brain it can cause memory loss. If it enters the heart it can cause heart attack, in the eye it can cause blindness, and in the liver it can cause liver damage. It can damage almost all the organs of the body.

A common misconception about pork is that if it is cooked well, these ova die. In a research project undertaken in America, it was found that out of twenty-four people suffering from Trichura Tichurasis (another worm commonly found in pork), twenty two had cooked the pork very well. This indicates that the ova present in the pork do not die under normal cooking temperature.

Pork has very little muscle building material and contains excess of fat. This fat gets deposited in the vessels and can cause hypertension and heart attack. It is not surprising that hypertension is a common ailment due to the prevalence of the consumption of pork.


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Description: Pigs harbour bacterial diseases, parasites, and viruses.

  • ByAisha Stacey (© 2009 IslamReligion.com)
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In Part 1 we discussed the primary reason for Muslims abstaining from eating pork and pork products, and that is, that God has forbidden it. As the Creator of humankind and all that exists, God knows what is good for us, and He has sent guidance enabling us to make wise decisions. Just as a computer would not work properly if it were incorrectly programmed, a human being is not able to function if he is not nourished correctly. Islam is a holistic religion that recognises the interconnectedness of spiritual, emotional, and physical health. What a person eats and drinks has a direct bearing on their overall health and well-being.

Virologists have long been aware that the pig is an ideal breeding ground for influenza, so it is no surprise that the latest threat, swine flu, originated in pigs. Microbiologist and immunology expert, Dr Graham Burgess [1] says, “Viruses that would normally grow in the chicken can potentially grow in the pig and ones that grow in humans will potentially grow in pigs. So we consider the pig a great mixing pot for viruses and this is where it can play a real role in generating new viruses".

The pig is known to harbour parasites as well as bacteria and viruses. Cysticercosis is an infection caused by the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. Infection occurs when the tapeworm larvae enter the body and form cysticerci (cysts). When cysticerci are found in the brain, the condition is called neurocysticercosis. This tapeworm in pigs is found worldwide but is most problematic in poor and developing countries were pigs are allowed to roam freely and often eat human faeces. This infection can occur even in modern developed countries but the CDC reports that it is very rare in Muslim countries where eating pork is forbidden. [2]

Trichinellosis, also called trichinosis, is caused by eating raw or undercooked meat of animals infected with the larvae of a species of worm called Trichinella. Infection occurs most commonly in certain wild carnivorous (meat-eating) animals but it may also occur in domestic pigs. The CDC warns that if a human eats meat containing infective Trichinella cysts, the acid in the stomach dissolves the hard covering of the cyst and releases the worms.

The worms pass into the small intestine and, in 1-2 days, become mature. After mating, adult females lay eggs. These eggs develop into immature worms, travel through the arteries, and are transported to muscles. Within the muscles, the worms curl into a ball and encyst (become enclosed in a capsule). This infection occurs when these encysted worms are consumed in meat. The number of cases of trichinellosis throughout the world has steadily decreased due to an awareness of the dangers of eating raw and undercooked pork products and legislation prohibiting feeding raw meat garbage to pigs. [3]

Pigs are omnivores , which means they consume both plants and animals. Pigs will scavenge and eat any type of food, including dead insects, worms, tree bark, rotting carcasses, garbage, and even other pigs. Pigs have very few sweat glands so therefore they are unable to completely rid their bodies of toxins. New evidence indicates that farming practices are leading directly to the spread of human bacterial infections.

Pigs often live in the small spaces and fetid conditions that exist in many modern factory farms and studies are revealing that pigs frequently harbour antibiotic resistant staph bacteria. This drug resistant bacterium is now entering our food supply and recent investigations in the United States of America indicate that 49% of pigs and 45% of pig workers now harbour these bacteria responsible for killing more then 18,000 people in the US every year. [4]

“He has forbidden you only dead animals, and blood, and the flesh of swine. ” (Quran 2:173)

“For that surely is impure” (Quran 6:145)

Muslims refrain from eating pork and pork products because God has forbidden it. However a little investigation into the anatomy and lifestyle of the pig reveals that it is certainly an unclean animal. Those interested in consuming healthy, natural, and pure foods would do well to abstain from pork and pork products.


Map of the Arab Empire - About 750

The fall of the Abbasids and decline of the Arabs - The Arab empire began to disintegrate soon after the Golden age, and a period of independent Caliphates and successive chaotic invasions followed. The Shi'ite Fatimids established an independent Caliphate in North Africa in 910, and conquered Egypt in 969, founding the city of Cairo. The Buwayhids occupied the throne of Persia in 932 and conquered Baghdad in 945. The Seljuk Turks in turn conquered Baghdad in 1055, and their rule spread to Syria and Palestine, where they displaced the Fatimids. The Fatimids, based in Egypt, briefly retook Jerusalem in 1098. In these centuries the Assassin sect arose, based mainly in Iran Iraq and derived from the Ismai'ilis. They were hired killers who services were offered to various Muslim rulers. It is frequently said that they used Hashish as a means of increasing their ferocity, but this may be a spurious tale.

The Crusades - The Muslims were challenged by the Crusaders who arrived in the Middle East in 1096 and captured Jerusalem in 1099. The Muslim world reacted slowly but surely to the unexpected and unwelcome intrusion of the "Franks." Salah Eddin, a Kurd, took control of Fatimid Egypt and declared an end to the Fatimid dynasty in 1171. He reconquered Jerusalem in 1187, having defeated the Crusaders at the battle of Hattin. The Crusaders lingered on in Syria and Palestine. The last fortress of the Crusaders, Acre, fell in 1291. Click for a map of Palestine under the crusaders.

The Mongols - Despite the conquest of Baghdad by the Buwayhids and Seljuk Turks, the Abbasids still ruled nominally as Caliphs until 1258, when the Mongols under Hulagu (also Holagu, Huleku) sacked Baghdad, ending the the temporal power of the Caliphate. The Mongols swept across the Middle East, reaching the Mediterranean and wreaking havoc in the already weakened remains of the Arab empire. The advance of Hulagu was finally stopped at the battle of Ayn Jalut near Nazereth in Palestine in 1260. The Mongols eventually converted to Islam and were integrated in the Muslim domains. However, the invasion of Hulagu was followed in the fourteenth and fifteen centuries by the invasion of Tamurlaine, who conquered Samarkand in central Asia and reached Syria about 1401.

The Mamluke Turks - The Mamlukes were a slave caste of warriors. About 1250 they took power in Egypt from the remains of the Ayubbid dynasty founded by Salah Eddin. It was they who defeated the Mongols at Ayn Jalut. Their rule was quickly extended over Palestine and Syria.

The Safavid Dynasty - In the confusion left by the retreating Mongols of Tamerlane, the Safavid dynasty took power in Persia in 1501, and established a strong independent state, though it eventually had to cede Baghdad and all of Iraq to the Ottoman Turks. Persians fought against western incursions, against the Uzbeks and against Sunni Muslims. In particular, the first Safavid Shah, Ismail I, pursued a policy of persecuting Muslims and interfering with Ottoman interests. This attracted the ire of the Turkish Sultans, who inflicted a decisive defeat on the Persians in 1514, causing the loss of northern Iraq and eastern Asia minor. The Safavid's ruled until 1732. Click here for a history of m odern Iran

The Ottoman Turks - (see also: Ottoman Empire) While the Mamelukes were taking power in the southern part of the Middle East, the Ottoman Turks were gathering strength in the Asia Minor and spilling over into Europe. Their success was due to good organization and early exploitation of the power of fire arms, which was not realized by other Muslim antagonists. The Mamlukes had been Turkish slaves of the Arabs the Ottomans in turn created a soldier caste of Janissaries ( Yeni Ceri, meaning New Troops), who were Christians conscripted or captured at any early age and raised as fanatic Muslims. They originally served as the personal guard of the Sultan. After the 1380s Sultan Selim I recruited them by taxation in human form called devshirmeh. The sultan’s men would conscript a number of non-Muslim, usually Christian, boys – at first at random, later by strict selection – and take them to be trained.

In Asia Minor, Osman I established the beginning of the Ottoman dynasty in 1293. Osman's successor Ohkran conquered most of western Asia Minor. By 1354 the Turks had a base at Gallipoli, a peninsula. on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In 1351, Murad I took Adrianople. The Byzantine Empire was reduced to the city of Constantinople. In 1389, at the Battle of Kossovo, Murad I defeated Christian resistance and Ottoman power extended up to the Danube. Slowed for a time by the invasions of Tamerlane, the Ottomans maintained their power in their European possessions and in the 15th century their expansion resumed.

In 1443 or 1444, the forces of the Sultan Murad II defeated an army of Christian allies at the Bulgarian seaport of Varna. On May 29, 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer (Mehmet the II). The Turks spread their rule progressively over practically the entire Middle East. In 1517 they defeated the Mamlukes, using canons and guns against the Mamkuke troops who were armed mostly with swords. The Hashemite Sharif of Mecca accepted Ottoman rule. In 1519 they extended their rule through most of North Africa, and later conquered and reconquered Iraq. In Europe, the Ottoman Turks conquered Wallachia, Transylvania Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. As early as 1480, they had landed at Otranto in Italy, but their presence there proved to be short lived. By 1529 they were threatening Vienna, though their siege failed and they did not extend their empire beyond Hungary.


Why Jews and Muslims Both Have Religious Claims on Jerusalem

The matter of Israel’s capital city has long been a source of dispute.ਊlthough nearly allਏoreign embassies in Israelਊre located in Tel Aviv, the country਌onsiders Jerusalem to be its capital. Jerusalem, which is one of the oldest cities in the world, has been formally divided between Israel and Palestine for nearly 70 years, yet changed hands many other times throughout the course of its over 5,000-year history.

Israel and Palestine’s dueling claims to the city are steeped in decades of conflict, during which Jewish settlers pushed Muslim Arabs out of their homes and established the state of Israel on their land in the middle of the 20th century. But the claims are also tied to the religions of Judaism and Islam, both of which recognize Jerusalem as a holy place.

On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump broke with previous U.S. foreign policy and announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively endorsing Israeli control of the city. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. relocated its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem seen through a door with the shape of the star of David. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday, Dec. 6, and instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. (Credit: Oded Balilty/AP Photo)

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are strongly tied to the ancient city, and followers of each of these religions have controlled all or part of the city over the past few thousand years. In 1,000 B.C.E., King David established Jewish control over Jerusalem. The city fell in and out of other hands during the next couple of millenia particularly during the crusades, when Christian crusaders fought competing Christian and Muslim factions for control of the city. And between 1517 and 1917, the Ottoman Empire—whose official religion was Islam—ruled the city.

Jerusalem features prominently in the Hebrew Bible. In the Jewish tradition, it is the place where Abraham, the first Patriarch of Judaism, nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to God thousands of years ago. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob (who took the name “Israel”) learned that Jerusalem is “the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name,” according to the Book of Deuteronomy.

Religious Jewish men praying at The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, ahead of the Sabbath, 2005. (Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Jerusalem was the capital of King David’s Israel in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the city where David’s son Solomon built his temple. In biblical times, Jewish people who could not make a pilgrimage to the city were supposed to pray in the direction of it.

According to the Quran, Jerusalem was also the last place the Prophet Muhammad visited before he ascended to the heavens and talked to God in the seventh century. Before that, he was flown from Mecca to Jerusalem overnight by a mythical creature.

Both this miraculous night journey and his communion with God are important events in Islam. During the night journey, Muhammad was purified in preparation for his meeting with God. Once in heaven, God told Muhammad that he should recite the salat, or ritual prayer, 50 times each day. However, Muhammad begged God to reduce the number to five times a day, which is the current standard for Muslim prayer.

TURKEY – APRIL 08: Walls of Constantinople (first half of the 5th century AD) and the city, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Muhammad saw his mission as an extension of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, the first Qibla, or direction in which Muslims should pray, was Jerusalem (today, Muslims bow towards Mecca). In addition, Islamic tradition predicts that Jerusalem will play an important role in the future, naming it as one of the cities where the end of the world will play out.

Though the world doesn’t appear to be ending there right now, Trump’s announcement has increased tensions in the region. The president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital drew praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and condemnation from Palestinian allies who worried that this move would make it more difficult to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between the states.


Seventh Century History

601 The earliest dated English words are ‘Town’ and ‘Priest’, both recorded in the Laws of Ethelbert.

604 Prince Shôtoku writes The Seventeen Articles, the Constitution of Japan. The emphasis is on the prevention of dispute instead of the resolve of disputes as found in Western law. Pope Gregory the Great dies.

609 ? The prophet Mohammed begins to preach the religion of Islam openly in Mecca (a holy city before the existence of Islam). (Some sources claim year to be 613AD)

618 Emperor Kao Zu founds China’s Tang Dynasty.

622 Mohammad, founder of Islam, initially hoped that the Jews would recognize him as their prophet but when they did not. Mecca’s leaders, who find Mohammad’s teachings objectionable, force the prophet to flee to Medina. The flight will be known as the Hegira.(Muhammad and his followers refused bowing toward Jerusalem and began bowing toward Mecca Muhammad abandoned Saturday as the Sabbath and made Friday his special day of the week.) From Medina, he would try to drive Jewish tribes from Arabia. Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima, dies. Her two sons, Hassan and Hussein, will establish the Fatimid Dynasty.

628 Byzantine soldiers bring sugar from India to Constantinople.

629 Dagobert becomes King of the Franks. Mohammad returns to Mecca with the Koran (recitation), the holy book of Islam, which records the religion’s principles. Islam’s Sharia (legal system) forbids the consumption of pork and alcohol. Mohammad’s followers circumvent the prohibition against wine by boiling it and adding honey and spices.

630 Muhammad wins his war with Mecca. People view it as a symbol of the power of his god and convert to Islam. Muhammad adds Mecca’s army to his own conquers the rest of Arabia.

632 Muhammad the Prophet dies.

634 Islam’s first caliph to succeed Muhammad, Abu Bakr, declares a holy war on Mesopotamia.

638 Moslem conquest of Jerusalem. Jews allowed to return.

644 A new religion Tokoyonomushi is introduced in Japan, promoting worshiping a worm, drinking sake, dancing in the streets, and giving away money.

650 Khazars, mid-eastern people of mixed race, expand westward and capture and sell people, mainly Slavs (origin of the word slave).

660 Moslem Caliph Abd el Malik builds the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The Koran published first time as an arranged completed book.

661 Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, dies of his wounds in an assassination attempt, aggravating a split between his supporters, the Shia Muslims. Their rivals, Sunni Muslims, establish a new caliphate in Damascus, Syria.

680 Hassan, grandson of the Mohammad, killed by the army of Caliph Yazid at the Battle of Kerbela.

681 Kingdom of Bulgaria established when Khan Asparukh and his Bulgar tribes subjugate the Slavs.

690 Wu Zetian becomes Empress Wu, the only Chinese woman emperor in history.

691 Abd el Malik builds the Dome of the Rock over the area where the Temple of David had stood in Jerusalem.

695 First Arab coins minted. Arabs destroy the city of Carthage, ending Byzantine rule in North Africa.

699 Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, the oldest English epic) is completed. Non-Arab Muslims now outnumber Arab Muslims.


Watch the video: Ξεκοκαλίσμα Μπούτι Χοιρινό (October 2022).

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