Summary of Chapter 1: MUSLIM INVADERS by Rodney Stark


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In this chapter Muslim Invaders, Stark points out that Muslim invaders got their orders from Muhammed who until his death fought, raided and plundered previous Christian lands in accordance with the Quran (Sura 9:5), such that 80 years after Muhammed’s death the Middle East, North Africa, Cyprus and most of Spain became part of the Muslim empire after conquering Christians.

Many historians hold that the Conquest of lands for Muslims was purely economic and also due to a population explosion that never occurred (Pg.14).  Moreover, rather than the hordes of Muslims believed to have invaded, the conquests were won through small, well organized and led Arab armies committed to the spread of Islam (Pg.15).  An example is the conquest of Syria that occurred, among other reasons, because the Arabs were considered liberators to those under Byzantium’s oppressive empire they were welcomed, and when the Byzantine (Greek) armies were overrun, the Arabs soldiers mutinied and fled.

Persia, the Holy Land and Egypt (among others) were also conquered for the following reasons: First, “civilized” empires had no disciplined armies and thus mostly employed foreign soldiers for hire.  The guards who stood inside the fortified cities were merely window dressing not real soldiers.

Second, there was a chronic shortage of troops.  Because Byzantium was so vast, they could not possibly control their borders.  Third, Byzantium’s cavalry were mostly Arabs who sympathized with the Muslim cause and thus would join forces with the Arabs.  Fourth, Muslim soldiers trained since childhood from the same tribes, villages and families.  This created social pressure to never retreat in battle but rather to show their mettle.

Fifth, camels were a superior form of transportation compared to the cavalry of Byzantium.  The desert is the perfect place for the former to last and the latter to perish and thus geography proved to favor the Arabs over against Byzantium if they needed to retreat.

Sixth, smaller Muslim ranks favored rapidly moving in stealth as opposed to the time it took to muster large troops.  Couple this with the Imperial forces lacking tactics when vulnerable and their end was disastrous.

Seventh, Arabs were led by elite warriors who advanced in rank through their own merits, not via birth rite.  Thus, these leaders were battle hardened and more able to succeed in battle compared to the nobles.

Conquered Subjects

            The conquered peoples of the lands were not treated well contrary to popular demand.  Instead the intolerance Islam showed the conquered manifested in the: excessive taxation compared to Muslims; outlawing Jewish or Christians to build sanctuaries of worship, not permitting them to read or pray aloud either publicly or privately; their nobles were burned; their Jewish males beheaded; there was major bloodshed.  The point here is that Jewish and Christians were not the only intolerant peoples, the Muslims were also contrary to popular notions.

Conversions

            A small number of elites governed the non-Muslim (mostly Christian) newly conquered lands.  This means that there were no mass conversions contra to popular notions.  Conversions were either “treaty conversions” or “personal beliefs and practices conversions.”  This means that sometimes tribes (E.g., the Berger Tribe) would convert for weapons, but not really believe the teachings of Muhammed.  Others would convert for fear of their personal safety.  Conversions of conquered people were slow, never quick.

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