Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 3 - Islam and Invasions: The Arabs, Turks, and Mongols -- The Iranian Reconquest of Islam, the Sufis, and the Poets

  • "Mohammad rejected the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus....Early on, Mohammad had given Jerusalem as the direction of prayer and had made other provisions that apparently conciliated Judaism." - 70
  • 637 AD: "Muslim armies moved east against the Sassanid Empire" - 72
  • 661 AD: beginning of Umayyad dynasty, "named of the leading families of Mecca that Mohammad had fought before Mecca's sumission to Islam." - 76
  • "The Umayyads discriminated strongly in favor of Arabs in the running of the empire, but were criticized among the Arabs for becoming too worldly and making too many compromises....part of the eternal tension in Islam between piety and political authority." - 76
  • "Eventually the attachment to the family of the Prophet -- to Ali and his descendants -- evolved a theology of its own and a firm belief that the descendants of Ali were the only legitimate authority in Islam, becoming what we now call Shi'ism." - 77
  • late 740s AD: Abu Muslim, a Persian convert, begins a revolt against Umayyad rule in Khorasan "in the name of the Prophet's family, thereby concealing the movement's final purpose and ensuring a wide appeal." - 77
  • 750 AD: Abu'l Abbas is declared the new caliph in Kufa by Abu Muslim and others and later has Abu Muslim killed - 77
  • Capitals: Damascus, Umayyad; Baghdad, Abbasid - 78
  • "Boosted by the creativity of the Persians the Abbasid regime set a standard and was looked back on later as a golden age....The Abbasids endeavored to evade the tensions between piety and government to cement their support among all Muslims by abandoning the Umayyad principle of Arab supremacy and by establishing a principle of equality between all Muslims. This same inclusive spirit extended even to taking Christians, Jews, and descendants of Ali into the government -- provided they proved loyal to the regime." - 80
  • "From the very beginning, the grand theme of Persian poetry is love. But it is a whole teeming continent of love -- sexual love, divine love, homoerotic love, unrequited love, hopeless love, and hopeful love." - 85
  • "The Shahnameh has had a significance in Persian culture comparable to that of Shakespeare in English or the Lutheran Bible in has been a central text in education and in many homes, second only to the Qor'an and the great fourteenth-century poet Hafez." - 87
  • Omar Kayyam "was probably the first to demonstrate the theory that the nightly progression of the constellations through the sky was due to the earth spinning around the axis." - 91
  • 1258 AD: "the Mongols took Baghdad. They killed the last Abbasid caliph by wrapping him in a carpet and trampling him to death with horses" - 104
  • "Within a couple generations Persian officials were as firmly in place at the court of the Il-Khans as they had been with the Seljuks, the Ghaznavids, and earlier dynasties. The Mongols initially retained their paganism, but in 1295 their Buddhist ruler converted to Islam along with his army." - 104
  • "At the time that western province [of Hamadan] was known as Iraq-e Ajam -- the Iraq of the Ajam, the non-Arabs -- in other words, the Persians." - 107
  • "After about 1300...the Mongol Il-Khans, becoming Islamized and Persianized, reversed their extractive, destructive, slash-and-burn style of rule." - 117
  • beginning in 1380 AD, "Timur conquered in the name of orthodox Sunni Islam, but this in no way moderated his conduct of war. After taking Persia and defeating the Mongols of the Golden Horde in the steppe lands around Moscow, he moved into India and took Delhi. Then he turned west again, where he conquered Baghdad..., defeated the Ottoman sultan, captured him, and returned to Samarkand." - 118

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