Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Badr (624)

The Battle of Badr was a small affair, involving maybe around 1250 combatants in total, but seeing as how it was the the first military victory by a Muslim army (of sorts), I suppose you could say it's pretty important. It was the first of three named battles (amid what were probably many more very … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Badr (624)

Today in Middle Eastern history: Heraclius becomes Byzantine emperor (610)

Roman/Byzantine history is not exactly our main focus around here, so this post may seem a little out of left field. But the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (d. 641) is actually a reasonably important figure in early Islamic history. Without Heraclius, the world in which Muhammad began preaching might have looked considerably different than it actually … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: Heraclius becomes Byzantine emperor (610)

Islamic History, Part 7: Alternative theories of the early Islamic community

Islamic History Series When you combine a major world-changing historical event with a near-total dearth of reliable primary sources, you inevitably get a lot of revisionist attempts to reconstruct the "real" history. For the origins of Islam and the nature of its earliest community, we have arguably the most world-changing event of the past 1500 … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 7: Alternative theories of the early Islamic community

Islamic History, Part 6: The problem with early sources

Islamic History Series We've reached a point in our overview of Islamic history where we need to stop talking about history and talk historiography, or the study of how history gets studied. Because the material regarding the life of Muhammad is so slim and presents so many challenges to the historian, I feel like I … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 6: The problem with early sources

Islamic History, Part 5: Muhammad in Medina, war with Mecca, and Muhammad’s death (622-632)

Islamic History Series Having established Muhammad's initial ministry in Mecca and his eventual flight from that city, just ahead of a plot to assassinate him, we now pick up the story with Muhammad having arrived in the oasis city of Yathrib, although it wasn't "Yathrib" much longer. The city soon became known as "The City … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 5: Muhammad in Medina, war with Mecca, and Muhammad’s death (622-632)

Islamic History, Part 4: Muhammad’s Revelations and the Hijrah (~570-622)

Islamic History Series I was trying to decide how to approach the story of Muhammad, obviously the single most important episode in the development of Islam and Islamic civilization. I could start with the traditional narrative of Muhammad's life, but that risks people reading the narrative and treating it as though it were settled fact. … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 4: Muhammad’s Revelations and the Hijrah (~570-622)