To start with basic, we should stress the point that among the member-states of the so-called Arab League there is not a single one inhabited by Arab population. In this regard, the simple and single historical truth in this is that there are no Arabs at all. There are only ‘Arabic-speaking’ peoples having striking dissimilarities one from another, and they all have different past, different cultural backgrounds, different social and behavioural systems, different orientations and archetypes. Only failure is guaranteed in any attempt to shape up a ‘union’ among these so disparate elements and peoples.
We have all attested numerous similar examples of disunion, mutual disparagement and unprecedented co-vilification so paradigmatically performed by the uneducated and uncultured ‘leaders’ of the ‘Arab’ League. The mistake was to view all that as ‘fratricidal’ situation, whereas it is not, since they are very disparate and divergent from one another. It is only the paranoiac and contra-natural regrouping named ‘Arab’ League that, by creating the shock of bringing together elements that just cannot be together, generates the unpleasant atmosphere in which all these funny and clownish ‘leaders’ are engulfed, without knowing why ‘this’ happens to them! So pathetically ignorant they are.
If this concerned only these grotesque characters of the present day political Commedia dell’ Arte, the problem would be limited, and no one would need to discuss and tackle it. But the West and the rest of the World is found involved in this situation one way or another, because of the interconnections existing since the Colonial times. The Middle East affects the entire world. And if this absolute and fundamental historical reality is not widely assessed and understood first, nothing good can come out of the Middle East, and its extremist frenzy.
If the Middle Eastern peoples are not Arabs, what are they?
The real, true but hidden Face of the Middle East.
In reality, the Lebanese are Phoenicians, who got hellenized and aramaized in Late Antiquity.
Arabic speaking Syrians and Iraqis are Aramaeans.
So are the Palestinians and the Kuwaitis, as well as the Emirates and the Qataris, who have certainly been intermixed with Persians.
Egyptians are Copts, native Egyptians, descendants of the people of Ancient Egypt in their amalgamations with the numerous foreigners, who passed by the valley of the Nile: Aramaeans, Phoenicians, Yemenis, Greeks, Meroitic Sudanese, Romans, and others.
Sudanese are descendants of the ancient Meroites and the Nubians.
Libyans and the people of the Maghreb are descendants of the Khammitic peoples of the great Atlas, Berbers, in their genuine fusion with Carthaginians and Romans.
And finally Yemenis are Yemenis, descendants of the ancient states of Saba, Qataban, Himyar, Hadramout and other; they are closer to Abyssinians (mistakenly called Ethiopians) than to the Arabs of Hedjaz.
Islamization: the reason of the (linguistic but not racial) Arabization
All these peoples, by accepting Islam, sooner or later, started becoming arabized, but this happened at a linguistic, not at a racial, ethnic level. And we know only too well that the Arabs of the times of the Prophet were not numerous at all. One generation later, when let us say Islamic armies were reaching Carthage in today’s Tunisia, Central Asia and the Indus valley, the Muslim fighters were speaking Arabic but among them Arabs were already a minority. Aramaeans from Damascus and Ctesiphon, Egyptians from Alexandria, Yemenis from Muza and Persians from Praaspa were already a majority among them! They learnt the language of Quran, but they did not and could not change their racial and ethnic origin.
The Copts (Christians) of Egypt, and the ‘Assyrians’ and ‘Chaldaeans’ of Iraq and Iran are very good examples that show very well what happened: those who remained Christians preserved initially their language (Coptic and Aramaic – Syriac), and lost it gradually in later dates.
Among the people who accepted Islam in the early period, only Persians preserved their language. This is not strange, since the great cultural phenomenon of Ferdowsi gives us an insightful understanding of the subject. If Copts and Aramaeans had not been christened, and if they had kept a national traditional historical record of their glorious past, they would have resulted into a different perception of Islam, preserving their original languages and developing epics similar to Shahnameh.
Colonial practice and diffusion of Pan-arabism
Because this did not happen, we attest nowadays the current situation, but this does not involve that these peoples are Arabs, or that a kind of union can be based on falsely perceived history, and tons of misinformation and disinformation due to colonial powers’ diplomacy. Mainly France and England became the centers of emanation of a falsely conceived and inaccurately studied ‘pan-Arabism’, since they focused their educational – academic – cultural – ideological policies on issues related to their strategic efforts to bring down the Ottoman Empire, Safevid Iran, and Mughal India. The term ‘inaccurately studied’ is employed because this falsehood created problems worse than those it was supposed to solve, even if we limit the discussion to the Western world, since Islamic Terrorism is a later result of the earlier ideological developments in the area of the Middle East.
It is from the Western European universities, political parties and demented ateliers of all sorts that nationalism emanated. And as such, it caused serious problems to peoples of the East and the West, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and others. The confusion spread throughout the territories of the Ottoman Empire finds its equivalent in the disaster of the Irish, the Scots, the Corsicans and the Celts of Brittany. Actually, it leads to nowhere.
Earlier one understands this, sooner one escapes from the traps that led millions to wars and disaster.
Of course, the Colonial Scheme was not meant only against the Ottoman Empire. It did aim at creating an entire situation in which it would be sure that no powerful successive state form would ever rise in its stead! In this way, the colonial powers shaped the problematic Middle East of the 20s, the 30s, the 50s and the 60s that we all know; an area of total confusion and impotence. An area, from which the Western powers would extract oil and other resources in a most profitable way that – at the same time – would help them impose themselves as undisputable powers over the rest of the world.
Following the results of the WW I America joined the two colonial powers that achieved a multi-targeted ‘miracle’:
- they destroyed the Ottoman empire
- they made sure that no power rises in its stead in the Middle East and
- they kept rival Germany and Russia far from it!
Impossibility of an ‘Arab’ nationalism
In the sense that never Indians will be able to express … Chinese nationalism (!), and never Spaniards will be able to express … Portuguese nationalism, never will...
- the Copts of Egypt (all the population is Coptic, Egyptian properly speaking, not only the Christians, those who are called ‘Copts’) – call them just Egyptians if you want
- the Aramaeans of Iraq, Syria, Jordan (I mean again the entire population of these countries, not just the Christains), of Iran (the so-called ‘Arabs’ of Khuzestan are just ‘Aramaeans’), of Turkey (Turkish, Kurdish or Arabic speaking populations of Antakya, Gaziantep, Kahraman Marash, Urfa/Edessa, Diyarbakir/Amida, Mardin/Margdis, Nusaybin, Hasankeyf, Siirt and Cizre) and of Lebanon (here I limit it to the inlanders)
- the Berbers of Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco (again I do not mean the Kabylians in Algeria, who openly declare their Berberic/Khammitic identity, but the entire population of all these countries)
- the Nubians (belonging to the so-called Nilo-Saharic group of languages and races) of Egypt and the Sudan (another terribly oppressed minority), who live between Luqsor in Egypt and Karima in Sudan
- the Meroites of Sudan, who live either nubianized in the north of Karima or arabized between Karima and Malakal in Central Sudan, being the descendants of the ancient Khammitic population of the historical Sudanese states Kush (800 – 525), Meroe (450 BC – 350 AD) and (Christian) Makkuria (450 – 1150)
- the Yemenites and the Omanis, who are certainly Semites but closer to the Abyssinians than to Arabs (their extensively recorded on epigraphic monuments ancient language gave birth to Gueze, the official and religious language of Axumite Abyssinia, and has been preserved until now in some parts of Hadramawt and at the island of Sokotra)
and last but not the least
- the Palestinians, the Kuwaitis, the Qataris, the Emiratis and the Bahrainis, who – all – are arabized Aramaeans,
…be able to express such a thing as Arabic nationalism.
The strength of survival in numbers was more considerable in the case of the Nubian and the Berberic than for Syriac, Yemenite or even Coptic. The latter went silent just 150 years ago. At the times of Champollion, Coptic was still mother tongue to a few thousands of Christian Egyptians. But yet, Coptic is the religious language in use for the Christians in Egypt, and many hundreds of thousands learn it in the religious schools.
To this - necessarily summarized presentation - there can be only a counter-argument:
Several scholars have indeed pretended that Arabs, going outside the Arabic peninsula at the very Dawn of the Islamic Era. finally settled and definitely intermingled with local populations from Iran and Oman to Morocco, in a way that we could admit a certain...arabization at the racial, not only the linguistic, level.
The Aramaization of the Middle East during the Late Antiquity: a real racial intermingling.
This would be an entire aberration. Of course, any ‘– ization’ can eventually take place at the level of race, not only language, culture or religion! The case of the Aramaization of Babylonia and Elam (a long procedure that took place from the 6th to the 1st century BC) is quite indicative! But there were numerous Aramaic populations transported by the Assyrian emperors of the 8th and the 7th centuries there, or had settled because of their own choice. Elamites were exterminated by Assurbanipal at 640 BC, and the decapitated Babylonians started being outnumbered by the continuously arriving in the Mesopotamian South Aramaeans!
But nothing similar happened during the early Islamic times! At the times of the Prophet, all the Arabs of Hedjaz did not outnumber the population of just one big Aramaic, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Abyssinian, Berberic, Meroitic or Yemeni city like Tadmor, Syene (Aswan), Istakhr, Corinth, Mediolanum (Milano), Axum, Carthage, Dongola Agouza or Aden! So, there cannot be discussion about numbers, the real Arabs went lost among the multitude of the early Muslims, already before the year 30 of Hegira!
What most of the modern Western (in their great numbers Colonial) historians failed to see, focus and understand is that already during the life time of the Prophet Yemenites accepted Ali’s preaching in Yemen at 630 AD. In great numbers! Along with them, Persian soldiers and colonizers, since Yemen belonged to the Sassanid Empire.
Islamic, not ‘Arab’ invasions
So, to rtepeat what we earlier stated, when the first Islamic armies were fighting at Yarmouk (636) and were reaching Jerusalem and Damascus (638), there was a sizeable non-Arabic part among them! And we know only too well that these armies were not so numerous! When, a few years later, Islamic armies were reaching Nihavent (641) and Alexandria (642), already more than half of them were not Arabs! When Islamic armies attacked Constantinople (677) and reached Gibraltar, Arabs were already insignificant portion among them.
Early Islam was not ‘culturally’ Arabic: on the contrary, Islam de-arabized the then Arabs of Hedjaz.
This reality shaped the world, and it was widely accepted among early Muslims in the first centuries of Islam. It was not limited at the racial level whatsoever! It was then accepted as encompassing all levels: cultural, literary, philosophical, religious, scientific, artistic. The great movement of Shu’ubiyeh precisely stressed the point that the contribution of the Arabs was just…. nothing!
And the Shu’ubiyeh were correct! Not only they knew more than the modern XIXth century scholars but they did not have back mind schemes and hidden plans! Nothing from all the aspects of the Islamic civilization is Arabic, except the language! Art, philosophy, sciences, literature, knowledge, wisdom, technology, administration, army, navy, religion, theology: nothing in early Islam is Arabic.
Perhaps this is the most correct summary of the case: by accepting the prophet Muhammad, 7th century Arabs were des-arabized once and forever! In the sense that all that was genuinely Arabic before Muhammad with his preaching took a definite end!
Different type of Islamization: the Persians preserved Persian, but other peoples got linguistically arabized. An effort of analysis.
The different approaches to the phenomenon of the adhesion to Islam consist in a certainly large – truly speaking – a vast, subject. We currently know many details, but until now scholars did not focus on a comparative, eventually interdisciplinary, approach.
Turks accepted Islam late, in Central Asia, and through the Persians.
The main issue focalizes on the difference between
- the Persians – from one side – and
- the Aramaeans (the many Aramaic speaking peoples that consisted in the outright majority of the areas belonging to today’s SE Turkey, SW Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Emirates, Bahrain, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and N – NE – E Arabia) and the Egyptians – from the other side.
The main distinction between the two groups at the very moment of the beginning of the Islamization procedure was the fact that - all the Egyptians and the great majority of the Aramaeans belonged to various Christian denominations, with the minority of the Aramaeans practicing Manichaeism and other Late Antiquity forms of Gnosticisms (of which originate both the Mandaean and the Yazidi Kurdish minorities of present day Iraq), but
- the outright majority of the Iranians were following various religious systems that almost all were derivatives of Zoroaterianism (namely Mithraism, Mazdakism, Zervanism, Gayomardism) turning around the Court derivative of Zoroasterianism, i.e. Mazdaism that was deeply involved in shaping a national – nationalistic political ideology that could not find its counterpart among any christianized people and/or state.
Whereas Mazdaism’s approaches to the diachronic role of Iran were shared by Iranian Mithraists, Mazdakists, Zervanists, Gayomardists, and eventually Iranians following other religious systems (Manicheism, Nestorian Christianity, Buddhism), Christianized populations of the Roman Empire, Aramaeans, Egyptians, Greeks, Armenians, Romans and others were involved in terrible Christological divisions, debates, confrontations, and polarizations. They had all rejected political ideologies related to their pre-Christian religions, cults, ideologies, and philosophies, adopting the Christian Roman ideology of ‘Urbi et Orbi’, a kind of early ‘internationalism’ bringing nations together to the trinity – god of that religion.
The case of the Egyptians was particularly hard, since terrible hatred against the Pharaonic past of the country was diffused among the darkened minds of the fanatic, christianized masses, leading therefore to total disrespect for their own identity, culture and past.
Briefly, the ideological issues that were by then prevailing among the Aramaeans were the division between Nestorians (who rejected Jesus’ divine nature) and Monophysites (who rejected Jesus’ human nature), and the common rejection of Constantinople Christianity (that was refuting both, Nestorianism and Monophysitism, accepting Jesus’ double nature).
The issues among the Egyptians were the fights between the outright Coptic – Monophysitic majority and the sizable Greek majority that was following Constantinople Christianity, as well as the anti-Jewish stand of the Christians that created serious problems wherever Jews formed a sizable minority.
Similar to their attitude of forgetting their mother language because of their adhesion to Islam, one can find later among Greeks, who – by accepting Islam – went through linguistic turcization. There was no apparent reason for them to preserve Greek (as for the Arameans Aramaic, and for the Egyptians Coptic), in the way Persian was preserved among Iranians.
As far as the Yemenites are concerned, it seems that Monophysitic or pro-Constantinople Christianity (supported by and collaborating with Axumite Abyssinian King Kaleb, who invaded Yemen to help the Eastern Roman Empire in its fight against the Sassanid Empire of Iran) was so insignificant (whereas the majority was versed either in older forms of Yemenite religion, or in Nestorianism and Judaism), that the overwhelming acceptance of Islam came as a natural result to earlier developments.
Peace depends only on the extinction of the falsehood “Pan-Arabism”.
This effort for analysis consists in just some introductory thoughts regarding the perplex phenomenon of Islamization, but again the subject is vast, and mostly unstudied. However, this event’s implications in the present day politics are so deep that never peace in the Middle East will be achieved, before an earlier understanding and a final outmaneuvering of the aforementioned situation be reached and undertaken!
Arabic nationalism must be extinguished, the Arab League must be dissolved, Syriac, Berberic, Nubian, Yemenite and Coptic must be taught in the schools, primary and secondary, in parallel with Arabic and Kurdish! Not only minorities, but the entire population of the Middle East must be taught the correct language in the primary and secondary education. This is the only way to Peace in the Middle East.
(Published as: PDF of the discussion (240 K) or live on http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=25086)