Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Muhammad And The Birth Of New Era (1/4)

A lot of interesting things happened in the 6th century Common Era (CE). 

In the east, where the sun rises, the Soga clan which had intermarried with the royal Yamato family, fought the Mononobe and Nakatomi clans over influence in selecting a successor to the Emperor Yomei. The Soga won the civil war. The head of the Soga family, Umako, made his nephew, Sujun, the new emperor of Japan. 

A little to the West, the great empire of China, united for the first time by the great emperor of Qin Shihuangdi of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), whose unity was later perpetuated by the great Han Empire (206 BCE - 9 CE), had been disintegrated for many centuries. In the 6th century, it was ruled by many dynasties. 

In the North of China, it was ruled by the Xiongnu Dynasties, who were not Chinese. In the South, it was ruled by several dynasties who were of Chinese stock.

China was to be reunited under the great Tang Dynasty, but that was to come a century later, that is, in the 7th century.  

To its south, in the South East Asia, the area populated by people known as Malays, Khmers, Thais, Burmese, and Champas, there were a few kingdoms and principalities not worth mentioned at the world stage. The first great Malay empire, Srivijaya, was to come a century later, but its greatness is relative. It is considered great only by mediocre players at the world stage for Srivijaya greatness did not extend beyond the Malay world.  

Further south, the world at the time did not even know that the island continent of Australia existed. Nothing, therefore, needs to be said about it from historical point of view.  

To the west of China, the great empire of Gupta India was crumbling. Gupta Empire (280-528 CE) ushered in the golden age of classical India, but that gold was about to be transformed into no more than gold dust.  

To the west of India, there were two great superpowers  at the loggerhead with each.  These were the Persian Sassanid Empire and the East Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium Empire. They were the leading actors at the world stage in the 6th century, as they had been for the last few centuries. Both were great empires with a very long history.  

Rome was said to be founded by Romulus in 753 BCE, but it can only be regarded as the empire of note by 202 BCE, when the Romans defeated the army of Hannibal of Carthage (current day in Tunisia), their main rivals. If Hannibal had won, the Roman Empire would probably have not been recorded in history, except in passing. 

The Romans had supplanted their sister empire, the Greek Empire, considered to be the founder of European civilization. Having similar cultural, political and philosophical outlooks, the Romans continued what the Greeks had started.  

The Roman Empire was made great by Octavius Caesar, the nephew, or according to some, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, the first Roman Senate who wanted the position Dictator, the highest post in the Roman political hierarchy, for life.  His ambitious design had stirred up the conspiracy leading to his assassination. Hitherto, the position was to be rotated every two years.  

Great maybe the Byzantium Empire, it was only a remnant of its past, and known only as the East Roman Empire, for in the west, in Europe proper, the continent was ruled by various smaller dynasties based on various European tribes. Two of these tribes, known as Angles and Saxons, both of Germanic extractions, began to invade Britannia a century earlier and were to be the progeny of the great Englishmen, who dominated the world a little more than a millennium later.  

If the Roman Empire was great, the Persian Empire was even greater, having longer history and covered a larger area. Their history started in 4200 BCE, with the foundation of Susa, which became the capital of Elamite kingdom in 2700 BCE.  Their greatest ancient kingdom was probably the Assyrian dynasty, who had conquered and annihilated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE, as we have mentioned in Is Jesus A Jew Part 2.  

By the 6th century, the Persian Empire was ruled by the Sassanid Dynasty and was the main contender to the Byzantium Empire. These two empires had been at war with each other for centuries, with varying fortunes. Sometimes the Romans had the upper hand; sometimes the Persians.  

Down to the south of the Persian Empire, there was Peninsula Arabia. It was inhabited by various Arab tribes, the sons of desert. They were fiercely independent, subservient and obedience only to their tribal leaders. Their climate was hot and harsh.  Their land was largely infertile, except in the South of Peninsula, the area known as Yemen.  Most of these sons of desert lived in poverty, herding camels and livestock.  

Once a year, they visited the cube like holy shrine in Makkah, a small city controlled by the tribe of Quraysh, who, unlike most of their Arabs neighbors, lived mainly as traders. There was hardly anything to suggest that they would suddenly wake up from their insignificant lives and became the masters of the civilized world a century later.  

In the massive continent of Africa lived various tribes and a few small dynasties. Other than Egypt, which in the 6th century was the province of the Byzantium Empire, there was hardly anything worth mentioning at the world scale. The great empire of Carthage in the present day Tunisia had long gone. Among those worth mentioned was probably the Axum empire of Ethiopia, whose influenced extended to the Southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen. 

Beyond the Atlantic Ocean, there was large continent later to be known as America. Before this large continent--extends as far as the Artic in the North, and not too far from Antartic in the South--was colonized by the Europeans, they had three civilizations worthy of mentioned in the world history: Maya, Inca, and Aztec.

But in the 6th century CE, only Maya civilization, located in the Central America, existed and flourished. Inca and Aztec civilizations were to come close to a millennium later.  Great maybe these three civilizations, they were merely regional players.  

The 6th century CE was a century devoid of big names or big events at the world stage. It was not the golden age of China or India. The Persian and Byzantium empires, despite their greatness, were devoid of momentous events or big names. Their golden ages were long gone, as was the golden age of Egypt. The large continent of America was not yet discovered. The great colonization period by the Europeans was to come only a millennium later.  

It was not a great century by historical account, except that in that century, a posthumous child was born in the most unlikely place, by the most unlikely people.  

In 570 CE, or 571 according to some, the baby boy Muhammad was born. He was to change the history of the world for many centuries to come.


  1. have there been prophets sent to the non-Mediterranean areas?

    1. It has to be, for Allah sent prophets to every nation. We just do not know about them.