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Some PODs in early Islamic History

First of all, I apologize for not being a native English speaker. I’ll do my best, but do not expect a grammatically perfect work.

NOTE : This AH implicitly assume that the Qur’an as we know it is a historical and human product, linked to the events who accompanied His ( I guess it’s right to use the personal pronoun) revelation. I suppose that some Muslim believers could feel uncomfortable with such an assumption. I’m sorry, but I’m thinking just from an HISTORICAL point of view, regardless anything God could have had in His mind one thousand four hundred years ago. So I will treat Muhammad and Ali as historical human figures and will evaluate the effects of some changes without considering any divine intervention, or pre-existent divine Spell and Will.

In no way anything I’m writing down should or is intended to offend the Muslim faith (neither Sunni, Shi’a of whatever belief, Ibadi or any other group or individual that identifies himself with Islam) its believers today or in the past, its Prophet and Holy Book; IN NO CASE anything I’m writing could be intended or employed to support even implicitly racist, anti-Muslim, supremacist or clash-of-civilization ideologies.

Expansion of Arab-Islamic empire after Muhammad’s death was probably the most significant event of its period, not to speak of the enormous long-term consequences. A new, strong, rich civilization is born, and it is going to boost the Christian Western Europe development, spreading westwards important Chinese and Indian innovations like paper and decimal numerals, and preserving most of the Greek philosophy’s heritage.

At the very beginning, all this comes from a single man – Prophet Muhammad.

We have many and rich accounts, even if partly legendary of course, of his life and even more of his words. Around 610 A.D., while praying or meditating in a lonesome cave, God made him to hear His voice, and started to reveal him  His holy Word – the  Holy Qur’an.

Muhammad started soon to spread the spell of God between his fellow citizens in Mecca, beginning with his wife Khadigia and his father in law Abu Bakr.

His predication being mostly against oppression and immoral behavior of the rich, who will be severely judged for their injustice in the Doomsday, most of the chiefs of Meccan clans opposed him strongly. They could not hit Muhammad himself, because his family was of the Quraysh, one of the dominant “tribal” groups, and if he has been killed or injured, there could be a bloody feud.

His uncle Abu Talib, even if followed believing in ancient idols, was an important and respected man and protected Muhammad and his followers from any serous menace.

Anyway in 619 Abu Talib and Khadigia died, and Muhammad presumably fell in the deeper desperation, having lost his beloved wife and his uncle – who was been like a father for him; and he was also persecuted in his own town. At this point anyway Muhammad had converted a group Meccan to his cause, and they were the early Muslims. They constituted an adequate force of dissuasion against open and violent religious persecution, in any case something quite alien from pagan Arabs way of thinking. Muslims were often insulted, refused relationships, and even beaten, but generally not killed. Sympathizers were pressured and paid in order to make them stay Pagan.

Being Mecca a pan-Arabic religious center, Meccan aristocracy was deeply interested in maintaining paganism. Some Muslims had to look for asylum in Ethiopia, a Christian (then monotheistic) country which kept deep relationships with Arabia at that time.

This is a good moment for a POD.


Muslims could induce the Ethiopian Negus (Emperor), who seemingly demonstrated them his sympathy, to envoy troops in their support. Such an intervention could seem a good way to extend Ethiopian influence and even Christian faith. In fact, a former Ethiopian king had yet invaded Arabia and put siege into Mecca, but was routed and went back. Maybe the new Negus was not eager to try the same way, but now an apparently able and charismatic Arab leader could support him from inside Mecca, and under the banner of the faith of Abraham.

So an Ethiopian expeditionary force guided by Muslims lands at Jidda on the Red Sea and joins Mecca, easily defeating the Pagan army and leaving Muhammad as governor of the conquered area in the name of the One God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, who manifested Himself under the spoils of Jesus Christ and send Muhammad as His Prophet to renew the faith of His church. Muhammad is likely to be appointed archbishop of Mecca and Arabia, and Islam becomes an autonomous church within the Coptic Monophysite church, i.e. nothing much more than the Arab variant of Christianity. Jews are tolerated, but the birth of the concept of dhimma ( tolerance towards other revealed faiths, typical in our OTL’s Islam) is unlikely. The Ethiopian intervention in Arabia is good for the Byzantine Empire, the main Christian power at the time, because ensures to Christianity strategic caravan routes between Byzantine Syria and Himyar, in our OTL today’s Yemen. Yemen is formally controlled by Persians, whose presence is de facto very weak at this time. Muhammad easily takes control over the whole Arabic Peninsula and obtains conversion of most tribes ( some of them yet were Monophysite Christians, like Ethiopians were). To strengthen its relationship with Ethiopia, he marries a daughter of the Negus.

The Christianization and unification of Arabia with Ethiopian support worries Persians and to a less degree Constantinople itself. Persia cannot afford to control Arabia itself, but is not likely to tolerate the Negus or the Caesar do it. So the Shah moves war both to Arabia- Ethiopia and Byzantium. Byzantines can do little. Border areas are heavily damaged because of previous wars and part of the population sides with Persians, particularly the Jews. But Amr bin al-‘As, the main Arab military leader, leads the Bedouins deep into Persian Mesopotamia and routes heavily the enemy at Qadisiyya, goes on and takes the Persian capital, Ctesiphon, near the ancient Babylon. The Prophet dies in time to be informed of the glorious victory. His son in law and cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is appointed archbishop, while his father in law, Abu Bakr, becomes governor. Maryam , the smart Ethiopian princess who married Muhammad, controls both. She has probably a clash with A’isha, Muhammad’s favorite wife, and Ali is likely to support her. But internal troubles are overwhelmed by external successes. Amr has conquered western Iran with the support of Armenian heavy cavalry and secured Byzantine border. The last Shah, Yazdegerd, dies in 634, as Abu Bakr does. Mazdeism WON’T be tolerated by the new rulers, and this provokes deep unrest in Iran. Ali, Maryam, A’isha have their own candidates to the governor’s charge, while the see is transferred from Mecca to the newborn city of Kufa, south of Ctesiphon. Amr proceeds eastwards quickly, occupying small Mazdeist or Buddhist principates, founding Roman-like colonial citiesuntil River Oxus and Hindu-Kush (Afghanistan). Ali and Maryam ally against A’isha, and finally the princess marries again, likely with a prominent Christian aristocrat of Mecca like ‘Uthman ibn Affan, ‘Umar al-Khattab, Amr al-‘As himself. The lucky husband is appointed Khalifa (substitute) of the Negus for the new conquered Asia, Ethiopia being not strong enough to control directly nothing more than southern Yemen. With Persians over, pacific coexistence between Arabs and Greeks cannot endure. Monophysitic Christianity is seen as heretical by Orthodox Byzantines, even while they are allied with Monophysite countries like Ethiopia or Armenia.  Many Monophysites, anyway, live inside the empire, suffering heavy persecution. They are the overwhelming majority in Egypt and Armenia, and significantly numerous in Syria and Palestine.

Maryam and Ali, the true rulers of the Arabic-Coptic Empire, decide to free them, and eventually conquer Armenia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and most of North Africa by 660. With Armenians on their side, unlike in our OTL, they will have heavy cavalry and camels enough to afford the mounts of Anatolia and occupy Ephesus and Chalcedony, and  wait there for the fleet. Greek fire might have kept the Arabs off Constantinople itself, but Greece and probably Thracia fall down as Sicily does. Slavs of the Balkans convert to Monophysism in Muhammad’s sauce and join the growing Arab empire, contributing to the final fall of Constantinople in 679.

At Ali’s death, the noble Quraysh Mu’awiya, who in our OTL succeeded to Ali in Caliphate, could have no reasons to rebel, and far less power than in our OTL, having been his family a first hour fighter of the Prophet. So he makes some turmoil claiming for a more truly Arabic way of life and getting some tribes to his side, but he’s probably easily rid of, and the succession problems are likely to be solved with Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of Ali and Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, appointed by the Negus after a quite manipulated shura ( freemen council ) respectively archbishop in Mecca (which stays the holy city) and governor in Kufa or in the newly conquered Constantinople. Old Monophysite believers feel anyway quite uncomfortable with their Arab religion fellows, having Muhammad brought deep innovations. His thought was that dogmatic discussions were of very little importance, and the long and theologically complex Symbolum of Nikeia could substituted by  a simple statement, the so called shahada: “ I attest that there is no God but the One God, Jesus Christ is His Messiah, Muhammad His Prophet.” Moreover, he inclined to deny the importance of collective mass in favor of individual prayer, and favored a less hierarchical church organization. In general, he anticipated Luther in emphasizing the single believer’s role and duty towards God instead of sacerdotal charisma. Muhammad also reaffirmed the Saturday’s rest as at least recommended, and circumcision, following Ethiopian use. 

The main question between Christians became about the prophecy of Muhammad. Most of the Orthodox  Churches denied it and survived in Greece and Anatolia under a grudging tolerance of the Arab rulers. Nestorians, Monothelets, and most of Monophysites outside Egypt felt freed and grateful to the Arabs who defeated their Byzantine persecutors. Most of believers of these churches entered the new Coptic Arab Muhammadi Church led by the Abuna (archbishop) Hasan in Mecca. Ethiopia, Syria and Armenia vowed its religious loyalty to him, while Egypt didn’t, and the Patriarch in Alexandria declared himself the only legitimate leader of Coptic Christians. Being the Meccan Abuna formally depending on him, there was a schism. Different Christian credos realigned into three fields. Some stayed Orthodox, under the high guide of the Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople. They were most of inhabitants in southern Balkans, Greece and Anatolia, and a minority in Syria. Muhammadi government allowed them to pursue their faith an use in exchange of an extra pro capite tax. The patriarch of Alexandria became the leader of the Coptic Church, who now grouped those Syrians, Egyptians, Armenians who were determined to pursue old Monophysite faith, and also gained a small part of Nestorians who weren’t disposed to join Muhammadi Church.  Copts were majority only in Egypt. In the West, the Pope of Rome accepted Muhammad’s predication and became the only recognized leader of Western Christians, maintaining rituals and theological positions formerly professed in the West, and his authority was recognized only second to the Mecca Abuna. This happened when in 683 Arabs took control over Byzantine territory in Italy and defeated Longobards. Full Arab control over the peninsula was established after the fall of the Longobard capital, Pavia, in 691, soon followed by other western capitals. Toledo in Spain fell in 698, Arles in Southern Gaul ( formerly ruled by the Franks ) in 709, Cartage in 711 after a long North African  resistance, religiously carried on by Berber tribes converted to Judaism. Austrasia, the core of the Frank kingdom, is conquered by Armenian cathaphracts  by 730. by this time, the Pope of Rome has gained temporal power over the entire West but the British Isles, were a mainly Irish derived Christian tradition overcomes the Latin Catholic one even in Anglo Saxon area, marking the independence of those countries from the Arab-Romans. The Pope acts a governor for the Caliph, staying de facto independent. It is likely that in Rome Pontifical dignity becomes hereditary, like it is in today’s OTL Nestorian Patriarchate, from the uncle to the nephew. An Arab governor with military power for the West sides the Pope, but he soon becomes useless, and the Easterners have no power to take effective control, and are also little interested in the poor faraway Western lands. A definitive schism is likely later.

In the meantime the Caliphate has major troubles in maintaining its power over Egypt, because the Pope of Alexandria, supported by his Nubian religion fellows from the South, is leading major unrest. In Arabic peninsula, most of the nomad tribes revert to their pre-muhammadic lifestyle, And in Iran the Mazdeist population continuously revolts, and is openly persecuted. Many Modebs (Mazdeist priests) and come population flew to India, and some mass migration through the Khyber Pass could have created mazdeist states in Northwestern India. Around 870, the second phase of Barbarian Invasion is starting with the Turks invading Iran, southern Russia and Afghanistan, Vikings in British Isles Russia and Western Europe, and Magyars ( Hungarians ) in Eastern Europe. Most of the Turks met Mahayana Buddhism or Manichaeism in Afghanistan and spread it westwards , Christianity is in retreat. Vikings get Christian faith from the Irish, while Russia becomes Orthodox to mark its independence from the Caliph. The power of the Negus is definitely split down. The second millennium begins with a decaying Caliphate, a pope’s theocratic empire in western Europe menaced by Vikings (massively established in Britain) and a Magyar Empire on the Danube which finally converts into Judaism. Russia is a growing empire, and clashes with Rome in OTL’s Poland. Turks free Iran from the hated Christian Arab and Armenian governors and their most prominent Khan, Sanjar, conquers Kufa and Constantinople, establishing a Buddhist empire in Western Asia and finally breaking down the Caliphate in 1071. Arabs remain mostly Christian as Armenians do and are tolerated by his wise government. Their spiritual leadership still stays independent in Mecca, but Arabs are no more united nor keep any Great Power  as such. Arab Muhammadi Christianity as a main political power is over..

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