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CONDITIONS OF ROMAN AND IRANIAN EMPIRES

by Ayatollah Ja’far Subhani

Chapter 3

It is very important to study the following two environments in order to evaluate the sacred Islamic movement: The environment of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an i.e. the area in which Islam originated and developed. Way of thinking of the people who inhabited the most civilized areas of that age and whose thoughts, manners, morals and civilisations were considered to be the most developed and the best. History tells us that the most enlightened spots of those times were the Roman and the Iranian Empires.

To complete the discussion, it is necessary that we should study the conditions of these two Empires separately, so that it may become possible to make an estimate of the value of the civilisation introduced by Islam.

In those days Rome did not enjoy a better position as compared with its rival viz. Iran. Internal strife and continuous external wars with Iran over Armenia etc. had prepared its people for accepting a revolution. More than anything else, diversity of religious opinions had made these differences much wider. Strife between the Christians and the idolaters did not subside. When the dignitaries of the Church took reins of government in their hands they pressed their opponents hard and this by itself paved the path for the creation of a dissatisfied minority; and the thing which could be counted to be the great factor for the acceptance of Islam by the Roman nation and warm welcome accorded by them to this movement was the deprivation felt by different groups on account of the harshness of the dignitaries of the Church.

Day after day the awe and power of the Roman Empire was diminishing owing to differences amongst the priests on the one hand and existence of various religious orders on the other. Besides, the white and yellow nations of the north and the east respectively were always very keen to acquire the fertile areas of Europe and at times they did great harm to each other by their mutual warfare. This in itself became the reason for the division of the Roman Empire into two blocs viz. the eastern bloc and the western bloc. The historians believe that the political, social and financial conditions of Rome in the sixth century were very much disturbed. So much so that they do not consider even the supremacy of Rome over Iran to be an evidence of its military power. They attribute the defeat of Iran to the maladministration of the Iranian Government. These two Empires, which had been the leaders and rulers of the world, were in a state of chaos and anarchy at the time of the advent of Islam. Evidently such conditions create an unusual longing and desire in the hearts of the people for a proper law which may ensure their welfare.

SEASONAL DISCUSSIONS IN ROME

In some countries some idle and sensual persons put forward for discussion a number of meaningless and futile problems with the object of keeping back people from all sorts of scientific and industrial progress and thus render the precious lives of the people useless. In this context we have a large number of specimens and precedents in many Muslim countries which it is not possible to recount at present. It so chanced that Rome of those days was, more than anything else, entangled in problems of this kind. For example, the emperors and the statesmen held, under the influence of some religious institutions, the belief that Prophet ‘Isa had two natures and two wills, whereas some Ya’qubi Christians were of the view that he had only one nature and one will. This baseless proposition hit out the independence and harmony of Rome and created a deep cleavage amongst those people, for the government was obliged to defend its beliefs and, therefore, subjected its opponents to severe persecution. As a consequence of pressure and mental aversion some of them took refuge in Iran. These were the very people who, on encountering the Muslim army, quitted their trenches and greeted the Muslims with open arms. Rome of those days was just like the Europe of the Middle Ages. The famous French astronomer Camile Flammarion relates this story about the level of learning in Europe in the Middle Ages:

“The book entitled ‘Majmu’a-i Lahutiah’ (Theological Collection) was a perfect manifestation of the scholastic philosophy in the Middle Ages and was taught in Europe for four hundred years as a text book. A part of that book discusses whether it is possible for a few angels to settle themselves on the point of a needle or how many leagues apart the pupils of the right eye and of the left eye of the Heavenly Father are?”.

How unfortunate for Rome! Just at the time when it was entangled in foreign wars, torrents of internal differences, most of which were manifested in the garb of religion, were drawing it, day after day, nearer to the precipice. When the Jews, who were a wicked and intriguing people, saw that the pressure by the Christian Emperor of Rome had crossed the bounds they drew up plans to topple down the Roman Government and even occupied the city of Antakia at one time and cut off the ears, nose and lips of the Archbishop. After some time the Roman Government avenged itself by massacring the Jews of Antakia. Such merciless slaughtering was repeated in Rome a number of times between the Jews and the Christians and at times this revengeful feeling had its repercussions even beyond the frontiers of the Empire. For example, once the Jews purchased eighty thousand Christians from the Iranians and slaughtered them like sheep with the object of taking revenge on the Christian community.

It is here that the learned reader can visualise the dark and chaotic background of the world contemporaneous with the dawn of Islam and acknowledge that these sublime teachings, which ensured deliverance of mankind from that dark atmosphere, are not the outcome of human brain and this exhilarating breeze of unity and unanimity and this message of peace and sincerity, which is the object of Islamic religion, has no source other than the occult one. How can it be said that Islam, which has given right of existence even to the animals, is the child of such a blood thirsty environment?

Islam set aside all these baseless and frivolous discussions about the will of ‘Isa and introduced him in the following words: ‘Isa the son of Maryam,was no more than a Prophet. Other Prophets passed away before him. His mother was a chaste and truthful woman. They both ate earthly food and were human beings. (Surah al-Ma’dah, 5:75).

By means of this verse Islam put an end to a large number of silly discussions of the dignitaries of the Church about the spirit, blood and individuality of ‘Isa. At the same time it dissuaded man from disputes and bloodshed by imparting sublime teachings to him and reviving his excellent human attributes.

IRAN, OR THE CRADLE OF CIVILISATION OF THAT AGE

The scholars of sociology are of the view that the weak point about the government of the Iranians of that age was its despotic nature and the rule of an individual over the masses. The ignorant Arabs, with all their savagery and barbarism, possessed a sort of democratic government. With the establishment of ‘Darul Nadwah’, which enjoyed the position of the National Consultative Assembly, they had, to some extent, eliminated the defects of despotic rule. Although a government, whether constitutional or despotic, cannot solve the difficulties without the rule of religion and faith and the protection of secret police and cannot also maintain law and order which is the aim of every government, but it is an admitted fact that the wisdom and prudence of one person cannot equal the sagacity of a group of persons. Collusion and violence are comparatively lesser in a democratic government. It is for this reason that the grandeur and supremacy or weakness and humiliation of the Iranians have been closely related with the weakness or strength of their one-man government. A study of the Sasanian period of government and the oscillations which took place during that period fully justifies this statement.

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