Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII IN THE EMBRACE OF ISLAM

THE earth-shaking events of A.D. 551 to 555 on the Lebanese coast were shortly followed by world-shaking happenings in the Arabian peninsula. The start may be traced back to one person born in or about 570 in Mecca (Makkah) of al-Ḥijāz and given by his mother a name which may for ever remain unascertained. His tribe, the Quraysh, called him al-Amīn (the faithful), clearly an honorific title; the Koran: (61:6) refers to him once as Aḥmad and other times as Muḥammad (3:138; 33:40; 48:29; 47: 2) (highly praised). It was he whose career changed the course of history in the Near East and came near changing it in the entire world.

Within the brief span of a mortal life the Arabian Prophet (d. 632) called forth out of unpromising material a nation never before united, in a land that hitherto had been but a geographical expression, and established a religion which in the vast adjacent area superseded Christianity and Judaism and still claims the adherence of some 350,000,000 people -- about one- eighth of mankind. More than that, he laid the basis of an empire that was soon to embrace some of the fairest provinces of the then civilized world. Surely had someone in the early seventh century had the audacity to predict that within a few years certain unheralded, unforeseen forces from the hitherto barbarous, little-known land of Arabia would be released to challenge the two contemporary world powers -- Persia and Byzantium --, to destroy the one and strip the other of its richest provinces, he would have been considered a candidate for the lunatic asylum. Yet, that was precisely what happened. With Muḥammad sterile Arabia seems to have been converted, as if by a magic wand, into a breeding-ground of heroes and great men the like of whom in quality and quantity was hard to find.

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