though this is not mentioned in the Exodus account. There was also the problem of prophets and personages mentioned in the Quran, such as Luqman (Q. 31:12), Khidhr (Q. 18:65-82) and Dhu’l Qarnain (Q. 18:81-98) that were non-Biblical. 5. Depictions of Paradise Almost as well known as the Christological sections of the Quran to the Byzantines were the references to heaven (or paradise). Byzantines often failed to distinguish between the Quranic references and later popular embellishments but it seems that this was common among the general Muslim population. The Quranic depiction of heaven is that of a garden wherein inhabitants enjoy shade, fruits, cool drinks, wine and meat as they desire; they recline on couches adorned with armlets of gold and pearls, wearing green and gold robes of embroidered silk, and are waited on by servants. Male inhabitants of the garden are to enjoy the company of beautiful dark-eyed companions (houris) (Q. 55:46-78; 44:54). Some Islamic commentators interpret the verses on Paradise in purely symbolic terms. But the Byzantines always understood that the Muslims accepted heaven in very carnal terms. Politics 1. The Caliphs As both political and religious leaders, the caliphs were open to attack for their behaviour as rulers of an empire. They were often portrayed as sensuous, greedy and violent by Byzantine polemicists. The violent deaths of three of the first four caliphs was noted by Byzantine historians and the frequency of the fratricidal Muslim conflicts was also known. The martyrdom of Husayn and the massacre of the Alids (or proto-Shi’ites) at Karbala was also common knowledge. Even the
22 massacre of the Umayyad family at the hands of the Abbasids did not go unnoticed. 2. Allegations of Polytheism Byzantine theologians liked to turn the tables on Muslims by claiming that they were the ones who were secretly pagans. Islam was seen as a mixture of Judaism, (heretical) Christianity and Arab paganism. Muhammad was often accused of accepting pagan elements into Islam to make it more palatable for Arabs. 3. Allegations of Idolatry As the inheritors of the Classical tradition, Byzantines were informed of pre-Islamic religion and culture. Herodotus and Strabo had both claimed that Arabs worshiped stones (litholatory), so the Black Stone was seen as a continuation of this under the guise of Islam. It was common in their refutations to throw the charges of idolatry back at Muslims. 4. Religious Divisions Serious religious divisions racked Islam, like Christianity. The Byzantines were well informed of this and used it to prove the falseness of Islam. Muslims were equally well informed of the divisions within Christianity. The Monophysites of Syria (Jacobites), Egypt (Copts) and Armenia were all within direct Muslim rule while the Nestorians were numerous in the provinces of the former Persian Empire. All these groups contributed to the intellectual ferment of the early Islamic world. The Byzantines were allies to the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt.
23 Byzantine Sources Historians and Chroniclers
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