Martyrdom must be a powerful impulse. Why else would then some otherwise normal people throw themselves into destruction?
There had been a great deal of speculation about the reasons that medieval Europe suffered a dark age while the Islamic world continued and increased its prosperity. The answer perhaps can be found on the contours of the map of the Roman Empire. Islam established its foothold largely in the lands that were fully Roman before the Conquest and ruled from Byzantium after the West’s fall without barbarian interruptions — Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and parts of Asia Minor, in addition to the very civilized Persian Empire — while Latin Christendom gathered strength and established its center of gravity primarily in the wilds of Germania, Western Empire’s lands being devastated by continual barbarian invasions. Continue reading
Much ink has been spilled over the origins of the European Renaissance but not nearly as much on the causes of the contemporaneous stagnation in the Islamic world. Among such causes can be counted the continual replacement of the Arab and Persian elites by the successive waves of conquest, first by the Mongols, who irretrievably damaged the vitality of the Islamic, followed by the newly arrived Turks, themselves not much different from their close predecessors. While the Arabs were still in awe of Roman past, Mongols and Turks where strong despisers of all things urban, and consequently they were much less interested in preservation of the conquered people’s past than in the traditions of their own. By the time of their complete ensconcement — when they began to grow native — the damage had been done and Europe was already far ahead.