Rise of Islam

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CHAPTER 9
The Sasanid Empire and the Rise of Islam, 200–1200

I. The Sasanid Empire, 224–651 A. Politics and Society 1. The Sasanid kingdom was established in 224 and controlled the areas of Iran and Mesopotamia. The Sasanids confronted Arab pastoralists on their Euphrates border and the Byzantine Empire on the west. Relations with the Byzantines alternated between war and peaceful trading relationships. In times of peace, the Byzantine cities of Syria and the Arab nomads who guided caravans between the Sasanid and Byzantine Empires all flourished on trade. Arabs also benefited from the invention of the camel saddle, which allowed them to take control of the caravan trade. 2. The Iranian hinterland was ruled by a largely autonomous local aristocracy that did not, however, pose a threat to the stability of the Sasanid Empire. 3. The Silk Road brought new products to the Sasanid Empire, including a number of crops from India and China. B. Religion and Empire 1. The Sasanid Empire made Zoroastrianism its official religion. The Byzantine Empire made Christianity its official religion. Both Zoroastrianism and Christianity were intolerant of other religions. State sponsorship of Zoroastrianism and Christianity set a precedent for the link that developed between the Islamic religion and the Islamic state. 2. The Byzantine and Sasanid Empires were characterized by state involvement in theological struggles. The Byzantine Empire went to war with the Sasanids over the latter’s persecution of Christians, but the Byzantine emperors and bishops themselves purged Christianity of beliefs that they considered heretical, such as the Monophysite doctrine and Nestorianism. In the third century Mani of Mesopotamia founded a religion whose beliefs centered around the struggle between Good and Evil. Mani was killed by the Sasanid shah, but Manichaeism spread widely in Central Asia. Arabs had some awareness of these religious

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