Muslim Invasion into or Arab uprising within Syria; The Conundrum of the Seventh Century Sources

Abstract

Mohammed died and almost immediately his faithful followers united the tribes of Arabia and burst into Syria to defeat a huge army of the Byzantine Empire for Allah and his prophet. This Muslim historical tradition was not written until a hundred and fifty years after the events.  Revisionist historians of Islam are now re-examining this ‘conquest' through seventh century Syrian eyes. By looking at the source documents and archaeology, however, it becomes clear that Syria already had a huge Arab population while the Arabian Peninsula at the time of Mohammed had been suffering from decline in trade and very little population for several centuries.   Arabs not only appeared to be the majority ethnic group in Syria, but they had centuries of political experience in governance.  They had produced both a caesar, Philip the Arab, as well as an Arab queen, the famous Zenobia, who ruled much of the East.  By the seventh century, they had two centuries of political experience ruling as foederoti.   Added to the pre-Muslim Arab population predominating in Byzantine Syria are the early seventh century texts that never mention any armies invading from the Arabian Desert or conquering the land.  The texts are supported by archaeology which shows that there was no destruction layer but rather increased church building in this era. While the texts have some grumbling about the Arabs rising up and raiding, there is no mention of an invasion from outside, of any new religion or of Mohammed.   This paper argues that the Muslim tradition of an invading Arab army never happened.  Syria already had a large Arab population by the sixth century.  Byzantium retreated from active rule in Syria and hired locals to serve as her border guards.   After the Byzantium financial crisis caused by the Persian wars, her Arab vassals rose up and took control of Syria. "Perhaps there was indeed a great invasion, with battle after battle between tens of thousands of opposing soldiers, over the course of several years (629 to 636).  But if there were, it would seem that, at the time, nobody noticed." (Nevo, Crossroads, 135.)
Published
2011-08-14
How to Cite
. Muslim Invasion into or Arab uprising within Syria; The Conundrum of the Seventh Century Sources. Utah Historical Review, [S.l.], v. 1, aug. 2011. ISSN 2374-1570. Available at: <http://epubs.utah.edu/index.php/historia/article/view/535>. Date accessed: 20 mar. 2019.

Keywords

Islam