VaeVictis returns with a brief essay on Tu Huan (or Du Huan), a Chinese travel writer who lived in the 8th century. When consulting fragments of Tu Huan’s accounts about his travels among the Arabs, it’s interesting to note that although Islam is mentioned, Mohammed seems to be absent. This supports the thesis put forward by Norbert Pressburg (see two separate reviews) and Robert Spencer that Mohammed and the full Islamic religion were not invented until after the Arab conquests were largely complete.
Tu Huan, an 8th century Chinese Islamophobe
The book Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, by Robert Hoyland, is a massive compendium of sources and commentary on early Islam from the perspectives of non-Muslims of the time. The author does a commendable job gathering wide ranging sources from Latin, Persian, Greek, Arabic, Armenian and Hebrew tradition, consolidating them within a single volume. From this bounty of sources the reader routinely encounters descriptions of the violence and devastation that accompanied the early Muslim conquests and the suffering imposed on the conquered.
Considering how overwhelming the evidence from these diverse and culturally ‘rich’ sources are, it should be apparent to even the most jaded modern academic that Islam’s origins were unabashedly built on a foundation of violence. The sources are unanimous whether they be Christian, Jew or ‘fire worshipping’ Zoroastrians. Yet I suspect this rather obvious conclusion will not soon be taught in the hallowed halls of Uppsala University.
Perhaps most interesting are a number of Chinese writings including entries from imperial court histories such as the Chiu T’ang shu (Old T’ang History) and the Hsin T’ang shu (New T’ang History). These histories in turn borrow passages from the writings of Tu Huan, a Chinese prisoner of war imprisoned for over a decade in Iraq after his capture in the Battle of Talas, which was fought between the Abbasid Caliphate and the T’ang Dynasty. Tu Huan’s writings, like those of his fellow Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, reveal in uncensored terms the nature of Islam:
Every seven days the king comes out to perform religious services; he mounts a high pulpit and preaches the law to the multitudes. He says: “Human life is very difficult, the path of righteousness is not easy, and adultery is wrong. To rob or steal, in the slightest way to deceive people with words, to make oneself secure by endangering others, to cheat the poor or oppress the lowly — there is no sin greater than one of these. All who are killed in battle against the enemies [of Islam] will achieve paradise. Kill the enemies and you will receive happiness beyond measure.”
|1.||Zoroastrians do not actually worship fire in practice — it is a primary component of their rituals and they were often stereotyped as such. I have used it to emphasize the exotic nature of their religious beliefs in light of their agreement with Christian and Jewish sources on the nature of the Muslim conquests.|
|2.||The Battle of Talas marked “the permanent loss of Central Asia as a part of the Buddhist world and the Chinese cultural zone.” Quoted from Lewis, Mark Edward, China’s Cosmopolitan Empire, Harvard University Press, 2012, p 158|
|3.||Quoted from Hoyland, Robert G., Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam, p 246f
Previous posts by VaeVictis:
|2012||Jul||23||Las Navas de Tolosa|
|Nov||3||Hijra in Reverse: The Duty to Emigrate