Aug 12, 2019 in Research

Ancient Remains of the Middle East: Muslims’ Understanding

The difference between the world cultures is usually viewed through the comparison of their peculiarities and outline of their diversities. The attempt to comprehend one culture through the native traditions may lead to discovering absolutely opposite meaning of a described notion or situation, architectural site or monument. The variety of the religious views existing next to the established and more traditional ones reveals how successful it could be. There does not necessarily have to be a competition or fight between the religions. The common knowledge does not always allow clear thinking and analyzing the situation to make correct judgments. Significance of protecting and preserving the most prolific examples of the ancient history that managed to survive to these days are to be realized through the world support and cooperation. The following writing is focused on the analysis of the ancient remains of the Middle East and their connection with the Muslim culture as the basic evidence of the strong interrelation between the countries created through trade, literature and other issues.

Archeology is the way to discover the mysteries of the ancient world. Moreover, it is a great source of the evidences that can tell people about the past. As Miles states in his video, “history is a great source of truth”. Hence, primarily, archeology can be the credible source to support the ideas about the areas of cooperation between the ancient civilization of Arabs and representatives of the Middle East. The archeological finds deserve considerable attention when discussing the impacts of the above mentioned countries.

Starting with the archaeological sites, one should mention the Persepolis, which was one of the temples, that had eventually been removed due and become a ruin; the Muslims consider this to be the remains of Solomon’s mosque, where he “imprisoned the wind”. The given building is described with the respect to the traditions and is depicted as the one of great significance with respectful description of both architectural and historical site. Another significant architectural monument is the Jayrun temple, which is very identical “to the Iram of the Columns mentioned in the Quar’an”. The building is described as a beautiful monument of great importance for Arabs, which describes the Arab man “looking for two lost camels” who was believed to “rediscover Iram”. However, the very legend was not really accepted by the scientists discovering the Arab and ancient people history: this one and similar to it were often invented with only one aim – to “gain favor with kings”.

The place in the sea near the Pharos of Alexandria, where the precious stones “called karkand, adbrak and asab-adbjubam” are found, is another archeological site. According to the popular legend, these stones are the drinking vessels broken by the Alexander’s mother and thrown into the sea after his death, whilst another story tells that these stones are the part from his collection and he himself threw “the pieces into the sea at his place”. The most popular stone found “around the Pharos is jasper”, which is called “occidental” by many jewelers and those who cut different items out of stones.

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A separate and rather controversial issue was related to the pyramids and their existence: the architectures aimed to show the world of the Egyptian mighty and impact. Hence, the reaction of the Muslim kings was obvious and expectable: they began to demolish one of them. However, there was no need as destroying is always easier than building. Despite this negative impact on the perception of the pyramids, they are still viewed as one of the greatest wonders. What makes Egyptian temples and pyramids even more significant is the inscriptions found on the walls, tombs, etc., which reveal much information about the life, religious preferences, social and personal performance within the community.

The site in Konya was not considered attractive for tourists until 1993, when the site was reopened by the local authorities. The findings from the site are rather controversial as they speak about the religions, where the main is the “Goddess”. This turn of events might have caused much quarreling and misunderstanding among the villagers; however, this was not the case: most of the villagers knew about the story from the textbooks. Hence, there was no threat to the Islam as the site had barely had any influence on the lives of the villagers. Still, the site itself is of great importance for the Islamic culture as its territory comprises of practically a hundred of households, located on the fields of the villagers, which are engaged in “intensive agricultural production”. The first impression of the underestimation of the historical site by the villagers was wrong, although it explained another religion: people used these remains of the past in their everyday lives, hence, the heritage was preserved.

What is very strict concerning the Muslims is their attitude towards the burials and excavations of the bones and other human remains. These may cause “trauma, misfortune, illness or even death”; even if a person accidentally finds the bones and does not touch it, the effect may be felt later, at least this is how the locals explain this. Some of the traditional attitudes are explained in the stories told by the locals to David Shankland during his field research. The stories tell about the faith into the death and the power of the dead to come and make a living person suffer if he or she disturbs the bones or other remains: something like this happened to a villager, who took a bit of earth, and accidentally exposed a skeleton. Hence “the owner of the bones was strangling him” and only with the help of imam and special prayers it disappeared. It is logical to assume that the burial places are sacred; hence, no excavations, exposures of the remains etc. are allowable. These stories are often told by those who deal with tomb opening aiming at finding some gold, precious stones, jewelry, etc.. One of them tells about a woman, whose tomb was opened and dead body disturbed: the two robbers soon got sick and later died after they saw a lady in their dreams “demanding of them why they disturbed her bones”. There are more stories of the kind revealing the moral traditions, which are believed to date back to early ages of the Islam establishment, of the Muslims concerning the past: respect for the dead and their remains, no harm for the souls. Some people also give the remains of the predecessors the protective power not knowing if the person was Muslim or not, which is not quiet acceptable by the religion. Another past tradition revealed is related to the “gender differences”: Muslims speak very little about women’s worship, whilst men’s worship is everywhere.

The beliefs in the Middle East were much different. Out of the remains that associated primarily with Egypt, one should definitely refer to mummies. These preserved corpses were the reflection of the ancient Egyptians’ religious beliefs. However, it is interesting that mummies played a considerable role not only in the life of the Egyptians, but also in life of Arabs. The main reason for that was predetermined primarily by consumption of the mummies for cures.

While the Egyptians used the word mummia only for the preserved bodies, the same word is found in the Arabic writing to signify honeybee wax or natural bitumen. However, the word mummia is also found in the Arabic writings to signify the natural product obtained from corpses. The oldest Arabic reference to the Egyptian mummies is found in the writings of Ibn Wahshiyah. The same author has also mentioned the signs indicating fruit, herds, minerals, ladin and others. However, mummia was considered the main subject of the growing international trade. Al-Bagdadi, Al-Bakri, Al-Harawi and many others described this product as “better than the Persian mineral one”. Hence, it is obvious why it has gained so much popularity in the Western world.

The information about mummia in the Arabic sources was met not only in the medial, but also in geographical writings. The mummification was not only the origin of trade a great impression for Al-Baghdadi, Al-Istakhari and Al-Masudi. The practice that was uncommon to the Arabs became known to them mainly through trade and travelling. Consequently, the information was widely distributed in order to make the Middle East culture share some of the new features with the Muslims’ one.

To sum up, the Muslims’ understanding of the Middle East remains is based primarily on the connection of ancient remains of the Middle East with the Muslim culture. Discovering the trade, literature and other aspects of Egyptian culture through the prism of old legends helps to comprehend all the value of the Middle East for the Arabs’ culture. The territory of the Middle East has been widely researched and new data about the existing religious views of Islam was found. The Turkish village with an old settlement remains is a perfect example of the past and the present co-existing and co-functioning at the same time. The architecture, medicine and literature are also the spheres that have undergone some changes due to the communication between two cultures.

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