across a universe: the good companions

Among the fountains of Granada the Islamic civilization reached a lovely apogee, and its spell has lasted ever since: the Alhambra was the flower of Islam and the crown of Arabism…

But on the whole it is better seen at a distance; a closer view is often a disappointment. In the same way, the empire, grand though it was on the whole, was less majestic in the detail. It was not an empire in the usual sense, like the British or the Roman, for it claimed to be a theocracy, and its rulers, the caliphs, traced their descent not from kings and emperors but from companions of the Prophet. Religious zeal was its strategy, schisms of faith or ritual provided its political parties. Its mainspring was a mystic combination of the Islamic faith and the Arabic language, the Word and the Revelation. It was this partnership that gave the empire its unity, a more fragile imperial substance than most and characteristic even then of the mixed logic and spirituality that so often dismays observers of the Arab scene.

—Mohammed (upper right) visiting Paradise while riding Buraq, accompanied by the Angel Gabriel (upper left). Below them, riding camels, are some of the fabled houris of Paradise — the “virgins” promised to heroes and martyrs. This image and the following five images are Persian, 15th century, from a manuscipt entitled Miraj Nama, which is in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Taken from The Miraculous Journey of Mahomet, by Marie-Rose Seguy.
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The empire’s unity came from aspiration; once having achieved success, it fell apart. Doubts weakened it, about the nature of Islam, about the Arab identity. “Am I a king or a caliph?” asked the eighth-century ruler Omar II, bewildered already by the practice of theocracy; Islam, becoming more rigid and brittle, split into rival doctrines, bitterly hostile to one another. At the same time, the Arabness of the empire became hazed in ambiguity. In the early days the Arabs had been conquerors; then they became a ruling class; by the tenth century their status, and their separateness were not so clear.

—A 14th-century Persian depiction of the February 1258 sack of Baghdad.—Read More:

Peoples of many races had become Moslems, and thus came to share the Arab heritage; foreigners joined the ruling class- a Persian dynasty, indeed, assumed the central authority of the empire. The provinces of Islam, developing in different ways, became alien to one another and to the desert origins of the Arabs, until one by one they fell away to establish separate sovereignties of their own. The reality of Arabism was misted, and presently this inner uncertainty, expressed in endemic feuds and rivalries, led to the collapse of Arab power.

—Mongols under the command of Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad, destroying the House of Wisdom, the leading library in the leading intellectual center of the Arab world.
The House of Wisdom, founded in the eighth century, contained countless precious documents accumulated over five hundred years. Survivors said so many books were thrown into the river that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink; others said the waters were red from blood.
“In one week, libraries and their treasures that had been accumulated over hundreds of years were burned or otherwise destroyed. So many books were thrown into the Tigris River, according to one writer, that they formed a bridge that would support a man on horseback” (Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World 4th ed—Read More:


(see link at end)…A LAU missile was fired in Taibe in the early hours of Friday morning, hitting a house in the city. Local violence escalated further as local reported gun fights in the streets and loud explosions.

The gunfire was heard just a short while before Friday morning prayers, the last for this year’s Ramadan fast. “Bursts of gunfire rang out and I realized by the noise that it was a gunfight, some of which sounded close by and some farther away, in response,” one resident reported….

—On Tuesday, Islamist extremists targeted two Tunisian Olympic medalists for behavior and dress seen as un-Islamic.
Radicals on social media networks called on the government to strip Habiba Ghribi, the first Tunisian woman to win an Olympic medal, of her nationality because her running gear was too revealing.
In addition, a Facebook campaign by extremist group Ansar al Chariaa is targeting swimmer Oussama Mellouli for drinking juice before racing during the Muslim holy

h of Ramadan. —Read More:,7340,L-4269635,00.html

“We also heard different kinds of explosions, and one big one, that’s when we understood a LAU missile was fired.”

Residents who were at local mosques when the violence occurred felt they were under threat: “Even after prayers were over we were afraid to go out on the streets and go home. Many children were alarmed and scared; we told them not to leave the mosque so they wouldn’t get hurt.”

When the gunfire subsided the worshippers realized the gunfight was over and “dared to leave the mosque to go home, but we were concerned.” …Read More:,7340,L-3082,00.html

(see link at end)… Dozens of Jewish youths attacked three young Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Zion Square early on Friday morning, in what one witness described as “a lynch” on Facebook.

One of the Palestinians was seriously wounded and hospitalized in intensive care in Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. Acting Jerusalem police chief General Menachem Yitzhaki has set up a special team to investigate the incident and detain the suspects.

The three were allegedly attacked by youths shouting “Death to the Arabs” at them, as well as other racial slurs. One of them fell on the floor, and his attackers continued to beat him until he lost consciousness. They subsequently fled from the scene.

Within a short period of time rescue volunteers and Magen David Adom rescue services arrived on the scene and found the victim with no pulse and not breathing. After a lengthy resuscitation attempt, he was transferred to the hospital.

Writing on her Facebook page, one eye witness decribed the attack as a lynch: “It’s late at night, and I can’t sleep. My eyes are full of tears for a good few hours now and my stomach is turning inside out with the question of the loss of humanity, the image of God in mankind, a loss that I am not willing to accept.”

“But today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem ….. and shouts of ‘A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a –,’ were shouted loudly and dozens (!!) of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street,” the witness wrote.

“When one of the Palestinian youths fell to the floor, the youths continued to hit him in the head, he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then those who were kicking him fled and the rest gathered in a circle around, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.” Read More:

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