Ali Khamenei by John Murphy

By John Murphy

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Sample text

There was no shortage of believers in his message. Within a year of Muhammad’s death, the entire Arabian peninsula was converted to Islam. Persia’s Conversion to Islam Islam’s influence would not be confined to Arabia, however. The tenets of Islam required preaching to and conversion of infidels, or unbelievers, by force if necessary. This missionary impulse, coupled with the more earthly human desire to gain more power, territory, and wealth, inspired Muslim soldiers to fan out from the Arabian peninsula and conquer Syria and Byzantium.

Agricultural lands were trampled, crops were ruined, irrigation systems were destroyed, and peasants were displaced from their farms. Mass famine resulted, and Iran was plunged into civil unrest. The British, sensing the opportunities that chaos and a power vacuum created, tried to force the Iranian government to accept a treaty that would grant Britain control over Iran’s military, its infrastructure, its resources, and its trade. The ruling Qajars, still mired in crushing debt, were willing to sign the treaty, but the Majlis resisted, refusing to agree to it.

Looking back to the glory days of the Persian Empire and the Sassanian era in particular, Persian intellectual, artistic, architectural, literary, stylistic, and spiritual influences began to infuse Islam. This resulted in a cultural and technological high-water mark for the Islamic world, as the famously open-minded Persians embraced Greek and Indian scientific learning, philosophy, theology, and mathematics. The Persian language was also revived, and, though now dappled with Arabic words, still expressed a worldview and spirituality that was as distinctively Persian—mystical, mythological, historical, action-packed, densely layered—as it was Islamic.

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