The early Islamic Empire is troubled by the regional friction which resulted to continued “turbulence and violence” (Lawall & MacK) during those times. One way or another, this situation affected Islamic literature. Old Islamic literature are mostly in the form of epics, with One Thousand and One Knights being one of the most popular. Also known as the Arabian Knights, it popularized the idea of magic lamps, genies, and flying carpets and immortalized Sinbad, Alladin, and Ali Baba (Clute & Grant, 1997).
However, it can be seen that these epics take on a theme reflecting the hard times: fantasy.
Fantasy-themed literature prevalent among Islamic epics, denote the escapist attitude towards the hardships of the times. For instance, a genie inside a magic lamp that grants anything one wishes is a comforting idea during hard times. The same as the idea of a magic carpet that can take you anywhere, possibly in a place far away from the all the violence. Other Islam epics also allude to heroes.
Meanwhile, during the early Islamic times, governance is integrated with religion, as is seen in their Caliphate system, which started right after Mohammed’s death, and became a primary reason for the divide between Muslims of different regions.
A direct example of how non-Muslims were treated during the Caliphate is during the Umayyad dynasty, wherein non-Muslims are required to pay Muslims taxes. Even converted Muslims did not gain social and economic equality (Lapidus, 2002). This inequality might also be reflected in the creation of literature at the time, which will only be possible for those who have money, position and proper education, especially because authors of the time were particular in avoiding the use of the language of the common people.
Other monotheistic religions like Judaism and Christianity is similar to Islam in many aspects. It is commonly known that Judaism influenced both Christianity and Islam, all of which follow scriptures of similar if not identical content. Old Hebrew Scriptures that are center of Judaism beliefs are known by Christians as the Old Testament, while the New Testament centers on the life of Jesus. Jesus, in Christian belief is the Son of God, who died on the cross for redemption of our sins.
Jesus is also an important figure in the Islamic belief; however, he is not believed to be the Son of God but of Archangel Gabriel, neither is he believed to have died physically on the cross. He is the second most important prophet after Mohammed (Youth With A Mission). Archangel Gabriel, the messenger of God, which gave the message of Jesus’ conception to Mary, also gave the instructions and revelations to Mohammed, which led to the writing of the Quran and the establishing of the Islam religion.
Lawall, S. & MacK, M. The Norton Anthology of World Literature Volume B. W W Norton & Co. Clute, J. G. (1997). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Lapidus, I. (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. Youth With A Mission. (n. d. ). http://www. ywam. org/prayer/muslim/01musl/muslimsbelieve. pdf. Retrieved May 26, 2009, from http://www. ywam. org: http://www. ywam. org/prayer/muslim/01musl/muslimsbelieve. pdf
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