Religion, World History
Rise of China
It would not seem likely for the previous thousand years that not Europeans, but Indians and Chinese would take over the world by 2000 and that the Chinese would settle Australia and America rather than the people of Britain; except for the time of Roman Empire, China was richer, more cosmopolitan and advanced than any other European place. For example, Hangzhou had a population of a million when it was the capital of China in the twelfth century and facts state that Guangzhou had more than two million foreign inhabitants that included Turks, Africans, Indians, Malays, Persians and Arabs. In comparison, Paris, which was the largest city in Europe in the 1400s, had a little more than a million inhabitants. China at that time cared about filial piety, religion, ancestors, education, arts, culture, honor and prestige, and money was not on top of the list. The big change took place when Admiral Zheng He, who was the commander of Chinese fleet, sailed to take over the world (Kristoff, 1999). Before Columbus, Admiral Zheng reached East Africa where he learned from the Arab traders about Europe after which the Chinese easily could have continued through Cape of Good Hope and developed a direct trade, but they saw that Europe was not established enough and he had little interest in wine, beads or wool. China wanted Africa that had native wildlife specimens, exotic woods, spices, medicines and ivory. Europe as compared to Asia, was filled with greed. In the fifteenth century, Portugal discovered further as they wanted spices and the hope of high profits compelled it to drive towards Africa. The profits would be huge as the crew of Magellan once sold a twenty six tons cargo of cloves for ten thousand times the actual cost.
Another reason for stagnation of economics of Asia is that it was not easy to articulate and was more linked to complacency culture. India and China shared an inward tendency, a devotion to pass methods and ideals, an authoritative respect and new ideas. Ceramics of China are found in a lot of places in the east coast of Africa and the reason that they were present in Pate was due to the purchases made from the Arabs. The porcelain, however, was concentrated among the clan of Famao, meaning that it would have not been purchased, but inherited. If the traders of China were greedy and had followed in the footsteps of Zheng, Asia would have dominated Europe and Africa and the Chinese would not have only settled in Singapore and Malaysia, but in Pacific Islands, America and East Africa as well (Kristof, 1999).
Ancient Jewel — India
India has a population of 895 million people and covers 1.2 million sq. miles area. America, on the other hand, is home to 258 million people and covers 3.6 million sq. miles of area. So the density of population of India is ten times greater than America. The sixth century B.C. was the time of great philosophical and religious uprising in India. The reform movements were starting like the one from Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, and Hinduism had already had its roots under the ground. The religion that emerged under Buddha spread towards different areas of the world, which helped the spread of the Indian culture.
Alexander the Great had a top objective of conquering India, but he died without conquering her. After that, Seleucus Nicator, who was the successor of Alexander, also wanted to do the same, but he was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya, the Indian Emperor. They both signed a peace treaty and Selecus sent Megasthenes, the ambassador, to Chandragupta’s court. After Megasthenes arrival, he sent several reports to Selecus in which he said that the Indian culture was superior or equal to their own, which was a very high compliment, especially since Greece was at its highest point of success at that time.
India that was rich in spiritual wisdom, knowledge of science, and material wealth, for the next 1500 years, enjoyed a reputation of being the center of the civilization. It was the desire of Columbus to reach India, which eventually led him to discover America. Columbus might have died thinking that he had discovered a new route through sea towards India, but he had only landed on the Caribbean island. This mistake of his also led to wrong labeling of the natives as Indians.
The Upanishads (the quest for a “personal reality”)
According to a western commentator, the Indian mind in Upanishads moved to psychology from cosmology, and while many contemporary places were asking ‘what am I?’ the Indians had already moved on to ‘Who am I?’ The translations of Upanishads were available in the 19th century in the west and they had a huge influence on the European philosophers like Schopenhauer and Goethe and on American writers like Whitman and Emerson. Schopenhauer emotionally wrote that, “In the whole world there is no study as beneficial and as elevating as the Upanishads.” Emerson also wrote poems based on Upanishads and ‘personal reality’ was the main theme of it (Sundaram, n.d.).
India first domesticated Cotton and the dying process of the fabric was also found out there. Both silk and cotton, which were the Indian fabrics, have been renowned in the world because of their good quality. India also invested chess and the name of the game ‘Chaturanga’ too is derived from Sanskrit. The popular exports of India have been meditation and yoga and Hatha yoga, which is an exercise, now widely taught in several institutions of America. Several scientific researches on the benefits of yoga are now being done. Even Martin Luther King Junior, in repeated terms, praised Gandhi and acknowledged him for the nonviolent technique of civil disobedience and King used that in his civil rights movement as well. Combining every material contribution of India to the whole world, it is the spirituality that had a huge influence as compared to the rest (Sundaram, n.d.).
Jews and Muslims in Columbus’s Spain
The Jews were quitting Spain on 31st March, 1492 after Ferdinand and Isabella issued the Edict of Expulsion. Don Isaac Abravanel could only help his people by securing them from the stay of execution for two days. Jews for the most part were only quiet watchers during the war between the Muslim and the Goth armies and they were happy to see the Goths defeated. For Ibero Roma peninsula natives, the same would be true because the Goths were harsh rulers. They did not allow the Jews to celebrate Passover, sing Psalms, observe diet laws or testify against Christians in court. Under the Visigothic rule, forced baptism of the Jews was normal and Montesquieu, centuries later would see that “all the laws of the Inquisition had been part of the Visigothic code” that formed the behavior of the Jews in Spain in the 7th century (Ajami, n.d.).
When the Muslims started ruling the Iberian Peninsula, it was a polyglot world where there were Jews, Berbers, Arabs, Blacks Native Christians and Spanish Muslims. Islam in Spain was overly extended, and Muslims made it their living with a light touch. In the 10th and 11th century at the time of his height of success, it was brilliance and tranquility to fashion a society. The cities flourished and the population of Cordoba expanded to a quarter million, which could not be matched to any city of Europe. The only competitors of Spain were Constantinople and Baghdad and the economy of Spain also rose up higher. Jews also prospered in literacy, and several academies were built in Barcelona, Toledo, Granada and Cordoba. In the south, the Hispano Arabic culture also flourished (Ajami, n.d.).
First Churches of the Jesus Cult
Before A.D. 325, formal churches were not very common and after the council of Nicea was convened by Constantine, the church practices were formalized, embarking a campaign by using Roman basilica, which is a rectangular space, as a worship place model for Christians (Lawler, 2007). House churches for decades remained an oddity of archeology. In the 1990s, Parker’s team in Jordan uncovered pre-Constantinian church, which was located near the Red sea in Aqaba port, not surrounded by hotels and busy streets. In Yotvata, Jodi Magness has her political candidate for these churches in south Israel; the fort was built in 300 A.D. If it is proved that Megiddo is a hall for an early prater then that will give strength to the view that is growing among the scholars that the Church in the Holy Land greatly differs between the two centuries from the edict of Constantine to the death of Jesus (Lawler, 2007).
Jerusalem — An epicenter
Jerusalem was won from the Byzantine Empire by the Muslims in 637 and it remained under Muslim rule for 1280 years. During World War I in 1917, the control of the city was overtaken by the British. The city of Jerusalem is associated with one of the Muslim faith i.e. five time prayers, which is the pillar of Islam. The Muslims in the early times turned towards Jerusalem when praying as it was the ‘first of the two Qiblas’ of the Muslims (Khalidi, 1996).
Islam’s Tragic Divisions
The division of Sunni and Shia in Islam can be looked back to the problem that rose regarding the community leadership very shortly after Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) died in 632 A.D. The battle of Kerbala for the Shiite Muslims represents the clash of evil and good. Hussain (A.S.) challenged and exposed the unfair ways of gaining leadership and power, but his life was put at stake for this. Every year during the first month of Islamic Calendar ‘Muharram,’ huge amount of pilgrims gather at the shrine or Kerbala to perform processions, commemorations and passion plays of the martyrdom of Hussain (A.S.). Sunnis therefore regard Shias as heretics and Shias regard Sunnis as secular usurpers (Atkins, 2003).
Women in Ancient Christianity
After Jesus died, women still continued to be a part of the early movement and played important roles. Many scholars even stated that women were the majority of Christians in the 1st century. Mary Magdalene, who was a Jewish woman, was the most important figure in the ancient church (King, 1998).
Zoroastrians — Shrinking Numbers
The Zoroastrians predates Islam and Christianity and a lot of historians say that it influenced Judaism too. The Zoroastrians at one time had domination over areas that are now Greece, Russia, India and Rome and their world population is approximately 190, 000. Survival is now considered an obsession of the community and despite the decreasing numbers, the Zoroastrians who follow Prophet Zarathustra, are now divided over the issues of converts, intermarried families and the definition of being a Zoroastrian (Goodstein, 2006).
Ajami, F. (n.d.). The Other 1492: Jews and Muslims in Columbus’s Spain. pp. 174-177.
Atkins, C. (2003). The Shrine of Islam’s Tragic Divisions. History Today. November 2003. pp. 116-117.
Goodstein, L. (2006). Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and keep Dwindling. The New York Times. pp. 122-123.
King, K.L. (1998). Women in Ancient Christianity – The New Discoveries. pp. 128-131.
Khalidi, W. (1996). The Dome of the Rock: Jerusalem’s Epicenter. Aramco World. September/October 1996. pp. 118-121.
Kristof, N.D. (1999). 1492: The Prequel. pp. 169-173.
Lawler, A. (2007). First Churches of the Jesus Cult. Archaeology. September/October 2007. pp. 124-127.
Sundaram, T. R. (n.d.). Ancient Jewel. pp. 111-115
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