The Great Drought in Arabia led to the birth of Islam leading to the collapse of the state that controlled the region


The scarcity of water created the economy of the Himyar, whose rule lasted for three centuries, and caused its downfall. After several decades of change, the Muslim religion emerged.

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Hajar Mountain next to Al Huta Cave in Oman.World

An unprecedented series of droughts in the region in the early sixth century devastated the economy of the Himalaya Empire, which had dominated southern Arabia for 300 years, and brought about a series of social and political changes This led to the rise of new monotheistic religions including Islam. That is the view of an international team of scientists who studied rainfall records in a cave in northern Oman, and the results of which have been published today by the prestigious journal. science,

After analyzing the region’s hydrological and climatic records, including the entire history of rainfall recorded in the stalagmites of a cave in Oman, the researchers compared their discoveries with historical documents and archaeological remains, and have reproduced a series of changes that interact with each other and lead to the collapse of the empireAfter which the Islamic religion emerged.

The Himyar, which dominated southern and central Arabia, had a centralized political system, with a single state and several subordinate chiefs. Although they also traded in aromatics and metals, highly dependent on agriculture, And agricultural productivity, in turn, was based on a stable water cycle with two rainy seasons, spring and summer.

Therefore, its economy was very sensitive to droughts, such as in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. Coupled with internal problems within the state, such as conflicts between rival clans and outsiders, such as attempts by Aksumite Christians to control the Red Sea and Arabian Sea trade routes, Drought becomes new source of problem For Himyar.

The researchers are careful not to confuse chance – that drought and the collapse of the empire occur at the same time – with causality – that the first causes the second – and also warns against “climate determinism”, that is, Tendency to attribute any political and social change to environmental conditions, However, reconstructing historical events parallel to the water record, much of what is known about the economy of Himyar suggests a significant relationship between the aridity of the land and the historical changes that followed.

Image of stalagmite H12 from a cave north of Om
Image of stalagmite H12 from Hota Cave, north of Oman.Dominic Fleetman

“During the sixth century after Christ, drought in southern Arabia contributed to the decline of the Himyar Empire. caused a general economic and cultural decline and widespread confusion in the Arabian Peninsulawhich was the context in which Islam eventually emerged,” explains Dominic Fleetman, professor of environmental science at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and the study’s first author, by email. Hamiyar fell to the Aksumite kingdom in the years 525, along with the 500s and 530s. Records of greater aridity corresponding to the intervening period.

“As it says [el famoso arquelogo alemn] Paul Yule: ‘Al final, For Islam to win, the crumbling Himyar Empire must fall“This sentence is, of course, a great simplification of all the socio-political and religious processes that took place during the sixth century, but it is a good succinct summary of the findings”, continues Fleetman. After the disappearance of the kingdom, decades of confusion followed and cities such as Mecca gained increasing prominence.

one of many factors

Have climate impacts been forgotten in the study of historical change? “No, not really,” replies Fleetman. “I would say the opposite. Too often, Palaeolithic researchers have linked extreme climate events (droughts, cold snaps) to social changes,” he says. Meanwhile, on the other hand, “many archaeologists and historians ignore the influence of climate on society and focus on social factors,” he says. His proposal, therefore, lies in the middle ground: “Climate is often one of several factors, as it exacerbates existing problems in a society”.

“It is important to reflect that every society is different and there is no general pattern of how they will respond to climate change. However, sudden and unexpected extremes in climate have detrimental effects on most societies, especially for those who live in marginal areas with the harshest climatic and environmental conditions“, completes Fleetman.

He also recalls that there are “many examples” of similar interactions between climate and society: “the collapse of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia about 4,200 years ago; the fall of Chinese dynasties due to low monsoon rains; the fall of the Maya; the Mongol Empire.” Expand … to name just a few”. And he speculates: “We’ll see more stories like this, because Research on the relationship between climate, environment and humans is now growing rapidly,

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