Thursday, November 12, 2009

Religion and Politics

Hassan continues his journeys across the Medieval world in this week's reading. He observes the battles at Agadir, where he takes extensive notes about the Holy Wars, and acts as a dignitary for the Sultan of Fez, and attempts to negotiate with Sharif the Lame. Hassan returns home only to find that he is being banished from his home in Fez for two years. Hassan then travels to Cairo, where he sees the once mighty capital of the Muslim world begin to decline through plagues, weak and corrupt leaders and outside threats. He meets, and marries his third wife, who's dead husband was a prince of the Ottoman Empire. Hassan, Nur and Bayazid eventually come to travel to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, as a part of the pirate Barbarossa's diplomatic mission, where he discovers the Grand Turk Salim's plan to invade Egypt. He returns with his wife and stepchild in order to warn her people, the Circassians. As the Ottomans conquer Egypt Hassan prepares to flee Cairo upon the birth of his second daughter, Hayat. He watches as Tumanbay and his army of released criminals, citizens and a few trained soldiers attempt reclaim Cairo, and after Tumanbay's execution flees the city. He then goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but on his way home is captured by an Italian pirate, and taken to Rome where he is given to the Pope. He studies and teaches there for over a year, and eventually is given the name Leo Africanus.

While reading this section I continued to reflect on the importance of religion in the Medieval ages. First, in the wars between the Muslim Africans, and the Christian Portuguese. The war is fought over a mixture of greed and religion. Both sides want to control powerful African cities, like Agadir, and also use the power of religion, to support their holy war. My impression was that, while the Sultans and kings desire riches, they use the power of religion to gain support amongst the people. One Muslim man Hassan encounters says, "Tell the sultan not to weep for those who have died, for their reward is guaranteed on the Day of Judgment. My eldest son has died, and I myself am ready to follow him to Paradise as soon as my master commands it!" All the while the sultan is in his tent, not in the least concerned that hundreds of his soldiers are dead, because he has shown sufficient ardor for the holy war, without pushing the Portuguese into striking back. The power of holy war should never be underestimated, as Hassan continues to see during his time in Rome. He is there while Martin Luther threatens Papal power, and European society is on the brink of destruction over the division of the Church.

While the world has changed significantly since the days of Leo Africanus, Tumanbay and the Sultans, many elements of their times remain. Religion is still an important factor in many wars, still today, we hear of "jihad" the fight in the cause of Allah or the conflict in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants which peaked in the 1980's. And while today in America we support the separation of church and state, religion still affects elections, politics and laws. Basically, we see religion as less important than during the Middle Ages, yet with globalization and the power of the internet, religions are interacting more than ever before. So, how has all of this interaction affected religion today?

No comments:

Post a Comment