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Iran Geographical Situation before Islam

The reason we brought up Iran for discussion is firstly, there are certain pertinent points about the Sassanid period such as the rise of the Mazdaki code of life that needs be studied and emphasised. It is an interesting discussion which will be pursued for a comparative analysis subsequently. From the point of view of natural environments, if we were to compare Iran with Arabia, it could be said that Arabia as the birthplace of Islam was a poverty stricken, dry and deprived region whereas Iran or at least some parts of Iran were populated, flourishing and affluent. Incidentally, the areas of the great Iranian plateau which were contiguous to Arabia were all green and included the western slopes of the Zagross mountain range and parts of Lorestan, Bakhtaran, Hamadan and present Kurdestan, as well as part of Mesopotamia along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, all of which are green and full of palm groves, so that in those times the Arabs called these lands the Black Land's.

This was so because as of the dry, sandy deserts came to this part, they would notice a dark horizon which in fact was the palm groves and other trees, whereas in their own dwelling places there were only old trees in the rarely found oases. During one journey which I happened to have undertaken I noticed how poverty stricken the region was. Concerning the region along the east coast of the Red Sea, one comes to realise how unprivileged it is since despite its proximity to the Red Sea, no habitation or even a tree could be seen from Jordan right down to Jedda. The seashore, too, totally barren, has nothing more to offer than sand and ground. I don't know whether it is the soil that is bad or the wind which blows in the direction of Africa and carries the vapours of the Red Sea towards Africa because if there were no winds, some of this vapour might have remained to produce rain fall. However, all the vapour is carried towards the opposite side of the sea, namely to Somalia and Abyssinia which derive full benefit. In any case if we were to make a relative study of the area, it will be seen that the region which is adjacent to Arabia in the east is the best part of Iran from the viewpoint of natural environment next of course to the Caspian Sea littoral shores which is a thriving and populous region. It is interesting to know that the average population density in the regions of Gilan and Mazandaran is 100 persons per square kilometer, whereas for the whole of Iran the average is 16. The approximate area of these two provinces is 30,000 square kilometers, and they are so flourishing and populous that about three million people live. 19

Aside from this prosperous region which was not contiguous to Arabia, the western regions of Iran and eastern part of Iraq which neighboured Arabia, were comparatively prosperous and utilizable from the aspects of climate, vegetation and other environmental factors.

From the viewpoint of area, the border of Iran reached the Sind River valley including the greater part of Afghanistan as far as the Oxus and Jaxartes Rivers and above the Araxes River which included the present Caucasia upto and including the Shatt-al-Arab. There were the boundaries of Iran then and hence Arabia stands no comparison with Iran. At the time of the rise of Islam and even before that, the eastern regions of Iran were called Khorassan in general, a name which is derived from 'Khor-Assa' meaning the region of sun rise, owing to its being situated in the east of Iran. Thus the eastern part of Iran of those days included Khorassan, soutlhern Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchestan and Sistan, all ofthem together bearing the name Khorassan.

19. According to the statistics for the years 1976 and 1986 the two provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran had the highest population density, whereas the population density f or Iran excluding Urumia Lake but including the unpopulated desert areas, the average was 20.5 per square kilometers f or 1976, and 30.3 f or 1986. In the year 1976 Gilan had an average of 107, and in 1986 141.9. Mazandaran came third with a slight difference after Hamdan. The total population of Gilan and Mazandaran for 1986 was 5,536,018. The population of Tehran has not been taken into account owing to its attraction and numerous other appeals. For Tehran the average in the year 1976 as 194.2, and f or 1986 it was 301 per square kilometers. Source: Iranian Center of Statistics.

Adapted from the book: "Background of the Birth of Islam" by: "S. T. H. Khwarazmi"

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