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Iran's Civilisation before Islam

The Iranian civilisation is considered to be an Aryan civilisation, having a precedent of eleven and even twelve centuries prior to the rise of Islam, after having evolved from a nomadic and tribal society to a central authority, whereas Hejaz had not till then reached the stage of a central government. The first government established in Hejaz was under Islam, whereas the government of media (Ecbatan) had been set up twelve centuries before that of Islam, in Hejaz. It will be an interesting example to quote from an inscription by Darius at a public works project. This inscription is naturally composed in a royal and a pompous style usual in that imperial age, however the content of it is rather interesting. Darius ruled in the years 550 to 529 B.C. The first Iranian inscription dates back to his reign, that is to say prior to him there were no such inscriptions. After a short period of chaos and disorder, Darius was able to establish a vast empire in Iran extending as far as Egypt including the entire region of Shaam, Syria and Egypt, and had thus become a neighbour of Greece. At that time the Eastern Roman had not risen, but there was the Roman Empire in the west which had not till then gained any importance. In the time of Darius the two countries of importance were Greece and Egypt. When Iran conquered Egypt, it also brought Greece under pressure. In the wars of that time, Darius frequently waged against the Greeks, he had to employ the sea route since the Greek territory consisted of a number of islands and land campaign would not have been feasible. As the Iranian ships had no access to the Mediterranean, Darius decided to open a sea way for the Iranian warships to reach the Greek shores. Thus he ordered a canal dug which was the precursor of the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean Sea via the Nile River to the Red Sea. Darius describes the history of this canal in an inscription as follows:

"Ahura-Mazda, the great lord who created the lofty sky, created Man, created Man's good fortune, raised Darius to kingship, has assigned to King Darius this great empire with all these precious horses and multitudes of people. 20 I am King Darius, great king, king over many varied races, king over extensive and remote domains, son of Vishtasb of the Achaemnids; so declares King Darius: I am a Parsi. I govern Egypt from Pars. I decreed this canal be dug to link the between a river called Nile which flows in Egypt to the sea which reaches Iran. 21 This canal has been dug by my command and the ships have sailed via this canal from Egypt to Iran as I had desired."

Thus we see that twelve centuries before the rise of Islam in Arabia, a great and powerful government existed as its eastern neighbour. There is little doubt that amongst the past rulers of Iran Darius was an outstanding figure from the standpoint of ideas, capabilities and policies. This is especially true in connection with his attitude towards the conquered lands since, unlike other great conquerors of the world, he gave more importance to the administration of his domains than merely to conquer them. After retrieving his ancestral territories i.e. the domain of his ancestor Kurosh, he had no inclination to add further territory to his realm, and only wished to create to an extent a welfare administration for his subjects in the extensive realm of Iran of those days. This is a notable aspect of the life of Darius, and thus, according to the writings of orientalists, his accomplishments in that age are definitely outstanding, though this point is not relevant to the present discussion.

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20. It would appear that f or King Darius, horses had more value than the human beings since he has mentioned horses before human beings.

21. Meaning through the Red Sea via the strait of Aden to the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, either of which lay in Iranian domain.

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

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