how a wild weather event in southern Yemen changed the world forever

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The 17th century English invented the steam engine. The aeolipilethe first “steam engine”, was invented by Heron of Alexandria in the first century after Christ. Yes, it was a sphere filled with water that, when heated, rotated; but it is safe to say that Roman scientists had Thomas Savery’s steam engine to reach. how did they have it Jerónimo de Ayanz from NavarreFlorence Rivault, Taqui ad-Din or Giovanni Branca.

The English, in any case, took everything that was floating in the environment and made the most of it: the industrial revolution changed the world thanks to it. As Victor Hugo said, “there is nothing more powerful in the world than an idea whose time has come.” And that’s important because “without their moment”, ideas are nothing. Is it the same with religion?

Muhammad was not the first. Muhammad was not the first monotheistic preacher on the Arabian Peninsula. Between pagan, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian cults, in pre-Islamic Arabia there was a group of religious movements that tried “to return to the true religion of Abraham, whom they considered neither Jew nor Christian, but a pure monotheist: but a hanif (of the Arabic root hnf, meaning “turn away from,” in the sense of one who turns away from idolatry)”.

It was not an easy project and, in fact, most of the Hanifist preachers ended up converted to the other great proselytizing faith of the time, Christianity. But some, especially Zayd Ibn Amr they kept working and managed to create small nuclei of believers in all the important cities of Arabia. The question that many have asked is why did they fail where Mohammed triumphed?

Why did Muhammad triumph? Beyond the charisma and determination of the prophet, researchers have spent years trying to find factors that help understand the rise of Islam. Now a team from the University of Basel just found a key factor to understand what could have happened. And it is that the analysis of the layers of a stalagmite from the Al Hoota cave (in present-day Oman) show that there was an enormous drought the years before the start of Muhammad’s work.

Low Res Map Himyar English Jpg

the great drought. But, to understand it, we must take some perspective. It is not difficult, even today, to find traces of the Himyar kingdom on the plateaus of Yemen. Thanks to a particularly sophisticated irrigation system, they managed to transform a semi-desert region into an enormous succession of fertile fields that made it a regional power. But at the end of the 6th century something changed.

Now we know that what changed was the water: The lack of water destroyed one of the most successful political structures in the region and caused a series of famines, wars and conflicts that turned the Arabian Peninsula into hell. Under those conditions, Islam found its perfect breeding ground. As Reza Aslan has argued on several occasions: Muhammad was, above all, a social reformer who used a successful religious ideology to subvert the unjust power structures of the Arabia of his time.

“There is only one God”. Of course, this is not to say that the drought directly caused the rise of Islam; “however, it was an important factor in the context of the uprisings in the Arab world of the 6th century”, explained Dominik Fleitmann.“The population was experiencing great hardship as a result of famine and war. This meant that Islam found fertile ground: people were looking for a new hope, something that could bring people together again as a society. The new religion offered this.”

The long-term; always the long term. “When we think of extreme weather events, we often think only of a short period afterward, limited to a few years,” Explain Fleitmann. Often overlooked is the fact that changes in climate can lead to the destabilization of states, thus changing the course of history. What will be born in the long term from our current climate crisis?

The 17th century English invented the steam engine. The aeolipilethe first “steam engine”, was invented by Heron of Alexandria in…

The 17th century English invented the steam engine. The aeolipilethe first “steam engine”, was invented by Heron of Alexandria in…

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