Islamic culture has been almost universally successful in erasing and overlaying the past traditions of the converted masses in the conquered territories. However, it is the case for Islam as it is for other historical instances of conquest that the cultural imperatives and national aspirations of conquered and submerged ethnicities do not easily vanish. Sometimes their languages continue to survive for long periods of time and even influence the conquerors’ speech. Even where the conquered population adopts the tongue of the ruling group, their customs may still persist. Perhaps few overt customs of the vanquished remain, however an examination of otherwise unrecorded folklore shows traces of the previous culture. The assertion of older traditions may find expression in a religious guise. In the case of the Muslim conquests even where the pre-Islamic religions have been largely replaced, dissident or heretical Islamic sects or varieties of mystical and occult teachings within Islam may become the means of national expression for submerged populations. Hitti summarizes the means by which three vanquished groups asserted their cultural distinctiveness under the Arab yoke:
The sons of Iran were ever mindful of their ancient national glory and never reconciled themselves entirely to the new regime. The Berbers vaguely expressed their tribal feeling and sense of difference by their readiness to embrace any schismatic movement. The people of Syria long expected the rise of a Sufyani to deliver them from the Abbasid yoke.
The continued existence of distinctive pre-Islamic local traditions and regional patriotisms, even where the Islamic faith prevailed, served the important function of braking and diverting the expansion of Islam.
The Persians had, undoubtedly, more success in reasserting their ancient traditions than any other group that fell under the yoke of Islam’s nomadic vanguards. They did so by adopting Islam and eventually modifying it to suit their peculiar worldview. Other conquered national groups, in addition to the Persians, adopted Islam as a strategy to preserve something of their national distinctiveness although with less success. The closely related Kurds are one such group. The Berbers also quickly adopted the triumphant faith but had only partial success in avoiding Arabization. In Syria and Iraq the remnants of national consciousness was expressed by the rise of various schismatic groups, the most successful being the Shiites of Iraq.
Another region with a relatively successful record of preserving its previous culture was Spain. There, Christianity persisted in remote and rural regions and in the cities converted natives formed the nucleus of social discontent. “Secret Christianity” was widespread. These schismatic tendencies were perhaps stronger in Spain than elsewhere due to the persistence of Christian ruled enclaves in the north, paving the way for the ultimate end of Islamic rule in Spain. However, that was not the case for the other areas in the west of the Dar-al-Islam. It is generally true that “in the eastern part of the Islamic world, the coming of Islam did not submerge the consciousness of the past to the same extent as it did in the west.”
The persistence of pre-Islamic civilization expressed itself strongly in the survival of ancient religious traditions which entered into local versions of Islam:
Springs, trees and stones which had been regarded as places of intercession or healing since before the rise of Islam or even of Christianity were sometimes holy to adherents of different faiths. Some examples of this have been noted in modern times: in Syria, the khidr, the mysterious spirit identified with St. George, was revered in springs and other sanctified places; in Egypt, Copts and Muslims alike celebrated the day of St. Damiana …
These also survived in a more visible physical form. As Vryonis points out, the genetic markers of the different conquered populations differentially altered the racial character of the conquering warrior elite in the many areas conquered by the nomadic armies:
The physiognomy of the tribesmen evidently set them off as sharply from the indigenous population as did their peculiar society. It is quite probable that fusion with other groups such as the Kurds, or later with Christians and converts, gradually altered the physical type in many areas …
As indicated above, Iran was the area in which the indigenous population most successfully asserted their national distinctiveness. It is the case that although “Islam has become the dominant cultural force, yet Iranian identity, rooted in its Zoroastrian past, has never quite conceded defeat.” As biologist and physical anthropologist C. D. Darlington observes:
The Persians, who resisted hybridization, preserved their language. … The subtle intelligence of the defeated Persians overwhelmed the political strength of their Arab conquerors and gave a new twist to their artistic invention and also their religious enthusiasm. … The intelligence of the Persians expressed itself in the coming centuries in the characteristic art of the country. But it also expressed itself in their attitude to religion.
If the Persians were to preserve something of their ancient culture they, unlike their longtime Byzantine rivals, had no alternative to working within the matrix of Islam. For “in the former Byzantine countries, prominent citizens had been able to flee to Constantinople and from there to redeem their captive compatriots, while the Iranians … whose country was entirely occupied, had little chance of flight nor had they a state at their disposal to ransom their people.” Elements of the Iranian ruling class from very early in the era of Arab occupation converted to the religion of the conquerors. This was especially true in Iraq where “Iranians being an upper class minority of foreign origin before the Arab conquest, had less resistance to conversion than they had in Iran proper, presumably because joining the Arabs was a way of continuing a degree of social superiority over the Aramaic speaking majority of the population.”
However, under the Umayyads, these Persian converts found the barriers to admission into the ruling class high. Continued discrimination in the first century of the conquest, as Karsh points out led to considerable resentment among the converts:
Even the pious caliph Umar II (717-20), who attempted to equalize the Mawali’s standing, was reputed to have taken a dim view of Muslims and Mawali intermarrying, and forbade Mawali from selling their lands to Muslims. Little wonder that this state of affairs turned the Mawali into an embittered and disgruntled group whose actions were to shake the empire to its core before too long.
In the Persian regions, this resentment served to fuel the Abbasid revolution. In fact the Abbasid emissary and commanding general was “a man of obscure origin, probably of an Iranian family, Abu Muslim.”
The Persians, having made the concession of adopting Islam were able, following the Abbasid revolution, to co-opt the machinery of the Muslim empire and turn it into an instrument to advance Persian culture into central Asia, India and, most of all, into the lands of their ancient Byzantine rivals. Under the Abbasids “Arab Islam succumbed to Persian influence; the caliphate became more a revival of Iranian despotism and less an Arabian sheikhdom. Gradually Persian titles, Persian wines and wives, Persian mistresses, Persian songs, as well as Persian ideas and thought won the day.” Persian culture soon became the norm among the Arab population of the Abbasid regime. “With the intensification of interaction between conqueror and conquered, the Arabs adopted indigenous – especially Iranian – habits, manners and ways of life.”
Even the bloodline of the Abbasid rulers became part Persian. Under the caliph al-Ma’mun Persian triumphalism reached new heights:
The Khurasanians accepted [Abbasid] al-Ma’mun as one of their own and because his mother was an Iranian, called him ’son of our sister’. The rebellion of Rafi’, which had begun because the distant government in Baghdad would not respond to protests against misrule in Khurasan had now lost its point and in 810 he surrendered himself to al-Ma’mun who pardoned him. The poets … soon began to represent al-Ma’mun and his vizier al-Fadl b. Sahl, a Zoroastrian until 806 as opponents of Arabs, and by extension, of Islam itself. One poet said of al-Ma’mun, ‘A power continuing that of Chosroes and his religion has gathered and the Muslims are humbled.’
But while the Persians rose to positions of prominence as officials, scholars and even rulers of local dynasties, they were soon superseded in the Islamic world by tribesmen of more primitive culture and ferocious disposition. “Only with the accession in 833 of al-Mu’tasim did the Persian element in the caliphal armies take second place to newer groups, most prominent amongst which were Turks”. It was the latter who, proving diligent students of their Persian teachers, carried Iranian-Islamic culture into India and into Byzantium ultimately conquering the capital of the Persians ancient enemy, Constantinople. In the words of historian of Iran Richard Frye, “though it was the Arabs who brought Iran and Central Asia together, the Turks were the principal agents for spreading … the Iranian version of Islamic culture to the west, even to Constantinople.”
Despite the success certain elements of the Iranian elite achieved by adopting Islam, which then culminated in the Abbasid revolt, dissatisfaction with the new Islamic order festered for some time finding “expression in a series of religious movements in different parts of Persia”. In 749 an ex-Zoroastrian, Bihafarid assumed the mantle of Prophethood. Sonpadh, who was a Mazdaki associate of the Abbasid mastermind Abu Muslim, rose in revolt in 755. Ustad Sis led a revolt of Zoroastrians in Badghis and although he was executed in 768 there was continuing unrest among his followers. Following Ustad, Yusuf ibn Ibrahim, executed in 778, led the Khurramdin sect which was characterized by a combination of Muslim and Zoroastrian doctrines. Murqanna, who claimed to be a reincarnation of Abu Muslim, seized Bokhara in 776; he was defeated and killed in 783.
The centers of Iranian nationalism and continued anti-Muslim sentiment were the mountainous regions bordering the Caspian Sea. In this area the ancient religion of Zoroaster continued to seize the popular imagination. Apostasy was rife and when Islam finally secured a foothold in Tabaristan “sections of the local population emphasized their continued differentiation by adopting heterodox forms of the new faith”. In Tabaristan as early as 700 the local ruler, the Ispahbad “under the pressure of new Arab attacks … agreed to pay tribute but succeeded in keeping the Muslims out of the country. When the ‘Abbasid revolutionary army reached Ray in 748 the Ispahbad Khurshid readily followed the invitation of Abu Muslim to transfer his allegiance and pay tribute to the new power.” In 781 the rulers of Tabaristan, Tukharistan and Miyandurud “led a dangerous anti Muslim rebellion.”
The following century saw further rebellion in the Caspian region by adherents of a Khurrami leader by the name of Babak. Zoroastrianism ultimately gave way to heretical Shi’ism as the expression of the Persian national spirit. The province of Dailam, in the remote Elburz Mountains which was home to many of Babak’s followers became a focus of revolutionary Zaidi Shi’ism. Revolution against Islam turned into revolution within Islam. Another follower of Babak, Mazyar, King of Tabaristan and a converted Muslim led a revolt which became a social revolution against Islamicized landholders in 839. The caliph al-Mu’tasim “now recognized the danger of this rebellion to Islam” and cooperated with the Tahirids to put down the revolt. Another Babaki rebel leader following Mazyar was Mankjur who was also executed in 841. These rebels were accused “of apostasy from Islam and of a desire to see the Arabs and Turks abased and the ancient glories of Persia restored.” The rulers of Tabaristan revived the use of ancient Persian titles. The adoption of titles such as Ispahbad “among the rulers seems … to attest the survival of Persian national sentiments”. As late as the 10th century, Zoroastrian sentiments could still spark revolts in the Caspian region:
Mardavij ibn Ziyar, a potentate from the Caspian Sea province of Daylam … claimed to be none other than the biblical King Solomon … and spoke openly about reconstituting a great Zoroastrian Iranian empire. This grandiose plan failed to materialize as he was murdered by his Turkish mercenaries in 935.
Thus was extinguished the last Zoroastrian hope of taking back Iran.
So it was that Iranians became reconciled to the permanence of the Islamic religion and sought within the context of orthodox and eventually of heretical Islam to restore their national pride. Iranians made good use of their talents as poets in constructing pro-Persian and anti-Arab propaganda. One such propagandist was the notable Persian dissident, Bashhar ibn Burd, the son of an enslaved Persian aristocrat who was charged with heresy and imprisoned. He was an accomplished poet and “did not miss an opportunity to glorify the memories of ancient Iran. He did not have a high opinion of the Arabs.”
With the advent of the late ninth century Saffarid dynasty “Persian panegyric poetry containing imagery drawn from the imperial Iranian past” first appeared. It was under the subsequent Samanid dynasty that the Persian of the Sasanids, once again became the language of court life. Persian epic poetry chronicling the glorious days of the pre-Islamic shahs was once more cultivated under the patronage of high Samanid officials. These epic historical poems were finalized in the Shahname by Firdawsi before the year 999. This remarkable renaissance marked the Iranians as almost unique among Muslim peoples “in having a strong, conscious link with its pre Islamic past.”
Still another way that the “Persians saved their national pride” was by “claiming that the Prophet’s grandson Husayn married … a daughter of … the last Sasanian king of Persia.” This is one more indication of the determination of the Persians to preserve their ancient culture. It distinguishes them from many other converts in the conquered territories who were busy inventing fake Arab genealogies for themselves. The Buyid sultans, an Iranian dynasty who wielded power in Baghdad over a puppet Abbasid caliph during the tenth century, carried this national resurgence forward another step by restoring Persian court ceremonial. And in an interesting historical sequel, their Seljuk Turk replacements became willing students of the Iranian traditions of their defeated Buyid rivals. As Bulliet observes:
The innovation of the Buyids was the use of the imperial regalia of the Sassanid Empire. A royal crown, the title Shahanshah … all these and more were utilized by the rude Buyid princes to legitimize their regime. … From that time onward Iran’s imperial past became wedded to her Islamic present to such a degree that the two titles adopted simultaneously by the Seljuk Turks when they conquered Iran were Sultan and Shahanshah.
Thus, the Iranians made the best of the Islamic conquest. They burrowed in and managed to insinuate themselves into the fabric of Islam, thereby, preserving much of their national tradition. Moreover, they even managed to take advantage of the Islamic tide to spread their ancient culture beyond the old borders of the Sasanian Empire. In fact, it was the conquests of the Arabs that “brought the various Iranian speaking peoples together in one political unit.” Indeed under the aegis of Islam “Sasanian, as well as Arab, influences came to Central Asia.” And it was in Central Asia that “the first great flowering of Islamic Iranian culture occurred.”
In addition to advancing Persian culture, the Iranian national revival shielded the other indigenous traditions of central Asia. By impeding the advance of Arab culture the Persian revivalists enabled other peoples of inner Asia to retain elements of their own culture in defiance of Arabism and even of some strictures of orthodox Islam. According to Lapidus in Inner Asia “Muslim spirituality … was tempered by a lively folk culture, which included secular entertainments by musicians, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and gypsies. The populace also enjoyed tobacco, tea, and wine.”
The logic of Persian cultural distinctiveness inevitably led to the triumph of schismatic Islamic doctrines in Iranian territory. In the 16th and 17th centuries, under the Safavid dynasty, Shi’ism emerged as the dominant sect in Iran.
The singular regard that ordinary Iranians have for their ancient pre-Islamic past survives to this day. In 1994 classical historian and documentary filmmaker Michael Wood followed in the path taken by Alexander the Great as he conquered an empire stretching from Greece to India. Wood entered Iran during the festival of Ashura, the time of lamentation when the streets were jammed with parades and passion plays. Carnival floats of figures from Iranian history were present in abundance; among them like a “fairy tale villain” was Iskender (Alexander). Wood noted that Iranians still quote the thousand year old words of the poet Firdawsi describing how Alexander crushed Iran. “The great defeat by Alexander has never been forgotten here…In few countries is the sense of the wounds of history so alive.” As he travels through the site where Alexander forced his way through a pass known as the Persian gates Wood observed that “the story of the battle is still told by the local people here; how the Persian hero Ariobarzanes tricked Alexander.” He has the following conversation with one of his local guides:
Wood: “How do you know these stories, Zavoreh?”
Zavoreh: “It’s a tale as they say here that has been passed from chest to chest.”
Wood: “So this is a story that has been handed down from grandfather to ------------------------------father to son; is it in these parts?"
Wood notes that even the guides are impressed by Alexander’s audacity. But then, chillingly, Zavoreh adds the following: “But if I had Alexander here now, I’d like to chop him into little pieces for what he did to Iran.” It is also striking, though unsurprising, that the Iranians view Alexander as a devil, whereas in many Arabic and Turkish speaking regions, he is viewed as a romantic figure. This may be a survival of the legend of Alexander which was passed down to both, converted Muslims among the once Greek speaking conquered people, and to conquering nomads of the steppes who had a natural admiration for a renowned warrior. In Afghanistan, some tribes even believe that they are descended from Alexander’s Macedonians.
One additional effect of Iranian national assertiveness should be noted. It was one of a number of factors and events that impeded the advance of Islam; and this despite Islam’s adoption by the Persians. There can be no doubt that Persian cultural assertiveness slowed down the spread of triumphal Arabism into Asia during those crucial early centuries of the Arab conquests. Also, the schism within Islam and the dynastic rivalries spurred by Iranianism sapped the energy and diverted the resources that would otherwise have gone into further extensions of Islamic territorial conquests.
Iraq and Syria
In the territories of Iraq and Syria, expressions of the older national traditions were present, although in a much weaker form than in Iran. The Semitic speaking masses had been ruled for many centuries by elites speaking Persian in Iraq and Greek in greater Syria. Furthermore, the affinity of most of the population with the closely related Arab culture facilitated the adoption of Arabic language and mores. However, the ancient cultures were not totally consigned to oblivion. Iraq was subject to a series of revolts by schismatic Islamic sects which found strong support among the indigenous population. One such was Kharijism:
Iraq was visited by a steady succession of Khariji revolts … The Kharijis came into existence as a political movement in the 670s, and uprisings were still reported as late as 796 in more remote northern Iraq. Kharijism … is a variety of Islam and Arabs unquestionably predominated in these revolts. Nevertheless, mawali were also drawn to Kharijism …
Later on “the Qarmati movement … sprang up at roughly the same time in eastern Arabia, southern Iraq, northern Iraq and Syria. As with the earlier Khariji revolts, a problem is posed by the mixture of Arab tribesmen and non-Arab peasants in the same movement, but the latter element was particularly evident in southern Iraq.” The position of the Muslims as a small minority of the population motivated them to maintain their solidarity and cohesiveness in the first centuries. However, Bulliet contends that once Islam was well entrenched, this solidarity vanished. In the case of Iraq “following the point of 50 percent conversion in 882, there are again parallels with Iran. Instead of independent local dynasties, one encounters a progressive deterioration in the central governments ability to control the countryside.”
In Syria, as in Iraq, submerged local nationalism found an expression, not only in the survival of Christianity, but more importantly in the emergence of highly unorthodox and even syncretistic Islamic sects. In fact, the number of dissenting Islamic movements was greater in the relatively small Syrian province than in many larger Muslim territories. The mountains of the Syrian coast and of Lebanon provided a convenient refuge in which both Christian and heretical Muslim sectarians were able to attain considerable autonomy. The mountainous redoubts in Syria is one example of the many cases where
heterodox Islamic sects have frequently made their strongest appeal to isolated populations previously unconverted or only nominally converted to Islam. The Zaidis in the mountains of northern Iran, the Fatimids in the mountains of western Tunisia, and the Almohads in the mountains of Morocco followed this line of development. Moreover, such heterodox sects not infrequently incorporated practices of non-Muslim origin to make them more appealing to the potential convert. The Bektashis in Anatolia and the pseudo-Muslim Berber religions of the Barghwata and of the prophet Ha-Mim in Morocco and Algeria afford examples of this tendency.
Furthermore with specific reference to Syria:
In short, considering the Christian tone of some Druze and Nusairi beliefs, it is far more likely that the proselytizing efforts that produced these sects were deliberately aimed at a largely unconverted Christian population in the mountains of coastal Syria than that converts were made primarily among Muslims who subsequently took refuge in the mountains.”
Cultural assertiveness in Syria also took on a decidedly political coloration. After the Abbasid revolution, Syrian nationalism expressed itself in loyalty to the recently deposed Umayyads who had made their capital in the province and, undoubtedly, incorporated many local Syrian particularities into their outlook. The otherwise orthodox Sunni Umayyad faction even developed a peculiar apocalyptic religious outlook based on their deposed dynasty. “In 752 a rising in Syria took place in support of the deposed Umayyad dynasty to which that province for long retained its loyalty. … the pro-Umayyad party began to speak of a Messianic figure of the Umayyad House who would … return to this world and establish a reign of justice.” It did not take the ruthless Abbasid dynasty long to crush their opposition. The Syrian national revolt was subsequently transferred to Spain where the Syrian Muslims formed an important part of the Muslim elite; and these Syrian Muslims paved the way for the accession of the Spanish Umayyad dynasty.
Egypt and North Africa
In Egypt the local Christian Copts were a population more racially and culturally distinct from their Arab masters than were the indigenous populations of Syria and Iraq. So it was that Copts clinging for a long period of time to their Christian religion were the main guardians of the ancient pre-Arab culture. The first century of Abbasid rule witnessed frequent Coptic rebellions. However, these revolts were usually in alliance with better equipped and more warlike Arabs with grievances against their Abbasid overlords. Unfortunately for the rebels Egypt, by virtue of its geography and unlike Iran and Syria, had no redoubts where carriers of the old nationalism, non-Muslims and Muslim heretics could hold out.
West of Egypt, the Arabs encountered more formidable opponents. The tribal Berbers resisted Arabisation, although, like their more civilized Persian counterparts they adopted Islam and enlisted in the armies of their Arab masters. They were less successful than the Persians in preserving their ancient traditions, possibly because they had no high culture or ancient glories to protect. However, their continued resistance also, undoubtedly, was one of the factors in constraining Arab expansion and keeping the Muslim hold on Spain weaker than it was elsewhere. Modern Arab historian Abun-Nasr points out that in “the countryside Berber remained the dominant language, and Islamic heterodox or even heretical doctrines had a special appeal as a means of rejecting the legitimacy of Arab rule”. Indeed, although “some of the Berber population resisted the coming of Islamic rule … when they did become Muslims Khariji ideas spread among them.”
In Spain the assertion of submerged national identity was carried on by a series of Christian martyrs who deliberately courted death by publicly blaspheming Islam. There were also a series of separatist revolts in the provinces led by neo-Muslims “who posed as nationalist champions”. One of them a “Moslem descendant of a Visigothic count” ultimately apostatized to the Christian faith of his ancestors. The independent Christian kingdoms of the north gave assistance to all such rebels whether Christian or Muslim.
Despite the slow and painful Turkish conquest and the shifting of borders back and forth, Anatolia shows numerous pre-Islamic survivals among its large, once Byzantine, converted population. One expression of the Anatolian cultural spirit was in the peculiar syncretistic forms of Islam prevailing in many parts of the territory. By the time of the Turkish migrations Islam had lost completely its Arab ethnic exclusivity and enthusiastic proselytism was the order of the day. “The great extent of religious syncretism in Anatolian volksreligion is in part to be explained by the desire of the dervishes to convert the Christians.” Some Christians “were prepared for assimilation … by the religious syncretism that tended to equate Islamic practices and saints with those of Christians.” Sufi sects were notably active in spreading the word of Islam to the conquered Byzantines. In turn, their own teachings inevitably absorbed many Christian practices. In the Bektashi Sufi order
many doctrines and practices are similar to those of the Christians … It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that similar practices and doctrines existed because of the entrance of Christians into the order, and because of the close relations between Bektashis and Christians. … This syncretism, which so facilitated the conversion from Christianity to Islam, recalls the religious syncretism that had accelerated the transition from paganism to Christianity a thousand years earlier in Anatolia.
Mawlawi dervishes were also active in converting non-Muslims and made members of the clergy a particular target. “The conversion of monks and priests was of critical importance, as they were the very bulwark of the Christian element against the eroding process of Islamization. Efflaki speaks of the conversion of monks … and of Jewish rabbis.” The account of Mawlawi founder Rumi’s funeral “indicates quite clearly that a powerful process of religious syncretism was in dynamic motion by which Christians and Jews were accommodating themselves to this particular Muslim religious fraternity. The very syncretism and mutual accommodation of dervishes and Christians would eventually result in the absorption of a great many Christians through conversion.”
As in other Islamic territories these unorthodox sects were occasionally foci of rebellion and unrest and even verged on the edge of complete apostasy. There was a rising in western Anatolia ca 1416 by Badr-al-Din and his followers who, among other things preached a communistic doctrine “and went even further by declaring the Christian and Muslim religions to be equally valid.” Even centuries later at the height of the Ottoman Empire the authorities would find it necessary to take action against such dangerous Muslim-Christian syncretisms. One such “heretical sect was the Khubmesihis, who taught that Jesus was superior to Muhammad and seem to have been centered in Istanbul in the seventeenth century. … The sect was said to be inspired by the heretic Kabid who held similar views and was executed in 1527.”
There were Byzantines who adopted Turkish customs and language but retained their ancestral Christianity. These Turkish speaking Anatolian Christians were known as Karamanlidhes. “The Karamanlidhes, like the Mozarabs who imitated the Arabs, often had Turkish names, and imitated Turkish customs”.
Language was another area of significant Byzantine survivals. The Greek language “has left important philological traces, via loan words in both the Turkish Hochsprache and the Turkish dialects of Anatolia.” In rural Anatolia, even up to the present day “the Greek influence becomes readily apparent in the significant substratum of Greek loan words in the spoken Anatolian of modern Turkey.” The importance of Greek speaking craftsmen and technicians in the newly conquered lands is reflected by many Greek words and expressions relating to economic activity. This is particularly apparent in the maritime industry where as Vryonis states “Byzantine naval life has left an indelible impression in the Turkish language by virtue of the large number of termini technici which were passed from Greek … into Turkish.”
Turkish political and social institutions are replete with vestiges from Byzantium. Vryonis details numerous instances of Byzantine survival in the administrative, military, fiscal and ceremonial institutions under the Seljuk, Ottoman and other Anatolian Turkish states. Another probable Byzantine relic “the Anatolian guild-futuwwa complex possibly reflects both a direct and an indirect Byzantine influence. All this points to strong similarities in Byzantine and Seljuk-Ottoman urban life and towns.”
Anatolian folk culture has significant pre-Islamic elements. Vryonis gives many examples of survivals within folk culture: cuisine, religious, marriage and family practices, folk religion including continuing reverence paid to Christian saints and shrines and baptism, ancient pagan survivals that continued under Christianity and was passed on to the Muslims, and folk literature. Vryonis summarizes the major impacts, both obvious and hidden that pre-Islamic culture had on Turkish ruled Anatolia:
…the Islamized Byzantine population brought with it a great part of its popular culture and consequently ‘Byzantinized,’ partially, the emerging society on the folk level. Inasmuch as the formal culture was Islamic and the language Turkish, this Byzantine ingredient is not immediately apparent, but a detailed examination of Anatolian society reveals its presence in all major aspects of life.
In Southeast Asia, a region initially converted by peaceful means, the survival of pre-Muslim culture is to be expected. And, indeed, here “village culture was in fact compounded of animist, Hindu, and Islamic elements. … Islam was … assimilated to a village religious mentality that focused on belief in a world of spirits, demons, and powers of nature.” Southeast Asian Islamic culture exemplifies the cultural experience of other areas where Islam first entered by non-military means. West Africa was similar in that “the process of conversion was slow … The result was not the formation of a uniform Islamic culture but of a plethora of local variations upon Islamic practice.”
One pre-Islamic survival that became attached to the societies established by the violent and free-spirited Muslim Arabs and Turks was that of oriental despotism. Such despotism, possibly originating among the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians passed into both Persia and Byzantium. However, despotism conformed so well to the Islamic ideology of submission that its ultimate emulation by the conquerors of those empires was inevitable. The process of despotism’s triumph is described in the next chapter.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 485.
 Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, p. 87.
 Ibid, p. 188.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 277.
 Paolo Bassi, The Iranian Identity Crisis: Islam v. Iranian Identity, Faith Freedom International, (internet) 4/27/2006.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, pp. 345-46.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 308.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, pp. 83-84.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 27.
 Hourani, History of the Arab Peoples, p. 32.
 Hitti, The Arabs, A Short History, p. 109.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 26.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 72.
 Ibid, p. 91.
 Frye, The Heritage of Central Asia, p. 231.
 Lewis, The Arabs in History, p. 101.
 Frye, The Heritage of Central Asia, pp. 224-25.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 100.
 Ibid, p. 199.
 Ibid, p. 202.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 45.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 100.
 Ibid, p. 199.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, pp. 59-60.
 Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam, Amherst NY, Prometheus, 2003, p. 45.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 48.
 Soucek, A History of Inner Asia, p. 73.
 Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, p. 87.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 60.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, pp. 48-9.
 Frye, The Heritage of Central Asia, p. 221.
 Soucek, A History of Inner Asia, p. 73.
 Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, p. 350.
 Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander, video, 1994.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 84.
 Ibid, p. 89.
 Ibid, p. 85.
 Ibid, pp. 111-12.
 Lewis, The Arabs in History, p. 100.
 Hasan, The Arabs and the Sudan, p. 35.
 Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period, p. 52.
 Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, p. 39.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 516-19.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 359.
 Ibid, p. 372.
 Ibid, p. 390.
 Ibid, p. 391.
 Ibid, p. 359.
 Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, p. 281.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 460.
 Ibid, p. 462.
 Ibid, p. 476.
 Ibid, p. 481.
 Ibid, pp. 465-75.
 Ibid, p. 480.
 Ibid, pp. 481-95.
 Ibid, p. 444.
 Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, p. 395.
 Ibid, p. 428.