‘The rivalry between Rome and Persia of the sixth and early seventh centuries had involved both empires in a series of military and diplomatic dealings with the Arabian tribes to their south. This involvement in the region on the part of the great powers appears to have sparked off what some historians have characterised as a ‘nativist revolt’ amongst elements within Arabian society. By the 620s, the tribes of Arabia had come to be united under the leadership of a religious leader orginating from Mecca known as the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad preached a rigorously monotheist doctrine, strongly influenced by apocalyptic trends within contemporary Christianity, and by Messianic fervour amongst the Jews of the region. Divine judgement was imminent, and all were to submit themselves to the will of the one God. In particular, all Arabs were to set aside their polytheist traditions and embrace the new faith. In return, Muhammad declared that, as descendants of Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael, whom Abraham had cast out into the desert, the Arabs would be granted mastery over the Holy Land which God had promised to Abraham and his seed forever. Perhaps influenced by propaganda disseminated during the course of Hercalius’ sryggle against Khusro II, this return to the Holy Land was to be achieved by means of holy war.
‘Muhammad is said to have died around the year 632. His creed lived on. From 633/4, Roman Palestine suffered savage Arab incursions that combined the terrorising and massacring of the rural population with assaults on towns and cities. Although the size of the Arab armies appears to have been relatively small, the imperial authorities were evidently in no position to offer effective resistance. Intelligence as to the nature of the Arab threat was limited, whilst the rapid advance of the Arab line of battle gave the imperial forces little time to regroup.’
… this is from THE OXFORD HISTORY OF BYZANTIUM, towards the end of Chapter One.
And Seneca wrote somewhere: ‘Religion is recognised by the masses as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.’