AHC: Create a realistic "Through Darkest Europe" style timeline.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by JustinianTheGrand, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. JustinianTheGrand Augustus

    Jun 22, 2018
    Constantinople, Arkansas
    Harry Turtledove's book "Through Darkest Europe" has, in my opinion, a very unrealistic pod. In the novel, the Islamic world is very liberal and democratic and Europe is a hotbed for Christian fundamentalism and terrorism. The issue is not the events themselves but the pod that led to them. The Pod is simply that Aquinas says that faith should trump reason, and Al-Ghazali thinks that the two can work together. I think that it can be generally agreed that this hyperbolic. However the situation is still very interesting, so try to create this same switcheroo but with a more realistic set of events leading to it.
  2. iscariot Well-Known Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    That’s a stupid POD indeed. I haven’t read the book, but it’s absurd that a single line change in religious texts could do this. The sentiment of faith being greater than reason has been followed to the hilt by Christians for millennia, irrespective of whatever was said.

    Okay, so maybe something like as a divergence:

    The Ottomon Empire went the route of Britain OTL, and continued to modernize. They were never broke up at the end of WW1 because the British Empire doesn’t exist ITL due to the European Wars of Religion never ending. There was no Peace of Westphalia. Spain, France and all the religious and hegemonic fascists continue to be totally blind to the possibility of Enlightenment values as they continue to slaughter each other to the modern day.

    Wahhabism (Islamic fundamentalism developed in the 18th century) never found purchase on Muslims if it even existed and as there was no political power that could have supported or spread their ideas (like the House of Saud did in OTL). This ensures Islamic Liberalization would continue without challenge. Also, CIA unlikely to be a factor in causing shenanigans.

    As for Europe, there’s still the Pope— who most likely must support Catholic Spain or Catholic France, depending on who emerges as the stronger in the wars. This kind of political marrying to clergy easily leads to even harsher religious absolutism and fundamentalism. The Catholic Church though is probably too liberal, since philosophy and reason are so integral to Catholic Theology. I feel fundamentalism would more likely emerge from a new cult like sect. But anything could happen if enough political gain is to be had.
  3. John7755 يوحنا Lightweight Faqih

    Dec 30, 2014
    The idea that al-Ghazali is some sort of lone giant among Islamic jurisprudence and that he decided the course of Islamic history, should in truth be cursed and smashed into pieces. It is like the 1257 disaster at Baghdad, mistakes in historical readings and do the Islamic study an injustice. Al-Ghazali was not unique in his views and the ideal that reason is subverted to faith to a degree is a precedence within Islam, not even the Mu'tazila said that reason is something that transcends faith or so forth. Even so, assuming we take the Mu'tazila line, we are left with their precedence, that being the Inquisition of the Middle Abbasid period, that period and jurisprudence that partly caused the rapid decay of the Abbasid polity in terms of its power. Mu'Tazila were also extremely rigid in terms of jurisprudence, more so than even what you call Wahhabi, in short, the Mu'tazila believed too that there was no such thing as cultural considerations and that one may inflict a punishment upon someone before they knew what the crime was. The Mu'tazila reasoned this opinion of theirs, it was not something that was made a necessity of religion by Islam, so they reasoned toward an extremely regressive format of rule similar to say the Legalists of China. If this is who will lead the charge in Islamic history, then the Islamic world would certainly be far worse off than it is now (assuming things are too precarious at the moment).
    FranzAncheNo and Falecius like this.
  4. Falecius Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    Well, as someone who has to teach short introductory courses on Islam, I really, really sympathize with your words here. We often focus a lot on al-Ghazali as teachers (he was indeed very influential, and for class discussion purposes his works, being usually accessible and quite clearly written, are very useful) but he most certainly did not set the trajectory of Sunni Muslim theology by himself. Where he was most important was in spelling out clearly that some forms of Sufism are integral parts of acceptable "orthodoxy" and indeed almost a requirement of it, which by the way is not exactly a "faith trumps reason" approach. He was also an occasionalist who denied causality, but he used also rational arguments to defend that position (that many mu'tazilites had also shared, with Aristotelian philosophers being the common target there). Not that occasionalist approaches were lacking in Christian thought anyway.
    If I had to think a simple and better POD for the challenge however... maybe, get rid of Gerbert of Aurillac, aka Pope Sylvester II. Aside of his importance in initiating the Church reforms that would lead to Gregorian reforms later (and the entire setup of conflict between temporal and spiritual powers in Medieval Europe) he did a lot to promote the introduction/revival of secular learning among the clergy and the translation of scientific texts from Arabic, including IIRC the Logica Vetus, Euclid's Elements and mathematical stuff (not sure if it was al-Khwarizmi's Algebra yet). Critically, he contributed significantly to the introduction of Arabic numerals into Europe, which would have... consequences (I believe that would ultimately happen anyway, that idea is just too useful and at some point merchants would find out).
    John7755 يوحنا likes this.