Droughts in the sixth century paved the way for Islam

Peer-Reviewed Publication



Extreme dry conditions contributed to the decline of the ancient South Arabian kingdom of Himyar. Researchers from the University of Basel have reported these findings in the journal Science. Combined with political unrest and war, the droughts left behind a region in disarray, thereby creating the conditions on the Arabian peninsula that made possible the spread of the newly emerging religion of Islam.

On the plateaus of Yemen, traces of the Himyarite Kingdom can still be found today: terraced fields and dams formed part of a particularly sophisticated irrigation system, transforming the semi-desert into fertile fields. Himyar was an established part of South Arabia for several centuries.

However, despite its former strength, during the sixth century CE the kingdom entered into a period of crisis, which culminated in its conquest by the neighboring kingdom of Aksum (now Ethiopia). A previously overlooked factor, namely extreme drought, may have been decisive in contributing to the upheavals in ancient Arabia from which Islam emerged during the seventh century. These findings were recently reported by researchers led by Professor Dominik Fleitmann in the journal Science.

Petrified water acts as climate record

Fleitmann’s team analyzed the layers of a stalagmite from the Al Hoota Cave in present-day Oman. The stalagmite’s growth rate and the chemical composition of its layers (see box) are directly related to how much precipitation falls above the cave. As a result, the shape and isotopic composition of the deposited layers of a stalagmite represent a valuable record of historical climate.

“Even with the naked eye you can see from the stalagmite that there must have been a very dry period lasting several decades,” says Fleitmann. When less water drips onto the stalagmite, less of it runs down the sides. The stone grows with a smaller diameter than in years with a higher drip rate.

Isotopic analysis of the stalagmites layers allows researchers to draw conclusions about annual rainfall amounts. For example, they discovered not only that less rain fell over a longer period, but that there must have been an extreme drought. Based on the radioactive decay of uranium, the researchers were able to date this dry period to the early sixth century CE, albeit only with an accuracy of 30 years.

Detective work in the case of Himyar’s demise

“Whether there was a direct temporal correlation between this drought and the decline of the Himyarite Kingdom, or whether it actually didn’t begin until afterwards – that was not possible to determine conclusively from this data alone,” explains Fleitmann. He therefore analyzed further climate reconstructions from the region and combed through historical sources, collaborating with historians to narrow down the time of the extreme drought, which lasted several years.

“It was a bit like a murder case: we have a dead kingdom and are looking for the culprit. Step by step, the evidence brought us closer to the answer,” says the researcher. Helpful sources included, for example, data about the water level of the Dead Sea and historical documents describing a drought of several years in the region and dating to 520 CE, which do indeed connect the extreme drought with the crisis in the Himyarite Kingdom.

“Water is absolutely the most important resource. It is clear that a decrease in rainfall and especially several years of extreme drought could destabilize a vulnerable semi-desert kingdom,” says Fleitmann. Furthermore, the irrigation systems required constant maintenance and repairs, which could only be achieved with tens of thousands of well-organized workers. The population of Himyar, stricken by water scarcity, was presumably no longer able to ensure this laborious maintenance, aggravating the situation further.

Political unrest in its own territory and a war between its northern neighbors, the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires, spilling over into Himyar, further weakened the kingdom. When its western neighbor of Aksum finally invaded Himyar and conquered the realm, the formerly powerful state definitively lost significance.

Turning points in history

“When we think of extreme weather events, we often think only of a short period afterwards, limited to a few years,” Fleitmann says. The fact that changes in the climate can lead to states being destabilized, thereby changing the course of history, is often disregarded. “The population was experiencing great hardship as a result of starvation and war. This meant Islam met with fertile ground: people were searching for new hope, something that could bring people together again as a society. The new religion offered this.”

That does not mean to say the drought directly brought about the emergence of Islam, emphasizes the researcher. “However, it was an important factor in the context of the upheavals in the Arabian world of the sixth century.”

Box: Precipitation and stalagmites

In tropical and sub-tropical regions, there is a connection (correlation) between the amount of precipitation and its isotopic composition, also known as the “amount effect”. The more it rains, the more the ratio between the lighter and heavier oxygen isotopes, 16O and 18O, shifts in favor of the lighter 16O in the precipitation. These changes are recorded in the stalagmite from Oman, as it is formed from dripping rainwater. Based on isotopic measurements of the stalagmite’s limestone layers, it is possible to determine the exact ratio of 16O and 18O and, in combination with uranium dating, to reconstruct how much it rained at what point in time.






Droughts and societal change: the environmental context for the emergence of Islam in late Antique Arabia



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John Tillman
June 17, 2022 2:03 pm

During the Dark Ages Cool Period, when Europe suffered barbarian invasions and Maya civilization collapsed. Ditto the Tang Dynasty.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
Alastair gray
Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 2:16 pm

The Romans having been the meanest gangsters around enslaved large parts of the known world but kept a decadent home society quiet using bread and circuses or cocaine and Netflix.
Along came
Atila and his cohorts with superior military technology – horse archery and took the legions to pieces
Nothing to do with climate. Decadence vs Darwinian selection

Iain Russell
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 17, 2022 2:42 pm

‘What did the Romans ever do for us? Roads, harbours , bridges aqueducts, viaducts, sewerage……’

Alastair gray
Reply to  Iain Russell
June 17, 2022 8:48 pm

An ancient Briton or Gaul would have viewed the legions in much the same light as Ukrainians view Caesar Putin and his murderous hordes

Old Man Winter
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 17, 2022 2:46 pm

The term “The Fall of Rome” makes it sound like it collapsed because of its own weight. In
reality, it was pushed!

Reply to  Old Man Winter
June 17, 2022 6:41 pm

It survived , just the capital city moved to Constantinople.
We call them Byzantine but they didnt know the term , instead they considered themselves a continuation of the Roman Empire

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Duker
June 18, 2022 5:51 am

Yes, it never really fell.
Reading a really interesting book on the time called The Bright Ages.

And while drought contributed, Islam mostly exists because of the plague which hammered both Persians and Rome and left them too weak to resist.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
June 18, 2022 12:15 pm

Byzantine and Sassanian armies weakened each other.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 4:59 pm

War in the decades before the Arab conquest of Byzantine Palestine and overthrow of the Persian Empire.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
John Tillman
Reply to  Duker
June 18, 2022 4:34 pm

The Greek population of Byzantion most surely did know the term. The Eastern Roman Empire was at various times during its over a millennium of existence called Byzantine.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 17, 2022 3:04 pm

AG, Atila the Hun swept out of the Asian steppes centuries after the Germanic Vandals and Visigoths finally sacked Rome.

BTW, Attila’s cavalry had a major technological advantage. Huns invented the stirrup, which allowed controlling the horse with feet and knees, freeing hands for archery. In modern rodeo, cowboys use the same techniques when roping. I trained our quarter horses the same.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 4:05 pm

Huns and other steppe nomads got stirrups from the Chinese, who invented single and paired versions in the first few AD centuries, possible the 1st century..

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 4:24 pm

Sorry. Meant to write possibly the 2nd century, ie AD 101 to 200. But certainly by the 3rd century, ie AD 201 to 300.

Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 7:52 pm

So everything was coming from China even back in those ancient times?

The more things change . . .

John Tillman
Reply to  Mr.
June 20, 2022 5:10 pm

With minimal interruption in the supply chain.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 4:36 pm

I’ve rarely found it necessary to stand on the stirrups to rope. Certainly when moving among a herd to rope calves for medical treatments, castration or branding, there’s no need. Even to throw the Houlihan.

In calf roping competition, speed is of the essence, and seated is how you rope.


During his years competing at Pendleton, I got to be friendly with Roy Cooper. In his prime, he was the best ever.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 6:21 pm

How overweight real working ranch cowpokes rope, as opposed to high dollar athletes with the hand quickness of boxers:

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 6:25 pm

Truth be told, I don’t ever recall a time in my 60 years of roping when Ah eveh done stood up in mah sturps.

Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 7:54 pm

In calf roping competition, speed is of the essence, and seated is how you rope.

Well if catching them in order to cut their knackers off, no wonder they turn on all speed to outrun you.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 6:45 pm

Cavalry could not defeat highly organized Roman infantry formations. They were hell on civilians and disorganized soldiers. Rome did not “fall” as a result of a decisive set piece battle between opposing forces – it was a coup conducted by a sophisticated Gothic king Odoacer against an extremely weak Roman emperor.

John Tillman
Reply to  Duane
June 17, 2022 7:28 pm

Eastern cavalry formations did indeed utterly destroy Roman heavy/medium inaftry, until they figured out how to defeat light cavalry.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 19, 2022 9:50 pm

Downraters must never have heard of the crushing Roman loss of seven legions at Carrhae:


Alastair gray
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 8:59 pm

Not so Rud Atila about 450 AD Alaric the Goth 410 . Atila came from Hungary. Point is that the word barbarian was used like fascist today as anyone who opposed your globalist hegemony.
Maybe you are thinking ofGhengis Khan

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 18, 2022 12:26 am

Quarter horses.. is that like a quarter chicken, for people not able to eat a whole one?

I’ll get me coat..

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 18, 2022 2:02 am

to add to Ruds comment, the stirrups were highly significant when used in conjunction with a specially shaped bow. the net result was that the Hun cavalry could get the purchase to send arrows significantly further and more accurately than before and the shape of the bow allowed firing to take place around the horses head. all in all a significant advance.

however what did the Western Romans was the rise of a number of well organised enemies who were chased to roman borders by the Huns well before Atilla. The net result was the need to accommodate unsubdued barbarians within the empires borders, including 200,000 goths. this internal weakening was not helped by roman political machinations whereby not only did intrigues and coups carry on with the eastern empire but within the West as well.

With the vandals being ceded North africa and Carthage and other tribes effectively controlling other provinces, tax revenue diminished sharply. this meant the Roman army was cut drastically in size and could no longer hold its western provinces together. The east of course continued for another thousand years.,

John Tillman
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 17, 2022 6:10 pm

Climate change had a lot to do with the fall of Rome. Decadence and lack of kids were impoortant factors, but the main driver of the folk migrations was bad weather in the barbarian homeland regions.

Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 6:06 am

John, I watched a series on the various barbarians and one thing mentioned was bad weather. In around 425 the Rhine froze over around Christmas and that allowed hoards to cross. I watched awhile ago so date may be off.

Reply to  mkelly
June 25, 2022 12:48 am

Thanks for your contribution ….Christmas [ late December ] is winter in the northern hemisphere and the Rhine not irregularly froze in winter conditions ….. Rivers such as the Rhine could also be crossed in times of hot dry summers and of course by watercraft ….It was the Hunnic tribes invasions of eastern Europe starting in the 4th century CE that generated a cascading series of barbarian incursions over the borders of the Roman Empire ….Climatic deterioration may have compelled the Huns to migrate westward in search of pastureland for their horses and plunder

Reply to  Alastair gray
June 17, 2022 6:38 pm

Atila of the Huns did not conquer Rome, he was defeated by Rome. The Huns were actually sent packing by Germanic tribes who, decades after Attila’s death, deposed the last Western Roman emperor.

The fall of Rome had nothing to do with military technology. It was a complex series of developments that took place across more than a century, including in-migration by Germanic peoples, political corruption, loss of trade, poor leadership, transfer of power to the eastern empire of Constantinople, and the Romanization of the rest of Europe that was no longer comprised of disorganized primitive societies.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Duane
June 17, 2022 7:56 pm

Not to mention the plagues that swept through Rome starting at the end of the second century.

New diseases from the tropics including measles and possibly typhus. It’s possible that the western provinces lost a third of their population.

The loss of manpower led to difficulty in maintaining the strength of the legions.

Reply to  Pat Frank
June 17, 2022 10:07 pm

I recently watched a BBC documentary including one of the Roman’s most advanced weapon, what today would be called artillery.

It was a very large crossbow that could be dismantled for transportation and the bolt shafts were maybe 30 mm in diameter and could be fired at targets possibly one kilometre away or more accurately.

That weapon was far superior to anything potential opponents had.

Reply to  Duane
June 17, 2022 10:02 pm

Germanic Tribes, the Goths from Gotland now part of Sweden, capital of Gotland is Visby.

A major trading centre for Baltic Region Gotland attracted merchants from many countries but much earlier when there was insufficient land to support the growing population (Viking means travel, a journey by Germanic Tribes, not one ethnic group) and a poll was conducted, those who drew a short straw agreed to leave and those who stayed agreed to compensate them for their land and any possessions they had to leave behind.

And the Goths travelled across Europe and Great Britain to raid and to settle.

The Romans named one area Germania, now Germany of course, where they were defeated on a battleground.

I am a descendant from Gotland.

Last edited 11 months ago by Dennis
Reply to  Dennis
June 22, 2022 7:25 am

The Visigoths and Ostrogoths never ventured to colonize the British Isles …Nor did the Gothic tribes originally derive from ‘ Gotland’ .which was almost certainly a settlement place-name .. Historical and ethnographical studies suggest they migrated from Poland and the Scandinavian mainland

Reply to  Duane
June 25, 2022 1:09 am

Attila died in mysterious circumstances in a ‘horda’ camp – possibly poisoned or of a heart attack …He was not ‘defeated by Rome ” and the Hun’s were “not sent packing by Germanic tribes” ……The Romans and a coalition of Teutonic auxiliaries defeated the Huns and their allies in a pivotal battle at Chalon’s Francona …….The compound bow and the horse-powered mobility of the Huns were indeed advantageous military technologies that mauled and overwhelmed the frontier Germanic tribes such as the Goths and the Roman legions themselves for the good part of a century until the Hun’s were decisively defeated at Chalon’s

Zurab abayev
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 18, 2022 3:17 am

Please tell me which side won the battle of catalaunian field…romans adjusted to steppe warriors for centuries. Huns defeated Alans not by military prowess but tired them.out by nonstop war as per ammian marcellin… so, in our modern language, they won because of better economy!

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  Alastair gray
June 18, 2022 10:10 am

The Western Roman Empire went into decline with the onset of the Early Antique Little Ice Age from 350 AD.

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
June 22, 2022 7:37 am

Yes 350 CE is a very interesting date isn’t it ?…. Anthony and the WUWT team are you intending to report on the research of Ken Tankersely et al into the cosmic airburst that destroyed the Hopewell culture of the Ohio River Valley in the 4th century CE ?

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
June 22, 2022 7:44 am

American Airburst : Comet Fragments Destroy Ancient Midwest Culture ” https://cosmictusk.com/hopewell-comet-airbursts-in-ohio-and-midwest/

Reply to  John Tillman
June 22, 2022 7:06 am

No not ‘during the dark ages cool period ” …..The Tang Dynasty and the Mayan civilization collapsed circa 910 -20 CE at the cusp of the Medieval Warm Period – almost three centuries after the Arabian peninsula droughts and rise of Islam … Furthermore one stalagmite study in one Omani cave is meaningless . There is no ‘temporal correlation ” between the 520’s drought, the decline of the Himyarite Kingdom and the ascendancy of Islam ..The ‘detective work ” is 50 – 100 years amiss .The real cataclysmic watershed events – and I hope you read this Charles – were the Persian – Byzantine wars that exhausted and degraded the two powers , the climatic upheavals of the 530s and 540’s CE ; the devastating rupture of the Marib Dam sometime between 570 -575 CE – very close to the year Mohammed was allegedly born and five decades after the 520’s aridity period resulting in a documented diaspora of some 50 000 inhabitants from Yemen – and the volcanic eruption of 626 CE [ not mentioned in this article ] ….. 626/ 27 was the year Mohammed and his jihadists seized the Jewish majority city of Yathrib [ now Medina ] after the governors offered him and his small coterie asylum four years earlier. One Byzantine source attested the 626/27 volcanic dust veil solar darkening lasted almost 18 months According to Dominik Fleitmann ” Islam met with fertile ground : people were searching for new hope, something that could bring people together again as a society .The new religion offered this ” ..What revisionist politically correct nonsense. The truth is Islam was a millenarian apocalyptic creed led by a ruthless opportunistic hellfire preacher [Mohammed’s dying commands were to purge Arabia of Jews and Christians .Read the relevant Bukhari Hadith ] that borrowed heavily from Abrahamic precursors, exploited the climatic turmoil of the Late Antiquity Little Ice Age [ particularly the 626/27 CE eruption ] and was imposed by terror, forced conversion Dhimmitude and mass murder on the destabilized and vulnerable pagan Jewish and Christian communities of Arabia. We know this not just from patchy, fragmented historical records such as the The Seventh Century in West Syrian Chronicles but from the Sira , Hadith and Quran . Islam’s very own sacred sources .I suspect if the good Professor Fleitmann told the truth about this it would be career ending .

Reply to  Stuart Hamish
June 22, 2022 7:46 am

And the 540’s Justinian Plague which must have spread into the Arabian peninsula via trade routes

Reply to  John Tillman
June 23, 2022 1:48 am

Why was my reply to John Tillman’s comment displaced down the thread to appear under Ulric Lyon’s ?

June 17, 2022 2:08 pm

The difference between the 6th century and now is that their water wasn’t being contaminated or sold to foreign interests or being rerouted by non-farming & non-ranching big business or allowed to dry up because of “mismanagement” as it is here today, especially in the US

Tom Halla
June 17, 2022 2:26 pm

I believe there was also a plague at the same time as the decline of Himyar. Cooling periods are not very pleasant periods in history.

John Tillman
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 17, 2022 7:42 pm
June 17, 2022 2:35 pm

Soil erosion and the deserts now found in the ancient world are not a coincidence. Ecosystems have somehow become external to ‘climate change’ in discourse but this is a conceptual error. Soil erosion is not what most people think i.e. eroding cliffs and gulleys. For climates, the soil erosion means the loss of organics. Largely invisible, the landscape desertifies. Soils erode in place. The loss of humates and fungi results in a water retention coefficient orders of magnitude less. The position of descending air-masses and intertropical convergence zone dynamics are tightly bound to surface conditions. The human impact on the landscape is clearly visible from space. It’s not a stretch to think this has impacted energetics, and continues to do so.

Last edited 11 months ago by JCM
Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 2:55 pm

This new (and mostly interesting) paper teaches two worthwhile lessons:

  1. NEVER trust a sensational paper title. The title connects this newly proven drought with the rise of Islam. Yet the paper text explicitly says, “This does not mean to say the drought brought about the emergence of Islam”, emphasizes the researcher. Yeah, since Mohammed was born in Mecca in 530 and died in Medina 632, before the drought. It is 1124km from Mecca to the Yemen border. The Himyarite kingdom occupied the northern mountainous portion of Yemen per the paper. Little to NO connection between the central Arabian tribes where Mohammed fostered Islam, and Himyar across that much truly barren desert at that time.
  2. NEVER trust climate alarmists. This ancient local drought occurred mid 600’s as a result of (and more evidence of) purely natural variation. No different than the present drought in the equivalently semi-arid and also partly mountainous US SW, which has occured many times before (Chaco Canyon equivalent to Himyar proof) when there was NO AGW to blame.
John Tillman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 4:12 pm

The Himyarite kingdom did fall before Mohammed, but that doesn’t mean that cooler, drier climate didn’t contribute to its decline.

The region began drying out with global cooling before Mohammed. Yemen came under Muslim control in the last years of his life.

Previously it and other Arabian Sea states to its east had been Persian vassals.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
Rich Davis
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 10:13 am

Think you had a Brandon moment there Rud. The 6th century ended in the year AD 600.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 4:31 pm

Typo: Mohammed was born in 570, not 530. This factual error leads me to distrust your proofreading, hence the entire posting.

I also note that the date 520 (+/- 30 = 490 to 550, late 5th to mid 6th century) is the date of the drought mentioned in the article. Nevertheless, you claim “This ancient local drought occurred mid 600’s….”

Lesson learned: NEVER trust a random poster on the internet.


Could a drought have contributed to the rise of Islam? Yeah, it could have. So what? Weather and climate have always changed driving evolution. Humans have found themselves in a different environment than their ancestors in the exact same location. A new environment where they could not live. So they moved. (Bitching about the good old days.)

Last edited 11 months ago by Old.George
H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 17, 2022 5:07 pm

We traveled through much of New Mexico Indian country, even went to Chaco Canyon. My wife brought up the question about possible influence of eruptions (Malpais Lava Flow) and we’re old enough to well remember the 50s Texas drought. Chaco was and is clearly marginal, they probably were smart enough to migrate. Our son is old enough to have a journalism degree when they taught “just the facts.” Paper has short abstract, and as you recognize all you can say about EurekAlert! is that it only promotes Eureka, We have Lost it.

Peta of Newark
June 17, 2022 4:31 pm

See the map/screenshot

Wind the clock back and when the Himyar were around and Yemen would have been an extension of the green bit that still is visible in Ethiopia.
The greenery coming out of Sudan, across Ethiopia would have reached over the Gulf of Aden and covered not only Yemen but also Oman.
This forming the southern edge of what was The Fertile Crescent and would have extended further east to maybe have joined up with the greenery visible in Pakistan

With their terraces and irrigation they were effectively pumping water into the sky which, in that part of world so close the the sea, would have caused lots more rain to fall than otherwise would.
By definition they were doing their own contemporary version of (things have never been better) Intensive Agriculture

Did someone say there was a plague.
No surprise, that’s what you get with intensive agriculture. You run the soil down to some number of Liebig Limiters, the plants get ill and thus the folks eating them become ill.
Just Like Now
Except we have plagues of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer plus child and adult dementias – not just a few swollen Buboes in our armpits.

But when they became ill, large numbers of workers left (as in the UK right now with seasonal workers and Covid, they all went home to Poland) and thus the laborious work of maintaining the terraces and thus the rainfall stopped..
intensive agriculture causing intense soil erosion on already ancient and highly weathered soils brought down the Himyar.

Esp as the were fenced in by the sea on 3 sides effectively – there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from neighbours in a similarly dire strait.
(Oh hi Vladimir, how’s things?)

Himyar brought about their own demise.
It was coming anyway but they massively speeded it up

Just like now.

What happened to the Himyar is happening here and now but where the Himyar were a small local event, what’s happening now is global – we all have nowhere to run.

‘Natural Variation’ plus Cause/Effect muddles – would almost count as another modern day plague.
(Probably already covered by ‘dementia’ or strictly, Magical Thinking by folks who cannot handle the truth, fondly imagining that all humans are and always have been, some sort of Guardians of Nature.
sweet but sad)

June 17, 2022 4:35 pm

What is the 6th century CE in AD or BC?

John Tillman
Reply to  littlepeaks
June 17, 2022 4:43 pm

AD 501 to 600.

Reply to  John Tillman
June 17, 2022 5:02 pm


John Tillman
Reply to  littlepeaks
June 17, 2022 6:11 pm

De nada!

John in NZ
Reply to  littlepeaks
June 17, 2022 8:53 pm

CE is short for “Common Era”

Non christian historians use it instead of AD (anno domini).

June 17, 2022 5:00 pm

“It was a bit like a murder case: we have a dead kingdom and are looking for the culprit. Step by step, the evidence brought us closer to the answer,”


They have their culprit “climate change” and are looking for murders they can pin it on.

June 17, 2022 5:30 pm

You will have to go an awful long way back into geological history to find when Yemen was lush and verdant. This claim that climate has pushed people to migrate isn’t exactly true. Many peoples had/have decided to inhabit some pretty rough places on this old globe. They dug wells, built sloughs, terraces, transplanted shrubbery to hold the soil, etc.. They managed the land and their stock. The sad thing about Islamic country’s is their almost universal decline in creativity and social growth. Especially since the advent of the importance of oil. And it’s not like they aren’t educated, but their socioreligious structure doesn’t encourage development outside of the strictures of the 5th century Quaran. Which has left them intellectually and socially barren of 21st century development. Yemen is a horrible place to live, and so much could be done that hasn’t been done and isn’t being done that pointing fingers at climate change is more than convenient, given what has been going on just within recent memory in the region.

John Tillman
Reply to  Philip
June 17, 2022 6:15 pm

Depends upon what you consider a long way back.

Mid-Pleistocene transition for sure, ie 1.1 Ma, but also possibly much more recently:


Cave of Swimmers is much more recent, ie Neolithic, just thousands of years ago:


Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 11:37 am

The Pleistocene and a mountain cave on the Egyptian-Libyan border dated possibly 10,000 years ago during the short lived African humid period. Thank you.
I retract the use of the term ‘awful long’ way back. 😏

The Dark Lord
June 17, 2022 6:20 pm

Why would anyone invade a country with no water in it ?

John Tillman
Reply to  The Dark Lord
June 17, 2022 7:25 pm

Depends upon other resources, such as high value exports like frankincense and myrrh.

Reply to  The Dark Lord
June 24, 2022 7:15 am

The Yemen region had the centuries old Marib Dam and irrigation networks replenished by seasonal monsoon rains and mountain streams …The dam ruptured sometime between 570 CE – 575CE resulting in a mass diaspora of 50 000 inhabitants …..The short duration ‘drought’ mentioned in this paper was probably inconsequential and did not contribute to the ascendancy of Islam

The Dark Lord
June 17, 2022 6:28 pm

The weakening of this kingdom had nothing to do with stopping or allowing Islam to expand … find someone much closer to Mecca

Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 12:58 am

Islam didn’t arise in Arabia. It probably grew up during the reign of Abd al-Malik in the late 7th early 8th century.

A likely Nestorian Christian kingdom probably emerged in the power vacuum after the 20-year war between Byzantium and Persia left the former weak and the latter destroyed. Mu’awiya was the ruler.

There’s no evidence of the supposed first four Muslim caliphs, abu Bakr, Umar, Othman, or Ali. None of the documents from that time mention them. Their name is not found on contemporaneous coins nor are they scribed on monuments.

Neither Islam nor Muslim appear as terms until late in the 7th century. There’s no evidence for any 6th century religious war or turmoil in Arabia, nor for the life of Muhammad. Nor for the events of his life, such as the siege of Khaybar. Nor for Muhammad himself.

During the power vacuum period — about 40 years — tribal Arabs migrated and raided deep into territory that had become unprotected.

The Doctrina Jacobi dated to 634 — two years after the death of the storied Muhammad — describes an armed millennialist rabble of Jews and Arabs led from Arabia by a religious nutcase who claimed to have the keys to the promised land. They apparently terrorized parts of what is now Israel. This rabble-rouser may have provided the substratum for the eventual Muhammad.

The history of that time is dim. But what is clear is that the canonical story of the rise of Islam is a latter-day fabrication.

Reply to  Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 3:23 am

This argument (originating with Patricia Crone and John Wansbrough and others) is well summarized by Tom Holland ‘In the Shadow of the Sword’.

Crone died recently and is a great loss. Dispassionate, scholarly and balanced.


Robert Spencer has also written a series of polemical and unbalanced summaries of the revisionist case which are worth reading, but his material should be treated with critical caution. Crone was an historian who followed the evidence where it led. Spencer is looking for any evidence he can find or interpret to support what he feels on instinct.

Holland is a balanced summary of the revisionist arguments and a very interesting read.

Pat Frank
Reply to  michel
June 18, 2022 9:21 am

I contacted a number of scholars, including Chase Robinson, asking where abd al-Malik was born. Al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock. The inscription on it is the earliest mention of Muhammad (the anointed one).

The canonical story is al-Malik was born in Medina. This is according to “the earliest sources.” But the earliest sources turn out to be 8th and 9th century.

When I pressed them for contemporaneous documentation, they each went silent. No one knows the birthplace of al-Malik.

The Dome inscription is perfectly consistent with subordinationist Christianity, if “mumammad” is read in its generic meaning as a description of Jesus, whose name appears there.

I suspect al-Malik was a Nestorian or some other brand of non-orthodox subordinationist Syrian Christian. He may have been a Lakhmid. But he’s been co-opted to support the story of early Islam.

In that light, the inscription on the Dome is then a statement of an alternative Christian identity aimed at the Chalcedonian Byzantines. A triumphal declaration of independence, as it were. This makes sense in light of the persecutions Nestorians suffered at the hands of the orthodox.

Crossroads to Islam is another good historical study that departs from the canonical narrative.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 12:45 pm

Crone concluded that Muhammad existed, but that his life bore little resemblance to the Islamic story built up in the AD 600s, 700s, et seq.

Pat Frank
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 2:27 pm

I’ve not seen any documentary data, John. PC may have inferred Muhammad existed. But there’s no solid reason to conclude he did.

Unless there’s been some new discovery, none of his contemporaries wrote about him or of an invasion by Muslims.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 3:07 pm

While not new, this is one of the contemporary sources relied upon by Crone and Cook:


Some other non-Muslim sources have also been cited, but some have issues.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 3:09 pm


His Chronicle of 640 also mentions Muhmd.

Then there is this (quoting Wiki):

Another account of the early seventh century comes from Sebeos who was an Armenian bishop of the House of Bagratuni. His account indicates he was writing at a time when memories of sudden eruption of the Arabs were fresh. He knows Muhammad’s name, that he was a merchant by profession, and hints that his life was suddenly changed by a divinely inspired revelation.[54] Sebeos is the first non-Muslim author to present a theory for the rise of Islam that pays attention to what the Muslims themselves thought they were doing.[55]

At that time a certain man from along those same sons of Ismael, whose name was Mahmet [i.e., Mụhammad], a merchant, as if by God’s command appeared to them as a preacher [and] the path of truth. He taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially because he was learnt and informed in the history of Moses. Now because the command was from on high, at a single order they all came together in unity of religion. Abandoning their vain cults, they turned to the living God who had appeared to their father Abraham. So, Mahmet legislated for them: not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsely, and not to engage in fornication. He said: ‘With an oath God promised this land to Abraham and his seed after him for ever. And he brought about as he promised during that time while he loved Israel. But now you are the sons of Abraham and God is accomplishing his promise to Abraham and his seed for you. Love sincerely only the God of Abraham, and go and seize the land which God gave to your father Abraham. No one will be able to resist you in battle, because God is with you.[56]

From this chronicle, there are indications that he lived through many of the events he relates. He maintains that the account of Arab conquests derives from the fugitives who had been eyewitnesses thereof. He concludes with Mu’awiya’s ascendancy in the Arab civil war (656–661 CE), which suggests that he was writing soon after this date.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milo
Pat Frank
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 6:38 pm

The fragment is full of interpolations of unreadable text, John, even including the year.

The “mũhmd” is taken as the name of the canonical prophet, but may not even be a proper name. Scholars (far too many of them) read the standard narrative into the text.

I have Hoyland’s “Seeing Islam as Others Saw It.” The interpretations of all the 7th century sources is that the mũhmd/mhmt, etc., is always a proper name and always refers to the canonical Muhammad.

The translation of muhammad, and presumably muhmd, etc., is ‘the praised.’ It could easily be an honorific. Its use in the Dome of the Rock inscription certainly looks that way

The fellow leading the millennialist rabble into greater Syria around 634 could have carried that title. The Arabs of muhmd could just as well be his armed rabble.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 7:00 pm

Mhmd could be anyone called the blessed, but three or more contemporary chronicles identifying the invading Arab armies as his suggests a real person.

Enough to convince Western scholars not well disposed toward early Muslim narratives that MHMD was a real person.

Pat Frank
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 10:00 pm

But not necessarily named Muhammaed and not necessarily the man described in Ibn Hisham’s biography.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 18, 2022 2:52 pm

Another hypothesis is that what became Islam arose among Christian Arab mercenary auxilliaries of both the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires.


The opposing empires hired Arabs belonging to different Christian sects. Byzantium hired Ghassanids and the Persians their neighboring and eventually subject Lakhmids.



Pat Frank
Reply to  John Tillman
June 18, 2022 10:09 pm

My thought is that Islam arose from the Arabs who migrated into the new polity. They took “Muhammad” by misreading the inscription of the Dome of the Rock, and adapted most of their theology from the subordinationist Christians who founded the new kingdom.

Hajaj boasted about having written the Qur’an. It all got woven into a convenient story that lifted the ethnic Arab majority into a favored position. Islam didn’t fully emerge until the mid 8th century.

Caliph al-Muttawakkil was the first Muslim ruler who actively oppressed Christians and Jews. That led most of the Christian population, but not the Jews, to convert. The new Islamic state became majority Muslim and it was all downhill from there.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
June 19, 2022 9:56 pm

It was a long time before the Levant became majority Muslim. Caliphate rulers need Jews and Christians to tax.

At the time of the Crusades, the Holy Land was still probably majority or plurality Christian.

Matthew Sykes
June 18, 2022 2:11 am

So is this article trying to say Islam is bad or something? It is a very odd study!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 18, 2022 4:38 am

It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Islam.

Ulric Lyons
June 18, 2022 10:07 am

“Beginning in 517, there were five years of drought and pestilence in Palestine.”


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