By Gerard Russell
In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the far away, approximately impassable areas the place those mysterious religions nonetheless hold to survival. He lives along the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates of their rituals, and springs to appreciate the threats to their groups. traditionally a tolerant religion, Islam has, because the early twentieth century, witnessed the increase of militant, extremist sects. This improvement, in addition to the rippling results of Western invasion, now pose existential threats to those minority faiths. And as an increasing number of in their formative years flee to the West looking for larger freedoms and task customers, those religions face the dire risk of extinction.
Drawing on his wide travels and archival learn, Russell presents a necessary list of the prior, current, and dangerous way forward for those amazing religions.
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Additional info for Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
The “people of the book” were legally inferior to Muslims and paid an extra tax. When they rebelled against the imposition of taxes, as the Copts did in the ninth century ad, the state might begin to regard their religion as a subversive force and take measures to undermine it. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, as Islam became the majority faith, communities that were not “people of the book” came under greater pressure. The tenth century saw the mass persecution and virtual extinction of the Manichees.
There are other ways of looking at these communities, other stories that might cast a different light on them, and other interpretations of their histories. Anyone who wants to take a more thorough look at any of these communities should read certain books listed in the Sources and Further Readings section. Attempting to write this book based on only four years of research and ten years of traveling in the Middle East, I was awed by the dedication of someone such as E. S. Drower, who spent her whole life studying the Mandaeans.
To give an example, this year is ad 2014. In the Samaritan calendar the year is 3652, measured from the day when the people of Israel entered the Promised Land; in the Muslim calendar it is 1435, measured from Mohammed’s migration to Medinah; in the Zoroastrian calendar it is 1383, measured since the last Zoroastrian king was crowned. Given this plethora of different dating systems, it seems more honest to say that 2014 is a year reckoned on the European Christian system. On the same note, I want to make it clear that this book is a series of informal and personal investigations.
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by Gerard Russell