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“Islamic History as Global History” by R. Eaton


Eaton’s goal was made evident in the introductory portion of his article. He wanted his readers to realize the failure of Western scholars in particular, and the Western world in general, when it comes to an accurate understanding of the Muslim world and the religion of Islam. He immediately sought shared common ground in order to establish a human connection with his readers. In this regard, Eaton decided to point out the stereotypes that oftentimes lead to perverted views of distant cultures and other people groups.

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When he discussed how ordinary Americans and Europeans easily bring out stereotypes of Indians and Chinese people, he succeeded in setting the tone for the whole article. Eaton’s goal was to transform the Western world‘s view regarding the Arab Muslims and the role of Islam in global history.

Islamic History as Global History

Eaton pointed out errors in thinking when it comes to the Muslims living in the Arab world. He said that nothing much had changed when it comes to the original depiction of Muslims as idolaters, polytheists, violent, and sworn enemy of Christendom. These views were rooted in the discussions and observations made before, during, and after the crusades (Eaton 7). Thus, it was made clear that much of the Western world’s appreciation of Arab Muslims and their religion came from the experiences related to the crusades

Eaton was unhappy, to say the least with the simplified version and the lazy attempt to establish Arab Muslim caricatures based on stereotypes and prejudice. Eaton was eager to reverse the trend, and one can argue that he was pleased to present a historically accurate description of the Muslim people when he presented facts aimed at radically altering common misconceptions. For example, the Western world may find it a surprise to know that there is much in common between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

It was also part of Eaton’s objectives to point out the misconception that Islam was a static tradition or a set of religious beliefs that was as neutral as Hinduism. In fact, Eaton set out to prove that Islam was the dynamic force that compelled Arab Muslims to carve out a civilization based on religious elements that predate the arrival of Mohammed. Eaton went further, and he proposed that the emergence of Islam as a formal religion during the early part of the 7th century was unique in the sense that Arab Muslims responded to create a new human society in obedience to Mohammed’s divine message. He also added that this reaction paved the way for Islam’s ability to shape global affairs. As a result, Eaton was justified in his pronouncement that one can equate Islamic history with global history.

Dividing Eaton’s Discussion

Eaton constructed a persuasive argument that there is a need to modify the Western world’s view of Arab Muslims and the religion called Islam. He divided his discussion by setting up a complicated set of reference points that were based on key historical facts. He started the division by focusing on how ordinary Americans and Europeans view Arab Muslims and the religion of Islam. After establishing the fact that present-day Westerners are guilty of stereotypes, Eaton traveled back in time so-to-speak in order to examine the crusades. He established the fact that this religious war between Arab Muslims and European Christians, at the turn of the 11th century, was the starting point for the emergence of wrong ideas regarding Islam and its followers.

Eaton shifted gears and moved forward into the historical timeline when he developed the idea that during the modern period Western scholar’s view of Arab Muslims started to change. After establishing the point about the modern scholarship, he traveled back through time in a manner of speaking, in order to revisit the origins of Islam in the context of Mohammed’s divine vision. In this process, Eaton highlighted the common ground shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At this point, Eaton started a predictable pattern of establishing the idea that Islam’s influence on Arab Muslims paved the way for the inauguration of a way of life that shaped the modern world from the Arab Peninsula to China, India, Africa, and beyond (Alsultany 71).

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Eaton’s developed an effective strategy in his attempt to alter the Western world’s view of Arab Muslims and their religion called Islam. He accomplished his goal by establishing a clear and well-structured argument that started with the identification of stereotypes. He went on to review historical facts, and he went deeper into the works of modern-day scholars. As a result, Eaton created a persuasive argument that it is important to view Islamic history as part of global history.

Be that as it may, it is difficult not to think of improvements that he could have made if he resisted the temptation to jump back and forth through different timelines in human history as if he was a time-traveler giving a lecture to accomplished historians. It is important to point out that those who are not familiar with world history or the historical forces that shaped ancient civilizations may find his discourse a bit confusing. It is also possible to improve the article with minor adjustments, such as, the need to point out that the Arab Muslims’ response to create a new human society is similar to the traditional story of the formation of the Jewish people when they emerged as slaves from Egypt (Stefon 1).

Works Cited

Alsultany, Evelyn. The Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. New York University Press, 2012.

Eaton, Richard. “Islamic History as Global History.” Islamic & European Expansion: The Forging of a Global Order, edited by Michael Adas, Temple University, 1993, pp. 1-12.

Stefon, Matt. Judaism: History, Belief, and Practice. Britannica Education Publishers, 2012.

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