Islamic Frontiers, Real and Imagined
By Asa Eger
Al-‘Usur al-Wusta. The Bulletin of the Middle East Medievalists, Vol. 17:1 (2005)
Introduction: Beginning in the ninth century, Muslim historians, jurists, and geographers frequently discussed the Islamic-Byzantine frontier or al-thughur and al-’awasim provinces primarily as a militarized region, daral-harb. Warriors of the faith, in their view, performed ritualized yearly raids termed jihad against non-Muslims in bilad ar-Rum or, as it was somctimes known, biladal-kufr. This vision of the frontier has been largely left unchallenged by modern historians and untouched by archaeologists working on the periods of Late Antiquity and Islam. However, the historical sources’ retrospective and idealized, religious interpretations are problematic and do not adequately explain the choices of frontier settlement, yearly raiding, and diverse communities that comprised the frontier region. Recent evidence from survey and excavation now permits a re-examination of the infamous Islamic-Byzantine thughur of the 7-10th centuries from an archaeological perspective.