The Al-Majus or Vikings

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by mojobadshah, Jun 2, 2013.

  1. mojobadshah Senior Member

    Me and my dad are having an argument. I read an article about how the Arabs called the Vikings Al-Majus apparently because of similar customs venerating fire. But he thinks that Al-Majus means "dirty." Which is it? Or did Magi become a derogatory term among Muslims?
  2. Treaty Senior Member

    Is there a possibility that your father might have confused between najis (filthy, regarding the religious law) and majus (Zoroastrian)?

    Anyway, there is another possibility that some religious people may use names of other religions as a derogatory word.
  3. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I seem to recall that the Arabs did indeed refer to the Normans/Vikings as majus ("Magi"), which does not mean "dirty" (that is different word, najis​, as Treaty mentioned above).
  4. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

    أرض الأنجل
    عربي (مصر)ـ | en (gb)
    Any sources where vikings are called مجوس ?
  5. mojobadshah Senior Member

  6. Treaty Senior Member

    Can it be because the Andalusi Muslims had little knowledge what Majus is, so they have mistaken Vikings with the Majus? Meanwhile, the Eastern Arabs were in contact with Iranians and well aware of Zoroastrians.
  7. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I suspect the Andalusian Muslims were well aware that these peoples were not Zoroastrians. I think they just decided to borrow the word for some reason.
  8. origumi Senior Member

    In those days, when the Arab-Muslim culture was the most advanced on planet earth? Unlikely. Read about al-Ghazal, the poet who was very much familiar with the east and also with the Vikings.
  9. Treaty Senior Member

    Very likely, actually. "Majus" seems to have changed meaning over time the same way "vandal" and "hooligan" did. In the early Islamic era, people exactly knew what "majus" is, as the most powerful non-Abrahamic religion of the region. While 200 years after the fall of Persia, few Arabs knew or cared who the original "majus" were, especially in somewhere as far as Andalusia (not considering that Al-Ghazal's account were written 400 years after his embassy, in 1200s).

    In Holmann's "A to Z of Vikings", majus is defined as "heathen" which surely covers not-yet-Christianised Vikings.
  10. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    Majus (as Zoroastrians) are referred to extensively in the Hadith (and I think in the Quran? not sure) and Andalusians studied religion very closely like other Muslim societies and produced eminent religious scholars. They also had close contacts with Iraq (from whence they imported the Maliki rite of Islamic law). So, the notion that they simply "forgot" what Majus meant is highly unlikely. In fact, their use of the term in a new context proves that they were familiar with it. They probably decided to use the word in the sense of "non-Abrahamic heathen" (in fact that was going to be my very first answer except that I thought perhaps the Vikings had already become Christians back then).

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