Chapter 14: The Expansive Realm of Islam



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Chapter 14:

The Expansive Realm of Islam


Chapter 14 Reading Questions:

  1. How did Muhammad's background influence his beliefs and the early development of Islam? The prophet Muhammad came into this world of nomadic Bedouin herders and merchants. He was born into a reputable family of merchants in Mecca, but he lost both of his parents by age 6. He lived with his grandfather and uncle and had a difficult early life. He worked for a women named Khadija, a wealthy woman who he ended up marrying. By age 30 Muhammad had established himself as a merchant. Muhammad had a basic understanding of both Judaism and Christianity. At about age 40, Muhammad underwent a profound spiritual experience that transformed his life and left a deep mark on world history. His experience left him with convictions that there was only one God. One of the five pillars is to give relief to the poor, which is especially meaningful to Muhammad because he was poor as a child.

  2. What were the fundamental tenets of Islam? The five pillars of Islam are Muslims must acknowledge Allah as the only god and Muhammad as his prophet, they must pray to Allah daily while facing Mecca, they must observe a fast during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan, they must contribute alms for the relief of the weak and poor, and lastly those who are physically and financially able must undertake the hajj and make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.

  3. After Muhammad died, what were the challenges faced by dar al-Islam and how were they resolved within the first century? Muhammad had made no provision for a successor, and there was serious division within the umma concerning the selection of a new leader. Many of the towns and Bedouin clans that had recently accepted Islam took the opportunity of Muhammad’s death to renounce faith, reassert their independence, and break free from Mecca’s control. Shortly after the death, advisors elected Abu Bakr to serve as a caliph. These caliphs conquered the land back, and within a year it had compelled the lands to recognize the faith of Islam and the rule of the caliph.

  4. How did the Abbasids come to power, and how did their rule differ from the Umayyads? Beginning in the early eighth century, the Umayyad caliphs became alienated even from other Arabs. They faced resistance of the Shia faction and the discontent of conquered peoples. Rebellion in Persia brought the Umayyad dynasty to an end. The Abbasid dynasty was far more cosmopolitan and they did not show favor to the Arab military aristocracy. The Abbasid dynasty also focused more on administration than conquering.

  5. How did the growth of the realm of Islam contribute to agricultural, industrial, and urban development? As soldiers, administrators, diplomats, and merchants traveled throughout the dar al islam, they encountered plants, animals, and agricultural techniques peculiar to the empire’s kits regions. They often introduced particularly useful crops to new regions. The introduction of new crops had many effects. New food crops led to a richer and more varied data and also led to a longer growing season. Some new crops had industrial uses, the most important being cotton which was the basis for a thriving textile industry. Increased agricultural production contributed to the rapid growth of cities in all parts of the Islamic world from India to Spain.

  6. What factors contributed to the expansion of Islamic overland and maritime trade? Muslim conquerors brought some cities of central Asia under their control, and those cities were long-established commercial centers, and they made it possible for Muslim merchants to trade over a revived silk roads network extending from China in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Overland trade traveled mostly by camel caravan. Innovations in nautical technology contributed to a steadily increasing volume of maritime trade. Such innovations include the compass, the lateen sail, and the astrolabe.

  7. What was the status of women in the early centuries of Islam? Arab women enjoyed rights not accorded to women in many other lands. They could legally inherit property, divorce husbands on their own initiative, and engage in business ventures. In some respects the Quran enhanced the security of women in Arabian society. It outlawed female infanticide, and it provided hat dowries went directly to brides rather than to their husbands. Male dominance however was reinforced.

  8. What people and institutions helped to promote and spread the values of Islam? Ulama, qadis, and missionaries helped to bridge differences in cultural traditions and to spread Islamic values throughout the region. Ulama and qadis held positions at all Islamic courts which helped bring values of the Quran and the sharia into the lives of people living far from Mecca. Sufis were among the most effective Islamic missionaries.

  9. What is the significance of the hajj to Islamic religion and culture? The symbol of Islamic cultural unity was the Ka’ba at Mecca, which from an early date attracted pilgrims from all parts of the Islamic world. The Abbasid caliphs especially encouraged observance of the hajj: they saw themselves as supreme leaders of a cohesive Islamic community, and as a matter of policy they sought to enhance the cultural unity of their realm.

  10. How did Persia, India, and Greece influence the realm of Islam? The caliphs adopted Persian ideas of kingship. Persian literature deeply influenced Islamic literary works. Persian was the principle language of literature, poetry, history, and political reflection. Indian numerals had a profound influence on the development of mathematical thinking among Muslims. Muslims also admired the philosophical, scientific, and medical writings of classical Greece. Greek philosophy did not have a lasting impression on the Muslims.


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