Chapter 6 Islam I. The Arabs A. Arabs a nomadic, Semitic-speaking



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Chapter 6

Islam
I. The Arabs

A. Arabs - a nomadic, Semitic-speaking people who lived in the Arabian Peninsula, a harsh desert with little     water  hostile surroundings made Arabs move continually to find water and feed their animals.

B. Arabs organized into loosely connected, independent tribes to help one another with their difficult lives.

1. A sheikh, chosen from a leading family by a council of elders, led each tribe. (Early Arabs herded sheep and              farmed on the oases of the Arabian Peninsula.)

2. After the camel was domesticated in the 1st millennium B.C., Arabs expanded the caravan trade & became major          carriers b/w the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.

C. Most early Arabs were polytheistic, but Allah (Arabic for "God") was supreme God - traced ancestry to Abraham &     his son Ishmael, who were believed to have built a shrine called the Kaaba at Makkah (Mecca)  cornerstone of the     Kaaba, the Black Stone, was revered for its association with Abraham.

    D. The trade route through Makkah to modem Yemen and across the Indian Ocean became popular  communities     along this route flourished, but tensions arose b/w wealthy merchant class & poorer clanspeople and slaves.
II. The Life of Muhammad

A. Muhammad - born into a merchant family in Makkah & orphaned early - became a caravan manager and married his     employer, a rich widow named Khadija  Muhammad deeply troubled by the gap in his area b/w rich merchants, who     he thought were greedy, & most Makkans, who he thought were simple & honest - went to the hills to meditate on the     matter.

    B. While meditating, Muslims believe, Muhammad received revelations from God - Islam teaches that messages were     given by the angel Gabriel, who told Muhammad to recite what he heard.

C. Muhammad came to believe that Allah had revealed himself partially through Moses (Judaism) & Jesus     (Christianity), and that Allah's final revelations were to him.



  1. The Quran, the holy scriptures of Islam, came out of these revelations. (The word Islam means "peace through  submission to the will of Allah.")

  2. The Quran - contains ethical guidelines for Muslims, those who practice Islam. Islam has only one God, Allah, and Muhammad is God's prophet.

D. Muhammad set out to convince the people of Makkah that his revelations were true. His wife was his first convert,      but after preaching for 3 years he had only 30 followers.

  1. They were persecuted  so in 622, he and some followers moved N to Yathrib, later renamed Madinah (Medina; "city of the prophet") journey is known as the Hijrah

  2. 622 is 1st yr of Muslim calendar

  3. Muhammad won support from residents of Madinah as well as from Bedouins, Arabs in the desert  formed first community of practicing Muslims.

     E. Muhammad did not separate political and religious authority - submission to will of Allah meant submitting to his      prophet

  1. Muhammad became a religious, political, and military leader.

  2. He assembled a military force to defend his community & military victories soon attracted many followers.

     F. In 630, Muhammad returned to Makkah with 10,000 soldiers & city surrendered w/ many residents converting to      Islam.

  1. Muhammad declared the Kaaba a sacred shrine.

  2. Two years later, Muhammad died, as Islam was spreading throughout the Arabian Peninsula.



III. The Teachings of Muhammad


    A. Islam is monotheistic & Allah is the all-powerful Creator of everything. Islam offers salvation and the hope of an     afterlife for those who subject themselves to Allah's will.

    B. Muhammad is not considered divine, as Jesus is.



  1. He is a prophet who conveys Allah's final revelation.

  2. To do Allah's will, one must follow an ethical code comprised of the Five Pillars of Islam: Believe in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet; pray to Allah five times a day with public prayer on Fridays; give alms to the poor and unfortunate; observe the holy month of Ramadan, especially by fasting; make a pilgrimage to Makkah once, if possible. This pilgrimage is called the hajj.

    C. Islam is more a way of life than a set of beliefs.

  1. After the prophet's death, Muslim scholars drew up a law code called the shari' ah.

  2. It provides guidelines for daily living, and much of it comes from the Quran.

  3. Muslims must follow sound principles, such as honesty and justice & they may not gamble, eat pork, drink alcoholic beverages, or be dishonest.

6.2
I. Creation of an Arab Empire

  1. Muhammad's death left his followers with a problem of succession.

1. He had no son, and his daughters could not lead  in such a male-dominated society.

2. Some of Muhammad's closest followers chose Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law to lead & he was named                 caliph, or successor to Muhammad.



  1. Islam grew under Abu Bakr & Musli ms expanded over Arabia and beyond

  1. to spread movement, Abu Bakr took part in the "struggle in the way of God," or jihad

  2. by 650, Egypt, the Byzantine province of Syria, and the Persian Empire were part of the Arab Empire.

C. Arabs - fierce fighters led by brilliant generals  military courage enhanced by the belief that a warrior killed in      battle was assured a place in Paradise.

D.The first two caliphs to rule after Abu Bakr's death were assassinated



  1. in 656, Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, became caliph

  2. he was also assassinated after ruling for five years – struggles for control still prevalent today!

     E. Arab administrators were tolerant in their conquered territories - some places retained local gov’ts, & no one was      forced to convert to Islam, but those who did not convert were required to be loyal to Muslim rule and pay taxes.
II. The Umayyads

A. In 661,the general Mu'awiyah became caliph, rival of Ali  was known for one major virtue: he used force only if      necessary. He made the office of caliph (caliphate) hereditary and began the Umayyad dynasty. Since he had been      governor of Syria, he moved the capital of the Arab Empire from Madinah to Damascus.

B. beginning of the 8th c, Arabs conquered & converted Berbers, pastoral people who lived on the coast of N Africa.


  1. Around 710, combined Arab and Berber forces occupied southern Spain

  2. By 725, most of Spain was a Muslim state.

  3. In 732, Arab forces were defeated at the Battle of Tours in present-day France, bringing an end to Arab expansion in Europe.

C. In 717, Muslims attacked Constantinople, but navy was defeated by the Byzantine Empire (Remember, that was the          W Roman Emp that survived).

1. This created an uneasy frontier in southern Asia Minor b/w Byzantine Empire & Islamic world.

2. Arab power now extended E in Mesopotamia and Persia, N into central Asia, and into the southern and eastern        Mediterranean parts of old Roman Empire.

D. Internal struggles threatened the Umayyad Empire's stability.

1. Local administrators favored Arabs, and revolts broke out.

2. most important was led by Hussein, second son of Ali  In 680, he battled against Umayyad rule - most of his       followers defected, however, and he fought 10,000 soldiers with only 72 warriors (All died).

E. This struggle caused Islam to split into two groups  the Shiite and the Sunni.


  1. Shiitte say the descendants of Ali are the rulers of Islam

  2. the Sunni claim that the descendants of the Umayyads are the true caliphs. This split continues today. Most Muslims are Sunnis, but much of Iraq and Iran consider themselves Shiites.


III. The Abbasid Dynasty

     A. Because of both favoritism toward Arabs and Umayyad corruption, resentment against Umayyad rule grew  In      750, Abu aI-Abbas overthrew the Umayyad dynasty and founded the Abbasid dynasty, which lasted until 1258.

B. In 762,the Abbasids built a new capital at Baghdad, on the Tigris River.


  1. This location took advantage of river and caravan traffic.

  2. This move eastward increased Persian influence and created a new cultural outlook.

  3. Not warriors, but judges, merchants, and government officials were the heroes. Also, all Muslims, Arab or not, could now hold both civil and military offices.

  1. The 9th c. Abbasid dynasty thrived.

  1. The reign of Harun aI-Rashid is considered the dynasty's golden age.

  2. He was known for his charity and patronage of the arts.

  3. His son al-Ma'mun was a great patron of learning. He supported astronomical investigations and created a foundation for translating Greek works.

  1. This time also saw economic prosperity.

  1. Baghdad became the center of a huge trade empire extending into Asia, Africa, and Europe.

  2. Under the Abbasids, the caliph became more regal and the bureaucracy more complex.

  3. A council headed by a prime minister, or vizier, advised the caliph. During council meetings, the caliph sat behind a screen and whispered his orders to the vizier.

  1. The Abbasid Empire had problems  experienced much fighting over succession to the caliphate.

1. Harun aI-Rashid's two sons almost destroyed Baghdad when they fought to succeed him.

2. Vast wealth led to financial corruption - & a shortage of qualified Arabs to fill key gov’t positions enabled non-      Arabs, such as Persians & Turks, to become a dominant force in the military and bureaucracy.

3. This aided disintegration.

4. Finally, the rulers of the provinces began to break from the central gov’t - Spain est its own caliphate - Morocco             became independent, & in 973, Egypt est a dynasty under the Fatimids, with its capital at Cairo.


IV. The Seljuk Turks and The Crusades


     A. The Fatimid dynasty soon became the center of Islamic civilization & played a major role in trade b/c of its      position in the Nile delta  this allowed them to create a strong army by hiring non-native soldiers - one group was the      Seljuk Turks.

B. Seljuk Turks - a nomadic people from central Asia.

1. They had converted to Islam and prospered as soldiers for the Abbasid caliphate.

2. By the eleventh century they had taken over the eastern part of the Abbasid Empire.

3. In 1055a Turkish leader captured Baghdad and took over the empire. His title was sultan, "holder of power."


  1. The Seljuk Turks held the political and military power in the Abbasid Empire.

C. In 1071the Byzantines challenged the Turks, who defeated them.

  1. The Turks took over the Anatolian Peninsula.

  2. The Byzantine Empire turned to the West for help.

D. The Byzantine emperor Alexius I asked the Christian states of Europe for help against the Turks.

  1. Many Europeans agreed, and a series of crusades began in 1096.

  2. At first the crusaders put the Muslims on the defensive.

  3. In 1169, however, Saladin took control of Egypt, ending the Fatimid dynasty.

  4. He also took the offensive, and in 1187 Saladin's army destroyed the Christian forces in the kingdom of Jerusalem.

E. The chief effect of the Crusades was to breed centuries of mistrust between Muslims and Christians.

V. The Mongols

A. The Mongols were a pastoral people who came out of the Gobi in the early 13th c. and took control of much of the     known world.



  1. They were highly destructive conquerors whose goal was to create such terror that people would not fight back

  2. In 1258, the Mongols seized Persia and Mesopotamia. Their leader Hiilegii hated Islam.

  3. He destroyed Baghdad, including its mosques, and the Abbasid caliphate ended.

B. The Mongols advanced as far as the Red Sea, but they failed to conquer Egypt, in part because of the resistance from       the Mamluks - Turkish slave-soldiers who had seized power after overthrowing the administration Saladin set up.

C. Mongol rulers began to convert to Islam, and they intermarried with local peoples.



  1. They also began to rebuild some cities.

  2. By the 14th c, the Mongol Empire split into separate kingdoms, and the Islamic Empire begun in the 7th & 8th c

ended.

3. Because the Mongols had destroyed Baghdad, Cairo became the center of Islamic civilization.


6.3
I. Prosperity in the Islamic World

A. The period of the Arab Empire generally was prosperous  much of it was based on the extensive trade by ship and camel.    Camel caravans went from Morocco in the far west to countries beyond the Caspian Sea.

B. Trade began to prosper around 750 under the Abbasid dynasty.


  1. Gold and slaves came from south of the Sahara, gold and ivory from East Africa.

  2. India contributed sandalwood, spices, and textiles, while China contributed silk and porcelain.

  3. Egypt provided grain, and Iraq provided linens, dates, and jewels.

  4. Banking and coin usage developed, making the exchanges easier.

C. Large, magnificent cities came to prominence, Baghdad under the Abbasids and Cairo under the Fatimids.

  1. These and Damascus were the administrative, cultural, and economic centers of their regions.

  2. Islamic cities generally surpassed the cities of the largely rural Europe of the time.

  3. The Islamic city of Cordoba in Spain was Europe's greatest city after Constantinople.

D. Islamic cities had their own physical appearance.

  1. The palaces and mosques were the most impressive buildings.

  2. They also had public buildings with fountains, public baths, and marketplaces (bazaars).

  3. The bazaar (covered market) was a vital part of every Muslim city or town - inspectors guaranteed the quality of goods

  4. Bazaars also had craftspeople and offered services such as laundries.

E. Although the Arab Empire was urban for its time, most people farmed or herded.

  1. Early in the empire, free peasants owned most of the farmland.

  2. Then wealthy landowners amassed large estates in certain areas of the empire.

  3. The free peasant farmers along the Nile farmed the way their ancestors had.

II. Islamic Society

A. Muslims live their lives in accordance with Allah's teachings as revealed in the Quran, which was compiled in 635.

B. Islam claims that all people are equal in the eyes of Allah.


  1. Such was not always the case in the Arab Empire, however.

  2. For example, it had a well defined upper class of ruling families, wealthy merchants, and other elites.

C. One group clearly not considered equal was slaves - was widespread in the

Arab Empire.



  1. Because Muslims could not be slaves, most of the slaves came from Africa or Asia.

  2. Many were captives of war  slaves often served as soldiers.

  3. Many of these were eventually freed, and some exercised considerable power.

  4. Women slaves often were domestic servants.

  5. Islamic law said to treat slaves fairly, and setting slaves free was considered a good act.

D. The Quran granted women spiritual and social equality with men, and women could own and inherit property.

  1. Nevertheless, men dominated in the Arab Empire.

  2. Every woman had a male guardian.

  3. Women were secluded at home and kept from social contacts with men outside their families.

E. Parents or guardians arranged marriages for their children.

  1. Muslim men could have up to four wives, but most had fewer because of having to pay a dowry to the bride.

  2. Only the wealthy could afford multiple dowries.

  3. Although women had a right to divorce, in practice the right was extended only to men.

  4. Women covered much of their bodies when appearing in public, a custom that continues in many Islamic societies/countries today  however, this is more a traditional Arab practice than mandated by the Quran.

F. Despite these restrictions, the position of women in Islamic society was an improvement over earlier times when women had   often been treated like slaves.
6.4

I. Preservation of Knowledge and Philosophy, Science, and History


  1. During first few centuries of the Arab Empire, Arab scholars read and translated into Arabic the works of Plato and     Aristotle.

1. The translations were put into a library in Baghdad called the House of Wisdom.

2. Mathematics texts were brought from India.



  1. Papermaking was introduced from China, which aided this scholarly work.

1. By the end of the 8th c, paper factories had been est in Baghdad.

2. Booksellers and libraries followed.

   C. Europeans recovered the works of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers through the

Muslim world.



  1. Arab scholars wrote many commentaries to accompany translations that went to Eur

  2. One of the most important scholars was Ibn-Rushd, who wrote commentaries on almost all of Aristotle's works.

   D. Islamic scholars also made contributions to mathematics and the natural sciences.

1. They gave shape to algebra and passed on India's numeral system, known as "Arabic"

in Europe.

2. Baghdad had an observatory where scientists studied and named many stars.



  1. Muslims also perfected the astrolabe, used by sailors to determine their location by observing the position of stars and planets. This instrument enabled Europeans to sail to the Americas.

E. Muslims also developed medicine as a field of study.

  1. The famous philosopher and scientist Ibn Sina wrote a medical encyclopedia and showed how unsanitary conditions could spread contagious diseases.

  2. His medical works, translated into Latin, were standard in medieval European universities.

F. Arabic scholars helped European intellectual life develop in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, laying the basis for the     Renaissance.

G. In his Muqaddimah (Introduction to History), the Muslim historian Ibn-Khaldun argued that history was cyclical, going      through regular cycles of birth, growth, and decay.He tried to understand the political and social factors that determine the      changes in history.



II. Literature

A. Muslims believed the Quran was their greatest work of literature, but pre-Islamic forms continued to be used.



  1. One of the most familiar works of Middle Eastern literature is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, who was a poet, astronomer, and mathematician.

2. He composed his poems orally.

B. Another important work of Arabic literature is The Arabian Nights, also called The 1001 Nights. It is a collection       of folktales, fables, and romances that combine the natural and super natural. The stories were first told orally, and        then written down over many years. The story of Aladdin was added in the eighteenth century.


III. Art and Architecture


A. Islamic art blends the Arabic, Turkish, and Persian traditions. Its highest expression is found in the mosques, which         represent Islam's spirit.

        B. The Great Mosque of Samarra was the world's largest mosque at the time it was built.

1. In present-day Iraq, it covers 10 acres.

2. Its minaret is famous. The minaret is the tower from which the crier, or muezzin, calls the faithful to prayer       five times a day.

3. The minaret of Samarra is nearly 90 feet high with an impressive, unusual spiral staircase to the top.

4. Another famous mosque is in Cordoba, Spain w/ hundreds of columns

C. Palaces also reflected the glory of Islam. They were designed around a central courtyard surrounded by high          arcades and massive gate-towers. They also served as fortresses.

        D. Most decorations on Islamic art are of repeated Arabic letters, plants, and abstract figures - these geometric         patterns are called arabesques. They cover an object's surface completely.



E. No representation of Muhammad is in any Islamic art. The Hadith, an early collection of the prophet's sayings,         warns against imitating God by creating pictures of living things. From early on, therefore, no representation of a         living thing appears in Islamic religious art.


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