|imam. The worshipers face the qibla, the direction of Makkah. A niche in a wall marks the qibla. People of all classes stand shoulder to shoulder, but men stand in separate rows from women.
The imam begins the prayer cycle by proclaiming “Allahu akbar!” (“God is most great!”). The worshipers then recite verses from the Qur’an and kneel before God.
While praying at a mosque is preferable, Muslims may worship anywhere. In groups or by themselves, they may perform their prayers at home, at work, in airports, in parks, or on sidewalks. A qibla compass may help them locate the direction of Makkah. Some Muslims carry a prayer rug to have a clean spot to pray. Some make additional prayers by using prayer beads and reciting words describing God’s many characteristics.
Unlike Christians and Jews, Muslims do not observe a sabbath, or day of rest. On Fridays, however, Muslims gather at a mosque for midday congregational prayer. The worshipers listen to a Qur’an reading and the imam’s sermon. After saying prayers together, some return to their regular business. For others, Friday is a special day when people meet with family and friends.
This mosque has two minarets. Muezzins climb up into them to chant their calls to prayer out over the town.
imam a leader of prayer in a mosque
9.6 The Third Pillar: Zakat
The third Pillar of Faith is zakat, or almsgiving (giving to those in need). In Chapter 8, you learned that Muhammad told wealthy people to share their riches with the less fortunate. This practice remains a basic part of Islam.
The word zakat means “purification.” Muslims believe that wealth becomes pure by giving some of it away and that sharing wealth helps control greed. Zakat also reminds people of God’s great gifts to them.
According to the teachings of Islam, Muslims must share about one fortieth (2.5 percent) of their income and possessions with their poorer neighbors. They are encouraged to give even more. Individuals decide the proper amount to pay. Then they either give this sum to a religious official or distribute it themselves.
Zakat helps provide for many needs. In medieval times, zakat often went to constructing public fountains so everyone had clean water to drink or to inns so pilgrims and travelers had a place to sleep. If you walk down a busy street in any Muslim town today, you will see the fruits of zakat spending everywhere. Zakat pays for soup kitchens, clothing, and shelter for the poor. Orphanages and hospitals are built and supported through zakat. Poorer Muslims may receive funds to pay off their debts. Zakat provides aid to stranded travelers.
Zakat also helps other good causes that serve the Muslim community. For instance, zakat can cover the school fees of children whose parents cannot afford to send them to Muslim schools. It can be used to pay teachers.
Zakat is similar to charitable giving in other faiths. For instance, Jews and Christians also ask for donations to support their houses of worship and charitable activities.
Through zakat, Muslims give to the poor or needy.
almsgiving the giving of money, food, or other things of value to the needy
9.7 The Fourth Pillar: Siyam
The fourth Pillar of Faith is siyam, or fasting (going without food). Muslims were not the first people to fast as a way of worshiping God. Both the Old and New Testaments praise the act. But the Qur’an instructs Muslims to fast for an entire month during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
According to Islamic teachings, Ramadan was the month that God first revealed His message to Muhammad. Muslims use a lunar calendar (one based on the phases of the moon). A year on this calendar is shorter than a 365-day year. Over time, as a result, Ramadan cycles through all the seasons of the year.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from the break of dawn to the setting of the sun. Pregnant women, travelers, the sick, the elderly, and young children do not have to fast.
During the daylight hours on each day of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat any food or drink any liquid, including water. It is considered time to begin fasting when a person standing outside can tell a white thread from a black thread. Muslims then break their fast, often with dates and other food and beverages—as Muhammad did—and perform the sunset prayer. After a meal shared with family or friends, Muslims attend special prayer sessions. Each night a portion of the Qur’an is read aloud. By the end of Ramadan, Muslims have heard the entire holy book.
The holy month of Ramadan encourages generosity, equality, and charity within the Muslim community. Fasting teaches Muslims self-control and makes them realize what it would be like to be poor and hungry. Well-off Muslims and mosques often provide food for others. During Ramadan, Muslims also strive to forgive people, give thanks, and avoid arguments and bad deeds.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims remember Gabriel’s first visit to Muhammad. A celebration called Eid al-Fitr takes place when Ramadan ends. People attend prayers. They wear new clothes, decorate their homes, and prepare special foods. They exchange gifts and give to the poor.
The holy month of Ramadan ends with a celebration that includes a feast of special foods.
Ramadan the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims are required to fast
9.8 The Fifth Pillar: Hajj
The fifth Pillar of Faith is hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah. In the Islamic year’s 12th month, millions of believers from all over the world come together at Makkah. All adult Muslims who can do so are expected to make the hajj once during their lifetime. By bringing Muslims from many places and cultures together, the hajj promotes fellowship and equality.
In Makkah, pilgrims follow what Muslims believe are the footsteps of Abraham and Muhammad, and so draw closer to God. For five days, they dress in simple white clothing and perform a series of rituals, moving from one sacred site to another.
Upon arrival, Muslims announce their presence with these words: “Here I am, O God, at thy command!” They go straight to the Great Mosque, which houses the Ka’ba. As you learned in Chapter 8, Muslims believe that Abraham built the Ka’ba as a shrine to honor God. The pilgrims circle the Ka’ba seven times, which is a ritual mentioned in the Qur’an. Next, they run along a passage between two small hills, as did Hagar, Abraham’s wife, when she searched for water for her baby Ishmael. As you may remember, Muslims believe that a spring called Zamzam miraculously appeared at Hagar’s feet. The pilgrims drink from the Zamzam well.
Later, pilgrims leave Makkah to sleep in tents at a place called Mina. In the morning they move to the Plain of Arafat to pray until sunset, asking God’s forgiveness. Some climb Mount Arafat, where Muhammad preached his Last Sermon. After spending another night camped in the desert, they reject evil by casting stones at pillars representing Satan.
Afterward, pilgrims may celebrate with a four-day feast. In honor of Abraham’s ancient sacrifice, as recounted in religious Scriptures, they sacrifice animals, usually sheep or goats, and share the meat with family, friends, and the poor. Then, having completed the hajj, they don their own clothes again. Before leaving Makkah, each pilgrim circles the Ka’ba seven more times. Muslims around the world celebrate this “farewell” day as Eid al-Adha.
Pilgrims to the holy city of Makkah circle the Ka’ba seven times as directed in the Qur’an.
The word jihad means “to strive.” Originally in Islam, it meant physical struggle with spiritual significance. The Qur’an tells Muslims to fight to protect themselves from those who would do them harm or to right a terrible wrong. Early Muslims considered their efforts to protect their territory and extend their rule over other regions to be a form of jihad. However, the Qur’an forbade Muslims to force others to convert to Islam. So, non-Muslims who came under Muslim rule were usually allowed to continue practicing their faiths.
Although the Qur’an allows war, it sets specific terms for fighting. Muhammad told his followers to honor agreements made with foes. Muslim fighters must not mutilate (remove or destroy) the dead bodies of enemies or harm women, children, old people, and civilians. Nor should they destroy property, orchards, crops, sacred objects, or houses of worship.
Jihad represents the human struggle to overcome difficulties and do things that would be pleasing to God. Muslims strive to respond positively to personal difficulties as well as worldly challenges. For instance, they might work to become better people, reform society, or correct injustice.
Jihad has always been an important Islamic concept. One hadith, or account of Muhammad, tells about the prophet’s return from a battle. He declared that he and his men had carried out the “lesser jihad,” the external struggle against oppression. The “greater jihad,” he said, was the fight against evil within oneself. Examples of the greater jihad include working hard for a goal, giving up a bad habit, getting an education, or obeying your parents when you may not want to.
Another hadith says that Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.
Jihad originally meant a physical struggle against enemies while striving to please God. Sometimes it may be a struggle within an individual to overcome spiritually significant difficulties.
9.10 Shari’ah: Islamic Law
The body, or collection, of Islamic law is called shari’ah, the “path to be followed.” It is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Shari’ah covers Muslims’ duties toward God. It guides them in their personal behavior and relationships with others. Shari’ah promotes obedience to the Qur’an and respect for others.
In Madinah’s Muslim community, Muhammad explained the Qur’an and served as a judge. After his death, the caliphs used the Qur’an and the Sunnah to solve problems as they arose. As the Muslim empire expanded, leaders faced new situations. Gradually, scholars developed a body of Islamic law. By the 12th century, several schools of Islamic law had emerged.
Islamic law guides Muslim life by placing actions into one of five categories: forbidden, discouraged, allowed, recommended, and obligatory (required). Sometimes the law is quite specific. Muslims, for instance, are forbidden to eat pork, drink alcohol, or gamble. But other matters are mentioned in general terms. For example, the Qur’an tells women to “not display their beauty.” For this reason, Muslim women usually wear different forms of modest dress. Most women cover their arms and legs. Many also wear scarves over the hair.
Shari’ah also covers Muslims’ duties toward other people. These duties can be broadly grouped into criminal, commercial, family, and inheritance law.
In a shari’ah court, a qadi (judge) hears a case, including witnesses and evidence. Then the qadi makes a ruling. Sometimes the qadi consults a mufti, or scholar of law, for an opinion.
Islamic law helped Muslims live by the rules of the Qur’an. By the 19th century, however, many Muslim regions had come under European rule. Western codes of law soon replaced the shari’ah except in matters of family law. Today, most Muslim countries apply only some parts of Islamic law. But shari’ah continues to develop in response to modern ways of life and its challenges.
A shari’ah court is shown on this page from an illuminated manuscript dated 1334 C.E.
9.11 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about the basic beliefs and practices of Islam. One of the world’s major religions, Islam has more followers today than any faith except Christianity.
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity share many similarities. People of these faiths believe in one God and possess holy books. Muslims accept the Jewish and Christian scriptures as earlier revelations by God. For Muslims, however, the Qur’an contains God’s final messages to humanity.
The Qur’an guides Muslims on how to live their lives. Additional guidance comes from the Sunnah, the example of Muhammad. The hadith (tradition) provides a written record of sayings and deeds of the prophet.
Islam is a way of life as well as a set of beliefs. Muslims follow the Five Pillars of Faith. The five pillars are shahadah (profession of faith), salat (daily worship), zakat (almsgiving), siyam (fasting), and hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah).
Muslims also have the duty of jihad, or striving militarily or personally to please God. Shari’ah, or Islamic law, helps Muslims live by the teachings of the Qur’an. It includes practices of daily life as well as the duty to respect others.
Islam expanded rapidly in the century following the death of Muhammad. In the next chapter, you will learn about some of the great accomplishments of Islamic civilization.
Mosques are centers of worship for Muslims.
Contributions of Muslims to World Civilization
This mosque in Cordoba, Spain, displays distinctive Muslim architecture and design.
In Chapter 9, you learned about Islam, the Muslim faith. In this chapter, you will study many contributions made by Muslims to world civilization.
By 750 C.E., Muslims ruled Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and much of central Asia. Over the next 500 years, many cultural influences blended in this vast region. Arabs, Persians, Turks, and others all helped to build Islamic civilization.
The Islamic world was rich, diverse, and creative. Rulers encouraged scholarship and art. Great cities flourished as centers of culture. Muslims learned from the ancient Greeks, the Chinese, and the Hindus of India. They preserved old learning and made many striking advances of their own. Scholars traveled and exchanged ideas across the Islamic world, from Spain to Baghdad (in present-day Iraq). By spreading knowledge and ideas, they had a deep impact on other cultures.
You can still see signs of this influence today. For instance, Muslims introduced many foods to other parts of the world. Among them were sugar (al-sukkar in Arabic), rice (al-ruzz), and oranges (naranj). Mattress and sofa are both from Arabic. Pajamas and tambourine are derived from Persian words. The Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, …) we use today were brought to Europe by Muslims.
In this chapter, you will explore Muslim contributions to world civilization. You’ll study Muslim achievements in city building and architecture, scholarship and learning, science and technology, geography and navigation, mathematics, medicine, literature and bookmaking, art and music, and even recreation. Let’s begin by looking more closely at the flowering of Islamic culture following the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries.
Use this illustrated map as a graphic organizer to help you discover and remember Muslim contributions to world civilization.
10.2 The Flowering of Islamic Civilization
As you have learned, Islam began in Arabia. By the middle of the 8th century, Arab conquests had created a vast Muslim empire. Spain, North Africa, and much of western and central Asia came under Muslim rule. Over the next 500 years, Islamic civilization flowered throughout this huge area.
As a political unit, however, the empire did not last. By 750, a family called the Abbasids had wrested power from the Umayyad dynasty. An Umayyad named Abd al-Rahman fled to Spain. There he established a rival caliphate, or government, that made Cordoba one of the leading cities in the world. In the 9th and 10th centuries, Muslim dynasties rose up in Egypt, North Africa, and elsewhere.
Despite this loss of political unity, Islamic civilization flourished. Muslim rulers built great cities where scholars and artists made advances in many fields.
One of the most important cities was Baghdad, in present-day Iraq. In 762, the Abbasids made Baghdad their capital. From a small village, Baghdad grew into one of the world’s largest cities. It became a major center of learning where Persian influences combined with the Arabic heritage of Islam.
In the 10th century, the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt built a capital city, Cairo, that rivaled Baghdad. Its university became the most advanced in the Muslim world. In Spain, the Muslim capital of Cordoba became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world. Jews, Christians, and Muslims worked and studied together in this thriving cultural center.
Muslims learned from other cultures, and they helped spread cultural elements to other places. Ideas as well as goods traveled along the Muslim trade routes that connected Asia, Europe, and Africa. For example, Muslims learned paper making from the Chinese, and they passed this knowledge on to Europeans. Furthermore, Muslims produced new scientific, medical, and philosophical texts based on earlier Greek works. Many of these texts were translated into Latin in the 12th century and became available to western Europeans for the first time.
As you read this chapter, keep in mind the great diversity of the Islamic world. Only a minority of Muslims were from Arabia. Persians, Egyptians, North Africans, Turks, and others all contributed to the great cultural blending we call Islamic civilization.
Harun al-Rashid, the fifth caliph of the Abbasids, created a lavish court at Baghdad. He presented this jeweled water jug to Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Abbasid member of a Muslim ruling family descended from Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad
Fatimid dynasty a Muslim ruling family in Egypt and North Africa that was descended from Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter
10.3 City Building and Architecture
Many large cities developed in Muslim lands. The growth of cities encouraged new kinds of architecture. Thousands of workers labored to build palaces, schools, orphanages, hospitals, mosques, and other buildings.
The City of Baghdad One of the most glorious Muslim cities was the Abbasid capital of Baghdad. After the Abbasids rose to power, Caliph al-Mansur decided to move his capital east from Damascus to a site that was more central to his far-flung empire. The site he chose was Baghdad, a village between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This location was a crossroads of trade routes connecting distant parts of the empire.
It took 100,000 architects, workers, and craftspeople four years to build the new capital. Because of its shape, people called the capital complex the “round city.” At its center were the caliph’s palace and the grand mosque. Around them were offices and the houses of court officials and army officers. A double wall with four heavily guarded gates surrounded the inner city.
Shops, markets, and residences grew up outside the wall. Soon Baghdad was one of the world’s largest cities. Bridges, palaces, and gardens all added to its splendor. One Arab historian of the 11th century called Baghdad “a city with no equal in the world.”
The Mosque Muslims created distinctive forms of architecture. A particularly important type of building was the mosque, the Muslim house of worship.
Mosques usually had a minaret (tower) with a small balcony where the muezzin chanted the call to prayer. In the walled courtyard stood a fountain for washing before prayers.
Inside the mosque was the prayer room. Worshipers sat on mats and carpets on the floor. The imam, or prayer leader, gave his sermon from a raised pulpit called the minbar. Next to the minbar was the mihrab, the niche that indicated the direction of Makkah.
Many design styles and materials went into the building of mosques, reflecting the great diversity of Muslim lands. Like the cathedrals of Europe, mosques expressed the religious faith and the artistic heritage of their builders.
The minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra has a spiral design. Muezzins follow spiral steps around the outside of the tower to the balcony at the top.
10.4 Scholarship and Learning
Scholarship and learning were highly valued in Islamic culture. Muhammad himself declared, “The ink of scholars is more precious than the blood of martyrs.”
Acceptance of the Arabic language helped promote learning. Beginning in the 8th century, Arabic became the language of scholarship and science throughout Muslim lands. A shared language and love of learning allowed scholars in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to exchange ideas and build on one another’s work.
Muslim rulers built schools, colleges, libraries, and other centers of learning. In Baghdad, Caliph al-Ma’mun founded the House of Wisdom in 830. Scholars from many lands came together there to do research and to translate texts from Greece, Persia, India, and China.
Other cities also became great centers of learning. In Cairo, the Hall of Wisdom opened in the 10th century. Scholars and ordinary people could visit its library to read books. The huge library in Cordoba, Spain, held as many as 400,000 volumes. Buyers traveled far and wide to purchase books for its shelves.
Among the texts studied by Muslim scholars were the works of ancient Greek thinkers, such as the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Following the example of the Greeks, Muslim philosophers used reason and logic to try to prove important truths.
Like Christian thinkers in Europe, Muslims sometimes wondered how to make reason and logical proof agree with their religious faith. Al-Kindi, an Arab philosopher of the 9th century, tried to resolve this issue. Humans, he said, had two sources of knowledge: reason, and revelation by God. People could use reason to better understand the teachings of faith. Some truths, however, could be known only through God’s word. For example, no one could prove that there would be a resurrection, or rising from the dead, on the day of judgment.
Ibn Sina, a Persian, became Islam’s most famous philosopher. Called Avicenna in Europe, Ibn Sina wrote in the early 11th century. He believed that all knowledge came from God and that truth could be known through both revelation and reason. For example, he presented a logical proof (argument) that the soul was