Make your own free website on Tripod.com

The History Database

Chapter 6: The First Global Civilization: The Rise and Spread of Islam

Home
Travel
Art History
History of the Bible
World History
United States History

Films

Books

Chapter Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Before 7th century – contacts, but not total control of ancient world under one empire
      1. Arabia – nomadic land on periphery of major civilizations
    2. 7th century – followers of Islam “submission” – Muslims – Allah – one God
      1. Began conquest and conversion
      2. Within decades, Muhammad had empire of Persia, Greece and Egypt
    3. Later empire spread
      1. Merchants, mystics, warriors
      2. Empire expanded
        1. Africa, Asia, southern Europe
        2. Across steppes to central Asia, western China, south Asia
        3. Across ocean trade routes to southeast Asia and eastern Africa
        4. Across overland trade routes, Sahara to western Africa
        5. Across Asia Minor and into European heartland – rivals Christianity
      3. Muslim merchants
        1. Worked with traders from other regions
        2. Prime agents for transfer of food crops, technology, and ideas
        3. Muslim scholars studied, preserved and improved upon learning of Ancient Civs
          1. Eventually, Arabic – language of Qur’an would become international language of the educated
      4. Would define Middle East and N. Africa until today
  2. Desert and Town: The Arabian World and the Birth of Islam
    1. Introduction
      1. Geography – unlikely birth of religion – inhospitable desert
      2. Bedouin – nomadic culture dominant
        1. Some towns – Mecca/Medina – merely extensions of Bedouin life
          1. Safety of trade routes determined success of cities
          2. People linked to kinship
          3. Culture
            1. Focus on clan and family
            2. language and religion
        2. Some coastal trading towns
    2. Clan Identity, Clan Rivalries, and the Cycle of Vengeance
      1. Organization
        1. kin-related clans group with others to make tribes
          1. Only congregate for war, severe crisis
          2. Conditions force you to rely on clan – kicked out equals death
          3. Life regulated by councils
            1. shayks – leaders of the tribe/clan
              1. has large herds, several wives, many children/retainers
            2. Ideas of shayks enforced by warriors
        2. Conflict over pastureland/watering holes
          1. Need to defend one’s honor
          2. One man’s slight could lead to huge conflict followed by revenge
          3. Constant conflicts led to weakened empire – vulnerable to outsiders
    3. Towns and Long-Distance Trade
      1. Small communities of traders emerge
      2. Some northern cities become trade links
        1. Mecca dominates – mountainous region – controlled by Umayyad clan of Quraysh tribe
          1. Mecca has Ka’ba – focus of bazaars
            1. Obligatory truce brought rival groups together
        2. Medina – to the north – wells and springs
          1. Unlike Mecca, run by five competing families – 2 bedouin, 2 Jewish
            1. These divisions later help with formation of Islam
    4. Marriage and Family in Pre-Islamic Arabia
      1. Women greater freedom…varied from tribe to tribe
        1. Key economic roles – milking camel, weaving cloth, raising children
        2. Unlike Persian neighbors – not covered or secluded
        3. wrote poetry
        4. Able to have multiple partners
        5. Lineage matrilineal
      2. …but, men still greater
        1. Earn status through war/battle
        2. Creation of cities leads to stratification leads to male dominance
        3. Men only polygamy
    5. Poets and Neglected Gods
      1. Sparse resources – art and architecture didn’t flourish
      2. Poetry/oral history main method of sharing stories
        1. Theme – heroic clans, warriors
      3. Gods – polytheistic and animism
        1. But…how many really believed
        2. One tribe, Quraysh believed had one god named Allah
          1. but not prayed to, sacrificed to initially
  3. The Life of Muhammad and the Genesis of Islam
    1. Early life of Muhammad
      1. Born into prominent clan of Quraysh tribe
        1. Father and mother die, raised by uncle and prominent grandfather
        2. Made caravan trips with Abu Talib – exposed to Christian/Jewish faiths
      2. Early 20s worked as a trader for Khadijah – later wife
        1. saw inequity of classes
        2. saw class rivalries
        3. saw tension between clans as some, Umayyads, got rich through commerce
        4. saw monotheistic religions
          1. Many prophets during this time period pushed for monotheism
      3. 610 – first revelation from Gabriel
        1. Wrote Allah’s words in Qur-an
    2. Persecution, Flight and Victory
      1. Seen as threat – Umayyad in Mecca
        1. Threat to wealth and power
        2. Threatened Ka’ba role, no longer center of commerce?
      2. One clansmen Ali, finds way for him to sneak out to Medina in 622
        1. Medina ideal location – caught up in clan conflict
        2. Muhammad invited in to resolve disputes
        3. Wisdom as political leader won him new converts
      3. Umayyad send out attacks on Muhammad
        1. Muhammad proves himself as strong military leader
        2. Finally Umayyad surrender, let Muslims visit Ka’ba
        3. 10,000 converts enter city, destroy idols, Mecca inhabitants convert
    3. Arabs and Muslims
      1. Why attractive to Arabs
        1. Form of monotheism that belonged to no single tribe
        2. Equal of other monotheistic faiths
        3. Allowed no intermediaries, priests
        4. End to vendettas, feuds – united
        5. Single, supernatural authority
        6. Turned violence against selves into violence against others
        7. Ethical system to live lives
          1. zakat – charity tax for poor
          2. Wealthy forbidden from overtaxing poor
        8. All aspects of life regulated to prepare for Judgement Day
    4. Universal Elements in Islam
      1. Why attractive to others outside of Arab world
        1. uncompromising monotheism
        2. highly developed legal codes
        3. egalitarianism
        4. strong sense of community
        5. most aspects similar to that of Judaism and Christianity
          1. Accepted older teachings, Muhammad just most recent divine instructions
      2. Five Pillars
        1. No god but Allah
        2. Pray five times a day facing Mecca
        3. fast during Ramadan
        4. Zakat for those in need
        5. Hajj - pilgrimage to Ka’ba to worship Allah
  4. The Arab Empire of the Umayyads
    1. Initially, it looked like Islam might fail with Muhammad’s death
      1. Some renounced faith
      2. Other argued over secession
    2. Foreign expeditions took minds off of internal problems – how convenient
      1. Rather easily beat neighbors
        1. courage
        2. military prowess
        3. religious zeal
        4. weakness of border empires
      2. New lands/people ruled by Arab elite
    3. Consolidation and Division in the Islamic Community
      1. Muhammad gave no procedure for appointing successor – leader – caliph
        1. Ali – cousin and son-in-law too young
        2. Abu Bakr – earliest follower, closest friend
          1. courage, warmth, wisdom
          2. Knew genealogy of tribes – alliances
          3. Ridda Wars – defeated Bedouin tribes, brought under power of Islam
      2. Initially just raided for booty
        1. but…raids showed weakness of empires
        2. many residents tired of being merely vassals and frontier guardians for Persians/Byz
    4. Motives for Arab conquest
      1. Unity of faith gave them common cause
      2. Pent-up energy from warrior people
      3. booty – “bread and dates”
      4. not driven by desire to win converts – avoided mass conversions
        1. wanted tax money – that’s the key – need to keep people not Muslim
  5. Weaknesses of the Adversary Empires
    1. Sasanian Empire of Persia
      1. Autocratic emperor manipulated by aristocrats
      2. Zoroastrianism – religion of emperor ignored by common people
      3. Delayed too long to realize threat, eventually fled east and were killed
    2. Byzantine Empire – stronger adversary
      1. defection of their own frontier Arabs
      2. Muslim invaders got support from Christians from Syria and Egypt
        1. Copts and Nestorians would rather be taxed less
      3. Muslims triumphed in early battles, would continue siege for centuries
  6. The Problem of Succession and the Sunni-Shi’a Split
    1. Frustration over
      1. Centuries of personal animosities
      2. Who would control booty from victories
      3. Spark to conflict – murder of third caliph Uthman
        1. Uthman from Umayyad clan – remember the guys who wanted to assassinate Muham
    2. Ali – remember – the son-in-law of Muhammad
      1. Regains thrown – doesn’t punish assassins – war’s on
      2. Ali’s forces were winning, but he decides on mediation at Battle of Siffin
        1. Makes him look week, he loses some people from his side
        2. 660 Mu’awiya – Umayyads claim he is new caliph from Jerusalem
          1. Ali assassinated shortly after
          2. Son Husayn tries to regain power, but is abandoned by Iraqis and killed
      3. And now we have a feud
    3. Sunnis vs Shi’a
      1. Backers of Umayyads vs. backers of Ali
      2. Caliph goes through dominant clan vs. caliph goes through descendants of Muhammad
      3. Saddam Hussein is a Sunni but the the Shi’as have more people in Iraq today
  7. The Umayyad Imperium
    1. Moves East and West
      1. Runs into conflict with Buddhism in East
      2. Goes into Spain and eventually stopped by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732 in West
    2. Capital moved to Damascus, Syria – Arab/Muslim aristocracy ruled over non-Arabs/Muslims
      1. Tried to keep Muslims separate
        1. Part of military elite, moved to garrison towns
        2. Don’t want to lose taxes – remember Muslims can’t tax Muslims
  8. Converts and “People of the Book”
    1. Well…the guys didn’t like being separated, and started intermarrying
      1. Mawali – Muslim converts still had to pay taxes
        1. Some even had to pay jizya – a surtax for nonbelievers – thanks, glad I converted
          1. Oddly enough, not that many people converted…hmmm…I wonder why
      2. Dhimmi – “People of the Book” – basically everyone else in the empire who believed in another religion other than Islam
        1. Muslim lords tolerated other religions…yeayyy taxes
  9. Family and Gender Roles in the Umayyad Age
    1. Position of women actually pretty good, don’t confuse w/ life in Persian Empire
      1. Muhammad stressed importance of marriage, fatherhood – adultery illegal
      2. Husband can marry up to four wives, but must be able to support them all
      3. Got rid of infanticide, gave more property rights to women
      4. Many of women some of his strongest early followers – wife for instance
        1. Helped compile Qur’an, some even went along on campaigns
      5. Veiling isn’t mentioned, but one woman even said why cover, Allah made me this way
  10. Umayyad Decline and Fall
    1. Umayyad caliph’s growing addiction to luxury and soft living – see Saddam Hussein in Dictionary
      1. Stopped fighting wars, built palaces – revolts start around empire
    2. Merv – don’t be scared by the name, but this is where the revolution begins
      1. 50,000 warriors had married local women – identified with region
      2. Rarely given share of booty
      3. Annoyed at Umayyad elite
      4. Annoyed that the Umayyads were sending in new troops – what…we’re not good enough?
      5. Marched under the Abbasid party banner
        1. Joined with the mawali – non-Arab converts
        2. Coalition of the willing defeated Umayyad caliph at Battle on the River Zab
        3. Invited the rest of the Umayyad family to a nice little get together
          1. Wrapped them in carpets and slaughtered them
          2. Hunted down the rest – kind of like in Revenge of the Sith, treatment of Jedis
          3. One guy made it out - Caliphate of Cordoba – in exile – like Yoda
  11. From Arab to Islamic Empire: The Early Abbasid Era
    1. Abbasids less tolerant of Shi’ism sects
    2. Pushed for centralized, absolutist imperial order
      1. Jeweled thrones
      2. Expanded number of bureaucrats – sound like Han China anyone?
        1. Appointed a wazir – chief administrator – guy in charge of getting stuff done
        2. Royal executioner – guy in charge of getting bloody stuff done
        3. Able to collect revenue from far corners of empire, though further away harder
  12. Islamic Conversion and Mawali Acceptance
    1. Toward end of Umayyad period, already starting to accept
      1. No longer dividing up booty – can this please be the last time I use the word booty
    2. Under Abbasid – mawalis given equal footing to first generation – can’t tell the difference
      1. No longer have to pay head tax for being non-Muslim
      2. Open to administrative careers – public life
        1. Even conquered Persians took on a greater role
  13. Town and Country: Commercial Boom and Agrarian Expansion
    1. Merchant class wealth and social status improves – trade a priority***
      1. Afro-Eurasian trading resumes after Rome/China let it die
      2. Created super cool ships called dhows
      3. Muslims worked with Jews, Christians – trade never stops – no Sabbath conflicts
    2. Products – luxury products for elites
    3. Money reinvested in companies
      1. Share given to charity
      2. Created mosques, religious schools, baths, rest houses for weary
      3. Hospitals – best medical care in the world
    4. Increased handicraft production
      1. furniture, glassware, jewelry, tapestries/carpets – you know you’ve heard of Persian rugs
        1. workers had some rights – formed guilds, owned tools,
    5. Slaves do garbage jobs
      1. Urban is better – could actually work your way to freedom
      2. Rural/mining – oftentimes left to non-Muslim captures
    6. Landed elite emerges – ayan – both old money and new money (warriors)
  14. The First Flowering of Islamic Learning
    1. Previously illiterate – ignorant of outside world
      1. Allows them to be open-minded, accept styles and approaches and creativity of the conquered
    2. First priority – preserving classical texts of Greece, Mediterranean, Middle East
      1. W/out Muslim and Jewish scholars – much of classical knowledge would be lost
      2. Traded ideas – Indian number system
  15. Global connections
    1. Rise without precedent – first truly global civilization – nobody had heard of America yet, don’t count
      1. Patchwork of languages, religions, ethnic types
      2. Brought together agriculturalists, nomads, urban dwellers
    2. Commitment to trade and merchants
    3. Ideas from classical civilizations first preserved, then improved upon, then carried all over
  16. Architecture – the mosque
    1. Borrowed from classical architecture
      1. Sometimes even used materials from destroyed churches/temples
    2. Couldn’t use animals/humans so focused on
      1. Geometric designs
      2. Colorful ceramic tiles
      3. Semiprecious stones
      4. Flower and plant motifs
      5. Qur’an passages swirling in Arabic

 

The History Database