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Chapter 7. Abbasid Decline & the spread of Islam in South & Southeast Asia. Abbasid & Islam in Asia Timelime. Abbasid & Islam in Asia Timelime. The Abbasid Empire at Its Peak. Abbasid & Islam in Asia Timeline. Abbasid empire weakened, 9th-13th centuries peasant revolts

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abbasid islam in asia timelime1
Abbasid & Islam in Asia Timelime

The Abbasid Empire at Its Peak

middle and late abbasid eras

Abbasid empire weakened, 9th-13th centuries

    • peasant revolts
    • Shi’a un-reconciled
    • succession not secure
  • As early as the third Abbasid Caliph, al-Mahdi (775-785), issues related to the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate were apparent.
      • Caliph abandons frugal ways
      • Caliph does NOT establish clear pattern of succession
    • Wives/concubines became involved in the various palace intrigues associated with the succession crises.
Middle and Late Abbasid Eras
the late abbasid era
The Late Abbasid Era
  • Harun al-Rashid (786-809) ascended to the throne after the death of al-Mahdi
  • Harun al-Rashid enjoyed excess & sumptuous palace living
  • Emissaries sent in the 9th century were dazzled with the splendor of Baghdad
  • Led to gradual disintegration of the Empire
harun al rashid slave armies

Power of Royal Advisors grew throughout the rule of Harun al-Rashid.

    • Caliphs became pawns in the factional royal court battles
    • Upon al-Rashid’s death, full-scale civil war broke out amongst those vying for power.
  • While al-Ma’mum (813-833) was the victor he changed the Caliphate
    • He was convinced to conscript thousands of mostly Turkic-speaking slaves as his personal bodyguards
    • Numbers reached 70K slave regiment = power center
      • 846, they murdered the reigning caliph, and in the coming decades would murder at least four more!
Harun al-Rashid & Slave Armies
abbasid decline

Caliphs struggle to control the Slave Regiments became civil wars

    • Some Caliphs want to move capital away from Baghdad’s turmoil
    • Increased spending drained the treasury
      • Then peasant revolts against new taxes
    • Spiraling taxation/pillaging, etc…
    • New irrigation, old irrigation and public works fall into disrepair
    • Slavery increased and the position of women eroded
  • Abandonment of some of the earlier provinces of the empire.
Abbasid Decline
late abbasid decline women
Late Abbasid Decline…women
  • The Harem and the Veil are the twin emblems of women’s increasing subjugation to men and confinement
  • The Abbasid court created the concept of the Harem for the Caliphate
    • Not for pleasure, but for ensuring bloodlines
abbasid decline1



  • Three major invasions of Baghdad:
    • 1st capture of Baghdad in 945, Persian Buyids, Muslim Splinter group
      • Persian gradually replaced Arabic as the court language and literature
    • 2nd group that successfully captured Baghdad in 1055 was the Sunni, Seljuk Turks
    • 3rd and last group the

captured Baghdad

in 1258 was

the Mongols

Abbasid Decline

Buyid Kingdom 970CE (light blue)

the seljuks
The Seljuks
  • By 1055, the Buyid control over the Caliphate was broken
  • In 1055, Central Asian Nomadic warriors known as the Seljuk Turks ruled over the Abbasid lands.
    • Staunch Sunnis…forced Shi’a out of governmental positions
  • Resisted the Byzantines who were taking advantage of Muslim disunity
    • Defeat of the Byzantines in Asia Minor, later become the seat of the Ottoman Empire
the crusades

Pope Urban II, in 1095, after calls for help from the Byzantines, rallied Catholic Europe to wrestle the Biblical Holy Lands from the Seljuk Turks

    • Knights from Western Europe launched crusades in 1096.
  • Muslim divisions and the element of surprise made the first Crusade a Christian success.
    • 1099: Christian knights took Jerusalem.
    • Muslim, Jewish, & Christian inhabitants were massacred
      • Non-whites
  • For the next two centuries, Europeans would mount in excess of 8 crusades.
    • Varying degrees of success
  • When Muslim were united under powerful rule like Salah-ud-Din (Saladin) they re-conquer most of the lands they lost.
The Crusades
impact of crusades

The Crusaders’ experiences in the Eastern Mediterranean intensified European “borrowing” from the Muslim world.

  • Through increased cultural contacts, Europeans began to recover much of the Greek learning lost during the waves of nomadic invasions after the fall of the Roman Empire
  • For the Muslim world, the Crusades did not change much of anything.
    • Islam continued to spread.
Impact of Crusades
age of muslim learning and refinement

Even though the caliphate was steeped in political turmoil, the Muslim Empire still experienced growth and prosperity until late in the Abbasid era

    • Declining Revenue
    • Deteriorating conditions in the countryside/town life
  • Expansion of the professional classes
    • Muslim/Jewish/Christian entrepreneurs amass great fortunes supplying cities with staples (grain/barley), essentials (cotton, woolen textiles for clothing), and luxury items.
  • Long-Distance trade & new trade links thrive
Age of Muslim Learning and Refinement
age of muslim learning and refinement1

Intellectual Creativity grew dramatically:

    • Expansion of professional Artisan classes
    • Mosques and palaces became more ornate.
    • Tapestries and rugs from Persia were in great demand from Europe to China (Persian Rugs)
  • Persian becomes the language of “high culture”
    • Arabic remains language of religion, law, and the advancement of the Sciences
    • they developed their own theories:
      • Major corrections to algebraic and geometric theories
      • Advances in trigonometry
  • Persian was language of literary expression, administration, and scholarship
      • Write on many subjects from love affairs, to statecraft, to incidents from everyday life.
Age of Muslim Learning and Refinement
age of muslim learning and refinement2
Age of Muslim Learning and Refinement
  • Great advances in chemistry and astronomy.
  • Cairo: best hospitals in the world
  • Muslim traders introduce techniques like papermaking and silk-weaving that was developed in China.
  • Development of cartography
religious contradictions

Orthodox religious scholars “Ulama” stressed an increasingly restrictive conservatism within Islam, particularly with respect to scientific inquiry

    • Felt that the revival of Greco-Roman philosophical traditions would erode the absolute authority of the Qur’an
  • Sufi were wandering mystics who sought a personal union with Allah
      • Conservative interpretation of the law and religious texts
        • "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God."
      • A reaction against the abstract divinity of the Qur’an
      • Sufis gain reputations as healers and miracle workers…gain sizeable followings= the spread of Islam
        • Some led militant bands that spread Islam to nonbelievers
Religious contradictions
the end of the caliphate
The End of the Caliphate
  • Abbasid Caliphate was compromised by many different factions
  • In the early 13th century, the Mongols, united under Genghis Khan became a powerful force in Asia, smashing through Turko-Persian kingdoms to the east of Baghdad by 1220 CE.
    • Hulegu Khan (Grandson of Genghis Khan) invaded Baghdad 1258 and kills last Caliph
the end of the caliphate1
The End of the Caliphate
  • The Mongol advance was stopped by the Mamluks, or Turkic Slaves who ruled Egypt
  • In 1401, Baghdad suffers from another capture and round of pillaging by the forces of Tamerlane (Timur) Muslim/Mongol
  • Baghdad’s glory becomes supplanted by Cairo to the west and Istanbul to the North
islam s arrival in south asia

India through the Gupta Empire had been a crossroads of migration for Central Asian nomads seeking refuge

    • People were accepted, and assimilated into Indian Society.
  • Arrival of the Muslims in the 7th Century CE, altered that.
  • Early interactions did little to add territory to the Muslim Empire, and in some cases, lost territory
  • BUT, in 962 CE, a Turkish slave dynasty seized power in Afghanistan.
    • Led by Mahmud of Ghazni, began two CENTURIES of Muslim raiding and conquest in Northern India
  • Throughout the 11th century, Mahmud defeated one confederation of Hindu princes after another in the name of Islam.
Islam’s arrival in South Asia
mahmud of ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni
  • The efforts of Mahmud of Ghazni were continued by Muhammad of Ghur
    • Assassinated in 1206
  • A slave lieutenant seizes power…Qutb-ud-din Aibak
  • Islam would spread into fringes of China
the hindu islam mix


Open, tolerant, and inclusive of varying forms of religious devotion.

Search of union with spiritual source of all creation.

Social system structured on the caste system

  • Based on doctrines, practices (specific) and exclusive worship of a single god.
  • Highly egalitarian (Democratic/classless society) in the sight of God.
  • Religious practices are mandatory and obvious
The Hindu/Islam mix
the hindu islam mix1

Early centuries were characterized by violent conflict.

    • However, a good deal of trade and religious interchange.
    • In time, peaceful interactions became the norm
  • There were contacts via traders in the Indian Ocean Trade network as early as 711 CE
  • Indian overlords who took over land in South Asia brought little change to most inhabitants of the Indian Subcontinent.
    • Many people welcomed the Arabs because they promised lighter taxation and religious tolerance
The Hindu/Islam mix
early muslim encounters in india

Muslim leaders decided to treat Hindus and Buddhists as the dhimmi, or “people of the book” even though they had no connection to the Bible.

    • This meant that Hindus and Buddhists had to pay the tax on non-believers, they enjoyed the freedom to worship as they pleased.
  • Little effort was put towards conversion, so most people remained Hindu or Buddhist.
Early Muslim encounters in India
indian muslim cultural diffusion

Muslims inherit the Indian scientific learning, which rivaled the Greeks as the most advanced in the world.

  • Arabic numerals originated in India
  • Indian learning was transferred to Baghdad in the age of the Abbasids.
    • Indian doctors, scientists, etc.
  • Muslims adopt Indian styles of dress, food, and ride on elephants as the Hindu rajas (kings) did.
  • Muslims also adopt and infuse Indian architectural styles
Indian/Muslim cultural diffusion
the delhi sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate
  • A new Muslim empire was proclaimed with the capital at Delhi, along the Jumna river on the Gengetic Plain.
  • For the next 300 years, a succession of dynasties known as the Delhi Sultante (literally, princes of the heartland) ruled North and Central India
the delhi sultanate1
The Delhi Sultanate
  • This was a period of clashing control between the sultanate princes themselves, as well as Mongol and Turkic invaders.

Carriers of the new faith on the subcontinent were often merchants and Sufi mystics

    • Sufis shared many characteristics with Indian gurus and wandering ascetics.
    • Belief in magical healing powers
    • Accepted lower-caste and outcaste groups into Islamic faith
  • Most Muslims were NOT from the Indo-Gangetic centers of the Delhi Sultanate, indicating low forced conversions

Most conversions came from low-caste or Buddhist groups.

    • Buddhism became largely debased as a result of corrupt practices
  • Buddhist temples and monasteries became lucrative targets for raids, etc.
  • Many lower-caste, untouchables, animistic tribes, and Buddhists were attracted to the egalitarian nature of Islam

Hindus were convinced that Muslims would soon be absorbed by the superior religions and more sophisticated cultures of India

    • Many things pointed that way!
      • Muslim princes adopted regal styles
      • Muslim rulers claim divine descent
      • Muslim rulers mint coins with Hindu images
  • Muslim communities also became socially divided along caste lines
    • Violation of the original tenets of Islam!
islam in south asia at the end of the sultanate

Attempts to fuse Hinduism and Islam soon were recognized as impossible.

  • Brahmans soon denounce Muslim leaders, etc.
    • Muslims respond by strengthening their unity within the Indian Muslim community
  • After centuries of political domination though, South Asia remained one of the least converted and integrated of all the areas Islam reached.
Islam in South Asia at the end of the Sultanate
  • Southeast Asia was CRITICAL to the connection of trade from Chinese ports to Indian vessels along the Indian Ocean Trade network
southeast asian contribution
Southeast Asian contribution
  • Aromatic woods from rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra
  • Spices: cloves, nutmeg from Indonesia
  • From 8th Century onward, coastal trade in India became dominated by Muslims
se asia
  • As a result, elements of Islam began to filter into the southeast Asian region
  • The collapse of the Shrivijaya trading empire (Buddhist) in the 13th century opened the door for the widespread introduction of Islam
se asia1
  • Trading contacts paved the way for conversion
    • NOT conquest and force
  • Muslim ships also carry Sufis to the various parts of SE Asia
  • Conversion begins in Sumatra, then across the Strait of Malacca to Malaya
se asia2
  • Muslims impressed SE Asians by telling them how much of the world had already been converted
  • Mainland conversion was centered on Malacca, a powerful trading city
  • Spreads to east Sumatra and to DEMAK on the north coast of Java
  • From there, spread to the Celebes and then the Spice Islands, then to Mindanao and Southern Philippines
  • Trading was the key to conversion.
  • Regulation of commonality in Muslim laws was good to regulate business.
  • Conversion linked centers culturally, and economically to Indian merchants and ports in India, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean
se asian islam
SE Asian Islam
  • Some areas (like Central Java) saw conversion take longer than others
    • Hindu-Buddhist dynasties contested its spread
  • Mainland Southeast Asia did NOT see wholesale conversion, and remained largely Buddhist
  • Because it was spread primarily by Sufis, SE Asian Islam was more dynamic than orthodox Islam
    • Infused with mythical strains
    • Tolerated animist, Hindu, and Buddhist beliefs and rituals.
    • Magical powers
women in se asian islamic society

Women retained a strong position in the family and the community

    • Trading in local and regional markets was dominated by small-scale female merchants
    • As in Western Sumatra, lineage and inheritance was traced through female lines
  • Many cultural elements were blended from SE Asian Culture with Muslim Culture.
Women in SE Asian Islamic Society