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Medieval Islamic Society. Between 600-1250 Islam develops into a major religion spanning 3 continents and an empire characterized by extensive international trade and extraordinary achievements in art and science . Arabian Peninsula Trade Routes 570 AD.

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medieval islamic society

Medieval Islamic Society

Between 600-1250 Islam develops into a major religion spanning 3 continents and an empire characterized by extensive international trade and extraordinary achievements in

art and science

prophet muhammad 570 632
Prophet Muhammad (570 – 632)

Early Years


Took great interest in religion and meditation

Age 40: life changing event

Angel Gabriel visits him

Tells him to proclaim belief in Allah (Arabic for one God)

Muhammad concludes that he is the final prophet and begins to teach belief in Allah

Islam = submission to will of Allah

Muslim = one who has submitted

  • Born in Mecca to wealthy family
  • Orphaned; raised by uncle and grandfather
  • Little schooling; began working on caravan trade routes early age
  • Marries
  • Had good marriage and business
rise of islam
Rise of Islam

The Hijrah (622)

Return to Mecca (630)

Muhammad and 10,000 followers return to Mecca

Mecca leaders surrender and Muhammad enters Mecca in triumph

Most pledge loyalty and convert to Islam

Muhammad dies 2 years later, but by this time he had done much to unify Arab Peninsula under Isalm

  • Muhammad gained followers, but was being attacked by others so decides to leave Mecca for Medina
  • Migration known as The Hijrah
  • Turning point in Medina for Muhammad: becomes religious, political and military leader
  • Decides to return to Mecca and assume leadership there
major tenets of islam
Major Tenets of Islam

Five Pillars

Sources of Authority


Quran: Revelations of Muhammad collected in book called Quran = the holy book for Muslims. Also spelled Koran.

Sunna: Muhammad's example

Shari’a Law: Guidance of Quran and Sunna put into body of law

Regulates family life, moral conduct, business and community life of Muslims

  • Faith: No God but Allah and Muhammad is messenger of Allah
  • Prayer: 5 times a day in direction of Mecca
  • Alms: Responsibility to support less fortunate
  • Fasting: During month of Ramadan sunrise to sundown
  • Pilgrimage: All who are physically and financially able, perform pilgrimage to Mecca (a haj) at least once
connections among islam judaism and christianity
Connections Among Islam, Judaism, and Christianity
  • All three believe in good and evil and a day of final judgment
  • For Muslims, Allah is same God worshipped by Jews and Christians
  • Muslims do not see Jesus as Son of God, only a prophet  believe Muhammad was last prophet
  • Muslims believe Quran is word of God like Jews regard Torah and Christians the New Testament  but believe that Quran perfects these earlier revelations
  • Jews and Christians referred to as “People of the Book” because have holy book with teachings similar to Quran
  • Shari’a law requires Muslim leaders to extend tolerance to Jews and Christians
dome of the rock in jerusalem
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
  • Considered sacred place by both Muslims and Jews
  • Muslims: place where Muhammad received revelations
  • Jews: place where Abraham went to sacrifice son Isaac
after muhammad s death eventual split in islam
After Muhammad's Death, Eventual Split in Islam

Sunni Muslims

Shiite Muslims

Successor to Muhammad must be descendant of Muhammad

Minority view

  • Successor to Muhammad acceptable if follows Muhammad's example (Sunna)
  • Majority view
despite division islamic influence continued to spread
Despite Division, Islamic Influence Continued to Spread

Concept of Jihad

Wide Spread Expansion

632: Arabian Peninsula

656: Persia, modern day Syria, parts of North Africa

750: More parts of Middle East and North Africa, parts of Spain, and parts of Byzantine Empire

800 – 1500: West Africa and East Africa

800 – 1300: Trade routes as far as China and Southeast Asia

1395: Balkans and Russia

1453: Constantinople

  • Mentioned in Quran
  • Means “striving”
  • Can refer to striving against evil
  • Also used to mean struggle against unbelievers
  • Also translated to mean “holy war”
  • Sometimes used to justify expansion in Medieval Era
how islamic influence spread
How Islamic Influence Spread

By Conquest

By Trade

West Africa, East Africa, India, other parts of Asia like China, Malaysia and Indonesia

Muslim merchants shared Muslim beliefs with foreigners

In West Africa and East Africa conversions mostly just among ruling class

  • Case with Europe and North Africa
  • Had well disciplined armies and many empires they attacked were weakening (Ex. Byzantine Empire)
muslims were excellent traders
Muslims Were Excellent Traders
  • Muslim merchants traveled all over trade networks in Africa, Europe, and Asia, including as far as China
  • Traded various items including:
    • Gold, salt, ivory from Africa
    • Precious stones and timber from India
    • Spices from Southeast Asia
    • Silk, paper, gunpowder from China
    • Cloth, gold, silver from Europe
  • Major Muslim cities like Baghdad and Cordoba also served as centers for trade
major muslim cities places of rich culture and scholarship
Major Muslim Cities: Places of Rich Culture and Scholarship
  • After fall of Rome, scholarship declined
    • Great ancient knowledge from Greeks and Romans might have been lost forever if Muslims had not played a role in preserving ancient works
  • Capital of Islamic Empire was Baghdad which became center for studying ancient works and learning
    • Opened House of Wisdom = library, academy and translation center
    • Scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, came to review and translate ancient works
  • Similar interactions among scholars occurred in Muslim cities of Cordoba, Damascus, and Cairo
  • Cities had international flavor where cultural blending occurred fueling great achievements
muslims don t just preserve works they greatly advanced scholarship
Muslims Don’t Just Preserve Works They Greatly Advanced Scholarship
  • Many outstanding achievements in in art, architecture, medicine, math, and science during in Islamic Medieval Era
  • Medicine: Some consider Muslim medical doctor Al-Razi greatest physician of period 500-1500 AD
  • Science:
    • Solved problems with experimentation and observation
    • Led to great advances in astronomy including use of astrolabe to identify location (latitude)
  • Math: Al-Khwarizmi invented algebra!
  • Knowledge preserved and developed during this time would be later used by scholars in Europe during Renaissance and Scientific Revolution
the crusades
The Crusades
  • Catholic Church tries to stop spread of Islam
  • Muslims had taken over Jerusalem and were threatening Constantinople
  • 1095: Pope Urban calls for holy war against Muslims.
    • War called “crusade”
  • 1099: 10,000 Christian volunteer fighters recapture Jerusalem in 1st Crusade
  • 1187: Muslims take Jerusalem back again
  • Through 1291:
    • Several crusades, but none successful
    • Enthusiasm lessoned over time because costly and desire for personal gain on part of crusaders grew
results of the crusades
Results of the Crusades
  • Truce whereby Muslims control Jerusalem but Christians can make pilgrimages to Jerusalem
  • Many deaths, sometimes barbaric
    • Cause of bitterness for some Muslims and Christians even today
  • Catholic Church power declines
  • Byzantine Empire further declines
  • But trade greatly expanded!
    • Contact between Europe and Southwest Asia fueled interest in different goods from other lands
    • Trade merchants profited by making loans to finance journeys for crusade and to lease ships for crusade
islam society today
Islam society Today
  • 1/5 of world population is Muslim
  • Second largest religion (Christianity is first)
  • Largest concentration live in Arab world
  • In USA: largest group lives in Dearborn, Michigan
  • 2 groups Sunni and Shiite still exist today
    • Shiite: minority; most live in Iran and Iraq
    • Al Qaeda members claim to be Sunni, but the majority of Muslims dismiss Al Qaeda positions as total distortions of true Islam