Chapter VI- The First Global Civilization:

The Rise of Islam

Great video summarizing a lot of islam history 

We did not make this video!

Theme 2: Development and Interaction of Cultures

  • The initial rise of Islam was vast and fast; the new religion grew rapidly and in only a century it had stretched itself far across globe– from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to central Asia in the east. The new religion initially was adopted by town dwellers and bedouins in the region where Muhammad lived. But Islam offered opportunities for uniting Arabs by providing a distinct indigenous monotheism supplanting clan divisions and allowing an end to clan feuding. All believers were equal before Allah, offering an ethical system capable of healing social rifts within Arab society. The strong and wealthy were responsible for the care of the weak and poor.

  • Islam, by nature, contained beliefs appealing to individuals in many differing world cultures. They included its monotheism, legal codes, egalitarianism, and strong sense of community. Islam, while regarding Muhammad’s message as the culmination of divine revelation, accepted components previously incorporated in Judaism and Christianity. Islam’s five pillars was the basis for the religion and its promoted unity: (1) acceptance of Islam; (2) pray five times daily; (3) the fasting month of Ramadan; (4) payment of a tithe/zakat for charity; (5) the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Theme 3: State-Building, Expansion, and Conflict

  • In the 7th century C.E., the Arab followers of Muhammad surged from the Arabian Peninsula to create the first global civilization. They quickly conquered an empire incorporating elements of the classical civilizations of Greece, Egypt, and Persia. Islamic merchants, mystics, and warriors continued its expansion in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The process provided links for exchange among civilized centers and forged a global civilization. Although united in belief of Muhammad’s message, the Islamic world was divided by cultural and political rivalries, such as Shia’s vs Sunni’s.

  • The murder of Uthman, the 3rd caliph, caused a succession struggle. Muhammad’s earliest followers supported Ali, but he was rejected by the Umayyads. In the ensuing hostilities, Ali won the advantage until he accepted a plea for mediation at Siffin in 657. Ali lost the support of his most radical adherents, and the Umayyads won the renewed hostilities. The Umayyad leader, Mu’awiya, was proclaimed caliph in 660. In 661, Ali was assassinated. This dispute lefta a permanent division within Islam. The Shi’a continued to uphold the rights of Ali’s descendants to be caliphs (rightful descendants).

Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures

  • Gender relationships altered as the Muslim community expanded. Initially, the more favorable status of women among the Arabs prevailed over the seclusion and male domination common in the Middle East. Muhammad and the Quran stressed the moral and ethical dimensions of marriage. The adultery of both partners was denounced; female infanticide was forbidden. Although women could have only one husband, men were allowed four wives, but all had to be treated equally. Muhammad strengthened women’s legal rights in inheritance and divorce. Before Allah, both genders were equal.


Bedouins- Nomadic cultures that had developed over several centuries. They relied largely on camels and oases, which were scattered around the landscape. They had few towns and a very limited agriculture. Only costal cities were truly able too flourish. Bedouins were mostly organized in small tribes and clans. Violence between clans was common. Bedouin women held some status in Arabia and often had birth lineage traced through the mother. Women were also considered “capable” of milking camels, weaving raising children and various other tasks. They were however not in any way equal to men. Property rights, glory in war, and divorce codes heavily favored men. Men often practiced polygamy, while women were usually monogamous. Women’s rights were hardly considered law, and often could vary from tribe to tribe. 

There were many different religions among the Bedouin clans, but most were polytheistic. Having, yet no written language, stories and poems, were told and passed down. Some clans recognized a supreme god, Allah, but rarely prayed or sacrificed to Allah. They preferred to concentrate on less abstract gods who seemed more relevant to their daily lives.


Bedoiun Man 

^ Bedouin road trip animal of choice...  The Camel

 There were many different religions among the Bedouin clans, but most were polytheistic. Having, yet no written language, stories and poems, were told and passed down. Some clans recognized a supreme god, Allah, but rarely prayed or sacrificed to Allah. They preferred to concentrate on less abstract gods who seemed more relevant to their daily lives.


^ 72 names of Allah (God) 

 Shaykhs- Were leaders of clan groups. They were normally elected by elder advisors, and were almost always men with large herds, several wives, and many children, which was a clear example of how status played a part in leadership. The dictates were enforced by free warriors whose families made up the majority of the clan group. Below them were the slave families often from rival defeated clans.


 Mecca- An important town to the Bedouin people was largely an extension of their culture. Its population was linked by kinship to the Bedouin people. It had been founded by the Bedouins during the time of Mohammad. Located in the mountainous regions of the Red sea, Mecca had been founded by the Umayyad clan of the Quraysh Bedouin tribe. The city also contained the Ka’ ba. Mecca also maintained strong trade routes.


Above^: Modern day City of Mecca 

 Medina- An important town to the Bedouin people was largely an extension of their culture. Its population was linked by kinship to the Bedouin people. First called Yathrib, is the patron city of the prophet Mohammad. Like many other towns, it was established near an oasis, which made agriculture possible. They grew a variety of foods and engaged in trade. Unlike Mecca however Medina was dominated by two Bedouin and three Jewish clans. Fighting among them left them as a poor second to Mecca’s trading power.


 Umayyad- Powerful tribe the founded the great city of Mecca. Dominated the politics and economy of Mecca, and had tremendous status.  Maintained strong trade routes in and out of Mecca.


 Ka’ba- One of the most revered religious shrines in Pre-Islamic Arabia. It attracted thousands of pilgrims, and contracted a temporary truce between feuding clans, which would also bring people in to the city to talk and trade.


Above^: Ka' ba located in the modern day city of Mecca 

 Mohammad- there had been earlier prophets who urged the Bedouin tribes to renounce idol worship and rely on a single almighty god (Moses, and Jesus being some of the great ones) Mohammad was considered to be the final and greatest prophet, however not a god. The hardships of Muhammad’s early life underscore the importance of clan ties in the Arabian world. Born around 570 C.E. into a prominent clan of the Quraysh tribe, his father died before he was born. He was raised by his father’s relatives, because his mother died shortly after. Abu Talib was fond of him and raised him through much of his early life, while his grandfather educated him in the ways of the merchant.  During adolescence, Mohammad lived in Mecca, and worked as a trader. His trading brought him to lands beyond Arabia and made him more aware of clan rivalries. He became very popular and effective as a merchant, but became dissatisfied with it. And went on to reveal the Qur’ an. His early followings were small (pretty much just his wife, clans people, and servants or slaves) but his circle of faith continued to grow. The Umayyad began to see him as a threat to their power, and plotted to kill him. After escaping to Medina he engaged in several battles with them, where he eventually emerged victorious and signed a treaty with the Quraysh in 628. During this he won many allies and Muslims were now permitted to visit the shrine in Mecca. He died in 632. After the death of Muhammad, many followers renounced their faith, while remaining followers fought over who should succeed him. However most of Arabia was united under Islam by 633.


 ^ Muhammad

 Khadijah- employed Mohammad when he was around 20. Was the widow of a wealthy merchant, but would go on to marry Mohammad later on. Was one of the first followers of Islam.  Several choices were considered and a deadlock that would threaten the Islamic community was likely

 Qur’ an- A collection of revelations of Mohammad that later followers believed to be transmitted to him by Allah through the Angel Gabriel. These revelations were later written in Arabic and recorded in this book. This formed the basis of a new religion that Mohammad began to preach to his clan and the city of Mecca.

 Umma- Refers to the community of faithful, transcendent old tribal boundaries. It allowed for a degree of political unity never seen before Muhammad’s time. The new religion provided a new supernatural sanctioned source of authority. This allowed the skills that the Bedouins had once channeled toward fighting, to focus on conquest of others. Islam also healed many of the deep social rifts that were so common in Arabian society. It stressed that believers were all equal in the eyes of Allah.


 Zakat- was a payment of tax or charity, that the Islamic religion demanded of all believers. It also forbade the rich from taking advantage of the poor. Was part of the 5 pillars of islam. It is considered to be an act of helping the brother and all believers must abide to it.


 Five Pillars- Is a list of things that all true believers must accept, including

        1)   Shahadah= The confession of faith “ There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”
        2)   Salta= The injunctions, to pray facing the holy city of Mecca  five times a day.
        3)   Sawm= To fast during the month of Ramadan.
        4)   Zakat= or tithe for charity also the community cohesion, and won converts from those seeking an ethical code that                 stressed moral responsibility.
      5) Hajj=  pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca

 ^ Prayer...

 Caliph- The political and religious successor to Muhammad. This elected leader would serve as the political and religious leader of Islam. Abu Bakr was chosen as the first Caliph. In 656 the third Caliph, Uthman, was murdered, by mutinous warriors during the war with the Byzantines, and Persians, after the conquest of Egypt. This allowed Ali to become caliph.


 Mosque of one of the caliphs 

 Hajj- After Ali had, had the courage to take Muhammad’s secured Muhammad a safe passage, and small band of followers to Medina, the journey they took became known as the Hajj or flight to Medina. This event marks the first year of the Islamic calendar

^ Muslims attempting to achive the Hajj

 Ali- Devised cleaver ruses and had the courage to take Muhammad’s place, making himself a target, in 622 C.E. secured Muhammad a safe passage, and small band of followers to Medina.


 Abu Bakr- One of Muhammad’s earliest followers and closest friends. He became caliph from 632- 634. In addition to his courage and wisdom, he knew the Bedouin history well, so he was well aware of where tension stood, and where alliances could be formed. At first he received no financial support from the Muslim community, and had to continue working as a merchant.

 Ridda Wars- Although Abu Bakr, had only loose control of the generals, they proved very able. They stopped several attacks on Mecca, and recruited many Bedouin tribes into Islam. The defeat of the larger clans in what were known as the Ridda Wars brought the return of Arabian tribes to the Islamic fold. These tribes would go on to assault the Byzantine, and Persian empires

 Jihad- “Holy Wars” was launched to forcibly spread the Muslim faith, that are often misinterpreted by Christian Westerners.


 Battle of Siffin- Uthmans unpopularity among the tribes, especially those from Medina, arose partly from the fact that he was chosen from the prophets early enemies, the Umayyads. The Umayyads, refused to recognize Ali, as Caliph, and swore revenge when he refused to punish Uthmans assassins. War erupted because of this. After Ali, had nearly defeated the Umayyads, he accepted a plea for mediation, which upset his generals, who renounced his leadership, and had to be violently suppressed. Diplomacy between the groups, failed, and the Umayyads reclaimed Egypt as an ally.


 Mu’ awiya- in 660 he became the new leader of the Umayyads, and was proclaimed caliph in Jerusalem. This directly challenged Ali, who was assassinated a year later. Ali’s son Hasan was pressured into renouncing the Caliphate. This issue of succession caused great disagreement among the Muslim community.


 Sunni & Shi’a- The group who favored the Umayyads was and is known as the sunni, and remain hostile to the Shi’a or group who supported Ali to this day. Tensions were heightened shortly after the death of Ali by the continuing struggle between the Umayyads and Ali’s second son, Husayn

 Ramadan- enhanced the community soldiery, and allowed the faithful to demonstrate heir fervor

 Damascus- Although Mecca remained the holy city of Islam, Damascus in Syria, became something of the new political capital. This was where the Umayyads chose to live after the death of Uthman. From here there was a succession of Umayyad Caliphs that would try to build a bureaucracy that could control the lands they claimed to rule.


Map of the borders and land expansion of Damscus  

 Mawali- Muslim converts during the Umayyad era. These converts were originally taxed heavily and possibly hoped that conversion would lighten their burden, however it did little to advance them socially or economically. The Jizya, was the heaviest property tax, that was imposed on non-believers. They also found it difficult if not impossible to get into positions of power, they were not even considered full members

 Dhimmi- The far greater population of the Umayyad empire, were also known as “the people of the book”. This distinction was originally for Christians and Jews who shared the bible with the Muslims. This distinction was stretched however to accommodate some of the conquered people of Persia and India. The Muslim rulers were generally accepting of other religions, but they had to pay a higher tax.

 Hadiths- traditions of the prophet, which played a critical role in Islamic law and rule and ritual were recorded by women. Everything that was said or transcribed to muhammad are consider Hadiths. 

Example: Sahih Bukari Volume 3, Book 40, Number 541

"A tumbler was brought to the Prophet who drank from it, while on his side there was a sitting boy... I will not give preference to anyone over me to drink the rest of it from which you have drunk" 

 Abbasid- a party who traced its ancestry back to Muhammad’s uncle, al- Abbas, openly challenged the Umayyad armies by 747. They would form alliances with dissident groups that opposed the Umayyads, included the Shi’a and the Mawali. This band of rebels, quickly defeated the remaining Umayyad empire.


Map of the area controlled by the Abbasids  

 Battle of River Zab- In 750 the Abbasids met an army led by the Umayyad Caliph himself. This massive battle took place near the Tigris River, and the Abbasid victory opened the way for the conquest of Syria, and the taking of the Umayyad capitol. Wanting to prevent his rule from ever being disputed again, Abu al Abbas invited many members of the Umayyad clan to a reconciliation banquet, where they were slaughtered by Arab troops. He then hunted and killed as many remaining members as possible, however the grandson of a former caliph fled, to Spain.


 Bagdad- Became the new capitol of the Abbasid order of Islam. Located in Iraq near the old Persian capital Ctesiphon. Abbasid caliphs rose to power and gained emperor like status.

^ modern Bagdad 

 Wazir- Chief administrator and head of the caliph’s inner councils. It was also embodied in a more sinister way in the fearful guise of the royal executioner who stood close to the throne in the public audiences of the Abbasid rulers. The Warzir also oversaw the building of administrative infrastructure.


 Dhows- Arab sailing vessels with triangular sails, which would influence European design. They were often used by merchants to carry goods from one civilized core to another. Muslim merchants often formed joint ventures with Christian and Jews, because each merchant had a different Sabbath, and the firm could do business all week. Merchants also took charge of luxury product trade for the elite class.


Picture of a real Dhow 

 Ayan- On the countryside, a wealthy and deeply entrenched landed elite emerged in the early decades of Abbasid rule. Many were long established landlords, while others were quite new. Merchants or solders with enough money could pay for considerably sized estates.


 Mosque- The mosque is a symbol of Islamic civilization. It is a holy location in Islam, where the faithful commit to prayer five times a day. The lack of architectural prowess in ancient Arabia left many mosques looking frail and modest when compared to the monumental structures of Greece and Rome. Mosques also contain a qibla, or wall, that faces in the direction of the holy city of Mecca. Because human and animal figures were forbidden from the Qur’an mosques often contain geometrical figures and artful writing are more often displayed

^a mosque 

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