Arab empire was prosperous, carrying on trade with China, the Byzantine Empire, India, and Southeast Asia Ships and camel caravans were used in trading Under the Abbasid dynasty: ◦ Gold and slaves from Saharan region of Africa ◦ Silk and porcelain from China ◦ Gold & Ivory from Eastern Africa ◦ Sandalwood and spices from India ◦ Grain from Egypt ◦ Linens, dates, precious gems from Iraq ◦ Textiles from Western India
Flourishing trade meant large and prosperous cities throughout the Arab empire. ◦ Abbasids were centralized in Baghdad (Iraq) ◦ Fatmids of Egypt located capital in Cairo (Egypt) ◦ Damascus, Syria, was central to Silk Road trade routes (and had a port for ships). These three cities were the centers of the administrative, cultural, and economic activity for their regions. Cordoba, Spain was Europe’s largest city after Constantinople and was Muslim capital in Southern Spain.
Islamic cities had distinctive physical appearance; the most impressivebuilding was usually the palace for the caliphs or local governmentofficials like governors.There were also mosques for worship. Mosques have distinct features,like towers, that separate them from other buildings.The bazaar was a local market found in most Islamic cities. Bazaarswere monitored by local officialswho made sure merchants keptthe bazaar clean and followedthe rules.Goods from across Europe, theMiddle East and China wereavailable for sale in bazaars.
The Arab Empire was more urban than other parts of the world, partly because the Middle East is largely desert lands and not arable. Most people made their living through farming or herding animals. In the early empire, farms were owned by independent farmers/peasants. In the late empire, wealthy landowners amassed large estates and used slave labor to farm. Egypt was one exception to this development – its farmlands remained in the hands of peasants.
According to Islam, all people are equal in the eyes of Allah. ◦ This was not necessarily the case for Arabian leaders, however, who had a defined upper class of ruling families, senior officials, and elites that included the wealthiest merchants. ◦ Slaves were also not considered equal; slavery was widespread throughout the Arabic empire. Slaves were used in the military (and often freed if they proved their value); in the home as domestic servants; and as farm labor. Islamic law made it clear that slaves should be treated fairly and that it was a good act to free slaves.
The Quran granted women spiritual and social equality with men. Women had the right to run businesses and own property. Women played a prominent role in the rise of Islam Islamic teachings account for some differences in duty and responsibility for men and women ◦ Every woman had a male guardian, usually a father, brother, husband, or other male relative ◦ Marriages were arranged ◦ Muslim men were allowed more than one wife if they could pay a dowry – a gift of money and goods in exchange for a bride ◦ Adultery was forbidden, but divorce was allowed. As Islam spread, older customs eroded the rights of women ◦ Some women were secluded in their homes ◦ Women were expected to cover every part of their bodies when in public ◦ These customs were result of Arab practice, not Islam
Preserving knowledge ◦ Would you be surprised to learn that it was the Arab that preserved most of the literature and mathematics left by the Greeks? ◦ When Europe was experiencing a Dark Age after the fall of Rome, the Arab empire was experiencing a Golden Age ◦ Arabs preserved the writings of Plato and Aristotle and mathematical texts from India ◦ After the Chinese invented paper, the Arabs used it to translate works and make them available to scholars
The Arabs preserved much of what we knowabout Ancient Greek philosophy, but they alsoexpanded on the ideas of Socrates, Plato, andAristotle.Ibn-Rushd was a philosopher in Cordoba, Spain.He wrote commentary on Aristotle’s survivingworks. When Europeans received Aristotle’stranslations in the 1100s, they also received Ibn-Rushd’s commentaries.Muslims adopted the numerical system of India,including the use of the zero. This eventuallybecame known as the Arabic system and is stillused today. In the 800s, an Arab mathematiciandescribed and developed the mathematicaldiscipline of Algebra – the same discipline taughtin schools today.
The Muslims set up an observatory inBaghdad to study astronomy. Theyknew the Earth was round and theynamed many of the stars andconstellations. They also perfectedthe astrolabe, an instrument used bysailors to determine their location byusing the positions of stars and Ibn-Kahldun’s book argued thatplanets. The astrolabe made it history was cyclical and thatpossible for Europeans to sail to patterns of birth, growth, andAmerica. decay would repeat throughout history. He sought a scientificMuslim scholars took an interest in basis for the cycle, usingwriting history. Ibn-Khaldun, who political and social factors thatlived in the 1300s, he wrote determine the course of history.Introductions to History.
Muslim scholars were the first to develop the study of medicine as a field of scientific study Ibn-Sina wrote a medical encyclopedia that stressed the contagious nature of diseases; he demonstrated that disease could be spread through contaminated water Ibn-Sina’s work became the basic medical textbook for university students in Europe
Arabs had a strong literary tradition ◦ One of the most famous works of Middle Eastern literature is the Rubaiyat ◦ Another is The 1001 Nights (also called the Arabian Nights) – where we get the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. Arabian Nights was written by Omar Khayyam, who lived in the 12th century ◦ Omar Khayyam also wrote poetry that was famous throughout the Arab empire
Islamic art is a blend of Arab,Turkish, and Persiantraditions. The bestexpression of Islamic art is intheir holiest buildings,Muslim mosques.The Great Mosque of Samarra(Iraq) was the world’s largestmosque when it was built. Itis famous for its minaret, thetower from which themuzzein (crier) calls thefaithful to prayer five times aday.
Muslim palaces were built to reflect both political and spiritual power. ◦ Palaces were built around a central courtyard, usually surrounded by two-story towers and large protective walls. ◦ The palaces were built like fortresses, with holes for pouring oil over the enemy and gate-towers to keep watch for the enemy. ◦ One of the most famous palaces is the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, pictured here.
Mosques were built for worship and to reflect the glory of Allah. ◦ Arabs used columns, arches, and domes in much of their architecture. ◦ One of the most famous mosques is the mosque at Cordoba, Spain, pictured here. No representation of the prophet Muhammad ever adorns a mosque, nor do any figures, as Muhammad warned against portraying living beings.
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