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Title: Islam

  • The word Islam comes from the Arabic words
    meaning obedience and peace through submission
    to the one God.
  • Muslim means one who submits to the will of

  • Today there are over 1.3 billion Muslims
    throughout the world, concentrated in the Middle
    East, Africa, and Asia.
  • Islam is the worlds second largest religion
    after Christianity and it is the fastest growing.

  • Arabia before Islam
  • Before the advent of Islam, the Arab civilization
    had little impact on neighboring Roman, Persian,
    or Abyssinian empires.
  • Traditionally, the Arabs were two distinct
    peoples one, the nomadic Bedouins who roamed the
    desert plains and were loosely held together by
    tribal codes and two, the urban dwellers, whose
    tribal divisions were mostly social, not

  • In pre-Islamic Arabia, the life of the Bedouins
    was romanticized by the urban Arabs as pure,
    chivalrous, and unrestricted.
  • They were considered to embody all the noble
    characteristics of the Arab peoples.

  • Children of Arab towns were often temporarily
    sent to live with the nomads to learn traditional
    Arab culture, such as desert living, camel
    rearing, goat herding, and pure Arabic language.
  • Antar, a 6th century Arabian poet and warrior.

  • Arabia was on the periphery of two established
    and rival civilizations of the timethe Byzantine
    Empire (heir to Rome) and the Sassanid Empire
    (heir to the imperial traditions of Persia).
  • Because of its location and long-distance trade,
    Arabs were familiar with the larger world,
    including the monotheism of Judaism,
    Christianity, and Zoroastrianism.

  • By the time of Muhammad, most of the urban Arabs
    had acknowledged the preeminent position of
    Allah, the supreme god of the Arab pantheon
    (there were many gods, including Allahs three
  • Many Arabs increasingly identified Allah with
    Judaisms Yahweh, and regarded themselves also as
    the children of Abraham.

  • By 600 CE, many Arabs were religiously moving
    towards Judaism or that of Christianity, the most
    rapidly growing religion in western Asia.
  • As many Arabs were beginning to explore the
    possibility that Allah/Yahweh was the only God,
    the many other gods residing in the Kaaba and in
    shrines across the peninsula were considered
    nothing more than helpless and harmless idols.

  • Even though Arab cities were widely scattered,
    the city of Makkah (Mecca) had long been
    established as a trading center between Arabia
    and Africa to the west, Yemen and India to the
    south, and Egypt and Syria to the north.

  • Mecca was also important because it was the site
    of the Kaaba, the most important religious
    shrine in Arabia and a destination for thousands
    of pilgrims.

  • During this period, every Arab tribe had its own
    (pagan) idol placed inside the Kaaba (when
    Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630 CE, the city had
    over 360 idols, statues, and other pieces of
    devotion to various gods).

  • The leading tribe of Mecca were the Quraysh,
    whose bloodline stretched back to the prophet
    Ibrahim (Abraham).
  • However for most (but not all), the religion
    taught and practiced by Abraham had long since
    been replaced by polytheism and/or animism.
  • The Quraysh controlled access to the Kaaba and
    were able to grow extremely wealthy taxing
    pilgrims wishing to see it.

  • Superstitions omens, amulets, astrology, and
    divination (by the casting of arrows) were
    important in deciding serious matters like when
    to travel, marry, or go to war.
  • In Islam, this pre-Islamic polytheistic period is
    known as jahiliyyah, or the days of ignorance.

  • Social and tribal hierarchies also meant the
    pre-Islamic period was marked by oppression,
    tyranny, and conflict.
  • There was constant strife and hostility between
    various tribes (wars between clans was a
    continuous problem).
  • Slavery was a common practice (seen as a sign of
    wealth and power).

  • Female infanticide was also common, as daughters
    were considered an expensive liability.
  • Women, whether married or not, like slaves, were
    often considered personal property that could be
    sold or exchanged.
  • Polygamy was a common practice, and some tribes
    allowed women to have several husbands.

  • It is believed women had more freedom than their
    counterparts in most of the civilized world.
  • Women did not wear veils and were not secluded.
  • Some tribes traced ancestry through the mother
    (matrilineal), not the father.
  • Changes were coming, as a result of Muhammad.

  • The Arab Oral tradition
  • From as early as the 5th century BCE, the Arabs,
    originally a largely illiterate people who were
    proud of their tribal genealogies and histories,
    developed an incredibly descriptive and rhythmic
  • This was achieved mostly through the custom of
    memorizing oral narratives and poetry from
    generation to generation.

  • Here is the tradition of the birth of Islam
  • In the year 570 CE, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (which
    means Praiseworthy) was born in the city of

  • Muhammad was born into a family of noble lineage
    that belonged to the Quraysh.
  • Orphaned at a young age (6), he would be raised
    mostly by his uncle (his fathers younger
  • As a young man, he became a merchant.
  • Being a merchant enabled him to travel throughout
    the Arabian Peninsula, where he would come into
    contact with several cultures and religions
    (including Judaism and Christianity).

  • He married Khadijah (known as the Pure), an
    older woman (15 years older), and had six
    children (2 boys/4 girls). But both sons died in
    infancy (which will be important later).

  • Muhammad lived the life of a wealthy merchant.
  • But he was a highly reflective man who was
    constantly troubled with religious and moral
    issues, as he disapproved of the lawlessness of
    his countrymen and was troubled because many were
    polytheistic and superstitious.

  • Muhammad was a hanif (one who followed the
    monotheistic teachings of Ibrahim).
  • As a hanif, he would spend weeks at a time in the
    caves in the mountains outside Mecca, fasting,
    praying, deep in contemplation, grieving over
    what he saw as social injustices infant
    daughters buried alive women traded and bartered
    like chattel and slaves were treated no better
    than livestock.

  • So Muhammad would often retreat into the
    mountains outside Mecca to pray and contemplate
    the meaning and purpose of existence (Buddha and
    Jesus had similar experiences).
  • Then in the year 610 CE (around his 40th
    birthday), while praying in a cave on Mount Hira,
    Muhammad believed that he began to receive
    revelations from the archangel Jibril (Gabriel).

  • Convinced after some initial self doubt that he
    was chosen to be a prophet, he committed his life
    to fulfilling the divine commands he thought he

  • Muhammad was told by Jibril (Gabriel) he was to
    be the Rasulillah (the Messenger of God), a
    prophet charged with delivering a message that
    would set straight misinterpretations of earlier
    revelations given through the Jewish or Christian
  • These revelations would continue over the next 22

  • The archangel Gabriel instructing Muhammad
    (Persian manuscript).

  • Here Muhammad leads Abraham, Moses, and Jesus in
    prayer (from a medieval Persian text).

  • The revelations from Gabriel to Muhammad,
    recorded in the Quran, became the sacred
    scriptures of Islam, which to this day Muslims
    everywhere regard as the very words of God and
    the core of their faith.
  • Intended to be recited rather than simply read
    for information, the Quran, Muslims claim, when
    heard in its original Arabic, conveys nothing
    less than the very presence of the divine.

  • In its Arabian setting, the Qurans message,
    delivered through Muhammad, was revolutionary.
  • Religiously, it was radically monotheistic,
    presenting Allah as the only God, the
    all-powerful Creator, good, just, and merciful
    rejecting as utterly false and useless the many
    gods housed in the Kaaba and scorning the
    Christian notion of the Trinity.

  • Muhammad was not trying to create a new faithhe
    wanted to return to the old and pure religion of
    Abraham from which the Arabs, Jews, and
    Christians had deviated.
  • According to the Quran, submission to Allah
    (Muslim means one who submits) wasnt just an
    individual or spiritual act, it involved the
    creation of a whole new society.

  • Over and over the Quran denounced the prevailing
    social practices of Mecca the hoarding of
    wealth, the exploitation of the poor, corrupt
    business deals, usury, abuse of women, and the
    neglect of widows and orphans.
  • Like the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament,
    the Quran demanded social justice.

  • It sought to return to the older values of Arab
    tribal lifesolidarity, equality, concern for the
    poorwhich had been undermined in Mecca by its
    growing wealth and commercialism.
  • The Quran also challenged the entire tribal and
    clan structure of Arab society, which was prone
    to feuding and violence.
  • The just and moral society of Islam was the umma,
    the community of all believers, which replaced
    tribal, ethnic, or racial identities.

  • Such a society would be a witness over the
    nations, for according to the Quran, You are
    the best community evolved for mankind, enjoining
    what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
  • In this community, women had an honored and
    spiritually equal place.
  • The umma was to be a new and just community,
    bound by a common belief, rather than by
    territory, language, or tribe.

  • Muhammad began preaching to his fellow Meccans
    that there was no god but Allah, that they must
    submit to Gods will, and he pointed out their
    unjust and evil ways.

  • He warned them of the impending judgment of Allah
  • His early preaching called for social justice and
    equality and condemned the oppression of the poor
    by the wealthy and powerful (ideals also common
    in Judaism and Christianity).

  • At first, some of the people of Mecca were amused
    by Muhammad while others scorned him. Eventually
    many became interested in his words.
  • As his popularity and power grew, the political
    leaders of Mecca began a hostile campaign against
    him (because his popularity threatened their

  • Muhammads message of absolute monotheism and
    social equality was against the Meccan
    establishment (of his own Quraysh clansmen).
  • Fearing that their pagan beliefs and tribal
    social hierarchies were threatened by Islam,
    tribal elders began to persecute and torture
    Muslims and plotted Muhammads assassination (his
    arch enemy was one of his own uncles).

  • In 615, Muhammad sanctioned the migration of 80
    Muslims to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) where they were
    welcomed and protected by the Christian king and
    his subjects.

  • The year 619 is known as the Year of Grief for
    Muhammad. His uncle and protector, Abu Talib
    died, and a few months later, his beloved wife
    and spiritual companion, Khadijah, passed away.
  • Adding to his humiliation, he visited a nearby
    village to invite its people to Islam and its
    people set their children upon him, chasing him
    from the city and pelting him with stones.

  • In 621, Muhammad came upon some pilgrims from the
    city of Medina. They had heard of Muhammad and
    were aware of the Judeo-Christian claims of a
    promised prophet.
  • Muhammad explained Islam and these pilgrims
  • A year later, they invited Muhammad and his
    followers to settle in Medina (Al Madinah-which
    means the city in Arabic).

  • Still fearing for his life, in 622 he and several
    followers secretly fled from Mecca (he barely
    escaped assassination) to the safer haven of
    Medina about 200 miles north, where Muhammad
    established an Islamic community in the city.
  • It is in Medina that Islam became the foundation
    for an entire way of life.

  • This moment, known as the Hijira (migration),
    was so important, it marks the starting date of
    the Muslim era, Year 1 on Islams calendar
    (meaning were now in 1392 of the Islamic

  • In the early seventh century Arab society was in
    social and cultural disarray, but Muhammad
    forcefully taught Allahs lessons and began to
    transform his culture.
  • He assumed full leadership of the city of
    Medinareorganizing and reforming the city
    politically, religiously, and militarily.
  • Muhammad became the Prophet-ruler of a virtual
    Islamic state within the heartlands of pagan

  • He was so successful that Muslims look back to
    this time as the creation of the standard or
    model for Muslim society to follow.
  • One of the key ideas was that of equality among
    Muslims (in the sight of Allah, there were no
    differences among believers).
  • That meant in theory, no racism. In reality
    though, this only applied to Muslims. Others
    were considered inferior.

  • The ancient tradition of slavery continued, but
    one Muslim could not enslave another.
  • In the Muslim world it was considered a good deed
    to free a slave, just not the slave (s) of a good
    friend or relative.

  • Muhammad was particularly successful in military
    affairs (followers believed he was led and
    protected by the will of Allah).
  • He planned and led many successful military
    campaigns, and in 630 he led his followers to
    victory over Mecca.

  • Muhammad was a compassionate conqueror, granting
    mercy to all who submitted to Islam.
  • He became known throughout the land as the
    Prophet of God.
  • Muhammad provided such a powerful stimulus that
    Arab society was mobilized almost overnight.

  • Even though he died in 632 CE, his faith and fame
    spread like wildfire.
  • Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam invaded,
    conquered, and converted wherever they went.
  • By 715 CE, Islam reached far into North Africa,
    into Spain, through the Transcaucasia, and into
    most of Southwest Asia.
  • By 1000 CE, Islam had penetrated Southern and
    Eastern Europe, Central Asia (even reaching
    China), West Africa, East Africa, and Southeast

  • By 1000 CE, Islam had become the worlds first
    truly global religion, stretching half way across
    the world (Iberia to Indonesia).
  • Muslims hold that the only genuine explanation
    for the rapid Islamic conquest of the Middle East
    outward was Divine Providence, Allahs help to
    those who worked/fought for the faith.

  • While the spiritual capital remained in Mecca, as
    the Arab-Islamic Empire expanded, the
    political/administrative capital went from its
    original location in Medina to Damascus (Syria)
    and then to Baghdad (Iraq).
  • While the empire expanded, it matured and

  • In architecture, mathematics, medicine, and
    science the Arab/Islamic world far outpaced their
    European contemporaries.
  • The Arabs established great universities and
    libraries in many cities, including Baghdad,
    Cairo, Timbuktu, and Toledo.

  • Cathedral of Seville. It used to be a mosque.
  • The Alhambra Palace in Grenada.

  • The Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus.
  • Interior of the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

  • How do Muslims regard Muhammad?
  • Muslims believe Muhammad was singled out for his
    natural virtue and integrity to fulfill the role
    as the final intermediary of divine

  • As a human (he was never considered divine),
    Muhammad naturally had his faults, but Muslims
    regard him as the finest our species has
    produced, the ideal family man and leader of
  • Throughout his married life with Khadijah,
    Muhammad stayed away from adultery, drinking
    alcohol, gambling, and the rivalries which
    plagued pre-Islamic Mecca.
  • He was known for his compassion and care towards
    orphans and the poor.

  • So what is Islam?
  • The precepts of Islam in many ways are a revision
    and embellishment of Judaic and Christian beliefs
    and traditions.
  • All three faiths trace their origins to Abraham
    (in Hebrew Abraham means Father of Nations ).

  • The Judaic/Christian faiths followed his son
    Isaac while Islam traced itself to Abrahams
    first son Ishmael.

  • All three faiths believe in the same God, who
    occasionally communicated to humankind through
  • Islam believes that God spoke to humankind
    beginning with Adam and continued through
    Abraham, Moses and Jesus, (and several others),
    but considered Muhammad as the seal, the final
    and greatest of the prophets.
  • Muslims believe Muhammads mission was to bring
    Gods final revelation to humankind.

The Five Pillars
  • What are some of the fundamental beliefs?
  • Islam brought to the Arab world not only a
    unifying religious faith it had lacked but also a
    new set of values, a new way of life, a new
    individual and collective dignity.
  • The core message of the Quranfollowing the law
    of Godwas summarized as a set of requirements
    for believers, known as the Pillars of Islam.

The Five Pillars
  • Islam dictated the observance of what became
    known as the Five Pillarsthey are how the
    beliefs of Islam are to be put into action every

  • The first pillar is the confession of faiththe
    repeated expression of the basic creed (belief in
    one God and the prophet hood of Muhammad)known
    as the Shahadah.

  • The second pillar is the daily prayer five times
    a day facing Mecca known as the Salat.
  • Prayer times are dawn, just after noon,
    mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and after dark.

  • The third pillar is daytime fasting called Sawm.
  • This occurs during the ninth month of the Muslim
    calendar (lunar not solar) which is called
    Ramadan (it is considered the holiest month of
    the Islamic year).
  • In 2014, Ramadan was June 28 to July 28.
  • From sun-up to sun-down, Muslims are not supposed
    to eat or drink anything.

  • After sun-down Muslims usually eat a light meal
    filled with sweets.
  • The evening is spent in spiritual reflection and
  • This daily sacrifice shows equality with the poor
    and it reminds Muslims that the good things in
    life are to be enjoyed but not to be overindulged
  • Ramadan ends with the three day holiday known as
    Eid-al-Fitr (Festival of Fast-Breaking)

  • The fourth pillar is the giving of alms (charity)
    to the poorknown as Zakat.
  • If you can afford it, you are to give 2.5 of
    your savings to the poor every year.

The Hajj
  • The final pillar is at least one pilgrimage in
    each Muslims lifetime to Mecca known as the
    Hajj to see the Kaaba (Kaba, Kaabah). This is
    one of the prerequisites for entering Heaven.

The Kaaba
  • According to tradition, Abraham and Ishmael built
    a simple cube-like structure in what came to be
    the center of the city of Mecca (a large mosque
    has been built around the Kaaba).

The Kaaba
  • In Muhammads time, the Kaaba was about 15 feet
    tall with a black stone about the size of a
    bowling ball in one corner (believed to be a
    meteor of divine origin from the time of Adam and

The Kaaba
  • This miniature (c. 1315) shows Muhammad
    rededicating the stone at the Kaaba.
  • The meteor is framed in silver, and pilgrims
    attempt to kiss it like Muhammad supposedly did.

The Kaaba
  • Since this isnt always possible because of the
    crowds, you are to point to the stone and bow
    every time you make a circuit around the Kaaba.
  • You are to make seven circuits.

The Kaaba
  • The Kaaba was thought to be at the center of the
    world with the Gate of Heaven directly above it.

The Kaaba
  • The Kaaba marked the location where the divine
    world intersected with the mortal.
  • The embedded Black Stone was a symbol of this
    intersection (as a meteorite that had fallen from
    the sky, it linked heaven and earth).

The Kaaba
  • Today the Kaaba is about 43 feet high and about
    40 feet wide.
  • Its holiness as a divine presence comes mainly
    from its association with the lives of Abraham
    and Muhammad.
  • It is covered by a black silk curtain made in
    Egypt, decorated with gold-embroidered
    calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah
    and it is replaced yearly.

The Hajj
  • When performing the Salat (prayer 5 times a day),
    you are to face towards Mecca (because thats
    where the Kaaba is).

The Hajj
  • Since Islam teaches that all people are equal
    before God, Muslims are required to shed any
    symbols of their social status when making the
  • The same ihram (Hajj clothing) is worn by all
    men wear two white, unsewn pieces of cloth (which
    represents the shroud)
  • Women wear any plain, simple clothing that covers
    them fully.
  • No jewelry or perfume is to be worn.

The Hajj
  • Ihram clothing

The Hajj
  • The Hajj occurs during the last month of the
    Islamic year (known as the Month of the Hajj).
  • The pilgrimage rites occur during a 5-day period,
    between the 8th - 12th days of this lunar month.
  • In 2014, the Hajj was between October 2nd-7th.

The Hajj
  • Over three million pilgrims attend the Hajj every
    year. Most stay in the white tents at Mina
    where they are arranged by nationality.

The Hajj
  • Muslims believe that performing the Hajj purifies
    them from sin, and when they return home, there
    are usually great celebrations of their sinless
  • The majority of Muslims do not manage to perform
    the Hajj, so during the Hajj period, they fast
    and pray at home.
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  • To the five pillars, many Muslims would add a
    sixth, jihad, which means a persons inner
    struggle to live a good life.
  • Muhammad believed jihad to be the personal effort
    each devout Muslim must make against greed and
    selfishness, a spiritual striving toward living a
    God-conscious life.

  • Today, many see jihad to mean either holy war
    or spiritual struggle against the adversaries of
  • In its lesser form, the jihad of the sword was
    to mean the armed struggle against the forces of
    evil and defending the umma from threats of
    infidel aggressors.

  • Like the Judeo/Christian heritage, Islam believes
    in angels (several are the same), the devil, and
    a Judgment Day for all humanity.

  • Those who have been faithful and have done
    Allahs will, will be rewarded in Paradise
  • For Muslims, death is not seen as the end but
    merely as a transition from one state of being
    into another as the soul journeys back to the
  • But those who have rejected faith and commit sins
    and grave injustices are condemned to the fires
    of Hell.

  • Muslims, like many Christians and Jews, also
    believe in predestinationthat your life is
    predetermined and that God controls everything
    that happens.
  • Muslims, like Christians and Jews, also have a
    code of behavior that stresses correct social
    behavior like respecting your parents, your
    neighbors, and your community and being honest,
    trustworthy, and patient.

  • Islam forbids alcohol, smoking, eating pork , and
  • It tolerated polygamy (you could have up to 4
    wives because Muhammad had 4), although it spoke
    of the virtues of monogamy.
  • Mosques (Muslim churches) were not only for
    prayer, but they became social gathering centers
    which knit the Arab religious community (umma)
    closer together.

  • Mecca became the spiritual center for a divided,
    widely dispersed people for whom a collective
    focus was something new.
  • Yet for all its vigor and success, Islam still
    fragmented into two theological sects.
  • The earliest and most consequential division came
    about after the death of Muhammad (632 CE).

  • Who should be his legitimate successor?
  • The Quran dictated a democratic system for
    choosing the successor (or caliph).
  • Muslims were free to debate, have differences
    about successors, and elect a new leader.
  • No one could have predicted the consequences of
    this would lead to the most serious divide in the
    Islamic community.

  • A few believed that it should be a blood relative
    of the prophet who led Islam.
  • Others felt that any truly devout follower of
    Muhammad was qualified to lead the faithful.
  • The first chosen successor (known as the caliph)
    was a Muhammads closest friend (since childhood)
    and the father of one of Muhammads four wives
    (and thus not a blood relative). His name was Abu

  • Abu Bakr was also a merchant and from the Quraysh
  • He was the fourth person to convert to Islam, and
    the first outside Muhammads own family.

  • His principal achievement was consolidating power
    and spreading Muslim control over the entire
    Arabian Peninsula.
  • His forces put down several rebel uprisings in
    what were known as the Ridda wars, where rebel
    leaders declared themselves prophets to rival

  • Under Bakr, Muslims won their first victories
    over the Persians and Byzantines in what is today
    Iraq and Syria.
  • These raids showed the weakness and vulnerability
    of the post-Classical Byzantine and Sassanid
    (Persian) Empires.
  • Bakr fell ill and died after serving only 27
    months as caliph (August 624 CE).
  • Before he died, he appointed Umar ibn al-Khattab
    to succeed him as caliph.

  • The next two caliphs, Umar, who ruled 10 years
    until 644 CE, and Uthman, who ruled 12 years
    until 656 CE, were also close friends and
    associates of Muhammad, but not relatives.

  • Umars Arab armies attacked the Byzantines in
    Syria and captured Damascus in 635.
  • Further south, they captured Jerusalem from the
    Byzantines in 638.
  • They also moved against the Byzantines in Egypt,
    capturing Alexandria.
  • In 637, Umars forces captured the Persian
    capital of Ctesiphon, forcing the Sassanid king
    to flee (they eventually killed him several years
    later, ending the Sassanid dynasty).

  • Ctesiphon (about 20 miles SE of Baghdad) had been
    a major city for over 700 years when it was
    captured by Arab troops in 637 under Umar. This
    was the imperial palace.

  • With victories came the problem of how to divide
    the spoils of conquest among the tribes.
  • In 644, Umar was assassinated by a slave from
    rival clan in the mosque of Medina. He had just
    returned from a Hajj.
  • Since he hadnt chosen a successor, a council of
    elders chose the third caliph, Uthman ibn-Affan.

  • Uthman, the first caliph of the Umayyad clan,
    ruled for 12 years.
  • He was an unpopular choice when made caliph and
    was eventually assassinated by rebels from a
    rival clan, run through with a sword while in
    prayer at home (at the age of 84).
  • His death sparked a civil war between the Umayyad
    clans and those that supported Muhammads
    son-in-law and cousin, Ali.

  • These three caliphs didnt satisfy a faction of
    Muslims who wanted to see Ali, a blood relative
    and married to Muhammads daughter Fatima, named
  • Tradition states that Ali was the first person
    who converted to Islam.
  • Ali had been previously passed over because the
    tribes didnt think he was old enough or
    experienced enough to lead the faithful.

  • When Uthman died, Ali assumed the position of
    caliph (and he became the fourth one 24 years
    after Muhammads death).
  • His followers, known as the Shiat Ali (the
    followers of Ali) or the Shiites, proclaimed
    that Muhammad finally had a legitimate successor.

  • The Shiites believed that Ali should have been
    the first caliph and that the caliphate should
    pass down only to direct descendants of Muhammad
    via Ali and Fatima.
  • The Holy Family of Shia Muhammad (center),
    Fatima (veiled), Ali, and grandsons Hassan
    (green) and Husayn (red).

  • Entirely rejecting the authority of the first
    three caliphs, the Shiah Muslims regarded Ali as
    the first in a line of infallible religious
    leaders called imams.
  • But Ali moved the capital of the Islamic
    community from Medina to Kufa (now in Iraq) where
    he had more support.
  • This made him unpopular and many Muslims refused
    to accept his authority.

  • Even though he was a skilled soldier, Ali lost
    the backing of powerful clans and a new Umayyad
    chieftain, named Muawiyah was proclaimed caliph
    in Jerusalem.
  • This directly challenged Alis position and in
    657, both men led armies into a three day battle
    to decide who was the legitimate caliph.
  • The battle was inconclusive and both agreed to a
    six-month truce and arbitration.

  • However when the time came, neither man backed
    down and the stand-off continued.
  • Some Muslims hatched a plot to end what they saw
    as a damaging conflict on the 19th day of
    Ramadan in 661, both men were stabbed with
    poisoned swords while at prayers.
  • Muawiyah recovered, but Ali died two days later.

  • Alis eldest son, Hassan, agreed to Umayyad
    demands not to make a claim on the caliphate in
    return for his life and a pension. He died less
    than a year later (allegedly poisoned).
  • Those who backed Muawiyah and the Umayyads
    against Ali and the Shiites were known as the
    Sunni (which means the path or example shown
    by Muhammad).

  • Muawiyah ruled as caliph with no further
    challenges until his death in 680.
  • He governed from Damascus, and his rule was
    notable for his liberal and tolerant policies
    towards Christians and Jews, who came to occupy
    many prominent government positions.

  • In 680 when Muawiyah died, Muhammads grandson
    Hussain claimed the caliphate.
  • He and his army of 72 men were marching from
    Mecca to his father Alis power base in Kufa
    (Iraq) when they were intercepted by Muawiyahs
    son Yazid (who also claimed to be caliph).
  • Yazid had a force of over 40,000 (so at 550 to 1
    odds, take a guess who won the battle).

  • Hopelessly outnumbered, Husseins army was
    slaughtered at the Battle of Karbala.
  • The only survivor was Hussains son Ali, who was
    too sick to fight. He was taken prisoner and
    sent to Damascus, where he was freed several
    years later.
  • He became the fourth imam of Shia.

  • The Battle of Karbala (680 CE).

  • Husseins head was sent to Yazid in Damascus.
  • The division between those who were Shiites and
    those who were Sunnis was set.
  • Husseins death (or martyrdom) is commemorated
    annually with intense processions during which
    the marchers beat themselves bloody with chains
    (flagellation) and cut themselves with sharp
    metal instruments. This is known as the day of

  • Ashura for Shiites

  • The date of Ashura is also said to be the day
    Noah left the Ark and the Israelites began their
    Exodus from Egypt.
  • Sunnis also commemorate Ashura, but it is a
    solemn occasiona day of Atonement.
  • Tradition states that Muhammad observed Jews
    fasting for two days on their day of atonement
    and he followed that practice.

  • The Sunnis did not see a blood relationship as
    necessary for succession.
  • From the beginning of this disagreement, the vast
    majority of Muslims took the Sunni position.
  • The Sunnis believed all the early caliphs
    (including Ali) were legitimate.

  • There were two Islamic dynasties during the
    post-Classical period the Umayyad Dynasty
    (661-750) and the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258).
  • The great expansion of Islam was propelled by
    Sunnis the Shiites survived as a small minority
    scattered throughout the empire (today mainly in
    Iran and Iraq).
  • Today, about 85-90 of Muslims are Sunnis.

  • Since Alis last descendent died in the 9th
    century (and thus the blood line of Muhammad),
    Shiites created a council of 12 scholars called
    the ulema to elect a Supreme Imam.
  • Shiites believe their Supreme Imam is a fully
    spiritual guide, and the sole source of true
    knowledge, inheriting some of Muhammad's

  • The Shia Imam has come to be imbued with
    Pope-like infallibility and the Shia religious
    hierarchy is not dissimilar in structure and
    religious power to that of the Catholic Church.
  • Sunnis and Shiites agree on the fundamentals of
    Islam, like the Five Pillars, and they recognize
    each other as Muslims, but they have some deep
    divisions (like in Christianity).

  • Muawiya moved the political capital from Medina
    to Damascus (Syria) where it was more centrally
    located in the growing empire.

  • From Damascus, the Umayyads built a bureaucracy
    to govern their vast lands (which would become
    the largest empire since the Romans).
  • The caliphs were more secular than religious and
    they differed from the simple lifestyle of
    Muhammad and his early successors.

  • The caliph became more powerful and imperial,
    living in lavish desert palaces and conducting
    court against an exotic background of wild birds
    and beasts and dancing girls.

  • Under the Umayyads, a distinctive Islamic
    culture began to take shape, influenced largely
    by their Arab background.
  • Arabic became the official language of the
    administration, replacing Greek and Persian,
    which had been used in the conquered territories.
  • An extensive communications system was
    established, with horseback postal routes and
    staging points for official use.

  • The first currencygold dinars and silver dirhams
    bearing Quranic textswere minted to replace
    standard Byzantine or Persian coins stamped with
    the images of emperors.

  • The core of the caliphs government and army
    officers were Arabs who lived in the urban
    centers and shared in the rewards of conquest.
  • Towards the end of his reign, Muawiya made sure
    that his son Yazid was made his successor,
    setting the precedence for the next 13 caliphs.

  • The Umayyads were talented military leaders, and
    under their rule Islams second great wave of
    conquests took place (early Eighth Century).
  • The Muslim banner was carried from Central Asia
    to the Indus River (todays Afghanistan and
    Pakistan), west through North Africa and into

  • For seven years, the Islamic armies of the
    Umayyads battled for the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Landing at Gibraltar in 711, a Muslim leader had
    his boats burned, then told his men The sea is
    behind you and the enemy is in front of you. By
    God, there is no escape for you save in valor and

  • The Umayyads were pressing northward when they
    were finally turned back in central France at the
    Battle of Tours (732 CE).
  • The Franks were led by Charles Martel (known as
    the hammer.)

  • Rural areas held mostly non-Arab subject peoples,
    who paid taxes to support the government (unlike
    Arab Muslims who were only taxed for
  • The Umayyads tried to keep interactions between
    the Arab Muslims and subject peoples to a minimum
    to prevent the loss of badly needed tax revenue.

  • Non Muslim converts (known as the mawali)
    received few social or financial benefits, so
    conversions were not very common, yet.
  • The Arabs denied them equality, considering them
    inferior to marry a non-Arab convert was
    considered social suicide.
  • Even though many of these newcomers to Islam
    fought in its armies, they usually had to fight
    as foot soldiers rather than in the elite
    cavalry, and they received less pay.

  • They still had to pay land taxes and special head
    taxes, and they were not considered to be a part
    of the umma.
  • Often non-Muslims were discouraged from
    converting so that they would have to continue to
    pay higher taxes.
  • Realizing the explosiveness of these
    inequalities, the Umayyads repeatedly tried to
    institute new reforms.
  • The most famous reformer was Umar II.

  • During his reign (717-720), Umar II called for an
    end to all foreign campaigns and devoted himself
    to tax reform.
  • He revived the rule of exempting all Muslims from
    all taxes except the compulsory religious tax.
  • However well intentioned, this had a disastrous
    effect on Islams economy.

  • The People of the Book, as Jews and Christians
    were known, were considerably better treated than
    most subject peoples, even though they had to pay
    the same taxes.
  • However, Jews and Christians were allowed to
    worship as they pleased and their communities and
    legal systems remained intact.

  • The name Jews and Christians were given, the
    dhimmis (or People of the Book) explains why
    Muslims respected Jews and Christians because
    they were also governed by holy scriptures and
    they had shared beliefs and common roots.
  • Jews and Christians had received part (but not
    all) of Gods revelations.

  • The Umayyad exclusion of non-Arab Muslims
    (mawali) proved to be problematic as Arab
    administrative centers became increasingly
  • In the 740s, rebel mawali forces demanded social
    and religious equality with Arab Muslims and
    eventually brought down the Umayyad Dynasty.

  • Recapping the early expansion of Islam
  • Shortly after the death of Muhammad, Islam began
    a rapid drive for expansion.
  • Unlike Buddhism or Christianity, which expanded
    through missionary or commercial activity, Islam
    initially extended its influence by military
  • Islam spread quickly throughout portions of
    Africa and Eurasia.

  • Within a year of Muhammads death, most of the
    Arabian Peninsula was united under Islam.
  • Persia was conquered in 651 when the Sassanid
    Dynasty was overthrown.
  • By the end of the seventh century, Islam had
    reached Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt.

  • Also by the end of the seventh century Islam
    extended into Central Asia east of the Caspian
    Sea, where it competed with Buddhism.
  • During the eighth century, Muslim armies reached
    present-day Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco
    Hindu-dominated northwest India and the Iberian
    peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
  • The earliest Muslim conquerors were less
    concerned with spreading religion and more
    concerned with the extension of Arab power.

The Umayyad Caliphate
  • Under the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)
  • The office of caliph united both secular and
    religious authority in the person of one leader.
  • After the assassination of Ali in 661, the
    Umayyad family came to power.
  • Establishing their political capital in Damascus,
    the Umayyad were noted for the following

The Umayyad Caliphate
  • An empire that emphasized Arab ethnicity over
    adherence to Islam.
  • Thousands of non-Arab converts (mawali) seethed
    at discriminatory taxes and mistreatment.
  • Respect for Jews and Christians as People of the
    Book. Even though required to pay taxes on
    property and for charity, Jews and Christians
    were allowed freedom of worship and self-rule
    within their communities.

The Umayyad Caliphate
  • They created a unified state, a vigorous
    commerce, and a resolute military based upon Arab
  • But by 740 Umayyad policies had severely
    polarized their subjects and generated widespread
    hostility to their authority.
  • Arab armies on the frontiers resented their low
    pay, constant campaigning, and the privileges of
    more favored tribes.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The Umayyad ruling family lived lives of luxury,
    which prompted riots and instability among the
    general population.
  • These riots led to the overthrow of the Umayyad
    Dynasty by a group known as the Abbasids in 750.
  • The Abbasids were formed by a ruthless Muslim
    named Abbas, a descendant of an uncle of Muhammad
    (named al-Abbas). This blood relationship
    carried favor with the Shiites.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The center of the Abbasid movement was in Persia
    where there was much resentment against the
  • The Persians considered themselves heirs to a
    higher culture than their Arab conquerors who
    treated them as inferiors.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • To undermine the Umayyads, the Abbasids waged an
    effective propaganda campaign proclaiming the
    Umayyads were not true caliphs, that they lived
    worldly and decedent lives, and promised that
    they, the Abbasids, would again make Islam a true
    theocracy in the tradition of the rightly
    guided caliphs.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The mawali also supported the Abbasids (they
    never liked the Umayyads) because they hoped the
    Abbasids would accept them as members of the
    Islamic community of believers (the umma).
  • In 749, Abbas was acclaimed caliph by his
  • In 750, Umayyad forces met Abbasid forces at the
    Battle of the Great Zab (northern Iraq) and the
    Abbasids were victorious.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Led by a brilliant Persian general named Abu
    Muslim, the Abbasid victory ended the Umayyad

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The deposed caliph (Marwan II) fled to Egypt but
    was caught there and killed, his head sent to the
    new caliph (Abbas) as a present.
  • Settling into power, the new rulers of Islam
    began wiping out the rest of the Umayyads with
    systematic thoroughness to eliminate the
    possibility of future Umayyad challenges.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • At one epic slaughter, a Persian general named
    Abdullah invited 80 of the remaining members of
    the Umayyad clan to a banquet of
  • At the height of the festivities he had all of
    them murdered, then ordered the bodies covered
    while he and his aides resumed their meal.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Those Umayyad not attending the banquet were
    hunted down and killed.
  • Only one of the Umayyads escaped the banquet, Abd
    al-Rahman, known as the Falcon of the Quraysh.
    He managed to flee across Africa and escaped to
    Spain, where he established the Caliphate of
    Cordoba, a dynasty that flourished for 300 years.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The Abbasids carried their revenge even to
    Umayyad caliphs who were already dead, exhuming
    their corpses and desecrating their graves.
  • Only one tomb was not violatedthat of Umar II,
    considered the only pious caliph among the

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • In an effort to assure a stable government, the
    Abbasids tried to eliminate all dissidents who
    might undermine their ruleeven those who had
    supported them.
  • The Shiites were quickly betrayed.
  • The new rulers even ruthlessly executed the men
    who helped them gain office.
  • General Abu Muslim was hacked to pieces while
    meeting with the Caliph, and his head was thrown
    to his followers who waited outside the palace
    gates (the rest of him was tossed into the

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • General Abdullah was imprisoned for seven
    yearsthen taken from prison and led with great
    pomp to a house especially built for him.
  • But the dwelling, unknown to him, had foundations
    of salt, which gradually dissolved.
  • At last the house crashed down on the
    unsuspecting general, becoming his tomb.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate was a
    true revolution, not just a change of
  • They ended the ethnic and economic discrimination
    against non-Arab Muslims (mawali) and they
    established the fundamental principle that all
    Muslims were equal before the state as well as
    before God.
  • Freed of Umayyad elitism, Islam experienced a
    dramatic surge in conversions.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • To dramatize the newness and purity of their
    government, Abbas abandoned the Umayyad capital
    of Damascus and moved his capital to Hashimiya,
    Iraq (where Abbas received his early support).
  • When he died in 754 after only four years in
    office (from smallpox), he was succeeded by his
    brother Mansur.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Mansur realized Hashimiya had two major
    drawbacks it was not strategically located, and
    the area around it had long been a center of
  • He wanted to establish a new capital that would
    be a magnificent symbol of Abbasid power, so he
    journeyed throughout Iraq looking for a suitable

  • He chose an ancient village named Baghdad, about
    20 miles northwest of the former Persian capital
    of Ctesiphon.
  • Baghdad is situated on the west bank of the
    Tigris, in the midst of a fertile plain, with a
    canal linking the Tigris with the Euphrates.
  • The site was excellently situated to serve
    commerce, dominating the crossroads of the great
    trade routes, both land and water, that went from
    the Far East to the Mediterranean.

  • To Mansur, the new city that would rise in this
    island between the Tigris and Euphrates would
    be a market place for the world.
  • Mansur said, Praise be to God who preserved it
    for me and caused all those who came before me to
    neglect it. By God I shall build it. Then I
    shall dwell in it as long as I live and my
    descendents after me. It will surely be the most
    flourishing city in the world.
  • Besides Baghdads agricultural, commercial, and
    military advantages, Mansur was impressed by its
    cool nights and freedom from mosquitoes.

  • Mansur named his capital city Madinat al-Salam
    (The City of Peace), but everyone still called
    it Baghdad.
  • The first stones of the new buildings were laid
    in August 762, the time picked by a court
    astrologer as auspicious to begin construction
    (Mansur was the first caliph who kept an
    astrologer at court).

  • Baghdad was built in the form of a circle nearly
    two miles across (it was known as the round

  • At the very center of the round city was the
    caliphs palace, a magnificent edifice built of
    marble and stone said to have carried from the
    old Persian capital of Ctesiphon.
  • The palace had two striking features a golden
    gate and a green dome that rose to 120 feet over
    the caliphs main audience hall.

  • The round city was divided into four pie-shaped
    quadrants by two highways that cut across it at
    right angles, linking the gates and running
    through them.
  • By the Tenth Century, it is estimated the capital
    had over 1.5 million residents (potentially
    making it the worlds largest city).
  • Under the Abbasids, the empire retained the
    religion and language of the Arabs, but in most
    other areas, it was not dominated by them.

  • In Baghdad, the Abbasid state took on an
    international character it had never known
  • With the end of their wars of conquest, the Arab
    aristocracy lost their monopoly on high offices
    and Arab warriors were replaced by Persian

  • Officials and administrators were drawn from the
    many peoples making up the empire they achieved
    social position by their ability and the caliphs
    favor rather than by fortune of birth, as in the
  • Persian and other non-Arab influences entered
    Islam through intermarriage within the Abbasid
    family although the family was originally
    Arabian, of the 37 caliphs in the dynasty, only a
    few had Arab mothers.

  • Abbasid caliphs were autocratic rulers who had
    absolute power like the Persian kings of
  • To emphasize the idea of their omnipotence,
    Abbasid caliphs sequestered themselves behind the
    walls of their palace in the heart of Baghdad,
    living in awesome splendor.
  • Mansur commanded that his family was never to be
    seen in public unless they were dressed in costly
    silks and luxuriously perfumed.

  • The caliph himself was inaccessible to all but a
    privileged few, who had to make their way past a
    multitude of guards and chamberlains to reach his
  • Upon at last reaching the caliphs throne,
    concealed by a resplendent curtain, one had to
    prostrate oneself and kiss the floora custom
    alien to the rude democracy of Arabia.

  • A more grisly reminder of the caliphs absolute
    power was a leather carpet spread out from in
    front of the caliphs throne for the use of the
    executioner (who stood behind the caliph, sword
    drawn, ready to lop off the head from any
    luckless person who displeased his emperor).

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Here the Abbasid court welcomed Muslims of all
    ethnic backgrounds, laying the foundations of an
    intellectual, philosophical, and scientific

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Under the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258)
  • The mawali (converts) experienced new
    opportunities for advancement in education,
    government, and the military.
  • Trade became increasingly important and routes
    stretched from the western Mediterranean to China.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The learning of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and
    Persians was preserved.
  • Between the 9th-14th centuries, Abbasid chemists,
    mathematicians, geographers, physicians, and
    astronomers not only extended ancient knowledge,
    Greek logic, especially that of Aristotle,
    permeated Muslim intellectualism.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Scholars were drawn to Baghdad, where the Caliph
    Mamun (r. 813-833) created the House of
  • According to legend, Mamun was worried about
    applying reason to Gods universe until one night
    when he had a dream where he was visited by the
    ghost of Aristotle.
  • Aristotle assured him that there was no conflict
    between reason and religion and the next day the
    ordered the House to be built.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Within 75 years, the greatest works of the
    Western tradition had been translated into Arabic
    (Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, Euclid, Archimedes,
    Hippocrates, Galen among them)important Persian
    and Indian scientific works were also housed here.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • In mathematics, the fields of algebra, geometry,
    and trigonometry were further refined.
  • The astrolabe, which measured the position of the
    stars, was improved.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The study of astronomy produced maps of the
  • Optic surgery became a specialty, and human
    anatomy was studied in detail.
  • Muslim cartographers produced the worlds most
    detailed maps (including the maps that guided
  • Some of the worlds first universities and
    largest libraries were built in Cairo, Baghdad,
    Timbuktu, and Cordoba.

  • In the arts, calligraphy and designs called
    arabesques adorned writing, pottery, and

  • The art of calligraphy was so important, Islamic
    calligraphers enjoyed a more exalted status than
    visual artists until the late Middle Ages.
  • Elaborate calligraphy owed much to the religion
    because early on, literacy was scarce. The
    written word assumed a mysterious, almost magical
  • So elaborate scripts were created to beautify the
    sacred word.

  • However it was forbidden to draw, engrave, or
    paint any animate object (humans, animals, birds,
    etc) because according to Muhammad, only Allah
    can breathe life into such beings.
  • The only way around this rule was to draw/paint
    etc without complete features (eyes, nose, etc).
    That way the artist wasnt imitating Allah.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • In architecture, new styles were developed.
    Buildings were commonly centered around a patio
  • Minarets, towers from which the faithful were
    called to prayer, topped or surrounded mosques.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • This is the minaret tower of the Great Mosque of
    Samarra (Iraq), built 847-851.
  • It is 164 feet high.
  • Samarra is 75 miles north of Baghdad and was for
    a short time the center of the caliphate.
  • The mosque was the worlds largest until
    destroyed by the Mongols in 1278.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Great pieces of poetry and literature, including
    The Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat, enriched
    Muslim culture.
  • A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou besides
    me singing in the Wilderness

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The Persians introduced to the Abbasids (i.e.
    Islam) pastimes such as polo, backgammon, and
  • From the Far East they brought paper and
    porcelain their cooks created exotic new dishes
    and served them on tablesan innovation to Arabs
    accustomed to eating cross-legged on the floor.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Baghdads tailors popularized trousers, in place
    of the traditional Arab robe.
  • Persia also introduced several household items
    mattresses and cushions, kitchen utensils like
    frying pans and ovens even silks and linens.

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Because of all the international trade in Baghdad
    (and within the empire), a new professionbanking,
    emerged and would be well established by the
    Abbasids more than 300 years before reaching the
  • The modern word check came from the Abbasid
    Arabic word sakk.
  • They had central banks with branch officesit was
    possible for a check written on a bank in one
    part of the empire to be cashed in a distant

The Abbasid Caliphate
  • Although responsible for much of the advancement
    of Islamic culture, the Abbasids found their vast
    empire increasingly hard to manage and
    effectively govern.
  • The dynasty failed to address the problem of
    succession, and high taxes made the leaders less
    and less popular.

A Mans World
  • Muslim society was a mans world. While his
    women stayed behind closed doors, the man of the
    house spent most of his non-working hours on the
    towngossiping, bathing, playing chess (which the
    Arabs introduced to the Europeans), meeting at a
    local tavern.

A Mans World
  • Although Muhammad had forbidden the consumption
    of wine, the Prophet himself drank nabidh, a mild
    fermented beve
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