Bruce Morrison » The Muslim World, 600-1250

The Muslim World, 600-1250

Tolerance of other cultures and a focus on learning help Muslim leaders build an empire that includes parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe.


Section 1: The Rise of Islam

Section 2: Islam Expands

Section 3: Muslim Culture


Section 1: The Rise of Islam

Muhammad unifies the Arab people both politically and through the religion of Islam.


Deserts, Towns, and Trade Routes


The Arabian Peninsula

  • A crossroads of three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe
  • Mostly desert with small amount of fertile land


Desert and Town Life

  • Bedouins, Arab nomads, thrive in the desert
  • Bedouins live in clans, which give support to members
  • Some Arabs settle near oases or market towns


Crossroads of Trade and Ideas

  • Many sea and land trade routes pass through Arabia
  • Trade extends to the Byzantine and Sassanid empires to the north



  • Pilgrims come toMeccato worship at the Ka’aba, an ancient shrine
  • Arabs associate shrine with Hebrew prophet Abraham and monotheism
  • Some tribes worship many gods and spirits, bring idols to Ka’aba
  • Some Arabs believe in one God—Allahin Arabic


The Prophet Muhammad


Early Life

  • Around A.D. 570Muhammadis born into a powerful Meccan clan
  • Becomes a trader, marries wealthy businesswoman, Khadijah



  • By age 40, Muhammad spends much time in prayer and meditation
  • He hears angel Gabriel tell him he is a messenger of Allah
  • Muhammad founds religion ofIslam—“submission to the will of Allah”
  • Many join him and becomeMuslim—“one who has submitted”


The Hijrah

  • Muhammad’s followers are attacked; together they leave Mecca in 622
  • Hijrah—the Muslim migration from Mecca to Yathrib (renamed Medina)
  • Muhammad attracts many more followers, becomes great leader: -political leader—joins Jews and Arabs of Medina as a single community -religious leader—draws more converts to Islam

-military leader—tackles growing hostilities between Mecca and Medina

Returning to Mecca

  • In 630, Muhammad and 10,000 followers return to Mecca
  • Meccan leaders surrender
  • Muhammad destroys idols in Ka’aba
  • Meccans convert to Islam
  • Muhammad unifies Arabian Peninsula


Beliefs and Practices of Islam



  • The main teaching of Islam is that there is only one god, Allah
  • People are responsible for their own actions; there is good and evil
  • Islamic monument in Jerusalem—Dome of the Rock
  • Muslims believe Muhammad rose to heaven here to learn Allah’s will
  • Jews believe Abraham was prepared to sacrifice son Isaac at same site


The Five Pillars

  • Muslims must carry out five duties—theFive Pillars of Islam

-statement of faith to Allah and to Muhammad as his prophet

-pray five times a day, can use a mosque—Islamic house of worship

-give alms, or money for the poor

-fast between dawn and sunset during holy month of Ramadan

-perform the hajj—pilgrimage to Mecca—at least once


A Way of Life

  • Customs and traditions guide Muslim’s lives
  • Scholar class,ulama, and teachers apply religion to life; no priests


Sources of Authority

  • Original source of authority for Muslims is Allah
  • Qur’an—holy book, contains revelations Muhammad received from Allah
  • Muslims followSunna—Muhammad’s example for proper living
  • Guidance of Qur’an and Sunna assembled in body of law—shari’a


Links to Judaism and Christianity

  • To Muslims, Allah is same God worshiped by Christians and Jews
  • Qur’an, Gospels, Torah—contain God’s will as revealed through others
  • Muslims, Christians, and Jews trace their roots to Abraham
  • All three religions believe in heaven, hell, and a day of judgement
  • Shari’a law requires Muslim leaders to extend religious tolerance


Section 2: Islam Expands

In spite of internal conflicts, the Muslims create a huge empire that includes land on three continents.


Muhammad’s Successors Spread Islam


A New Leader          

  • In 632 Muhammad dies; Muslims elect Abu-Bakr to be first caliph
  • Caliph, title for Muslim leader, means “successor” or “deputy”


“Rightly Guided” Caliphs

  • First four caliphs guided by the Qur’an and Muhammad’s actions
  • Jihad, armed struggle against unbelievers, used to expand Islam
  • Muslims control all of Arabia, armies conquer Syria, lower Egypt
  • By 750, Muslim empire stretches from Atlantic Ocean to Indus River


Reasons for Success

  • Muslim armies are well disciplined and expertly commanded
  • Byzantine and Sassanid empires are weak from previous conflict
  • Persecuted citizens of these empires welcome Islam
  • Attracted to Islam’s offer of equality and hope


Treatment of Conquered Peoples

  • Muslim invaders tolerate other religions
  • Christians, Jews receive special consideration as “people of the book”


Internal Conflict Creates a Crisis


Rise of the Umayyads

  • Struggles for power end the elective system of choosing a caliph
  • Wealthy family,Umayyads, take power; move Muslim capital toDamascus


Sunni—Shi’a Split

  • Shi’a—“party” of Ali—believe caliph should be Muhammad’s descendant
  • Sunni—followers of Muhammad’s example—support Umayyads
  • Sufi followers pursue life of poverty, spirituality; reject Umayyads
  • In 750, a rebel group—theAbbasids—topple the Umayyads


Control Extends Over Three Continents


Fall of the Umayyads

  • Abbasids murder Umayyad family; one prince escapes, Abd al-Rahman
  • Flees to Spain; establishes new Umayyad caliphate in al-Andalus
  • al-Andalus—Muslim state in southern Spain settled by North Africans


Abbasids Consolidate Power

  • In 762, Abbasids move Muslim capital from Damascus to Baghdad
  • Location provides access to trade goods, gold, information
  • Abbasids develop strong bureaucracy to manage empire


Rival Groups Divide Muslim Lands

  • Independent Muslim states spring up; Shi’a Muslims form new caliphate
  • Fatimid caliphate—claim descent from Fatima, daughter of Muhammad
  • Begins in North Africa; spreads to Red Sea, western Arabia and Syria


Muslim Trade Network

  • Muslims trade by land and sea with Asia and Europe
  • Muslim merchants use Arabic, single currency, and checks
  • Córdoba, in al-Andalus, is dazzling center of Muslim culture


Section 3: Muslim Culture

Muslims combine and preserve the traditions of many peoples and also advance learning in a variety of areas.


Muslim Society


The Rise of Muslim Cities

  • Leading cities include Damascus, Baghdad, Córdoba, Cairo, Jerusalem
  • Baghdad, impressive Abbasid capital; population around one million


Four Social Classes

  • Muslim society: Muslims at birth, converts, protected people, slaves
  • “Protected people” were Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians


Role of Women

  • Women enjoy some rights but expected to submit to men
  • Women’s responsibilities vary with husbands’ income


Muslim Scholarship Extends Knowledge


Muslims Support Learning

  • Muslims use scientific knowledge to help fulfill religious duties
  • Muhammad valued power of learning, study, scholarship
  • Muslim scholars preserve and translate scientific, philosophical texts
  • House of Wisdom—Bagdad institute: library, academy, translation center


Art and Sciences Flourish


Muslim Literature

  • Qu’ran is standard for Arabic literature; praise for Muhammad, Islam
  • Abbasid caliphate poets write of nature, life, and love
  • Popular literature includesThe Thousand and One Nights


Muslim Art and Architecture

  • Islam discourages images of living things, artists turn to calligraphy
  • Calligraphy—art of beautiful handwriting
  • Architecture of Muslim mosques is blend of many cultures


Medical Advances

  • Persian al-Razi is greatest physician, from 500 to 1500
  • Al-Razi writes encyclopedia of medical knowledge


Math and Science Stretch Horizons

  • Muslim scientists solve problems through experimentation
  • Al-Khwarizmi develops algebra and writes textbook
  • Mathematician Ibn al-Haytham changes ideas about vision


Philosophy and Religion Blend Views


Scholars Promote New Ideas

  • Ibn Rushd is criticized for blending Greek philosophy with Islam
  • Jewish philosopher Maimonides faces opposition for his ideas
  • Blends philosophy, religion, science in The Guide for the Perplexed
  • Muslims recognize values of many cultures; enjoy a blended culture
  • EmergingOttoman,SafavidMughal empires reflect Muslim culture