UNIT 2. ISLAMIC CIVILISATION
1. The birth and expansion of Islam
– What is Islam?
It is a religion that was born in the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of the 7th century. In Arabia Preislamic many of major clans and the tribes were nomadic. Bedouines that traveled through the desert on their camels. Nomadic tribes that received the hospitality of the different arabian tribes. This is the the reason why the new religion spread so fast, because Islam collect this precepts of hospitality, protection, help and charity. Desert´s conditions are hard (climate, dryness, etc.) and people along the Arabian peninsula welcome this bedouines and travelling.
It spread quickly through Asia, Africa, and some parts of Europe. To expand their religion, Muslims fought the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Sassanid Empire and the Christian West. But they didn´t use a lot of violence, because they could take the new religion with capitulations (pact of surrender) and convincing native people with less taxes.
1.1. The Arabian Peninsula before Islam
It is a desert peninsula that was inhabited by Bedouin nomadic tribes that lived from shepherding and trade.
There was just agriculture on some coastal lands, mainly in the southwest (the region of Hejaz), where the only sedentary settlements existed. Mecca (Makkah) and Yathrib (Medina) were the main caravan cities.
There was neither a political nor religious unity. Most of Arabs were polytheistic.The main shrine was Kaaba (Black stone) in Mecca. There were small Jewish and Christian communities in Arabia.
1.2. Muhammad (c. 570-632)
He was the founder and prophet of Islam. He belonged to a major Meccan trade family. Muhammad lived a religious experience when he was around 40.
- The Archangel Saint Gabriel appeared to him and dictated him the Quran (Koran).
- He was revealed the just one God existed, Allah.
- Muhammad preached his new religion and he was expelled from Mecca in 622.
- He fled to Yathrib, -henceforth so-called- Medina (Madinat al-Natbi).
- This flight is known as hegira (hijra) and it marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
- Muhammad reached some agreements with Medina’s tribes and conquered Mecca in 630.
Islam expanded quickly throughout Arabia after having conquered Mecca. Muhammad died in 632 and all Arabia was already Islamic.
1.3. Islamic religious pillars
Islam was a revealed religion, such as Christianity and Judaism, and it constitutes the last great religion.
Muslims must be submissive to Allah. Like the other monotheistic religions, Muslims believe in the Last Judgment, when everybody will be judged, condemned or saved.
Islam has five main pillars, around which goes all its doctrine.
- Faith (Shahadah): There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.
- Prayer (Salah): Muslims should pray five times facing Mecca (sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset and nightfall) and go to a mosque for communal prayer on every Friday.
- Alms–giving (Zakah): Muslims should be charitable and give money to those who need it.
- Fasting (Sawm): Muslims should fast during the month of Ramadan. No food, drinks, or sex relations can be taken from dawn to dusk.
- Pilgrimage (Hajj): Once in their lives Muslims should go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Islamic principles are collected in the Koran (Muslim Holy Book)
- It is written in Arabic.
- It is divided into 114 suras (chapters).
- This book was revealed and dictated to Muhammad by the Archangel Saint Gabriel.
The sunna are the Islamic traditions respected by most of the Muslims:
- It speaks about jihad (Holy War) against non-Muslims, despite the fact that Koran rejects any kind of violence.
- Many daily rituals are established: food (no alcohol or pork), social life (marriages)…
2. EXPANSION OF ISLAM
Orthodox Caliphs (Rashidun Caliphate)
What is a Caliph?
Caliph is an arab Word that means “sent by the Prophet to the Earth”. This title has both senses, political and religious. The Caliph is the leader of the Islamic community, the spiritual and political guide.
Once Muhammad died a Caliph was elected to hold the political and religious leadership of the Islamic community (umma). The first four caliphs were Muhammad’s followers and disciples. (They were so-called the Righteous Caliphs, Rightly Guided Caliphs, or Rashidun Caliphs):
- Abu Bakr (632-634).
- Umar 634-644).
- Uthman (644-656).
- Ali (656-661). Ali was the last caliph of Muhammad´s family, he was his nephew.
These caliphs had both political and religious powers. They promoted conquests since they were really fervent to the new religion and they were eager to plunder (sack):
They fought against the Persian Sassanid Empire (637-651), so they spread eastwards:
- They occupied many rich lands of the Byzantine Empire (634-641)
- Local people received Muslims very well since Islam was tolerant and fewer taxes were established.
The spreading of Islam during the 7th century on Arabia.
Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)
Ali’s caliphate was instable, so a Civil War broke out.
- Shiites supported Ali. They sustained that he had been elected by Muhammad because of his wisdom, inspired by Allah.
- Sunnites supported the Umayyad family. They think they are Muhammad’s real followers. They had the Sunna as a major pillar of their beliefs.
Umayyads defeated Shiites in 661, hence Muawiyah was proclaimed as the new caliph. A new dynasty was established in the Umayyad family. The capital of the Empire was moved from Medina to Damascus.
A new expansion took place during this caliphate:
- Indo valley and Central Asia were conquered in the east.
- North of Africa and the Iberian Peninsula were occupied in the west.
Arabs held most of the charges of the imperial administration, which was criticised by non-Arabic communities, who demanded more equality.
In 750 in a rebellion against the Ummayads assassinated all of them. Only Abd al-Rahman managed to flee from the massacre and hid in the Iberian Peninsula, in there established an emirate in al- Andalus, whose capital was fixed in Cordova (Córdoba).
Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258)
The capital of the new caliphate was moved to the newly founded city of Baghdad (762). Persians influenced greatly over the empire. Viziers held the main charges in administration and they ruled the empire. The caliphs did not govern any longer. There were still some conquests, like Crete and Sicily (827). Culture lived a period of splendour.
Seljuq Turkish mercenaries were contracted to protect the empire. Abbasid religious authority was respected until the conquest of Baghdad by Moghuls (1258), moment in which the Abbasid Caliphate ended.
|Orthodox Caliphate (632-661)||Ummayah Caliphate (661-750)||Abbasid Caliphate (750 -1258)|
|Muhammad´s disciples from Arabian Peninsula.
– Internal fights. Weakness that provoked the Ummayah took the power.
3. POLITICAL ORGANISATION
Ummayads established an Arabic empire ruled by the Caliph, who held religious and political powers.
- The main charge in the administration was the vizier, who accumulated all powers during the Abbasid Caliphate. At the beginning he was a political advisor. He ruled over the civil servants.
- The Empire was divided into koras (provinces), which were ruled by walis or emirs (governors), appointed by the Caliph.
- There were cadis (qadis) judges in every major city and they followed the Koranic laws (Sharia).
The Empire established new taxes to sustain it. These taxes were paid according to the lands owned. Jews and Christians could have their own worships in exchange for paying taxes.
There were many regions and cultures throughout the Empire since it stretched from Spain to India.
A social division was established according to the ethnic group:
- Arabs: they were the privileged social class. They held the main charges in the Army and plundered during conquests.
- Muladis, or new Muslims: They were native people from conquered lands who had converted into Islam.
- Peoples of the Book. They were tolerated in exchange for paying taxes:
- Mozarabs: They were Christians that kept their language, way of life and own governments.
- Jews: they had their own quarters with their own rules and traditions.
Moreover, there was a social division according to classes:
- Aristocracy: Minoritary. Most of them were Arabs. They held the main charges and owned most of the lands.
- Free people: Peasants, smallholders, craftsmen, merchants, etc., were part of this class.
- Slaves: They used to be war prisoners or Central Africans bought to slave traders.
The Empire suffered the Islamisation through which a common culture grew among Muslims and Arabic became the only language for all the inhabitants. Most of the people in the Empire were peasants.
4.1. Islamic cities
They were major centres of Islamic life. Old cities were re-vitalised and new ones were founded: Cairo (Egypt), Kairouan (Tunisia), Baghdad (Iraq)… They were the administrative and political centres. Muslim cities had an irregular plan (they are maze-like) with some major parts:
Medina, it was within the city walls and was the core of the city.
- Alcazar (Kasba), it used to be the palace of the caliph, emir, or governor. Public clerks and tax collectors lived there. The Courthouse was in this palace.
- Mosque, it is the religious place where Muslims meet on Fridays for the common prayer. There were Koranic schools (maktab) and universities (madrasah) around them.
- Souq (market). It used to be a quarter with craftsmen, workshops and merchants. It was a social place where to meet and it was controlled by public clerks.
- There were other major buildings such as public baths (hammam), tanneries, storehouses…
- Suburbs, they were the quarters that were outside the walls.
Agriculture was the main economic source in the Islamic empire.
New techniques were adopted by the peasants: they could farm arid lands thanks to the use of wells, waterwheels, cisterns, subterranean canals and watermills.
New crops imported from other countries spread within the Empire:
New vegetables were grown: Aubergines (India), spinach (Persia).
New cereals: Rice (China), durum wheat (Ethiopia) basic for couscous.
Fruit trees: Citrus (orange tree, lemon tree, mandarine tree, lime tree) that came from China.
Other crops were saffron (from Persia), cotton and sugarcane (they came from India).
Stockbreeding adapted to the desert lands of the Empire:
Nomadic shepherding was typical among Muslims:
Dromedaries, camels, horses, and donkeys were essential for transportation.
Trade was eased thanks to excellent communications:
These routes had caravans of camels.
Merchants rested in oasis and caravanserais.
The Silk Road was one the major routes in the Islamic world:
Sea routes developed:
River routes existed in the Nile Valley to get gold, slaves or ivory.
Trade permitted the entrance of eastern traditions and techniques: Paper, numeral system, gunpowder, and chess.
Muslims had a strong currency that eased trade: golden dinar and silver dirham.
- New payment systems developed: Cheque, it allowed not transporting great amounts of money. Bill of exchange.
- Muslims traded luxury products: Silk, spices, and perfumes from the Silk Route.
- Slaves, gold, and ivory from Africa: They sold rugs, pottery, leather, jewels, weapon, and clothes.
ISLAMIC ART AND CULTURE
Most of the rulers (caliphs, emirs) stimulated culture. Baghdad and Cairo were the most important cultural centres in Islam. Cordova in al-Andalus. There were several religious schools that grew around mosques:
- Maktab, it was a religious and Koranic school.
- Madrasah, it was the Koranic University. Caliph Al-Mamun (813-833) founded the House of Wisdom in Baghdad where classical authors’ manuscripts were translated into Arabic, such as Aristotle, Plato, Euclid or Ptolemy’s. Those translations helped keep Greek and Roman culture.
- Chinese, Indian, and Persian culture spread thanks to this centre.
Science was studied by Muslims:
- Hospitals were funded by the State.
- Muslims managed to undergo operations.
- Scientists discovered alcohol, potash, and sulphuric acid.
- Geometry and algebra developed thanks to Muslim scientists.
- The number 0 is “discovered”.
- They adopted the Indian numerals, so-called Arabic numbers (present-day numbers).
The first author of a book on algebra was Al-Khwarizmi.
Astronomy and optics:
- Muslims studied the revolution of stars and planets.
- The Islamic calendar was fixed, which based on moon phases.
- New instruments were used to observe the sky and to locate points: compass, astrolabe (Muhammad Al-Fazari made the first astrolabe).
Arts were also protected and promoted:
- Philosophy. Thanks to the translation of Greek manuscripts, they knew about their thoughts:
- Geography developed thanks to the new orientation tools and to merchants’ news about the world.
- History. The first book of universal history ever made was written by Al-Tabari (839-923). It stretches from the origin of the world up to his time.
- Literature. Muslims loved literature and there were several genres:
Religious texts based on the Koran.
Historical chronicles told as tales, like One Thousand and One Nights.
They loved poetry. It used to have love themes. Arabic, Persian or Turkish were the languages used to write it.
- Muslims assimilated shapes and techniques from many cultures.
- Main buildings were mosques and palaces.
- Their buildings are richly decorated with stuccoes, tiles, wooden ceilings…
- Horseshoe arch was the most typical in Muslim architecture: Tiles, plasterworks, rib vault, caliphal vault, were commonly used.
- They were iconophobes, they thus did not depict people, just geometrical, vegetal or graphic shapes.
- Bronze, pottery, ivory and tapestries were appreciated by Muslims and were widely produced.
Most important buildings in religious architecture:
Golden dome Ribbed dome.
The mosque of the Rock (Jerusalem) Mosque of Kairouan (Tunisia).
- Round Arch
- Trefoil Arches
- Horseshoes Arches
- Maqarnas vault
- Ribe caliphate vault
- Ribbed dome
The mosque of Cordova (Córdoba)
Parts of a mosque (Look at the book pg. 34):
- Minaret: The faithful were called to prayer from a tower known as a minaret.
- Patio: In the patio there was a fountain where the faithful washed themselves.
- Qibla: The main wall, was oriented towards Mecca. It contained the mihrab, the most sacred place.
- Mihrab: Most sacred place in a mosque, is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla.
- Haram: The faithful gathered in the prayer hall or The meaning of haram is forbidden.
- Fountain: In the patio. Where the faithful washed themselves before praying.
- Vault: Tipical was Rib Caliphate vault. (pg 34)
- Dome: Tipical was Ribbed dome. (pg 34)
Islamic art is Iconophobe: Not representation of human beings or animals in religious buildings. Not representation of Allah or Muhammad (It´s forbidden).
Miniatures and decorative paintings. Decorated written Works and civil buildings such as palaces.
Plasterwork and tiles:
Islamic buildings were richly decorated with:
- Plant motifs
- Geometric motifs
- Calligprahic. Inscriptions of koranic verses or poetic texts.
They were made by carving or moulding gypsum to form plasterwork or painted onto ceramic tiles.
CAUSES OF RAPID MUSLIM EXPASION
Muslims entered Iberian Penisula in 711. Started a rapid conquest due to the following causes
- Weakness of Visigothic monarchy, inmersed in civil wars. Suffered sackings from Vascones, insecurity and weakness climate.
- Indiference of the population. They offeres no resistance to muslims, because they used to live in very precarious situation and new rulers were less agressive, and had benefits to them.
The Islamic Empire had expanded during the Umayyad Caliphate. The Visigothic Kingdom was the political power that existed in Spain before Muslims’ arrival. There was not a real state structure. Kings fought to dominate the still independent territories in the Peninsula, such as Suebi (Northwest), Vascones (North) or Byzantines (Southeast). Nobility and monarchs had internal struggles to hold the power:
Musa joint the military campaign in 712 with more Arab soldiers and he conquered cities like Seville, Merida or Zaragoza. The whole peninsula was controlled in 714 and there were continuous raids in the north. There was just some resistance in few cities, like Mérida and Cordova. Muslims signed capitulations (amman) with the local population in the cities that surrendered.
- The inhabitants of those cities kept all their belongings basing on those agreements.
- Those inhabitants paid fewer taxes than with the Visigoths. (that is one of the main reasons why Muslim had fast acceptance in Spain.
- Many noble people surrendered in order not to lose their belongings, such as Theodemir, Visigothic count and lord of Murcia. After the Treaty of Orihuela (713) he was known as Tudmir; Cassius, another Visigothic count who ruled the Ebro Valley around Tudela. He was the ancestor of the Banu Qasi
- Political organisation of al-Andalus (711-1031)
(Look at this timeline in your book pg. 37)
Dependant emirate (711-756)
From the conquest until the middle of the 8th century, the Andalusian territory was organised as another province or emirate of the Umayyad Empire. During this stage, the emirate, dependent on Damascus, was led by an emir, who ruled assisted by a diwan.
After the conquest of the peninsula, Tariq and Musa went to Damascus to have an audience granted by the caliph.
- The caliph ousted them from the power.
- A new emirate was created, which would be ruled by a person appointed by the caliph.
- The new province was called Al-Andalus (Land of Vandals) and its capital was fixed in the city of Cordova.
- Some armies were sent throughout Al-Andalus to collect taxes in every city.
- They meant to control the northern lands.
- There were some skirmishes between Muslims and the inhabitants of the north, such as the battle of Covadonga (722), staged by Pelagius of Asturias (Pelayo).
- Muslims used Spain to cross the Pyrenees and occupied the region of Narbonne.
- Charles Martel defeated the Muslims in the battle of Poitiers (732), which involved the end of the Muslim expansion in Western Europe.
- Within Al-Andalus there were some internal struggles between the main Muslim ethnic groups.
- Arabs. They were the landowners of the best estates in the Ebro and Guadalquivir valleys. They also held major charges of the administration.
- Berbers. They settled in the Plateau and in the Duero valley, which had worse lands.
- There was a Berber uprising in 740.
During this period most of the Visigothic local population converted into Islam because they had economic and social advantages. (Muslims payed less taxes that Christians)
Independant emirate (756-929)
In 756, after the rise of the Abbasid dynasty in Damascus, a member of the Umayyad family took refuge in al-Andalus and formed an emirate independent of the Caliphate of Baghdad. The emir, Abd al-Rahman I, founded a very successful dynasty. The emir divided his territory into provinces or kurahs (koras) that were led by a governor (wali). He was also helped by the diwan.
The inhabitants of Al-Andalus did not accept the new caliph after the Abbasid rebellion and there was a new Berber rebellion:
- The Umayyad Abd al-Rahman I disembarked in Almuñécar (Granada) in 756.
- He established an independent emirate from Baghdad, escaping of the assesination of all his family in Damascus. Its capital was established in Cordova. The religious authority of the Abbasid caliph was still respected.
- The Abbasid caliph tried to control the situation but his army was defeated.
Some regions in Al-Andalus tried to get their independence from Cordova taking advantage of the situation:
- Zaragoza. The governor of the city asked for Charlemagne’s help, but the city was subjugated before the arrival of the Frankish emperor.
- Tudela. The peace agreement that had been signed by the emirs and the Banu Qasi family was broken.
- Charlemagne conquered Gerona and Barcelona, which became a part of the Spanish or Hispanic March.
Abd al-Rahman I put down all the revolts and organised the territory. Al-Andalus was divided into koras (provinces) ruled by walis who would depend on the emir:
- Al-Andalus (Cordova).
The border lands were divided into three regions ruled by military chiefs, cadis. After Abd al-Rahman I’s death there was a hereditary emirate ruled by the Umayyad family (Omeyas)
Caliphate of Cordoba (929-1031)
Caliphate of Cordoba was the most splendorous period in al-Andalus.
In 929, Abd al-Rahman III (Umayyad) broke all ties with Baghdad and proclaimed himself caliph. This was the start of the Caliphate of Córdoba, which was the period of greatest splendour for al-Andalus due to its political, economic and cultural importance. Its capital, Córdoba, became the most important city in Western Europe. However, the caliphs faced internal divisions: rivalry between Arabs and Berbers, on one hand, and problems with the Mozarabs and muladis on the other. These conflicts caused the Caliphate of Córdoba to divide into various kingdoms called taifa kingdoms in 1031.
Abd al-Rahman III ascended the throne in 912. In 929 Abd al-Rahman III took the decision of self-crowning as a Caliph and getting the religious independence from Baghdad:
- He administered the Treasury, the justice, and the army. (Absolute power)
- The new caliph led the Friday prayer in the mosque of Cordova.
- He received embassies from the Pope and the Byzantine emperor, which shows the importance of the Cordovan caliph.
- The Christian kings of the north considered that he should arbitrate in their disputes.
Abd al-Rahman commanded the construction of a new capital in 936: Madinat al-Zahra. It was the residence of the caliphs.
- Al-Hakam II succeeded his father in 961 and kept Abd al-Rahman’s splendour until his death in 976.
- Hisham II (976- 1009) After Al-Mansur’s death in Medinaceli (1002), Hisham II appointed his son son Abd al-Malik as a Hajib, but he died shortly later. Abd al-Malik was succeeded by Abd al-Rahman Sanyul, who meant to self-crown as caliph:
- That attempt was the origin of a war against Al-Mansur’s family’s dictatorship.
- A Civil War broke out in 1009 and some regions tried to be independent.
In 1031 the Caliphate disintegrated and a new historical stage began in Al-Andalus: the Taifa Kingdoms.
- Andalusian Society
Andalusian society was complex and stratificated. Social differences were motivated both by wealth and religion.
The most powerful groups were those who professed Islam:
- Muslim descendants of Arab and Syrian conquerors were at the top of the social pyramid.
Below them were Muslims of Berber origin and, finally, the muladis, who made up the majority of the population.
- Below the Muslim population were Jews and Christians, who could practise their religion in exchange for paying a tax. Christians, known as Mozarabs, fought to maintain their cultural independence, for example in the 9th century when they suffered severe repression. The Jews were known for their tolerance and dedication to business.
- Slaves were found in the lowest layers of society.
(In your book.Pg. 33 and 35)
- agriculture and livestock
Look at this presentation: http://es.slideshare.net/Gemae/05-economy-of-al-andalus or have a look at Power Point.
3. CULTURE AND ART (PROJECT) *
Mosque of Cordoba (pg. 34)
The Mosque of Cordoba is the most important monument of all the Western Islamic world, and one of the most amazing in the world. The evolution of the “Omeya” style in Spain is resumed in the history of the Mosque of Cordoba. Abderraman I, who destroyed an ancient Christian basilica to construct the first “Mosque Alhama” or main Mosque of the city. Nowadays, some of the constructive elements of the Visigoth building are integrated in the first part of Abderraman I.
The Great Mosque has two different areas: the courtyard or “arcade sahn“, where the “alminar” (minaret) is constructed (beneath the Renaissance tower) by Abd al-Rahman III, and the “haram” or praying hall. The interior space consists of a forest of columns and red and white arches giving a strong chromatic effect. The site is divided into 5 different areas, corresponding each one of them to the different expansions that have occurred on it.
Madinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara)
It was an Arab Muslim medieval town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls. Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences, and baths. Water was supplied through aqueducts.
Islamic culture developed during this period, living a high ans splendourous time, related to Literature and Philosophy, Science (Medicine, Astronomy, Mathematics) and art as well. The same as in Islamic caliphates througout the Empire (Dar al-Islam), al-Andalus played an important role in Culture.
During this period arabisation (use of arab language) was extended through population. The culture was a fusión of different elements from Western (Greek and Rome) and Eastern as well (India, China)
Most famous people during this period were:
- Averroes. He was born in Cordova in 12th Averroes was a Philosopher and a doctor in Andalusian Cordova.
- Ibn-Hazm. He was born in Cordova and he lived between 10th and 11th century (He wrote an essay treatyabout love meaning called “El collar de la Paloma”).