Chapter_8 - GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 8 Rise of...

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Unformatted text preview: GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 8 Rise of Islam The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirl- winds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. Isaiah 21:] We have revealed to thee an Arabic Koran, that thou mayest warn Mecca, the Mother of Cities, and those who are about her; that thou mayest give warning of the Day of Judgement, of which is no doubt—when part shall be in Paradise and part in the flame. Koran, Sura XLII The centuries between 600 and 1000 saw the emergence of Islam, a major turning point in Eurasian and world history. The spectacular conquests of the Moslem warriors united the en- tire Middle East as Alexander the Great had done almost a millennium earlier. The sub- Sequent disruption of Alexander’s empire had been followed by the imposition of Roman rule in Asia Minor and Syria. This had led to the divi- sion of the Middle East into two parts, with the Euphrates River as the dividing line. The cast- ern part became the center of Persian civiliza- tion and was comprised of Iran and Iraq, whereas the western part, the center of Byzan- tine civilization, encompassed the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa. The Is- lamic conquests of the seventh and eighth cen- turies ended this division and united under the star and crescent all the territories from the Pyrenees to India and from Morocco to central Asia. More remarkable than these military ex- ploits were the cultural achievements of Islam. Although the conquered territories were the centers of humanity’s most ancient civiliza- tions, nevertheless, by the eleventh century, the Arabs had affected _both their languages and their cultures. Arabic became the language of everyday use from Persia to the Atlantic. And a new Islamic civilization emerged that was an original synthesis of the preceding Judaic, Perso—Mesopotamian, and Greco-Roman civil— izations. This transformation has lasted to the present day, so that Iraquis and Moroccans now have as strong linguistic and cultural ties as do the English and the Australians. I. ARABIA BEFORE ISLAM The Middle East on the eve of the Moslem inva- sions was dominated by two great empires: the Byzantine and the Sassanian. The Byzantine, from its center at Constantinople, controlled the lands of the eastern Mediterranean; and the Sas~ sanian, with its capital at Ctesiphon, ruled the Tigris-Euphrates valleys and the Iranian Pla- teau. The hostility between these two states was chronic, for one was Christian with a Greco- Roman culture, and the other Zoroastrian with Perso-Mesopotamian traditions. Between AD. 603 and 629 they fought a series of exhausting wars that left both of them vulnerable to the storm that was gathering in the Arabian des- erts. Arabia at this time was regarded by its civ- ilized neighbors as an obscure land of nomadic barbarians. Yet it had become economically im- portant in the-second half of the sixth century because of a shift in the routes of trade. The traditional Red Sea—Nile valley and Persian Gulf—Red Sea routes had become unusable be— cause of disorders in Egypt and the Byzantine- Persian wars. The traders accordingly turned to the more difficult but tranquil route from Syria through western Arabia to the Yemen. Their ves- sels then transported the goods back and forth across the Indian Ocean. Mecca, situated half- way down the coast of Arabia, profited from the shift of commerce since it was located at the crossing of the new trade routes. Apart from the south, where agriculture and monarchical government were feasible, the rest of Arabia was pastoral and tribal. The sheik/15, or elective tribal leaders, were merely the first among equals and were bound by the same traditional custom that governed all. Their principal functions were to lead in time of war and to serve as custodians of holy places. Most of the tribes were pagan and worshipped trees, fountains, and stones that were regarded as the dwelling places of vaguely defined pow- ers. There was also a belief in more personal gods, which were subordinate to a higher deity called Allah. Both Judaism and Christianity had penetrated Arabia from the north, winning over Rise of Islam entire tribes in the border region as well as iso« lated groups in the remainder of the peninsula. Compared to these faiths, the idolatry and pol- ytheism, the tribal warfare, and the political disunity of Arabia must have seemed shame- fully primitive to thoughtful Arabs. One reason for Mohammed’s success was that his teachings satisfied the needs and longings of his people. II. MOHAMMED ~ Mohammed, the most influential historical per- sonality of the medieval age, was born in 569. Since his father died before he was born, and his mother when he was six, Mohammed was brought up first by his grandmother and subse- quently his uncle. Little is known of his youth, though tradition has it that at the age of twelve he was taken by his uncle‘on a caravan to Syria. In the course of that journey he may have picked up some Jewish and Christian lore. At the age of twenty-five he married a wealthy widow, who bore him several daughters and two sons who died in infancy. About his fortieth year Mohammed went through a period of intense spiritual tension, in the course of which he became convinced that God has chosen him to be a prophet, a successor to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Asked to de- scribe the process of revelation, he answered that the entire text of the Koran existed in Heaven and that one fragment at a time was communicated to him, usually by the archangel Gabriel, who made him repeat every word. M0- hammed now believed that he had received a divine call to teach of the unity and supreme power of Allah, to warn his people of the Day of Judgment, and to tell them of the rewards for the faithful in Paradise and the punishment of the wicked in Hell. His teachings were written down soon after his death and became the sacred scripture of the new religion known as Islam, meaning “submission to God's will." Mohammed did not establish an organized priesthood nor did he prescribe specific sacraments essential for sal- vation. But he did call on his followers to per- Rise of Islam The Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and Ali on the Way to Mecca, painting from a copy of the Life of the Prophet. (The New York Public Library, Spencer Collection) form certain rituals known as the Five Pillars of Islam: (1) Once in their lives believers must say with full understanding and absolute accept- ance, "There is no God but Allah; Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah." (2) Five times daily they must pray—at dawn, at noon, in midafter- noon, at dusk, and after it has become dark. Fac- ing in the direction of Mecca, worshippers pray on a carpet, with their shoes removed and heads covered. (3) Moslems must give alms generously, as an offering to Allah and an act of piety. (4) Moslems must fast from daybreak to sunset during the whole month of Ramadan. (5) Once in their lives Moslems, if they can, must make the pilgrimage, or Hadj, to Mecca. These rituals provided the believers with an extraordinarily powerful social cement. They prayed and fasted together, they assumed responsibility for their less fortunate fellow be- lievers, and they journeyed to Mecca together— rich and poor, yellow, white, brown,‘and black. Furthermore the Koran provided guidance for all phases of the life of the faithful—for man- ners and hygiene, marriage and divorce, com merce and politics, crime and punishment peace and war. Thus Islam was not only a reli- gion but also a social code and a political sys— tem. It offered to its followers both religious commandments and specific guidance for pri- vate and public life. There was no split between the secular life and the religious, between the temporal and the spiritual, as there was in the Christian world. What is Caesar’s, in Islam, is God’s, and what is God's is also Caesar's. The Shari'a, or Holy Law, was until recently the law of the land throughout the Moslem world, and it is still the basic law in individual countries. Mohammed slowly won converts to these teachings. The first were members of his imme- diate family and personal friends, who later en- joyed great prestige as “Companions of the Pro- phet." As the little band of converts grew, the wealthy merchants of Mecca became alarmed for fear that Mohammed’s teachings would un- dermine the older religious beliefs and di5cour— age pilgrims from coming to worship at the shrine of the Black Stone in their city. Because of the growing opposition, Mohammed accepted an invitation to go to Medina, an oasis town on the trade route nearly three hundred miles north of Mecca. There was a mixed population of Arab and Jewish tribes, so Mohammed was welcomed as an arbitrator. His emigration to Medina, known as the hegira, took place in 622, and the Moslem calendar is dated from the be ginning of that year. Since his teachings were based largely on Judaic doctrines, tales, and themes, Mohammed expected the Medina Jews to welcome him as the successor of their own prophets. Instead 1'56 0/ Islam m di. mum nec uFe mwm rm cw .mca tm sin Who Hi "There is no god but Allah," iggest of Moslem hol inal days of the annual p ris) ow .m .mb aef wth mm: d make emr mea abanam wtm 5.] mmm mflmrc cumin ..n.. mmT iorhéque Nationale, Pa (Bibl Rise 0/ Islam they ridiculed his claims, so Mohammed turned against them, eventually driving them out of the town and dividing their property among his fol- lowers. Gradually Mohammed persuaded the Medina Arabs to accept his religion, and he or- ganized a theocratic state based on his teach- ings. From his base in Medina, Mohammed or— ganized attacks on the Mecca caravans. Such raiding was an accepted and popular economic activity among Arab nomads, who now flocked to the banner of the Prophet in the hope of win- ning booty, and incidentally salvation. By 630 the Moslems were strong enough to capture Mecca, whereupon Mohammed made the Black Stone, housed in the Ka'ba, the chief shrine of his religion. Thus he effected a compromise by which he preserved the basic tenets of his faith and yet rooted it in traditional Arab custom. By the time of his death in 632, most—though by no means all—of the Arab tribes had recognized his overlordship and paid him tribute. Mohammed had found his native land di- vided with many local idolatrous practices. He left it with a religion and a book of revelation, and with a community and a state sufficiently well organized and armed to dominate the en- tire peninsula. Within a century his followers were to march from victory to victory, building an imposing empire across the breadth of Eur- asia and spreading his creed, which today boasts half a billion followers, throughout the world. III. AGE OF CONQUESTS Precisely because the Moslem community was the product of Mohammed's genius, it now seemed likely with his death to break up into its component elements. The tribal sheikhs, who considered their submission to him ended with his death, stopped their tribute and resumed their freedom of action. This withdrawal, known in Islamic history as the Ridda, or apos— tasy, was answered with a series of well- planned campaigns that overwhelmed the "apostate" tribes and forced them back into .the community of Islam. But the subdued tribes, sullen and resentful, obviously were ready to seize the first opportunity to break away again. The ideal distraction from this disaffection, the Moslem leaders knew, would be to initiate some foreign raids that would promise the booty be- loved by every Bedouin. The resultant raids, then, did not begin as religious crusades to propagate the faith. Mohammed did not think of Islam as a universal faith and did not believe that God had chosen him to preach to any other people than his own Arabs. So the Arab raids grew out of the need to keep the turbulent Be- douins preoccupied and loyal to Medina. The leader of the raids was the caliph, or deputy, who was chosen to represent the Prophet in his secular role. There was no possi- bility, of course, of a successor to Mohammed as Prophet, but a secular chief of the commu- nity was essential. Thus when Abu Bakr, M0- hammed's father-in—law, was selected as caliph, it meant that he was the defender of the faith rather than religious leader. It was under Abu Bakr that the apostate tribes were forced back to the fold and the earliest foreign raids begun. Under Caliph Omar, who succeeded Abu Bakr in 634, the early raids blossomed into full- fledged campaigns of conquest. They did so be— cause the outwardly powerful Byzantine and Persian empires were soon found to be hollow shells. They had been weakened by the series of wars between them, and their subjects were highly dissatisfied because of heavy taxation and religious persecution. Furthermore the Moslem forces now were growing from raiding parties into large-scale armies as entire tribes from all Arabia migrated northward, attracted by reports of dazzling riches. Any attempt to turn them back to their barren homeland would have provoked a new and possibly fatal Ridda, so the Moslem leaders crossed over into Syria at the head of theirBedouin forces. Thus the great conquests that followed represented the expan- sion not of Islam but of the Arab tribes, who on many occasions in earlier centuries had pushed northward into the Fertile Crescent. The un- precedented magnitude of the expansion at this time can be explained by the exceptional weak- ness of the two empires and by unity and e’lan engendered by the new Islamic faith. Once the invasions were under way the Ar- abs made good use of their experience in desert warfare. Mounted on camels, instead of horses like the Byzantines and Persians, they were able to attack at will and, if necessary, to retreat back to the safety of the desert. Just as the Vikings later were capable of ravaging the coasts of Europe because of their command of the sea, so now the Arabs used their "ships of the desert” to attack the wealthy empires. It was not accidental that in the provinces they conquered, the Arabs established their main bases in towns on the edge of the desert. They used existing cities like Damascus when they were suitably located and when necessary cre- ated new ones like Kufa and Basra in Iraq and Fustat in Egypt. These garrison towns met the same need for the emerging Arab Empire that Gibraltar, Malta, and Singapore later did for the British sea empire. In 636 the Arabs won a decisive victory over the Byzantines in the ravines of the Yar- muk River, a tributary of the Jordan. Attacking in the midst of a blinding sandstorm-they al- most annihilated a mixed force of Greek, Arme- nian, and Syrian Christians. Emperor Heraclius fled to Constantinople, abandoning all of Syria to the victors. Caliph Omar now turned against the neighboring rich province of Iraq. Its Se- mitic, partly Christian, population was alien- ated from its Persian and Zoroastrian masters. This split contributed to the great victory won by the Arabs in the summer of 637 at Qadisiya. The Persian emperor hastily evacuated his nearby capital, Ctesiphon, and fled eastward. The astonishing triumphs at Yarmuk and Qadisiya left the Moslems with unheard of riches, which further swelled the flood of Be- douin tribes from the southern deserts. Their pressure on the frontiers was irresistible, and the Arab armies rolled onward, westward into Egypt and eastward into Persia. Within two years (639—641) they had overrun the whole of Egypt, but in Persia for the first time they en- countered stiff resistance. Although the impe- rial leadership was incompetent and unpopular, Rise of Islam nevertheless the nation was ready to fight for its freedom and its Zoroastrian religion against the despised Arab nomads, who had always been looked down on as "desert vermin." As the Moslems advanced, local resistance bands fought fiercely against the invaders. Not until 651 was the country subdued, and long before then, in 644, Omar had been assassinated by a Persian captive. Omar’s successors in the caliphate bore the banners of Islam still further afield, driven on by the momentum of victory, of religious en- thusiasm, and of nomadic greed. In North Africa the Arab forces, supplemented by native Berber converts, fought their way clear across to Morocco and then crossed the Straits of Gi- braltar into Spain. In 711 they defeated Rode- rick, the last Visigothic king of Spain, and ad- vanced to the Pyrenees and on into France. There, however, they were defeated by Charles Martel at Tours in 732. This battle is often de- scribed as a major turning point in the history of western Europe, though it is doubtful that the Moslems, even if successful, could have ad- vanced much further in a region so distant from their home base. The same is true of the expan- sion of the Moslems to the east. In 715 they con- quered the province of Sind in northwest India but were unable to push further into the great Indian subcontinent. Likewise in 751 the Mos- lems defeated the Chinese at Talas in central Asia but again were unable to advance further toward China. Thus Talas, Sind, and the Pyre- nees marked the limits for Moslem expansion- ism because of the existing level of their mili- tary technology. I This points up the exceptional significance of the Arab failure to take Constantinople after a full year's siege (717—718). Since this city was so close to the center of their empire, had they won at Constantinople they presumably would have been able to overrun much of eastern Eu- rope. This, of course, is precisely what the Mos- lem Turks did in the fifteenth century, but if it had occurred nearly a millennium earlier, much of eastern Europe would have been Arabized and Islamized and today would be an integral part of the Moslem Middle East. //———-————_—_————————_————_—- W Christians and Moslems were mortal enemies in the Middle Ages, fighting on battlefields in Europe, the Middle East, and overseas. They also had a low opinion of each other, as ev1- dent in the following two statements. The first is by a Moslem judge of Toledo, Spain, who placed northern Europeans at the bot- tom of his category of nations.* The second is by a Christian bishop who expressed the com- mon Western belief in Moslem moral degen- eracyT Judge Sa'id al-Andalusi: . .. As for the rest of this category which cultivated no sciences, they are more like animals than human beings. Those of them who live deep in the north—between the end of the seven climates and the confines of the habi- table world—have been so affected by the extreme distance from the sun front the Zenith above their heads, resulting in cold climate and thick atmo- sphere, that their temperaments have become chilly and their humors rude. Consequently their bodies are huge, their color pale and their hair long. For the same reason they lack keenness in in- telligence and perspicacity, are characterized by ig- norance and stupidity. Folly and mental blindness prevail among them as among Slavs, Bulgars and other neighboring peoples. William of Adam, Bishop of Sultaniyah: In the Muslim sect any sexual act at all is not only not forbidden, but allowed and praised. So, as well as the innumerable prostitutes that there are among them, there are many effeminate men who shave the beard, paint their own face, put on women's dress, wear bracelets on the arms and feet. . . . The Muslims, therefore, forgetful of human dignity, are shamelessly attracted by those effeminates, and live together with them as with us husband and wife live together publicly. *From Islam and the West by P. K. Hitti © 1962 by Litton Educational Publishing Inc. TN. Daniel, Islam and the West (Edinburgh University Press, 1960), p. 144. Despite these setbacks, the fact remains that what had started out as a simple desert reli- gion had grown in little more than one century into a great Eurasian empire. By 750 Islam ruled over the vast territories stretching from the Pyrenees to Sind and from Morocco to the frontiers of China. IV. ARAB KINGDOM TO ISLAMIC EMPIRE With the first phase of expansion completed, the Arabs now settled down to enjoy the fruits of victory. Virtually an army of occupation in their subject lands, they lived mostly in strategi- cally located camp cities, from where they con- trolled the surrounding countryside. Since Ca— liph Omar had decided at the outset that his followers should not be given fiefs in the con- QUered provinces, they now were supported by government pensions. The funds for these pen- sions were obtained from lands confiscated by the Islamic state and from taxes that were lev- ied at a higher rate on non-Moslems than on Moslems. Apart from this discriminatory taxa- tion, the non-Moslems were left virtually undis- turbed. No effort was made to convert them; in- deed conversion was not at all welcomed for it involved, under the circumstances, a decline in revenue. Thus Islamism was in effect a privilege of the Arab warrior-aristocracy who ruled over the much more numerous subject peoples. This arrangement was soon disturbed by the appearance in increasing numbers of the Mawali, or non-Arab Moslems. These converts flocked to the cities, where they served the needs of the Arab aristocracy as servants, arti- sans, shopkeepers, and merchants. Being Mos- lems they claimed equality with the Arabs, but it was not granted. Although the Mawali fought in the armies of Islam, they were usually re- stricted to the infantry, which received a lower rate of pay and less booty than the Arab cavalry. I V. ;Cons§anfi . v»); ISLAM .‘ IN 632 EXPANSION 632 — 7% W Eézsiw XVI EXPANSION OF ISLAM TO 1500 Rise 0/ Islam As the empire expanded and wealth poured cities from the subject provinces, the Mawali increased in numbers and wealth. But they were still excluded from the ruling Circles, so they became a disaffected urban element, de- termined to gain status equal to their economic power. Thus the Arab Umayyad dynasty of ca— liphs, which had moved the capital from Medina to Damascus in 661, came to be regarded with much justification as a parasitic clique that had outlived its usefulness once the conquests were completed. The opposition to the Arab aristoc- racy, therefore, was both a national and a social movement of protest. A disputed accession to the throne set off a decade of civil strife that ended in the acces- sion of the Abbasid caliphate in 750. This repre- sented much more than a mere change of dy- nasty. The Mawali, and particularly the Persians, now replaced the old aristocracy. The Arabs no longer were a privileged salaried sol- diery but were replaced by a royal standing army that was at first largely Persian. The for- mer garrison cities became great commercial centers under Mawali control. Some of the Ar— abs became absorbed into the mass of towns- people and peasants, whereas others reverted to nomadism. The imperial structure also changed radi- cally, especially with the shift of the capital from Damascus eastward to Baghdad in 762. In effect this meant that the Abbasid caliphate was turning its back on the Mediterranean and look- ing to Persia for traditions and support. The ca- liph no longer was an Arab sheikh but a divinely ordained autocrat—the “Shadow of God upon Earth." His authority rested not on tribal sup- port but on the salaried bureaucracy and stand- ing army. Thus the caliphate became an oriental monarchy similar to the many that had pre- ceded it in Ctesiphon and Persepolis and Baby- lon. Under the order and security imposed by this monarchy, a syncretic civilization that was a mixture of Judaic, Greco—Roman, and Perso- Mesopotamian traditions evolved during the fol- lowing centuries. Islam ceased to be merely the Creed of a ruling warrior-aristocracy and be- came instead a new and distinctive civilization. I V. ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION Caliph Mansur, who selected Baghdad as the site for the Abbasid capital, foresaw a glorious future for his choice. This island between the Tigris in the East and the Eu- phrates in the West is a market place for the world. All the ships that come up the Tigris . . . will go up and anchor here; wares brought on ships down the Tigris and along the Euphrates will be brought and unloaded here. It will be the highway for the people of the Jabal, Isfahan and the districts of Khurasun. 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 descendants shall dwell in it after me. It will surely be the most flourishing city in the world.‘ Mansur's expectations were quickly real- ized to the full. Within a century Baghdad num- bered about a million people. In the center was a citadel Some two miles in diameter in which were the caliph’s residence and the quarters of his officials and guards. Beyond the citadel walls a great commercial metropolis sprang up, supported by the plentiful produce of the fertile Mesopotamian valley. The main crops were wheat, barley, rice, dates, and olives. The Abbas— ids increased the output when they extended the area of cultivated land by draining swamps and by enlarging the irrigation works. They also were less extortionist than the previous rulers in their tax and labor levies on the peasants. This improvement was soon ended by the spec- ulation of wealthy merchants and landowners and by the introduction of slave labor on the large estates. The provinces contributed rich supplies of metals—silver from the Hindu Kush; gold from Nubia and the Sudan; copper from Isfahan; and iron from Persia, central Asia, and Sicily. Pre- cious stones came from many regions of the em- pire, while the waters of the Persian Gulf yielded pearls. Industry also flourished, textiles being the most important in the number of workers employed and the value of the output. Linen, cotton, and silk goods were produced in many parts of the empire, both for local con- sumption and for export. Carpets also were made almost everywhere. Those of Tabaristan and Armenia were considered the best. The art of paper making, learned from Chinese pris- oners taken at Talas in 751, spread rapidly across the Islamic world, reaching Spain by 900. Other industries included pottery, metal- work, soap, and perfumes. Such a rich economy, stretching across the breadth of the far-flung Abbasid Empire, greatly increased interregional trade. Moslem merchants, as noted in the preceding chapter, traded overland through central Asia and over— seas with India, Ceylon, Southeast Asia, and China. A flourishing trade was carried on also with Africa, whence were obtained gold, ivory, ebony, and slaves. We know about commerce with the northern countries from the discovery in Scandinavia of large hoards of Moslem coins dating from the seventh to the eleventh centu- ries. In'exchange for these coins, the Moslems received furs, wax, amber, honey, and cattle. Such large-scale trade stimulated a highly de- veloped banking system with branches in all leading cities, so that a check could be drawn in Baghdad and cashed in Morocco. With this solid economic base, the Abbasid caliphs were able to enjoy themselves in their dazzlingly luxurious palaces. The Thousand and One Nights describes Harun al-Rashid (786— 809), the best known of these caliphs, as a gay and cultured ruler surrounded by poets, musi- cians, singers, dancers, scholars, and wits. Among the popular indoor games were chess, dice, and backgammon, and outdoor sports in- cluded hunting, falconry, hawking, polo, arch- ery, fencing, javelin throwing, and horse racing. Harun was contemporary with Charlemagne, but their respective capitals, Baghdad and Aix- la-Chapelle, were quite incomparable—as in- comparable as Baghdad and Paris today, but in the reverse sense. A Byzantine ambassador in the early tenth century, though familiar with the wealth of Constantinople, was nevertheless impressed by what he saw in Baghdad. He re- ported twenty-three palaces, each with thou- sands of rugs and tapestries, multitudes of ser- vants in shining uniforms, ladies in gorgeous ‘ Rise of Islam From A Thousand and One Nights: The King Schahriar holding the hand of Schahrazade. (The Bertmann Archive) and colorful raiment of silk and gold brocade, and a variety of tame and wild animals in the spacious parks. The Abbasid Caliphate was noted not only for its affluence and splendor but also for its relative tolerance in religious matters in an age when this quality was markedly absent in the West. The explanation is to be found partly in the religious law of Islam. The sacred law recog- nized the Christians and Jews as being, like the Moslems, People of the Book. Both had a scrip ture—a written word of revelation. Their faith was accepted as true, though incomplete, since Mohammed had superseded Moses and Jesus Christ. Islam therefore tolerated the Christians 1O Rise of Islam and Jews. It permitted them to practicetheir faith, with certain restrictions and penalties. Caliph Harun, for example, ordered that all churches built subsequent to the Moslem Conquest be demolished and that all non- Moslems, or Dhimmis, wear special clothing. Hi5 grandson decreed that Christians and Jews put wooden images of devils on their houses and ride only on mules with wooden saddles. Is- lamic jurists also ruled that the testimony of a Christian or Jew was not acceptable against a Moslem. And at all times the taxes levied on the Dhimmis Were greater than those on the believ- ers. Thus the Dhimmis definitely were second class citizens. Nevertheless, their position was clearly superior to that of comparable dissent- ers in the West. They could practice their faith, enjoy ~normal property rights, and belong to craft guilds. They were often appointed to high state office and were spared the martyrdom or exile endured, for example, by Jews and Mos~ lems in Spain following the Christian conquest. The Abbasid Caliphate also was notewor- thy for its achievements in the field of science. It is true that the tendency here was to preserve and to pass on rather than to create something new. One of their greatest scientists, al-Biruni (973-1048), stated, "We ought to confine our- selves to what the Ancients have dealt with and to perfect what can be perfected."2 On the other hand, the sheer size of the empire, its contacts with literally. all regions of Eurasia, and its rich legacy from the several great centers of civiliza~ tion that it encompassed all contributed to the very real achievements of Islamic science. Bagh- dad, for example, boasted a T‘House of Wisdom" consisting of a school of translators, a library, an observatory, and an academy. The scholars associated with it translated and studied the works of Greek scientists and philosophers, as well as scientific treatises from Persia and India. In astronomy the Moslems generally ac- cepted the basic tenets of their Greek predeces— sors and made no significant advances in the- ory. But they did continue without interruption the astronomical observations of the ancients, so that the later Renaissance astronomers had 11 available some nine hundred years of records, which provided the basis for their crucial dis- coveries. Mathematics was of great interest to Moslems because it was needed both in astron- omy and in commerce. Thanks to Babylonian and Indian influence, the Moslems made impor- tant advances, especially in popularizing the Hindu number system based on the decimal no- tation. Misleadingly called Arabic numerals, this system did for arithmetic what the dis- covery of the alphabet had done earlier for writ- ing. It democratized mathematics, making it available for everyday use by nonspecialists. The greatest Islamic mathematician was a Per— sian, Muhammad ibn Musa (780—850), called al— Khwarizmi from his birthplace Khwarism (now Khiva), east of the Caspian Sea. He wrote on the Hindu numerals, compiled a textbook on alge- bra (al-Jabr) that was used in both East and West for centuries, formulated the oldest trigc» nometrical tables known, and collaborated with other scholars in preparing an encyclopedia of geography. In geography, as in astronomy, the Mos- lems made little theoretical progress, but the ex- tent of their empire and of their commerce en— abled them to accumulate reliable and systematic data concerning the Eurasian land mass. Al-Biruni’s famous book on India, for ex- ample, described not only the physical features of the country but also the social system, reli- gious beliefs, and scientific attainments of the Hindus in a manner that was not to be equaled until the eighteenth century. The Moslems also prepared charts and maps in which they natu- rally located Mecca in the center, as the contem- porary Christian cartographers did for Jeru- salem. Islamic medicine also was based on that of the Greeks, but the greater geographical spread of Islam made it possible to learn of new dis- eases and drugs: To the ancient pharmacopeia the Moslems added ambergris, camphor, cassia, cloves, mercury, senna, myrrh; and they also in- troduced new pharmaceutical preparations such as syrups, juleps, and rose water. Indeed, Arab drugs figured prominently in the cargoes that Italian captains loaded in Middle Eastern ports. Anesthesia by inhalation was practiced in some surgical operations, and hashish and other drugs were used as sedatives. Moslems es- tablished the first apothecary shops and dispen- saries; founded the first medieval school of pharmacy; required state examinations and cer— tification for the practice of medicine; and oper- ated well-equipped hospitals, of which some thirty are known. The great Islamic doctors, such as Muhammad al-Razi (844—926) and Abu Ali al-Husein ibn Sina (980—1037), famous in Eu- rope as “Rhazes” and “Avicenna,” were brilliant men of wide knowledge ranging from astron- omy through botany to chemistry and wrote texts that were used in European medical schools until the seventeenth century. The highest achievement of the Arabs in their own estimation was their poetry. In pre- Islamic times it had a public and social func- tion, the poet often Serving as a eulogist or a sat~ irist. The main themes were war, valor, love, praise of a patron, abuse of an enemy, and glori- fication of one's tribe or camel or horse. Under the Abbasids, Arabic poetry was enriched by the contributions of many non-Arabs, especially Persians. But there was no borrowing from Greco-Roman literature, which explains why Arabic literature remained strange and un- known in the West. Moslem scientists became familiar to Westerners but not Moslem poets. Yet to the present day the Arabs find much plea- sure and inspiration in their poetry, with its in- toxicating verbal effect and the hypnotic power of its monotonous rhyming. In addition to their own original achieve- ments, the Moslems made an invaluable contri- bution in translating and transmitting ancient works. The Umayyad caliphs had distrusted all n0n~Arabs and were uninterested in their civil- izations. The Abbasids, by contrast, had been strongly supported by Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrian Persians and were much more tol- erant and broadminded. The "House of Wis- dom" in Baghdad included a large staff of trans- lators, one of the outstanding ones being a Christian, Hunain ibn—Ishaq (809-873). He vis- ited Greek-speaking lands to collect manu- scripts, and with his assistants he translated a Rise 0/ Islam large number of them, including works of Hip- pocrates, Galen, Euclid, Ptolemy, Plato, and Ar- istotle. Another great translation center was in the city of Toledo in Moslem Spain, where the translators during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries included Jews, Spaniards, and foreign ' scholars from all over Europe. This activity was of utmost significance, for western Europeans had lost direct acquaintance with Greek learn- ing and for long were unaware even of its exist- ence. Thus Moslem scholarship preserved the Greek works until western Europe was ready once more to resume its study. In conclusion it should be emphasized that two basic bonds held together the diverse peoples of the sprawling caliphate: the Arabic language and the Islamic religion. Much more remarkable than the Arab conquests was the diffusion of the Arabic language. By the elev- enth century Arabic had superseded the old Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages and prevailed from Morocco to Persia, as it does to the present day. This common language ex- plains the feeling of common identity prevailing in this region, even though it includes Negroid Sudanese as well as the prevailing Semites, and Christian Lebanese and Coptic Egyptians as well as the prevailing Moslems. Even beyond this vast area that was permanently Arabized, Arabic exerted a profound influence on other Moslem languages. Arabic words are as com- mon in these other languages as Greek and Latin words in English, and some of these lan- guages (Urdu, Malay, Swahili, and Turkish until World War I) are written in Arabic script. The Islamic religion also is a powerful bond—much more powerful than Christianity in this respect because it is not only a religion but also a social and political system and a gen- eral way of life. (See Section II, this chapter.) Re- ligion thus provides the basis for Islamic civil- ization as language does for the Arabic world. We have seen that the Islamic civilization evolved during the centuries following the conquests as a fusion of Christian, Jewish, Zoro- astrian, and Arab religious elements, and Greco Roman and Perso-Mesopotamian administra- tive, cultural, and scientific elements. The end 12 Rise 0/ Islam product was not a mere mosaic or agglomera- tion of previous cultures but rather a fusion that represented a new and original civilization. 1; was diverse in its origins and strands yet uniquely molded by the distinctive imprint of Arabic Islam. VI. DECLINE OF THE CALIPHATE The Abbasid Caliphate reached its height dur- ing the reign of Harun al-Rashid and then de- clined in much the same way as did the Roman Empire. There was first the matter of sheer size—a very real problem in an age when com- munications were dependent on horse and sail. The outlying provinces were 3,000 miles distant from the capital, so it is unsurprising that they should have been the first to break away: Spain in 756, Morocco in 788, and Tunisia in 800. Further, as in the case of Rome, there was the problem. of imperial expenditures, which were excessive and unsupportable by the pre- vailing economy and technology. The rampant luxury of the Baghdad court and the heavy weight of the inflated bureaucracy were not matched by technological progress. The result- ing financial crisis forced the caliphs to appoint provincial governors as tax farmers in the areas they administered. With the revenues they col- lected, these governors maintained the local 501- diery and officials and remitted an agreed sum to the central treasury. This arrangement left the governors-farmers the real rulers of the provinces, together with the army commanders with whom they soon reached working agree- ments. By the mid—ninth century the caliphs were losing both military and administrative control and were being appointed and deposed at will by Turkish mercenaries. Imperial weakness, as usual, invited bar- barian attacks. Just as the Roman Empire had been invaded across the Rhine and the Danube, so the caliphate now was assaulted from the north, south, and east. From the north came the Crusaders who overran Spain, Sicily, and Syria, aided by Moslem discord in all three areas. In Sicily the end of the local dynasty in 1040 was 13 followed by civil war, which facilitated the inva- sion of the island by the Normans from south» ern Italy. By 1091 the whole of Sicily had been conquered, and the mixed Christian-Moslem population came under the rule of Norman kings. Likewise in Spain the Umayyad dynasty was deposed in 1031 and the country was split up into numerous petty states ruled by “par— ties” or factions reflecting diverse ethnic groups. These included the Arabs, the Berbers, the indigenous pre-Moslem Iberian stock, and the “Slavs,” or European slaves. This fraginen tation of Moslem Spain enabled the Christian states of the north to expand southward. By 1085 they captured the important city of Toledo. and by the end of the thirteenth century only Granada on the southern tip of the peninsula was left to the Moslems. The loss of Sicily and Spain to Christen- dom proved permanent, but such was not the case with Syria. Here also the warring of sev- eral Moslem states enabled the Crusaders from 1096 onward to advance rapidly down the Syr- ian coast into Palestine. They established four states—Edessa (1098), Antioch (1098), Jerusalem (1099), and Tripoli (1109)—all organized along Western feudal lines. But these states lacked roots. They never assimilated their Moslem Arab subjects. Their existence depended on the sporadic arrival of recruits from Europe. Also they were all confined to the coastal areas and hence vulnerable to resistance movements or- ganized in the interior. These states could exist only as long as the surrounding Moslem world remained divided. The disunity was ended by Salah ad-Din, better known in the West as Sa- ladin. By uniting Moslem Syria and Egypt he surrounded the Crusader principalities and be- gan the counterattack in 1187. By the time of his death in 1193 he had recaptured Jerusalem and expelled the westerners from all but a narrow coastal strip. During the following century this also was overrun and the Moslem reconquest was completed. In addition to these Crusader onslaughts from the north, the caliphate was attacked by Berbers from southern Morocco and the Rise 0/ Islam Wag ab P0 .38 he Tm Cl no N Iran a. 1mm rm, ma 5.. e _ H __ .mo 8C 6 Mb n... 4 en 1 .w-l v.5 Ad 3n .ma 3 wm hse mm A f o . .3... 3. 5.... 13.4... «1.1!; . ill-65.539433! . :{l‘ r ’ . f ,. .‘ «Radix. . . .. .. r» Fourteenth-century manuscri taken from “The Canon University Library. (A rborio Mella) {3512: r » 5.: Leaf from manuscript of Dioscorides: a recipe for cough medicine and a doctor preparing it. Arab contributions to the field of medicine were substantial, and drugs in great quantities were carried to Europe in Italian ships. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1913) SenegaLNiger area and by the two Arab Be- douin tribes of Hilal and Sulaim from Upper Egypt. These tribes swept across Libya and Tun- isia wreaking havoc and devastation. It was this 15 attack rather than the earlier seventh-century Arab invasion that ruined civilization in North Africa. Finally the third group of invaders were the Turks and Mongols from the East. Their in» cursions, lasting for several centuries and tak- ing in virtually the entire Eurasian land mass, constitute a major chapter of world history. The Turco-Mongol invasions are comparable to the Arab-Islamic conquests in scope and impact. In- deed the two are intimately related, for many of the Turco-Mongols were converted to Islam, and they then extended the frontiers of their faith into distant new regions. Reference: Stavrianos. Leften Stavros. A Global History s From Prehistory to the Present. New Jersey : Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1991. 16 ...
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Chapter_8 - GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 8 Rise of...

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