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7th Grade Social Studies / Lesson 9 - Golden Age of Muslim Civilization

 What will we be learning in this unit?
  • How were the Muslim society and economy organized?
  • traditions influenced Muslim art and literature?
  • advances did Muslims make in centers of learning?


 Society and Economy
  • Muslim rulers united people from diverse cultures, including Arabs, Persians, Egyptians and other Africans, and Europeans. Later, Mongols, Turks, Indians, and people in Southeast Asia declared their faith in Islam. In time, Muslim civilization absorbed and blended many traditions. 
  • im society was more open than that of medieval Christian Europe. Although Arabs had held themselves apart from non-Arab Muslims at first, that distinction faded under the Abbassids. People enjoyed a certain degree of social mobility, the ability to move up in social class. People could improve their social rank through religious, scholarly, or military achievements.


Society and Economy
  • As in Greece and Rome, slavery was a common institution in the cities of the Muslim world. Slaves were brought from conquered lands in Spain, Greece, Africa, India, and Central Asia. Muslims could not be enslaved. If non-Muslim slaves converted to Islam, they did not automatically gain their freedom, but their children did. A female slave who married her owner also gained freedom. 


Society and Economy
  • Most slaves worked as household servants. Some were skilled artisans. The Abbassids used slave-soldiers who fought loyally for the caliph. Slaves of rulers sometimes rose to high positions in government, and a number of caliphs were the sons of slave mothers. Islamic law encouraged the freeing of slaves. Many slaves bought their freedom, often with the help of charitable donations or even state funds.


Society and Economy

  • Merchants were honored in the Muslim world, in part because Muhammad had been a merchant.
  • Between 750 and 1350, merchants built a vast trading network across the Muslim world and beyond, spreading Islam peacefully in their wake. Camel caravans-the "ships of the desert"-crossed the Sahara into West Africa. Muslim traders traveled the Silk Road from China. Monsoon winds carried Arab ships from East Africa to India. Everywhere Muslim traders bought and exchanged goods, creating great fortunes for the most successful.

 


Society and Economy
  • Trade spread both products and technologies. As you have read, Muslim merchants brought Arabic numerals from India to the western world. Arabs also carried sugar from India and papermaking from China. A common language and a common religion helped this global exchange to grow and thrive. 


  Society and Economy
  • Extensive trade and a prosperous money economy led Muslims to pioneer new business practices. They set up partnerships, bought and sold on credit, and formed banks to change currency. To transfer money more easily, Muslims invented the ancestors of today's bank checks. We get our word check from the Arabic word sakk. Bankers developed a sophisticated system of accounting. They opened branch banks in all major cities, so that a check written in Baghdad might be cashed in Cairo.


   Society and Economy

  • As in medieval Europe, handicraft manufacturing in Muslim cities was typically organized by guilds. The heads of the guilds, chosen by their members, often had the authority to regulate prices, weights and measures, methods of production, and the quality of the product. Most labor was done by wage workers. 
  • Across the Muslim world, artisans produced a wealth of fine goods. Steel swords from Damascus, leather goods from C³rdoba, cotton textiles from Egypt, and carpets from Persia were highly valued. Workshops also turned out fine glassware, furniture, and tapestries.

 


Society and Economy
  • Outside the cities, agriculture flourished across a wide variety of climates and landforms. Muslim farmers cultivated sugar cane, cotton, dyes, medicinal herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers that were bought and sold in world markets. 
  • The more arid regions of the Muslim world were basically divided into two kinds of land, "the desert and the sown." Small farming communities faced a constant scarcity of water. To improve farm output, the Abbassids organized massive irrigation projects and drained swamplands between the Tigris and Euphrates. Farmers in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean coast produced grain, olives, dates, and other crops.


 Art and Literature
  • The deserts continued to support independent nomads who lived by herding. Still, nomads and farmers shared economic ties. Nomads bought dates and grain from settled peoples, while farming populations acquired meat, wool, and hides from the nomads.


Art and Literature
  • As in Christian Europe and Hindu India, religion shaped the arts and literature of the Islamic world. The great work of Islamic literature was the poetic Quran itself. Scholars studied the sacred words of the Quran in Arabic and then produced their own works interpreting its meaning. 
  • Muslim art and literature reflected the diverse traditions of the various peoples who lived under Muslim rule. Muslim artists and writers were also influenced by the skills and styles of the many peoples with whom they came in contact, including Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Indians.


Art and Literature
  • Because the Quran strictly banned the worship of idols, Muslim religious leaders forbade artists to portray God or human figures in religious art. The walls and ceilings of mosques were decorated with elaborate abstract and geometric patterns. The arabesque, an intricate design composed of curved lines that suggest floral shapes, appeared in rugs, textiles, and glassware. Muslim artists also perfected skills in calligraphy, the art of beautiful handwriting. They worked the flowing Arabic script, especially verses from the Quran, into decorations on buildings and objects of art.


   Art and Literature
  • In nonreligious art, some Muslim artists did paint human and animal figures. Arabic scientific works were often lavishly illustrated. Literary works and luxury objects sometimes showed stylized figures. In later periods, Persian, Turkish, and Indian artists excelled at painting miniatures to illustrate books of poems and fables.


Art and Literature
  • Muslim architects adapted the domes and arches of Byzantine buildings to new uses. In Jerusalem, they built the Dome of the Rock, a great shrine capped with a magnificent dome. Domed mosques and high minarets dominated Muslim cities in the same way that cathedral spires dominated medieval Christian cities.


Art and Literature
  • Long before Muhammad, Arabs had a rich tradition of oral poetry. In musical verses, Bedouin poets chanted the dangers of desert journeys, the joys of battle, or the glories of their clans. Their most important themes, chivalry and the romance of nomadic life, recurred in Arab poetry throughout the centuries. Through Muslim Spain, these traditions came to influence medieval European literature and music.


Art and Literature
  • Later Arab poets developed elaborate formal rules for writing poetry and explored both religious and worldly themes. The poems of Rabiah al-Adawiyya expressed Sufi mysticism and encouraged the faithful to worship God selflessly without hope of reward. "If I worship Thee in hope of Paradise/Exclude me from Paradise," she wrote in one prayer poem. Other poets praised important leaders, described the lavish lives of the wealthy, sang of the joys and sorrows of love, or conveyed nuggets of wisdom.


Art and Literature
  • Arab writers prized the art of storytelling. Across their empire, they gathered and adapted stories from Indian, Persian, Greek, Jewish, Egyptian, and Turkish sources. The best-known collection is The Thousand and One Nights, a group of tales narrated by the fictional princess Scheherezade. They include romances, fables, adventures, and humorous anecdotes, many set in the Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid. Later versions filtered into Europe, where millions of children thrilled to "Aladdin and His Magic Lamp" or "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."


The World of Learning
  • "Seek knowledge even as far as China," said Muhammad. Although he could not read or write, his respect for learning inspired Muslims to make great advances in learning. 
  • Both boys and girls were provided with elementary education. This training emphasized reading and writing, especially study of the Quran. Institutions of higher learning included schools for religious instruction and for the study of Islamic law.


The World of Learning

  • Al-Mamun and later caliphs made Baghdad into the greatest Muslim center of learning. Its vast libraries attracted a galaxy of scholars, who were well paid and highly respected. Other cities, like Cairo, Bukhara, Timbuktu, and C³rdoba, had their own centers of learning. In all these places, Muslim scholars made advances in philosophy, mathematics, medicine, and other fields. They preserved the learning of earlier civilizations by translating ancient Persian, Sanskrit, and Greek texts into Arabic.

 


The World of Learning

  • Muslim scholars translated the works of the Greek philosophers, as well as many Hindu and Buddhist texts. Like later Christian thinkers in Europe, Muslim scholars tried to harmonize Greek ideas about reason with religious beliefs based on divine revelation. In C³rdoba, the philosopher Ibn Rushd put all knowledge except the Quran to the test of reason. His writings on Aristotle were translated into Latin and influenced Christian scholastics in medieval Europe.
  • Another Arab thinker, Ibn Khaldun, set standards for the scientific study of history. He stressed the importance of economics and social structure as causes of historical events. He also warned about common sources of error in historical writing. These included bias, exaggeration, and overconfidence in the accuracy of one's sources. Khaldun urged historians to trust sources only after a thorough investigation.

 


The World of Learning
  • Muslim scholars studied both Indian and Greek mathematics before making their original contributions. The greatest Muslim mathematician was al-Khwarizmi. His work pioneered the study of algebra. In the 800s, he wrote a book that was later translated into Latin and became a standard mathematics textbook in Europe.


The World of Learning
  • Like many scholars of the time, al-Khwarizmi made contributions in other fields. He developed a set of astronomical tables based on Greek and Indian discoveries. At observatories from Baghdad to Central Asia, Muslim astronomers studied eclipses, observed the Earth's rotation, and calculated the circumference of the Earth to within a few thousand feet. The work of Muslim astronomers and navigators helped pave the way for later explorers like Christopher Columbus.


The World of Learning
  • Building on the knowledge of the ancient Greeks, Muslims made remarkable advances in medicine and public health. Under the caliphs, physicians and pharmacists had to pass a test before they could practice their profession. The government set up hospitals, with separate wards for women. Injured people could get quick treatment at a facility similar to today's emergency room. Physicians traveled to rural areas to provide health care to those who could not get to a city, while others regularly visited jails.
  • One of the most original medical thinkers was Muhammad al-Razi, head physician at Baghdad's chief hospital. He wrote many books on medicine, including a pioneering study of measles and smallpox. He also challenged accepted medical practices. Treat the mind as well as the body, he advised young doctors. If a doctor made hopeful comments, he taught, patients would recover faster.


  The World of Learning
  • Equally famous was the Persian physician Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna. By the age of 16, he was already a doctor to the Persian nobility. His great work was the Canon on Medicine, a huge encyclopedia of what the Greeks, the Arabs, and he himself had learned about the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The book includes a list of more than 4,000 prescriptions, made with such ingredients as mercury from Spain, myrrh from East Africa, and camphor from India. 
  • Behind these two great names stood dozens of others. Muslim surgeons developed a way to treat cataracts, drawing fluid out of the lenses with a hollow needle. For centuries, surgeons around the world used this method to save patients' eyesight. Arab pharmacists were the first to mix bitter medicines into sweet-tasting syrups and gums.


  The World of Learning
  • Over time, Muslim scholars helped knowledge move into Christian Europe. The two main routes of entry were through Spain and through Sicily. Christian European scholars were reintroduced to the achievements of Greco-Roman civilization. They studied Muslim philosophy, art, and science. Eventually, European physicians began to attend Muslim universities in Spain and to translate Arabic medical texts. For 500 years, the works of Avicenna and al-Razi were the standard medical textbooks at European schools.