Swift

Unit Three: The Post Classical Era, Chapter 14: Islam, and the Silk Road

I'd like to note that this chapter is not intended to be insulting against anybody. If I have made any mistake, please feel free to comment below and point out my error, so I can fix it. Thanks!

Before we begin this chapter, there are some vocabulary terms that must be defined.

Unit Three: Regional and Trans-regional Interactions 

(circa 600 CE to circa 1450 CE)

  • Chapter 14 – The Expansive Realm of Islam
  • Chapter 13 – The Resurgence of Empire in East Asia
  • Chapter 15 – India and the Indian Ocean Basin
  • Chapter 16 – The Two Worlds of Christendom
  • Chapter 17 – Nomadic Empires and Eurasian Integration
  • Chapter 18 – States and Societies of Sub-Saharan  Africa
  • Chapter 20 - Worlds Apart: The Americas and Oceania
  • Chapter 19 – The Increasing Influence of Europe
  • Chapter 21 – Expanding Horizons of Cross-Cultural Interaction

Yay! It's a new unit! Yes, you guessed it - it's about the Islamic World and the spread of Islam! Mrs. Craddock always gives us a list of vocabulary, so here it is!

Chapter 14 – The Islamic World




  • Bedouin - Early nomadic peoples from Arabia, organized themselves in family and clan groups. Depended heavily on their larger kinship networks for support, developed strong sense of loyalty to clans
  • Mecca - Important site of fairs and a stopping point for caravan traffic; prophet Muhammad's birthplace
  • Quran - "recitation", holy book of Islam. A compilation of written versions of Muhammad's revelations. Communicated Muhammad's understanding of Allah and his relation to the world, serves as the definitive authority for Islamic religious doctrine and social organization
  • Hadith - Sayings attributed to Muhammad and accounts of the prophet's deeds. Appeared between 9th and 11th century CE and used as guides for interpretation of Quran.
  • Kaaba - A cube-shaped building with a large black rock long considered to be the dwelling of a powerful deity. Drew worshipers from all over Arabia and brought considerable wealth. Later became the most sacred Muslim pilgrim shrine.
  • Hijrah - "migration", 622 CE, Muhammad and some followers fled to Yathrib, a rival trading city 345 kilometer north of Mecca. Muhammad's move to Medina serves as official starting point of Islamic calender
  • Medina - the city of the prophet, where Muhammad fled to due to persecution in Mecca
  • Umma - "community of the faithful", Muhammad organized his followers into this cohesive community and provided it with a comprehensive legal and social code. Led this community both in daily prayers and in battle with enemies. He also looked after economic welfare
  • Jihad - the original meaning of this word is "struggle". Imposes spiritual and moral obligations on Muslims by requiring them to combat vice and evil. Calls on Muslims to struggle against ignorance and unbelief by spreading word of Islam and seeking converts. Might involve physical struggle, sometimes Muslims had to wage war against unbelievers who threaten Islam
  • Sharia - Islamic holy law, emerged centuries after Muhammad and offered detailed guidance on proper behavior in almost every aspect of life. Drew its inspiration especially from Quran, offering precise guidance on diverse matters
  • Dar-al-Islam - the house of the Islam
  • Abu Bakr - genial man who was one of the prophet's closet friends and most devoted disciples, served as a caliph. Became head of state for the Islamic community
  • Caliph - "deputy", led the umma not as prophets but as lieutenants or substitutes for Muhammad
  • Sind - Muslim armies conquered this Hindu kingdom in northwestern India in 711 CE. It is now the southeastern province of Pakistan (Sindh) and borders India's province Gujarat.
  • Shia - Sect formed because of disagreements over succession, most important and enduring of all the alternatives to the form of Islam observed by the majority. Originated as a party supporting the appointment of Ali and his descendants as caliph. Observed holy days in honor of their leaders and martyrs to their cause, taught descendants that Ali was infallible and divinely appointed to rule the Islamic community
  • Sunni - the major sect for Islam, traditionalists
  • Ali - A cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, candidate for caliph after Muhammad's death. Briefly served as fourth caliph but enemies assassinated him while praying in a mosque
  • Umayyad dynasty - 661-750 CE, ranked among the most prominent of the Meccan merchant clans, reputation and network of alliances brought stability to Islamic community. Established own capital at Damascus. Tightly centralized rule and favor to Arabs generated an administrative problems, ruled as conquered, policies reflected interests of Arab military aristocracy.
  • Jizya - a special head tax for those who did not convert to Islam
  • Abu al-Abbas - chief leader of rebellion in Persia that brought down Umayyad dynasty. Sunni Arab but allied with Shias and Muslims who weren't Arabs. Defeated Umayyad forces in a huge battle in 750, then founded Abbasid dynasty
  • Abbasid dynasty - Far more cosmopolitan than Umayyad, rulers didn't show special favor to the Arab military aristocracy. Not a conquering dynasty, focused on administering the empire they inherited. Turned to long-standing Mesopotamian and Persian techniques of administration: rulers devised policies, built capital cities to oversee affairs, organized their territories through regional governments. Declined due to civil war between Harun's sons and succession rights, toppled by Mongols in 1258
  • Battle of Talas River (significance) - In 751, Abbasid army defeated the Tang Chinese Army, ended the expansion of China's Tang dynasty in central Asia and opened the door for the spread of Islam among Turkish peoples
  • Baghdad - capital of Abbasid dynasty, allowed Abbasids to associate themselves with the cosmopolitan environment of Mesopotamia.
  • Ulama (Ulema) - "people with religious knowledge" pious scholars who sought to develop public policy in accordance with Quran and sharia
  • Qadis - "judges" heard cases at law and made decisions based on the Quran and sharia
  • Harun al-Rashid - 786-809 CE, high point of Abbasid dynasty during his reign. Provided liberal support for artists and writers, bestowed lavish gifts on favorites, distributed money to poor and common class
  • Seljuq (Seljuk) Turks - a nomadic people from central Asia who also invaded the Byzantine empire. Effectively controlled the Abbasid empire by mid eleventh century. Extended their authority to Syria, Palestine, and Anatolia. Retained Abbasid caliph as nominal sovereigns.
  • Sultan - "chieftain" or "ruler" for the Seljuq, true source of power in the Abbasid empire
  • Sakk - letters of credit drawn on the parent account, root of the modern word check. Merchants could draw letters of credit in one city and cash them in another, could settle accounts with distant business partners without dealing with cash
  • al-Andalus - prosperity of Islamic Spain. Illustrates the far reaching effects of long distance trade during Abbasid era. Governors were Umayyads who refused to recognize Abbasid dynasty so had own caliphs and rights. Participated actively in commercial life of the larger Islamic world
  • madrasas - institutions of higher education that appeared during the 10 century, established in major cities by 12th century. Recruits literate and learned students with an advanced education in Islamic theology and law for administrative positions
  • Sufis - mystical sect of Islam, didn't deny Islamic doctrine but didn't find formal religious teachings especially meaningful. Worked to deepen spiritual awareness. Effective as missionaries because emphasized devotion to Allah above mastery of doctrine. Tolerated the continued observance of pre-Islamic customs. Led ascetic and holy lives
  • Hajj - pilgrimage to the Kaaba at Mecca, symbol of religious unity
  • Rubaiyat - "quatrains" widely known verses of Omar Khayyam, because of English translation by Victorian poet Edward Fitzgerald
  • Arabian Nights - Presented popular tales of adventure and romance set in the Abbasid empire and the court of Harun al-Rashid. Aka The Thousand and One Nights
  • Ibn Rushd - 1126-1198, most notable figure in development of Aristotle's ideas. Qadi of Seville, followed Aristotle in seeking to articulate a purely rational understanding of world. Helped shape Islamic philosophy and found its way to schools and universities of western Europe.

Now, for the lesson itself - we'll begin by talking about the Silk Road!

The Silk Road is essential to understanding every part of the post-classical era, which is generally between 600 C.E. and 1450 C.E. There are several major things to remember about the Silk Road:
  1. The Silk Road was an overland trade route starting in China and ending in modern-day Turkey (or, if you look at the Silk Road differently, it starts in Constantinople and ends in China).
  2. The Silk Road was not a literal road. There was no road extending from Constantinople to Hangzhou or Quanzhou, there was nothing like the Royal Road of the Achaemenids.
  3. The Silk Road was a relay trade route. To help illustrate this, we should look at an example of Byzantine wine being traded from hand to hand until it reaches China.

    This means that a merchant from Constantinople would bring wine east to Antioch (modern-day Syria) or Baghdad (modern capital of Iraq). There, they would stop and trade their wine to an Assyrian or Arab merchant, before returning back to Constantinople to gather some wine for another journey to Baghdad or Antioch.

    The merchant from Antioch or Baghdad would go further east to Rey, modern day Tehran (capital of Iran). There, they might trade the wine that they bought from Constantinople for some wool with a Persian merchant, and they would bring the wool back to Antioch or Baghdad, depending on their origin.

    The Persian merchant who bought the wine would then go further east to Merv, Samarkand, or head into modern-day Pakistan with cities like Tasila and Patalene. They might trade the Byzantine wine for tea, crystals, metals, horses, or anything, before returning to Persia.

    From there, the merchant the Persian traded with would head on to Kashgar, in modern-day Xinjiang (a province of China), though it was under the rule of Turkic people called the Uighurs back then. There, they might trade the wine for some camels or jade with the locals.

    The Uighur merchant would head east to China, handing the wine over the locals at Xi'an. He might buy some jade to sell back at Kashgar, too.

    The Chinese merchant who bought the Byzantine wine would then travel to the rich port cities of Quanzhou or Hangzhou, where they would sell the wine in exchange for some tea, ceramics, cotton, or silk.

    Through this long 'relay trade' network, wine from Constantinople will have reached places as far as China! Of course, it wouldn't happen in a few days - it would take place slowly over several months or years.
I've finished explaining the Silk Road and defined a few key terms about Islam. In the next post, I'll explain the significance of the Silk Road to this unit and explain the rise of Islam.

If this didn't make sense to you, feel free to comment! I'll try to devise another explanation if this one didn't work.

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