Oasis Towns and Desert Life
Islam appeared in the Arabian Peninsula, part of southwest Asia, which is mostly desert. Bedouins, or nomadic herders, adapted to the conditions of the desert. They regularly traded with people from oasis towns like Mecca. Mecca is located in Western Arabia. Mecca was a thriving pilgrimage and economic center. It was a market town at the crossroads of two routes, one that linked S. Arabia to India and to Syria and Palestine on the Med. Coast, and the other crossed from Mesopotamia to E. Africa.
The Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad was born in Mecca in about the year 570. In about the Year 510, Muhammad first spoke of his vision in the Arabian town of Mecca. Some believed him, and some doubted him. But in years to come, Muhammad would be recognized by millions of Muslims as Prophet and Islam would be spread throughout three continents. In 622, Meccan merchants threatened him and so he and his followers left for Yathrib, which is now known as Medina, or “the city of the Prophet.” This journey was known as hijra. After the death of Muhammad in 632, Islam did continue to spread worldwide. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, or successor to Muhammad, helped Islam survive the death of its prophet.
The Message of Islam
Five Pillars- All Muslims had to accept five basic duties. These are known as the Five Pillars of Islam.
The first pillar is the declaration of faith- “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of god.” They do believe that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Prophets, but they believe that Muhammad was the last and most important.
The second pillar is daily prayer. They pray five times a day. They pray often at the mosques, or places of worship, and face Mecca when they pray.
The third pillar is giving charity to the poor.
The fourth pillar is the fast of Ramadan, in which they fast from sunrise till sunset every day during the month of Ramadan.
The fifth pillar is the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. If possible, A Muslim is expected to visit the Kaaba at least once in a lifetime.
Added info on Islamic customs:
a) Kneel Down when they pray
b) Minaret- tall thing the points to the sky/g-d
c) Muezzin- calls the people to pray
d) Jihad also means challenge
e) They learn Koran in army camp
f) Tap finger during prayer- shows one ness of god
g) They have a special way of washing before prayer
The Quran- to Muslims, it is the final authority on all matters, and it is the “inimitable” word of god in its original Arabic form. This shared language helped unite Muslims from many regions.
Sharia- Interpretations of the Quran that discusses laws about moral conduct, as well as all other aspects of Muslim community. It puts criminal and civil laws together with religious matters.
Women in Early Muslim Society
In the beginning, Islam helped Women by giving them full equality in all aspects of life, including inheritance laws allowing her to earn her share of her parents’ or husband’s property. Over time, this changed by absorbing different ideas from non-Muslims. In the 1300’s, an Egyptian judge stated that it was not allowed for women to even leave their homes, unless it was an extremely important situation, like if one of her parents died.
Battle of Tours- In 732, the Arab push into Europe was turned back at the Battle of Tours in France.
Muslim Treatment of conquered non-Muslim people- they imposed a special tax on the non-Muslims, but they allowed Jews, Christians and Zoastrians to practice their own faith and to follow their own laws. Jews and Christians contributed a lot in Muslim civilization doctors, officials, etc. In time, many non-Muslims converted to Islam.
Muslims in Spain- Spain was one of the most brilliant corners of the Muslim world. The princes encouraged poetry, the arts, and scholarship. At Cordoba, rulers employed Jewish officials and welcomed Christian students to absorb Greek ideas at the feet of Muslim teachers.