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AP World History
The First Global Civilization: The Rise and Spread of Islam
Mr. Soff
I. Desert and Town: The Pre-Islamic Arabian World
 Islam appeared first on the Arabian Peninsula, an area occupied by nomadic pastoralists and on the
periphery of the “civilized” zones
Much of the peninsula is desert, which supported both goat and camel nomadism among peoples called
Bedouin. Sedentary agricultural communities were limited to the far south of the peninsula, and trading
towns like Mecca developed along or near the coasts.
The Bedouin tribal culture of clan loyalty and rivalry provided a critical backdrop for the emergence of
Islam. Women enjoyed somewhat greater freedom, art was largely nonexistent, and religion was a blend
of animism and polytheism.
II. The Life of Muhammad and the Genesis of Islam
In the 7th century CE, a new religion arose on the Arabian peninsula. Built on the revelations received by
the prophet Muhammad, a merchant and trader from Mecca, the new faith won over many camel-herding
tribes on the peninsula within decades.
Islam united Arabs and provided an important ethical system. Though initially an Arab religion, Islam’s
beliefs and practices (including the five pillars) eventually made it one of the great world religions.
III. The Arab Empire of the Umayyads
Although some Bedouin tribes renounced their allegiance to Islam after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, the
Prophet’s followers were able to conduct military campaigns restoring the unity of the Islamic community.
Abu Bakr assumed leadership of the umma (community of the faithful). Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and
cousin, was passed over, which would later cause an important rift in the Islamic community.
Once the rebellious tribesmen were brought back into the umma, Muslim armies began to launch attacks on
neighboring civilizations outside of Arabia.
Within a short period of time, Arab armies exploited weaknesses in their enemies’ forces and captured
Mesopotamia, northern Africa, and Persia. A new dynasty, the Umayyads, ruled this Arabic empire.
The question of succession soon led to the Sunni-Shi’a split.
Umayyad extravagance ultimately led to the empire’s overthrow.
IV. From Arab to Islamic Empire: The Early Abassid Empire
 The Abbasid rulers moved the empire’s capital to Baghdad, and lived a life of luxury which alienated many
The Abbasids fully integrated the mawali, or non-Arab Muslims, into the Islamic community.
Merchants and landlords grew in wealth and status. Cities grew, the dhow improved sailing, and slave
labor became increasingly important.
Arab scholarship and learning flowered, as scholars sought to preserve to great works of the classical Greek
and Roman civilization.
Key Terminology:
1. shaykhs:
2. Quraysh:
3. Ka’ba or Ka’aba:
4. hijira:
5. jihad:
6. Copts and Nestorians:
7. Mu’awiya:
8. jizya:
9. dhimmi:
10. hadiths:
11. wazir:
12. mosque:
13. minbar:
14. ayan:
Focus Questions:
1. What was the general name of the nomadic Arabic tribes?
2. Describe the status of women in Bedouin society (before Islam) and during the Abbasid Empire.
3. What was the nature of the material culture of Bedouin society?
4. What was Muhammad’s teaching with respect to the revelations of other monotheistic religions?
5. What was the initial response of the Umayyads to Muhammad’s new faith?
6. What was the principle advantage of the Islamic concept of the umma?
7. What was the issue that confronted Muslims following Muhammad’s death, and the issue which eventually split Muslims into
Shi’ite and Sunni sects?
8. What was the largest weakness of the early Muslim empires?
9. Why didn’t Arab warriors want to convert large numbers of people to Islam?
10. These were the wars to defeat rival prophets and restore the unity of Islam.
11. The office of the political and religious successor of Muhammad was called?
12. What was the result of the civil war between Ali and the Umayyads after the assassination of Uthman?
13. This famous battle in southern Iraq (680 C.E.) permanently set the split between the Sunni and Shi’a sects.
14. What was the Umayyad attitude towards other religions?
15. What was the nature of citizenship within the Umayyad Empire?
16. What was the most significant of the transformations brought about by the Abbasids’ rise to power?
17. What was the nature of slavery within the Abbasid social system?
18. What was the nature of the economy of the Abbasid period?
19. What was the primary cultural contribution of the Muslims during the Abbasid period?
20. What were some of the differences between the Abbasid Empire and Umayyad Empire?