“Ship of the Desert”: Camel caravans—the “ships of the desert”—crossed the Sahara into West Africa. Social Mobility: The ability to move up in social class. Mosaic: picture made with small colored pieces: a picture or design made with small pieces of colored material such as glass or tile stuck onto a surface. Arabesque: ornate design: an intricate and often symmetrical design incorporating curves, geometric patterns, leaves, flowers, and animal shapes. 1. ) It was a library and university in Baghdad. During the Abbasid period, scholars made advances in a variety of fields.
The caliph’s dream was that he met Aristotle, and plied him with questions about ethics, reason, and religion. After, his dream inspired him to action. He had scholars collect the great works of the classical would and translate them into Arabic. 2. ) Between 750 and 1350, merchants built a vast trading network across Muslim lands and beyond. Camel caravans—the “ships of the desert”—crossed the Sahara into West Africa. Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traders traveled the Silk Road toward China and were a vital link in the exchange of goods between East Asia and Europe.
Monsoon winds carried Arab ships from East Africa to India and southeast Asia. Some traders made great fortunes. Extensive trade and a money economy led Muslims to pioneer new business practices. They created partnerships, bought and sold on credit, formed banks to change currency, and invented the ancestors of today’s bank checks. They English word check comes 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. 3. ) Both Umayyad and Abbasid rulers took steps to preserve and extend agricultural land.
Small farming communities in desert areas faced a constant scarcity of water. To improve farm output, the Abbasids organized massive irrigation projects and drained swamplands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In addition to crops raised for food, farmers cultivated sugar cane, cotton, medicinal herbs, and flowers that were sold in far-off markets. Farmers began to grow corps that came from different regions. 4. ) Slaves were often from conquered lands because Muslims were not supposed to enslave other Muslims. Some slaves bought their freedom, often with the help of charitable donations or even state funds.
However, if non-Muslim slaves converted to Islam, they did not automatically become free. A female slave who bore a child by her Muslim owner gained freedom upon her master’s death. Children born a slave mother and free father were also considered freeborn. Most slaves worked as household servants, while some were skilled artisans. To help break down the tribal system, Abbasid caliphs also created a class of Turkish slave-soldiers, who were loyal only to the caliph. Often educated in Islamic law and government, some of these men rose to high positions in the government, such as vizier.
This set the stage for the Turks to become powerful later in the Abbasid era. 5. ) Muslim art and literature reflected the diverse traditions of the various peoples who lived under Muslim rule, including Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Indians. As in Christian Europe and Hindu India, religion shaped the arts and literature of Muslim civilization. The great work of Islamic literature was the Quran itself. Because the Quran strictly banned the worship of idols, Muslim religious leaders forbade artists to portray God or human figures in religious art, giving Islamic art a distinctive style. . ) In this collection of four-line stanzas, Khayyam meditates on fate and the fleeting nature of life. He means that you can’t take back something that you did. Not his piety or tears or wit can change what he has done. 7. ) Design and Decoration: Inside the buildings, the walls and ceilings of mosques were decorated with elaborate abstract, geometric patterns. In addition, Muslim artists perfected skills in calligraphy. They worked the flowing Arabic script, especially verses from the Quran, into decorations on buildings.
Literature: reflected the diverse traditions of the various peoples who lived under Muslim rule. Oral poetry talked about the joys of battle, desert journeys, or the glories of their clans. Their most important themes—chivalry and the romance of nomadic life—recurred in Arab poetry throughout the centuries. Later Arab poets developed elaborate formal rules for writing poetry and explored both religious and worldly themes. Astronomy: They studied eclipses, observed Earth’s rotation, and calculated the circumference of Earth to within a few thousand feet.
When overland trade along the Silk Road became disrupted in the 1400s, new navigation tools paved the way for seafaring explorers like Christopher Columbus. They developed the quadrant, astronomical table, and astrolabe. Architecture: Domed mosques and high minarets dominated Muslim cities. Centers of Learning were also established, such as libraries, where scholars made advances in philosophy, math, medicine, and other fields. Philosophy: Muslim scholars translated works of Greek philosophers, as well as many Hindu and Buddhist texts. Greek ideas about reason with religious beliefs based on divine revelation.
Medicine: Under the caliphs, physicians and pharmacists had to pass a test before they could practice their professions. The government set up hospitals, where injured people could get quick treatment at a facility similar to today’s emergency room. Physicians traveled to rural areas to provide healthcare to those who could not get to a city, while others regularly visited jails. Poetry: Long before Muhammad, Arabs had a rich tradition of oral poetry. In musical verses, poets chanted the dangers of joys of battle, desert journeys, or the glories of their clans.
Their most important themes—chivalry and the romance of nomadic life—recurred in Arab poetry throughout the centuries. Later Arab poets developed elaborate formal rules for writing poetry and explored both religious and worldly themes. Mathematics: One great mathematician, al-Khwarizmi, pioneered the study of algebra. In the 800s, he wrote a book that was translated into Latin and became a standard mathematics textbook in Europe. Like many scholars of the time, al-Khwarizmi contributed to other fields too. He developed a set of astronomical tables based on Greek and Indian discoveries.