2. Arab empire was prosperous, carrying on trade
with China, the Byzantine Empire, India, and
Ships and camel caravans were used in trading
Under the Abbasid dynasty:
◦ Gold and slaves from Saharan region of Africa
◦ Silk and porcelain from China
◦ Gold & Ivory from Eastern Africa
◦ Sandalwood and spices from India
◦ Grain from Egypt
◦ Linens, dates, precious gems from Iraq
◦ Textiles from Western India
4. Flourishing trade meant large and prosperous
cities throughout the Arab empire.
◦ Abbasids were centralized in Baghdad (Iraq)
◦ Fatmids of Egypt located capital in Cairo (Egypt)
◦ Damascus, Syria, was central to Silk Road trade routes
(and had a port for ships).
These three cities were the centers of the
administrative, cultural, and economic activity for
Cordoba, Spain was Europe’s largest city after
Constantinople and was Muslim capital in
5. Islamic cities had distinctive physical appearance; the most impressive
building was usually the palace for the caliphs or local government
officials like governors.
There were also mosques for worship. Mosques have distinct features,
like towers, that separate them from other buildings.
The bazaar was a local market found in most Islamic cities. Bazaars
were monitored by local officials
who made sure merchants kept
the bazaar clean and followed
Goods from across Europe, the
Middle East and China were
available for sale in bazaars.
6. The Arab Empire was more urban than other
parts of the world, partly because the Middle East
is largely desert lands and not arable.
Most people made their living through farming or
In the early empire, farms were owned by
In the late empire, wealthy landowners amassed
large estates and used slave labor to farm.
Egypt was one exception to this development –
its farmlands remained in the hands of peasants.
7. According to Islam, all people are equal in the
eyes of Allah.
◦ This was not necessarily the case for Arabian
leaders, however, who had a defined upper class of
ruling families, senior officials, and elites that
included the wealthiest merchants.
◦ Slaves were also not considered equal; slavery was
widespread throughout the Arabic empire.
Slaves were used in the military (and often freed if they
proved their value); in the home as domestic servants;
and as farm labor.
Islamic law made it clear that slaves should be treated
fairly and that it was a good act to free slaves.
8. The Quran granted women spiritual and social equality
Women had the right to run businesses and own property.
Women played a prominent role in the rise of Islam
Islamic teachings account for some differences in duty and
responsibility for men and women
◦ Every woman had a male guardian, usually a father, brother,
husband, or other male relative
◦ Marriages were arranged
◦ Muslim men were allowed more than one wife if they could pay a
dowry – a gift of money and goods in exchange for a bride
◦ Adultery was forbidden, but divorce was allowed.
As Islam spread, older customs eroded the rights of
◦ Some women were secluded in their homes
◦ Women were expected to cover every part of their bodies when in
◦ These customs were result of Arab practice, not Islam
9. Preserving knowledge
◦ Would you be surprised to learn that it was the Arab
that preserved most of the literature and
mathematics left by the Greeks?
◦ When Europe was experiencing a Dark Age after the
fall of Rome, the Arab empire was experiencing a
◦ Arabs preserved the writings of Plato and Aristotle
and mathematical texts from India
◦ After the Chinese invented paper, the Arabs used it
to translate works and make them available to
10. The Arabs preserved much of what we know
about Ancient Greek philosophy, but they also
expanded on the ideas of Socrates, Plato, and
Ibn-Rushd was a philosopher in Cordoba, Spain.
He wrote commentary on Aristotle’s surviving
works. When Europeans received Aristotle’s
translations in the 1100s, they also received Ibn-
Muslims adopted the numerical system of India,
including the use of the zero. This eventually
became known as the Arabic system and is still
used today. In the 800s, an Arab mathematician
described and developed the mathematical
discipline of Algebra – the same discipline taught
in schools today.
11. The Muslims set up an observatory in
Baghdad to study astronomy. They
knew the Earth was round and they
named many of the stars and
constellations. They also perfected
the astrolabe, an instrument used by
sailors to determine their location by
using the positions of stars and
planets. The astrolabe made it
possible for Europeans to sail to
Muslim scholars took an interest in
writing history. Ibn-Khaldun, who
lived in the 1300s, he wrote
Introductions to History.
Ibn-Kahldun’s book argued that
history was cyclical and that
patterns of birth, growth, and
decay would repeat throughout
history. He sought a scientific
basis for the cycle, using
political and social factors that
determine the course of history.
12. Muslim scholars were the first to develop the
study of medicine as a field of scientific study
Ibn-Sina wrote a medical encyclopedia that
stressed the contagious nature of diseases;
he demonstrated that disease could be
spread through contaminated water
Ibn-Sina’s work became the basic medical
textbook for university students in Europe
13. Arabs had a strong literary
◦ One of the most famous works of
Middle Eastern literature is the
◦ Another is The 1001 Nights (also
called the Arabian Nights) – where
we get the story of Aladdin and the
magic lamp. Arabian Nights was
written by Omar Khayyam, who
lived in the 12th century
◦ Omar Khayyam also wrote poetry
that was famous throughout the
14. Islamic art is a blend of Arab,
Turkish, and Persian
traditions. The best
expression of Islamic art is in
their holiest buildings,
The Great Mosque of Samarra
(Iraq) was the world’s largest
mosque when it was built. It
is famous for its minaret, the
tower from which the
muzzein (crier) calls the
faithful to prayer five times a
15. Muslim palaces were built
to reflect both political and
◦ Palaces were built around a
central courtyard, usually
surrounded by two-story
towers and large protective
◦ The palaces were built like
fortresses, with holes for
pouring oil over the enemy
and gate-towers to keep
watch for the enemy.
◦ One of the most famous
palaces is the Alhambra in
Granada, Spain, pictured here.
16. Mosques were built for
worship and to reflect
the glory of Allah.
◦ Arabs used columns,
arches, and domes in
much of their architecture.
◦ One of the most famous
mosques is the mosque at
Cordoba, Spain, pictured
No representation of the
ever adorns a mosque,
nor do any figures, as
against portraying living