Baghdad as the Islamic World in 8th-11th centuries

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Topic: History
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Islam, which emerged in the 622 Current Era when Prophet Muhammad and his disciples migrated from Mecca to Medina is the youngest religion in the world. Later, the Islamic Empire extended its territory from northern Spain to the Pyrenees, Northern Africa to western parts of Egypt, and Syria to the Euphrates valley in former Mesopotamia.

By the mid of the 8th century, Baghdad city was founded amid the launch of the Muslim’s political and religious leaders who could succeed the prophet (Wendell 98). This set of organized leadership was referred to as the Abbasid Caliphate. The conquest occurred after the Muslim armies defeated the Persians.

This period marked the beginning of the Islamic golden age or Islamic revolution. These leaders transferred the Islamic capital from Damascus to Baghdad. Baghdad city became the epicenter of the Islamic world, as all the Muslim culture received no opposition until the entry the of Mongols in 1258 (Wendell 108).

Baghdad simply means the gift of God. During the 762 AD, the Abbasid rule controlled the Muslim community. After five centuries, the city became the centre for world education culture. This period was known as Golden Age for Islamic civilization since Muslim scholars contributed heavily in both sciences and humanities. During the Abbasid reign, Baghdad turned out to be a centre of academic excellence, a museum, and medication.

In the 9th to 13th century, Muslims scholars were educated in Baghdad as it was the centre of academic excellence. The house of wisdom was the main centre for learning, with time it attracted both Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide (Lyons 15). Scholar and their teachers translated the Greek documents for preservation all the time.

During that time, Europe rankled in the Dark Ages but Baghdad remained the center for civilization making it the most productive and richest city at that time (Kennedy 9). However, after 500 years of Abbasid rule, the later became less powerful over the Muslim world; there was enormous flooding fire.

Notably, after the transfer of the Islamic capital, the Arab world began stressing on the value of knowledge and intellectualism. There were developments in the fields of medicine, science, and philosophy. Baghdad became the center of knowledge where Muslim and non-Muslim scholars could collect all information. Also, this period saw the arrival of Chinese papermaking industry in Baghdad (Lassner 14).

Earlier, the Chinese secretly guarded this idea. In the mid of the 8th century, this technological change encouraged learning, and exploration of literacy since the labor-intensive processing of papyrus was substituted with the production of papers from pulped bark. Information, therefore, could be stored in books and other written materials.

This ability to record information saw the developments of both personal and public libraries in the Islamic Empire. The prophets mandated the rapid spread of public education. Similarly, Arabic numerals from India replaced the cumbersome Roman numerals. These changes marked the initial introduction of the zero concepts.

The Abbasid forces captured Damascus in the 750 AD. Male Umayyad family who survived during the war established a new Umayyad dynasty in Spain; this dynasty moved to the east. In the 762 AD, Baghdad was established in the Tigris twenty miles from the leading cities of the Sassanians. In the middle 8th century, the Arabs started to control the central part of Asia causing tension with the Chinese.

War erupted between the two dynasties, and the Arabs got victory over the Chinese. The Arabs continued to demonstrate their strength seven years later towards the Chinese Empire. They looted and burned property along trade routes in the southern part of China. The hostility of rival Arabs brought tension in Europe. Abd-al-Rahman (Umayyad prince), a survivor of the Abbasid massacre, established the first Muslim civilization in Spain.

The shift in the cultural practices from Syria to Iraq led to the introduction and spread of new Islamic style of art. For instance, textiles helped to serve as clothing, tents, and household fittings. During the Abbasid period (8th-13th), there was high manufacture of and trade in numerous textile materials, which led to profitable enterprises.

Most Islamic textiles were exported to the West. Markedly, the terms ‘cotton’ and ‘taffeta’ have their roots from Arabic and Persian languages. There was also the art of pottery that decorated lusterwares that were luxurious.

The trade with the West and the East on these artistic materials increased the wealth of Baghdad thus enabling them to support the learning process and invest in plantations and textiles. The Merchant economy led to the growth of Islamic civilization.

In the field of literature, there was no competition in intellectual activity. For instance, the intensive study on Islamic faith and teachings by scholars enabled them to collect, sample and re-examine the traditions and actions of the Prophet. The scholars managed to collect and pile up vast bibliographical data on the works of the Prophet, his life, and the entire ruling period.

An example is the “Life of the Messenger of Allah,” by Ibn Ishaq (Kennedy 23), which has been one of the earliest Arab relevant historical works. Researchers have been retrieving key information about the life of the Prophet. Baghdad city is vital in these literature developments since it was the research center, where all the activities were taking place.

There were also numerous translations of Syrian, Greek, and Persian works. The Islamic Renaissance took place when the capital of the Islamic Empire had been relocated at Baghdad; this made it be the center of focus in all activities. It became a commercial, intellectual, and cultural center. With a population estimate of 1.2 people, Baghdad was the center of the Arabic culture and possibly the largest city in the entire globe.

The 10th century marked the beginning of the decline in the economic wealth of Baghdad. Noticeably, its population had risen to over 2 million people. The reduction in growth was because of political domination by the Seljuk Turks between 1055 and 1135. Later, the Seljuks destroyed the Ghaznavids, possessing the land and eventually taking over Baghdad in 1055.

These attacks continued through to 1258 when the Mongols under the leadership of Hulegu captured the city during the sack of Baghdad (Wendell 115). The city underwent through numerous destructions by fire and looting. This Mongols’ invasion ended the Abbasid Caliphate and eventually, the Islamic civilization. In 1401, Timur sacked Baghdad and spared nothing hence destroying the Empire.

There was a rapid growth in Cordoba as wealth accumulated and the availability of scholars and skilled artisans. In the 10th century, Abd-al-Rahman III contributed to the rise of the population to almost half a million inhabitants. The Umayyad rule made Arabs control almost the entire part of peninsula making them regain the northern territories. Finally, the Berbers who became rebellious towards the Arabs ended the dynasty of the Umayyad.

Also, rapid Christian culture from the southern part of Spain, which advocated people against the Islamic religion, contributed to the collapse of Arab rule in Spain. The Almoravids encouraged Christianity in the northern part of Spain. According to Jonathan Lyons, the war against the Islamic religion needed a lot of conviction since it had spread widely in the region and many people already embraced it.

The Saracen in the western region had nothing to preach against the Muslim practices. Muslims believed that the war was holy; this encouraged them to fight for their religion, making it difficult for any powerful church ideology to mobilize people to embrace Christianity. Later, Caliph al-Mansur made Mesopotamia his capital city.

The new Baghdad encouraged business, monetary activities, and scientific inventions for Muslims (Kennedy 22). The dynasty acquired a lot of wealth along the banks of River Tigris. Moreover, trade was encouraged and through interactions among the Muslim traders and non-Muslims, Islamic religion was promoted.

On ethical practice, the Islamic faith and thought were open to liberalism and individualism. Moreover, society allowed freedom of religion even though it was under full control of Islamic values. This approach enabled Baghdad to attract intellectuals across other religious groups like Jewish and Christians. This cross-cultural network assisted in developing the philosophical creativity between the 8th to 13th centuries.

Majority of Muslim thinkers and scholars could pursue humanistic and rational courses in pursuit of knowledge at learning institutions in Baghdad (Kennedy 5). Medieval Europe used the rudiments that were developed by the Islamic Empire and was later known as the scientific method. Further, the Islamic physicians made enormous advances in medicinal knowledge through experimentation and observation.

Also, the fields of astronomy and mathematics were flocked by the Arabs. For example, the Hindu scholars could solve trigonometric equations, and some Indians had skills in the movement of stars. While this was happening, Western nations were busy criticizing the religious practices in the Middle East (Lyons 45). Later, these nations inculcated the mathematical ideas in their learning programs. Arabs transformed Western civilization.

Works Cited

Kennedy, Hugh. When Baghdad ruled the Muslim world: the rise and fall of Islam’s greatest dynasty.Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006. Print.

Lassner, Jacob. “Massignon and Baghdad: The Complexities of Growth in an Imperial City.” JSTOR: International Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 9.1 (1966): 1-27. JSTOR. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

Lyons, Jonathan. The house of wisdom: how the Arabs transformed Western civilization. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009. Print.

Wendell, Charles. “Baghdad: Imago Mundi, and Other Foundation-Lore.” JSTOR: International Journal of Middle East Studies 2.2 (1971): 99-128. JSTOR. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.