AP World History
Syllabus: Post Classical World of Byzantium and Islam through Islamic Empires
Monday 11/21: Test Chapter 11/12
Tuesday: 322-3; 327-339
Thursday-Friday: Thanksgiving Break
Monday 11/28: Quizantium; 355-362
Monday 12/4: 762-773
Tuesday 12/5: Test-The Islamic World
Byzantium: The Commonwealth of Byzantium
While the western half of the Roman empire crumbled and fell, the eastern half, which became
known as Byzantium, managed to survive and, mostly, to thrive for a millennium. During its
long history, the Byzantine empire suffered many serious setbacks because of both internal strife
and external pressures. Nevertheless, this culture, which blended Roman and Greek traditions,
managed to flourish politically, economically, and socially up until the time it began its centuries-
long decline culminating in its conquest by the Islamic Ottoman Turks in 1453. Several unique
features of the Byzantine civilization contributed to its prosperity:
A strategically located capital city called Constantinople that was one of the largest, most
influential, and cosmopolitan urban centers in the world.
A highly centralized and autocratic governmental structure consisting of an exalted
emperor with an aura of divinity and a large and intricate bureaucracy.
A rich Christian tradition elaborated by the emperor and the patriarchs that eventually
evolved into an independent and separate faith referred to as Eastern Orthodox.
An unusual and effective administration system whereby generals governed over free
peasants who received small tracts of land to work in exchange for military service.
The extension of Byzantine cultural traditions to eastern Europe and Russia through
political, cultural, and economic relations.
THE CHAPTER IN PERSPECTIVE
A series of problems, including political and social turmoil as well as military threats
from outside forces, brought an end to the classical societies in the centuries after 200 C.E. The
lone exception was the Byzantine empire. After the collapse of the western half of the Roman
empire the Byzantine eastern section survived for another millennium. The Byzantine empire
developed into a dramatically different society than its Roman predecessor was. Far more than
merely surviving, however, Byzantium dominated the eastern Mediterranean world politically
and economically for centuries. Even after its collapse the Byzantine empire’s influence could be
seen in the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe and Russia.
The Early Byzantine Empire
Byzantium began as the Greek village of Byzantion, a small trading town important only
for its strategic position on the Bosporus. Eventually Constantine chose Byzantion, renamed
Constantinople, to be the capital of the Roman empire because of its position as the center of the
wealthy eastern half of the empire. At its height Byzantium would include Greece, Anatolia,
Syria, Palestine, Egypt, northeast Africa, and the Balkans. Byzantium faced threats from the
Sasanid dynasty in Persia but managed to escape the Germanic invasions that had devastated the
western half of the empire.
Politically, the Byzantine state was marked by a highly centralized rule centered around
a remarkably powerful emperor. Byzantine emperors wielded a mixture of political and
religious authority known as caesaropapism. At least in theory, the emperor possessed absolute
authority in all political, military, judicial, and religious affairs. Justinian, despite humble origins,
would be the most influential of the Byzantine emperors. Ably advised by his wife Theodora,
Justinian attempted to re-create the Roman empire. Hagia Sophia is representative of the brilliant
building program started by Justinian to reconfigure Constantinople. Justinian’s codification of
Roman law, as seen in the Corpus iuris civilis, was the emperor’s most influential legal and
political contribution. The general Belisarius’s conquests reconstructed most of the Roman
empire. In the end, however, a combination of limited Byzantine resources and Arabic expansion
made holding the old empire together impossible. Nevertheless, the theme system allowed for a
temporary reinvigoration under Basil II in the early eleventh century. The former western half of
the empire increasingly fell to successor states. The Frankish king Charlemagne received an
imperial crown from the pope in 800 and Otto of Saxony claimed to rule the west in 962.
Byzantine Economy and Society
While its political authority fluctuated over the centuries, Byzantium continually
remained an economic power. Anatolia and the area around the lower Danube produced
enormous supplies of wheat. Byzantium was at its strongest when free peasants formed the
engine that drove the state. The position of the free peasants was bolstered by the theme system
that provided land in return for military service. The consolidation of power and land in the
hands of the nobles not only hurt the peasants but also damaged the Byzantine empire militarily.
Constantinople remained the major center of trade and industry in the Mediterranean world.
One of the major innovations was the rise of a silk industry. Byzantium’s domination over trade
is probably best shown by the fact that the bezant became the standard currency in the
Mediterranean for centuries. Constantinople—the largest city in Europe, with a population of
around one million—stood in the center of everything and was a worthy successor to Rome as
“the city” of the Mediterranean basin.
Classical Heritage and Orthodox Christianity
Despite its early connection to Rome, Byzantium was most strongly influenced by Greek
culture. Greek became the official language. Philosophy was shaped profoundly by Greek
thought. Byzantine education clearly showed the Greek influence, and a state-supported school
system provided for widespread literacy. A school for the study of law, medicine, and
philosophy in Constantinople survived for a thousand years.
The differences between the western and eastern halves of the empire are probably most
obvious in ecclesiastical matters. The Byzantine emperors played a very active role in religious
issues, as seen in Constantine calling together the Council of Nicaea to attack Arian views on the
nature of Jesus. The patriarchs of Constantinople were chosen by the emperor and remained
firmly under imperial control. Leo III’s iconoclasm is a classic example of imperial meddling in
religious affairs. Monasticism, shaped by the rule of St. Basil, grew rapidly during the Byzantine
age. Byzantine monasteries were known less for their scholarly contributions than for their
spiritual and social aid to their communities. Tensions over issues ranging from doctrine to
power led to the patriarch and pope mutually excommunicating each other in 1054, the date still
accepted for the beginning of the schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic
The Influence of Byzantium in Eastern Europe
Byzantine power was threatened by internal social problems as well as challenges from
the west and east. The sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 devastated
Byzantium and only increased tensions between the old halves of the Roman empire. The victory
of the Saljuq Turks at Manzikert in 1071 eventually led to the loss of Anatolia and economic
devastation. After centuries of decay Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. While
Byzantium’s direct hold on the Mediterranean world was threatened by Islamic expansion, its
influence on the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe and Russia only increased. Greek Orthodox
missionaries spread the faith northward. Two missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius, adopted
the Greek alphabet to the Slavic tongue to create the Cyrillic alphabet, which allowed for the
further spread of religious as well as secular thought. Prince Vladimir’s conversion turned Kiev,
the first center of Russian power, into a center of Byzantine culture. By the sixteenth century
Russians spoke of Moscow as the world’s third Rome.
The religion of Islam emerged on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century C.E. as a result of
the vision and the teachings of Muhammad. His message attracted a rapidly expanding circle of
devout believers, known as Muslims. After Muhammad's death, Arab conquerors spread the
word of Islam throughout a vast territory extending from the Indus River to the Iberian
Peninsula within one century. This rapid expansion of Islam contributed to the development of a
massive trade and communication network in which goods and ideas spread freely. The realm of
Islam became one of the most prosperous and cosmopolitan societies of the postclassical world.
This new society was characterized by
Strong commitment to the monotheistic belief system, resting on the Five Pillars of Islam,
first articulated by Muhammad and later elaborated on by scholars and mystics.
The development of overland and maritime trade and communication routes that
facilitated the spread of new crops, trade goods, and ideas, from improved techniques in
agriculture to the writings of the classical Greek philosophers.
Engagement with and sometimes adoption of various cultural traditions encountered by
the far-flung realm and its trade contacts. Hence elements of Persian, Indian, Christian,
and Greek cultures found their place into Islamic society and thought.
The Expansive Realm of Islam
THE CHAPTER IN PERSPECTIVE
After the decline and collapse of the classical empires, new societies rose to take their
place. A series of these states were inspired by a new religion, Islam. From its origins in Arabia,
Islam quickly spread to the Sasanid empire in Persia and even into parts of Byzantium. Muslims,
or “ones who have submitted” to the will of Allah, spread their religious convictions but also
drew inspiration from the Persian, Greek, and Indian worlds. Eventually the dar al-Islam (“house
of Islam”) would cover a cosmopolitan world ranging from Spain in the west to India in the east.
A Prophet and His World
The heartland of this new religion would be the desert peninsula of Arabia, populated by
the nomadic Bedouins. Arabian merchants played an important role in long-distance trade.
Muhammad (570–632 C.E.) was born into this merchant tradition. Although an orphan,
Muhammad eventually achieved a position in society through his marriage to the wealthy
widow Khadija. In a series of visions Muhammad learned from the archangel Gabriel that he was
Allah’s prophet, although he did not set out to create a new world religion. After coming into
conflict with the Meccan wealthy classes, Muhammad led his followers in 622 to the northern city
of Yathrib (renamed Medina). This journey, called the hijra, was the turning point in
Muhammad’s career and is still recognized as the starting point of the Islamic calendar. In
Medina Muhammad served as the religious, political, and social leader of his community (umma).
In 630 Muhammad and his followers conquered Mecca and destroyed the idols at the Ka’ba.
Two years later he led the first pilgrimage, or hajj, to the Ka’ba. His plans to unite Arabia and
spread Islam beyond its borders were cut short by his death in 632.
Muhammad was a very strict monotheist, believing that Allah was the one true god. His
revelations from Allah were recorded in the Quran. Although he displayed immense respect for
the Jewish and Christian religions, Muhammad came to see himself as the “seal of the prophets.”
As the final prophet, he was the only one who recognized the complete revelation of Allah. The
Five Pillars of Islam formed the basic obligations of the faith: (1) acknowledgment of Allah as the
only god and Muhammad as his prophet, (2) prayer to Allah while facing Mecca, (3) fast during
the holy month of Ramadan, (4) Alms for the weak and poor, (5) A pilgrimage to Mecca at least
once during a Muslim’s lifetime. The sharia, or Islamic holy law, provided guidance on issues
ranging from family life to commercial relationships.
The Expansion of Islam
After the death of Muhammad political authority passed to Abu Bakr as caliph. A
century of tremendous expansion followed, as Islamic armies seized Syria, Palestine,
Mesopotamia, Egypt, north Africa, Persia, Sind in northwestern India, and the Iberian peninsula.
Despite the military success, political problems, usually centering around the selection of caliphs,
remained a constant challenge. A fundamental split in Islam between Sunni (“traditionalists”)
and Shia (“party”) grew out of this conflict. The majority Sunni felt that leadership could be held
by any true believer. Shia began as a sect that believed that the caliphate had to be in the hands
of descendants of the assassinated fourth caliph Ali, who was a cousin and son-in-law of
Eventually this political chaos led to the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty (661–
750), centered around the city of Damascus. The Arab military aristocracy enjoyed a favored
position under the Umayyad, which caused tensions among the different ethnic and religious
groups of the dar al-Islam. Conquered peoples were allowed to practice their own religions but
were forced to pay the jizya. Non-Arabic Muslims also felt restrained under the Umayyad rule.
A rebellion in Persia led by Abu al-Abbas brought an end to the Umayyad dynasty and
the beginning of the Abbasid dynasty (750–1258). The Abbasid dynasty was both more tolerant
and more cosmopolitan than its predecessor. Even though the Abbasid caliphs did not actively
push for expansion, Crete, Sicily, the Balearic Islands, Cyprus, Rhodes, Sardinia, Corsica,
southern Italy, and southern France were added to the empire. The Abbasid state, centered
around the new city of Baghdad, copied administrative techniques from the Persians. Officials
such as the ulama and gadis created a standing army and oversaw taxation, finance and postal,
services. The reign of Harun al-Rashid (786–809) would serve as the high point of Abbasid
economic and artistic splendor. Decline followed quickly, however, and for the last two centuries
the Abbasids were effectively ruled by the Saljuq Turks. The Mongols brought a definitive end to
the Abbasid state with their conquest in 1258.
Economy and Society of the Early Islamic World
A zone of trade and communication stretching from Spain to India was created by the
conquests of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. New crops, including sugarcane, rice,
spinach, oranges, lemons, bananas, cotton, and new varieties of wheat, were introduced into
different regions along this route. The result was an increase in good supplies and a richer and
more varied diet. Cotton would prove to be the most important of the new crops. Increased
trade and agricultural production fostered the rapid urban growth of cities like Delhi, Isfahan,
Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Cordoba. Industrial production, most notably of
paper, was part of this general expansion. Muhammad’s admiration for merchants only helped
to promote the creation of this huge trading zone. Maritime trade, bolstered by the use of the
compass, astrolabe, and lateen sail, also expanded. Banking and innovations in business
organization provided the capital for trade. Even distant Spain, known as al-Andalus, shared in
the prosperity. Cordoba quickly became one of the great Islamic cities of the world.
The status of women fluctuated during this period in the Islamic world. Although
undeniably members of a patriarchal society, Arab women had enjoyed the right to inherit
property or engage in business dealings. The Quran presented women as honorable individuals
and had outlawed female infanticide. At the same time, the Quran, and especially the sharia,
stressed male dominance. Men determined the nature and extent of the social and sexual lives of
women. If anything, Islam’s expansion into Mesopotamia and Persia brought even greater
patriarchal influences, most notably veiling.
Islamic Values and Cultural Exchanges
In the face of an increasingly cosmopolitan Islamic world, the Quran and the sharia
promoted cultural unity. Officials such as the ulama and gadis and institutions of higher
education like the madrasas attempted to do the same thing. The Sufis, with their emphasis on
an emotional and mystical rather than intellectual connection to Allah, served as effective
missionaries. Sufi thinkers like al-Ghazali stressed that the human intellect was too weak to truly
understand Allah. A more heartfelt devotion was the key. The hajj, by bringing pilgrims from all
over the Islamic world to Mecca, also created a sense of unity.
While Muslims may have spread the faith to distant lands, they were also influenced by
other cultures. The Persian influence comes through most clearly in literature, poetry, history,
and political theory. The Arabian Nights and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat were very popular in the
Islamic world. Indian mathematical innovations passed through the Islamic world and on into
Europe. Greek philosophy, including Plato and most notably Aristotle, provided an intellectual
challenge for Islamic thinkers. In turn, Ibn Rushd’s work on Aristotle shaped the rise of
Chapter 28: Islamic Empires
Three powerful Islamic empires emerged in India and southwest Asia after the fifteenth century.
Beginning with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Turkish warriors and
charismatic leaders established first the Ottoman empire, then the Safavid dynasty in Persia
(1502), and finally the Mughal dynasty in India (1526). Three distinct empires emerged with
different cultures and traditions. Yet there are some striking similarities, including:
Autocratic rule. All three empires began as military states in which all power and
prestige centered on the person of the ruler. All three were plagued by problems of
succession from one ruler to the next.
Islamic faith. All three empires embraced Islam. Sizeable Christian minorities in the
Ottoman Empire and a large Hindu majority in India forced those rulers to craft policies
of religious toleration. The Safavid dynasty followed the Shiite sect of Islam, which
brought them into conflict with their Sunni Ottoman neighbors.
Inward-looking policies. Although all three Islamic states maintained power through the
military, neither the Safavid nor the Mughal dynasties developed a navy or a merchant
fleet. Military resources were concentrated on defending inland borders. The Ottoman
did have a powerful navy at one time, but by the eighteenth century, Ottoman
armaments were outmoded and usually of European manufacture.
Agricultural economies. Agriculture was the basis of the Islamic empires, and the
majority of the population was engaged in raising and processing food. In the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Ottoman and Safavid populations grew slowly;
the population in India grew more dramatically.
Ambivalence toward foreign trade. All three empires existed along important historic
trade routes and derived benefit from their locations. The Safavids actively encouraged
foreign trade. However, none of the three states sent merchants abroad or encouraged
Cultural insularity. The Islamic empires did not seek out new ideas or technologies and
proved hostile to innovation by the eighteenth century. Like leaders in the Qing and
Tokugawa dynasties (chapter 27), Islamic conservatives feared that new ideas would lead
to political instability.
THE CHAPTER IN PERSPECTIVE
Three Islamic empires—the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals—dominated a huge extent
of territory ranging from eastern Europe and northern Africa in the west to India in the east
during the early modern age. Their control over the Eurasian land and sea trade routes made
their influence even greater. All three dynasties had their roots in nomadic Turkish-speaking
peoples of central Asia. Although they embraced new urban and agricultural concepts, they
never forgot their intellectual and social roots among the peoples of the steppes. During the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries these dynasties were politically, economically, and militarily
dominant. By the eighteenth century these empires, for a variety of reasons, had either collapsed
or were significantly weakened.
Formation of the Islamic Empires
All three dynasties had reasonably humble origins as small border warrior states. The
Ottomans developed from a small northwestern Turkish tribe under the control of Osman Bey in
the thirteenth century. Their position on the frontier between the Islamic and Christian worlds
gave the Ottomans an early sense of mission. They viewed themselves as ghazi, or Islamic
religious warriors. Their passionate desire for conquest and religious expansion was backed by a
powerful military machine. Janissaries, because they had been kidnapped from the Balkans as
children and hence knew no other world, were completely loyal to the sultan and formed an
impressive fighting force. In 1453 Mehmed II’s conquest of Constantinople, and resulting
establishment of Istanbul, laid the groundwork for arguably the greatest empire in history after
that of the Romans. The peak would be reached during the sixteenth century with the reign of
Suleyman the Magnificent. His conquests, both on land and sea, left much of southwest Asia,
Africa, and Europe under Ottoman control. The Ottomans referred to the sultan as Suleyman the
Lawgiver in recognition of his influential law code.
Further east the Safavids, although they would never match the might of the Ottomans,
possessed a powerful army and a state made rich from trade. Nevertheless, their most long-
lasting influence would be the Twelver Shiism of the dynasty’s founder, Shah Ismail. Although
the Safavids traced their lineage back to a thirteenth-century Sufi mystic named Safi al-Din, in the
early sixteenth century Shah Ismail made the decision to embrace Twelver Shiism. Shah Ismail’s
inspiration for this decision, whether truly a case of religious conversion or merely political
opportunism, remains a mystery. Whatever Shah Ismail’s motives, the conversion to Twelver
Shiism forged a link with the qizilbash and gave the Safavids a sense of leadership in the Islamic
world. However, the devastating loss to the Ottomans at Chaldiran in 1514 almost ended the
dynasty before it began. Safavid rulers who followed Shah Ismail would make greater use of
technology and close the gap with the Ottomans. Shah Abbas the Great would bring the empire
to its peak.
In the early sixteenth century Zahir al-Din Muhammad (Babur, or “tiger”), a descendant
of Chinggis Khan and Tamerlane, conquered India. Unlike the Ottomans or Safavids, Zahir al-
Din Muhammad founded his Mughal dynasty solely because of his dream of empire and fame.
Unavoidably, however, the rule of the Islamic Mughals over the Hindu Indian population
generated religious tension. A desire to decrease this religious animosity through an enlightened
policy of toleration would be the hallmark of the rule of Akbar in the second half of the sixteenth
century. Akbar even went so far as to create a syncretic religion combining elements of the
different religions of India. Ironically, this effort was accepted much more readily by the Hindus
than by the strongly monotheistic Mughals. The seventeenth-century reign of Aurangzeg would
mark not only the high point of the Mughal dynasty geographically but also the beginning of a
decline caused by the emperor’s decision to reverse Akbar’s policy of religious toleration.
Imperial Islamic Society
All three Islamic empires created states that placed tremendous personal power in the
hands of the emperors. Powerful armies, which stood at the center of much of the empire’s
success, were under the personal command of the emperor. The Islamic missionary goal of
spreading the faith to other lands also empowered the emperors to conquer new territory.
Steppe traditions not only gave the emperors tremendous latitude carrying out their own agenda
but also ensured continual problems with the succession. From the time of Mehmed II it was
legal for the new Ottoman sultan to kill off his brothers, usually in the classic Turko-Mongol
fashion of strangulation by silk bow-string. Although women were supposed to have no voice in
politics, they increasingly played a role in harem politics. Hurrem Sultana, one of Suleyman the
Magnificent’s concubines, convinced the sultan to have his first son executed. The Safavids and
Mughals joined the Ottomans in having continual trouble with the succession.
In the Islamic empires, although to a lesser extent than in Europe, the Columbian
exchange introduced American crops such as maize, potatoes, and tomatoes. Two other new
agricultural products, coffee and tobacco, were very popular but officially frowned on (and
occasionally outlawed). A population surge mirrored the increase in food supply. Between 1500
and 1800 the population of India increased from 105 million to 190 million, the population of the
Safavid empire from 5 million to 8 million, and the population of the Ottoman empire from 9
million to 28 million. The positioning of these empires at the heart of all east-west trade ensured
that they would grow wealthy. Islamic rulers pushed for the creation of their large cities as
centers for trade, with the best example being the Safavid capital of Isfahan. Tremendous
religious diversity is always found in empires this large. While the rulers may have actively
promoted Islam, conquered peoples were considered dhimmi, or protected people, and were
allowed to practice their own religious beliefs. Occasionally, rulers such as Aurangzeg created
religious turmoil by recognizing only Islam. Royal patronage ensured that cities such as
Suleyman’s Istanbul, Shah Abbas’s Isfahan, and Akbar’s Fatepur Sikri became major cultural,
artistic, and intellectual centers. The magnificence of Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal speaks volumes
about the splendor of Mughal India.
The Empires in Transition
By the eighteenth century the three Islamic empires were in a serious state of decline.
Not surprisingly, they shared many of the same problems. As so often seems to be the case, the
greatest rulers of each dynasty ruled in the early days of expansion. A series of incompetent
leaders followed. In the Ottoman example, bloodshed caused by squabbles over the succession
resulted in the heirs being left to lead lives of profligacy in the harem. Religious tensions
increasingly haunted the Islamic empires. The irony is that one of the great strengths of the three
dynasties had been their early religious toleration. Conservative religious clerics put pressure on
the rulers to restrict the rights of non-Muslims. Many of the same conservative religious leaders
led a backlash against western technology. Eventually the empires fell far behind the Europeans
in technology and military proficiency. Finally, the European push across the Atlantic and
around the southern tip of Africa financially devastated the Islamic empires by changing the
A Peaceful Faith, A Fanatic Few
More than 1 billion faithful believers trust in the compassion and power of Allah. What is it in
the religion of Islam that turns a few extremists to terrorism?
Newsweek/September 24, 2001
By Kenneth L. Woodward
Islam: even the sound of this lovely Arabic word, which means "surrender,"conveys the promise
of peace, justice and harmony that comes to those who do the will of God. It is a word that
defines the faith of more than 1 billion people, and embodies the aspirations of Muslim societies
from the west of Africa across a wide arc to the islands of Indonesia. It also expresses the vision
of the Quran, the very words of God - so Muslims believe - revealed to the last of His prophets,
Muhammad. Why, then, should it inspire some Muslims to acts of unspeakable violence and
Make no mistake. Though an act of war was committed against the United States last week, we
are not witnessing regression to an era of religious warfare. The vast majority of Muslims, Arab
and non-Arab alike, deplore the slaughter of thousands of civilians that took place in New York
City and Washington, D.C. "It violates the very foundations of Islamic law,"says Imam Yahya
Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school. Nor are we witnessing a clash
of civilizations. On the contrary, the United States is one place in the world where Jews and
Christians and Muslims alike can live in peace with each other.
In moments of crisis like the present one, Muslims are quick to stress their bonds with Jews and
Christians. Islam recognizes figures like Abraham and Moses and Jesus as prophets of the one
God, Allah. Muslims study the Quran like others study the Bible, but they also look to the
ahadith , or sayings and stories of Muhammad, for guidance. As Islam evolved into a great
medieval civilization, various schools developed to interpret those passages in the Quran that are
contradictory or unclear. Like other religions, Islam has its divisions and sects. The Shiites, for
example, dominate Iran, where they have developed a hierarchy of clerical authority - the
ayatollahs - roughly similar to Roman Catholicism. By contrast, the majority of Sunni Muslims
are rather like Protestants in their stress on individual interpretation of the faith. And then there
are the great Sufi saints and poets like Rumi who give Islam its mystical dimension.
Nonetheless, all Muslims observe certain fundamental practices such as prayer five times a day,
fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Mecca. They also share the ideal of
creating Muslim societies based on the Sharia, or Muslim law. In such a utopia, Islamic principles
would govern every aspect of personal and social behavior. But there's the rub: since the perfect
Muslim society has yet to be created, Muslim fundamentalists and other purely political
dissidents can - and have - declared various modern Muslim governments illegitimate. Indeed,
the crisis the United States faces is a product of a crisis of legitimacy within the Islamic world
The violence that exploded over New York City began in the back alleys of Beirut, Cairo,
Jerusalem - wherever Muslim extremists discerned the power of the United States behind their
more immediate enemies. For nearly three decades, the Arab world has witnessed a broad
Islamic revival that established Muslim governments have systematically repressed. In moderate
Muslim nations, governing elites welcome Western support and the secular culture that goes
with it. These elites have suppressed or co-opted the popular revivalist movements - thus
opening the way for radical freelance sheiks and their terrorist networks. Experts like Daniel
Pipes call the extremists "Islamists,"meaning ideologues who "politicize their religion,"and, like
latter-day Leninists, turn the Sharia into a "blueprint for establishing a coerced utopia."
In Algeria, for example, when the Islamic Salvation Front threatened to win electoral victory a
decade ago, the military government canceled further elections and imposed martial law. In
Egypt, the government has used torture to suppress a similar Islamist revival. "Extremists see the
U.S. government propping up states they regard as Muslim in name only,"says Scott Appleby, a
historian of religion at the University of Notre Dame, "and doing so to further their own
geopolitical interests. They perceive this as hypocrisy on the part of a nation that proclaims
democracy, liberalism and freedom."And then there is Israel, which Islamists regard as either the
surrogate for American interests in the Middle East - especially oil - or a dupe for Zionist
Islamic radicals also see the United States as a failed Christian nation. Islamist groups are bent on
destroying the United States because "of our Christian faith,"declared Franklin Graham, Billy's
son and evangelist heir-apparent, on national television last week. But statements like his badly
misjudge the issue. Extremists see Western culture as an imperialist acid eating away at Muslim
virtue and values. "Islamists reject secular modernity, with its pornography, materialism, drug
dependency and high divorce rate,"observes Appleby. "They would respect the U.S. much more
if we did not separate God from governance "if we were in fact a Christian state."
Even so, Islam has within its own history and teachings elements that are potentially toxic. Like
the ancient Israelites, Muhammad and his companions had to fight for turf. The Quran is full of
battle scenes and language - especially the notion of jihad, or "holy war."The word encompasses
many levels of meaning. It includes the fight to control one's passions, to convert unbelievers and
improve public morals in a Muslim society. It also applies to the rules of war. "It is not a license to
kill,"says David Little, professor of religion and international affairs at Harvard Divinity School.
"Islamic theory largely limits just wars to the defensive kind."Mainstream Muslim jurists have
been loath to see jihad invoked, especially against wayward Muslim governments. "Once you say
you are in a state of jihad, then all the usual rules of society are suspended and the danger is that
social structure will end in ruins,"says Gilles Kepel, a specialist in Islamic movements at the
Institute of Political Science in Paris.
That's what happened in Afghanistan when Islamists like Osama bin Laden declared jihad
against the "infidel" Soviet invaders in the 1980s - with full support from the CIA. Bin Laden has
no religious authority to declare a holy war but by invoking the privilege he sought to rally
support throughout the Muslim world. Once the Soviet Army was repulsed in 1989, he turned
his jihad against those who supported him, including the United States. "Afghanistan let the
genie of jihad out of the bottle,"says Kepel, "and there is no way Muslims can put it back in
Like other religions, Islam also reveres its martyrs. One who dies a martyr for the faith goes
directly to heaven and enjoys its choicest rewards. But in its modern Islamist version, martyrdom
has been expanded to include volunteer suicide in battle. In the 1980s war between Iran and Iraq,
thousands of young Iranian soldiers with the shahada written on their headgear ("There is no
God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger") blew themselves up in Iraqi minefields so that
their regular Army could cross enemy lines. In the same way, the glory of martyrdom inspired
suicide attacks by Muslims against American soldiers in Beirut in 1983, which eventually led to
the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon last year.
In such ways have appeals to Islam legitimated terrorist tactics. The men who commandeered the
jets that struck the symbols of American power "the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" are
sons of Islamist fanaticism. They have turned Islam's ideal of peace and harmony on its head. The
household of Allah is in disarray and the result is more than mere anarchy loosed upon the
world. The United States can arm and threaten and perhaps even retaliate here and there. But
only Muslims can shed Islamist extremism through self-policing. If the Quran is to be believed,
Allah Himself requires as much.
The Koran on…
On death in the service of god (Martydom)
195. And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of
any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another: Those who have left their homes, or been
driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain,- verily, I will blot out from
them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath;- A reward from the
presence of Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards."
On defending ones self
41. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no
cause of blame.
On the role of Jesus:
163. We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent
inspiration to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and solomon, and
to David We gave the Psalms.
27. Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various
colours. And in the mountains are tracts white and red, of various shades of colour, and black intense in
28. And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colours. Those truly fear
Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.
69. Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the
Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear,
nor shall they grieve.
On infallibility and perfection:
2. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah.
On the afterlife:
25. But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens,
beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: "Why, this is what we
were fed with before," for they are given things in similitude; and they have therein companions pure (and
holy); and they abide therein (for ever).
On violence and war:
190: And fight in the way of god those who fight you. But aggress not. God loves not the aggressor.
On the killing of innocents:
90: If they leave you alone and don’t fight…then God allows you no way against them.
On violence with Jews:
5: Fight those who believe not in God nor in the last day
5: “When the sacred months hasve passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and
confine the, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and fulfill their devotional
obligations and pay the zakat (tax on non-Muslims)then let them go their way for Allah is forgiving and
On being a Muslim:
110: You are the best community evolved for manking, enjoing what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
1. Considering Muhammad’s childhood. How did his beliefs and experiences forge the
faith of Islam?
2. What were the five pillars of the Islamic faith?
3. How did the Geography of the Arabic world shape the development of Islam and its
4. What is the Heigra and what impact did it have on the future of Islam?
5. What is the Hajj and describe why it is significant in world history?
6. What are some of the differences between the Abbasid and Umayyad dynasties?
7. Describe what Harun al Rashid’s Baghadad might have looked like at its zenith (high
8. How would you compare Medieval Islam to Medieval Europe? Cite specifics…
9. Using examples, discuss the interaction between Muslims and Christians.
10. Discuss the impact of the Mongol invasion on Islam.
11. Discuss the origins of the Ottoman empire.
12. Describe the size and scope of the Ottoman empire through Sulieman the Magnificent.
13. What unique traits could be found in the Ottoman Empire’s military traditions?
14. Discuss the creation of the Sunni Islamic sect and the Shiite Islamic sect.
15. Why did the Safavid Persian Empire come into conflict with the Ottomans? Who wins
16. What was the outcome of Sulieman’s conquest of Europe through Vienna?
17. Why did many Hindu’s choose to convert to Islam?
18. Discuss the reign and legacy of Akbar the Great.