HIST 203 Lecture Outline (Fall 2020 – Week 6)

HIST 203

Week 6: Tuesday

The Islamic World


Chanting of Surah Rahman (22:36 min.):


Beliefs shared by Islam with Judaism and Christianity include:

  • Belief in a single, omnipotent God
  • Observance of a weekly Sabbath
  • Importance of prayer
  • Importance of giving alms and being good to one’s neighbors
  • Ritual fasting
  • Belief in the sacred character of the Hebrew Bible
  • Belief in heaven, hell, Satan, and angels

Beliefs shared by Islam with Judaism (but not with Christianity) include:

  • Male circumcision
  • Dietary restrictions (ritual slaughter of meat-animals; prohibition against eating pork)

Belief shared by Islam with Christianity (but not with Judaism):

  • Belief in the sacred character of the New Testament

Beliefs distinctive to Islam (not shared with either Judaism or Christianity) include:

  • Belief that Muhammed was the messenger (or prophet) of God
  • Belief that the Qur’an (or Koran) is the word of God
  • Acceptance of polygyny (men may have up to four wives)
  • Prohibition against drinking alcohol

Look at the following maps and photographs:

Map showing the spread of Islam, 632-750 CE

The Abbasid caliphate in 771 (Note that the Umayyad emirate in Spain is not part of the Abbasid caliphate)

Two photographs (exterior and interior) of the Ummayad Great Mosque at Damascus, Syria (built 709-15)

The Great Mosque at Cordoba, Spain (built 785-6, with later additions):

Week 6: Thursday

The Islamic World (continued)


Empire of Faith, Part 2: The Awakening (53 min.; on Bagdad, Cordoba, and the rise and spread of scholarship in the Muslim world, watch 4:00-18:17; trade and crafts, 35:00-39:00):


The Sunni/Shia Split:

Muhammed (c. 571-632 CE) m. (1) Khadijah (d. 619 CE); (m. 12 other wives later)
|                                      |
(3 daughters)            Fatimah (d. 633 CE) m. Ali (Muhammed’s cousin; 3rd caliph)
|                                                    |                                                  |
Hassan (624-670 CE)      Hussein (626-680 CE)        (2 daughters)


Following the death of Muhammed:

632-634 CE    Abu Bakr (Muhammed’s friend and father of his youngest wife, Aisha) = 1st caliph (capital remains at Medina)
634-644          Umar (father of one of Muhammed’s later wives; chosen as successor by Abu Bakr; assassinated) = 2nd caliph
644- 656         Uthman (husband, successively, of 2 of Muhammed’s daughters; assassinated) = 3rd caliph
656-661          Ali (Muhammed’s cousin and widower of Fatimah; later wives included a granddaughter of Muhammed; father of Muhammed’s grandsons Hassan and Hussein; assassinated) = 4th caliph

661-750          Umayyad dynasty est. by a cousin of Uthman (capital moves to Damascus, of which he had been governor)

680                  Ali’s surviving son, Hussein, tries to gain the caliphate by force, but is killed at the battle of Karbala, leaving an infant son (Ali) to continue the line. Shia Muslims commemorate this battle annually during ten days of Ashurah. Muhammed’s last-surviving widow (Umm Salama) died in 680.

750-1258        Abbasid dynasty est. by a descendant of an uncle of Muhammed (capital moves to Baghdad)

750-950         “Golden age” of Abbasids; reign of Harun al-Rashid (r. 787-809)

873                  Last Shia imam (descendant of Muhammed through Ali and Hussein) dies at age four, with no brothers.

After centuries of awaiting the Shia imam’s return, spiritual power among Shia Muslims passed to a council of twelve elders, who elected a supreme Imam.


Some major differences between Sunni and Shia Islam:

The call to prayer and manner of prayer differ
Sunni Muslims pray 5 times daily; Shia Muslims may combine prayers to pray 3 times daily
Sunni and Shia Muslims prefer some different ahadith (sayings of Muhammed that make up the Hadith)
Shia Islam permits temporary marriages; Sunni Islam does not
Shia Islam has a special focus on the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein
For Shia Muslims, central spiritual authority rests with the supreme Imam, and there is a clerical hierarchy.  Sunni Muslims do not have a formal clergy or a central spiritual authority.
Sunni Muslims accept Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali as the four “rightly guided” caliphs; Shia Muslims consider Ali to be the first proper successor to Muhammed; all modern descendants of Muhammed are through Ali. 

Countries today with Shia majorities:
Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Azerbaijan


Early Capitals of Islamic Culture (series of short videos):

Early Capitals of Islamic Culture: Introduction (3:48 min.):

Mingling Cultures in Early Islamic Art (2:49 min.):

Legacy of Umayyad Damascus (4:19 min.):

The Artistic Legacy of Abbasid Baghdad (3:44 min.):

Early Islamic Coinage (1:42 min.):

Lustre-Pottery Technique (2:20 min.):