Islamic Empires

Karen Thomas and Krisha Mehta

E.Q. How did Islam impact the development of Muslim Empires?

Islamic Background

Islam was founded by Muhammad, who was an Arabic merchant in Mecca, the holy city of Islam today. He was poor and became orphaned at a very young age. When Muhammad was in his 40's he started getting visions from Allah telling him that he is "the prophet of god." He took these visions very seriously and decided to go spread the message. Sadly, not everyone in Mecca at that time was ready to believe him. After many years of persecutions, Muhammad, with a few other followers, fled to Medina where the people happily welcomed him. The people of Medina were in need of a leader and quickly appointed Muhammad as their new leader. He could now spread his messages of Islam to the people and he gained many followers. After many years, Muhammad died of illness without a heir. People started to argue on who was going to be their next leader. While some thought that only people directly related to Muhammad should rule, others thought strong and brave Islamic people should rule. This split the religion into two groups, the Sunnis and Shiites. Islam quickly spread to many empires and helped them grow and develop. In today's lesson we will learn further on how Islam impacted these empires.

Ottomans (Turkey 1299-1923)

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Sunni Islamic Turks under their leader, Osman 1, in northwestern Anatolia. The Ottoman empire was one of the largest empires in history and lasted longer than all the other empires. It covered present-day Turkey, Greece, parts of Eastern Europe, and Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, and the holy cities, Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. After the conquests in the Balkans and the conquest of Constantinople, the small group of Turks transformed into an empire. Christians and Jews have lived in lands that were ruled by Islam ever since the time of Muhammad the prophet, so the Turks were very tolerant with non-Muslims. The Ottoman Empire was mainly supported and influenced by Islam. Islam influenced many features of the empire such as education, ways of punishment, and society. Islam helped the army's number of soldiers grow rapidly and become stronger. Because of the idea of increasing the Muslim territory, fighting for faith, and spreading Islam, many people were attracted to join the military. Islam had a very big influence on the Ottoman's society. It helped control people's behavior and the legal laws of the empire. Many of the rules were based on the "Sharia Law", a code that was developed from laws that are in the Quran (Islam's Holy Book). As the empire grew, so did the number of non-Muslims, which led to an additional set of laws called the "Kanun". This law controlled marriage. Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women, but Muslim women can not marry non-Muslim men, so every child in the Ottoman Empire had to be raised as Muslims. Islam helped keep things fair and peaceful within the Ottoman empire. People of different religious backgrounds treated others and their beliefs with respect. This is also one of the reasons why the Ottoman Empire lasted for a very long time.

The green is the Ottoman Empire

Safavids (Persia 1501-1722)

The Safavid Empire lasted from 1501-1722 and covers all of present-day Iran, parts of Turkey and Georgia (country). The strong, Islamic empire gained power by challenging the Ottomans and the Mughals. Their religion was Shi'a Islam (Shiites). Shi'a Islam had many positive influences as well as negatives influences. Starting with the negative influences, the Safavid Empire demanded everyone in their land to convert to Shi'a Islam, and if they didn't, they were either forced to move or they were killed. Not only did they persecute the Sunnis, but they also persecuted every other religion and Shiites with different views. Churches and shrines that weren't for Shi'a Islam were vandalized and were forbidden. Now, on to the positive influences. The people of the empire soon accepted the new faith and started celebrating Shi'a Islam with great devotion. Shi'ism (Shi'a Islam) spread quickly throughout the empire. Because of their strong, religious faith, they quickly built strong foundations for their powerful centralized government and administration.

Sultanates (India 13th-16th Century)

Invasions from Afghanistan started into the Northern Indian area until Muslims controlled it. Most people in what is today, Pakistan, are Muslim because of this. Most of the people who were living in India at the time were Turkish, and they helped protect the land from the Mongols.

The Sultans based their laws on the Quran, which is the Islamic holy book, and the Sharia. Non Muslims were allowed to live in their land only if they agreed to pay jizya, or tax. Great mosques were built reflecting the Islamic religion and they also improved their irrigation system. Their architecture reflected a lot of Islam as well.

Indo-Muslim, the period where the two cultures blended, left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. The language of Urdu was born during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the mingling of Sanskrit Prakrit and the Persian, Turkish, and Arabic favored by the Muslim rulers.

Mughals (India 16th-17th Century)

The Mughal empire ruled India and Pakistan during the 16th and 17th century. The Mughals spread Islam in South Asia, and introduced Muslim arts, culture, and faith. The Mughals were Muslim, who ruled India. The majority of the population of India was Hindu, but they were still allowed to reach senior government or military positions. The Mughals impacted India in many ways.

They centralized the government which brought many small kingdoms together. They also spread Islamic art and culture just like the Sultanates.

Architecture- a very famous example on their impact on the architecture is the Taj Mahal. It shows many examples of Muslim culture.

The system of education- took account of the student’s needs and cultures.

Military skills- the Indians learned a lot of the tactics and strategies the Muslims used during war, which also made their military stronger.

Quiz (Kahoot)

Critical Thinking Question:

How did the spread of Islam and the enforcement of the beliefs differ during the Ottoman and Safavid Empires?

The Safavid Empire forced the people to practice the Islamic beliefs, and if they didn't, they were killed. The Ottoman Empire was tolerant of any religion, any slowly enforced some of the laws, such as the Sharia Law, without too much force. While non-Muslims did have limitation, it wasn't as extreme as the Safavids.

Critical Thinking Answer:


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