Postclassical Era - The Middle East - Religion, Culture, and Science

Religion, Culture, and Science

Main articles: Islamic culture and Science in the medieval Islamic world

Religion always played a prevalent role in Middle Eastern culture, affecting learning, architecture, and the ebb and flow of cultures. When Muhammad introduced Islam, it jump-started Middle Eastern culture, inspiring achievements in architecture, the revival of old advances in science and technology, and the formation of a distinct way of life. Islam primarily consisted of the five pillars of belief, including confession of faith, the five prayers a day, to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, to pay the tax for charity (the zakat), and the hajj, or yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam also created the need for spectacularly built mosques which created a distinct form of architecture. Some of the more magnificent mosques include the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the former Mosque of Cordoba. Islam unified the Middle East and helped the empires there to remain stable. Missionaries and warriors spread the religion from Arabia to North and Sudanic Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and the Mesopotamia area. This created a mix of cultures, especially in Africa, and the mawali demographic. Although the mawali would experience discrimination from the Umayyad, they would gain widespread acceptance from the Abbasids and it is because of this that allowed for mass conversions in foreign areas. “People of the book” or dhimmi were always treated well; these people included Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Zoroastrarians. However, the crusades started a new thinking in the Islamic empires, that non-Islamic ideas were immoral or inferior; this was primarily perpetrated by the ulama (Arabic: علماء) scholars.

Arabian culture took off during the early Abbasid age, despite the prevalent political issues. Muslims saved and spread Greek advances in medicine, algebra, geometry, astronomy, anatomy, and ethics that would have been lost to the Dark Ages of Europe. The works of Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, and Euclid were saved and distributed throughout the empire (and eventually into Europe) in this manner. Muslim scholars also discovered the Indian numerical system in their conquests of south Asia. The use of this system in Muslim trade and political institutions allowed for the eventual popularization of it around the world; this number system would be critical to the Scientific revolution in Europe. Muslim intellectuals would become experts in chemistry, optics, and mapmaking during the Abbasid Caliphate. In the arts, Abbasid architecture expanded upon Umayyad architecture, with larger and more extravagant mosques. Persian literature grew based on ethical values. Astronomy was stressed in art. Much of this learning would find its way to the West. This was especially true during the crusades, as warriors would bring back Muslim treasures, weapons, and medicinal methods.

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