World History 2 48 - 4.1 A Connected Islamic World

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the factors that characterized and often united the Muslim ummah after 1500
  • Explain the relationships among politics, religion, technology, and trade in the Islamic world after 1500
  • Analyze the impact of Islamic political and legal institutions on the larger Muslim community

Beginning with its emergence during the life of the prophet Muhammad at the beginning of the seventh century CE, the religion of Islam spread far and wide for several centuries and led to the establishment of several caliphates, areas under the control of Muslim rulers called caliphs. Early expansion occurred largely through conquests, such as those undertaken by the Prophet himself, the Rashidun Caliphate (the name given to the rule of the four caliphs who succeeded Muhammad), and the Umayyad Caliphate, which emerged decades after Muhammad’s death and was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty based in Syria. These conquests expanded the ummah, or the community of Muslims, into Iran, Spain, and the vast lands in between.

In 750, the Umayyad Caliphate succumbed to rebellion and gave way to the Abbasid Caliphate. This dynastic transformation not only led to the elevation of Baghdad as the capital of the Abbasid world, but it also brought with it a larger political division in the Islamic world. The Umayyads in Spain refused to recognize the new Abbasid rulers and eventually established their own rival caliphate. In the centuries that followed, other parts of the Islamic world did the same. By the year 1000, there were three rival caliphates: the Sunni Abbasids ruling from Baghdad, the Shi‘ite Fatimids ruling from Cairo, and a rival Sunni caliphate, the Umayyads, ruling from Cordoba in Spain.

Over the next few centuries, a combination of trade and conquest expanded the ummah into West Africa and India. The arrival of the Mongols in the thirteenth century resulted in increased expansion but also the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258. During the following few hundred years, the rise of the Ottoman Empire brought a larger Islamic presence to southeastern Europe, and the Safavids came to power in Iran. (The land once called Persia became known as Iran during the Abbasid era, although foreigners still commonly referred to it as Persia until the twentieth century.) Steady Islamic trade in the Indian Ocean also expanded Islam into Southeast Asia. By 1500, the Islamic world was geographically expansive and politically, ethnically, and linguistically very diverse.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax