Hello, Hello! Come over this way, there's a place to park your camel! Yes, that's it. Easy does it. Now, there's food and water over there - help yourself. I'm sure you've come a long way! Please, you first! My, you are covered in sand! Into the bath with you!
The Arabian Peninsula is located in between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Because of trade routes crossing Arabia, it soon became known as a "crossroads" location. The climate was always extremely hot and dry, making camels a necessity for travel. The world's sandiest desert, the Rub' al-Khali (meaning "Empty Quarter"), expands across most of southern Arabia. Sand dunes up to 800 feet high span the deserts, and oases provide the main source of water. An oasis forms underground where water bubbles to the surface, for otherwise it would evaporate.
The coastal areas of Arabia aren't so barren, however. Mountains and marshes lie along the country's border. The Persian Gulf is located to the east, while the Red Sea surrounds Arabia on the west and the Gulf of Aden on the south. The only rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers, found in Persia.
The map above is a satellite view of the Arabian Peninsula. You can see the Rub' al-Khali on the south, and several moist areas along the coast. But mainly, all of Arabia is desert.
Geography - Muslims around the World
Just thought I would throw in this map. It shows the current spread of Islam as of 2008. You can see that Muslims are in abundance in Northern Africa, parts of Asia, Indonesia, and all around Arabia.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570. He had a hard childhood, but got by without too much trouble. One day, he went to meditate in a cave, and an angel came to talk to him. Muhammad believed that God had spoken to him through this angel, and so he became a prophet. All of the messages he received from God was put together in the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam.
Muhammad taught that there was only one God, Allah. This is similar to Christianity and Judaism, in that it is monotheistic. Though all three religions believed in prophet such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc., they had different views about each of them. For example, Muhammad believed that Jesus was not the son of God, but simply another prophet. Muhammad respected the Christians and Jews, however, and referred to them as the "people of the Book", because of their loyalty to their holy book (Bible and Torah).
Before Islam, people of Arabia were polytheistic, or believing in many gods and goddesses. They worshipped them at a shrine.
Muhammad had few followers at first, because many people had problems with his teachings. First, they didn't want someone telling them to stop worshipping their gods and goddesses to follow a single god, Allah. Secondly, Muhammad preached that everyone, rich and poor, would become equal. This worried the merchants, who wanted to have more power than the poor. Another problem related to money. Muhammad wanted everyone to donate money to the poor. Again, the merchants wanted to keep their money for themselves. And last, his new religion sounded like a threat to those who made money from pilgrimages to the Kaaba.
Merchants made Muhammad leave Mecca. Still determined, he sought followers outside of Mecca. Finally, people in Medina started to listen to him, and Islam started to grow. Throughout Muhammad's life, and even after, Islam spread quickly throughout the world.
There are five acts of worship required of all Muslims --
Faith - Muslims must state their faith, both in prayer and when they except Islam. "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet" is the main saying of faith
Daily Prayer - Muslims must pray five times a day: before sunrise, at midday, in late afternoon, right after sunset, and right before going to bed. These all happen at the mosque.
Yearly donation - All Muslims must donate part of their wealth to a religious official. This money is used to help the poor, build mosques, or pay debts.
Fasting - Muslims must fast during the holy month of Ramadan, not eating or drinking anything between dawn and sunset.
Hajj - The pilgrimage to Mecca is the last pillar. All Muslims must travel to Mecca at least once in their lives.
Astronomy - Built observatories to study sun, moon, and stars; figured out time and location; improved astrolabe- location, direction, and time of day (later helped exploration of the seas)
Geography - Many travelers spread throughout Africa, India, China, and Spain; made more accurate maps; better ways of calculating distances;
Math - Combined Indian and Greek number system to help form Arabic numerals; invented algebra (al-Khwarizmi) (current algebra we use today)
Medicine - Doctors improved medicine, made encyclopedias, wrote descriptions of diseases, started first pharmacy
Philosophy - Studied Greek philosophy and started own philosophy focused on spiritual issues; Sufism
Literature - Poetry and short stories
Architecture - mosques, marketplaces, palaces, and libraries
Art - started calligraphy, for they thought that only God (Allah) could create humans and animals
Government among the Muslims was fairly simple. They believed that God was the true ruler and creator, and that he alone was the one who lead their lives and protected them. Government was based off of their religion. Several families of caliphs, like the Umayyads, helped expand the empire, spread Muslim teachings, and maintain order.
Arabia's location was perfect for trading. Merchants had easy access to Africa, Europe, and South Asia. Several ideas and products leaked into Muslim territory. They learned to make paper and use gunpowder from the Chinese, and new crops such as cotton, rice, and oranges arrived from India, China, and Southeast Asia. African trade brought ivory, cloves, and slaves, and gold. Trade not only exchanged goods through different countries, it also helped the spread of Islam.
Mecca - considered the holiest city of Islam. (Pictured at left) This is where 2 million Muslims travel each year. There are religious rituals, sermons, and feasts.
Medina - place of Muhammad's birth
Baghdad - capital of Islamic Empire in 762; major trading center
Cordoba - capital of what is now Spain; largest and most advanced city in Europe
The social structure of Islam was fairly simple. They had the caliphs, which were the highest leaders. They started out as just religious leaders, but grew to be political leaders as well. Below them was the rest of the entire Muslim community. Muslims treated each other equal, so they didn't have slaves and servants and such. Each person had their own job, like the merchants. But basically everyone learned to work together to get their job done.
Animal of the Day: Yay! So, Animal of the Day, get it? You know, "back in the day"...Oh, well. Forget it. Anyway, I decided to have a picture of an animal that that particular civilization would have used, or one
that was at least present. Some places, like Rome, don't really have one native to that area, but for the ones that do, I'll put them here. (Actually, see Rome for more information on the animals used for entertainment and such.) So, below is a picture I took of a camel in a zoo in Missouri. Okay, so it's not the same camel that caravans used, but it's close enough! He can still go a week or two without water and has toes made for walking on sand, right? Anyway, isn't he cuuuute? :D