What Do You Think Were The Main Features Of The Arab Islamic Civilisation Of The Abbasid Period, And What Made That Civilisation So Vibrant?

2732 words - 11 pages

The 'Golden Age' of Arab Islamic civilisation was essentially a synthesis of diverse roots stemming from Greek, Indian, Iranian and pre-Islam Arabic sources. The advent of the Abbasids around 750 AD made this synthesis possible, and from peoples with varied origins and different religious affiliations was created one profound civilisation. A civilisation that allowed slaves to become rulers, Muslim, Jew and Christian to live side by side, and grew at a rapid rate, creating cities such as Basra and Baghdad. The history of any Empire follows that, it starts, grows in strength, is great, and then declines. I argue that the civilisation of the Abbasid period is remembered as so vibrant because, as is often the case in the human psyche, we tend to remember the best of one time, whilst forgetting its downfalls, and the worst of another time, whilst forgetting its shining moments. Although the Abbasid name ruled the 'Muslim World' starting from revolution in 750, to invasion in 1258, I would like to define the main features and vibrancy of this rule in a narrower time period, spanning roughly from the ninth to the eleventh centuries. This is because I believe that, the greatness of the Islamic world in culture, tolerance, learning and discovery was at its best during this period of time, hence the focus of this essay. During this defined era, extraordinary advances in Mathematics, Medicine, and Geography were made. Advances that much of the West of today owes its heritage to. Lombard states the advent of the Muslim Empire, meant a widening of the commercial horizon and the elaboration of an economic domain which was more extensive, more varied, and more powerful than anything which had preceded it. (1975:98). This rapid expansion opened up the Islamic World not only to greater trade but also to many other modes of thought existent at the time. As Von Grunebaum (1963:88) points out, without a church organisation and, with the existence of the ijma, no binding orthodoxy had been able to form throughout the entire Islamic population. This made the penetration of un-Islamic ideas and associations of ideas all too easy, in a population far from homogeneous.In 747, a professional soldier Marwan II, succeeded in bringing some sense of unity and order back to the flailing Umayyad rule. However on June 9, 747, the Shi'ites in Sikadang raised the black banner of the Abbasids (Von Grunebaum: 1963:77). The first Abbasid caliph was named Abu' l'Abbas as-Saffah, thence the title Abbasid followed. Marwan was defeated on January 25, 750 (Von Grunebaum: 1963:79). The Abbasids understood no one could rule dar al-islam without the protection of a unified Islamic Law (Peters: 1973:138). The Abbasids were smart enough to draw together military rule in an almost secular matter, and also religious jurisprudence. By employing bureaucratic methods the Caliph had the ability to oversee much more of his domain than the Umayyads ever did (Peters: 1973:144). Because the Caliph had...

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