Islamic Civilization: Timeline and Definition

Timeline and Definition

Pilgrims Arrive at Medina Mosque to Begin Pilgrimage to Mecca
Pilgrims Arrive at Medina Mosque to Begin Pilgrimage to Mecca. Abid Katib / Getty Images

The Islamic Civilization is in reality an amalgam of wide variety of cultures, from North Africa to the western periphery of the Pacific Ocean, and from Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa.

A Way-Too-Brief History of Islam

The traditional beginning of the Islamic civilization is associated with the Prophet Muhammed [about AD 570-632]. In 610, Muhammad received his first relevations from God via the angel Gabriel.

By 615, a community of his followers was established in Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia. In 622, Muhammed moved his community (the movement is called the hejirae) to Medina (also in Saudi Arabia). There he formally established the Muslim community, beginning the Muslim calendar in that year, renaming it Year One of the Anno Hegirae (AH).

Chronology of the Spread of Islam

Islam spread quickly over the next century and by about 725 was established in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and most of sub-Saharan Africa.

  • AD 622 [AH 1] Muhammad establishes Medina
  • AD 632 [AH 10] Muhammad dies
  • AD 632-661 Orthodox Era
  • AD 661-750 Umayyad Dynasty
  • AD 750-1250 [AH 132-648] Abassid Empire
  • AD 788-959 Idrisid Dynasty
  • AD 1040-1145 Almoravid Dynasty

The Qur'an

The Qur'an is the holy book of the Muslim religion, as revealed to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel; but it is not the only part of the Islamic faith.

Contained in the Qur'an are the Five Pillars of Islam, which included an absolute monotheism, a ritual prayer to be said five times toward Mecca, a fast at Ramadan, a tithe consisting of 2.5-10% of one's wealth to be given to the poor, and hajj, in which each follower must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in life if possible.

Archaeology and Islam

Archaeologically, Islamic sites can be identified using the Five Pillars. For example, the presence of inscriptions which report on prayers and alms, or the dedications of hospitals, mosques, and schools could be present at Islamic sites. Way-stations and other types of sites have been identified on the roads to Mecca.

Further, mosques and residences have specific architectural layouts; and Moslem burials have set rituals and grave goods. Dietary restrictions are in evidence at Islamic sites; and distinctive art and calligraphy are known as well.

Technological Advances

Cities of Islam

By definition, the cities of Islam were founded or taken over after the traditional founding of the Meccan dynasty of the Islamic civilization. Eventually including much of the Mediterranean region at its peak, the cities are today blends of architecture from many periods and times. Among the best studied archaeological components of Islamic cities include Timbuktu and Essouk-Tadmakka in Mali, Qusayr Amra in Jordan and Al-Basra in Morocco.

Sources

Insoll, Timothy.

2003. Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge World Archaeology, Cambridge University, Cambridge.

Meloy, John L. 1996. Islamic Civilization. pp. 355-357 in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Brian Fagan. Oxford University Press, Oxford.