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Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:8:10
Map error: Baghdad is marked around 1000km east of its actual location. At this scale, Baghdad and Ctesiphon should be pretty much in the same spot.

Video transcript

hi I'm Anne hi Davis so what we're going to do in this video is talk about the the cultural spread of Islam where are we and when are we right now so we are around the early 7th century in crow and here we see the Byzantine Empire which at the time was still a continuation of Rome so this is like the eastern Roman Empire and it's an aging Empire and we also have Sassanid Persia which started in the 3rd century and is still continuing into this period right so we've got on the timeline it's going beyond our start point here yep so these are two very powerful empires who often are in tension with one another as you can see they neighbour each other and around this time they're involved in some pretty pretty powerful struggles here right so in 628 it leads to a lot of instability within Sassanid Persia certainly and in some ways as well the Byzantines are weakened by how many resources they've exhausted in these tensions so around this time a new religion emerges Mohammed is born in Arabia and pretty soon during his lifetime and immediately after his lifetime the religion of Islam spreads rapidly through Islamic conquest which Sal talked about in an earlier video I mean just to give you an impression Muhammad died in a year 633 yes so by 750 this is what the state of the Islamic world looked like they took over most of Persia and a large part of the Byzantine Empire as we can see and then even beyond it goes further east further west all the way over to Spain and this happens really really quickly but it's not the case that Islamic culture necessarily takes in all of these areas that quickly so it takes a little bit longer for that to really take hold and it also takes hold in areas far beyond this Empire as well so certainly the presence of Islamic or Muslim rulers in these areas certainly did affect the culture of these places but what's more important is sort of the the ways in which Islam slowly integrated with some of these cultures and that happened through through trade through missionaries and also through pilgrimage route that happened emanating out from Mecca and these religious ideas weren't static as they moved through different areas and as they moved through different routes they changed and they started to take the shape of the local the local culture in the local flavor as well so let me pull up some trade routes these were the active trade routes of the period and you can see there's a continuation of the Silk Road it goes all the way from Rome to China this is Shayan which was then known as Chang on this is the imperial capital of at least ten different Chinese dynasties there's also a very large mosque here so here we have the Great Mosque Jian and what's really interesting about this mosque is that it really fuses a lot of Islamic and Chinese ideas so for example it sort of has the structure of an imperial building and in the way that the courtyards are set up but instead of following sort of the rules of feng shui it is oriented towards Mecca which is all the direction in which Muslims look when they pray but it still has a very Chinese character right and this makes sense because these trade routes basically had to go through the Islamic empire and so as people traveled so did ideas and those ideas transformed along the way what's next on our Whistlestop tour mmm let's look at the mosque in Janee okay so janay is in what is today Mali it's just south of Timbuktu or tombouctou is it's called godiva so it was a great center of Islamic learning and engine a is the site of the world's largest mud brick building the Grand Mosque of Janeiro we pull it up it's a really incredible building that gets a lot of elements of Mali and culture so this is the Grand Mosque of janae there's a mud brick building we have an article about this on Khan Academy in the art history section what's really cool to me about the Grand Mosque of janay is the way that it incorporates Mali and traditions into islamic tradition so you can see on top of these spires and some of these spires are minarets from which issue they're the call to prayer you can't see the detail but there are little ostrich eggs on top yeah in Mali ostrich eggs represent purity and fertility and so even within the constraints of building a religious building there's still expressions of local culture yeah and it's really interesting how that spread through trade but it also spread another way which is through pilgrimage through missionaries through preachers and that also took on the local traditions an interesting way so let's go to Southern to South India okay near Kerala so this is the Chariman juma mosque this is supposed to be one of the earliest mosques in history its construction dates to about 6:30 yep 629 to be precise and this was actually during the life of the Prophet and it's quite far from Mecca so it's really fascinating how quickly it traveled there but it travelled with a preacher and as you can see this is a very distinctly Indian mosque another way that Islam traveled through preachers was through Sufis so let's talk about Sufis for just a minute Sufis were like a mystical devotional practice and we see many iterations of Sufism in all different sects of Islam but they were particularly successful at spreading Islam for a few reasons one of them was that they adapted the teachings to local traditions and another reason was that they built lodges and places of worship along the way these sometimes function like community centers and monastery so let's have a look at a couple of them sure let's look at some North African ones so this is a Rabat in Tunisia yes so every Bhat is kind of a hostel you have traveler staying there early on in their history there were soldiers that stayed there over time they sort of took on a sort of a monastery culture for Sufis we also have something called a Zawiya so here is an example of one and similarly this was a place of learning it was a place of worship people often live there for a long time so they sort of have this like monastic tradition that created a permanent presence for Islam along these routes and this was really really integral in the spread of Islam and it's not just in North Africa but even farther east you see different iterations of that so once you get into former Persian territory and an Indian territory you have something called a honk off so here is an example from Kashmir this is called the shahe Merdan Mosque in its 14th century mosque and this is a commemorate a commemorative building it commemorates an important Sufi leader but again you see some of the local flavor here you see that there's some intricate wood carvings which is really very kashmir a very Kashmiri certainly and similarly this was a place of worship but also a place where people passed through and interacted and learned so it was a site of spreading Islamic tradition as well so that was about so I shot sorry I should have said that was about here in Srinagar yes about there yeah and so in this way Islam was also spread certainly so if you zoom out a bit let's have a look at sort of the bounds of the Islamic empire sure and where we see some of these instances of new Islamic traditions we're no longer in the heart of the Islamic empire we're beyond that and that's because islam was carried in many different ways and as we can see it ended up with some really really diverse iterations of islam