What does Islam / Muslim mean?
  • Islam / Muslim means "submission" (of oneself to the will of Allah)

From where did the Muslims emerge? Into which regions did they expand throughout time?
  • Emerged from Arabian Peninsula in early 7th century
  • Nomadic herders and caravan merchants traversing the vast Arabian Desert (land once dominated by mighty Persians)

How would you describe the rate through which Islam spread throughout the world?
  • Swiftness of advance / spread of Islam = nothing short of a wonder to scholars

Explain two regions / times in which the spread of Islam was halted.
Syria, Palestine, Iraq - in the name of Allah
Byzantine army abandoned Alexandria (Egypt)
Iran overtaken (ended Sasanian rule of 400+ years)
North Africa
Victory in Jerez de la Frantera (S. Spain) >>> which seemed to have opened up all of Western Europe to the Muslims
Advanced north to Pontiers (in France); However, an army of Franks (led by Charles Martel - grandfather of Charlemange) opposed their advance
To the east, spread to the Indus River Valley
  • In Spain, Islam flourished until 1031
  • 1492 - Ferdinand and Isabella prevented the influence of Islam (the Iberian Peninsula)

In 638, what region was assumed by the Muslims -- a location that was sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims?
Islamic rulers were builders on a grand scale
  • 638 - Jerusalem was taken by the Muslims
  • Jerusalem -- sacred to both Jews and Christians

Dome of the Rock
Jerusalem - 685-705
pa: Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705)
Screen shot 2013-11-01 at 7.42.28 PM.png

Why is this site significant?
  1. Hebrews had build Solomon's Temple here (destroyed by Titus in 70 CE)
  2. later, took on the distinction of being the location of Adam's burial & where Abraham had prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac
  3. the rock - marked the site where Mohammed ascended, and later that night, returned to his home in Mecca

Does this structure look familiar?
Borrowing from existing / previous models
  • resembles San Vitale (being a domed octagonal in its fundamental design)
  • resembles Church of Holy Sepulchre (a neighboring structure) >> which was similar to >> Santa Costanza

How does this structure differ from the EC / Byzantine church?
  • Notice how the exterior is much more decorative than the exteriors found in the EC / Byzantine church structures
  • Purpose: not a temple or mosque at all >> in fact, it is a monumental shrine, an architectural tribute to the triumph to Islam.
  • important - Noble Enclosure

Who was Muhannad? Name at least three (3) points important to our understanding of him and Islam.

  • recognized as the final prophet of Allah (not 'divine', however)
  • critical of polytheism of fellow Arabs
  • claimed to be inspired to prophesy
  • received revelations from 610 >> until the end of his life
  • 622 - flight to Medina (Hijra)
  • 630 - returned to Mecca with 10,000 soldiers
    • overtook Mecca
    • converted inhabitants to Islam
    • destroyed all idols
      BUT, preserved the small cubicle building that housed the idols (as the symbolic heart of Islam) - the Kaaba
  • Kaaba
    • Arabic for "cube"
    • Muhammad associated it with Abraham & Ishmael (common ancestors to Jews & Arabs)
  • 632 - Muhammad died in Medina

  • The essential meaning of Islam = acceptance of Allah's will
  • believers of Islam are called Muslims
  • the Koran (Q'aran) - the book Muslims use as a guide
    • collection Muhammad's revelations
    • codified by Uthman (r. 644-656)
    • Koran means "recitations" (archangel Gabrial told Muhammad to "recite in the name of Allah")
    • contains 114 surahs (chapters), which are comprised of verses

The Five Pillars of Islam
5 pillars_walker.PNG
  1. no god but Allah (Muhammed is messenger)
  2. pray 3 or 5 times daily (facing /bowed to Mecca)
  3. give alms to poor
  4. fast during month of Ramadan
  5. and, once in lifetime (if at all possible) make pilgrimage to Mecca

The Five Pillars of Islam - video link
  • Reward is paradise, especially if dying in holy war (jihad).
  • believers of Islam are called Muslims

*MONDAY - 11/04.....

Great Mosque (Damascus, Syria)

In 661, the Umayyads transferred their capital from Mecca to what new location?

Explain what Abd al-Malik's son, caliph al-Walid, purchased for the purposes securing a site for Islamic worship. What did the Umayyads do with the existing structure? Explain the history of this existing structure (essentially - was there an even older building previously located on this site?) and explain how the Umayyads appropriated what they found to meet their present needs (what was saved / demolished?).

Create a list of the architectural elements found in the Islamic mosque which are modifications of preexisting Roman structures.

This is a "hypostyle mosque" -- a type important, due to the fact that is best resembles what?

Mosaic Detail - Great Mosque (Damascus, Syria)


The mosaic detail, found within the interior of the Great Mosque, most likely represents the handiwork from what culture? The pictorial space of these mosaics, however, are devoid of what motifs?

Umayyad Palace, Mshatta**
Jordan - ca. 740-750
  • Jordanian desert
  • Plan - resembles Diocletian's Palace in Split (which, in turn, resembles a Roman fortified camp)

Describe the architectural elements of this Palace which serve a protective role.

Although this rural structure's condition is fragmented (at best), what have archeologists discovered in the ruins that tell us about the lasting influence that may have come from the Roman Empire?

Frieze of the Umayyad Palace, Mshatta
Jordan - ca. 740-750

Describe the manner in which the 16 foot tall stone frieze is decorated (technique, material, shapes present, compositional arrangement, terminology, motifs).

What might be the cultural influences behind the treatment of this wall?

What is decidedly unique, with respect to the manner in which the Islamic artists handled the treatment of the wall facade existing to the right of the portal (the part corresponding to the mosque's qibla wall?

The Abbasids & Baghdad -- the hub of Arab power

In 750, which incoming group overthrew the Umayyad caliphs?

They relocated the new capital to Baghdad, calling it Madina al-salam. What does this translate to?

In what year was the city laid out? How large was the capital and in what shape was it formed? What might be implied by this shape?

For how long, beyond this point, did Baghdad serve as the hub of Arab power?

Describe where the caliph's palace was located in this space and the manner in which it was oriented.

How would you describe the relationship maintained between the Abbasid caliphs and the neighboring leaders throughout the world? Explain.

Describe the relationship between the Abbasid caliphs and the artists during this time.

Great Mosque (Kairouan, Tunisia)
ca. 836-875

How large is the overall structure?

How many columned aisles flank the left side of the nave? the right side of the nave? What does this imply about the function of this space?

In your notes, make a drawing of the mosque, labeling it with the following features:
  • arcaded forecourt
  • hypostyle prayer hall
  • series of lateral entrances
  • entrance dome
  • qibla
  • qibla wall
  • forecourt
  • mihrab
  • mirhab dome
  • minaret

Explain the manner in which the qibla wall (pron. KEY-blah) is oriented within a mosque structure.

Why do carpets play an important role in Islamic art and life?

Where would you find a mirhab? Explain the function of a mirhab. Describe a typical mirhab's form (aesthetic appearance).

If you were to spend an entire day observing the interior space of a hypostyle prayer hall, describe what you might see.

What is the function of a minaret? How many times might a minaret be used throughout a given day?

Malwiya Minaret
Samarra, Iraq - 848-852

Scholars think this minaret is a near copy of what?

Why is this particular minaret notable / unique from any others?

The term "malwiya" is an Arabic word which translates to what English word?

Although it now stands alone, how did this structure once relate to the surrounding space?

What material has been used to construct this minaret?

What is the distinguishing feature found in this minaret?

This structure was once mistaken for what Mesopotamian structure? What bearing did this have on some European artist's depictions of the Tower of Babel? Explain.

What was the function of this particular minaret?

Great Mosque - prayer hall
Corduba, Spain
8th-10th centuries


Explain the situation in the Western end of Europe -- between the Christian kingdom of the Visigoths in 711 and Arabs.

Who was Abd al Rahman I and why did he flee to Spain in the year 750?

What did Rahman I do, after establishing himself in Spain?

Where was the capital of the newly established Umayyad dynasty?

What role did it play, with respect to the civilization of the Christian West?

Explain the reasoning behind the unique system of double-tiered arches that exist in the mosque's prayer hall.

How would you describe the shape / style of these arches. What does the visual treatment do to contribute to the overall "light and airy" feeling of the mosque's interior?

  • APAH Islamic Art - video link
    Published on Oct 23, 2012; Adapted from Gardner's Art through the Ages
    Voiceover and editing by Dawn Hamby (for AP Art History); (c) 2012 Orange Lutheran High School

  • The Ilkhanid Mihrab, 1354-55, Isfahan, Iran (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) - video link
    Smarthistory (Art History at the Khan Academy)