a geographical perspective
 Sacred places
 Origins and diffusion
 Impacts of colonialism
Some flags of Islamic countries
What seem to be the dominant
colors and motifs?
Green was the color of
Muhammad’s robe
 The crescent moon was a symbol of
Constantinople, “borrowed” when it
was conquered in 1453 and
renamed Istanbul
 The five-pointed star represents the
five pillars of Islam
Confession of faith in Allah and no
other god as well as belief in the
finality of the prophethood of
Ritual worship of Allah 5 times a day
Charity and concern for the needy
Avoidance of food, drink and sex
during daylight hours for the month
of Ramadan
Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca once in
one’s life)
Islam means “submission” (to the will of Allah)
Shares many roots with Judaism and Christianity
including stories of Adam, Abraham, Moses,
David, and Jesus
Islam’s sacred places
 mosques
 Mecca
 Medina
 Jerusalem
a mosque in Yemen
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque
a mosque in N.W. China
A sacred place for three
A place of conflict
the way of the cross
Mount of Olives, Jewish
ruins of the city of David
and west wall of the
temple mount (believed
by Jews to be the
remaining wall of
Solomon’s original
temple, also called the
“wailing wall”)
 Dome of the rock (gold)
believed by Muslims to be
where Muhammad
ascended to Heaven and
by Jews to be where
Abraham prepared to
sacrifice Isaac
Pilgrims circumambulate the Ka’ba, a cube encased in silk containing a black
stone (meteorite?) (pre-Islamic sacred place?)
Origins of Islam
Muhammad (570-632)
sought end to feuding between nomadic Bedouins and merchant
dynasties of cities
replaced family-centered social order with a more harmonious
Qur’an: Muslims believe this is the word of Allah (unless translated
from Arabic) revealed to Muhammad, while teachings of previous
prophets (including Jesus) are corruptions of the word of God
dar al-Islam (means “house of submission”) parts of the world under
Islamic control
 dar al-Harb (means “house of war”) parts of the world controlled by nonbelievers/infidels
Under Muhammad the western part of the Arabian
peninsula (incl. Mecca and Medina) were brought under
Under the Caliphs (his successors), Islam expanded
very rapidly across the entire southern half of the Roman
Empire’s territory, as well as areas under control of
Sassanid Empire to the east.
Combination of military conquest and tax policy. Those
who did not surrender to Muslim forces were forced to
pay rent on their land whereas those who surrendered
maintained ownership of their land
Islam Today
“Things are looking better”
Both the Roman Empire and the Sassanid
Empire had losing their grip and had tried to
maintain control by waging war and committing
atrocities on local populations
Both Empires had been extravagant and
The new Islamic rulers brought peace to people
exhausted with conflict and exploitation
The Ottoman Empire (1300-1917)
Note: Core in
Anatolia (Turkey)
area of earliest
hearth of Ottoman
Replacement of
Christianity in its
falls in 1453)
Islamic Influences in Europe
Muslim components of
the population in the
Balkans: Bosnia &
Kosovo, Bulgaria, and
Many Arabic words were
carried into Spanish
e.g. wadi (Arabic for river)
shows up in Guadalajara
The past lives
Belgrade Red Star soccer fans (Serbians) at a game against a Czech team
hold up the date of the Battle of Kosovo between Serbia and the Ottoman
Empire, for reasons of inspiration rather than geography
Carving up the Ottoman Empire
Sykes-Picot Agreement
(or “carving up the spoils”)
British agitated for uprising against the Ottoman Empire, then broke
promise to support local self-rule by fragments of that empire
Secret agreement (1916) between the British and the French
Later expansion of the agreement
Britain would control areas roughly comprising Jordan, Iraq and a small
area around Haifa
France would control southeastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Syria and
France & Great Britain were left free to draw state boundaries within
these areas
International control (then later British control) over the area which later
came to be called “Israel”: predominantly Muslim at the time
Russia: Armenia and parts of “Kurdistan”
Italy: certain Aegean islands and sphere of influence in southwest
Policies formalized in the Treaty of Sevres in 1920
Carving up the spoils
Conflict in Israel
Dark Orange: territory
designated as Jewish
by the UN in 1947
Medium Orange:
territory gained by Israel
in war with Egypt, Syria,
Lebanon, Iraq, and
Transjordan (Jordan) by
Yellow: territory
controlled by Israel
since 1967 (Gaza
largely released from
Israeli control in 2005)
Israel’s territorial gains
seen by Arabs as a
result of European and
American assistance of
Islam corresponds to a culture region
Its global distribution is mainly the result of a rapid 7th century
diffusion out of the Arabian peninsula aided by conquest and tax
policy, then subsequent trading activities up to the 1600s
Ottoman Empire is historically and symbolically important
Heart of the region is in Saudi Arabia (& more generally
on the Arabian peninsula)
Religious roots are the same as Judeo-Christian “world”
Region is internally divided by sect (Sunni vs. Shiah) and
by colonial presence of different countries
The conflicts within the Islamic world have much to do
with European colonialism and continuing external

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