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The Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights

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The Arabian Nights

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  1. The Arabian Nights

  2. Brief History of Medieval Islam • 2000 BCE: Semitic people migrate from Mesopotamia to Arabian Peninsula • 400-300 BCE: Records of Arabs trading with the Greeks and later the Romans • 610-620 AD: Muhammad founds Islam after hearing the angel Gabriel • 800 AD: Abbasid caliphs rule all of Western Asia and much of the southern Mediterranean from their city of Baghdad (setting for The Arabian Nights stories) • 1453 AD: Beginning of the Ottoman Empire (date of earliest surviving manuscript of The Arabian Nights)

  3. Dome of the Rock, First Masterpiece of Islamic Architecture, Jerusalem, 692 AD

  4. Major Islamic Beliefs 650-1500 • Belief in one God, Allah • Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are all holy men, prophets

  5. Five Pillars of Wisdom • God is the one God; there are no others • Pray directly to God five times a day, facing toward the holy place of Mecca (the Salat) • Give charity to the needy (Zakat, the poor’s dues) • Fast during Ramadan, the holy month, from dawn to sunset; celebrate during Eid, when you must forgive other people and especially remember the poor • Perform the Haj once in your lifetime

  6. Other Major Beliefs • Islam means “submission in peace” • Its tenets are revealed in • Scriptures revealed before Muhammad's birth • The Koran (Qur’an) • The prophets are the messengers of God • Life on earth is short, but heaven and hell are of infinite duration • Everything that happens on earth is controlled or destined by God; all events are part of his plan and man must submit

  7. Islam’s Achievements • Extended rights to all individuals, even women and children • Discouraged slavery • Made state responsible for the needs of all its citizens • Encouraged the acquisition and propagation of knowledge • Science • Medicine • Astronomy • Mathematics • Books became readily available through mass production of paper: literacy rose

  8. “For five centuries after Muhammad, the Muslims dominated the world both culturally and militarily as completely as Europe and America have done for the last two hundred and fifty years.” --Sir John Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad

  9. The Arabian Nights • Compiled during the height of the Abbasid Golden Age (750-1258) • Ruled from Baghdad • Absolute monarchy • Highly centralized bureaucracy • Established the office of vizier as chief officer of the bureaucracy • Stories come from Persia, Arabia, India, and China • They reflect the Islamic World from Spain, across North Africa to Cairo, across the Arabian peninsula, up to Damascus and Baghdad, north to Samarkand, across Afghanistan, down to India, and beyond

  10. Harun al-Rashid • The fifth Abbasid Caliph, some of whose exploits are detailed in The Arabian Nights • His vizier was Jafar, who accompanies him in the tales • Harun’s palace was the most elaborate ever built for a caliph and his forays among his subjects to check on their wellbeing led to his becoming a literary character after his death

  11. Themes and Ideas in the Arabian Nights • Stories and Storytelling • Islam as a central belief system • Race, Class and Gender negotiations • Kings and their power • Forgiveness vs. Revenge • Destiny vs. Free Will • How does a person live a good life? • What is the nature of justice?