The term Muslim world (or Islamic world) has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Muslims, adherents of Islam. This community numbers about 1.3-1.5 billion people, roughly one-fifth of the world population. This community is spread across many different nations and ethnic groups connected only by religion. In a historical or geopolitical sense the term usually refers collectively to Muslim majority countries or countries in which Islam dominates politically.
The worldwide Muslim community is also known collectively as the ummah. Islam emphasizes unity and defense of fellow Muslims, although many divisions of Islam (see the Sunni-Shia relations) exist. In the past both Pan-Islamism and nationalist currents have influenced the status of the Muslim world.
The term "Islamic art and architecture" denotes the works of art and architecture produced from the 7th century onwards by people who lived within the territory that was inhabited by culturally Islamic populations.
No Islamic visual images or depictions of God are meant to exist because such artistic depictions may lead to idolatry. Moreover, Muslims believe that God is incorporeal, making any two- or three- dimensional depictions impossible. Instead, Muslims describe God by the names and attributes that he revealed to his creation. All but one sura of the Qur'an begins with the phrase "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful". Images of Mohammed are likewise prohibited. Such aniconism and iconoclasm can also be found in Jewish and some Christian theology.
Islamic art frequently adopts the use of geometrical floral or vegetal designs in a repetition known as arabesque. Such designs are highly nonrepresentational, as Islam forbids representational depictions as found in pre-Islamic pagan religions. Despite this, there is a presence of depictional art in some Muslim societies, although this is not widespread. Another reason why Islamic art is usually abstract is to symbolize the transcendence, indivisible and infinite nature of God, an objective achieved by arabesque. Arabic calligraphy is an omnipresent decoration in Islamic art, and is usually expressed in the form of Qur'anic verses. Two of the main scripts involved are the symbolic kufic and naskh scripts, which can be found adorning the walls and domes of mosques, the sides of minbars, and so on.
Distinguishing motifs of Islamic architecture have always been ordered repetition, radiating structures, and rhythmic, metric patterns. In this respect, fractal geometry has been a key utility, especially for mosques and palaces. Other significant features employed as motifs include columns, piers and arches, organized and interwoven with alternating sequences of niches and colonnettes. The role of domes in Islamic architecture has been considerable. Its usage spans centuries, first appearing in 691 with the construction of the Dome of the Rock mosque, and recurring even up until the 17th century with the Taj Mahal. And as late as the 19th century, Islamic domes had been incorporated into Western architecture.
From between the eighth and eighteenth centuries, the use of glazed ceramics was prevalent in Islamic art, usually assuming the form of elaborate pottery. Tin-opacified glazing was one of the earliest new technologies developed by the Islamic potters. The first Islamic opaque glazes can be found as blue-painted ware in Basra, dating to around the 8th century. Another significant contribution was the development of stonepaste ceramics, originating from 9th century Iraq. Other centers for innovative ceramic pottery in the Islamic world included Fustat (from 975 to 1075), Damascus (from 1100 to around 1600) and Tabriz (from 1470 to 1550).
Perhaps the most important expression of Islamic art is architecture, particularly that of the mosque. Through it the effect of varying cultures within Islamic civilization can be illustrated. The North African and Spanish Islamic architecture, for example, has Roman-Byzantine elements, as seen in the Alhambra palace at Granada, or in the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Persian-style mosques are characterized by their tapered brick pillars, large arcades, and arches supported each by several pillars. In South Asia, elements of Hindu architecture were employed, but were later superseded by Persian designs. The most numerous and largest of mosques exist in Turkey, which obtained influence from Byzantine, Persian and Syrian designs, although Turkish architects managed to implement their own style of cupola domes.
The most well known fiction from the Islamic world was The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), which was a compilation of many earlier folk tales. The epic took form in the 10th century and reached its final form by the 14th century; the number and type of tales have varied from one manuscript to another. All Arabian fantasy tales were often called "Arabian Nights" when translated into English, regardless of whether they appeared in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. This epic has been influential in the West since it was translated in the 18th century, first by Antoine Galland. Many imitations were written, especially in France. Various characters from this epic have themselves become cultural icons in Western culture, such as Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba.
A famous example of Arabic poetry and Persian poetry on romance (love) is Layla and Majnun, dating back to the Umayyad era in the 7th century. It is a tragic story of undying love much like the later Romeo and Juliet, which was itself said to have been inspired by a Latin version of Layli and Majnun to an extent. Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran, is a mythical and heroic retelling of Persian history. Amir Arsalan was also a popular mythical Persian story, which has influenced some modern works of fantasy fiction, such as The Heroic Legend of Arslan.
Ibn Tufail (Abubacer) and Ibn al-Nafis were pioneers of the philosophical novel. Ibn Tufail wrote the first fictional Arabic novel Hayy ibn Yaqdhan (Philosophus Autodidactus) as a response to al-Ghazali's The Incoherence of the Philosophers, and then Ibn al-Nafis also wrote a fictional novel Theologus Autodidactus as a response to Ibn Tufail's Philosophus Autodidactus. Both of these narratives had protagonists (Hayy in Philosophus Autodidactus and Kamil in Theologus Autodidactus) who were autodidactic feral children living in seclusion on a desert island, both being the earliest examples of a desert island story. However, while Hayy lives alone with animals on the desert island for the rest of the story in Philosophus Autodidactus, the story of Kamil extends beyond the desert island setting in Theologus Autodidactus, developing into the earliest known coming of age plot and eventually becoming the first example of a science fiction novel.
Theologus Autodidactus, written by the Arabian polymath Ibn al-Nafis (1213–1288), is the first example of a science fiction novel. It deals with various science fiction elements such as spontaneous generation, futurology, the end of the world and doomsday, resurrection, and the afterlife. Rather than giving supernatural or mythological explanations for these events, Ibn al-Nafis attempted to explain these plot elements using the scientific knowledge of biology, astronomy, cosmology and geology known in his time. His main purpose behind this science fiction work was to explain Islamic religious teachings in terms of science and philosophy through the use of fiction.
A Latin translation of Ibn Tufail's work, Philosophus Autodidactus, first appeared in 1671, prepared by Edward Pococke the Younger, followed by an English translation by Simon Ockley in 1708, as well as German and Dutch translations. These translations later inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, regarded as the first novel in English. Philosophus Autodidactus also inspired Robert Boyle to write his own philosophical novel set on an island, The Aspiring Naturalist. The story also anticipated Rousseau's Emile: or, On Education in some ways, and is also similar to Mowgli's story in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book as well as Tarzan's story, in that a baby is abandoned but taken care of and fed by a mother wolf.
Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, considered the greatest epic of Italian literature, derived many features of and episodes about the hereafter directly or indirectly from Arabic works on Islamic eschatology: the Hadith and the Kitab al-Miraj (translated into Latin in 1264 or shortly before as Liber Scale Machometi, "The Book of Muhammad's Ladder") concerning Muhammad's ascension to Heaven, and the spiritual writings of Ibn Arabi. The Moors also had a noticeable influence on the works of George Peele and William Shakespeare. Some of their works featured Moorish characters, such as Peele's The Battle of Alcazar and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus and Othello, which featured a Moorish Othello as its title character. These works are said to have been inspired by several Moorish delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England at the beginning of the 17th century.
One of the common definitions for "Islamic philosophy" is "the style of philosophy produced within the framework of Islamic culture." Islamic philosophy, in this definition is neither necessarily concerned with religious issues, nor is exclusively produced by Muslims. The Persian scholar Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037) had more than 450 books attributed to him. His writings were concerned with many subjects, most notably philosophy and medicine. His medical textbook The Canon of Medicine was used as the standard text in European universities for centuries. His works on Aristotle was a key step in the transmission of learning from ancient Greeks to the Islamic world and the West. He often corrected the philosopher, encouraging a lively debate in the spirit of ijtihad. He also wrote The Book of Healing, an influential scientific and philosophical encyclopedia. His thinking and that of his follower Ibn Rushd (Averroes) was incorporated into Christian philosophy during the Middle Ages, notably by Thomas Aquinas.
One of the most influential Muslim philosophers in the West was Averroes (Ibn Rushd), founder of the Averroism school of philosophy, whose works and commentaries had an impact on the rise of secular thought in Western Europe. He also developed the concept of "existence precedes essence". Avicenna also founded his own Avicennism school of philosophy, which was influential in both Islamic and Christian lands. He was also a critic of Aristotelian logic and founder of Avicennian logic, and he developed the concepts of empiricism and tabula rasa, and distinguished between essence and existence.
Another infuential philosopher who had a significant influence on modern philosophy was Ibn Tufail. His philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, translated into Latin as Philosophus Autodidactus in 1671, developed the themes of empiricism, tabula rasa, nature versus nurture, condition of possibility, materialism, and Molyneux's Problem. European scholars and writers influenced by this novel include John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz, Melchisédech Thévenot, John Wallis, Christiaan Huygens, George Keith, Robert Barclay, the Quakers, and Samuel Hartlib.
Other influential Muslim philosophers include al-Jahiz, a pioneer in evolutionary thought; Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen), a pioneer of phenomenology and the philosophy of science and a critic of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Aristotle's concept of place (topos); Biruni, a critic of Aristotelian natural philosophy; Ibn Tufail and Ibn al-Nafis, pioneers of the philosophical novel; Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, founder of Illuminationist philosophy; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, a critic of Aristotelian logic and a pioneer of inductive logic; and Ibn Khaldun, a pioneer in the philosophy of history and social philosophy.
Muslim scientists made significant advances in the sciences. They placed far greater emphasis on experiment than had the Greeks. This led to an early scientific method being developed in the Muslim world, where significant progress in methodology was made, beginning with the experiments of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) on optics from circa 1000, in his Book of Optics. The most important development of the scientific method was the use of experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories set within a generally empirical orientation, which began among Muslim scientists. Ibn al-Haytham is also regarded as the father of optics, especially for his empirical proof of the intromission theory of light. Some have also described Ibn al-Haytham as the "first scientist" for his development of the modern scientific method.
The mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, from whose name the word algorithm derives, is considered to be the father of algebra (which is named after his book, kitab al-jabr). Recent studies show that it is very likely that the Medieval Muslim artists were aware of advanced decagonal quasicrystal geometry (discovered half a millennium later in 1970s and 1980s in West) and used it in intricate decorative tilework in the architecture. Muslim mathematicians also made several refinements to the Arabic numerals (which originally came from India), such as the introduction of decimal point notation.
Muslim physicians contributed significantly to the field of medicine, including the subjects of anatomy and physiology: such as in the 15th century Persian work by Mansur ibn Muhammad ibn al-Faqih Ilyas entitled Tashrih al-badan (Anatomy of the body) which contained comprehensive diagrams of the body's structural, nervous and circulatory systems; or in the work of the Egyptian physician Ibn al-Nafis, who proposed the theory of pulmonary circulation. Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine remained an authoritative medical textbook in Europe until the 18th century. Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (also known as Abulcasis) contributed to the discipline of medical surgery with his Kitab al-Tasrif ("Book of Concessions"), a medical encyclopedia which was later translated to Latin and used in European and Muslim medical schools for centuries. Other medical advancements came in the fields of pharmacology and pharmacy.
In astronomy, al-Battani improved the precision of the measurement of the precession of the earth's axis. The corrections made to the geocentric model by al-Battani, Averroes, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi and Ibn al-Shatir were later incorporated into the Copernican heliocentric model. Heliocentric theories were also discussed by several other Muslim astronomers such as Abu-Rayhan Biruni, Al-Sijzi, Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, and 'Umar al-Katibi al-Qazwini. The astrolabe, though originally developed by the Greeks, was perfected by Islamic astronomers and engineers, and was subsequently brought to Europe.
Muslim chemists and alchemists played an important role in the foundation of modern chemistry. Scholars such as Will Durant and Alexander von Humboldt regard Muslim chemists to be the founders of chemistry. In particular, Geber is regarded as the "father of chemistry". The works of Arab chemists influenced Roger Bacon (who introduced the empirical method to Europe, strongly influenced by his reading of Arabic writers), and later Isaac Newton. A number of chemical processes (particularly in alchemy) and distillation techniques (such as the production of alcohol) were developed in the Muslim world and then spread to Europe.
Some of the most famous scientists from the Islamic world include Geber (polymath, father of chemistry), al-Farabi (polymath), Abu al-Qasim (father of modern surgery), Ibn al-Haytham (universal genius, father of optics, founder of psychophysics and experimental psychology, pioneer of scientific method, "first scientist"), Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (universal genius, father of Indology and geodesy, "first anthropologist"), Avicenna (universal genius, father of momentum and modern medicine), Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī (polymath), and Ibn Khaldun (father of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and the social sciences), among many others.
In technology, the Muslim world adopted papermaking from China and further advanced the technology with their invention of papermills many centuries before paper was known in the West. The knowledge of gunpowder was also transmitted from China via Islamic countries, where the formulas for pure potassium nitrate and an explosive gunpowder effect were first developed.
Advances were made in irrigation and farming, using new technology such as the windmill. Crops such as almonds and citrus fruit were brought to Europe through al-Andalus, and sugar cultivation was gradually adopted by the Europeans. Arab merchants dominated trade in the Indian Ocean until the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. Hormuz was an important center for this trade. There was also a dense network of trade routes in the Mediterranean, along which Muslim countries traded with each other and with European powers such as Venice, Genoa and Catalonia. The Silk Road crossing Central Asia passed through Muslim states between China and Europe.
Muslim engineers in the Islamic world made a number of innovative industrial uses of hydropower, and early industrial uses of tidal power, wind power, steam power, fossil fuels such as petroleum, and early large factory complexes (tiraz in Arabic). The industrial uses of watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use since at least the 9th century. A variety of industrial mills were being employed in the Islamic world, including early fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, shipmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, tide mills and windmills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia. Muslim engineers also invented crankshafts and water turbines, employed gears in mills and water-raising machines, and pioneered the use of dams as a source of water power, used to provide additional power to watermills and water-raising machines. Such advances made it possible for many industrial tasks that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be mechanized and driven by machinery instead in the medieval Islamic world. The transfer of these technologies to medieval Europe had an influence on the Industrial Revolution.
A number of industries were generated due to the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, including early industries for agribusiness, astronomical instruments, ceramics, chemicals, distillation technologies, clocks, glass, mechanical hydropowered and wind powered machinery, matting, mosaics, pulp and paper, perfumery, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, rope-making, shipping, shipbuilding, silk, sugar, textiles, water, weapons, and the mining of minerals such as sulfur, ammonia, lead and iron. Early large factory complexes (tiraz) were built for many of these industries, and knowledge of these industries were later transmitted to medieval Europe, especially during the Latin translations of the 12th century, as well as before and after. For example, the first glass factories in Europe were founded in the 11th century by Egyptian craftsmen in Greece. The agricultural and handicraft industries also experienced high levels of growth during this period.
As of 2006, the Arab World accounts for two-fifth of the gross domestic product and three-fifth of the trade of the wider Muslim World. It should be noted that oil industry and related services account for almost two-fifth of the gross domestic product of the Muslim world.
The countries of Southwest Asia, and many in Northern and Northeastern Africa are considered part of the Greater Middle East.
Some definitions would also include the sizable Muslim minorities in:
A politically motivated oil embargo in 1974 (to support Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel after the US re-equipped Israel with armaments) had drastic economic and political consequences in the United States and Europe. Recently Danish products faced a boycott by Muslim world after the 2005 Prophet Muhammad cartoons controversy, although that move was not supported by the Muslim governments, it demonstrates the power of the Muslim World acting in concert, and the key role of religion and ethnicity in the politics of oil regions, with which the Muslim world intersects.
Islamic law does not distinguish between "matters of church" and "matters of state"; the ulema function as both jurists and theologians. In practice, Islamic rulers frequently bypassed the Sharia courts with a parallel system of so-called "Grievance courts" over which they had sole control. As the Muslim world came into contact with Western secular ideals, Muslim societies responded in different ways. Turkey has been governed as a secular state ever since the reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In contrast, the 1979 Iranian Revolution replaced a mostly secular regime with an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.
Many Muslim countries still have a strong belief in the religion of Islam, many have used Sharia law in the state where the law runs from the interpretations from the Quran and the Hadith in the society of politics, law, schools and others. Most countries in the Muslim world according to their constitution declare Islam as the state religion or Sharia law, but a very few who are Secular states compared with the western world.
In some nations, Muslim ethnic groups enjoy considerable autonomy.
In some places, Muslims implement a form of Islamic law, called shariah in Arabic. The Islamic law exists in many variations, but the main forms are the five (four Sunni and one Shia) schools of jurisprudence (fiqh):
All five are centuries old and many Muslim feel a new fiqh must be created for modern society. Islam has a method for doing this, al-urf and ijtihad are the words to describe this method, but they have not been used in a long time by Sunni Muslims, and few people are trusted enough to use them to make new laws. The Shi'i Jaferi school of fiqh never ended the tradition of ijtihad.
Muslim women often dress extremely modestly, mostly by choice. Thus, in some countries an interpretation of the Islamic law requires women to cover either just legs, shoulders and head or the whole body apart from the face. In strictest forms, the face as well must be covered leaving just a mesh to see through. These rules for dressing are one of the things the cause tension between the Western World and the Muslim, concerning particularly Muslim living in western countries, since many in the Western World consider these restrictions both sexist and oppressive. Most Muslims oppose this charge, and instead declare that the media-fuelled world of the West is itself sexist and oppressive in that women are forced to reveal irrational amounts of flesh to be considered attractive.
Some of these groups are accused of practicing terrorism.
Turkey was the first Muslim-majority state to recognize Israel, just one year after its founding, and they have the long shared close military and economic ties. Prior to the Iranian Revolution, Iran and Israel maintained a strong political friendship, however the current Iranian government is strongly anti-Israeli and has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. Once at war, both Egypt and Jordan have established diplomatic relations and signed peace treaties with Israel, and attempts to resolve the conflict with Palestinians have produced a number of interim agreements. Nine non-Arab Muslim states maintain diplomatic ties with Israel, and since 1994, the Gulf states have lessened their enforcement of the Arab boycott, with Saudi Arabia even declaring its end in 2005, though it has yet to cancel its sanctions. States like Morocco that have large Jewish populations have generally been less hostile relations with Israel.
See also: Gulf War
See also: Nuclear program of Iran
Some of the events pivotal in the Muslim world's relationship with the outside world in the post-Soviet era were:
In Iran in 1979, a popular revolution saw the exile of the Shah and the rule going to Ayatollah Khomeini, a cleric from the Shia school of thought. The country has what it claims is a theocratic democracy, and has kept the "revolution" as part of the state's survival and growth.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world, approximately 85%, are Sunni.
Shias and others (Ibadiyyas, Ahmadis, Druze) make up the rest, about 15% of overall Muslim population. Among the countries with Shi'a majority of Muslim population are Iran (90%), Iraq (65%), Azerbaijan (75%), Bahrain (60%), and Lebanon (35%).