1 - Birth of Islam


Islam: One of today's global religions and the third monotheistic religion, revealed after Judaism and Christianity and accepting them both. Brought by the Prophet Muhammad (570-632) in Arabia, it soon spread all over the southern and eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and south, east, and central Asia. In Arabic, the word Islam literally means,"to surrender, to submit" (to the will of God), which is the essence of the religion.

Mecca: Birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and a major trading center in Arabia that linked Byzantine Syria in the north with Yemen in the south. The tribe of Qureish lived in Mecca and was divided into 40 clans of varying wealth and status.

Qibla: The direction of Mecca toward which Muslims are required to face when they perform their prayer.

The Architectural Repertoire available to the Early Muslims:

Mecca: The cult and trade center.

The palaces of Yemen: Signs of a sophisticated agrarian culture.

North Arabian cities (Mada`in Salih): Trade cities that connected north and south.

Petra: the Nabatean capital carved in the rock with hybrid Hellenistic sensitivities

Palmyra: A caravan city turned imperial center with heavy Roman influences.

Rusafa (Sergiopolis): Capital of the Ghassanids, clients of Constantinople.

The Iwan Kisra at Ctesiphon: The seat of Sassanian kings, the other superpower.

Bostra: a Syrian-Roman city and another capital of the Ghassanids; the illustration of urban splendor in the eyes of the Prophet Muhammad.


The Ka'ba in Mecca



Mada`in Salih





Iwan Kisra at Ctesiphon

Bostra (Bosra)



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