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Developments in Dar al-Islam from 1200 to 1450 for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

9 min read

Mar 30




map showing spread of Islam

The developments in Dar al-Islam from 1200 to 1450 represented an important part of the Golden Age of Islam.  Spanning from the Iberian Peninsula in the West to the Indian subcontinent in the East, this period was characterized by significant expansion, intellectual flourishing, and cultural synthesis within the realms of Islam. We will explore the dynamic political landscapes marked by the rise and fall of powerful caliphates and sultanates, delve into the golden age of Islamic scholarship and science, and uncover the architectural and artistic achievements that continue to dazzle the world. This era also saw the spread of Islam through trade, conquest, and diplomacy, weaving a complex tapestry of interconnected societies and cultures. Join us as we navigate through the historical milestones and legacies that defined Dar al-Islam during these centuries, shedding light on its role in shaping the global medieval world. Read the Google Slides to learn about developments in East Asia from 1200 to 1450 for AP World History.

Illustrative Examples

Seljuk Empire

Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt

Delhi sultanates

Advances in mathematics by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi

Advances in literature (‘A’ishah al-Ba’uniyyah)

Advances in Medicine

Preservation and Commentaries on Greek Moral and Natural Philosophy

House of Wisdom in Abbasid Bagdad

Scholarly and Cultural Transfers in Muslim and Christian Spain


Islam, one of the world’s major monotheistic religions, traces its origins to the Arabian Peninsula in the early 7th century CE. It began with the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad, who was born in the city of Mecca around 570 CE. According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad received his first revelation from the angel Gabriel in 610 CE while meditating in a cave on Mount Hira. Over the next 23 years, Muhammad continued to receive divine revelations, which were eventually compiled into the holy book of Islam, the Quran. Muhammad’s message emphasized the oneness of God (Allah), moral conduct, social justice, and the accountability of individuals in the afterlife.

Initially met with resistance in Mecca, Muhammad and his followers faced persecution from the ruling Quraysh tribe. In 622 CE, Muhammad and his followers migrated to the city of Medina, where they found support and were able to establish a thriving Muslim community. This event marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered a turning point in Islamic history.

In Medina, Muhammad not only acted as a religious leader but also as a political and military leader, uniting the various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula under the banner of Islam. Through a series of military campaigns, known as the “Ridda Wars” and later the “Conquests of Islam,” Muhammad and his successors expanded the territory under Muslim rule, spreading Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Muhammad’s death in 632 CE marked the end of his prophetic mission, but Islam continued to spread rapidly under the leadership of his companions, known as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” Within decades of Muhammad’s death, Islamic armies had conquered vast territories, including the Byzantine and Sassanian Empires, establishing one of the largest empires in history and spreading the message of Islam to diverse regions and peoples.

Dar al-Islam

The term “Dar al-Islam” refers to the regions of the world where Islam is the dominant religion and where Islamic law, or Sharia, is upheld. It includes various territories across Asia, Africa, and Europe that have significant Muslim populations and cultural influence. The parts of Dar al-Islam historically include:

The Arabian Peninsula: The birthplace of Islam, including present-day Saudi Arabia, where the cities of Mecca and Medina are located.

North Africa: Regions such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which were early centers of Islamic civilization and saw the spread of Islam during the Arab conquests.

The Middle East: Including countries like Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, where Islam played a crucial role in shaping the region’s culture, history, and politics.

Central Asia: Countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which were historically part of Islamic empires such as the Abbasid and Timurid Empires.

South Asia: Regions including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of India, where Islam spread through trade, conquest, and missionary activities, leading to the formation of significant Muslim communities.

Southeast Asia: Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, where Islam arrived through trade and interactions with Muslim traders and missionaries.

West Africa: Areas such as Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, and Ghana, which experienced the spread of Islam through trade routes across the Sahara Desert and later through Islamic empires like the Mali Empire and the Sokoto Caliphate.

Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: Regions like Turkey, Azerbaijan, and parts of the Balkans, which have significant Muslim populations due to historical Islamic rule and conversions.

The Umayyad Dynasty

The Umayyad Dynasty, ruling from 661 to 750 CE, marked a significant period in Islamic history, characterized by territorial expansion, cultural flourishing, and the establishment of a centralized Islamic state. Founded by Muawiyah I, the Umayyads shifted the capital of the Islamic Caliphate to Damascus, consolidating their power base. Under their rule, Islam expanded rapidly, encompassing territories from Spain in the west to Central Asia in the east. The Umayyads presided over a diverse empire, fostering cultural exchange and architectural achievements such as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

However, their rule faced internal opposition, particularly from supporters of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, leading to the split between the Sunni and Shia sects. The Umayyad Dynasty came to an end in 750 CE when the Abbasid Revolution, led by the Abbasid family, overthrew the Umayyads. The Abbasids seized power and established the Abbasid Caliphate, moving the capital to Baghdad and ushering in a new era of Islamic rule. The remaining members of the Umayyad family fled to Spain, where they established the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba, maintaining their rule in the region for centuries.

The Abbasid Dynasty

The Abbasid Dynasty, which reigned from 750 to 1258 CE, represents a golden age of Islamic civilization characterized by cultural, scientific, and economic achievements. Founded by Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyad Dynasty and established their capital in Baghdad, marking a shift in the center of Islamic power. Under the Abbasid Caliphate, Islamic civilization flourished, with advancements in fields such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, and literature. The Abbasids presided over a vast empire that stretched from Spain in the west to Central Asia in the east, fostering trade and cultural exchange along the Silk Road and the Mediterranean Sea. However, internal strife, provincial revolts, and external invasions, notably by the Seljuk Turks and later the Mongols, weakened the Abbasid Empire. The Abbasid Dynasty came to an end in 1258 CE when the Mongol Empire, under the leadership of Hulagu Khan, sacked Baghdad, leading to the destruction of the Abbasid capital and the massacre of its inhabitants. The Mongol Ilkhanate became the ruling power in the area. Although remnants of the Abbasid line persisted in Cairo, Egypt, under the Mamluk Sultanate, the Abbasid Caliphate never regained its former glory, marking the end of one of the most illustrious dynasties in Islamic history.

The Ilkhanate

The Ilkhanate was a significant Mongol khanate that emerged in the 13th century, encompassing much of Persia, Anatolia, and the Caucasus region. Established by Hulegu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, the Ilkhanate became one of the four principal khanates of the Mongol Empire after the death of its founder in 1265 CE. Under Hulagu Khan and his successors, the Ilkhanate became a major political and cultural force in the Islamic world, exerting control over vast territories and presiding over a diverse population of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups.

The Ilkhanate implemented administrative and economic reforms, borrowing from Persian and Islamic traditions while maintaining Mongol customs and practices. Hulagu Khan’s conquests brought about the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad in 1258 CE, marking a significant turning point in Islamic history. The Ilkhans ruled from their capital in Tabriz, promoting trade, commerce, and cultural exchange along the Silk Road and fostering the development of Persian literature, art, and architecture.

Despite their initial successes, the Ilkhanate faced challenges from within and without. Succession disputes, conflicts with neighboring states, and internal rebellions weakened the Ilkhanate’s central authority over time. Additionally, the arrival of the Black Death in the mid-14th century further destabilized the region, leading to economic decline and social upheaval.

By the late 14th century, the Ilkhanate had fragmented into smaller states and principalities, with power shifting to local rulers and dynasties. The last Ilkhan, Abu Sa’id Bahadur Khan, died in 1335 CE, marking the official end of the Ilkhanate. In its wake, various successor states emerged, including the Jalayirids, the Muzaffarids, and the Timurid Empire, each vying for control over the former Ilkhanate territories and contributing to the region’s complex political landscape.

The Turks

The conversion of the Turks to Islam occurred over several centuries through a combination of conquest, trade, and cultural interaction. Initially, the Turks were predominantly followers of various pagan and shamanistic belief systems. However, their encounter with Islam began with the expansion of the Arab Muslim empire in the 7th and 8th centuries.

As the Arabs expanded their territory into Central Asia and Anatolia, they came into contact with Turkic tribes. Through trade and diplomatic exchanges, some Turks were exposed to Islamic teachings and gradually converted to Islam. Moreover, the appeal of Islam’s monotheistic beliefs, ethical principles, and organized social structures attracted many Turks, particularly among the elite and ruling classes.

Military conquest also played a significant role in the spread of Islam among the Turks. As the Arab and, later, the Persian Muslim empires expanded into Central Asia, they brought Islam with them and often imposed it on conquered territories. Over time, many Turkic tribes adopted Islam as they came under the rule of Muslim empires, such as the Abbasid Caliphate and the Seljuk Sultanate.

Additionally, Sufi missionaries played a crucial role in spreading Islam among the Turks. Sufism, with its emphasis on spirituality, mysticism, and personal devotion, appealed to many Turks and served as a vehicle for the spread of Islam in both urban and rural areas.

By the 10th century, Islam had become firmly established among the Turkic peoples, and it continued to be a defining aspect of their identity as they formed their own empires and dynasties, such as the Seljuks, the Ottomans, and the Mughals. These Turkic Muslim empires played a central role in the expansion and consolidation of Islam across vast regions of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The Spread of Islam

The spread of Islam, one of the world’s major religions, occurred over several centuries and across diverse regions, driven by a combination of factors including trade, conquest, missionary activity, and cultural exchange. Islam originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century CE with the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad. Initially, Islam spread rapidly within Arabia through Muhammad’s preaching and the support of his followers. Following Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, Islam continued to expand under the leadership of his successors, known as the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphs, who oversaw the conquest of neighboring territories.

Arab Muslim armies, fueled by religious zeal and seeking to spread the message of Islam, conquered vast territories across the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe and Asia. These conquests facilitated the rapid expansion of Islam, as conquered peoples were often encouraged or compelled to convert to Islam. Additionally, the establishment of Muslim empires, such as the Abbasid Caliphate, provided political stability and fostered trade, cultural exchange, and the spread of Islamic civilization.

Trade played a crucial role in the dissemination of Islam beyond the Arab world. Muslim traders and merchants traveled along established trade routes, such as the Silk Road and the maritime routes of the Indian Ocean, spreading Islamic teachings and establishing Muslim communities in diverse regions. Furthermore, Sufi missionaries, with their emphasis on spiritual devotion and mysticism, played a significant role in spreading Islam among non-Muslim populations, particularly in Central Asia, South Asia, and West Africa.

Over time, Islam became firmly entrenched in regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, where it coexisted and interacted with existing religious and cultural traditions. Today, Islam is practiced by over a billion people worldwide, making it one of the fastest-growing religions in the world and a major cultural and religious force with a profound impact on global history and civilization.

Islamic Intellectual Advancements

The Islamic world witnessed a remarkable flourishing of intellectual advancements across various fields, including philosophy, science, mathematics, medicine, and literature, that laid the foundation for the European Renaissance. Islamic scholars preserved and built upon the knowledge of ancient civilizations, translating Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese texts into Arabic and contributing new insights and innovations.

In mathematics, scholars like Al-Khwarizmi made significant strides in algebra, introducing systematic methods for solving linear and quadratic equations. Al-Khwarizmi’s work “Al-Kitab al-Mukhtasar fi Hisab al-Jabr wal-Muqabala” (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) laid the groundwork for algebraic notation and algorithmic methods. Additionally, mathematicians such as Omar Khayyam contributed to the development of algebraic geometry and proposed solutions to cubic equations.

In astronomy, Islamic astronomers made substantial contributions to observational astronomy, trigonometry, and celestial mechanics. Notable figures like Al-Battani refined existing astronomical theories and made precise observations of celestial phenomena. Meanwhile, scholars like Al-Biruni conducted pioneering research in geodesy, measuring the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy.

In medicine, Islamic physicians made significant advancements in pharmacology, anatomy, and medical theory. Ibn Sina’s seminal work “The Canon of Medicine” synthesized medical knowledge from ancient Greece, Persia, and India, becoming a standard medical textbook in Europe for centuries. Ibn al-Nafis challenged prevailing theories of blood circulation, proposing the concept of pulmonary circulation centuries before its rediscovery in the West.

In optics, Islamic scientists like Ibn al-Haytham revolutionized the study of light and vision, laying the foundations of modern optics. Ibn al-Haytham’s work “Kitab al-Manazir” (Book of Optics) presented a systematic approach to the study of light and vision, introducing concepts such as reflection, refraction, and the camera obscura.

In literature, Islamic poets and writers produced timeless works of poetry, philosophy, and historiography. Figures such as Rumi, Omar Khayyam, and Ibn Khaldun contributed to the development of Sufi poetry, philosophical discourse, and historical writing, respectively, leaving a lasting impact on world literature.

Would you rather watch a video on developments in Dar al-Islam from 1200 to 1450?

Developments in Dar al-Islam from 1200 to 1450


Abbasid Caliphate.” Britannica, 26 Mar. 2024, Accessed 28 Mar. 2024.

Cartwright, Mark. “Ilkhanate.” World History Encyclopedia, 6 Nov. 2019, Accessed 28 Mar. 2024.

Sherry, Bennett. “Dar Al-Islam 1200 to 1450.” Khan Academy, Accessed 28 Mar. 2024.

#Abbasid #APWorldHistory #Ilkhanate #Turks

Cate O'Donnell

9 min read

Mar 30




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