The study of the Early Islamic World refers to the study of the Islamic Empire in the years before the modern era. (The modern era began around the 1500s.) The Islamic Empire was one of the largest in the world at its time, and covered a huge amount of territory.
Because of this, the daily lives of its people differed greatly depending on which part of the Empire they lived in; however, there were some common traits between Islamic territories, particularly in the case of their religion and government.
Technically, the Islamic Empire was not an empire but a “caliphate,” and was therefore ruled by a single leader called a “caliph.” In Islamic tradition, a “caliphate” is a region controlled by an Islamic state and government, with laws taken from (and based on) the teachings of the holy Quran.
The “caliph” and his government (or “caliphate”) ruled over the region in much the same way a medieval king and his advisors would. While the caliphs held supreme authority, they sought advice from their governments in most matters, and were generally run as oligarchies (systems of government in which more than one person holds all the power.)
The life of a peasant was controlled mostly by two things; religion and work. Peasants worked for their caliph and their families, and had very little time for themselves.
The most common jobs in the Islamic Empire were those of farmers, traders, merchants, sailors and craftsmen, who all benefitted greatly from the booming economy of the Islamic world at the time.
Peasants were given an education in the Islamic Empire, though typically only boys were fully taught. Boys would learn to read, write and do mathematics before leaving school.
Because most marriages were carried out around the age of 13, and boys would start to work shortly afterward, there was no time for further education.
Religion was a very important part of daily life in the Early Islamic World. The foundation of the Empire itself was built on the backbone of Islam.
The religion of Islam began during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, but it was only after his death that it became popular. The Islamic Caliphates used it to control and unify its people.
Because of Salat, one of the five Pillars of Islam, (five practices all Muslims had to carry out in order to live good lives) the day-to-day life of a Muslim was centered around their prayer times.
According to Salat, Muslims had to perform ritual prayer five times a day at specific hours.
This shaped the working times of the Islamic Empire, which had to be paused to allow for Salat to be performed, and meant that it was rare for more than a few hours to pass without some form of worship.
As well as this, Muslims attended the mosque – an Islamic place of worship – in their downtime or as often as they could.
However, daily life was most impacted by religion during the month of Ramadan. This was a 30-day period of fasting where no food could be eaten between sunrise and sunset. T
his month of fasting was followed as a show of devotion to Allah, the sole god of the Islamic faith, and is still followed by Muslims today.
The kind of homes people lived in depended greatly on their wealth. The very poor lived in houses made of mud or rough brick – structures that were little more than shelters from the wind, and weren’t very warm or comfortable.
The richer Muslims lived in grand houses fit for a whole family, with decorated walls and floors, multiple bedrooms, and an indoor courtyard for both air conditioning and as a symbol of status.
The kinds of stone used were like those found in the Roman Empire’s architecture, such as sandstone, limestone, and marble.
However, some people were nomads, and did not have proper homes at all. The nomads of the Early Islamic World travelled from place to place all the time, usually following a specific kind of animal or crop, and rarely settled in one place. At night, they either slept uncovered, or in small tents stitched from leather and animal hide.
– The caliph.
– Being a farmer, being a trader, being a merchant, being a sailor, being a craftsman.
– Education ended at this age because it was when most people got married.
– A mosque.