Periodization of Islamicate history

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Key dates in medieval Arab-Islamic history and their relation to Islamicate music:

Remember at least this sequence of Arab-Islamic empires:

  • Muhammad (c. 570 - 632), revelation of Qur'an from 610; emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622
  • al-Khulafa' al-Rashidun (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali): 632 - 661, ruled from Medina
  • Umayyads: 661 - 750, ruled from Damascus
  • Abbasids: 750 - 1258, ruled from Baghdad. Andalusian Umayyads, ruled from Cordoba: 756 - 912.
  • End of Andalusia (Fall of Granada): 1492

  • c. 570 Birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca (genealogy from the Prophet Adam, via Adnan[1])
  • c. 610 Qur'anic revelations begin.
  • 622 Hijra. Prophet transfers to Madina (start of Hijri calendar). First Muslim community. Arab tribes, formerly feuding, begin to unite as they convert to Islam.
  • 632 Death of the Prophet. al-Khulafa' al-Rashidun ("Rightly-guided caliphs") rule from Madina. Conquest of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan. Influences of Islam: (a) catalyzing musical fusions and infusing musical capital; (b) criticizing the life of pleasure with which music is associated; (c) Limiting the public role of women, and rise of the mukhannathun. Royal musical patronage and the "Old Arabian" school, with the rise of "al-ghina' al-mutqan", attributed to Tuways (632-710) and Sa'ib Khathir, featuring Persian and Byzantine influences.
  • 661 Mu'awiyah establishes the Umayyad Caliphate and transfers the imperial capital to Damascus. Arab tribes and traditions coalesce as the rulers.
  • 711 Muslim conquest of most of Spain from 711 by Berbers led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, who landed at Gibraltar (~ "jabal Tariq"). Musical patronage continues.
  • 750 Abbasid dynasty, based at Baghdad; multicultural shift, with strong Persian influence (`ajami). "Golden age of Arabic literature" as well as music; Caliph Harun al-Rashid (d. 809) supported arts & culture - court included famous poet Abu Nuwas, musician Ibrahim al-Mawsili and the Wazir Jaafar, of Persian descent (Barmakid family) - these characters appear in "Dananeer". Bayt al-Hikma translation movement (c 830) developed under his son Caliph Ma'mun, d. 833). Influence from Hellenic, Near Eastern, and Indian cultures. Musical treatises flourish alongside high musical culture, featuring famed musicians of 9th century: Ibrahim al-Mawsili, Ishaq al-Mawsili (traditionalists), Ibrahim al-Mahdi (modernist, in caliphal family). Conflict between "traditionalists" and "modernists", the latter featuring more elaborate melodies and Persian influence.
  • 756 ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Mu‘awiya escapes Abbasids to al-Andalus establishing the Andalusian Umayyad Marwanid dynasty of Cordoba (756-912). Ziryab, student of Ishaq al-Mawsili, conflicts with his teacher and moves to Cordoba, revolutionizing Andalusian music. Development of muwashshah and zajal forms. View the short documentary film An Art of Living (on Ziryab in Cordoba).
  • 912 Abd al-Rahman III, takes power in al-Andalus, establishing competing caliphate of Cordoba in 929. Here the Golden age of Andalusia flourishes. Baghdad declines during this era, but its bright lights include Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, author of the monumental 20-volume+ Kitab al-Aghani (see Sawa's articles).
  • 969 From Tunis, the Berber Fatimids conquer Egypt and establish Cairo as the center of yet another Caliphate.
  • late 9th - 11th centuries: Fragmentation of power, decline of Arabic-speaking and rise of non-Arabic-speaking dynasties: Persian, Turkic and Berber speaking groups.
  • 11th c: First Crusades.
  • 12th - 15th centuries: With accelerating "reconquista", transfer of Andalusian music to North Africa.
  • 13th century: rise of foreign ruling Mamluke dynasties (military slave class) in Egypt and Levant - of Turkish, Circassian, Balkan, Georgian origin.
  • 1258. Mongols under Hulagu (grandson of Genghis Khan) destroy Baghdad terminating Abbasid power there; transfer of Abbasid caliphs to Cairo (until Ottoman conquest), which now becomes central to the Arabic-speaking world.
  • 1492. Fall of Granada (last Muslim city of Andalusia).
  • c. 1500: rise of Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal empires (Ottomans originate earlier, in 1299)

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