• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Impacts of Islamic Expansion

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 year, 2 months ago


Focus Question:

What were the impacts of Islamic expansion in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and Central Asia?


Topics on the Page


A. the strength of the Islamic world’s economy and culture

  • Sciences
  • Philosophy
  • Poetry
  • Art and Architecture


B. the training of Muslim soldiers and the use of advanced military techniques

C. the disorganization and internal divisions of Islam’s enemies

D. the resistance and/or assimilation of Christianized peoples in the Mediterranean

  • Battle of Tours (732)


E. the contemporary impacts of the old Islamic world

Here is a timeline on the early Rise of Islam

Here is an interactive map on the Rise of Islam in the Mediterranean from 624-733 CE.

external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgLesson plan from Harvard University on Islam's spread to Africa.


Click here for videos on the rise of Islam done by high school students in Plymouth (Massachusetts) teacher Greg Kulowiecz's classes.




Islam and Indigenous African Culture explores the spread of Islam in Africa and includes detailed maps.

Here is a study guide about the Rise and Spread of Islam.


A. The strength of the Islamic world’s economy and culture 


   Avicenna Woodcut, 1520  Avicenna Woodcut, 1520 



    • The Islamic Empire at the height of it's power under the Abbasid dynasty inherited much of the written sciences, philosophy and arts of the previous empires, including the Romans, Greeks and Persians.
    • This helped lead to a wave of intellectual advancement and scientific achievement for the empire's elites.



        • These scholars were able to translate the Greek scientific writings into Arabic. Leading to the widespread distribution and discussion of Greek literature, science and philosophy throughout the Muslim world. 


    • Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) wrote the Canon of Medicine. Wrote metaphysics, used by Thomas Aquinas.



    • Around this time period, these scholarly men begin to call themselves Faylasufs (philosophers). Unlike the Muslim clergy who believed that Allah could only be found through divine revelation.
      • The Arab philosophers believed that two things could lead to an understanding of God: Observation of the world, and application of logic to what is observed. People in a lower world needed to get to the higher world to be closer to God. The Faylasufs almost believed that God was timeless, beyond all human understanding and ahistorical.



    • Many literary figures were at the center of the Islamic court. These were people who were refined, fashionable, and cultivated. They were expected to be able to tell a story or a poem for any occasion.

For more see:




  • Introduction to basic Islamic architecture
    • Decorative Arts: metal, glass work, ceramics, furniture, textiles.
    • Arts of the Book: calligraphy and miniature painting all part of a written book. At first, there was a ban on representational art because it is too close to God's work. God creates people, an artist can't. To get around this, artists used abstract patterns (Arabesque, Geometric, and Calligraphic). Eventually, the regulations relaxed.

Image result for islam art 

An example of the motifs traditionally made by Muslim artists


This is a lesson plan from the 'Islam Project' overviewing the spread of Islam from the 7th to the 21st century.

sample of islamic art in the 7th or 8th century A.D.
sample of islamic art in the 7th or 8th century A.D.



B. The training of Muslim soldiers and the use of advanced military techniques.

"...only one possible explanation remains for the Arab success-and that was the spirit of Islam... The generous terms that the invading armies usually offered made their faith accessible to the conquered populations. And if it was a new and upstart faith, its administration by simple and honest men was preferable to the corruption and persecution that were the norm in more civilized empires…"
George F. Nafziger, Mark W. Walton, Islam at War: A History, 2003

African Military Slaves in the Muslim Middle East from BlackPast.org.

Part of the military success to the Islamic military was due to their mounted archers.

  • This allowed the Islamic military to largely control the terms of battle, attack a weak point of their enemy with greater speed


  • The development of the modern bow and arrow was heavily influenced by the Islamic people.


  • For more information on Islamic warfare and tactics, Here is a link from the University of Michigan.



C. The disorganization and internal divisions of Islam's enemies



  • The Persian Empire was in an almost constantly at war with the Byzantine Empire. The provinces of the Sassanid Empire were not united and many people felt no sense of allegiance to the central government.
    • The Sassanid dynasty rulers were Persian Zoroastrians who ruled their empire through feudal lords and persecuted religious minorities within their state. These cultural, religious and class differences made the Sassanid Empire extremely vulnerable to internal civil wars and outside invaders, like the Arab tribesmen. Under Caliph Umar, the Arab Muslims defeated the Sassanids at the Battle of Qadisiyya. In the following six years, the Sassanids suffered more defeats and were finally conquered by the Muslim Arab armies in 642.


North Africa: Egypt was the first regional in North Africa came under Islamic control in 645.

  • Under the Ummayad Caliphate the Muslims launched a military campaign in 663 to conquer North Africa from the Berber tribes. The Arabs were able to convert the Berbers to Islam. With the support of the Berber warlords, the Muslims were able to expand their Empire all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.



  • A converted Berber leader, Tariq, commanded a force that invaded Spain in 711.
  • During this time, the question of succession in Spain had caused a civil war. Tariq and his forces made it all the way to the southern tip of Spain (rock of Gibraltar) and continued to push towards France. In 932,
    • Tariq's forces were stopped by the Franks. However, the disunity caused by the civil war and the disorganization of the Spanish soldiers allowed Tariq to conquer all the way to the Pyrenees.


Central Asia:

  • Central Asia was mostly made up of various Turkish tribes. Because these tribes were not united together, the organized Islamic forces were able to conquer cities such as Samarqand and Bukhara.

For more on expansion of Islam in Central Asia, see Central Asia and Caucasus from Emory University.

D. The resistance and/or assimilation of Christianized peoples in the Mediterranean


Painting by Charles de Steuben, 1834 1837


Painting by Charles de Steuben, 1834 1837

Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages

Christian Reaction to the Rise of Islam

The Battle of Tours (732)

On October 10, 732 an army of Christian Franks led by Charles Martel the "Hammer" defeat the Muslim Moors near what is today Poitiers, France at the Battle of Tours.

This battle halted the advance of the Muslim armies into France and forced the Moors to retreat back to Spain.

Future generations of Medieval Christians would romanticize this victory as Tours as the salvation of European Christendom from the foreign Muslim invaders.

In reality the Ummayad Islamic Caliphate, didn't view the defeat at Tours as a devastating defeat. The Moors would continue to rage war against the Franks and other European states in the decades that followed the battle.

What the victory at Tours did do however was establish Charles Martel as the new head of the Frankish Kingdom. His grandson Charlemagne would go on to found the Carolingian dynasty in France and would be crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor of Germany by the Pope.

Click here for a brief overview of the legacy of the battle Legacy of Tours 

Overview of the Battle

Arabs, Franks and the Battle of Tours: Three Accounts

Go here for analysis of the painting to the right

E. the contemporary impacts of the old Islamic world


The uniqueness of Muslim culture has left its mark across the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa. Even in the places now absent of Muslim populations, remnants of their culture have been integrated into that of the local culture and identities of the people.


Iberian Peninsula:

Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain - Documentary and Resources
-Resources for Teachers
-ACTIVITY: The Geography of the Islamic Empire and Al-Andalus

-Women in Al-Andalus 


Since the Inquisition, Spain and Portugal have been Catholic nations known for their devoutness. However, the cultures are mixtures of Catholic and Muslim influences.


  • Geographical terms: Today, many cities and towns have their roots in Arabic.
    • During the time of Muslim control of Spain, the peninsula was known as Al-Andalus. Today, Spain's southern region, where the Muslims held power the longest, is known as Andalucia, derived from Al-Andalus.



  • Arts and architecture: Especially across Andalucia, Islamic style architecture, tiles, even song and dance have become icons of Spanish culture.


  • La Alhambra palace in Granada is one of the most significant symbols of Muslim rule, as it was the last Muslim stronghold before the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella exiled Muslims from the peninsula. Completed in the 14th century, the palace became the home of the Sultans of the Nasrid dynasty; it represents the mathematical and scientific contributions of the Muslim world through its complicated architecture. In 1492, the Catholic monarchs moved to the palace because of its significance in their legacy, and they were later buried there. 


  • The Mezquita de Cordoba is one of Spain's most famous attractions, and it is another symbolic representation of the Inquisition's war against the Islamic history of the region. The mosque was converted into a cathedral, as were mosques and Jewish temples at the time.
  • Music: The music of Spain, especially the Flamenco music of Andalucia is highly influenced by traditional Islamic music. The voices, the guitar, and the rhythms today represent the area's complex cultural past, which is noticeable in the songs of the most revered artists.




Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.