It also allowed Persian traditions to influence the development of the caliphate. Although these traditions strongly influenced Arab culture, Islam remained the religion of the empire and Arabic its language. The most important official was known as the vizier, or the head of the bureaucracy, a position that had existed in Persian government.
The second Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur, chose Baghdad as the site of his new capital. The walls formed a circle, with the caliph's palace in the center. Poets, scholars, philosophers, and entertainers from all over the Muslim world flocked to the Abbasid court. Under the Abbasids, Baghdad exceeded Constantinople in size and wealth. Visitors no doubt felt that Baghdad deserved its title “City of Peace, Gift of God, Paradise on Earth.”
The city was beautiful, with many markets, gardens, and mosques. Domes and minarets (min uh RETS), slender towers of the mosques, loomed overhead. Five times each day, muezzins climbed to the tops of the minarets and called the faithful to prayer. Merchants sold goods from Africa, Asia, and Europe. The palace of the caliph bustled with activity.
Mesue the Elder, a Christian Persian physician, was received by the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid, the fifth and most famous ruler of the Abbasid dynasty. Mesue was personal physician to four caliphs.
The surviving member of the Umayyad family had fled to Spain and established an independent Muslim state. There, Muslim rulers presided over brilliant courts, where the arts and learning thrived. In general, they were tolerant of other religions. At centers of learning, such as the city of Córdoba, rulers employed Jewish officials and welcomed Christian scholars to study science and philosophy. Architects built grand buildings, such as the Alhambra, a fortified palace in Granada. Its lovely gardens, reflecting pools, and finely decorated marble columns mark a high point of Muslim civilization in Spain. Muslim rule endured in parts of Spain until 1492.
You have now read about two Islamic caliphates, the Umayyads and Abbasids. The development of these Islamic caliphates was a major turning point in world history.
Historians have identified several major causes of the development of Islamic caliphates. One major cause was the emergence of Islam in Arabia, and the creation of a large empire through conquest by early Arab Muslims. Islamic caliphates developed when new families of leaders took power in the empire. The conquests that lead to the creation of this empire, as you read, were helped along by the weakness of the Byzantine and Persian empires, and by the unifying effects of Islam on Arab Muslims. In that way, these factors were also major causes of the development of Islamic caliphates.
In addition to identifying the major causes of the development of Islamic caliphates, historians have also described the effects of this turning point in world history. This includes the impact of Islamic caliphates on Asia, Africa, and Europe.
For example, Islam emerged in Asia, on the Arabian peninsula. Under the rule of Islamic caliphates, Islam and the Arabic language began to spread to other parts of Asia, including areas that are now part of Iraq and Syria. Similarly, Islam and Arabic spread in North Africa. Today they are the majority language and religion in North Africa and in parts of Asia. These are effects of the development of Islamic caliphates.
Unlike North Africa, Spain, is not mostly Islamic or Arabic-speaking today. However, you can see the impact of the Islamic caliphate that ruled there in this European country's architecture, as you have read, and even in its language. Many Spanish words today come from Arabic. For example, hasta, meaning until, comes from the Arabic word hatta.
Why did the Abbasids make changes to the Arab Muslim empire?