Golden Age of Islam Summary (Download Included)

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If you’re looking for a brief (650 words) summary on a topic in history you’re in the right place! You can find reading passages for U.S. History and World History topics and can download a PDF copy for yourself. If you need a digital copy there is a Google link provided as well.

This is an ongoing project, so stop back frequently and see what we’ve added. When I say “we” I mean my  brother and I. I have been teaching social studies for 19 years and my brother, Joe, is an historian. Between the 2 of us we create these reading passages. 

If you’re interested in some close read lesson ideas for teaching with this resource this article will help .

The lesson contains the reading passage, a 2nd modified version with main ideas in bold and a 2-page student handout of activities. There’s also a suggested short video to support visual learners

Golden Age of Islam

Three monotheistic (belief in one god) religions grew in the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  World-wide, Christianity and Islam together have over four billion followers.  This is the story of the rise of Islam.  


Muhammed, a merchant in Saudi Arabia, founded Islam in the early seventh century.  A person from the Arabian Peninsula is known as an “Arab” and speaks the Arabic language.  After Muhammed received the revelations that began Islam, at first there was strong opposition. His followers fled from his birthplace, Mecca (later the religion’s holy city), known as the “Hijrah” and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.  But, Muhammed was able to return and gain control of Mecca.  Muslims believe a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once is of great importance.  


“Islam” arises from an Arabic word meaning “submission” to Allah (Arabic for God). It is believed to grow out of revelations Muhammed received, so he is seen as the great prophet of the faith.  Their holy book is the Quran (or Koran) and the “five pillars” are the basic rules of Muslim (“submission”) faith. A mosque is a holy place of worship, akin to a church or synagogue.  A minaret is a tall and thin tower used to call Muslims to prayer, a pillar of faith being praying five times a day.   

The “right path” or right conduct is the basis of Sharia law, Islamic religious law.  Growth of the faith also led to divisions. A basic debate arose over who would be the successor (caliph) of Muhammed. Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination (group) and their choice became leader of the Muslims. Shia Muslims believe a special divinely chosen set of leaders (iman) were chosen to be Muhammed’s successors.  Sufism also arose and is a mystical form of Islam that tries to create a special connect to God,

The successors of Muhammed soon led an empire that spread throughout the Middle East, the Caliphate (Muslim controlled areas) soon expanding to Iraq, Egypt and North Africa.  Muslims gained control of Spain but their expansion into Western Europe was ultimately stopped at the Battle of Tours (732) in France.  Their empire over time controlled parts of the Balkans, sub-Saharan Africa and India.  Islam was practiced in three continents and later spread to America. 

The “golden age” of Islam took place during the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1517), including advancements in culture and science. The mathematical discipline of algebra grew in this time as did the rediscovery of ancient Greek philosophy and other writings.  Trade of such goods as sugar, salt, textiles, spices, slaves, gold, and horses led to the growth of trade routes to Europe, Africa and China.  

The Islamic Empire continually had military conflicts with European powers, including the Ottoman Empire ultimately defeating the Byzantine Empire in 1453.  This includes multiple “crusades” by European powers to obtain control of Jerusalem, the holy city of Christians.  Europeans gained short-term control, but ultimately the great military leader Saladin defeated the Christian army in 1192. 

Afterwards, the Ottomans (based in Turkey) took control of the empire and the Ottoman Empire remained in power until World War I.  

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Happy teaching!

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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