The structure of Islamic government was essentially to following:
1. At the top was the Sultan or Caliph. The difference between the two is that the Sultan is a political leader and a Caliph is a religious leader. These two could be intertwined, but it was not mandatory. Eventually it became tradition, but it didn't start that way.
2. A vizier or grand vizier was to be the next step of government. It was the job of the vizier to interact with the Sultan/Caliph. It was the vizier's job to enforce the decrees of the Sultan (the Sultan was always right). The vizier was to interact with other heads of government offices.
3. Under the vizier, were the Emirs. They were the governors of provinces. The Emirs had a lot of power. They were very rarely challenged. The Sultan would let the Emirs rule as long as the political machine kept rolling.
4. Local officials would control towns and villages and answer to the Emirs.
Islamic Trade Routes
Muslims and the Empires of the Middle East built an enormous and profitable trade network over land and sea. Trade routes were created to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. Trade and interaction with Russia occurred over the Caspian Sea and Volga River. Islamic traders made it all the way to the shores of China by sailing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean.
Government Structure and Social Classes
At the top part of the Islamic Social ladder was the Caliph and his household. The next level of social class was the professionals, traders, merchants, teachers, doctors. In Islamic society, trade and commerce was more valuable than agriculture.
Most cultures value agriculture first, but in the Islamic Middle East, trade and prosperity was considered more important. The next level of social class was the Dhimmis, the protected people. These people were the Christians, Jews, and also the Zoroasterists. These people were permitted to live freely as long as they paid taxes and recognized Islamic Political Supremacy.
At the bottom of the class system was the slaves. Slaves in Islamic society were different than other slaves in history. Slaves could gain freedom in various ways, classical mistreatment was not tolerated, and slavery was not locked into a specific race. However, in the end slavery is still slavery, and free is free.
Islamic life was at its height during this time period in various areas. At the same time Europe was experiencing the Dark Ages, and a stagnation of the sciences and the arts.
Because trade was valued over agriculture in the Middle East, their homes were much more elaborate and luxurious. The typical pattern of a Muslim home was a rectangle. Within this rectangle a courtyard could be found. The house was specifically created. Male and female locations could be found in the house. Female quarters would be found away from the reception area. This is a tradition going back to prior to the emergence of Islam
Decorations within the home would be full of geometric designs and calligraphy. Low couches and rugs would cover the floor. Traditionally this is an example of family heritage and other things valued by the household.
Within an Islamic village or city certain areas would be magnates for congregation. The most populated areas would be the bazaars and the mosques. Another popular place within Muslim society was the bathhouse. The bathhouse served a dual purpose. Cleanliness was essential to Islam, but also it gave men a chance to congregate and discuss politics and other parts of the social life. Women would also be able to go to a bathhouse, but they would be separated from the men.
Marriage, Children, and the Family Name
In this society, pre-Islamic tradition did not fade away. Traditionally, marriages were arranged long before a male and female were able to wed. Wedding customs would vary from region to region. Women's rights were to be equal in the eyes of the Koran, but tradition placed women in the submissive role. Motherhood was considered very important and also a noble status in Islamic society
It was better to was boys than girls because girls would be taken away from the family while males would stay with their family. It was the goal of the male children to take care of their parents when they were unable to do so later in life. The more girls a family would have the more children would be leaving the family household.
The naming of children was very important. A child's name was chosen to identify themselves as Muslims and part of the Islamic community. Some regions would have the Imam's name their children. In Islam certain words can explain the lineage of the child. The word "Ibn" means, "son of"
Learning was important in Islamic society. Within the Koran education was stressed. The Koran was the first text book a student would have. An Islamic child would have to learn and memorize the grammatical syntax and style of the Koran. Students would be required to memorize the Koran. It took take 2 years to complete this task.
Once a child was able to complete their reciting, a celebration would be held honoring their accomplishments.
Medicine in the Middle East at this time period was superior to Europe. The faith of Islam encourages charity and the caring of the sick falls under that pillar. According to Islam, Allah has given a cure for every sickness; it is up to man to find it and use. This is also way education is so important to Islam because it is to unlock the mysteries of the world.
The first Middle Eastern hospitals were established in the time of 685-705 AD. The first hospitals were for leprosy patients. Those who stayed with the sick were paid handsomely. There were 2 types of hospitals in the Middle East mobile hospitals and permanent hospitals.
Islam had medical information from all part of the known world. Medicines, plants, and treatments were used from India, China, Africa and most importantly the ancient Greeks. While Europe pushed away from the ancient Greek texts, the Middle East embraced it, and translated it into Arabic so it could be applied daily.
The Islamic Empires had public health inspectors whose job would be to regulate the cleaning of milk jugs to condemning unsafe buildings. Eating establishments were held under strict regulations.
Dentistry was even practiced and they would make false teeth.
Henna is the practice of creating intricate patterns on the skin. It is most used for decoration, but Henna has medicinal value too. It is considered an anti-irritant, a deodorant and an antiseptic
Cupping is the practice of making suction on an open cut and bringing the blood out. It was valuable because infected areas of the body could be drawn away from important organs of the body.
Great Men of Medicine
Al-Razi (864-930) Born in Iran, Al-Razi wrote a ten volume work about the Greek-Arab medicine. The treated smallpox and chicken-pox. He found treatments for kidney and gall stones. He was able to explain various infectious diseases. He was one of the first to use alcohol for medical procedures, and used opium for anesthesia.
Ibn Sina (980-1037). By age 16 Ibn mastered and studied the following: The Koran, Muslim Law, Philosophy, Natural Science, Logic, Geometry, and Advanced Math. He was considered one of, if not the greatest surgeon of the Middle East by 18. He wrote about many things, some of the more important were the aspects of hygiene, and anatomy of the human body (before Leonardo Da Vinci). He was able to identify over 700 drugs and application for them.
Eating and Food
Certain foods are forbidden in Middle Eastern culture. Alcohol and liquors are forbidden because it can confuse the mind. Pork is considered bad because in the Koran it is said that the devil turning in a pig. Also worms could be transferred through pork. Consuming blood or animals that are carnivorous is not allowed. If you like eating monkeys, elephants, or donkeys; Islam is not for you either.
A social activity that people religious perform in every society today is drinking coffee. Coffee originated in the Islamic Middle East. At first the coffee beans were chewed, but then they brewed it. Coffee houses were popular, but frowned upon in Islamic society for various reasons.
1. Coffee is intoxicating
2. Coffee houses were places men would sit and talk about many things like politics. It was believed that places like this could start ground level talk of overthrowing the Sultan
3. People that patronized coffee houses were typically people of law moral character.