Are you a student of the history of the Middle East or do you consider yourself well-versed on your definitions of important aspects of Middle Eastern history? Why not quiz yourself? Can you provide a definition of the following terms from the history of the Middle East without reading the full answer?

Definition #1 : Muhammad 

Definition / Importance of Muhammad: Muhammad was considered the greatest Islamic prophet. He was born in the sixth century, and grew old, married, and explored his faith. Muhammad was granted a revelation by the angel Gabriel, who told him that Allah was the only God, and that the world would be judged. Eventually Muhammad acquired followers who compiled the Qur’an out of Muhammad’s teachings, poetry and revelations regarding Islam. Muhammad’s teachings were not well received and he was forced to flee. He considered himself the last prophet of Allah and due to Muhammad’s determination to expand his circle of followers by destroying pagan icons and building mosques and shrines, as well as infiltrating the government with Islamic believers; he insured the continuity of his religion.

Definition #2 : The Five Pillars of Islam

Definition of The Five Pillars of Islam: Muhammad gave The Five Pillars as obligations that must be followed by every Islamic believer. The Five Pillars are as follows; Acknowledging Allah as the One True God, praying five times per day while facing Mecca, tithing, fasting, and the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the Mecca, required at least once for every Muslim able to do so. The Five Pillars are significant as they outline the details for what every Muslim must do to obtain salvation. Along with the spread of Islam through the Arabian Peninsula came the exposure to other cultures and the ability to expand on existing trade routes, which greatly helped enrich the land of Islam.

Definition #3 : Abbasid Caliphate

Definition / Importance of Abbasid Caliphate: The word “caliph” means deputy in Arabic. After Muhammad’s death, his deputies carried out his message. In the Shia culture, the deputy and his descendents were considered to be legitimate descendents of Muhammad, and the Shia’s discriminated against non-Muslims and non-Arabs. However, the Abbasid’s were descendents of the uncle of Muhammad, and they began an empire that grew very rapidly. They continued the idea of a religiously based government and based the construction of their government on the government of Persia. They did not discriminate, or favor the Arab-born citizens. Eventually the Abbasid dynasty declined, but the conflict that they had with the Shia’s remained, even in the present era.

Definition #4 : Sultanate of Delhi

Definition / Importance of the Sultanate of Delhi: After the death of the Turkish Mahmud of Ghazni, the leader of Afghanistan, north India was conquered by his successors. The sultanate of Delhi was the name that Mahmud’s successors granted northern India, which they transformed into an Islamic place. While the Sultans did not have much authority in India, their presence in Delhi gave Islam a foothold in a previously untouched country. Although Islam started out in several small places in India, it quickly grew to contain more than twenty five percent of the Indian population. From India, Islam continued to spread outwards towards Asia and other distant realms.

Definition #5 : The Bhakti Movement

Definition of the Bhakti Movement:  While Islam was growing throughout India, Hinduism was fighting to keep its place as the most popular religion in the country. Islam was growing steadily, mainly for it’s flexibility regarding old traditions and the ability to worship older spirits. Also, converting to Islam sometimes improved the social caste of a convert, which drew more followers to the religion of Muhammad. The bhakti movement was an answer to this conflict between Hinduism and Buddhism. The bhakti movement attempted to teach believers that Hinduism and Islam worshiped the same god and that there were really no differences between the Hindu gods and the Islamic God.

Definition #6 : The Kingdom of Axum

Definition of the Kingdom of Axum: Axum was located in North Africa and served as a trading region. Rumor also states that the Ark of the Covenant and the Queen of Sheba rest in Axum. The region was involved in trade between India and the Mediterranean. Besides it’s trade functions, the Kingdom of Axum was very culturally accomplished. It had it’s own alphabet and great obelisks were created as an honor for their kings. Axum was a cultural melting pot, with Christianity as the main religion in a nation full of other religiously important cultures and churches. Axum also created and was the first to distribute their own coins. The biggest claim that the Kingdom of Axum can make is in regards to the Ark of the Covenant, and of course, if the Ark is actually located in the Kingdom of Axum, its significance in the world will be unmatchable.

Definition #7 : Seljuk Turks

Definition of Seljuk Turks: The Seljuk Turks ruled the Great Seljuk Empire, which was a Sunni Muslim dynasty. This Dynasty had power in the Middle East and Central Asia and their Empire was the target of the first Crusade. Their Empire was the first in the Middle East that was led by Persianized Turks. The Seljuk Turks were important because they revived Islamic civilization that had previously been dominated by Arabs, and they modeled their government after a nomadic tribal family state. The Seljuk Turks infused Muslims with the will to fight for their culture, and they also left behind many kinds of art and literature.

Definition #8 : Ottoman Empire

Definition of the Ottoman Empire: The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish Empire that lasted roughly six hundred years, although it’s peak existed during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The empire was multi-religious and multi-ethnic, and covered current day Southeast Europe, Middle East and North Africa. The Empire was very militaristically strong, especially in terms of its navy, and it relied heavily on colonization and the ability to defend itself from its neighbors. The Ottoman Empire was significant because it led spread of Turkish ideals and culture over a very long span of time. However, the Ottoman Empire was also fought against very strongly by the Catholics, including Philip of Spain.