Civilization and Crisis (1100–1500 CE)
By the twelfth century, the political order of the Islamic Middle East was besieged on all sides. Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099. Hülegü (d. 1265 CE), the grandson of Genghis Khan (d. 1227), conquered and sacked Baghdad in 1258. By 1300, Christian armies had conquered most of Andalus, the area of Spain that had been under Islamic rule for five centuries. Timur (d. 1405), known in the West as Tamerlane, conquered large parts of Iran and Central Asia and established a new empire with its capital in Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan.
Yet artistic and literary civilization not only survived this period of chaos, it produced the monumental masterpieces of the classical Middle East: in Arabic, by Ibn al-Farid (d. 1235) and Ibn al-`Arabi (d. 1240); in Persian by `Attar (d. 1230 (?)), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa`adi (d. 1283/1291 (?)), Hafez (d. 1389-90), and Jami (d. 1492); and in Turkish by Yunus Emre (d. 1320 (?)) and Nava’i (d. 1501). The era also included many great works of academic prose, such as the monumental histories of the Jewish-born Persian writer Rashid al-Din (d. 1318) and the North African Arabic writer Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), whose introduction or Muqaddimah offered a theory of civilization centered on the encounters, both creative and destructive, of citied culture with tribal and nomadic forces.
John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature, Divinity School, The University of Chicago
1. When was the Age of Voice, and what two major areas of concern dominated the Age of Voice?
2. How did literary traditions reflect tension between different empires in the Middle East from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries CE?
3. What kind of impact has conflict between Middle Eastern and other cultures had Middle Eastern literary movements, both in the early part and final centuries of the second millennium CE?