03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, 07. Central & West Asia, 08. South, East, & Southeast Asia, Islam, Religion, Teaching

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World in AP World History

In preparation for my NEH Summer Institute “Reverence for Words: Understanding Muslim Culture through the Arts” I received a package in the mail. This package contained your usual welcome forms and letters along with a book of poetry and a DVD, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World. I decided to plop down while folding laundry to watch the documentary. It blew me away and immediately got my teacher brain working: how can I use this in the classroom?

**Note: If you teach AP Art History also, here is a link to my blog post on how Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World aligns with the 250. Double whammy!

Also, I have also included the Amazon link HERE if you’re interested in purchasing the DVD.

Note: it is an affiliate link, therefore I can receive some compensation with your purchase.

The film is 90 minutes long and covers an astonishing geographic and historical landscape of the “muslim world.” Even though the film focuses on art, it is really great for the AP World History classroom too because it covers the vast territory of the Islamic World we have to teach in a visual manner.

Below are the AP World History Key Concepts this film satisfies:

Key Concept 3.1 – A depending and widening of networks of human interaction within and across regions contributed to cultural, technological, and biological diffusion within and between various societies.

I. Improved transportation technologies and commercial practices led to an increased volume of trade and expanded the geographical range of existing and newly active trade networks.

E. The expansion of empires—including China, the Byzantine Empire, various Muslim states, and the Mongols—facilitated Afro–Eurasian trade and communication as new people were drawn into their conquerors’ economies and trade networks.

III. Cross-cultural exchanges were fostered by the intensification of existing, or the creation of new, networks of trade and communication.

D. Increased cross-cultural interactions resulted in the diffusion of literary, artistic, and cultural traditions, as well as scientific and technological innovations.

– Illustrative examples, diffusion of literary, artistic, and cultural traditions: The spread of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

Read more: Jumma Service at Islamic Cultural Center of New York

Alhambra-Hall of Sisters dome

Key Concept 3.2 – State formation and development demonstrated continuity, innovation, and diversity in various regions.

I.  Empires collapsed in different regions of the world, and in some areas were replaced by new imperial states or political systems.

B. In some places, new political entities emerged, including those in various Islamic states; the Mongol khanates; new Hindu and Buddhist states in South, East, and Southeast Asia; city-states; and decentralized government (feudalism) in Europe and Japan.

C. Some states synthesized local with foreign traditions.

– Illustrative examples, synthesis by trade: Persian traditions that influence Islamic states

II. Interregional contacts and conflicts between states and empires encouraged significant technological and cultural transfers.

A. Technological and cultural transfers were taking place.

-Illustrative examples of technological and cultural transfers: The transfer of foods, technologies, textiles, and music from the Islamic world to Europe via Al-Andalus

Read more: Medieval Al-Andalus

Key Concept 3.3 – Changes in trade networks resulted from and stimulated increasing productive capacity, with important implications for social gender structures and environmental processes

III. Despite significant continuities in social structures and in methods of production, there were also some important changes in labor management and in the effect of religious conversion on gender relations and family life.

D.  Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Neo Confucianism were adopted in new regions and often caused significant changes in gender relations and family structure.

Read more: Student Series! Women and Islam

Key Concept 4.1 – The interconnection of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, made possible by transoceanic voyaging, transformed trade and religion and had a significant economic, cultural, social, and demographic impact on the world.

VI. The increase in interactions between newly connected hemispheres and intensification of connections within hemispheres expanded the spread and reform of existing religions and contributed to both religious conflicts and the creation of syncretic belief systems and practices.

-Illustrative examples, reform of existing religions and creation of syncretic belief systems and practices: the importance of sufism for the further spread of Islam in Afro– Eurasia & the intensification of Sunni-Shi’a split by the political rivalries between the Ottoman and the Safavid empires.

Read more: Experiencing a Sufi Zhikr Service


Key Concept 4.3 – Empires expanded around the world, presenting new challenges in the incorporation of diverse populations and in the effective administration of new coerced labor systems.
I. Rulers used a variety of methods to legitimize and consolidate their power.

A. Rulers continued to use religious ideas, art, and monumental architecture to legitimize their rule.

-Illustrative examples, religious ideas: Safavid use of ShiismSonghay promotion of Islam

-Illustrative examples, art and monumental architecture: Ottoman miniature paintingMughal mausolea and mosques, such as the Taj Mahal

Read more: The Diversity of the Islamic World


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