The Early Islamic World
Beginning in the mid-seventh century, Arabic Islamic civilization spread throughout the Middle East, parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa due to increasing political power, economic domination, as well as religious conversion. Even in its earliest stages, this civilization was complex, because multi-cultural, incorporating the territories, populations, and traditions of neighboring civilizations, including Byzantium, Persia, and western Europe, while profoundly influencing them as well. Literacy in the Arabic language, required for study of the Ko'ran, was crucial to the dissemination of Islamic culture. Along with a dramatic rise in literacy came the emergence of decorative Arabic scripts and the growing popularity of inscriptions in all art forms. Signs of the adoption of Islamic culture included the emulation of royal customs and participation in an elite economic network based, in part, upon the giving of significant gifts, such as finely crafted and inscribed textiles.
Forward to 'Tiraz and Other Inscribed Textiles'