Lecture 10. The Water-Fragile Civilization: Hydraulic Technology and Environmental Adaptation in the Early Islamic World, 610–1258 CE

This lecture module focuses on how the water-fragile civilization of Islam adapted to the harsh desert environments of Arabia, the Mesopotamian region, and North Africa, and to different geographic conditions of Andalucía, Spain. Islam’s theological framing of water has been conditioned by the fact this faith emerged in the water-scarce desert of Arabia. Most of the year it is hot and dry, with rainfall generally concentrated in brief periods during short winters. Furthermore, high variability of rainfall from year to year fuels uncertainty. Thus, the collection, management, distribution, and representation of water have been integral parts of Islam’s theological realm. Wastage of water is considered a sin. The Qur’an (5 : 6) mandates ritual ablution (Arabic wudu’) before five daily prayers and other religious acts.

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