The Islamic Empire’s Textile and Blacksmith Industries

Among its many accomplishments, the Islamic Empire was also renowned worldwide for its incredible textile and blacksmith industries. Textiles characterized by rich colors and details, and steel that was notorious for its matchless precision, characterized the quality and marvelousness of Islamic creations that later civilizations aspired to recreate with little success.

Byzantine and Sasanian served as the building blocks for the evident rise of the textile industry in the early Islamic period.  Textiles were common in wealthy households in the forms of clothing, household furnishings, and forms of portable residence.   Alongside, the ongoing trade was directly affecting this industry.  The items were often made with silk and gold, signifying its reliance of the sophisticated manufacture of textiles.  Silk and gold threads were intricately woven into the luxurious fabric to create dynamic designs while signifying wealth and social status.

Islamic textiles were also exported to the West, bringing the Islamic influence into the European tradition.  The English words “cotton,” “mohair,” and “taffeta,” among others, are direct contributions of the Arabic language.  However, as a result of the fragility of the textiles, they did not survive the test of time.  The Islamic fabrics were often reused several times due to their value until they were worn out.  Throughout excavations, most of them were found in Egypt, residing in graves, and demonstrating the rich artwork and complicated designs which signified the glory of the Islamic textile tradition.

Some of the fabrics, while faded and worn out, are persevered and displayed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with the beaded corners – a common tradition – highlighting the richness of the early Islamic civilization.

Among the beauty of the fabrics, the Islamic Empire has shown equal capability of mending steel.  An exquisite example lies in a sword of the blacksmith industry. Upon the mention of blacksmith, there is no denying on the strategic design of the Damascus steel sword.  Its origins began in Damascus, Syria and the skills of wielding it were lost even to the later Islamic blacksmiths.  It emerged in the Crusades, intimidating the European invaders with rumored mystical abilities of cutting through silk or rock without damage to its blade.  However, its tradition being lost after 750 CE, the likeness of such a blade has not been successfully reproduced.  The technique of the Damascus steel, with its characteristic patterns on the blade, has been attempted by the Europeans ever since it emerged on the battlefield but it lacks the luster of the original creation.

From the textile industry to the blacksmith, Muslims have made a significant impact on history, the evidence of which not only lie in books, but is displayed in museums and replicated in modern items.