The Golden Age

Science in the Golden Age

Science in the Golden Age

Written by Paul Lunde Illustrated by Michael Grimsdale Additional illustrations courtesy of Bodleian Library Towards the end of the 10th century, Ibn al-Nadim, son of a Baghdad , bookseller and boon companion of Abbasid caliphs, compiled an annotated bibliography of books that had passed through his hands during the course of his long and active life. The sheer number of books that he lists, to say nothing of the range of their subject matter, is astonishing: Aristotle appears beside Sindbad the Sailor, Euclid beside the stories of Goha, Plato beside the poems of’Antar ibn Shad-dad. The most striking feature of Ibn al-Nadim’s catalog, however, is the number of books dealing with science. In a chapter entitled The Reason Why Books on Philosophy and Other Ancient Sciences Became Plentiful in This Country, Ibn al-Nadim relates a strange story of how Aristotle appeared in a dream to the Caliph al-Ma’mun and assured him that there was no conflict between reason and revelation. Thus reassured, al-Ma’mun set about obtaining the works of the Greek philosophers, the first step toward founding the famous House of Wisdom, a center for the translation of Greek scientific works into Arabic. Ibn al-Nadim told the story this way: This dream was one of the most definite reasons for the output of books. Between al-Ma’mun and the Byzantine emperor there was correspondence … so al-Ma’mun wrote to the Byzantine emperor asking his permission to obtain a selection of old scientific manuscripts, stored and treasured in the country of the Byzantines. After first refusing, he finally complied, and al-Ma’mun sent forth a number of scholars, among them al-Hajjaj ibn Matar, Ibn al-Batrik, Salman, the director of the House of Wisdom and many others. They selected books from those they found and brought them back to al-Ma’mun, who ordered them to prepare translations of them. Though the House of Wisdom was founded in 830, Abbasid interest in Greek science had begun almost with the founding of the dynasty in 750 and by the time the House of Wisdom was launched, that interest had already been expressed in a number of important fields. The first Arabic translations of the medical works of Galen and Hippocrates, for example, were made by the official translator of the second Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur, builder of Baghdad. These sparked the interest in medicine so characteristic of Islam. In 809, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid founded the first hospital in the Islamic World, and within a short time no major city in the empire was without one. The translator of these medical texts died in 800 – the year that Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. His son, Ibn al-Batrick, was among those scholars sent by al-Ma’mun to...

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Islamic Golden Age

Islamic Golden Age

The Islamic Golden Age is traditionally dated from the mid-7th century to the mid-13th century at which Muslim rulers established one of the largest empires in history. During this period, artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature,navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own. Also at that time the Muslim world became a major intellectual centre for science, philosophy, medicine and education. In Baghdad they established the “House of Wisdom“, where scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, sought to gather and translate the world’s knowledge into Arabic in the Translation Movement. Many classic works of antiquity that would otherwise have been forgotten were translated into Arabic and later in turn translated into Turkish, Sindhi, Persian, Hebrew and Latin. Knowledge was synthesized from works originating in ancientMesopotamia, Ancient Rome, China, India, Persia, Ancient Egypt, North Africa, Ancient Greece and Byzantine civilizations. Rival Muslim dynasties such as the Fatimids of Egypt and the Umayyads of al-Andalus were also major intellectual centres with cities such as Cairo and Córdoba rivaling Baghdad. The Islamic empire was the first “truly universal civilization,” which brought together for the first time “peoples as diverse as the Chinese, the Indians, the people of the Middle East and North Africa, black Africans, and white Europeans.”A major innovation of this period was paper – originally a secret tightly guarded by the Chinese. The art of papermaking was obtained from prisoners taken at the Battle of Talas (751), spreading to the Islamic cities of Samarkand and Baghdad. The Arabs improved upon the Chinese techniques of using mulberry bark by using starch to account for the Muslim preference for pens vs. the Chinese for brushes. By AD 900 there were hundreds of shops employing scribes and binders for books in Baghdad and public libraries began to become established. From here paper-making spread west to Morocco and then to Spain and from there to Europe in the 13th century. Much of this learning and development can be linked to topography. Even prior to Islam’s presence, the city of Mecca served as a center of trade in Arabia. The tradition of the pilgrimage to Mecca became a center for exchanging ideas and goods. The influence held by Muslim merchants over African-Arabian and Arabian-Asian trade routes was tremendous. As a result, Islamic civilization grew and expanded on the basis of its merchant economy, in contrast to their Christian, Indian and Chinese peers who built societies from an agricultural landholding nobility. Merchants brought goods and their faith to China, India, South-east Asia, and the kingdoms of Western Africa and returned...

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Muslim Inventors

Muslim Inventors

“The Golden Age“ or as people know it “The Dark Ages“ Was it really dark ?   After Rome fell down, life was miserable in Western Europe, but in the Muslim world it was a Golden age . Muslims had scientists in all fields of life. They invented a lot of things that our life now is based on. This video made by 1001 Inventions is a small film showing some of the Muslim civilization scientists and their important inventions : Al-Jazari: Civil engineer Ibn Al-Haytham: Scientist in a lot of fields(Anatomy, Astronomy, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine, ophthalmology, philosophy, physics, Psychology, Visual perception) Abbas Qasim Ibn Firnas: Inventor, Engineer, Aviator and Physician Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi: Physician, Surgeon(The father of modern surgery), Chemist, Cosmetologist, and Scientist And More…   Muslim inventions that shaped the modern...

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The Islamic Legacy

The Islamic Legacy

The foundation of this legacy was the astonishing achievements of Muslim scholars, scientists, craftsmen, and traders during the few hundred years or so that are called the Golden Age. During this period, from 750 to 950, the territory of the Muslim Empire encompassed present-day Iran, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, North Africa, Spain, and parts of Turkey and drew to Baghdad peoples of all those lands in an unparalleled cross-fertilization of once isolated intellectual traditions. Geographical unity, however, was but one factor. Another was the development of Arabic, by the ninth century, into the language of international scholarship as well as the language of the Divine Truth. This was one of the most significant events in the history of ideas. A third important factor was the establishment in Baghdad of a paper mill. The introduction of paper, replacing parchment and papyrus, was a pivotal advance which had effects on education and scholarship as far reaching as the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. It made it possible to put books within the reach of everyone. Unlike the Byzantines, with their suspicion of classical science and philosophy, the Muslims were enjoined by the Prophet to “seek learning as far as China” – as, eventually, they did. In the eighth century, however, they had a more convenient source: the works of Greek scientists stored in libraries in Constantinople and other centers of the Byzantine empire. In the ninth century the Caliph al-Mamun, son of the famous Harun al-Rashid, began to tap that invaluable source. With the approval of the Byzantine emperor, he dispatched scholars to select and bring back to Baghdad Greek scientific manuscripts for translation into Arabic at Bayt al-Hikmah, “the House of Wisdom.” Bayt al-Hikmah was a remarkable assemblage of scholar-translators who undertook a Herculean task: to translate into Arabic all of what had survived of the philosophical and scientific tradition of the ancient world and incorporate it into the conceptual framework of Islam. As the early scholars in the Islamic world agreed with Aristotle that mathematics was the basis of all science, the scholars of the House of Wisdom first focused on mathematics. Ishaq ibn Hunayn and Thabit ibn Qurrah, for example, prepared a critical edition of Euclid’s Elements, while other scholars translated a commentary on Euclid originally written by a mathematician and inventor from Egypt, and still others translated at least eleven major works by Archimedes, including a treatise on the construction of a water clock. Other translations included a book On mathematical theory by Nichomachus of Gerasa, and works by mathematicians like Theodosius of Tripoli, Apollonius Pergacus, Theon, and Menelaus, all basic to the great age of Islamic mathematical speculation that followed. The first great advance on...

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The Golden Age

The Golden Age

The early ‘Abbasids were also fortunate in the caliber of their caliphs, especially after Harun al-Rashid came to the caliphate in 786. His reign is now the most famous in the annals of the ‘Abbasids – partly because of the fictional role given him in The Thousand and One Nights (portions of which probably date from his reign), but also because his reign and those of his immediate successors marked the high point of the ‘Abbasid period. As the Arab chronicles put it, Harun al-Rashid ruled when the world was young, a felicitous description of what in later times has come to be called the Golden Age of Islam. Islamic civilization experienced a golden age under the Abbassid Dynasty, which ruled from the mid 8th century until the mid 13th century. Under the Abbassids, Islamic culture became a blending of Arab, Persian, Egyptian, and European traditions. The result was an era of stunning intellectual and cultural achievements. The Golden Age was a period of unrivaled intellectual activity in all fields: science, technology, and (as a result of intensive study of the Islamic faith) literature – particularly biography, history, and linguistics. Scholars, for example, in collecting and reexamining the hadith, or “traditions” – the sayings and actions of the Prophet – compiled immense biographical detail about the Prophet and other information, historic and linguistic, about the Prophet’s era. This led to such memorable works as Sirat Rasul Allah, the “Life of the Messenger of God,” by Ibn Ishaq, later revised by Ibn Hisham; one of the earliest Arabic historical works, it was a key source of information about the Prophet’s life and also a model for other important works of history such as al-Tabari’s Annals of the Apostles and the Kings and his massive commentary on the Quran. ‘Abbasid writers also developed new a genres of literature such as adab, the embodiment of sensible counsel, sometimes in the form of animal fables; a typical example is Kalilah wa-Dimnah, translated by Ibn al-Muqaffa’ from a Pahlavi version of an Indian work. Writers of this period also studied tribal traditions and wrote the first systematic Arabic grammars. During the Golden Age Muslim scholars also made important and original contributions to mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. They collected and corrected previous astronomical data, built the world’s first observatory, and developed the astrolabe, an instrument that was once called “a mathematical jewel.” In medicine they experimented with diet, drugs, surgery, and anatomy, and in chemistry, an outgrowth of alchemy, isolated and studied a wide variety of minerals and compounds. Important advances in agriculture were also made in the Golden Age. The ‘Abbasids preserved and improved the ancient network of wells, underground canals, and waterwheels,...

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