The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

The Islamic Golden Age is an era in Islamic history that is typically dated from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries, during which most of the historically Islamic world was controlled by numerous caliphates, and science, economic progress, and creative works thrived.

This period is traditionally considered to have begun during the rule of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786–809), with the establishment of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where academics from different parts of the world with diverse cultural backgrounds were tasked with gathering and translating all of the world’s classical wisdom into Arabic.

The end of the era is variably attributed to the Mongolian Sack of Baghdad in 1258 or the culmination of the Christian Reconquista of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, Iberian Peninsula, in 1492.

The great Islamic capital towns of Baghdad, Cairo, and Córdoba were the principal intellectual centers for science, philosophy, medicine, and education throughout the Golden Age. 

Scholars who created the most renowned Islamic golden period innovations, such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, were extensively patronized by the government, and their wages were believed to be comparable to those of professional sportsmen today.

The Sciences for Which the Arabs Are Famous

  1. Science and mathematics 

The Arabs absorbed scientific knowledge from the civilizations they conquered, which included the ancient Greek, Roman, Persian, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and Semitic civilizations. Alexandrian mathematical, geometric, and astrological knowledge, such as that of Euclid and Claudius Ptolemy, was retrieved by scientists.

  1. Medicine and healthcare

Medicine had an important role in medieval Islamic civilization. Responding to historical and geographical circumstances, Islamic physicians and intellectuals created a rich and complex medical literature that explored and synthesized medical philosophy and practice.

Islamic medicine was founded on tradition, particularly theoretical and practical knowledge gained in India, Greece, Iran, and Rome. Islamic academics translated their literature from Syriac, Greek, and Sanskrit into Arabic and then created new knowledge of medicine based on those translations.

 Islamic academics arranged Greco-Roman medical knowledge into encyclopedias to allow easy access, intelligibility, and teachability. 

Art and creativity

During the Islamic Golden Age, ceramics, glass, metal, textiles, manuscripts, and woodwork thrived. Portrait miniature painting thrived in Persia, and manuscript illumination became a significant and highly valued art form. Calligraphy, which is an important part of written Arabic, evolved in manuscripts and architectural ornamentation.

The advancement of architecture was one of the most important ancient Islamic achievements. Persian and Byzantine architecture influenced mosques, tombs, castles, and forts. The concepts of quasicrystal line geometry, which would not be found for another 500 years, were foreshadowed in Islamic mosaic painting. 

This work of art made use of symmetric polygonal forms to create patterns that could go on endlessly without repeating. These patterns have even aided current scientists in their understanding of quasicrystals on the atomic level.

Literature and philosophy 

With the invention of paper, information became more accessible, and it became feasible to make a career merely by producing and selling books. Paper usage expanded from China to Muslim territories in the eighth century, and then to Spain (and ultimately the rest of Europe) in the tenth century. 

Paper was easier to make than parchment, less prone to fracture than papyrus, and could absorb ink, making it more difficult to erase and perfect for record-keeping.

Islamic papermakers created assembly-line ways of hand-copying manuscripts in order to produce editions considerably bigger than those accessible in Europe for centuries. 

The best-known work of Islamic literature is The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which began in the 10th century and was completed in the 14th century, however, the quantity and genre of tales vary.

What Are the Most Important Islamic Achievements?

What is only now becoming clear (to many in the west) is that during the dark ages of medieval Europe, incredible scientific advances were made in the Muslim world. Geniuses in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and Cordoba took on the scholarly works of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, India, and China, developing what we would call “modern” science. 

Here are some of the modern scientific Islamic achievements that you didn’t know about:

  1. Ibn Firnas’ flying machine

Abbas Ibn Firnas was a famous ninth-century innovator and the Islamic world’s Da Vinci. He is commemorated on Arabic postage stamps and has a lunar crater named after him. 

When he was 65, he built a primitive hang glider and threw himself off the edge of a mountain in his famous effort at controlled flight. According to other reports, he continued airborne for several minutes before crashing severely and injuring his back. 

  1. Al-Idrisi’s world map

This three-meter replica of the famous 12th-century map by Andalusian cartographer Al-Idrisi (1100-1166) was drawn in Sicily and is considered the most comprehensive and complete depiction of the world recorded in medieval times. It was widely utilized by travelers for centuries and included thorough accounts of the Christian north as well as the Islamic world, Africa, and the Far East.

  1. Surgical instruments

This strange and fascinating collection of equipment was employed by the 10th-century surgeon al-Zahrawi, who practiced in Cordoba. His work had a significant impact on Europe, and many of his instruments are still used today. Among his most famous innovations are the syringe, forceps, bone saw, lithotomy scalpel, and surgical hooks and needles.

  1. The camera obscura

Ibn al-Haytham, a 10th century Arab, was the finest scientist of the medieval world. His significant contributions to optics included the first true interpretation of how vision works. He demonstrated how light travels in straight lines from an object to produce an inverted picture on the retina using the Chinese innovation of the camera obscura (or pinhole camera).

  1. The elephant clock

The exhibition’s centerpiece is a three-meter-tall reproduction of an early 13th-century water clock, one of the medieval world’s technical marvels. It was designed by al-Jazari and serves as a tangible manifestation of the notion of diversity. 

It has an Indian elephant, Chinese dragons, an Egyptian phoenix, wooden robots, and a Greek water mechanism dressed in traditional Arabian garb. The timing mechanism is based on a pail of water buried within the elephant.

What Is the Most Important Contribution of Muslim Scholars?

In philosophy 

Averroism refers to the 13th-century philosophical movement founded on Averroes’ writings. Both Ibn Rushd and the philosopher Ibn Sina were instrumental in preserving Aristotle’s works, whose ideas grew to dominate non-religious philosophy in the Christian and Muslim cultures. 

Ibn Rushd has been referred to as the “founding father of Western European secular philosophy.” He attempted to harmonize Aristotle’s philosophical theory with Islam. 

Religion and philosophy, he believes, are not in contradiction; rather, they are different paths to the same truth. He believed in the universe’s infinity. Ibn Rushd likewise believed that the soul is split into two parts: individual and divine.

In math

In his seminal work, Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala, Persian scholar Muhammad ibn Ms al-Khwrizm substantially improved algebra, from whence the name “algebra” is derived. The term “algorithm” comes from the name of the scholar al-Khwarizmi, who was also responsible for spreading Arabic numbers and the Hindu-Arabic numeral system outside the Indian subcontinent. 

The sum formula for the fourth power was found by the scholar Alhazen in calculus, using a method that is easily generally applicable to find the sum for any integral power. He used it to calculate the volume of a paraboloid.

In calligraphy 

The Persians, who had converted to Islam by the 10th century, began spinning inscriptions on intricately patterned silks. These beautiful calligraphic-inscribed fabrics were brought to Europe by Crusaders as cherished gifts. The Suaire de Saint-Josse used to wrap St. Joseph’s bones at the monastery of St. Josse-sur-Mer in Caen in northern France, is a remarkable example.

Who Are the First Islamic Scholars in the World?

Here is a list of the first Islamic scholars or the “Fathers of Sciences” of their fields:

  1. Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, also known as the “Father of Modern Surgery” and “Father of Operative Surgery.”
  2. Ibn Sina is regarded as the father of early modern medicine.
  3. Ibn Al-Nafis was known as the “Father of Circulatory Physiology and Anatomy.”
  4. Alhazen is known as the “Father of Modern Optics.”
  5. Jabir ibn Hayyan, father of chemistry
  6. Ibn Khaldun is regarded as the founder of sociology, historiography, and modern economics. His Muqaddimah is his most well-known work.
  7. Abbas Ibn Firnas was known as the “Father of Medieval Aviation.”
  8. Al-Biruni was called the “Father of Comparative Religion,” “Father of Geodesy,” and “First Anthropologist” for his amazing depiction of early 11th-century India. Georg Morgenstierne considered him “the pioneer of comparative studies in human culture.” Al-Biruni has also been referred to as the “Father of Islamic Pharmacy.”
  9. ‘Ali ibn al-‘Abbas al-Majusi, commonly known as Haly Abbas, was the father of anatomic physiology.” Furthermore, one researcher regards him as the “founder of Arabic dermatology” in the section on dermatology in his Kamil as-sina’ah at-tibbiyah (Royal book-Liber Regius).
  10. Al-Khawarizmi is often regarded as the “Father of Algebra.” According to Solomon Gandz, “In a way, Khwarizmi is more qualified to be called “the father of algebra” than Diophantus since Khwarizmi was the first to teach algebra in a basic manner, whereas Diophantus is primarily concerned with number theory for its own purpose.”
  11. Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198): known in the West as The Commentator, “founder of free-thinking and disbelief,” and has been called the “father of rationality” and the “founding father of secular philosophy in Western Europe” by others. Ernest Renan referred to Averroes as the “ultimate rationalist” and considered him to be the “Father of Freethought and Dissent.”

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