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The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth
FrontPageMagazine.com ^ | November 15, 2002 | Robert Locke

Posted on 11/14/2002 11:05:10 PM PST by Coeur de Lion

The hatred of Western Civilization, and the corresponding urge to glorify anything outside it, especially if it can be depicted as a victim of the West, is a well-known phenomenon of the contemporary liberal mind. One of the forms it has taken in recent years is the attempt to artificially inflate the historic achievements of other civilizations beyond what the facts support. The noble savage myth is a commonplace; what is more complex is the myth that has been bandied about concerning the supposed "golden age" of Islamic civilization during what we know as the Middle Ages.

The myth of an Islamic Golden Age is needed by Islam’s apologists to save it from being damned by its present squalid condition; to prove, as it were, that there is more to Islam than the terrorism of Bin Laden and the decadence of the oil sheiks. It is, frankly, a confession that if the world judges it by what it is today, it comes up rather short, being a religion that has yet to produce a democratic or prosperous society, or social and cultural forms admired by neutral foreign observers the way anyone can admire American freedom, Japanese order, Israeli courage, or Italian style.

Some liberal academics openly admit that they twist the Moslem past to serve their present-day intellectual agendas. For example, some who propound the myth of an Islamic golden age of tolerance admit that their goal is, "to recover for postmodernity that lost medieval Judeo-Islamic trading, social and cultural world, its high point pre-1492 Moorish Spain, which permitted and relished a plurality, a convivencia, of religions and cultures, Christian, Jewish and Moslem; which prized an historic internationality of space along with the valuing of particular cities; which was inclusive and cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan here meaning an ease with different cultures: still so rare and threatened a value in the new millennium as in centuries past."

In other words, a fairy tale designed to create the illusion that multiculturalism has valid historical precedents that prove it can work.

To be fair, the myth of the golden age of Islam does have a partially valid starting point: there were times in the past when Moslem societies attained higher levels of civilization and culture than they did at other times. There have been times, that is, when some Moslem lands were fit for a cultivated man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid (his well-documented Christian-slaying and Jew-hating proclivities notwithstanding), or Cordova very briefly under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth century, come to mind. These isolated episodes, neither long nor typical, are endlessly invoked by Islam’s Western apologists and admirers.

This "golden" period in question largely coincides with the second dynasty of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, that of the Abbasids, named after Muhammad’s uncle Abbas, who succeeded the Umayyads and ascended to the Caliphate in 750 AD. They moved the capital city to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture as well as Persian methods of government, and ushered in the "golden age."

This age was marked by, among other things, intellectual achievement. A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule, by no means all of them "Moslems" either nominally or substantially, played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to Westerners. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. But in doing this, they were but transmitting what they themselves had received from non-Moslem sources.

Three speculative thinkers, notably the three Persians al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam. Greatly influenced by Baghdad’s Greek heritage in philosophy that survived the Arab invasion, and especially the writings of Aristotle, Farabi adopted the view — utterly heretical from a Moslem viewpoint — that reason is superior to revelation. He saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Koran and rejected predestination. He wrote more than 100 works, notably The Ideas of the Citizens of the Virtuous City. But these unorthodox works no more belong to Islam than Voltaire belongs to Christianity. He was in Moslem culture but not of it, indeed opposed to its orthodox core. He examples the pattern we see again and again: the best Moslems, whether judged by intellectual or political achievement, are usually the least Moslem.

The Moslem mainstream of this time, on the other hand, emphasized rigid Koranic orthodoxy and deployed Greek philosophy and science solely to buttress its authority. "They were rationalists in so far as they fell back on Greek philosophy for their metaphysical and physical explanations of phenomena; still, it was their aim to keep within the limits of orthodox belief."

But when the thinkers went too far in their free inquiry into the secrets of nature, paying little attention to the authority of the Koran, they aroused suspicion of the rulers both in North Africa and Spain, as well as in the East. Persecution, exile, and death were frequent punishments suffered by the philosophers of Islam whose writings did not conform to the canon.

On the other side of the Empire, in Spain, Averroës exercised much influence on both Jewish and Christian thinkers with his interpretations of Aristotle. While mostly faithful to Aristotle’s method, he found the Aristotelian "prime mover" in Allah, the universal First Cause. His writings brought him into political disfavor and he was banished until shortly before his death, while many of his works in logic and metaphysics had been consigned to the flames. He left no school.

From Spain the Arabic philosophic literature was translated into Hebrew and Latin, which contributed to the development of modern European philosophy. In Egypt around the same time, Moses Maimonides (a Jew) and Ibn Khaldun made their contribution. A Christian, Constantine "the African," a native of Carthage, translated medical works from Arabic into Latin, thus introducing Greek medicine to the West. His translations of Hippocrates and Galen first gave the West a view of Greek medicine as a whole.

The "golden age" of Islamic art lasted from AD 750 to the mid-11th century, when ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, and woodwork flourished. Lustered glass became the greatest Islamic contribution to ceramics. Manuscript illumination became an important and greatly respected art, and miniature painting flourished in Iran. Calligraphy, an essential aspect of written Arabic, developed in manuscripts and architectural decoration.

In the exact sciences the contribution of Al-Khwarzimi, mathematician and astronomer, was considerable. Like Euclid, he wrote mathematical books that collected and arranged the discoveries of earlier mathematicians. His "Book of Integration and Equation" is a compilation of rules for solving linear and quadratic equations, as well as problems of geometry and proportion. Its translation into Latin in the 12th century provided the link between the great Hindu mathematicians and European scholars. A corruption of the book’s title resulted in the word algebra; a corruption of the author’s own name resulted in the term algorithm.

The problem with turning this list of intellectual achievements into a convincing "Islamic" golden age is that whatever flourished, did so not by reason of Islam but in spite of Islam. Moslems overran societies (Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, Syrian, Jewish) that possessed intellectual sophistication in their own right and failed to completely destroy their cultures. To give it the credit for what the remnants of these cultures achieved is like crediting the Red Army for the survival of Chopin in Warsaw in 1970! Islam per se never encouraged science, in the sense of disinterested enquiry, because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge.

As Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong? the Moslem Empire inherited "the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle east, of Greece and of Persia, it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India."

The decimal numbers were thus transmitted to the West, where they are still mistakenly known as "Arabic" numbers, honoring not their inventors but their transmitters.

Furthermore, the intellectual achievements of Islam’s "golden age" were of limited value. There was a lot of speculation and very little application, be it in technology or politics.

At the present day, for almost a thousand years even speculation has stopped, and the bounds of what is considered orthodox Islam have frozen, except when they have even contracted, as in the case of Wahabism. Those who try to push the fundamentals of Moslem thought any further into the light of modernity frequently pay for it with their lives. The fundamentalists who ruled Afghanistan until recently and still rule in Iran hold up their supposed golden age as a model for their people and as a justification for their tyranny. Westerners should know better.

Notes: John Docker: "Arabesques of the Cosmopolitan and International" (paper was delivered at the smposium: Visions of a Republic, The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 6 April 2001). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Bernard Lewis. What Went Wrong? Oxford University Press. 2002. p. 6.

Second in a series of excerpts adapted by Robert Locke from Dr. Serge Trifkovic’s new book The Sword of the Prophet: A Politically-Incorrect Guide to Islam.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 11/14/2002 11:05:10 PM PST by Coeur de Lion
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To: Coeur de Lion
What is achieved by debating whether or not islam, had a "golden era?" If it did, it was a very long time ago.

Judging based on the present times, islam is a source of very much evil. For a thoughtful current follower to ignore all of the warring and terror, specifically for the cause of islam, is sheer folly.

If islam is to be redeemed, it will require its leader and followers, to do much more, than give lip service to "peace" proclammations, always given with denouncements of all its many enemies.



2 posted on 11/14/2002 11:40:25 PM PST by truth_seeker
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To: knighthawk; Sabertooth; dennisw; piasa; FITZ
ping
3 posted on 11/14/2002 11:53:48 PM PST by Travis McGee
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To: Travis McGee
What is achieved by debating whether or not islam, had a "golden era?"

PLENTY!!
If they had no golden age then what use does any non-Muslim really have for these hyperactive pests? Besides the oil reserves they squat on top of.

4 posted on 11/15/2002 12:02:07 AM PST by dennisw
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To: truth_seeker
What is achieved by debating whether or not islam, had a "golden era?"

Another nail in the coffin of multiculturalism. A better understanding of history. Credit where credit's due.

In a word: truth.

5 posted on 11/15/2002 12:27:26 AM PST by scooby
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To: dennisw
Didn't they invent the magic carpet or was that the Beatles?
6 posted on 11/15/2002 12:32:30 AM PST by dansangel
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To: dansangel
Didn't they invent the magic carpet or was that the Beatles?

All I know is Brian Jones and Keith used to like to go to Marrakech to get stoned without fear of police busting in. Other beatniks (William Burroughs + others) liked the little boys there.
7 posted on 11/15/2002 12:37:53 AM PST by dennisw
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To: dennisw; monkeyshine; ipaq2000; Lent; veronica; Sabramerican; beowolf; Nachum; BenF; angelo; ...
 


8 posted on 11/15/2002 12:41:02 AM PST by dennisw
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To: Coeur de Lion
One of the reasons I posted this was because it presents in a nutshell why the so-called Golden Age of Islam had very little to do with Islam itself. In fact I've always believed this Golden Age was much overrated and driven more from multiculturist aims than anything else. Why is any of this important? The mindset of the Moslem is not the same as those in the West. Most Moslems believe in the inherent superiority of their religion and as a result their culture to the extent that all others are inferior. It doesn't matter if they're living in a mud hovel in Afghanistan, they believe that they're superior to all other non-Muslims. This particular mindset has been observed but most with a Western orientation don't understand it, because it seems so foreign to us in its absolutism.

Additionally the West has a universal set of values which overall we're expected to adhere to. Yes, maybe we can kill Indians, or perhaps Jews should be mass executed as has happened in the past but we all know in our hearts the wrongness of doing these things and must rationalize why we do them i.e. they're salvages or the hereditary enemies of the Aryan People. With Islam the only universal principles which apply are to other Muslims. In the words of Lady Isabel Burton wife of Sir Richard Burton, "Out of the very stones they will fabricate such a tower of falsehoods that you can only stand and gabe in wonder and admiration at their fruitful invention."

They will use reason to argue their case. But they really believe it's only necessary for those who give credence to reason. Not to themselves because they know the rightness of their cause The case as to whether there was a Golden Age attributed to Islam only matters to a Muslim because it is a confirmation of the superiority of Islam, and it's also useful in dealing with non-Muslims.

The awareness of this mindset makes it actually easy to understand why so little response is ever forthcoming from their communities when some terrorist acts occur.

9 posted on 11/15/2002 1:04:25 AM PST by Coeur de Lion
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To: Coeur de Lion
Early AM bump for the article, and Mr. Heart's commentary.
10 posted on 11/15/2002 1:54:36 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: truth_seeker
Most of the reason that Islam is attacking Israel is because Israel came into a desert and deserted wasteland and made it prosper. Where there were once sand dunes Tel-Aviv sprouted, where there was rocks and dirt now are productive farms. Where Arabs could barely survive, The Jews flourished. It proved that Islam is not superior, but in fact far inferior to even the despised Jews.

On the other hand, America, the "Christian" nation prospers with great wealth, freedom and productivity. It shows that all the most hated of the Koran, those who Mohammad claimed had the Bible all wrong are faring far better than the Moslems. That is why they attacked the Twin Towers, as our commerce is a great insult to them.

There are two ways to be tall and wealthy among your neighbors, Stand up, work hard and grow, or chop their heads off and steal their goods. Islam has since the first day, always chosen the latter course.

The Moslems even have to steal the passenger planes that they used as weapons, as they cannot build their own. With out the hard work of many greedy westerners in supplying weapons and technology the Jihad would collapse of its own weight.
11 posted on 11/15/2002 2:00:45 AM PST by American in Israel
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To: Coeur de Lion

It is said that the numeric ZERO was invented by Muzzle-em Arabs . . . wherefore, I contend it is now time to reduce them to absolute ZERO (in humble respect of their suppose invention, of course) !!! ;-))


12 posted on 11/15/2002 3:33:17 AM PST by GeekDejure
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To: dennisw
Also it will show the vampire that this faith is...for is not the Devil the power only to destroy and pervert and not to create a new?
13 posted on 11/15/2002 4:02:35 AM PST by Stavka2
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To: Coeur de Lion
Good article.

One thing to bear in mind about the "Golden Age" is that it occurred very shortly after the establishment of Islam, after Mohammed's military conquests and those of his immediate successors, but before many of the tenets of the religion had entirely jelled. During the initial period, for example, figurative art was allowed; but succeeding generations of Muslims would then destroy this art as being contrary to Islam.

Islam is a particularly anti-intellectual religion, and because its favored form of government is theocracy, it has the power to enforce its views. As it succeeded in dominating the cultures in which it had installed itself, it strangled them. And except for military activities (some of which look more like plain old banditry), these cultures withered and became totally unproductive.
14 posted on 11/15/2002 4:02:47 AM PST by livius
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To: Coeur de Lion
What is there to understand? One must accept that: 1.Islam is out to conquer the world 2. Life under Islam is much worse then death fighting it. Now what else does one need to know. You aren't fighting for an abstract goal here...you are fighting for the very existence of your family and for the future generations that would be ground under the heel of slavery of this "faith". There is nothing else to do but to fight, kill and butcher until one side or the other is extinct. Lets get started.
15 posted on 11/15/2002 5:54:06 AM PST by Stavka2
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To: livius
Islam can't encourage people to question or want to prove anything, what it promotes is exactly opposite of thinking, it promotes submission to the clerics and never questioning anything or you face the threat of death.
16 posted on 11/15/2002 5:55:03 AM PST by FITZ
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To: Coeur de Lion
Well we do use Arabic numbers, but like the author said, that has about as much to do with Islam as the microchip has to do with Christianity.

IMHO, Islam is like the Catholic Church in the middle-ages.
17 posted on 11/15/2002 6:04:25 AM PST by jjm2111
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To: dennisw
And here's a bit more about the book by Serge Trifkovic. And here also.
18 posted on 11/15/2002 7:07:17 AM PST by anatolfz
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To: Coeur de Lion; truth_seeker
The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth

Got that right. Of all the centuries of Islamic rule throughout the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere, there was a period of scarcely a hundred years near the beginning when the Arabs actually controlled it. They did virtually everything else through mercenaries. The same goes for the supposed products of Islamic "civilization": they were the accomplishments of subject peoples. The period under the Turks was a bit different, though.
19 posted on 11/15/2002 7:16:35 AM PST by aruanan
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To: Coeur de Lion
Good indictment. Bump.
20 posted on 11/15/2002 11:36:09 AM PST by DoctorMichael
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To: Coeur de Lion
Second in a series of excerpts

Wondering where the other excerpt might be? I couldn't locate after a brief search on frontpagemag.

21 posted on 11/15/2002 11:52:57 AM PST by slowry
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To: Coeur de Lion
ping.
22 posted on 11/15/2002 12:02:12 PM PST by MoGalahad
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To: jjm2111
IMHO, Islam is like the Catholic Church in the middle-ages.

Somehow I really doubt that there are cloistered groups of Muslim clerics preserving and recopying ancient texts that will spark a Islamic Renaissance as soon as the Jihads finally turn back the encroaching Christian invaders.

Unlike Islam, the Catholic Church has encouraged developements in Theology and Science as ways to know God Islam violently stamps out anything that does not exactly match the Koranic worldview. That is why the microchip has a great deal to with Christianity, and not Islam.

23 posted on 11/15/2002 12:24:17 PM PST by Flying Circus
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To: FITZ
Islam can't encourage people to question or want to prove anything, what it promotes is exactly opposite of thinking, it promotes submission to the clerics and never questioning anything or you face the threat of death.

True. Is this because Islam wouldn't stand up under scrutiny?

For instance, Abraham the father of Isaac and Israelite patriarch, is also the father of Ishmael. Ishamel and Hagar were sent away when Sara is pregnant/gives birth to Isaac.

Abraham is also considered a patriarch of Arabs/Islam. Can he be both? Was he both? Genetically he could, but philospohically could he be a patriarch of a 'religion' that would call for the demise of Israelites?

From a website:

More than five thousand years ago today, the father of the prophets, prophet Ibraham (Peace be upon him) the Upright (Haneef), had built the present structure of the Ka’bah under Allah’s own orders. He (Peace be upon him) had built it along with his youthful son, Ishmael (Peace be upon him), forefather of the Arabs. This is how the Qur'an describes their building it together: "And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) and (his son) Isma'il (Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka'bah) at Makkah, ( saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, all Knower.’" ( Qur’an 2:127). The father and the son, true Monotheists (Muslims), were thus raising the foundations with trembling hearts, for the Muslims are Allah’s most devoted servants, ever fearful of his displeasure. While building the Ka'bah, therefore, both of them were afraid that Allah may not accept their humble service, hence that prayer of theirs. How touching of such fidelity, how moving of such humility towards Allah the Great! It is the essence of Monotheism, the ideal pattern of Faith and Actions great and small for all Muslims to follow. When raised to a certain height, Ibraham (Peace be upon him) ordered his son to choose a piece of stone to mark the main cornerpoint. Even as the lad was searching for it, the Archangel Gabriel appeared with the Black Stone from Heaven.

Now, first of all, has the Kabba ever been scientifically tested to see if it is 5,000 years old?

Second, did Abraham stay with Sara and Isaac or go off with Ishmael? Did Abraham renounce the faith of the Israelites?

In Deuteronomy 17:2-5
2 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant,
3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

Yet, in the Qu'ran, they have Gabriel bringing a black stone from heaven, to mark the corner and now many pray to and kiss this stone on their hajj. But, it's NOT idolatry! Yeah right.

So, while Abraham may be a patriarch to both Jews and Arabs, can he be a prophet to both 'religions', when the one seeks the destruction of the other?

Just curious.

24 posted on 11/15/2002 12:33:15 PM PST by ET(end tyranny)
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To: American in Israel
"Most of the reason that Islam is attacking Israel is because Israel came into a desert and deserted wasteland and made it prosper. Where there were once sand dunes Tel-Aviv sprouted, where there was rocks and dirt now are productive farms."

I know this. I live in Southern California, and we have a similar demonstration, contrasting California and Baja California.

In California, the Imperial Desert includes some of the MOST productive farmland, in the world. It employs the exact SAME farm methods, as used in Israel.

Across the border, Mexican-Catholics live at a far lower standard of living. Poverty is widespread.

But the our Mexican neighbors are NOT waging Jihad, as an expression of envy, inferiority, or whatever.
25 posted on 11/15/2002 12:50:42 PM PST by truth_seeker
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bttt
26 posted on 11/15/2002 3:20:23 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Stavka2
Evening bump!
27 posted on 11/15/2002 6:38:40 PM PST by ET(end tyranny)
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To: American in Israel
The Moslems even have to steal the passenger planes that they used as weapons, as they cannot build their own

A very good point, but ... give them a couple of hundred years, and the airplane - though no longer produced - will be "known" to be a muslim invention.

28 posted on 11/16/2002 6:54:28 PM PST by watchin
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To: jjm2111
The difference is that the Catholic Church grew up. Islam (with a few noteworthy exceptions such as Turkey where Ataturk booted it out of political power), if anything, has grown more fanatical and restrictive over time as it reaps the fruit of its labors.

It would seem to fit the description of Revalation 17:5.

29 posted on 11/17/2002 4:04:20 AM PST by Vigilanteman
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To: GeekDejure
It is said that the numeric ZERO was invented by Muzzle-em Arabs

The Arabs got it from the the Hindus - but in may in fact go back as far as the Alexandrian Greeks.

30 posted on 11/18/2002 2:27:25 AM PST by anapikoros
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To: ET(end tyranny)
"So, while Abraham may be a patriarch to both Jews and Arabs, can he be a prophet to both 'religions', when the one seeks the destruction of the other?

Very good question.

One I am sure is bound to get one beheaded, if asked directly.

31 posted on 02/02/2006 4:58:57 PM PST by Hillarys nightmare (So Proud to be living in "Jesus Land" ! Don't you wish everyone did?)
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To: Hillarys nightmare

justin


32 posted on 05/22/2007 9:38:59 AM PDT by g5oe
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To: Hillarys nightmare

this is why im hot


33 posted on 05/22/2007 9:39:00 AM PDT by g5oe
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To: GeekDejure

They invented zero and have contibuted the same to civilization ever since.


34 posted on 05/22/2007 10:22:12 AM PDT by Ignatz (Did you know that before the internal combustion engine, there was no weather at all?)
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To: truth_seeker
What is achieved by debating whether or not islam, had a "golden era?" If it did, it was a very long time ago.

Because the "golden age" is trotted out by the Islam-sympathetic West-hating media every time there is a major new Muslim atrocity. It's a belief that needs all the debunking it can get.

35 posted on 05/22/2007 11:11:43 AM PDT by denydenydeny (Expel the priest and you don't inaugurate the age of reason, you get the witch doctor--Paul Johnson)
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