and Islam's close relationship with it played a
tremendous role in strengthening my faith and that of
scientists throughout history - even today! This is a
fascinating section - do take time to explore it!
indeed no human work prior to modern times that
contains statements which were equally in advance of
the state of knowledge at the time they appeared and
which might be compared to the Quran. It comes as no
surprise to learn that Religion and Science have
always been considered to be twin sisters by Islam and
that today, at a time when science has taken such
great strides, they still continue to be associated,
and furthermore certain scientific data are used for
the better understanding of the Quranic text.
"What is more,
in a century where, for many, scientific truth has
dealt a deathblow to religious belief, it is precisely
the discoveries of science that, in an objective
examination of the Islamic Revelation, have
highlighted the supernatural character of certain
aspects of the Revelation.
contains infinitely more precise details [than many
scientific discoveries today] which are directly
related to facts discovered by modern science: these
are what exercise a magnetic attraction for today's
"It is not
faith in Islam that first guided my steps, but simple
research for the truth. [What led me to this
conviction was the fact that it would be unthinkable]
for a man of Muhammad's time to have been the author
of such statements on account of the state of
knowledge in his days." ~
Dr. Maurice Bucaille, an eminent medical scientist
and a member of the French Academy of Medicine. He is
the author of the book entitled "The Bible, The
Quran and Science."
The Relationship of
the Qur'an to the
Sciences by Sayyid
Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i
Praise of Knowledge and the Stimulation of the
Desire to Study
No other revealed book praises and encourages
science and knowledge as does the Qur'an and it is for
this reason that the Qur'an names the age of the
desert Arabs, together with their pagan cultures,
before Islam as the "age of ignorance." In
over a hundred verses reference is made to science and
knowledge in a variety of ways; and many of these
verses praise the value of scientific knowledge. In
XCVI:5 God indicates the favour he has done man by
bringing him out of his state of ignorance. "He
teaches man what he did not know."
Likewise, we read in LVIII:11, "God will
exalt those who believe among you and those who have
knowledge to high ranks," and in XXXIX:9
God says, "Are those who know equal to
those who do not" Besides the many verses
in the Qur'an concerning knowledge, there are also
countless traditions of the Prophet and the Imams on
this subject which rank second only in importance to
The Sciences which the Qur'an Invites Men to
In verses too numerous to mention, the Qur'an
invites one to reflect upon the signs Of creation: the
heavens, the shining stars and their astonishing
celestial movements, and the cosmic order which rules
over them all. Similarly, the Qur'an urges one to
reflect upon the creation of the earth, the seas, the
mountains, the desert, and the wonders contained below
the surface of the earth, the difference between night
and day and the changing cycle of seasons. It urges
mankind to meditate on the extraordinary creation of
the plants and the order and symmetry governing their
growth, as well as the multiplicity of the animal
The Qur'an invites one to witness the
interdependence of beings and how all live in harmony
with nature. It calls upon man also, to ponder on his
own make-up, on the secrets of creation which are
hidden within him, on his soul, on the depth of his
perception, and on his relationship with the world of
The Qur'an commands man to travel in the world in
order to witness other cultures and to investigate the
social orders, history and philosophies of past
people. Thus it calls man to a study of the natural
sciences, mathematics, philosophy, the arts and all
sciences available to man, and to study them for the
benefit of man and the well-being of society.
The Qur'an recommends the study of these sciences
on the condition that it leads to truth and reality,
that it produces a correct view of the world based on
an understanding of God.
Knowledge, which merely keeps a man occupied and
prevents him from knowing the reality of his own
existence, is equated with ignorance. God says in
XXX:7, "They know only some appearance of
the life of one world and are heedless of the
Hereafter" and in chapter XLV:23, "Have
you seen him who makes his Desire his goal, and God
sends him astray purposely and seals up his Heart and
sets a covering on his Heart. Then who will lead him
after God (has condemned him)."
The Qur'an not only stimulates the desire for study
but is itself a complete system of education of divine
knowledge; it provides, too, a model for human
behaviour and thought. This complete way of life is
called Islam, the way of submission.
The Sciences Particular to the Study of the
There are many sciences devoted to the study of the
Qur'an itself. The development of such sciences dates
from the first day of Qur'anic revelation; over a
period of time they were unified and perfected. Today
countless books are available on these sciences, fruit
of the labour of different researchers over the
Some of these sciences investigate the language and
vocabulary of the Qur'an, and some the meanings. Those
concerned with language are the sciences of correct
Qur'anic pronunciation and reading (tajwad and qira'ah).
They explain the simple changes which certain letters
undergo when occurring in conjunction with others, the
substitution of letters and the places prescribed for
breath-pausing, and other similar matters. They also
study the different ways the Qur'an has been written
down and the several generally accepted ways of
recitation, together with the three lesser known ways
and the rarer modes of recitation.
Other works enumerate the number of chapters and
their verses, while others relate these numbers to the
They discuss the tradition of Qur'anic calligraphy
and how it differs from the normal Arabic script. They
research, too, into the meanings of the Qur'an and the
general division of subject matter, such as the place
and circumstance of revelation, the interpretation of
certain verses, the outward and inner meanings, the muhkam
(clear) or the mutashabih (ambiguous), and the
abrogating and the abrogated verses.
Others study the verses containing the laws (which,
in fact, are part of what is known as Islamic fiqh or
jurisprudence). Others specialize in the commentary of
the meanings (already seen in a previous section of
the book). Specialists in each of the different
sciences have published numerous works on each
The Sciences which Developed because of the
The sciences of the din of Islam came into being at
the beginning of the Prophet's mission and the
revelation of the Qur'an, including laws governing the
behaviour and transactions of Muslims. Study of these
sciences developed in the first century after the
Hijrah although initially, not in any formal way.
Since the Caliphs had prohibited the writing down of
the tradition, they were handed down by word of mouth
by the companions and their followers.
A small number of Scholars wrote on jurisprudence
and on the science of the traditions at the beginning
of the second century when the prohibition was lifted,
allowing Scholars to record the traditions.
It was at this point that a number of disciplines
came into being including the Science of Traditions
and the Science of establishing the authority and
sincerity of those men who transmitted it; the Science
of analysis of the text of the traditions; the Science
of the foundations of jurisprudence and jurisprudence
itself; the Science of belief in the judgement after
death and the after-life. Even philosophy, which
entered the Islamic arena via the Greek, and remained
there for some time in its original Greek, took on the
colour and beliefs of the people after a time.
Changes in the subject matter and the structure of
disciplines took place such that today, amongst
Muslims, all subject matter concerning divine gnosis
is supported by proofs and reasons taken from the
Qur'an and the traditions.
All these subjects were also studied as an integral
part of the Arabic language: mastery of the science of
verb declensions grammar, meanings of words,
commentary and explanation, the art of metaphors and
good style, and the philosophy and science of derived
meanings allowed greater precision and clarity in the
study of the Islamic Sciences as a whole.
Indeed what stimulated scholars to record and
arrange coherently the laws of the Arabic language was
the sense that they were serving God; love of Him drew
them to a clarity and sweetness of style which in turn
generated the Science of correct speech and
It is thus related that Ibn 'Abbas, who was one of
the commentators amongst the companions, explained the
mean- ings of verses by taking examples of the
vocabulary in question from Arabic poetry. He advised
people to collect and learn Arabic poetry saying, Poetry
is the court of the Arabs (meaning the place where the
finest language may be heard).
The famous Shi'ite scholar Khahl ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi
wrote the book al-'Ayn on the subject of language and
also described the science of poetic rhyme.
Many others also wrote on the same subjects. The
subject of history was initially derived in Islam from
stories of the lives of prophets, in particular that
of the Prophet Muhammad, and the description of the
course of past nations. To this basic material was
added an account of the events during the period
immediately following the appearance of Islam. All
this was developed into a history of the world in the
writings of such men as al-Tabari, al-Mas'udi, al-Ya'qubi
The original reason the Muslims translated and
transmitted the natural Sciences and mathematics from
other cultures and languages into Arabic was the
cultural stimulation given to them by the Qur'an. Many
different Sciences were translated from Greek, Syriac
and Sanskrit into Arabic.
Access to these sciences was at first available
only to the Caliph (who was at that time leader of
only Arab Muslims). Gradually they were made available
to all Muslims and improved upon as research methods,
structuring, classification and ordering of the
One of the main reasons the civilization of Islam,
which formed after the death of the Prophet, came to
include a large part of the inhabited world (and which
today numbers over six hundred million inhabitants),
was the Qur'an. We as Shi'ahs, however, deny that the
caliphs and the kings who followed them had legitimate
claim to the guardianship and execution of the law
even though they expanded Islamic civilization, and do
not fully agree with the way they explained the
realities of Islam.
Indeed the light of wisdom which illuminated the
world was from the light of the miracle of the Qur'an.
The apppearance and diffusion of the revelation caused
a change in the direction of history and generated a
chain of important events resulting in the progress
and development of the culture of man.
a Gaseous Mass to the Heavens and the Earth
The Qur'an was revealed
in the seventh century. Many statements pertaining to
physical phenomena are dispersed throughout the Qur'an.
These are there in the Qur'an to draw the attention of
people to the wonders of Allah's creation.
Any other seventh
century book making statements about the physical
universe would surely contain mistakes. Our knowledge
of physical sciences in the twentieth century is far
advanced beyond the imagination of people living the
seventh century. What will come as a surprise to many
people is that of all the numerous statements about
scientific matters found in the Qur'an, not one of
those have proved contrary to the established facts of
science. On the other hand, many of those statements
have already been verified by modern scientific
studies, and we confidently expect that as various
fields of knowledge advance, other Quranic statements
will likewise prove true.
Let us look at some
of the statements which science has already verified.
creation of the heavens and the earth, the Qur'an says
that prior to the creation, the Heaven was smoke. God
then commanded it and the earth to come into being and
they came willingly (see surah 41:11). How does that
compare with modern scientific explanations? Let us
hear a scientific explanation and then judge for
The French scientist
Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book called The
Bible, the Qur'an and Science explains:
the earliest time it can provide us with, modern
science has every reason to maintain that the universe
was formed from a gaseous mass principally composed of
hydrogen and a certain amount of helium that was
slowly rotating" (p.147).
Didn't the Qur'an
say that the Heaven was smoke before its creation? Dr.
Bucaille explains the connection between his
description and that of the Qur'an as follows:
is generally made up of a gaseous substratum, plus, in
more or less stable suspension, fine particles that
may belong to solid and even liquid states of matter
at high or low temperature" (p. 143).
He therefore sees no
contradiction of the Quranic use of the Arabic word dukhan
(translated smoke) and a modern interpretation of that
word as a gaseous mass with fine particles when
speaking of the formation of the universe.
We notice here two
remarkable features of the Qur'an. The first feature
is that it expresses scientific truths that will be
verified many centuries later. The second feature is
that the Qur'an expresses those truths using terms and
expressions that would avoid confusing its first
readers in the seventh century. The seventh century
reader of the Qur'an can easily relate to the image of
smoke, and the twentieth century scientist can easily
interpret the word as a gaseous mass.
Fusing and Separating of the Heavens and the Earth
do modern scientists explain the formation of the
universe? Dr. Maurice Bucaille explains it in his
book, The Bible, the
Qur'an and Science, as follows: "The
basic process in the formation of the universe . . .
lay in the condensing of material in the primary
nebula followed by its division into fragments that
originally constituted galactic masses. The latter
in their turn split up into stars that provided the
sub-product of the process, i.e. the planets"
the Qur'an say anything about this condensing and
separation of the primary material to result in the
formation of our universe? Let's have a look. Our
creator, Allah, says in his final book: "Do
not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the
earth were joined together, then we clove them
asunder . . ." (Qur'an 21:30).
could also be translated as follows: "Do
not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the
earth were fused together, then we separated them .
. ." (Qur'an 21:30).
Bucaille sees this as "the
reference to a separation process of a primary
single mass whose elements were initially fused
the Qur'an gives an accurate account of the
formation of the universe to call upon humankind to
recognise the power of their creator.
raises an interesting question: How could a man
living in the seventh century invent these ideas
which could not be confirmed until modern times? And
how could he in so doing avoid the mythical and
fanciful ideas prevalent in human history?
Bucaille mentions some of these myths for contrast:
as in Japan, the image of the egg plus an expression
of chaos is attached to the above with the idea of a
seed inside an egg (as for all eggs), the
imaginative addition makes the concept lose all
semblance of seriousness. In other countries, the
idea of a plant is associated with it; the plant
grows and in so doing raises up the sky and
separates the heavens from the earth. Here again,
the imaginative quality of the added detail lends
the myth its very distinctive character" (p.
contrast to those myths, the Qur'anic statements are
"free from any of the whimsical details
accompanying such beliefs; on the contrary, they are
distinguished by the sober quality of the words in
which they are made, and their agreement with
scientific data" (p. 152).
must be that the Qur'an is not the product of any
human or humans, but a revelation from Allah. The
Qur'an says: "The
revelation of the scripture whereof there is no
doubt is from the Lord of the Worlds" (Qur'an
the Mistakes of Genesis
saw in chapter 2, both the Qur'an and modern science
confirm that the heavens and the earth were created
simultaneously, having been separated from a primary
nebula. It is important to understand that the
Bible, the most famous record of the creation prior
to the Qur'an gives a sequence for the creation of
the heavens and the earth that is today found
unacceptable from a scientific standpoint. If the
Qur'an was the work of human beings it is difficult
to imagine how they could have avoided the human
errors so firmly fixed in the minds of people from
the previous records.
the Bible, in Genesis, chapter 1, we read that God
created light which He called day, and separated it
from the darkness which He called night (see v. 3).
Today we know that the alternation of day and night
is caused by the earth's movement in relation to the
sun. But, according to Genesis, the sun was not
created until the fourth day (see v. 16). So how
could day and night alternate before that?
related problem is that vegetation is created on the
third day (see vv. 11-12) whereas the sun which is
necessary for sustaining vegetation does not appear
until the fourth day.
is totally untenable" says Dr. Bucaille,
"is that a highly
organized vegetable kingdom with reproduction by
seed could have appeared before the existence of the
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 42).
have already seen that the Qur'an states, and modern
science confirms, that the heavens and the earth
were formed together.
Bucaille explains as follows: "Earth
and moon emanated, as we know, from their original
star, the sun. To place the creation of the sun and
moon after the creation of the earth is contrary to
the most firmly established ideas on the formation
of the elements of the solar system" (p. 42).
giving a sequence in which the sun and moon are
created after the creation of the earth, the Genesis
account proves erroneous. On the other hand, the
Qur'an, by speaking of the simultaneous creation of
the heavens and the earth, has judiciously avoided
the errors of the Genesis account.
the Qur'an have been authored by a human? No!
Bucaille asks: "How could
a man living fourteen hundred years ago have made
corrections to the existing description to such an
extent that he eliminated scientifically inaccurate
material and, on his own initiative, made statements
that science has only in the present day been able
to verify?" (p.151).
Days of Creation or Six Periods?
we know that the creation process can be measured in
billions of years.
priestly editors or the Bible could not have known
this. In their eagerness to enjoin Sabbath
observance on others they wrote that God rested on
the very first Sabbath day after finishing up his
work of creating the heavens and the earth.
six days of creation in the book of Genesis, then,
are clearly like six days of any seven-day week. The
Priestly editors have made it clear that a day is
meant a period from one sunset to another. Six days
meant from Sunday to Friday. They believed that the
reason the Sabbath day became holy is that God
Himself had rested on that day. Thus the editors
tell us: "By the seventh
day God had finished the work he had been doing; so
on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And
God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it he rested from all the work of
creating that he had done" (Genesis 2:2).
that is not far enough, the editors took the idea
that God rested farther still when they wrote as
follows: "In six days the
Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day
he rested, and was refreshed" (The Holy Bible,
King James Version, Exodus 31:17).
idea that God rests like humans and gets refreshed
like humans had to be corrected by Jesus, on whom be
peace, when, according to John, he declared that God
never stops working, even on the Sabbath day (see
John 5:16). God clarified the matter in His own
words when he declared: "And
verily we created the heavens and the earth and all
that is between them in six days, and naught of
weariness touched us" (Qur'an 50:38 see also v.
above qur'anic verses clearly refute the idea that
God rested. God, according to the Qur'an does not
get tired. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes him (Qur'an
how about the period of creation? Was that six days
in the Qur'an too? In the above quotation from the
Qur'an the term translated `days' could mean,
according to Dr. Maurice Bucaille, "not just
`days', but also `long periods of time', an
indefinite period of time (but always long)" (The
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 139).
Bucaille notes that the Qur'an also speaks of
"a day whereof the measure is a thousand years
of your reckoning" (Qur'an 32:5). The Qur'an
also speaks of "a day whereof the measure is
50,000 years" (Qur'an 70:4).
Bucaille also points out that long before our modern
ideas of the length of time involved in the
creation, commentators of the Qur'an understood that
when the Qur'an speaks of six days of creation, it
does not mean six days like ours, but rather six
periods. Abu al Su'ud, for example, writing in the
sixteenth century, understood it as six events (see
The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p.139).
we see that the Qur'an has avoided repeating an
error which was established in a previous book - an
error that will not be discovered until modern
times. In view of this, can anyone insist that the
Qur'an is the work of a man?
Old is the Earth?
Bible provides a chronology of history that extends
back to the creation of Adam and Eve and to the
creation of the earth. From this chronology it is
possible to determine the date of the creation and
hence the age of the earth.
Ussher of Armagh (1581-1657) had calculated the year
of creation to be 4004 B.C. If that was not precise
enough, Dr. Lightfoot of Cambridge worked out that
the exact time when God completed His creation was 9
a.m. on Friday, October 23, 4004 B.C. (see the book Thinking
about God by Sr. R. W. Maqsood, p.
religious groups and sects have used this date in
predicting precise dates for the end of the world,
but all such predictions have so far proved
erroneous. The one fact against them is that the
world is still intact and we are very much alive.
One reason all of those predictions failed is that
they are calculated from a false date of creation.
If 4004 B.C. was the year of creation, that would
make the earth less than six thousand years old. No
scientist can accept this today.
scientists estimate that the earth is 4.5 billion
years old with a maximum error of 2.2 % (see The
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p.
148). Knowing this, many educated people lost faith
in religion. They naturally felt that the Word of
God should not contain errors of this kind. Others
maintain that the Word of God was meant to teach
only that truth which God wanted put into the
scriptures for our salvation. It is therefore
immaterial if the book contains historical or
scientific errors. As the scientist Galileo put it,
the Bible is there to teach people how to go to
heaven; it is not there to teach people how the
heavens go. Some maintain, therefore, that it is
understandable that the book will contain some
historical and scientific errors since it was
written by human beings who lived a long time ago
and did not share our modern knowledge.
Qur'an, on the other hand, does not contain any
historical or scientific or any kind of error. God
challenges us to test this claim by examining the
book for ourselves (see Qur'an 4:82).
Qur'an does not repeat the incorrect biblical
chronology we have seen above. The Qur'an does not
give a chronology since its purpose is not to
provide us with the details of history, but only to
teach us the lessons arising from specific events in
Qur'an does, however tell us that God measured the
sustenance of the earth in four periods (Qur'an
41:10). As to what could be the significance of
these four periods, Dr. Bucaille comments as
follows: "One could
perhaps see in them the four geological periods
described by modern science, with man's appearance,
as we already know, taking place in the quater nary
era. This is purely a hypothesis since nobody has an
answer to this question" (The
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p.
did the author of the Qur'an avoid the mistake in
chronology committed by so many others, and believed
in by so many others even up to our present day?
Could a man in the seventh century have known that
the earth was much more than six thousand years old?
How could he come by this modern knowledge unless
God was revealing knowledge to him?
tells us that the Qur'an is His book and not the
work of any man (see Qur'an 10:37).
of the Universe
the Qur'an mentions about the organization of the
Universe is important because "these
references constitute a new fact of divine
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p.
153). The Qur'an deals with this matter in depth
although this is not dealt with in the previous
Maurice Bucaille also points out the important fact
that the Qur'an does not contain "the
theories prevalent at the time of the Revelation
that deal with the organization of the celestial
world" (p. 153). If the Qur'an was
authored by any human being, he or she would have
naturally included the ideas prevalent at the time.
But many of those ideas were later shown to be
inaccurate. How did the author of the Qur'an know
enough to exclude those ideas, unless the author is
who say that Muhammad authored the Qur'an think that
the Arabs were very knowledgeable in the field of
Science, and Muhammad was or course one of them. But
this explanation is based on the incorrect
assumption that the Arabs knew Science before the
Qur'an was revealed. As pointed out by Dr. Bucaille,
the fact is that Science in Islamic countries came
after the Qur'an, not before. "In
any case", writes Dr. Bucaille, "the
scientific knowledge of that great period would not
have been sufficient for a human being to write some
of the verses to be found in the Qur'an" (The
Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p.
astronomers are aware that the stars and planets are
kept within ranges of precise distances from each
other. Had it not been for this fact, collision
between them would be inevitable. The author of the
Qur'an was also aware of this. In the Qur'an we read
"the sun and the moon (are subjected) to
calculations (Qur'an 55:5).
we read: "For you (God)
subjected the sun and the moon, both diligently
pursuing their courses" (Qur'an 14:33).
phrase `diligently pursuing their courses' is a
translation of the Arabic term daa'ib which here
means `to apply oneself to something with care in a
perseverant, invariable manner, in accordance with
set habits' (The Bible,
the Qur'an and Science, p.155). And
that indeed is how the sun and moon behave.
verse in the Qur'an says, "the
stars are in subjection to His command" (Qur'an
in the universe is essential for its preservation.
God, who subjected them to that order knew about it
before any scientist.
and the Quran
& Mathematics in Medieval Islamic Cultures
There were astonishing (surprising)
by Muslim scholars (people
who study, students)
and scientists during the period from approximately
750 to 1050 A.D. This period is called a "Golden
Age" of the Islamic World. Great advances were
made in the Abbasid Islamic Empire (with its capital
in Baghdad) even up to 1258 when the Mongols invaded
the empire and destroyed its capital. Great
achievements also continued in Muslim Spain, in Cairo,
Egypt at later time periods, but the glorious
"Golden Age" was the best period for science
and mathematics. These achievements greatly influenced
learning in Europe, as well. Without the Muslim
achievements at this time, much of the learning from
ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt would have been lost
Why was there a Golden Age?
Encouragement of Scholarship (studying) within
Muslims were encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad
himself to "seek learning even as far as
China". In the area of medicine, the Prophet
Muhammad also encouraged a scientific approach. He
said, "For every disease, Allah has given a
cure," and scientists were encouraged to find
those cures. This attitude toward learning and
research was a powerful reason that science developed
so much under Islam. Moreover, Islam encouraged
learning in order to read the Qur'an, which begins:
"Recite!" (which is also translated:
are some more Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad)
which encouraged learning:
who pursues the road of knowledge Allah will direct to
the road of Paradise... The brightness of a learned
man compared to that of a mere worshiper is like that
of a the full moon compared to all the stars....
Obtain knowledge; its possessor can distinguish right
from wrong; it shows the way to Heaven; it befriends
us in the desert and in solitude, and when we are
friendless; it is our guide to happiness; it gives us
strength in misery; it is an ornament to friends,
protection against enemies.... The scholar's ink is
holier than the martyr's blood.... Seeking knowledge
is required of every Muslim....
Science in Medieval Islam by H. Turner,
University of Texas Press, 1995. Page 17
this period the territory of the Muslim Empire
included present-day Iran, Syria, Iraq, Egypt,
Palestine, North Africa, Spain, parts of Turkey and
Turkey, and more! People came from all those lands
to Baghdad. This brought about a sharing of ideas from
different parts of the world.
Abbasid Caliphate about 950 A.D.
Development of Paper
third important reason for the Golden Age was the
establishment of a paper mill (factory)
in Baghdad. Paper was first invented in China and then
the Muslims learned how it was made. (Actually Chinese
papermakers were taken prisoner and forced to teach
their captors how to make paper!) Soon paper replaced
skin of animals)
and papyrus (a
plant made into a kind of "paper" in ancient
The development of paper made it possible for a
great many people to get books and learn from them. This
was an important advance which affected education and
of Paper Making. Also see a map of the History
of Paper which shows the slow spread of
papermaking through the Middle East, across North
Africa, and into Europe.
A Unified Language
important reason for the "Golden Age" was
the development of Arabic into the language of
international scholarship. This was one of the
most significant events in the history of ideas.
Scholars could communicate with one another, and ideas
were translated from Greek, Latin, ancient
Egyptian, Chinese, and languages from other parts of
the world. In the ninth century the Caliph al-Mamun
encouraged the translation of Greek and
Byzantine knowledge. With the approval of the
Byzantine emperor, the caliph sent scholars to select
and bring back Greek scientific manuscripts (handwritten
translation into Arabic. This knowledge could be read
and discussed by scholars from all over the
painting of Socrates, a Greek philosopher
"The House of Wisdom - Bayt al-Hikmah"
House of Wisdom was a place where scholar-translators
tried to translate into Arabic the important
philosophical and scientific works of the ancient
world, especially from Greece and Egypt. They also
tried to show how Islam could include exloring new
ideas and experiments (rationalism). The House of
Wisdom was set up by Caliph al-Mamun in 1004 A.D. in
Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Empire. It was
the greatest "think tank" the medieval world
had ever seen! Without the translations and
research that went on here, much of the Greek, Latin,
and Egyptian knowledge would have been lost to the
historian al-Maqrizi described the opening of the
House of Wisdom in 1004:
In 1004 A.D. 'The House of Wisdom' was opened. The
students took up their residence. The books were
brought from [many other] libraries ... and the public
was admitted. Whosoever wanted was at liberty to
copy any book he wished to copy, or whoever required
to read a certain book found in the library could do
so. Scholars studied the Qur'an, astronomy,
grammar, lexicography and medicine. The building was,
moreover, adorned by carpets, and all doors and
corridors had curtains, and managers, servants,
porters and other menials were appointed to maintain
the establishment. Out of the library of Caliph al-Hakim
those books were brought which he had gathered-- books
in all sciences and literatures and of exquisite
calligraphy such as no king had