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The Twin Sisters (science and Islam)

 


 

Science 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!

"There is 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.

"The Quran 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 scientists.

"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 Qur'an.

The Sciences which the Qur'an Invites Men to Study

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 kingdom.

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 spirit.

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 Qur'an

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 centuries.

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 whole Qur'an.

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 subject.

The Sciences which Developed because of the Qur'an

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 composition.

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 and al-Waqidi.

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 subjects developed.

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.
 


 

(themodernreligion.com) 

From 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.

Concerning the 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 ourselves.

The French scientist Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book called The Bible, the Qur'an and Science explains:

"At 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:

"Smoke 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.
 


The Fusing and Separating of the Heavens and the Earth

How 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" (p.149).

Does 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).

This 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).

Dr. Bucaille sees this as "the reference to a separation process of a primary single mass whose elements were initially fused together" (p.143).

Thus the Qur'an gives an accurate account of the formation of the universe to call upon humankind to recognise the power of their creator.

This 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?

Dr. Bucaille mentions some of these myths for contrast:

"When, 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. 152).

In 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).

It 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 32:2).


Avoiding the Mistakes of Genesis

As we 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.

In 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?

A 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.

"What 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 sun" (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 42).

We have already seen that the Qur'an states, and modern science confirms, that the heavens and the earth were formed together.

Dr. 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).

By 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.

Could the Qur'an have been authored by a human? No!

Dr. 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).

 


Six Days of Creation or Six Periods?

Today we know that the creation process can be measured in billions of years.

The 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.

The 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).

If 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).

The 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. 15).

The 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 2:255).

But 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).

Dr. 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).

Dr. 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).

Again, 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?


How Old is the Earth?

The 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.

Archbishop 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. 63).

Many 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.

Modern 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.

The 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).

The 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 history.

The 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. 150).

How 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?

God tells us that the Qur'an is His book and not the work of any man (see Qur'an 10:37).
 


Organization of the Universe

What the Qur'an mentions about the organization of the Universe is important because "these references constitute a new fact of divine Revelation" (The 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 scriptures.

Dr. 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 God himself?

Those 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. 153-154)

Modern 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).

Again, we read: "For you (God) subjected the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses" (Qur'an 14:33).

The 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.

Another verse in the Qur'an says, "the stars are in subjection to His command" (Qur'an 16:12).

Order in the universe is essential for its preservation. God, who subjected them to that order knew about it before any scientist.


 

Science and the Quran

 

Science & Mathematics in Medieval Islamic Cultures

Introduction: There were astonishing (surprising) achievements 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 forever. 

I. Why was there a Golden Age?

A.      Encouragement of Scholarship (studying) within Islam

The 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: "Read!").

Here are some more Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) which encouraged learning:

"He 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....

From Science in Medieval Islam by H. Turner, University of Texas Press, 1995. Page 17

B.      Geographic Unity:

During 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.

The Abbasid Caliphate about 950 A.D. 

C. Development of Paper

A 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 parchment (the skin of animals) and papyrus (a plant made into a kind of "paper" in ancient Egypt). 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 scholarship.

Courtesy, Museum 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. 

D. A Unified Language

Another 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 works) for translation into Arabic. This knowledge could be read and discussed by scholars from all over the Islamic Empire.

Arabic painting of Socrates, a Greek philosopher

E. "The House of Wisdom - Bayt al-Hikmah"

The 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 world.

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