It is not a coincidence that a civilization which exalted Islamic Societies and moved them centuries ahead of its contemporaries was born around 7th century. This period is called “The Golden Age of Islam”. It lasted for about 1000 years. Around the time, western world was choking under the cultural, economical and intellectual deterioration of dark ages. The golden age of Islam was undoubtedly one of the main forces that initiated Renaissance that saved Europe from dark ages.
After the Prophet Mohammed (pbh) received the first revelation in 609 AD, the word of the God hit the Arabia like a lightening transforming once a savage society into the most cultured and intellectual society ever lived. The believers felt obliged to know about their creator by studying His Words and trying to seek His manifestation in His creation. This is exactly what was expected from them as ordained in Holy Quran:
“Who (believers) remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and contemplate the wonders of the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee!… (3:191)”
Clearly believers are defined as those who contemplate on the creation to see the manifestation of their creator. They seek His signs in the heavens and the earth, in all and everything, believing that nothing is Him but all is from Him. In other words, they look at the creation as they look at the art work with the hope to know more about the artist. This is the force behind the advancement of Islamic Societies during the Golden Age.
By integrating Islam and science the Islamic golden age became a civilization of brilliant scientific, philosophic, and artistic genius. The Islamic golden age produced unprecedented achievements way ahead of its time from enlightened thinkers.
“We (Allah) will show them (mankind) our signs in the universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth…” [Fussilat 41:53] God’s invitation to explore and search for signs and patters of His art work made Muslims be exalted in exploring astronomy, mathematics, geography, chemistry, geology, minerology, natural history and other sciences in the golden age. This thirst paved the way for the majority of the discoveries today and the time to come.
The Sun and the Moon had a vital importance in Muslim’s daily life. Muslims had to study the Moon and the Sun to determine the times for fasting and prayers.
“And He it is Who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all (orbs) travel along swiftly in their celestial spheres” [Al-Anbiya 21:33] is one of many references to Astronomy in the Quran. These references inspired Muslims to study the heavens. Muslim astronomers were the first to establish observatories and invented instruments such as the quadrant and the astrolabe which contributed to the European Age of Exploration.
Seeking knowledge was also reinforced by the traditions or the Prophet who said:
“Go and seek knowledge even if it is in China”.
He also said:
“A moment of reflection is better than a night long prayer”
Muslims had a great thirst to get to know their creator; they sought out signs and patterns of God everywhere. They had to know geography to make long journeys to spread their religion, make hajj, and conduct trade. They had to learn and develop science of geography to determine the location of Qiblah in order to pray five times a day. Muslim scholars compiled vast amounts of geographical and climatic data from the pacific to the Atlantic. They created very accurate maps that lead the great explores that we know to discover new lands, rivers, seas and worlds.
Seeking knowledge was also reinforced by the traditions or the Prophet who said: “Go and seek knowledge even if it is in China”.
Muslim mathematicians excelled in geometry, trigonometry and made significant progress in number theory. The Muslims scholars invented the symbol for zero, and they organized the numbers into the decimal system. They invented the symbol to express an unknown quantity, i.e. variables like x. Al-Khawarizmi, invented the subject of algebra (al-Jabr), which was further developed by others, most notably Umar Khayyam. Al-Khawarizmi’s work, in Latin translation, brought the Arabic numerals along with the mathematics to Europe, through Spain. The word “algorithm” is derived from his name. Islam strongly urges mankind to study and explore the universe. Through religion Islamic scholars knew that the world and the universe held all the answers. They only needed to use knowledge to find them.
The Prophet Mohammed (pbh) preached “for every disease, Allah has given a cure.”
Muslim scholars had great interest in the human body. Human body is a gift from the creator and source of appreciation in Islam. It was an important matter to keep it healthy, to keep it clean and free of diseases. It was a holy responsibility to find a cure for diseases; this lead to a vast study of the science of medicine. Al-Razi (d. 932) was one of the greatest physicians and scientists during the entire Middle Ages. Ibn Sina was another major scientist who made significant contributions in pharmacology and public health. In every major city, Muslims had excellent hospitals that specialized in particular diseases such as mental and emotional health. Muslims had teaching hospitals that served as medical schools.
If one does not know the original intention of an idea, will one ever know the truth in its purity? Would usefulness of it serve the true purpose? Will anything and everything built upon that idea steer humanity into the pure truth? Would purity and truthfulness of that idea be trusted?
When the science becomes a tool to know the divine, it serves the creation for the sake of the created. As was the case for many Muslim scientist of the Golden Age, personal desires to become famous or rich is less important or less exciting than seeing their creator through the creation. That is why the impact of their work is still felt today. As soon as the societies have started rewarding the science for the riches it brought to selected groups, then the resources of the world have been plundered in obliviousness. The distinction between the truth and the false, the good and bad is lost.
Sun still rises up in the east. We still have time!