al-Muquddim | The Expeditor

From the beginning of the 10th century, small groups of men had attempted to increase the store of theoretical knowledge about the world and man that was contained in the few Latin books that had been salvaged from the wreck of ancient civilization. Men in those few groups had learnt that the Muslims possessed Arabic translations of the basic works of the Ancient World, and had access to complete manuals of the sciences that were considered essential. [Rodinson, 1979, pp. 14-15]

The repositories of knowledge in Baghdad might have remained out of reach of the West, but for the fact that the Arab empire stretched across the Mediterranean to the Iberian Peninsula. From the 8th to the 10th centuries, Arab Spain remained tied to Baghdad for intellectual stimulation. New schools set up in Cordova, Seville, Granada, and Toledo sent their graduates to advanced study in Cairo and Baghdad. Pilgrimages to Mecca also brought Spanish Arabs into contact with the ideas flowing in the Arab heartland. Rulers in Andalusia imported scholars and musicians from Iraq and Persia to their courts. The structure of the Arab way of life, with its lack of political assemblies and theaters, made books the primary means through which knowledge was acquired and transmitted. Accordingly, returning pilgrims and merchants brought newly published books westward to Spain from Baghdad, and book collecting was mark of prestige among the upper classes in Spain. [Hitti, 1971] As the West began to show interest in what was contained in Arabic texts, the Arab world was beginning to enter its own dark age. The glory that was Baghdad in the 9th century went up in smoke when Hulugu destroyed the city in 1258.

The dawn of a new era in Europe characterized by rational speculation and scientific achievement – to which Arabs had so richly contributed – coincided with the beginning of the decay of Arab thought. From the early 9th to the late 12th century, the Arabs were probably the most learned people in the world. Their language could boast a greater output in literature, science and philosophy than any other, not excluding Latin. The Arab creative spark after that was everywhere extinguished. [Hitti, 1971, p. 236]

The Arab Bridge | ash-Shakoor | al-Mu’eed | al-Muquddim | al-Waajid | al-Fattaah | al-Hafeez | al-Hayy | References | Footnotes | Author