Why Did Muslims Never Bother to Properly Investigate the Golden Age of Islam?

Last Updated on May 6, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • Muslims make extraordinary claims around The Golden Age; however, what is curious is that they put so little effort in properly chronicling what it was and its actual level of discovery.

Introduction

Muslims make many exaggerated claims about the Muslim Golden Age, which supposedly led to amazing discoveries that were then leveraged by Western societies. However, it was therefore shocking to learn how little effort Muslim societies have put into investigating this epoch that they are continually promoting to non-Muslims.

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Interpreting The Muslim Claims Of The Golden Age

When Muslims present the Golden Age, most Western audiences assume that the Muslim is providing an accurate view to educate the audience. That is what a Westerner would do, but that is now how Muslims or Muslim societies work. Muslims do things to advance Islam, and it does not have anything to do with accuracy. Overall the Muslim world creates exceedingly little intellectual property. There is no freedom of speech in any Muslim country. These things need to all be taken into consideration when reviewing information published by Muslims, or information published by Western sources that uncritically repeat information provided by Muslims.

Let us review the following quotation.

The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years, a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry.

But historians say they still know very little about this golden age. Few of the major scientific works from that era have been translated from Arabic, and thousands of manuscripts have never even been read by modern scholars. Dr. Sabra characterizes the history of Islamic science as a field that ”hasn’t even begun yet.” – New York Times

This brings up a question.

Why haven’t Muslims already researched these topics?

The Muslim sources make the argument that the Golden Age of Islam lasted 500 years, but I found the discoveries slowed to a trickle after around 950 AD as I cover in the article Why Muslim Scientific Discovery Slow To a Trickle After Roughly 950 AD?

This means that Muslims have had over a thousand years to fully analyze and catalog the discoveries made during the Golden Age. What has been the hold-up? It appears that Muslims are waiting for Europeans to investigate these supposed great discoveries upon which all European technology was based.

  • Do Western societies not know their historical, scientific documents because they have not yet been translated into Arabic?
  • Alternatively, can Western civilizations analyze their historical, scientific output?
  • How does this fit with a very low level of curiosity of Muslims on intellectual topics, and the tendency to wait until Europeans figure out things for them?
  • Doesn’t this undermine the claims of Muslims that they had a great Golden Age of Discovery? How can the same culture of Islam since 950 AD that has had little interest in reviewing the documents of the Golden Age, be the culture of Islam that created the great Golden Age of Discovery?

The following sub-quote from the quote above is particularly curious.

Few of the major scientific works from that era have been translated from Arabic, and thousands of manuscripts have never even been read by modern scholars.

Again, why not? And why can’t previous Muslim Arabic-speaking scholars between 950 and today have read them?

The Reality is That Non-Muslims Are Necessary to Investigate Muslim Scientific Works

Why would any of the “major scientific works” from the era of the Golden Age need to be translated from Arabic? This implies that the ability to interpret these works exists outside of the community of Arabic speakers. The Islamic Golden age ended roughly 1000 years ago. This quote is intended to signal a significant amount of material to be reviewed; however, it gives away an inconsistency, the author did not mean to give away, which is that after more than 1000 years, Arabic speakers have not had time or interest to investigate the material.

This topic is similar to many other Middle Eastern discoveries ranging from the tomb of Tutankamen to Hammurabi’s Code — which is that Europeans discovered them. Muslim societies would have enormous gaps in their understanding of their history without the scholarship efforts of Europeans.

Who Discovered Hammurabi’s Code, Muslims or Europeans?

See the following quotation.

The Code of Hammurabi, was discovered by a French archaeological expedition under the direction of Jacques de Morgan in 1901-1902 at the ancient site of Susa in what is now Iran. It was written on a piece of black diorite, 2.25 m (7 ft. 5 in.) in height, and contained 282 sections. Although the block was broken into three pieces, the major portion of it has been restored and is now in the Louvre in Paris. – Truth Magazine

Hammurabi’s Code is a significant point of pride in the Middle East.

However, likely, no one in the Middle East or elsewhere would even know it existed if it weren’t for Europeans.

If Muslim Discoveries Were So Significant Why Are the Final Pieces Alwasy Put Together by Non-Muslims?

How can it be that the Islamic Golden Age is stated to have brought so much that (apparently) only the non-Islamic world was able to leverage, which of course brings up the question of why only the non-Islamic world was able to gain the benefits of the claimed Islamic Golden Age.

This type of book is standard in The Islamic Golden Age. These books try to recast what has always been a barbaric civilization as somehow enlightened.

The idea that the Islamic Golden Age led directly to the Renaissance is problematic because

  • a) Muslim scholars added little to the work that they took from Western societies through conquest.
  • b) The significant works preceded them being taken by Muslims, the Muslims destroyed works inconsistent with the Koran, Hadith, and Sunna.

Science Without Cause and Effect?

On a more specific point, we cover in the article How Muslim Society Rejected Greek Rationalism Roughly 200 Years After Learning it from the Persian Empire, Muslims are inconsistent with science. Muslim rejects cause and effect and dismisses it back in 850 AD. This statement by Dr. Osman Bakar is so false and calling it a lie does not capture the multiple dimensions of its deception.

How Did Muslims Obtain Classical Works of Western Civilization?

When Muhammad’s armies swept out from the Arabian peninsula in the seventh and eighth centuries, annexing territory from Spain to Persia, they also annexed the works of Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Hippocrates and other Greek thinkers.

The largely illiterate Muslim conquerors turned to the local intelligentsia to help them govern, Dr. Lindberg said. In the process, he said, they absorbed Greek learning that had yet to be transmitted to the West in a serious way, or even translated into Latin. ”The West had a thin version of Greek knowledge,” Dr. Lindberg said. ”The East had it all.” – New York Times

So the Muslims “had it all,” not because they created any of it, but because they robbed it through conquering areas.

This is a very odd statement. How can those who steal intellectual property from the societies that created it be praised and said to have a greater understanding of it than those who first made it? I can assure the reader that if the West had come upon Muslim discovered through conquest, there is no way the story would be presented because this spoke well of the conquerors.

How Muslims Deceptive Use the Term Laying the Foundation

Al-Haytham, born in Iraq in 965, experimented with light and vision, laying the foundation for modern optics and for the notion that science should be based on experiment as well as on philosophical arguments. ”He ranks with Archimedes, Kepler and Newton as a great mathematical scientist,” said Dr. Lindberg. – New York Times

When one reads enough material on the Islamic Golden Age, one term or description is suspicious for its repetitiveness. And that is the phrase “laying the foundation.” In each case, when the discovery is made outside of the Muslim world, somehow the “foundation” was “laid” in the Muslim world.

  • One suspicious item is that if the Muslim world had so many foundations of knowledge, how they weren’t able to figure out the later discovery themselves?
  • The presentation of the inspiration for Muslim discoveries versus Western discoveries is inconsistently applied. When Muslims steal large amounts of intellectual property from Western civilizations and are able to make some improvements, that improvement is emphasized, however, when a Western scientist makes a discovery, that discovery is no longer the focus, but the supposed “foundation” that was laid by the Muslim scholar.
  • The final problem with this explanation is that there is no chain of evidence presented that the discoverer in the West knew of this work in the Muslim world. The person making the claim often does not know the subject area well enough to be able to definitely say what the connection might be.

The Claimed Connection Between Islamic Alchemy and Chemistry

An excellent example of this is the connection between Islamic alchemy and the development of chemistry. It is proposed that the work of Islamic scholars on alchemy (which was taken from Greeks) led directly to chemistry. However, there is a problematic time gap in this analysis.

Alchemy essentially petered out in Muslim and Western societies by around the 14th century. It was probably the most significant scientific dead end in human history, with Muslims adding very little to what they obtained from Greek sources. However, chemistry did not appear as a science until the 18th century.

If alchemy was so influential in the development of chemistry, why is there a 400 lag between the end of the study of one and the beginnings of the other? The claim is made about this connection, but the time lag is left

Mysticism Promoted Science in Islam?

The mathematician, astronomer and geographer al-Biruni, born in what is now part of Uzbekistan in 973, wrote some 146 works totaling 13,000 pages, including a vast sociological and geographical study of India.

Ibn Sina was a physician and philosopher born near Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan) in 981. He compiled a million-word medical encyclopedia, the Canons of Medicine, that was used as a textbook in parts of the West until the 17th century.

Scholars say science found such favor in medieval Islam for several reasons. Part of the allure was mystical; it was another way to experience the unity of creation that was the central message of Islam. – New York Times

This quote contains a puzzling inconsistency because if you are investigating due to the allure of mysticism and to be consistent with Islam, you will arrive at all the wrong conclusions.

Making Shooting Stars Consistent With Missles Shot From Demons?

In Islamic societies, you can not question anything said by Mohammed or you are considered a heretic. For example, Mohammed stated that shooting stars were missiles shot at demons. How can you study astronomy and make your findings consistent with Islam? And remember, in Islamic societies, in addition to everything being required to be made compatible with Islam — and there are stiff penalties for doing anything that contradicts Islam.

Mohammed stated that the sun sets in a muddy spring of water. How can one study a solar system and make how it functions consistent with a sun setting in a muddy spring of water? 

This is explained in the following quotation.

Dr. Hoodbhoy said such groups had criticized the concept of cause and effect. Educational guidelines once issued by the Institute for Policy Studies in Pakistan, for example, included the recommendation that physical effects not be related to causes.

For example, it was not Islamic to say that combining hydrogen and oxygen makes water. ”You were supposed to say,” Dr. Hoodbhoy recounted, ”that when you bring hydrogen and oxygen together then by the will of Allah water was created.” – New York Times

Once again, this superimposes Allah on every chemical reaction, event movement of celestial bodies, every action of cells within plants and animals, and is not conducive to scientific inquiry.

How The Golden Age Brought Down Innovation In the Western World

What is left out of discussions of the Islamic Golden Age is that this period of conquest was also a period of the great decline of scientific development in the Western world. This is what getting attacked by Muslims tends to do. However, Muslims that present the Golden Age to audiences, entirely leave out how the Muslim conquests reduced science in the Western world.

This video does a brilliant job of explaining how The Islamic Golden Age is what led to the decline of Europe.

Conclusion

Muslims have shown more interest in telling the West that their scientific discoveries are strongly related to the work done by Muslim scholars during the Islamic Golden Age than they are in investing time into understanding what was done during the Islamic Golden Age.

There are very few Muslim scientists globally, and Muslims generally perform very poorly on tests of scientific knowledge. The entire Middle East (excluding Israel) has won few Nobel Prizes.

Here are the specifics.

  1. Two Middle East Nobel Prizes in Chemistry
  2. Zero Middle East Nobel Prizes in Physics
  3. Zero Middle East Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. However, they have never won a Nobel Prize for any subject, and neither have any African countries that are Muslim are partially Muslim in any technical subject.

Canada Has 10x The Nobel Prizes in Science Topics of The Entire Muslim World?

As a point of comparison, Canada, with a population of 37 million, has won 20 scientific Nobel Prizes. That is 10x the number won by all Muslim societies combined, containing billions of people. 

A natural question that should be asked is whether Muslims know enough about science to be telling the non-Muslim parts of the world what their discoveries are based upon. This brings up two topics.

  1. If Islamic societies ever led in science, how have they fallen into such a degraded state in science since the end of the Golden Age?
  2. Rather than making up stories around a Golden Age, Muslims should be asking why Muslim societies can’t seem to make scientific discoveries.