By making Greek thought accessible, they also formed the foundation of the Arabic Golden Age. Major works of philosophy and science far from Baghdad — in Spain, Egypt, and Central Asia — were influenced by Greek-Arabic translations, both during and after the Abbasids. Indeed, even if it is a matter of conjecture to what extent the rise of science in the West depended on Arabic science, there is no question that the West benefited from both the preservation of Greek works and from original Arabic scholarship that commented on them.
A s the Middle Ages progressed, Arabic civilization began to run out of steam. After the twelfth century, Europe had more significant scientific scholars than the Arabic world, as Harvard historian George Sarton noted in his Introduction to the History of Science After the fourteenth century, the Arab world saw very few innovations in fields that it had previously dominated, such as optics and medicine; henceforth, its innovations were for the most part not in the realm of metaphysics or science, but were more narrowly practical inventions like vaccines. Lewis notes in What Went Wrong?
Those who had been disciples now became teachers; those who had been masters became pupils, often reluctant and resentful pupils. To repeat an important point, scientific decline is hardly peculiar to Arabic-Islamic civilization. Such decline is the norm of history; only in the West did something very different happen. Still, it may be possible to discern some specific causes of decline — and attempting to do so can deepen our understanding of Arabic-Islamic civilization and its tensions with modernity.
Just as there is no simple explanation for the success of Arabic science, there is no simple explanation for its gradual — not sudden, as al-Afghani claims — demise. The most significant factor was physical and geopolitical. As early as the tenth or eleventh century, the Abbasid empire began to factionalize and fragment due to increased provincial autonomy and frequent uprisings. By , the little that was left of the Abbasid state was swept away by the Mongol invasion.
To understand this anti-rationalist movement, we once again turn our gaze back to the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. Al-Mamun picked up the pro-science torch lit by the second caliph, al-Mansur, and ran with it. But the caliphs who followed al-Mamun upheld the doctrine with less fervor, and within a few decades, adherence to it became a punishable offense.
The beginning of the de-Hellenization of Arabic high culture was underway. As Maimonides described it in The Guide for the Perplexed , this view sees natural things that appear to be permanent as merely following habit. This amounts to a denial of the coherence and comprehensibility of the natural world. In his book The Incoherence of the Philosophers , al-Ghazali vigorously attacked philosophy and philosophers — both the Greek philosophers themselves and their followers in the Muslim world such as al-Farabi and Avicenna.
Al-Ghazali was worried that when people become favorably influenced by philosophical arguments, they will also come to trust the philosophers on matters of religion, thus making Muslims less pious. Sunnis embraced al-Ghazali as the winner of the debate with the Hellenistic rationalists, and opposition to philosophy gradually ossified, even to the extent that independent inquiry became a tainted enterprise, sometimes to the point of criminality.
In the Sunni world, philosophy turned into mysticism. But the fact is, Arab contributions to science became increasingly sporadic as the anti-rationalism sank in. Its most extreme form can be seen in some sects of Islamists.
HISTORIOGRAPHY iii. EARLY ISLAMIC PERIOD
Such inferences sound crazy to Western ears, but given their frequency in the Muslim world, they must sound at least a little less crazy to Muslims. A similar ossification occurred in the realm of law. The first four centuries of Islam saw vigorous discussion and flexibility regarding legal issues; this was the tradition of ijtihad , or independent judgment and critical thinking.
New readings of Islamic revelation became a crime. All that was left to do was to submit to the instructions of religious authorities; to understand morality, one needed only to read legal decrees. Thinkers who resisted the closing came to be seen as nefarious dissidents. Christianity acknowledges a private-public distinction and theoretically, at least allows adherents the liberty to decide much about their social and political lives.
Islam, on the other hand, denies any private-public distinction and includes laws regulating the most minute details of private life. Put another way, Islam does not acknowledge any difference between religious and political ends: Such differences between the two faiths can be traced to the differences between their prophets.
Because Islam was born outside of the Roman Empire, it was never subordinate to politics. As Bernard Lewis puts it, Mohammed was his own Constantine. This means that, for Islam, religion and politics were interdependent from the beginning; Islam needs a state to enforce its laws, and the state needs a basis in Islam to be legitimate. Some clues can be found by comparing institutions in the medieval period. Far from accepting anything close to the occasionalism and legal positivism of the Sunnis, European scholars argued explicitly that when the Bible contradicts the natural world, the holy book should not be taken literally.
Influential philosophers like Augustine held that knowledge and reason precede Christianity; he approached the subject of scientific inquiry with cautious encouragement, exhorting Christians to use the classical sciences as a handmaiden of Christian thought. Indeed, as David C. As the late Ernest L. As a Christian, he could simply assume philosophy without becoming publicly involved in any argument for or against it. After about the middle of the thirteenth century in the Latin West, we know of no instance of persecution of anyone who advocated philosophy as an aid in interpreting revelation.
The success of the West is a topic that could fill — indeed, has filled — many large books. But some general comparisons are helpful in understanding why Islam was so institutionally different from the West. Huff makes a persuasive argument for why modern science emerged in the West and not in Islamic or Chinese civilization:. The rise of modern science is the result of the development of a civilizationally based culture that was uniquely humanistic in the sense that it tolerated, indeed, protected and promoted those heretical and innovative ideas that ran counter to accepted religious and theological teaching.
Conversely, one might say that critical elements of the scientific worldview were surreptitiously encoded in the religious and legal presuppositions of the European West. In other words, Islamic civilization did not have a culture hospitable to the advancement of science, while medieval Europe did. The contrast is most obvious in the realm of formal education. As Huff argues, the lack of a scientific curriculum in medieval madrassas reflects a deeper absence of a capacity or willingness to build legally autonomous institutions.
Madrassas were established under the law of waqf , or pious endowments, which meant they were legally obligated to follow the religious commitments of their founders. Islamic law did not recognize any corporate groups or entities, and so prevented any hope of recognizing institutions such as universities within which scholarly norms could develop.
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Medieval China, too, had no independent institutions dedicated to learning; all were dependent on the official bureaucracy and the state. Legally autonomous institutions were utterly absent in the Islamic world until the late nineteenth century. And madrassas nearly always excluded study of anything besides the subjects that aid in understanding Islam: Arabic grammar, the Koran, the hadith, and the principles of sharia.
Furthermore, the rigidity of the religious curriculum in madrassas contributed to the educational method of learning by rote; even today, repetition, drill, and imitation — with chastisement for questioning or innovating — are habituated at an early age in many parts of the Arab world. Perhaps the lack of institutional support for science allowed Arabic thinkers such as al-Farabi to be bolder than their European counterparts.
But it also meant that many Arabic thinkers relied on the patronage of friendly rulers and ephemeral conditions. By way of contrast, the legal system that developed in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe — which saw the absorption of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian theology — was instrumental in forming a philosophically and theologically open culture that respected scientific development. As Huff argues, because European universities were legally autonomous, they could develop their own rules, scholarly norms, and curricula.
The norms they incorporated were those of curiosity and skepticism, and the curricula they chose were steeped in ancient Greek philosophy. In the medieval Western world, a spirit of skepticism and inquisitiveness moved theologians and philosophers. It was this attitude of inquiry that helped lay the foundation for modern science. Beginning in the early Middle Ages, this attitude was evident in technological innovations among even unlearned artisans and merchants.
These obscure people contributed to the development of practical technologies, such as the mechanical clock circa and spectacles circa Even as early as the sixth century, Europeans strove to invent labor-saving technology, such as the heavy-wheeled plow and, later, the padded horse collar. And although it was in use since in the West, the printing press was not introduced in the Islamic world until The Arabic world appears to have been even slower in finding uses for academic technological devices.
For instance, the telescope appeared in the Middle East soon after its invention in , but it failed to attract excitement or interest until centuries later. As science in the Arabic world declined and retrogressed, Europe hungrily absorbed and translated classical and scientific works, mainly through cultural centers in Spain. By , Oxford and Paris had curricula that included works of Arabic science.
Not only were these works taught openly, but they were formally incorporated into the program of study of universities. Meanwhile, in the Islamic world, the dissolution of the Golden Age was well underway. In his own case, Bayhaqi emphasizes that everything he reports is based on either his own eyewitness knowledge or material taken from sources of impeccable reliability.
As a high-ranking member of the Ghaznavid bureaucracy, Bayhaqi was of course well placed to have access to such information, and this is one of the qualities that makes his work so important. He apparently kept a kind of diary or journal of his experiences as well as copies of archival material and later used these as the raw material for his history, shaped by the reflections and perspectives he could bring to them with the advantage of hindsight.
It should also be noted that Bayhaqi constructed his prose with meticulous care and precision; he is remarkably effective at recreating the settings and sharply delineating the character of the personalities involved in the events he describes. His subtle and deceptively plain language suggests much more than it says explicitly, although the variety of interpretations given his accounts by modern scholars cf. Luther, ; Poliakova; Waldman; Humphreys, , pp. These trends are clearly reflected in the historiography of the period, which was often produced either to curry favor with the new warlords or in the hope of persuading them to govern well.
If historical writing did not as a result decline in quantity from that of earlier periods an impression which may result purely from the fact that a greater percentage of it has survived , it was more constricted in both scope and quality. While it is an impressive work in many ways, it is written from an Egyptian or North African perspective and is rarely interested in events east of Iraq. Qasim al-Samarrai, Leiden, , p. As a result, it contains a good deal of unique information about Persia, from the Caucasian dynasties to the Samanids Treadwell, Some information about the author can be deduced from internal evidence in the text, where it is indicated that he was a grandson of a certain Mohallab b.
He also covers a surprising range of topics, from Graeco-Roman and Byzantine rulers to the titulature of various kings to architectural monuments. He was not, however, very discriminating in his historical method, and the reliability of much of what he says is open to question: Where he might be expected to have made a significant original contribution, e.
The dynastic histories of the Saljuqs present one problem after another in terms of authorship, textual transmission, reliability, and interpretation the survey by Cahen in Lewis and Holt is still fundamental to the study of this historiography. Allin Luther , pp. As a descriptive term, however, this rubric is both inadequate and misleading: It should also be emphasized that such works are not unique to either this period or to the historiography of Persia.
In the case of provincial history, this had previously been focused on important areas of the caliphate such as Khorasan. With the rise of the eastern dynasties, Khorasan had become in effect the arena of mainstream history; now, areas peripheral to it became the subject of provincial history. The received text is certainly a composite one, with only sections one ed. He goes to great length to put the history of the province in the context of larger affairs, and he draws on a variety of non-local written sources and documents as well as local traditions.
They often have very complicated problems of textual transmission see, e. It departs somewhat from the typical model of the city histories in several respects: It contains a longish discourse on the nature of history and the benefits of studying it pp. The prosopographical section does not deal only with individuals, but also with the great families of the city pp. In many cultures around the world, the production of historical literature is often closely linked to the phenomenon of ethnogenesis or the formation of a sense of social solidarity. If there is a theme linking the historiography of Persia in the Islamic period, it is the story of the shifting and conflicting allegiances involved in this process: In that sense, the most striking feature of the historiography of Persia during the late Islamic era is the extent to which it reveals the fragmented and shrinking political horizon as well as the deep social cleavages of the time.
That, coupled with its generally mediocre quality, hardly prepares one for the impressive creative outburst of historical writing that was about to take place in Mongol Persia.
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Historical Texts , Chicago, , pp. Studies in Honor of Toshihiko Izutsu , Leiden, Maqbul Ahmad and A. Miskawayh, philosophe et historien , Paris, Memorial Volume of Felix Tauer , Prague, , pp. Hovannisian and Georges Sabagh, eds. Michael Cooperson, Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophet , Cambridge, U. Patricia Crone, Slaves on Horses: The Evolution of the Islamic Polity , Cambridge, , pp.
Donner, Narratives of Islamic Origins: Idem, Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Idem, Early Muslim Historiography: The Issue of the Sources , Leiden, , pp. The Making of a Critical Tradition , London, , pp. Tarif Khalidi, Islamic Historiography: Joel Kraemer, Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: Amoretti and Lucia Rostagno, eds. Islamistica , Rome, , pp. Towards a New Hermeneutic Approach , Stuttgart, , pp. The conception and perception of the Muslim education was based on divine revelation. The meaning of education is expressed by three Arabic terms in the Islamic sense. It indicates that Islamic education is nurturing a person.
These three terms describe that the Islamic education is fostering, knowledge transfer and ethics. Probably the Western idea of education is fairly similar but its base is different indeed. That Islamic education whose history is overviewed in this book is described as a tool of the society to help a multi-dimensional person become an ethical, moral and spiritual being. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that education in Islam was not based on one system.
In periods of Islamic history it is possible to find a high number of elementary schools that thaught pupils how to read, write and calculate. These were all separate from each other and were mostly independent of state authorities. During the era of early Islam pupils could only learn from the teachers, the state authorities did not give out qualifications. Education system without state control — really an alien idea in the contemporary world but not in the premodern times.
State control of education needs rich networks of administration. Officialdom had much more gaps in the premodern times. It was a long way from teachers who worked at a ranted place or at their own home to the institutionalized education.
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The Islam education perambulated this way as well. It included religious literacy culture. Seating order had symbolic meaning, the most advanced student sat the closest to the teacher. The method was current in all type of Islamic educational institutions.