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Author Topic: The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?  (Read 804 times)

Shrieking Banshee

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« on: May 12, 2020, 06:50:32 pm »
Im on a historical kick recently, and studying up on history and the like from many places old and new. There is propaganda from back then and from now which makes understanding history pretty complicated.

So my current big question is that there was a theoretical golden age in the islamic world of science and study (especially astronomy), and that it ended somehow. So how did it end and why?
And if they where so much more scientifically developed then the west, then why did they not kick its ass more then they did? What did the golden age entail in practice? Bigger Buildings? Better metals? Better medicine?

I hear some explanations of how the Mongols screwed everything up, but the mongols screwed things up for allot of people, and Im not certain how much the mongols actually destroyed because I know they accepted knowledge from places they conquered to some extent.

Im no historian, but I just felt like asking these questions somewhere and was hoping to get some pointers where I could get some answers.

(Whoops I meant to post it in the other spot, how could that be done?)

Orphan81

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2020, 07:38:41 am »
From what I heard, Religious Intolerance is what ended it. The Fundamentalists took over and basically did the same exact thing the Catholic Church did in the Dark ages too. Persecuted all the Scientists for heresy.

Shrieking Banshee

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2020, 08:24:51 am »
Quote from: Orphan81;1129810
From what I heard, Religious Intolerance is what ended it. The Fundamentalists took over and basically did the same exact thing the Catholic Church did in the Dark ages too. Persecuted all the Scientists for heresy.

Thats about as historically accurate as France being a historical coward. Its apocryphal hearsay, taking place in wrong points in time that doesn't answer the question.

Orphan81

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2020, 08:31:15 am »
Quote from: Shrieking Banshee;1129814
Thats about as historically accurate as France being a historical coward. Its apocryphal hearsay, taking place in wrong points in time that doesn't answer the question.

I'm not an expert, and I'm not claiming factual knowledge of it. That's what I heard, and have read some modern day sources point to. Even if that was just propaganda. You don't need to be a dick about it.

Shrieking Banshee

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2020, 09:24:07 am »
I shouldn't have been so aggressive. Sorry.

Armchair Gamer

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2020, 10:57:36 am »
How much there really was an "Islamic Golden Age" is disputed by some scholars, and how much of that was due to Islam and how much is from their subjects is likewise up for debate: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is one entry on the revisionist side.

There does, however, actually seem to have been a reaction against the work of Averroes and Avicenna, and a rise of voluntarism and occasionalism, around the 13th century, despite the fact that it feeds into the historical stereotypes of 'religion persecuting science.' (You can usually find two examples of this in Church history--Galileo and Giordano Bruno. The former ran afoul of politics, the latter was condemned for religious heresies that had nothing to do with science.)

jhkim

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2020, 12:08:21 pm »
Quote from: Shrieking Banshee;1129745
So my current big question is that there was a theoretical golden age in the islamic world of science and study (especially astronomy), and that it ended somehow. So how did it end and why?
And if they where so much more scientifically developed then the west, then why did they not kick its ass more then they did? What did the golden age entail in practice? Bigger Buildings? Better metals? Better medicine?
To answer the second part first, they probably kicked ass more than you think. Western history classes tend to skip over just how much Islam kicked ass. It's more easily summarized with a map of the expansion of Islam:

[ATTACH=CONFIG]4468[/ATTACH]

That said, conquest wasn't actually a focus of the Golden Age, and a lot of the key expansions were before the Golden Age. Personally, I know of the Golden Age primarily from the history of science and mathematics. Key points: you're using Arabic numerals in your math, and our whole system of math notation is based on algebra - which comes from the title of al-Khwarizmi's 833 book on the subject. One simple metric is how well different scholars calculated the value of pi. Around the medieval era, the record-breaking calculations were:

In 150, Ptolemy in Egypt calculated pi to 3 decimal places (as 377/120).
In 480, Zu Chongzhi in China calculated pi to 7 decimal places.
In 1400, Madhava of Sangamagrama in India calculated pi to 10 places.
In 1424, Jamshid al-Kashi in Persia calculated pi to 16 decimal places.

The Golden Age included a lot more than just science and math, though - with influential works in poetry, philosophy, drama, and more.

Quote from: Shrieking Banshee;1129745
I hear some explanations of how the Mongols screwed everything up, but the mongols screwed things up for allot of people, and Im not certain how much the mongols actually destroyed because I know they accepted knowledge from places they conquered to some extent.

Im no historian, but I just felt like asking these questions somewhere and was hoping to get some pointers where I could get some answers.
The reasons and exact time of the decline of the Islamic Golden Age are subject to a lot of debate. I'd say it undoubtedly came down to a number of factors. The Mongols were one, for certain. They did leave a lot of lasting change, which is often brushed over in history.

There are economic and cultural shifts that ended with the Golden Age, but it's unclear which of them are symptoms and which are causes. There did grow to be a more dominant ruling class, and more restrictive laws on expression in favor of strict rule by political and religious authorities.

One that you might not have heard of is the environmental factor. The lands of Arabia and Persia are now known primarily as deserts, but in early times, Persia was known as the Fertile Crescent. Some combination of farming and other environmental factors, though, were slowly causing the deserts to expand.

Also, it's not a direct cause -- but one thing that truly left the Islamic world behind was the Age of Sail and the New World. The Islamic traders had always been poor sailors, and were mostly based around land routes. So they were outpaced and left behind by the Europeans, especially after the New World was conquered. Resources from the Americas radically changed Europe, giving them resources that put them ahead of the Ottomans and China. Without the resources from the New World, Europe's advance might not have been as pronounced.

Shrieking Banshee

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2020, 12:37:13 pm »
Quote from: jhkim;1129839
To answer the second part first, they probably kicked ass more than you think. Western history classes tend to skip over just how much Islam kicked ass. It's more easily summarized with a map of the expansion of Islam:

I had no doubt they kicked ass. While not as a entire collective I knew about those empires in one way or another. It was more of 'Why didn't they balloon into mega empires'. And again if they where so advanced and balanced and structured how did the mongols overwhelm them so?
While colonizing the americas brought many resources that only started around the 16th or so century.
But I also see how they where superior to european states of the that spent most of the time being miserable and infighting, bashing their heads repeatedly against walls.

Maybe its just the nature of things. Nothing lasts forever.
Quote from: Armchair Gamer;1129833
The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is one entry on the revisionist side.

Is that a good book to read?
« Last Edit: May 13, 2020, 12:39:17 pm by Shrieking Banshee »

GeekyBugle

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2020, 03:49:58 pm »
Quote from: Shrieking Banshee;1129745
Im on a historical kick recently, and studying up on history and the like from many places old and new. There is propaganda from back then and from now which makes understanding history pretty complicated.

So my current big question is that there was a theoretical golden age in the islamic world of science and study (especially astronomy), and that it ended somehow. So how did it end and why?
And if they where so much more scientifically developed then the west, then why did they not kick its ass more then they did? What did the golden age entail in practice? Bigger Buildings? Better metals? Better medicine?

I hear some explanations of how the Mongols screwed everything up, but the mongols screwed things up for allot of people, and Im not certain how much the mongols actually destroyed because I know they accepted knowledge from places they conquered to some extent.

Im no historian, but I just felt like asking these questions somewhere and was hoping to get some pointers where I could get some answers.

(Whoops I meant to post it in the other spot, how could that be done?)


Al-Ghazali:

I quote Him from his book "Deliverance from Error":

"Mathematics tend, however, to produce two bad results. The first is this: Whoever studies this science admires the subtlety and clearness of its proofs. His confidence in philosophy increases, and he thinks that all its departments are capable of the same clearness and solidity of proof as mathematics. But when he hears people speak of the unbelief and impiety of mathematicians, of their professed disregard for the Divine law, which is notorious, it is true that, out of regard for authority, he echoes these accusations, but he says to himself at the same time that, if there was truth in religion, it would not have escaped those who have displayed so much keenness of intellect in the study of mathematics.

Next, when he becomes aware of the unbelief and rejection of religion on the part of these learned men, he concludes that to reject religion is reasonable. How many of such men gone astray I have met whose sole argument was that just mentioned. And supposing one puts to them the following objection: "It does not follow that a man who excels in one branch of knowledge excels in all others, nor that he should be equally versed in jurisprudence, theology, and medicine. It is possible to be entirely ignorant of metaphysics, and yet to be an excellent grammarian. There are past masters in every science who are entirely ignorant of other branches of knowledge. The arguments of the ancient philosophers are rigidly demonstrative in mathematics and only conjectural in religious questions. In order to ascertain this one must proceed to a thorough examination of the matter." Supposing, I say, one makes the above objection to these "apes of unbelief," they find it distasteful. Falling a prey to their passions, to a besotted vanity, and the wish to pass for learned men, they persist in maintaining the preeminence of mathematicians in all branches of knowledge. This is a serious evil, and for this reason those who study mathematics should be checked from going too far in their researches. For though far removed as it may be from the things of religion, this study, serving as it does as an introduction to the philosophic systems, casts over religion its malign influence. It is rarely that a man devotes himself to it without robbing himself of his faith and casting off the restraints of religion.

The second evil comes from the sincere but ignorant Muslims who thinks the best way to defend religion is by rejecting all the exact sciences. Accusing their professors of being astray, he rejects their theories of the eclipses of the sun and moon, and condemns them in the name of religion. These accusations are carried far and wide, they reach the ears of the philosopher who knows that these theories rest on infallible proofs; far from losing confidence in them, he believes, on the contrary, that Islam has ignorance and the denial of scientific proofs for its basis, and his devotion to philosophy increases with his hatred to religion."
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjC7-w5KDKNiD-k0tVo1DPw?view_as=subscriber

GeekyBugle

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2020, 03:53:57 pm »
Quote from: jhkim;1129839
To answer the second part first, they probably kicked ass more than you think. Western history classes tend to skip over just how much Islam kicked ass. It's more easily summarized with a map of the expansion of Islam:

[ATTACH=CONFIG]4468[/ATTACH]

That said, conquest wasn't actually a focus of the Golden Age, and a lot of the key expansions were before the Golden Age. Personally, I know of the Golden Age primarily from the history of science and mathematics. Key points: you're using Arabic numerals in your math, and our whole system of math notation is based on algebra - which comes from the title of al-Khwarizmi's 833 book on the subject. One simple metric is how well different scholars calculated the value of pi. Around the medieval era, the record-breaking calculations were:

In 150, Ptolemy in Egypt calculated pi to 3 decimal places (as 377/120).
In 480, Zu Chongzhi in China calculated pi to 7 decimal places.
In 1400, Madhava of Sangamagrama in India calculated pi to 10 places.
In 1424, Jamshid al-Kashi in Persia calculated pi to 16 decimal places.

The Golden Age included a lot more than just science and math, though - with influential works in poetry, philosophy, drama, and more.


The reasons and exact time of the decline of the Islamic Golden Age are subject to a lot of debate. I'd say it undoubtedly came down to a number of factors. The Mongols were one, for certain. They did leave a lot of lasting change, which is often brushed over in history.

There are economic and cultural shifts that ended with the Golden Age, but it's unclear which of them are symptoms and which are causes. There did grow to be a more dominant ruling class, and more restrictive laws on expression in favor of strict rule by political and religious authorities.

One that you might not have heard of is the environmental factor. The lands of Arabia and Persia are now known primarily as deserts, but in early times, Persia was known as the Fertile Crescent. Some combination of farming and other environmental factors, though, were slowly causing the deserts to expand.

Also, it's not a direct cause -- but one thing that truly left the Islamic world behind was the Age of Sail and the New World. The Islamic traders had always been poor sailors, and were mostly based around land routes. So they were outpaced and left behind by the Europeans, especially after the New World was conquered. Resources from the Americas radically changed Europe, giving them resources that put them ahead of the Ottomans and China. Without the resources from the New World, Europe's advance might not have been as pronounced.

Yeah, Islam kicked ass, by the sword, conquering and making you a second class citizen, taking your sons as eunuchs and your daughters as sexual slaves.

The African Slave trade was first Islamic, and they had to be forced to stop it, and yet in some Islamic countries you find it well and alive today.

The Islamic poor sailors started a war with the USA.

How much Islamist propaganda can you spew in so few paragraphs?
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjC7-w5KDKNiD-k0tVo1DPw?view_as=subscriber

Ghostmaker

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2020, 08:52:15 am »
I remember seeing somewhere that there were implications that a lot of the developments made in the so-called Islamic Golden Age weren't actually made by Muslims, but by various subject peoples living under their rule.

Spike

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The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2020, 03:45:02 pm »
Off the top of my head, the official end of the Golden Age of Islam was the Sack of Bagdad by the Mongols.  This event may be characterized, intellectually, as the 'second burning of the library of Alexandria', as Bagdad was a seat of learning, with vast libraries, so much so that during the sack the river turned black from all the ink (though I'm more inclined to chalk it up to ash...).


A more complex take is that the Golden Age was powered by conquest and the subsequent looting, not just of gold and slaves, but also of knowledge and artworks.  When the never-ending stream of conquests ended, having pushed christiandom into a small hardened node of 'Central Europe', now well experienced in Islamic warfare and desperate to fight back in the West, and running into the wall of the Steppe Nomads in the East, being unable to expand further, to loot more, the unsustainable growth, the bubble if you will, burst.

Add in other factors... which may be related, such as increasing infighting between factions: Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) was an absolutely brutal general and conquerer, but by the time of his death he had killed far more Muslims than Infidels, most of his 'conquests' subsequently were of Islamic Lands, just as an example.   A Golden Age can only be sustained if there is peace in the heartlands, war needs to be restricted to the borders, and people who want to fight and conquer, who have ambitions to rule, are constantly shuffled outwards rather than disrupting life 'at home'.

I'm simplifying a bit there, but Rome experienced a similar collapse once they stopped expanding.  On significant difference being that the people who conquered the Romans generally didn't themselves claim to be Romans, while those who conquered Islamic lands (the Ottomans, for example... who were not native to Turkey by the way, they were steppe nomads, Mongols essentially), did consider themselves Muslims, so you wind up with a succession of Empires with the same basic geographical constraints but wildly different rulers...
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