The Islamic Golden Age
The Islamic Golden Age began at around the 8th century and concluded in the 13th century. This time period can be considered one of the most, if not the most, important times in the Arab world due to the flourishment of literature, science, economic development. The catalyst to start this age came about when the caliph of the Abbasids, Harun Al-Rashid, instituted the House of Wisdom. This scientific academy brought together scholars from all over the world and translated books into Arabic. The best scholars were heavily provided for by the government and were well respected. Philosophy was also a large influence over the Islamic Golden Era. The philosophy of these people helped shape the future of things such as Christianity. Two big philosophers from this time period were Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. The most famous piece to come out of this age is One Thousand and One Nights which is still used as an inspiration for stories today. Most historians believe the Islamic Golden Era ended in the 1200s when the Mongol Sack of Baghdad occurred. These accomplishments during the Islamic Golden Era are some of the most influential accomplishments of human history for literature and helped bridge together different civilizations and grow the world for the future.
The House of Wisdom (Bait al-Hikmah in Arabic) played a very important role in the forwarding of Arabic literature and culture. It was not only a place for translating books. It was also a science academy and a library. In this house, many languages were spoken and translated. Many languages were written, spoken, and translated such as Farsi, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek and Latin preserving some the greatest works of time in Arabic. Greek literature was translated the most, including works by Plato and Aristotle and played a significant role in the way Arab philosophers wrote and thought. Society turned into one that hungered for knowledge and attracted many intellectuals from around the world. The House of Wisdom is considered to be the symbol of the Islamic Golden Age. This place was the center for all information important to the people at the time. Philosophy, astronomy, science, mathematics and literature were all stored under one place and this was unheard of before its creation. The Caliph Al-Mamun was one of the biggest supports of the house of wisdom and even taught there. The translation of books was very important to Al-Mamun, so much so that it is said that he would pay the person who translated the book its weight in gold. By translating books from other societies, the Arab world was inspired to write their own works and also changed the perspective on many who read during that period of time. Without the House of Wisdom, most of the books preserved would most likely have never made it to today. Sadly, the House of Wisdom never got to see the modern era due to its destruction by the Mongols during their invasion of Baghdad. Many of the books were destroyed by the Mongols but some were still preserved. The House of Wisdom was very advanced for its time and played a large part in advancing the culture and literature of the Abbasid empire and the Islamic Golden Era.
The Middle East produced some of the most important people during the Islamic Golden Age and these people linked western civilization to Aristotle and Plato and helped the progression of the Middle East. Ibn Sina was one of the most important philosophers of this time and considered the greatest thinker of the Islamic golden age. His main inspiration was Aristotle and he wrote on astronomy, chemistry, geology, religion, and many more fields of science. His work is said to have gone on and influenced thought in Europe during its enlightenment period. Since he was heavily introduced by Aristotle, his work reflected Aristotle’s ideas and cited him as well. His work, among many other philosophers in this era, served as the bridge to close the gap between the Greeks and the west. Ibn Sina had many of his pieces translated throughout the west and was highly regarded as a philosopher. In addition to all this, Ibn Sina also wrote poetry. This poetry was used to teach rather than to entertain and these poems were also translated around Europe to be used as a tool of educating the students of the time. Another famous and influential philosopher that emerged during this time was Abu Nasr Al-Farabi. Al-
Farabi was also a man of many talents just as Ibn Sina was. He learned and worked in the city of Baghdad and studied science, logic, sociology, and many other fields of science. He is most known for his philosophy and translation of the works of Greek philosophers. The most important thing about Al-Farabi was that he was able to look at philosophy without letting his own religious views influence him. This was very rare due to how much religion (or no religion) played in how everyone thinks. One of his most famous pieces was the Kitab ‘Ihsa’ al-Uloom. This book separated the different sciences into categories and contained most of the knowledge he attained throughout his studies. Al-Farabi also wrote a book called Kitab al-Musiqa which still is used today. His influenced stretched from philosophy all the way to music seeing as he invented musical instruments as well. Al-Farabi was an inspiration for many philosophers to come and also made room for Muslim thinkers in the future.
The third great influence to come out of the Islamic Golden Age was the literature itself. One Thousand and One Nights is the most notable works in the history of the world and has inspired many stories and television shows that are known today. Most people have never read this collection of stories, yet they know of the some of the characters within this book. Characters such as Aladdin and Sinbad are well known throughout the west. This compilation is a representation of the culture at the time and has almost every story you could imagine included in it. The reason for its longevity is due to the nature it was written in. It takes you on a journey though several different stories all through the view of one woman. Its influence spread across so many years that one of the most popular movies in the last 30 years was inspired from one of its tales and the book was compiled and translated in the Islamic Golden Era. It inspired all different art forms all the way from movies and books to music and even video games. While this is the most influential book to come out of the Islamic Golden Age, it obviously was not the only one. There were many other story books just like the ones in One Thousand and One Nights that influenced modern fiction stories. The story-telling of the Islamic Golden Era made its way across the ocean to the U.S. and across time.
The Islamic Golden Era influenced the rest of the world in many different ways within its literature. Whether its how the people of the time preserved the literature or what they wrote about, both changed the way the world was for the rest of time. The House of Wisdom introduced knowledge in a new way and made education the focus of the empire. It placed education above all else and this attracted the smartest people from around the world to Baghdad to study and teach. While studying the content of others in the House of Wisdom, philosophers began putting their own ideas out in writing to the rest of the world. This birthed some of the most important philosophers and scholars in human history. They took the works of the Greek and translated it to the Islamic empire. After philosophers were able to see these pieces, they began to put out their own content and ideas based off of what they were studying, and they perfected the philosophical ideas in their own ways. The Western world then took heed of these ideas and were also influenced indirectly by the Greeks but directly by the philosophers of the age. Philosophy was not the only subject written and translated. Books about religion, mathematics, poetry, medicine and many more were translated and spread throughout the world. Also, fictional books from this time period became very popular and influential throughout history up until today, inspiring movies, books, tv shows, music, and even video games. All in all, the Islamic Golden Age was one of the most influential eras in history and is called a golden age for a very good reason.