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Every society in the history of mankind is characterized by a period of technological advancement. In Europe and the better part of the western world, there was the renaissance. At one point in history, the Islamic empire had a significant impact on the world. In this paper, this period was described as the Islamic Golden Age. The leaders of the day urged Muslims to regard knowledge with high esteem. Consequently, the knowledge was responsible for the intellectual capacity developed during the period. In this paper, the author focused on this period to analyze the whole element of the Golden Age. In addition, the author focused on the actual technological advancements of the period.
Islam and Technology
According to Matthews (2004), Islam is one of the youngest religions practiced in the world today. Matthews (2004) points out that the religion was founded around 622 Current Era (herein referred to as CE). The religion came about due to the Hijra (migration) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him, and His followers. The Hijra took place in the northwestern part of Arabia. It took place in the area covering Mecca and Medina. Over the years, Islam has spread far and wide in the world. However, the aspect of technology is not spoken of much with regard to Islam.
In the current paper, the author discusses the aspect of technology in Islam. More specifically, the author analyzes technology in the context of the Islamic Golden Age. The author of this paper holds the opinion that technology was an important aspect of the Islamic Golden Age. According to Brobick (2012), the Islamic Golden Age resulted from the aforementioned migration. In the current paper, Baghdad is regarded as the cradle of most of the technological advancements evidenced during the said era. The author of this paper starts by discussing the Islamic Golden Age before expounding on the technological advancements associated with the period.
The Islamic Golden Age
Falagas, Zarkadoulia, and Samonis (2006) provide a rough estimate of the Islamic Golden Age. According to Falagas et al. (2006), the period spanned between the 7th and 13th centuries. During this phase of Islam, the rulers of the religion sought to establish a vast empire. Falagas et al. (2006) suggest that the empire was one of the largest in history. Falagas et al. (2006) associate this period with the ‘Renaissance’ in Europe, where there was immense growth in arts and science.
The Islamic Golden Age was characterized by many scholars, engineers, thinkers, and geographers. Consequently, the Islamic world became an intellectual fulcrum for science. According to Brobick (2012), the Islamic Golden Age commenced when the capital of the Islamic empire was moved to Baghdad from Damascus. During this period, the ruler of the empire was known as the Abbasid Caliphate. Brobick (2012) points out that the shift of the capital was triggered by the high concentration of intellectuals in Baghdad.
Given that the Abbasids were driven by Qur’anic doctrines, it is seen that hadiths guided most of their undertakings (Lombard, 2003). One such hadith emphasizes more on intellect than on martyrdom. An interpretation of this hadith suggests that the thoughts of a scholar carry more weight than the death of a martyr (Lombard, 2003). The opinions of the Abbasids were revered owing to the fact that they were drawn from the lineage of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him. Their influence helped to galvanize the Islamic world, turning it into a powerful empire dominated by Arabs.
As the empire shifted base to Baghdad, the Abbasids used their influence to establish the new city as the epicenter of knowledge. Alrushaidat (2007) equates Baghdad to Florence. The latter was the seat of the renaissance in Europe. The European renaissance is equated to the Islamic Golden Age. Alrushaidat (2007) suggests that it is not possible to make technological advancements without knowledge. As such, the technological advancements that took place during this period can be attributed to the Abbasids’ high regard for knowledge.
Technological Advancements during the Islamic Golden Age
Lombard (2003) argues that there were significant technological advancements during the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic society was more civilized during this period compared to the west. Technological advancement was largely triggered by the introduction of paper by the Chinese. At the time, Roman numerals were commonly used in writing (Lombard, 2003). As a result of the intellectual concentration in Baghdad, the Arabic numerals were introduced.
Another important technological advancement during this period was in the field of medicine. Matthews (2004) cites the introduction of antiseptic, which was mainly used in cleaning wounds. The introduction is attributed to Abu Bakr al-Razi. The use of antiseptics helped minimize infections. Falagas et al. (2006) add that during this period, major findings in optical science helped in the treatment of eye related complications.
During the Islamic Golden Age, studies conducted in Baghdad revealed certain chemicals used in ancient China and India (Matthews, 2004). Islamic scholars of the time attempted to use these chemical compounds to develop life enhancing elixir. They also attempted to use them to convert metals to gold. However, their efforts bore no fruits. The disappointments notwithstanding, the endless experiments resulted in the understanding of processes like distillation. In addition, the experiments introduced the scholars to the forging technology. Consequently, distillation of oil and the technology used in early steel industries can be attributed to the chemical curiosity of the time.
Architecture is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of technological advancements associated with the Islamic Golden Age. Falagas et al. (2006) point out that the Islamic world was more advanced than the west. Such assertion is supported by the opulence of the architectural designs employed in construction. The most conspicuous example of architectural prowess of the designers during this era is the Great Mosque of Kairouan (Falagas et al., 2006). The mosque is famed for its magnificent designs that were unlike any other during the period.
Finally, the need for navigation motivated many Muslim scholars who conducted studies on the aspects of the ‘heavens’ and the ‘earth’. According to Alrushaidat (2007), these scholars became skilled mapmakers who gave accurate distances between points on the earth. The same skills are associated with Omar Khayyam, a Persian. The Persia lived during the Golden Age. He is famed for developing a calendar that was used for more than 500 years.
In this paper, the author determined that the Islamic Golden Age was a bastion of knowledge for the Muslim community of the time. The author of this paper is of the opinion that the knowledge acquired during this period was responsible for the immense technological advancements. The technologies developed during the Islamic Golden Age are still relevant to the modern world. The author believes that the existence of most civilizations is associated with the exploitation of technological advancements made during the Islamic Golden age. As a result of this, the author of this paper opines that the Golden Age is an important element of contemporary science and technology.
Alrushaidat, A. (2007). The Golden Age of Arab Islamic sciences: The impact of Arabic on the west. Irbid: Irshaidat.
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Brobick, B. (2012). The Caliph’s splendor: Islam and the west in the Golden Age of Baghdad. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Falagas, M., Zarkadoulia, A., & Samonis, G. (2006). Arab science in the Golden Age (750-1258 C.E.) and today. The Faseb Journal, 20(10), 1581-1586.
Lombard, M. (2003). The Golden Age of Islam. Princeton: Markus Weiner Publishers.
Matthews, Z. (2004). The Golden Age of Islam. Web.