Islam - Once at forefront of science

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society, Middle East Topics: Islam, Islam And Science Views: 19733

TOLEDO, Spain -- Islamic medicine and science led the world for centuries while Europe stagnated in the Dark Ages.

From 800 AD to 1500, Arabic was the language of science, as English is today. Muslims occupied Spain, and Europeans flocked to Toledo and other Spanish cities, or traveled great distances to Baghdad or Damascus, to translate Islamic science and medical books into Latin.

Islamic medicine in the year 1000 was a marvel of sophistication, featuring competency tests for doctors, drug purity regulations, hospitals staffed by nurses and interns, advanced surgeries, and other practices beyond the dreams of medieval Europeans.

So why is much of today's Islamic world a "scientific desert," to use the stark language of a 2002 article in the journal Nature? Why do many predominantly Muslim countries, home to 1.3 billion people and 75 percent of the world's oil wealth, neglect science and technology? And how might they recapture their amazing scientific heritage?

In Islamic Spain, Islam's Golden Age was at
first imitated, then exceeded, as scholars poured
in from the Muslim east. One example is the
ninth-century scholar 'Abbas ibn Firnas who
experimented with flight 699 years before
Leonardo da Vinci and constructed a planetarium in
which the planets revolved. This reconstruction by
Michael Grimsdale, based on descriptions dating to
that era, suggests the elaborate gearing that Ibn
Firnas had to have developed.

These questions have resounded at international, Arab and Islamic scientific conferences and have made headlines in science journals. Here's how the Nature article summed up the situation in the Middle East, for instance:

"The region is, for the most part, a scientific desert. In some states, oil wealth has allowed the construction of fabulous cities, magnificent mosques and sumptuous shopping malls. But little scientific infrastructure has emerged. Collectively, the Arab nations spend only 0.15 per cent of their gross domestic product on research and development, well below the world average of 1.4 per cent."

Muslims account for 20 percent of the world's population, but less than one percent of its scientists. Scientists in Islamic countries now make barely 0.1 percent of the world's original research discoveries each year.

Authorities on Islamic science cite various reasons for this state of affairs, but the Koran is not among them.

"The Koran actually forms one of the cornerstones of science in Islam in a way unlike any other scripture of any other religion," said Glen M. Cooper, a professor of the history of science and Islam at Brigham Young University.

"The Koran enjoins the believer and the unbeliever alike to examine nature for signs of the creator's handiwork, evidence of his existence, and his goodness," Cooper said. "Reason is revered as one of the most important of God's gifts to men. The examination of nature led historically into a scientific perspective and program."

Farkhonda Hassan, a professor at the University of Cairo who has written about barriers to science careers for Islamic women, agreed.

"The teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam emphasize the acquiring of knowledge as bounden duties of each Muslim from the cradle to the grave, and that the quest for knowledge and science is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman," she said. "One eighth -- that is, 750 verses -- of the Koran exhort believers to study, to reflect, and to make the best use of reason in their search for the ultimate truth."

Search they once did.

The rise of Islamic science

After Muhammad's death in 632, Muslim armies swept out of the Arabian Peninsula and expanded the borders of Islam east and west.

They absorbed not just land, but also scientific knowledge from India and Greek learning planted centuries earlier by the armies of Alexander the Great. Muslims translated into Arabic the treasures of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Archimedes and other great physicians, philosophers and scientists.

By 711, the Muslims had reached Spain, and they ended up dominating the region until Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella drove out the last of them in 1492.

The impact of Islam's discoveries during this period went far beyond individual innovations like algebra or the establishment of models for modern hospitals and universities. The spread of Islamic knowledge to Europe sparked, or at least helped to spark, the Renaissance and scientific revolution of the 17th century.

"It is highly probable that, but for the Arabs, modern European civilization would never have arisen at all," Sir Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume wrote in their 1997 classic, "The Legacy of Islam."

Robert Briffault wrote in the "Making of Humanity" in 1938 that "Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when cities of the Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, and Toledo, were growing centers of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into a new phase of human evolution."

Yet most Americans are completely unaware of Islam's rich scientific heritage, said George Saliba, a professor of Arabic and Islamic science at Columbia University, and more than a dozen other experts interviewed for this article.

"That is unfortunate," Cooper said. "Much of our modern science and philosophy owes a large debt to Islamic civilization during the Middle Ages for preserving the classical heritage in all intellectual fields, and for improving upon it in many of these fields. If the average American understood this, there would be fewer smug citizens looking down on 'backward Muslims' with hate and fear."

Two reasons Americans are relatively clueless on the subject are the Arabic-English language barrier and a long tradition of U.S. historians focusing on European scientific traditions, said Jeffrey Oaks of the University of Indianapolis.

"Anything not taught in high school is going to escape public consciousness," added Thomas F. Glick, an expert on Islamic history at Boston University.

Some historians from mainly Islamic countries see it differently.

"We believe that, for dishonorable purposes, there is in the West an intention to ignore the important scientific role played by Muslim scholars during the medieval age," said Abdul Nasser Kaadan, a professor with the Institute for the History of Arabic Science at the University of Aleppo in Syria. "This is to support the allegation that Muslim and Arabic mentality never in the past and not in the future can lead any scientific research."

Explaining the decline

So what happened to the once glorious scientific legacy of Islam and Arabia? Experts cite many things.

Universities were an Islamic invention later adopted in Europe, but Muslim universities did not shelter and preserve scientific knowledge during wars and other upheavals. Christian warriors carved up the Islamic empire and cut off contact between great scientific centers. Here in Spain, the Catholic reconquest of Ferdinand and Isabella deprived Islamic science of the great libraries and schools in Cordoba, Seville and Toledo.

Conflicts also cut off science's lifeblood -- cash for research and education. And the Ottomans, who took over much of the Islamic world in the early 1500s, used their resources to make war, not science.

In the 1700s, a puritanical form of Islam took root in Saudi Arabia, with a doctrine that rejected knowledge acquired after the first 300 years of Islam's existence.

Several scholars said one problem is the lack of awareness among Arabs and Muslims about their own scientific heritage.

"Muslims generally are unaware that their civilization had a high point of superiority in nearly every aspect," Cooper said. "Their current challenge is to face the fact that the Islamic edge has been completely lost.

"It would be a hard thing, I think, to be part of a religion and culture with such a glorious history as that of Islam, when that glory is all in the distant past, and an essentially godless civilization -- from their perspective -- enjoys the lead in power and science."

Eventually, in the United States and Europe, science began paying some of its own bills. Inventions like the telephone, radio, plastics and antibiotics led industry to pour billions into scientific research. In much of the Arab world, science remained dependent on handouts from sultans, kings or caliphs.

"Science and scientific research can flourish only when a country is affluent and has a sound and balanced economy," said Ahmad Y. al-Hassan, also a faculty member of the Arabic science institute at the University of Aleppo. "But when agriculture is the dominant sector, then a country will remain poor, and when petroleum is the only source of income, then this economy in the long run also is doomed."

Others also cited Arab oil wealth, and how rulers spend and invest their billions.

"They probably would have been better off without their mineral resources," said J. J. Witkam of Leiden University in The Netherlands. "It is a corrupting element in any society. But when societies are so unbalanced as most Islamic countries are, then it gets cancerous proportions."

The United Nations Development Program called oil wealth "a mixed blessing" in a 2003 report that called on Arab countries to reclaim their scientific heritage. It focused on the 22 members of the League of Arab States and their 280 million people.

UNDP pointed out that Arab rulers invest much of their oil money in the United States and other foreign countries, rather than using it to develop their own nations, and import technical know-how instead of educating ample numbers of their own citizens to be scientists and engineers. The report also cited "the pursuit of personal gain, the preference for the private over the public good, social and moral corruption, the absence of honesty and accountability and many other illnesses." 

Experts also link the stagnation of Islamic science to a movement that took root more than a century ago that contends all knowledge can be found in the Koran. Meanwhile, the industrialized world has been moving toward a "knowledge society" fueled by information and liberal education.

Signs of rebirth?

The United Nations Development Program, in a report published last year, described in often painful detail some of the factors that have contributed to the decline of science and the rise of extremism in Arab societies. Among them are:

Increases in average income have been lower in the Arab world than anywhere else for 20 years, except for the poorest African countries. "If such trends will take the average Arab citizen 140 years to double his or her income, whole other regions are set to achieve that level in a matter of less than 10 years," the report noted. One in 5 Arabs lives on less than $2 a day.

Arab unemployment is the highest in the developing world.
Surveys show more than half of young Arabs want to leave their countries and live in the United States or other industrialized countries where opportunities are better.
The Arab brain drain is the world's worst, with about 25 percent of new graduates in science, medicine and engineering emigrating each year.
About 1 in 4 Arab adults can neither read nor write. This is a particular problem among Arab women, 50 per cent of whom are illiterate. Many children do not attend school.
The quality of education has declined, with many schools teaching mainly interpretations of the Koran, rather than other knowledge or skills.
Less than 0.6 per cent of Arabs use the Internet and barely 1.2 percent have access to a personal computer. There are 18 computers per 1,000 Arabs, compared to the global average of 78.3.
During the entire 20th century, fewer than 10,000 books were translated into Arabic -- equivalent to the number translated into Spanish in a single year. Religious books account for 17 per cent of new publications in Arab countries, compared to a world average of 5 per cent.
Censorship stifles ideas, information and innovation. Numerous censors review book manuscripts, each with the power to edit text or demand revisions.

The UNDP report also described what's needed to re-energize scientific inquiry in Arab and Islamic societies.

It included relatively straightforward suggestions like spending more on scientific research and ordinary education rather than religious schools. Other recommendations would involve reinventing new systems of government in some countries. One called for "guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, speech, and assembly through good governance bounded by law." Some involved correcting tenacious problems like poverty and unemployment.

"Our civilization once supported a knowledge society that was the envy of the world," said Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, a U.N. assistant secretary general who helped prepare the report. "They will do so again if we clear away the defective social, economic and political structures we have piled upon them. We can free our minds to reason without fear; free our people's souls to breathe."

Columbia University's Saliba echoed the need to focus on education.

"What's needed to increase research in Islamic countries?," he asked. "The same thing that is needed in any other country: priority on education, funding, training of teachers, building better relations between school and home, educating the parents, allocating higher budgets for education than for defense -- a situation that is not too different from what we face in this country, as well."

Arab scientists and governments are making some progress.

In 2000, a group of leading scientists formed the Arab Science and Technology Foundation in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The emirates are among a handful of Arab countries -- which include Egypt, Pakistan, and Jordan -- that are investing more in science education and research.

Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, the ruler of Sharjah, donated $1 million from his own pocket to start the science foundation and provided its $5-million headquarters building. The foundation hopes to raise $100 million so it can provide research grants and encourage Arab scientists in other countries to return home.

The emir of Qatar is backing the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which is building a vast "Education City" featuring branch campuses of Carnegie Mellon and Cornell universities.

"The pendulum can swing back," wrote Ibrahim B. Syed of the University of Louisville in an article about Islamic medicine:

"One thousand years ago the Muslims were the great torchbearers of international scientific research. Every student and professional from each country outside the Islamic Empire aspired, yearned, and dreamed to go to Islamic universities to learn, to work, to live and to lead a comfortable life in an affluent and most advanced and civilized society.

"Islamic countries have the opportunity and resources to make Islamic science and medicine number one in their world once again."

Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society, Middle East
  Topics: Islam, Islam And Science
Views: 19733

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Older Comments:
halas this article helped me to kno abt the reason behind "why arab or islam behind in scince technology" even quran clearly mentioned in its first aaya dat revealed Muhammed (pbh) READ .. alla want us to kno and learn about all the scince, geagraphy and everything den only we can close to him. knowledge give u power to grasp meaning of the content. I have a small advice to every1 seak knowledge and use it n teach others wht u learn upon all study everything with a gud intension, important thing remember always dat ask his guidance always to show u right path..

people with alternate view or seek proof should refer to

sorry, must write in Frenschor Germen language. it's better for me

effectivement, la ou les sciences qu'ils soient douniyaouiya( naturelle- tabiaa ou rouhia falsafia) ou dinia (chariya) etaient l'tandard de la civilisation musulmannes, et quand les premiers musulmans ont appliqus vraiment l'islam dans leur vies ils ont pocd le monde, et quand ils se sont loigns dev l'islam comme aujourd'hui, vous voyez vous mme leurs situation dans le monde.

I am against the opinion that Islam simple absorbed the knowledge from other "

Its the other way round from Quran ONLY scientist
got the knowledge for each & everthing in live , it can be put in this way that they could proof many things ONLY THROUGH QURAN .

ya we need to move on, history will let us know, looking west was painful, EVERYONE needS to adapt themselves working and living along with the GEATER INDIAS AND GREATER CHINAS OF TOMMOROW.

Nothing new here but nostalgia. Yes, it can be agreed that Muslim civilization has made its mark in various scientific achievements but for the last few hundred years Muslims have barely contributed to any area of the sciences. Most articles regarding past Muslim scientific acheivements talk mostly in generalities . I would for once like to see specifics as in so and so came up with some theory like Einstein or newton, euclid..etc. Everytime there is talk of scientific contributions, the only names that are mentioned are al-Khwrizm and Ibn-sina. I am sorry to say there are only a few handful of Muslim scientists who have made any original contributions to Science. Scientific rigour scientific debate are simply nonexistent in the muslim world. Bunch of rich Sheikhs are building fancy malls with borrowed technology and engineers. In this article it is mentioned that some rich guy contributed 1 million dollar for research and development purposes which is apalling to say the least. You need billions for R an D not a measly 1 mil. Also the author of this article mentions Sir Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume. These two gentlemen are editors, of the book The Legacy of Islam, they are not the authors. I simply do not understand what actual good is being done with the billions that are being raked in from the oil money aside from building fancy apartments and waging religious wars and hoping for some miracle that Allah will punish the non muslims. Also this idea that there is something called Islamic Science is rather nonsensical. Science is science which comes from rigrous observance of empirical evidence and debate. There is no christian science or hindu science etc. For once I would like to see Muslims come up with scientific journals where an original research findings are being published.

To andy...

Muslims not only invented Algebra but also Agricultural devices,Aircrafts,Cameras,Chemicals, Mechinical & Medical devices,printing.. etc.

See Muslim inventions...

See also "Setting the Record Straight: What is taught in the West about Science and What Should be Taught" by Kasem Ajram....

Every discovery made today or last 100 years could not happen without Muslim's knowledge and without Greek and Roman's knowledge Islamic discovery could not made.

I reckon if the creators of Islamic science were alive today the majority would be on the receiving end of unfavourable fatwas and someone would be out to make an end to their lives. To name just two of them who had quite an impact on European thinking: Averroes and Avicenna, both of them are heretics or non-believers acc. to modern standards b/o their philosophical concepts. It is sad that muslims today who feel themselves as inheritants of this legacy feel it necessary to silence people who have differing views like Salman Rushdy et al.. As long as it is impossible to discuss alternate opinions in a cool and professional manner I fear that the rebirth of Islamic science will remain a dream.

the real question should not be what muslims did some thousand years ago but rather what we do now when we have the potential to be a force for furthering humanity at large.

T.Y. FROM US said:
... Islam simply absorbed knowledge from other places, but very rarely came up with anything original. Muslims didn't discover algebra, or algorithm, or chemistry, or astronomy, or surgery. While it's true that english uses some of the words for these sciences from arabic, the science and math itself all comes from somewhere else..... I mean c'mon... "beyond the dreams of mideval Europeans"... this guy obviously is an Islamopile/Arabophile.... and make no mistake, despite this guy wanting to rewrite history, the renaissance originated from Italy.

This articlr has neglected the CHANGE in religious thinking which brought a "STOP" to MUslim thinking about Sceince and inventions.From 1200 to 1300 AD , Muslim Civilization STOPPED the practice of IJTEHAD [expanding the meaning of Quran and Hadith towards aquiring new knowledge in creation]. THe Muslim rulers instead turned towards SUFISM and discouraged sceintific thinking.Since then the Muslim civilization considered the field of sceince and technology to be an inferior issue in Islam and they gave priority to Spiritualism.
However Quran orders the beleivers to research
and increase knowledge.Muslim civilizations violated the Quran in this respect.Even to day 99% of the islamic centers and islamic schools
keep SCeince and technology as a very low priority item. Hence for the past few centuries Muslims have been groomed to stay far from the Sceince and technology.The same attitude prevails among the rulers and leaders of the Muslim countries who in turn do not spend or train people in Sceince and Tecnologies.

why don't you focus something about one of the greatest islamic scholar Allama Inayatullah Khan Al Mashriqi who contributed his whole life towards Muslim betterness and prosperity of Islam. His research in Islamic and bringing the scientific facts about science, technology and highlighting the prime aim of ALLAH SUBHANATALLAH of creating this universe is very much interesting and I am sure this will definitely give log of support to our all Human Mankind.



Salaams. Global civilization is what connects the world together since we are all linked by such an amazing technology and brilliant minds acorss the globe.

No one can own civilization but we can all contribute. What makes it more dominant is how it influences the world. Islamic civilization like any other civilization has shaped the world we live in.

It is more important to be humble and support civilization than to sit back and do nothing or waste time on who owns it or not. The facts are out there in our universities around the globe.

Knowledge is universal and belongs to all. Who invented it first is as important as who is using it. We are all learners/users/actors and so on of knowledge. The beauty of it is to admire and enjoy it and preserve it. No one wants to lose the beauty of knowledge hence civilization.It is also important that we travel and seek knowledge simply staying in our country for the rest of your life and talking about civilization is of no use.

I would like to contribute on how civilization shapes our thinking and our present day world by forwarding the following url from the legacy of Islam in science especially the father/founder of logic hence the technology that you and me are using to communicate:

Latin Name: Algorism, Algorithm

I came across this information and did not not know it myself. Though I studied about algorithms not knowing that background of this great scientist. Little do we know of our history.

What is important today is preserving our civilization regardless of which part of the globe you live since we are all contributors of knowledge.

Please also visit the following website for a dialogue with Islam in Europe:

Let us all support world civilization regardless of what part of the world we come otherwise if one part collapses the rest

Love this article it's like wowow...

but what's even more wowow i'm pretty wowow'd out that I actually found the one who calls himself Nick Cameron's statement to be something I agree with...well partially. When he says that that "Muslim world doesn't need to dominate science," I agree on the basis that the fact is that they do not right now, so no need to lay claim to being dominant. But, as Muslims we should not rule out the possibility of us living up to such a challenge. This should be encouragement for all of us, to strive towards developing scientific leadership! So I agree and do not agree with what the one who calls himself Nick Cameron said. The part where he says:

"discoveries in Muslim countries can find a home here with the right corporate sponsors. Science can be a basis of productive partnership between America and the Muslim World."

I agree with that fully and I appreciate it and actually welcome the gesture. I wonder if he can enjoin us with more of his good works? Insha'Allah.

I agree that the Muslim world doesn't need to dominate science. There is plenty of room in research and development for the American scientific community to develop a partnership with others. And since America has an outstanding patents and copyright system, discoveries in Muslim countries can find a home here with the right corporate sponsors.

Science can be the basis of a productive partnership between America and the Muslim world.

I am a westerner well aware of the contributions of Islamic science. I think its once-upon-a-time dominance is more likely the product of having a large-scale, powerful and stable government at and near the crossroads for much world trade, as well as the conquest and absorption of Persia (one of the most advanced civilizations of the time, although in decline) than it is due to any inherent advantage derived from the religion.
One thing that sort of concerned me about this article is that some of the people quoted seemed to think that it would be nice for Islamic society to return to a position of scientific dominance. Why the need to be dominant? Just being a respected peer seems like a much more reasonable and neighborly goal. Is it so that muslims can use scientific dominance as evidence that their religion is true and the best? The need for muslims to prove their dominance (as prescribed in the Koran) and their frustration that they are not dominant today is basic thing concerns this non-muslim about islam.

Stop the nostalgiacally inspired reminiscence. Not only is it paradoxical that one should point to an islamic 2nd renaissance while relying on sources other than those that sparked the First Golden Age of Islam, it may also be dishonest. A very good exercise in rationality is to apply the theory, logic, hypothesis or ideology onto itself; as a litmus test for hypocrisy. This article doesn't pass that test. The references are of U.N. and Scientist prominently affixiated to the Anglo-American education structure and solutions provided are not well-thought out enough to provide any comprehensive resolution to our current dillema. The article asks us to revive the scientific vigor that the Koran brought while simultaneously discounting the Koran as a source for that revival. Arabs did not go wrong because they became what you referred to as "puritanical" but because un-islamic elements such as racism, tribalism, ethnocentricm gave rise to Pan-arabism which had the effect of disconnecting the Arab world from the rest of the Muslim world. The ottoman-turks were master beauracrats in the pure sense. It is shameful that the arabs never fully squashed the quarrel between the Ansar and the Muhajirin. The Bottom line is if the Ummah is to revive, it must do so with its Will manifested in every sphere of reality. That will can only be formulated through the Koran and Sunnah; the two ultimate sources that caused the First Islamic rennaissance. Instead of looking in the rearview mirror while driving perhaps we can look ahead and utilize the tools at hand. Rear-view mirror gives us a sense of where we came from but in no way does it direct where we are going. The tools I have already mentioned but will reiterate for stress are THE KORAN and SUNNAH. As primary sources there will point to a multitude of seconary and tertiary sources which would be indispensible. In the End Let us do an excercise where we formulate well-thought out answers to our problems.

Assalamu alaikum mebrocky - I am grateful you found the link interesting. Here is a another link, to an article describing "entirely optical computers" - in case you are still interested.

The article itself has a link to an article by Dr. Hossin Abdeldayem, which provides quite a bit more detail on optical logic processing (i.e., photonic computing). The initial article also mentions what in fact has been a tremendous amount of work done by scientists at Nippon Electric Corporation (NEC). Japanese, Chinese, British, Australian and Italian researchers among many others have been working on photonic applications for several years now.

salamu alaykum
i read my previous comment and i didnt realize it at the time, but i came off sounding a little on the offensive. i apologize for it isnt the character of a muslim.

i wrote a really nice piece (i thought it was nice) - until my pc crashed and i lost it. i just wanted to address MH and the image thing. when we did have the power, christians still loathed us. their elders used the same propaganda tools goebbels made famous. turk soldiers eating children ad nauseum. regardless of what they thought, we were still powerful and couldnt care less. frankly, i dont give a ___ what christians think of muslims today. i actually find it a little comic that anyone would consider themselves scholars of islam by watching the palestine-israel conflict unfold.

moreover, i'm a little skeptical of those who blame the muslim world's intellectual decline on the proverbial 'evildoer mullah'. a phrase frequently used by 14 yr old texan boys ... and bush. the term isnt even arabic. blaming the muslim world's ills on 'fundies' is intellectually dishonest, it perpetuates the myth that there actually IS a spiritual force in the muslim world. - which ofcourse, there isnt. the worst examples of this occur in the arab and caucasian muslim states bordering russia. clerics of all types are treated inhumanely. the worst example being uzbekistan, with a president named ISLAM karimov. - yeh, we can discuss the irony in his name at a later time.
secularist regimes are whats eating at the intellectual core of the muslim world. not ayatollahs, mullahs or any other boogeymen islamophobes like to invent.
malaysia has the most successful muslim system in the world. there is islamic law for muslims, and a malaysian code for nonbelievers. - which is exactly the way its supposed to be, the way things used to be. muslims need to study the malaysian model and adopt it. not the pseudo theocratic saudi model which prevents women from driving! oy Vei!

The UNDP report is indeed scary. It is unbelievable that illiteracy and unemployment in Arab world is highest in developing countries. I wonder where all the oil money goes. We can take comfort from the past, but to create a better future, we must act now. One thing for sure "The Koran actually forms one of the cornerstones of science in Islam in a way unlike any other scripture of any other religion" - Glen M. Cooper, a professor of the history of science and Islam at Brigham Young University. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Seek knowledge, even as far as China." So, the source of this degradation is not in our scripture or religious teachings, but probably in the interpretation and practice. I see the main problem is the lack of education among women. "A learned mother brings forth learned children" - goes an old proverb. Secondly, we need Muslim Scientists, Doctors or Engineers for sure, but we also need Muslim journalists, artists, novelists, and above all, Muslims in the Media (news & entertainment) in this age of media influence. People in USA don't have any good opinion toward Muslims because they don't see any Muslims in the media or entertainment, or don't read any books or articles by Muslims. Ironically, most of the so-called Middle East or Islamic experts are vehemently anti-Islamic. Instead of blaming others regarding our misery, we have a lot to do to improve our fate and our image. There is no doubt about the beauty and superiority of Islam above any other religion - true monotheism and the equality of all human being that transcends race, nationality, social status, and wealth. In order to bring science to our societies, we have to curb the influence of fundamentalist mullahs (who possess nothing other than religious knowledge) from our political arena and give equal rights to our womanhood.

Actually, the Intel Israel approach appears to be an improvement over the "quantum well" opto-electronic solutions I had read about a few years ago. Never the less, the beauty of a fully optical approach is that the same "photonic circuitry" can be used to process multiple frequencies of light simultaneously. Perhaps twenty years ago, a prototype at Bell Labs functioned with something like 1,000 frequencies. I have forgotten the theoretical limit (for the total number of frequencies) but seem to recall it was in the millions. Also, I seem to recall that the theoretical limit for the rate of processing, in a photonic system, would be something like 26 terahertz - a rate which semi-conductor technology would inherently be unable to rival.


To Andy and all those that want to put the shadows acrross the winner. Yes, Islam and the Muslims saved the world from the Dark Ages and inevitable cultural and moral collapse. Today, strangely enough this seems reversed. This is the theme of the article and it was not meant to be a challenge to the modern way of life and human achievements. I remind you that a beautiful lotus flower has its roots in the mud of the pond. I hope people with asmidgen of insight would understand my reference. Andy boy, you said:". How can you say that Islam was the forefront of science when my country was repeatedly attacked by Muslims Turks ??" Your level of understanding written English must be at a very low level. The article does not relate to the Muslim Turks, although they had their contribution to arts and science especially during the time of Suleiman the Magnificient. The Ottoman Turks were expanding in Romania and beyond, militarily. Their interests there were in the resources that country had, goats, sheep, and whatever rudimental manufacturing products they could supply. Much like today USA in Iraq, they brought destruction, killing and grabbing of resources, crude for that matter. Do they care to share their scientific knowledge and discoveries with the Iraqis? NO! Now in your dormant mind, why would have the Ottomans treat the Romanians otherwise? Imperialist powers do not share, they take. You dig? That doesn't mean that, either the Ottomans or the USA did not contribute to the science of the world. Did Romania? What discovery did Romania do? Ah, yes, they discovered the whole in the doughnut! However, the discoveries in the Islamic era were not entirely done by Muslims, they were done by Muslims, Jews and Christians under islamic rule. This is the issue, if you paid attention! The quest is for answeres to, how could the islamic world fall into Europe's Dark Ages when Islam brought Europe out of it! What the Turks did to your country is irrelevant to the topic.

D.M. FROM USA said:
I generally agree with the article: it was well written. it is a shame that Muslims have gone from the top of their game to what we see on the news today. one note, response the quick facts that presented at the end of the article, i would think that the number of books translated into arabic is a misleading figure. instead, it would be better to cite how many arabic books have been translated into other languages. also, on the case of brain drain: this is a true, but just think of how many of those muslims have helped better western societies in their perspective fields.


salamu alaykum.
exactly as i'd imagined. hah, christians can be so predictable. every scholar worth noting agrees that the dark ages was brought upon by the fuedal system, the serfdom, pesantry et al. and not by some convenient disease there to wipe out the great technological achievements created by christians (btw, i'd appreciate it if anyone could note anything remotely significant they created in the fields of science and philosophy - no, not wmd's).
your great christian hero is a fraud. a man with a loathing for all things muslim, yet decided to hand his daughter over to the 'enemy' in order to stay in power. i'm not here to debate the finer points of history with properly conditioned christians, perhaps if you got your sources from anywhere other than - then perhaps this wouldnt seem like a flight in fancy.
to the gentleman who suggested that now that christians have the power, they have used it for good - and not ill. scandal!. the past century alone should stand as a paradigm for christianity and its fetish for dropping bombs. ww1, ww2, the holocaust, vietnam, and the plethora of little wars of "liberation" the corporate states of america has embarked on in the past few decades etc. but, as history is a witness - no empire lasts that long. america will soon resemble the u.k, just another dead state wallowing in its own irrelevance.
in reference to the article, many of the responders have suggested that muslims should stop pandering to the past .. why not exactly? muslims today need a renaissance as much as the christians needed one. one way is to familiarize yourself with the achievements of the past - namely the religious ones, and patent them into everyday life.

Yahya Bergum - thanks for the link - that is really cool. When I started out, our mainframes couldn't do what my laptop can do now. Regarding negative comments: my take on this article was that it meant to point out that Muslims accomplished great things in the past - all well documented - but that they are in very poor shape today, and something needs to be done to get them back on track. World history shows us that when societies have to go from an agrarian based economy to a modern technological economy; the transition is often very painful and bloody - like now - because people justifiably fear losing their culture, values, and religions. Societies that have been through this process need to have a little more patience and concern for those that are going through this transition-sometimes a few hundred years later. The wealthy of the world don't seem to understand that giving up something to help those less fortunate will in fact be better for them in the long run. Prosperity is good for everyone.

Excellent article.
We should not dwell on past glory and ignore the present reality.We should take examples of countries like India and China. What are these contries doing that is right and can be emulated by muslim countries. Japan and Germany even after the devastation just six decades back are one of the leading econonies and centres of learning.
One humble suggestion is that we should not rely only on our governments and should do more individually and collectively to promote education in our countries. Every mosque should be a centre of learning as well with a dept. of computer sciences.With a computer and internet there can be access to the most advanced knowledge at the click of a mouse.Education in women is very very important.If the mothers are educated there is a high chance of children getting an early start to education.
Muslims residing in North America Middle East and affluent Muslims in our own countries shold form networks of learning and shuld help the schools and libraries.
May Almight Allah show us the straight path and help us to reflect and take action to help our brothers in our own countries.
May Almighty Allah protect us from the temptation of revenge and violence and give us the courage to forgive, have patience and tolerance and enlighten all of us with the light of Koran and help us to persue education and enlightenment. AMEEN!

Here is an optical-hybrid technology first utilized in communication satellites (I think) perhaps a decade ago.

Basically, each chip has something like 32 times the normal number of ports, which are engineered to communicate with other chips (mounted on separate circuit boards) using optical impulses rather than the standard bus architecture. This "electro-optical" approach reduces power requirements and heat generation by something like three orders of magnitude. Actually, this technology would be precisely the sort of advance in electronic computing that photonic computing would totally surpass - insha'Allah.


All such articles amount to 'Feel Good Factors' primarily. Indians (Hindus) to a large extent are very proud of their achievemnets done during the Vedic Times and rightly so, they afterall, gave zero to arabs who further synthesised and propagated it widely. Arabic numerals till today are called as 'Hindi numerals' in the Arab World, for having been borne out of it.

World doesn't acknowledge the labourers who build the building from the foundation up, it acknowledges the financer, the architect and the planner.

Had the Muslim World remained the architect or the planner or even the financer of the major technological innovations in the past 500 years, it might have earned some respect, right now, such articles serve little purpose but seems like blowing it's own trumpet where only some, with nothing worthwhile to do or a genuine love for music, would like to wait and listen. Rest all audiences belong to the family of the one blowing the Trumpet. That's us, giving each other the moral support and illusion of an audience.

Some people wonder, Why US fights War on behalff of Israel? Why israel enjoys such support in White House lobbies.
The answer is simple. Major R&D work is done inside Tel Aviv on major US defense projects. The Research Work and Papers that gets published from all the Universities in Muslim countries combine, form only a third that comes out from a handful f Universities in Israel.

But Yes! If only one of readers gets fired up and starts a school or funds an already running school or make a practical effort to impart education or sponsor someone who deserves higher education in the Muslim world, this article might have solved some purpose.

Generally the article is good and accurate reflection of about 700 years of Islamic Science and Art. However, 3 points for muslim brothers:

1) 700 years is not the sole or only reflection of humanity. Number of powerful civilizations existed for far longer; Egyptians; Indus Valley; Babylonian etc. The reason of failure is what needs to be learnt. Why did Islamic Civilisation fail? Not why it was great. We all know why it was great.
2) There is no such thing as islamic science etc. Science is science. There was science before islam; science at the power of islam; science outside the power of Islam and science of today. Science is not linked to any religion. Muslims have to develop science not islamic science because no such thing exists.

3) Current policy's followed by Islamic leaders guarantee failure. Out of almost 300 million population of Arab world and another 300 million of muslim world around arabia there is one stark relaity. Half of the population is barely educated (300 million that is women) and hlf of this 300 million is certified illiterate. Now with 25% of the population beinf illiterate by design (not by choice) the muslim world is trying to move ahead with one had tied behind its back.

To johannes - your statements are all wrong.

You are claiming that Charlamagne was afraid of being dethroned Muslims and begged the caliph of islam to accept his daughter as payment for leaving charlamagne on the throne. THis is the ultimate lie. On the contrary it was the Charlamagne who was the all time powerful not some Caliph. You want proof ? Have you heard of the Battle of Tours/Poitiers in 730 AD. ??? It was victory won by the Frankish mayor of the palace Charles Martel over Muslim invaders from Spain.

Charles(Charlemagne) led Frankish troops against a Muslim army seeking to gain control of Aquitaine. The Arab leader, 'Abd-al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi, was killed, and the Arabs retreated. The battle itself was part of Charles's campaign against the Muslims in the south and was not decisive. It did, however, mark the end of the Muslim invasions of Frankish territory and contributed to Frankish consolidation of the region. The Frankish victory greatly enhanced Charles's prestige and that of his family, the Carolingians. So there, Charlemagne never had to give his daughter to Caliph because it never happened. Charles won the battle so Caliph was in no position to make demands. So I proved you wrong.

And about your other claim that europe's cultural stagnation during the dark ages, the black death, crop failure, religious persecution etc wasn't the determining factor. I can also prove that you are wrong here as well. Black Death was in fact the biggest contribution to the fall of Europe's cultural and scientific period. Black Death wiped out 90% of European population and among those people who perished were scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, etc. You can't be that serious to suggest that black death was only a little factor. Imagine if your family and friends are going to die of diseases, are you going to help them to get better or are you going to give your time to scientific discoveries ???

I was borned and raised in Romania and I know my country's history very well. I have to say that this article is completely off the track. How can you say that Islam was the forefront of science when my country was repeatedly attacked by Muslims Turks ?? My country is very close to Middle East and Turkey and if Islam was really the forefront of science then why didn't we experience those scientific knowledge but instead only blood and battles ???? Europe did go through Dark Ages and you have to ask why. Europe at that time was plagued by black death diseases which nearly wiped out the entire european population. How can Europe experience scientific discoveries when most of its people including scientists, philosophers, mathematicians and others are were dying ??? Have you looked at that part ?? Europe was also affected by crop failures and religious persecutions. How can Europe (with all its problems) can focus on science and discoveries when its clear that they have to focus to fix its internal problems first ???
I have to give credit to Muslims for inventing Algebra, but most of the knowledge that we took from Muslims were the Greek and Roman's knowledge and disoveries texts that were lost in Europe.
If you or anyone can claim that Islam was the forefront of science and discoveries then please give us a list of the discoveries and how those dicoveries really helped the future generations to benefit. Give us proofs. Words means nothing but proofs are priceless.

R.L. FROM U.S.A. said:
please johannes, show me statistical figures where europe and muslim armies were equal number in battle where the europeans lost? i could be wrong. also, explain to me what scientific knowledge was europe lacking in which lacking this knowledge threw it into the dark ages? the black death, constant under-population, and religious persecution/ internal warfare was the true cause of the dark ages. also, if the muslims could have burned europe, they most certainly would have. everyone knows this! also, hroutrude (charlemagne's daughter) was refused by emporer constantine (the VI i believe) in 788. was their another daughter you were talking about? charlemagne did have some disturbing islamic ways. it was believed he kept a harem.


The article is brilliant. Islamic world must has wide scientific base. I hope that many young people can find join investigation in different instutes in Russia. The goverment's policy make no difference in religions among people in New Russia.
Besides many institutes (Universities, Academies, Scientific Institutes ect.), our Academy provide wide collaboration, education ect. with young people from Islamic World.

I shall be most grateful to author to receive articles on related subject.

My address is: Dr. Alexey Vinokurov
Department of Biochemistry
Voronezh State Medical Institute
Voronezh, 394000, Russia

The are numerous peacetime technologies in which the Ummah could seize the lead, if enough Muslims were interested in striving to attain it. My current suggestion for Muslims' consideration would be "photonic computing" which could be expected to yield at least a thousand-fold improvement in initial offerings, God willing, over the "electronic computing" with which anyone reading this comment is likely familiar.

There have been working prototypes of photonic (or "optical") computing for perhaps two decades or longer. Evidently, large corporations have considered it more feasible to pursue advancements in electronic technologies rather than place their existing business at risk by pursuing photonic alternatives. However, if someone did not already have an existing business or a market share to protect, there would seem to be considerably less risk (other than a risk of missing opportunities elsewhere) in attempting to surpass various technologies that currently dominate major industries.

Barakatuhu (may you be blessed).

Johanes brings up a very important point:

"...muslim armies absolutely controled europe proper and could have turned in into a burning wasteland for several hundred yrs had they wanted. thankfully for muslims, we have a little thing commonly known as a conscience."

Perhaps the Muslims can keep this in mind the next time they feel the need to accuse America of trying to wipe out Muslims. For while it is debatable whether the Muslim conquerors of Europe could have wiped our many Christians, it is a practical certainty that America can do that to the Muslim world with a mere push of the button. But clearly, it is America's cultural aversion to genocide (in other words, conscience) that makes such things abhorrent to us as well as our leaders.

Peace to you all!

to J. mashaalah, well written - inspiring.

to r.i. europe's cultural stagnation during the dark ages, the 4th to 14th century was caused due to the lack of intellectual and scientific knowledge. the black death, crop failure, religious persecution etc wasnt the determining factor, it was the mere effect of an entire culture devoid of any intellectual mobility. with the remnants of the western roman empire in rumbles, due to the germanic tribesmen and their barbaric methods - the visigoths et al, europe was left to wallow in death and decay. with the only functioning structure in europe gone, the continent adopted a feudal system where the possibility of a collective intellect was all but impossible.
moreover, the assertion that europeans won every battle against the muslims, the turks, african berbers, spanish arabs etc is severely in err. muslim armies absolutely controled europe proper and could have turned in into a burning wasteland for several hundred yrs had they wanted. thankfully for muslims, we have a little thing commonly known as a conscience. try researching a little into the great christian king charlamagne himself, and the near pathetic ploy he used against caliph abdurrahman of spain. charlamagne in his fear of being dethroned by the muslims begged the caliph of islam to accept his daughter as payment for leaving charlamagne on the throne. the caliph promptly denied it, as any rational muslim would do. - doesnt exactly portray the great christian figure christians have been parroting for centuries eh ..


An excellent article, alas the Islamic countries are ruled by despots, The problem is that general public of the islamic countries do not have good role models. All the ruling classes in the islamic countries do nothing useful for the society and enjoys the fruits of the oil wealth for free. As a result the public also wants to get there share with out doing anything. There are no incentives for hard work.


How can we blame others of ignorance while Muslims themselves are ignorant of their past.


R.L. FROM U.S.A. said:
your article is way too centric. europe's dark age was caused by many things, under-population, the black death, religious persecution, crop failure, etc. one thing they didn't lack was science. there was no need for universities when most of your cities are little more than villiages (except the obvious exceptions, of course). even at europe's worst and islam's best, every time the two encountered each other on the battlefield where there were equal number of troops, europe won every time. the reason why? science and strategy. also, to suggest that because you are muslims, "your" science should be second to none is also centric. science is there for anyone to discover..... whether you are religious or not.

to adam:
your warcries might cause others to create armageddon devices. sodium bombs exploded in certain parts of the world could spread enough radiation that it could wipe out all life on this planet. an antimatter device exploded on the surface could rip off earth's atmosphere.... the perfect weapons to combat your warcries. no matter how great your "muslim" weapons are, they would still be capable of wiping out everything. some might see that as being better than living under islam, or an islamically dominated planet.


We Muslims will win when we do justince with Islam, i.e Present Islam the way Allah Sunhanahuwataala told us to and the way Muhammad SWT presented it.

Jazakallah Khayran for the nice article.

Bravo! One of the best articles I've seen lately - a real depiction of the incredible history of the Muslim contributions to current society. I think the big question now is, can the "gates of Ijtihad" be opened without losing the principles of Islam? Based on past history, I would say yes, of course! First, there must be a real commitment of the Muslim countries to provide a complete education to all of its people, not just the men, not just the privileged, but everyone. Second, they must make a very real effort to bring the people whose minds are full of hate and destruction back to the fold. If they are beyond this point, then bring them to justice. Third, the Western countries need to help with this. This is a very big problem right now, because they need to educate their people, while they are ducking bullets. The Western governments have to stop supporting corrupt Muslim governments - the cold war is over, there is no reason to do this anymore. They also have to deal FAIRLY with all the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian governments. This is a very tall order, and it is for the people of all these countries to see that their governments live up to this. A quote from Karen Armstrong's excellent book, " The Battle for God - a History of Fundamentalism", (this is about fundamentalism in Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures). "Secularists and fundamentalists seem trapped in an escalating spiral of hostility and recrimination. If fundamentalists must evolve a more compassionate assessment of their enemies in order to be true to their religious traditions, secularists must also be more faithful to the benevolence, tolerance and respect for humanity which characterizes modern culture at its best, and address themselves more emphatically to the fears, anxieties, and needs which so many of their fundamentalist neighbors experience but which no society can safely ignore."

Western terror is not mentioned as a factor. Why ? How about the numerous proxys they've set up in the Islamic world ?

A realistic view and 'food for thought' to Islamic world, particularly Arabs.

In as much as I agree with the author of this article, I like to differ on two major points. [That is why I think Islamicity should introduce another opinion emblem for partial approval of articles].

1. The author's mentioning of "puritanic Islam" in Saudi that is preventing other sources of to me myopic. But the fact(or so I guess) the author is an orientalist I think we can take the rubbish for what it is. As long as all source of knowledge remains the Quran the Saudi or any Islamic Community for that matter cannot go wrong. The bottom line is the "TAQWA" that the people exhibit in aquiring and using the knowledge. All knowledge (Of God, Science, Philosophy, Astronomy, etc) is contained in the Quran.

2. Yes we need medicine and science but our greatest need now is the area of applied science (Technology), especially weapons development. That is why I raise my hands for Iran in its stubborn rejection of pressures from the evil empire to do away wit its nuclear Tech. They shoul go on underground untill they are able to produce the bomb. So will the call be for all muslims, let's go for this tecnology at all cost for this is the need and the only language anybody understands. We must defend ourselves now then other things will follow. We have the money and the brains and with Allah's help this is achievable in the shortest possible time.

The Arabs were very influencial in developing the scientific method that is so prevalent in modern scientific researches. The oil-rich Muslim countries need to encourage, fund, and even reward scientific research and development in Muslim countries, instead of only supporting the madrasas that exclude any secular education. Islam encourages balance.

The best scenario I vision is the research and development in Islamic countries in an attempt to improve the conditions of the ummah and the humanity at large, with minimal or no destruction to the environment. Maybe even in a field of improving the environment.

So much for the wishful thinking.

The dreaded thought in my mind is that oil-rich Muslim nations will squander away their wealth until it's too late! The industrialized nations will develop more reliable alternate sources of energy, or develop machinery that make more efficient use of current fuel.

Everyone knows what the implications of less demand on oil would be for the oil-rich countries, and therefore for the ummah.

Am I being too simplistic? Can the Arabs reverse the trend that has lead them to dormancy in scientific research before it's too late?


True & precise research done by quoting many people & their view point i.e. well written article!It is very true,that muslims have been spending most of their time in wordly gains & pursuits that they have forgotten that they "still" do have the precious jewel, "the Qur'an"!The decline of the Muslim empires was bcz of these reasons that ppl forgot the real essence of Islam & their very purpose to be on Earth.Likewise,the Arab & all Muslims are busy indulging in pursuits that are not even close to the real teachings of Islam! may Allah guide us all ameen and we start working on eliminating the negative ideologies in our society associated to Islam.

I don't agree that there are sinister purposes behind the lack of historical knowledge regarding the ummah's contribution to science. The Muslim world performed, particularly Bagdad an important role of being a clearinghouse for scientific knowledge from all over the known world. In addition the Muslim world was an important caretaker of knowledge inherited from the Hellenistic empires that preceded them. Without the Muslim Rennaissance, Europe would have never had its own.

Fortunately, the torch of scientific and technological progress has passed to my country. America will continue the scientific traditions to better the lives of others through progress in the fields of information technology and biotechnology. And if the Muslim world needs help in developing their own R&D, many American investors are willing to step up to the plate.

Peace to you all!