December 14, 2013

The Long Gone Golden Age of Islam: July 30, 762 to February 13, 1258

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In two weeks of blood and fire, one of the greatest intellectual and cultural legacies the world had ever seen came to an end. Crushed under the hooves of a mighty foe (in one case literally), a dynasty, an empire, a city, and a library all disappeared. It was perhaps the swiftest and most complete collapse of a civilization ever, still felt to this day. Now, how about for some context?

The Abbasid Caliphate had ruled the Islamic empire since 750 when Abu Muslim led forces to overthrow the Umayyad dynasty. They quickly established a capital at Baghdad, a hub of trade-routes and waterways which soon grew into one of the greatest cities in the world. The Round City of Baghdad was an architectural wonder, with two concentric circular walls surrounding residential districts and vast gardens, palace and mosque in the middle. (Its likely site in modern Baghdad can be seen here.) At the heart of this city lay the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom. Built by the Caliph al-Mansur, it housed the great library which he moved from the old Umayyad capital of Damascus. This became the home of the Translation Movement, a drive to gather texts from all across the world and translate them into Arabic. Texts on philosophy, medicine, astronomy, religion, and every other topic a burgeoning empire could need streamed into the city. The Islamic Golden Age had begun.

The Mongols were your typical steppe nomads, horseback archers whose speed and efficiency allowed them to defeat much larger forces (not to say their own forces were always small), and who believed they had a mandate from God to rule the entire world. Hulagu Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan. Charged by his brother Möngke (the Great Khan at the time) with conquering the Islamic lands to the Southwest, he prosecuted his errand with typical Mongol efficiency. With a quick stop to destroy the Assassin stronghold at Alamut, Hulagu was at the outskirts of Baghdad by the 11th of January, 1258.

Within a month, the great Library of Baghdad had been burned, so many of its manuscripts thrown into the Tigris that the river ran black with ink, and the last Abbasid Caliph was trampled by horses while wrapped inside a rug, it being a sin to spill royal blood. Baghdad's elaborate irrigation system was destroyed and the city was so severely depopulated that no replacement system would be built until the 20th century. Virtually the only survivors of the slaughter were Christians hidden in a Nestorian church — a church which was spared at the request of Hulagu's wife, Doquz Khatun, a Nestorian Christian herself.

With the death of the dynasty, and of the city itself, on February 13, 1258, the Islamic Golden Age was over.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 14, 2013 6:24 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

And now you know what Obama means by "fundamental transformation."

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at December 14, 2013 8:22 AM

One thing to note was the number of books translated from Arabic to other languages. Zero.

Still holds true today. Wonder why.....

tom

Posted by: tomw at December 14, 2013 8:49 AM

Islamic 'Golden Ages' seem to appear right at the very beginning of the conquest of the said lands. My take is that as the previous culture denatures and is digested/consumed by Islam, there is a burst of creativity from Free-range Dhimmi's as there is a momentary space of freedom from the binding strictures of their culture and the its subsequent end due to its annihilation/consumption by Islam in following centuries.

Late antiquity Egypt, Syria, Iraq & Spain are fine examples of this pattern (though Spain was able to eventually push the Islamic invaders out).

Islam has no redeeming creative qualities other than its lock-hold on Warfare on the variety of levels: Politically, Socially, Intellectually & Militarily. Its no wonder that the Mongol Invader discarded their old animistic Religion in favor of Islam as it allows for a permanent advantage to those who are most proficient in raw unadulterated power.

Truly is it a warriors religion (and is not much good at anything else).

Posted by: cond0011 at December 14, 2013 9:31 AM

Gerard,

Here's another take on the "Islamic Golden Age":

▶ Why We Are Afraid, A 1400 Year Secret, by Dr Bill Warner - YouTube

As far as I can tell, Taqqiyya (Institutionaized Lying via Intellectual/Social/Political warfare) works. Proof is the centuries of misinformation warfare that Islam has done to its enemies (ie everybody).

Posted by: cond0011 at December 14, 2013 11:15 AM

Don't know that Islam ever got as high as Rome. That said, one of my fantasies is bringing barbed wire, machine guns, cannon, and mortars to the targets of Mongol invasion.

Posted by: chuck at December 14, 2013 11:22 AM

chuck - One of mine is bringing a decent sniper rifle and its operator to the Battle of Badr, 632 AD.

Whatever Islam ever had, it stole.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at December 14, 2013 3:31 PM

It's also interesting (to me, anyway) to note that most of the translators of those ancient books were those same Nestorian Christians who shared the faith of the Khan's wife. Their fellow Christians in charge of the empire next door in Constantinople spared no effort in persecuting the schismatic Nestorians for their deviance from Christian Orthodoxy, thus driving them into the arms of the Muslims. I suppose I shouldn't fault the Byzantines too much. After all, they were the ones who held the fort for almost a thousand years after the Roman Empire in the West collapsed, buying time for Europe to get its act together against the Muslims. But this is one of many times in history that the Byzantines did themselves no favors.

Posted by: waltj at December 14, 2013 7:38 PM

Cond,

Thanks very, very much for the pointer to ▶ Why We Are Afraid, A 1400 Year Secret, by Dr Bill Warner - YouTube

It was most illuminating and I commend it to others here.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 14, 2013 9:49 PM

Thank you, Gerard.

I've been pleased that in my past, I had a very open mind about... well... many things. But the more I read about Islam, the more I am acquainted with their distortions about... well... everything, the less I believe... anything... the 'official class' projects about their culture.

Our culture is based on speaking the truth - as is nearly every other civilized culture out there. Thus they have gotten away with their outright lies. Anything based on lies is a return to the past. Thus those once great civilizations of antiquity are reduced to mud huts and sand (except the Levant where Israel now resides, of course).

I'm coming to the conclusion that I can't believe an "eff in" word they (their official class) say.

Same goes with our liberal elite thats reducing us to a Post modern Idiocracy. :)

Posted by: cond0011 at December 15, 2013 11:37 AM

Nothing is translated from Arabic, because that is God's language.

Posted by: John A. Fleming at December 17, 2013 2:03 PM
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