Islam’s Golden Age, extending from the 7th century to the 13th century, flourished while Europe and Christendom wallowed in the Dark Ages. Western society was considered a backwater, if considered at all.
Islam generated impressive advances in medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics, astronomy, optics and philosophy. It created cities, observatories and libraries, and it engaged in far-flung commerce well before Christopher Columbus set sail.
Credit Islamic genius for the magnetic compass and navigational innovation, for algebra and the refinement of the numbering system that originated in India, for papermaking and the scientific method. While Greek and Roman learning faded in the medieval West, Islamic scholars were preserving and enlarging it – long before the European Renaissance or Age of Enlightenment.
All this and more will be spotlighted during the International Year, which is scheduled to open Jan. 19 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and will aim to raise awareness of light science and its importance to mankind.
And by doing that, it necessarily will have to highlight Islamic achievements. For example, the opening event will focus on the multiple accomplishments of the 11th century polymath Ibn al-Haytham in optics, mathematics and astronomy. The Golden Age will get more attention Sept. 14 during a conference on its impact on “knowledge-based society.”
So, what went wrong? How did Islamic society fall from one so open and inquisitive to the repressive and closed one that has produced few scientific advances and staggering intolerance?
Our own conservative Christians disbelieve evolution and global climate change, if not science in general, and take a translation of the bible as literal truth.