Title: The Golden Age and Decline of Islamic Civilisation
Author: S. E. al-Djazairi
Publication: Bayt al-Hikma Press 2006
Reviewed by: Safwan
The golden age of Islamic civilisation was a witness to Islamic hegemony in practically every area of knowledge and culture; leaving behind a treasure which has never been fully covered even by the whole modern literature combined. The author claims that this work, as lengthy as it appears, depicts but a fraction of what Islamic civilisation was more than 10 centuries ago.
Al-Djazairi started his work by giving a 200 page overview of the then Islamic civilization, hardly challenged by any civilization after it. Paper, textile, glass, sugar, and other industries thrived healthily, with the Muslims developing the technologies accompanying their production. For example, Muslim paper industry, which was indebted to China, progressed further by making cotton an alternative to the bark of a tree. This industry played a great role in the massive book production thus literary advancement of the Muslims especially after 1000 C.E. The author also gives an explicit account of the civilisation’s exotic cities, vast green gardens, and the highly assiduous learning and scholarly attitude prevalent in it.
The next part amazes any reader even more. Al-Djazairi made an extensive writing of the science and scientists that lived at that time; themselves being a product of the flourishing civilization. He covered the accounts concerning agriculture, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, geography, mathematics, medicine, and physics, to spare the rest. These are all but manifestations of how glorious the civilisation was, indeed, as he adds, a product of the infallible teaching of Islam itself. It is impossible to list all the scholars here, but a few names, to give an illustration, are; astronomers al-Biruni, al-Sufi, ibn Yusuf, al-Battani, ibn Khaldun (geographer), ibn al-Haytham (most renowned optician), physicians ibn Sina, al-Razi, al-Idirisi (first world map), ibn Jubayr, Jabbar ibn Hayyan, ibn Firnas, al-Muradi, al-Zarqali, and the founder of algebra; al-Khwarizmi.
Throughout the work al-Djazairi did not fail to refute the mainstream western orientalists, giving convincing facts to counter their unfounded theory which generally claims that Islamic civilisation was stagnant; void of any significant development, and that the period of 1000 years between 5th to 15th century was a dark age to the whole world, broken only by the west’s exaggerated renaissance. At the end of the work, the author devoted a whole chapter to illuminate on the real causes of decline of Islamic civilisation, again in opposition to the many baseless assumptions given by many ‘scholars’.