Field: History
Title: The Golden Age and Decline of Islamic Civilisation
Author: S. E. al-Djazairi
Publication: Bayt al-Hikma Press 2006
ISBN: 095511563-9
Rating: aaaa
Level: Intermediate
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’.



  1. I enjoyed your fine review of this valuable book. I especially appreciate the mention of Ibn al-Haytham’s contributions to the field of optics. He was the first person to solve the mystery of vision and accurately describe the propagation of light. More importantly, he insisted on systematically testing each of his hypotheses with concrete, physical experiments. For example, to test his hypothesis that "lights and colors do not blend in the air," he used pinhole technology to force light rays to intersect at an aperture, then recorded the results in his massive study of light and vision, Kitāb al-Manāzir (Book of Optics). As the first person to systematically test hypotheses with experiments, Ibn al-Haytham deserves recognition not only as the “father of optics” but also as the first scientist. If your readers would like to know more about him, I would like to recommend my new book, Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist. Written for young adults, it is the world's first full biography of the eleventh-century Muslim scholar known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen.

  2. such a great review
    kat Msia ade jual ke eh? Lama da cari buku2 pasal our golden days and decline. Yang blaja kat U ni rasa cam not enuf je.

  3. Rasanya belum jual di Malaysia. Yang ada pun di (rujuk sidebar). Kalau nak suruh diorang post ke Malaysia boleh la.. Takpun minta tolong kawan yang nak balik dari UK :)