Islam’s “golden age” and “splendors” is a topic of incessant fascination. It would, of course, be more accurate to speak of Islam’s “golden ages” since there were a number of such intellectual and artistic flowerings. The high civilizations of Abbasid Baghdad and of Moorish Spain, as well as the magnificence of the Ottoman and Mogul courts are well-known.
However, the Muslim efflorescence, like the financial underpinning for the Muslim military campaigns, depended on the wealth expropriated from, and on the continuing economic exploitation of, conquered non-Muslim populations. In addition, it must be acknowledged that the Muslim invaders were not, in general, total barbarians; they were not Huns or Mongols or Vandals. They valued the level of civilization that they encountered in their invasions and maintained a cultivated and often comfortable existence. However, one thing about the historical record is noteworthy; the various golden ages of Islamic civilization always occur early in the first few centuries in which a new territory is occupied. Wherever the various Muslim vanguards invaded, the vast majority of the population was non-Muslim. It would take many years for this population to be converted and assimilated. These non-Muslims or recent converts are the ones who carried on the work which many historians are prone to attribute to "Islamic" civilization. Thus, a distinction must be drawn between the so-called high Islamic civilization and the religion of Islam. Eventually as the process of Islamization proceeds the non-Islamic component of the population becomes a small minority and stagnation sets in. This process is evident in the first centuries of the Arab conquests where the process of Arabization and conversion to Islam took a few centuries to complete; this was the "Arab" golden age, a product of unconverted or recently converted Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. In Spain the golden age lasted longer, perhaps because the process of Islamization was never as complete in Moorish Spain as in the Arab East.
It is remarkable how closely this pattern was repeated in the subsequent expansions of Islam as a consequence of the Turkish and Mogul conquests. The initial splendors of the Seljuk and Ottoman empires were the result of unconverted or recently converted subjects. When the Islamization of the newly conquered territories was complete intellectual stagnation once again set in. Similarly, an initial flowering as an extension of the ancient Hindu culture followed the Mogul conquest of India.
It must, however, be granted that Islamic civilization did serve a valuable purpose as a bridge between the West and the ancient civilizations of India and China. This resulted in the transmission of science and technology from China and mathematics from India. It must also be noted that, as will be shown below, the so-called Arabic numerals are really Hindu in origin; algebra is a combination of Indian, Greek and pre-Islamic Mesopotamian mathematics. And while it is true that Muslim rulers did enable some of the knowledge of the classical world to be preserved, the importance of this work has been greatly exaggerated. In addition, the actual work of transcribing and preserving this classical knowledge was done by non-Muslims or by recent converts.
Plunder and Economic Exploitation
The first Muslim invaders were always invariably motivated by the desire for loot and, as we have seen in Chapter 7: Culture of the Harem, the lust for concubines. The Prophet himself “skillfully couched his worldly objectives in divine terms” and this “fusion of the sacred and the profitable was endorsed by future generations of Islamic leaders.” Thus, Islamic scripture contains explicit promise of, and religious sanction for, plunder from infidels:
Fight against such of those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.
With vast territories conquered and large populations subdued, the early Arab leadership found it prudent to regularize and bureaucratize plunder. The caliph Umar instituted a register known as the Diwan “which remunerated the fighters out of the proceeds from the conquered lands and thus allowed them to continue prosecuting war operations without worrying about their subsistence.” The necessity for caliphs to keep their supporters happy with a continuing distribution of loot is illustrated by the civil conflict that began in the reign of Caliph Uthman which was “exacerbated by the temporary halt of the conquests in the early 650s and the attendant reduction in the spoils of war.”
Plunder also served Muslim rulers, from the time of the early Arabs to the end of the Muslim expansions, as the wherewithal for vast public works. For those rulers with pretensions to intellectual achievement plunder could also be used to attract scholars. Mahmud of Ghazni, for example, employed his plunder in adorning his capital and subsidizing a gathering of scholars at his court but “for Hindus, this paragon of valour and piety would ever be nothing but a monster of cruelty”. Successive generations of Muslim ghazis became increasingly addicted to looting, with explosive results when the spigot was turned off as occurred when the Rajput leader Prithviraj had succeeded in bottling up the Muslims in the Punjab. “But this interdiction had served only to increase the pressure for a more decisive encounter. The Ghorids rose to the challenge because for them … plunder was a necessity.”
As the Arab empire expanded and the rate of new conquest slowed, it became necessary for plunder from war to be replaced by the less violent form of plunder known as taxation. The conquering Muslim military elites were, thus, supported by the dhimmi populations “who had to pay special taxes” such as the kharaj or land tax and the jizya or poll tax. Bat Yeor summarizes the Islamic view of the “collective booty” owed by the dhimmis to their conquerors:
The concept of fay – collective booty reserved for the upkeep of the Islamic community – constituted the legal argument which preserved the religions of the conquered peoples. This economic burden, which devolved on the disarmed vanquished people to the benefit of a warlike community destined to conquer the world, is very clearly set out by the Muslim jurisconsults.
This concept of “fay” became very well entrenched within Muslim tradition, even long after the Arab heyday.
The economic surplus extracted from the vanquished population, on which the Muslim elite depended, did help to preserve infidel religions for many centuries. In many cases it was the dhimmis who “did the jobs Arabs were unwilling to do.” In early Abbasid times “the agricultural class, who constituted the bulk of he population … and the chief source of revenue, were the original inhabitants of the land, now reduced to the position of dhimmis. The Arab considered it below his dignity to engage in agricultural pursuits. … In country places and on their farms these dhimmis clung to their ancient cultural patterns and preserved their national languages.” These were Syriac, Aramaic, Iranian and Coptic. “Many of those who embraced Islam moved to the cities.”
In the early days of a newly conquered territory the Muslim rulers found that practicality and efficiency required this system of extortion be administered by native bureaucrats or even by infidel clergy. These punitive exactions, despite the attempts by some officials to mitigate them, would inevitably lead to the decimation of non-Muslim populations.
The caliph entrusted to the patriarch the task of collecting the taxes extorted from his flock, leaving him only with a pittance. The chronicles record in detail these relationships based on money and violence and always involving torture, from the lowest social level to its summit. Equally, one should have few illusions about the appointment of high Christian officials, particularly to the Treasury. Integrated into this Islamic machinery for the destruction of Christendom, they could, by a gesture, temporarily slow it down, temper it, or exacerbate it, but could not abolish it.
However, at some point it must have occurred to the more prescient caliphs, sultans and viziers that non-Muslims were essential as a source of taxes, expertise, and entrepreneurship and as go-betweens and emissaries with non-Muslim states; so conversions were no longer actively sought. These rulers did “endeavor to protect the dhimmi peasantry against uncontrolled extortions by governors or local tyrants.” Agriculture, being the source of wealth and power, the state was dependent for its revenues “on compulsory work by an abundant workforce.” As the number of converts grew the remaining “infidel subjects were more oppressively mulcted and humiliated.” Over the objections of the devout, some rulers began to actively discourage conversions since the “treasury of the Sultan had come to depend on the contributions of the unbeliever.” In fact, as occurred in Islamic Spain, officials sometimes shut off completely “this escape route from a miserable existence by forbidding Christians and Jews to convert to Islam. Too many converts would destroy the tax base.”
In times of disorder when the caliph or the sultan could no longer protect them, the diminishing supply of dhimmis endured further extortion from rebellious nomads. “The wealth-producing dhimmi communities became a coveted prize and plunder to warring political forces.” Vryonis observes how during the Turkish conquests this competition for the diminishing dhimmi resource was a cause of warfare among nomadic tribes.
The invasions had caused a certain disruption and decline in the Christian population of the Anatolian plateau. As a result … the various Turkish princes began to raid the land of one another and of the Christians and to carry away entire Christian towns and villages in order to repopulate their own domains.
One enlightened nomad sultan, however, with all the attention to detail of a compulsive greenhouse proprietor, carefully nurtured his valuable stock of dhimmi farmers:
The great care the sultan [Kaykhusraw] lavished upon these Christian colonists is illustrative of the importance the Muslim rulers attached to repopulating their domains with Christian farmers. He had them carefully guarded so none would escape en route, and on arrival … he gave them land and seed to plant. He bestowed upon them a five year tax immunity … many who heard of the tax exemption migrated to the sultan’s domains because of the great disorder that had now enveloped the Byzantine Maeandrian regions.
Nevertheless, despite the best efforts of some far-seeing Muslim rulers, in the long run the Islamic meme followed the logic inherent in its program. And once the dhimmi populations were sufficiently depleted through conversion, enslavement and displacement, the natural result was inevitably the stagnation of Islamic society.
Brief Renaissance and Permanent Decline
After the initial Arab conquests, it required about a century for peace and stability to become commonplace so that civilization could resume its advance. This lag was reinforced by the continuing Arab advance into North Africa and the easternmost territories of the Persians which continued into the eighth century and must have consumed considerable resources. All subsequent Muslim conquests resulted in lags of various lengths during which peace and security was being re-established and the still numerous non-Muslim population could resume the work of civilization. Trifkovic observes that “since dead bodies paid no taxes while the captives were economic assets, once the conquerors’ rule was firmly established a degree of normalcy was reestablished at the level of local communities.”
The Dhimmi Roots of Early Muslim Civilizations
The achievements of the civilizations under Muslim rule were substantial. However, almost all of this occurred in the early periods of such rule, once peace and stability had been restored. Furthermore, these high periods of culture were almost exclusively the product of the conquered, and still not completely Islamized native populations. The observations, in this regard of Professor Darlington who looks at society with the eye of a trained biologist, are pertinent:
But while war accounts for the expansion of Islam it does not account for the sparkling creation of culture which followed the expansion. This … happened only where there was something valuable before the coming of Islam. And the sparkle in each instance lasted only half a dozen generations. It lasted evidently as long as the conquest of each ancient society brought about the recombination of valuable racial components.
So it was that successively in Damascus and Baghdad, in Cordoba and Marrakesh, in Isfahan and Delhi, we see the characteristic flame of the new hybrid Islamic civilizations always based on a precarious balance between conversion and non-conversion, hybridization and non-hybridization, a balance which Muslim violence was not fitted to sustain. When the conquest ceased … the intellectual and artistic … life of Islam came to a standstill. … When the limits of conquest had been reached … and new hybridization was excluded, decay set in, slow but everywhere irremediable.
Other students of Islam contend that “Islamic science developed for a while despite Islam.” Only in those few areas and times when it was protected by freethinking or unorthodox elites could it flourish. Such times usually occurred early in Muslim rule. Stillman, writing of the early Arab conquests makes the observation, applicable to Muslim polities in general, that Islamic civilizations are extensions of the pre-existing cultures modified for the service of the new faith:
Classical Islamic civilization was not Islam the religion, although the latter was an essential component. Islamic civilization was an amalgam of cultural elements that included Islamic religion, Arabic culture with its strong pre-Islamic roots, Greek humanism, and subtle remnants of the ancient heritage of the Near East.
Hitti echoes these ideas with respect to the early post-conquest Arab dynasties in the east:
What we therefore call ‘Arab civilization’ was Arabian neither in its origins and fundamental structure nor in its principal ethnic aspects. The purely Arabian contribution in it was in the linguistic and to a certain extent in the religious fields. Throughout the whole period of the caliphate the Syrians, the Persians, the Egyptians and others, as Moslem converts or as Christians and Jews, were the foremost bearers of the torch of enlightenment and learning. … The Arab Islamic civilization was at bottom the Hellenized Aramaic and the Iranian civilizations as developed under the aegis of the caliphate and expressed through the medium of the Arabic tongue.
It took almost three centuries for most of the vanquished population to convert to Islam and most such conversions were motivated by self interest and not by religious conviction. Islamic culture, thus, developed “on a substratum composed of the heritage of the Syro-Aramaean, Persian and Hellenistic civilizations which had preceded it. With Islam the Near Orient not only recaptured the whole of its former political domain but regained in the realm of culture its ancient intellectual preeminence.” However, as we have seen, the price paid by the native non-Muslims for this reassertion of their submerged civilization under Arab domination was a steep one.
In the fields of science and philosophy the contributors were in large majority non-Arab and non-Muslim. As Hitti notes:
When we therefore speak of ‘Arab medicine’ or ‘Arab philosophy’ or ‘Arab mathematics’ we do not mean the medical science, philosophy or mathematics that are necessarily the product of the Arabian mind or developed by people living in the Arabian peninsula, but that body of knowledge enshrined in books written in the Arabic language by men who flourished chiefly during the caliphate and were themselves Persians, Syrians, Egyptians or Arabians, Christian, Jewish or Moslem and who may have drawn some of their material from Greek, Aramaean, Indo-Persian or other sources.
The subjects dominated by Arab Muslims were specifically those that related to the Arabic language and the Islamic religion. Theology, jurisprudence, philology and linguistics were “those intellectual activities evoked by the predilections of the Arabs as Arabs and Moslems.” The scholars in this field were mostly of Arab descent “in contrast to the physicians, astronomers, mathematicians and alchemists … who were of Syrian, Jewish or Persian origin.” Even so, the great theologian al-Bukhari was a Persian, while the founder of one of the four orthodox Muslim schools, abu-Hanifah, was the grandson of a Persian and presumably non-Muslim slave. It is also “noteworthy that many of the pioneering grammarians of the Arabic language were themselves non-Arabs.” There was one great exception to the general rule that philosophy and science was the domain of the non-Arabs. This was Al-Kindi whose “pure Arabian descent earned him the title ‘the philosopher of the Arabs’, and indeed he was the first and last example of an Aristotelian student in the Eastern caliphate who sprang from Arabian stock.” The acclaim Al-Kindi received from his fellow Arabs highlights the paucity of noteworthy philosophers and scientists of both Arab stock and Muslim religion.
The early Arab rulers were able to capitalize on the different specializations of the conquered groups and there arose a division of labor based largely on ethnicity. It is ironic that in the first years of the conquest mosques were built by Greek-speaking Christians. Greeks and Aramaeans continued to dominate the field of architecture for many years. Although they eventually adopted the Arabic tongue “they continued the style and inherited the mathematics, and the ability to use it, of their Greek or … of their Babylonian ancestors.” Persian, Coptic and Hindu designers found a niche in architectural decoration. When al-Walid built his famous grand mosque in Damascus, he “employed Persian and Indian craftsmen as well as Greek artisans provided by the emperor of Constantinople. Papyri … show that material and skilled workmen were imported from Egypt.”
Jews were valued “for their medical skill and general literacy” and unlike the Greeks and Persians “were able to exert their influence largely without conversion” for a long period of time. Indians were also valued for their medical skills. The Barmakid minister Yahya “paid an Indian scholar called Manka to translate an Indian medical book … the book of Sasard into Arabic.” Hindus were also valued for their skills in astronomy and mathematics. “The same Hindu scholar who brought to the court of al-Mansur the astronomical work Sindhind is credited with having also introduced Hindu arithmetical lore with its numeral system (called in Arabic Hindi) and the zero.” Personal tutors usually consisted of practicing Christians or those recent converts adopted by Arab tribes as clients. “After the time of ‘Abd-al-Malik the tutor or preceptor, usually a client or Christian became a standing figure in the court.”
The maritime trades were dominated by those of Greek or Phoenician descent; a situation that continued under succeeding Muslim rulers for a thousand years. These seamen
…were by origin Phoenician and Greek and by ancestry much hybridized. … they must have willingly converted … For so we must understand the fall of Cyprus … to be followed by Sicily and Sardinia, Crete and Malta. Another Muslim advance in the Mediterranean was delayed until the fifteenth century. Then the annexation of Greece was followed by the incorporation and conversion of the Greek and Dalmatian … sea-faring populations in the Ottoman Empire.
During the reign of the Umayyad caliphs Abd-al-Malik (685-705) and al-Walid (705-715) the Arabization of the state administration occurred by “changing the language of the public registers from Greek to Arabic in Damascus and from Pahlawi to Arabic in al-Iraq and the eastern provinces and in the creation of an Arabic coinage.” However, this caused no end to the state’s dependence on the skills of non-Arabs. Under the Abbasids the appointment of non-Muslims to high office continued into the latter half of the ninth century. These appointments occurred even during times of the implementation of stringent regulations against dhimmis. Despite these persecutions, caliphs and other high officials were long dependent on non-Muslim expertise.
It was during the Abbasid caliphate that Arab Islamic civilization reached its height. It was at this time that the epoch of the translation of Greek works occurred. The caliphs and the Arab elite of Baghdad, remarkably open to the ideas of classical civilization, subsidized a great explosion of creativity:
The apogee of Greek influence was reached under al-Ma’mun. The rationalistic tendencies of this caliph and his espousal of the Mu’tazilite cause which maintained that religious texts should agree with the judgments of reason, led him to seek justification for his position in the philosophical works of the Greeks.
Hitti observes that the “Abbasid dynasty, like others in Muslim history, attained its most brilliant period of political and intellectual life soon after its establishment.” Its height was reached during the reigns of Harun al-Rashid and his son al-Ma’mun (786-833). The primary reason for the early occurrences of Muslim high culture, of course, is the continued existence of a large reservoir of dhimmis or of recent converts with specialized skills. Other reasons include the establishment of peace and stability after a long period of strife, the inclusion of newly conquered territories into an empire with expanded trade and the diffusion of ideas, and the need for new dynasties to consolidate their rule by including non-Muslims in the governing coalition.
The fertilization caused by the diffusion of ideas from distant parts of the Arab oecumene is illustrated by the most famous literary composition of the Islamic world. The so-called ‘Arabian Nights’ “was an old Persian work … containing several stories of Indian origin. … As time went on additions were made from numberless sources: Indian, Greek, Hebrew, Egyptian and the like.”
The relative paucity of intellectual achievement, under Abbasid rule, in Syria and Egypt as compared to Iraq lends support to the thesis that dhimmis or recently converted Muslims were the driving force in intellectual achievement. For in those provinces:
Administration and secular arts and sciences depended to a very great extent on government employment and favor. In Egypt and Syria such employment and favoritism seems to have been directed more toward the Arab population than toward the indigenous convert community.
Intellectual achievement in the late post-Abbasid Arab dynasties is but a pale reflection of the brilliance in early Baghdad. Under the minority sect Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, who cultivated the support of Christian elements, there was a minor renaissance. Hitti notes that as late as 1125 in Fatimid Egypt the façade of the al-Aqmar mosque “may have been due to some Armenian Christian architect.” However, with the decline of Abbasid Baghdad and with the steady decrease in non-Muslim numbers, Islamic science began its terminal decline. Such science as existed was confined to previously peripheral areas, now under independent dynasties, like Syria, Egypt, Persia, central Asia and Spain. In addition these remnants of Islamic science were critically dependent on Mongol rulers, Persian scholars or the few remaining dhimmi intellectuals:
In science there were only two branches wherein the Arabs after the middle of the thirteenth century maintained their leadership: astronomy-mathematics, including trigonometry, and medicine, particularly ophthalmology. But in the first discipline the contribution was made mainly by Arabic-writing Persian scholars whose centre of activity was the Il-Khanid observatory; and library of Maraghah … It is interesting to find the Syrian Jacobite Catholicos …. (Barhebraeus, 1226-86) known as an historian and as the last classical author in Syriac literature lecturing there on Euclid in 1268 and on Ptolemy in 1272-3.
There were a large number of significant scholarly figures who were either non-Muslims, converts, or of recent non-Muslim and non-Arab ancestry. There were still others who, although nominally Muslim are reputed to be guilty of various forms of heresy, freethinking or atheism. In the years starting with the first caliphs and extending through the Umayyad dynasty, some of these scholars were as follows. Abdullah ibn Saba (ca 650), a Jewish convert from Yemen was a noted legal scholar. A quarter century later another converted Jew, Wahb ibn Munabbih, was well known as a writer in history. Another converted Jewish historian, Ka'b al-Ahbar, a contemporary of ibn Saba, was from the city of Hims in Syria. The poet al-Akhtal (640-710), a close friend and drinking companion of the caliph Yazid was a Syrian Christian. His fellow poet al-Farazdak was an Arab who was described by Muslims as dissolute and, therefore, likely a freethinker. Another Christian poet at the time was Jamil al-Udhri from Yemen. The city of Kufa in Iraq was the home of another poet, the Persian convert al-Rawiyah (713-72).
Music was an important art form in the early days of the Arab Empire. The Arabian Peninsula, in those early days before the full force of the sharia was felt, was a center of music and song. A surprising number of renowned musicians residing there were non-Arabs. Ibn-Surayj (640-726) was a Turkish convert and freed slave. Musajjah (ca 714) was a black African convert and client member of a Meccan tribe. His contemporary, al-Gharid was originally a half breed Berber slave. Another contemporary, ibn-Muhriz was from Persia and, thus, of recent non-Muslim background. Jamilah, also a contemporary is described as a Medinese freedwoman and therefore, also of probable non-Muslim origin; she is one of very few women in the Islamic world recognized for artistic or intellectual ability. Ma'bad (ca 720) was a Muslim of half African parentage. In this era Hunayn al-Hiri (ca 735) was a well known Christian musician in neighboring Iraq.
Medicine was the only science that was well established in Umayyad times. In the late seventh century ibn-Uthal, a famous Christian physician practiced in Damascus; Tayadhuq, another renowned practitioner in Iraq was a Greek Christian and Masarjawayh, a Persian Jew, was still another well-known Iraqi physician. Finally, there was one important philosopher in late Umayyad times. He was the famous Syrian Christian John Damascene who died in 748.
The early Abbasid dynasty was the high water mark for intellectual accomplishment in the Islamic world. Despite increasing repression, non-Muslim, convert and suspected heretic scholars were present in abundance. Baghdad, in those years, was one of the great centers for the study of astronomy. One famous astronomer was al-Fadl ibn-Nawbakht (ca 815) who was from Persia, and therefore of recent non-Muslim ancestry. His contemporary Isa al-Asturlabi, although described as an Arab Muslim was apparently of recent Christian background. Al-Farghani, who lived some thirty years later, was a Turkish Muslim and, therefore, either a convert or the descendant of recent converts. Abu-Ma’shar, (ca 886), like ibn-Nawbakht, a Persian Muslim, was a well known astrologer. Another Persian Muslim astronomer in the following century was al-Khazin. Sind ibn-'Ali (ca 830) was a converted Jew, who also left his mark in the field of astronomy. Al-Battani (877-918) also a respected astronomer was a Sabian (Mandean). From that obscure monotheistic Sabian religion emerged a famous family of translators specializing in Greek astronomy. The founder was Thabit ibn-Qurrah (836-901) who was followed by his son Sinan, his grandsons Thabit and Ibrahim, and his great grandson abu-al-Faraj.
Another famous family of translators was the Nestorian Christians Hunayn ibn-Ishaq, his son Ishaq and his nephew Hubaysh ibn-al-Hasan who all worked in the mid ninth century translating Greek medical and philosophical texts. Other famous translators were the Christian Thawafil ibn-Tuma (ca 785) who worked in literature, and the Syrian Christian Yuhanna ibn-Masawayh who translated medical texts. The Syrian Christian Qusta ibn-Luqa (ca 922) translated Greek mathematical and philosophical writings. Jacobite Christians Yahya ibn-Adi (893-974) and Isa ibn-Zu'rah (ca 1008) translated works of Greek philosophy. Indeed, according to the historian Franz Rosenthal, almost “all of the translators [from Greek into Syriac or Hebrew or from Greek, Syriac, or Hebrew into Arabic] were Christians.” The aforementioned Sabian Thabit family plus a scattering of Jews were exceptions.
Another famous family worked in the field of medicine. These were the Nestorian Christians Jurjis ibn Bakhtishu (ca 771), his son Bakhtishu and grandson Jibril. A converted Christian from Persia, Ali al-Tabari (ca 850), also made his mark as a physician as did the Persian Zoroastrian convert Al-Majusi (ca 994). The eleventh century Christian physicians, Ali ibn-Isa, Ibn-Jazlah and ibn-Butlan also left their mark on the study of medicine. But, perhaps the most famous physician and medical theorist was the Persian Al-Razi (865-925), who although nominally Muslim was notorious as a freethinker condemned by Muslims for blasphemy.
Three additional freethinkers, known as the arch-heretics of Islam, were the Syrian philosophers Al-Rawandi (ca 915), Al-Tawhidi (ca 1023) and Al-Ma'ari (973-1057). Another famous heretic was the Turkish Sufi, Al-Farabi, the student of two Christian scholars, who died in 950. Al-Farabi, who was the model Muslim heretic, is described by Trifkovic as follows:
Greatly influenced by Baghdad’s Greek heritage in philosophy that survived the Arab invasion, and especially the writings of Aristotle, Farabi adopted the view — utterly heretical from a Moslem viewpoint — that reason is superior to revelation. He saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Koran and rejected predestination. He wrote more than 100 works, notably The Ideas of the Citizens of the Virtuous City. But these unorthodox works no more belong to Islam than Voltaire belongs to Christianity.
Non-Muslims, heretics and converts were also well represented in the natural sciences and geography. Al-Jahiz (ca 868), a member of the rationalist and soon to be declared heretical Mutazilite sect, was a renowned zoologist. A school of geography, dominated by Persians, flourished in the late ninth and early tenth centuries: ibn-Khurdadhbih (ca 912), al-Ya'qubi (ca 891), ibn-Rustah and al-Hamadhani (ca 903), al-Balkhi (ca 934), al-Istakhri and ibn-Hawqal (ca 950) worked in Iraq, Persia and Arabia. All were described as Persian Muslims and, thus, at that early period, presumably of recent non-Muslim family backgrounds. Qudamah (ca. 928), a converted Christian also did work in geography.
Another group of Persian Muslims dominated the study of history. Ibn-al-Muqaffa was active in historical studies soon after the Abbasids assumed power. A century later ibn-Qutaybah worked in Baghdad along with his younger contemporaries, al-Baladhuri and ibn-Dawud al-Dinawari. Al-Tabari (838-923) worked in Persia, as did his younger contemporary, Hamzah al-Isfahani. The above-mentioned Ibn-al-Muqaffa was a Persian Zoroastrian convert, whose suspect orthodoxy led to his being burned at the stake. A few years afterward in 783, the poet ibn-Burd, also well known in early Abbasid literary circles, was a Persian heretic, who was also put to death for his Zoroastrian apostasy. Abu-Nuwas, another Persian poet managed to avoid Burd’s unfortunate fate.
In the following century, Abu-Tammam, a converted Christian living in Syria also attained renown as a poet. Ibn-Ishaq, who died in 767, the grandson of a Christian slave achieved fame as a biographer. Two non-Arabs of recent non-Muslim family backgrounds achieved success in philology, a subject usually reserved for native Arabs. One was Al-Jawhari (ca 1008), a Turkish Muslim in Baghdad. His contemporary philologist was ibn-Jinni the son of a Greek slave who worked in Syria.
Following the “golden prime” of the early Abbasids, Islamic scholarship fell into a sharp decline. With the steady increase in converts and the decrease in the number of non-Muslims, the primary source of accomplished scholars dried up. With the passage of time, the descendants of earlier converts became far removed from the family and national traditions that promoted and sustained high scholarly achievement. The inner logic of the Islamic meme unfolded creating a climate of anti-intellectualism and a rigid pseudo scholarship; both of which were upheld by an increasingly powerful clerical class. Nevertheless, there were occasional intellectual revivals encouraged by some of the more enlightened rulers of the later local Arab dynasties. Non-Muslims, converts and heretics, once again, played a disproportionate role in these mini-renaissances.
Al-Biruni (973-1050), a famous astronomer in Afghanistan, was a Persian Shi'ite accused of agnostic leanings. Another Persian freethinking astronomer was Umar al-Khayyam (1038-1123) who attained even greater fame as a poet. Two centuries later the Syrian Jacobite Christian, Barhebraeus also did notable work in astronomy. One of the greatest Muslim philosophers also worked in Persia. This was al-Ghazzali, who before he achieved his great eminence was a practicing Sufi.
Two notable scholars worked in late Abbasid Iraq. One was the geographer Yaqut (1179-1229) who was a Greek converted Christian. The other was the historian Sibt ibn-al-Jawzi (1186-1257) the son of a converted Turkish slave.
Under the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties, Egypt which had been a scholarly backwater since the Muslim conquest, became the intellectual center of the Arab world. Of course, the minor intellectual flowerings, encouraged by new dynastic rulers, paled in comparison to the earlier Baghdad renaissance. Clearly the flame of Muslim learning was growing dim. The scholar Al-Kindi (d. 971) was described at this late date as an Egyptian and, therefore, was presumably from a family of recently converted Copts; he was noted for his historical works. Another Fatimid intellectual was the Vizier, Ibn-Killis, a converted Jew who established an academic institute. In the late 12th and 13th centuries three Egyptian Jews attained fame as physicians: Jami (ca 1190), his contemporary al-Naqid, and al-Kuhin al-Attar (ca 1260). Al-Khuzai al-Mawsali (ca 1310) was a converted Christian or Jew who achieved some literary eminence under the Mamluks. Finally, in late Mamluk times the noted historian ibn-Taghri-Birdi (1411-69), was the son of a Turkish slave woman.
Islamic Spain has a reputation for intellectual accomplishment almost as great as that of Baghdad at the height of Abbasid rule. But the experience of Islamic Spain is similar to that of Baghdad, with a brief period of creativity following re-establishment of peace and stability after the conquest, followed by a sharp decline. The founder of the Spanish Umayyad dynasty, Abd-al-Rahman, seized control half a century after the Moorish conquest and laid the foundation for the flowering of Andalusian civilization. He diligently strove to “fashion into a national mould Arabians, Syrians, Berbers, Numidians, Hispano-Arabs and Goths … and in more than one sense did he initiate that intellectual movement which made Islamic Spain from the ninth to the eleventh centuries one of the two centers of world culture.”
However, there was a considerable lag until Spanish intellectual achievement reached its apogee. Most of the greatest figures of the Andalusian enlightenment only make their appearance beginning with the eleventh century, some three centuries after the initial conquest and over two centuries after the establishment of an independent dynasty. In the Arab East, on the contrary, the great age of achievement commenced within a century and a half of the conquest. One of the reasons for the Spanish lag was, undoubtedly, the continuing conflicts which plagued a territory that was only partially conquered. It was the continuing Christian resistance by Navarre, Leon and their Frankish allies that “generated Muslim distrust of the Christian majority and resulted in their widespread exclusion from governmental posts.” Hence the Muslim rulers of Spain were not, at first, able to fully capitalize on the abilities of their large Christian population. In the Islamic east, on the other hand, the fully subdued non-Muslim population posed no such threat. Furthermore, in Spain “Muslim-Christian tensions were further exacerbated by the bitter enmity between Berbers and Arabs … as well as by a series of social and religious grievances … and numerous squabbles among the unruly slave soldiers” and the imported “rivalry between the two great tribal leagues of Qays and Yemen.” It was only in the early tenth century that Abd-al-Rahman III temporarily suppressed these conflicts and felt strong enough to proclaim himself caliph. It was during his reign that the first great scholars appeared and began the fabled intellectual flowering of Moorish Spain.
One other reason for the lag may be that the Christians of Spain were at a lower level of learning and culture than were the Eastern Christians. This may well may account for the greater prominence of Jewish scholars in Spain’s golden age, as compared with that of the golden age of Baghdad. It was during the caliphates of Abd-al-Rahman III and of his son al-Hakam that “many Jews came from the East” and that “Cordova became the centre of a Talmudic school whose foundation marks the beginning of the flowering of Andalusian Jewish culture.” These Jews were instrumental “in the translation process, which brought the fruits of medieval Islamic Hellenism into Europe.”
These Jewish migrants illustrate once again a common Islamic pattern whereby the founder of a new dynasty will seek to enhance his prestige by attracting or inviting refugees including many scholars into his domains. Thus, Spain became a repository of high culture at times when various eastern scholars, Syrians, Jews or political refugees were subject to repression or persecution. Darlington notes this diffusion of intellectuals and artists to the periphery of the Islamic world:
And with the extension of Islam, repeated, under successive races of conquerors, the artisans of Damascus, Muslim or infidel, might be found in later generations practising their skills in Toledo or Samarkand and contributing to the uniform spread of what was now known as Islamic civilization.
One such refugee intellectual was Ziryab who was forced to flee from his enemies at the court of Harun-al-Rashid. Seeking “to make of Cordova a second Baghdad”, Abd-al-Rahman welcomed the exiled young Persian minstrel who was also a poet, astronomer and geographer.
Therefore, the relative lag and later efflorescence of intellectual activity in Spain and elsewhere on the Muslim periphery may also be due to the slow migration of artisans and intellectuals out to the Muslim frontier which offered better opportunities for patronage and a refuge from the gathering clouds of persecution in the heartland of Islam. The magnet offered by Umayyad Spain may also partly explain the relative paucity of intellectual achievement in Syria as compared to Iraq under the early Abbasids. This may be the result of the transfer of Syrian high culture to Spain. Under the Abbasids many Syrians would have found a Spain dominated by their kinsmen a more congenial place. Indeed Spain may in that period be regarded as an extension of Syria and its great period of intellectual achievement was partly due to displaced Syrian energy.
The following are significant scholars of non-Muslim origin or of heretical orientation who were from Muslim Spain or the neighboring Maghreb. These are, once again, obtained from Hitti’s thorough and authoritative History of the Arabs. The ninth century Cordovan writer Abd-Rabbih (860-940) was reportedly descended from a slave freed about sixty years before his birth. The seminal tenth century saw the rise of a school of philology in Cordova. One of its leading lights was al-Qali (901-67), an immigrant from Baghdad reputedly of Armenian birth. Another was the Jew Judah ben-David who died in 1010. Eleventh century Cordova, the capital of the now declining Umayyad caliphate witnessed a great upsurge in intellectual achievement. The historian Ibn-Hazm (994-1064), the grandson of a converted Christian was active at this time. Astronomical studies were pursued by Al-Majriti (ca 1007) and Al-Karmani (ca 1066), both described as Hispano-Muslims and, therefore, presumably of recent non-Muslim descent. Their contemporary, the astronomer Al-Zarkali, a Jew worked in the city of Seville. Another Jew, Ben-Shaprut (ca 1013), was active in the study of medicine in Cordova during this period.
At the height of the Umayyad caliphate the city of Seville was home to the poet Ibn-Hani (937-73), regarded as a heretic tainted with the opinions of the Greek philosophers. Three centuries later, during the decline of Spanish Islam, that city was home to another distinguished poet, the converted Jew, Ibn-Sahl.
The eleventh and early twelfth centuries witnessed the high point of intellectual activity in Muslim Spain. Beginning with the eleventh century, intellectual activity diffused away from the one-time center, Cordova. Although the relatively tolerant Umayyads and “party” kings were followed by the puritanical Almoravids and Almohads, the latter continued to patronize and tolerate Muslim scholars and philosophers. Non-Muslims, however, experienced a period of intense persecution with a consequent diminishment in scholarship. Before the advent of the fanatical Berber dynasties, the city of Valencia was home to the famous Jewish philosopher Ben-Gabirol (Avicebron) (1021-1058). A few decades later, the avowed atheist philosopher Ibn Bajjah (Avenpace), worked in Granada. One of the most renowned philosophers, the Jewish physician Maimonides was forced by the Almohads to flee to Cairo in 1165. At this time Seville was the site of the astronomer Ibn-Aflah, described as a Hispano-Muslim and presumably of recent non-Muslim background. Another Hispano-Muslim astronomer was Al-Bitruji, who worked a half century later. The Hispano-Muslim botanist Al-Ghafiqi, a contemporary of Ibn-Aflah did his work in the city of Cordova.
After 1150, the Andalusian flowering entered a period of terminal decline. However, while orthodox Muslims largely ceased their scholarly activities the large non-Muslim population joined by a number of heretical Muslims continued their intellectual pursuits in certain localities, notably the city of Seville. The latter location was home to the mystical Sufi philosopher Ibn-Arabi (1165-1240). Another Sufi philosopher, Ibn-Sab'in (1217-1269) worked in the city of Ceuta on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Seville also was the city of the greatest philosopher of the Muslim west. Ibn-Rushd (Averroes) (1126-1198) is widely regarded by orthodox Muslims as a heretic. Averroes is described by Trifkovic as follows:
On the other side of the Empire, in Spain, Averroës exercised much influence on both Jewish and Christian thinkers with his interpretations of Aristotle. While mostly faithful to Aristotle’s method, he found the Aristotelian "prime mover" in Allah, the universal First Cause. His writings brought him into political disfavor and he was banished until shortly before his death, while many of his works in logic and metaphysics had been consigned to the flames. He left no school…
Averroes’ mentor, Ibn-Tufayl was a follower of the atheist Granadan philosopher Ibn-Bajjah.
A number of scholars from Spain and the Maghreb were patronized or granted refuge by nearby Christian rulers. Constantine the African (ca 1087), apparently a member of the rapidly vanishing Christian community of North Africa brought the medical learning preserved in the Islamic world to Italy. Two centuries later the Jew Faraj ben Salim translated the medical works of the heretic Razi under the auspices of the rulers of Sicily.
The Turkish conquerors also “mined” their non-Muslim population resources for their administrative, technical and intellectual skills. The Seljuk sultans maintained a chancellery manned by Greek bureaucrats with the Byzantine administrative title of notaran. This Greek bureau persisted for centuries following the Seljuk conquests. Greek scribes were “maintained not only in the Seljuk administration but also among some of the emirates that succeeded the Seljuk state.” Greeks also appeared as ambassadors, tax collectors and even court musicians. Vryonis observes how the economic institutions of the conquering Turks were formed from those developed by Byzantines. At the height of the Seljuk sultanate “those elements of Christian agrarian, commercial and artisanal population which had remained in Anatolia took an increasingly active part in the expanding economic life of the Muslim portion of the peninsula.” Moreover a “substantial element of the farming population, indeed the majority, in the Seljuk domains of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries consisted of Christians.” Even into the fifteenth century Christian peasants were apparently still a majority of the rural population in many areas as illustrated by the example of the renowned wine produced by Christian villagers in Begshehhir.
Seljuk art was heavily dependent on, if not actually dominated by, Greek Christians and recent converts. The great Sufi master Rumi had within his circle the famous painters Kaloyani and ‘Ayn al-Dawla Rumi. The latter artist, who was elaborately praised by the Turkish chronicler Eflaki, was personally converted to Islam by Rumi. The textile industry was dominated by Greek, Armenian and Syrian craftsmen. Greeks, as well as Syrian Christians, served as physicians to the Seljuk ruling class. Greek and Armenian technicians dominated the Seljuk mining and metallurgy industries. Greek shipwrights, sailors and navigators dominated both Seljuk and early Ottoman maritime activities. Vryonis observes that
Greek mining communities of Anatolia were quite active in Ottoman times… a Greek goldsmith … taught the craft of jewelry making to the sultan Selim I. It was Greeks who introduced the Turks to maritime life … It is everywhere discernible, from the first Turkish fleet that was built by Greek Smyrniotes in the eleventh century down to the establishment of the first Ottoman naval arsenal in Europe in the fourteenth century.
It was the field of architecture that was the most important expression of Turkish high culture. By the time of the final Turkish conquests of Byzantium, the Muslim world had fallen behind the Europeans in science, technology and art. The days of the high Arab culture and scholarship were gone. However, architecture was one field in which the now Turkish led Muslim world could still excel. But, as was the case with Arab science, it was non-Muslims or recent converts that were also the driving force in this field. There is substantial “evidence that side by side with Muslim architects there were active certain Christian architects and architects who though Muslims were converts.” The Sufi saint Rumi who employed a Greek architect and Greek masons for work on his house provides devastating testimony regarding the superiority of craftsmen of Christian origin over those of Turks. He is quoted, in once instance, explaining “the desirability of using Greek rather than Turkish masons.”
There were a number of famous Christian architects in Seljuk and early Ottoman times as detailed by Vryonis. The Greek architect Thyrianus worked in the Seljuk domains in the early 13th century. In 1215 Sebastus rebuilt the walls of Sinope. Kaloyan al-Qunewi (ca 1270) worked in Konya. At a later date Nikomedianous was prominent in the court of the Ottoman sultan Orhan I. The architect Keluk ibn Abdullah was an Armenian convert.
The Turks were famous for the gulam and devshirme systems, an inventive addition to the existing Muslim institution of slavery. Vryonis notes that much “of the vitality of both the military and the administration derived from the system by which the Ottomans took the cream of the Christian youth, converted them to Islam, and then trained them to wield the sword and the pen.” Large numbers of children were confiscated from their families and educated as administrators, artisans and soldiers in the employ of the Sultan’s government. “These gulams and devshirmes were fully integrated into the life of Muslim Anatolia, as is witnessed by their tremendous contribution to the military, administrative, religious, and cultural life of Anatolia.” The following are some of the gulams of Greek origin who achieved fame and distinction in the 13th century. Karatay held a number of important posts under the Seljuk sultan. He was also a tutor to the royal children, a disciple of the mystic poet Rumi and a patron of architecture and learning. Amin al-Din Mikail was a Seljuk financial administration innovator who was also famous for his general great knowledge. Shams al-Din Hass Oguz was a writer and calligrapher who was renowned for his magnificent literary and artistic style.
Mehmed the conqueror of Constantinople made good use of infidel resources in achieving his great conquests. “The help the Ottomans received from Christian subjects, mercenaries, converts, and technical experts was a theme of repeated lament for the European chroniclers.” The Slav troops that Mehmed drafted for the siege of Constantinople included a band of skilled miners. These included Saxon technicians whom Mehmed put to use in tunneling under Constantinople’s walls. The Hungarian Orban went to work for Mehmed the conqueror as his chief cannon maker. “The Ottomans were probably already casting guns at Edirne by this time; what Orban brought was the skill to construct the molds and control the critical variables on a far greater scale.” The historian of the siege, Crowley, notes the importance of non-Muslims in building the Conqueror’s navy:
The empire had acquired an experienced resource of shipwrights, sailors and pilots, both of Greek and Italian origin, as it rolled up the coasts of the Black Sea and Mediterranean, and this skilled manpower could be brought into play in naval reconstruction.
Bernard Lewis confirms this dependence of the Ottomans on European military technology. It was “the Ottomans among Muslim states” that “made full and effective use of musketry and artillery, but even they … were dependent on Western technology and, to an increasing extent, relied on Western renegades and mercenaries to equip and direct their artillery.”
Once his life’s ambition was accomplished through the use of both Islamic fanaticism and infidel greed, the irreligious and cynical Conqueror now saw that the Greeks “could be an asset to his empire, having an aptitude for industry, commerce, and seamanship which the Turks did not share.” The relative incapacity of the Turks was, thus, acknowledged by their greatest warrior. When one considers the preponderant amount of Greek and other infidel blood flowing through the veins of Muslim Turks the suspicion naturally arises that this Turkish intellectual incapacity can only be explained as a result of Islam.
Mehmed, aspiring to the role of a Renaissance Italian duke, initiated and patronized a flurry of activity in architecture, painting, and sculpture. He encouraged scholarship and learning which flourished under the early Pax Ottomanica. Many of these scholars and artists were Greek; many others were Italian such as the Venetian artist Gentile Bellini. Medicine was also “largely undeveloped among the Turks, and the Sultan’s own medical advisers were for the most part Jews from Italy.” One aristocratic captive from Trebizond, George Amirutzes “was a distinguished philosopher and scientist, and he became Fatih’s instructor in geography, astronomy and astrology.” However, all of the Conqueror’s painstaking collecting and scholarly patronage tragically came to naught. “All these works of the Renaissance were to be removed as ‘indecent’ after Mehmed’s death by his iconoclastic son Bayezid II” and most of them vanished except for one portrait of the Conqueror which was, fortuitously, purchased by a Venetian merchant.
The height of Ottoman civilization occurred in the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent who “raised to its peak an oriental civilization deriving from nomadic, tribal and religious origins.” Architecture was the expression of this height:
Here was the full flowering of that architectural tradition which Mehmed the Conqueror had first evolved from that of Byzantium … Providing a link between those two contrasting civilizations, it attained its peak with the work of a man who now ranks … as one of history’s great architects. This was Mirmar Sinan, the son of a Christian stonemason from Anatolia …
In addition to the great Armenian architect Sinan, other leading lights of Suleiman’s court were of recent non-Muslim origin. These include the great admiral-corsair Barbarossa who was Greek. One of his grand viziers was also Greek while another was a Slav.
The history of printing in the Ottoman lands illustrates both the disrepute into which innovation fell and the continuing dependence of progress on the efforts of men of non-Muslim origin. Islamic attitudes inevitably hardened with the passing of the more tolerant or at least more intellectually curious rulers, such as Mehmed. In fact, there were printing presses in the sixteenth century set up by Jewish exiles, Armenians and later Greeks. These were allowed to operate on the condition that they not be used for the sacred Arabic and Turkish languages. However it was left to Ibrahim Muteferrika “a renegade from the Hungarian nobility” who in 1727 brought the first Muslim printing press to Turkey and cajoled or begged the authorities to permit its use. For a brief time “Ibrahim Muteferrika and his press propagated the new ideas and discoveries of European science.” However with Muteferrika’s death in 1745, printing was once again banned for an additional forty years. 
The use of windmills and watermills furnish yet another example of Muslim technological backwardness. Lewis notes how even “primitive” medieval Europe was more technologically sophisticated than many “golden age” Islamic societies. “A comparison between the Domesday Book and the Ottoman imperial registers … revealed the astonishing fact that there were proportionately more mills in Norman England than in the central Ottoman lands in the days of Suleyman the Magnificent.”
In the Seljuk and early Ottoman periods, numerous Christian converts and slaves manned the highest ranks of the administrative bureaucracy. In later Ottoman times power “passed from a ruling institution of renegade Christians to one of predominantly Moslem-born officials” who were rather insular and parochial in outlook. This necessitated the creation of the institution of the dragoman. The high office of Dragoman of the Porte was created in 1669 as a sort of Secretary of State and was reserved for the Sultan’s Christian subjects. Around this high official numerous lesser Christian bureaucrats gathered. These Greek Phanariots “were to serve often as ambassadors or as governors of autonomous Christian provinces. Thus, with the passing of the Sultan’s Slave Household did the Ottomans continue, without either conscription or enforced conversion, to draw on the abilities of their Christian subjects.”
Early Islamic Persia also had a brilliant cultural flowering fueled by non-Muslims and Muslim heretics. Indeed, as we have seen, Persian infidels or recent converts played a major role in the translation of Greek works in Abbasid Baghdad. There was a similar effort to translate Persian scientific and philosophical works into Arabic:
The transition from the Sasanian to the Islamic era in the sciences is marked by the period of translation from Graeco-Syriac, Pahlavi and Sanskrit sources into Arabic. In this very important process the majority of translators were Christian and Harranian, but the Persians also had a major role, especially in making available works of Pahlavi in the Arabic language, which the Persians … adopted rapidly as the scientific and philosophical language of discourse.
Furthermore, certain powerful families of Persian converts, in particular the Barmakid and Naubakht families, acted as patrons and supporters of the scholars undertaking this work. This work continued at a later time under the native Samanid dynasty. Jaihani the Samanid Prime Minister from 914 to 922 wrote on geography and patronized geographers, astronomers and other scholars. “Jaihani, who had been suspected of harbouring Shi’i beliefs or even Manichaean dualist tendencies … was removed from office.”
The Muslim rulers of India, eventually found that utilizing the talents of the despised “idol worshippers” was more profitable than slaughtering them. In fact maintaining even a minimal level of civilized life depended on the effective exploitation of Hindus, heretics and recent converts. In the sultanate of Delhi, ca 1330, “most trade, most industry and all financial services remained in Hindu hands.” The experience of the Delhi sultans paralleled the situation in the Ottoman Empire where such activities were most effectively carried out by Greeks, Armenians and Jews.
The fragmentation of Muslim authority in India opened up new opportunities for scholars and technicians:
As Delhi’s authority declined, aggressive new sultanates on India’s Islamic frontier in Bengal, Gujarat, Malwa and the Deccan boosted the market for military personnel and offered even better prospects for plunder… Scholars, jurists and artisans gravitated towards the more generous patronage on offer.
This competition between Indian Muslim states creating a temporary ‘boom’ in intellectual achievement was similar to the circumstances creating the high level of scholarship that existed in Spain during the Umayyad caliphate. In Spain, the eagerness of the Umayyads to increase their prestige at the expense of their eastern rivals spurred them to collect Muslim, infidel and heretic scholars from all over the Islamic world.
The high civilization that existed under the Mughal sultans depended heavily on non-Muslims. The Mughal “synthesis of Indian and Islamic traditions and their eagerness to enlist the support of Hindu subjects” was crucial to their empire building as well as to their architecture, poetry, painting and music.
Practicality of Early Muslim Rulers
One factor underlying the early accomplishment of Islamic civilizations was the pragmatism of the early conquerors. They were willing and even eager to partake of those ideas and technologies of the vanquished cultures that were of obvious practical use. During the period of translations from the Greek “the criterion of choice was usefulness; they translated what was useful … medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and also philosophy, which at that time was considered useful.” Medicine has an obvious use and is valued in all civilizations. The sciences and mathematics have obvious uses in industry, agriculture, architecture, navigation and, of course, warfare. Philosophy was found useful by Muslim scholars for the defense, propagation and reinforcement of Islamic doctrine. However, Greek literature and art had no such use. As Lewis observes:
…we find no poets, no dramatists, not even historians. … you take what is useful from the infidel; but you don’t need to look at his absurd ideas or to try and understand his inferior literature, or to study his meaningless history.
Hitti notes that no “close contact was … established between the Arab mind and Greek drama, Greek poetry and Greek history. In that field Persian influence remained paramount.” Yet it is these unpractical subjects that give a culture its spirit and the ideological basis for advances in the more useful arts and sciences. The questions regarding man’s place in the universe, his relationship with the gods etc., raised by Greek dramatists and artists are instrumental in shaping the social attitudes that predispose a culture toward scientific and technological endeavors. As the philosopher Jacob Needleman puts it regarding the importance of the poetic impulse in science:
The impulse to understand, to learn the meaning of what is alive, whatever form it takes: surely this is what science once touched in us. Its power in the Western world does not originally come from the benefits of technology, but because it alone … once called forth this impulse in man to understand the whole of life…
Indeed, it may be conjectured that without the impulse of great writers and artists, there was nothing to counteract the increasing rigidity that Islamic law imposed with the passage of time; a rigidity that ultimately stifled all expressions of Muslim accomplishment. The later Ottomans showed a similar pattern of pragmatism in their translation period from the 16th to the 18th centuries. However, among the Turkish elite philosophy was no longer considered useful and European history was. By the 16th century, Islamic dogma was fully crystallized, so that philosophy was no longer regarded as useful, although a wayward sultan like Mehmed the Conqueror may have at one time indulged himself by dabbling in it. On the other hand, the successful Western counterattack made the study of their history a matter of some urgency.
Muslim scholars and scientists could attain considerable expertise in those fields of great interest and usefulness. “The study of the horse formed one conspicuous exception” to the lack of advancement in zoology “and was developed almost to the rank of a science.” The example of such a narrow field of science demonstrates how Muslim curiosity was directed chiefly at utilitarian ends; knowledge of the horse having immediate advantages in warfare and trade. However, even in a subject of such intense interest, Arabs were still largely indebted to the work of non-Muslims. For “although the Arabs since Bedouin days possessed an extensive empirical knowledge of diseases of camels and horses, yet their more systematic knowledge and improved technique must have come from Byzantine sources.”
The admission of exiled Jews into the Ottoman realm is an example, par excellence, of Islamic pragmatism. Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) was shrewd enough to recognize the benefits provided to his empire by the Jews expelled from Spain. He “welcomed the talented Sefardim into his realm … Bayezid and his courtiers are said to have considered Ferdinand of Spain a fool for impoverishing his own kingdom while enriching theirs. Some of the Sefardic immigrants … helped the Turks to produce their own cannon and powder.”
Myth of the Western Debt to Islam
A persistent misconception, the debt western science and scholarship owes to Islam, has afflicted historians for many years, although never more so than at the present time. The historian Herbert Muller, writing at a time when academic candor was still common, debunks the belief in the preservation and transmission of science under Islam, as well as a few other widely cherished myths.
For the sake of understanding … I should say flatly that these high-minded apologists for Islam are talking about a fiction or a dream. The religion preached by Mohammed, and thereafter practiced in his name, is quite different from the Islam they describe. The prophet had nothing of the scientific outlook, and demanded absolute obedience to the law that he alone laid down. Islam never produced a democracy or a state in which the people were actually sovereign. In all states, past and present, economic inequality has been glaring. Its holy wars fought on principle, its degradation of women, and its formal acceptance of slavery make nonsense of its theoretical principle of equality, or any profession of universal human brotherhood.
Other historians and philosophers echo Professor Muller’s viewpoint. Charles Burnett writing in The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy refutes the belief that it was the Arabs who re-transmitted Plato’s Republic to Europe. “The Republic of Plato, though translated into Arabic, was not subsequently translated into Latin.” Frederick Copleston in his History of Philosophy says that “it is a mistake to imagine that the Latin scholastics were entirely dependent upon translations from Arabic or even that translation from the Arabic always preceded translation from the Greek.” Moreover, “translation from the Greek generally preceded translation from the Arabic.” Another historian of philosophy Peter Dronke concurs:
Note that Latin versions of a number of learned Greek works (Euclid, Ptolemy) came through translations from the Arabic; most of the works of Aristotle, however, were translated directly from the Greek, and only exceptionally by way of an Arabic intermediary...translations from the Arabic must be given their full importance, but not more. Another confirmation comes from Dod, according to whom the following were first translated from Greek: Categories, De interpretatione, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, Sophistici elenchi, Physics, De generatione et corruptione, Meteorologica (Book IV), De anima, De sensu, De memoria, De somno, De longitudine, De inventute, De respiratione, De morte, De animalibus (De progressu, De motu), Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics, Politics, Oeconomica, Rhetoric, Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, and Poetics. Only the following were first translated from Arabic: De caelo, Meteorologica (Books I-III), and De animalibus (Historia, De partibus, De generatione).
Furthermore, as Franz Rosenthal points out, many of the works translated from the Arabic were not the work of Muslims. “Aristoteles latinus” by Bernard Dod, a chapter of The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, provides a comprehensive list of medieval translations of Aristotle from Arabic into Latin, none by Islamic scholars—unless by “Islamic” one means “Christian or Jewish.” Indeed, in Islamic Spain it was Jewish scholars who were instrumental in translating Greek knowledge into Latin. Carson sums up the reality of the translation process as follows:
So the great rescue of Greek philosophy by translation into Arabic turns out to mean no rescue of Plato and the transmission of Latin translations of Arabic translations of Greek texts of Aristotle, either directly or more often via Syriac or Hebrew, to a Christendom that already had the Greek texts and had already translated most of them into Latin, with almost all of the work of translation from any of these languages into any other having been done by Christians and Jews and none of it by Muslims.
Moreover, the most important preservers and transmitters of classical knowledge were not Muslims, or even dhimmis working in Muslim lands. While much has been made of Muslim Spain as a transmitter of ancient Greek knowledge to the West few have remarked on how the Byzantines transmitted Greek knowledge to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The 11th century Byzantine scholar Psellus “remarked at the height of his career that Celts, Arabs, Persians and Ethiopians came to Constantinople to hear his lectures.” And it was these same Byzantines, who at the time of the tragic destruction of their city, brought this knowledge to the West. As the famous historian Steven Runciman observes:
…these refugee Greek scholars … took trouble to collect and copy the Greek manuscripts that Byzantium had preserved. … It was from these scholars… that the men of the Renaissance learnt most of their philosophy. … They conserved ancient books … and transmitted what they had conserved for the benefit of European civilization.
Imperial Consequences: Peace, Trade and Cross Fertilization
The victory of the holy warriors of Islam and the economic recovery of the conquered territory was followed by a resumption of the civilization of the native population under Muslim auspices. In addition, Muslim rulers were able to capitalize on the different specializations of the conquered groups and on a division of labor based largely on ethnicity. Furthermore, the inclusion of the new territory within the trading network of a much larger Muslim empire created a brief period of intellectual and technological advancement due to the cross fertilization of different cultures.
In the case of the Abbasid cultural flowering, Hourani notes that “as the Abbasid caliphate brought the lands of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea into a single trading area, so too the Greek, Iranian and Indian traditions were brought together, and it has been said that ‘for the first time in history, science became international on a large scale’.” Of course, for this Islam must be given its’ due, however, this advancement was caused by the fact that for a while under the Pax Islamica different ideas cross-fertilized each other. It was not due to anything inherent in Muslim civilization itself, but it did give the appearance of a brilliant Islamic civilization for a brief period of time. Social scientist Charles Murray provides additional details regarding the process of this intellectual ferment:
The extraordinarily rapid rise of the Arabic empire provides a number of reasons for the ignition of the burst of activity. First, the empire brought the neglected raw materials of the ancient world under one roof. In the words of historian Thomas Goldstein, ‘A Muslim could study, from records preserved on his own soil, the astronomies of India, Babylon and Egypt; Indian and Persian mathematics; the philosophical concepts of the Greeks; the medicine, geography, astronomy, and mathematics of the Hellenistic age; the botanical, pharmacological, zoological, geological, and geographic lore amassed by the ancient world as a whole.’ The trade routes and commercial centers … of the Arab world made these materials accessible to scholars across the empire and encouraged cross-fertilization of ideas. … Initially, the Islamic elites engaged the cultures they conquered undefensively, flexibly, and curiously.
Muslim empire builders were not unique in bringing about the cross fertilization of ideas from widely distant cultures. An apt comparison can be made to another extraordinary group of nomadic conquerors, the Mongols:
The energy and genius of the relatively small number of people who were at the core … have baffled historians … just as the effects, ranging from horrifying massacres and devastations to periods of admirable cross-cultural exchange and stimulation, have never ceased repelling and attracting them.
The results of the conquests of these non-Muslim nomads were very similar to the various Islamic conquests. However, no historian would presume to write about the “brilliant Mongol civilization”.
It was under the Mongols that a Jewish convert to Islam, Rashid al-Din compiled a universal history at the behest of the khans Ghazan and Oljetu. “He assembled a team of collaborators, including two Chinese scholars, a Buddhist hermit … a Mongol specialist in tribal tradition, and a Frankish monk, as well as some Persian scholars, and with their aid, he wrote a vast history of the world from England to China.”
In addition to the importance of non-Muslims and recent converts, this shows how, once peace was established, the Mongol empire also promoted intellectual advance through cross fertilization of ideas from its many conquered territories. Lewis notes that “the Mongols united, for the first time under one dynasty, the civilizations of the Middle East and of the Far East, with immediate and beneficial effects both for trade and culture.” No one, however, attributes these achievements to Mongols or to Mongol culture or ideology.
Furthermore, the vaunted Muslim “tolerance” pales in comparison with that of the bloody-minded Mongol rulers.
Jewish and Christian officials served in the Mongol administration. The apogee … came during the reign of Arghun Khan (1284-91). … Only a few years before … the Jewish oculist and philosopher Sa’d b. Kammuna had written a comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam … The publication of such a book in Arabic would have been unthinkable when Islam was the ruling faith.
Mongol tolerance could survive their savage conquests. But one thing it could not survive was their conversion to Islam. “The Jews and Christians of Iraq and Iran soon returned to their traditional dhimmi status when the Ilkhanid dynasty became Muslim once and for all in 1295.”
An important spur to the subsequent development of Islamic civilization was the transmission of learning and technology from the distant lands of the East. Chinese technology, obtained through trade or capture, was of great importance. After the Chinese were defeated at Talas, for example, “many captives were brought to Samarkand, where, it is reported, they started a paper making industry.”
Of equal or greater importance was the transmission of knowledge from the ancient civilization of India. The most famous and misunderstood example occurs in the field of mathematics. It is casually assumed that algebra and modern number notation were invented by the Arabs. The so-called Arabic numerals were simply systematized from Hindu texts. The famous Arab mathematician al-Khwarizmi
wrote two books on arithmetic and algebra … One of these … Concerning the Hindu Art of Reckoning … In this work, based presumably on an Arabic translation of Brahmagupta, al- Khwarizmi gave so full an account of the Hindu numerals that he probably is responsible for the widespread but false impression that our system of numeration is Arabic in origin. …when subsequently Latin translations of his work appeared in Europe, careless readers began to attribute not only the book but also the numeration to the author. ….ultimately the scheme of numeration making use of the Hindu numerals came to be called … algorithm, a word … derived from the name of al-Khwarizmi…
Algebra had a more mixed origin; it was only partly derived from Hindu texts. The word algebra was also obtained from al-Khwarizmi’s book Al-jabr wa’l muqabalah. Moreover, in certain respects, the works of al-Khwarizmi were at a lower level than those of his Greek and Hindu predecessors:
…in two respects the works of al-Khwarizmi represented a retrogression from that of Diophantus. First it is on a far more elementary level … and second … [it] is thoroughly rhetorical, with none of the syncopation found [in the works of Diophantus] … or in Brahmagupta’s work. Even numbers were written out in words rather than symbols! … Nevertheless, the Al-Jabr comes closer to the elementary algebra of today than the works of Diophantus or Brahmagupta, for the book is not concerned with difficult problems in indeterminate analysis but with a straightforward and elementary exposition of the solution of equations, especially of second degree.
Thus, the Arabs must be credited not with inventing algebra, but with making it more accessible for the solution of simple problems. As for the ultimate origin of modern algebra there are three schools of thought: “one emphasizes Hindu influences, another stresses the Mesopotamian, or Syriac-Persian, tradition, and the third points to Greek inspiration. The truth is probably approached if we combine the three theories.” Historians of mathematics Boyer and Merzbach conclude:
It is probable that al-Khwarizmi typified the Arabic eclecticism that will so frequently be observed in other cases. His system of numeration most likely came from India, his systematic algebraic solution of equations may have been a development from Mesopotamia, and the logical geometric framework for his solutions palpably was derived from Greece.
The example of algebra is an ideal case illustrating the role of cultural cross fertilization in the short-lived period of high civilization under the early Pax Arabica. Algebra was derived from a combination of ideas developed by the oriental culture superseded by Islam, the classical learning of ancient Greece, and an impetus from a far-off land, in this instance India that became accessible due to the vast extent of the Arab empire. And, of course, it reached its full development in a land that still contained a majority population of non-Muslims and recent converts who were well versed in their ancient traditions.
Furthermore, the Hindus had a continuing role in the development of algebra subsequent to al-Khwarizmi as the civilization of the Arabs ossified under the deepening influence of Islam. The “radical sign, and many algebraic symbols” appear to have been invented by the Hindu mathematician Bhaskara in the twelfth century. 
Mathematical knowledge was, by no means, the only contribution India made to the golden age of Arab culture. Will Durant notes how the Muslims “took much of this Hindu chemical science and industry to the Near East and Europe; the secret of manufacturing ‘Damascus’ blades, for example, was taken by the Arabs from the Persians, and by the Persians from India.” He also notes that India contributed much medical knowledge to the Arabs. “Haroun-al-Rashid accepted the preeminence of Indian medicine and scholarship and imported Hindu physicians to organize hospitals and medical schools in Baghdad.” The technique of vaccination was first developed in India as early as 550 A.D. This practice was adopted by the Muslims and reportedly found its way into Europe from the Ottoman Empire.
There has been much written in certain modern academic circles regarding the “stealing” of ideas by one civilization from another. In no case was this truer than in the wholesale appropriation of India’s intellectual treasures by the early Arabs. Keay points out that India’s “scientific and mathematical discoveries, though buried amidst semantic dross and seldom released for practical application, were readily appreciated by Muslim scientists and then rapidly appropriated by them. Al-Biruni was a case in point: his scientific celerity in the Arab world would owe much to his mastery of Sanskrit and access to Indian scholarship.” It is not a coincidence that the astronomer al-Biruni (973-1050), who worked in Afghanistan and is described as a Persian Shi'ite with agnostic leanings, would be quite open to the study of Hindu works.
Muslim Self Sufficiency
From its inception the Muslim community was preoccupied with the Islamic religion in general and the spiritually superior Arab people in particular. Indeed the one undeniable achievement of Islam was the elevation from barbarism of the tribes on the Arabian Peninsula itself; the achievement of which was one of the Prophet’s primary goals. As the scholar of comparative religion John Noss observes:
Muhammad gave much thought to the behavior of his followers, and must be said to have legislated for them so comprehensively, and with such a uniform purpose of elevating their morals to a higher level than before – the high level of an inclusive brotherhood instead of the lower level of divisive tribal organization…
There can be no doubt that the “laws prohibiting wine and gambling as well as the regulations covering the relations of the sexes and granting a higher status to women, must have meant to his early followers a considerable change in their way of life.” Considering the status of women under Islam, one can surmise that the condition of Arabian women’s lives must have been quite oppressive before Islam. From the commandments in the Qu’ran we can infer that female infanticide was widely practiced until prohibited by Muhammad. Unrestricted polygamy must also have been practiced; Muhammad limited this to four wives, required that the husband have sufficient means and that all wives be treated equitably. However, as shown in a previous chapter there was no restriction on sexual slavery. He also regularized divorce and granted women the right to at least some fair treatment, presumably correcting the gross abuses that existed until his time.
The Arab obsession with their own spiritual and cultural elevation was accompanied by a disdain and disinterest in other traditions, even that of the large numbers of conquered peoples over whom they ruled. For a brief period of time, certain members of the ruling elite patronized scholars to translate and interpret these other traditions, but for the most part this was limited to the immediately practical and useful arts and sciences. As Lewis notes until “the Mongol conquests, [Muslims] have virtually nothing to say about their neighbors in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and very little even about their own pagan ancestors.” This doctrine of Arab supremacy prevented the higher philosophy of the ancient Greeks from becoming truly incorporated into Islamic culture. This was quite different from the attitude of the Romans and later western Europeans who were eager students of the higher Greek wisdom. The Muslims were content with useful technical and scientific knowledge. Some, though by no means all, Muslim schools of theology attempted to co-opt much of Greek philosophy in the service of Islam. A few Muslim rulers, like the quirky Ottoman Conqueror, even engaged Greek scholars in study and discussion. However, while some of the forms might be adopted, Islam had no use for the substance of Greek thought.
The tale of the burning of the Library at Alexandria illustrates Islam’s self imposed intellectual isolation. The story that the Library at Alexandria was burned at the orders of the caliph “is one of those tales that make good fiction but bad history. … Abd-al-Latif al Baghdadi who died as late as A.H. 629 (1231) seems to have been the first to relate the tale. Why he did it we do not know; however, his version was copied and amplified by later authors.” The story, though not literal fact, does, however, express an important symbolic truth regarding the attitude the early Arab conquerors had to the accomplishments of earlier civilizations. That may be the reason why it gained such wide currency both within and outside of the Muslim world. Moreover, this early Arab attitude was bequeathed to later Muslim civilizations.
With the passage of time, and with Islam becoming the dominant majority religion, there began the final phase of Islamic civilization. This phase is characterized by intellectual atrophy leading to economic and technological stagnation. The critic of Islam Robert Spencer is of the opinion that the demise of philosophy and of the rationalist sects such as Mu’tazilism was part of an ‘anti-intellectual rage’ which afflicted Arab Islam at the end of the golden ages of Baghdad and Andalusia. In addition “the impetus for such a reaction came from the Qur’an and Islamic tradition, or it wouldn’t have been so strong or long lasting.” He theorizes that this reaction is a consequence of fundamental Islamic theology:
Jews and Christians believe that God created the universe to operate according to reliable, observable laws. While he can suspend those laws, ordinarily he does not do so … This way of thinking provided a foundation for the edifice of modern science … But to the Muslim who found all knowledge in the Qur’an and suspected philosophers of infidelity, that was tantamount to saying, ‘God’s hand is chained.’ Allah, they argued, could not be thus restricted. … If one could not rely on the universe to obey observable laws … science could not flourish.
This view of Islam is echoed by Murray:
Islam, more than Christianity … saw God as sustaining the universe on a continuing basis, and as a deity who is not bound by immutable laws. To proclaim scientific truths that applied throughout the universe and throughout time could easily become blasphemy, implying limits to what God could and could not do.
Stillman contends that it was in the thirteenth century that the “secular and humanistic tendencies of Hellenism … began to wane; at the same time the Islamic religious element in its most rigid form began to wax ever stronger.” It would appear, however, that the strengthening of Islam was the cause and not the result of the decline in Hellenism which was the product of the dhimmi or recently converted elements in the population. By the thirteenth century those elements had become small minorities in most Arab lands and with the decline in the numbers of non-Muslims the well of Greek thought dried up.
The Islamic scholar G. E. Grunebaum also believed that it was the strengthening of Islam that put an end to the great period of Arab Islamic civilization:
Islam was never able to accept that scientific research is a means of glorifying God. … When the religious leadership began to oppose scientific inquiry … the internalized misgivings of the scientific elites led them to acquiesce. … During the golden age, the orthodox did not aggressively enforce those aspects of the Faith that discouraged free-flowing inquiry and debate; once they began to do so, Islamic contributions to the sciences effectively ended.
Patai notes the deleterious effects of Islam on the Arab intellect and the premature termination of the Arab golden age:
The fact remains that under traditional Islam, efforts at human improvement have rarely transcended ineffectuality. In general, the Arab mind, dominated by Islam, has been bent more on preserving than innovating, on maintaining than improving, on continuing than initiating. In this atmosphere, whatever individual spirit of research and inquiry existed in the great age of medieval Arab culture became gradually stifled; by the fifteenth century, Arab intellectual curiosity was fast asleep.
Another factor in Muslim intellectual degeneration was, undoubtedly, the end of imperial expansion. Once the Arab empire reached its maximum extent the temporary bubble in wealth caused by economic expansion, trade, and the flow of technology and expertise, in the early Islamic oecumene ceased. Furthermore, considering the extent of the Muslim domains, the wealth expropriated by the Muslim elites, and the number of technologies and variety of ideas available to them, it is remarkable how little in terms of human advancement and accomplishment was achieved by Muslims even at the height of their golden age. Muslim accomplishments were paltry when compared to what was achieved in the small and fragmented cities of Greece, in the divided states of the Indian subcontinent or in parochial and isolated China. Still another factor contributing to Islamic intellectual decline was the tendency toward increasing despotism and the lack of independent centers of power such as church, monarchy, landed aristocracy and urban bourgeoisie typical of many parts of Europe.
The decline in Arab culture occurred quite rapidly. Hitti contends that Arab culture in the eastern Mediterranean was already in decline at the time of the Crusades. The physical sciences ceased to advance once the Abbasid caliphate entered its decline. “The Moslems of today, if dependent on their own books, would have even less than their distant ancestors in the eleventh century.” The historical sciences also after the time of the historian Miskawayh (1030) began a rapid decline. There was a simultaneous increase in less intellectually rigorous subjects during this time. “The whole period (11th –12th century) was marked by predominance of humanistic over scientific studies. Intellectually it was a period of decline.”
It was the fate of fabled Andalusia that its golden age would be followed, like that of the Abbasids, by intellectual decline. The stage was set when the vizier al-Mansur burned the library of the scholar-caliph al-Hakam in order to please the increasingly powerful and rigidly anti-intellectual Muslim clergy. After another brief period of enlightenment under the party kings, Islamic anti-intellectualism resumed its course under the repressive Almoravids. Not one to be upstaged by the book burnings of al-Mansur, the devout Almoravid ‘Ali (1106-43) burned all of al-Ghazzali’s works that he could get his hands on in Spain and the Maghreb. The succeeding Almohads were slightly less hostile to scholarly pursuits, but were even more fanatical in driving many Christian and Jewish scholars into exile.
Also inevitable was the decline of the lesser intellectual renaissance that began in Fatimid Egypt, once a center of medical learning. “Egyptian medicine since Ayyubid days was dominated by Jewish physicians carrying on the glorious tradition of ibn-Maymun. But among neither Moslem nor Jewish physicians do we find creative activity.” In 1448 the Mamluk Sultan Jaqmaq “prohibited Jewish and Christian physicians from treating Muslim patients. … Jaqmaq’s decree is indicative not only of the decline of the position of non-Muslims in the later Islamic Middle Ages, but also of the waning esteem for Hellenic science and its practitioners.” In Muslim North Africa west of Egypt, there were no discernible golden ages at all; only the occasional isolated scholar like ibn-Khaldun or ibn-Battutah. This relative lack of intellectual activity in that part of North Africa was due to the continuing depredations of both Berber and Bedouin nomads and a consequent Islamization of the population that was even deeper than that of Spain or the Arab east.
Both the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks had brief periods of artistic and, to a lesser extent, intellectual glory during the period of stability subsequent to their conquests. However, as Muller notes, Islam was unable to sustain periods of enlightenment for more than a brief time. Their religion
made the nomadic Turks a great power … But it quickens chiefly the military virtues of courage, fortitude, loyalty, and obedience, not so much the qualities that make for sophistication, enlightenment, and creativity. It impedes the continued growth of its converts by the rigidity of its doctrine and discipline. The Ottoman Turks restored an empire to Islam and adorned it with suitable art; but they proved unable to extend or renew its culture, or create a high civilization of their own.
Darlington observes how once the Ottoman Empire’s advance was halted, the lack of new dhimmi populations to exploit led to its inevitable decline. “As in other Muslim empires no one ever discovered how to organize a process of social promotion that would replace capture and conquest.”
One question that remains is why the Ottomans were unable to attain the level achieved during the brilliant albeit brief flowering of Baghdad. To be sure, there was a slight initial efflorescence which expressed itself primarily in architecture and poetry, but few Ottoman subjects reached the level previously attained by many of the scholars of Abbasid Baghdad or Umayyad Spain. This is especially puzzling since the empire of the Ottoman Turks at its height covered an area equivalent in size to that of the early caliphs. One reason may be the chronic and slower nature of the Turkish conquest which exhausted and impoverished the vanquished population. In addition, many of the intellectual elite among the conquered had ample time and opportunity to flee, to the ultimate benefit of Italy and the West. However, the most important reason may be that during the era of the Turkish conquests Islamic thought attained its nadir of rigidity. In the early ages of Baghdad and Andalusia, on the other hand, Islam was still slightly flexible.
In India the high point of Mughal civilization came to an end with the repressive despotism of the bigoted sultan Aurangzeb. Under his intolerant rule discrimination “against Hindus and the active promotion of Islamic values were … revived.” It was no coincidence that during his time “the great tradition of Mughal building virtually ceased.”
The inevitable closing of the Muslim mind is symbolized by the ultimate fate of the art collection that was painstakingly accumulated under the patronage of Mehmed the Conqueror. These works were destroyed or sold and dispersed by his pious son Bayezid. That sad event was a repeat of the earlier destruction of the scholarly library of the Umayyad caliph al-Hakam in Cordova at the instigation of the intolerant ulema. Even more tragic was the fate of the unfortunate scientist-sultan Ulugh Beg who, after presiding over a scientific renaissance in Samarkand, was executed at the insistence of the religious authorities. Equally typical of the ultimate fate of Islamic science was the destruction by the Chief Mufti of the great observatory built by Ottoman Sultan Murad III under the direction of the astronomer Taqi al-Din. Another example was the abrupt end of the Mughal renaissance with the death of the tolerant reformer Akbar.
The intellectual deficiency resulting from the Islamic meme continues up to the present day. Thierry Gattuso observes the following with respect to the underachievement of Muslim citizens of Britain:
The United Kingdom census of 2001 for the first time looked at the nation’s religious background. The findings showed that Muslims make up 2.8% of the UK population. Hindus 1%, Sikhs 0.6, Buddhists and Jews both make up 0.5% of the UK population. 31% of Muslims of working age have no qualifications, the highest of any religious group. As in many countries owning your own home is a major achievement and financial responsibility. 82% of Sikhs followed by 78% of Jews own their own home in the UK. Only 52% of Muslims own their own home, the lowest of any religious group. 14% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 8% of Sikhs and 6% of Hindus. The underachievement of Muslims is even more bleak when you examine where most Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in the UK come from. 75% of Muslims, 97% of Hindus, 98 % of Sikhs and 69% of Buddhists in the UK are from or have ancestral links to South Asia. Therefore any cultural factors can be largely ruled out when comparing the achievement of Muslims with people from other religious groups. Muslims complain that they have to overcome language difficulties and face discrimination in the UK and state this as a factor in their poor performance. Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs face the same language and discrimination issues as Muslims, yet their achievements and performance is much better than Muslims.
The underachievement of Muslims should come as no surprise to those of us who understand the true nature of Islam. Everything a Muslim needs to know is in the Koran, Hadith or Sunnah. Muslims are not encouraged to seek knowledge and better themselves. Muslims are against progress, modernity and science. Those that control Islam do not want to see Muslims educated as an educated Muslim will apply commonsense and logic to the Koran and see it for what its is, a collection of distorted Bible and Torah stories and in print the mind of a 7th century Bedouin bandit leader.
The following analysis, and that in the next section, assumes a slight knowledge of statistics on the part of the reader. An analysis of IQ data lends support to Gattuso’s assertion. The following table compares IQ test data for Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.
The adjusted scores, which are the result of various studies, show higher scores for Greece and Bulgaria with respect to that of Turkey. The one exception is a study of Greek children from the early 1960s with a score in the middle of the Turkish range. The overall score which is a summary of the studies shows that Turkey lags her European neighbors by two to three points. The use of IQ data from these countries minimizes the effect due to heredity. Genetic factors are unlikely to account for these differences for the following reasons. As we have seen, there was in Turkey extensive hybridization with the Byzantine peoples of Anatolia and a large genetic infusion after the Ottoman conquests from peoples in the Balkans and all along the Black Sea. Similarly, there would have been an inevitable genetic infusion from the Turkish conquerors to the vanquished people of Bulgaria and Greece. The genetic studies of Cavalli-Sforza show the close relationship between modern Turks and adjacent Europeans as shown in his synthetic maps of principal components for Europe and western Asia. Effects due to cultural factors are also minimized. With the exception of religion other aspects of culture and worldview are similar. Music, dance, cuisine, and other traits are likely the remnants of ancient underlying Aegean and Pontic cultures common to all three countries.
Two other observations from the IQ data are of interest. One is the lower scores attained by immigrant Turks as compared to those remaining in Turkey. It appears that immigrant Turks in Europe, who presumably come from smaller cities and rural areas, score somewhat lower than the Turkish population as a whole. Seventy years of Kemalism seems to have raised IQs among a portion of the population up to levels equivalent to those in neighboring Europe. The difference between the immigrant and home populations is noted by Seyran Ates a lawyer for family and criminal law and a women’s rights activist in Germany. She observes that the Turkish community in Berlin is very conservative and traditional, much more so than most people in Turkey proper. So there is, among immigrants a regression backwards towards Middle Ages Islam. In addition, IQs in the adjacent countries of Iran and Iraq are lower than that of Turkey. The work of Cavalli-Sforza shows that the genetic distances between Iran, Iraq and Turkey are relatively close. This slight gap may be due to the fact that in both Iran and Iraq Islam has existed many centuries longer than it has in Turkey. Also Turkey has had the benefit of eighty years of enforced secularism.
However, a sample size of three countries is too small to permit rigorous statistical verification. The sample size may be increased by adding those European and Muslim countries bordering or facing each other across the Mediterranean, as well as certain similar adjacent territories. The following table shows the IQs obtained for these countries by a number of studies.. These particular countries are chosen to hold genetic and non-religious cultural factors as close as possible. Most of the European and Muslim countries are of Mediterranean racial stock. In almost all of them there has been a long history of genetic interchange. Many of the European countries were partially or completely under Muslim rule for many centuries; others experienced briefer periods of Muslim occupation of or incursions into some of their provinces. In addition, many of the populations of these countries are made up of closely-related racial groups. Some populations are made up of similar Mediterranean racial components. Others have large Turco-Mongolian components in their ancestry: e.g. Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Russia.
The European countries have an average IQ of 94.6 with a standard deviation of 4.89. The Islamic countries have an average IQ of 85.9 with a standard deviation of 2.13. The difference between the two groups, as measured by a standard t test is highly statistically significant. It suggests a difference in IQs due to an Islamic effect of some eight points. This effect might be a result of the fatalistic attitude engendered by Islamic theology in its adherents. It might also result from Muslim child-rearing practices. The long-lasting institution of Muslim slavery may have left an indelible residue by creating negative attitudes toward work and initiative, including that of intellectual effort. There is the possibility that the greater economic development north of the Mediterranean is the main factor, and if the economic gap narrows the IQ gap will close. However, most of the European countries in the sample are from the least developed parts of the continent, and it is only in the last few decades that they have begun to develop modern economies; a rather short amount of time to produce such a large differential. Of course, these results are only suggestive and further research is warranted.
Rise and fall of Islamic Scholarship
Scholarship, science and human accomplishment appear to follow the hypothesized general pattern over time, shown in the following chart, in all Islamic societies.
The general scheme shown above illustrates the changes in the level of civilization in a Muslim conquered territory. Stage A represents the level preceding the Muslim invasion. In stage B the level drops precipitously as the invasion proceeds bringing war, famine, slavery and displacement. In the following stage C, stability is restored under a new Islamic government. The majority of the population consists of non-Muslims and recent converts. The territory becomes part of the larger Islamic community and, with trade and the cross-fertilization of cultures, civilization rises to new heights in a golden age. However, in the following stage D, conversion reduces the non-Muslim population, Islamic law is more rigidly followed, despotism and persecution increase. The Muslim mind closes; the level of civilization declines. In the terminal stage E, there is a general cultural and economic stagnation causing the level of civilization to stabilize at a low level.
To test the above hypothesized path of Islamic intellectual accomplishment, the significant scholarly figures listed in Hitti’s authoritative History of the Arabs was compiled. These were arranged by subject matter and time period and it was usually possible to categorize the background of the scholar by the description in the text. The scholarly fields were grouped into the following categories:
S: Science, Math, Medicine, Philosophy
H: History, Geography, Social Science
L: Grammar, Literature, Arts
T: Theology, Law
The background of the significant figures fall into the following categories:
N: Non-Muslim, Heretic, Sufi, Non-believer, apostate, convert, child of convert
R: Recent: Grandson of Convert or Muslim of Non Arab ethnicity before end of Islamic 3rd century
M: Assumed long family history of Islam or Muslim of Arab ethnicity
The time pattern of numbers of significant figures makes it possible to test the above hypothesis of rise, golden age, decline and stagnation. The background categories measure the impact of non-Muslims, nominal Muslims or heretical Muslims in contributing to Islamic civilization and attainment. In Hitti’s terminology when a figure is referred to as, a ‘Hispano Muslim’, ‘Persian Muslim’, “Syrian Muslim’ etc., this is taken as an indication of relatively recent non-Arab and non-Muslim ancestry, and the figure is placed in category R. Of course, there is no certainty that this is always the case. However, on the other hand, this is probably balanced in that many of those figures referred to as ‘Arab Muslim’ or simply as Muslim may well be of non-Arab or recent non-Muslim background; these latter figures are placed in category M. Using this methodology, the following contention is tested:
The handful of famous intellectual figures in Islam, when examined, always turn out to have been either non-Muslim, or a generation or two away from being non-Muslims (so still raised in an intellectual environment of some non-Muslim mental freedom), or if Muslim and from a Muslim family, than very likely a heretic or a freethinker, like ar-Razi.
The analysis is broken into two sets. The first part presents the significant figures from the eastern Arab provinces. Spain and the Maghreb, with their distinct historical experience are analyzed separately. There are 171 significant figures in the Arab east. The following table shows the change in the number of significant figures over time by field.
Literature and the arts peak early; these are heavily concentrated in the first Arab century and then precipitously drop in subsequent centuries. Theology and law are also concentrated in the early years. Undoubtedly this is due to the work on the codification of Muslim law following the death of Muhammad. The more rigorous sciences peak in the first Abbasid century and continue fairly strong for another two centuries before a steep decline beginning in the second half of the 11th century. History and the social sciences rise more slowly, reach a maximum in the early 10th century and then abruptly drop. Thus, scholarly activity peaks in the 9th through the 11th century. There is, however, a secondary smaller peak in the 13th century for reasons that will be explained below.
The next table shows the background of the significant figures over time.
Significant figures of non-Muslim and recent non-Muslim background make up more than half the total. As indicated above, this result is quite conservative since many of the scholars who are labeled as Arab Muslim, might well be of recent descent from non-Arab converts who were assimilated as clients into Arab tribes. After 1050, with the decline in the non-Muslim population, the number of non-Muslim figures becomes negligible. The table indicates a strong dependence of intellectual achievement on the existence of non-Muslim populations as a source of significant figures.
The following table gives the cross tabulation of background category by field of scholarship. Non-Muslims and recent converts dominate the arts and sciences and constitute almost half of the social sciences. Only theology and law, unsurprisingly, are made up of overwhelming orthodox Muslim percentages.
Restricting the view to the rigorous fields of science and philosophy and to the critical first four centuries yields the following results:
Scientists by Background: First 4 Centuries
Science, math and philosophy in the “golden age” are dominated by non-Muslims or recent Muslims who make up 62% of the total significant figures.
In summary, the above tabulations yield the following conclusions. By the fourth century after the conquest, the number of major intellectuals declines. Non-Muslims or recent Muslims constitute a majority of significant figures until the fifth century. Non-Muslims are a majority in the fields of science/math/philosophy and arts/humanities and are close to half in the field of history/social sciences. Therefore, the conclusion is that Arab Islamic civilization declines after three centuries as the number of non-Muslims declines and the process of Islamization accelerates. Moreover, this effect is undoubtedly even greater than that shown since many of those categorized as Muslims are likely near descendents of conquered peoples.
The following tables show field by century, background by century and field by background for Islamic Spain and the Maghreb.
Intellectual activity in Spain began with a greater time lag after the conquest than was the case in the Muslim east. This late start may be a consequence of the lower level of pre-Islamic civilization in Spain as compared to that in the East. The golden age beginning in the tenth century was instigated by the establishment of an independent Umayyad caliphate. Two centuries after the inception of the golden age, the fourth century after the conquest, scholarship entered a period of decline which was exacerbated by fanatical Berber dynasties. However, even during the time of the new dynasties and for some years afterward, scholarly achievement was stronger than during the equivalent period in the East. This lateness of the decline in scholarship was likely facilitated by the lower degree of Islamization and the stronger position of dhimmis in Muslim Spain. The resistance of the dhimmi population in succumbing to Islamization was a result of the continuing existence of the Christian kingdoms that provided a source of refuge for Christian and even Jewish scholars during periods of persecution as well as political pressure and leverage against weakening Muslim rulers. Even so, in the thirteenth century, Islamic civilization in Spain began its terminal decline.
Identifiable non-Muslims, heretics and recent converts number 22 out of 51 significant figures, a proportion somewhat lower than that in the East. However, in Spain it is likely that many more of those who, for lack of further information, must categorized as orthodox Muslims of long standing, are probably of recent non-Muslim descent. In addition, identifiable non-Muslims, heretics and Muslims of recent origin dominate the more rigorous intellectual subjects of science, mathematics and philosophy. Furthermore, the Jewish component of scholars in these fields is greater than that of unconverted Christians; six of the scholars listed are unconverted Jews, while only one is readily identified as an unconverted Christian. This is a much larger percent of Jews than occurs in the East and is another indication of the initial lower level of culture in Christian Spain, as compared to that in the East, at the time of the Muslim conquest.
The geographic dispersion of significant figures in the Arab east is shown as follows:
Syria is quite important in intellectual achievement in the first century when the Damascus based Umayyads were in power. Iraq assumes an overwhelming dominance in achievement during the first centuries of Abbasid rule. Baghdad became the point of concentration for émigré scholars from all over the empire particularly from neighboring Persia. Science/math/philosophy predominated in Iraq. On the other hand, the early numbers in Arabia proper are heavily dominated by poets/musicians. The minor secondary spikes are due to intellectual activity in Egypt and Syria. However, these later spikes in intellectual activity are much dampened. These occur within a century of new dynasties coming to power in those regions.
These secondary spikes are the result of a number of factors. A new dynasty usually improves local conditions after a period of disorder, war or civil strife. These new dynasties are frequently heretical, schismatic, regarded as illegitimate, or of a different ethnic group (Turk, Berber, Kurd, Persian, Caucasus Mamluk etc.) and seek to obtain support from the remaining dhimmi population as a counterweight to a hostile orthodox Muslim majority. As we have seen, new locally-based dynasties have a tendency to compete with the Baghdad caliphs in attracting scholars. They also consciously seek to compete in prestige with previous or rival dynasties. Furthermore, they may seek the propaganda value of subsidizing intellectual activity. In addition, a new dynasty may co-opt local talent that would otherwise have flowed to the central government of Baghdad. However, eventually the same pattern of decline sets in for Syria and Egypt following these minor spikes in intellectual achievement. The same effect is also seen in Persia with the native semi-independent dynasties after 850. More recent Persian dynasties and the Turkish dynasties are beyond the scope of Hitti's history.
The following graph repeats the Bulliet conversion curve for Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Directly beneath, for purposes of comparison, is a graph of the number of significant figures by province in the Arab East over the same half century time periods.
The inverse relationship between the number of significant figures and the non-Muslim percent of population is evident. Once Muslims pass the fifty percent mark, the number of significant figures per time period drops, never again to approach the Abbasid heights. The following charts show the breakdown of activity in the three provinces of Iraq, Egypt and Syria. Scholarly activity in Iraq, constituting the largest fraction shows clearly the stages of intellectual activity from recovery after the Muslim conquest to peak and inevitable decline. The charts for Egypt and Syria show the later spikes in scholarship under local rulers followed by the same decline. The Fatimids assumed power in Egypt about the year 970. Two centuries later the Ayyubids came to power in both Egypt and Syria followed by the Mamluk dynasty in 1250. The latter, though uncultured and bloodthirsty, had an appreciation for art and architecture. Also clearly shown is the shift in intellectual leadership from Syria to Iraq with the replacement of the Umayyads by the Abbasids in 750.
The conversion curve and significant figures chart for Persia show the minor spike and subsequent decline in scholarly activity resulting from the rise of the native independent Saffarid and Samanid dynasties about the year 875. The numbers of significant figures in the three provinces outside of Iraq are always minuscule and, hence, subject to random fluctuations.
Of course, the absolute number of significant figures does not account for the crucial factor of population size. Increases or decreases in population will affect the number undertaking and succeeding in scholarly endeavors. The following charts show population and significant figures per million for Iraq, Persia, Syria and Egypt.
The rise, peak and decline of the ratio of scholars are obvious for Iraq. The initial decline following the Umayyad overthrow in Syria and the later peaks in the outlying provinces can also be seen.
The following chart shows the rise, peak and decline in the number of significant figures in Iraq and Persia. It encompasses the time period from the early Arab conquests through the rule of the Abbasids and the closely linked local Persian dynasties. Below is a chart of population. The population of the two lands shows almost no variation between 650 and 1250 which is the entire period over which the rise, peak and decline in intellectual achievement occurs. Although the Mongol invasions are often blamed for the destruction of high civilization in these two lands, the number of significant figures declines well before the Mongol depredations of the 1250s caused a drop in population. In fact, population is virtually flat for the four centuries from 800 through 1200. By the year 1200 scholarship had dropped to a lower level than had existed in Umayyad times five centuries before.
The next two charts show the Spanish conversion curve and the number of significant figures over time. The Andalusian golden age commenced about the year 912 when Abdel Rahman III established formal independence by proclaiming himself caliph. Its progress was cut short with the accession of the Almoravids and resumed with the equally fanatical, but somewhat more intellectually curious, Almohads.
The full cycle of Islamic intellectual development in Spain is obscured by the steady decline of Muslim power before the advancing Christians. However, the steady drop in activity beginning with the thirteenth century indicates that the evolution of Islamic civilization in Spain would have closely mirrored that in the eastern provinces.
The following graph shows the relationship in the Arab east, excluding Arabia proper, between the percent of significant figures present in each century beginning with 650 and ending with 1550 and the Muslim percent of population.
The largest percent of significant figures occurs in the first few centuries when Muslims were still a minority and begins to decline when the Muslim percent rises above fifty. There is a minor peak after the rise of independent or semi-independent local dynasties, but this is followed by an irreversible decline within two centuries. A linear regression run between the percent of significant figures occurring within centuries and the percent of Muslims in the population shows a strong negative relationship (correlation coefficient 65%) between the two. An increase in conversions of 10% in any century decreases the century's share of significant figures by 1.5%. Regressing the percent of significant figures on the preceding century’s percent of Muslims shows an even stronger relationship (correlation of 83%). Pre-Islamic cultural imperatives would be expected to influence a recently converted population. An increase in conversions of 10% in any century decreases the next century's share of significant figures by almost 1.8%. The most favorable assessment of Muslim civilization that could be made, given these results, is that “Islam provided a sense of purpose and vitality that helped power the achievements of its golden age, but Islam could not accommodate itself to the degree of autonomy required to sustain it.”
Two other studies support this general view of Muslim intellectual achievement. The process of rise, peak and decline is also shown in Bulliet’s graph 1which gives the proportional representation of Arab territories in biographical sources. His graph clearly shows the rise and decline of learning in Iraq and Umayyad Syria. And it shows that at the time of new or breakaway dynasties, in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Spain and Anatolia, there was a secondary intellectual impetus. His graph only measures proportions and not absolute numbers of notable figures; it also does not evaluate the importance of these significant figures, so it cannot be used as a real gauge of intellectual accomplishment. Moreover, Bulliet regards the Mongol conquest as an important factor in the decline in scholarly activity, when as seen above, that decline preceded the Mongol invasion.
Another supporting perspective on Islamic intellectual rise and decline occurs in Murray’s study of human accomplishment. He presents a graph of numbers of significant figures and index measurements of their achievements for the field of Arabic literature. This graph given for the period 500 to 1300 shows a decline after 1050. “The golden age of classic Arabic literature coincided with the golden age of Arabic culture in general.” The peaks in literature occurred in the century from 950 to 1050.
Furthermore, Murray’s data permits a comparison of Islamic achievement with that of other civilizations. Given the extraordinary rise in western accomplishment since the Renaissance, a direct comparison of Islamic accomplishment with that of the west would be unable to separate out the general factors involved in western supremacy over the rest of the world, and those factors specifically resulting from Islam. However, additional light can be cast on the pattern of Islamic achievement through a comparison with other civilizations that were also surpassed by the modern west. The following chart shows the percent of significant figures, listed by Murray, occurring in each century between 600 and 1800 for the Islamic world, China, Japan and India. Century percents are used to avoid the complications that would arise by the large variations in population between these territories.
The graph shows that the peak in Islamic civilization occurs in the eleventh century with almost 18% of the total significant figures. The subsequent drop-off is severe. China, after recovering from a low point in the seventh century, has a fairly narrow range of oscillation; the percent drops off toward the end as a result, no doubt, of western pressure. Japan shows a general rise over the centuries prefiguring its entry into western science and technology. India’s pattern is of considerable interest. India shows a general downward trend after an early cultural highpoint. It is no coincidence that the decline begins at the time of the Arab invasion of Sind and accelerates in the tenth century with the destructive raids of the Ghaznavids. There is a slight recovery in the eleventh century followed by a new decline, doubtless due to increased Muslim pressure in the late twelfth century with the Ghurid territorial expansion. Finally, the beginning of Mogul rule permits a slight recovery which is greatly accelerated under Akbar’s eclectic rule, only to plunge, once again, under Akbar’s fanatical successors.
Both the qualitative and quantitative results in this chapter are in conformity with the general pattern of cultural achievement set out in the figure entitled Phases of Islamic Civilization. That pattern is one of recovery from the Islamic jihad, rise, peak and then decline as the Dhimmi proportion of the population decreases. The following chapter examines the prospects of reforming Muslim society and culture by placing these in a historical context.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 23.
 From Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 24.
 Ibid, p. 29.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 210.
 Ibid, p. 238.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 26.
 Yeor, Islam and Dhimmitude, p. 66.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 353.
 Yeor, Islam and Dhimmitude, p. 110.
 Ibid, p. 67.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 345.
 Spencer, Islam Unveiled, p. 31.
 Yeor, Islam and Dhimmitude, p. 68.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 183.
 Ibid, p. 184.
 Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, p. 96.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 351.
 Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, p. 274.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 61.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 174.
 Ibid, p. 61.
 Ibid, pp. 240-41.
 Ibid, pp. 392-93.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 39.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 370.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 345.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 265.
 Ibid, pp. 345-46.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, p. 44.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 373.
 Ibid, p. 253.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 344.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 217.
 Ibid, p. 310.
 Ibid, p. 297.
 Ibid, p. 404.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 133.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 630.
 Ibid, p. 683.
 The scholars listed are obtained from Hitti, History of the Arabs.
 Franz Rosenthal, The Classical Heritage in Islam, quoted in Jonathan David Carson, Hyping Islam 's role in the History of Science, americanthinker.com, July 29th, 2005.
 Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, pp. 193-94.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 509.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 58.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 543.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 54.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 345.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 515.
 Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, pp. 194-95.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 233.
 Ibid, p. 235.
 Ibid, p. 237.
 Ibid, pp. 237-38.
 Ibid, p. 239.
 Ibid, p. 235.
 Ibid, p. 237.
 Vryonis, Byzantium and Europe, p. 175.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 243.
 Crowley, 1453, p. 101.
 Ibid, p. 167.
 Ibid, p. 91.
 Ibid, p. 124.
 Bernard Lewis, Cultures in Conflict, New York, Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 21.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 113.
 Ibid, pp. 156-57.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, p. 22.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 156.
 Ibid, p. 200.
 Ibid, p. 214.
 Muller, The Loom of History, New York, p. 305.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 268.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 381-82.
 Bernard Lewis, Cultures in Conflict, p. 23.
 Ibid, p. 384.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 398.
 Ibid, p. 142.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 275.
 Ibid, p. 336.
 Lewis, What Went Wrong?, p. 139.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 311.
 Needleman, Lost Christianity, p. 24.
 Lewis, What Went Wrong?, pp. 139-40.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 382.
 Ibid, p. 685.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 87.
 Muller, The Loom of History, p. 285.
 Quoted in Carson, Hyping Islam 's role in the History of Science.
 Quoted in Ibid
 Quoted in Ibid
 Quoted in Ibid
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 54.
 Carson, Hyping Islam 's role in the History of Science.
 Vryonis, Byzantium and Europe, p. 114.
 Steven Runciman, The Last Byzantine Renaissance, UK, Cambridge University Press, 1970, p. 102.
 Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, p. 77.
 Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment, New York, Perennial, 2003, pp. 399-400.
 Soucek, A History of Inner Asia, p.103.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 99.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 66.
 Ibid, p. 67.
 Frye, The Heritage of Central Asia, p. 214.
 Carl B. Boyer, and Uta C. Merzbach, A History of Mathematics, New York, Wiley, 1989, pp. 255-56.
 Ibid, p. 256.
 Ibid, p. 258.
 Ibid, p. 260.
 Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, p. 528.
 Ibid, pp. 529-32.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 188.
 Noss, Man’s Religions, p. 738.
 Ibid, p. 739.
 Chapter 7: Culture of the Harem.
 Noss, Man’s Religions, pp. 739-40.
 Lewis, What Went Wrong?, p.140.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 166.
 Spencer, Islam Unveiled, p. 125.
 Ibid, p. 127.
 Murray, Human Accomplishment, p. 401.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 64.
 Quoted in Murray, Human Accomplishment, p. 400.
 Patai, The Arab Mind, pp. 154-55.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 662.
 Ibid, p. 381.
 Ibid, p. 391.
 Ibid, p. 403.
 Ibid, p. 685.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 71.
 Muller, The Loom of History, p. 298.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, pp. 343-44.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 336.
 Thierry Gattuso, Why do Moslems Underachieve?, faithfreedom.org, November 24, 2005.
 From Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen IQ and the Wealth of Nations summarized by Steve Sailer at www.iSteve.com.
 L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza, The History and Geography of Human Genes, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 290-296, Figures 5.11.1 through 5.11.4. Principal components are statistical measures summarizing and combining data obtained from many different genes.
 Seyran Ates in Jamie Glazov, Symposium: Murdering Women For “Honor”, FrontPageMagazine.com June 10, 2005.
 Cavalli-Sforza, The History and Geography of Human Genes, p. 244, Table 4.15.
 From Lynn and Vanhanen.
 See Chapter 7: Culture of the Harem.
 Hugh Fitzgerald, Algeria, Christianity, and Islam, Jihad Watch (internet), March 23, 2006.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 671.
 Source: Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History, New York, Penguin Books, 1978.
 Murray, Human Accomplishment, p. 399.
 Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, p. 8.
 Murray, Human Accomplishment, p. 321.