Science, Medicine and Technology

Introduction to a Special Edition on the Golden Age of Islam

The Review of Religions Science Section Team

As Islam began to spread across the world in the 8th century, Muslims left an indelible mark in the annals of history that changed the course of human civilisation. In fact, many of the scientific, technological, and medical innovations that are the hallmark of modern society, have their origins in fundamental discoveries made during that era. Known as the
Golden Age of Islam (8th to 13th centuries CE), the period saw substantial advancements that paved the way for Muslims from different nations to progress humanity forward.

Pioneering scholars and scientists during that era were motivated by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an to investigate and research the natural world. They strived to push the boundaries of human knowledge and to use their God-given faculties to make advancements to benefit humanity. Whether it was mathematics or medicine, engineering or economics, physics or philosophy, many fields of knowledge witnessed significant contributions from Muslim scholars. Beyond making discoveries, Muslims were engrossed in spreading knowledge as far as possible. Translations from Greek and Latin into Arabic became common, thus removing language barriers. Muslims established libraries in Cairo, Aleppo, Baghdad, Iran and Spain, while bookshops with thousands of titles opened in several cities. The oldest university in the world, University of Al-Qarawiyyin (est. 859 CE in Fez, Morocco) has its origins during the Golden Age.

However, as Muslims tragically lost sight of their true purpose and moved further away from God, a period of darkness followed the Golden Age. While other nations took up the task of advancing scientific progress, dust began to settle on the rich contributions of Muslim scientists. It is an unfortunate reality today that in much of the world, including Muslim-majority nations, most people are unacquainted with the legacy of the Golden Age. Those discoveries and personalities are buried and could soon be forgotten altogether.

In 2019, the Fifth Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), addressed a group of international scientists and researchers at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) conference. He stated, ‘In intellectual and scientific terms, Muslims and the Islamic nations have gone from leading the world, to being treated with scorn and derision. At this time of intellectual ignorance amongst the Islamic world, it is the great challenge for Ahmadi Muslim scientists and researchers to revive the honour and dignity of Islam in the global academic arena. Indeed, it should be your ambition to take up the glorious mantle of enlightenment adorned by the great Muslim scholars and inventors of the Middle Ages.’

To help educate readers about the glory of those scholars from the Golden Age and to inspire a new generation of budding scientists and researchers, we have curated a glimpse into a few of those leading personalities and discoveries. Moreover, this edition takes a deeper look into how trade and commerce during the Golden Age shaped a rich economic and cultural environment where intellectual pursuits flourished. Finally, the edition highlights pearls of wisdom and guidance from the Promised Messiah (as) and his successors about the nature of science and religion, and how their shared principles can lead to new discoveries that fulfil both service to God and humanity. Truly honouring the legacy left behind by those scholars requires today’s researchers and scientists to walk in their footsteps with the same understanding and vision, and with a similar devotion to serve God, God willing!