Every civilization is a complex representation of its achievements, downfalls, and morale. A civilization is the reflection of the philosophy of a particular culture and is being analyzed through a prism of different aspects. Generally, the modern preconception about the definition of ‘civilization’ covers the most advanced period in the development of the society, which is accomplished considering scientific, technological, and intellectual level.
Currently, the modern stage of our civilization development owes to the range of different cultures and nations. Hence, this paper is aimed at uncovering the value of Islam and its contributions to what face modern world now has.
“Yet for more than five centuries that civilization not only led the world in science, but was the only portion of mankind actively engaged in the systematic pursuit of knowledge.” – introduces Stanwood Cobb in his book Islamic Contributions to the Civilization. [Cobb, 1963]
The latter may be supported by Osman Bakar’s statement: “In the case of Islam, its golden age in science, technology and intellectual culture spanned about five centuries, from the ninth until the fourteenth centuries. This is also the period of Islam’s dominance in world science and technology. During this period, Muslims made many important scientific discoveries and technological innovations, contributions to scientific culture, and advancements in intellectual culture in general.” [Bakar, 2011]
Indeed, the historical records prove that Islam has realized a considerable influence on the Europe of the Renaissance age. Moreover, Islam achievements were a strong impetus of the development of modern science of the 17th century. [Bakar, 2011]
“Beginning with the rise to power of Baghdad in the mid-eighth century and continuing beyond Islamic political decline five hundred years later, science and education flourished under Muslim influence. No such activity characterized any other part of the contemporary world. The lights of Graeco-Roman culture had been extinguished and Europe was engulfed in the Dark Ages; India was languishing in a period of stagnation; and China, while blossoming richly in the arts, was almost wholly devoid of science.” [Cobb, 1963]
Thus, on occupying the leading place on the stage of civilized world, the Arabs have become the pioneers in the development of investigation methodology. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell has claimed that they were the first to introduce and practically apply the empirical method in holding a variety of researches.
Cobb conforms, that “The scientific method, as it has been developed primarily at the hands of the West, was indeed invented by Muslims and first practiced by them on a large scale.” [Cobb, 1963] This scientific method covered the diversity of mathematical and quantitative methods, empirical method, and a range of inquiry modes, which set the paving stone to the research methodology and accomplished the reasonable progress in investigating the environment humanity lives in and the humanity itself.
However, one has to admit general ignorance (or the lack of enthusiasm to discover) of the fact that Islam is the predecessor of the Western science and has shaped the face of it throughout the centuries. For example, one would never guess that these were Muslims put under a doubt the appropriateness of Ptolemaic planetary system at the medieval times.
Thus, Islam has developed the set of astronomical observatories and, hereby, has made a leap forward in the planetary science investigations. “The achievement of Islamic planetary astronomy in medieval times was a lunar model developed by Ibn al-Shatir from Damascus, based on al-Tusi’s theory.” [Bakar, 2011] Hence, the revolution of the thought introduced by Copernicus was already modeled by the representatives of Eastern world.
Furthermore, the contribution of Islam to the civilization lies in giving the science the status of an institution and making the science education the essential subject. “In initiating this particular phase of scientific progress, Islam has made another lasting contribution to world civilization.
Research-based astronomical observatories and teaching hospitals were Islam’s best-known creations of scientific institutions”. [Bakar, 2011] The medical practice of the Muslims has accomplished a great leap forward and quickly shared its advancements with the West. Generally, the West either borrowed the organizational points in the system of hospitals, developed by the Arabs.
One should either give credit for the institution of university, which was first established in the East and “the oldest university in the world, the al-Azhar University in Cairo” belongs exactly to the acquirement of Islam. [Hourani, 1991] The experience of structure and organization of the universities was also borrowed by the Western world.
The achievements in the educational sphere were totally passed over, starting from the phenomenon of professorship even to the organization of curricula and degrees. Thus, Islam has realized considerable influence on the institution of education on the whole and has shaped the concept of learning in particular.
In conclusion, one may confirm, that it is not possible to overestimate the contribution of Islam to the world science. Muslim inventions and ideas have given the impetus to the progress of humanity raising it to the peak of civilization. The investigations into different spheres of study have proved the enormous potential of the Eastern world and the value it has to the modern academia.
Bakar, O. Islamic Contribution to Human Civilization. Posted on January 22, 2011. Retrieved on July 11, 2011 from http://ugandamuslims.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/islamic-contribution-to-human-civilization/
Cobb, S. (1963) Islamic Contribution to Civilization. Retrieved on July 11, 2011 from http://bahaistudies.net/bahaiworks/cobb.html
Hourani, A. (1991) Islam in European Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tuff, T. (2003) The Rise of early Modern Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.