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His Catalog of Sciences had a tremendous effect on the curricula of medieval universities. Perhaps the most distinctive and noteworthy contributions occurred in the field of mathematics, where scholars from the House of Wisdom played a critical role in fusing the Indian and classical traditions, thus inaugurating the great age of Islamic mathematical speculation.

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The first great advance consisted in the introduction of Arabic numerals—which, as far as can be determined, were Indian in origin. They embody the "place-value" theory, which permits numbers to be expressed by nine figures plus zero. This development not only simplified calculation but paved the way for the development of an entirely new branch of mathematics, algebra. The study of geometry was sustained by a remarkable series of scholars, the Banu Musa or "Sons of Musa," who were all, quite literally, sons of the al-Ma'mun's court astronomer, Musa ibn Shakir.

Their activities were all the more noteworthy because they carried on their research and writing as private citizens, devoting their lives and expending their fortunes in the pursuit of knowledge. Not only did they sponsor the translation of numerous Greek works but contributed substantial works of their own.

Al-Hasan, one of the sons, was perhaps the foremost geometrician of his time, translating six books of the Elements and working out the remainder of the proofs on his own. In addition to mathematics and geometry, Abbasid scholars in the House of Wisdom made important and lasting contributions in astronomy, ethics, mechanics, music, medicine, physics, and philosophy to name a few.

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In the process men of enormous intellect and productivity rose to prominence. One of these was Thabit ibn Qurra. Recruited from the provinces—where he had worked in obscurity as a money changer—he came to the Bait al-Hikmah to work as a translator.

There his exemplary grasp of Syriac, Creek, and Arabic made him invaluable. In addition to his translations of key works, such as Archimedes' Measurement of the Circle later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century , he also wrote over 70 original works on a wide range of subjects. His sons, too, were to found a dynasty of scholars that lasted until the 10th century. But it wasn't only the pure or abstract sciences that received emphasis in these early years. The practical and technical arts made advances as well, medicine the first among them.

Here several great scholars deserve mention. Hunain ibn lshaq not only translated the entire canon of Greek medical works into Arabic—including the Hippocratic oath, obligatory for doctors then as now—but wrote 29 works by his own pen, the most important a collection of ten essays on ophthalmology. The greatest of the 9th century physician-philosophers was perhaps Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known to the west as Rhazes.

He wrote over books and was an early advocate of experiment and observation in science. Simultaneously, in far off Spain al-Andalus , the social and natural sciences were being advanced by men such as Ibn Khaldun, the first historian to explicate the laws governing the rise and fall of civilizations. The brilliant flowering of Islamic science in Andalusia was directly stimulated by the renaissance in Baghdad.

Scholars regularly traveled the length of the known world to sit and learn at the feet of a renowned teacher. With the death of the philosopher al-Farabi in the first and most brilliant period of Islamic scientific thought drew to a close. As the political empire fragmented over the next years, leadership would pass to the provinces, principally Khorasan and Andalusia.

Indeed, Spain was to serve as a conduit through which the learning of the ancient world, augmented and transformed by the Islamic experience, was to pass to medieval Europe and the modern world. At the very time that Baghdad fell to the Mongols in , and the Abbasid caliphate came to an end, scribes in Europe were preserving the Muslim scientific tradition.

This is why, just as many Greek texts now survive only in Arabic dress, many Arabic scientific works only survive in Latin. The death of al-Farabi is perhaps a fitting event to mark the end of the golden age of Muslim science. His masterwork, The Perfect City, exemplifies the extent to which Greek culture and science had been successfully and productively assimilated and then impressed with the indelible stamp of Islam. The perfect city, in al-Farabi's view, is founded on moral and ethical principles; from these flow its perfect shape and physical infrastructure.

Undoubtedly he had in mind the round city of Baghdad, The City of Peace. Because Arabs historically had a tradition of trade and commerce, the Muslims continued that tradition. It was due to their superiority in navigation, shipbuilding, astronomy, and scientific measuring devices that Arab and Muslim commerce and trade developed and reached so many peoples throughout the world. The Arabs were at the crossroads of the ancient trade routes from the Mediterranean, the Arabian Gulf, East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent, all the way to China.

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The Dragon in Medieval East Christian and Islamic Art

One of the interesting results of these trading relations occurred during the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid when he exchanged envoys and gifts with Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor. As a result, Harun al-Rashid established the Christian Pilgrims' Inn in Jerusalem, fulfilling Umar's pledge to Bishop Sophronious, when he first entered Jerusalem, to allow freedom of religion and access to Jerusalem to Christian religious pilgrims.

A number of Arabic words relating to the trade and commerce have found their way into modern Western languages. See list of words.

Muslin cotton developed in Mosul Iraq became a favorite commodity and a new word in the Western vocabulary, as did damask fabric from Damascus , fustain cloth from Fustat, Egypt. The most interesting accounts of other cultures encountered by Arab Muslims are contained in a book on the travels of Ibn Battutah of Tangier , who over a period of 25 years traveled to Asia Minor, Mongolia, Russia, China, the Maldives, Southeast Asia and Africa and recounted his travels and the influence of early Muslim traders in those regions.

He was the precursor of Marco Polo, whose accounts contained detailed descriptions of various cultures with which Arab and Muslims traders had long been in contact. Islamic craftsmanship in bookmaking and bookbinding were items of trade which carried the message of Islamic civilization far and wide. The word "Arabesque" entered into the Western lexicon as a description of the intricate design that characterized Arab Muslim art. But the great mosques that were first built throughout the Islamic world were not only places of worship but places of learning which remained as great examples of architecture and design.

Introduction to Islamic Art | Boundless Art History

Through them civilization was transmitted in an artistic environment that was at once intellectually inspiring and emotionally uplifting. In addition to distinctive architectural characteristics, such as magnificent geometric designs, many of these contain mosaics of rare beauty, frequently painted in the blue and green of the sea, sky, and vegetation. The wood carving masharabiyah in most mosques are equally distinctive and characteristic of Islamic art. At times of prayer, individuals and congregations—indeed the entire Muslim world—face Mecca.

The mosque is usually a domed structure with one or more minarets from which the muadhin gives the call to prayer five times a day. The direction of Mecca is clearly indicated by the mihrab, a decorated niche in the wall. The larger mosques have a minbar or pulpit.

Since the worshipers should be in a pure state of mind and body before they begin to pray, a fountain is placed in the courtyard for ritual ablutions. Shoes are removed on entering the prayer hall, which is usually carpeted. For Muslims the mosque is a place for worship and education, a refuge from the cares of the world. Its function is best described in the Prophet's own words, namely that the mosque should be a garden of paradise. Islam's greatest architect was Sinan, a 16th century Ottoman builder who was responsible for the Sulaimaniye mosque in Istanbul.

His mosques visibly display the discipline, might, and splendor of Islam. The technique of dome construction was perfected and passed on to the West.


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The technique of dome structural support was used in the Capella Palatine in Palermo , while the campaniles or steeples of the Palazza Vecchio of Florence and of San Marco in Venice are inspired by the minaret which was first built in Qairawan, Tunisia Similarly, the horseshoe arch, which was so prevalent in Islamic form and particularly well realized in the Great Mosque of Damascus , has since been copied all over the world. Probably the best known example of Islamic architecture is the Alhambra meaning al-Harnra or the red one palace built in in Granada, Spain.

But artistic contributions were not limited to architecture, construction, decoration, painting, mosaic, calligraphy, design, metalcraft and wood carving. They extended to music through the development of new instruments and new techniques of sound and rhythm. The Arab Muslims al-Farabi in particular were the first to develop a technique of musical harmony paralleling mathematical science. Arabic-Islamic music was characterized by the harmony of sound and evocative emotional expression.

Musiqa is the Arabic word for music. Many non-Muslims perceive Islamic Fundamentalism as a form of revolutionary ideology and associate it with groups and movements which engage in violent acts or advocate violence.


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  5. This must be distinguished from Islamic revival which is a peaceful movement calling for the return to basic traditional values and practices. Adherents to and followers of such a movement believe that the best way to achieve the "true path of Islam" is to develop an integrated social and political system based on Islamic ideals and the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunna. To that extent they are fundamentalists.

    Reform ideas which derive from revival movements are not new to the history of Islam, nor do they advocate resorting to violence in order to achieve such a goal except where rebellion against unjust rule is legally justified. Examples of peaceful reform ideas are found in the learned teachings of the 13th century philosopher-scholar Ibn Taymiyya in Syria.

    In the 18th century the Wahabi reform movement developed in Saudi Arabia and its orthodox teachings continue to the present. Also in the 19th century the ideal of the "true path to justice" or al-salaf al-salih was eloquently propounded by Sheik Muhammad Abduh in Egypt, and his views continue to be studied by religious and secular scholars all over the world. Lustre painting, by techniques similar to lustreware in pottery, dates back to the 8th century in Egypt, and involves the application of metallic pigments during the glass-making process.

    Another technique used by artisans was decoration with threads of glass of a different color, worked into the main surface, and sometimes manipulated by combing and other effects. Gilded, painted, and enameled glass were added to the repertoire, as were shapes and motifs borrowed from other media , such as pottery and metalwork.

    Some of the finest work was in mosque lamps donated by a ruler or wealthy man. As decoration grew more elaborate, the quality of the basic glass decreased, and it often exhibited bubbles and a brownish-yellow tinge.