The Golden Age of Islam traditionally dates from the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 to the mid-13th century. During this period, the Muslim world spread over southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Persia, South and Central Asia and as far as China. Famous writers adopted the Arabic language as their literary medium and produced works on philosophy, theology, history and science, many of which remain relevant in the present day.
Avicenna (980 – 1070)
Abu Ali Al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina, usually known under his latinized name Avicenna, was born in 980 at Afshanah, a town near Bukhara in today’s Uzbekistan. He excelled in philosophy and medicine and wrote “Qanun fi al-Tibb” or “The Canon of Medicine” which synthesized the known medical knowledge of the period. This work of over one million words analyzes the nature of contagious diseases, psychology and health. In his “Kitab Al Shifa” or “The Book of Healing” he brought together Greek philosophy and Muslim theology in an analysis of mathematics, physics, metaphysics and politics.
Al Ghazali (1058–1111)
Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, also called Algazel but better known as Al Ghazali, was a prominent philosopher, lawyer and mystic who was born in Tus, an ancient own near Meshed, northeast Iran. He was professor of law at the University in Baghdad -- then the capital of the Abassid empire -- but spent most of his life as a poor traveler, teacher and writer. In his “Incoherence of the Philosophers” he examined and criticized how Islamic scholars tried to fuse Greek philosophy and the Islamic religion. His most important book was “The Revival of The Religious Sciences” that covered jurisprudence, theology and Sufism, which is Islamic mysticism, and is accepted as the most important book in Islam after the Koran and Hadith, the statements of Muhammad.
Abu Al Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd, called Ibn Rushd in the Islamic East and Averroes in the Latin West, was born in 1126 in Cordoba, today’s Spain. He wrote on law, medicine and government’s relationship with non-Muslims. He opposed Al-Ghazali’s criticism of Greek philosophy and tried to explain the ideas of Aristotle. He defended this view in a major work, “The Incoherence of the Incoherence” and acquired the name “The Commentator” for his writings on Aristotle.
Moshe ben Maimon, known as Maimonides in Greek, Rambam in Hebrew and Abu Imram Musa Ibn Maimon in Arabic, was a Jewish philosopher and physician born in 1135 in Cordoba during Judaism’s as well as Islam’s Golden Age. However, his family had to leave Cordoba because they feared persecution by Islamic zealots and settled in Morocco, then Palestine and later near Cairo in Egypt. Like his Islamic contemporaries, he fused Greek philosophy, theology and medicine. His best known works, written initially in Arabic, are a trilogy: “Commentary on the Mishnah,” “Mishnah Torah” and “Guide to the Perplexed.”
Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406)
Abu Zayd ‘Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrhami, known as Ibn Khaldun, was born in 1332 in Tunis. A traveler, politician, philosopher and historian, he is viewed today as the founder of modern history, sociology, ethnography and economics. Although he lived later than the Islamic Golden Age and during a period of political conflict and decline of Islamic power, he represents the culmination of the Golden Age’s knowledge. The “Prologue” or “Muqadimmah” to his major work, “Universal History,” is a treatise on the philosophy of history and remains compulsory reading today for all academic historians. “Universal History” describes events from Biblical, Persian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine times and the history of Arabs up to the loss of Muslim Spain and their defeat by the Mongols.
- Islamic Research Foundation International: The Golden Age of Islam
- Trinity College: Ibn Sina (Avicenna)
- Catholic Education Office Sydney: Imam Al Ghazali (1058 – 1111)
- Creighton University: Ibn Rushd on Religious Faith & Reason
- The Jewish Review: Focus On: The Rambam – A Brief Biography
- Saudi Aramco World: Ibn Khaldun and the Rise and Fall of Empires
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