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The Wonders of the Golden Age of Islam 

During the Islamic Golden Age, Muslim leaders established one of the largest empires in the history of mankind. It encompasses the middle of the 7th century to the middle of the 13th century. During this period, engineers, geographers,  artists,  scholars, philosophers, poets, and traders in the Islamic world made significant contributions to the arts, agriculture,  economics, law, industry, literature, navigation, philosophy, sociology, sciences, and technology,  by preserving old traditions and by adding new inventions and innovations. During the same period, the Muslim world emerged as an important center for philosophy, medicine,  science, and education. Education was highly valued in Islamic society and the first public universities were established in Baghdad, emphasizing studying literature and philosophy. 

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What Was the Islamic Golden Age?

The phrase “Islamic Golden Age” indicates a time in Islamic history, usually extending from the eighth to the thirteenth century, when different caliphates ruled over a large portion of the historically Islamic world. According to traditional understanding, this era started when the House of Wisdom was established in Baghdad in 786 during the reign of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786–809).

Islam emerged from the desert of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century conquering the old Persian, Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Roman Empires. Between the 7th and 12th centuries, Islam integrated components of these cultures into its own and became the center of a great civilization with brilliant philosophic, scientific, and artistic culture. The language was Arabic, but it added its culture to the heritage of Rome, Greece, Christianity, Judaism,  and the Near East. It was assigned to scholars from many different cultures and geographical regions to compile and translate a collection of classical knowledge gathered from the world into Arabic.

Doctors expanded their knowledge of medicine by studying Greek and Indian texts. There were hospitals in all of the major Islamic cities. Islamic medicine developed a significant medical treatment, including surgically treating eye cataracts. “The Canon of Medicine,” their ancient book of medicine was used as a reference for centuries throughout the Islamic Empire. Islamic scientists expanded on the work of the Greek and Indian scientists. 

Literature And Philosophy

The paper was introduced for the democratization of information and the prospect of earning livelihoods through book writing and sales. In the 8th century, the use of paper migrated from China to Muslim regions and then to Spain in the 10th century.  The paper could perfectly record the information as it is difficult to erase ink. Islamic paper manufacturers produced assembly-line methods of hand-copying manuscripts to make editions far larger than any available in Europe for centuries. 

During the Ummayad and the Abbasid periods, Christians made important contributions to the Arab Islamic civilization by translating writings of Greek philosophers to Syriac and then to Arabic. Without the contributions of Arab translators into Arabic and Persian, many important ancient writings could have been lost. The text was later translated into Turkish, Hebrew, and Latin. Later, Arabic philosophical literature contributed to the formation of current European philosophy.

The well-known book from the Islamic world is The Book of “One Thousand and One Nights”, although the number and type of tales vary,  it took form in the 10th century and reached its final form by the 14th century. 

Also Read: Islamic Scholars in History

Islamic Ethics

Many Muslim scholars of the Middle Ages participated in rational, humanistic, and scientific discussions in the pursuit of values, ethics, meaning, and knowledge. Islamic writings on a wide range of subjects such as love, history, poetry, and philosophical theology, demonstrate how medieval Islamic thought was open to humanistic concepts like individualism, liberalism, skepticism, and occasional secularism.

However, society was governed by Islamic principles but religious freedom assisted in developing cross-cultural networks by bringing intellectuals from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. It contributed to the development of the Middle Ages’ most innovative philosophical era, which encompassed the eighth and thirteenth centuries.

The emphasis on freedom of speech during the Golden Islamic Age is  summed up by al-Hashimi (a cousin of Caliph al-Ma’mun) in a letter to one of his theological opponents whom he was trying to convert through reason:

“Bring forward all the arguments you wish and say whatever you please and speak your mind freely. Now that you are safe and free to say whatever you please appoint some arbitrator who will impartially judge between us and lean only towards the truth and be free from the empary of passion, and that arbitrator shall be Reason, whereby God makes us responsible for our rewards and punishments. Herein I have dealt justly with you and have given you full security and am ready to accept whatever decision Reason may give for me or against me. For “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) and I have only invited you to accept our faith willingly and of your own accord and have pointed out the hideousness of your present belief. Peace be upon you and the blessings of God!”

Pursuit of knowledge

Abbasid Caliphs Harun al-Rashid and his son, al-Ma’mun, who succeeded him, established a House of Wisdom in Baghdad, the place was dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship. During al-Ma’mun’s rule (813–833), the House of Wisdom expanded in use and prestige. He made particular attempts to bring renowned intellectuals to the House of Wisdom, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted and worked peacefully. 

The other dynasties of Muslims such as the Umayyads of al-Andalus and the Fatimids of Egypt were also major intellectual centers with cities such as Córdoba and Cairo rivaling Baghdad. The Islamic empire was the first “truly universal civilization,” which brought diverse people from India, the Middle East, China, North Africa, and Europe together for the first time. 


Many educational and scientific institutions have their origin in the Golden Islamic Age. Al Azhar University, one of the most famous and reputed universities in today’s modern world was founded in 975 CE in Egypt and offers a variety of academic disciplines and postgraduate degrees. It is considered the first full-fledged university. The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, founded in 859 CE is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world. The Medieval Madrasahs which taught Islamic law originated the doctorate. 

Many distinctive features of the modern library were brought to the Islamic world from serving as collections of manuscripts to libraries working as lending and public libraries. Libraries focused on scientific knowledge acquisition and distribution, meeting places for conferences, lodging for scholars, and occasionally boarding schools for students. Islamic libraries from the Islamic Golden Age were the first to embrace the idea of a library catalog, where books were organized based on particular categories and genres. The agency and aval (Hawala), the trust and charitable trust (Waqf), and the litigation and medical peer review constitute some of the legal groups that have been incorporated into Islamic law.

Also Read: 10 Oldest Universities in the World

Islamic Achievements in the Islamic Golden Age

Multiple achievements were made during the Islamic Golden Age. The following are; 

  1. Many medical instruments including forceps and scalpels were invented by Al Zahrawi, a surgeon who practiced in Spain and Cordoba. He contributed to the practice of medicine by writing a manual that benefited many doctors. 
  1. Muslims initially migrated paper from China, then learned from the Chinese prisoners how to make paper. This helped in preserving and increasing the knowledge of Muslims worldwide. They created modern world maps on paper which helped during traveling for their trade. 
  1. Learning institutions were established including teaching hospitals, madrasahs, mosques, and the House of Wisdom. The House of Wisdom became the center of the translation movement.
  1. The understanding and translation of the ancient scholarly work from China, Egypt, India, and Greece into Arabic.
  1. Muhammad ibn Musa developed algebra, decimal points, trigonometry, and more. Algebraic geometry was invented by Omar Khayyam. This paved the way for new thinking and development in mathematics.
  1. Jabir ibn Hayyan, the Father of Chemistry, developed many scientific experiments and chemical processes such as filtration, distillation, oxidation, crystallization, and more. 
  1. Al-Haytham invented the camera obscura in the 11th century and made significant developments in optics and astronomy. Technological advancements during the Golden Islamic Age were made by Al Jazari and Abbas ibn Firnas.
  1. Arabic language became the universal language at all levels of society throughout the Islamic World. 
  1. The illuminated manuscripts, glass, textiles, ceramics, and woodwork flourished during the Golden Islamic Age. Calligraphy became an essential element of written Arabic, and was used in architectural decoration and manuscripts. 
  1. Muslim scientists built observatories to study the sky during this period. Furthermore, they studied and used astronomy to create a calendar, navigation, and religious practices like navigating the direction of Mecca for prayer.

The End of the Islamic Golden Age

According to the conventional view of Islamic civilization, which holds the creative and dynamic dealing with issues, it started to struggle from the 12th century onwards to respond to the challenges and changes it faced during that time. A brief recovery was observed during the Ottoman Empire but the decline continued until its full fledged collapse.

Many attempts were made by numerous writers but no one seems to agree on the causes of the collapse of the Islamic Golden Age. The main causes of the decline were; the economic and political decline which led to poverty in the Islamic World, the disturbance of the equity cycle, which is based on Ibn Khaldun’s well-known Asabiyyah model (the rise and fall of civilizations),  natural disasters, foreign invasions by colonial powers (Crusades- 11th century, Mongol Empire – 13th century, Reconquista – 15th century, European colonial empires- 19th-century). All of these factors eventually led to the decline of the Islamic Golden Age. 

Also Read: 10 Ancient Civilizations


Islamic Golden Age saw the height of success from the middle of the 7th to the middle of the 13th Century. Many Muslim scholars emerged as the major contributors to the Islamic Golden Age. They have preserved knowledge about medicine, philosophy, astronomy, and many other fields. They translated the text into Arabic and Arabic was used as the universal language during this age. Many discoveries were passed on to Europe. Today’s modern world science is based on the discoveries of Jabar ibn Hayyan. Al Azhar University produces many scientific researchers and scholars every year. The Islamic Golden Age has provided Muslims with significant developments for their livelihood.


Why was it called the Golden Age?

The Islamic empire’s period is referred to as the Islamic Golden Age because it was a time of peace, prosperity, achievements, cultural production, and the political stability of the society. 

Was Baghdad in the Golden Age of Islam?

During the Islamic Golden Age of the 9th and 10th Century, Baghdad was the center of the Caliphate. 

Who ruled Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age?

During the Golden Age of Islam, Baghdad was ruled by Al-Mahdi (from 775 to 785) and his successor Hārūn al-Rashīd (from 786 to 809).

What were the inventions during the Golden Age of Islam?

There are many modern-day objects which were invented during the Islamic Golden Age including cameras, soap, cologne, and watches. Scholars of that time also laid the foundations for technologies including robotics and windmills. 

What are the major reasons for the decline of the Islamic Golden Age?

The major reason for the decline of the Golden Islamic Age is the invasion of the Mongols and the siege of Baghdad. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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