Antiquity was an age if superstition: today we are in the age of science & technology. Before reaching its present day zenith, the modern scientific age had to pass through many stage. One of the first being the superstitious mentality that plagued civilisations of the past hindering their advances in these fields. The prevalence of polytheism, a creed which looked upon objects and creatures as deities, and encourage their worship presented many obstacles for scientific though, investigation and experiments in ancient times when polytheism dominated the entire world. Man considered the moon sun, stars, mountains, rivers, etc as gods. The moon with its brilliant silvery light inspired man to bow before it rather than try to conquer it. Holding the moon to be sacred was a major obstacle to even thinking of conquering it. Islam brought the removal of these backward mentalities and practices. Then, for the first time, in the 7th century, the supremacy of polytheism was brought to an end by the Islamic revolution, which replaced it with monotheism. The atmosphere for scientific observation did not exist prior to the coming of Islam, even in Europe and in ancient Greece. Many top thinkers were persecuted in ancient civilisations for supposedly going against God or gods. This attitude remained during the dominance of Christianity in Europe as with the torture and punishment of Galileo and many others by the Church proves. Many thinkers moved to lands ruled by Muslims which had a more positive attitude of study and investigate the natural world. Many advancements and contributions in various fields arouse by Muslims when Europe and the rest of the world were lurching in the Dark.
Islamic civilization experienced a golden age under the Abbassid Dynasty, which ruled from the 8th to 13th century. Under the Abbassids, Islamic culture became a blending of Arab, Persian, Egyptian, Turkish and European traditions. The result was an era of stunning intellectual and cultural achievements. During this time, Islamic scholars studied and translated Greek, Indian and Persian texts, and helped to further investigations in the areas of maths, science and medicine. The Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution in Europe drew upon the discoveries and contributions made by the Muslims in various fields of work. Yet these accomplishments often remain unappreciated.
Arts & Literature
According to the teachings of the Qur'an, Islamic artists were forbidden from using human figures in religious art. Therefore, they developed a style of geometric shapes and patterns that were used to decorate religious buildings such as Mosques. These geometric patterns usually contained verses from the Qur'an written in a stylized form of decorative handwriting called calligraphy. Islamic architects borrowed heavily from the Byzantine Empire which used domes and arches extensively throughout their cities. An example of this use can be seen in the Dome of the Rock, a famous mosque in Jerusalem. There were many different styles of Islamic literature. Most works were based on the Qur'an, but some Islamic artists wrote poetry about the joys and sorrows of love. Also, stories from other cultures were adapted and rewritten for Islamic civilization. The most famous collection is called The Thousand and One Nights, which is a collection of tales that includes such well known stories as Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. Islamic scholars also translated philosophic texts from a variety of cultures. These include works from China, India, and Ancient Greece. Scholarly commentary written about these texts influenced a variety of cultures, including European civilizations.
Maths & Science
Islamic scholars studied both Greek and Indian mathematics before making important contributions of their own. The most well known Islamic mathematician was al-Khwarizimi, who pioneered the study of algebra. In addition to his treatise on numerals, al-Khwarizmi also wrote a revolutionary book on resolving quadratic equations. These were given either as geometric demonstrations or as numerical proofs in an entirely new mode of expression. The book was soon translated into Latin, and the word in its title, al-jabr, or transposition, became algebra in English. His textbook on the subject became a standard in European universities for centuries. He is credited as being the founder of algebra and algorithm.
Distillation and many other physical and chemical processes were discovered in roughly the year 800. These discoveries were made by a foremost Muslim scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan. He also discovered many apparatus and other processes still in use today, and is thus considered the founder of modern chemistry. Islamic scholars were also skilled in astronomy. They studied eclipses, the rotation of the planets, and calculated the circumference of the earth. 500 years before Galileo came, Muslim astronomers thought the Earth was a sphere in shape, their calculations in the 9th century of the Earth circumference 40,253.4 km, were so accurate that is it within 1% of the current most accurate figures.
Many advances were also made in the field of medicine. They setup hospitals that had separate areas for trauma cases; this is the basis for today's emergency rooms. Physicians developed treatments for cataracts, used a variety of herbal remedies, and were adept at treating a variety of injuries. Islamic pharmacists were the first to mix sweet tasting syrups with medicine, ensuring that they would be taken. Many of the modern surgical instruments used today are the design of those innovated by the Muslim surgeon, al-Zahrawi in the 10th century. His medical texts shaped both Islamic and European surgical procedures for centuries, and is therefore known as the founder of modern surgery. Also, Ibn Sina, a famous Islamic physician, wrote a book called Canon on Medicine, which was an encyclopaedia of Greek, Arabic, and his own knowledge of medicine. This book became the standard medical text in Europe for over five hundred years, up until the 19th century.
Economic & Law
Under the Abbassids, a vast trading network was created which helped to spread religion, culture, and technology among the different peoples of the empire. New business practices such as, partnerships, the use of credit, and banks to exchange currency, were developed to handle the increase in trade. The establishment of such vast trading networks made the many nations within the Islamic Empire very wealthy, and helped to stimulate many of their cultural and intellectual achievements Islam also developed a system of law based on the Qur'an. This system was created to help people apply the Qur'an to everyday life and situations. The book of laws, called the Shariah, regulates all aspects of life including, moral behaviour, family life, business dealings, and government.
Oldest Educational Institutions
The University of Al-Karaouine is a university located in Fes, Morocco which was established in 1947. Its origins date back to 859, when it was founded as a mosque school. The madrasa has been (and still is) one of the leading spiritual and educational centres of the Muslim world. The Al Karaouine institution is considered by the Guinness book the oldest continuously operating academic degree-granting university in the world
Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. Al-Azhar is considered the world's second oldest surviving degree granting university.