List of contents:
- Ancient civilizations
- The ancient Egyptian civilization
- The ancient Greek civilization
- The Roman civilization
- Pre-Islamic Arabia
- Fifth and sixth centuries’ European civilization
- Islamic civilization
- Islamic culture
- The problem of rationality in Islam
- Science and philosophy in the Islamic Empire
- The verdict of Archeology
- The end of the classical civilization in Europe
- Selected Bibliography
Inspirationals from the Holy Bible:
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you'” (Jeremiah 31: 3); “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41: 10); “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You. Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39: 4-5); “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6: 9).
It is important to stress the historic fact that the rise of a great civilization does not indicate divine endorsement for its ideologies and religions. All the great ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Hindu, Greek and Roman civilizations, were based upon pagan religions that worshipped idols. The Roman Empire was pagan, and persecuted Christianity till the edict of Milan in 313 AD. In this respect, we need to remember the long decline of the Islamic world over the past 900 years with no end in sight, which represents a serious challenge to the claims of Islamic supremacy. It is a misnomer to call the civilization of the Islamic Empire “Islamic civilization” because many of its most distinguished authors were Christians, Jews and pagans.
Some claim that the classical civilization of the Western Roman Empire ended after the Germanic and Asiatic invasions of the fifth century, and that the fanatic leadership of the Roman Catholic Church effectively completed the destructive work of the Barbarians. This started the dark Middle Age in Europe, which ended with the Renaissance that commenced around the mid-fifteenth century.
The analysis herein shows that this version of the past is historically false. The historical reality is that when the Islamic Arab armies reached Spain and southern Italy in the eighth and ninth centuries respectively, they found a highly sophisticated Latin civilization rich in cities, agriculture, art and literature ruled by Romanized and Byzantinized Gothic kings. The Barbarians who occupied Western Europe in the fifth century did not destroy classical civilization. They rapidly adopted it after a short period of disruption, and shared in its benefits. By 500 A.D., virtually all the damage caused by the invasions of the fifth century had been repaired, and arts and sciences flourished. They preserved Roman civilization, fostering its language, art, law, customs, architecture and learning.
However, it is true that by the end of the seventh century, this flowering classical civilization came to a sudden end. The dark Middle Age had begun. Cities deteriorated; trade diminished; arts declined; illiteracy prevailed; and the feudal system got established fragmenting the kingdoms of Western Europe. The rise of Islamic Arab power did not save western civilization. Instead, it caused its decline, and terminated it. Islamic Arab power blockaded the Mediterranean Sea from the mid-seventh century. Islamic Arab pirates infested the sea. European trade with the Middle and Far East ceased. European kings lost much of their power as the taxable base of their wealth dried up. The flow of papyrus from Egypt to Europe ceased. Papyrus had fueled the economic and cultural life of Europe for centuries. This had a catastrophic effect on the levels of literacy in Western Europe.
In addition, continual aggressive Islamic wars started. The surviving European Christian nations were besieged and under sustained attack from the East and South by Islamic armies plundering, destroying and occupying. They were also under attack by the barbarian Vikings from the North motivated by the wealth to be gained from supplying the Islamic slave markets of Spain, North Africa and the Levant with white slaves. These adverse conditions impoverished Europe and militarized it. Continual Islamic piracy caused the rise of local warlords to protect the local populations, which weakened the central authority.
The following historical analysis provides examples of great ancient pagan civilizations. It expounds on conditions of pre-Islamic Arabia, and the European civilization of the fifth and sixth centuries before the rise of Islam. An analysis is then presented of the Islamic civilization, and the circumstances that ended the classical civilization in Europe.
II. ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
A. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CIVILIZATION
One of the most remarkable ancient civilizations in human history is the ancient Egyptian civilization which lasted more than three thousand years. It left for posterity major achievements: the great pyramids, the sphinx, the monumental temple at Karnack in Thebes, the massive rock temple of Abu-Simbel, colossal statues, smaller sculptures, wall decorations of the tombs, jewelry, etc. It produced religious literature, poetry, short tales, history, and elementary mathematical and astronomical works.
The ancient Egyptian civilization influenced Jewish and Greek art, and developed practical skills such as masonry, surveying, bookkeeping and accounting, metalworking, textiles, pottery, and embalming. It originated modern medicine. The ancient Egyptian religions were polytheistic. They called for the worship of several pagan deities, such as the sun-god Amon, Osiris (the judge of the dead), his sister Isis, etc. However, the pharaoh Ikhnaton (1375-1358 B.C.) was monotheistic. He preached the religion of Aton, the one sun-god. The ancient Egyptian religions emphasized the afterlife.
B. THE ANCIENT GREEK CIVILIZATION
The history of Europe and of the Western civilization begins with the Greeks. The Greek civilization dates back to about the seventeenth century B.C. It made great progress in the sixth through the fourth centuries B.C. It reached its maturity and golden age in the fifth century B.C. The Greeks left a rich legacy in architecture and sculpture on the Acropolis of Athens (the temple of the Parthenon, etc.), and in the sites of Delphi, Olympia, Corinth and many others. Greek temples are models of beauty and proportion. The Homeric epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey date back to the eighth century B.C. Greek comedy and tragedy, the first plays in western history, originated in local religious festivals during the sixth century B.C.
Major contributors to the Greek civilization include Hippocrates in medicine, Pythagoras in mathematics, Democritus in physics, etc. The Greeks invented philosophy. The earliest of their great philosophers was Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.) followed by Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.), and Aristotle (c. 384-322 B.C.). In his work, Aristotle laid the foundations for later progress in many disciplines, including biology, logic, literary criticism, political theory, and ethics. Democracy was introduced for the first time in history in the city-state of Athens in the late sixth century B.C. The Olympic Games is a world festival of sports inspired by the ancient Greek games held at Olympia until 393 A.D. Olympia is the location of the most important shrine of the ancient Greek god Zeus. The modern version of the Olympic Games was started in 1896 in Athens.
The religions of the ancient Greek world were polytheistic calling for the worship of several gods and goddesses. The most important deities were the sky-god Zeus (ruler of Olympus), his wife Hera (goddess of marriage), the virgin goddess Athena (learning and the arts), Apollo and his sister Artemis (sun and moon), Aphrodite (love and beauty), Ares (war), etc. Apollo’s shrine at Delphi was revered throughout the ancient Greek world. Unlike the emphasis of the ancient Egyptian religions on the afterlife, the Greek religions had not developed the concept of an afterlife.
C. THE ROMAN CIVILIZATION
The Roman Empire, including Byzantium in the East, lasted more than 1500 years. In the West, Roman civilization never died. Latin, the language of Rome, is the direct ancestor of the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian languages. The Roman civilization transmitted to other cultures the ancient Greek and Eastern cultures that might have perished without the Roman political order in the Mediterranean and the Roman hospitality. The Roman law, codified by the eastern Emperor Justinian in the sixth century A.D., shaped the legal systems of most European countries, particularly the Latin nations of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the republics of Central and South America.
The Roman civilization provided substantial advances in medicine (surgery, hospitals, etc.). Roman builders used concrete and large stones to construct extensive network of roads throughout the vast Roman Empire. The best of the Roman roads were stone-paved ten-to-twenty feet wide, with foundations several feet deep. A few of them are still in service today. Roman architecture is distinguished by its large size (the great amphitheater of Rome, called the Colosseum, completed in 80 A.D.), the frequent use of the round arch, and the dome roof (the Pantheon of Rome). The Roman acropolis for the great temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon was constructed of gigantic stones, each weighing 800-1000 tons, the largest hand-hewn stones in human history.
The golden age of Latin literature of Vergil (70-19 B.C.), Horace (65-8 B.C.), and Ovid (43 B.C.-17 A.D.) largely coincided with the reign of the first Roman emperor Augustus (27 B.C.-14 A.D.). The silver age followed, and lasted through the early part of the second century A.D. with such notable writers as Juvenal, Tacitus (the greatest Roman historian, 55-117 A.D.), the Plinys, etc.
The religions of the Roman Empire were polytheistic till the fourth century A.D. They adopted many Greek myths and legends, and identified the Roman gods with those of ancient Greece. The Greek god Zeus became the Roman god Jupiter; the Greek Hera, the Roman Juno; Ares, Mars; Aphrodite, Venus; Athena, Minerva; etc. The Roman Empire persecuted Christianity until the edict of Milan of 313 A.D. Christianity triumphed and became the official religion of the Empire in the fourth century A.D.
III. PRE-ISLAMIC ARABIA
Pre-Islamic Arabians excelled only in the one field of poetry. The Bedouin love of poetry was his one cultural asset. The oldest pieces of extant poetry were composed some one hundred and thirty years before the Islamic hijra of 622. The early poems were committed to memory, transmitted orally and finally recorded in writing during the second and third centuries after the Hijra. Imru’-al-Qays (d. 540) of Kindah is the most esteemed poet of that period. That poetry is poor in original ideas and in thought-provoking imagery, and lacking in universal appeal. Its horizon is local and limited. Translated into foreign language, it loses its value and appeal.
The most famous poems were known as the seven golden odes. In fact, it was the custom of poets and orators of that time to hang up their compositions on the Kaaba in Mecca for everyone to read and recite. That is why they were known as the hangings (al-Muallaqat). According to legend, each of these odes was awarded the annual prize at the fair of ‘Ukaz (between Nakhlah and Taif in al-Hijaz), and was inscribed in golden letters and suspended on the walls of the Kaaba in Mecca. The poet was not only the oracle, guide, orator and spokesman of his community, but also its historian and scientist.
The pagan Arabians developed no mythology, no theology, and no cosmogony comparable to that of the Babylonians. The Bedouins’ religion, like other forms of primitive religions, was animistic. The Bedouins’ astral beliefs centered upon the moon, in whose light they shepherded their flocks. Al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat, the daughters of Allah, the supreme moon god of Quraysh and pagan Arabia of Muhammad’s time, had their sanctuaries in al-Hijaz which became later the cradle of Islam.
Allah was the principal, though not the only, deity of Mecca. This name is found in inscriptions of the fifth century B.C. It also occurs in pre-Islamic Christian Arabic inscriptions of the sixth century in Syria. It was evidently a tribal deity of Muhammad’s tribe, Quraysh.
IV. FIFTH AND SIXTH CENTURIES’ EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION
Classical civilization declined from the beginning of the third century associated with a dramatic drop in the population of the western provinces of the Roman Empire. By the late fifth century, this decline was reversed thanks to the influence of Christianity. Cities expanded, and trade increased.
By the end of the fifth century, the entire territory of the Western Roman Empire was ruled by barbarian kings: Ostrogoths in Italy, Vandals in North Africa, Visigoths in Spain and Gaul, Franks in northern Gaul, etc. The Ostrogoths preserved the entire Roman administration, including the Senate and the judiciary. The Visigoths and Vandals also continued the Roman system of government in their territories. The entire administration was secular. Clergy did not occupy government offices. Kings did not depend on the Church for legitimacy. The cultural life remained unchanged in Western Europe throughout the fifth and sixth centuries. During that period, Europe experienced dramatic technical and scientific innovations, and advanced learning and scholarship. New agricultural and metal working techniques were introduced. Church building activities increased greatly. Although the Church was greatly respected, it was not an integral part of the state government. The political power of the kings was purely secular.
The Barbarian kings regarded the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople (the Eastern Roman Empire) as their chief. This process of byzantinization had begun even before the formal abolition of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D.
The countryside and the cities remained virtually unaltered. The cities grew and prospered under the Germanic kings. They were the home of merchants and artisans, and the centers of commerce and civil and religious administration. The population expanded. Trade within Western Europe and with the eastern Mediterranean was active and vigorous. The Germanic kings retained the Roman monetary system, thereby providing monetary unity in Western Europe. Under their reign, it was a money, not a barter economy. Indeed, the archeology of Western Europe, in general, with the exception of Italy, shows pronounced expansion of population, culture and trade during the latter half of the sixth century and the first half of the seventh.
Those centuries were a time of prosperity. Large amounts of gold coins were minted. The fundamental currency unit was the gold solidus. Only in Britain, the Anglo-Saxons used silver currency. Luxury items were imported into Western Europe in great quantities: fabrics, jewelry, spices, wines, etc. The retrogression due to the barbarization of manners did not cause a break with the former economic life of the Western Roman Empire. That wealth and power brought with it the flowering of literature and arts. Not only the German barbarians preserved the Roman civilization, but they also began to propagate it into regions outside the former Western Roman Empire in the east of Germany.
The Christian Church of the fourth through the sixth centuries was a bastion of scientific and theological learning. The Christian Church from its inception promoted love, forgiveness and peace. Its monasteries, especially in Ireland and the Scottish coast, became centers of diverse knowledge, not just centers of Christian reflections. Its monks copied and preserved all kinds of manuscripts. The monks of the Benedictine order of the sixth and seventh centuries in particular preserved for us the great bulk of the classical Greek and Latin literature of antiquity in the libraries of their monasteries. This heritage was never forgotten and lost, and was not, therefore, recovered after contacts with the Arabs in the Middle Ages. Christian Europe did not need to depend on Islamic Arabs to get reacquainted with its ancient cultural heritage.
The rule of Benedict required the monks to be committed to a life of work, study and prayer. They established schools and served as teachers and educators. They established the first hospitals in Europe, which provided free medical care to all. Monasteries also became sites of medical learning and research. They laid the foundations of the sciences of botany and biology. They developed new technologies, and introduced new crops, industries and production methods. They chose the wildest tracts of land to set up their monasteries, and reclaim it for cultivation for the first time.
It is a historic fact that Christianity had a positive effect upon learning in the fifth and sixth centuries. Latin and classical civilization expanded, grew and flourished in the sixth and early seventh centuries. It reached Ireland and England through the offices of Christianity. Greek and Roman literature became known and debated in these formerly barbarian distant lands. Churches and cathedrals, based on Roman and Near Eastern models, began to appear throughout the British Isles and in Eastern Germany.
The concept of human rights is rooted in the teachings of the Gospel. Christian leaders, such as Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) and John Chrysostom (d. 407) had condemned slavery and called for better treatment of slaves. Some Popes were former slaves (Clement I (92-99), Pius I (158-167), and Callixtus I (217-222)). The Church restored to slaves the rights of family and marriage. For a while, the number of slaves increased after the Germanic invasions. The Church intervened by redeeming slaves, legislating for their benefits in its councils, and setting an example of their humane treatment. By the ninth or tenth century, the Church had effectively ended slavery in Europe.
The art, architecture and technology of the Roman civilization survived almost unaltered into the fifth and sixth centuries. After a brief pause in building activity in the fifth century, it picked up in the sixth century. Gothic, Frankish and Vandal kings built great beautiful cathedrals and restored old ones. The most outstanding building of the sixth century was the great church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. When the Islamic invaders arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in 711 they were amazed by the size and great wealth of its cities of Seville, Cordoba, Merida, and Toledo, and by its magnificent palaces and cathedrals.
Although the Western Roman Empire succumbed to the Barbarian invasions, the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) did not. In fact, Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor (527-565), restored Imperial rule throughout Italy, North Africa and parts of Spain. The influence of Byzantium, the leader of Christendom, was all pervasive through the late fifth and sixth centuries. During the rule of Justinian, the glory of Rome was restored again. The Empire experienced flourishing of intellectual and artistic life, continuing interest in the natural sciences, medicine and mathematics, and codifying the Roman law which had a profound influence on European legal systems for centuries. The flourishing of literature and learning was not confined to the reign of Justinian, or to the eastern regions of the Empire. Justinian is accused of religious intolerance. However, neither him, nor any other Christian ruler of that age, resorted to violence against non-Christians. In fact, he repeatedly tried hard to find accommodation with the non-Chalcidonian Christians of Syria and Egypt.
In general, Byzantium was tolerant towards non-Christian religions. Justinian’s persecution of the Manicheans was primarily a political rather than a religious act. They were thought to be agents of the Persian enemy. Wars between Byzantium and Persia lasted for decades. Jews often took the side of the Persian enemy on the hope of gaining autonomy under Persian rule. Therefore, the relationship between the Byzantine Empire and its Jewish subjects continued to be strained.
V. ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION
A. ISLAMIC CULTURE
Islam is not tolerant because it makes it a duty upon Muslims to spread it by force of arms; because it prescribes the death penalty for the Muslim man that abandons it; because it oppresses and persecutes non-Muslims; because it legitimizes the plunder and destruction of pagan temples; because it legitimizes the killing and enslaving of pagans; etc.
Islam often tolerated the existence of Christians and Jews in conquered territories and called them dhimmis. They were required to pay a special tax, the jizya, in return for Muslim protection. The dhimmis were permitted to retain their faith and its practice. However, their enslavement and massacre, very often on the slightest pretext, were common. The dhimmis were oppressed second-class citizens in their ancestral homelands. So appalling were their conditions that, in the course of centuries, they shrank to small vanishing minorities in many regions in the Middle East and North Africa. In many cases, the Muslim rulers did not want the native Christians to convert to Islam in order not to lose the lucrative jizya income. The most important reason for Islam's begrudging acceptance of the continued existence of Jews and Christians was to use them as a servant population upon which the ruling Muslim elite with its troops could enjoy a dependent parasitical existence.
Toward the end of the tenth century, the position of Muslim women sank to the low inferior level we find in the tales of the “Arabian Nights” which represent the woman as a source of intrigue, base sentiments and trivial evil thoughts.
These pages explain the attitude of Islam towards holy war (jihad), women, and slavery.
Islam is violently anti-Jewish. The cause of Muhammad’s relentless hatred of Jews is that they refused to recognize him as their long-awaited Messiah. That was what changed his early friendship to them into violent hatred. Muhammad was responsible for the first Islamic massacre in the long bloody history of Islam—the massacre of the tribe of Banu Qurayza, the last Jewish tribe in Medina, in 627 AD. All the men of the tribe (800-900 men) were beheaded in cold blood (al-Ahzab 33: 26; Bukhari 4.52.280). Its wealth was looted. Its women and children were sold into slavery. This was followed by Muhammad’s attack on the Jewish tribe of Khaybar (Bukhari 5.59.512). Muhammad massacred the Jewish settlement of Bani-Mustaliq. The Qur’an claims that Jews were transformed into apes (al-Baqarah 2: 65; al-A’raf 7: 166), and Jews and Christians to swine (al-Ma’idah 5: 59-60)? It likens Jews to asses (al-Jum’ah 62: 5). It tells Muslims that Jews are cursed because of their unbelief (al-Ma’idah 5: 78). Muhammad claimed that Muslims will eventually exterminate the Jews in a global holocaust (Bukhari 4.52.177).
The first massacres of Jews in Europe took place in Spain. They were carried out by Islamists, not by Christians: the massacres of Cordoba, Spain in 1011, and Granada, Spain in Dec. 30, 1066 where about 4000 Jews were killed. Throughout Islamic history, Jews were subjected to violence and exploitation in the Islamic world.
Europeans learned from Islam Jew-hatred which characterized the Middle Ages. This dramatic change of attitude towards Jews was connected with the struggle against Islam. The Islamic rulers of Spain encouraged Jewish-Christian hostility, following the policy of “divide and rule.” Christians suspected Jewish collusion with Islamic rulers because many high officials employed by the caliphs were Jews. In addition, Jewish merchants were involved in selling European slaves into bondage in the Islamic world. This added fuel to the suspicion of collusion with Muslims. It reinforced the rumor encouraged by the Arabs that Jews had helped them conquer Spain. This distrust led to the massacres of Jews in Germany and Bohemia in 1096 A.D. at the launching of the first crusade. This was the first serious act of violence committed by Europeans against Jews in a tragedy that lasted centuries.
B. THE PROBLEM OF RATIONALITY IN ISLAM
Did Islam encourage science and art?
Rationalistic philosophy had begun to develop under the Mu’tazilite school of interpretation, which advocated the doctrine of a created, as opposed to uncreated, Qur’an. However, the Abbasid caliph Ja’far al-Mutawakkil (847-861) condemned the Mu’tazilite philosophy, thereby opening the door to its rival Ash’arite position founded by al-Ash’ari (d. 935). The Ash’arite doctrine has called for the concept of “Voluntarism” which holds that created objects have no inherent existence, and the god of Islam keeps recreating them anew every moment according to his arbitrary will. This led to the other Islamic irrational concept of “Occasionalism.” The Ash’arite doctrine has dominated Sunni Islam ever since. As a result, rational Islamic philosophy was lost forever.
The Persian Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111), one of the leaders of Islamic jurisprudence, rejected scientific reason and the laws of nature as a fallacy. He bitterly denounced Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and other Greek thinkers as non-believers. He denounced natural laws, the very objective of science, as a blasphemous constraint upon the free will of the god of Islam. He linked Islamic dogma with Islamic Sufi mysticism. He claimed in his thesis entitled “The Incoherence of the Philosophers” that all events in the universe are directly caused by the unpredictable will of the god of Islam, not necessarily adhering to any created natural laws of Physics (Occasionalism). Accordingly, the god of Islam simultaneously and continuously creates both the cause and its effect by his arbitrary will. This position resulted in the death of reason. It had catastrophic effect on the development of empirical science in the Islamic world. The god of Islam destroyed science. As a consequence, Muslims contributed almost nothing to scientific progress and human civilization since the dawn of the thirteenth century.
Averroes (Ibn-Rushd, 1126-1198), a famous Islamic judge in Spain, responded to al-Ghazali in his work “The Incoherence of the Incoherence.” All leading medieval philosophers, including Avicenna, Averroes, Moses Maimonides, and St. Thomas Aquinas warned against Occasionalism. However, mainstream Islam has accepted al-Ghazali’s Ash’arite views glorifying irrationality, which means that science in the Islamic world could develop only in opposition to a fundamental doctrine of Islam. In fact, according to Sharia (Islamic law), philosophy, and the sciences of the materialists are “unlawful knowledge” (Reliance of the Traveler, a7.2). Furthermore, Islamic law outlaws both music and artistic rendering of animate life (Reliance of the Traveler, r40.1, w50.1-8). It forbids all forms of human arts except calligraphy. Even Averroes (Ibn-Rush) argued that since the conclusions of reason contradicted Islamic revelation, they could not be true in any absolute sense. This position could never start a scientific revolution similar to that of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries’ Europe. Fundamentalist Islam (Wahhabis, Sudanese Mehdism, etc.) advocated by the strict Damascene theologian Ibn-Taymiyya (1263-1328) insists on the return to the unscientific primitive life of seventh century Arabia, and the oppressive Islamic Sharia, because the god of Islam does not have objective standards of good and evil. This makes any use of man’s rational faculties irrelevant.
Averroes was banished, and his books were burnt. He died in Morocco in 1198. Moses bin Maimonides (1135-1204), the great twelfth century Jewish philosopher of Spain, had to flee in order to escape the persecution of Almohads. Islamic religious censorship was imposed on most research disciplines with the exception of medicine and botany for their practical utility.
Islam impeded the progress of indigenous civilizations in the conquered territories. It sank them into a dark age. After the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, not a single center of learning (other than Islamic seminaries) was established for over seven centuries. The first modern universities were established only during the British rule. Islam suppressed innovation. A prime example is the printing press which reached Muslim lands in 1492. Islamic authorities banned printing because they believed that the Qur’an would be dishonored by appearing out of a machine.
Islam discouraged science, and persecuted scientists and philosophers often. Whatever little contribution to science and philosophy was made is owed to imperfect Muslims who were denounced as heretics (e.g. the Persian al-Razi (865-925), the Uzbek Avicenna (Ibn-Sina, 980-1037), Averroes (Ibn-Rush—1126-1198), Umar al-Khayyam of Persia (d. 1123), etc.). However, science developed for a while despite Islam. Muslim theologians declared that all scientific and philosophical inquiries were contrary to the will of the god of Islam, and repudiated it as a danger to the Islamic faith. Secular sciences were largely looked at as un-Islamic. Aristotelian philosophy with its commentaries of Avicenna and Averroes were studied in European universities in the twelfth century. However, they were totally ignored and not taught in the Islamic world which concentrated on the study of the Qur’an. The Islamic world rejected the Greek philosophical legacy, but Christianity sifted it for elements it found compatible. Medieval Christianity proved itself resilient, adaptive and open. Totalitarian Islamic theocracy crushed the flourishing civilizations found in Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and India.
Science developed in the Christian world, not in the Muslim world, because Christianity has believed in an orderly coherent consistent universe governed by the good Biblical Almighty God. Islam has believed in a god whose will is so absolute as to preclude the coherence and consistency of the laws of physics that govern the universe. Islam’s worldview was essentially inimical to science. Islam’s intolerance of innovation and non-Qur’anic learning brought about the quick demise of the Islamic civilization. When the Turks besieged Constantinople in the fifteenth century, they were compelled to get Europeans to cast for them the cannons they used to breach the walls of the city.
Constantinople recovered in the ninth and tenth centuries. In 863, the University of Constantinople was founded by Bardas. There was a rediscovery of the ancient Greek classics. By the end of the twelfth century, Europe had overtaken the Islamic world in virtually every field of science and technology, despite its late access to the technologies of China and India, and despite the fact that, a few centuries earlier, the Islamic armies had conquered all the great centers of Hellenic, Babylonian, and Persian learning of antiquity.
In contrast with the dogmatic stagnation of the Islamic world, science flourished in Christian Europe because assumptions derived from the Holy Bible were very different from those of the Qur’an. The Bible assumes that God’s laws of the created universe are natural, stable and unchanging reality. One of the basic guiding principles of the European Renaissance was expressed by the great scientist Isaac Newton when he stated that the examination of the physical universe is to reveal the majesty of the Biblical God’s design. Christianity believes in an orderly universe following fixed created laws that reflect the rationality of the Biblical God, its creator. The created laws of nature do not place limitations on the freedom of the Biblical God. In fact, human reason is derived from the divine intelligence of the Creator. Science investigates the natural causes of the operations of nature without trespassing the divine realm. Science discovers and elucidates divine providence, and expresses the human desire to know God.
The Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo Galilei in 1633 and placed him under house arrest. He was never imprisoned or tortured. He was never prevented from pursuing his studies. The ultimate source of his conflict with the Church was that he left the field of science and entered the realms of philosophy and theology. He ridiculed the Roman Catholic Thomist philosophy. Galileo presented himself as a rebel theologian provoking the condemnation of his theological pretensions. He was not condemned for his scientific theses, but because he wanted to formulate theology. He did not make a distinction between science and philosophy. In fact, the Catholic Church played a pivotal role in the development of the university, science, free market economy, secular legal codes, charitable institutions, etc. A good number of European scientists were clergymen.
C. SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN THE ISLAMIC EMPIRE
It is a widely held belief that the Islamic civilization experienced a golden age in the seventh through the tenth centuries (650-950) when science and art flowered. It is claimed that Islamic scholars preserved the masterpieces of classical Greek and Roman civilizations, and subsequently transmitted them again to Europe. According to this claim, the European Renaissance started in Spain, not in Italy. Supporters of this claim list the supposedly great achievements of the Arab and Muslim scientists. They mention the contributions of the Persian al-Tabari (838-923) in history, the Hispano-Arab Averroes (Ibn-Rushd, 1126-1198) in philosophy, the Uzbek Avicenna (Ibn-Sina, 980-1037) in medicine, al-Kindi (801-873) in philosophy, the Persian al-Biruni (973-1050) in astronomy and medicine, the Persian al-Razi (864-930) in medicine and alchemy and Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) in optics. The latter is considered the father of the modern scientific method.
Are these claims true? Or are they mere fictitious exaggerations?
Certainly, the early Islamic world was very wealthy because of the vast territories the Islamic Arab armies conquered by 650 AD, from North Africa in the West to Persia and Afghanistan in the East. They controlled the wealth and civilizations of the ancient centers of culture and populations. They acquired vast wealth through taxes and plunder, including looting churches, temples and even the tombs of pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. They controlled large mines of silver in Khorasan, east of Persia, and in Transoxiana, between Kashmir and the Aral Sea. They also controlled the gold mines of Nubia, south of Egypt. Despite that wealth, after a very intensive thorough archeological search, no evidence has been discovered pointing to large metropolis in Baghdad and Cordoba of Andalusia.
For a while, some early liberal Muslim rulers of the Abbasid dynasty encouraged centers of learning. However, the sciences of practical nature, especially medicine, liberal arts and literature, were not valued. This was the time when the Islamic world was the leader in science and scholarship. Scientific and philosophical treatises were developed. Arab-speaking scholars were in possession of many classical texts not readily available in Europe. These scholars made important contributions in various fields of science. They achieved progress only in certain areas of knowledge (e.g. astronomy and medicine) which did not require general theoretical foundation. As time passed, even this progress ceased. However, the Arabs learned from China the crucial technologies of making paper, the compass, etc. between the eighth and eleventh centuries.
The Arabs never had a civilization of their own. The Arabs who invaded neighboring regions were mostly illiterate and semi-literate nomads. They conquered Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia—the earliest seats of civilization in the whole world. They permitted the learning centers of these regions to continue, at least for a while. In addition, Persia in particular was a conduit through which flowed the science and technology of the great civilizations of the Far East from India and China (e.g. the compass, paper, the use of zero in mathematics, gunpowder, etc.). The Europeans gave most of these technologies Arab names because it reached them from Arab controlled territories. Had the Islamists not cut off the trade routes to India, Europe would have obtained these innovations independently of the Islamic world, and probably sooner.
Alcohol had been distilled in Babylonia prior to the Islamic Arab conquest. The Persian al-Khwarizmi (780-850) did not invent algebra. The Greek mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria (3rh century) invented it based on the knowledge of the Babylonians. The fifth century Indian mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata was the source of the astronomical ideas attributed to al-Zarkyal and al-Farabi. He also produced works on arithmetic, geometry and algebra.
Most of the scientists and philosophers in the Islamic Empire were neither Arabs nor Muslims. They were Christians, Jews and pagans known by Arab names, who worked under Muslim rulers and learned the Arabic language. They continued to practice their own faiths, but were compelled to publish their work in the Arabic language. Most of the Arabic philosophical works were written by Jews. In addition, most of the Arabic literature of that period was produced by non-Arabs. The basis of the famous “Arabian Nights” was an ancient Persian work, Hazar Afsana (thousand tales), that contained several stories of Indian origin. The world’s first university was the Assyrian school of Nisibis, not al-Azhar of Cairo, Egypt.
Aristotle’s work was introduced to the Arabic-speaking world by a fifth-century priest of Antioch called Probus. Nestorian Christians translated into Arabic in the eighth and ninth centuries the whole corpus of Greek scientific and philosophical knowledge. Greek and Persian science and philosophy shaped the Arabic civilization. The improvements brought about by Muslim scientists to the Greek science were never substantial. The leading early head of the Baghdad school, called the House of Wisdom and established in 830, was the Nestorian Christian Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873). He translated many works of Aristotle, Galen, Plato and Hippocrates into Syriac. His son followed up by translating them into Arabic. The Syrian Christian Yahya ibn ‘Adi (893-974) also translated works of philosophy into Arabic, and wrote his own. There is much evidence that, instead of encouraging their efforts and scholarship, their Muslim masters viewed it with the deepest suspicion.
The few Muslim scholars were mostly not Arabs (the Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi (may have been Zoroastrian—780-850), the Uzbek philosopher Avicenna (ibn-Sina—980-1037), etc.). In fact, a great deal of Islamic knowledge was in reality of Persian origin. The scholars of Persia founded the literature and science of Islam. Persia imposed its customs, values and traditions on its conquerors. The Persian civilization triumphed over Arab barbarism. It conquered its conquerors. The Abbasid caliphate revived Persian despotism and used Persian titles, wines, songs and wives.
The classical Muslim historian Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1395) recorded the destruction of the Persian state library after the capture of the Persian capital Ctesiphon in 637. The guided caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote to the Muslim commander about the manuscripts of the library saying: “Throw them into the water. If what they contain is right guidance, god has given us better guidance. If it is error, god has protected us against it.” Libraries declined as a general institution in the Islamic world starting around 1100 AD. When Salah al-Din conquered Egypt from the Fatimids in 1169, he ordered the destruction of entire libraries or the distribution of its manuscripts among his troops as booty. Islamic invaders destroyed the Sanskrit college at Vishaldev, Gujarat, India in 1196, and the Buddhist center of education at Nalanda in 1200 with its libraries.
Muslim Arabs had no interest in the histories and cultures of the great ancient civilizations they conquered. They most likely engaged in deliberate destruction of ancient manuscripts stored in libraries and monasteries. In fact, by the eighth century, they had no idea about who constructed the Great Pyramids and monuments of Egypt despite the fact that this knowledge had been widely available in the classical writings of Herodotus and Diodorus whose works were in the great libraries of Egypt and Babylonia. Islamic chronicles in Egypt attributed the building of the pyramids to genie-kings. The Muslim poet and mathematician Umar al-Khayyam of Persia (d. 1123) believed that a mythical genie-king built both the pyramids of Egypt and the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, the capital of kings Darius I and Xerxes.
Muslim rulers began to systematically plunder the ancient monuments of Egypt, including the tombs of the pharaohs. Salah al-Din, the Muslim hero, plundered the smaller Giza monuments for their cut-stone which he used to construct the citadel at Cairo (1193-1198). His successor son, al-Aziz Uthman, made a determined effort to demolish the Great Pyramid of Egypt. He stripped the outer casing of smooth lime stone blocks which were covered with historically invaluable inscriptions, but could not destroy the pyramid because of the great cost. After all, the dead pharaoh defeated him!
D. THE VERDICT OF ARCHIOLOGY
The period from the seventh to tenth centuries used to be regarded as the Islamic Civilization’s Golden Age. From the eleventh century onwards, the Islamic world began to fall rapidly behind the West. Massive archeological search throughout the Islamic territories from Spain to Iran for more than a hundred years discovered very little above or under the ground pointing to remains from the Islamic civilization of the alleged Islamic Golden Age (650-950).
For example, in the whole of Egypt, only two mosques located in Cairo thought to be built before the eleventh century: Amr bin al-As mosque (641), and Ahmed bin Tulun mosque (878). However, the latter’s dating is controversial because it has features found only in mosques of the eleventh century. The design of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was copied from Byzantine models and built in 691 AD by Byzantine craftsmen in the reign of the Omayyad caliph Abdul-Malik ibn-Marawan. In North Africa, the great mosque of Qairawan (mosque of Uqba) survived after several major reconstructions ending in the ninth century.
Another example is the results of the archeological search in Spain. The mosque of Cordoba is the only Islamic structure in Spain dating from before the eleventh century. But this mosque is not an Islamic construction. It was originally the Visigothic cathedral of St. Vincent, which was converted to a mosque supposedly by Abd er-Rahman I. However, most likely, the conversion occurred in the reign of Abd er-Rahman III (later tenth century). In fact, most of the Islamic features in the structure belong to the period of his reign. After exhaustive excavations in Cordoba over more than seventy years, only the following was found: the south-western portion of its wall, a small bath complex, and a part of the Umayyad mosque (eighth-ninth century). This means that the fabulously wealthy cultured Cordoba of Andalusia is not a historical fact. It is a mere Islamic myth.
Again, intensive archeological search has not uncovered any evidence pointing to a large metropolis in Baghdad’s area. The spiraling minaret of the great mosque of Samarra, Iraq (851) remains. The mosque was destroyed in 1278 after the Mongol invasion of Hulago Khan. The early Islamic centers that provide substantial remains from the seventh to the tenth centuries are in Persia (Samarra, Seraph, etc.). It appears that the islamization of the former Zoroastrian territories of the Sassanid Empire was far less violent than the islamization of the Christian Byzantine lands.
The fact that archeology found very little remains of the alleged Islamic civilization’s Golden Age proves that Islam was not a flourishing cultured civilization that lasted several centuries.
VI. THE END OF CLASSICAL CIVILIZATION IN EUROPE
All aspects of Roman classical civilization connected with the highly cultured centers of the East disappeared quite suddenly throughout Europe and North Africa after the destructive Islamic Arab invasions between the mid-seventh and early eighth centuries. This was the result of the termination of the centuries long trade and cultural contacts with the eastern and western Mediterranean. Spices imported from India, China and Arabia; and silk, gold and papyrus disappeared from Europe almost completely by the middle of the seventh century. The loss of papyrus supplies had a devastating effect on European culture. Europe had to fall back on the tremendously expensive parchment. Precious parchment was used several times after erasing ancient texts, which resulted in the disappearance of some Greek and Latin masterpieces. The European money-based economy began to disappear and was replaced by a local barter-based economy. The gold currency disappeared and was replaced by a very much reduced silver coinage.
The Islamic conquests of North Africa and Spain started a reign of terror which lasted centuries. It destroyed the Roman irrigation works, or allowed them to deteriorate, and established in their stead a nomadic pastoral economy. It ushered in an unprecedented wave of banditry and piracy in the Mediterranean. Fleets of Islamic pirates and slave traders brought continual devastation to the coastal regions of Italy, Spain, southern France, Greece and the Mediterranean islands without respite for almost a thousand years. This brought about the abandonment throughout Southern Europe of the agricultural and commercial settlements, and the retreat to strongly defended hilltop fortifications—the first medieval castles. However, one type of trade survived: the slave trade. Male and female white-skinned slaves were highly sought after in the Islamic Caliphate. The males were generally castrated and employed in the various offices of eunuchs. The females were placed in harems. It is estimated that, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, Muslim pirates from North Africa (Barbary pirates) captured and enslaved between one million and one million and quarter Europeans.
The impact of Islamic invasions in the seventh and eighth centuries was devastating. They unleashed a flood of anarchic violence a lot more destructive than that of the wars waged by the barbarian Huns and Vandals. They fostered a general climate of banditry and lawlessness. The Islamic war of jihad against Christian Europe was a war without end and without rules, which raged for many centuries without respite. Rome and Constantinople were attacked several times. The Byzantine Empire lost some of its most prosperous provinces, namely Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa. These losses reduced it to less than half of its former size both in area and population. The battles for Spain raged for centuries. The Mediterranean, previously a commercial life line, became a dangerous frontier. All trade between Europe and the East was terminated. Repeated pillage and plunder of European coastal towns and cities took place. The Islamic slave trade flourished. It was Islamic piracy, much more than regular war activities, which ended the classical urban civilization of antiquity, and began the different Medieval Europe. The Mediterranean remained a very dangerous sea for all merchant shipping until the early nineteenth century.
The raids of the Scandinavian Viking pirates in Northern Europe coincided with the Islamic threat from the south. The Vikings supplied the Islamic Empire with eunuchs, slaves and concubines—heathen slaves from Russia. Some Western rulers got involved in the slave trade in a desperate effort to raise funds to fend off Viking and Hungarian attacks.
Learning, the arts and sciences declined in Europe in the Middle-Ages. Thinking moved away from Greek and Roman rationality towards simplistic and literalistic interpretation and understanding of all things. This was caused by the influence of Islam that taught that faith and reason are fundamentally incompatible. Influenced by the anti-image prejudice of Islam, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered in 726-730 the removal of all sacred images throughout the Empire. This started the famous iconoclasm controversy which caused great divisions within the Empire.
Islam had a significant cultural and ideological impact upon Europe in the early Middle-Ages. Christians learned from Islam the concept of holy war (jihad) which is not a Christian doctrine. Belief in black magic, witchcraft, astrology, sorcery, and the power of Satan and his demonic agents became the defining features of the culture of the Medieval Age. The real ideological influence of Islam on Europe, culturally and economically impoverished by Muslim piracy and wars, was not the enlightened thinking of Avicenna (Ibn-Sina) and Averroes (ibn-Rushd) who were expelled from the Islamic culture and dogma, but the darker thinking from the Qur’an and Hadith: the doctrines of the Holy War (jihad) against non-believers, the death punishment for the Muslim apostate and heretic, raping female slaves and war captives, torture, theocracy, etc.
Islam institutes the death penalty for Muslim men that leave it (apostates). All the Church Fathers condemned the use of force against heretics. However, the Christian practice of Medieval Europe was influenced by the Islamic position. The Islamic Berber Almohads, the rulers of Spain and North Africa (twelfth-thirteenth centuries), established a commission of inquiry (inquisition) for eliminating apostates. Many Jews were forced to accept Islam. Doubting their sincerity, Almohad inquisitors took away their children and raised them as Muslims. In establishing his own inquisition fifty years later, Pope Innocent III was directly imitating the example of Almohads in Spain. In 1487, a papal bull named Malleus maleficarum (hammer of the witches) was issued imposing the death penalty for witches and Satanists. The later Spanish inquisition which resulted in severe oppression of Muslims was attributable to the fear of renewed Islamic invasion of Spain by the Ottomans and the possibility that the native Muslims would support the Islamic invaders.
European kings were weakened by the loss of an important source of their tax revenue due to the Islamic blockade of the Mediterranean trade, and by the rise of the military power of local barons to defend the southern shores of Europe against the continual raids of the Islamic Mediterranean pirates. Therefore, kings needed the support of the Church to strengthen their position. The kings of medieval Europe became subordinate to the Pope, and depended heavily upon the Church for the daily running of the state bureaucracy. The Papacy had the power to choose and depose them. One of the most powerful medieval theocrats was Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). Islam contributed to the rise of medieval European theocracy. Islam instituted theocracy from its very beginning. Muhammad, its prophet, exercised both spiritual and temporal powers. The caliphs followed in his footsteps after him.
Despite the negative Islamic influence on Europe of the Middle Age, the Christian message of love and mercy kept burning bright. It was the guiding light in the darkness of that age. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Church protected the basic human rights of the peasants (the serfs), of which their lords wanted to deprive them. The monasteries provided shelter and medical care for the destitute. It was due to many courageous churchmen that the practice of enslaving the native inhabitants of the New World was finally ended.
The dominant social system in Medieval Europe was feudalism. It was characterized by fragmentation of power and authority. The noble lords and barons (aristocracy) maintained a great deal of independence from the central government of the king. The nobles held vast lands, provided military service to the king, and protected their vassals and obtained from them labor and a share of the produce of the land. Peasants were subjected to burdensome rents and labor obligations. Courts ceased to establish justice for the population, and became instruments of private aristocratic power. The groundwork for the feudal system was carried out in the period of the Gothic and Frankish kingdoms. However, the complete disintegration of central authority, and the fully developed feudalism occurred in the second half of the tenth century.
The need for local protection against the small raids that appeared suddenly and disappeared quickly gave rise to the local warlords. In northern Europe, the rise of feudalism was in response to Viking raids. These raids were largely motivated by the Muslim desire for European slaves. In southern Europe, the rise of feudalism was to provide protection against the Islamic raids.
Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492 that discovered America was intended to discover a direct route to the East Indies in order to reach India by sea bypassing Islamic territories to open a trade route to the East. The conquistadors took to America what they learned from the caliphs, the emirs, and the Moorish kings: the barbarous practices of destroying everything, taking slaves, forcing labor, living off the conquered population (parasitism), etc. Most of these excesses were carried out by individual adventurers, over whom the royal and Church authorities had little control.
Islam was not the cure for the Dark Age in medieval Europe, but its cause. Islam brought about the dark Middle Age in Europe. It did not end it. Islam terminated classical civilization in Europe. It did not lay the foundations for Europe’s Renaissance of the fifteenth century. The written history, including Arab chroniclers’ writings, and archeological discoveries emphatically prove that the Roman civilization flourished in Europe, the Levant and North Africa till the rise of Islam in the early seventh century. It is a historical fact that Islam gave modern science no impetus at all. Neither did it revive the arts and sciences of a barbarous Europe.
War in general causes destruction, and perpetual wars cause desolation and ruin. The continual Islamic military threat caused the militarization of Europe. Surrounded by aggressors bent on its destruction, with whom it was impossible to make honorable peace, Christians had to take up arms. The Mediterranean was closed by Islamic wars and piracy for a thousand years. Islamic jihad taught Christian Europe the concept of holy war, which is alien to Christianity. This ideology caused the rise of the crusades.
All the negative Medieval European attitudes had appeared first in Islam. This includes intolerance of other faiths, distrust of reason and rationality, hostility toward Jews, etc. While the medieval European theocracy was not the result of direct imitation of the Islamic theocracy, Islam contributed to its birth. Islamic law (Sharia) decreed the punishment of death to the Muslim apostate and the heretic. No such doctrine ever existed in Christianity. However, under Islamic influence, the Roman Popes declared their new doctrine calling for capital punishment for dissenters. In addition, torture which was normal practice in Islamic lands began to be used in Europe.
It was only during a relatively tolerant Abbasid/Persian period of about 150 years that the arts and sciences flourished in the Islamic Empire. By the end of the tenth century, the continual wars and piracy of Islamic forces caused medieval Europe to become markedly inferior to the world of Islam in science and technology. It began to emulate what it found in Islamic controlled territories. However, by the middle of the twelfth century, backward Europe caught up. And by the end of the twelfth century, it took the lead in civilization—a lead it has never relinquished. History declares that modern science is an invention of medieval Christianity. The scientific method and empirical naturalism were developed in Europe, not in the Islamic world, and blossomed into the scientific revolution.
The decline of the Byzantine Empire from the twelfth century onward, and the fall of its capital Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks resulted in the emigration of Greek scholars to Western Europe seeking refuge. Western universities were flooded with Greek philosophers and scientists. This led to the rediscovery of classical philosophy and literature, and to an unprecedented intellectual and cultural surge. From the late fifteenth century, Greek language and scholarship became an integral part of Renaissance humanism.
Some historians estimate that about 75% of the Greek classics (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) were known in Western Europe through Byzantine copies. In addition, some of these works reached Europe through Moorish Spain. Europe obtained the bulk of the classics from its monasteries and Byzantine scholars, not from Islamic lands. Latin versions of a number of Greek works (Euclid, Ptolemy) came to Europe from translations from the Arabic version. However, most of Aristotle’s works were translated directly from the Greek. The Greek heritage did not reach Europe through Islamic lands; rather it came directly to the West without the few Islamic philosophers playing a major role in its transmission.
Al-Hijaz, the center of Islam, has been stagnating since the eighth century. Mecca did not produce a genius in the past fourteen centuries. Cultures are eventually annihilated under Islamic rule because they are considered un-Islamic. Cultural genocide is what Islamic jihad (holy war) in all its forms seeks to accomplish in order to remove the obstacles to the realization of the primitive Islam of seventh century Arabia according to the Islamists’ belief? Thus the Muslim Arabs undermined classical civilization and its literary heritage in Europe by economic blockade and piracy, whilst they destroyed it deliberately and methodically in the Middle East.
The Islamic Empire had controlled the territories of the ancient most-enlightened technically-advanced settled urban Middle Eastern civilizations with their wealth, learning and technologies, including Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and parts of India. In addition, through Persia, it received vital Chinese and Indian discoveries, including the compass, gunpowder, paper, the Indian numeric system, etc. What did it do with this vast knowledge? Whatever genius came out of the Islamic Empire was the final echo and afterglow of the splendors of the pre-Islamic past of the conquered civilizations. The golden age of an Islamic conquest is actually the final phase of the former conquered civilization, which is completely extinguished under the weight of the oppressive Islamic theocracy after a couple of centuries of Islamic rule. The decline of the Islamic civilization is easily explained by the demographic decline of the oppressed dhimmi populations which had provided the principle engines of technical and administrative competence. The Islamic civilization is a parasitical civilization which eventually kills its host. Without new conquests, it dies.
After Islamic rulers had stripped the civilizations they conquered of its material and intellectual wealth, the Islamic world went into stagnation and intellectual decline from which it has not yet recovered. By the twelfth century, all the territories of the great ancient civilizations under Islamic rule accelerated its downward spiral into intellectual stagnation, cultural impoverishment, economic decline and poverty. In fact, the populations of Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and North Africa began a long catastrophic decline. Large fertile regions were deserted and reduced to wasteland, thanks to Islamic banditry which made life outside the protective walls of cities very dangerous. This deterioration continued until the coming of the Europeans in the nineteenth century. The wasting of the rich heritage of ancient civilizations, economic and cultural decline and poverty were caused by the Islamic ideology which sanctifies war and plunder, and rejects rationality. This inevitably leads into one direction, cultural and economic bankruptcy.
In the first half of the twentieth century, most Islamic lands were living under European rule. Presently, Islamic nations are clustering toward the bottom of the world in all aspects—military power, political stability, economic prosperity, corruption, human rights, literacy, longevity, etc. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s total population. However, they constitute more than half of the people living in abject poverty worldwide.
VIII. Selected Bibliography
Brinton, Crane; Christopher, John B. and Wolff, Robert L. A History of Civilization. Vol. I & II. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967.
D’Souza, Dinesh What’s So Great about Christianity. Carol Stream, ILL.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008.
Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1970.
Jenkins, Philip. The Lost History of Christianity. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008.
al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib. Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. Trans. N. M. Keller. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1994.
O’Neil, John J. Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization. Felibri Pubs., 2010.
Saunders, J. J. A History of Medieval Islam. London, U.K.: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1965.
Scott, Emmet. Mohammad and Charlemagne Revisited. Nashville, Tennessee: New English Review Press, 2012.
Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002.
Spencer, Robert. Religion of Peace? Why Christianity is and Islam isn’t. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007.
Ibn-Warraq. Why I am not a Muslim. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003.