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Old April 1st, 2016, 11:00 AM   #1
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"Arabic Golden Age" myth vs. Ibn Khaldun - which is true?


This below was written back in the 1300s, by Ibn Khaldun. From page 199, chapter 25 of "The Muqaddimah":

https://asadullahali.files.wordpress...muqaddimah.pdf

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25. Places that succumb to the Arabs are quickly ruined.

The reason for this is that (the Arabs) are a savage nation, fully accustomed to savagery and the things that cause it. Savagery has become their character and nature. They enjoy it, because it means freedom from authority and no subservience to leadership. Such a natural disposition is the negation and antithesis of civilization. All the customary activities of the Arabs lead to travel and movement. This is the antithesis and negation of stationariness, which produces civilization. For instance, the Arabs need stones to set them up as supports for their cooking pots. So, they take them from buildings which they tear down to get the stones, and use them for that purpose. Wood, too, is needed by them for props for their tents and for use as tent poles for their dwellings. So, they tear down roofs toget the wood for that purpose. The very nature of their existence is the negation of building, which is the basis of civilization. This is the case with them quite generally.

Furthermore, it is their nature to plunder whatever other people possess. Their sustenance lies wherever the shadow of their lances falls. They recognize no limit in taking the possessions of other people. Whenever their eyes fall upon some property, furnishings, or utensils, they take it. When they acquire superiority androyal authority, they have complete power to plunder (as they please). There no longer exists any political (power) to protect property, and civilization is ruined.

Furthermore, since they use force to make craftsmen and professional workers do their work, they do not see any value in it and do not pay them for it. Now, as we shall mention, labour is the real basis of profit. When labor is not appreciated and is done for nothing, the hope for profit vanishes, and no (productive) work is done. The sedentary population disperses, and civilization decays.

Furthermore, (the Arabs) are not concerned with laws. (They are not concerned) to deter people from misdeeds or to protect some against the others. They care only for the property that they might take away from people through looting and imposts. When they have obtained that, they have no interest in anything further, such as taking care of (people), looking after their interests, or forcing them not to commit misdeeds. They often level fines on property, because they want to get some advantage, some tax, or profit out of it. This is their custom. It does not help to prevent misdeeds or to deter those who undertake to commit (misdeeds). On the contrary, it increases (misdeeds), because as compared to getting what one wants, the (possible financial) loss (through fines) is insignificant.

Under the rule of (the Arabs), the subjects live as in a state of anarchy, without law. Anarchy destroys mankind and ruins civilization, since, as we have stated, the existence of royal authority is a natural quality of man. It alone guarantees their existence and social organization. That was mentioned above at the beginning of the chapter.

Furthermore, (every Arab) is eager to be the leader. Scarcely a one of them would cede his power to another, even to his his father, his brother, or the eldest (most important) member of his family. That happens only in rare cases and pressure of considerations of decency. There are numerous authorities and amirs among them. The subjects have to obey many masters in connection with the control of taxation and law. Civilization, thus, decays and is wiped out.

'Abd-al-Malik asked one Arab who had come to him on an embassy about al-Hajjaj. He wanted him to praise al Hajjaj for his good political leadership (for the benefit of) civilization. But the Arab said: "When I left him, he was acting unjustly all by himself."

It is noteworthy how civilization always collapsed in places the Arabs took over and conquered, and how such settlements were depopulated and the (very) earth there turned into something that was no (longer) earth. The Yemen where (the Arabs) live is in ruins, except for a few cities. Persian civilization in the Arab 'Iraq is likewise completely ruined. The same applies to contemporary Syria. When the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym pushed through (from their homeland) to Ifrigiyah and the Maghrib in (the beginning of) the fifth [eleventh] century and struggled there for three hundred and fifty years, they attached themselves to (the country), and the flat territory in (the Maghrib) was completely ruined. Formerly, the whole region between the Sudan and the Mediterranean had been settled. This (fact) is attested by the relics of civilization there, such as monuments, architectural sculpture, and the visible remains of villages and hamlets.
This clearly contradicts the myth that Arabic expansion triggered some kind of "Golden Age" in the MENA region.

What do you think?
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Old April 1st, 2016, 03:04 PM   #2

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Not as versed at this part of history so anyone please feel free to help out. I do agree however with the author that a problem during the Muslim age was the many people in a position of power that did cause problems. As far as decay and ruin, they introduced a lot of things to the world.

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Old April 1st, 2016, 03:06 PM   #3

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Algebra was invented by Arabs and many advances in science were made by them too. Didn't the first person take flight during that age?

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Old April 1st, 2016, 03:58 PM   #4
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Is it possible that Khaldun actually meant the Beduin? That seems more true. what is Arab, anyway?
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Old April 1st, 2016, 04:14 PM   #5

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He does mean Bedouin. Ibn Khaldun is talking about the irreligious and anarchist nomads of the Arabian peninsula who in the 11th century began to move into Mesopotamia and Tunisia and devastated settled populations and rival tribes. He makes the distinction that religion inhibits Bedouin savagery and instills in them civilized virtues that resulted in the various Arab kingdoms of the past, including the caliphates of the golden age.
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Old April 1st, 2016, 06:20 PM   #6
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For a moment, I thought Ibn Khaldun talked about the future colonial powers.
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Old April 1st, 2016, 09:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannibal89 View Post
Algebra was invented by Arabs and many advances in science were made by them too. Didn't the first person take flight during that age?
The Muslim mathematicians who helped develop algerbra were Persian (i.e., non Arabic), such as Al-Khwarizmi. Much of the achievements of the achievements of the Islamic Golden age were done by non Arabic or sometimes even non Muslim scholars living in the Muslim dominated world.

Many of the areas conquered by the Arabs were advance and leading areas before the Arab conquest. While Arabic patronage did give the region an economic boost and promote advancement, the Middle-East was a region of technological advancement long before the Arabs took it over.

Last edited by Bart Dale; April 1st, 2016 at 10:03 PM.
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Old April 1st, 2016, 10:04 PM   #8
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Actually there WAS a Arab(Islamic) Golden Age. As many posters have already noted, Ibn Khaldun is certainly talking of Bedouins of Arabian peninsula who are desert-dwellers. During the early centuries of Islamic civilisation, the science, architecture, philosophy flourished in middle-East and Iran on a scale it had never flourished before in history. For example, from the Sassanid empire which ruled the Mesopotamian and Iranian region for many centuries, there are hardly any major works of science or philosophy or even architecture. Middle-eastern and Iranian societies of pre-Islamic times are very poor in every way, when compared with the early Islamic empires in terms of intellectual and technological achievements.

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Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
The many areas conquered by the Arabs were advance and leading areas before the Arab conquest. While Arabic patronage funded in part from Arabic plunder did give the region an economic boost, the Middle-East was a region of technological advancement long before the Arabs took it over.
Okay, then tell me the name of some major scientists and works on science that were produced in the Sassanian empire (which ruled the middle east before the Muslims)...

Last edited by Bhrigu; April 1st, 2016 at 10:12 PM.
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Old April 2nd, 2016, 04:15 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
The Muslim mathematicians who helped develop algerbra were Persian (i.e., non Arabic), such as Al-Khwarizmi. Much of the achievements of the achievements of the Islamic Golden age were done by non Arabic or sometimes even non Muslim scholars living in the Muslim dominated world.

Many of the areas conquered by the Arabs were advance and leading areas before the Arab conquest. While Arabic patronage did give the region an economic boost and promote advancement, the Middle-East was a region of technological advancement long before the Arabs took it over.
The point is that the Persians and other non-Arabs or even non-Moslem scientists and thinkers themselves were part of Arabic civilization after being conquered.

The Arabs would have been responsible for nurturing the environment and institutions which encouraged and enabled and took advantage of all this learning.
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Old April 2nd, 2016, 07:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by mansamusa View Post
The point is that the Persians and other non-Arabs or even non-Moslem scientists and thinkers themselves were part of Arabic civilization after being conquered.

The Arabs would have been responsible for nurturing the environment and institutions which encouraged and enabled and took advantage of all this learning.
Should we give the Mongol credit for the achievements made by Chinese while they were ruling ChinaI? That is a similar situation.

To get ahead, one would have to speak Arabic, and adopt some of the Arabic culture, but looking at the heartland of the Arabs, Saudi Arabia, and we find a lack of any significant achievements. Much of the achievements credited toward Arabs, such as Arabic numerals and much of the math, were really Indian achievements. The complex machinery that formerly the Arabs were given credit for we now know were part of a heritage from classical times that at best the Islamic world improved upon, as examples of the Antikythera mechanism shows. However, the Islamic world did make a number of major contributions on their own too, so we shouldn't mimize the Islamic Golden Age either.

There did appear to be some economic boost resulting from the Arab conquest, and such economic prosperity helps boost innovation, but the areas the Arabs conquered, such as Alexandria Egypt, had been among the leading technological areas of the world since Classical times. The Mideast, since the dawn of civilization, had been among the most advance areas of the world.

There was an "Islamic Golden" age, but the achievements were frequently made by non Arabs, so perhaps it is better to speak of an Islamic rather than "Arabic" golden age. But perhaps you are right, that since the Arabs create the environment and economic prosperity that promoted these achievements, perhaps we should call it "Arabic Civilization", even if they weren't done by Arabs.

Last edited by Bart Dale; April 2nd, 2016 at 07:20 AM.
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