By Bernie on 19 Mar 2006
If you asked a Jew, "Name a great period of Jewish creativity and learning?" he would be hard put to come up with a singular answer. One could choose 1000 BC and the Time of King Solomon with the beginning of Israelite historiography and Jewish Law.
Or 600 BC when the Israelite Religion turned into Judaism under the great Deuteronomic Reform instituted in the reign of King Josiah of Judah.
Or during the Babylonian Exile with the completion of redaction of Torah.
Or the first few centuries A.D. and the beginnings of the Mishnah.
Or 1135 A.D. and Maimonides whose works are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and study.
Or any one of hundreds of generations of great Jewish Learning and Scholarship.
But when Arabs are asked to recount great periods of Arab scholarship and learning they can only point to a brief and quickly extinguished burst of light; in the book Le Soleil d'Allah brille sur l'Occident : Notre héritage arabe we read (translated):
The Spice of Daily Life. Or, Arab Names for Arab Gifts.
"Might I invite you to have something with me in this café? Take off your jacket and sit down here on this sofa, unless you would rather sit on the divan with the crimson mattress, of course. Would you like a cup of coffee – with one sugar lump or two? Or perhaps a nice cool carafe of lemonade, or even something alcoholic?
"But of course! Let me buy you lunch! I think artichokes would be a lovely starter, don't you? And how about capon with rice and spinach to follow? For dessert, what would you say to a piece of apricot tart, or an orange sorbet? And at the end of the meal we'll have a cup of mocha.
There is no reason, of course, for any of these things to appear in any way strange or exotic to you – they have been part of our daily life for such a long time. But did you know that they were all borrowed from a foreign culture, namely Arab culture? This café and the demitasses of coffee they serve, the sugar without which any menu would be almost unimaginable, the lemonade and the carafe, the jacket and the mattress, we owe them all to the Arabs. And it doesn't stop there: in most European countries, these things are known by their Arabic names! And the same goes for candy, bergamot, oranges, sherbet and many other good things besides.
So here we learn of great literature and poetry the story of 'a thousand and one nights': a thousand years ago.
The contributions to mathematics and physics? A thousand years ago. And even here, we often see Muslims pointing to Arabic numerals as some sort of proof that Arab Muslims made some significant advances in mathematics. Arabic numeral is a misnomer, in actual fact they should be called Hindu numerals.
We learn that Ibn Muqla, Vizir at Baghdad and the "prince of calligraphers", codified the proportions of letters to be respected in handwriting and calligraphy, a thousand years ago.
We learn of the architectural advances such as The Great Mosque of Cordova where we discover its gabled roofs are Syrian. Byzantium provided the mosaics. The vaults are of Tunisian inspiration and the arches Iranian, while the alternation of stone and brick is a Roman invention. Again, a thousand years ago.
Arab contributions to medical science were legion, encouraged by the construction of hospitals in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Samarkand and elsewhere, over a thousand years ago.
Advances and discoveries in astronomy, chemistry, and philosophy from Bagdad to Cordova, all over a thousand years ago.
These are all wondrous and marvelous, but, under Islam, Arabs have not advanced for the past one thousand years. See my previous articles on the paucity of Nobel Prize winners in a world filled with 1.5 billion Muslims ( of which over 300 million are Arabs).
I also noted that Jews had 169 Nobel Laureates despite being a fraction of a percent of world population (1/5 of 1%).
This post began with Arab words in modern life. Oranges and sugar. But what of modern additions since 1000 AD? What about words such as Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Atomic Structure, chemotherapy, megahertz? Concepts that changed the world? Not Arab.
Psychoanalysis, Baeyer Aspirin, modern banking, Hollywood, in fact the entire modern entertainment industry. Not Arab.
The real problem with the lack of Arab invention and discovery is that so much of the modern world's inventions, discoveries, art, entertainment, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, economics, are, to use their dirty word: Jewish. Perhaps this is why they hate the Jews so much. Not because Jews took 1/167th of Arab land away, but because they make Arabs with 167 times as much land look so impotent and ignorant.
As for what have Jews done lately: In the past 10 years there were 10 Jewish Nobel Laureates in Physics. As for what have Arabs done lately? They imported the concept of zero from the Hindus over a thousand years ago.
But surely today's Muslims must be adding something to the body of modern scientific knowledge, no? No. Here we see Modern Islam's highest achievements: The denial of almost every scientific advance.
I think Arabs (90% of whom are Muslim) and Muslims need to get rid of the heavy weight holding them back as a modern people and culture: Islam.
We have come to learn of the problems Muslims have with intellectual achievement. We have come to learn that Islam's the greatest fear of all is that some Muslim, somewhere, sometime, will ask some pesky questions that might possibly result in (gasp!) CHANGE. We have learned that since the Koran is the literal, dictated Word of Allah, it is perfect, and therefore cannot be changed. By Allah, when the Koran says that Muslims have one intestine and the infidel has seven, that's that! Questions? Of course not! After all, as they say in Islam, any knowledge worth knowing is already in the Koran, and since that knowledge is from Allah himself, to change it would be a sin.
Global Politician - In response to "Why the Arab World is not free?
Islam's vanished golden era cannot be treated in an academic vacuum. In a patent symptom of dismissive generalization, noted clerics make sweeping statements like "Muslims could regain their lost place with the promotion of book reading culture, as distance from knowledge caused downfall of the Muslims in the world." Everyone seems to mourn the lost glory; however the real excruciating causes of decline are rarely argued.
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