DC at Night

DC at Night

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Golden Age of Muslim Civilization

In Europe, the period from the 6th to the 13th centuries has long been called the Dark Ages. But to the Muslim world, which at the time stretched from Egypt to China, the same dates have been recognized as a Golden Age of light, with many intellectual and scientific innovations that still resonate today.

Ben Kingsley explains
Now many of those inventions and creations form the basis for the new exhibition 1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization, a fascinating show now at the National Geographic Museum.  The show, running until Feb. 3,  is designed to bring the Islamic contributions to a modern audience and demonstrate the enduring legacy of the older Muslim world..

For me, and I'm certain for you to, the learnings were many. For example, did you know:
  • a 1,000-year-old tower in Algeria was the inspiration for the towers and spires of Medieval churches
  • the luxurious spas we know today were popular in the Muslim world in the 10th Century
  • the ancient city of Cordoba had oil lamps to light the streets after dark
  • the 9th Century scholar Abbas ibn Firnas is said to be the 1st person to fly successfully when he leapt from the minaret of the Great Mosque in a contraption he had designed and landed more or less unharmed
  • the 10th Century astronomer Al-Sulim was the 1st astonomer to mention the Andromeda galaxy
  • the 1st large scale observatory in the world was built by the Sultan of Isfahan in the late 11th Century
  • scholar Al-Battran, in the 10th Century, measured the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds long
  • physician Ali ibn Isa in his Notebook of the Occular written in the 10th Century covered treatments for 130 eye diseases
  • patients in early Muslim societies took pills, syrups, and powders, underwent cataract surgery, and had their broken legs placed in casts
  • master physician Al-Zahwawi was the 1st person to use catgut in surgery, a procedure that is still used today
  • more than a 1,000 years ago, the city of Baghdad housed several libraries and dozens of book dealers
  • complex math symbols are hidden in many Islamic patterns and designs, some of which have only recently been discovered
  • Islamic inventions allowed communities to harness clean wind and water power
  • windmills, most often associated with Holland, actually originated in Afghanistan more than 1,000 years ago
Like this model of Abbas ibn Firnas, inventions let Muslim civilization soar
 The exhibition, which begins with a short special effects film starring Ben Kingsley highlighting contributions to the world from the Muslim Golden Age, finishes with an interactive exhibit displaying many common English words that come from Arabic including algebra (al-jabr), candy (qund), cotton (qutn), shampoo (champu), sofa (suffah), orange (nranng) and traffic (taraffaqa).

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
With the attack on our American Embassy in Libya and the killing of our ambassador and 3 others, the aims of radical Muslim sects once again threaten American freedom. The Islamic extremists claim that their outrage over an 11-minute film prompted the attack. After viewing the short piece of film, I can say it is shoddily constructed cinematic trash that makes absolutely no sense. However, it is not worth the taking of one single life.  But you should look at the film to make up your own mind. A warning, however, it is such a F movie that it's sure to make the worst movie you have ever seen seem like an Academy Award winner.

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