Wednesday, June 18, 2008

European "Dark Ages": Cause ultimately traced back to Northeast Africa?

It has become a tradition within Eurocentric ideological circles, the idea that European "Dark Ages" of the medieval era was the expression of "lost classical Greek thought" in all European life. This loss of intellectual development was largely attributed to the reactionary practices of the Church, wherein religious doctrine was not to be challenged by free and objective thinking. Perhaps there is an ounce of truth in this, with regards to the Church discouraging liberal intellectual thought, but to overestimate its impact to the point of explaining away the paralysis of intellectual progress in Europe, would be some stretch. Hence, it is not highly imaginative to understand why something else was looked to, so as to supplement the actions of the Church as the main factor for loss of intellectual development in medieval western Europe: that is, the burning of the Alexandria Library, stationed in Egypt!

Ardent Eurocentrists insist that the burning of the Alexandria Library— which was a major learning center of the ancient world, including for the Greeks— deprived Europe the "Greek thought" in the periods to come, as every scripted philosophical and analytical thought stored in that library was burnt away with the building complex. That library was believed to have housed much of the penned "Greek thought", which is considered to be the first and the main, if not the only, European "golden age" of intellectual development in the ancient world. The culprits of this atrocious act, was none other than Arabs.

Yet, it was supposedly these same Arabs, who managed to have rescued Europeans from their so-called Dark period, by simply returning to them, what they had lost in the northeast corner of Africa. So in essence, the arrest of European intellectual development in the so-called Dark Ages, is traced back to northeast Africa, in the early common era. In this respect, Dr. Salah Zaimeche, a researcher at the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization organization (FSTC), pointed out the ridiculousness with which Peire Duhem's claim is made:

P. Duhem writes,

"The revelations of Greek thought on the nature of the exterior world ended with the “Almagest,” (by Ptolemy) which appeared about A.D. 145, and then began the decline of ancient learning. Those of its works that escaped the fires kindled by the Mohammedan warriors were subjected to the barren interpretations of Mussulman commentors and, like parched seed, awaited the time when Latin Christianity would furnish a favorable soil in which they could once more flourish and bring forth fruit."

To which, Dr. Zaimeche writes,

"If Duhem is to be followed, the Muslims are responsible for one thing, and for its total opposite, both at once. Indeed, according to him, the Muslims were fanatic, rampaging hordes, burners of Greek science, and also pale imitators, copiers of the Greeks. They cannot be both, though. How can you copy a book that you have burnt; or convey a science that you have destroyed on first contact? Incidently, both these conflicting opinions can be found not just with Duhem, but also with his crowd of followers, who pursue the same aberrations of history. More recent amongst these is another Frenchman, J.P. Verdet, who in a History of astronomy, manages to jump from Ptolemy to Copernicus, skipping nearly 1500 years, as if in his whole lifetime, and a scholar with access to tens of libraries, he never came across one single work dealing with Muslim astronomy."

Indeed; as with all myths, Eurocentric forgery of tracing the unflattering state of European development in the medieval period has contradictions that are there for anyone to see, except for blind followers and advocates of traditional Eurocentric "Dark Ages" dogma. They fail to account for the non-sequitur prospect of Arabs burning Greek material, and then somehow being able to learn, copy and preserve that which they had just blindly and mercilessly burnt.

Contradiction doesn't stop there; the tradition also has it that Arabs simply reintroduced Greek thought, implying that it was simply preserved as it is, as though no modifications were made, let alone introduction new original non-Greek material. In other words, the rest of the world was intellectually and culturally stunted to come up with new and original thought, outside of simply learning from preserved Greek material. Yet Eurocentric proponents of the so-called Dark Age dogma will sit there with straight faces, and acknowledge the "Golden era" of the Islamic and Arabic world during that period of European intellectual regression. The reason for this contradiction is simple: Eurocentric proponents do not intend to purvey the idea that Europe owes the Arab world anything that would call for any sense of gratitude. What one has here, is what amounts to another "Greek Miracle", so to speak, wherein it is Europe which rescues itself again, by merely applying that which was theirs to begin with: The "Greek thought"! John Glubb for instance, writes:

“ The indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilization was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradition was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbarians and that the rebirth of learning in the West was derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab intervention.”

The first "Greek Miracle" of course, goes back to the "first time" the classical Greeks gained enlightenment, presumably without relying much on the intellectual and cultural accomplishments of preexisting and much older complex societies, like those in the Nile Valley and Mesopotamia. This of course, goes against all that which classical Greeks themselves had to say about their inheritance of philosophical and scientific ideas from outside Europe, and their expressed gratitude for such. This "second-coming" of another "Greek Miracle" necessitated the need to blackout all developments in science, undertaken by non-Europeans outside of Europe, during the so-called Dark Ages. G. M. Wickens, for his part, notes:

“In the broadest sense, the West’s borrowing from the Middle East form practically the whole of basic fabric of civilization. Without such fundamental borrowings from the middle east, we should lack the following sorts of things amongst others (unless, of course, we had been quick and inventive enough to devise them all for ourselves): agriculture; the domestication of animals, for food, clothing and transportation; spinning and weaving; building; drainage and irrigation; road-making and the wheel; metal working, and standard tools and weapons of all kinds; sailing ships; astronomical observation and the calendar; writing and the keeping of records; laws and civic life; abstract thought and mathematics; most of our religious ideas and symbols…There is virtually no evidence for any of these basic things and processes and ideas being actually invented in the West”

But getting back to this idea of having lost Greek thought, one has to wonder how it is, that western Europeans lost that which was still present in Europe elsewhere. When pressed on how it is that Europeans couldn't get access to Greek material—particularly when it was available in the Byzantium Eastern empire, but had to wait for the Arabs to come into Europe and then go through the trouble of translating Arabic material, as opposed to material in Greek that could have been accessed in the aforementioned Eastern empire counterpart, the Eurocentric traditionalists are mum. On this, Dr. Zaimeche writes:

"As for the notion that Greek learning had disappeared, this is another preposterous point repeatedly made by western ‘historians’. Greek learning was available throughout the so-called Dark Ages in Byzantium and even in the ‘west’.

Western historians never fail to insist that Muslims sought that Greek learning from Byzantine sources, and yet say that it has disappeared, which is impossible to square. Now, if such learning was available all along, why did ‘western scholars’ have to wait until they conquered Islamic lands in Sicily (11th), Toledo (Spain) (in the 11th) and in the east during the Crusades (11th -12th) before they started acquiring such ‘Greek’ learning? Why wait?

And above all, why did Western translators of the 12th century, to whom we will return further on, chose to translate such sources? This is never explained by those historians who select miniscule or fragmentary pieces of evidence, often concoctions of their own, to build extensive theories (i.e. the Pirenne theory, the burning of the Alexandria library)"

Obviously lack of response to such questions is symptomatic of contradictions that cannot be reconciled. The answer to the above question, with regards to "Western translators" reaching out to Arabic literature, as opposed to going straight to available Greek literature in Europe, lies in this: what made the Golden Age of the Arab world possible in the medieval era, was not mere learning and copying of Greek thought as the classical Greeks had left it, but introduction of considerable new and original thought from across a wide spectrum of geographical regions, transcending different ethnic groups and cultures. It was the usage of Arabic as the "lingua franca of the day" that united these people. Dr. Zaimeche also notes this, when he references Kevin Krisciunas' about the blackening out of the Arab world's advancement of astronomy, saying that:

"Kruisciunas then points that during the Middle Ages the principal astronomers were Muslims, Jews, and some Christians, and what they had in common was that they wrote in Arabic. This was the principal language of astronomy of the 9th through 11th centuries, just as English is today"

The richness of diversity, which was the strength behind Arab "Golden Age", can be described as follows:

"…amongst the Muslims, only a number of such scientists were Arabs; most were instead Turks, Iranians, Spanish Muslims, Berbers, Kurds...thus a myriad of people and origins brought under the mantel of Islam, a religion open to all who sought to, and excelled in learning. And that was the first, and by far, the most multi ethnic culture and civilization that had ever existed, and not equaled in many respects, even today, not even in countries and institutions which keep advertising their equal opportunity status..."

"The Jews had the most glorious pages of their civilization under Islam, too. To name just a couple, Maimonides (philosopher-physicist) was Salah Eddin Al-Ayyubi's doctor, and Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, followed by his sons, held some of the most prominent positions in terms of learning and power in Muslim Spain. And The Ben-Tibbon family were the ones who played a most prominent role in scattering Islamic learning in all provinces other than Spain (such as the South of France). And nearly all Muslim envoys to Christian powers were Jews, too."

"Thus, some of Islam's earliest and most prominent scientists at the Abbasid court, Ishaq Ibn Hunayn and Hanayn Ibn Ishaq were Nestorian Christians. Thabit Ibn Qurrah, the astronomer, was Sabean."
— Dr. S. Zaimeche

Contrast this embrace of rich diversity with the image perpetrated by ardent defenders of what is deemed to be "Western Civilization", who latch onto the notion of the "Greek Miracle" and well, its sister "miracle" under the banner of the "Renaissance age", which as noted earlier, is portrayed as nothing more than the regaining of what was European to begin with; John North for instance, writes:

"Like it or not, however, all this derives from an intellectual construction that attributed the primary responsibility for European and American culture to this particular ancient ethnic/linguistic group, perceived as co-members of the Indo-European race. In that sense, a great deal of 19th century scholarship must be seen as working towards this construction. It needs to be accepted: that this was in some sense a racial construction, emphasizing the role of those perceived as co-race members and eliminating the apparent influence of those who were not; and (2) that the fact of the construction cannot be separated from the process through which European nations simultaneously established imperial domination over other parts of the world."
The buzz words being: "eliminating the apparent influence of those who were not [part of the co-race]"

Obviously the Golden Age of the Arab world itself is a fact that goes against Eurocentric traditionalist characterization of Islam as being hostile to learning, and all the while proclaiming that it was the Arab world which was supposed to have preserved Greek thought. How one reconciles the idea that the one who hates learning, is the same one who rescued the day by preserving learning, is something that the Eurocentric "Dark Age" traditionalists obviously haven't given much serious thought. After all, is it not the same Eurocentrists who in a significant way, attribute the European so-called Dark Ages to the actions of the Church, which undoubtedly was supposed to have been a Christian institution? The irony is clear. A typical Eurocentric rationalization was to go like this:

"In the early years Muslim leaders embraced the classic text. The fundamental conflict between these writings and the teaching of Islam eventually led to the writings being pushed out of the spotlight in Muslim society. They remained in arab countries with Muslim leaders tolerating them, if not embracing them.

verdet's leap from Ptolemy to Copernicus is accurate. The greek writings did not appear in Europe in latin until the high middle ages. They ran into trouble with the Catholic church for the same reasons they had trouble with Muslim religious leaders. Much of the Greek writings were simply incompatable with Catholic and Muslim thinking at the time. The church was able to supress them to a degree for a couple of hundred years but the cat was out of the bag. From 1100 on the information was increasingly avilable."

Fraught with contradictions, this comment at basic ignores the simple Eurocentric apologia about Greek thought having "disappeared" and then reintroduced into Europe via transmission from the Arabic and Muslim world, which supposedly preserved it. Predictably enough, a simple question of exactly when and where the supposed "disappearance" had occurred in Europe, is met with speechlessness, and if there was no such "Greek" learning there to begin with, then that would contradict the whole idea of 'reintroduction' and 'renaissance'. Even by the logic of such apologia, one world is implicated as being culturally backward, while the other is implicated as the more advanced and progressive. This flies in the face of the notion that "Much of the Greek writings were simply incompatible with Muslim thinking at the time." Acknowledgment of the absurdity in such claims has been voiced within European scholarly circles as well, as that exemplified by J.W. Draper:

"Islam had all along been the patron of physical science; paganising Christianity not only repudiated it, but exhibited towards it sentiments of contemptuous disdain and hatred." — J.W. Draper

...while Lynn White Jr. acknowledges,

'The traditional picture of the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th) has been one of historical decline, particularly in the early Middle Ages, the so called dark Ages. Yet such a view of the Middle Ages is false when viewed from the standpoint of the history of technology.

And similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere....

'science owes a great deal more to the Arab culture, it owes its existence.'- Robert Briffault

"In a time when the movement of ideas was at a relative standstill, 'the Muslims came along with a new outlook, with a sense of enquiry into the old, and finally to a point where Western Europe could take over this thoroughly examined knolewdge and endow its ripeness with a completely fresh approach of its own." — Martin Levey

What makes Eurocentric "Dark Age" proponents' and Pirenne theory-followers' task of mystifying medieval Europe harder, is a whole body of translated work by medieval European scholars in the so-called "West". That aside, Dr. Zaimeche names a few examples from a section of European scholars, those whose work has not exactly towed the line with the aforementioned proponents:

"Besides, amongst the Westerners are scholars in the many who keep unearthing what others try very hard to blot out. Sarton, Haskins, E. Kennedy, D, King, Wiedemann, Ribera, Hill, Mieli, Myers, Suter, Leclerc, Millas Vallicrosa, Sedillot, just to cite a few amongst the many, have put at the disposal of scholarship and audiences so much that is impossible to hide. And so, the true place of Islamic science can be reclaimed. "

Examples of translated work from Arabic, don't cease to exist, and here again, Dr. Zaimeche provides with a whole body of examples:'

"Scholars from all Christian lands rushed to that place to translate Muslim science, and thus start the scientific awakening of Europe. Many of course were Spaniards: John of Seville, Hugh of Santalla, and those working under the patronage of King Alfonso; another translator was Herman from Damatia; two came from Flanders, Rudolph of Bruges and Henry Bate; many from southern France; Armegaud son of Blaise, Jacob Anatoli, Moses ibn Tibbon, Jacob ben Mahir, and from Italy: Plato of Tivoli, Gerard of Cremona, Aristippus of Catania, Salio of Padua, John of Brescia. From British Isles will arrive Robert of Chester, Daniel of Morley, M. Scott, and possibly Adelard (of Bath), and others, including the intermediaries who helped transfer Islamic science from Arabic into Latin or local languages. Amongst such translators the most profilic of all was the Italian Gerard of Cremona, who translated about 87 works amongst which included the Todelan tables of al-Zarqali Canones Arzachelis and Jabr Ibn Aflah's Islah al Majisti (correction of the Almagest of Ptlomey). His other translations include The Banu Musa's Liber trium fratrum, Al-Khwarizmi's : De jebra et elmucabala, Abu Kamil: Liber qui secundum Arabes vocatur algebra et almucabala,, - ABu'l Qasim Al-Zahrawi: Liber Azaragui de cirurgia (treatise on surgery), Al-Farabi: De scientiis, -Al-Kindi's works on physics and mechanics: De aspec; followed by De umbris et de diversitate aspectrum, Ibn al-Haytham's work on physics: De crepusculis et nubium ascensionibus, Al-Kindi's: De gradibus medicinarum (on medicine). Amongst the translations made by the Jew truned Christian, John of Seville, are Al-Battani's Treatise on astronomy and other works; Thabit ibn Qura: De imaginibus astronomicis; Maslama ibn Ahmed al Majriti: De astrolabio; Al-Farabi: Isha al-Ulum; Abu Ma'shar: Al-Madkhal ila 'ilm ahkam al-nujum; Al-Ghazali: Maqasid Al-Falasifa; Al-Farghani: Kitab fi harakat al-Samawiya wa jawami'ilm al-nujum... It is not necessary to list all the translations since they can be found in greater detail, together with their successive editions, and a vast bibiliography relating to them in G. Sarton's Introduction." A whole host of refined ancient, new and original ideas, which explains the European rush to seek Arabic work, as opposed to available Greek work in the "east" Roman empire, made their way into Europe at a relatively heightened pace, in a south to north fashion, with the invasions of southwest Europe by Arabs from "southwest Asia" and the north African "Moors". This mix of refined ancient ideas, along with new and original ideas, ranged from advancements in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics, philosophy, geography to medicine, architecture and modern machinery..."First and foremost, the learning recovered, or found, or available, at that Renaissance of 16th-17th (another illogically based notion of western history) bears no resemblance to anything left by the Greeks. The mathematics, the medicine, the optics, the chemistry, the astronomy, geography, mechanics etc, of the 16th is centuries ahead of that left by the Greeks. Any person with the faintest knowledge of any such subjects can check this by looking at what was left by the Greeks and compare it with what was available in the 16th century, and even with what was available centuries up to the 14th. Anyone can thus question this notion of Greek learning recovered during the Renaissance.

Furthermore, even supposing the Greeks had made some contribution in some of the sciences cited, what is the Greek contribution to the invention of paper, printing, farming techniques, irrigation, windmills, the compass, industrial production, glass making, cotton production, the system of numerals, trade mechanisms, paper money, the cheque? Modern finance as a whole, gardens, flowers, art of living, urban design, personal hygiene, and many more manifestations that compose our modern civilization?" — Dr. Salah Zaimeche

...while Draper gives us a glimpse of the state of Affairs in northwest Europe during the late Middle Ages,

“As late as 16th century England, there were highwaymen on the roads, pirates on the rivers, vermin in abundance in the clothing and beds…The population, sparse as it was, was perpetually thinned by pestilence and want…” — J.W. Draper

...while S.P. Scott informs us that,

“ In Paris there were no pavements until the thirteenth century; in London none until the fourteenth; the streets of both capitals were receptacles of filth, and often impassable; at night shrouded with inky darkness; at all times dominated by outlaws; the haunt of the footpad, the nursery of the pestilence, the source of every disease, the scene of every crime”

He goes on further, courtesy of Dr. Zaimeche, with regards to "Spanish Asturias at the time of the Muslim arrival",... “The dwellings were rude hovels constructed of stones and unhewn timber, thatched with straw floored with rushes and provided with a hole in the roof to enable the smoke to escape; their walls and ceilings were smeared with soot and grease, and every corner reeked with filth and with vermin. The owners of these habitations were, in appearance and intelligence, scarcely removed from the condition of savages. They dressed in sheepskins and the hides of wild beasts, which unchanged, remained in one family for many generations. The salutary habit of ablution was never practiced by them. Their garments were never cleansed, and were worn as long as their tattered fragments held together.” — S. P. Scott

And so, back to the issue of advancement in science...

"It was, indeed, between the 8th -13th centuries that most decisive scientific inventions were made, and the foundations of modern civilization were laid. Scientists and scientific discoveries in their thousands, artistic creativity, great architecture, huge libraries, hospitals, universities, mapping of the world, the discovery of the sky and its secrets, and much more. It was the time when Al-Biruni, Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Idrissi, Al-Kindi, Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, Ibn Khaldun, Ak-Khazin, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Farabi, Al-Ghazali, Al-Jazari and hndreds more scientists shaped the modern sciences in such a way that in the mind of Briffault, science owes a great deal more to the Arab culture, it owes its existence.' — Dr. Salah Zaimeche

It is interesting to note that, what would become the main tool of European imperialism, has its origins outside of Europe, and earliest attested practical application in northeastern corner of Africa: The Gun! Courtesy of Prof. Mohamed Mansour, Emeritus Professor of Control Eng., ETH Zurich, Switzerland,...


The Chinese knew gunpowder in the 11th century, but didn’t know the right proportions of getting explosions and didn’t achieve the necessary purification of potassium nitrate. The first Chinese book, which details the explosives proportion, was in 1412 by Huo Lung Ching. [1]

Al-Rammah’s book is the first to explain the purification procedure for potassium nitrate and described many recipes for making gunpowder with the correct proportions to achieve explosion. This is necessary for the development of canons. Partington [ 3] says “the collection of recipes was probably taken from different sources at different times in the author’s family and taken down. Such recipes are described as tested.” Al-Razi, Al-Hamdany, and an Arabic-Syriaque manuscript of the 10th century describe potassium nitrate. Ibn Al-Bitar describes it in 1240. The Arab-Syriaque manuscript of the 10th century gives some recipes of gunpowder. It is assumed that these were added in the 13th century.

The Latin book “Liber Ignium” of Marcus Graecus is originally Arabic (translated in Spain) gives many recipes for making gunpowder the last four of which must have been added to the book in 1280 or 1300. “Did Roger Bacon derive his famous cryptic gunpowder in his Epistola of ca. 1260 from the crusader Peter of Maricourt, some other traveler or from a wide range of reading from Arabic and alchemical books”. References [1], [3], and Joseph Needham, doubt the correctness and effectiveness of the recipe of Bacon.

The German scientist Albert Magnus obtained his information from the “Liber Ignium” originally an Arabic book translated in Spain.

Evidence of the use of gunpowder during the crusades in Fustat, in Egypt, 1168 was found in the form of traces of potassium nitrate. Such traces were also found in 1218 during the siege of Dumyat and in the battle of Al-Mansoura in 1249.

Winter mentions, “the Chinese may have discovered saltpeter (gunpowder) or else that discovery may have been transmitted to them by the Muslims whom they had plenty of opportunities of meeting either at home or abroad. Sarton is referring to Arab-Muslim traders to China, as well as Arab inhabitants in China. As early as 880 an estimated 120,000 Muslims, Jews and Persians liven in Canton alone.”

Cannons and Rockets:

There are four Arabic manuscripts (Almakhzoun manuscripts; one in Petersburg, two in Paris and one in Istanbul) in 1320 describing the first portable canon with suitable gunpowder. This description is principally the same as for modern guns. Such canons were used in the famous battle of Ain-Galout against the Mongols (1260).

The Mamlouks developed the canons further during the 14th century.

In Spain, Arabs used cannons defending Seville (1248), in Granada 1319, in Baza or Albacete 1324, in Huescar and Martos 1325, in Alicante 1331 and in Algeziras 1342-1344. Partington says, “ the history of artillery in Spain is related to that of the Arabs”.

J.R. Partington mentions, “Arabic accounts suggest that the Arabs introduced firearms into Spain, from where they passed to Italy, from there to France, and finally Germany.”

“The Arabs, in any event, appear to have been the first to inherit (and possibly) originate the secret of the rocket, and it was through Arabic writings, rather than the Mongols -- that the Europeans came to know the rocket. The two notable examples of Arabic knowledge of the rocket are the so-called “self-moving and combusting egg” of the Syrian Al-Hassan Al-Rammah (d. 1294 - 1295), details of which may be found in Willey Ley’s popular “Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel” and physician Yusuf ibn Ismail Al-Kutub’s description (1311) of the saltpeter (“they use it to make a fire which rises and moves, thus increasing it in lightness and inflammability”). — Frank H. Winter

Sources: Courtesy of FSTC

The modern gun was essentially a carryover technology from the portable cannon.

Again, it is interesting that the earliest evidence of the practical application of portable cannon technology goes back to Egypt — Recap: "Such canons were used in the famous battle of Ain-Galout against the Mongols (1260)."

...not to mention that, "Evidence of the use of gunpowder during the crusades in Fustat, in Egypt, 1168 was found in the form of traces of potassium nitrate. Such traces were also found in 1218 during the siege of Dumyat and in the battle of Al-Mansoura in 1249"

As a recap from above, certain few indicators argue against the portable cannon introduction by Chinese, and favor its introduction in the sphere of the Arabic speaking world:

—Evidence of the earliest attested application of the portable cannon, which uses suitable gunpowder, goes back to its usage by Egyptians in the Battle of Ain Jalut.

— The battle of Ain Jalut, wherein Egyptians used portable cannons against the Mongols, who apparently didn't have one, suggests that the technology had not yet spread to southeast Asia, but was available in northeast Africa then. One would expect a people who lived in proximity to the Chinese, to have had relatively easier access to a new Chinese invention than, and before people from far away, for instance, those in northeast Africa.

— The above [not to mention the point below, vis-a-vis suitable gunpowder] coupled with early traces of gunpowder in battlefields located in Egypt ca. 12th and the 13th centuries, make Egypt a very likely candidate of where the portable cannon was first developed.

The Chinese "didn’t know the right proportions of getting explosions and didn’t achieve the necessary purification of potassium nitrate". One would expect that if the Chinese were the first to use portable cannons, they'd also likely have been the first to develop suitable gunpowder for this machine. Literature from the Arabic speaking world, detailing procedures for producing both the purification of gunpowder and the associated portable cannon date earlier than the Chinese counterparts, dating to 13th and 14th centuries, while the first Chinese manuals [noted below] for producing suitable gunpowder to be fired from a gun, make their appearance from the 15th century onwards.

"The first Chinese book, which details the explosives proportion, was in 1412 by Huo Lung Ching."

With all that said, we now draw...

The lessons: The argument put forward by Eurocentric defenders of European imperialism basically amounts to tracing the origins of the so-called European "Dark Ages" to the northeast corner of Africa. The "European Dark Age" narrative is built around the burning of the Alexandria library — a major learning center of the ancients located in Egypt. There are too many holes that come with this narrative, in that it attempts to portray Arabs as the invading and insensitive forces who went out of their way to destroy the learning center, and along with it, much of penned down "Greek thought", while at the same time, those same Arabs were the ones who preserved this "Greek thought", only to reintroduce it to Europe in pretty much the same state that classical Greeks had left it. The so-called "Dark Ages" are advanced as such by Eurocentrists, apparently because this was largely a period when scientific and socio-economic advancement was tilted considerably in favor of the non-European world, and Europe didn't make much of an impression in global trade and geopolitics. In fact however, not only did the Arab world preserve earlier ancient thoughts, but they also refined and developed them into the state that would benefit modern civilization in practical ways. Additionally, scholars of the Arab world also introduced considerable new thought and associated science that didn't exist in ancient times. To say that the Arab world simply preserved ancient thoughts in their original form, with the Europeans later on receiving it as such, is a great stretch of reality. The Arab world did much more than that, and the developments that ensued from Arabic translations of Arabic works, is testament to this. Overall, closer inspection of historical facts, show that the so-called Renaissance, which is essentially presented as another "Greek Miracle", was an evolution or a thread of cultural diffusion processes, jump-started by flow of knowledge from outside Europe through the Arabic speaking world and not an event of sudden awakening, as some try to portrait it; it that was brought about through Arab/Muslim colonization of Europe. The Arabs (as did the Greeks) in turn, benefited from processes of cultural diffusion of ancient knowledge developed in the Nile through to "southwestern Asia", and South East Asia (Chinese and Indian civilizations) as well.

Few links for some interesting reading — disclaimer: no affiliations or responsibility for content of the sites, reviews or books in question:

Lunar features named after mathematicians; contains a few notable names in the medieval Arab scholarly word, like for instance; Al-Haytham, who has also been referred to as "father of optics", and Al'Khwarizmi, a mathematician from whom we get the words algorithm and algebra.

Muslim Scientists and Scholars; not comprehensive by any means, but introductions to a few notable names of the medieval Arab world.

Al-Jahiz, a zoologist amongst other things: influenced the likes Charles Darwin? Although Al-Jahiz apparently approaches bio-anthropological matters from an idealistic standpoint, while Darwin does it from a materialistic standpoint, this link, AL-JAHIZ AND THE RISE OF BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTIONISM, makes a case that there are influences to be assessed. Let the reader be the decider!

Al-Jazari (circa A.D. 1150-1220), Considered the father of modern engineering, this Arab scholar invented a programmable humanoid automaton and 50 other mechanical gadgets such as water cranks and pumps with suction pipes.

Fully-fledged universities was something considered to have been brought about by the medieval Arab and Muslim world. As a west Sahelian/west African example, we have here, a popular link that provides a neat intro to the University of Timbuktu (clickable)!

BBC "In 711, Spain was invaded by Islamic troops from North Africa and the Middle East. For the next 700 years, most of Spain was ruled by Muslims and the country became a largely Islamic state. Under the Muslims, Spain became the most advanced, wealthy and populous country in Europe. The Muslim contribution to Spanish culture was immense. Philosophy, poetry, science, mathematics, art and architecture all made giant leaps forward.

Andrew tells the story of Muslim political and cultural power as he travels from Cordoba to Seville and on to Granada. In these cities beautiful palaces, mosques and gardens were built. Andrew explores the art and architecture of Moorish Spain through classic buildings such as the Great Mosque in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Sville and the Alhambra in Granada. He also explores the debt which both modern Spain and modern Europe owe to Moorish Spain. The Moors were not only keen to develop their minds; they also introduced new foods – including citrus fruits, coffee and numerous herbs and spices – to Spain, together with the technique by which alcohol is produced. In so many ways – from art and philosophy to food and drink – Moorish Spain shaped modern Europe."

Brings to mind, if momentarily, the state of affairs in Spain [and elsewhere in Europe] before Moorish presence in the region, as described by S.P. Scott. And oh, who could forget some potential good reading in Ivan Van Sertima's Golden Age of the Moor; a review —

"This book examines the debt owed by Europe to the Moors for its Renaissance, and the significant role played by the Africans in the Muslim invasions of the Iberian peninsula. While the authors focus mainly on Spain and Portugal, they also examine the races and roots of the original North Africans before the later ethnic mix of the blackamoors and tawny Moors in the medieval period. The study ranges from characterizations of the Moors in the literature of Cervantes and Shakespeare to their profound influence upon the development of Europe's university system, and the diffusion through this system of ancient and medieval sciences."