Muslim radicals seek a return to the good old days of Islam.
From the days of its founding (700 CE) until about 1300 CE, Islam was the intellectual and cultural leader of the world. Then it fell sharply off a cliff into the dark ages of its present-day condition.
In its golden age, Islam produced outstanding advances in math. The algorithm — the “al” gives away that it is a product of Middle Eastern thinking — was the brainchild of Persian mathematician Al Khwarizmi, a man who also taught us a form of mathematical logic called Al-Gebir.
In the 11th century, CE, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) produced medical advances so far beyond the West that his textbooks were used in our medical schools until the 18th century.
The last of the great Islamic polymaths, Averroes (Ibn Rushd), not only knew that the world was round, but predicted that there was a substantial landmass between Europe and Asia in the Atlantic Ocean. He was the last because the fundamentalist takeover began at his time. They drove him from Córdoba to live out his old age as a refugee in Marrakesh beginning the ruin of Islam.
The great Muslim thinkers owed their intellectual prowess to Greek learning and Greek style education. Averroes held there were three paths to religious truths. Philosophy, which was the study independent of, but compatible with, the Quaran, was the best of them.
Soon the fanatics took over. To them, people only needed to save their souls; the Quaran had all the answers. Greek learning was prohibited and Greek style schools were replaced by mullah controlled madrasas. Islam plunged!
Within 50 years of Averroes death, the extremists had eradicated all tolerance. Hatred and its natural product, divisiveness, ruled Islam.
Islam that once wonder power, which in a mere 100 years had conquered more territory than Alexander the Great or mighty Rome, was soon a divided and weak empire. Muslims fought with Muslims. In Islam’s spiritual heart, Baghdad, mobs frequently engaged in looting, arson and murder. The Mongols had no difficulty piecing Baghdad’s crumbling walls.
Islamist wrongly blame Genghis Kahn and the Mongol occupation for the destruction of its great culture, but that occupation lasted only 100 years. They ignore the reason that Islam had suddenly become so weak and has never recovered: intolerance and the suppression of Greek learning and education methods. Islam was, and is, no longer true to the original teachings that had made it great.
It is a curious footnote to history in that as Islam descended, the West rose as if the two civilizations were on opposite sides of a teeter totter.
The key to Islam’s greatness was tolerance. By acceptance of both Christians and Jews during its initial 600 years and by acceptance of the study of Greek philosophy in an educational system with a complete separation of mosque and education, Islam had been the most tolerant civilization on the globe.
Radical Islam is stuck. If it wants Islam to become truly great again, it must preach tolerance!
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- *BTW: Salman Rushdie’s father derived the family name from Ibn Rudhd. So poor Salman was destined for difficulty.