The Golden Age of Islam – General Information

The Golden Age of Islam, sometimes also the Islamic Renaissance, the Muslim Renaissance is a historical period from about the middle of the VIII to the middle of the XIII century, at the beginning of which the Arab Caliphate was the largest state of its time. Within the framework of the Caliphate, a common Muslim cultural space was formed, which continued to exist even after its collapse. Thanks to this, Islamic scholars, writers and artists of this period made a significant contribution to the development of world science and culture. After the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, the development of Islamic culture was briefly picked up by the Persian state of the Samanids, and subsequently by a series of Turkic empires of Ghazni, Karakhanids, Timurids, Seljuk, Hulaguids. Howard Turner writes: “Muslim artists and scholars, workers and princes have together created a unique culture that has a direct and indirect impact on every continent.

During the “Islamic Renaissance” mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physics, chemistry and other sciences developed. Islamic culture, which stretches from southern Spain to China, has absorbed the achievements of scholars from a wide variety of nationalities and religions. She developed the knowledge of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, achieving breakthroughs that set the stage for the Renaissance.


In the era of the Golden Age, Muslim scientists, artists, engineers, poets, philosophers and merchants contributed to science, economics, literature, philosophy, maritime affairs, agriculture, both preserving the traditions of the past and using their own inventions. During the reign of the Umayyads, and then the Abbasids, scholars enjoyed tremendous support from the rulers. The practical importance of medicine, military technology, mathematics helped the development of the Arab Caliphate.

Arabic has become the universal language of science. Scientists from different countries from Cordoba to Baghdad and Samarkand were able to communicate in the same language. In the 9th century, the rulers of Baghdad held regular meetings at which theologians, philosophers and astronomers gathered to discuss their ideas.

Universities and research centers

In the Islamic world, madrassas were opened at mosques, where they taught not only religious, but also secular sciences. Over time, many madrasahs turned into universities. Muslim rulers organized scientific centers where scientists could accumulate, develop and share knowledge. The most famous of these scientific centers is the House of Wisdom, founded by Caliph al-Mamun in the 20s of the 9th century. In addition to Baghdad, the centers of scientific activity in the medieval East at different periods of its history were: Cairo, Damascus, Bukhara, Ghazna, Samarkand, Khorezm, Isfahan, Nishapur, Balkh, Cordova and other cities. In 859, Princess Fatima al-Fihri founded the first modern university in Fez, Morocco. The university, which admitted both men and women, had several faculties and taught many disciplines.

The geographer al-Mukaddasi wrote about the process of formation of Islamic centers of science: “In the East, scientists (ulamo) were valued, while in the West, scribes were valued.”

Contribution of Muslim scientists to various branches of science


Astronomy is one of the areas of science that interested Muslim scientists. Observatories existed in almost all major cities of Islamic states. In 1259, at-Tusi founded the Maragha Observatory, the largest in the world at that time, near Tabriz. Islamic scholars Sharaf ad-Din At-Tusi, Nasir ad-Din At-Tusi and Ibn al-Shatir for the first time spoke about the possibility of the Earth’s rotation around its axis. The Muslims have perfected a tool for locating stars and measuring the distance between them (astrolabe). In the 9th-10th centuries, the Musa brothers made calculations of the length of the earth’s circumference.

The Khorezmian scientist al-Biruni proved that the Earth revolves around its axis and around the Sun. By conducting research near the Indian city of Nandana, he was able to calculate the surface area of ​​the Earth. The applied method is referred to in Europe as the “Biruni rule”.

Central Asian scientist al-Fergani discovered the existence of sunspots, and his works in the field of astronomy were used in Europe for 700 years as a textbook. He became the first scientist to calculate the exact value of the curvature of the ecliptic.

The Central Asian scientist Ulugbek in his observatory with the main instrument of which was a wall quadrant with a radius of 40 meters and with a working part from 20 ° to 80 °, which had no equal in the world by 1437 the Gurgan zij was compiled – a catalog of the starry sky, in which 1018 stars have been described. The length of the sidereal year was also determined there: 365 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes, 8 seconds (with an error of + 58 seconds) and the inclination of the Earth’s axis: 23.52 degrees (the most accurate measurement).

The main scientific work of Ulugbek is considered to be “Ziji Jadidi Guragani” or “New Guraganov astronomical tables”. The author completed this work in 1444 after thirty years of painstaking work and astronomical observations. The astronomical reference book was soon translated into Latin and, along with the “Almagest” by Claudius Ptolemy and the astronomical tables of the Castilian king Alfonso X, was a textbook on astronomy in all observatories in Europe.

The accuracy of these tables surpassed everything previously achieved in the East and Europe. Only in the XVI century. Tycho Brahe managed to achieve an accuracy comparable to the Samarkand observations, and then surpass it. It is not surprising that “Zij Ulugbek” constantly attracted the attention of astronomers, both in the East and in Europe.

Bettany’s calculations for the solar year are almost exactly the same as modern ones (with an error of only 24 seconds).


  • Ibn al-Baytar (Ibn Baytar) (1190-1248) in his book gave a description of about 1400 medicinal plants and herbs. His work was considered the main scientific source in this area.


  • In the ninth section of his book “Kitab al-harakat as-samawiya wa javami ilm al-nujum” (“The book on the celestial movements and the collection of the science of stars”), the famous medieval geographer al-Fergani describes the seven climates of the Earth.
  • One of al-Battaniy’s works contains a list of coordinates for 273 geographic objects. The sixth chapter of this book provides a description of the land as a whole, and the seas, including the Black, Azov, Caspian, are characterized in particular in detail.
  • Persian scholar Ibn Sarafiyyun, who called himself Suhrab (“the poorest of people”) at the beginning of the 10th century, he wrote the work “Kitab ‘aja’ib al-akalim as-sab’a” (“Book of the amazing seven climates”), consisting of tables in which the names of cities, seas, islands, mountains, lakes, rivers and their sources were given, distributed according to climatic features and provided with digital data – longitude and latitude.
  • The famous Arab traveler Muhammad Ibn Battuta has traveled all the countries of the Islamic world – from Bulgar to Mombasa, from Timbuktu to China. In total, Ibn Battuta, according to some sources, covered 120,700 km, which is beyond the power of even many modern researchers.


  • The name of the outstanding Central Asian Muslim mathematician Muhammad al-Khwarizmi is associated with the introduction of the decimal number system, fractions, trigonometric functions, and many other great achievements, without which it is impossible to imagine modern mathematics. He studied the decimal number system from the works of ancient Indian mathematicians in Sanskrit and further disseminated among scientists a huge Arabic-speaking polyethnic audience. He wrote the first book on algebra called Kitab al-Jabr wal-Mukabal (Book of Completion and Opposition). The word “al-Jabr” from the title of this book began to sound in the West as “Algebra”. The name of the scientist himself has become a household name and denotes the order of actions that unambiguously leads to a result – an algorithm.


The highest achievements of Muslim scientists can be noted in medicine. It was in the Arab Caliphate that hospitals and hospitals were first built, and the first medical institutes arose. Muslim physicians have been at the forefront of eye disease research for centuries. The first hospital in the Caliphate was established in 707 during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik. The costs of maintaining this hospital and providing patients with food were covered by the state. In order to avoid the flight of the sick lepers, they were arrested.

  • According to some researchers, Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Razi (865-925) was the first physician to describe the pupil response reflex and the first to isolate and describe diseases such as chickenpox and fever.
  • The famous scientist Ibn Sina (980-1037), known in the West as Avicenna, is credited with the discovery of infectious diseases, anesthesia, the relationship between psychological and physical conditions, and many other areas of medicine. His book “The Canon of Medicine” from the 12th to the 17th century was used as a textbook in the best medical institutions in Europe.
  • Andalusian physician Abul-Qasim al-Zahrawi (936-1013), known as Albucasis, was the first surgeon to introduce catgut (sheep intestine) sutures into everyday practice. Among his inventions are a number of sophisticated surgical instruments, including scalpels, syringes, forceps, and surgical needles. In his work at-Tasrif, he illustrated and described surgical instruments and surgical procedures performed with their help. In Lectures 1 and 2, translated into Latin as Liber Thoricae, he classified 325 diseases and explained their symptomatology and treatment. The book includes the topic of dentistry, ophthalmic diseases, and diseases of the ear, nose and throat, diseases of the head and neck, obstetrics, gynecology, urology and other areas of surgery.
  • Kambur Vesim (d. 1761) systematized knowledge about tuberculosis and was the first to determine the infectious nature of this disease.
  • Bakr ibn al-Qasim al-Mausiliy (10th century) invented a hollow needle for removing cataracts by suction. The needle was inserted through the limbus, where the cornea is connected to the conjunctiva.
  • Ali ibn Isa (XI century) wrote a scientific work “Tazkira”, containing a description of 130 eye diseases. This book remained the most authoritative publication on ophthalmology for centuries until about the middle of the 19th century.
  • Ali ibn Abbas (d. 994) performed a surgical operation in oncology. The medical encyclopedia “Kitabul-Malikiy” written by him has not lost its relevance today.


Muslims have shown interest in traveling and studying geography since ancient times. This was facilitated by the desire to spread Islam, trade, and the need for pilgrimage (Hajj). The well-known word admiral comes from the Arabic amir al-Bahr (Arabic: أمير البحر).


Borrowing production technology from China, the son of the vizier Harun ar-Rashid, Ibn Fazil built the first paper mill in Baghdad in 794. After 6 years, a similar factory was built in Egypt, and in 950 in al-Andalus. The first paper to appear in Europe was made from flax and was called charta damascaena, that is, Damascus scrolls.


In the era of the Golden Age, Muslims were able to create a developed irrigation system, as well as a well-thought-out system of crop rotation, allowing you to get a double harvest per year on the same land.


  • Arab physicist and mathematician al-Khaisam (965-1051), known in Europe as Alhazen (al-Khazin) – the founder of optics, whose work “Book of Optics” is put on a par with the works of I. Newton for revolutionary ideas in the discovery of optical laws … He gave a description of the structure of the eye and the correct representation of binocular vision. He suggested that the speed of light was finite and conducted experiments with a camera obscura (the predecessor of modern cameras), experiments on light refraction and experiments with various types of mirrors. The mechanism of light reflection in spherical mirrors is named after him – “the problem of al-Khazin”.
  • Abul-Izz Ismail al-Jazari (d. 1206) laid the foundations of cybernetics in his book Kitabul-Khyal (Book of Dreams). He invented the crankshaft, designed valve pumps, water-lifting machines, water clocks, jukeboxes, etc. Al-Jazari owns such technological innovations as: wood lamination, combination locks, a hybrid of a compass with a universal sundial for any latitude, etc. etc.

In 880, a scientist named Ibn Firnas first constructed an apparatus like an airplane. He managed to soar in the air for a long time and land smoothly.


The works of such scholars as Abu Maari, Ibn Rushd, al-Kindi and al-Ghazali had a great influence on philosophical thought. In the 9th century, the Arabs became familiar with the natural science and philosophical heritage of antiquity. The focus of their attention is on the philosophy of Aristotle with its predominant interest in natural science and logic. The assimilation of Aristotelian philosophy, however, was mediated by acquaintance with the works of its later commentators from the neoplatonic schools in Athens and Alexandria.


  • Jabir ibn Hayyan is considered the ancestor of chemistry. He described many acids and developed an early version of an experimental research method in chemistry. He first expressed the idea of ​​the enormous energy hidden inside the atom and the possibility of its splitting. According to Ibn Hayyan, the splitting creates a force that could destroy Baghdad.