Rabia Al Basri, an early scholar of Islam and a Sufi was born in 717, about 85 years after the death of the Prophet(pbuh) in 632. The Prophet (SAWS) was born in 570 and the Hijrat (the migration to Madina) took place in 622, the start of the Muslim calendar.
The injunction of Islam to seek knowledge was taken seriously by the Umma. Muslims quite early in their history started to excel in Science, Philosophy, medicine and other fields. They also spread out to far away countries.
As early as 710, Muslims started to reach Al Andaluse (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar etc.) An era began when Muslim rule started in Cordoba in 756 and ended in 1492 when Granada surrendered. Blood shed and a wholesale expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia took place. Those who remained were forced to convert. Jews also met the same fate and they settled in several Muslim Countries.
The Muslim rule in Spain was a period of learning and enlightenment. Big advances were made in science, medicine, governance, architecture and other fields. The introduction of paper making** in 751 led to an explosion in the number of books written and collected. It reinforced the culture of books in the Muslin world. In th 9th century the library of Cordoba had 500,000 books in a city of over 200,000* inhabitants. In contrast the largest library in Europe in the monastery of St. Gaul (Switzerland) had only 36 volumes. Cordoba was not unique, libraries in Cities such as Baghdad*, Damascus, Cairo, Bokhara and other cities also had huge collections of books and manuscripts. The first paper mill started in Samarkand in the 8th century. Baghdad and other cities, including those in Spain, followed. In Europe, manuscript on paper, probably from Spain, appeared in the 11th century*.
Here is a selection from Rabia Al Basri .
“Your prayers are your light;
Your devotion is your strength;
Your life is the only opportunity that life can give you.
If you ignore it, if you waste it,
You will only turn to dust.”
www.uga.edu/sufism. by A. Godlas is a comprehensive site on Islam and Sufism
*Articles1.”Science the Islamic Legacy” April/May issue of Aramco world 1982 (Ww.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198203/islam-the.science.legacy), has good information on science and Andaluse.
2. www.ibnaeabisociety.org/articles/womenoflight. “women of light in Sufism: by Sachiko Murata is a good read
* Baghdad in the 10th century had a population of over one million. Merve, Cairo, Damascus and other cities were in the 200,000 range. By comparison in the same century, London had a population of 10,000, Paris below 50,000. Rome around 20,000 and Genoa, the largest in Europe had 80,000. By the end of the 12th century, many Muslim cities had grown to 500,000 and over range.
**paper making came from China before that papyrus, parchment, palm rip etc., were used.