Continuation of posts introducing a few scholars of the *Golden age of Islam (8th to 13th century), by giving a short overview and a sample of their work
Omar Khayyam (1040-1134) a Mathematician, a philosopher, scholar of Islam and a Sufi was born in Naishapur, Iran. He Wrote a treatise entitled “Demonstration of Problems of Algebra” (1070) and on the “Triangular array of binomial coefficient known as Pascal’s triangle”. In 1077 he produced another work, “Explanations of the Difficulties in the Postulates of Euclid”, and on “theory of proportions”. He also wrote on religion, music and astronomy.
Contemporaries included Al Bairuni (973-1048) a philosopher and scientist, who calculated the circumference of the earth quite accurately. He wrote widely on topics including Hindus(religion, Medicine, philosophy etc.). Abu Sina (Avicenna 980-1057) a great physician, a philosopher and a Sufi, wrote on Islam, Philosophy and the famous Canon of Medicine. Al Ghazali (1058-1111) was a philosopher and a great teacher of Islam.
Omar Khayyam is best known for his Rubayats translated by Edward Fitzgerald in the 1880s. Sufi poetry has lot of references to wine and love, more so in Hafiz(1325–1389) and Omar Khayyam. However their wine did not come from a bottle but a mystical experience. Love is Love of God (Ishque Allah). Sufis were not on a full time mystical mode. They were teachers, writers, scientists, Philosophers, Physicians, and scholars of Islam. Not all Sufis were poets and not all scholars of Islam were .
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon(soon),
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.
Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan(king) after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.
*Golden age (8th to 13th century) was an age of enlightenment and Knowledge.It produced numerous scholars in nearly every field. In addition to Muslims there were many Christian and Jewish scholars who held high positions and received recognition for their abilities from rulers. For example St John of Damascus a theologian(676-749) worked as a Minister Of Finance for the Caliph in Damascus(the capital was moved to Baghdad in the 8th century by Abbasides). He was the first christian to write a book on Islam. In spite of his close contacts with Muslims, the book demonstrated his ignorance of the religion. He like Dante treated Islam as a Christian heresy.
The Muslim ruled areas were a multi religious, multi lingual and multicultural society. Muslim Rulers of that era valued scholarship and invested heavily in education at all levels. Accordin g to some estimates, their funding in higher learning institutions in proportion to their revenue was much higher than that of advanced countries today. This was an important factor that contributed to the golden age.