Science and Civilization in Islam

To assess the influence of Islam on Europe first one has to see what the status of Muslims was in science and civilization and what were their achievements that made them able to influence other nations.

Islam emerged in early seventh century. The prophet Mohammad (PUH) was born in 571, his mission started from 610 and his demise was at 632. In less than a century Islam expanded to include the area from Turkestan to Spain. By the junction of Islamic culture with other cultures such as that of Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia a new civilization emerged that was for a long time unrivaled. Since its emergence in the first Islamic century the Islamic civilization opened its way toward progress and development and till the eighth Islamic century it continued its growth and blossoming.

By emphasizing on thinking and reflection and encouraging its followers to seek knowledge at any cost, Islam paved the way to making a civilization based on knowledge and spirituality.

Many verses in the Quran encourage believers to use reason and strongly blame those who do not use their intellects. In some verses the Quran invites people to study natural phenomena such as the heavens, earth, animals, history and their own inner reality, i.e. soul. In the Prophet’s word, seeking knowledge is an obligation for all Muslim men and women and scholars enjoys a higher position in the society. These teachings led Muslims to learn various sciences and save them from falling into oblivion.

The cornerstones of Islamic sciences and culture are the Quran (God’s words) and Tradition (sunnah/words and deeds of the Prophet). These are reference sources for many Islamic sciences and the foundation for the Islamic way of life.

Since in Islam there is no limitation in seeking knowledge and knowledge is the missing of the believers, Muslims attempted to benefit from the sciences, arts and skills of other peoples and thereby enrich their own culture. To this purpose they started translating many works from various languages such as Persian, Indian, Syriac and Greek through which they saved many of these works from loss and disappearance. They developed different sciences and established many new sciences both in the domain of religion and other sciences and thereby they created an unprecedented civilization that for a long time was unsurpassed.

Religious sciences that Muslims established include the exegeses of the Quran, hadith tradition, theology (al-kalam), jurisprudence (al-fiqh), Islamic ethics (al-akhlaq) and so on. Muslims developed other disciplines and sciences such as philosophy, logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy and established new sciences such as optics, algebra, laboratory chemistry, trigonometry, geology, and sociology.