Arab Golden age and education

The educational standards during the Abbasid era were high. Elementary  education, both for boys and for girls, flourished. Theological colleges were  maintained, and extension courses from mosques as centers radiated outward to  areas beyond.

Private as well as public libraries were common, and one  street alone in Baghdad contained a thousand book sellers' shops. Paper,  introduced from China via Samarkand, was manufactured in the provinces from  vegetable fibber.

Music was cultivated, and among the musicians mentioned  was one Ibrahim al-Mousili who, "could detect a false note among thirty  lute-players, and tell the player to tighten up her string." He received as much  as (equivalent) US $20,000 for one song from the doting Haroun  al-Rashid.

All this time, while Europe was almost illiterate and  Charlemagne himself could hardly write his name, a great intellectual awakening  was taking place in which the Arab, with nothing but an intellect stimulated by  great mental curiosity and a language which had then been the vehicle only of  revelation and desert poetry, took a great and glorious part.

The  currents of learning and culture which had earlier originated in Egypt,  Babylonia, Phoenicia had been funneled into Greece, and having been there  assimilated and vastly augmented by the Greek mind, had spread again in the form  of Hellenism to the adjoining world. Among the centers of Hellenism one  remembers Edessa, Antioch and Alexandria.

As the night of the Dark Ages  settled down over Europe this learning had become embalmed in manuscripts and  books buried in monasteries throughout the Near East, and available chiefly to  monks and prominent scholars. But the flame of Hellenic learning, into which the  Arab learning had been infused, feeble though it was, and was kept burning among  them.

Among the by-products of the recurrent raids to which Haroun was  addicted was that among the loot many manuscripts were brought to the capital.  Haroun al-Rashid and his immediate successors dispatched emissaries far and wide  in search of more and ever more manuscripts.

A college of translation,  called the "House of Wisdom," was set up in Baghdad, and for more than a  century, translation work was vigorously carried on, from Greek into Syriac and  then into Arabic. Interest among the Arabs centered, however, not on Greek  history, drama, and poetry, but rather on medicine and mathematics, as well as  on the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato and the astronomy of Ptolemy.

An  important name to remember is that of Hunyan, a Nestorian Christian whose chief  contribution among very many was the Translation of Galen's Anatomy. Outstanding  work was done as well as the Sabeans, or star worshipers, particularly and  naturally along the line of astronomy.

A current from India also  contributed to the stream with the introduction of the digits known as Arabic  numerals, as well as the decimal system and the use of zero. The century of  translation was but the prelude to the original contributions made through the  Arabic language and under the stimulus of Arab encouragement.

Some of the  translators themselves did significant original work. It was the Nestorian Christian  physician Yuhanna who used apes as subjects for dissection. He also wrote the  oldest work on the disorders of the eye, and his pupil Hunayan produced a ten  volume treatise on the eye.


[] [The Nestorian Church (General)] [Nestorian Documents] [Nestorian History] [The Nestorian Controversy] [Famous Individuals in Nestorian History] [The Nestorians in India] [The Nestorians in Arabia/Middle East] [The Nestorians & Arab Knowledge] [How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs] [Arab Golden age and education] [Hunein Ibn Ishak] [The Nestorians in Central Asia] [The Nestorians in China & The Far East] [The Syriac/Aramaic/Assyrian Language] [Modern Day Assyrians]