HOUSE OF WISDOM (Rays of light)!

Golden age of Muslim civilization commenced in 8th century which culminated into translation movement to agglomerate Greek, Latin , Persian and Sanskrit scientific work. Abbasid Caliph , Al- Mamoon (813 A.D. to 833 A.D.), laid the foundation of House of Wisdom which provided an impetus to intellectual development in Muslim society.

BACKGROUND

Umayyad caliphs made Damascus the capital of their empire after grabbing it from Byzantine empire where Greek intellectual work was survived in Latin and Syriac texts. Arabs started to translate it in their own language but without proper governmental patronage. In 750 A.D.,Abbasids replaced Umayyad empire with the support of Persians and made Baghdad their capital. Second Abbasids Caliph Al-Mansoor allowed the translation of Indian astronomical work to make calendars.

Caliph Haroon-ur-Rashid (786 to 809 A.D.) established a library in Baghdad and his administrator, Bramka family, encouraged translation of books.

Muslims came to know about paper manufacturing in 712 A.D. after conquest of Samarkand. First paper mill was established in Baghdad in 794 A.D. by minister of Haroon, Al-Fazal Barmaki. Paper industry further moved to Cairo, Egypt in 800A.D. and in 950 A.D. It was flourishing in Muslim Spain. Haroon established a great library under patronage of Bramka family which converted into house of Wisdom by his son Al-Mamoon.

Impact

  •  Al-Mamoon (813 A.D. to 833 A.D.) 
  •  Al-Mamoon converted the library of Haroon into house of Wisdom with a grant of 2 lac dinars.
  • Hunayn ibn ishaq was a Nestorian Christian physician entrusted by Caliph to lead the translation work.
  • He translated more than hundred books but his most important work was converting 39 treatises of
    Galen (great physician after Hippocrates) into Arabic.
  • He also translated Greek works like Categories and Magna Morelia of Aristotle, Republic of Plato,
    Aphorism of Hippocrates and Old Testaments.
  • Once Al-Mamoon astonished every one in court by honoring Hunayn with gold equal to weight of his books.
  • Abu Yaqoob Alkindi (prince of Arab philosophy) (801-873 A.D.)
  • Alkindi produced almost 268 books and commentaries in the field of medicine, astronomy and philosophy. His translation of ,Theology of Aristotle , engendered influence on Muslim philosophers.
  • His work inspired Avicenna and Averroes (Ibne Rushd) in the coming days.During last years of his life he was flogged publicly and many of his books were burnt.
  • He became the victim of orthodoxy prevailed under Abbasid Caliph Al- Mutwakkal.
  • Muhammad bin Musa Al Khwarizmi (780-850A.D.)
  • He used the Indian numeric system for astronomy and prepared geographical encyclopedia for Al Mamoon in 813 A.D.
  • He wrote a treatise, Zij al-sindhind, solved linear and quad-rate equations and introduced the term algebra first time.
  • He was inspired from Euclid. Latin translation of his book, algorithmo de Numero Indorum, popularized him because of use of zero.

Critical Analyses

House of wisdom was not an institution for translation only rather that was a research institution for comparative studies. Greek, Persian and Indian knowledge of astronomy , medicine, mathematics , philosophy, chemistry, etc. was not rewritten but that was rectified.

Intellectual debates were common among intellectuals even sometimes Caliphs themselves participated in debates. That trend was followed by Fatmid Caliph Al Hakim who established Darul Hikmah on this pattern.

Students earned handsome money by copying that books. Lenient and generous approach of providing patronage to knowledge created environment of golden age in Muslim society which lasted till 13th century.

Downfall of House of Wisdom

After Al Mamoon , Al Motsim and Alwasiq continued the policy of patronage of knowledge but their policy to enforce Motzilla’s ideology on society invited criticism from Sunni sect. Finally Al Mutwakkal (847 A.D. to 861 A.D.) opted for orthodox policy and philosophical work was banned as Al Kindi became victim of it.

This institution became a light and it’s rays took shelter in the courts of local amirs, sultans and kings. Like Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni patronized Firdausi and Al Beruni, etc.

” In the nutshell it can be said that research institutions can engender long lasting influences only by creating an environment of comparative studies, intellectual debates and people interaction irrespective of cast and creed.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.

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