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Historical fun
March 6, 2006 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Muslim heritage is an intriguing and rather pretty website detailing contributions of a thousand years. Make sure to see the timelineand events sections. Their new "weblog" seems to be shaping up to be interesting too, have a rummage.
posted by Mossy (60 comments total)

 
Beautiful website, Mossy. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 4:14 AM on March 6, 2006


A bit too much religious propaganda (not dissimilar to Christianity's claims of having initiated all cultural and scientific progress in the West, yeah right), but indeed very pretty and interesting nonetheless. Thanks!
posted by funambulist at 4:17 AM on March 6, 2006


Thanks for the link! It's nice to see all this information so well presented.

I hope that Muslims (and I say this as one myself) take from their history a desire to strive for similar achievements in the modern world and beyond, not just as a mere rebuttal to comments on the state of affairs of Muslims today.
posted by zarex at 4:20 AM on March 6, 2006


Very professional - nice to see all these achievements brought together and presented so clearly. Does anybody know if these muslim architects, mathematicians, traders and inventors are taught about in muslim schools the way we teach Shakespeare, Newton, et al.? I do hope so.

(Also, the central message of the site seems to be that while the West was having its dark age, Islam was thriving. The obvious implication being that in modern times when the West is thriving, Islam is stuck in a new dark age?)
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:33 AM on March 6, 2006


good stuff here--thanks, mossy--this one's timely--Laying down the red carpet
posted by amberglow at 4:39 AM on March 6, 2006


Nice site!

It should be noted, though, that the claim that Piri Reis mapped Antarctica is not as clear cut as they present it.

Their article immediately assures us that the map is not a hoax. While this is true, "Antarctica" is most likely a misinterpretation of what's actually depicted on the map.
posted by uncle harold at 4:39 AM on March 6, 2006


What is the story with the decline of the caliphates? Was it western invaders/huns/etc?
posted by amberglow at 4:41 AM on March 6, 2006


Looks like a Muslim invented this:

Error Occurred While Processing Request
File not found: /FCK211/editor/index.cfm

Please try the following:

* Enable Robust Exception Information to provide greater detail about the source of errors. In the Administrator, click Debugging & Logging > Debugging Settings, and select the Robust Exception Information option.
* Check the ColdFusion documentation to verify that you are using the correct syntax.
* Search the Knowledge Base to find a solution to your problem.

Browser Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv:1.8.0.1) Gecko/20060111 Firefox/1.5.0.1
Remote Address 71.247.82.3
Referrer http://www.1001inventions.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.viewSection&intSectionID=308
Date/Time 06-Mar-06 01:40 PM
posted by ParisParamus at 4:41 AM on March 6, 2006


No, that was Al Gore, silly.
posted by uncle harold at 4:46 AM on March 6, 2006


Gore is a Muslim? Wow.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:53 AM on March 6, 2006


funny that they don't mention Ibn Rashd.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:05 AM on March 6, 2006


I'll just note that there's pretty much nothing from the past two hundred years.

What happened?
posted by empath at 5:20 AM on March 6, 2006


It is curious, isn't it? It's interesting to note there were two Ibn Rushd's - the grandfather of the "philosopher" is one of the foremost authorities in the Maliki school. More information on Ibn Rushd here. I like his tahafut at tahafut.

Ibn Sina probably deserves more of a look in too.

Both links from the similarly intriguing muslim philosophy site.
posted by Mossy at 5:27 AM on March 6, 2006


Oops, here he is: http://www.muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=413
posted by Mossy at 5:29 AM on March 6, 2006


What happened?

Colonialism.
posted by twistedonion at 5:54 AM on March 6, 2006


Great site! My eye was immediately caught by the article on al-Khazini... or is it al-Khazani? They have it both ways, but the confusion is understandable, since other sources (e.g., this site) give his nisba as al-Khazin (خازن khāzin being the word for 'treasurer'). Anyway, I'd never heard of him and was glad to discover him.

As for the Piri Reis map: please! I wish they'd never discovered the damn thing. Yes, it's probably a genuine artifact, but it's been used to support more nonsense than just about any other artifact I can think of. As I said here:
I'm not sure whether to be sad or amused at how eager people are to cling to "mysterious" documents that can, if you hold them sideways, squint, and use your imagination, be taken to suggest that our distant ancestors knew the secrets of geography/cosmology/aliens and somehow forgot to mention it in ways perceptible to actual historians. But of course historians are all part of the conspiracy!
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on March 6, 2006


Oh, and here's a fun fact: Salman Rushdie's father took that family name in honor of Ibn Rushd.
posted by languagehat at 6:06 AM on March 6, 2006


Nice link, let's hope this guy drops in for a look. (see here and here for more details).
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 6:14 AM on March 6, 2006


No matter how pretty the site is, Muslim imposition of religion upon secular matters sent the believers into a major decline and only now are they trying to use science and technology to spread their beliefs. Not unusual, so I am not badmouthing Islam. Nazi Germany and even some Russian science made intellectuals conform to ideological values, as did early Christianity, when they would not allow for anatomy etc on human bodies. Wallowing and embracing the past is fine for believers but it is a bit like recalling teams that were winner years ago but which finish way down the ladder year after year. How did they treat their women 200 years go? And today?
posted by Postroad at 6:25 AM on March 6, 2006


Imagine if someone found the remains of a beautiful, advanced civilization beneath Camden, New Jersey. Why, we'd be obligated to respect Camden and certainly not fear it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:51 AM on March 6, 2006


Colonialism.

Muslim countries were already in decline by the time France and Britain showed up. I've always read that the Mongol sack of Baghdad pretty much initiated the beginning of the end.

I do like it how they skip over the great expansion of Islam by sword and fire. They just pop up in Spain. Whee.
posted by Atreides at 6:55 AM on March 6, 2006


As for amberglow's question about the Caliphate, the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258 was major blow that ended Caliphal power. How much decline came into effect before that is debatable, but that is generally taken as the end.

There was a caliph who resided in Egypt after that, but he was not terribly powerful. Later on the Ottoman Emperors would claim the title Caliph, but that was very controversial and no one really takes that claim seriously anymore.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2006


I've always read that the Mongol sack of Baghdad pretty much initiated the beginning of the end.

But that was way back in the 13th Century... Three hundred years ago we had the Ottoman Empire. Then Industrialisation and the domination of the world by Old Europe.

That's my simplistic take on it anyway. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think pretty much all modern innovation could be attributed to westerners. We did a good job of wiping out or disabling any competition.
posted by twistedonion at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2006


Muslim countries were already in decline by the time France and Britain showed up.

Seems someone is forgetting the Ottoman Empire. The Muslims were colonial powers long before it became chic amongst the Europeans.

Anyway, it's hard to tell in this thread where the prejudice is coming from. Is it Arabs who are backwards, or Persians, or Turks, or is it all Muslims?
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on March 6, 2006


Three hundred years ago we had the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman empire began in 1299 and lasted until 1922, twistedonion. 650 odd years. Longer than the Roman empire lasted, longer than the British, and the French efforts at colonisation don't even rate a mention in comparison.
posted by three blind mice at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2006


I do know that, thanks. Which is why I said "three hundred years ago we had"... not "three hundred years ago was the formation of"

Maybe I explained myself poorly but I was trying to point out that the sacking of Baghdad was in no way the end of the Muslim Empires.
posted by twistedonion at 7:52 AM on March 6, 2006


I find it quite disturbing that there are people who will make sweeping statements such as "Muslims are backwards" etc.

I would get a right earbashing if i came out with "Christians are bigotted, backward simpletons."

Both statements are equally false.

Personally, I fear radical Christians as much as radical Arabs. It's just not cool to be Rad. I'm even afraid of Radical hippies.
posted by twistedonion at 7:55 AM on March 6, 2006


I would get a right earbashing if i came out with "Christians are bigotted, backward simpletons."

On mefi?
posted by unreason at 7:59 AM on March 6, 2006


I would get a right earbashing if i came out with "Christians are bigotted, backward simpletons."

Not here in the blue you wouldn't. There's at least one FPP a week with that title.
posted by three blind mice at 8:02 AM on March 6, 2006


Not on mefi, that would be scary.

Some of the comments here over the past day or two (all this nonsense about Muslims being backward) remind me of everyday conversations with associates and family members through the years.

Growing up in Northern Ireland you got the bigotry of "Catholics are dirty and are trying to outbreed us". Then High School in SA was "bloody Kafirs, should know their place etc".

Now it's Muslims. People can't seem to live without fear of someone. And the sweeping generalisations people make only compound that fear and make it pretty dangerous.

The people who would give me the earbashing would be people like my neighbours - everyday sorts... not you lot!
posted by twistedonion at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2006


three blind mice: what do you define as the end of the Roman empire? I see these comparisons of length of an empire, but the Roman empire isn't so clearly cut.
posted by Eekacat at 8:28 AM on March 6, 2006


i'd say the Roman Empire ended when the Goths/Visigoths swept thru, no?
posted by amberglow at 8:36 AM on March 6, 2006


What i love about that whole era is that it wasn't just Muslims who were doing brilliant things and really making civilization progress (as opposed to most of Europe), but us Jews too--we had it good under them and some of our most brilliant and revered thinkers were working then (of course, there was no Israel to mess things up)
posted by amberglow at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2006


The Ottoman empire began in 1299 and lasted until 1922, twistedonion. 650 odd years. Longer than the Roman empire lasted, longer than the British, and the French efforts at colonisation don't even rate a mention in comparison.

The Roman empire ended in May 1453. Attempts since the enlightenment to rebrand it as Byzantium notwithstanding (they didn't like the idea of the Roman empire being medieval rather than classical and the idea has stuck), the Roman empire lasted 1500 years. The end gave the Ottomans their new capital, cut off trade routes for Christendom and led to Columbus sailing west.

Cool looking site btw.
posted by vbfg at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2006


A bit too much religious propaganda (not dissimilar to Christianity's claims of having initiated all cultural and scientific progress in the West, yeah right

Indeed. Too bad it's anti-PC to diss this version.
posted by HTuttle at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2006


i'd say the Roman Empire ended when the Goths/Visigoths swept thru, no?

No. The western empire pretty much did, and various political and religious events over the next 600 years ended any thoughts of the two halves of the empire being reunited again, but the state machinery, government and army of the Romans would last for another thousand years in Constantinople.
posted by vbfg at 8:49 AM on March 6, 2006


Pity there aren't really many images in the Art & Architecture section.

Have to say the religious apology part is even more heavy handed than at first impression though... Some incredible irony too - for instance, the page on the Islamic origins of science, which amongst other things calls Darwin's theory of evolution "the greatest error" (of the nineteenth century), claims it's been refuted by 'scientific' evidence on DNA, affirms the validity of intelligent design, and is republished from a website where links to selected bibliographies stand out on the right side, with titles such as "Refutation of Darwinism" and a series of books about creationism.

So, if I get this right, there is no conflict between religion and science in Islam, simply because no scientific principle incompatible with Islamic creationism is accepted as scientifically valid. Interesting way of putting it!
posted by funambulist at 8:49 AM on March 6, 2006


three blind mice: what do you define as the end of the Roman empire?

Well, Eekacat, nothwithstanding vbfg's clarifications, the Roman Empire ended in ca. 500 CE or, as Gibbon put it

"from the fortunate age of Trajan and the Antonines to its total extinction in the West, about five centuries after the Christian era. At that unhappy period the Saxons fiercely struggled with the natives for the possession of Britain: Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and Visigoths and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and Burgundians: Africa was exposed to the cruel persecution of the Vandals and the savage insults of the Moors: Rome and Italy, as far as the banks of the Danube, were afflicted by an army of barbarian mercenaries, whose lawless tyranny was succeeded by the reign of Theodoric the Ostrogoth. All the subjects of the empire, who, by the use of the Latin language, more particularly deserved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppressed by the disgrace and calamities of foreign conquest; and the victorious nations of Germany established a new system of manners and government in the western countries of Europe. The majesty of Rome was faintly represented by the princes of Constantinople, the feeble and imaginary successors of Augustus. Yet they continued to reign over the East, from the Danube to the Nile and Tigris; the Gothic and Vandal kingdoms of Italy and Africa were subverted by the arms of Justinian; and the history of the Greek emperors may still afford a long series of instructive lessons and interesting revolutions. "
posted by three blind mice at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2006


Thanks Mossy; great stuff!
posted by peacay at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2006


I don't see any prejudice in this thread at all. It's hard to dispute that

A) Islam was the intellectual center of the world for several centuries, and
B) it essentially ceased innovating several hundred years ago.

I don't think that colonialism is a sufficient answer. Being colonized would seem to me to be a symptom of a civilization's decline, not a cause.
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on March 6, 2006


Well, Eekacat, nothwithstanding vbfg's clarifications, the Roman Empire ended in ca. 500 CE or, as Gibbon put it [blah blah blah]

That's ridiculous. Gibbon wrote well over 200 years ago, when understanding of what was then thought of as "the fall of the Roman Empire" was extremely primitive, and to that ignorance he added his own personal prejudice against both Christianity and what we've come to call the Byzantine Empire. To quote Gibbon as an authority on that is like quoting Newton as an authority on relativity. The "Byzantine Empire" was nothing more than the continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire after the western half had been overrun; nobody at the time thought there was any dividing line there, and neither do modern historians. The "Byzantines" called themselves Romans, and so did everybody else (cf. Arabic Rum—hence Rumi, who had nothing to do with Rome but lived in what had until recently been the Roman Empire). They never gave up hope of recapturing the west, and until the artificial revival of antiquity in the 19th century the modern Greeks still referred to themselves as Romans (Romaioi). The word "Byzantine" hadn't been invented in Gibbon's day, but it came out of the same anti-historical desire to somehow distance those degenerate Easterners from the good, pure, in fact downright British Romans.
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2006


well, i don't know that there has to be one cause---civilizations rise and fall, flower and wilt, expand and shrivel...the Caliphates had a good ride, the Dutch had a very short but good ride, the Brits, Romans, Mongols/Huns, Ottomans, etc...

I wonder if future people will see the EU as an empire of sorts (if it lasts)?
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2006


The word "Byzantine" hadn't been invented in Gibbon's day, but it came out of the same anti-historical desire to somehow distance those degenerate Easterners from the good, pure, in fact downright British Romans.

Well if that's the agreed on pack of lies that satisfies you, languagehat, by all means. I will gladly concede that the Ottoman Empire did not last as long as the venerable Roman Empire.

But since it lasted well into the 20th century, it seems wrong to blame the "decline" of the Arab - not Muslim - world on British or French colonialism.
posted by three blind mice at 10:56 AM on March 6, 2006


Frankly it disgusts me that you people could whine on about whether Christian or Moslems are worse and totally ignore the far more deadly threat from the Bahá'u'lláh un-civilisation. Just don't come running to me when they take over and start inserting apostrophes in painful place's.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:03 AM on March 6, 2006


if that's the agreed on pack of lies that satisfies you, languagehat, by all means.

I have absolutely no idea what you mean by that. Once again, "irony" and snark triumph over intelligibility.
posted by languagehat at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2006


I have absolutely no idea what you mean by that. Once again, "irony" and snark triumph over intelligibility.

L'histoire est une suite des mensonges sur lesquels est l'accord was Napoleon's observation. It is commonly translated in English as "History is a pack of lies, agreed upon." It is neither snark, nor irony.
posted by three blind mice at 11:15 AM on March 6, 2006


Nice link, let's hope this guy drops in for a look. (see here and here for more details).
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 6:14 AM PST on March 6 [!]


Well OK. Nice site. Did you see the timeline? Nothing much going on since 1600. Why is that?

I'm about done with this subject because I'm sick and tired of people calling me a racist on MeFi because I despise the oppression caused by the religion in that region. I despise any religion that oppresses people and is used as a political tool.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 11:32 AM on March 6, 2006


Seems someone is forgetting the Ottoman Empire. The Muslims were colonial powers long before it became chic amongst the Europeans.

Nah, Someone opted out of referencing the Ottoman Empire. The reference to colonialism was set at 200 years ago, so 1806 or about. The Ottoman Empire was already declining by that time, which allowed the French and British to setup operations in the Middle East. Hence, why I did not bring up the Ottomans.
posted by Atreides at 11:41 AM on March 6, 2006


A note on the Byzantines...and mainly agreement with Languagehat

The term Byzantine was not used by the Byzantines or any other contemporary sources. They believed themselves the same political entity that emerged in Rome, Italy. They traced their emperors directly back to the Roman Emperors, and their word for themselves, as Languagehat pointed out, was the Greek word for Roman.

The only essential difference was that the Greek culture was the dominant culture in the Empire. However, even if they did not write in Latin, they still continued on most of the same institutions, etc.
posted by Atreides at 11:49 AM on March 6, 2006


don't come running to me when they take over and start inserting apostrophes in painful place's

To'o late!
posted by kirkaracha at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2006


The "Byzantine Empire" was nothing more than the continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire after the western half had been overrun; nobody at the time thought there was any dividing line there,

How does this square with the Emperor Diocletian's 3rd Century division of the Empire into an Eastern and Western Empire, each ruled by a separate and equal Emperor with capitals at Byzantium and Rome respectively?
posted by alasdair at 12:27 PM on March 6, 2006


How does this square with the Emperor Diocletian's 3rd Century division of the Empire into an Eastern and Western Empire, each ruled by a separate and equal Emperor with capitals at Byzantium and Rome respectively?

Neither capital was in Rome or Byzantium. Milan was the Western one, Diocletian's was in Egypt somewhere. Rome became capital again at some point in between and Constantine, who moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium and made the empire a Christian state, reunited the empire under force of arms. The rot had set in and the west was always subject to barbarian invasion pretty much thereafter, but as a theoretical political entity it was one again. After that, the incumbent powers in the new Constantinople would see any split with the west as lands lost due to barbarian invasion, but due to the strong Roman notion of unity never really conceived of accepting it. There were other factors as well as the Barbarians, such as power politics resulting from arguments over who was primary in the holy hierarchy between the Pope, vicar of Christ, and the Emperor, God's Regent on Earth, but mostly it was slowly diminishing ability to influence events rather than irrevocable splits. Religion slowly became an issue as well. There were a few attempts to reassert authority, notably by Justinian (one of history's most fascinating characters imo), but they all failed. At some point enough people in the west stopped thinking of themselves in the same way for it to be come a persisting reality. I'm not sure I'd like to argue that all people in the west have stopped thinking of themselves in that same way yet tbh. Certainly there's something of the Roman sense of civilisation in Western though that never really went away.
posted by vbfg at 12:46 PM on March 6, 2006


don't come running to me when they take over and start inserting apostrophes in painful place's

To'o late!
O'h, n'o! Wha't ar'e we goin'g t'o d'o?
posted by JB71 at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2006


"We were great .... once."

"Time to be great again."

posted by darren at 2:22 PM on March 6, 2006


R'ecent "grea'ts" of va'rying cali'ber...

Professor Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate

Abdelwahab Meddeb
Allama_Iqbal

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Ali Shariati

List of Islamic scholars
posted by nickyskye at 5:09 PM on March 6, 2006


I'll just note that there's pretty much nothing from the past two hundred years.

What happened?

it would be nice to blame white people and colonialism, but its because they closed the "gate of ijtihad" (independent thought) and spurned technology and progress (except in advancing their machines of war)

pretty good run down on how islam fell
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 6:23 PM on March 6, 2006


Growing up in Northern Ireland you got the bigotry of "Catholics are dirty and are trying to outbreed us". Then High School in SA was "bloody Kafirs, should know their place etc".


You have no choice but to move to Palestine/Israel or Kashmir. And then write a book.
posted by cell divide at 6:39 PM on March 6, 2006


The whole "closing the gates of ijtihad" thing is overblown. In reality this was in ibadat (acts of worship) only only and not in mu'amalat (civil/social matters). Also, ijtihad refers specifically to text based derivation of Islamic law under a given axiomatic basis/methodology and not general independent thought (borg?). 'S a complex topic.
posted by Mossy at 12:21 AM on March 7, 2006


'S a complex topic

You goddam Baha'i people are really starting to get on my nerve's.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:34 AM on March 7, 2006


Nothing much going on since 1600

But some of the stuff that happened before 1600 was pretty impressive. Many of the advances of the Western world were built on innovations from the Muslim one.

Still, with the way that the Christian right are abandoning science, there could well be another changing of positions in terms of scientific advancement over the next century.

I've seen at least one article that mentions the fact that China is taking advantage of the fact that they have very little public opposition to stem cell technology, compared to the west, that they've intensified their interest in a 'gap in the market' created, at least in part, by the religious concerns of the west.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 8:57 AM on March 7, 2006


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