Why Is The Muslim World Stuck In Its Own Dark Age (Part 1)?

dark_ages When I was younger I used to read a lot about the past glories of Islamic civilisation. It was thrilling to know that Muslims once led the world in learning, that Muslims were once engaged in a systematic endeavour to translate influential books from other cultures into Arabic and to absorb and pass on that learning to others.

It was eye-opening to learn that at a time when the largest library in France held 700 books, the library in Muslim Cordoba contained over a half a million books.

However, that thrill and excitement would always be heavily tinged with sadness at the present state of the Muslim world. No one can point at the Muslim world today as being leaders in very much at all really. And this has been the case for a number of centuries now.

Why has Europe and the West generally been able to make such sustained progress in science and technology (and much else besides) for well over four hundred years now? And why is most of the Muslim world still showing little sign of being able to do the same?

Ironically, when Muslim civilisation was at its height, Europe was still stuck in what historians refer to as the Dark Ages: a period following the collapse of the Roman Empire covering approximately the 6th to the 13th centuries. Could it be that the most of the Muslim world is stuck in its own version of the Dark Ages? If so, is there anything to be learnt from the West’s incredible progress in recent centuries?

A few months ago I purchased a book called ‘The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform The World’ by the award-winning theoretical physicist David Deutsch. Deutsch examines what has driven improvements in the West in everything from our scientific understanding to our politics and moral values.

Deutsch covers a huge amount of ground so it will probably take me several posts to do his ideas any semblance of justice.

One pre-condition for sustained knowledge growth, according to Deutsch, is what he refers to as Fallibilism. In his own words:

“…the recognition that there are no authoritative sources of knowledge, nor any reliable means of justifying ideas as being true or probable – is called fallibilism. To believers in the justified-true-belief theory of knowledge, this recognition is the occasion for despair or cynicism, because to them it means that knowledge is unattainable. But to those of us from whom creating knowledge means understanding better what is really there, and how it really behaves and why, fallibilism is part of the very means by which this is achieved. Fallibilists expect even their best and most fundamental explanations to contain misconceptions in addition to truth, and so they are predisposed to try and change them for the better. In contrast, the logic of justificationism is to seek (and typically, to believe that one has found) ways of securing ideas against change. Moreover, the logic of fallibilism is that one not only seeks to correct the misconceptions of the past, but hopes in the future to find and change mistaken ideas that no one today questions or finds problematic. So it is fallibilism, not mere rejection of authority, that is essential for the initiation of unlimited knowledge growth – the beginning of infinity.” (p9)

To be continued…

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6 Responses to Why Is The Muslim World Stuck In Its Own Dark Age (Part 1)?

  1. Ahmed Malik says:

    Br Inayat, Salaam. I just wanted to congratulate you and your colleagues at MCB for putting up such a robust condemnation and proactive media schedule in reaction to the Wednesday incident. I earlier watched Br Faruq Murad on Sky News, came across very informed and confident, his response to this new Taskforce was well measured. Please pass him my regards and my thanks to the MCB team, at times like this strong representative leadership is very important, your thoughts in the form of a blog post would be appreciated also, Wasalam

    • Khalid says:

      Brother Ahmed,
      Inayat Banglawala has nothing to do with MCB anymore , infact judging by his recent posts he has nothing to do with Islam anymore. He has now enlightened himself and has joined a crusade to modernise Islam which mean purging Islam of true teaching of Qur’an and Prophet(PBUH ). Any connection with MCB is rather embarrassing for our ‘enlightened’ brother.

  2. To answer your question, it all comes down to politics. Europe had its dark ages when it was ruled by ruthless ignorant tyrants. The revolutions and the imposition of leaders with a vision allowed science, the economy, the military etc to flourish and brought europe to a collection of superpowers.

    The arab world are currently getting rid of their ignorant tyrants and inshAllah I expect progress to follow shortly after.

    As british muslims it really doesnt matter to us, we should leave this to the muslim lands. As muslims in britain we need to focus on british islam, as a minority politics doesnt come into the equation in terms of bringing ourselves into superpower status etc

  3. LibertyPhile says:

    “…the recognition that there are no authoritative sources of knowledge, nor any reliable means of justifying ideas as being true or probable – is called fallibilism.”

    I’m waiting with bated breath to hear where that leads!

    By the way, your notion of the European Dark Ages is a little off, which seems to be a common mistake with Muslims. Not long ago I came across one who thought they went right up to the Enlightenment! 1700+

    For your info: Dark Ages, the early medieval period of western European history. Specifically, the term refers to the time (476–800) when there was no Roman (or Holy Roman) emperor in the West; or, more generally, to the period between about 500 and 1000, which was marked by frequent warfare and a virtual disappearance of urban life. It is now rarely used by historians because of the value judgment it implies. [Encyclopædia Britannica]

    I’m no historian (I’m a scientist) but I thought many of the great European cathedrals were built around 1100-1200.

  4. LibertyPhile says:

    @ Abu Fatimah al Britaani

    European “ruthless ignorant tyrants” were around long after the end of the Dark Ages and most of them depended on religion to keep a grip on power and were supported by the “Church” and the clergy. Charles I lost his head because he believed in the divine right of Kings.

    Science, engineering, medicine, industry, education, flourished in Europe from the time of the Enlightenment when Europeans finally saw religion for the superstitious nonsense that it is.

    It’s backward religious beliefs that permeate society that hold back progress (and keep tyrants in power) in Islamic countries.

  5. Laila says:

    Mythology Inayat – get some sensible history books and join up the dots of “what went right” for the west and “what went wrong” for the Muslims… it’ll open your eyes!

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