Basheer Photo

The Dark Ages of Europe were not the Dark Ages of the World

-Dr Basheer Ahmed M.D,

Former Professor of Psychiatry South Western Medical School Dallas Texas
Chairman Emeritus Muslim Community Center For Human Services North Texas
President Institute of Medieval and Post Medieval Studies

Dark ages of Europe (700-1400 A.D) is regarded as a period of intellectual darkness and barbarity (Encyclopedia Britannica 2010). The term dark ages  is intended to be neutral, but it clearly shows a lack of recognition for the scientific and scholarly work during this period in Middle East and Europe (Spain).


The West knows what the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Babylonians contributed to civilization in terms of scholarly work and scientific discoveries. Most of us have heard of Socrates, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galen and Pythagoras and their contributions to philosophy, astronomy, physics , mathematics and medical sciences. However, very few of us have heard of Muslim scientists, Al-Kindi, Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, Zahrawi, Ibn Al-Haytham or Ibn Khaldoon, who made equally great contributions to science, between the 7th and 15th centuries – during the era known as “the Dark Ages”.

 The two events effectively doomed Europe to ignorance. The first was the closing of Edessa’s school of Hippocratic Medicine in 489 AD, by the Byzantine Emper­or Zeno. Next was the destruction of Academy of Athens by the Emperor Justinian in 529 A.D. The scholarly work at the academy was challenging the church doctrine. Hundreds of scholars fled from Eddesa and Academy of Athens seeking refuge in Jundishapur(Iran).The town was taken by Muslims during the second Caliph Umar reign, in 738 AD.

The advanced civilization in the middle ages was inspired by Quranic teachings and the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh) that emphasized acquisition of knowledge. Baghdad became the center of political power of khilafath of Harun Rashid. Many physicians and scholars migrated from Jundeshpur and other parts of the world to Baghdad. The legendary “Baitul Hikma” (House of Wisdom) was built in (763 AD) in Baghdad. This became the center of research and scholarly activities attracting Muslim and Non Muslim Scientist and Scholars from all over the world. At its peak, more than thousand years ago, the Muslim world made a remarkable contribution to science, notably mathematics and medicine. Baghdad and Cordova in Spain (The Western capital of the Muslim world) built universities where thousands flocked to gain knowledge.The spirit of freedom allowed Jews, Christians, and Muslims to work side by side. (Francis Ghiles, 1983)

The oldest university of the world is not Oxford (1167), Cambridge (1209) or Harvard (1636).Al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez. Morocco founded in (859) C.E. is considered the oldest continuously operating degree granting university of the world. Al-Azhar University of Cairo that was built in (970) . and Nizamiya College Baghdad (1067) are also the oldest universities of the world.

What we call science arose as a result of new methods of experiment, observation, and measurement, which were introduced into Europe by the Arabs. Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab civilization to the modern world”,The Making of Humanity”- Robert Briffault

Notable Muslim scholars who made contributions to philosophy, Astronomy, History, Mathematics, Chemistry, Medical and Social Sciences.

Al-Khwarizmi (770-840) developed the science of algebra and calculus.

Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber-715-800) introduced the experimental scientific method for chemistry Ibn Isha Al-Kindi (800-873) Philosopher and mathematician.

Abbas ibn Firnas (810-887) made the first successful attempt to fly.

Al-Battani (858-929) contributed knowledge of Astronomy and trigonometry.

Al-Razi (Rhazes 864-930) made significant contribution to the knowledge of Medicine.

Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis 936-1013) He introduced surgery as a separate specialty.

Abul Hasan Al-Masudi (896-956)  made major contributions in History & Geography.

Ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen 965-1040) considered as Father of Optics.

Al-Mawardi (972-1058) wrote extensively on political science, sociology.

Abu-Raihan Al Biruni (973-1048) Astronomer and Mathematician.

Ali Hussain Ibn- Sina (Avicenna 981-1037) the most famous physician who wrote an Encyclopedia of Medicine in 10th century.

Omar Khayyam (1044-1123) Mathematician, Astronomer and Poet.

Ibn- Zuhr (1100-1161) surgeon: He invented the surgical procedure of tracheotomy.

Ibn Al Nafis (1213-1288): He discovered the pulmonary and coronary circulation.

Muhammad Al-Idrisi (1100-1166): The first geographers who drew the world map.

Jalal ud Din Rumi (1207-1273): Great Sufi, Philosopher and Poet.

Ibn Khaldoon (1332-1406): He introduced a new science called “Ilm al- Umran” (science of culture and civilization).


From 7th untill 15th century ,the Muslims scientists and scholars enlightened the world of DARK AGES with their scientific and philosophical ideas, which became the foundations for the European renaissance in 16th century.