Friday, October 21, 2005

The Conspiracy of the Dark Ages ...

Western writers have designated the term "dark ages" for a thousand-year era that was actually the brightest epoch in human history. The prejudiced (or ignorant) writer would want others to think that there was no great civilization between the Roman and the modern civilization. At best, he would admit that there was a "short" period of Islamic brilliance, or that the Muslim scientists merely "collected" previous knowledge and passed it over to the Renaissance.

Our response to the Western use of the term "dark ages" has been regrettably lukewarm. When answering the prejudiced Western writer, we tend to make statements such as "Islam was enjoying its Golden Age at a time when Europe was drowned in its Dark Ages". Such a well-meaning statement may seem quite ok at first sight, but implicit in that statement is the fact that we have come to accept the term 'dark ages' that Western historians want to use. This is a monstrous error and should never be made. If Northern Europe was in a dark period of its history, one shouldn't say that they were in "their" dark ages, for by analogy, we Muslims are in "our" dark ages today, yet we hardly use the term "dark ages" for the present times. I will add in parentheses that if Rome and Greece are a part of Europe, then so is Spain, and it would be outright hypocritical to say that Europe was in glory during the Roman and Greek civilizations, yet it was "in its dark ages" during Islamic Spain's 800-year wonderful civilization.

The civilization spurred by Islam in the medieval ages was undoubtedly the greatest civilization witnessed by humanity. The Islamic civilization of the medieval ages produced a social system that guaranteed the rights of the individual, including women’s rights and minority rights – something which has not yet been achieved fully by the West. The literacy rate reached an unparalleled 100% in Islamic Spain, which is unmatched by present-day America, which stands at 99%. One should study in detail about the banking system, the military system, the sewerage system, the education system, and what not, developed by the Islamic civilization of the middle ages. One will come to the straightforward conclusion that the Islamic social system of the medieval ages was the most advanced system ever developed.

(Adapted from a posting I made on the Muslim Heritage website. Please see the Muslim Heritage website for information about the rich intellectual Muslim heritage that has been stifled in history books.)

2 comments:

George Carty said...

The only places which had a "Dark Age" in the sense that the term is normally used in the West was those under Roman rule in 150 AD, but under neither Byzantine nor Islamic rule in 750 AD. That is: England and Wales, France, Italy and some other territories along the west bank of the River Rhine. That's all.

Renaissance Scientist said...

The term "Dark Age" may have been used for the European Early Middle Ages, but it is pejorative and confusing and is now becoming increasingly unpopular in academic circles. The Wikipedia article on the Dark Ages sheds some light (pun intended here) on the Dark Ages:

It is generally accepted that the term was invented by Petrarch in the 1330s...

When modern scholarly study of the Middle Ages arose in the 19th century, the term "Dark Ages" was at first kept, with all its critical overtones... However the early 20th century saw a radical re-evaluation of the Middle Ages, and with it a calling into question of the terminology of darkness... It became clear that serious scholars would either have to redefine the term or abandon it...

When the term "Dark Ages" is used by historians today, it is intended to be neutral, namely to express the idea that the events of the period often seem "dark" to us, due to the paucity of historical records compared with later times. The darkness is ours, not theirs... However, at this time the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate experienced Ages that were Golden rather than Dark; consequently, this usage of the term must also differentiate geographically...

However, from the mid-20th century onwards an increasing number of scholars began to critique even this non-judgmental use of the term. There are two main criticisms. Firstly, it is questionable whether it is possible to use the term "dark ages" effectively in a neutral way; scholars may intend it that way, but this does not mean that ordinary readers will understand it so. Secondly, the explosion of new knowledge and insight into the history and culture of the Early Middle Ages which 20th-century scholarship has achieved means that these centuries are no longer dark even in the sense of "unknown to us". Consequently, many academic writers prefer not to use the phrase at all.