When Europe Went Through The Dark Ages, Muslims Had Their Enlightment: Where is it Now?

The Dark Ages. That’s what they called it in school. A period of empty history. Take it the only way you can, dark.

No one even bothered to call it the empty ages. Perhaps something a little less dark might have caused some curiosity to learn what actually went on. Seriously, why not call it something a little less dark.

Instead we were taught about everything else it seemed. We learnt about the Medusa, the Aztecs, the American Revolution, the Battle of Hastings (1066 technically fitting in to the dark ages),  Elizabethian and Victorian England. Many many topics of history have been covered and taught at school. Yet those Dark Ages, just left there, in the corner, in the dark.

‘The triumph of death’ is one of the most famous paintings associated with the Dark Ages.
‘The triumph of death’ is one of the most famous paintings associated with the Dark Ages.

Well, some things did happen. As stated earlier there was the Battle of Hastings, an epic battlet. There was the bubonic plague, kind of on the dark side there. There were also the Crusades, which perhaps many people want to forget about, you know, with all the massacres and what not.

Kind of dark then yeah, it seems so.

Now we are talking 6th to 13th century here. That’s the rough period that the ages were dark. Some point that it was more in the middle of this time frame at 8th to 11th century. An era of cultural, economic,  and social decline.

Funny though. In the 8th century, somewhere in Arabia, something was starting.

It then spread like wildfire around the Peninsula and was working it’s way to Europe. It did exactly that, working it’s way into the heart of Europe, conquering, and putting an end to Byzantine and the monopoly of power Rome held on the way.

No, Islam was not caught in this dark age. It was in the light and shining so, until blotted out and cast under the same history books that defined these times as the ‘Dark Ages’.

The Grand mosque of Cordoba was built, in Europe, in Spain, just at the start of this dark age in 784 AD
The Grand mosque of Cordoba was built, in Europe, in Spain, just at the start of this dark age in 784 AD

In the centre of this dark age era, a man, Ibn Al Haytham was busy trying to find the light, and in doing so he built the first ever pinhole cameras. His work on light and scientific method would be used centuries later, but his name, forgotten, left in that dark.

Fatima Al Fihri founded a madrasa and university, (which just so happens to be the oldest continually running university to date), later becoming a centre of advances in thought in the Islamic world. But a woman opened it, and it was 859AD. Far too dark.

Did You Know That the First University Was Founded by a Muslim woman?

Coffee, algebra, flight and chemistry are just a few things invented or advanced upon by Muslims in these ‘Dark Ages’. These would later be built upon by the Europeans, post Italian Renaissance (as people came out of the dark age) and funnily enough post crusades. Names and credits were forgotten and erased, and accredited to the period before the Dark Ages.

Islamic enlightenment and the favors it did the world were simply cast away along with the black plague. As if they were one.

Now, at a period where Islam itself is definitely in its own dark age, there’s a dire need for a push back to its era of enlightenment. A paradox I guess, Islam must aim to go back to the Dark Ages.

Creativity, innovation and the merit of mind once had value, whereas in more recent times there has been an organised and strict systematic approach to Islam; eliminating, ignoring, and then going at odds with scientific and artistic schools, although nevertheless being perfectly compatible.

It is as if the world of Islam, after expanding so eloquently as it did, adapting and learning in the process, then rapidly retracted and whilst doing so regurgitated all of its achievements; progressing to a dark age of its own.

The Renaissance for Islam would be uprooting the entire faith, picking it apart, cleaning it, and then putting it back together. It’s not an easy task given the current climate, but nothing is impossible. One thing it would require would be unity across the Islamic world, and, the backing of prominent scholars of Islam.

This cleaning of the faith would get rid of corruption for example, to have righteous custodians of the two holy mosques who aren’t two faced, just for example. To have a real method to appointing imams so that not just anyone can issue fatwas (see Abu Bakr al Baghdadi). For example.

To challenge the notion of nationalism that is unfortunately rife in Muslim nations, where they do not get along with their Muslim neighbours, even though they are one but nationalism and independent culture divide them.

These things need to be addressed, so that our future generations can be like the innovators of the past rather than the followers of today (and it’s future should it carry on down this path). Be a doctor or lawyer or accountant? No. Be a thinker.

Muslims can be lucky they had one person who recognised the importance of ijtihad in the 20th century. Unfortunately we don’t teach our kids about him and the history books have tried their hardest to erase his name.

Just like the man above, centuries before, Niccolo Machiavelli was condemned and banished for exposing the status quo and the war that it waged on social progression. He is recognised as one of the greatest thinkers and contributors of the Italian Renaissance and was almost alone in tackling the political arena.

It is from men like this that a serious message can be learnt: seek to expose the truth.

I believe platforms like this, Mvslim, are contributing to reviving that old era of Islam, of truth, and it’s golden age, as are certain imams who are challenging issues of clashes and confusion between culture and religion.

The new golden age, or Renaissance, won’t be like those of the past in terms of making scientifically advances. Rather more a spiritual renaissance, reflecting on the state of Islam today, the causes behind it and how to tackle the problems faced by the Muslim world.

A product of the Dark Ages. Take us back!!!
A product of the Dark Ages. Take us back!!!

We might not see the results of these efforts. They might not happen. We pray that they will. I guess that’s just the beauty of it though. The faith.

Written by Hamza Asghar.

Written by Hamza Asghar

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Hamza Asghar is a 26-year-old who's currently teaching English in China. He's interested in art, culture and cooking.