The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well prepared, binge-watched and will watch again I had rather little prior knowledge about the topic and enjoyed the well planned structure of the course as much as the rather British (intensely correct with hints of British humour) presentation. I am dazzled by all the names and will come back and watch again. For now I immediately continued with the "Turning points in Middle Eastern History". One small thing: please don't butcher the German, French or Persian languages. Ask a native speaker how to pronounce the words before you use them in the lecture. It hurts especially for Persian, because we know you can read the script, it's so similar to Arabic.
Date published: 2020-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing course Another winner and outstanding course by Professor Gearon. His talent for organizing the lectures so that the viewer appreciates and understands the material clearly evident. I will continue to look for courses that he teaches. I was not aware of the specifics of the Golden Age of Islam and have learned to appreciate all that came out of this period. Highly recommend his other course Turning points in Middle Eastern History.
Date published: 2020-08-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Seems biased, the narrator clearly is The narrator makes stuff up about the Quran saying the earth is flat, which it doesn't and I don't know why he didn't clarify that. He also seems biased and jealous of the Muslim culture in general, even though I bought the whole course I regretted it and could not watch past the first couple of episodes.... Disgusting, actually.
Date published: 2020-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and interesting lectures; professional presentation.
Date published: 2020-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprising Historical Information... "A man who is noble does not pretend to be noble, any more than an eloquent man feigns eloquence. When a man exaggerates his qualities it is because of something lacking in him, the bully gives himself airs because he is conscious of his weakness. Pride is ugly in all men... it is worse than cruelty, which is the worst in kind of sins, and humility is better than clemency, which is the best of all good deeds." ~ Al-Jahiz (called Boggle-eyed - Bulging eyes) - suggested reading... "The Book of Misers" by: Al-Jahiz ~~~ "As my late father used to say... The one thing to remember about common sense is that it is not very common." ~ Professor Eamonn Gearon ~~~ "The seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency." ~Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040 c.e. - Father of Scientific Inquiry) ~~~ Although it was considered radical at the time Al-Biruni thought all religions - even those that were polytheistic and not related to the Abrahamic beliefs, as Hinduism, etc. - that there was a common core belief system - and that all religions as such should be tolerated. He was a Muslim and believed that his intellect was a gift from God. He was considered a genius by some people. ~~ He once said... "I was driven into worldly affairs and became the envy of fools, and pitied by the wise." ~~~ One day, Al-Biruni was showing a religious scholar an astronomical instrument that was said to identify the correct direction for prayer, i.e., towards Mecca. A legalist, the visiting scholar always adhered to the letter of religious law rather than the spirit. As such this legalist objected that it had engraved upon it the names of the months in the Byzantine calendar, which he said, amounted to imitating infidel practices. Furious, Al-Biruni retorted, "The Byzantines also eat food, so you'd best not imitate them in that," and he threw the man into the street. ~~~ "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death." ~ Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) ~~~ "When I have a difficult subject before me -when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well-established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools - I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude." ~ Moses Maimonides ~~~ (This entire lecture series is a real gift to anyone who gives their entire attention to the information shared. Some of the best quotes I have ever heard in my entire life are by Maimonides and contained here in this review - things priceless and valuable to learn, understand and be applied wherever the need in life may be.) ~~~ "Do not consider it proof just because it is written in books, for a liar who will deceive with his tongue will not hesitate to do the same with his pen." ~Maimonides ~~~ "Like many great thinkers, Maimonides was keen to encourage others to think for themselves and to be on their guard against being mislead, as in by the... "blind belief"." ~ Professor Eamonn Gearon ~~~ "The Arabians were lovers of poetry in all its forms - love, war, history, tales, praise, insult and laments. The purpose of insult poems was to ridicule or lampoon rival tribes and their leaders. And they would generate a response from that tribe's poet, offering fresh insults in response. These were insults that the original tribe would then be forced to respond to, and so on. known in English as "flyting"; this practice of trading insults via poetry isn't limited to the Arab world. Examples of similar, formalized public battle in verse appear in locations as diverse as ancient Greece, Japan, among the Arctic-dwelling Inuit peoples, as well as in Norse, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon societies." ~~~ (This is but a small sampling and may seem long to some, but, it was so hard to choose what to share - this entire course is an absolute educational delight and treasure of information about historical people and things I was never before aware - and I will enjoy it again and again.)
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course changed my travel plans I really enjoyed this course. Presentation was clear, with lots of information and a touch of dry humour. Because it covered so much Mr Gearon couldn't go into a lot of depth on each topic but it whetted my appetite to learn more about Islamic contributions. A minor criticism is that on at least one occasion he said he would cover three points in the rest of the lecture but then covered only two of them. He mentioned the importance of Córdoba so often that I decided to visit the city and in fact am writing this review from there. I am spending a month here learning about the history of Córdoba and the surrounding area. It's a delight. Thank you Mr Gearon.
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting topic- presentation so-so The lectures cover the Golden Age of Islam and the artistic, scientific and cultural achievements. In order to over come modern day biases against Islam, the lecturer kind of bends over backwards to show case the achievements and stretches the truth a bit (first, best, etc). On balance, the information was good and worthwhile to learn.
Date published: 2020-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating look at 'Islamic' culture I learned a lot from this course; it doesn't move chronologically but focus' on different subjects and follows the cultural changes across time and space.
Date published: 2019-12-24
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The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age
Course Trailer
From Camels to Stars in the Middle East
1: From Camels to Stars in the Middle East

Step back to one of the most important yet overlooked periods in human history. Your tour of the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization begins with the who, what, why, where, when, and how of this great period and its impact. Explore the Abbasid Empire and see how it bridged the ancient world and the Renaissance....

32 min
Ibn Battuta's Search for Knowledge
2: Ibn Battuta's Search for Knowledge

As a truly international, intercultural, interracial, and even intercontinental era, great travelers abound. Here, you will meet the Moroccan wayfarer Ibn Battuta and trace his journey across Northern Africa and the Middle East in the century after the Mongol sack of Baghdad. Gain new insights into the era-including whether it ever truly come to an end....

30 min
Arabian Nights Caliph: Harun al-Rashid
3: Arabian Nights Caliph: Harun al-Rashid

Get to know the great Caliph Harun al-Rashid and Baghdad's House of Wisdom, which was the largest depository of books in the world at that time-and served as the engine that drove much of the Golden Age. Then shift your attention to the Arabian Nights collection of stories and legends to discover the source of al-Rashid's enduring fame....

32 min
The Arab World's Greatest Writer: al-Jahiz
4: The Arab World's Greatest Writer: al-Jahiz

Considered by many scholars to be the finest writer of Arabic prose who ever lived, al-Jahiz was a brilliant stylist and author of more than 200 works, many of which survive today. In this lecture, you will uncover the origins of Arabic writing before turning to the life and works of al-Jahiz....

30 min
Algebra, Algorithms, and al-Khwarizmi
5: Algebra, Algorithms, and al-Khwarizmi

The field of mathematics owes a tremendous debt to the Islamic Golden Age. Mathematicians such as Omar Khayyam (who is perhaps better known today as a poet) and al-Khwarizmi built on the work of Babylonian, Greek, and Indian mathematicians to systematize and explain algebra and symbolic algorithms. Survey this critical period of mathematics history....

31 min
Baghdad's House of Wisdom
6: Baghdad's House of Wisdom

During the Abbasid Empire, Baghdad's House of Wisdom was the world's preeminent center for translation and original research. Find out why translation flourished in this era, and meet two of the Golden Age's most important translators: Hunayan Ibn Ishaq and al-Kindi. Then consider the intellectual legacy of the Arabic translation movement....

29 min
Muhammad, the Hadith, and Imam Bukhari
7: Muhammad, the Hadith, and Imam Bukhari

"Hadith" refers to the collected sayings of Muhammad outside of the Quran, all of which were gathered and sifted in an amazing feat of research by Iman al-Bukhari 200 years after Muhammad's death. Journey with al-Bukhari as he wrestles with the authenticity of hundreds of thousands of hadith-and how his work continues to impact Islam today....

29 min
Interpreting and Defending the Quran
8: Interpreting and Defending the Quran

Delve into the realm of Quranic exegesis from the year 750 until about 1258. By considering the life of al-Tabari, one of the most important commentators in Islamic history, you will uncover the method and implications of tafsir, or exegesis. Your study will take you into controversial territory with a look at the infamous Satanic Verses....

32 min
The Arab Herodotus: al-Masudi
9: The Arab Herodotus: al-Masudi

Examine the life and times of one of the era's great travel writers. Following the journey of al-Masudi gives you a broad tour of the Islamic Golden Age and its history. After reviewing his biography and reflecting on his reasons for traveling, you will survey the many subjects he wrote about, from geography and geology to the strategy of backgammon....

27 min
Cairo, al-Haytham, and the Book of Optics
10: Cairo, al-Haytham, and the Book of Optics

Al-Haytham's seven-volume Book of Optics is one of the most fascinating works of scientific enquiry in the Golden Age. After reviewing the wider context of Cairo in the 10th century, delve into al-Haytham's experimentation with optics and the eye. Find out why many modern scholars have called him the world's first true scientist....

30 min
Master Muslim Scholar: al-Biruni
11: Master Muslim Scholar: al-Biruni

This lecture introduces you to al-Biruni, a scholar and polymath who left a mark on physics, math, astronomy, geography, anthropology, history, and much more. Born in modern-day Uzbekistan, his pursuit of learning and dissemination of knowledge is unparalleled. See what made his scholastic approach and his research methodology so groundbreaking....

31 min
Astronomy in the Islamic Golden Age
12: Astronomy in the Islamic Golden Age

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Islamic Golden Age on the field of astronomy, as evidenced today by the number of stars with Arabic names. Focusing on the work of three Islamic astronomers, you'll explore the difference between astronomy and astrology, and unpack the many scientific advancements of the era....

30 min
Medieval Muslim Medicine and Hospitals
13: Medieval Muslim Medicine and Hospitals

Continue your study of the Golden Age's many scientific achievements with a look at the development of medicine and the rise of what today we would call the teaching hospital. Along the way, you will encounter one of the greatest medical minds of all time, Ibn Sina (better known in the West as Avicenna)....

30 min
Alchemistry and Chemistry in Early Baghdad
14: Alchemistry and Chemistry in Early Baghdad

The word "scientist" wasn't invented until the 19th century, but we would nonetheless apply the word to the many scientific thinkers of the Golden Age. Here, you'll witness the process of experimentation that was the start of the scientific method, and you'll see how scientists of the time advanced the field of chemistry....

30 min
The Fertile Crescent, Water, and al-Jazari
15: The Fertile Crescent, Water, and al-Jazari

The Middle East's river systems and irrigation methods were vital for the Abbasid Empire to thrive. After learning about the geography and agricultural techniques of the Golden Age, you'll turn your attention to the link between agriculture and politics-and round out your study of water with a look at some beautiful gardens....

29 min
Jewish Scholar in Cairo: Moses Maimonides
16: Jewish Scholar in Cairo: Moses Maimonides

The 12th century Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides offers great insight into the relationship among the three Abrahamic religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Delve into the politics of Cordoba in Andalusia, Spain, during the Golden Age, and then consider Maimonides' scholarship-including his philosophy about the relationship between faith and reason....

31 min
The Banu Musa's Inventions and Automatons
17: The Banu Musa's Inventions and Automatons

From water fountains to self-playing musical instruments, the Golden Age saw an astounding amount of ingenuity. Take a look at a few of the era's most interesting and delightful inventions and automations, and then examine the life and work of al-Jazari, who today is considered the "father of robotics."...

30 min
Mosques, Architecture, and Gothic Revival
18: Mosques, Architecture, and Gothic Revival

The development of architecture is a gradual process of shifting styles from one generation to the next, and the 500 years of the Islamic Golden Age gave the world striking advancements in both religious and military architecture. Here, tour the architecture of great mosques and arches, and see how the era influenced the later European Gothic Revival....

32 min
Arabic Verse, Love Poetry, and Wine Songs
19: Arabic Verse, Love Poetry, and Wine Songs

Examine the lives and work of three powerful poets: Abu Nuwas, Abu Tammam, and al-Mutanabbi. Reflect on the role of poetry in the Golden Age, including forms and subject matter, and examine the relationship between poetry and the multicultural world of the Abbasid Empire....

30 min
Medieval Mastermind: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
20: Medieval Mastermind: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

Ibn Sina-or Avicenna-is arguably the most important philosopher in Islamic history, as well as one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Find out what makes him such an important figure in the history of philosophy, and how he built on the tradition of Aristotle. Then shift your attention to his arguments in the realms of ontology and cosmology....

31 min
Entertaining in the Time of the Abbasids
21: Entertaining in the Time of the Abbasids

Shift your attention from the great minds of the Golden Age and find out how people of the time relaxed. As you learn about the era's food and music cultures, you'll uncover quite a few surprises-such as the origins of the traditional three-course meal. You'll also discover that celebrity cookbooks promoting the latest dietary fad are not a modern invention....

30 min
Calligraphy, Carpets, and the Arabic Arts
22: Calligraphy, Carpets, and the Arabic Arts

We're all familiar with the geometric designs of the mythical flying carpets, but there is an astounding array of Islamic art from the period. Here is your chance to revel in the fine arts of the Islamic Golden Age, which in addition to geometric patterns, included stunning calligraphy, plant or vegetal designs, and figurative representations....

32 min
When Did the Islamic Golden Age End?
23: When Did the Islamic Golden Age End?

Scholars conveniently cite the Mongolian sack of Baghdad in 1258 as the end of the Golden Age, but as you have seen in this course, the truth is more complex. Consider several reasons why the era came to an end-including outside invaders, shifting finances, changes in faith, and plain old human folly....

31 min
Ibn Khaldun on the Rise and Fall of Empire
24: Ibn Khaldun on the Rise and Fall of Empire

Conclude your survey of the Islamic Golden Age with a big-picture look at what followed, including the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Black Death, and the emergence of gunpowder. While golden ages must inevitably subside, this final lecture gives you the opportunity to reflect on one of the most stunning eras in all of human history....

34 min
Eamonn Gearon

Change is our constant, and the past does indeed inform the present.


University of London


Johns Hopkins University

About Eamonn Gearon

Eamonn Gearon is a Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington DC. He received his M.A. in Near and Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and has also taught at the American University in Cairo.

Mr. Gearon is the cofounder and managing director of The Siwa Group, a specialist consultancy firm, where he trains U.S. Department of State officials, Department of Defense workers, and other U.S. government employees whose work takes them to, or is concerned with, North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Gearon spent years living in, traveling, and exploring the Sahara. These days, he enjoys his role as a public speaker, whose presentations combine elements of Middle Eastern history and contemporary affairs. He is a distinguished speaker on Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 and other vessels.

Mr. Gearon has published extensively on Middle Eastern history, culture, and contemporary politics. A regular reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement and other prestigious publications, he is also the author of The Sahara: A Cultural History. He has contributed to numerous other titles, including the Encyclopedia of African History (edited by Kevin Shillington), Meetings with Remarkable Muslims: A Collection of Travel Writing (edited by Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring), and Sahara Overland: A Route and Planning Guide.

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