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The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

Narrated by: Eamonn Gearon
Length: 11 hrs and 58 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (166 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The study of Western Civilization traditionally follows a well-known but incomplete arc: the grand achievements of Greece and Rome, several hundred years of the Dark Ages, and then the bright emergence of the European Renaissance. But amid the "dark" Middle Ages, the Abbasid Empire, which ruled the Middle East as well as much of Northern Africa and Central Asia from 750 to 1258, serves as a vitally important but often overlooked bridge between the ancient and modern worlds.

The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age is your opportunity to get to know the story and the accomplishments of this great period in human civilization. Taught by acclaimed lecturer Eamonn Gearon, these 24 remarkable lectures offer brilliant insights into an era too often overlooked by traditional history textbooks. You'll meet a wealth of scholars, scientists, poets, and philosophers who paved the way for the Renaissance and continue to affect our world in surprising ways.

For instance, gain insights into:

  • The origins of the scientific method, along with the development of algebra, chemistry, physics, and astronomy as discrete fields of inquiry
  • The invention of the modern "teaching hospital" and a medical encyclopedia that served Europe for the next 600 years
  • The preservation and translation of the world's great literature, from the Hadith (or sayings of Muhammad) to the master works of Greece and Rome
  • Ontological philosophy that served future Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians concerned with the nature of God and the relationship between faith and reason

It is nearly impossible to overstate the power and importance of this crucial 500-year history, headquartered in Baghdad but stretching around the world. While much of Europe was quietly passing the time, the Abbasid Empire was an international, multicultural hub of trade, travel, education, art, science, and much more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

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You gotta get smart to see how dumb you are”.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

At first, I hesitated to select this title. Maybe like you, the current situation in many Islamic countries shaded my expectations of what could have been achieved a millenia ago. Now I know. It was enormous.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age?

The scope is ambitious but it manages to sparkle as well. I loved the many, small portraits of the thinkers. E.g. a wily scientist who feigned insanity to escape execution by his sponsor. Or a poet who extolled the delights of getting drunk – in an Islamic country. Human genius, human nature.

What does Professor Eamonn Gearon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I love the spoken word. To listen to a story told by a gifted storyteller is pure magic.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I deeply respect the work and dedication that went into it. This is a work that acknowledges the contribution of minds that have borne us further. But the author has labored in an area which has been deprived of both attention and public sympathy. This is true dedication and scholarship.

Any additional comments?

This book deserves a broad readership.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Nothing short of wonderful!

Professor Gearon is eloquent, entertaining, passionate and I dare say a polymath himself. He inspires love for the subject. What a pleasure to have such gifted professors!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Learn but be have your own filter

 

Overall the book is informative and thoughtful, and thought provoking. I do have the following observations;

The speaker superimposes his early 21stcentury values on his assessment of completely different moral and ethical values. Its saying someone is good or bad because they are like me or different from me today, and that is irrational especially considering that many values tend to change from one generation.

In the lecture on Al Buckari, the presenter does not mentioned the methodology used to assess the strength of the Hadith. He does not state that a complete science is dedicated to assessing the trustworthiness of Hadith chains and transmitters called the Jarh and Tadil. The way it is portrayed now implies randomness and a high degree of uncertainty.

In one of the lectures the speaker mentions the term “wahabi” as a subcategory of Hanbali. This is a derogatory and baseless term fabricated in recent decades for reasons other than historical description, in simple terms it is primarily a segregation tool. Mohammed Ibn Abdulwahab did not develop a separate ideology or school of thought, he simply promoted the return to grassroots Islam, without superimposing later schools of thought. There are several other reasons why this term is in error, which for brevity will not be discussed here.

The assertion in the lecture on Al Bayruni that the Quran indicates that the Sun, moon, and other celestial objects revolve around the Earth. Where does it state so? There is not a single verse in the Quran that will contradict scientific fact.

The frequently stated driver for the Islamic Golden Age was stated to be a feeling of inferiority on the side of the Arabs. Again, what is the basis for this assertion? A feeling of inferiority does not sustain hundreds of years of scientific pursuits. A Muslim employs drivers other than just materialistic pursuits. With the belief that God created our existence, science to Muslims a  pathway to knowing God better, and being a stronger believer and way of getting perpetual good deeds through giving benefit to others.

In all I still think the lectures were beneficial and well worth the cost.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful narrator.

Simply, entirely enjoyable, with a wonderful narrator. A narrator I enjoyed so much, I purchased another of his works......so off I go!
Cheers

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • noiron
  • east hampton,ct
  • 10-19-19

...Staggering...

Narrated with demonstrable enthusiasm and a rich,pleasing voice is this tremendous compendium of Islamic accomplishments over time.The breadth and depth of topics discussed is profound.As if representing the largest world-wide empire in history is not enough, Islam touched,molded,affected and explored everything in its' pathway.This encompassed areas from astronomy to medicine,from art forms to mathematics,from calligraphy to minarets leaving a mark on everything.Islamic influence stretched towards excellence.Of special intrigue was the establishment of Baghdad's House of Wisdom.This was the attempt to consolidate all known knowledge into Arabic.This seems in great contrast to today's devaluation of contemporary knowledge.This course expands the understanding of Islamic contribution and makes known characteristics of Islam more commendable than the patriarchy,terror and cruelty that often spring to mind today.This course also reminds us that religious wars are rooted in antiquity and teaches us of things lost and found between the battles.It is truly staggering in its' implications. I loved it!

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good synopsis

this is a good synopsis of the Islamic golden age and its relation to the Greek and Middle ages

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  • Anas
  • Kitchener, ON, Canada
  • 02-13-19

The most well organized and well researched book

Of the many books on audible that I have downloaded and listened to, by far the best on this topic. The books on history are often hard to follow, unless narration is done well. But this was an outstanding price of work. The professor has done tremendous research and giving a very balanced view on the topic. I highly recommend this course for anyone.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great content, delivered well.

Eamonn Gearon is an excellent lecturer; his passion and interest is infectious. The content of the lectures are informative, interesting, and very easy to listen to.

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broad sweep of important islamic cultural leaders

organized mainly by individual scholars lives, it would have benefited from a chronological tie in with other events during the period but otherwise a very informative and enjoyable survey of this important period of Islamic history and its intellectual leaders

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Best Great Courses

The best Great Courses I've listened to. Not pandering, good voice, great writing, and very informative.

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  • Andrew McC
  • 08-20-17

Engaging and thought provoking

Professor Gearon is very engaging and clearly enthusiastic about the Islamic golden age. The subject itself is interesting and I learned a great deal. It is a pity that the facts of this topic are not more well known. Amy history of the west seems to jump from Roman history to the Renaissance ignoring the important contributions of Islamic art, science and culture - which this course goes some way to rectifying. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in history.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sumiyya
  • 06-12-18

Well delivered however long winded and repetitive

I found the speaker engaging and informative, although it was a shame that the lecturer did not actually research the islamic references mentioned and just derived them from speculation. The topics were irrelevant to the actual subject and seemed quite random.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Nameless Drone
  • 03-28-18

Lacked focus

The lecturer was knowledgeable and his delivery was polished. But I felt the course lacked focus or narrative. Lectures didn't build up a big picture, just presented many small ones.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-16-18

Enchanting, narration.

A most enjoyable and riveting journey through the history of the middle east. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Taha Lateef
  • 03-13-18

Loved it

Brilliant, excellent and thought provoking description of the achievements from that era. Couldn't stop until I finished it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • G Varsani
  • 10-09-17

Informative and entertaining history.

I really enjoyed this history audiobook. I leave learnt a great deal about the contribution of scholar's from the Islamic Golden Age contributing to advancements that we take for granted in current age.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hassan
  • 05-17-19

Excellent Overview

It's a subject I studied many years ago and wanted a good refresher. This delivered precisely what I was looking for. Nicely delivered with some good humour to boot.

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  • Vavavoom
  • 05-13-17

Well-presented propaganda

In recent years, suspicion of and hostility to Islam has grown continuously in the western world, as Muslim immigration has increased, and jihad attacks have become almost routine. Western elites have made an extraordinary efforts to convince their sceptical publics that Islam is not just the fount of horror many of them believe it to be. Part of this propaganda initiative has involved talking up the glories of the supposed Islamic golden age. Professor Gearon's work falls squarely within that tradition.

Although Gearon acknowledges that many of the greatest achievers were not Muslims, he insists on using the term "Islamic Golden Age" anyway. His excuse: because it's already in widespread use. He constantly asserts, but fails to convincingly demonstrate, that the European Renaissance somehow derived from or depended on the prior "Islamic Golden Age".

There are many flaws in this strain of Islamophile propaganda. Notably, it implies that "Greek wisdom" would have been lost to Europe if it had not been preserved through intermediate translation into Arabic. There are a few texts of which this is true but its extent has been massively exaggerated. The propagandists tend to ignore the fact that "Greek wisdom" was preserved in the place where it originated, Greece, under the auspices of the Byzantine empire. By rhetorical sleight of hand, they disconnect the Byzantine empire from Europe and argue that Europe should somehow be pathetically grateful to Muslims for having given us back our own knowledge. An absurdity. They also ignore the fact that there was almost zero transmission of "knowledge" from Islamic civilisation to European civilisation until the Muslim polities in Spain were defeated in the Reconquista. In other words, it wasn't convivencia that brought "enrichment" but warfare.

Professor Gearon makes the Muslim propagandist's case as well as it can be made, but, for me at least, it remains deficient and unconvincing. It's worth listening to, certainly, but in a spirit of scepticism.

4 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Omar
  • 06-17-17

Good but a little annoying

This is a good book and worth the money. My only complaint is that the narrator waffles around a bit and doesn't get to the point. The picture he paints is not as clear as it could be.
I'd prefer more detail and a more chronological approach tracking the idea as much as the person. In the history of science books I got a very good feel of where ideas came from and how they developed. I really wanted that from this book as well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful