31 December, 2009

Happy New Year


سنة جديدة سعيدة

30 December, 2009

Coup!

I found a great resource today while looking up info on one of the subjects of Chapter 3: Encyclopedia of Islamic Science and Scientists edited by M. Zaki Kirmani and N.K. Singh. Do you think I can find it in a library close to me???? NOPE! It's on Google Books in limited preview, which means chunks of it are missing. Ugh!! I did find it through Amazon.com at the nifty price of $320.00 USD. However, it won't even get to me before the semester ends! Guess I will be using Google Books to do some reading on my subjects!

I did find that my school's library has an online version of Gutas' Greek Thought, Arab Culture through eBrary. Yay!!! I can read that one in it's entirety and not have to read the Google Books version.

Ok, back to research I go!

Have a wonderful New Year......

27 December, 2009

Chapter 3...coming along

Well, for this chapter of my thesis, I will be concentrating on some of the leading scholars/researchers at the House. Hopefully this chapter will prove more fruitful than Chapter 2 (a work still in progress). I am aiming for around 20 pages in each chapter, and I feel that I can definitely get there in Ch. 3!

The first scholar I will be discussing is al-Khwarizmi. He is responsible for bringing the number "0" into our mathematical systems. He is also responsible for the heinous algebra that every teenager loathes! LOL!!! I am finding him to be a most fascinating person in the little bit of reading I have done on him already.

This is a picture of what he is to have looked like in his day. The Russians have even used his image on a postage stamp in honor of him and his achievements!

This is a page from one of his texts on algebra. The equation he is discussing is as follows:



although, he has a much lengthier way of expressing the equation!



And in some parts of the Middle East (and the world), statues have been erected to him. This one is in Tehran, Iran at the Amirkabir University of Technology in front of the Faculty of Mathematics building.

14 December, 2009

Chapter 3 - The House of Wisdom

I have begun writing Chapter 3 of my thesis. I am devoting this chapter more to the scientific achievements (including mathematics) coming out of the House of Wisdom. Here are the first couple of paragraphs just to give you an idea.

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The House of Wisdom was established under the Caliph al-Ma’mun in the year . For the most part, the House served as a place of intellectual inquiry where scholars from around the known world came, often at the invitation of the Caliph, to conduct research and translate the classical texts into Arabic. It was the ‘Abbasid’s hunger for knowledge that inspired the House of Wisdom and fueled the drive to learn as much as possible about the world around them.

Many scholars came through the House of Wisdom, leaving their touch and establishing their place among the elite. It is from many of these scholars where we get our modern sciences including chemistry, algebra, astronomy, and geography. Much of the works written by the scholars are from the translation of works by the Greeks, Indians, and Persians. Yet much more is due to the House scholars’ continuous research and experimentation on this existing material and the discoveries and improvements made upon them. One such scholar is Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (783-850) who was considered one of the leading Muslim astronomers and mathematicians of his day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have also selected and began translating a handful of my poems for my experiential learning portion. More to come...

04 December, 2009

Experiential Learning

Part of my Master's program requires some experiential learning. This semester, I am planning to translate 10 of my own poems into Arabic and creating a chapbook in the medieval Islamic style. I have chosen the fabric I plan on using. Here is a pic:

The top fabric is a suede-like fabric and the color is kind of a dark olive green. The bottom fabric is leather-like and black. I will be using the dark color as the main binding fabric and the green as accent color. I am planning to use typical geometric and floral patterns throughout.

I am now in the process of choosing the poems. They will be rather short, no more than 10 lines. Each translation will be accompanied by the original English version. The pages will be embellished with geometric and floral patterns (either through stamps or my attempt to be artistic - I am not much for sketching, but as this style can be abstract it may look alright).

21 November, 2009

Revising the Thesis

Well, I am still not satisfied with my thesis as it stands, so I wrote out a couple of things.

Purpose:

The purpose of this paper/document/text is to provide an historical overview of the translation movement during the early Islamic period; discuss the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah) and the importance of the knowledge within; provide an understanding of the new ideas and way of thinking coming out of this region; and provide an overview of the desire of certain individuals, today, to return to this age.

Revised Thesis:

The dawn of Islam not only brought a new monotheistic religion to the medieval world, it brought about a hunger for knowledge, new ideas, and a new way of acquiring these ideas, transforming the way sciences, mathematics, and arts are studied.

I look forward to your feedback!

16 November, 2009

Thesis - Chapter 2 - The Coming of New Ideas

I have been making slow progress on the actual writing of Chapter 2 (Chapter 1 is the Introduction and will be written last). This chapter will be an historical overview of the Abbasid Caliphs - al-Mansur, al-Rashid, and al-Mamun - and how some of the new knowledge found its way into the Arab/Muslim world. I have three pages written and am on the fourth and so far it is sounding fairly good. The true test will be when I submit it for peer and instructor review at the end of the month. Anyway, I think what I will do is post the first paragraph from each chapter within the blog itself. This will show some progress and give my audience an idea of the general direction (I hope) that I am going. Here is the first para of Chapter 2:




It is natural for humans to be curious about the world around them. For that reason, many Muslims in the early years of Islam began to search for meaning in the things around them. Since everything, from a religious perspective, is made from God/Allah/Yahweh[1], then it makes sense that Muslims would be inquisitive on the natural order of things. Howard R. Turner says that motivation for scientific inquiry is not necessarily within the scholar, but through God “…as a means of gaining understanding of God…”.[2] This natural curiosity, along with the pursuit of gaining knowledge about God, helped usher in an age of inquiry during these formative years. One of the first things these early Muslims learned was the art of paper-making, which in turn pushed the Muslim world into an era of book binding further allowing the spread of ideas. Paper was considered “cheap, easy to produce and use, and was to have a major impact on …the Muslim and later the European world”[3].



[1] From this point forward, I will refer to this being as “God” as all three monotheistic religions worship the same entity.

[2] Howard R. Turner, Science in Medieval Islam, p18.

[3] Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquest, p295.

12 November, 2009

Thesis Outline

I think I may have finally worked out some of the kinks in my outline. Following is a draft (I won't include the thesis paragraph):



I) Introduction

a) This section will be written last

b) This section will organize the paper

II) The Coming of New Ideas

a) The introduction of paper and a new capital city

(1) Around 751 c.e., the Muslims learned the paper-making technique from the Chinese. This led to the increased importance of learning in the Abbasid courts.

(2) On July 30, 762, al-Mansur ordered the construction of the Round City, which would later be called “Baghdad”.

(i) Al-Mansur began the quest for knowledge with the establishment of his Royal Library in 765 c.e.

(ii) In 795, the first paper-making factory was built in Baghdad.

(3) Al-Mansur’s son, Harun al-Rashid, had an affinity toward learning and knowledge.

(i) Love of poetry

b) The House of Wisdom was established as a place of scholarship and translation.

(1) It is also called Bayt al-Hikmah or Dar el-Hikmah, depending on where you are from.

(i) Tthe Qur’an uses the term “hekmah” when speaking about “wisdom” and speaks of Gods call to acquire knowledge

(2) The Abbasid caliph Ma’mun was highly interested in seeking knowledge, therefore he established a special place for the study of knowledge to take place.

(i) Scholars from around the known world were invited to the House of Wisdom in order to translate works into Arabic from their native tongue.

(ii) In 771 c.e., a Hindu delegation visited the Abbasid court bringing with them their system of astrology/astronomy and various texts.

c) Review of the Literature

(1) Jonathan Lyons, The House of Wisdom

III) The House of Wisdom and the Arabic Translation Movement

a) New ways of thinking brought new discoveries in the maths and sciences

(1) Where earlier works were based on theory, the scientific and mathematic works by Arab/Muslim scholars in the House were based on observation and experimentation, making them more useful and sound than their predecessors.

(2) al-Khwarizmi and his work on algorithms, astronomy, and astrology

(3) al-Jabr and his work in mathematics, particularly algebra

(4) Albumazar

(i) The Introduction to Astrology, written in Baghdad around 848, served as the basis for bringing knowledge on the heavens and events on earth to the Latin-speaking West.

(ii) Considered a leading authority in the science of the heavens (as quoted by Lyons on page 139).

IV) The European Translation Movement ~ The Spread of Knowledge

a) The Crusades brought the west into contact with the east

(1) Masons who were also crusaders incorporated much of what they saw into their own work

(2) New knowledge brought to the West was in complete conflict with what the norm was at the time creating heated theological debates as well as banishment and excommunication of leading authorities (i.e. Master Amaury, David of Dinant, etc.).

(3) New writing forms emerged from contact with the east: the framed tale - a story within a story.

(i) Chaucer adopted this style in The Canterbury Tales

b) Adelard of Bath and his translations

c) Stephen of Pisa

d) The monastic scriptoria where monks copied and/or translated important works in math and science

V) Conclusion

a) Why was the House such an important institution?

(1) Significance within Islam

(2) Scientific inquiry/findings

b) Summary of the paper

c) Osama bin Laden, et. al., seeking a return to the Arab golden age

d) Importance of preservation


11 November, 2009

"Lost History"

I began reading this book today (by Michael Hamilton Morgan) and am a bit perplexed. It is published by the National Geographic Society, so I expect some bias in it, however, there seems to be a serious lack of citations. While he does include a rather short bibliography at the end, he does not cite any of his sources within the text itself. I am only about halfway through the first chapter (each chapter is roughly 40 pages long). I want to use this book as a source, but I am finding that I may not be able to due to the citation issue. How can a "scholar" write a book on any subject and NOT cite their sources? While what I have read so far sounds fairly accurate from an historical standpoint (I base this on the previous research I have done in my field of study during my undergraduate education and some classes I have taken), how can I justify using it as a source for my thesis??

09 November, 2009

First Chapter

I have begun the slow process of writing my Master's Thesis and have one paragraph nearly complete. I still have a bit of reading to do before I can really get into the writing, but I do try to write a little when the thoughts start entering my brain. This way the thoughts are in written form and I can move on. As my dad says, I need to clear the cobwebs from my head. In my studies I have found that many scholars write a chapter on Islam to give background on their work. Islam is, in my opinion, a cornerstone to knowledge and wisdom within the Muslim world. I, too, will incorporate Islam into my thesis to give a little background directly pertaining to the pursuit of knowledge during the early years.

One of the books I am reading is Science in Medieval Islam by Howard R. Turner. I have it on loan from the Gary Library (Vermont College) until the end of the month. I am really enjoying this book! It is more of a text on an exhibit put together several years ago with many, many pictures. The reading is going rather quickly, but I decided to purchase a copy through Barnes & Noble for my shelf. Having my own copy will also allow me to make notes within the book, which is my reading style when in the research mode. I am also reading Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists by Michael Hamilton Morgan. This one is also on my bookshelf on this blog (Shelfari).

I am still working on the timeline (previous post) and will probably not have it completed until near the end of the writing process. That only makes sense because I want to use it as an appendix. One of the other things I have decided to do is incorporate, just after the Chapter #, a quote relating to the chapter. For instance, the Introduction will start with the title of the chapter (i.e. "Introduction") and immediately following a snippet from a Beatles song. Then I will write the actual introduction following that quote. I think, and hope, it will add a little something to my work.

I will leave you with that, wondering which song...

05 November, 2009

Timeline of Science and Math

I am currently working on a timeline, of sorts, pertaining to the translations and the improvements/discoveries based on the translations in the House of Wisdom. Once I have completed this timeline, I will post it here. I am also planning to include it as an appendix in my thesis. I think it would be relevant!

04 November, 2009

Lyons Book Review

Well, I finally finished the Lyons book, The House of Wisdom, and what can I say other than it is such a great read! While it seems to be a little dry at first, part way through the first chapter the pace picks up. I found myself not wanting to put it down, but my tired eyes required that I do. Following is the actual review that I submitted as my class assignments:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Jonathan Lyons breaks his book, The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization, into four sections: night, morning, mid-day, and afternoon. Each of these sections represents a specific time in the day of a Muslim – that is a specific time of prayer. In contrast, they also seem to represent a specific time in Muslim or Arab history. The first section, night, represents the end of a “golden age” while at the same time the coming of new ideas into Western Europe from the East. Lyons discusses the Crusades at length during the “night”. His main “character” here, and throughout the book, is Adelard of Bath who was considered one of the top intellectuals from England. Another way to look at the “night” section is “the Dark Ages” as this is the time when Europe and the West were in the throws of the Dark Ages and intellectual life was at a stalemate.


The next section, “morning”, could be equated to the dawn of the new intellectual age in the Middle East. This was a time period when knowledge was being translated from Persian, Hindu, and Greek texts into Arabic. In this section, Lyons discusses the role of the Abbasid Caliph Ma’mun in bringing a plethora of knowledge into the Middle East. He also discusses the establishment of a centralized location where this scholarly work can be accomplished: that being the House of Wisdom. It is because of and within the House of Wisdom the Arabs were able to make a number of scientific and mathematical improvements on existing texts. It is also for this same reason that a new way of thinking began to emerge from the Middle East: deductive reasoning or critical thinking.


The third section, “mid-day”, goes back to the time of the Crusades and Adelard of Bath. Here, Lyons discusses the new knowledge coming into Europe and the welcome it received, both positive and negative. Because Europe relied heavily on the teachings of the church, this new knowledge was not welcomed in theological circles. In academia, however, this same knowledge was highly welcomed. It created new university towns such as the University of Paris and Oxford University. Much of the works in Arabic were translated into Latin so scholars in the West could understand them. Ironically, much of this translation took place in the monasteries by monks.


The final section, “afternoon”, pushes forward with the continuing of translation into Latin those works from the East. Lyons discusses, at length, the patronage of Frederick II to learning all that he could from the Arabs. He brings into his realm learned men such as Michael Scot, Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci), and even Thomas Aquinas, all of whom were eager to learn from the Arab texts. The primary focus of this section is the theological disputes between Frederick II and the rest of Christendom. Frederick II is said to have taken on a Muslim lifestyle including chanting the five daily prayers; and his court followed his example.


Overall, this book has a lively read to it and the subject matter is crucial to the understanding of Arab thinkers during the Abbasid Caliphate. Lyons does a good job of showing the overall progression of knowledge from Baghdad into the realm of Europe. He also does a wonderful job of explaining not just the initial contact of the East with the Greeks, Persians, and Indians, but of the improvements made upon these works by the Arabs within and without the House of Wisdom.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I formatted as if I would submit it to a scholarly journal in order to get the practice. I am still waiting on feedback from both professors (as I submitted to both classes for different purposes). Next on my reading agenda is a book by Dr. Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, as well as a book by Howard R. Turner, Science in Medieval Islam.

01 November, 2009

ASMEA Conference Update

I really enjoyed attending my first professional conference and learned a lot from the panels I sat in on. There was a good variety of information being presented, as well as an impressive book display (with books based primarily on the topics of the papers presented). I would have to say my favorite part of the conference was meeting the Drs. Bernard Lewis and Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr. What a wonderful wealth of information! It was also nice to see the military/DoD play an active role in the conference. This is quite an unusual thing to get academics and DoD on the same page! Kudos to those who presented!! Here is a pic of some of the handouts and a new book by Dr. Lewis (which he graciously signed):


During my time in the DC area, I did manage to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the opening day of the Falnama exhibit at the Sackler Gallery. I enjoyed my trek through the cemetery, although I do recommend tennis shoes! HA!! The Gallery was not allowing photography in the exhibit, so I don't have any of my own to share. I did purchase the lovely $40.00 book that contains pictures of everything in the exhibit. Maybe the book is their way of getting us to buy something?! Anyway, here are a few pics from Arlington:

Women in Military Service Memorial and Arlington House


The Eternal Flame and Opposite the flame looking toward DC


Bobby Kennedy and Ted Kennedy

Since my return, I have been steadily working on some papers I need to turn in - soon. I am almost finished reading the Lyons book and will begin on the next book immediately following. Look for an update on the Lyons Book Review in the next day or so.

23 October, 2009

ASMEA Conference

I am having a good time in Arlington, VA at the 2nd Annual conference for the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa. I have met some interesting people so far, including Drs. Bernard Lewis and Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr. I have read some of their works and it was nice to chat with them for a moment or two.

I will post more of my thoughts after the conference is over. I just wanted to stop by and say I am having a good time and learning about other areas of the Middle East and Africa.

18 October, 2009

Inside the House

So, what might be found inside the House of Wisdom? I am now officially half way through the book and can say with some certainty that there are many interesting books contained within. These books include:

The Book of Addition and Subtraction According to the Hindu Calculation ~ al-Khwarizmi


The Book of Restoring and Balancing (aka Kitab al-jabr wa'l-muqabala) ~ al-Khwarizmi

The Determination of the Coordinates of Cities ~ al-Biruni (use of spherical trigonometry)

Canon of Medicine ~ Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

The Book of Roads and Kingdoms ~ Ibn Khordadbeh

The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions ~ al-Muqaddasi

Amusements for Those Who Long to Traverse the Horizon (aka Kitab Rujar)~ al-Idrisi


With the exception of the first two, these books are primarily on the broad subject of geography. Human geography (ethnography) seems to be one of the driving forces behind much of the geographical work done during this time (9th-11th centuries and beyond). There is also much use of the scientific method (Question, Research, Hypothesize, Experiment, Analyze, Report), which has its roots to the Arab's quest for knowledge.

It is also fair to say that much of this quest for knowledge - an intellectual revolution, if you will - is based in religion and not just learning. Going back to the astronomy/astrology of a previous post, it was - and is - important to know precisely when the "call to prayer" takes place. This lead to the quest for precise measurements in time further leading to more accuracy in locations around the "known world".

16 October, 2009

Lazy-ness prevails...

I have been a bit lax the past couple of days on my reading. I have been running around trying to get things together for my upcoming trip (leave the 19th) and for my grandma's birthday, which was today. I intend to finish The House of Wisdom over the weekend. Look for a review soon!

09 October, 2009

Origins of Arab Scientific Inquiry

The title of this post may be a little misleading, but there is a reason for it. There are two sources that can be considered the origins of the Muslims/Arabs quest for knowledge: Ptolemy's Megale Syntaxis - or the Almagest as it is called in the West, and Brahmagupta's siddhanta . As astrology and astronomy were hugely popular and relied upon by Muslims, and especially the caliph, both of these texts were highly translated, researched, refined, and improved upon. These texts, rather the experimentation of the writings held within, led to further advances in scientific knowledge such as time-keeping, map-making, and mathematics. One of the greatest Arab mathematicians, al-Khwarizmi, discovered simple arithmetic, improve upon trigonometry - by discovering cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant, and cosecant from the Hindu sine, and quadratic equations - or algebra through the study of these texts.

Simply put, the diving board of Ptolemy and Brahmagupta was in place and the Arabs, specifically al-Khwarizmi, sprung from this board into deeper waters of understanding within the sciences. This deeper understanding soon spread throughout the rest of the world and gave us many of the mathematics and sciences we now use.

Side note: In school we often wonder what use algebra will have for us in the "real world". A few years ago, Charmin came out with a campaign for it's double size rolls - X + X = 2X. If that's not using algebra in the "real world", I don't know what is!!! I just wish I could find a picture of it.

08 October, 2009

Lyons' "The House of Wisdom"

One of the things I am finding in reading this book is that if not for the introduction of paper-making, the House may never have come to fruition. The Chinese introduced this technology to the Muslims around the year 751, according to Arab tradition (p. 57). Whether this is true or mere legend, paper-making generated a demand for the written word among the Arab elite, which in turn led to the creation of libraries or repositories in an effort to preserve these books. Lyons points out the the difference between paper-making in the Middle East and the Christian West lies in the product used: linen vs. animal skins. The Muslims proved that books lasted longer on the paper they made whereas the parchments or animal skins used in the west didn't last as long and were ultimately lost over time (p. 58).

Further reading brought me to a breakdown of what the House of Wisdom might have looked like inside. Held within were a translation bureau (as the translation movement was rampant at this time), a library and book repository, and an academy of scholars and intellectuals (p. 63). This is as far as I have gotten with my reading, which is about halfway through the book. The first two chapters focused more on the Crusades and the coming of new ideas from the East and how the Christian West responded to this new thinking.

01 October, 2009

"The House of Wisdom" by Jonathan Lyons

Photo of book cover taken from Amazon.com.

Well, I received this book from HistoryBookClub.com last week and am almost through the first chapter. So far, Lyons is talking about the Crusades - I think from a more eastern perspective although he doesn't really talk about it as a "jihad" per se. It is definitely holding my interest! I should be finished with it by the end of the weekend as it is a rather small book at around 200 pp. (in comparison to most that I comb through for research). I have done a little research on reviews of this book and they seem somewhat favorable. I think that one of the reviewers expected it to be much more than it is and blasted it throughout his review (I will not put a link to the review or this persons blog here as it is very anti-Muslim and biased).

I am planning a visit to the University of South Florida's Library during the next week to pick up several more texts that may be of help during my early research. I am thankful that while I seem to live in the "sticks" there is a university nearby - a research university to boot! - and that they allow non-students to purchase annual library cards. Yippee! I do, however, miss the library at Michigan State University - c'est la vie! The price to pay for a warmer climate year round and NO SNOW.

I will have a much lengthier review of the Lyons book in about a week...

03 September, 2009

Master's Thesis Proposal

Working Title: The House of Wisdom: Baghdad as the Intellectual Center of the World


I. Descriptive Summary

Write one or more paragraphs on each of the following:


· The question or issue your final document will address.

The “House of Wisdom” (Bayt al-Hikma) as it pertains to the intellectual history of the Middle East. This “house” is considered a repository of great intellectual works on many different subjects including the maths and sciences, medicine, culture, and religion. The House of Wisdom combined with the Translation Movement of 8th century Baghdad was integral to bringing a wealth of information into the Arabic-speaking world and later to parts of Europe and the rest of the world with the spread of Islam all the while ushering in a golden age in the Middle East. There are many aspects of Middle Eastern history that can be considered when asking what ushered in its “golden age”. However, nothing has proven greater than the introduction of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.


· Background about how you came to consider your question.

It was difficult coming up with one topic to address in the Final Document as there are many different areas of Middle Eastern history that interests me. Originally, I wanted to do some kind of a cumulative document of the writing I have already done adding one or two additional major papers to the set. From there, I began looking at different parts of Middle Eastern culture and history to determine what interests me the most right now. I kept looking at the early caliphates at the dawn of Islam. While I didn’t want to focus solely on Islam, the religion, I found that it was one of the dominate themes in my studies thus far. I narrowed down my ideas to the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. This led me to look at the culture of these dynasties and what they contributed to the world (as they knew it). After several emails between myself and Dr. Daniel Metraux, we agreed upon looking at the “House of Wisdom”. This particular subject is extremely exciting to research because of what it represents: the intellectual history of the Middle East.


· Historical context of the subject.

The House of Wisdom came about during the rule of al-Mamun in 8th and 9th century Baghdad. At the time, the Abbasid dynasty was going through a “translation movement” where the rulers were inviting the educated from around the world to come to Baghdad and assist in translating some of the classic works into Arabic from Persian, Indian, and Greek, as well as other cultures and languages. If not for the translation movement, the House of Wisdom would not have been necessary and the Middle East would not have come into the knowledge of other cultures both near and far. In addition to serving as a place for translating works into Arabic, the House of Wisdom also served as an academy of learning and scientific advancement.


· Major theoretical schools you will draw upon.

For my research, I will draw upon various theoretical schools including hisotrical, philosophical, and religious. I will also try to look into previous scholarship from other areas of the world such as Europe, Russia, and Asia to get an idea of how these societies are the same or differ in their research and inquiry on the House of Wisdom.


· Key research studies or critical works bearing on your study.

One of the key studies I intend to look at deals with the preservation of these institutions. With the current conflicts in the Middle East, many scholars have taken a stand on preserving the House’s of Wisdom for future generations. Much of this goes along with preserving the cultural heritage of the region, but it seems especially important to preserving their libraries. Some of the scholars I will draw upon are Hugh Kennedy, Ruth Stellhorn Mackensen, Michael G. Carter, and Abdul Ahad Hannawi. Hugh Kennedy is considered one of the preeminent scholars in Middle Eastern history and has written many texts on areas of religion and culture in the Middle East. Ruth Stellhorn Mackensen has written several articles on Moslem libraries, which would be great references for looking at the history of the House of Wisdom. Abdul Ahad Hannawi is one that is especially important to look at because of his paper on the introduction of paper to the Middle East. The introduction of paper played a direct role in the creation of the House and the translation movement during the 8th century.


· Discussion of research method(s) you will employ.

The research method for this document will primarily be the historical research method. I will make use of current wisdom from scholarly journals and other secondary sources. I will also attempt to research the types of documents stored within such repositories. I do not intend to use human subjects in my research, therefore I will not be making application to the IRB at this time.


· What your document will include (for example, review of the literature, presentation and analysis of original research, case studies etc.)

For much of the document, I will look to include presentation and analysis of original research. I will also include a review of the current wisdom/literature on the “House of Wisdom” and look to include illustrations where possible (whether from my own personal photographs/illustrations or from the public domain).


· Discussion of the social relevance of your study.

Study of the “House of Wisdom” is currently relevant in many social circles primarily because of the wars in the Middle East. There is much literature pertaining to the preservation of such repositories, but not much on the actual history of these places. If there is to be a major impact on the preservation of Middle Eastern history and these repositories then there needs to be an understanding of their history in relation to the effect of the wars on them. ???

20 August, 2009

Just Some Random Ramblings

Baghdad's cultural revolution ----------------------------------------

In all of history, every civilization seems to have had a cultural revolution of some sort. For the Middle East - or Muslim civilization - this seems to have begun in Baghdad during the 'Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th century. The House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah) is the cornerstone of this cultural revolution. But, what is a cultural revolution? Further, how does it pertain to Baghdad and the Muslim world?

What I know (from selected readings):
The House of Wisdom was founded in the 8th century in Baghdad during the reign of al-Ma'mun (one of al-Rashid's sons). It was to be an intellectual center where scholars and academics would come to study and translate great works from their native language into Arabic. The Translation Movement was also a big player in this cultural revolution. Because of this revolution, Baghdad became a cultural world center. Knowledge and the transmission of knowledge became an important aspect in society. Universities began to "spring up" around the Arab/Muslim world - the first being in Baghdad. The caliphate - before and during - sponsored the arts and letters not just within their "castles" but around the Arab/Muslim world.