According to conventional wisdom Islam was a civilized and enlightened creed during the Dark Ages, while the Christian world was wallowing in depravity and ignorance. Islam was, therefore, the guardian and savior of all ancient science, knowledge and wisdom.
But that is not true in the slightest. Islam took over many highly educated and highly advanced regions of the Byzantine Empire, at the point of the sword, and forced whole populations to convert to Islam. There were many sects in those times, just like the Alawi, Alevi, Ahmadiyya, Sufi, Druze and Ishmailis of the modern era, who adopted a cloak of Islam to avoid persecution and death. Those who refused to change their beliefs were forced to live as dhimmis – they were effectively reduced to serfdom in their own lands. The Jewish, Christian and Sabaean dhimmis of the East did the work and paid the taxes, while their Muslim overlords ran the administration and army, and lived in comparative luxury. This is how dhimmi unbelievers have to live in a Muslim controlled society, as the long-suffering Christians of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey fully understand. Christians don’t bother complaining that their Muslim neighbour has wronged them, because the social and legal system will not help them in the slightest. Even in supposedly modern and Westernised Turkey, a friend of many years whispered that he was not really Muslim but had to say that he was to keep his job. He made me swear not to tell anyone, that his family had been secret Christians for generations.
So the lands of the East were not majority Muslim at all, during the Dark and Middle Ages. In fact many regions, like Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Anatolia, were not majority Muslim until comparatively recently. They were controlled and oppressed by Muslim overlords, that is for sure, but none of these lands were majority Muslim. Furthermore, because Muslim education concentrates on religious studies, and because most Muslims spoke Arabic, Eastern academia was largely run by Syriac Christians. The language of science was Greek while the lingua franca of the East was Aramaic; and
the only people who spoke Greek, Aramaic and Arabic were the Syriac Christians.
In addition, most of science is haram to Muslims. The Koran is sacrosanct and inviolable, and yet the Koran teaches that the Sun orbits the Earth and sinks into a muddy pool over the horizon; so strict adherents to Islam were never going to make good freethinking scientists. Thus time and time again, if we look at the lives of supposed Muslim scientists and inventors, it will be seen that they were actually making their discoveries and advances despite Islam, not because of it. Omar Khayyam, for instance, the great Muslim mathematician and poet, was actually a Sufi Agnostic:
From his youth to his death Khayyam remained a materialist, a pessimist, and an Agnostic. Khayyam looked at all religions questions with a skeptical eye, and hated the fanaticism, narrow-mindedness, and the spirit of vengeance of the mullahs.
And Khayyam himself once said:
We are the victims of an age when men of science are discredited, and only a few remain who are capable of engaging in scientific research. Ourphilosophers spend all their time in mixing true with false and are interested in nothing but outward show; such little learning as they have they extend on material ends. When they see
a man sincere and unremitting in his search for the truth, one who will have nothing to do with falsehood and pretence, they mock and despise him. 2
In Khayyam’s day, to challenge the veracity of the Koran and to deny many of its core teachings was a deadly path to tread. The punishment for Islamic apostasy was death – just as it still is today. Which is probably why Khayyam’s advice was to live life one day at a time, in case the Dark Force caught up with you; and so he invariably settled down to enjoy his women and wine. Like Galileo and his disputes with the Catholic Church, Khayyam advanced the cause of science, knowledge and
Omar Khayyam: mathematician, poet and Sufi mystic, and not a Muslim.