Sunday, June 8, 2008
Very few men have the chance to completely change the world by their actions; in religions, there has been Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, and, most recently, Mohammad. By the time Muhammad died on June 8, 632, Islam had been created and had started its spread throughout the Arabic world and well beyond it, across northern Africa and southern Europe. The spread of Islam created a unified culture around the Mediterranean, one which valued learning; while Europe retreated to religion in the early Middle Ages, Arabs (mostly Muslims, but not exclusively) continued to work in literature, optics, chemistry, medicine, and mathematics, making great strides such as introducing Arabic numerals, place value, decimal notation, and zero. A number of fundamental terms used in chemistry - alchohol, alembic, alkali, and elixir - are of Islamic origin. Mathematicians translated the Greek classics into Arabic, then advanced the subject; algebra was invented by an Arab, Al-Khwarizmi. Without Islam, without Mohammad, the history of the world would have been very different and much poorer in learning, culture, art, architecture, medicine, and philosophy.