The Islamic Golden Age began in the 7th century and lasted until the 17th century. It was a time when the people living in area were encouraged by their faith to use their critical thinking skills to observe nature around them and to inquire, discover and invent.
It all started when Abbasside Caliph Al-Mansour established Baghdad as the center of culture, science and innovation. His first step on the road to discovery was to request the translation of books from earlier civilizations. Such a simple request, backed with a hunger for knowledge, led to the building of a library and translation center known as “The House of Wisdom”.
Later, his grandson Haroun Al-Rasheed expanded the center until it filled an entire building. Its influence peaked during Al-Mamoun’s era, Al-Rasheed’s son, who turned it into an international research center where scientists from around the world with diverse backgrounds came together to study, discover and develop things to benefit humanity.
The House of Wisdom (HOW) in Baghdad was the first of several HOWs that spread across the Islamic world. They competed for the most talented and creative individuals, as it was a prestigious status symbol to belong to a HOW.
Transferring knowledge to next generations was important for Muslim scientists, which resulted in the creation of different learning institutions, including schools, universities and houses of wisdom.
In the 9th century, Muslims learned how to make paper from the Chinese. They realized the importance of paper to document their work, so papermaking and the production of books were of the top industries of the time.
With leaders’ interest in science, it became the social norm to encourage and support scientists, who in turn were respected by society. Their work was in high demand and they were awarded positions in government. Leaders like alMamun had a science department in their court, and would present questions for them to solve. Scientists were also granted endowments to enable them to focus on their scientific work.
During this time creativity thrived, and everyone wanted to add to the collective innovative melting pot. Scientists were famous for their merit and work, and were rewarded with gold.
This legacy was the inspiration behind King Abdullah’s vision for a new “House of Wisdom”. It would be a place where people from around the world would come together propelled by their merit, creativity and passion for science – a place where the history of a thousand years of innovation would continue into the future of humankind.