The rise and fall of the Bayt-al-Hikmah

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By Mini Krishnan

Baghdad was once home to the world’s largest translation centre.

Within 25 years of the death of their Prophet, the Arabs conquered the whole of Persia, Syria, Armenia, and a bit of Central Asia. In the east, they reached the Indus river and Sindh. In the west, they swept across Egypt and northern Africa, crossed the seas and landed at Gibraltar. In time, Spain too fell.

They were soon in possession of a different kind of power. In 751 AD, they captured Chinese paper-makers. This knowledge changed the nature of how writing was shared and stored. When the strongest people in the world saw the importance of establishing libraries, learning sprang up everywhere in their footsteps. Muslims were the first people to show an interest in translating manuscripts and scrolls from cultures other than theirs. Popularly known as the knowledge empire of the caliphs, there followed a history of 500 years of Islamic library building. By the ninth century, scholars in Cordoba and Spain were corresponding with their counterparts in Cairo, Bokhara, Samarkand and Baghdad. Baghdad! Persian for “gift from God”! Read more

Source: The Hindu

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