Baghdad, as we know it today had a different face during certain periods of history. Headlines from the golden periods of the past were different from the current ones that mostly report carnage, mayhem, and killings of the many by many. Today, the battlefields of Baghdad and its surroundings may depict a society totally unable to live in harmony, let alone be innovative and creative for the advancement of anything constructive. However, a little glimpse of it’s history reveals that on the contrary, Baghdad was one of the cities that not only was the cradle of civilization but also contributed to human advancement, the likes of which were unparalleled in history and the signs of which are very visible even until today in all societies and cultures of the world.
Golden Periods of Baghdad, Iraq
Starting from 4000 BC and until very recently, Baghdad, although had it’s ups and downs similar to many other cultures and civilizations, raised people that contributed immensely to various walks of life. Some of the highlights of the good era of Baghdad include the following:
¨ House of Wisdom: Also called “Bait-ul-Hikma”, this was one of the very famous libraries and research centers in 8th, 9th and 10th centuries during the times of the Abbasid Rulers. This site was considered by many as the primary intellectual centers of the entire world where scholars from many countries and origins (Christians, Muslims, Jews and others) would meet to research, innovate, create and thus contributed to the advancement of many disciplines including astronomy, physics, medicine, mathematics and other sciences.
¨ Foundation of Algebra: Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi worked in the house of wisdom in Baghdad during the 9th century and authored his famous book “Al-Kitab Al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr Wal-muqabala”. The words al-jabr in the title of the book led to the advent of Algebra as we know it today. The book’s title is translated as “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing”. He also contributed enormously to the areas of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography, cartography, trigonometry, and provided a systematic and logical approach to solving linear and quadratic equations.
¨ Advancement of medicine: Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi was a well known Persian researcher, scholar and scientist who had his lab in Baghdad during the 9th century. He is credited with the discovery of “sulfuric acid”, ethanol and its refinement and use in medicine. His works contributed enormously to advance the field of chemistry and medicine as we know it today. He also contributed to the fields of medicine, chemical engineering, and philosophy and authored well over 184 books and articles.
¨ Heart of the Islamic Golden Age: Baghdad was the center for all during the period termed as the Islamic Golden Age. This period lasted from 7th century AD to 13th century AD. It was during this period when scientists contributed enormously to various disciplines and also translated the works of many (including those of Aristotle and others) in various languages.
¨ Largest Libraries in the world: During the Islamic Golden Era, Baghdad’s libraries were known to have more than 400, 000 books – more than the books found in some of the libraries today.
¨ Urban Sophistication: Babylon, near Baghdad was not only the greatest civilizations around 600 BC but also led the world in advanced urban development and construction. Historians refer to Babylon as a city of many gates with each gate crafted with splendid architectural elegance. The hanging gardens of Babylon according to some historical accounts, are considered one of the wonders of the world. Historians also write about the cities of the area that had very straight streets, multi-storey buildings and a well developed economic system. The areas in and around Babylon though had little rainfall but had abundant crops attributed to a very sophisticated irrigation system.
¨ Pre-historic advancements: Even long before this, the Sumerian civilization in the area near Baghdad in the 3000 BC / 4000 BC era had many contributions including those of being the first to devise the art of writing, advanced record keeping, the use of plow, and most importantly in devising the unit of time as we know it today (division of day in 24 hours and division of each hour in 60 minutes).