The Abbasid Caliphate (8th to 11th century) is viewed usually as representing an Islamic or an Arab "Golden Age" of sorts

But this is problematic.
As this Caliphate was only nominally Arab

Most of its great cultural contributions stemmed from Persian thinkers
In fact the Caliphate originated when there was a revolt from Persia against the more purely Arab Umayyad Dynasty (661 to 750 CE) that was headquartered in Damascus

The leader of the Abbasid revolution against Umayyads circa 750CE was one Abu Muslim, a Persian slave!
So the Abbasid rise represents the relative rise of Persian influence in the Middle East, an influence that was long repressed during the Rashidun and Umayyad rule.
The political power during the early Abbasid years was largely vested with the Barmakid family - a family that was renowned for its power and its patronage of sciences and arts

Now the Barmikid family was not Arab.
They were not even Persian. But of Buddhist lineage, hailing from the town of Balkh in Northern Afghanistan (before their conversion to Islam)

The very word Barmiki is an Arabization of the Sanskrit word Pramukha - administrators at the Buddhist monastery of Nava VihAra at Balkh
The Abbasid capital was also not in Arabia. Not even Syria or the Levant.

But in Baghdad - which itself is a Persian word.
Today we think of Baghdad as an Arab city

But Baghdad in fact was the site of the old Sassanid Persian capital Ctesiphon - a city that was destroyed by the Arabs when the Sassanid empire fell in mid 7th cen
So the Abbasid shift back to Ctesiphon to found Baghdad was a shift in the epicenter to Persia, culturally a great deal more advanced than the Western Arab lands
We hear a lot about the cultural "achievements" of the Abbasids

But much of this stemmed from Eastern influences - from Persia and also India
Arab Mathematics is widely lionized

But hang on

Al Khwarizmi - the most famous name of the era (from whom we get our word "algorithm") was Persian. Not Arab
Khwarizmi was no doubt a great mathematician

But his own works on arithmetic and algebra, including his work on decimal numbers, were clearly inspired by Indian mathematics.

Particularly inspired by the great Brahmagupta of the 7th century, a native of modern Rajasthan, India
So Al Khwarizmi was not Arab. But Persian

The work of Khwarizmi itself was heavily influenced by Indian works two centuries before him

Yet the mathematics he systematized is dubbed Arab or worse Islamic mathematics. We hear of Arabic numerals

Though these numerals were Hindu
Let's take a look at some of the other great names of the "Golden age" (spanning Abbasids and later Buyids / Seljuks)

Omar Khayyam the poet and mathematician - Persian
Ibn Sina the physician - Persian
Al Farabi the philosopher - Persian
Al Biruni the polymath - Persian / Uzbek
Even the great Arab literary work like the Book of the Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) is based on a Persian prototype, which in turn was possibly influenced by Indian tales like Panchatantra
The enormous debt owed to the East is best summed up by the Abbasid Caiiph Harun Al Rashid's son Al Mamun

"The Persians ruled for a thousand years and did not need us Arabs even for a day. We have been ruling them for one or two centuries and cannot do without them for an hour!"
So yes, nobody denies that the period from 8th to 11th century was a phase of remarkable cultural achievements in the Middle East

But there was nothing Arab about it. And nothing distinctly Islamic about it either
In fact among Muslims, this point is well appreciated

Which is why for most Muslims, the Abbasid period isn't a Golden Age.

But rather it is the Rashidun period soon after the Prophet (early-mid 7th century) that is remembered fondly
But it is the non muslim commentators mostly of the liberal kind, who tend to lionize the Abbasid period as an "Islamic Golden Age" and also talk of it as an Arab zenith of sorts
Therein lies the irony

The insiders aren't particularly proud of it. They know how much of it owes to Persia / India
Post-script : Some may argue -

Hey...all the "Persian" thinkers you mentioned nevertheless wrote in Arabic. Not Persian.

Sure..but they were still not Arabs. The choice of language is often dictated by political patronage and climate
Post-script 2 : While mentioning the non Arab thinkers, I slipped in Omar Khayyam and Al Biruni too, though they strictly belong to a slightly different epoch, and not the Abbasid period.

Al Biruni in fact was patronized by a Turkic monarch to the east - Ghazni
Post-script 3 : I forgot to mention one thing

The Abbasid period is often credited with reviving interest in the Classics. In Plato, Aristotle and Hellenic culture

But much of the translations from Greek to Persian were undertaken by Nestorian Christians in Persia
Prominent among the Nestorian Christians was the family of Bukhtishu hailing from Western Iran

Another important Christian translator of the period was Hunayn ibn Ishaq, himself a Nestorian Christian
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Śrīkānta Kṛṣṇamācārya
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!