Islam emerged as a religious movement in 622 BCE because of the religious teachings of the prophet Muhammad. One hundred and fifty years later the religion had grown and had established an empire. This empire stretched from India across to northern Africa and southern Spain. What is called the Golden Age of Islam began in the 8th century BCE and was centered in Baghdad, in present day Iraq. For four hundred years Islam flourished into a great civilization and culture.
What helped to create this great culture? Trade could flow across the empire and along with it, ideas were passed on. Indian, Chinese, Greek and Persian thought inter-mingled and was discussed throughout the centers of learning. There was within the Islamic empire an attitude of toleration encouraged by religious authorities and this helped to create a culture of shared learning. There was also the fact that Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, was now standard throughout the empire and helped ease communication of ideas. In the mid-8th century paper-making technology arrived from China and replaced the use of skins and papyrus. Books and libraries became more common and aided the storage and study of ideas.
An overview of key developments in the Islamic empire during the Golden Age:
Many advances were made in the field of medicine. Muslim Physicians and pharmacists were required to pass exams before treating patients. They set up hospitals that had separate areas for trauma cases; this is the basis for today's emergency rooms. Physicians developed treatments for cataracts, used a variety of herbal remedies, and were adept at treating a variety of injuries. Islamic pharmacists were the first to mix sweet tasting syrups with medicine, ensuring that they would be taken.
Ibn Sina, a famous Islamic physician, wrote a book called Canon on Medicine, which was an encyclopaedia of Greek, Arabic, and his own knowledge of medicine. This book became the standard medical text in Europe for over five hundred years.
Muslim doctors also specialized in ophthalmology, the study of the eye. This work with lenses would also provide the groundwork which led to the camera.