BBC Four – The ‘Dark’ Ages: The Wonder of Islam

Typically, when a programme is produced which seemingly has an ‘Islāmic’ flare within its contexts. The religious neocons of other faiths leap forward claiming ‘it’s not Islam which gave the middle ages its golden era. But, the endeavors of Arab scientists, spurred on by Greek scientific knowledge’. Their attempts to subdue the Islāmic influence on the Arab Muslim scientists is bewilderingly obvious. Most historians shy away from explicitly using the word ‘Muslim or Islāmic scientists’ in their lectures, discussions, and TV shows. Out of fear it will create a public outcry and backlash against their reputable name. – chuckle. Also, to be seen as a person who dissociates from all organized religions.

No historian who wishes to highlight or discuss the middle ages, more commonly known as the dark ages. Can do so without talking about the Islāmic influences which helped shape the Muslims who made great advancements in scientific, technological (yes, in technology), mathematics and astronomical studies. Without their works, we would probably still be living in the dark ages and not only talking about from a historical point of view! The scientific and technological comforts we take for granted today are in most cases, based on the works done by these illustrious Muslims. Although many will be pushed to admit this fact. It is nonetheless so, thanks to the work done by the muslim scientists in the middle ages. We have been able to catapult our research and knowledge of the different scientific fields, further afield.

The dark ages, is often associated with dark days. Days in which people were poor, generally uneducated, lived in squalid conditions. And, ate raw meat! Images like the following are reminiscent with ‘The dark Ages’:


Death, destruction and savagery!

Waldemar Januszczak disagrees. In this four-part series he argues that the Dark Ages were a time of great artistic achievement, with new ideas and religions provoking new artistic adventures. He embarks on a fascinating trip across Europe, Africa and Asia, visits the world’s most famous collections and discovers hidden artistic gems, all to prove that the Dark Ages were actually an ‘Age of Light’.

Unlike other historians Waldemar Januszczak does not shy away from using words like ‘Muslim or Islāmic scientists’. I feel he has done justice, albeit somewhat little, to the many forgotten Muslim scientists and engineers of the past. In Episode 3 of ‘The dark Ages: An Age of Light’, the audience is left with their ears’ ringing with the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islāmic’, sending a cascading torrent of Islāmic images through the mind’s eye. One of the unique aspects of this latest documentary on the artistic and scientific brilliance of the middle ages, is this. Waldemar Januszczak’s ability to step away from the usual taboos surrounding the middle ages. Which is reducing the rightful praise of the “Islāmic” influence on the dark ages. Blanketing words ‘muslim’ or ‘islamic’ with it’s secular acronym, ‘arab scientist(s)’.
Other than this, the documentary does little else to bring forth new light on the glorious history of the Islāmic middle ages. An era which was in all sense of the word, dominated by Islāmic values; its tastes, art, knowledge and not to mention the architecture.

The Dark Ages saw the emergence of another vital religion – Islam. After emerging in the near East it spread across North Africa and into Europe, bringing its unique artistic style with it. Waldemar examines the early artistic explorations of the first Muslims, the development of their mosques and their scientific achievements.

To close, I have to give credit to Waldemar Januszczak, for what he has done. He seems to have stepped out of the wood work and re-envisaged the true sense of the ‘dark ages’, by mentioning the ‘ISLAMIC’ influence on that era. Not to mention the lengths at which he goes to use Arabic words in explaining the symmetrical nature, in which Muslim artists tried to capture the spirit behind their works. In art, architecture and design. Often times interlacing Quranic verses within the works of art to give it a spiritual meaning.

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