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Will the New Silk Road Help Revive the Islamic Golden Age?


Oct 31, 2009
United States

National Geographic's Paul Salopek recently came upon a site in Pakistan's Salt Range where Muslim scientist Abu-Raihan Al-Biruni accurately measured the size of the earth in the 11th century. In it, Salopek sees the revival of the Islamic Golden Age. He thinks it is linked to "China's 21st century version of the Silk Road". Salopek believes that President Donald Trump's four years in the White House and the COVID19 pandemic have accelerated America's decline and China's rise. Here's how he describes it in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times entitled "Shadows on the Silk Road: Finding omens of American decline on a long walk across Asia":

"The most memorable archaeological ruins from the Silk Road’s glory years rot atop a hill about 60 miles southeast of Islamabad (the Capital of Pakistan). No monuments or signs mark the Nandana Fort. Few people go there. But it was where, in the early 11th century, the Central Asian scholar al-Biruni became the first person to measure, with astonishing precision, the size of Earth. His calculations, based on brilliant trigonometry, landed within 200 miles of the 24,902-mile circumference of our shared planet".

Pakistan Postage Stamp Honoring Al-Biruni. Nandana Fort in Background

It was Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi who took Al-Biruni along with him after his conquest of India. Al-Biruni traveled all over India for 20 years, and studied Indian philosophy, Mathematics and Geography. Pakistan issued a postage stamp honoring Al-Biruni in 1973. The stamp has a picture of Al-Biruni with the ruins of Nandana Fort in the background.

Salopek found a lot of history of the Islamic Golden Age as he traveled along the Silk Road. Here's a brief excerpt of his Op Ed in the New York Times:

"The Islamic Golden Age of science and art that predated the Italian Renaissance by 400 years was illuminated by Turkic and Persian thinkers from the eastern rim of the Abbasid Caliphate, in what is today Central Asia, western China and parts of Iran. ..... Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, a ninth-century genius who helped formulate the precepts of algebra, has lent his name to the word “algorithm.” A century later, the brilliant polymathic Abu Rayhan Muhammad al-Biruni wrote more than 140 manuscripts on everything from pharmaceuticals to the anthropology of India. (A typical al-Biruni title: “The Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows.”) Probably the most celebrated Silk Road sage of all was Abu Ali al-Hussein ibn Sina, revered in the West as Avicenna, who in the 11th century compiled an encyclopedia of healing that was still in use by European doctors as late as the 18th century. Avicenna’s “Canon of Medicine” accurately diagnosed diabetes by tasting sweetness in urine. Its pharmacopoeia cataloged more than 800 remedies. A millennium ago, Avicenna advocated quarantines to control epidemics. What would he make, I wondered, of the willed ignorance of today’s anti-maskers in the United States?"

Salopek sees parallels between America's Trumpism and India's Hindu Nationalism. He is just as pessimistic about India as he is about his home country of the United States. Here's what he sees from the top of Nanada Fort ruins:

"I climbed a broken fort wall and peered east. Ahead unspooled 17 months of hiking across India, yet another democracy cartwheeling into an abyss of right-wing populism. Riding a wave of Hindu nationalism, one Indian state all but criminalized marriages between Hindu and Muslim citizens".

From the top of Nandana Fort, Salopek also sees China which he describes in the following words:

"In the blue distance beyond sprawled China. Its economic output in 2019, according to one report, hit 67 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product. The gap between China and the United States is shrinking as China is the only major economy expected to report economic growth for 2020 despite the pandemic. And brawling with itself at some crossroad truck stop far over the horizon lay my lost homeland".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

China's New Silk Road

Is Fareed Zakaria Souring on India?

Rise and Fall of the Islamic Civilization

Artificial Intelligence in Pakistan

Pakistani Woman Leads Global Gender Parity Campaign

Muslims Have Few Nobel Prizes

Ibn Khaldun: The Father of Modern Social Sciences

Obama Speaks to the Muslim World

Lost Discoveries by Dick Teresi

Physics of Christianity by Frank Tipler

What is Not Taught in School

How Islamic Inventors Changed the World

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network


El Sidd

Apr 5, 2017
If trade is done fairly and exploitation removed, the silk route can breath life back to the phenomenon that gave rise to many great empires like Mughal or Timur.

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