Talk:House of Wisdom

Active discussions


'cherished tradition of eastern Christianity'Edit

the first sentence of the history section is 'The preservation and development of human knowledge was a cherished tradition of the Eastern Christianity.[4]'. I dont think that the citation given for this sentence actually says this. The citation says: “It was in the Near and Middle East and North Africa that the old traditions of teaching and learning continued, and where Muslim scholars were carefully preserving ancient texts and knowledge of the ancient Greek language.”

So the citation refers to the continuation of 'old traditions of teaching and learning' without explicitly identifying those traditions with eastern Christianity. In fact the citation refers to 'ancient texts and knowledge of the ancient Greek language' and the citation is from a book on Pythagoras and his legacy (Pythagoras: His Lives and the Legacy of a Rational Universe by Kitty Ferguson) so I don't really get how someone got Eastern Christianity from this.

I think this first sentence should either be removed or changed to more accurately reflect the citation eg 'The preservation and development of human knowledge was a cherished tradition of the Greek thinking', because otherwise this sentence is just shifting credit for the House of Wisdom, a major intellectual centre of the Islamic golden age, to Christianity - which feels like POV pushing to me.

I'm gonna remove the sentence in the meantime because I think its misleading but feel free to replace/improve it if it can be more accurately reflect the reference as I think having a more general sentence before getting into the denser history makes the section read well. Best 212.56.121.8 (talk) 23:27, 23 June 2016 (UTC)

UntitledEdit

Could anyone expand on this, or point me to good sources for this sort of thing? Thanks!

ManicParroT 19:26, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

possible sourcesEdit

Article] by Owen Gingerich --ragesoss 18:00, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Removed bit on Uzbek house of wisdomEdit

I removed this:

... because obviously, most of the text is referring to the Bayt al-Hikmah in Baghdad. I googled for something in Mawarannahr, but only founds info from copies of the wikipedia article. So I'll take it out until someone comes up with a better source for this. In the meanwhile, no info is better than wrong info. flammifertalk 03:46, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Abode or House? (or Adobe?)Edit

A recent edit by user oneeyedboxer changed "house" to "adobe" throughout the article. I think that "abode" was the intended change.

While "House of Wisdom" seems the correct translation to me, we'll need a person with a thorough knowledge of Arabic to translate or make changes. Since the semantic difference between "House" and "Abode" is very slight, I think it ought to stay "House" until an expert deems otherwise.

"House of Wisdom" also sounds better. It's less pompous, more eloquent, easier to understand, and sounds grander. "Abode" is a vaguer term for "a place of residence," but it can also mean "a sojourn."

My two cents, Auranor (talk) 19:17, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

how many volumes?Edit

The article mentions 'enormous quantities' of books in the House of Wisdom. Have any scholars provided a figure or an estimate of the actual number? This would be a nice addition to the article. KBurchfiel (talk) 03:04, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

A place to start would be to track down data about Ibn al-Nadim's Fihrist which was an index of Arabic language books. It's likely that all of these plus Greek, Persian, and Hindu books were in the House of Wisdom library. --Marc Kupper|talk 08:27, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

legendsEdit

There was NO such "Bait al Hikma" - those are alllll legends here.

Dimitri Gutas (an Arabist and Graekist scholar, Yale University) meticuously researched that - only to point out that there are only 2 mentions (!) of such a "bait" and one is only very, very brief.

My friends - go and read literature first before writing legends as facts - a problem that haunts Wikipedia in this area espacially.

Try D. Gutas "Greek Thought, Arabic Culture" for a starter ...

Udix — Preceding unsigned comment added by Udix2 (talkcontribs) 10:17, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

I agree with you: the position of Dimitri Gutas is not represented in the article and it should, but it's not so easy. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia made of non-original material and with a neutral point of view and in my opinion in this particular case it's very hard to balance different sources. I would like to contribute personally, but since I am not enough expert about the other argumentations about bayt al-hikma and I don't know which are the current academic positions, I will abstain. I hope somebody else, more informed than me, will do it. Nedanfor (talk) 12:58, 2 January 2014 (UTC)

Thousands of sales per day?Edit

Can we have a source for this claim?

These shops doubled as bookshops, the largest of which, al-Nakim, sold thousands of books every day

It sounds very dubious, given that they would all need to have been copied by hand. Wardog (talk) 20:57, 8 November 2012 (UTC)

Claim without citationEdit

Hello, I am trying to improve this article. As it was asked before, does anyone know of a source for the claim that "The activities of the library was supported by a large number of stationery shops. These shops doubled as bookshops, the largest of which, al-Nakim, sold thousands of books every day"?

I wasn't able to find references to this. If no one knows where this comes from, I guess I will remove the sentence. Thanks! Maxisi (talk) 07:49, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

House of Wisdom of Ottoman timesEdit

The same institution was also found in Ottoman times for a similar purpose. I don't know much about it and don't have time for that know, but somebody can research and include it here. Thanks. rinduzahid(talk) 23:01, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

stop saying "the first"Edit

the first 'algorithm' could be argued to be Euclid's method of finding factors, or it could be alot of other things. the first mechanical calculating device... atinkythera, or maybe some old chinese stuff,, who knows. and on and on. its all open to debate and hangs on the definitions of phrases. most secondary sources in history books would not use phrases like 'the first'. but they realize that new old texts are found all the time and our view of the past changes over time. it would be far, far more encyclopedic to just leave the word 'first' out of these articles. just because something wasnt first doesnt mean it wasnt important or valuable. its basically POVism Decora (talk) 01:15, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Deletion of sourced text from a reliable sourceEdit

This is the text that has been deleted twice.

=== Decline under Al-Mutawakkil === The House of Wisdom flourished under al-Ma'mun's successors al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842) and his son al-Wathiq (r. 842 – 847), but considerably declined under the reign of al-Mutawakkil (r. 847–861).[1] Although al Ma'mun, al Mu'tasim, and al Wathiq followed the sect of Mu'tazili, which supported mind-broadness and scientific inquiry, al-Mutawakkil endorsed a more literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith.[1] The caliph was not interested in science and moved away from rationalism, seeing the spread of Greek philosophy as anti-Islamic.[1]

It's source is Jim Al-Khalili who with the removal of the above is still used about 26 times in the article. He doesn't suddenly become an unreliable source because an editor disagrees with him. The statements can be attributed to him and/or material arguing against him can be added to the article, but we shouldn't be removing it just because an editor disagrees. Doug Weller talk 18:00, 23 September 2016 (UTC)

From a Muslim viewpoint, this can easily be seen to be a POV issue. Mu'tazilism is a widely discredited doctrine in modern Islam, not least because of al-Ma'mun's notorious inquisition (mihna) against dissenters. His most famous victim was Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, founder of the school of jurisprudence that bears his name, who was jailed and tortured for publicly disputing Mu'tazili doctrine concerning the origin of the Qur'an and the authority of the caliphate to decide matters of religion. The paragraph above paints a picture of free inquiry stifled by obscurantism, when in fact it was a conflict between scientific freedom on the one hand and religious freedom on the other. Perhaps the paragraph could be reworded to provide a more balanced view of Mu'tazilism and al-Mutawakkil's reasons for abandoning it? Or if al-Khalili's original is hopelessly POV, at least mark it as his opinion, rather than established fact. Texas Dervish (talk) 16:38, 11 December 2016 (UTC)

References

  1. ^ a b c Al-Khalili, p. 135

DisputedEdit

This article is full of myths about the Bayt al-Hikma which were disproven more than a decade ago. Modern historians do not believe that the Bayt al-Hikma was anything other than a library established by al-Mansur (not Harun al-Rashid!) and that it had no special relationship to the Translation Movement. The scholar whose work disproved the old myths was Dimitri Gutas in Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbāsid Society (2nd-4th/8th-10th Centuries) London: Routledge, 1998. Gutas' position is accepted by modern scholars and appears as such in the New Cambridge History of Islam.

"The following of Iranian cultural patterns continued under Hārūn al-Rashīd (r. 170-93/786-809), who is credited with the establishment of the Bayt al-Hikma, often hailed as a scientific academy and the centre of the Graeco-Arabic translation movement. The data about this institution as reported in Arabic historical sources such as Abū Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī’s (d. 311/923) Tarīkh (Annals), Ibn al-Nadīm’s Kitāb al-fihrist (Catalogue) and later books does not, however, support such an interpretation. These sources, enriched by poetry, suggest that the Bayt al-Hikma was a library where rare books on history, poetry and strange alphabets were collected and which was established when al-Mansūr structured the administration of his court and empire along the lines of Sasanian tradition."

- Sonja Brentjes with Robert G. Morrison, "The Sciences in Islamic societies," in The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol 4. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 569.

Notice how of the two main sources for this article (Al-Khalili and Lyons), neither is an actual professional historian. This is just shameful. Make sure you use proper sources written by actual experts when you write articles.

Chamboz (talk) 03:29, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

@Chamboz: We should by all means reflect this perspective in the article. However, we should be careful to follow WP:NPOV and not treat a theory as obsolete without solid support for that in RSs. I'm not convinced that Gutas has convinced the field to the extent that you suggest. For example, Jonathan Lyons characterizes this as an active controversy in his 2014 entry on the topic in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Science, and Technology in Islam:
 The full scope and function of the Bayt al-Ḥikmah under the ʿAbbāsids remain controversial. Nothing has survived of ʿAbbāsid Baghdad, making any physical reconstruction of its structures and institutions impossible, while the literary record of the activities at the Bayt al-Ḥikmah is subject to wide interpretation. As a result, scholars are divided over the Bayt al-Ḥikmah, in particular over its role in the widespread translation of Greek, Syriac, and other learned traditions into Arabic and the remarkable rise of Islamic experimental science and philosophy that accompanied it.
With regard to your other tag, which sources do you consider not to be reliable? Please note that the criteria for reliability as defined in WP:V and WP:RS are quite broad and include works by non-specialists. Academic reputation enters into play in establishing due WP:WEIGHT. Eperoton (talk) 03:58, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
Jonathan Lyons is a sociologist, not a historian. Looking through his book's sources, I see that he includes nothing in any Middle Eastern language, only working with those texts which have been translated into English. This is a red flag. Someone who can't engage with the primary sources is inevitably going to be limited in their ability to accurately analyze the issues they're addressing. As for Jim Al-Khalili, he's also not a historian, but a scientist. It's highly problematic and dangerous to rely on such people when writing an article, especially with such bombastic titles as "How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance" and "How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization." Such books have an obvious agenda and are naturally going to be attracted to the most liberal possible reading of their sources, rather than approaching them with the care expected from historians. It's not that books like this can't be good, but rather that they have a clear tendency to deviate from the scholarly approach. I would personally recommend never using such pop-history for an encyclopedia, but if they must be used, they should at least be limited to supplementing scholarly works. Using them as the backbone of the article is just wrong. Chamboz (talk) 04:33, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
Our goal here is doing the right thing, but our method is doing the policy-compliant thing. While I personally don't use pop-history books, they are classified as RSs if they come from mainstream publishers. Adding another perspective from better sources is easy, and I encourage you to be bold and do so. Removing an opinion from a weaker source is harder because it requires a rationale that is consistent with WP:NPOV ("representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.") The fact that Lyons was commissioned to write the entry on Bayt al-Hikma for that OUP encyclopedia makes it difficult to argue that his view isn't "significant". Eperoton (talk) 15:13, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
Since you have access to the OUP encyclopedia, can you tell me if he cites any historians who disagree with Gutas, or does he simply say that there is a controversy without indicating who is taking part in it? Chamboz (talk) 15:21, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
I've emailed you the bibliography. I haven't looked into the literature on this subject (which is why I haven't touched this article except for some vandalism patrolling), but I'm not sure he gives any sources for the controversy. Just keep in mind that WP policy limits our ability to use the bibliographical apparatus of a source in due weight evaluation. This may be a nuisance for a professional historian like yourself, but you'll probably appreciate this provision after arguing with enough laymen who think that they can overrule RSs through their original research. Eperoton (talk) 15:40, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Thank you. Even if we can't take the bibliography as evidence, it's pretty clear that his opinion is in the minority nowadays. For instance here's a quote from Khaled El-Rouayheb, a historian of Islamic science:

"Even when Ljubovic does cite recent work in English, one sometimes suspects that he has not read the works carefully. For instance, he repeats the outdated idea that the caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 813-33) set up a "library-academy" called Bayt al-Hikma for translations into Arabic from Greek, Syriac, and Persian (p. 11). Here he adds a footnote referring to Dimitri Gutas's seminal work Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (London: Routledge, 1998), despite the fact that Gutas devotes considerable space in that work (pp. 53-60) to refuting the idea that al-Ma'mun set up a "library-academy" called Bayt al-Hikma."

Review of The Works in Logic by Bosniac Authors in Arabic by Amir Ljubovic. Journal of the American Oriental Society 129 (2009), 698.

That may well be the case, and we need to find phrasing that appropriately reflects majority and minority views based on the RSs we have at our disposal. To pick an example I'm better familiar with, I was comfortable writing that recent scholarship has disproved the notion of the "closing of the gate of ijtihad" after reviewing half a dozen standard references all of which stated something to that effect. Even so, I did mention both views, because that notion has been significant historically and remains so in some circles. When there's a disagreement between sources of the calibre of specialist encyclopedias by OUP (and I'm trying hard not to let my own opinion of Ibrahim Kalin who edited this one influence my assessment), I think a more conservative formulation is called for, unless we make the effort to do a thorough literature review. As I'm sure you know, scholars tend to overstate the level of acceptance of viewpoints they personally support. Eperoton (talk) 16:40, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

who created it ?Edit

I changed to Rachid because the ref of Brentjes vol 4 doesn't contain her name there.. She wrote Rachid as also Balty Guesdon confirms it. More later

Here is the book https://books.google.com/books/about/The_New_Cambridge_History_of_Islam_Volum.html?id=bNeaBAAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y . I am Checking what she writes there.

Got it https://books.google.be/books/content?id=bNeaBAAAQBAJ&hl=nl&pg=PT833&img=1&zoom=3&sig=ACfU3U0vkg-HjuVkpNAQ7lxJ4rA5F1nrGQ&w=1280

The sources regarding al-Mansur are not reliable as stated. So we should stay with Rachid. Still need to add ref from Balty Guesdon that Rachid had it for "private" use. P 133. Up to some others to improve that part with good ref. (I cleaned up the several signatures to have a cleaner text) 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 16:55, 18 June 2017 (UTC)

Read the quote again. The New Cambridge History of Islam does say that it was established by al-Mansur.
"The following of Iranian cultural patterns continued under Hārūn al-Rashīd (r. 170-93/786-809), who is credited with the establishment of the Bayt al-Hikma, often hailed as a scientific academy and the centre of the Graeco-Arabic translation movement. The data about this institution as reported in Arabic historical sources such as Abū Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī’s (d. 311/923) Tarīkh (Annals), Ibn al-Nadīm’s Kitāb al-fihrist (Catalogue) and later books does not, however, support such an interpretation. These sources, enriched by poetry, suggest that the Bayt al-Hikma was a library where rare books on history, poetry and strange alphabets were collected and which was established when al-Mansūr structured the administration of his court and empire along the lines of Sasanian tradition."

The idea that it was established by Harun al-Rashid (or that it even functioned the way historians had assumed until that point) was disproven by Dimitri Gutas in Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbāsid Society (2nd-4th/8th-10th Centuries) London: Routledge, 1998. Relevant pages are 53-60. Chamboz (talk) 19:16, 18 June 2017 (UTC)

the article I quoted from Sonja Brentjes and Jürgen Renn is much more recent than Gutas, who is him outdated. They state as I mentioned on p 25 (did you at least check it before you reverted it?):
The acquisition of manuscripts from Byzantium continued during al-Mahdi’s reign as well as under his successor and son Harun al-Rashid. Harun al-Rashid is known as the founder of the first caliphal library, the khazinat al-hikma, according to Gutas also an institution conceived according to Sasanian precedence (Gutas 1998, pp. 53–60).
The khazinat was the beginning of the Bayt al Hikma for his own purposes.
Your reference is here https://books.google.be/books/content?id=bNeaBAAAQBAJ&hl=nl&pg=PT833&img=1&zoom=3&sig=ACfU3U0vkg-HjuVkpNAQ7lxJ4rA5F1nrGQ&w=1280 and is much older than "mine" I quoted. You can't state that it is outdated when it is from 2013 (https://www.topoi.org/publication/37407/) where your source is 15 (fiftheen) years older (1998). And Bentjes refutes the story about al-Mansur in 2013.
Also in "The Locales of Islamic Astronomical Instrumentation" of 2006 François Charette cites as a footnote: "25. D. Gutas convincingly argued that this institution, far from being a "scientific academy", was in fact nothing more than an administrative palatial library of Sassanian inspiration where, under al-Ma'mün's reign, a few scholars such as al-Khwarizmï were also employed: see Gutas, Greek thought (ref. 8), 53-60." an, nothing about al-Mansur anymore, who is mentioned for a lot but not for that. QED. So I suggest you have a more in depth look into that matter an revert it again. 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 21:45, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
By the way, I fully agree that Jonathan Lyons is not a good source at all. We must stay with the real "guys": such as Gutas, Balty Guesdon, Bentjes & c°. May be check also with Charles Burnett of Warburg. I can email him as I can Brentjes. They both know me and probably they will respond. I want is as you so accurate possile with the latest "opinions" 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 21:52, 18 June 2017 (UTC)


Charles Burnett after 2002 https://books.google.be/books/content?id=g46euaF7HAsC&hl=nl&pg=PA16&img=1&zoom=3&ots=7fmUUk71tW&sig=ACfU3U0AAsL-w2scmKa6hexEtOqK3I8RBQ&w=1280 in The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History: The early, medieval, and Reformation eras Voorkant Robert Benedetto, James O. Duke Westminster John Knox Press, 2008 - 691 pagina's 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 23:21, 18 June 2017 (UTC)

Gutas himself says Harun al Rachid in 2009. case closed! https://www.academia.edu/9575377/Bayt_al-hikma_Encyclopaedia_of_Islam_Three_2009-2_Gutas_and_van_Bladel Revert again! 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 23:35, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
Hello, @Chamboz:, did you note this ? Txs 2A02:A03F:1607:E100:7073:81F9:1696:B40B (talk) 06:49, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

Current status of 'House of Wisdom' pageEdit

This page is still a mess and I welcome any efforts to clean it up. The basic problem is that the main sources for the page (al-Khalili, Lyons) are popular books that retell the 'Rise-Decline' myth, and insist on treating the HoW as something like a modern research university. There are serious issues about whether the HoW existed at all, whether it was any more than a library for literature and poetry, whether any translation work was done there, and whether any work that would now be judged scientific was done or stored there (see in particular the book by Gutas (1998) 53-60, and Sonja Brentjes with Robert G. Morrison, "The Sciences in Islamic societies," in The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol 4. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 569, referenced above). There is now a brief indication of these problems in the introduction to the article and a section on 'Dispute', but the rest of the article largely spins the old triumphalist stories. The issue here is emphatically NOT whether figures like al-Kwarizmi and the Banu Musa did important scientific work -- they clearly did. But we do the real achievements of Islamic science a disservice by pressing them into later Western patterns (e.g. turning the HoW into a translation center and research institute), because when Islamic science clearly fails to conform to later Western standards (e.g. in NOT separating science and religion) it will be discounted as unscientific (see, for example, almost everything written on Islam by Toby Huff). The fundamental problem here is to separate what is actually known about the supposed HoW from later myth making and the imposition of Western ideals of science. Perhaps a rewrite should start by explaining those issues, using earlier drafts of the page as examples. Voxcanis (talk) 11:55, 9 May 2018

I agree that the article is still a mess, Voxcanis, and I'm all for your suggested changes. Is a rewrite a task that you would be up to yourself? I have expansions to several other articles I'm working on now, so not ready to tackle this article, but I would be happy to help with editing as time allows. Carlstak (talk) 17:41, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
This article https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/the-house-of-wisdom-is-a-myth/ also expresses the view that the "House of Wisdom" is mostly a myth, quoting sources stating "...The fact is that we have exceedingly little historical [emphasis in original] information about the bayt al-hikma. This in itself would indicate that it was not something grandiose or significant, and hence a minimalist interpretation would fit the historical record better."

Skepticalgiraffe (talk) 03:28, 30 May 2019 (UTC)

whyEdit

why often or always link the discovery of Muslims with Greece, Indian, chinese etc ? you have to prove in detail not only such claims. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Shatree (talkcontribs) 18:07, 25 November 2018 (UTC)

It's a mythEdit

https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/the-house-of-wisdom-is-a-myth/ — Preceding unsigned comment added by 193.29.81.232 (talk) 08:51, 4 June 2019 (UTC)

Return to "House of Wisdom" page.