Abstract

The popular analysis (promulgated by Orientalists) on the rise and decline of scientific productivity in Islamic civilization dichotomizes the events of Islamic history as a conflict between religion and reason. This analysis has since come to be coined the ‘Classical Narrative,’ and suggests that the scientific successes of Muslims throughout history were based solely on foreign influences, whereas Islamic values and ideas were responsible for their decline. However, recent studies have shown this narrative to be invalid due to its inconsistent rendering of the historical data. On the contrary, a more coherent understanding of the data shows that scientific productivity among Muslims was both actively and passively bolstered by Islamic values through the rejection of Aristotelian natural philosophy. Despite these developments, the reasons behind the decline have yet to be fully ascertained. As such, this paper offers a summary and critique of the Classical Narrative, as well as revisionary constructs towards understanding the influences behind the rise and decline of scientific productivity in Islamic civilization.

Introduction

Defining Terms

The ‘Classical Narrative’ and Scholarly Dissent

Islām as Values – Science as a Tool

Al-Ghazālī: Villain or Scapegoat?

Towards a New Understanding

Notes