Arab-Islamic civilization...and the reasons for its decline


Civilization is a human act, capable of growth and progress, and it is also vulnerable to corruption and loss.

Research into the causes of the fall of Islamic civilization represents a major problem among researchers when they compare the causes of the fall of Islamic civilization with other civilizations, such as Greek civilization and Roman civilization, in explaining the causes of the decline of Islamic civilization, without paying attention to the issue of differences between civilizations, and the specificity that distinguished each civilization this is the first reason.

The second is that most researchers who addressed the issue of the decline of civilizations started their work from preconceived theories and tried to impose them on historical facts.

The methodological mistake here is the transition from theory, from ideology, to history, while theory should be derived from experience itself, that is, from historical facts.

Stages of development

The civilizations witnessed in human history have passed through three main stages: the stage of formation, the stage of prosperity, and the stage of decline, there is no doubt that the Arab Islamic civilization did not depart from this experience.

 During the formation stage, which took approximately two centuries (the first and second AH - the seventh and eighth AD), the Arabs and Muslims succeeded in building a civilization from multiple elements and sources, the first of which is the values and principles that Islam brought, dealing with the affairs of this world and the hereafter.

.Secondly - the ancient Arab heritage and its positive values

Third - the heritage of the ancient East, which was a rich source for the civilization of the East and West in ancient time.

Fourth - the achievements of Greek, Persian, Indian and Chinese civilization, from which the Arabs and Muslims benefited in the formation of their civilization, as for the period of prosperity, (the Golden Age), it lasted for about three centuries (the third, fourth, and fifth AH - the ninth, tenth, and eleventh AD), during which Arabs and Muslims excelled in all fields of civilization and led the world during it in science, order, tolerance, economics, and politics. Europeans studied at their hands in all fields of science and knowledge.

As for the third stage, which is the stage of deterioration and decadence, its beginnings started approximately in the sixth - twelfth century AD - and continued for the Arab Islamic East until the middle of the thirteenth century AH (nineteenth century AD).

Characteristics of the deterioration stage

Before we deal with the causes of deterioration and decadence, we should point out some facts that we must take into consideration, because they constitute a scientific introduction to addressing the issue.


1 - The deterioration that befell the Arab-Islamic civilization did not occur suddenly, without any introductions or indicators, but rather it was a slow process whose elements gathered over long periods of time.

2 - The weakness of Islamic civilization is not due to a single factor, no matter how effective and influential this factor is, but rather is due to a number of factors that interacted with each other during certain historical periods, and led to a qualitative transformation in its path. Therefore, the scientific method requires that we take all factors into account. 

3 - Although many thinkers have adopted the theory that civilizations commit suicide and are not killed, meaning that civilization collapses from within through the slow dissolution of effective internal forces before it falls as a result of an external invasion, despite the prevalence of this theory, there is a need to investigate all the causes, internal and external.

4 - The decline of Arab-Islamic civilization does not necessarily mean the absolute death of all forms of intellectual activity throughout the Arab and Islamic world during the centuries of decline, rather, some scientific efforts remained here and there, even if they were focused on the field of explanation and summation...etc.

5 - Decline did not occur in all parts of the Arab and Islamic world at the same time, the beginnings of decadence appeared in the Arab and Islamic East since the sixth century AH (twelfth century AD), while they did not appear in Morocco and Andalusia, except in the seventh century AH (thirteenth century AD). .

The most important causes of decline

There are a number of reasons that led to the deterioration and decline of Arab-Islamic civilization, some of which are internal and others external.

Political reasons

1 - What afflicted the Arab-Islamic world in its political unity, as multitude  was replaced by unity, and several kingdoms and states arose on the ruins of one state, in the east and west of the Islamic world, if the authority of the Caliph in the Umayyad era had extended from Andalusia the Iberian peninsula in the west to the borders of china  in the east, in the last century of Abbasid history, this authority no longer exceeded the city of Baghdad and its suburbs.

This political division was reinforced by the rupture of religious unity, as, since the fourth century AH (tenth century AD), three caliphs began to compete for the leadership of Muslims: the Abbasid in Baghdad, the Umayyad in Cordoba, and the Fatimid in Cairo, there is no doubt that all of these divisions led to the outbreak of wars between Islamic forces, and Muslims in general paid a heavy price in terms of their lives, economy, and civilization.

2 - The political terrorism that spread throughout the Arab and Islamic world had the greatest damage to all forms of cultural activity in Islamic society, the Islamic principles of Shura, equality, justice and tolerance have become in one valley, and political practices in another.

Turkish mercenaries have controlled the fate of the Abbasid caliphs since the middle of the ninth century AD, then the Buyid tyranny came in the middle of the eleventh century AD, this political terrorism continued during the Mamluk era (1250 - 1517 AD), in which rule was for those who were victorious.

During these eras of political terrorism and struggle over power, Islamic forces did not hesitate to use the most brutal methods to establish their authority and eliminate their competitors, as for the masses of the nation, they were embracing their concerns and pain, and they had nothing to do with decision-making, rather, their sense of belonging to the land and civilization was crushed, and they began searching for their daily sustenance before paper and pen.



The economy has a major impact on the prosperity and fall of civilization, since the fifth century AH (the eleventh century AD), agriculture in the Arab and Islamic Levant has been subjected to a new mode of production, which is known as the feudal-military system, this system stipulates that the Sultan allocates each commander in his army a plot of land in exchange for the salaries he was receiving, from the state, and in return, this leader, i.e., the one who is cut off, undertakes to submit directly to the Sultan, and to perform his financial, social, and military obligations, this system has freed the hands of the leaders and soldiers on the land and the peasants who work in it, without there being a supervisor or law holding them accountable, oh God, the Sultan himself, the application of these systems was completed in Egypt and the Levant during the Mamluk era.

This system has brought disaster to the land and the farmer, this was evident in the legal and illegal taxes, in cash and in kind, that were extracted from the peasants, in addition to the brutal methods in which they were collected, despite the complaints of the peasants, most of them did not reach the sultans.

These persecutions forced peasants to flee the land to the cities, which resulted in the devastation of agricultural land on the one hand, and the creation of economic, social and security problems in the cities on the other hand.


In addition to this, we must remember the successive epidemics, plagues, floods and droughts that have afflicted the elements of agricultural production, trade in the Arab and Islamic world also deteriorated significantly, not only due to legal and illegal taxes and duties, extortion and confiscation operations that merchants suffered from, but also as a result of the fragmentation of the Arab and Islamic world and civil wars, and the resulting lack of security and peace along trade routes and the spread of piracy in Land and sea, neglecting roads, routes, and postal stations, and creating obstacles to the movement of merchants between conflicting Islamic countries.

The Crusaders' occupation of the Levantine coast, for nearly two centuries (1098 - 1291 AD), deprived Arab and Muslim merchants of the Mediterranean Sea, its markets and ports, and of their role as mediators between East and West, as this role was taken away by the Europeans in general and the Italians in particular, the commercial movement was also severely damaged as a result of the conflict between the Arabs and the Crusaders and the Crusader raids on the convoys that were transporting goods and stores between the Levant, Egypt, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Finally, Arab and Islamic trade received a fatal blow at the hands of the Portuguese, the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 by Vasco do Gama opened a new route between Europe and India, consequently, the Arabs and Muslims lost their role in international trade, and the Red Sea also lost its importance as a main route between the Far East. and Europe, and the Mamluk state in Egypt and the Levant lost a huge resource of its economic resources. 


Industry was not immune from the difficulties faced by agriculture and trade. Indeed, the decline of industry was closely linked to their decline, artisans and craftsmen suffered from the extortion and confiscation operations practiced by Islamic countries, as long as most industries were concentrated in cities, they suffered from the destruction, devastation, killing, looting, and fires that were taking place in the cities. The industry also received blows Painful at the hands of the Mongols, Genghis Khan transferred hundreds of craftsmen and craftsmen from the Islamic cities he seized, such as Nishapur and others, to Mongolia.

The decline of science and its institutions

The deterioration of scientific life is one of the causes of the decline of Arab civilization, and one of its manifestations, creative ideas have disappeared and the scientific mentality has faded, to be replaced by superstition and the unseen. Literature - from the Ayyubid era until the Ottoman era - was preoccupied with embroidering phrases and decorating words without paying attention to the intellectual content, historians - with the exception of some such as Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406 AD) and Al-Maqrizi (d. 1441 AD) - also continued to be interested in the biographies of caliphs, sultans, kings and notables, and there is no doubt that this intellectual decline is due to several reasons, including:

1 - The absence of patrons of knowledge, including caliphs and ministers, the weakness affected the institution of the caliphate itself, the era of the early Abbasids, in which the caliphs were considered scholars, held councils of knowledge and literature in their courts, spent on scientific institutions and their men, and paid gold as the price for buying manuscripts and translating them, had ended.

2 - The Islamic countries have tightly linked science and its institutions to their interests, since the beginning of the Seljuk era. In fact, the Seljuk minister Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092 AD) founded schools, and the Ayyubids and Mamluks built many of them in Egypt and the Levant, but that did not lead to a comprehensive scientific renaissance, because these countries  dominated education and its institutions and directed them towards fields that served its political, sectarian and administrative interests.

A - Education in these schools is linked to the endowments that were allocated to them, meaning that the expenditure on them was subject to the fulfillment of the conditions of the endowment, any violation of these conditions stops the expenditure and the school is closed, that is, the continuation of this or that school depends on the satisfaction of the owner of the endowment - whether a sultan or a prince - regarding its curricula, teachers and students.

B - Those who graduated from these schools did not constitute a class of scholars, but rather a class of employees, working in state offices and public facilities.

C - Most of the sciences that were taught at that time were religious sciences, because the goal of teaching them was religious and sectarian, and this became clear in the Ayyubid state, which was established on the ruins of the Fatimid state, on the other hand, the natural and philosophical sciences were neglected, as schools played - For example - about teaching Greek thought, which was one of the sources of Arab-Islamic civilization in its golden age.

3 - The intellectual terrorism practiced by Islamic countries since the second Abbasid era was a fundamental factor in the deterioration of the intellectual life of Arab civilization, and they began to undertake this terrorism by eliminating the Mu’tazilites, who carried the banner of reason. Intellectual terrorism reached its peak in the Buyid and Seljuk eras. ..

Ethical reasons

A team of researchers believes that the departure of the ruling classes and the groups allied with them, especially since the Buyid era, from the political, social and economic values, morals and ideals of Islam, is an important factor in the decline of Arab-Islamic civilization, the separation between religion and life, and between Islamic values and morals and political practices, led to Indulging in many corruptions, moral deviations, and social diseases that have threatened society from within, and exhausted both the mental and physical strength of its children, this is in addition to the dominance of the culture of fear, the values of submission and surrender to reality, and the spread of hypocrisy, hypocrisy, and sycophancy that were encouraged by the ruling classes.

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