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The relationship between Islam and science is complex. Today,predominantly Muslim countries, such as the United Arabic Emirates,enjoy high urbanization and technological development, but theyunderperform in common metrics of scientific research, such aspublications in leading journals and number of citations per scientist(see Edis 2007). Moreover, Islamic countries are also hotbeds forpseudoscientific ideas, such as Old Earth creationism, the creation ofhuman bodies on the day of resurrection from the tailbone, and thesuperiority of prayer in treating lower-back pain instead ofconventional methods (Guessoum 2009: 4–5).
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A major impetus for Arabic science was the patronage of the Abbasidcaliphate (758–1258), centered in Baghdad. Early Abbasid rulers,such as Harun al-Rashid (ruled 786–809) and his successorAbū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Ma’mūn (ruled813–833), were significant patrons of Arabic science. The formerfounded the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom), whichcommissioned translations of major works by Aristotle, Galen, and manyPersian and Indian scholars into Arabic. It was cosmopolitan in itsoutlook, employing astronomers, mathematicians, and physicians fromabroad, including Indian mathematicians and Nestorian (Christian)astronomers. Throughout the Arabic world, public libraries attached tomosques provided access to a vast compendium of knowledge, whichspread Islam, Greek philosophy, and Arabic science. The use of acommon language (Arabic), as well as common religious and politicalinstitutions and flourishing trade relations encouraged the spread ofscientific ideas throughout the empire. Some of this transmission wasinformal, e.g., correspondence between like-minded people (see Dhanani2002), some formal, e.g., in hospitals where students learned aboutmedicine in a practical, master-apprentice setting, and inastronomical observatories and academies. The decline and fall of theAbbasid caliphate dealt a blow to Arabic science, but it remainsunclear why it ultimately stagnated, and why it did not experiencesomething analogous to the scientific revolution in WesternEurope.