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Baghdad: Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) and the destruction of its books

June 21, 2017, 07:42:01 am Zeynab: Shukran sis Heba.  Allah Bless. Ameen.
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September 12, 2016, 03:17:09 am N. Truth Seeker: Wa salam sisters. So kind of u to remember. Alhumdulilah that Allah gave us another chance to live thru the blessed month of Zil Hajj.  Was a busy time for all of my family.
September 11, 2016, 08:26:43 am Zeynab: Wa'salaam my dear Sis Heba Smiley  Yes, Alhumdulilah, the 10 days of this blessed month went well by the Grace & Mercy of Allah. I wish the same for all.
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« on: September 10, 2014, 06:23:46 pm »

Bait-al-Hikma: House of Wisdom or House of Knowledge.  One of the largest libraries and centers of research ever.

Source:  Tumblr and

There is an old Arab adage that says "books are written in Egypt, printed in Lebanon and read in Iraq,"  referring to the steady rise of intellectualism in Baghdad from the 8th century that continued to strengthen for the next four hundred years or more.   Unfortunately, the era that followed is replete with tragedy - the era of the destruction of knowledge.

Source of image:  Abbasid Baghdad Wordpress

There were two major destructions of priceless books in Baghdad -  the first in 1200s by the bloodthirsty Mongol, Halagu Khan, and the second, in  the 2003 by the American troops who were just as ruthless and crude.

Baghdad had been established in 762 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur.  Throughout its history, it had been the capital of the Muslims, as well  as the world in general. The libraries of Baghdad were unrivaled. The  House of Wisdom or Bayt al-Hikma established soon after the city was built, was a magnet  for the most intelligent scientists, thinkers, mathematicians, artists and  linguists of the world.  The caliphs were patrons of literature, science, and the arts.

Source of above image: Harun-ar-Rashid and the poet sold by Sotheby's, London, on Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Source of image:  House of Wisdom - Wikipedia
Unknown, 13th-century author
Uploaded by Cplakidas
Created: September 23, 2012

For more details on attribution check above link.

Source of image:  Muslim Museum Initiative

Source:  Slideshow by Fatima Noor.
Watch this beautiful slideshow that gives the summary of the House of Wisdom at the following link:

Image taken from: Light of Baghdad - A brief history of the House of Wisdom (Daily Star)

By the year 1200 the  Abbasids were substantially weakened.  It started out looking good for  the Islamic world. The Crusaders had been defeated and Jerusalem liberated in 1187.  However, in 1258 all that would soon turn around when the savage  Mongols would make their way into Southwest Asia. The Mongols were a Buddhist tribe of nomads from Central/North Asia.   Chengis Khan put  his brother Hulagu Khan in charge of an army whose goals were to conquer  Persia, Syria, and Egypt, as well as to destroy the Abbasid Caliphate.   Hulagu himself nurtured a very deep hatred for everything attached to  Islam. Much of this came from his Buddhist and Christian advisers who  influenced his policies.

The Muslim world at this time was in no position to resist the Mongol  attacks. The Abbasid Caliphate was a shell of its former self, having very little power outside of Baghdad.  Most of Persia was disunited.  The Ayyubid  state established by Salah al-Din was only in control of small parts of  Iraq and Syria.  The scientific achievements of the Muslim world were  now centered in Egypt which was under the new Mamluk Sultanate and the Muslims in Spain.

With  his giant army of 150,000, Hulagu Khan did not encounter much  resistance in Iraq.  The siege began in mid-January and lasted two weeks. On  February 13th, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs.

The website "History of Jihad against Mongols" tries to downplay the savagery of Mongols and claims that the Muslims exaggerate the atrocities of Mongols.  Completely false.  The Mongols are famous for going haywire during their invasions who would stop to role down nothing that came before them. There was no such thing as intellectualism among them.  They were a very illiterate lot.  Intolerance of other cultures with annihilation and pillage was an inherent part of their culture which still exists before the eyes of the world, the example of which can be seen in Burma - the genocide perpetrated by the Buddhist majority against the Muslim minority.

A full week of pillage and destruction commenced. The Mongols showed  no discretion, destroying mosques, hospitals, libraries, and palaces.  The destruction and  devastation left by the Mongols in their path have scarcely been seen anywhere else  in history.  The glorious scientific legacy of Baghdad was ravaged and the city was turned to ashes.  Historians speak of how the invaders gathered the books in Baghdad’s  great libraries, including the House of Wisdom, and threw them in the Tigris  river to create a passage for their troops across it. Survivors say the  water ran black due to the ink in the book and red from the blood of the scientists and scholars killed.  The world will never truly know the extent of what knowledge was lost  forever when those priceless books were thrown into the river or burned.  Still  more important however, were the loss of lives. It is  estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people were butchered in  that one week of destruction. Baghdad was left completely depopulated  and uninhabitable. It would take centuries for the city to regain any  sort of prominence.

Baghdad was eventually rebuilt as a glorious city  but nothing like its historical rule.  And historically every invasion  chipped away at Baghdad's intellectual and scientific culture.

Source:  Muslims' contributions to medieval medicine pharmacology

Source:  Wikipedia - House of Wisdom - ManuscriptAbbasid
The earliest scientific manuscripts originated in the Abbasid Era.
Original uploader was Danieliness at en.wikipedia
Uploaded by UV
Created: 13th century ?
For more details on attribution, please check the above link.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US and its allied forces also opening the door to hordes of takfiri marauders was the final nail in the coffin.

In mid April of 2003 soon after the fall of Baghdad, the Iraq National Library and Archive  was burned and looted. Over 60% of its archived material was destroyed.   Smoke damage engulfed other parts of the collection.   The library was home to some of the oldest documents from the Ottoman  empire as well as one of the oldest copies of the Quran.  At the  Library of Religious Endowments, curators  tried to save as much of the manuscript collections as they could, yet  more than 1,000 were  stolen and more than 500 burned.  Several other ancient libraries in  Baghdad were looted.  The total destruction of Iraq's heritage has a  very, very long list.  On all of this, the sick and boorish Donald Rumsfeld had this to say:   "Stuff happens ... freedom is untidy."  (April  11, 2003).


At  present, Baghdad is a far cry from its past glories.  Iraq   was already shattered by relentless sanctions  for 12 years prior to  the  war in 2003 that had taken the lives of 1.2 million Iraqis, mostly   children below 12, due to scarcity of basic medication and an  unprecedented spike in cancer rates because of the use of depleted  uranium by US forces in 1991.  In 2011 the US troops left Iraq with  plenty of stolen wealth, the   Iraqi heritage in ruins (some stolen by them, some by the terrorists and  some by local smugglers), over one million Iraqi civilians  slaughtered,   mass infiltration of the Al-Qaeda mafia,  sectarian killings rampant all over the  country  and  a corrupt puppet government subservient to the White House  installed in Baghdad.  On June 2014, it got still worse. Iraq was dismembered, a big portion of it in the north and north-west under Al-Qaeda rule .. or just call them the modern-day Barbarians no different from the Mongols.

The system of  education that now exists in Iraq (if it can at all be called one) is a  struggling institution in pieces in an age of terror.

Source: Abbasid Baghdad Wordpress
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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2014, 08:49:09 am »

So much love this work.  Pleasure to read.  But our steep downfall and where we're left today fills me with indescribable dismay Sad  The destruction started with the Mongols, then the crusaders, then the Americans and finally with another set of barbarians similar to the Mongols, the Salafists.  It's doubly sad that the last of the barbarians have the audacity to call themselves "Muslims" despite their hatred for books and knowledge. 

Many thanks sis.  I repeat, I love this piece (absolutely worth saving) and adore the wonderful images.  Reminiscence of beautiful days we never saw yet they dwell in our hearts forever.  InshAllah will see more of such happiness in Jannat.  Ameen ya Rab.
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2014, 09:01:21 am »

You're most welcomes sis.  I know, the devastating downfall, with all its negatives, is heartbreaking.  All I can say is that sweet memories are better than none. 

  InshAllah will see more of such happiness in Jannat.  Ameen ya Rab.

InshAllah, InshAllah .... ameen ya Rab.  What a lovely dua. 
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2015, 10:56:10 pm »

Me too, love love love this post!  Really great.  Next month there is the Islamic History week at the community center for kids.  InshAllah, I'll print this and take it there for a read.

Btw, look at this.  My niece sent it from Twitter.  Bait al-Hikma or House of Wisdom in 8th century Baghdad (Abbasid reign) was the largest library in the world, destroyed by Mongol invaders in the 12th century.  In 21st  century, despite being ravaged and surrounded by another two sets of invaders - US troops and takfiri ISIL encroachment - Baghdad still hasn't lost its love for books.

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