Islamic Dark Ages

Some Arab friends of ours made the comment to us recently that Islam is strangling their society, people and culture… and is THE reason for most of the issues in the Middle East. They cited corrupt governments, dictators, lack of employment, slowly developing economies, and lack of personal freedoms as evidences.

I am not intending to criticize Islam, for it is a multi-faceted, massive socio-cultural bloc, but nearly every society that calls itself Islamic is in complete chaos. The truth is, we are living in the Islamic Dark Ages.

Islamic Medicine
Chirurgical operation, 15th-century Turkish manuscript – Creative Commons

It wasn’t always this way, in the 7th through 13th centuries, when Islam was young, Islamic societies were at their pinnacle and contributed greatly to scholarly learning.  During this period, called the Islamic Golden Age, artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own. Not that all was perfect, however of the societies on the earth at the time, one would not necessarily have pointed to war and plague ridden Christian Europe as their first choice of a model nation at the time.  

Many Arabs frankly feel a sense of longing to return to the Islamic Golden Age…

because there has been little to celebrate in the 1000 years since. It is important to understand this collective embarrassment is found commonly among Muslims.  Muslims are a proud religious group and they take particular offense to the current state of affairs.  Many react in anger and violence at anyone who points out anything bad about Islam (i.e. Danish cartoons), while Islamists seek to overthrow any government and do away with any influence that doesn’t include complete adherence to Sharia Law. They think that the world needs a return to the Golden Age of Islam to bring about peace.

Conversely, whenever something remotely positive occurs, Muslims go ballistic with joy… the Asian cup soccer game where Jordan won gave me poignant insight.  You would have thought they won a million dollars, the joy and celebration was just over the top, way beyond normal sports fever.  Because there is little to rejoice about in the Muslim world, when even the smallest thing happens, it’s a big deal.

Christianity had its Dark Ages too, following the decline of the Roman Empire.  The European Dark Ages line up pretty well with the Islamic Golden Age… an interesting coincidence?

Europe during the Reformation woke back up to the message of the Gospel.  They Dark Ages were gradually replaced with hope through the Scripture made accessible to common man.

The current Islamic Dark Age can only be broken by the same hope. We are praying for a Reformation in the Muslim world.  May God bless and bring revival, and prosperity, and hope to the 1.2 billion sons of Ishmael.



About Scott Gustafson

Scott Gustafson has extensive experience in ministry and business in the Middle East, having lived or worked in the region for 20 years. He is a PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit working with the Extreme Beliefs Project. He is a guest lecturer and is also the Managing Partner of Purpose Global Strategies, an International Business and non-profit consulting firm. He advises large funding agencies as well as indigenous businesses and ministries in Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He has an MA in Intercultural Communication from Moody Graduate School, and a BA in Nursing and Biology from Western Michigan University. Scott and his wife have 2 children and they live in Grand Rapids, MI. Follow his Substack.