Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bayt al-Hikma in Baghdad

Mosque libraries became the first public libraries in Islam used by students, teachers, worshipers and anyone who sought a particular book. As compared to mosques and madrasa, the Bayt al-Hikma had more secular than spiritual material.

Bayt al-Hikma was a caliphal institution in Baghdad that is best characterized as a library with a number of limited scholarly functions but without most of the attributes of scholarly interchange that historians have sought to embody in it. It was founded to promote research in scientific and technological areas. Bayt al-Hikma has been variously described as a royal archive, a library and the nerve center of the translation movement.

It was also known as dar al-hikma and hizanat al-Hikma. Persons explicitly associated with the Bayt al-Hikma were administrators, copyists, and binders. Like every library, the Bayt al-Hikma was a place where one came to copy works.

One is familiar with a certain Allan b. Hasan al-Shu’ubi, a bookseller with shop in Baghdad and renowned copyist: he worked in the Bayt al-Hikma for Harun al-Rasyid, al-Ma’mum and Barmedices and without doubt he also made some copies there to sell in his shop.

Ibn Nadim report that the astrologer al-Fadl ibn Nawbaht was at the hizanat al-Hikma for Harun Al-Rashid; he translated from Persian into Arabic and relied in his scholarship on the books of Iran.

The centre was said to house thousands of books. Of particular interest to the Abbasids were books on philosophy, medicine, and science in Greek, although books in Pahlavi, Sanskrit and other languages were also collected. Al-Ma’mum intensified efforts to translate the books into Arabic.

Other activities had the Bayt al-Hikma as their setting. Reunions of scholars took place there but, paradoxically, those with which concern the religious sciences.

People from all countries came to Baghdad in ruder to study various sciences in libraries where the books were completely the disposal of all users.
Bayt al-Hikma in Baghdad

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