So the sheikh kept going on about how, when we were closer to God as a nation we excelled in all areas of life. We had a strong empire, we had scientific progress, we excelled in literature and arts, and, so it seems, everyone was happy, wealthy and satisfied.
For me, I have a different version of events. Let’s take things step by step.
If we look at the two most prominent periods of Arab-Islamic history we will find that the height of the cultural progress was during the Abbasid Empire in the East, and Umayyad colonisation of Andalusia.
In both periods one factor prevails, and is not religiosity. For, although both empires claimed to be Caliphates and maintained a religious nature of their states to gain legitimacy, the actual practices in both eras remains far from being religious.
My thesis is that in both epochs and both places, there was an unprecedented sexual liberation movement (only in favour of men). The literature that has reached us from both civilisations is laden with references to concubines and, believe it or not, homosexual allusions. (Ours, I believe, was the first culture to implicitly tolerate homosexual practice.)
So, I assume, that obviously at the height of Arab-Islamic civilisation people were not closer to God, in the way the sheikh mentions, but rather farther away if you take his limited definition. Their prospering civilisations can, therefore, be partly associated with the lack of sexual frustration among their men, the active members of their societies, and not with their religiosity.
Of course, I am not suggesting that this is not the only factor. However, it could be one.
I believe my thesis can be supported with a Hadith for the Prophet has urged young men to marry as soon as they can. He himself had his share.

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