Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship



Wasatch Mountains, House of Wisdom, Glen Cooper, Islamic translation, bayt alhikma, Center for the Preservation of Ancient Texts, al-Ma-mum Caliph of Islam


A large granite rock quarried from the Wasatch Moun tains now welcomes visitors to the East Stadium House, offices of the Islamic Translation Division of BYU’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART). The Arabic inscription on the rock transcribes as bayt alhikma, “House of Wisdom.” According to CPART research associate Glen Cooper, this was the name of the association of translators believed to have been patronized by the great Caliph of Islam, al-Ma-mum (died A.D. 833), who translated important Greek scientific and philosophical texts into Arabic. Because CPART publishes editions of important Arabic works with accompanying English translations, the name appropriately represents the nature of the work performed there. Although recent revisionist criticism suggests that the historical bayt alhikma may have been a different entity than scholars had previously thought, it remains a powerful symbol of the two-century effort of translation and assimilation of Greek thought.