A large granite rock quarried from the Wasatch Mountains now welcomes visitors to the East Stadium House, offices of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative division of BYU's Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART). The Arabic inscription on the rock transcribes as bayt al-hikma, "House of Wisdom." According to CPART research associate Glen Cooper, this was the name of the institution of translators supposedly patronized by the great Caliph of Islam, al-Ma'mun (died A.D. 833), who collectively 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 al-hikma 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.
The work of early Arab translators preserved Greek learning that might otherwise have been lost. The Arabic translations of the Greek works of Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, Galen, and others contributed to the flourishing of thought in the Arab world. CPART recognizes the value of these works. "Through our work of translation and publication of Arabic works from Islamic civilization, we are assisting in recovering the thoughts of scholars and scientists from a neglected region and segment of world chronology," says Cooper. "In our own humble way we are making these texts 'speak from the dust.'"