With reference to Iran, you state: "Culture didn't thrive as a result of Muslim expansion--it thrived despite it." You then cite Jason Reza Jorjani, and imply that he supports this point of view. But this is not, in fact, what Jorjani says. These are his words, which I have taken verbatim from "The Renaissance of Iranian Civilization with Jason Reza Jorjani" (a YouTube discussion): "Islam acted as a catalyst to produce [novel, revolutionary insights] by freeing the intellectual elite of Iran ... from an atmosphere of religious orthodoxy that existed in the late Sassanid period." (Listen from about 25.05 onward.) Thus, it is NOT incorrect to talk about a "golden age of Islam" if one understands what this means, which is that the coming of Islam created the conditions in which intellectual advances could be made. It doesn't mean - and I don't think any scholar has seriously suggested - that (nominally?) Muslim artists and intellectuals, armed only with the Qur'an, hadith and sirah, were miraculously inspired to produce the great works of art and science that were subsequently labeled "Islamic".