THE WISDOM FUND: Issues & Answers

Islam's Contribution To Europe's Renaissance

HRH, The Prince of Wales, Islam And The West
. . . we have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour - in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.

Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the tradition, 'the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr'. Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilised city of Europe. We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes in its ruler's library amounted to more books than all the libraries of the rest of Europe put together. That was made possible because the Muslim world acquired from China the skill of making paper more than 400 years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe. Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities.

Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians the right to practise their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilisation which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and our present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart.

Who's Afraid of Arabic Numerals?

Before there was a Western civilization, there was Islamic civilization.

1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage of Our World

The project supported by the Home Office and the Department for Trade and Industry, uncovers the Islamic civilisation's overlooked contribution to science, technology and art during the dark ages in European history.

Science and Islam -- BBC Documentary

Michael Hamilton Morgan, Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists

"Lost History delivers a missing link to the story of an interconnected world: the achievements of Muslim civilization and its influence on East and West."--President Jimmy Carter

Jonathan Lyons, The House of Wisdom: How The Arabs Transformed Western Civilization
This was no mere "recovery" of classical wisdom by medieval Latins, with the Arabs cast in the role of benevolent guardians, as most Western histories of the period tell us, it represented the enormous transfer - some might even say cultural theft - of invaluable Arab knowledge and technology directly to the Christian West. -- p. 196

Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
[It] is no exaggeration to say that what we presumptuously call 'Western' culture is owed in large measure to the Andalusian enlightenment....This book partly restores to us a world we have lost, a world for which our current monotheistic leaderships do not even feel nostalgia.--Christopher Hitchens, The Nation
David Levering Lewis, God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
"Rationalism," declared the great French intellectual historian Etienne Gilson in his authoritative Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (1938), "was born in Spain in the mind of an Arabian philosopher as a conscious reaction against the theologism of the Arabian divines." -- p. 374
Maria Hannun and Sophie Spaan, When Europe Loved Islam
Before the continent started banning hijab, European aristocrats used to change their names to Abdullah and Muhammad, and going to the local mosque was the latest trend.
Akbar S. Ahmed, Living Islam
It is well to recall that Islam not only caused Islamic civilization to develop but also enabled the European Renaissance to take root and grow. The time when Islam was most strongly established was also the time when art, culture and literature flourished, whether in Spain or, later, under the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals. Christian Europe was enveloped in darkness until Islam came to the Iberian peninsula. For centuries Islam fed Greek, Sanskrit and Chinese ideas into Europe. Slowly and steadily Europe began to absorb those ideas. In England, France, Germany and Italy society began to explore literature and art with a new perspective; thus the seeds of the Renaissance were sown. -- p. 15
James Johnston, Medieval Script Shows Islam's Role in Learning
The manuscript stands as a uniquely important monument to the central role of Jews and Muslims in the spread of knowledge and learning throughout medieval Europe, as well as being possibly the earliest known example of Latin script of any kind written on paper. Sotheby's says that only four other copies of this work are known.
S.M. Ghazanfar, Islamic Civilization: History, Contributions, and Influence
An extensive compendium of literature on Islamic civilization, this book presents more than mere annotations - it details over 600 books and articles in detailed and focused "literature briefs" that provide a springboard to extensive readings for any student or teacher of Islamic culture.
Washington W. Irving, Tales Of The Alhambra
As conquerors [Muslims], their heroism was equaled only by their moderation, and in both, for a time, they excelled the nations with whom they contended. Severed from their native homes, they loved the land given them as they supposed by Allah and strove to embellish it with everything that could administer to the happiness of man. Laying the foundations of their power in a system of wise and equitable laws, diligently cultivating the arts and sciences, and promoting agriculture, manufactures and commerce, they gradually formed an empire unrivaled for its prosperity by any of the empires of Christendom . . .

The cities of Arabian Spain became the resort of Christian artisans, to instruct themselves in the useful art. The Universities of Toledo, Cordova, Seville, Granada, were sought by the pale student from lands to acquaint himself with the sciences of the Arabs and the treasure lore of antiquity. -- p. 52

Martin Wainwright, Our Debt to Islam
While the barbarians smashed and burned in western Europe, the Arabs and Persians used the libraries of Alexandria and Asia Minor, translated the scrolls and took them to Baghdad and far beyond. In distant Bukhara on the Silk Road to China, a teenager called Abu Ali Ibn Sina was engrossed in Aristotle's Metaphysics at the age of 17. The year was AD997 and the text - central to the subsequent development of philosophy - had long been lost and unknown in western Europe.
David Self, Christians and Muslims Share a Journey
We are indebted to the Arabic world not only for arithmetic but also for algebra and trigonometry. Logarithms were invented by a mathematician called Al-Khwarizmi in the 7th century. Test tubes, the compass and the first surgical tools were all pioneered by Muslim inventors. A thousand years ago, it is said, Baghdad had 60 hospitals.

This scientific flowering was accompanied by the establishment of the first universities - or madrassahs. In a madrassah, the sheik or professor taught, literally, from a chair. He was assisted by readers. When the west eventually replicated such places of learning, we borrowed such terms.

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel
In the Middle Ages the flow of technology was overwhelmingly from Islam to Europe, rather than from Europe to Islam as it is today. Only around A.D. 1500 did the net direction of flow begin to reverse. -- p. 253
Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations
The major landmarks in this process of expolitation were: in the sixteenth century, the arrival of 'treasures' (gold and silver ingots) from America; the brutal opening-up of India after the battle of Plassey (23 June 1757), at which the British defeated the nawab of Bengal; the forced expolitation of the Chinese market after the First Opium War in 1839-42; and the partition of Africa at Berlin in 1885. -- p. 388
Susan Spano, Revealed: Muslim Traveler Who Rivaled Marco Polo
I had studied medieval Europe ethnocentrically but now can only conclude that during Battuta's time, it was a cultural, political and technological sideshow. In the 14th century, the main event was Dar al-Islam.
John Edwards, History Today
On the second day of January [1492] I saw Your Highnesses' royal banners placed by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra . . . and in the same month . . . Your Highness, as Catholic Christians and princes devoted to the holy Christian faith and the furtherance of its cause, and enemies of the sect of Mohammed and of all idolatry and heresy, resolved to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the . . . regions of India. -- vol. 42

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