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Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Most of the information here is reproduced from Wikipedia, just to ensure longevity of this information. I was happy to note today that my effort was worthwhile, as the original article has been trimmed, since I copied it almost a year ago. More specifically, the section of Law has been taken out from the new article.
The information provided can bring the two civilizations, the East and the West together, as the division is artificial and both have drank from the same fountain!
Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe were numerous, affecting such varied areas as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, music, language, education, law, and technology. From the 11th to the 13th century, Europe absorbed knowledge from the Islamic civilization. In the early 20th century the musicologist Henry George Farmer wrote that a “growing number of scholars…recognize(d) that the influence of the Muslim civilization as a whole on medieval Europe was enormous in such fields as science, philosophy, theology, literature, aesthetics, than has been recognized.” For many historians the contributions from the Islamic world have had a considerable effect on the development of Western civilization and contributed to the achievements of the Renaissance. Their contributions included the rediscovery of ancient classic texts, notably the work of the Greek natural philosopher Aristotle, through retranslations and commentaries from Arabic.
We are also saving this wonderful BBC documentary by Jim Al Khalili here in the Muslim Times to ensure its longevity:
Suggested Reading: Prof. John Makdisi traces the Islamic Origins of the Common Law and Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages of Europe!
Use of the term “Islam”
The Crusades also intensified exchanges between Europe and the Levant, with Italian City Republics taking a great role in these exchanges. In the Levant, such cities as Antioch, Arab and Latin cultures intermixed intensively.
These texts were translated back into Latin in multiple ways. The main points of transmission of Islamic knowledge to Europe were in Sicilia, and in Toledo, Spain (with Gerard of Cremone, 1114–1187). Burgondio of Pise (died in 1193), who discovered in Antioch lost texts of Aristotle, translated them into Latin.
Contributing to the growth of European science was the major search by European scholars for new learning which they could only find among Muslims, especially in Islamic Spain and Sicily. These scholars translated new scientific and philosophical texts from Arabic into Latin.
One of the most productive translators in Spain was Gerard of Cremona, who translated 87 books from Arabic to Latin, including Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī’s On Algebra and Almucabala, Jabir ibn Aflah’s Elementa astronomica, al-Kindi’s On Optics, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathīr al-Farghānī’s On Elements of Astronomy on the Celestial Motions, al-Farabi’s On the Classification of the Sciences, the chemical and medical works of Rhazes, the works of Thabit ibn Qurra and Hunayn ibn Ishaq, and the works of Arzachel, Jabir ibn Aflah, the Banū Mūsā, Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam, Abu al-Qasim, and Ibn al-Haytham (including the Book of Optics).
Alchemy and chemistry
Marcelin Berthelot translated some of Jabir’s books under the fanciful titles Book of the Kingdom, Book of the Balances, and Book of Eastern Mercury. Several technical Arabic terms introduced by Jabir, such as alkali, have found their way into various European languages and have become part of scientific vocabulary.
The chemical and alchemical works of Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) were also translated into Latin around the 12th century.
Astronomy and mathematics
Al-Khazini’s Zij as-Sanjari (1115–1116) was translated into Greek by Gregory Choniades in the 13th century and was studied in the Byzantine Empire. The astronomical corrections to the Ptolemaic model made by al-Battani and Averroes and the non-Ptolemaic models produced by Mo’ayyeduddin Urdi (Urdi lemma), Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī (Tusi-couple) and Ibn al-Shatir were later adapted into the Copernican heliocentric model. Al-Kindi’s (Alkindus) law of terrestrial gravity influenced Robert Hooke’s law of celestial gravity, which in turn inspired Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Abū al-Rayhān al-Bīrūnī’s Ta’rikh al-Hind and Kitab al-qanun al-Mas’udi were translated into Latin as Indica and Canon Mas’udicus respectively.
Fibonacci presented the first complete European account of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system from Arabic sources in his Liber Abaci (1202). Al-Jayyani’s The book of unknown arcs of a sphere, the first treatise on spherical trigonometry, had a “strong influence on European mathematics”, and his “definition of ratios as numbers” and “method of solving a spherical triangle when all sides are unknown” are likely to have influenced Regiomontanus.
Translations of the algebraic and geometrical works of Ibn al-Haytham, Omar Khayyám and Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī were later influential in the development of non-Euclidean geometry in Europe from the 17th century.
European depiction of the Persian doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona’s Receuil des traites de medecine (1250-1260). Gerard de Cremona translated numerous works by Arabic scholars, such as al-Razi’s, but also those of Ibn Sina. Medicine
Ibn al-Nafis’ Commentary on Compound Drugs was translated into Latin by Andrea Alpago (d. 1522), who may or may not have also translated (with out publication) Ibn al-Nafis’ Commentary on Anatomy in the Canon of Avicenna, which first described pulmonary circulation and which might have had an influence on Michael Servetus and Realdo Colombo if they saw it.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) February 23, 2015
The theories of motion in Islamic physics developed by Avicenna and Avempace influenced Jean Buridan’s theory of impetus, the ancestor of the inertia and momentum concepts, and the work of Galileo Galilei on classical mechanics. The work of Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī and al-Khazini on mechanics, particularly statics and dynamics, were also adopted and further developed in medieval Europe.
Ibn Tufail’s Hayy ibn Yaqdhan was translated into Latin by Edward Pococke in 1671 and into English by Simon Ockley in 1708 and became “one of the most important books that heralded the Scientific Revolution.” Ibn al-Baitar’s Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada also had an influence on European botany after it was translated into Latin in 1758.
Numerous new techniques in clothing, as well as new materials were also introduced: muslin, taffetas, satin, skirts. Trade mechanisms were also transmitted: tarifs, customs, bazars, magazins.
According to a common theory on the origins of the troubadour, a composer of medieval lyric poetry, it may have had Arabic origins. Ezra Pound, in his Canto VIII, famously declared that William of Aquitaine “had brought the song up out of Spain / with the singers and veils…” referring to the troubadour song. In his study, Lévi-Provençal is said to have found four Arabo-Hispanic verses nearly or completely recopied in William’s manuscript. According to historic sources, William VIII, the father of William, brought to Poitiers hundreds of Muslim prisoners. Trend admitted that the troubadours derived their sense of form and even the subject matter of their poetry from the Andalusian Muslims. The hypothesis that the troubadour tradition was created, more or less, by William after his experience of Moorish arts while fighting with the Reconquista in Spain was also championed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal in the early twentieth-century, but its origins go back to the Cinquecento and Giammaria Barbieri (died 1575) and Juan Andrés (died 1822). Meg Bogin, English translator of the trobairitz, held this hypothesis. Certainly “a body of song of comparable intensity, profanity and eroticism [existed] in Arabic from the second half of the 9th century onwards.”
Another theory on the origins of the Western solfège musical notation suggests that it may have also had Arabic origins. It has been argued that the solfège syllables (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti) may have been derived from the syllables of the Arabic solmization system Durr-i-Mufassal (“Separated Pearls”) (dal, ra, mim, fa, sad, lam). This origin theory was first proposed by Meninski in his Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalum (1680) and then by Laborde in his Essai sur la Musique Ancienne et Moderne (1780).
The Muslim Agricultural Revolution in particular diffused a large number of crops and technologies into medieval Europe, where farming was mostly restricted to wheat strains obtained much earlier via central Asia. Spain received what she in turn transmitted to the rest of Europe; many agricultural and fruit-growing processes, together with many new plants, fruit and vegetables. These new crops included sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines, and saffron. Others, previously known, were further developed. Muslims also brought to that country lemons, oranges, cotton, almonds, figs and sub-tropical crops such as bananas and sugar cane. Several were later exported from Spanish coastal areas to the Spanish colonies in the New World. Also transmitted via Muslim influence, a silk industry flourished, flax was cultivated and linen exported, and esparto grass, which grew wild in the more arid parts, was collected and turned into various articles. Industries established for sugar plantations, ceramics, distillation technologies, clocks, mechanical hydropowered and wind powered machinery, matting, pulp and paper, perfumery, silk, sugar, water, and the mining of minerals such as sulfur and ammonia, were transferred from the Islamic world to medieval Europe. Factory installations and a variety of industrial mills (including fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, paper mills, steel mills, sugar mills may have also been transmitted to medieval Europe, along with the suction pump (which also incorporated a crankshaft-connecting rod mechanism) invented by al-Jazari, noria and chain pumps for irrigation purposes. These innovations made it possible for many industrial operations that were previously driven by manual labour to be driven by machinery in medieval Europe.
If a university is assumed to mean an institution of higher education and research which issues academic degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, then the Jami’ah which appeared from the 9th century were the first examples of such an institution. The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is thus recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri. However, the madrasah differed from the medieval university of Europe in several important respects, namely that the degree took the form of a license (ijazah) which “was signed in the name of the teacher, not of the madrasa”. In other words, “the authorization or licensing was done by each professor, not by a group or corporate body, much less by a disinterested or impersonal certifying body”. The first colleges and universities in Europe were nevertheless influenced in many ways by the madrasahs in Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily at the time, and in the Middle East during the Crusades.
The origins of the doctorate dates back to the ijazat attadris wa ‘l-ifta’ (“license to teach and issue legal opinions”) in the medieval Islamic legal education system, which was equivalent to the Doctor of Laws qualification and was developed during the 9th century after the formation of the Madh’hab legal schools. To obtain a doctorate, a student “had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course” and ten or more years for a post-graduate course. The “doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate’s theses,” and to test the student’s “ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose” which were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student’s “career as a graduate student of law.” After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of faqih (meaning “master of law”), mufti (meaning “professor of legal opinions”) and mudarris (meaning “teacher”), which were later translated into Latin as magister, professor and doctor respectively. The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach”, shortened from the full Latin title licentia docendi meaning “license to teach.” This was translated from the Arabic term ijazat attadris, which means the same thing and was awarded to Islamic scholars who were qualified to teach. Similarly, the Latin term doctor, meaning “teacher”, was translated from the Arabic term mudarris, which also means the same thing and was awarded to qualified Islamic teachers. The Latin term baccalaureus may have also been transliterated from the equivalent Arabic qualification bi haqq al-riwaya (“the right to teach on the authority of another”).
According to Professor George Makdisi and Hugh Goddard, some of the terms and concepts now used in modern universities which have Islamic origins include “the fact that we still talk of professors holding the ‘Chair’ of their subject” being based on the “traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair and the students sit around him”, the term ‘academic circles’ being derived from the way in which Islamic students “sat in a circle around their professor”, and terms such as “having ‘fellows’, ‘reading’ a subject, and obtaining ‘degrees’, can all be traced back” to the Islamic concepts of Ashab (“companions, as of the prophet Muhammad”), Qara’a (“reading aloud the Qur’an”) and Ijazah (“license to teach”) respectively. Makdisi has listed eighteen such parallels in terminology which can be traced back to their roots in Islamic education. Some of the practices now common in modern universities which Makdisi and Goddard trace back to an Islamic root include “practices such as delivering inaugural lectures, wearing academic robes, obtaining doctorates by defending a thesis, and even the idea of academic freedom are also modelled on Islamic custom.” The Islamic scholarly system of fatwa and ijma, meaning opinion and consensus respectively, formed the basis of the “scholarly system the West has practised in university scholarship from the Middle Ages down to the present day.” According to Makdisi and Goddard, “the idea of academic freedom” in universities was “modelled on Islamic custom” as practiced in the medieval Madrasah system from the 9th century. Islamic influence was “certainly discernible in the foundation of the first delibrately-planned university” in Europe, the University of Naples Federico II founded by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1224.
Other legal scholars such as Monica Gaudiosi, Gamal Moursi Badr and A. Hudson have argued that the English trust and agency institutions in common law, which were introduced by Crusaders, may have been adapted from the Islamic Waqf and Hawala institutions they came across in the Middle East. Dr. Paul Brand also notes parallels between the Waqf and the trusts used to establish Merton College by Walter de Merton, who had connections with the Knights Templar. Brand also points out, however, that the Knights Templar were primarily concerned with fighting the Muslims rather than learning from them, making it less likely that they had knowledge of Muslim legal institutions.
Several legal institutions in civil law were also adapted from similar institutions in Islamic law and jurisprudence during the Middle Ages. For example, the Islamic Hawala institution influenced the development of the Avallo in Italian civil law and the Aval in French civil law. The commenda limited partnership used in European civil law was also adapted from the Qirad and Mudaraba in Islamic law. The civil law conception of res judicata and the transfer of debt, which was not permissible under Roman law but is practiced in modern civil law, may also have origins in Islamic law. The concept of an agency was also an “institution unknown to Roman law”, where it was not possible for an individual to “conclude a binding contract on behalf of another as his agent.”
Islamic law also introduced “two fundamental principles to the West, on which were to later stand the future structure of law: equity and good faith”, which was a precursor to the concept of pacta sunt servanda in civil law and international law. Another influence of Islamic law on the civil law tradition was the presumption of innocence, which was introduced to Europe by Louis IX of France soon after he returned from Palestine during the Crusades. Islamic law was based on the presumption of innocence from its beginning, as declared by the caliph Umar in the 7th century.
There is evidence that early Islamic international law influenced the development of European international law, through various routes such as the Crusades, Norman conquest of the Emirate of Sicily, and Reconquista of al-Andalus. In particular, the Spanish jurist Francisco de Vitoria, and his successor Grotius, may have been influenced by Islamic international law through earlier Islamic-influenced writings such as the 1263 work Siete Partidas of Alfonso X, which was regarded as a “monument of legal science” in Europe at the time and was influenced by the Islamic legal treatise Villiyet written in Islamic Spain.
A number of Islamic legal concepts on human rights were also adopted in European legal systems, including concepts such as the charitable trust, trusteeship of property, human dignity, dignity of labour, condemnation of antisocial behavior, presumption of innocence, caring, women’s rights, privacy, juristic personality, individual freedom, equality before the law, non-retroactivity, limited sovereignty, tolerance. Many of these concepts were adopted in medieval Europe through contacts with Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily, and through the Crusades and the Latin translations of the 12th century. After Sultan al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:
“Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power.”
According to Janet Abu-Lughod:
The preferred specie for international transactions before the thirteenth century, in Europe as well as the Middle East and even India, were the gold coins struck by Byzantium and then Egypt. It was not until after the thirtheenth century that some Italian cities (Florence and Genoa) began to mint their own gold coins, but these were used to supplement rather than supplant the Middle Eastern coins already in circulation.
A famous example of Arabic poetry and Persian poetry on romance (love) is Layla and Majnun, dating back to the Umayyad era in the 7th century. It is a tragic story of undying love much like the later Romeo and Juliet, which was itself said to have been inspired by a Latin version of Layli and Majnun to an extent.
Ibn Tufail (Abubacer) was a pioneer of the philosophical novel. He wrote the first Arabic novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan (Philosophus Autodidactus), which told the story of Hayy, an autodidactic feral child, living in seclusion on a desert island, being the earliest example of a desert island story. A Latin translation of Ibn Tufail’s Hayy ibn Yaqdhan first appeared in 1671, prepared by Edward Pococke the Younger, followed by an English translation by Simon Ockley in 1708, as well as German and Dutch translations. These translations later inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, regarded as the first novel in English. Philosophus Autodidactus also inspired Robert Boyle to write his own philosophical novel set on an island, The Aspiring Naturalist. The story also anticipated Rousseau’s Emile: or, On Education in some ways.
There were several elements of courtly love which developed in Arabic literature. The notions of “love for love’s sake” and “exaltation of the beloved lady” have been traced back to Arabic literature of the 9th and 10th centuries. The notion of the “ennobling power” of love was developed in the early 11th century by the Persian psychologist and philosopher, Ibn Sina (known as “Avicenna” in Europe), in his treatise Risala fi’l-Ishq (Treatise on Love). The final element of courtly love, the concept of “love as desire never to be fulfilled”, was at times implicit in Arabic poetry. These elements influenced the development of courtly love in European literature, in which all four elements of courtly love were present.
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, considered the greatest epic of Italian literature, derived many features of and episodes about the hereafter directly or indirectly from Arabic works on Islamic eschatology: the Hadith and the Kitab al-Miraj (translated into Latin in 1264 or shortly before as Liber Scale Machometi, “The Book of Muhammad’s Ladder”) concerning Muhammad’s ascension to Heaven, and the spiritual writings of Ibn Arabi. The Moors also had a noticeable influence on the works of George Peele and William Shakespeare. Some of their works featured Moorish characters, such as Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus and Othello, which featured a Moorish Othello as its title character. These works are said to have been inspired by several Moorish delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England at the beginning of the 17th century.
Al-Ghazali also had an important influence on Christian medieval philosophers along with Jewish thinkers like Maimonides. According to Margaret Smith, “There can be no doubt that Ghazali’s works would be among the first to attract the attention of these European scholars” and “The greatest of these Christian writers who was influenced by Al-Ghazali was St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), who made a study of the Islamic writers and admitted his indebtedness to them. He studied at the University of Naples where the influence of Islamic literature and culture was predominant at the time.” René Descartes’ ideas from his Discourse on the Method were also influenced by al-Ghazali, and Descartes’ method of doubt was very much similar to al-Ghazali’s work.
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“According to the majority of the historians al-Haytham was the pioneer of the modern scientific method. With his book he changed the meaning of the term optics and established experiments as the norm of proof in the field. His investigations are based not on abstract theories, but on experimental evidences and his experiments were systematic and repeatable.”
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