Saturday, 12 February 2011

Islamic Civilization to Europe 2


Impact of Islamic civilization on European civilization in the field of sciences

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Written by Dr. Ragheb Elsergany


The impact of Muslims on the West in the field of sciences, including medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, chemistry, optics, geography, astronomy, and others was one of the best manifestations of the influence on European civilization. Many impartial Westerners admitted that Muslims continued to be the teachers of Europe for no less than 600 years.

Translation of Muslim scientists’ books

Translation of Muslim scientists’ booksOne of the manifestations of this impact was the translation of the books written by Muslim scientists more than once and adopting them as basic sources and principal reference books for many centuries for teaching at Western universities. For example, when medicine reached its peak at the hands of Muslims, the European church was preventing treatment because disease was (a punishment from Allah)! They learned about medicine and treatment afterwards through the translation of the books written by Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, and others. This included, but was not limited to, the book Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The law of medicine) by Ibn Sina in the 12th century. The book was published several times and was the basis for studies at French and Italian universities![1]
The UNESCO newsletter mentioned in 1980 that the book Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb by Ibn Sina continued to be taught at the University of Brussels until 1909. The article cited a comment by the writer Osler[2] in which he said: The book Al-Qanun continued to be a sole reference in medicine for a period longer than any other book. It was published 15 times in the last 30 years of the 15th century.
Osler added: “Ibn Sina enabled Western scientists to embark upon a scientific revolution in the field of medicine, which indeed started in the 13th century and reached its principal stage in the 17th century.[3]
Just like Al-Qanun, the book (Al-Hawi) and (Al-Mansuri) by Al-Razi were translated at the end of the 13th century. In recognition of his contributions, the US Princeton University called its biggest wing Al-Razi. Also, the research work done by Abu Al-Rayhan Al-Bayruni on qualitative weight had such an important impact on Western civilization. Al-Khazini was a scientific lead for Torricelli in doing research on the weight and condensation of air and the pressure it causes. Al-Khazini invented a barometer to weigh matter in the air and in water which Europe had continued to use up till the middle ages. Europe also used the accurate scales of Muslims in the field of qualitative weight, the weight of air, lifting apparatuses, and gravitation.
Al-Khazini’s book Mizan al-Hikmah (Scale of Wisdom) benefited Western scholars to a great extent as it was translated from Arabic into many various languages. Books by Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Al-Hasan Ibn Al-Haytham, and Al-Khawarizmi were also translated and continued to be a reference for Europe for centuries!
The prominent Orientalist Sedillot says: If we look at what the Latins had copied from the Arabs in the beginning, we will find that Gerbert who later became Pope Sylvester II brought to us, between (359 A.H / 970 A.D) and (369 A.H / 980 A.D), the mathematical sciences he studied in Andalusia. Moreover, the British author O'Hallard toured Andalusia and Egypt, for some time between (493 A.H / 1100 A.D) and (522 A.H/1128 A.D) and translated from Arabic "Al-Arkan" by Euclid, which had been unknown to the West.
Platon de Tivoli translated from Arabic Al-Ukar by Theodosius. Rudolf Brugie translated from Arabic Ptolemy's book (Geography of the inhabited Earth). Leonard of Pisa wrote in about (596 A.H/1200 A.D) a treatise on Algebra which he had picked up from his Arab teachers. Johannes Campanus translated Euclid’s book from Arabic and provided good explanation in the 13th century.
In addition, Polish Witelo drew upon Al-Hasan Ibn Al-Haitham's book Al-Basariyat "Optics” in that century. Gerard of Cremona propagated the real astronomical science in that century as well through his translation of Ptolemy's Almagest and (Al-Sharh) by Jabir…etc. In (648A.H / 1250 A.D), Alfonso X of Castile ordered the publication of astronomical almanac which were named for him. Roger I encouraged the study of Arabic sciences in Sicily, particularly the book by Al-Idrissi. Emperor Frederick II was no less keen on encouraging the study of the Arab sciences and arts. The sons of Ibn Rushd stayed at the court of that emperor and taught him the natural history of plants and animals.[4] It is clear from Sedillot’s statement that Muslims not only transferred their sciences to Europeans but also strongly helped Europeans to know the history of their Greek ancestors who were completely isolated from them. As such, the impact was manifested in all types and fields of sciences.

Impact of Islamic industries in Europe

sciencesWith regard to Islamic industries in Europe, which were connected with several sciences, there was the paper industry which Muslims spread across the world at the time. But for that industry, sciences would not have developed, writing would not have flourished, and Europe would not have been civilized.
Muslims transported a number of Chinese prisoners to Samarqand around the mid 8th Gregorian century. Among them were those who were good at paper industry. It was at their hands that the paper industry appeared and flourished in Samarqand. Improvements were then introduced into it, as linen and cotton were the raw material of this industry. Soft paper, the best type of paper, appeared. As papyrus paper was expensive, there was a high demand for the new paper to the extent that the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur, who was known for his saving, ordered the departments of his state not to use the papyrus paper and use only the ordinary paper for its cheap prices.[5]

Paper factories were set up in Baghdad in the era of Al-Rashid, then in Damascus and Tripoli, and then in Palestine and Egypt. The paper industry moved to Morocco and from there to Sicily and Andalusia until the West knew this industry, which was in fact one of the pillars of culture and spiritual life. Muslims, therefore, marked the start of a new era when science was no longer the monopoly of a certain group of people. It even became, as Sigrid Hunke said, available to everyone and an invitation for all minds to work and think.[6]

Tourists, visitors, pilgrims, traders, and students used to come from their countries in Europe to Barcelona and Valencia, where soft paper was produced, to return, as Al-Idrissi mentioned, carrying quantities of this paper which had no match in the world whatsoever. [7]
Sigrid Hunke says: The building of mills (paper mills) was an Arab specialization achieved by the Arabs themselves who gave Europe all kinds of water and air mills.[8]
Apart from the paper industry, there was also the magnetic needle (compass) which for some Europeans was invented by the Italian Flavio Gioia. In this regard, Sigrid replies by saying that that Italian “had known this device through (Muslim) Arabs”.[9]
“Researchers have disagreed as to whether the Arabs were the first to use the compass or copied it from China… Sedillot denies that the Chinese had used the compass although until 1850 A.D they still had the belief that the south pole of the earth was a raging fire. He emphasizes that the (Muslim) Arabs were the first to use it. He was supported by Sarton who had the same opinion. Everyone emphasizes that the Arabs had used it, and that Europe learned about the compass through the Arabs.”[10]
There is no question on the impact of this compass on the life of Europeans in general.

[1] Gustav Lebon: Arabs’ Civilization, p 490
[2] Sir William Osler, a Canadian doctor, considered to be one of the greatest symbols of medicine in modern times. He was described as the father of modern medicine. He specialized in the science of illnesses and was a teacher, specialist in diseases, intellectual, and historian
[3] UNESCO newsletter, October issue, 1980
[4] Quoting Mustafa Al-Siba’i: Min Raw’i Hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) P,42
[5] Sigrid Hunka: Shams Al-Arab (Allah's Sun Over the Occident), p.46 and Hany Al-Mubarak & Shawqi Abu Khalil: Dor Al-Hadara Al-Arabyah Al-Islamyah Fi Al-Nahdah Al-Ourobeyah, P.57.
[6] Ibid p 46
[7] Ibid p 44
[8] Ibid p 45
[9] Ibid p 47
[10] Anwar al-Rifa’i: Al-Insan Al-Arabi wa al-hadarah (The Arab man and civilization) p 487

Impact of Islamic civilization on European civilization in the field of language and literature

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Written by Dr. Ragheb Elsergany

Impact on European civilization in literature and poetry

language and literatureWesterners, particularly Spanish poets, were greatly influenced by Arabic literature. The literature of chivalry, bravery, figurative expression, and imagery made its way to Western literature through Arabic literature in Andalusia in particular. The famous Spanish writer Ibanez says: “Europe did not know chivalry, or its adopted literature or sense of honour before the arrival of Arabs in Andalusia and the wide presence of their knights and heroes in the countries of the south.”[1]
The Andalusian Ibn Hazm and his famous book “Tawq al-Hamamah” (the ring-neck dove) had a great impact on poets in Spain and southern France after the Islamic community blended with the Christian community. The Arabic language was the language of the country and the language of the high-class people. In many Christian Spanish provinces, Christian and Muslim poets used to meet at the court of the governor. One such an example is what used to take place at the court of Sanko which comprised 13 Arab poets, 12 Christian poets, and a Jewish poet. A manuscript dating back to the era of Alfonso X, the king of Castile, was found and it contained a portrait that represented the meeting of two moving poets, one Arab and one European, singing together on lute. Even more, the European poets at the time were good at composing Arabic poetry. For this reason, Henry Maro says: “The Arab impact on the civilization of the Roman peoples did not stop at fine arts only, but extended to music and poetry as well.”[2]
What also helps us realize the extent of the impact of the Arabic language and its literature on Western men of letters during those times is the quotation by Dozy[3] in his book about Islam of the message of the Spanish writer Al-Faro, who was greatly embittered at the neglect of Latin and Greek and the enthusiasm for learning the Muslim language. He said: “Our intellectual class has been charmed by Arabic literature, and have consequently neglected Latin and written solely in the language of their conquerors”. Another more patriotic contemporary was embittered at that state of things and wrote:  ‘My Christian brothers are enchanted by the Arabs' poems and narrative. They, therefore, study the works written by Muslim philosophers and scholars. They learn, not to rebut and refute, but to imitate the style of classical Arabic. Who else other than theologians that read interpretations of the Gospel and Bible? Who reads these days the testaments and prophets' scriptures?
Alas, the rising generation of intelligent Christians masters no other literature and language than Arabic. They voraciously read Arabic books and heap up stocks of these books in their libraries at the highest prices. They chant everywhere the praises of the Arabic treasures, whereas they refuse to hear of Christian works when they are mentioned. They allege that Christian works are worthless and do not deserve to be given attention. How sad the Christians have forgotten their language. You seldom find one among a thousand Christians who writes to a friend in Christian language. As to Arabic, how innumerable are those who can give its best expression and excel the Arabs themselves in the composition of poems.”[4]

Impact of Arabic language on European languages

Regarding the impact of the Arabic language on European languages, Dieter Meissner[5] says: The impact of the Arabic language, the language of the upper class in the languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, gave the Castilian, Portuguese, and Catalan languages a special place among the romance languages.
The Arabic impact was not restricted to the Iberian Peninsula only, but was a medium to take it to other languages, such as French.[6]
There is no need for us to recall all Arabic words that made their way to different European languages in various aspects of life. They almost have the same form as in Arabic, such as, cotton, damask, musk, syrup, jar, lemon, and zero. There is an infinite list of such words. In this regard, we may only highlight the statement of Professor Michael: “Europe was indebted for its novel writing to the Arab countries and to the Arab peoples that lived in the Arab Syrian area. Europe is indebted for the most part to these active forces which made the European middle centuries different in spirit and imagination from the world that was subject to its spirit.”[7]

Impact of Arabic novel on European novel

European novel was influenced in its birth by the narrative arts of the Arabs in the middle centuries, which included Maqamat (a genre of Arabic rhythmic prose), news of chivalry, and adventures of knights for the sake of glory and love. After it was translated into European languages in the 12th century, The Thousand and One Nights had a very great impact in this field to the extent that more than three hundred editions in all European languages have been published since then. A number of European critics believe that the Gulliver's Travels authored by Swift and the Robinson Crusoe authored by Defoe is indebted to The Thousand and One Nights and Risalat Hayy Ibn Yaqzan by the Arab philosopher Ibn Tufayil.[8]

Boccaccio stories

In 1349 A.D, Boccaccio wrote his novellas which were called Decameron, which followed the same suit of The Thousand and One Nights. Shakespeare copied the topic of his play (All's well that ends well). The German Lessing copied his play (Nathan the Wise). Chaucer, the leader of modern poetry in the English language, was the one who copied most from Boccaccio in his time. He saw him in Italy and composed afterwards his collection of stories which are widely known as (Canterbury Tales).[9]

Divine Comedy by Dante

Many critics stress that Dante in (The Divine Comedy) where he described a journey to the afterlife was influenced by Risalat Al-Ghufran by Al-Ma’ari and Wasf Al-Jannah (Description of Paradise) by Ibn Arabi. This is because he lived in Sicily during the era of Emperor Frederick II who was fond of Islamic culture and its studies in its Arab sources. He and Dante had discussions about the Aristotle thought some of which was derived from an Arab origin. Dante had a fair amount of information about the biography of the prophet. So, he read in the biography about the story of Al-Isra wa Al-M’iraj (Night Journey and Ascension) and the description of heavens.[10]
Sigrid Hunke says: “Similarity between Dante and Ibn Arabi looks big; Dante copied from him his comparisons after about two hundred years.”[11]

The poet Petrarch

The poet Petrarch lived in the era of the Arab culture in Italy and France. He studied at the universities of Montpellier and Paris, both of which were set up on the writings of the Arabs and their students in Andalusia’s universities.[12]
For this reason, he said to his people: “How strange! Ciceron managed to be an orator after Demostene and Vergil managed to be a poet after Homer. So, why were we not destined to write after the Arabs? We were equal with, and sometimes ahead of, the Greeks and all peoples, except the Arabs, How foolish! How mistaken!...”[13]
This is how the Arab Islamic civilization was the firebrand that lit the corners of humanity in the field of language and literature.

[1] Musata al-Siba’i: Min raw’i hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) p 42
[2] Ahmad Darwish: Nazaryat Al-Adab Al-Moqaran, (Theory of comparative literature and its manifestations in Arabic literature), pp 194, 195
[3] Reinhart Pieter Anne Dozy, (1235-1300 AH 1820-1883 AD), an orientalist from Dutch Land.
[4] Mustafa al-Siba’i: Min raw’i hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) p 43
[5] Professor of Romance language science in Salzburg University
[6] Dieter Meissner: Arab, Islamic civilization in Andalusia, p 651
[7] Mustafa al-Siba’i: Min raw’i hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) p 44
[8] Jack Risler: Islamic civilization, p 223
[9] Mustafa al-Siba’i: Min raw’i hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) p 44
[10] Mustafa al-Shuk’aa: Ma’lim al-hadarah al-islamiyah (Features of Islamic civilization) p 263-265
[11] Sigrid Hunke: op cit. p 521
[12] Mustafa al-Siab’i: Min raw’i hadaratna (From the wonders of our civilization) p 44
[13] Sedillot: Arabs’ Civilization, p 569
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