Precursors to the Renaissance
Friday, November 30, 2007
We're all one people with
different histories - Acknowledging debts facilitates building bridges and
evolution has had religion as a central component and most Europeans would find
it hard to believe; that there was a time in the Middle Ages when Islamic cities
in the Middle East, such as Cairo, Baghdad, Cordoba and Damascus, were the
center of civilization while Europe was living in the “Dark Ages”.
As a matter of fact Muslim countries then considered Europe to be chaotic,
unorganized and backward. That’s why the period before the 1100s was called the
“Dark Ages” in the Christian World, as we Europeans were squabbling in a sinking
smelly cesspit, seeking a forgotten Rome...
Spain was then Moorish and in a very different geo-political place, playing a
vital role in the middle eastern revolution of science. *Cordoba, capital of
Muslim Spain, was known for its scientific advances. Scholars and students from
all over the world travelled to Cordoba to study.
The vast contrast in intellectual activity could be demonstrated by just one
example. In the ninth century, the library of the monastery of St. Gall was the
largest in Europe. It boasted 36 volumes. At the same time, Cordoba’s library
contained over 500,000!
Moreover, studying at colleges was first applied by Muslims. Universities first
appeared in Muslims countries in the late 600s and the early 700s, while leading
colleges, like Oxford and the University of Paris (French: Université de Paris),
were founded in the thirteenth century.
Amazingly, early European universities were also funded by trusts similar to
Islamic ones. Some historians even trace old European colleges back to the
Islamic system as their internal organization was very similar to the Islamic
one. For example, the idea of Graduate (Sahib) and undergraduate (mutafaqqih) is
derived directly from Islamic terms.
In the field of mathematics, the Arabic numerals, the number zero (0), and the
decimal system were introduced to Europe by Muslims, helping them to solve
problems in minutes instead of hours and laying the foundation for the
One of the most popular Muslim mathematicians is Al Kawarizmi, whose work has
been translated into Latin. Al Kawarizmi laid the ground work for algebra and
found methods to deal with complex mathematical problems, such as square roots
and complex fractions. That’s probably why he was called the father of Algebra.
But Al Kawarizmi’s scientific contributions go beyond algebra. He worked in
several other fields, particularly astronomy, astrology, geography and
cartography. His work included many experiments, such as measuring the height of
the earth’s atmosphere and discovering the principle of the magnifying lens.
Trigonometric work by Alkirmani of Toledo, northern Spain, was translated into
Latin (from which we get the sine and cosine functions) along with the Greek
knowledge of Geometry by Euclid.
Another famous Islamic icon is Ibnul Hairhum, whose works on Optics, (in which
he deals with 50 Optical questions put to Muslim Scholars by the Franks), were
translated into several languages.
It was the Muslims who discovered the Principle of Pendulum, which was used to
measure time. In fact, many of the principles of Isaac Newton were derived from
former Islamic scientific contributions.
Chemistry was also affected by Muslim scholars, especially alchemy. Jabir
ibn-Hayyan (Geber) is one of the most popular Muslim chemists and many scholars
link the introduction of the ‘scientific method’ back to him. Moreover, several
terms used in Chemistry such as alchohol, alembic, alkali and elixir are of
Muslims’ contributions to medicine could never be ignored. Every major Islamic
city in the Middle Ages had a hospital; one of the largest at the time was in
Cairo, which had more than 8000 beds, with separate wards for fevers,
ophthalmic, dysentery and surgical cases.
One of the leading Muslim doctors is Al Rhazes who discovered the origin of
smallpox and found that one could only acquire it once in his/hers life, thus
showing the existence of the immune system and how it worked. He was an early
proponent of experimental medicine and is considered the father of pediatrics,
in addition to being a pioneer in neurosurgery and ophthalmology.
George Sarton, the father of the history of science, wrote: "Rhazes was the
greatest physician of Islam and the Medieval Ages."
The Islamic discoveries formed the raw material for our own Scientific
Revolution. therefore it’s tragic how alienated our peoples' are; with even the
lack of recognition, for the majestic contributions that facilitated the
renaissance. While also protecting thought and the writings of our shared
classics... destroyed during the ages of dark-nigh here in Europe....
* With Thanks to Karima Saifullah, who wrote most of the middle - providing the
factual data... I only wrote up to the asterisk and the last paragraph see here
for original http://www.aljazeera.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=62325
Although I'm English with ancestry from this island, Ireland and Norway... very
much north western european... the new ruling global elite... by induction and
place... while not believing in any religion... I recognize there's a
responsibility to have respect and understanding, for others in our small global