Historically, since the rise of civilizations by Muslims in the middle of 7th century, the transmission of culture and knowledge around Mediterranean Sea began as well. After the fall of Rome, Western Europe was backward and trapped in the Dark Ages.
Islamic culture and knowledge, however, has a tremendous contribution in the development of intellectual exploration and discussion around Europe. In the following years, many Christian scholars from Europe traveled to the land of Muslims to learn sciences. They are Leonardo Fibonacci (1170-1250), Adelard of Barth (1080-1152), Constantine the African (1017-1087), and many more of them can’t be mentioned one by one. The names have given so much impact in transferring knowledge from the land of Muslims to Europe.
From the 11th to 14th century, numerous European students came to study in the higher institution in the land of Muslims to study mathematics (learn more Muslims contribution on math), philosophy, medicine, etc.
Above all the historical explanation, talking about the critical impact that Islam had given to the West occurs so much attention. The influence of Islamic scholars to the west actually is not supposed to be questioned anymore. There are numerous discoveries from numerous Islamic scholars invented before the rising of Europe. By knowing about that fact, we as Muslims should learn the importance of Islam in western civilization. Therefore, now we are going to find out some of them.
- The House of Wisdom Played a Special Role
The House of Wisdom or familiar called as Bayt al-Hikma is a scientific institutions founded in Baghdad by the Caliph al-Ma’mun. It was The institution continually worked for the translation of philosophical and scientific works from the Greek originals which believed to be brought from the country of Rum. The translation gave a great impact to the development of knowledge among some Islamic Scholars. Bayt al-Hikma stimulated the establishment of any other library and institutions in another Muslims region such as Iraq and Persia.
2. Arab Language Was The Source of Knowledge
Many rulers of kingdom around Europe realize how important it is learning Arab language as the gate to enlighten the civilization. the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II was one of the example. The interest of some European rulers grew higher because the Islamic scholars were experts in navigating techniques. Some books such as al-Biruni’s The Determination of the Coordinates of Cities provided accurate methods to determine geographic locations. That’s why Arab language was powerful at that time.
3. Islamic Scholars Once Led The Growth of Astronomy
Islamic Scholars translated Ptolemy’s works about celestial sphere between the 9th and the 13th centuries. It is not only read and translated yet also challenged with data from the observation established in the 820s in Baghdad by the greatest of the “scientific” rulers, al-Mamun of the Abbasid caliphate. the Book of Optics (1021) written by Ibn al-Haytham was the development of the theory of vision and light based on the work of Ptolemy. The book itself actually was the important beginning of the history of scientific methods and optics.
4. Islamic Scholars were the Caretaker of Some Important Writings of Philosopher
Islamic scholars did realize the importance of taking care some old manuscripts and writings of Greek philosopher such as Aristotle or Plato. They even challenged the idea of some well-know philosopher to critically invent new knowledge. The writings were almost lost in the dark age, because the European didn’t have much awareness of them. Fortunately, our Islamic scholars had that realization. Without them, neither Newton nor Galileo could formulate the modern theories of mathematics and physics.
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5. The Influence of Classical Greek Texts
The work of some Classical Greek philosopher, especially Aristotle had caught the attention of our Islamic scholars. First translated to Syriac in the 6th and 7th century, the Islamic world started to keep, translate and develop the texts then and used the translations to study in the House Wisdom.
6. Islamic Scholars and The Works of Medicine
Islamic scholars also had a big role in developing the world of medicine. Avicenna or simply known as Ibn Sinna is one of the most famous Islamic scientist who worked in medicine. His famous work, The Canon of Medicine was translated into Latin and printed throughout Europe. He also noted the contagious nature of infectious diseases and made his own experiment.
7. The Introduce of Various Fruits and Vegetables
Islamic merchants who traveled across the continent of Asia like China or India to Europe came introducing various names of fruit and vegetables. Mostly, they were common foods we eat nowadays such as spinach, apricots, oranges, hard wheat, etc. Imagine, without meeting those Islamic merchants, some Italian would never invented pastas!
8. There’s an Islamic Influence on Western Art
Capella Palatina in Palermo, Sicily is one of so many Christian buildings with an Islamic influence. The ceiling at the Capella is similar to some Islamic buildings in Fez and Fustat and reflect the Muqarnas technique in which emphasizing three-dimensional element. Additionally, carpets of the Middle-East were also used as important decoration in paintings from the 13th centuries and the following years after that, especially in some religious paintings since the era of Medieval to Renaissance.
9. Islamic Influence on European Music
Various numbers of musical instruments used in Europe were actually influenced by Arabian musical instruments. From Rebec (the ancestor of Violin) to Rebab, to Guitar from Qitara, to Naker from Naqareh, and etc. Until the 21st century, people in Europe still use all those musical instruments, even develop them with so many advantages.
10. The Growing of Industry by Islamic Rulers
One of Mediterranean Countries, Spain, was the most growing industrial center under the Islamic rule. Cities in Spain became most of populated and wealthiest cities around Europe. Muslims led the production of silk, wool, jewelry, pottery, leather, even parfume industry! In the middle ages, the world trade was commanded by Muslims.
Besides those 10 importance of Islam in western civilization, there are still some following facts about the role of Islam in western civilization that includes the discovery of scientific formulas until the coexistence of transcendent faith with empirical fact.
- The Development of Trigonometry
- The Development of Algebra and Geometry
- The Stepping Stone of Relativity Theory
- The Way to Accurately Determine Times and Dates
- The Critical Reason of Coexistence of Religion and Science
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That’s all the importance of Islam in western civilization. May we are always blessed by Allah for the knowledge we get everyday.