Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"In addition to seeking, and in part achieving, a more accurate understanding of Islam,

European scholars began in this period to grasp that the Muslim world (including its Jewish communities) possessed great intellectual riches from which their own comparatively impoverished culture might benefit. In Toledo, a great center of learning in Muslim Spain and since 1085 in Christian hands, as well as elsewhere in Spain, Christian scholars, aided by Spanish Muslims, Christians and Jews, began to translate, study and disseminate the voluminous Arabic-language writings on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy they found in the libraries of Spanish mosques and courts. This was a treasure-trove of knowledge, well in advance of anything available in Europe at the time. It was by this means that western Europeans first gained access to many works of Greek antiquity which had been lost in the West but were preserved in Arabic translations; but in the process they also encountered the Arabic-language writings of Muslim and Jewish thinkers who had absorbed the work of the Greeks but had gone well beyond them to blaze new paths in medicine, philosophy, the sciences, mathematics and literature.

Engagement with these texts had a profound impact on many arenas of western European intellectual life. Translated Arabic writings on medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences were for centuries used as textbooks in medieval Europe, while the writings of Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sina' (980-1037, known in the West as Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (1126-1198, known as Averroes), and Jewish philosophers who wrote mainly in Arabic like Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204), were eagerly read and discussed and influenced several gernations of medieval Christian philosophers and theologians....The powerful impact of Arabic learned is suggested by the large number of scientific and mathematical terms in western languages which derive from Arabic terms or names, including alchemy, (from which chemistry comes), alcohol, algebra, algorithm, and alkali, as well as the names of many stars.
-Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism, p. 31-32

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