Islamic Background of Western Renaissance (5)

Islamic Background of Western Renaissance (5)

Influence on the West

The Muslims, who were pioneers in almost all branches of learning led the West in diverse spheres of mediaeval thought. "The mission of mankind was accomplished by Muslims", writes George Sarton, The greatest philosopher, Al-Farabi was a Muslim the greatest mathematicians, Abul Kamil and Ibrahim Ibn Sina were Muslims; the greatest geographer and encyclopedist, al-Musudi was a Muslim; the greatest historian, Al-Tabari was still a Muslim".

The influence of the Muslims could be traced in almost all spheres of life in the Mediaeval West including sciences and arts, commerce and industry, music and painting. The brightest luminaries of the Mediaeval times were Jabir, Kindi, Jahiz and Baytar in sciences; Zakariya Razi, Ibn Sinaand Zahrawi in medical science; Khwarizmi, Omar Khayyam, Abul Wafa and Nasiruddin Toosi in mathematics and astronomy; Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi and Fakhruddin Razi in philosophy; Tabari, Ibn Miskawayh, Ibn Athir and Ibn Khaldun in history; Masudi, Idrisi and Ibn Hauqal in geography; Farabi, Zalzal, Ziryab and Ibrahim Mausili in music; Behzad, Maani and Raza Abbasi in painting.

They have left behind on the pages of history the imprint of their genius in the respective branches of their activity. As already stated in detail in previous chapters a number of their works served as standard textbooks both in the West as well in the East till the beginning of the 18th century A.D. The Arabs were the real originators of sciences in the world. Discarding the speculative method of the Greeks, they based their scientific research on observation and experiment which gave birth to experimental method. This experimental method introduced by the Arabs was in fact, responsible for rapid advancement of science during the mediaeval times. Jabir, the father of modern chemistry was the greatest chemical scientist of the mediaeval times whose writings influenced the course of European alchemy and chemistry.

The Kilab Al-Haywan written by Jahiz is an invaluable book on zoology containing germs of, later theories on evolution, adaptation and animal psychology. Ibn al-Baytar is universally acknowledged as the most eminent botanist of Mediaeval times. According to the Historians' History, it was from Ibn al-Haitham's Twilight that the illustrious Kepler took his ideas of atmospheric refraction and "it may be that Newton himself owes to the Arabs, rather than to the apple in his orchard at Woolsthorpe the first apperception of the system of the universe, for Muhammad Ben Musa seems, when writing his books on the movements of the celestial bodies and on the Force of Attraction, to have had an inkling of the great law of general harmony."

In medical science Al-Razi's AI-Hawi (Continens) in 20 volumes and Al-Judari wal Hasbah (a book dealing with small-pox) which ran into more than fifty editions during 1498--1866; Ibn Sina's (Avicenna's) AI-IZanunFi Tibb (Canon) published 36 times and surgeon Zahrawi's al-Tasrif were recognised as the highest authority on medicine during the mediaeval era. Avicenna's influence on European medicine has been overwhelming.

In mathematics and astronomy, the works on algebra written by Khwarizmi and Omar Khayyam, books on geometry and trigonometry left behind by Abul Wafa, Nasiruddin Toosi and the treatises on astronomy by Khwarizmi, Omar Khayyam, Al-Beruni and Nasiruddin Toosi are the most outstanding contributions to these sciences during the middle ages. The translation of Khwarizmi’s algebra marked the beginning of European algebra.

The introduction of zero to arithmetic by the Arabs was a highly beneficial step towards the simplification of arithmetic. The Muslims had specialized in historiography and political science that were their favorite subjects. Tabari, the father of Arabian historiography is considered as one of the greatest historians of the mediaeval era, who has influenced the art of writing history both in the East and the West. Ibn Khaldun, the founder of the science of sociology has the unique distinction of treating history as a science by supporting his facts with reasoning. More than any historian, Ibn Khaldun has influenced the modern thought in historiography, politics, sociology and political economy.

Among the eminent travelers, explorers and navigators who brought the distant parts of-Mediaeval world closer through their discoveries and writings are Ibn Batuta, Masudi, Beruni, Ibn Hauqal, Moqaddasi, Sulaiman Al-Mahiri and Ibn Majid, They also paved the way for the growth of Arabian commerce which was carried on with distant parts of the known world both through land and sea routes. The products of the highly developed industries in Muslim countries found good market throughout the world.

In fine arts and music too, Muslim artists influenced their European counterparts and the musicians Farabi, Ishaq Mausili, Zalzal and Ziryab; the paihters Maani and Behzad were the greatest figures of their time in the respective spheres of their arts. Muslims had developed a distinctive style of their own in architecture and built some of the most magnificent and beautiful buildings in the world including Alhambra, the Grand Mosque of Cordova in Spain, mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, the grand mosque of Isfahan and the Taj Mahal of Agra. These are even now recognized as the architectural wonders of the world.

Thus the Muslims kept aloft the candle of civilization during the Mediaeval era and their contributions to the advancement of human progress provided the necessary link between the ancient and modern civilizations. The Islamic universities of Nizamiyah and Mustansariya at Baghdad, the Al-Azhar of Cairo, and the universities of Cordova and Salerno diffused knowledge to students composed of all communities who flocked to these seats of learning from distant parts of the world including Europe.