Islamic Background of Western Renaissance (6)

Islamic Background of Western Renaissance (6)

The four factors

The four factors, which are generally recognized by European Historians as the basis of Western Renaissance are:

1: The recovery of Greek Classics,

2: The diminution of ecclesiastical authority,

3: The discovery of the New World, and

4: The introduction of the Printing Press. But, curiously enough these factors are more or less resulted from the impact of Islamic culture with the west. The Islamic influence may easily be trace in the birth and growth of these factors that are said to have brought about the renaissance in Europe.

As regards the Greek Classics, it is universally admitted both in the East and the West that it were the Arabs who patronized and saved them from total extinction. Hence the Greek classics existed in Arabic version only, which were later translated by the Christian scholars into European languages The Historians History admits: "They (Arabs) merit eternal gratitude for having been the preserver of the learning of Greeks and Hindus when those people were no longer producing anything and Europe was still too ignorant to undertake the charge of the precious Depot. Efface the Arabs from history and the Renaissance of letters will be retarded in Europe by several centuries''.

Writing in the History of Medicine in the Middle Ages, Max Kahn observes, "The tolerance of Arabs was the saving grace of civilization. They relit the lamp of learning which had been extinguished in Europe, and the light of Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen illuminated the mosques and cloisters of infidels". According to Dr. F. J. C. Hearnshaw, writer of the Chapter on "European Life and Manners" in Vol. 6 of the Universal History of the World, "Christian students repaired to Islamic schools to learn the wisdom of the ancients and to' gain the secrets of those arts and crafts which made Muhammedian Spain famous throughout the world.

It was by way of Spain that the long lost works of Aristotle reached Western Christendom, to revolutionize scholastic Philosophy and Theology." According to Stanley Lane-Poole "What mediaeval Europe knew of Greek Philosophy, Mathematics, Chemistry, Astronomy and Medicine was learned principally through Latin translations. From Arabic treatises which held their places in the schools of Europe down to the sixteenth and even well into the seventeenth century." (Chapter on "Golden Age of Arab Culture" in Vol. IV. of the Universal History of the World). The second factor namely the diminution of religious authority in the Christian authority was caused by Reformation and Crusades. Martin Luther, who was the founder of Reformation was so much influenced by Islamic culture that he was accused of being a Muhammadian by the orthodox Christians. The Crusaders, bailing from different parts of Christian Europe came in direct contact with Muslims in the Holy Land and were deeply influenced by the Islamic culture.

On return, they introduced those reforms to their life which greatly weakened the hold of the Church on the common Christian. Dr. B. W. Stevenson says in the Chapter on "The Spirit and Influence of the Crusades" in Volume 3 of The Universal History of the World:"The learning and art and science of the East, its public services and methods of government, its highly developed industries and the superior luxury and comfort of the domestic life of its upper classes, exerted a powerful and far-reaching influence upon Europe in the Crusading period. (1)

Another historian of the Crusades, Dr. Henry Elmer Barnes, says in his History of Western Civilization "The Westerners learned many Muslim and Oriental ways and developed a taste for the luxuries of the region.(2) All this promoted a demand for Eastern goods and accelerated the growth of commerce. The Italians, who had acted as transporting agents for the Crusaders, took full advantage of their opportunities to build up trading relations with the East. Travel was promoted, and the explorations of Marco Polo and others followed on the heels of the Crusaders. This still further encouraged trade between Europe and the Orient. The revived trade promoted the rise of towns and a more progressive element in European life. The science and culture of the Muslims were brought back to Europe and helped to create the remarkable intellectual revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries".

The third factor namely the discovery of America was actually the outcome of Arab efforts. The latest researches carried on by Dr. Jeffrey, the celebrated anthropologist of South Africa has proved that Arabs discovered America five centuries ahead of C. Columbus. The fourth factor namely the invention of the Printing Press is also indirectly connected with the introduction and large scale production of paper in Europe by the Arabs. Without paper there would have been no Printing Press.



1. (7 Vols., London, 1928)

2. (Vol. I.)