The Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation: Introduction
Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation
historians, in general, have removed the Islamic source with regard to every
single change that affected science and civilisation at the origin of Western
civilisation, and modern civilisation, and then, each and everyone has
substituted a number of explanations for such changes within their field of
This systematic suppression of the Islamic source of modern science and
civilisation has been, however, noted by individual historians who have
re-considered the history of their subject. Thus, in his `History of Dams,’
Norman Smith, began his chapter devoted to Islamic dams, by noting how
historians of civil engineering have ignored the Muslim period, and have claimed
that nothing was done by the Muslims, even worse, they have blamed the Muslims
for the decline of irrigation and other engineering activities, and their
eventual extinction, which is `both unjust and untrue.’
too, observes, that even in one of the standard works dealing with the legacy of
Islamic civilisation, Islamic mechanical engineering is completely set aside.
similar point is raised by Pacey, who points to the same generalised opinion
that hydraulic engineering made little progress under the Muslims, whilst in
truth, Muslims extended the application of mechanical and hydraulic technology
the development of agriculture, Cherbonneau makes the same observation,
questioning the absence of reference to the Muslim contribution, insisting that
`If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views
will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed.’
the history of Cartography, Harley and Woodward have noted how it seems nobody
has mapped anything from the fall of
the history of astronomy, Krisciunas did not fail to notice how astronomical
research has been made to fall `into a dazed slumber following Ptolemy (c 90-168
CE) not to reawaken until the time of Copernicus (1473-1543),’
totally bypassing centuries of Muslim contributions, except to acknowledge them
as book burning fanatics.
mathematics, O’connor and Robertson make the same point, that, the widely held
opinion is that after a brilliant period for mathematics when the Greeks laid
the foundations for modern mathematics, there was a period of stagnation before
the Europeans took over where the Greeks left off; whilst in truth O’cconor
and Robertson note, modern mathematics owes so much to Muslim mathematicians
centuries before the 16th.
Rice, equally, hardly fails to note how the historians of art have set aside the
Islamic role, turning it into pale imitation of others, whilst he offers both
text and photographic evidence to prove the inanity of these widely held
systematic suppression of the Islamic role in the rise of modern science and
civilisation, through its impact on the West, has led to conclusions that
hostility to Islam was the principal reason for it. Watt, thus, observes:
one keeps hold of all the facets of the medieval confrontation of Christianity
and Islam, it is clear that the influence of Islam on Western Christendom is
greater than is usually realised…. But, Because Europe was reacting against
Islam, it belittled the influence of the Saracens and exaggerated its dependence
on its Greek and Roman heritage.’
same enmity towards Islam is seen by Glubb as the reason why `the indebtedness
of Western Christendom to Arab
civilisation was systematically played down, if not completely denied.’
equally, talks of the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has
contrived to put out of sight our scientific obligations to the Muslims;
injustice founded on religious rancour and national conceit.
Prince Charles observes: `There is also much ignorance about the debt our own
culture and civilisation owe to the Islamic world… which stems from the
straightjacket of history, which we have inherited…. Because we have tended to
see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society, and system of
belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own
the systematic suppression of the Islamic role from mainstream Western history
has been noted, hardly anything has been said how this is done. This is the
object of this work. This author seeks to answer the matter by addressing
deficient historical writing where it is at its most vulnerable: its incapacity
to rest on anything substantial when the issue is addressed from as wide a
spectrum as possible. Indeed, Western `historians’ dispose of enough expertise
to build whole theories around the changes that affected their science or
subject, and it is easy for them to fabricate whole histories, just as Hartner puts
it, by `twisting and suppressing facts at
the author's pleasure.’
By using their expertise in their specific
subject, adding all the nitty gritty of academia, referencing, statements backed
by other statements from similarly minded historians, they can convince
whomsoever fails to see the wider picture, or is not knowledgeable enough to
by addressing as wide spectrum as possible of changes that took place in
the medieval period, this author was able to see a number of patterns. First,
all new medieval scientific developments and changes in aspects of civilisation,
anywhere, any time, took place as soon as contact was made with an Islamic
source. Second, major changes show the same timing (12th century
principally), when contact was made with Islamic culture, or when the first
crusaders began returning from the East. Third, all changes took place in
contact with the same geographical sources (
these points, which are easy to conceal if one change is dealt with on its-own
become impossible to conceal if tens of changes are considered together, as the
same patterns repeat themselves. More importantly, if each historian can give
diverse causes and explanations for changes which affected his or her science or
subject, which seem plausible if any such change or science is looked at
individually, when all such subjects are put together, however, one is faced
with literally tens of causes, all very different, often conflicting, and yet,
suddenly, spontaneously, producing the same impact, and at the same time, and in
the same places. Which, of course, is basically unscientific, for, it is
impossible for diverging causes to produce the same effects, in the same place,
at the same time, in the same pattern, and with the same substance.
work seeks to dismantle the established Western version of history, which does
away with the Islamic influence on the West, and on modern science and
its first part, it shows how historians demean as much as possible the Islamic
role in the rise of modern science and civilisation, insisting that modern
science and civilisation owe to the Western recovery of Greek learning
in its Arabic version. This part also dwells on the generalised technique of
distorting historical reality through a selective suppression of facts and of
bibliographical sources, and even the suppression of whole centuries from
knowledge. The underlying reasons for such hostile approach to the Islamic role
in the rise of science and civilisation are also examined.
second part shows that changes which took place in Western Christendom, whether
university learning, windmills, individual sciences, the beginning of hospitals,
the introduction of paper, changes in arts and architecture, etc, rather than
owing their source to tens of differing, even conflicting causes, as Western
history generally holds, all, in fact, owe to the same Islamic sources. This is
made obvious by looking at these sources through three major parameters, each
addressed in a distinct chapter:
first chapter looks at the role of scholars, pilgrims, tradesmen, rulers, etc,
who disseminated Islamic learning.
second chapter looks at the particular role of some regions and countries in
their acquisition and then diffusion of Islamic sciences and civilisation.
third deals with the impact translations from Arabic, especially in the 12th
century, had on modern science and civilisation.
the third part, focus is on areas of influence, here highlighting the Islamic
substance of influence. This is addressed in four distinct areas, each, again,
in a distinct chapter:
first chapter deals with the Islamic impact on Western learning in its wider
second deals with Islamic influences on particular sciences.
third covers influences on trade, industry and farming.
final chapter looks at the arts, architecture, and culture, highlighting, once
more, the strong Islamic influences.
Throughout, this work will remain highly critical of mainstream Western history. However, it must be insisted upon two crucial elements: first, that although criticism can be addressed to mainstream modern historians and modern study of history, older Western historians, in general, and many of today’s historians, even if the latter constitute the minority, have imposed on themselves high standards of impartiality and excellence. Second, and more importantly, it is only thanks to the erudition of this minority of Western historians that this work is possible. They might have their views on Islam, as a faith, with which this author disagrees, but it is they who have preserved and conveyed much of what relates to Islamic civilisation this author has relied upon to complete this work.
Smith: A History of Dams,
The Chaucer Press,
Winder: Al-Jazari, in The Genius of Arab Civilisation; Source of
Renaissance; ed J.R.Hayes; Phaidon; 1976; p. 188.
World Civilization, a Thousand Year History,
The MIT Press,
Cherbonneau: Kitab al-Filaha of
Abu Khayr al-Ichbili, in Bulletin
d’Etudes Arabes, pp 130-44; at p. 130.
Harley and D. Woodward ed: The History of Cartography; Volume 2; Book
1; Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies; The
University of Chicago Press; Chicago and London; 1992; preface p. 1.
Krisciunas: Astronomical Centers of
J O'Connor and E. F Robertson: Arabic Mathematics:
a forgotten brilliance
Rice: Islamic Art; Thames and
Montgomery Watt: L'Influence de l'Islam sur l'Europe Medievale (127-156): In
Revue d’Etudes Islamiques; Vol 41; pp 127-56; at pp. 155-6.
John Glubb: A Short History of the
Arab Peoples, Hodder and
Draper: A History of the Intellectual
Development of Europe; 2 Vols:
Hartner Essay review
of O. Neugebauer: A
History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, Verlag, 1975; in Journal
for the History of Astronomy; 9; pp 201-12; at p. 201.
the manners and forms history is distorted, see, for instance, the
Fontana: The Distorted Past, Blackwell, 1995.
Geyl: Use and Abuse of History, Yale University Press, 1955:p.78.
Daumas: The History of Technology: Its limits; its methods; trans into
English and notes by A. Rupert Hall; in History of Technology, 1976;
Fischer: Historians' Fallacies,
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen at: http://www.uvm.edu/~jloewen/intro.html
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