By: Dr. ABDULLAH MOHAMMAD SINDI
Arab Civilization after Islam
Within a very short period of time after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, the Arabs built a vast empire that stretched from Spain and Portugal (Andalusia) in the west all the way to the Indian subcontinent in the east. Covering almost half of the old known world, the Arab empire was one and a half times the size of the Roman Empire at its peak. Unlike earlier civilizations, the Arab civilization dominated the Mediterranean and made it practically an Arab lake. The Arabs occupied Spain and Portugal in 711 and were on the verge of engulfing all of France in 732 when Charles Martel stopped their advances in the heart of Western Europe in the Battle of Tours, about 100 miles south of Paris.
Between the 7th and 15th centuries, the Arabs established a brilliant civilization the like of which was not contemporaneously found anywhere in the world. However, since Islam united all Arabs for the first time in their history, and rejected nationalism and secularism (Islam united Arabs and non-Arabs under the banner of Islam), Arab civilization and Islamic civilization were one and the same. The two could not be separated. Several Arab powerful states were established each with its own distinct Arab civilization. The most important of these are the following three, the last two of which are considered to be the Arab golden age. These are: The Omayad State with its capital city in Damascus (661-750); the Abbasid State with its capital city in Baghdad (750-1258); and Arab Andalusia (711-1492) in the European Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal (a continuation of the Omayad State) with its capital city first in Cordoba and later in Granada. For centuries Arab Andalusia represented Europe’s main cultural center. Although the Arab Abbasid State of the east and Arab Andalusia of the west existed at the same time, they were not united because of the rivalry between their Arab leaders.
In all of the above-mentioned three major Arab States, Arabic was the official language and Islam was the official religion. However, Arabs, half-Arabs, and non-Arabs of all the three Semitic religious faiths lived together in racial and religious harmony. There was a great deal of tolerance towards Christians and Jews whether they were Arabs or not. Within all Arab/Islamic empires, Arabs played the major role in all of the political, economic, social, cultural, educational, and scientific affairs. Non-Arabs were deeply Arabized both emotionally and culturally. In short, these three Islamic civilizations (Omayad, Abbasid, and Andalusia) were by and large Arab.
However, after the destruction of the Arab Abbasid State in 1258 at the hands of the Mongols and their ruthless leader Hulagu (a crushing defeat that the Arabs have never completely recovered from), the Muslim Turks took over the leadership of the Muslim world. In an affirmation of the political unity of the Islamic nation or “Ummah” (because Islam rejects nationalism), the Turks established their Muslim Ottoman State (1258-1922) with its capital first in Bursa and later in Istanbul (Constantinople), the former capital city of the Holy Eastern Roman Empire (or the Byzantine Empire). It was only in this last major Muslim Turkish State, which did not include either Persia or Andalusia, that the Arabs did not play a dominant role in the political or cultural affairs of the Islamic State. Nor was Arabic the official language of the Ottoman Empire in its last days.
Nonetheless, inspired by numerous exhortations of Prophet Mohammad to Muslims such as: “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”; “Search for knowledge, even if you must go to China to find it”; and “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”, the Arabs excelled in science and art and provided the world with a brilliant and unique civilization. Arab civilization contributed a great deal to the world in general and to the West in particular by helping bring about the European Renaissance, first in Spain and Portugal and later in Italy. As will be explained shortly, the West is immensely indebted to the Arabs for many scientific, technological, and artistic inventions as well as philosophical concepts. As the contemporary Western civilization has enlightened the world, so did the old Arab/Islamic civilization.
However, while the brilliant ancient civilizations of Iraq and Egypt, and the Jewish and Christian religions that emerged from Palestine, are all acknowledged in the West but only as a part of what is strangely called “Western civilization”, the great Arab/Islamic civilization (like Islam itself) that emerged from the same Arab region is either ignored in the West or, if mentioned, distorted and belittled by many European and American “scholars” and “experts”. In fact, these so-called “Arabists” or “Orientalists” cannot hide their hatred, resentment, racism, and patronizing attitudes towards the Arabs and Islam. 
Because Arab civilization – especially that of the Abbasid State – included some contributions from half-Arab and non-Arab Muslims as well as from Arab Jews and Arab Christians, many American “scholars”, who like to demean or insult the Arabs, downplay the vital Arab role in the Arab/Islamic civilization. They argue that Arab civilization was copied from the Greeks and/or was nothing more than the civilization of Persians, Turks and other non-Arab Muslims. Even the so-called American “left” and “open-minded scholars” argue in a racist way that Arab contribution to the Islamic civilization was minimal. For example, the following citation is a typical example of Western distortion of Arab contribution to Islamic civilization. In an address given at a symposium on the history of philosophy of science held at Boston University on September 22, 1994, Mr. Dirk Struik said the following, which appeared in the American Monthly Review, the so-called “left-wing and socialist” periodical: “Incidentally, we often speak of the Arabs. But these “Arabs” were Persians, Tadjiks, Jews, Moors, etc., seldom Arabs [My underlining]. What they had in common was their use of the Arabic language.”  Also, Mr. Struik wrongly referred to the Jews as a distinct nationality, forgetting the elementary fact that “Jews” are nothing but the adherents of the Jewish faith regardless of their race or language, and disregarding the basic fact that Arab Jews have always existed even up to the present time. He also wrongly implied that Moors are not Arabs, dismissing the simple fact that Moors are indeed Arabs. In addition, Mr. Struik even ridiculed and belittled Arab contribution to human civilization by saying: “…the Arabs, who were so kind [my underlining] as to keep the torch of Greek science ablaze to pass it over to the Europeans…” 
However, unlike Mr. Struik and the many Western “scholars” like him who distort Arab intellectual and scientific contributions to humanity, Professor Briffault in his book Making of Humanity simply stated the basic facts: “Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab civilization to the modern world.”  In addition, historians Edward Burns and Philip Palph concluded that: “The intellectual achievements of the …[Arabs] were far superior to any of which Christian Europe could boast before the twelfth century.”  They also correctly acknowledged that: “In no subject were the [Arabs] farther advanced than in science. In fact, their achievements in this field were the best the world had seen since the end of the Hellenistic civilization.”  In addition, Burns and Palph wrote that Arabs:
“…were brilliant astronomers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and physicians. Despite their reverence for Aristotle, they did not hesitate to criticize his notion of a universe of concentric spheres with the earth at the center, and they admitted the possibility that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun… [The Arabs] were also capable mathematicians and developed algebra and trigonometry… [Arab] physicists founded the science of optics and drew a number of significant conclusions regarding the theory of magnifying lenses and the velocity, transmission, and refraction of light…[Arab] scientists were the first to describe the chemical processes of distillation, filtration, and sublimation…The accomplishments in medicine were just as remarkable…[The Arabs] discovered the contagious nature of tuberculosis, described pleurisy and several varieties of nervous ailments, and pointed out that the disease can be spread through contamination of water and soil.” 
In fact, the Arabs were the world’s pioneers in establishing the first major institutions of higher learning. Arabs established the oldest universities in the world. The University of Qeirawan in Fez, Morocco was founded in 859, and the al-Azhar Mosque-University was established in 970 in Cairo. On the other hand, the oldest university in Europe is the University of Bologna in Italy, which was founded in 1088.
The Golden Arab Abbasid Civilization
Arab civilization reached its golden age during the Abbasid era (750-1258). Baghdad, the seat of the powerful Abbasid State – which the USA brutally and illegally occupied in 2003 – was the proud Arab capital city and the world’s major center for the arts and sciences. Abbasid’s Baghdad was not only the largest city in the world in size, about 100 square kilometers, but was also the world’s most crowded city, containing about 2 million people. During its heyday, Baghdad was the center of the richest and most powerful country in the entire world. It contained two of the world’s oldest and greatest universities, the Nizamiyah and the Mustansiriyah.
Baghdad was also the seat of the legendary Bait al-Hikmah or (“the House of Wisdom”), the most widely-respected “think tank” and the major research center in all of the vast Abbasid Empire. From it came various important translations of Greek and other earlier non-Arab scientific manuscripts; major breakthroughs in many scientific and artistic fields; and different discoveries in various scientific fields that enriched Arab civilization and in turn benefited the West and the rest of the world.
Moreover, Baghdad had many banks, where the world’s first checking accounts were established, with various branches all over the world even as far as China; an enormous free general public hospital; a thousand physicians; many pharmacies; a large number of schools and higher institutions of learning; a very well-organized postal service; countless libraries and bookstores; an excellent water-supply system; a comprehensive sewage system; and a great paper mill. Even though paper was invented in China, it was the Arabs who introduced it to the West. The Europeans, who up to the 12th century used only parchment for writing, learned for the first time the art of manufacturing paper from straw after the brutal Crusaders invaded the Arab world. 
Among the great Arab inventions was the clock. Some Arab clocks had their timepieces moved by water, others by burning candles or mercury. A beautiful Arab water clock was given in 807 as a gift by the great Arab Abbasid Caliph Haroon ar-Rasheed (786-809) to the French King Charlemagne who was totally impressed by it. In fact, the 13th century Abbasid Arab genius, Ibn ar-Razzaz al-Jazari, invented impressive arrays of water-operated monumental clocks such as the famous automated Peacock Fountain and the Castle Water Clock.
The Abbasid Arab leaders, or Caliphs, were the most opulent rulers in the entire world. Their palaces, halls, parks, and treasures were highly ostentatious. For example when a diplomatic Byzantine delegation arrived in Baghdad during the reign of the Caliph al-Muqtadir (908-32), they were highly impressed to see the outstanding treasures in the store-chambers and the magnificent armies of elephants caparisoned in peacock-silk brocade. The Byzantine delegation saw Caliph al-Muqtadir arrayed in brilliant clothes embroidered in gold and sitting on an ebony throne which was surrounded on both sides by nine hung collars of gems and other fabulous jewels.  In his elegant Room of the Tree, they observed:
“…a tree, standing in the midst of a great circular tank filled with clear water. The tree has eighteen branches, every branch having numerous twigs, on which sit all sorts of gold and silver birds, both large and small. Most of the branches of this tree are of silver, but some are of gold, and they spread into the air carrying leaves of different colours. The leaves of the tree move as the wind blows, while the birds pipe and sing.” 
In fact, the Arabs were so advanced in all of the scientific and artistic fields over the West that they considered the Europeans to be inferior barbarians with uncouth manners. In a language similar to the current racist propaganda perpetrated by many Europeans and Americans against non-Europeans, especially Blacks, the famous 10th-century Arab geographer/historian Abu al-Hasan al-Mas’udi of Baghdad (died 956) wrote the following about the Europeans:
“The peoples of the north are those for whom the sun is distant from the Zenith… cold and damp prevail in those regions, and snow and ice follow one another in endless succession. The warm humour is lacking among them; their bodies are large, their natures gross, their manners harsh, their understanding dull and their tongues heavy… their religious beliefs lack solidity…those of them who are farthest to the north are the most subject to stupidity, grossness and brutishness.” 
In addition, in the 11th-century, an Arab judge from Toledo in Arab Spain made even more racist remarks than al-Mas’udi’s about the “stupidity” of the Europeans and their lack of civilization. He wrote:
“…their bellies are big, their colour pale, their hair long and lank. They lack keenness of understanding and clarity of intelligence, and are overcome by ignorance and foolishness, blindness and stupidity.” Even as late as the 14th century the great Arab sociologist and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun, made contemptuous remarks about the Europeans. 
Before the European Renaissance (the start of the current Western civilization from 1350 to 1650), most of Europe was living in the feudalism of the Dark Ages. Europeans lived in poverty, ignorance, hunger, diseases, violence, treachery, squalor, and intolerance. Most Europeans lived in mud huts with filth, practically like animals. Dirty roadside ditches throughout Europe, filled with stagnant water, served as public latrines.  In fact, most Europeans did not even wash their own bodies with water for fear of damaging their skins and health.
The Glorious Arab Andalusian Civilization of Europe
Arab entrance into Europe began with an “invitation”. The governor of an outlying province in the Iberian Peninsula sent his daughter to Toledo for schooling. She was supposedly under the protection of King Rodrick (one of the Germanic ruthless Visigoth occupying rulers in Spain) who instead of protecting her, violated and impregnated her. As a result, her father appealed to the Arabs in North Africa for a redress of this injury.  The Arabs complied, and thus began almost 8 centuries of Arab occupation and civilization in Europe’s most southwestern part. To be exact, the Arabs stayed in Europe 781 years during which they introduced to the West a wonderful civilization; religious tolerance; racial harmony; public baths; and the novel idea of cleanliness expressed in public and personal hygiene by washing the human body with water.
While most Westerners of the Dark Ages lived in filth, poverty, and ignorance, the Arabs had a brilliant civilization in Andalusia, Europe’s Iberian Peninsula. From 711, when Tariq Ibn Ziyad landed with his Arab conquering army at Gibraltar (so named after him from the Arabic words Jabal Tariq or “the Mountain of Tariq”), to 1492 when the Arab presence in Europe ended, Andalusia was the most enlightened, civilized, racially and religiously tolerant place in all of the West.
Before the Arabs arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, the barbarian Germanic occupying Visigoths viciously persecuted Spanish and Portuguese Jews. The Arabs not only treated local Jews with kindness and respect, but also treated their fellow Christians with the same kindness and tolerance that Islam called for. In fact, the Iberian Jews welcomed the Arab conquering army as a liberating force and joined it against the Visigoths.  The intolerant Germanic Visigoths also heavily taxed and ruthlessly treated the poor Iberian peasants, rendering them practically as slaves. The Arabs, on the other hand, humanely treated the local peasants and drastically reduced their taxation.
As early as the 10th century, the Arab Andalusian capital, Cordoba, was a magnificent metropolitan center of progress. The pride of the Arabs in Europe, Cordoba had a half million people living in it at a time when no European city could claim a population of even 10,000. Indeed, Arab Cordoba was the largest and most cultured city in all of Europe. Its jewelry, leather work, woven silk and elaborate brocades were highly prized throughout the world. Cordoba’s Arab women copyists excelled far better than most European Christian monks in the production of religious works. A travelling German nun by the name of Hrosvitha, who died in 1002, was highly impressed by Arab Cordoba. She referred to it as “the jewel of the world”. She wrote:
“In the western parts of the globe … there shone forth a fair ornament … a city well cultured … rich and known by the famous name of Cordoba, illustrious because of its charms and also renowned for all resources, especially abounding in the seven streams of knowledge, and ever famous for continual victories.” 
Arab Cordoba was truly the jewel of the entire world. In contrast to the dust and mud which would remain familiar features of the streets of London and Paris for 7 centuries to come, Cordoba had miles of paved streets; street lights (even seven hundred years later there was not so much as one public lamp in London); 113,000 houses with lavatories and water drainage (even poor houses had them, something which was not found at the time in most other European cities); 700 mosques; 300 public baths; 70 public libraries; numerous bookstores; parks and palaces;  and two major magnificent treasures unequal for their sophistication in the known civilized world.
The first treasure was the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the most extraordinary religious shrine, second in size only to the Great Mosque of Makkah. It was completed in 976 and took 200 years to build. This Great Mosque, which is still a major tourist attraction in Spain today, is a vast rectangle with a deep sanctuary divided into 19 aisles by a forest of 870 marble columns. The interior of this marvelous religious shrine was beautifully decorated with gold; silver; precious stones; mosaics; colored tiles; contrasting green and red marbles; carved plater; wall paintings; Qur’anic calligraphy; and 8,000 oil lamps, to provide light, hung from two hundred chandeliers. The scent of burning aloes and the perfumed oils in the lamps drifted through the arches of the long naves. The Mosque’s spacious seven-sided mihrab (the prayer niche which directs worshipers toward Makkah) was lined with gold mosaics and marbles. Next to the mihrab stood the beautifully carved minbar (or pulpit) with its several straight steps for the Imam to climb up in order to give his Friday sermon. This wonderful unique pulpit, which took eight talented craftsmen seven years to make, was laced with rails of gold and silver and made of ivory, ebony, sandalwood, and citron wood. Unfortunately, this magnificent pulpit was cut into pieces when the Spanish Christians took over Cordoba in 1236. Today this great mosque is the Catholic Cathedral of Cordoba.
The second treasure in the Arab Andalusian capital city of Cordoba was the outstanding enormous public library. Completed around 970, this wonderful library alone had over 440,000 books, more than all of the books in all of France at the time. In addition to this gigantic public library, there were 69 other public libraries in Cordoba. These Arab libraries had been using paper for over 200 years at a time when the few Europeans, who could read or write, were still using animal skins for writing.
Just outside Cordoba, in the city of al-Zahra, the Arab ruler Abdul-Rahman III built his famous magnificent Palace of Madinat al-Zahra. One of the great wonders of this extraordinary Arab palace was the Room of the Caliphs, which had a gilded ceiling and walls of multi-colored marble blocks. On each side of the hall were eight splendid doors, which stood between columns of clear crystal and colored marble, decorated with gold and ebony and inlaid with precious stones. In the center of this beautiful room was a large pool filled with mercury, which produced dazzling reflections from the walls and ceiling every time the sunrays shone on it. When the surface of the pool was quivered, the whole room was shot through with rays of light, giving the impression that the room was floating away. All experts and writers at the time agreed that the magnificence of this Arab hall had never been equaled anywhere in the world. 
After the fall of Cordoba to the Spanish Christians, the Arabs moved their capital city to Granada – in the south of the Iberian Peninsula – which also became famous as an Arab center of arts and learning. Arab Granada was also renowned for its wealth and trade especially in silk. To immortalize Grenada, its Andalusian Arab rulers built the magnificent Palace of al-Hamra (“the red”) or Alhambra Palace. This unique palace has two splendid courts, the Court of the Lions and the Court of the Myrtles, considered to be the most magnificent and glorious of all Arab monuments in Spain. The Alhambra Palace, which was also an Arab fortress, took about 100 years to build and is today a major tourist attraction attesting to the beauty and genius of Arab architecture. In addition to Cordoba and Granada, Seville and Toledo also served as the greatest houses of Arab Andalusian knowledge. In fact, Toledo was the main center of scientific translation from Arabic to Latin.
The Andalusian Arabs also produced several exotic agricultural products (see “Agriculture” below) and developed many great manufactured products, which were all exported to Western Europe and the rest of the world. These industrial products include: textiles; paper; silk; baked tile; glazed cups, dishes, and jars which rivaled Chinese porcelain; pottery; sugar refining; gold; silver; ruby; silk; various crafted metals; marble; ceramics; and the much-admired Cordovan (“cordwain”) leather-work.
The sciences that the Andalusian Arabs excelled in and were taught at their universities, which helped educate several generations of Western scholars and students from all over Europe, included: mathematics, geometry, astronomy, physics, chemistry, architecture, optics, meteorology, engineering, pharmacology, medicine, biology, botany, anatomy, zoology, and philosophy. It should also be mentioned here that Arab students in Andalusia were the first to use the cap and gown worn today by students all over the world during graduation ceremony.
The Legacy of Arab/Islamic Civilization and Its Impact on the West
Thanks to Islam and Arab civilization, Arabic has become the richest of all Semito-Hamitic languages (so-named after Noah’s two eldest sons Sam and Ham), and one of the world’s greatest languages in history. As a major language of scripture and civilization, Arabic has deeply influenced several world languages both in the East and the West such as Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Maltese, Malay-Indonesian; some African languages like Hausa and Swahili; and to a lesser extent even the English language (see below). The Arabic alphabet, which contains 28 letters (2 more letters than the English alphabet), is now – like the Latin alphabet – one of the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world used in the writing of the languages of Muslim countries like Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Between the 9th and 15th centuries, during the zenith of Arab civilization, Arabic was the international language of science to a degree which has since never been equaled by any other language including English. Arabic was not only the language of the Arab people, but also the language of many other peoples and faiths. Neither Greek, nor Latin, nor even English has ever attained the far-reaching unique historical dominance over human civilization as Arabic had. Arabic was so important as the language of science that European scholars had to learn it as they learned Latin. Today, Arabic is one of only six official languages of the United Nations along with French, English, Russian, Chinese, and Spanish. Arabic is also the World’s fourth most popular language after Chinese, English, and Spanish. And as the language of the important Arab oil-producing countries, Arabic has also achieved a prominent status in the world of international finance and economics.
In fact, the profound impact of the Arabs and their civilization on Western civilization can be found in the many Arabic words that became part of the everyday language in the West. While it is obvious that the influence of Arabic is much greater on Spanish and Portuguese, both of which contain many thousands of Arabic words, than on any other European language, at least some 4% of the English language came from Arabic.  The following is a group of words from several scientific and cultural areas – presented in alphabetical order – used today in English that originally came from the Arabic language:
[aba, abelmosk, abutilon, Achernar, acrab, admiral, adobe,
afreet (or afrit), albacore, albatross, alcalde, alcazar, alchemy,
alcohol, alcove, Aldebaran, alembic, alfalfa, alforja, algarroba,
algebra, Algol, algorism (or algorithm), alidade, alkali, alkanet,
Allah, almanac, alphabet, Altair, amalgam, amber, ameer (or amir),
aniline, antimony, apricot, ardeb, argan, ariel, arrack, arroba,
arsenal, artichoke, assassin, atabal (or attabal), attar, aubergine,
average, azimuth, azure …
baldachin, banana, barberry, bard (or barde), bark, barkentine,
bedouin, benzoin, berseem, Betelgeuse, bint, bonduc, borax, buckram,
bulbul, burnoose (or burnous) …
cable, cadi (or kadi or qadi), calabash, caliber (or calibre),
caliph, caliphate, camel, camise, camlet, camphor, canal, candy,
cane, Caph, carafe, carat, caravan, caraway, carmine, carob, carrack,
Casbah (or Kasbah), check (from the Arabic word “sakk”), checkmate,
chiffon, cinnabar, cipher, civet, coffee, coffer, coffle, colcothar,
Copt, cotton, crimson, crocus, cubeb, cumin, curcuma …
dahabeah, damascene, damask (from Damascus), damson, darabukka,
Deneb, dhow, dinar, dirham, djin (or djinn or djinni), dragoman,
drub, durra …
elixir, emir, emirate …
fakir, fedayee (or fedayeen), fellah, fennec, fils, Fomalhaut,
gabelle, galingale, garble, gauze, gazelle, genet, genie, ghibli,
ghoul, Gibraltar, ginger, giraffe, grab, guitar, gundi, gypsum
haik, hajj, hajji, hakim, halva (or halvah), hamal (or hammal),
hardim, harem, hashish, hazard, hegira (or hejiara), henna, hookah,
houri, howdah …
imam, imamate, imaret …
jar, jasmine, jebel, jerboe, jereed, jessamine, jihad, jinn (or
jinni), jubba (or jubbah), julep …
Kaabah, kabob (or kebab), Kabyle, kafir (or kaffir), kantar (or
qantar), kaph, kat (or qat), kef, kermes, khamsin, khan, khanjar,
kismet, kohl, Koran (or Qur’an)…
lacquer, lake, lapislazuli, latakia, leban (or leben), lemon,
lilac, lime, lute …
magazine, Mahdi, majoon, mancus, marabout, marcasite, marzipan,
mascara, mask, massage, mastaba, mate (as in checkmate in Chess),
mattress, mecca (after Makkah or Mecca), mezereon, minaret, Mizar,
mizen (or mizzen), mocha (from Mocha, Yemen), mohair, monsoon,
mosque, muezzin, mufti, mullah, mummy, Muslim, muslin (from Mosul),
Mussalman (or Mussulman), myrrh …
nabob, nacre, nadir, natron, nizam, noria, nucha, nuchal …
oka (or oke), olibanum, orange, Ottoman, oud …
pandore, pistachio, pherkard, popinjay …
qintar, quintal …
racket, realgar, ream, rebec (or rebeck), retem, retina, rial,
ribes, Rigel, rice, risk, riyal, rob, roc, rook, rotl…
safari, safflower, saffron, Sahara, Sahel, sahib, saker, salam,
salamoniac, salep, saloop, saluki, sambul, santir, saphena, sash,
satin, sayyid, scallion, senna, sequin, serendipity, sesame, shadoof
(or shaduf), shaitan, shallot, sharif, sheik (or sheikh), sherbet,
sherbert, sherif (or sheriff), shish-kebab, shrub, simoom (or
simoon), sinologue, sirocco, sirup, sloop, soda, sofa, spinach, sudd,
Sufi, Sufism, sugar, sultan, sultana, sultanate, sumac (or sumach),
sumbal (or sumbul or sumbal), sura, Swahili, syce, syrup …
tabby, tabla, tabor (or tabour), taffeta, talc, talisman,
tamarind, tambour, tambourine, tangerine, taraxacum, tarboosh (or
tarbush), tare, tariff, tarragon, tazza, timbal (or tymbal), traffic,
tutty, typhoon …
ulama (or ulema) …
Vega, vizier …
xeba, xebec …
yashmac (or yashmak) …
zaffer (or zaffre), zareba (or zariba), zenith, zero, zibet (or
However, more important than the above Arabic words are the actual scientific contributions and foundations that the Arabs provided for the West. As indicated earlier, the European Renaissance was deeply indebted to the Arabs and their civilization. From the Arabs the Europeans took the basic scientific, technological, philosophical, and cultural foundations that put them on top of the world and eventually led them in their global colonization of the non-European world, which started with Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the Western Hemisphere in 1492. In fact, one of Columbus’s main sea navigators was an Arab Muslim who upon sighting the land of the New World joyfully shouted in Arabic: “Allah Akbar” (or God is the Greatest). 
Indeed, as will be revealed shortly, major works in various philosophical and scientific fields were borrowed and/or copied from the Arabs by a number of leading European scholars and scientists before, during, and after the European Renaissance. The following is a brief summary of the Arab contribution to Western and human civilizations in 15 major scientific and artistic disciplines. Only the top Arab and Muslim scientists (as well as some occasional Arab Jews and Arab Christians) both from the Abbasid and Andalusian civilizations are mentioned in this survey.
The Arabs and Muslims contributed more to the field of mathematics, the basic foundation of modern civilization, than any other people in history. To the magnificent Arab civilization the world owes algebra, algorithm (logarithm), arithmetic, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, the decimal system, and the brilliant “zero”. The revolutionary “zero”, which gave us what is referred to in the West as the Arabic decimal numeration system, did not originate in India as some Western historians claim but was rather developed in ancient Iraq by the Neo-Babylonians maybe as early as 500 BCE.  American mathematics Professor Karl J. Smith indicated in his textbook, The Nature of Mathematics, that while the ancient Indians developed mathematical digital symbols, their numeration system offered no advantage over other earlier systems because it did not contain a “zero” or use a positional system.  Although the Arabs’ Semitic ancestors in ancient Iraq developed the “zero”, it was only through the great post-Islamic Arab civilization that it was incorporated into the main body of the general mathematical theory. It took Europe almost 300 years to finally accept the “zero” as a gift from the Arabs. The Arabic numerals were simultaneously expressed in somewhat two different figures or forms, one Abbasid (the eastern style which most Arabs currently use) and one Andalusian (the western style which is used today in the Arab Maghrib countries of Northwest Africa). It was this Arab Andalusian form of numerals (i.e., 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9) that the West and the rest of the world eagerly adopted; hence the worldwide label “Arabic numerals”.
Mohammad al-Khawarizmi (780-850), the giant genius scientist who was born and died in Abbasid Baghdad, created modern algebra and made brilliant contributions in the field of mathematics. In fact, the word “algorithm” is derived from his name, and the Arabic word al-jabr (or “algebra” in English) comes from the title of his major work, Kitab al-Jabr wa al-Muqabalah (“The Book of Integration and Equation”). Served for a number of years as the Executive Director of the prestigious “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad, al-Khawarizmi was also the first scientist in history to explain how passing light through water particles creates rainbows.
Another Muslim genius in mathematics, also from Abbasid Baghdad, is Abu Arrayhan al-Biruni (973-1048) who was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, physicist, chemist, geographer and historian. He was probably the greatest scientist in all of medieval Islam. Another great mathematician is Naseer al-Din at-Tusi (1201-1274). It was in the super work of at-Tusi that trigonometry achieved the status of an independent branch of pure mathematics, thus making it an invention of Arabic science. At-Tusi’s contribution was to combine the results of earlier investigators and to replace Menelaus’ complete quadrilateral by a simple triangle, thus freeing trigonometry from spherical astronomy. 
Practically all of the advanced trigonometrical work in the world during the 12th and 13th centuries were made by Muslim mathematicians and published in Arabic. Arabic influence in this major scientific field did not only impact the West, but also other parts of the world. It seemed that even the Chinese trigonometry as used by Kuo Shouching at the end of the 13th century was also of Arab origin. 
The most important figure in this scientific field is the Arab Abu Abdullah al-Battani (aka Albategius: 858-929) from the Abbasid era. He was the best-known Arab astronomer in Europe during the Middle Ages. Al-Battani refined existing values for the inclination of the ecliptic, for the length of the year and of the seasons, and for the annual precession of the equinoxes. He showed that the position of the Sun’s apogee is variable and that the annular eclipses of the Sun are possible.
Al-Battani also improved the Greek Ptolemy’s astronomical calculations by replacing geometrical methods with trigonometry, thus becoming the chief responsible scientist for the first notion of trigonometrical ratios as they are in use to the present day. He carried out many years of remarkably accurate observations at ar-Raqqah in Syria. One of al-Battani’s major works in astronomy – a compendium of astronomical tables – was translated into Spanish and was published in 1537 under the title De motu stellarum (“Our Stellar Motion”). 
The Abbasid mathematician al-Biruni also made valuable contributions in astronomy by accurately determining the latitudes, longtitudes, geodetic measurements, specific gravity, and the magnitude of the earth’s circumference. In addition, the astronomer Ahmad al-Farghani published a comprehensive treatise on astronomy from which the famous Italian Alighieri Dante heavily borrowed both in his Vita Nuova and his Convivio.  The great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) also quoted several Arab scientists in his famous De Revolutionibus Orbium Celestium – especially the great Arab astronomer and instrument-maker al-Zarkali (aka Arzachel) of Andalusia. Al-Zarkali not only invented a revolutionary astrolabe and wrote a major treatise about it that influenced the entire astronomical sciences of the Middle Ages,  but also built a fascinating water clock capable of determining the hours of the day and night and indicating the days of the lunar month. 
The word “chemistry” itself comes from the Arabic word alchemy (or al-Keem’ya’). There is no bigger name in the field of Muslim chemistry than the great alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan (aka Geber: 721-815), the “father of Arab chemistry” of the Abbasid era. More than 2,000 works are attributed to Jabir Ibn Hayyan.  Many of the chemical terms used in English today come from Ibn Hayyan: “alkali”, “antimony”, “realgar” (red sulphide arsenic), and “sal-amoniac” which he discovered. He was also the author of an important work in chemistry on the use of manganese dioxide in glass making; the dyeing of leather and cloth; the waterproofing of cloth; and the preparation of steel. When European scientists began to turn their attention to chemistry, they accepted Ibn Hayyan as their mentor. In 1144 the Englishman Robert of Chester translated Ibn Hayyan’s Book of the Composition of Alchemy into Latin, and Gerard of Cremona also made another translation of Ibn Hayyan’s other important work Book of the Seventy. Ibn Hayyan’s 17th century English translator, Richard Russell, called him: “Geber, the Most Famous Arabian Prince and Philosopher”. 
Also, the world’s first explosive developed in the field of gunpowder known as black powder – which is a mixture of salt petre (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal (carbon) – was originally invented by the Arabs and not by the Chinese  as it is commonly believed in the West. The Chinese took this invention from the Arabs, and by the 10th century used it in their fireworks and signals. The Arab-invented black powder was eventually adopted by the Westerners, (during the 14th century primarily for use in firearms), who gradually discontinued it use in the middle of the 19th century in favor of the guncotton (the first smokeless powder) and other forms of nitrocellulose. In addition, around 1304 the Arabs invented the world’s first real gun, a bamboo tube reinforced with iron that used a charge of black powder to shoot an arrow. 
In the fields of physics and optics, no Arab scientist comes close to the legendary Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (aka Alhazen: 965-1039) who was born in Iraq and died in Egypt during the golden Abbasid era. Ibn al-Haytham made the first significant contributions to optical theory since the time of the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. In his book On the Burning Glass, he revolutionarized the nature of focusing, magnifying, and inversion of the image.
Ibn al-Haytham was the world’s first scientist to give an accurate account of vision, correctly stating that the light comes from the object seen to the eye, and not the other way around as was previously believed (i.e., from the eye to the seen object).  Also, In his widely-acclaimed treatise on optics, translated into Latin in 1270 under the title Opticae Thesaurus Alhazeni Libri VII, this great Arab physicist/optometrist published revolutionary theories on reflection; refraction; binocular vision; focussing with lenses; the rainbow; atmospheric refraction; spherical aberration; parabolic and spherical mirrors; and the apparent increase in size of planetary bodies near the Earth’s horizon. In fact, so complicated and so advanced were Ibn al-Haytham’s theories in physics that for a long time both Western and Eastern scientists were afraid to adopt them. But when he was finally proven to be correct, Ibn al-Haytham’s scientific pre-eminence throughout the world was no longer in doubt.  The English Roger Bacon (1242-92) was not the only Western scientist on optics to admit his indebtedness to Ibn al-Haytham. Both the great Italian Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) were also deeply influenced by the scientific findings of this Arab genius.
The great Persian Muslim scientist Abu Bakr al-Razi (aka Rhazes: 865-925) of Abbasid’s Baghdad was the greatest medical authority in the entire Islamic civilization. His major works were translated into Latin. A pioneering physician, al-Razi was the first to describe pupillary reflexes; gave the world’s first account of smallpox and measles; discovered the contagious characters of diseases; and differentiated among colic pain, kidney-stone pain, and the pains of the ileus. His ten-part treatise in Arabic on clinical and internal medicine, at-Tibb al-Mansuri that was translated into Latin under the title Medicinalis Almansoris, was widely influential in the West throughout the Middle Ages. In it, he discussed drugs; diets; skin diseases; child and mother care; mouth hygiene; toxicology and epidemiology; climatology and the effect of environment on health; a regiment for preserving good health; and general medical theories and definitions. In his brilliant treatise on psychic therapy written in Arabic, at-Tibb ar-Ruhani (“Psychic Therapy”), and in his comprehensive medical encyclopedia, al-Hawi fi at-Tibb, al-Razi provided considerable insight into the scope, methods, and applications of the clinical, internal, and psychiatric medicine as well as the interpretation of the general health precepts.
Another medical genius was Abu al-Qasim Az-Zahrawi (aka Albucasis: 936-1013), an Arab from the great Arab Andalusian civilization. Az-Zahrawi is considered to be Islam’s greatest medieval surgeon who single-handedly shaped European surgical procedures until the Renaissance. His 30-part medical encyclopedia, At-Tasrif (“The Method”), which contained over 200 surgical medical instruments he personally designed, was a surgical treatise that had a tremendous influence on Western medicine. Translated into Latin in the 12th century by the Italian scholar Gerard of Cremona, at-Tasrif stood for nearly 500 years as the leading textbook on surgery in Europe, preferred for its concise lucidity even to the great works of the classical Greek medical authority Galen of Pergamum.
A third Muslim medical giant, from the Abbasid’s Baghdad era, is the Persian Abu Ali Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna: 980-1037). Perhaps the most famous and influential philosopher-scientist in all of Islam, Ibn Sina added to al-Razi by discovering the contagious character of disease (e.g. through water). Ibn Sina wrote many medical volumes in Arabic, the most important of which are the following two, both of which were translated into Latin. The first is Kitab ash-Shifa (“The Book of Healing”), a vast encyclopedia that included the science of psychology and is probably the largest work of its kind ever written by one man. The second is an encyclopedia by the name of al-Qanun fi at-Tibb (“The Canon of Medicine”), the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. The Canon became the medical authority not only in the Islamic world where it was used as a major reference until the 19th century, but also in the Western world where it was used for more than 500 years. 
Arab and Muslim medical science came to a climax in the two famous treatises on the plague by two great Arab physicians: Ibn al-Khatib (1313-1374) of Granada, and his contemporary Ibn Khatima. Ibn al-Khatib who wrote more than fifty books on different subjects, used some revolutionary medical terms for his time in his treatise on the plague. On the other hand, Ibn Khatima’s treatise on the plague was considered to be “far superior to all the numerous plague tracts edited in Europe between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries”. 
The Arabs founded the world’s first hospitals as well as travelling hospitals during the Abbasid era. While hospitals were well established and widespread throughout the Arab and Muslim world as early as the 9th century, they did not come into existence in the West until the 13th century. As late as the 16th century medical studies in the West were still largely based on the findings of Arab scientists. Actually it was due to contacts with the Arabs that medical schools began to appear in the West. Even in the 17th century we still find some Western scholars from France and Germany relying on Arab medical writings rather than on any other. 
Pharmacy and Pharmacology
As a recognized profession, pharmacy is an Arab/Islamic institution. Under the patronage of the Arab Abbasid rulers around 800 CE, pharmacology achieved the status of an independent science, separate yet closely related to medicine. The first privately owned and managed pharmacies in the world (where drugs, herbs, and spices were sold) were established in Baghdad in the early part of the 9th century. Shortly thereafter, pharmacy shops started to appear throughout the Muslim world. 
In pharmacology (or “as-Saydalah” in Arabic), the Arabs produced some of the best pharmacists in the world at the time. The most famous pharmacist/botanist was an Andalusian Arab by the name of Ibn al-Baytar (died 1248) who wrote the greatest of all medieval books on botany called Collection of Simple Drugs and Food. Ibn al-Baytar collected plants and drugs from all over the Muslim world and described over 1,400 medical drugs and their use. For hundreds of years, European dispensaries relied heavily on recipes prepared by Arab pharmaceutists and took to the West some of the Arabic medical terms such as sirup (sharab) and julep (gulab).  In fact, Arab pharmacology in the West survived until the early part of the 19th century. 
Zoology and Veterinary Medicine
Depending on animals for food, war, and transportation, the Arabs and Muslims raised the basic interest in animal husbandry to the level of a science. The first important comprehensive zoological study of animals in Arabic was Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of Animals), written by Abu Uthman Amr Ibn Bahr al-Jahiz (776-869) from Basrah, Iraq. Covering animals in and around Iraq with their characteristics, this pioneering book was written in an eloquent and interesting literary style. In it, al-Jahiz described the various diseases that afflict animals and their treatments. Another important work in this field was The Uses of Animals, written by an Arab doctor named Ibn Bakhtishu. This 11th century book is a comprehensive account of the medicines that could be extracted from animals for human use.
However, the greatest medieval work in veterinary medicine is the comprehensive work by Abu Bakr al-Baytar of Cairo (died 1340) entitled Kamil as-Sina’atayn. This famous work in Arabic covers animal husbandry, birds, breeding, horsemanship, and knighthood. In it, al-Baytar also detailed animal diseases, the methods and drugs used in their treatment, and the use of animal organs in therapeutics.
Also, during the 14th century, another Arab scientist from Egypt by the name of Kamal al-Din ad-Damiri (died 1405) provided the world with a brilliant work in zoology and animal husbandry entitled Hayat al-Hayawan (The Life of Animals). In this most comprehensive major work, al-Damiri (who was also a philosopher/theologian) arranged and discussed animals in alphabetical order. He listed their characteristics, qualities, habits, and the medical values of their organs for humans. In addition, this brilliant work by al-Damiri along with other Arabic texts on animals and natural sciences – which were written over four centuries before the famous 1859 Origins of Species by the English Charles Darwin (1809-1882) – contained rudimentary concepts of evolutionary theory, including the doctrine of survival of the fittest and natural selection. 
Arab Andalusia had a highly advanced system of agricultural engineering, an elaborate irrigation canal system, and fountains – the likes of which was not found anywhere in Western Europe at the time. The Arabs made the Iberian land produce more and better crops and introduced to Europe such exotic and valuable agricultural products as oranges, cotton, eggplants, saffron, pomegranates, apricots, rice, sugar cane, artichokes, peaches, date palms, and mulberry.
The Andalusian Arabs were the leading agricultural practitioners in all of Europe who also developed the most advanced systems in canal and irrigation, land drainage, and siphoning. Thanks to them, Spain was agriculturally the richest and most advanced country in Europe. According to one American author, agriculture and horticultural improvements “constituted the finest legacies of Islam, and the gardens of Spain proclaim to this day one of the noblest virtues of her Muslim conquerors.” 
The Arabs of Andalusia also produced some of the world’s finest agricultural scientists who benefited humanity. For example, during the second half of the 11th century, an Arab scientist from Toledo by the name of Ibn al-Bassal wrote a brilliant book on agriculture, which in 1955 was edited with a Spanish translation and notes under the title Libro de Agricultura.  In addition, an Arab scientist from Seville named Ibn al-Awwam wrote the most important agricultural treatise during the golden age of Arab Spain in the 12th century. It was entitled Kitab al-Filahah (“Book of Agriculture”) and was translated from Arabic into both Spanish and French in the 19th century. Ibn al-Awwam’s brilliant book contained 35 chapters and covered 585 plants. It dealt with agronomy, cattle and poultry raising, and beekeeping; made important observations on soil, manures, plant grafting, and plant diseases; and covered such agricultural topics as medical plants, farming techniques, husbandry, plant sex life, fertilization, tillage, sharecropping, gardening, and landscaping. 
Philosophy and Metaphysics
Western Christian philosophy and theology owe a great deal to Arab thinkers and philosophers. For example, The Italian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) copied liberally from the Arabic writings of Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes: 1126-98), the Arab Muslim genius of Cordoba who is considered to be the greatest philosopher in all of Islam.The Summa of St Thomas, which was considered to be the very citadel of Western Christian theology, was deeply influenced by the writings of Arab philosophers, especially Ibn Rushd. The French philosopher, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), was also deeply influenced by Ibn Rush. Also, St. Thomas’ great Dominican’s most essential doctrines were copied practically word by word from the Arabic work of an earlier great Turkish Muslim philosopher by the name of Abu Nasr al-Farabi (878-950) of Abbasid’s Baghdad. 
In addition, Italy’s greatest poet, Dante (1265-1321), who hated Prophet Mohammad and Islam, plagiarized his greatest work, the Divine Comedy, by copying from the works of the mystic Arab genius Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240) of Arab Andalusia, and also from Risalat al-Ghufran (The Epistle of Forgiveness) written by the great Arab philosopher and poet Abu al-Ala’ al-Ma’arri of Syria (973-1057). Dante’s Divine Comedy’s fundamental concepts of Heaven and Hell very closely resemble Ibn al-Arabi’s account of Prophet Mohammad’s ascent to Heaven from Makkah via Jerusalem.  Ironically, however, the unthankful plagiarist Dante consigned Prophet Mohammad to the lowest level of Hell in his Divine Comedy. On the other hand, the Spanish mystic Ramon Llull (1235-1316) was also highly influenced by Arabic philosophy and Islamic mysticism produced by such Muslim mystics as al-Hallaj (858-922) of Abbasid’s Baghdad.
Actually Arab influence was so obvious on Western philosophy that many European scholars and theologians openly admitted their great indebtedness to the Arabs. One of those who admitted his gratitude to the Arabs is the Scottish theologian John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) who was deeply influenced in his intellectual activities by the Fons Vitae which was originally written in Arabic by a great Arab philosopher of Jewish faith (not a Hebrew) from Cordoba by the name of Abu Ayyub Ibn Gabirut “or Gabirol” (aka Avicebron: 1022-70).  Other great Andalusian Arabs of Jewish faith may include such scholars as the philosopher/poet Abu Haroon Moussa (aka Moses Ibn Ezra: 1060-1139), and the philosopher/physician Abu Imran Moussa Ibn Maymun (aka Moses Maimonides: 1135-1204), the personal physician of the great Salah ad-Din who liberated Palestine from the Crusaders.
Many Arabs and Muslims made valuable contributions in the field of geography. Abu al-Hasan al-Mas’udi of the Abbasid era (died 956) – a geographer, historian, and traveler – was the author of more than twenty major voluminous works many of which were translated into Latin. He was the first Arab to combine history and scientific geography in his widely acclaimed historical-geographical encyclopedia, The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems. Al-Mas’udi’s encyclopedia was one of the finest and richest medieval sources not only in geography but also of geographical and anthropological information. Al-Mas’udi also wrote another 30-volume encyclopedia on world history entitled Akhbar az-Zaman (“The History of Time”).
The Arabs who occupied Sicily, prior to its occupation by the Normans (Vikings) in the 11th century, made it major center of Arab sciences. Even during the occupation by the Norman Kings, Sicilian coins were minted with Arabic inscriptions and Islamic dates; many of the Sicilian records including those of the courts were written in Arabic; and it was also fashionable for Christian Sicilians to dress like Arabs and to speak Arabic.  When the Christian Norman King Roger II of Sicily (1130-54) needed a compendium of the then known world, he entrusted no other geographer in the world except a Moroccan descendant of Prophet Mohammad by the name of al-Sharif Abu Abdullah al-Idrisi (1100-1166), the greatest of all Arab geographers. Al-Idrisi produced for King Roger II not only a brilliant construction of a celestial sphere but also a disk-shaped map of the known world (i.e., the world’s Eastern Hemisphere), both of which were made of solid silver. The silver map, which was one of seventy accurate maps he produced, was based on his encyclopedic work, The Book of Roger, translated into Latin in Paris in 1619. After the death of King Roger II, al-Idrisi stayed on at the court in Palermo and wrote, for his son King William I, another geographical treatise, The Garden of Civilization and the Amusement of the Soul.  Al-Idrisi also wrote one of the greatest works of medieval geography, The Pleasure Excursion of One Who is Eager to Traverse the Regions of the World.
However, in the area of travelling and exploration no Arab geographer achieved the fame of the legendary Moroccan Mohammad Ibn Abdullah Ibn Battutah (1304-1369). Ibn Battutah documented his famous travels that covered over 75,000 miles in 28 years throughout Africa, Arabia, Persia, India and China. In addition, the Arab geographer Hassan al-Wazzan (aka Leo Africanus: 1485-1554) produced a major work titled, A Geographical Historie of Africa, which was translated into Latin around 1600 and subsequently appeared in 14 different editions. This scholarly work by al-Wazzan served Europe almost up to the modern times as its main source of knowledge on Africa. 
The Arab legendary Abdulrahman Ibn Khaldun, sociologist and philosopher of history (1332-1406) from Tunis, was an amazingly original genius. He was the world’s first historian to develop and explicate the general laws that govern the rise and decline of civilizations. Ibn Khaldun wrote many books the most important of which is his brilliant seven-volume encyclopedia on history and societies. This encyclopedia’s first volume is entitled al-Muqaddimah (“Introduction”), which gives a profound and detailed analysis of human society and its cultural components. In it he fathered the sciences of sociology, economics, anthropology, and political science.
Ibn Khaldun’s greatest contribution to human civilization is found in his “positive” philosophy of history and social evolution. It is to him that we owe the systematic elaboration of a full-fledge theory of sociological determinism. Ibn Khaldun’s study of the nature of society and social change, as well as his deference to empiricism in general, enabled him to develop “the science of civilization” which he clearly saw as a new science. It was a totally new science without any parallel in the history of ancient and medieval thoughts. Indeed, Ibn Khaldun had founded the discipline of Sociology over 4 centuries before the French Auguste Comte (1798-1857) who is credited in the West with its establishment.
Ibn Khaldun called his new science Ilm al-Umran (“the science of culture”), which he defined as: “This science … has its own subject, viz., human society, and its own problems, viz., the social transformations that succeed each other in the nature of society.” 
Robert Flint once eulogized Ibn Khaldun as follows: “As a theorist on history he has no equal in any age or country until Vico [the great Italian philosopher of history Giambattista Vico: 1668-1744] appeared, more than three hundred years later. Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers…”  The great 20th-century British historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) stated that Ibn Khaldun has founded: “a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.” 
Not only did the West learn from the Arabs the arts of making paper books, as indicated earlier, but also the typically beautiful Arab art of leather binding with its luxurious ornamentation in “gold tooling” and its flap that folds over to protect the front edges of a book.  In addition to the thousands of Arabic words that entered the various Western languages, especially Spanish and Portuguese, the rich Arabic literature itself has left some of its general imprints upon Western literature.
Among the great works of Arabic literature that have impacted the West is the multi-volume Alf Laylah wa Laylah (“The Thousand and One Nights” or “The Arabian Nights”) from the golden Abbasid era which is composed of a large collection of famous Arab entertaining stories narrated by queen Scheherazad to her husband Scheherayar. These include such famous legends as “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp”, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, and “The Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor”. The Arabian Nights was translated early in the 18th century into many Western languages and immediately introduced a distinct new element to Western fiction writing. For example, “The Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor” became an inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels published in 1726 by the Irish author Jonathan Swift. The Arabian Nights was also a source of inspiration for many other Western writers and poets. These include: the French writer Voltaire (1694-1778) who modeled his famous work Zadiq on it; the English Samuel Johnson (1709-84) who was influenced by it in his Rasselas; the English poet George Gordon Byron (1788-1824); the English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850); and the Argentinean poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). 
In fact, the influence of Arabic literature on Europe was so pervasive and widespread that we find echoes of it in the Grail-saga, in the old French romance Floire et Blanchefleur; in the allied German Rolandslied and the French Chanson de Rolandl and in the more famous Aucassin et Nicolette, the name of whose male hero derives from the Arab name Qasim. Obviously, both the oriental tales in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Squieres Tale are of Arab origin. Also, the Arabic apologies came to play an important role in medieval and later Western literature, especially the Spanish and Portuguese literatures. For example, Arabic influence is very clear on Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote published in 1605. 
The two best-known Arab characters in English literature are found in William Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice. While Othello is an Arab with all the pride, passion, and nobility of his own cultural identity, the Prince of Morocco, in The Merchant of Venice, is an Arab with a high distinction of soul and appearance hardly matched by the Western characters against whom he was pitted. 
Moreover, Professor H. A. R. Gibb indicated that Arabic poetry contributed in some measure to the rise of the new poetry of Europe , especially the Provencal troubadours whose poetry and music owed so much to the Arabs. Arab poetry was cultivated in the court of Alfonso the Wise of Castille and of the Norman kings and of Frederick II of Sicily. The Arab poet Shushtari provided literary themes to many Western writers such as St. John of the Cross and Ramon Lull. The Arabic poetry of ghazal (“love and romance”), especially as reflected in the idealized legendary love passion of Qays and Layla, left a profound mark on the Western love lyrics of many European writers such as the French communist poet Louis Aragon (1897-1982). 
Also, the love traditions of Jamil and Umar made their way into the French Provencal courtly love whereby the Arabic word TaRiBa became TRoBar and TRouBadour. The great Arabic literature of the genius Abu Mohammad Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (994-1064), especially his chivalric love in Dove’s Necklace, deeply influenced the French writer Andre Le Chapelain’s The Art of Courtly Love, published in 1185. 
In fact, we find Arabic and Islamic influences and elements in the works of many other and more recent European authors and poets such as in the English author William Beckford’s (1760-1844) Vathek, published in 1786; in the English author Daniel Defoe’s (1660-1731) Robinson Crusoe, whose inspiration clearly came from the beautiful Arab novel Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (“Living, Son of Awake”) written by the great Arab Andalusian philosopher/physician Mohammad Ibn Tufayl (1109-85); in the German poet Johann Goethe’s (1749-1832) West-ostlicher Divan, published in 1819; and in the works of other great German poets of the 19th century such as August Platen (1796-1835) and Friedrich Ruckert (1788-1866). 
Even though orthodox Islam does not approve of music, it was with the advent of Islamic mysticism, such as Sufism, that the Arabs and Muslims began to develop a great deal of musical art, especially for religious observation. A talented Arab musician by the name of Zaryab (died 850), who moved from Baghdad to settle in Andalusia, established Europe’s first conservatory in Cordoba. Zaryab became a great singer, lute player, and music teacher. The influence of the Arab music on European music can also be found in the musical instruments the Arabs invented and/or introduced to the West. For example, in 942, the Arabs introduced kettledrums and trumpets to Europe.
In fact, the West did not only adopt Arab musical instruments but also took their names as well. These include such instruments as the lute (al-ude), pandore (tanbur), and guitar (qitara).  The origins of many other Western musical instruments, such as the oboe, trumpet, violin, harp and percussion instruments, can also be traced to Arab Spain.
In addition, the Arabs and Muslims produced a large amount of literature on music, mostly of scientific nature. For example, the great Arab philosopher/mathematician Abu Yousif al-Kindi (801-873), known as “the philosopher of the Arabs”, wrote important works on the theory of music, including more than 270 works on different musical subjects many of which were translated into Latin. Others who also wrote in Arabic on music include the great Turkish al-Farabi and the brilliant Persian Ibn Sina. Actually, al-Farabi’s Grand Book on Music in Arabic was superior to anything produced anywhere at the time. The Arab and Muslim writers on music not only influenced the West, but also Africa, India, and the Far East. 
After the 12th century few of the Western authors, from the Spanish Domingo Gundisalvo to the Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Kilwardy, Lull, George Reish, and Adam de Fulda, omitted to quote from al-Farabi’s musical writings in Latin translations, especially his De Ortu Scientiarum and De Scientiis. Both Roger Bacon and Adelard de Bath, of the 12th century, advised their fans and followers to abandon their Western schools for those of the Arabs. 
Another major Arab contribution to Western music was the mensural music and rhythmic modes such as the famous and beautiful Andalusian Arab Muwashshahat, strophic poems performed with music. Arab music was spread all over Europe through the wondering medieval minstrels, echoes of whose music have survived for hundreds of years in Gypsy music. Many Arab musical terms are still used today in Spanish such as huda, nourisca, zamra, and zarabanda. In fact, not only the famous Spanish flamenco music and dance originally came from the Arab music of Andalusia, but also even the English Morris dancers were deeply influenced by Arab music. Actually the word Morris means Moorish or Arab. 
There are many outstanding Western musicians and composers, from the 19th and 20th centuries, who found inspiration in Arab music and were influenced by it. These include four French: Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Charles Saint-Saens (1835-1921), Jules Massenet (1842-1912), and Claude Debussy (1862-1918); one French-Belgian: Cesar Franck (1822-1890); four Russians: Aleksander Borodin (1833-1887), Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) who composed the famous symphonic suite Scheherazad in 1888; and two Spanish: Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909) especially in his musical production Alhambra, and Enrique Granados (1867-1916), especially in his songs Chansons Arabes and Mauresques. 
Because Islam forbids the portrayal of human figures and animals (for man must not compete with God who alone has the power to create), Arab civilization produced not only the beautiful and distinguished artistic forms of Arabic calligraphy, but also the famous “arabesque”, a unique stylish form of Arab art.
Arabesque is a most perfect style of decoration characterized by an elaborate interlocking plants and abstract curvilinear motifs as well as intricate geometrical designs. Because it represents visual art in its purest form, arabesque was copied throughout Europe from the time of the Renaissance and up to the 19th century. European artists used arabesque, as the Arabs did, for the decoration of walls and ceilings; plaster panels; woodcarving; metalwork; pottery; textile; furniture; and illuminated manuscripts. In fact, the Italian Renaissance used the term “arabesque” to mean intricate design.
European artists, particularly in Spain and Portugal eagerly adopted the famous Arab art of using the alphabet letters for purely decorative purposes, calligraphy. The European Gothic script was used in the same fashion as Arabic calligraphy. Sometimes Christian art itself used the actual Arabic letters as a form of decoration. For example, Arabic artistic writing in Western art could be found in the paintings of the following three great Italian painters: Giotto Di Bondone (1266-1337), Fra Angelico (1400-1455), and Fra Lippi (1406-1469). In Lippi’s great painting of the “Coronation of the Virgin”, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, the yard-long scarf held by the angels has Arabic words written all over it.
The Andalusian Arabs introduced to the West many beautiful artistically handcrafted industries such as the unique Arabian jewelry; the manufacture and painting of ceramics, including tiles; and the manufacture of crystal, a process discovered by the Arabs in Cordoba in the second half of the 9th century.  Also, an 11th century Spanish Catholic prince by the name of Alfonso VIII ordered the minting of a decorative coin in which not only the inscriptions were written in Arabic, but also he referred to himself on the coin as the “Ameer of the Catholics” and the Pope in Rome as the “Imam of the Church of Christ”. 
During the Renaissance, Arabian turbans and other articles of Arab apparel appeared in many Western paintings, some of which even displayed Christian Saints looking like Arab and Muslim notables.  Arab artistic influence could also be easily seen as late as the 19th century in the great paintings of the French Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) who lived in Arab North Africa and was influenced by his experiences there.
In reality, the beautiful Arabian textiles; silk; damasks; inlaid tables; wood carving; colored glass wares; lamps; bottles; enamelled glass; beakers; metal and leather works; book-binding; and decorative colored glazed pottery were all considered great objets d’art throughout Europe. They were copied and sometimes poorly imitated by European artists, especially in Italy. Also, what was identified in Europe as the “Chinese Blue” pottery, which was copied especially in Holland and Denmark, was in reality the Islamic pottery known in China as the “Mohammadan Blue” which the Chinese potters themselves had learned from the Arabs. Further, at the Canterbury Cathedral, the mother-church of English Protestantism, the artistically made 13th century Arabian silk bags were used to hold the seals of documents. 
The style of Arab architecture was popular in the West and was copied by both European and American builders. Both the plain Andalusian horseshoe arch and the more complex cupsed arches of the mosques of Cordoba and Samarra in Iraq as well as at those of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, served as models for many arches in Perpendicular and Gothic churches in England and France.
The beautiful Arab brick tracery of the facades of both the well-known Islamic Giralda Tower in Seville, as well that of its sister-minaret, the Kutubia in Morocco, were copied with some minor variation in much of Gothic tracery throughout Europe, especially on the Bell Tower at Evesham in England.  Many churches both in Sicily and Southern Italy have a deep Arab architectural influence such as the church of Capella Palatina in Palermo. The medallions of Christian saints that adorn its arches bear Arabic writings of the Kufic style. Many European arches and battlements, such as the Palazzo Ca’ d’Oro (one of the greatest of 15th century palaces in Venice), also reflect Arab architectural influence. The Italian cities of Siena and Florence provide the best available examples of the Arab architectural influence of alternating white and black marbles on the facade of churches. Other examples elsewhere include various churches and academic buildings in England, such as Cromer Church in Norfolk and Christ Hall in Oxford. 
However, the very best example of the profound impact of Arab architecture on the West is provided by the campanile that is nothing but a clear adaptation of the tall graceful slender minaret. This adaptation can be found in the campaniles of the Torre del Commune in Verona, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Piazza San Marco in Venice.  Arab architectural influence touched even the early American city architecture; especially those buildings designed by the great American architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), the spiritual father of modern U.S. architecture. In fact, the interest of American architects both in long ornamental friezes and in the severity of American exteriors is due to the influence of Arab monuments, especially those of the Madrasah (“religious school”) of Sultan Hasan in Cairo. 
The Horrors of the Spanish Inquisition after the End of Arab Andalusian Civilization
In January 1492 Granada surrendered to the Christian Spanish forces of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. Although there was no final battle, but rather a final surrender, the Pope declared their victory to be a “holy war” – a crusade against Islam. Ironically, after almost 800 years of brilliant Arab civilization and presence in Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, the Christian Spaniards resorted back to the old Western uncivilized religious and racial intolerance. By brutal and barbaric acts of racism and religious intolerance, the Spanish “Christians” initiated the horribly violent Inquisition (or holocaust) against both Muslims and Jews whether they were Arab or not. The terrorist Inquisition in Spain, which was officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church and the Papacy in Rome, was actually a continuation of the general European Inquisition against non-Christians, which started some 200 years earlier during the violent European Crusades against the Arabs and Muslims of the East. In fact, the barbaric European Inquisition that started with the beginning of the Crusades in Toulouse, France, in 1229 continued for over 600 years all over Europe. This Western terrorism that included the horrors of witch-hunting and the killing and torturing of non-Christians and Christians, as well as the censoring of scientific ideas, finally came to an end in Spain in 1834.
The Spanish violent Inquisition of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries resulted in the widespread killing and burning of Jews and Muslims; their brutal torture and deportations from Spain; their denial to hold any public office whatsoever; and their forced conversion to Christianity. In fact, even those who had been forced to convert to Christianity (i. e., the “Moriscos”) were also expelled from Spain. In all, over three million Muslims were deported from Spain.  It was believed that all Hispanic names that ended with “ez” were originally Arab-Muslim families who were “converts” to Christianity and who fled the Spanish Inquisition to find new hopes in the New World. In fact, the voyages of Christopher Columbus (who was an inquisitor, a slave-owner, and a slave-trader) to the New World were financed with the revenues from the confiscated properties of Muslims and Jews who had been brutally deported from their homes in Spain.  Armand-Jean du Plessis (1585-1642), the famous French Cardinal and Duke of Richelieu – who served as the chief minister to the French King Louis XIII from 1624 to 1642 – described the expulsion of the Arabs and Muslims from Spain in his memoirs “as the most barbarous act in human history.” 
During the Spanish Inquisition, many Christians also resorted back to the old dirty European habit of avoiding washing their bodies with water, this time in order not to imitate the heretic expelled Muslim Arabs! After the “uncivilized” Arabs were expelled from Spain, all public baths were closed. The Spanish Christians rejected all forms of bathing, public or private, because they associated them with Islam and regarded them as “a mere cover for Mohammedan ritual and sexual promiscuity.”  In fact, even until today people throughout the “civilized” Western world, whether in Europe or in the Americas, still clean up with only toilet papers after using the toilet bowl, whereas all Arabs and Muslims have always used water to wash and clean up afterwards. In addition to the sudden disappearance of the virtues, such as personal and public hygiene, religious and racial tolerance, which the Arabs had introduced to the West, intellectual academic freedom in Spain also suffered a major setback. In 1499 in Granada the Spanish Cardinal and Grand Inquisitor, Francisco Jimenez (or Ximenes) de Cisneros (1436-1517), ordered the public burning of over 80,000 Arabic treasure books, and denounced Arabic as: “the language of a heretical and despised race.”  The Spanish Inquisition’s violent ethnic cleansing outlawed Muslims and Jews (Arab and non-Arab alike) from Spain until the 1890s.
However, not all Spanish people hated the Arabs. There were, and still are, many Spanish who were grateful to the Arabs, for their religious and racial tolerance, and for their wonderful civilization. The great Christian Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) once lamented the loss of Arab civilization and its religious and racial tolerance in his own country by writing: “It was a disastrous event, even though they say the opposite in schools. An admirable civilization and a poetry, architecture and delicacy unique in the world – all were lost…” 
1. For detailed information on Western “Orientalist scholars”, see Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).
2. Dirk Struik, “Multicluturalism and the History of Mathematics,” Monthly Review, 46, No. 10 (March, 1995), 30.
3. Ibid., p. 28.
4. Quoted in Rom Landau, Arab Contribution to Civilization (San Francisco: The American Academy of Asian Studies, 1958), p. 9.
5. Edward McNall Burns and Philip Lee Ralph, World Civilizations: From Ancient to Contemporary. Their History and Their Cultures, 2 volumes (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1964), p. 397.
6. Ibid., p. 398.
7. Ibid., pp. 398-99.
8. Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Translated by Jon Rothschild (New York: Schocken Books, 1984), p. 54.
9. Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 34.
10. Ibid., p. 34.
11. Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 180.
12. Ibid., p. 181.
13. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 58.
14. Catherine Young, An Introduction to Islamic History: A Teacher’s Resource Book Grades 7-12 (Fountain Valley, California: Council on Islamic Education, n.d.), p. 1 of the section on Spain.
15. Lewis, The Arabs, pp. 131-32.
16. Duncan Townson, Muslim Spain (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1979), p. 24.
17. Ibid., p. 17.
18. Ibid., p. 19.
19. Mohammad T. Mehdi, Islam and Intolerance: A Reply to Salman Rushdie (New York: New World Press, 1989), p. 21.
20. Ibid., p. 61.
21. Clifford N. Anderson, The Fertile Crescent: Travels in the Ancient Footsteps of Ancient Science (Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Sylvester Press, 1972), p. 94.
22. Karl J. Smith, The Nature of Mathematics (5th ed.; Monterey, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987), p. 176.
23. Abdelhamid I. Sabra, “The Exact Sciences,” in The Genius of Arab Civilization: Source of Renaissance, ed. by John R. Hayes (3rd ed.; New York: New York University Press, 1992), p. 186.
24. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 36.
25. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989, vol. 1, p. 962.
26. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 35-36.
27. Ibid., p. 37.
28. Paul Lund, “Science in Al-Andalus,” Aramco World Magazine (a Special Aramco Knoxville World’s Fair Issue, 1982?), p. 22.
29. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989, vol. 6, p. 451.
30. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 50-51
31. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989, vol. 5, p. 571.
32. Ibid., p. 571.
33. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 267.
34. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 46-47.
35. Hayes (ed.), The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 226.
36. Quoted in Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 42-43.
37. Ibid., pp. 47-49.
38. Sami K. Hamarneh, “The Life Sciences,” in Hayes, The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 213.
39. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 44.
40. Ibid., p. 49.
41. The entire section on “Zoology and Veterinary Medicine” is drawn from Hamarneh, “The Life Sciences”, p. 213.
42. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 52-53.
43. Hamarneh, “The Life Sciences”, p. 217.
44. Ibid., p. 217.
45. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 24.
46. Mounah A. Khouri, “Literature,” in Hayes, The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 66.
47. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 25-26.
48. Lewis, The Arabs, p. 130.
49. Hayes (ed.), The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 266.
50. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 39-40.
51. Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989, vol. 6, p. 222.
52. Quoted in ibid., p. 222.
53. Quoted in ibid., p. 222.
54. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 58.
55. Khouri, “Literature”, p. 70.
56. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 55-56.
57. Ibid., p. 57.
58. Cited in ibid., p. 55.
59. Khouri, “Literature”, p. 56.
60. Ibid., p. 67.
61. Landau, Arab Contribution, pp. 56-57.
62. Ibid., pp. 59-60.
63. Ibid., pp. 60-61.
64. Ibid., p. 61.
65. Ibid., pp. 61-62.
66. Ibid., p. 62.
67. Ragaei and Dorothea El Mallakh, “Trade and Commerce,” in Hayes, The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 259.
68. Landau, Arab Contribution, p. 65.
69. Ibid., p. 65.
70. Ibid., pp. 66-67.
71. Ibid., p. 68.
72. Ibid., p. 68.
73. Ibid., pp. 68-69.
74. Oleg Grabar, “Architecture and Art,” in Hayes, The Genius of Arab Civilization, p. 112.
75. Audrey Shabbas, “Living History With a Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace,” Social Studies Review, 34, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), 25.
76. Ibid., p. 25.
77. Quoted in Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition (New York: The New American Library, 1965), p. 115.
78. Stannard, American Holocaust, p. 161.
79. Quoted in Desmond Stewart, Early Islam: Great Ages of Man (New York: Time Incorporated, 1967), p. 143.
80. Quoted in Shabbas, “Living History With a Medieval Banquet,” p. 25.