No announcement yet.

Our debt to Islam - Martin Wainwright, Guardian

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Our debt to Islam - Martin Wainwright, Guardian

    Our debt to Islam

    Teaching children how Muslim sages saved European philosophy could bridge a modern culture gap

    Martin Wainwright
    Friday July 26, 2002
    The Guardian

    Halfway down the old Band of Gold prostitutes' beat in Lumb Lane, Bradford, there is an Asian-owned chemist's shop advertising yunani tibb. Few people give the two words a second glance, but they are a key to a marvellous but scandalously little-known embrace between those uneasy and quarrelsome neighbours, Islam and the west.
    Tibb means "medicine" in Urdu, yunani means "Greek" and the phrase comes straight from the centuries when the Muslim world saved the bedrock of western European culture, the learning of Athens. Without the work of a 500-year succession of Islamic sages, we would have lost the essence of Aristotle, much of Plato and scores of other ancients.

    It happened simply enough. While the barbarians smashed and burned in western Europe, the Arabs and Persians used the libraries of Alexandria and Asia Minor, translated the scrolls and took them to Baghdad and far beyond. In distant Bukhara on the Silk Road to China, a teenager called Abu Ali Ibn Sina was engrossed in Aristotle's Metaphysics at the age of 17. The year was AD997 and the text - central to the subsequent development of philosophy - had long been lost and unknown in western Europe.

    The story of this priceless heritage's return home, slung in the saddlebags of camels on the long caravans to Cairo, Fez and the cities of Moorish Spain, is well known to scholars. Hundreds of learned books are available and if you key in Ibn Sina or his westernised name Avicenna on an internet search engine you will come up with about 28,800 references. But the story, so relevant to the world today, has never been admitted to everyday British culture.

    There are simple reasons for this too - medieval Christian bigotry, the post-Renaissance belief in the glory of Europe - but a lack of excitement in the story is not one of them. Umberto Eco proved that in the global bestseller, The Name of the Rose. His demented monk Jorge smears poison on a lost work of Aristotle and contemptuously spits out the name of "the Arab, Averroes" - the scholar Ibn Rushd of Cordoba, the last link in the journey of Greek learning back to the west.

    The national curriculum reformers, to their credit, have seen the gap and tried to fill it, but their good intentions easily get lost. How many pupils in Britain take key stage 3's option on Islamic civilisation AD600-1600 or the shorter, 15-hour "scheme of work" project on the cultural achievements of Islamic civilisation?

    The Department for Education does not know; neither, more disturbingly, do the education authorities in a place like Bradford where Muslims and others desperately need common ground. In his report on the Yorkshire city's divided communities last year, Lord Ouseley inveighed against the national curriculum's shortcomings and demanded "effective learning environments in which racial differences are seen positively by pupils, underpinned by knowledge and understanding".

    He had good ideas, including a local Bradford citizenship section to be added to the national curriculum's citizenship module, which becomes compulsory from September. But the simpler option of highlighting those KS3 options, which offer just that "knowledge and understanding", didn't figure. Did Ouseley and his researchers know they were there?

    The need for them, and for simple, readable textbooks on both courses, is not just a matter for the white community; the story has been marginalised in Islamic culture as well. A straw poll of British Asian students in Bradford produces the occasional cautious nod at the name Ibn Sina but none for Ibn Maimoun (Maimonides, Saladin's doctor and the greatest Jewish scholar of the Arabic world); and none for Ibn Rushd.

    Like Jorge, traditionalist Muslims have long found the sage of Cordoba disturbing and hard to explain to students in the madrassa. What can they make of a man who complained that curbs on women wasted the potential of half the population of the Islamic world - and this way back in the 12th century? A man whose books, for a time, were proscribed by Christian and Muslim authorities alike?

    And so we fumble on, with both communities stuck in the world memorably summarised by Dr Johnson's explanation of why Richard Knolles' book, A Generall Historie of the Turkes (1603), sank without trace. The author, said Johnson, "employed his genius upon a foreign and uninteresting subject and recounted enterprises and revolutions of which none desire to be informed".

    Next to Lumb Lane's yunani tibb shop is the Asian Sweet Centre, which, significantly, has opened a subsidiary Sweet Centre fish and chip shop. Commerce and the laws of the market can force such bridges between communities; maybe the KS3 history options, in places like Bradford, need a bit of compulsion too.

    · Martin Wainwright is the Guardian's northern editor. He presents an account of Averroes' life and work on Radio 4 at 11am today

    [email protected],00.html

    End is Begining!
    پاکستان پاکستان

    I think thats why we dont understand and apperciate other relegions because we dont know enough about each other.

    End is Begining!
    پاکستان پاکستان


      Tehy don't teach them in their schools not even a hint...

      Carleton S. Fiorina
      Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
      Hewlett-Packard Company
      SEPTEMBER 26, 2001

      Speach on Islamic contribution

      There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.

      It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

      One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

      And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.

      Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.

      When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

      While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

      Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.

      And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.

      This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.

      In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.

      With that, I’d like to open up the conversation and see what we, collectively, believe about the role of leadership.


        Agreed Abdali
        thats the real problem, why all westerns think muslims are terrorists and backwards, most of the basis came from muslim inventions.

        End is Begining!
        پاکستان پاکستان


          Sorry guys. I just don't buy into this line of thinking. However enlightened the "Muslim world" was in 800 to 1600 AD has no effect on how the "Muslim world" is viewed today. My perceptions are much more shaped by Al Qaeda statements linking the duty to commit terror to passages of the holy book, Fatwahs issued to kill authors for blaphemy, jailing of people for the crime of teaching dance, banning music, blowing up statues of historical significance, low literacy rates, low standards of living, cruel and inhumane justice systems, public whippings, suicide bombers, oppression of women, etc. that are occuring today. Nothing about the great contributions made by Muslim civilizations 500 to 1,000 years ago would change those perceptions.

          I would also disagree with the statement that "all westerns think muslims are terrorists and backwards." If you modify that to say that westerners generally think that there is a small but extremely dangerous group of fundamentalist Muslims that are terrorists and that a signifcant number of Muslim majority countries are backward, I would agree.
          "I met the surgeon general - he offered me a cigarette. " --Rodney Dangerfield



            It took Christianity 1500 years to get to its Reformation Period. Perhaps Islam will soon go through a similar period where they will question their current interpretation of Islamic Scripture and other intellectual traditions. Maybe then they will reposition themselves to once again contribute positively to civilization.


              Really fella's....looking back at the glory days of islam with a grin aint gonna do us no good. We need to look back and learn, and then follow in the footsteps of those people.


                a few minutes ago a thread that I had made regarding the massacres of the khilafah got deleted Im not sure why.

                but if you think that the khilafah was some kind of golden age or that the world has a debt to islam I would like you to go to this link .


                The real debt is to the cultures before islam like the greek




                  This just sums up your capabilities to think for yourself and the intellect level you have attained.

                  If all Muslims measured whole communities on the basis of an individual group, similar to you have shown, then maybe we would be as backwards as you!!

                  One lost soul barking up the tree won't make the slightest difference to Islam.

                  Don't blame yourself, blame the system.


                    Originally posted by jonny2mad:
                    The real debt is to the cultures before islam like the greek
                    what about the egyptians or the chinese or the indians? each civilization has its share of contributions to form a link which has brought the human race this far.

                    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.