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European Renaissance through Muslim Learning in Spain


European Renaissance through Muslim Learning in Spain:


A number of distinguished western historians and scientific investigators have fully acknowledged the part played by Islamic Spain and other centers of Islam in bringing the enlightenment to Europe. The task was accomplished through dissemination of knowledge from Islamic cities to non-Muslim cities of Europe. Not only did the Muslim world gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, it also interpreted and expanded upon the civilization and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavours in Science, Astronomy, Mathematics, Algebra, Law, History, Medicine, Pharmacology, Optics, Agriculture, Architecture, Music etc. Averroes and Avenzoar, like their counterparts in East, contributed to the study of medicine in ways from which Europe benefitted centuries afterwards.

Recovery of Greek Classis:

The recovery of Greek classics is due to their preservation in Arabic form. The Islamic world kept, translated and developed many of the Greek works, especially is centers of learning such as Baghdad, where a “House of Wisdom” with thousands of manuscripts existed as early as 832 A.D. The works were translated again into European languages during the middle ages. One distinguished western historian, says of the Arabs.

“They merit internal gratitude for having been the preservers of the learning of Greek and Hindus when those people no longer producing anything and Europe was still to ignorant to undertake the charge of precious depot.”

Thus, it was from Muslim masters that the European adopted the learning of classical knowledge which became harbinger of renaissance in Europe.

Acquisition of Muslim Science by Europe:

The Islamic world made important advances in science, such as Algebra, Chemistry, Geology etc which were later transmitted to the West. Stefan of Pise translated into Latin around 1127, an Arabic manual of medical theory. Al-khawarzmi work was introduced into Europe by Leonardo Fibonacci. Al-Haitham compiled treatises on optics, which were used by Newton and Descartes.

In philosophy, Ibn Rushd was particularly influential in Europe. Many eminent European philosophers included Thomas Acquinas admitted his indebtness.

Decline of Church Dominance:

The other main factor that brought about the renaissance was the reduction of the power of the church and the emancipation of individual in Europe. People of European Renaissance began to understand life and its problem from a rational perspective. All this change of thought could not have been possible without the vigour and force of reason derived from the modern and scientific learning from Muslims.

Love for Art and Literature:

European received greatest effect of Arabic language and literature. The Spanish masterpiece in novel genre, Don Quixote has a Spanish origin as claimed by its author. The most significant contribution of Arabic was to liberate western imagination.

Invention of Printing Press:

As regards with the invention of printing, an event of which the results are impossible to exaggerate, it may be observed that this invention was made possible by the manufacture of paper introduced into Europe by the Arabs. Muslims in Spain had been using paper four centuries before the use of non-Muslim cities in Europe. P.K Hitti writes that the accumulation of books in Andalusia would not have been possible but for the local manufactures of writing paper, one of the most beneficial contribution of Islam to Europe. Without paper printing from moveable type, which was invented in Europe, would not have been successful and without paper and printing popular education, on the scale to which it developed would not have been feasible.


From the above discussion it can be conducted that Islam and Muslim learning had a profound impact on the European renaissance and learning. Robert Briffault has acknowledged this fact in the following words.

Spain and not Italy was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After sinking lower and lower in barbarianism it had reached the darkest depth of ignorance and degradation when the cities of Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, Toledo where growing centres of civilization and intellectual activist. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into a new phase of human evolution.

The discussion can be summed up on the following words of John Campbell.

“The whole of Europe except Italy was in a state of barbarianism, it was the civilization of Islam which fused light into Europe.”


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