Bridge Between the Islamic and Western Civilizations 

By Achmad Muadzeem Bin Maanor

Through its advancements in knowledge and education, Islamic civilization had perfected the ancient knowledge and transferred it to the later communities. The most of the caliphs assisted such developments financially and emotionally.

The eternity of civilizations is measured by the amount of the everlasting contributions they offer to the history of humanity in various aspects of thought, sciences, and morals. As we found out about the considerable part that Islamic civilization played ever, we can distinguish their role in European renaissance and progress in a very clear form. The European advancements have been impacted by the earlier Islamic progress and Muslim Spain was one of the routes bringing the achievements of Islamic civilization to Europe.

According to El Gameiy, Muslim Spain was the point through which Islamic development moved to Europe and affected different investigative, scholarly, social, and monetary fields. For eight centuries (92 – 897 A.H/711-1492 A.D), it was a transmitting reference point of progress starting from the time when Muslims arrived until the time when they lost political power. That was happening through the colleges, schools, libraries, plants, castles, patio nurseries, researchers and men of letters in Muslim Spain, which pulled in the consideration of Europeans with whose nations Muslims had close and constant contacts.[i]

Le Bon stated that, “No sooner had the Arabs finished the victory of Spain than they began to complete the message of human progress there. In under a century, they figured out how to offer life to dead terrains, remake destroyed urban areas, set up superb structures, and reinforce close exchange relations with different countries. They then began to devote themselves to considering sciences and expressions and to interpret Greek and Latin books and set up colleges which kept on being a spot for society in Europe for quite a while.”[ii]

The Islamic tradition of learning influenced Ahl al-Zimmah (non-Muslims living under insurance), mainly Jews and Christians, as the Arabized Spanish individuals took enthusiasm for contemplating the Arabic dialect and utilizing it as a part of their ordinary lives. They even favoured it to the Latin dialect and numerous Jews learned on account of Arab instructors.


Translation Activities

The translation activities from Arabic into Latin and Spanish thrived incredibly in Muslim Spain, especially in Toledo in the 12th and 13th centuries. Interpretation was not limited to books composed by Arab researchers only, but it also included the wide-range of ancient Greek books which were deciphered in the East two centuries prior. The most famous books by the Greek essayists, including Galen, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Euclid were interpreted and reached the readers in Europe.

According to al-Galili, the most celebrated translator of Toledo was Gerard of Cremona. He came to Toledo from Italy in 1150 and became Arabized very fast. Gerard of Cremona translated around hundred books, including 21 on pharmacy, including Al-Mansuri by Al-Razi and Al-Qanun (The Law) by Ibn Sina. In addition, many other translators in his team contributed greatly to the translation field under his careful guidance.

In the 12th century, translation activities from Arabic into Latin became a massive movement. Alfonso X, the lord of Castilla (1252-1284), set up various advanced education establishments and empowered interpretation from Arabic into Latin and once in a while into the Castilian dialect.[iii] Al-Mulla stated that,

“Muslims, the geniuses of the Orient, made the best accomplishments in the Middle Ages. The most important, unique, and educational books were composed in Arabic. From the middle of the 8th century till the end of the 11th century Arabic was the lifted science dialect of human race to the point that any individual who needed to be acquainted with the way of life of the age and its most recent structure needed to learn Arabic. Numerous non-Arabic speakers did as such. I don’t think we have to call attention to the investigative accomplishments of Muslims in the fields of arithmetic, material science, space science, science, organic science, pharmaceutical, and geology.”[iv]



Landau stated that the style of Arab construction modelling was prominent in the West and was replicated by both European and American manufacturers. Both the plain Andalusian horseshoe curve and the more intricate cusped curves of the mosques of Cordoba and Samarra in Iraq and also at those of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, served as models for some curves in Perpendicular and Gothic places of worship in England and France. The delightful Arab block tracery of the veneers of both the surely understood Islamic Giralda Tower in Seville, too that of its sister-minaret, the Kutubia in Morocco, were duplicated with some minor variety in a lot of Gothic tracery all through Europe, particularly on the Bell Tower at Evesham in England.[v]

In addition, numerous worshiping houses both in Sicily and Southern Italy like the congregation of Capella Palatina in Palermo have a profound Arab engineering impact. The emblems of Christian holy people that enhance its curves bear Arabic compositions of the Kufic style. Numerous European curves and escarpments, for example, the Palazzo Ca’ d’Oro, one of the best of fifteenth century royal residences in Venice, reflect Arab engineering impact. The Italian urban communities of Siena and Florence provide the best accessible illustrations of the Arab engineering impact of exchanging white and dark marbles on the exterior of holy places. Different cases somewhere else incorporate different temples and scholarly structures in England, for example, Cromer Church in Norfolk and Christ Hall in Oxford.[vi]

Then again, the best illustration of the effect of Arab construction modelling on Europe is given by the campanile that is only a reasonable adjustment of the tall elegant slim minaret. This adjustment 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.[vii]

According to Hayes, the Muslim architectural influence touched even the early American city architecture; particularly those structures planned by the colossal American planner Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), the otherworldly father of cutting edge U.S. structural planning. Actually, the enthusiasm of American designers both in long elaborate friezes and in the seriousness of American outsides is because of the impact of Arab landmarks, particularly those of the Madrasah (religious school) of Sultan Hasan in Cairo.[viii]


The Impact on European Renaissance

Regarding the status of Cordova in the development of Islamic human advancement, Juan Brand Trand John said:

“Cordova, which was more affable than all European urban communities amid the 10th century, was indeed the centre of the world’s reverence and bewilderment, for example, Venice according to the Balkan states. The visitors originating from the north used to demonstrate just about devotion and dread when they were listening to what was being said in regards to this city, which had seventy libraries and 900 open showers. On the off chance that Leon or Navarre or Barcelona governors required a specialist, designer, or draftsman, tailor, or performer they would just go to Cordova.[ix]

Asad underlined the role of Cordova in making Europe ready for the period of renaissance by saying that: “We would not be misrepresenting on the off chance that we said: The cutting edge logical age in which we live did not begin in European urban communities, but rather in Islamic focuses; in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordova.”[x] Through Andalusia, Islamic civilization civilization found its way to the West.

Interactions were through various ways. Hunke stated that the light of Arab human advancement was conveyed crosswise over Andalusia by a large number of European prisoners who came back from Cordova and Zaragoza and the other Andalusian society focuses. Likewise, the brokers of Leon, Genoa, Venice, and Nuremberg assumed the part of go between the European and Andalusian urban communities.[xi]

In addition, a large number of European Christians got in contact with Arab dealers and Christian travellers originating from northern Andalusia. The stream of horsemen, merchants and religious ministers coming every year from Europe to Spain added to moving the establishments of Andalusian human progress to their nations. Jewish brokers, specialists, and learned individuals conveyed the way of life of Arabs to Western nations. They likewise partook in interpretation works in Toledo and deciphered from Arabic countless.[xii]

In January 1492, Granada surrendered to the Christian Spanish power of the King Ferdinand of Aragon and the Queen Isabella of Castile. In spite of the fact that there was no last fight, but instead a last surrender, the Pope proclaimed their triumph to be a “holy war” – a campaign against Islam. Unexpectedly, after just about 800 years of splendid Arab development and vicinity in Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, the Christian Spaniards depended on the old Western unrefined religious and racial narrow mindedness.

The Spanish vicious Inquisition of the 15th – 17th centuries had resulted in the mass killing and blazing of Jews and Muslims, the fierce torment and expulsions from Spain and their forceful Christianization. More than three million Muslims were extradited from Spain. All Hispanic names finishing with “ez” were initially from the Arab-Muslim families who were forced to “believe” in Christianity and who fled the Spanish Inquisition to discover new trusts in the New World. Indeed, the voyages of Christopher Columbus, who was an inquisitor, a slave-proprietor, and a slave-dealer, to the New World were financed with the incomes from the seized properties of the Muslims and Jews who had been ruthlessly extradited from their homes in Spain.[xiii]

Thus, after the downfall of the Muslim Caliphate in Spain, Europe inherited knowledge. This could be a punishment for Muslims for neglecting their ethical, religious and leadership duties and responsibilities. Thus, knowledge is always in the movement from one civilization to another. Those who are hardworking and put efforts will own it.


al-Galili, M. (2015, 11). Ta’thir al-tib al-arabi fi al-hadarah al-urubiyah (Impact of Arab Medicine on European Civilization). Retrieved from

Al-Mulla, A. (1997). Athar al-Ulama al-Muslimin fi al-hadarah al-urubiyah (Impact of Islamic scholars on European civilization).

Asad, M. (1995). Islam at the Crossroad. Kazi Publications.

El Gameiy , A. (2004). The Role of Arabic-Islamic Civilization in European Renaissance as a Model for Inter-civilizations’ Dialogue. Foreign Information Department.

Hayes, J. (1992). Genius of Arab Civilization. NYU Press.

Hunke, S. (1999). Shams al-Arab.

Iqbal, J., Kazi, J., & Ḥasan, S. (2009). The Heritage of Islam. Virginia: Ghulamali Publishers.

Landau, R. (1958). Arab contribution to civilization. Michigan: American Academy of Asian Studies.

Le Bon, G. (1974). The world of Islamic civilization. Tudor Pub. Co.

Shabbas, A. (1996). Living History with a Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace. Social Studies Review, 34(3), 22-29.



[i] El Gameiy, A. (2004). The Role of Arabic-Islamic Civilization in European Renaissance as a Model for Inter-civilizations’ Dialogue. Foreign Information Department.

[ii] Le Bon, G. (1974). The World of Islamic civilization. Tudor Pub. Co.

[iii] Al-Galili, M. (2015,11). Ta’thir al-tib al-arabi fi al-hadarah al-urubiyah (Impact of Arab Medicine on European Civilization)

[iv] Al-Mulla, A. (1997). Athar al-Ulama al-Muslimin fi al-hadarah al-urubiyah (Impact of Islamic scholars on European civilization)

[v] Landau, R. (1958). Arab Contribution to Civilization. American Academy of Asian Studies

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Hayes, J. R. (1983). The Genius of Arab Civilization. NYT Press

[ix] Iqbal, J., Kazi, J., & Hassan, S. (2009). The Heritage of Islam. Virginia: Ghulamali Publishers

[x] Asad, M. (1995). Islam at the Crossroad. Kazi Publications

[xi] Hunke, S. (1999). Shams al-Arab

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Shabbas, A. (1996). Living History with a Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace. Social Studies Review, 34(3), 22-29.

Writer is a final year student at department of History and Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia