Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Historical Islamic State & Caliphate & Non-Muslims


















It will be seen that the Muslims offered fair terms to the Non-Muslims and these terms enabled the masses to co-exist in peace. This peace and sense of security consequently produced one of the most successful civilizations in the history of the world. We will now discuss how the Muslims liberated the lands of Syria, Egypt and Spain from a reign of terror:


In the reign of the second Caliph, Umar bin Khattab, the Muslim armies began liberating the people of Syria. The Christians of Syria were divided in many different denominations and almost all of them were facing severe persecution at the hands of the ruling Byzantine Melkite Chalcedonian Church. Monophysites, Jacobites and Nestorians were facing the wrath of the Byzantine/Roman might. When Heraclius, the emperor, attempted to unite the Christians by hook or by crook, his initiatives were rejected and hence the threat of persecution. Thomas Walker Arnold stated that:

"Indeed, so bitter was the feeling he [the emperor] aroused that there is strong reason to believe that even a majority of the orthodox subjects of the Roman Empire, in the provinces that were conquered during this emperor’s reign, were the well-wishers of the Arabs; they regarded the emperor with aversion as a heretic, and were afraid that he might commence a persecution in order to force upon them his Monotheletic opinions. They therefore readily – and even eagerly – received the new masters who promised them religious toleration, and were willing to compromise their religious positions and their national independence if only they could free themselves from the immediately impending danger." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 54.]

Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, a Jacobite (or a Syrian Orthodox Christian) patriarch from 818 to 845, also discussed some reasons as to why the Syrian masses preferred Muslims over Byzantines. He stated in his chronicle, which covers the period from 582 to 842, that Heraclius mustered three hundred thousand men from Armenia, Syria and the Roman heartlands to expel the Muslims out of Syria. Muslims decided to withdraw from cities to fight an open pitch battle. However, whilst pulling back, the Muslims decided, out of fairness, to refund the money which they had taken as tribute from the Syrian Christians:

Abu Ubaydah, whom Umar had put in command of the Arabs, ordered Habib b. Maslama to return to the Emesenes the tribute which he had exacted from them with this message: “We are both bound by our mutual oaths. Now we are going to do battle with the Romans. If we return, this tribute is ours; but if we are defeated and do not return, we are absolved of our oaths.” So they left Emessa for Damascus; and the emir Abu Ubaydah ordered Saeed b. Kulthum to return the tribute to the Damascenes likewise…To them he said: “If we return victorious we shall take it back. But if we are defeated and prove powerless to save you from the Romans, here is your tribute, keep it. We for our part shall be absolved of the oaths which we have sworn to you." [Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, The Seventh Century in the West-Syrian Chronicles, Liverpool, 1993, p. 156-7.]

This was an unprecedented demonstration of honesty and justice. The non-Muslims pay the Jizya tax so that their lives, honour, religion, intellect and property are protected. In this case Muslims knew that they were unable to protect the Christians of Syria due to an imminent attack by Heraclius. It was not fair to keep the money in the absence of any ability to protect the masses. Also, one must note that this was taking place in seventh century Syria. Another point worth mentioning is that this incident is narrated by a ninth century Christian source, which testifies that the Muslims did not abuse power and they did not betray the trust Christians had bestowed upon them. Thomas Arnold adds, from an Islamic source (Abu Yusuf, Kitabul Khiraj [Book of the Taxes]), that:

"In accordance with this order, enormous sums were paid back out of the state treasury, and the Christians called down blessings on the heads of the Muslims, saying, 'May God give you rule over us again and make you victorious over the Romans; had it been they, they would not have given us back anything, but would have taken all that remained with us.'" [Arnold, Preaching, p. 61.]

It is difficult to imagine that the Christians would pray for the return of the Muslims, especially when one considers the fact that the latter were confronting a Christian enemy, the Byzantines. Why did the Muslims return such big sums to the Christians? Why didn’t they keep this wealth when they needed it the most, as they were facing a huge army? Who did they fear, as the Christians of Syria were not able to overpower them? The response to all these perplexing questions is that the Muslims feared God and followed his injunctions, which can be found in the Qur’an:

"Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching, which He gives you! Truly, Allah is ever all- Hearer, all-Seer." (Quran 4:58)

Dionysius confirms what Arnold quoted from Abu Yusuf above:

"So the Arabs left Damascus and pitched camp by the river Yarmuk. As the Romans marched towards the Arab camp every city and village on their way which had surrendered to the Arabs shouted threats at them. As for crimes the Romans committed on their passage, they are unspeakable, and their unseemliness ought not even to be brought to mind…The Arabs returned, elated with their great victory, to Damascus; and the Damascenes greeted them outside the city and welcomed them joyfully in, and all treaties and assurances were reaffirmed." [Dionysius, Chronicles, p. 157]

It is very clear from what was discussed above that the Muslims not only came to Syria with an intention to liberate the masses from the Byzantine terror but they also enabled all Christian denominations to live in peace thereafter. The Christians of Syria preferred the Muslim rule over the oppressive Byzantine hegemony, as the Muslims had brought justice and good governance vis-à-vis the Roman tyranny. One cannot imagine the conquered welcoming the conqueror “joyfully”. It happened in Syria once upon a time.


Egypt was also governed by the Byzantines and the fate of the masses there was no different to what had happened in Syria. The ruling Church was utterly against the existence of any doctrinal dissent. The Egyptians were mostly Jacobites and did not agree with the Greek Byzantine Chalcedonian version of Christianity. The result of this disagreement was heavy persecution at the hands of the ruling elite. Arnold summarised the situation as follows:

"The Jacobites, who formed the majority of the Christian population, had been very roughly handled by the Orthodox adherents of the court and subjected to indignities that have not been forgotten by their children even to the present day. Some were tortured and then thrown into the sea; many followed their Patrirach into exile to escape from the hands of their persecutors, while a large number disguised their real opinions under a pretended acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 102.]

When the Muslims arrived in Egypt, led by ‘Amr bin al-‘Aas, they were greeted as liberators and the Copts supported their intervention. According to Dionysius, the Coptic Patriarch submitted Egypt voluntarily to the Muslims:

"We have found in the tales and stories of Egyptians that Benjamin, the Patriarch of the Orthodox in Egypt at the time, delivered the country to the Arab general Amr b. al-As out of antipathy, that is enmity, towards Cyrus, the Chalcedonian (Byzantine) Patriarch in Egypt." [Dionysius, Chronicles, p. 158]

John of Nikiu (690), a Coptic bishop in Nikiu (Egypt), asserted that one of the reasons of the Muslim success in Egypt was the hatred of the masses for the Byzantines:

"When Muslims saw the weakness of the Romans and the hostility of the people to the emperor Heraclius because of the persecution wherewith he had visited all the land of Egypt in regard to the orthodox faith at the instigation of Cyrus the Chalcedonian Patriarch [in office 631/2-41], they became bolder and stronger in the war…And people began to help the Muslims." [John of Nikiou, quoted by Petra M. Sijpesteijn, Egypt in the Byzantine World, Cambridge, 2007, p. 442.]

In some cases the Egyptians not only refused to fight the Muslims, they facilitated the conquest. [John of Nikiou, quoted by Petra M. Sijpesteijn, Egypt in the Byzantine World, Cambridge, 2007, p. 442, see footnote 28.]

If the Byzantine had treated the masses with respect and dignity, only then the Jacobite Coptic population of Egypt would have considered fighting the Muslims. It was the tolerant attitude of the Muslims and the barbarity of the Byzantines which facilitated the rapid downfall of the latter in the land of the Pharaohs.

Even in war, when they might be facing severe opposition, Muslims are not allowed to kill women, children, elderly and non-combatants. This is clearly outlined in the Muslim constitution, the Quran:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors." (Quran 2:190)

"Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just." (Quran 60:8)

It is evident from the verses above that the Muslims, even in war, cannot kill indiscriminately. One of the greatest commentators of the Quran, Ibn Kathir, when commenting on the above verse 2:190, clarified the meaning of transgression in war:

"Then Allah states that he does not like the transgressors. Meaning, do not disobey Allah, do not mutilate, betray and steel; do not kill women and children; do not kill those elderly who are neither able to fight nor take part in it; do not kill monks and those who are in seclusion; do not, unnecessarily, cut the trees nor kill animals and this is how Ibn Abbas, Umar bin Abdul Aziz and Muqatil bin Hayyan commented on this verse." [Tafseer (commentary) of Ibn Kathir, The Holy Quran, Surah 2, verse 190.]

Atrocities and destruction of any kind are utterly forbidden in Islam. Even animals cannot be killed unless they are going be consumed as food. Targeting women and children is out of the question. The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم left clear instructions for his followers as to what transgression in war constitutes. In the book of Sahih al-Bukhari it is narrated on the authority of Abdullah bin Umar that: "In one of the Maghazi [battles where the Prophet was present in person] a women who had been killed was seen. The Prophet forbade the killing of women and children." [Bukhari, Book of Jihad (3014-5)]

Abu Bakr (r. 632-34 CE), the first successor of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, instructed the Muslim army to observe the following rules, while on an expedition heading towards Syria:

"I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly." [Muatta Imam Malik, Kitabul Jihad.]

Alfred J. Butler, whose work on the Arab Conquest of Egypt is to this day an authoritative reference point, mentioned: "After all that the Copts had suffered at the hands of the Romans and the Patriarch Cyrus, it would not have been unnatural if they had desired to retaliate upon the Melkites [the Romans]. But any such design, if they cherished it, was sternly discountenanced by ‘Amr, [the Muslim conqueror of Egypt] whose government was wisely tolerant but perfectly impartial between the two forms of religion. Many facts might be cited in proof of this contention…two forms of Christianity must be imagined as subsisting side by side under the equal protection of the conquerors...It would seem, therefore, that in matters ecclesiastical the Copts were granted every reasonable freedom...That the early government of ‘Amr was animated by a spirit of justice and even sympathy for the subject population, can hardly be questioned." [Alfred J. Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Last Thirty Years of the Roman Dominion, 1902, Oxford, p. 447-456]

Alfred J. Butler, as a historian, was certainly convinced that the Islamic hegemony brought effective protection for all denominations of Christianity in Egypt. If it wasn’t for the successful arbitration of the Islamic leadership, the Jacobites would have loved to annihilate the ruling Melkite Church in revenge. Arnold goes as far as to suggest that the Copts preferred the Muslims over the Byzantines: 

"The rapid success of the Arab invaders was largely due to the welcome they received from the native Christians, who hated the Byzantine rule not only for its oppressive administration, but also – and chiefly – on account of the bitterness of theological rancour...to the Copts, as the Jacobite Christians of Egypt are called, the Muhammadan conquest brought a freedom of religious life such as they had not enjoyed for a century." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 102]

This is exactly what had occurred in Syria. The Syrians preferred the Muslims so did the Egyptians. It was the justice of Islam that appealed to both populations. Butler also narrates a fascinating repeat of the Muslim honesty in Egypt, whereby they returned the tribute (Jizya) to the Christian population of Alexandria following the Muslim recapture of the city (after the Romans had taken the city back once it had submitted to Muslims):

"One characteristic anecdote must not be passed over in silence. After the recapture of Alexandria, the Copts of the various Delta villages which had been ruthlessly plundered by the Roman army, came to ‘Amr and complained that while they had stood loyal to the Arabs as bound under treaty, they had not received the protection to which under the same treaty they were entitled, and in consequence they had suffered severely. The justice of this remonstrance is obvious: but it is not every victorious general whose conscience would be troubled by such a protest. Of ‘Amr, however, it is recorded that he was struck with remorse, and exclaimed: “Would that I had encountered the Romans as soon as they issued forth from Alexandria!” What is more, he at once ordered full compensation to be paid to the Copts for all their losses. This frank admission of responsibility and frank restitution prove at once the excellence of ‘Amr’s principles of government and the nobility of his nature." [Butler, Conquest, p. 488.]

The Muslims liberated the masses of Egypt from the terror of the Byzantine Church. The Copts not only welcomed the Muslims, they facilitated the conquest by joining the ranks of the conquerors. The rule of the Islamic government was tolerant and progressive, unlike what the Byzantines had to offer.


Such noble and just behaviour of the Muslims is consistent in different lands in different times. The people of Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) were also, just like the Egyptians and the Syrians, facing severe conditions at the hands of their ruling elite. The Muslims brought the mercy of God to the people al-Andalus and the promise was duly fulfilled.

Muslims landed in Spain in 711 and governed parts of Spain with Shariah law for more than seven centuries (711-1492 CE).

Under the Visigothic kings’ rule (following their conversion to Catholicism from Arianism), the Jewish community, in particular, was severely oppressed. The Catholic hierarchy in Spain held many ecumenical councils to solve political and religious disputes and in these councils (many held in Toledo), severe edicts were issued against the Jews of Spain. One of the clauses in the text of the proceedings of the Fourth Council of Toledo (633 CE) states:

"We decree that the sons and daughters of the Jews should be separated from the company of their parents in order that they should not become further entangled in their deviation, and entrusted either to monasteries or to Christian, God fearing men and women, in order that they should learn from their way of life to venerate the faith and, educated on better things, progress in their morals as well as their faith." [The Jews in the Legal Sources of the Early Middle Ages, edited by Amnon Linder, New York, 1997, p.488.]

Hence, the children of the Jews were to be forcefully converted to Catholicism. So, when the Muslims arrived, Jews - who were under tyranny -  were the first people to greet them as God-sent saviors. Zion Zohar, a Jewish American historian, confirms the appreciation Jews felt for the Muslim arrival:

"Thus, when Muslims crossed the straits of Gibraltar from North Africa in 711 CE and invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews welcomed them as liberators from Christian Persecution." [Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, (New York, 2005), p. 8-9.]

Muslim behaviour in Spain facilitated freedom of religion and this was an opportunity for the Jews to flourish and make progress, unlike before where the Jews couldn't imagine having religious freedom as they were facing extinction at the hands of the Catholic Church. Zion Zohar summarized the benefits Jews reaped from the Muslim protection as follows:

"Born during this era of Islamic rule, the famous Golden Age of Spanish Jewry (circa 900-1200) produced such luminaries as: statesman and diplomat Hasdai ibn Shaprut, vizier and army commander Shmuel ha-Nagid, poet-philosophers Solomon Ibn Gabriol and Judah Halevi, and at the apex of them all, Moses Ben Maimon, also known among the Spaniards as Maimonides." [Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, (New York, 2005), p. 9]

Thus the Islamic rule proved to be one of the best things in the history of Spanish Jewry. Every single Jewish individual mentioned by Zion Zohar excelled in his respective field. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, for instance, was vizier to one of the most powerful Caliphs (Abdur Rahman III) in Spanish history. Shmuel (or Samuel) ha-Nagid also attained a high political post in the Kingdom of Granada. Maimonides (also known as the second Moses) was a man of philosophy and literature in his own right. He is the one who penned The Guide for the Perplexed, one of the best works on the philosophy of religion. All of these men were born during the Golden Age of Islamic Spain. 

Heinrich Graetz, a 19th century Jewish historian, expressed similar sentiments regarding Muslims in Spain:

"It was in these favourable circumstances that the Spanish Jews came under the rule of Mahometans, as whose allies they esteemed themselves the equals of their co-religionists in Babylonia and Persia. They were kindly treated, obtained religious liberty, of which they had so long been deprived, were permitted to exercise jurisdiction over their co-religionists, and were only obliged, like the conquered Christians, to pay poll tax (Dsimma)’…" [H. Graetz, History of the Jews, (London, 1892), v 3, p. 112.]

"Jewish Spain became 'the place of civilization and of spiritual activity- a garden of fragrant, joyous, and happy poetry, as well as the seat of earnest research and clear thought.' Like the Arabian Christians (the Christians who lived amongst the Mahometans) the Jews made themselves acquainted with the language and literature of their conquerors, and often got precedence over them. But whilst Arabian Christians gave up their own individuality, forgot their own language- Gothic Latin- and could not even read the creeds, and were ashamed of Christianity, the Jews of Spain were so little affected through this contact with Arabs, that it only served to increase their love and enthusiasm for their mother tongue, their holy law, and their religion. Through favourable circumstances Jewish Spain was in a position at first to rival Babylonia, then to supersede it, and finally to maintain its superiority for nearly five hundred years." [H. Graetz, History of the Jews, (London, 1892), v 3, p. 220.]

Following is an image of a decorative fragment of a wall from the medieval Jewish Synagogue of El Tránsito in Toledo, Spain. In addition to the Hebrew writing, the Arabic word for God, الله, is seen, indicating the high degree of cultural diffusion between Muslims and Jews in al-Andalus. 

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

Some people disagree with this and argue that the Islamic conquests were in fact like any other conquest, which caused much misery and disasters and they cite the following passage from the earliest Christian record of the events in their support:

"Musa himself… entered the long plundered and Godlessly invaded Spain, to destroy it…he imposed on the adjacent regions an evil and fraudulent peace…he ruined beautiful cities, burning them with fire; condemned lords and powerful men to the cross, and butchered youths and infants with swords." [The Chronicle of 754, Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain edited by Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Liverpool University Press, 1999, p. 132-3.]

"Islam conquered the whole of the Peninsula, distorted the destinies of Iberia and allotted to it a different part in the tragic-comedy of history- a role of sacrifice and vigilance, of sentinel and teacher, a role which had enormous importance in the life of Europe, but which proved extremely expensive to Spain." [C. Sanchez Albornoz quoted by J. B. Trend, Legacy of Islam, Oxford, 1931, p. 2.]

Most recent historians, of course with the exception of religiously zealous and polemically enthusiastic writers, believe the contrary. For example, Thomas Arnold insists that "such statement is too frequent a commonplace of the ecclesiastical historian to be accepted in the absence of contemporary evidence…of forced conversion or anything like persecution in the early days of the Arab conquest, we hear nothing. Indeed, it was probably in a great measure their tolerant attitude towards the Christian religion that facilitated their rapid acquisition of the country." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 132-4.]

Reinhart Dozy, an authority on the history of Early Islamic Spain, asserts that: "‘the unbounded tolerance of the Arabs must also be taken into account. In religious matters they put pressure on no man…Christians preferred their rule to that of the Franks." [Reinhart Dozy, A History of Muslims in Spain, 1861 (reprinted 1913, 2002) Goodword Books, p. 235.]

And Burke further strengthens Arnold’s conclusions: "Christians did not suffer in any way, on account of their religion, at the hands of Moors [Muslims]…not only perfect toleration but nominal equality was the rule of the Arabs in Spain." [Ulick R. Burke, A History of Spain, Longmans, 1900, v I, p. 129.]

The 9th century Spanish Christian writer, Paul Alvarus, who was writing in the 850’s at Cordova, mentioned about the the Christian inclination towards the culture of Islam: "The Christians love to read the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the Arab theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to form a correct and elegant Arabic. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets or apostles? Alas! All talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books; they gather immense libraries at great expense; they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention. They have forgotten their own language. For every one who can write a letter in Latin to a friend, there are a thousand who can express themselves in Arabic with elegance, and write better poems in his language then the Arabs themselves." [Paul Alvarus quoted by Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament of the world, New York, 2003, p. 66.]

Due to a growing number of Christians embracing Islam and the attraction of the Islamic academic culture, some of the Catholic leadership was seriously concerned about this situation. Jessica A. Coope, in her book Martyrs of Cordoba, also makes the same point:

"The worst fear of the radicals was that Christians would not only work for Muslims and read Arabic literature but would eventually convert to Islam; a man who associated too long with Muslims was liable to turn into one himself." [Jessica A. Coope, The Martyrs of Cordoba, (Nebraska, 1995), p. 9.]

Some Christians decided to take action and a “Martyrs Movement” was initiated to halt the rapid conversion rate. The Martyrs of Córdoba were 48 Christian who were martyred in the 9th century. With few exceptions, the Christians invited execution by making public statements tactically chosen to invite martyrdom: some martyrs appeared before the Muslim authorities to denounce Muhammad; others, possibly Christian children of Islamic-Christian marriages, publicly proclaimed their Christianity as apostates. [Wolf, Kenneth Baxter. 1988. Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain]

These measures, however, did not make a difference and Christians continued to convert to Islam. The Islamic civilization of Spain inspired many historians and poets to lift their pens to pay their tribute to one of the best achievements in the history of mankind. For example, Maria Rosa Menocal, one of the authorities on medieval European literature, authored a book to pay her respect to the peaceful co-existence between three Abrahamic faiths in medieval Spain and she titled it the Ornament of the world. [Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament of the world, New York, 2003.] This phrase was used by Hroswitha (a 10th century German nun) to describe the spectacle of Islamic Spain. [Stanley Lane-Poole, The Moors in Spain, (London, 1920), p. 144.] Indeed, al-Andalus was and this ornament of the world, and it was destroyed upon the departure of the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula, as Burke puts it painfully:

"The institutions that had flourished under the Moslem, died when the Moslem departed; and after four centuries of light and learning, Andalusia fell back, under the Christian rule, into a condition of ignorance and barbarism, nearly, if not quite, equal to that of the north western provinces of the peninsula." [Burke, Spain, p. 288.]

The mercy of Islam liberated the Jews and the Christian population of Spain. What followed was “the Golden Age” of Islam as described by Zion Zohar. Some of the Jewish authors argued that the Jewish living standards in Spain were sometimes better than what the Muslims experienced (see Ibn Paqudah, appendix). Even the Christians preferred the Muslim hegemony over what historians termed as “Frankish rule”.

The Iberian Peninsula was called Al-Andalus by its Muslim rulers and is also known as Muslim Spain. It occupied most of what are today Spain and Portugal. Under the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031), al-Andalus was a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean Basin and the Islamic world. A number of achievements that advanced Islamic and Western science came from al-Andalus including major advances in trigonometry (Geber), astronomy (Arzachel), surgery (Abulcasis), pharmacology (Avenzoar), and other fields. Al-Andalus became a major educational center for Europe. The Islamic conquest of Spain rid the masses of the terror of the Visigoths.

The Islamic system (based upon Shariah Law) conferred sufficient peace and prosperity upon its subjects to facilitate progressive intellectual inquiry. Will Durant, an American philosopher and the author of a monumental History of Civilisation, said: "Civilization begins where chaos and insecurity end. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructiveness are free and man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life." [Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, New York, 1954, p. 1.]

So the formation of any civilization is largely dependent on social order and a sense of security, as it is, in part, the state of living in protection that facilitates progress. If security and protection are nonexistent in a society, it would be extremely difficult to imagine economic provision, political organization, moral tradition and any pursuit for intellectual progress.

Alfred Guillaume, an eminent Orientalist, argued that the civilisation of Islam was a direct result of the protection of Islamic Empire:

"But Islam is the fundamental fact which made the legacy possible. It was under the protection and patronage of Islamic Empire that the arts and sciences which this book describes flourished." [Alfred Guillaume, Legacy of Islam, Oxford, 1931, Preface, p. v.]

In summary, "The Visigoths ruled Iberia when the Arabs came in. There was no Spain at the time. There was no Arab conquest of Spain, only an Arab conquest of Visigoth Iberia. The reason people welcomed the Arabs is because the Arabs did them a favor and got rid of the brute Visigoths. With Arabs people enjoyed a much better life and culture. Those scriptures you read are plain religious propaganda against the Moors, written centuries later after their defeat [referring to the Chronicle of 754]. But during their rule, Culture flourished in Iberia and Cordoba became the cultural capital of Europe. When Arabs left, Iberia returned to the Dark Ages culturally. Best regards, an Iberian." [Antonio Brandao]


How is it possible that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم died in 632 and a century later the Muslims had reached all the way to Spain? As far as the early Muslims were concerned, they were simply tools in the fulfilment of God’s promise and to them, this expansion was already foretold in the Quran:

"Allah has promised those among you who believe and do righteous good deeds, that he will certainly grant them succession [to the present rulers] in the land, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them authority to practise their religion which he has chosen for them [Islam]." (Quran 24:55)

Muslims were told in the Quran that they will overpower the temporal forces of this world so long as they believe and do righteous deeds. The Prophet of Islam صلى الله عليه وسلم also confirmed what the Quran had prophesised and informed his followers of an imminent victory over the Persians as narrated by ‘Adi bin Hatim (one of the companions of the Prophet)

"The Prophet said: 'If you should live long, the treasures of Khosrau [Chosroes II] will be opened (and taken as spoils).' I asked: 'You mean Khosrau, son of Hurmuz?' He said: 'Khosrau, son of Hurmuz; and if you should live long, you will see that one will carry a handful of gold or silver and go out looking for a person to accept it from him, but will find none to accept it from him'…I was one of those who opened (conquered) the treasures of Khosrau, son of Hurmuz." [Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 793]

‘Adi confirmed that he witnessed the prophecy fulfilled, as when the Persian Capital Ctesiphon was taken by the Muslims, ‘Adi was alive. There is no doubt that the early Muslims attributed their astonishing success to the promise of Allah. Even Christian writers attributed this rapid expansion of the Islamic Caliphate to Divine intervention. John Bar Penkaye (690), a contemporary of the early Islamic conquests, had this to say:

"We should not think of the advent (of the children of Hagar) as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, (God) had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour; thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour. Now when these people came, at God’s command, and took over as it were both kingdoms, not with any war or battle, but in a menial fashion, such as when a brand is rescued out of the fire, not using weapons of war or human means, God put victory into their hands in such a way that the words written them might be fulfilled, namely, “One man chased a thousand and two routed ten thousand.” How otherwise, could naked men, riding without armour or shield, have been able to win, apart from divine aid, God having called them from the ends of the earth so as to destroy, by them “a sinful kingdom” and to bring low, through them, the proud spirit of the Persians." [John Bar Penkaye, quoted by Walter E. Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquest, (Cambirdge, 2000), p. 216.]

Job Bar Penkaye observed that semi-dressed Bedouins cannot possibly do this alone; God must be on their side. Some of the most renowned academics (in the field of Early Islamic Conquests) are perplexed to this day as to what exactly caused such a rapid expansion of Islam:

- "Muslim forces went on to campaigns of conquest that in less than a century created an empire extending from Spain to central Asia. How all this occurred and why it focussed on Muhammad, Makkah and the late sixth century are questions that Muslims took up themselves, and that have comprised a major concern of modern historical research." [Lawrence. I. Conrad, The Arabs, The Cambridge Ancient History, 2006, vol 14, p. 695]

- "The speed with which the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire succumbed to the Arabs remains to be explained by historians." [Andrew Louth, The Byzantine Empire in the seventh century, The New Cambridge Medieval History, 2005, vol 1, p. 298]

- "Much ink has been spilt on the phenomenon of the Islamic conquest, but few firm conclusions can be drawn…It seems unlikely that the Arabs possessed military superiority over their opponents. Certainly, they had no secret weapon, no new techniques. Indeed, in some military spheres they were inexperienced; they allegedly learned siege warfare, for example, from the Persians. They were also unfamiliar with how to fight naval engagements." [Carole Hillenbrand, Muhammad and the rise of Islam, The New Cambridge Medieval History, 2005, vol 1, p. 340]

Johnston attributes this phenomenal turn of events to the religion of Islam:

"Seldom, if ever, has a set of ideas had so great an effect on human societies as Islam has done, above all in the first half of the seventh century. In little more than twenty years, the religious and political configuration of Arabia was changed out of all recognition. Within another twenty all of the rich, highly developed, militarily powerful world enveloping Arabia was conquered, save for Asia Minor and north Africa." [James Howard-Johnston, Witnesses to a World Crises (Oxford, 2010), Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century, p. 357-8.]

The Muslims, when expanding, treated the non-Muslim inhabitants of the conquered lands with tolerance, which in consequence encouraged the non-Muslim societies to embrace the approaching armies with open arms. Professor Thomas Walker Arnold gives an interesting account of such an occurrence:

"When the Muslim army reached the valley of the Jordan and Abu Ubaydah pitched his camp at Fihl, the Christian inhabitants of the country wrote to the Arabs, saying: “O Muslims, we prefer you to the Byzantines, though they are of our own faith, because you keep better faith with us and are more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed us of our goods and our homes.” The people of Emessa closed the gates of their city against the army of Heraclius and told the Muslims that they preferred their government and justice to the injustice and oppression of the Greeks. Such was the state of feelings in Syria during the campaign of 633-639 in which the Arabs gradually drove the Roman army out of the province. And when Damascus, in 637, set the example of making terms with the Arabs, and thus secured immunity from plunder and other favourable conditions, the rest of the cities of Syria were not slow to follow. Emessa, Arethusa, Hieropolis and other towns entered into treaties whereby they became tributary to the Arabs. Even the Patriarch of Jerusalem surrendered the city on similar terms. The fear of religious compulsion on the part of the heretical emperor made the promise of Muslim toleration appear more attractive than the connection with the Roman Empire and a Christian government, and after the first terrors caused by the passage of an invading army, there succeeded a profound revulsion of feeling in favour of the Arab conquerors...Of forced conversion or anything like persecution in the early days of the Arab conquest, we hear nothing. Indeed, it was probably in a great measure their tolerant attitude towards the Christian religion that facilitated their rapid acquisition of the country." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 55-134.]




The concept of justice and its importance stem from the Quran: 

"O you, who believe! Stand out firmly for  justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though  it be against yourselves, or your parents, or  your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is better  protector to both. So follow not the lusts,  lest you avoid justice." (Quran 4:135)

Even if the Muslims despise someone, Allah obligates the Muslims to deliver justice:

"O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do." (Quran 5:8)

The Prophet of Islam صلى الله عليه وسلم put immense stress on the importance of protecting the rights of non-Muslim subjects. Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Anyone who kills a non-Muslim (Dhimmi [protected one]) protected by the Islamic state will not smell the fragrance of paradise even though one can sense it from the distance of 40 years journey." [Bukhari, Book of Jihad]

So important was the issue of the preservation of the rights of non-Muslims that the second Caliph of Islam, even when he was dying, left clear instructions for his potential successor in this regard:

"Umar ibn al-Khattab (the second Caliph) said on his death bed that whoever shall succeed me must fulfill the promises of Allah and His messenger. Whatever treaty has been made with non-Muslims must be respected by my successor. He shall fight (if he has to) to protect them and he shall not put a burden upon them which they cannot bear." [Bukhari, Book of Jihad]

This is a fascinating demonstration of the sense of responsibility and care in Islamic governance. Umar ibn Al-Khattab, even though seriously injured due to a stab wound in his stomach, was deeply concerned about the promises made with protected non-Muslim subjects. He didn’t even want any unreasonable burden put upon the ahlu-Dhimma and amazingly commanded his potential successor to fight, if necessary, in their defense. The Caliph specifically commanded that all treaties made with non-Muslims must be upheld. Such treaties made that protection possible and which consequently produced the civilization of Islam. The spirit of these terms emanates directly from the Quran and the practice of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, as is clear from the Treaty of Medina.


Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, having lived in Makkah for 53 years of his life, had to migrate to Madinah [Yathrib] to escape the persecution and assassination attempts of the Meccans. The people of Medina had invited him to come and facilitate peace between two warring tribes – Aws and Khazraj – of the city. Here in Madinah [Yathrib], the Prophet established the first Islamic state. The city consisted of two major groups at the time i.e. the Arabs (Aws and Khazraj) and the Jews. Most of the Ansar (Helpers) from Madinah had embraced Islam. The Jews were offered terms of peace and coexistence, which they willingly accepted. Ibn Hisham, in his biography of the Prophet, narrates the text of the Treaty of Medina:

{In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 

This agreement of Allah’s Prophet Muhammad shall apply to the migrants, Quraish, the citizens of Yathrib who have accepted Islam and all such people who are in agreement with the above mentioned bodies and side with them in war.

Those who are a party to this agreement shall be treated as a body separate from all those who are not a party to this agreement.

It is incumbent on all the Muslims to help and extend sympathetic treatment to the Jews who have entered into an agreement with us. Neither an oppression of any type should be perpetrated on them nor should their enemy be helped against them.

The Jews of Bani Auf, Bani Najjar, Bani Haris, Bani Sa’ida, Bani Hashm, Bani Aus, Bani Sa’alaba, Bani Jafna, and Bani Shotaiba who are a party to this agreement and are the supporters of the Muslims, shall adhere to their religion and the Muslims to their’s. Excepting the religious matters, the Muslims and the Jews shall be regarded as belonging to a single party. If anyone from among them commits an outrage or breaks promise or is guilty of a crime, he shall deserve punishment of his crime.

The subordinate branches of the above mentioned tribes shall have the same rights as are enjoyed by the original branches.

If a third community wages war against the Muslims and the Jews, they will have to fight united. They shall help each other mutually and there shall be mutual goodwill and faithfulness. The Jews shall bear their expenses of war and the Muslims theirs expenses.

It is incumbent on the parties to treat each other sincerely and to wish each other well. None shall subject the other to oppression and injustice and the oppressed shall be helped…} [Ibn Hisham, as-Sira an-Nabawiyya, Cairo, 1955, v 1, p. 501-4.]

Prophet Muhammad was the sole ruler of the Islamic State of Medina. The Jews and their religion was protected; they were recognized as an independent political power within the state; everyone was equally accountable according to the law; in case of an external attack, both parties would mutually help each other; Jews will maintain their autonomy; their enemy would not be helped; and finally it was mandatory for all parties to be sincere to each other.

The Treaty of Medina, however, wasn’t fully respected by some of the Jewish individuals and tribes (as they incited war and hostility against the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Muslims of Medina) and they were duly held accountable for their transgressions. In the incident of Banu Quraidha, almost 600-700 Jewish fighters were executed due to their treachery against the state of Madinah. It was discussed above that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم had an agreement of protection with the Jews of Medina and both parties were bound to support each other in war. It was also stipulated in the treaty that "if anyone from among them commits an outrage or breaks promise or is guilty of a crime, he shall deserve punishment of his crime." Banu Quraidha not only betrayed the Muslims during the battle of the Ditch, they almost annihilated the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم with his followers. The punishment their fighting men received was due to this treachery, which they agreed to by being a party to the treaty. Other Jewish tribes (mentioned in the treaty above) were not touched and flourished in Medina until they were relocated to Palestine in the reign of Umar bin Al-Khattab.


The Jews weren’t the only ones to receive Islamic protection; Christians were also given the same terms, as is evident from the Treaty of Najran.

Near the end of the life of the Prophet (year 9 H), a delegation came from the Christian settlement of Najran (consisting of 73 villages south of Mecca, towards Yemen). The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked the Christians of Najran to embrace Islam but they refused and asked for terms instead. Prophet Muhammad then offered them unprecedented freedom of religion and protection, which they never experienced under the Byzantines. Al Baladhuri narrates the text of the treaty in these words in his book Futuh ul Buldan:

{The lives of the people of Najran and its surrounding area, their religion, their land, their property, cattle, and those of them who are present or absent, their messengers and their places of worship are under the protection of Allah and guardianship of his prophet. Their present states shall neither be interfered with, nor their rights meddled with, nor their idols deformed. No bishop shall be removed from his office. The intention being that no change in whatever state everyone is, shall be made (status quo shall be maintained).

Neither the people shall be punished for any past crime or murder, nor shall they be compelled to do military service. Neither shall ‘ushr (the tax on grain) be imposed on them, nor shall any army enter their area.

If anyone of the people of Najran demands the rights, justice shall be done between the plaintiff and the respondent. Neither oppression shall be allowed to be perpetuated on them, nor shall they be permitted to oppress anyone.

Whatever has been written in this pact, Allah and Muhammad, his prophet, are guarantors for it, unless there is an order from Allah, in this connection, and as long as the people of Najran remain faithful and adhere to the conditions, which have been made for them, except that someone compels them to do otherwise.} [Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, translated by Philip. K. Hitti, New Jeresy, 2002 (Reprint), p. 100-1.]


This precedent set by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was imitated by his successors. When the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn Al-Khattab, took Jerusalem in 636-7, these are the terms he offered to the Christian Patriarch Sophronius, as narrated by Tabari:

{This is the protection which the servant of Allah, Amir ul-Mumineen, grants to the people of Palestine. Thus, protection is for their lives, property, church, cross, for the healthy and sick and for all their co-religionists. In this way that their churches shall not be turned into dwelling houses, nor will they be pulled down, nor any injury will be done to them or to their enclosures, nor to their cross, and nor will anything be deducted from their wealth. No restrictions shall be made regarding their religious ceremonies. No Jew will be allowed to stay along with them [This was a request made by the Christians themselves to maintain status quo, as there were no Jews allowed in Jerusalem prior to the Muslim arrival. Dionysius, Chronicles, p. 161: ‘The stipulation was made (by the Christians) that no Jew might live in Jerusalem.’].

It shall be incumbent upon the people of Palestine, that they shall pay Jizyah (the capitation tax) like other cities. They must expel the Greeks and those of them who shall leave the city shall be protected and conducted safely to their destinations, but those of them who would prefer to remain in Palestine shall also receive protection, are to pay the Jizyah. And of the people of Palestine who would like to leave with the Greeks, then their churches and crosses shall also be protected, and they may safely go to their destination. Whatever is in this document is guaranteed in the name of Allah and the prophet by khalifah and the faithful on condition that the people pay jizyah regularly. This document is witnessed by Khalid ibn al Walid, ‘Amr bin al ‘Aas, Abdur Rahman bin Awf, and Mu’aawiyah bin abi Sufyaan. Dated A.H. 15.} [Tabari, Tarikh ar-Rusul wal- Muluk, (Leiden, 1879-1901), v I, p. 2405-6.]

Link to the treaty of Jerusalem and further information:

This treaty brought unprecedented peace to the city of Jerusalem. The Christians testified to this fascinating protection they received by the Muslim government. Not long before the Muslims liberated the city, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by the Persians. Theophanes (d. 817-8), a Byzantine historian, narrated the event in these words:

"In this year [615] the Persians took Jordan, Palestine, and its holy city in battle. At the hands of the Jews they killed many people in it: as some say, 90,000. The Jews, according to their means, bought the Christians and then killed them. The Persians captured and led off to Persia Zachariah the patriarch of Jerusalem, the precious and life giving wood [True Cross], and many prisoners." [The Chronicle of Theophanes, translated by Harry Turtledove, Pennsylvania, 1982, p. 11]

This catastrophe was alluded to in the Quran and at that time the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was in Mecca:

"Alif- Lam- Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. Within three to nine years. The decision of the matter, before and after (these events) is only with Allah. And on that day, the believers will rejoice. With the help of Allah, He helps whom he wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the most Merciful. (It is) a promise of Allah (i.e. Allah will give victory to the Romans against the Persians), and Allah fails not in His promise, but most of men know not." (Quran 30:1-6)

This was an acknowledgement of recent events in Palestine but then the Qur’an makes a bold prophecy: the Romans will defeat the Byzantines very soon. This was a great test of the authenticity of the Qur’an and the truthfulness of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, as the companions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم were now awaiting that victory of the Byzantines. Did the Romans come back within the time the Qur’an prophesised? Whoever heard these verses at the time, found it really difficult to believe that the Romans would be victorious within three to nine years, as the Qur’an promised, after such a devastating defeat. Even Theophanes expressed his astonishment when he said, "Who could have expected the invincible Persian race ever to show its back to the Romans?" The "invincible" Persian race did indeed show its back to the Romans exactly seven years after the encounter in Palestine/Jordan. Allah’s promise was fulfilled. Theophanes narrates the outcome:

"In this year [622], the Emperor Herakleios finished celebrating Easter and at once moved against Persia…The Romans captured their (Persians’) camp and all their gear. They raised their hands on high and thanked God; they also eagerly prayed for the Emperor, who led them well. For before they had never thought to see Persian dust; now they had found and plundered their still pitch tents. Who could have expected the invincible Persian race ever to show its back to the Romans?’ [Theophanes, p. 15.]

The Qur’anic prophecy was fulfilled and the Persians had been defeated by the Romans. Having taken the city, however, the Byzantines didn’t allow the Jews to exist there due to old religious adversity. When Muslims liberated the city, they allowed the Jews as well as the Christians to co-exist. The Christians had been dumping garbage at the site of the temple to disgrace the Jews. Omar, however, personally cleared the spot with his companions and built a mosque there. The Jerusalem of Islam was a place of refuge for all children of Abraham.


The Treaty of Spain provides an example of Muslim attitude towards the inhabitants of al-Andalus.

{In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

This is a document (granted) by Abdul-Aziz bin Musa bin Nusayr to Tudmir, son of Ghabdush, establishing a treaty of peace and a promise and protection of God and His Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. We (Muslims) will not set special conditions for him or for any among his men, nor harass him, nor remove him from power. His followers will not be killed or taken prisoner, nor will they be separated from their women and children. They will not be coerced in matters of religion, their churches will not be burned, nor will sacred objects be taken from the realm, [so long as] he [Tudmir] remain sincere and fulfils the conditions we have set for him. He has reached a settlement concerning seven towns: Orihuela, Valentilla, Alicante, Mula, Bigastro, Ello and Lorca. He will not give shelter to fugitives, nor to our enemies, nor encourage any protected person to fear us, nor conceal news of our enemies. He and each of his men shall also pay one Dinar every year, together with four measures of wheat, four measures of barley, four liquid measures of concentrated fruit juice, four liquid measures of vinegar, four of honey, and four of olive oil. Slave must each pay half of this amount (Rajab 94 Hijra [April 713 CE]).} [Medieval Iberia, edited by Olivia Remie Constable, Pennsylvania, 1997, p. 37.]

The Golden Age of al-Andalus and the civilization therein was a direct product of this peaceful co-existence facilitated by the Treaty of Islamic Spain. The peaceful interaction between three Abrahamic faiths in al-Andalus was described as convivencia (co-existence) by some Spanish Arabists. 


Did the Jews and Christians experience this convivencia? Some of the Jewish as well as Christian testimonies will help understand as to how effective these treaties were.

 Reign of Caliph Mu'awiyah (661-680):

Nestorian John bar Penkaye (690 CE) expressed fascinating sentiments regarding the reign of Mu’awiah (661-80) that:

"The peace throughout the world was such that we have never heard, either from our fathers or from our grandparents, or seen that there had ever been any like it." [Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests (London, 2008), p. 349]

 Reign of Caliph al-Mu'tazz (866-869)

Bernard the Wise, a French pilgrim monk, who visited Egypt and Palestine in the reign of Caliph al-Mu’tazz (866-869) stated that if any property was left unattended for some time, it would be found unmolested upon return, ‘such is the peace there’:

"The Christians and the Pagans [i.e. the Muslims] have this kind of peace between them there that if I was going on a journey, and on the way the camel or donkey which bore my poor luggage were to die, and I was to abandon all my goods without any guardian, and go to the city for another pack animal, when I came back, I would find all my property uninjured: such is the peace there." [Christopher J. Walker, Islam and the West, (Gloucester, 2005), p. 17.]

• Jerusalem

-  Patriarch Theodosius of Jerusalem regarding Muslim tolerance, expressed in a letter written to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 869 CE the following:

"The Saracens [i.e. the Muslims] show us great goodwill. They allow us to build our churches and to observe our own customs without hindrance." [Christopher J. Walker, Islam and the West, (Gloucester, 2005), p. 17.]

- Jews felt equally safe in Jerusalem, as confirmed by a 9th century Jewish source Sefer Pitron Torah:
"The people in whose hands the Temple is today [namely, the Muslims] have made it into a choice, excellent and honorable place of worship. They say: 'Let us worship the one God who created heaven and earth, to whom the creatures belong, until the coming of the messiah and on that day the true worship will be renewed and will be acceptable before God.'"

- An Italian Rabbi, Obadiah Yareh Da Bertinoro, travelled to Jerusalem in 1486 CE and wrote a letter to his father telling him about the country and its people:

"The Jews are not persecuted by the Arabs in these parts. I have travelled through the country in its length and breadth, and none of them has put an obstacle in my way. They are very kind to strangers, particularly to anyone who does not know the language; and if they see many Jews together they are not annoyed by it. In my opinion, an intelligent man versed in political science might easily raise himself to be chief of the Jews as well as of the Arabs…" [Rabbi Obadiah Yareh Da Bertinoro, quoted in The Jewish Caravan edited by Leo W. Schwarz, The Jewish Publication Society of America, (Philadelphia, 1946), p. 249.]

 Michael the Elder, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch in the 12th century, wrote in the favour of Muslims after condemning the tyranny of Christian Byzantines:
"For when the cities submitted to the Arabs, they assigned to each denomination the churches which they found it to be in possession of (and at that time the great churches of Emessa and that of Harran had been taken away from us [by the Byzantines]); nevertheless it was no slight advantage for us to be delivered from the cruelty of the Romans [i.e. the Byzantines], their wickedness, their wrath and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves at peace." [Arnold, Preaching, p. 54-5.]

 Islamic Spain (Anti-Semitic?)

- Jews had reached the peak of their prosperity under Islamic rule. Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (915-990 CE) was the chief minister of the Islamic Caliphate of Cordova, governed by the most powerful monarch in Western Europe, Abdur-Rahman III. Hasdai’s position inevitably benefited his people, as he made inquiries into the affairs of his brethren scattered as far as Caucasus. In a letter to the Jewish Khazar King Joseph, he elaborates upon his fortunate position in al-Andalus:

"Praise be to the beneficent God for his mercy towards me! Kings of the earth, to whom his [the Caliph’s] magnificence and power are known, bring gifts to him, conciliating his favour by costly presents, such as the king of the Germans, the king of the Gebalim, the king of Constantinople, and others. All their gifts pass through my hands, and I am charged with making gifts in return. (Let my lips express praise to the God in heaven who so far extends his loving kindness towards me without any merit of my own, but in the fullness of his mercies.) I always ask the ambassadors of these monarchs about our brethren the Jews, the remnant of the captivity, whether they have heard anything concerning the deliverance of those who have pined in bondage and had found no rest." [Hasdai Ibn Shaprut quoted in The Jewish Caravan edited by Leo W. Schwarz, The Jewish Publication Society of America, (Philadelphia, 1946), p. 199.]

- Samuel Ibn Nagrella ha-Nagid (993-1056 CE) was another powerful Jewish chief minister of Granada in Islamic Spain who served his people well. Samuel ibn Nagrella’s fortune and his influence benefited the Jews worldwide. This was only made possible because of his position as a chief minister of an Islamic power.

Abraham Ibn Daud (ca. 1161), a Jewish chronicler, elaborates upon ha-Nagid’s significance for the spread of the Jewish tradition:

"He achieved great good for Israel in Spain, the Maghreb, Ifriqiya, Egypt, Sicily, indeed as far as the academy in Babylonia and the Holy City. He provided material benefits out of his own pocket for students of Torah in all these countries. He also purchased many books – [copies] of the Holy Scriptures as well as of the Mishna and Talmud, which are also among the holy writings. Throughout Spain and the countries just mentioned, whoever wished to devote full time to the study of the Torah found in him a patron. Moreover, he retained scribes who would make copies of the Mishna and Talmud, which he would present to students who were unable to purchase copies themselves, both in the academies of Spain as well as of the other countries we mentioned. These gifts were coupled with annual contribution of olive oil for the synagogues of Jerusalem, which he would despatch from his own home. He spread Torah abroad and died at a ripe old age after having earned four crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of power, the crown of Levite, and towering over them all, by dint of good deeds in each of these domains, the crown of a good name." [Abraham Ibn Daud quoted by Olivia Remie Constable. Medieval Iberia, (Pennsylvania, 1997), p. 101-2.]

- Note that all the Jewish activities, under the patronage of Samuel Ibn Nagrella, mentioned above by Ibn Daud were taking place in the lands controlled by the Muslims. In other words, the freedom and autonomy allowed by Shariah Law enabled the Jews to carry out their religious pursuits without any hindrance. Bahya ibn Paqudah, a medieval Andalusian Jewish writer, describes the prosperous existence of the Jews in Islamic Spain in a treatise Kitab al-Hidaya (ca. 1080):

"If one of our contemporaries looks for similar miracles now, let him examine objectively our situation among the Gentiles [Muslims in this case] since the beginning of the Diaspora and the way our affairs are managed in spite of the differences between us and them both secret and open, which are well known to them. Let him see that our situation, as far as living and subsistence are concerned, is the same as theirs, or even better, in times of war and civil disturbances. You see how both their leaders and their vulgar peasants toil much more than the middle and lower classes among us, according to our Lord’s promise contained in the Scriptures." [The Book of Direction to the Duties of the Heart, translation of Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paqudah’s Arabic work al-Hidaya ila Faraid al-Qulub by Menahem Mansoor. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, p. 171.]

It was the Shariah Law which enabled the non-Muslims to enjoy the fruits of freedom and security. He even acknowledges that ‘in spite of the differences between us and them both secret and open, which are well known to them’ the Jewish living conditions were some times better than those of the Muslims. This cannot be attributed to anything other than the commandments in the Quran whereby Muslims are asked by God to uphold justice at all times, even towards those they may dislike:

"O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do." (Quran 5:8)


Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew who travelled to Baghdad in 1168, described the situation of the Iraqi Jewry in these words:

"In Baghdad there are about forty thousand Jews, and they dwell in security, prosperity, and honour under the great Caliph [al-Mustanjid, 1160-70 CE], and amongst them are great sages, the Heads of the Academies engaged in the study of the Law…" [Benjamin of Tudela, The Jew in the Medieval World, a source book edited by Jacob R. Marcus, (New York, 1972), p. 185.]

This security, prosperity, and honour conferred upon the Jews of Baghdad were not accidental, rather they emanate from the conduct commanded by Islam.

 There are many examples of Jewish physicians working in the court and treating the royal family when necessary. One such example is Maimonides, who served in the Ayubid court and was a favourite of the brother of Saladin.

• Ottoman Turkish territory

In 1420 Rabbi Yitzhak Tsarfati wrote a letter to his persecuted German brothers from the Ottoman Turkish territory (Edirne [Adrianople]) inviting them to join him in prosperous and tolerant Islamic lands:

"Your cries and laments have reached us. We have been told of all the sorrows and persecutions which you suffer in German lands. Listen, my brothers…if you…knew even the tenth of what God has blessed us with in this land, you would give heed to no further difficulties. You would embark at once to us…Here the Jew is not compelled to wear a yellow hat as a badge of shame…You will be free of your enemies. Here you will find peace." [Rabbi Yitzhak Tsarfati quoted by Howard M. Sachar. Farewell Espana, (New York, 1994), p. 75.]

‘Here you will find peace’, is the concluding statement Rabbi Yitzhak used in his letter. This peace was an outcome of the justice delivered by the Ottoman authorities. If the Ottomans were just, this was due to the ideal they might have followed. The Prophet of Islam صلى الله عليه وسلم told his followers that on the Day of Judgment, when there will be no other shade, seven will be under the shade of Allah’s throne and a just ruler is at the top of the list. [Al-Bukhari 660, Muslim 1031.]

• Ottoman Rule

- A Jewish historian Elijah Capsali describes the Jewish prosperity in the Ottoman Empire as follows:

"Now, since the Jews feared the Lord, he provided them with houses filled with all kinds of goodness in a place where formerly, at the time of the King of Byzantium, there were only two or three congregations, the Jews increased in numbers, becoming a people with more than communities, for the land could not support them altogether – for their property was overwhelming." [Elijah Capsali quoted by Joseph R. Hacker “The ‘Surgun’ System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire during the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries.” In Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership, ed. Aron Roderigue, Bloomington, IN, 1992, p. 6-7.]

‘For their prosperity was overwhelming’, having read this, can one still imagine with reasonability that the Muslims were ever anti-Jewish? The Qur’an instructs the Muslims to be kind to those who do not fight them for their religion:

"Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity." (Quran 60:8)

- The Portuguese Jewish chronicler Samuel Usque shed some light upon the Jewish migrants’ condition in the city of Salonika, which was under the Ottoman rule:

"The majority of my children who have been persecuted and exiled from Europe and many other parts of the world have taken refuge in this city, and she embraces them and receives them with as much love and good will as if she were Jerusalem, that old and ever pious mother of ours." [Samuel Usque, Consolation for the Tribulation of the Jews, trans. Martin A. Cohen. Philadelphia, 1965, p. 211-12.]

- Having read so many Jewish testimonies, one can easily conclude that the Jews found a safe haven in the Islamic lands within the Islamic system of governing. An Italian Jewish traveller, David dei Rossi, travelled through the Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth century. He documented his observations about Jewish people living in Safed as follows:

"The Exile here is not like in our homeland. The Turks hold respectable Jews in esteem. Here and in Alexandria, Egypt, Jews are the chief officers and administrators of the customs, and the king’s revenues. No injuries are perpetuated against them in all the empire. Only this year, in consequence of the extraordinary expenditure caused by the war against Shah Tahmsap al-Sufi, were the Jews required to make advances of loans to the princes." [David dei Rossi, quoted by Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia, 1979, p, 291-92]

Professor Dean Phillip Bell, who is dean and professor of Jewish history at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, had similar views with regards to the Jewish treatment at the hands of the Muslims: "Jews under medieval Islam never suffered from the same general negative perception as in the Christian West. Despite regional variations and high medieval political instability, in medieval Islam multicultural environments, combined with active engagement in sciences and literature, led to something of an Islamic golden age for the Jews, at least according to most historical accounts. It has been primarily in the context of recent political developments that the once assumed positive views of Jewish life under medieval Islam have been seriously questioned." [Dean Phillip Bell, Jews in the Early Modern World. (New York, 2008), p. 25.]

- Jews going to Muslim court [Shariah] in Ottoman Jerusalem:

In some places Jews were so comfortable with the Islamic system that they deliberately applied to Shariah courts for the purpose of attaining justice and arbitration, even when they had complete autonomy in their religious affairs [i.e. they had their own courts to refer to]. For instance, Amnon Cohen, another Jewish historian, studied the documents stored in the archives of the Shariah court of Jerusalem (commonly known as sijill) from the 16th century, whereby he found one thousand Jewish cases filed form 1530 to 1601. Cohen published his research in 1994 and during his research he made some astonishing discoveries, as he himself states:

"Cases concerning Jews cover a very wide spectrum of topics. If we bear in mind that the Jews of Jerusalem had their own separate courts, the number of cases brought to Muslim court (which actually meant putting themselves at the mercy of a judge outside the pale of their communal and religious identity) is quite impressive...The Jews went to the Muslim court for a variety of reasons, but the overwhelming fact was their ongoing and almost permanent presence there. This indicates that they went there not only in search of justice, but did so hoping, or rather knowing, that more often than not they would attain redress when wronged…The Jews went to court to resolve much more than their conflicts with Muslim or Christian neighbours. They turned to Shari’a authorities to seek redress with respect to internal differences, and even in matters within their immediate family (intimate relations between husband and wife, nafaqa maintenance payments to divorcees, support of infants etc.)" [Amnon Cohen, A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the Sijill of Jerusalem (XVIth Century). Part One, 1994, Pennsylvania, p. 8-17]

Cohen provides further information about the Jewish experience in the 16 century Ottoman Jerusalem, also mentioning that the Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem were free and happy:

"Their possessions were protected, although they might have had to pay for extra protection at night for their houses and commercial properties. Their title deeds and other official documents indicating their rights were honoured when presented to the court, being treated like those of their Muslim neighbours…The picture emerging from the sijill documents is baffling. On the one hand we encounter recurring Sultanic decrees sent to Jerusalem – in response to pleas of the Jews – to the effect that “nothing should be done to stop them from applying their own law” regarding a variety of matters. There are also many explicit references to the overriding importance of applying Shari’a law to them only if they so choose.

On the other hand, if we look closely at some of the inheritance lists, we see that the local court allocated to female members of Jewish families half the share given to male members, exactly as in Islamic law. This meant, ipso facto, a significant improvement in the status of Jewish women with respect to legacies over that accorded them by Jewish tradition, although it actually meant the application of Islamic law in an internal Jewish context…he [the Muslim Judge] defended Jewish causes jeopardized by high-handed behaviour of local governors; he enabled Jewish business people and craftsmen to lease properties from Muslim endowments on an equal footing with Muslim bidders; more generally, he respected their rituals and places of worship and guarded them against encroachment even when the perpetrators were other Muslim dignitaries.

No one interfered with their internal organisation or their external cultural and economic activities…In a world where civil and political equality, or positive social change affecting the group or even the individual were not the norms, the Sultan’s Jewish subjects had no reason to mourn their status or begrudge their conditions of life. The Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem enjoyed religious and administrative autonomy within an Islamic state, and as a constructive, dynamic element of the local economy and society they could – and actually did – contribute to its functioning." [Amnon Cohen, A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the Sijill of Jerusalem (XVIth Century). Part One, 1994, Pennsylvania, p. 18-23]

It is always important to keep the Treaty of Madinah in mind: "It is incumbent on all the Muslims to help and extend sympathetic treatment to the Jews who have entered into an agreement with us. Neither an oppression of any type should be perpetrated on them nor their enemy be helped against them." [Ibn Hisham, as-Sira an-Nabawiyya, Cairo, 1955, v 1, p. 501-4.]

• Baghdad, Iraq

During the Islamic Golden Age, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worked together to promote science and learning.



Those witnesses should suffice to ascertain the reality of the sense of security felt by non-Muslims under Islamic Shariah based governments. It was this sense of peace and security which produced some of the best civilizations in the world. The cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cordoba were flourishing with libraries, hospitals, universities, institutions that served to protect the rights of its citizens and animals. This pattern continued until the arrival of the Spanish Reconquista (Toledo, 1085), Crusaders (Jerusalem, 1099) and Mongols (Baghdad, 1258).

Emanating from this peace and justice, the subjects governed by Islamic political system were given attention as to their wellbeing. Such wellbeing depended upon education and for this reason Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian, and Roman knowledge was translated into Arabic at Baghdad, Damascus and Cordova and then was made universally available to all free of cost. This is affirmed by a prominent English proponent of Islam, Marmaduke Pickthall:

"In Spain, under the Umayyad and in Baghdad under the Abbasid Caliphs, Christians and Jews, equally, with Muslims were admitted to the schools and universities not only that, but were boarded and lodged in hostels at the cost of the states." [M.M. Pickthall, The Cultural side of Islam, (Karachi, 1954), p. 81.]


The Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja’far Mansur (d. 775) established a school called Bayt al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) in Baghdad, which was an institution specialising in translations and producing original academic works. Translators were usually rewarded by gold in equal weight of their books. [S.M. Imamuddin, Arabic Writing and Arab Libraries, (London, 1983), p. 35.]


This phenomena of amassing books and gaining knowledge was not confined to Baghdad, as the Umayyads in Spain were also amassing books and Libraries on an unprecedented scale. Muslim Rulers of Spain were strong supporters of advancement of scientific knowledge.

The first library of importance and value in Europe was the royal library of the Umayyads in Cordova. Abdul-Rahman I (756-788) was himself a scholar and a poet. His son Hisham I (786-796) followed in his footsteps by becoming a poet and an admirer of Arabic literature, and then Hakam I (796-826) also loved poetry and liked to be surrounded by scholars. The later Caliphs, especially Abdul-Rahman III (912-961) and Hakam II (961-1008), were devoted to the hobby of collecting rare books. Abbass bin Nasih, the agent of Abdul-Rahman III, travelled as far as Mesopotamia in search of Arabic translations of Persian and Greek works on Science. Rare and valuable books, old and new, were bought and copied for Hakam II in Alexandria, Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus. The chief librarian of Hakam II was a high-ranking eunuch, Talid, according to whom there were 400,000 volumes of books in the royal library. The list of the books, recording the names of the authors and the titles alone, consisted of 44 volumes of 50 folios each..[S.M. Imamuddin, Arabic Writing and Arab Libraries, (London, 1983), p. 50-51.]

There were hundreds of these private and public libraries in 10th Century Islamic Spain. These libraries attracted thousands of scholars from all over Europe to come and study the corrected form of Greek sciences. Cordova in this century was the largest and most civilised city in Europe. The city is said to have had 70 public libraries, 600 mosques, 900 public baths and 200,000 houses. The street lights stretched out for 10 miles. [S. E. Al-Djazairi, The Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation, (Oxford, 2005), p .224.]

Whenever the rulers of Leon, Navarre or Barcelona needed a surgeon, an architect or a dressmaker, they applied to Cordova. [Syed Azizur Rahman, The Story of Islamic Spain, (Delhi, 2005), p. 606.]

Queen Tota of Navarre, for instance, brought her son Sancho the Fat to the city for a cure of his obesity. Peter the Venerable, the friend of Adelard of Bath, who had spent much time in Cordova, mentions that on his first arrival in Spain he found many learned men even from England, studying astronomy. Reinhart Dozy states that in medieval Spain everyone could read and write. [Dozy, Spain, p. 455.]


> Rahzes (al-Razi) authored works on geography;
> Arzachel (al-Zarqali) on the astrolabe and astronomy;
> Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham) on optics;
> Abulcasis (Abul-Qasim az-Zahravi) on medical encyclopaedia and astronomy;
> Averroes (Ibn Rushd) on anatomy, physiology, materia medica, diagnosis, therapeutics and hygiene;
> Algazel (al-Ghazali) on philosophy;
> Abenouefit (Ibn Nafis) on Aristotle’s and Galen’s medicine;
> Avempace (Ibn Baja) on physics;
> Ibn Batuta and Ibn Jubayr on travel;
> Maimonides (Jewish Moosa bin Maimun) on medicine;
> Ishaq bin Haytham on poisons and laxatives;
> Ibn Hazm on prose and poetry;
> Ibn Hayyan on history;
> Idrisi on cartography and geography;
> Al-Khawarizmi and Al-Battani on Algebra and Trigonometry;
> Al-Jahiz on zoology;
> Ibn Firnas on astronomy, meteorology and musicology;
> Maslama bin Ahmad on mathematics;
> Abdul-Rahman bin Ismail on geometry of Euclid and philosophy of Aristotle;
> Al-Butruji on Astronomy;
> Jabar bin Aflah on Trigonometry;
> Arib bin Sa’d on gynaecology, hygiene of pregnant women and the care of infants.

[For details see the encyclopaedic work by George Sarton, Intorduction to the History of Science, (Washington, 1927-48), 3 volumes.]

All of the above listed giants were produced and nurtured in Islamic societies, which were a direct outcome of the Islamic protection and patronage. It was the law of Islam that governed the streets of Baghdad, Damascus and Cordova when all of these individuals walked through them.

The fact that there were non-Muslims also who were able to produce great works is evidence of the tolerance and intellectual progression facilitated by the Islamic Rule. If they were persecuted, oppressed and insecure, then they would not be able to become such great scholars; for safety and protection goes hand in hand with intellectual progression.

These aforementioned scholars studied Greek works in detail, carried out experiments, wrote commentaries on them, correcting the theories where necessary and produced researches, interpretations and corrections in the form of their own independent works. A few such examples are Al-Biruni’s criticism and correction of Aristotle’s philosophy in a work called Al-As’ilah wa al-ajwab (Questions and Answers); Al-Khwarizmi’s correction of Ptolemy’s geography in his work (Face of the Earth); Al-Razi based his medical theories nearly solely on the criticism of Galen in his work titled Fil-shukuk ala jalinus (Doubts about Galen); Al-Biruni blamed Galen for his excessive credulity when he reports his story of the snake queen whose sight or hiss caused instant death; Ibn al-Haytham’s correction and refutation of Galen’s optics based upon practical experiments; Al-Khazini’s work on measures of weights and densities surpasses his Greek predecessors; Al-Jazari’s development of Greek mechanics and the list is endless. [For details see S. E. Al-Djazairi, The Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation, (Oxford, 2005). Also, George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance, (Massachusetts, 2007).]

Another point worth mentioning is the fact that some of these scientists were Islamic theologians par excellence. It was their theology which inspired them to carry out inquiries into the connecting principles of nature. Allah says:

"Will they not regard the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is raised? And the hills, how they are set up? And the earth, how it is spread?" (Quran 88:17-20)

Zion Zohar, an American Jewish historian, confirms the Jewish appreciation of the Muslim arrival in Spain (711 CE) in this way: "Born during this era of Islamic rule, the famous Golden Age of Spanish Jewry (circa 900-1200) produced such luminaries as: statesman and diplomat Hasdai ibn Shaprut, vizier and army commander Shmuel ha-Nagid, poet-philosophers Solomon Ibn Gabriol and Judah Halevi, and at the apex of them all, Moses Ben Maimon, also known among the Spaniards as Maimonides." [Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, (New York, 2005), p. 9]

Napoleon Bonaparte (d. 1814), a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution, had said: "...Al-Mansur, Harun-al-Rashid and al-Mamun cultivated arts and sciences. They were fond of literature, chemistry and mathematics; they lived with savants, caused the Greek and Latin authors - the Illiad, the Odyssey, Euclid etc. to be translated into Arabic, and founded schools and colleges for medicine, astronomy and moral science…in the library of Cairo there were 6000 volumes on astronomy, and more than 100,000 on other subjects; in the library of Cordova there were 300,000 volumes. Sciences and arts reigned 500 years under the Caliphs and made great progress..." [Christian Cherfils, Bonaparte et Islam, Paris, 1914, p. 105-125]




• John William Draper, a 19th century historian and scientist, condemned the attitude of suppressing facts, which is based upon “national conceit” and “religious rancour”:

"I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has contrived to put out of sight our scientific obligations to the Mohammedans (Muslims). Injustice found on religious rancor and national conceit cannot be perpetuated forever." [J.W. Draper, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, George Bell and Sons, 1888, v II, p. 42.]

Draper could see clearly that the western scholarship in the 19th century wasn’t very interested in acknowledging the fruits of Islam. He detected religious prejudice and nationalistic tendencies behind this attitude. What he didn’t mention as a cause of this mindset, however, was the superiority complex of the western authors. Most of the Muslim lands were colonized by the West in the 19th century and there was no need to praise an inferior subdued civilization at the expense of a superior one. 

• Ulick R. Burke, defended Draper in 1900 when one of the Spanish authors attempted to belittle his views:

"The learning and culture of the Spanish Arabs is simply denied by many modern Spaniards, as, for instance, by Father Camara, the author of the orthodox Contestaction or refutation of Draper’s Intellectual Development. The mere denial, uncritical, rhetorical, and unsupported by any authorities, is in itself, of course, worthless ; but it is highly interesting as showing the temper of Spanish Churchmen as regards history and science at the present day, and more particularly as regards the bitterness of their bigotry towards Islam." [Burke, Spain, p. 286-7.]

• Victor Robinson spotted this unjust behaviour of suppressing the Islamic contribution in works on the history of science in 1936:

"A good sketch of Avicenna in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1910) has been trimmed down to a few unsigned paragraphs in the present (fourteenth) edition." [Robinson, Medicine, p. 495.]

• While making an inquiry into the origin of the word trobar (from which the word troubadour [a form of medieval European poetry] is derived), Maria Rosa Menocal complains of the same problem:

"One argument - that it came from an Arabic word - was not only not favorably received, but worse, it was not even deemed worthy of heated and acrimonious discussion…There is not a single etymological dictionary of English or a Romance Language that gives the Arabic etymon as even a possibility, although the question is usually noted as “unresolved”…The very possibility of an Arabic solution was shunned as taboo…Westerners – Europeans have great difficulty in considering the possibility that they are in some way seriously indebted to the Arab world, or that the Arabs were central to the making of medieval Europe." [Maria Rosa Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History, (Philadelphia, 2004), preface, p. xii.]

• Major Arthur Glyn, a 19th century English gentlemen advised the authors of his time to be just and fair, saying:

"…But apart from all these weighty consideration, the attitude of Europe towards Islam should be one of eternal gratitude, instead of base ingratitude and forgetfulness. Never to this day has Europe acknowledged in an honest and whole-hearted manner the great and everlasting debt she owes to Islamic culture and civilization. Only in a lukewarm and perfunctory way has she recognized that when, during the Dark Ages, her people were sunk in feudalism and ignorance, Moslem civilization under the Arabs reached a high standard of social and scientific splendour, that kept alive the flickering embers of European society from utter decadence.

Do not we, who now consider ourselves on the topmost pinnacle ever reached by culture and civilization, recognize that had it not been for the high culture, the civilization and intellectual as well as social splendour of the Arabs, and to the soundness of their school system, Europe to this day have remained sunk in the darkness of ignorance? Have we forgotten that the Mohammedan maxim was that, “the real learning of a man is of more public importance than any particular religious opinions he may entertain”…that Moslem liberality was in striking contrast with the then intolerant state of Europe? Have we forgotten that the Khalifate arose in the most degenerate period of Rome and Persia, also that the greater part of Europe lay under the dark cloud of barbarism? Does the magnificent valour of the Arabs, inspired as it was by a theism as lofty as it was pure, not appeal to us? Does not the moderation and comparative toleration shown by them to the conquered, notwithstanding the fierce and burning ardour to regenerate mankind that impelled them onwards to conquest, also appeal us? Does it not all the more appeal to us, when we contrast this with the bitterness of the attitude of the Christians sects towards one another?

…It cannot be that already we have lost sight of the amazing intellectual activity of the Moslem world, during the earlier part of the “Abbasid” period more especially? It cannot be that we have quite forgotten the irrecoverable loss that was inflicted on Arabian literature and on the world at large by the wanton destruction of thousands of books that was prompted by Christian bigotry and fanaticism? It cannot surely be said of Christian Europe that for centuries now she has done her best to hide her obligation to the Arabs? Yet most assuredly obligations such as these are far too sacred to lie much longer hidden! Let Europe-Christendom rather confess and acknowledge her fault. Let her proclaim aloud to her ignorant masses, and to the world at large, the ingratitude she has displayed, and the eternal debt she owes to the Islam she no longer despises. Open confession is good for the soul, and only a confession such as this can wipe of the black stain which has for so long besmirched her fair fame. Let Christendom once for all recognize that the greatest of all faults if to be conscious of non that acknowledging a fault is saying, only in other words, we are wiser today than we were yesterday. Only through magnanimity such as this can she claim redemption…" [Major Arthur Glyn Leonard, Islam-Her Moral and Spiritual Value, (London, 1909), p. 142-147]


In great contrast from the situation of Islamic Spain, the rest of Europe was in deep slumber of ignorance and darkness.

Victor Robinson, a historian of science, summed up the contrast between medieval Europe and Islamic Spain very eloquently:

"Europe was darkened at sunset, Cordova shone with public lamps; Europe was dirty, Cordova built a thousand baths; Europe was covered with vermin, Cordova changed its undergarments daily; Europe lay in mud, Cordova’s streets were paved; Europe’s palaces had smoke-holes in the ceiling, Cordova’s arabesques were exquisite; Europe’s nobility could not sign its name, Cordova’s children went to school; Europe’s monks could not read the baptismal service, Cordova’s teachers created a library of Alexandrian dimensions." [Victor Robinson, The Story of Medicine, (New York, 1936), p. 164.]

Let us now move onto the origins of how Europe was taken out from its darkness and into the light. Islam brought Europe from darkness to light. 


After Toledo was taken by the Catholics in 1085, a school, particularly for making translations from Arabic to other European languages, was established. Many scholars from Europe travelled there to work on translations. For instance, Gerard of Cremona translated 80 works from Arabic to Latin on astronomy and mathematics (including Khawarizmi’s Algebra, Thabit bin Qurra’s work on Roman balance, Al-Kindi’s optical works, writings on chemistry by al-Razi and Ibn Sina’s medical encyclopaedia); John of Seville translated astronomical, medical and philosophical works (by Al-Kindi, Al-Battani, Thabit Ibn Qurra, Al-Qabisi , Al-Firghani, Al-Shifaa [The Healing] of Ibn Sina, Maqasid al-Falasifa [The Ways of Philosophers] by al-Ghazali); Plato of Trivoli made substantial amount of translations from Arabic to Latin and the complete list of translators and their translations is far too long to cover here. [See George Sarton’s Introduction to the History of Science.]

The evidence [Lynn Thorndike, Incipits of Medieval Scientific Writings in Latin, (Massachusetts, 1937)] suggests that the translations of Arabic works on science were made for almost three centuries starting from the 10th to the 13th century and were gradually sent into the rest of Europe.

Professor Thomas Arnold was of the opinion that the European Renaissance originated in Islamic Spain:

"…Muslim Spain had written one of the brightest pages in the history of Medieval Europe. Her influence had passed through Provence into the other countries of Europe, bringing into birth a new poetry and a new culture, and it was from her that Christian scholars received what of Greek philosophy and science they had to stimulate their mental activity up to the time of the Renaissance." [Thomas Arnold, Preaching of Islam, (London, 1913), p. 131]


• George Saliba from Columbia University penned a book on the Muslim scientific activity, stating: "There is hardly a book on Islamic civilization, or on the general history of science, that does not at least pretend to recognize the importance of the Islamic scientific tradition and the role this tradition played in the development of human civilization in general." [George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance, (Massachusetts, 2007), p. 1.]

• E. J. Holmyard asserted in his book Makers of Chemistry that "early European chemistry is almost wholly a legacy from Islam, it is impossible to understand medieval Latin alchemy without a clear idea of the work of the Arabs." [E. J. Holmyard, Makers of Chemistry, (Oxford, 1931), p. 82.]

Muslims governed parts of Spain with Shariah law for more than seven centuries (711-1492 CE). This law produced such peace and tranquility among the population that they were able to achieve high levels of academic excellence and scientific advancement, and it was this very same advancement, which was subsequently translated from Arabic into Latin for European learning by scholars such as Gerard of Cremona, Michael Scot, Robert of Ketton and Adelard of Bath.

• Europeans were, at that time, so unacquainted with the science of Chemistry until some translators brought this knowledge to their countrymen. Holmyard quotes Robert of Ketton (a medieval translator of Arabic works), who wrote in the preface of his translation of the Arabic ‘Composition of Alchemy’, that "Since what Alchymia is, and what its composition is, your Latin world does not yet know, I will explain in the present book." [E. J. Holmyard, Alchemy, (Harmondsworth, 1957), p. 103.]

• "Still engraved all over the walls of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is the slogan of Granada: ولا غالب إلا الله (And there is no victor besides Allah)." [Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• R. T. Gunther authored a monumental work in several volumes titled 'Early Science in Oxford' and in volume II (concerned with the science of astronomy) he asserted under a heading ‘The Transmission of Arabian Learning to Oxford’ that:

"In the thirteenth century the seeds of Arabian learning began to germinate in Europe among men of western race. The science of the Moors (i.e. Muslims) in Spain had brought them European reputation: Emperors and Kings became their pupils and patrons. Natural science in the west began to put forth the first shoots of the tree that has grown so mighty. We trace the origin of our western knowledge in matters of astronomy to some three or four sources. The Almagest or Arabian version of Ptolemy’s work was translated from the Arabic into Latin about 1230 at the instance of Frederick II. The astronomical manuals of some of the Arabians were abstracted and reproduced in Latin by Sacrobosco in his little text-book, De Sphaera, which, with the Alfonsine Tables published by Alfonso X, King of Castile, became part of the equipment of every astronomer for the next two or three hundred years." [R. T. Gunther, Early Science in Oxford, (Oxford, 1923), v II, p. 27.]


 Gerbert of Aurillac also known as Pope Sylvester II (930-1003). [S. E. Al-Djazairi, The Hidden Debt to Islamic Civilisation, (Oxford, 2005), p. 152.]

 Adelard of Bath and Daniel of Morley, who was one of the scholars responsible for the establishment of Oxford University. Daniel of Morley brought many philosophical works back to England which in consequence enlightened the English scholarship. [Bettany Hughes, When the Moors Ruled Europe, BBC Documentary.]

 Medieval European literature was highly influenced by the Arabic poetry originating in Spain. Some argue that the great French Troubadour poetry tradition can trace its origin back to Islamic Spain. [See Maria Rosa Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History, (Pennsylvania, 2004)]


 John Locke (d. 1704)

Islam continued to influence European thought profoundly as late as the 18th century. Edward Pococke (1604-1691) was a man who spent years collecting Islamic manuscripts in Syria and was, upon his return to England, appointed as the lecturer of Islamic studies. John Locke is known to have attended lectures on Islamic studies delivered by Edward Pococke in Oxford University. John Locke fascinated by his learning, said:

"I know not anyone in the university whom I would more willingly consult… (Pococke) had often the silence of a learner, where he had the knowledge of a master." [Christopher J. Walker, Islam and the West, (Gloucester, 2005), p. 138-167]

Napoleon Bonaparte (d. 1821)

Even a conqueror like Napoleon Bonaparte, upon his encounter with Islam, had praised the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Although he didn’t appear to be very keen on peace and justice himself, he nevertheless admired the tenets of Islam in this regard. So great was his admiration for Islam that he was often accused of almost converting to Islam (even by people like Sir Walter Scott). [M. De Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, (London, 1836), p. 159.]

Napoleon Bonaparte expressed his deep fascination with the Quran and its law as follows:

"I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of the Quran which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness." [Christian Cherfils, Bonaparte et Islam, (Paris, 1914), p. 105-125. (See also J. Christopher Herold, Bonaparte in Egypt, (London, 1962), p. 145)]

M. De Bourrienne (Napoleon’s private secretary), however, believed that Napoleon never converted. In a footnote on the page 160 of the first volume of his Memoirs of Napoleon, Bourrienne states regarding this issue:

"On the subject of his alleged conversion to Mahometanism, Bonaparte expressed himself at St. Helena as follows: 'I never followed any of the tenets of that religion. I never prayed in the mosques. I never abstained from wine, or was circumcised; neither did I ever profess it. I said merely that we were the friends of Mussalmans, and that I respected Mahomet their prophet, which was true; I respect him now…'" [M. De Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, (London, 1836), p. 160. (Please note that these memoirs were published just 15 years after Napoleon’s death).]

Adam Smith (d. 1790)

Adam Smith, the 18th Century founder father of modern economics whose picture is printed on the back of the current British £20 note, was exceedingly inspired by the Islamic method of governing. He had appreciated the Islamic political system as follows:

"The ruin of the empire of the Romans, and, along with it the subversion of all law and order, which happened a few centuries afterwards, produced the entire neglect of that study of the connecting principles of nature, to which leisure and security can alone give occasion. After the fall of those great conquerors and the civilizers of mankind, the empire of the Caliphs seems to have been the first state under which the world enjoyed that degree of tranquility which the cultivation of the sciences requires. It was under the protection of those generous and magnificent princes, that the ancient philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks were restored and established in the East; that tranquility, which their mild, just and religious government diffused over their vast empire, revived the curiosity of mankind, to inquire into the connecting principles of nature." [Adam Smith, ‘History of Astronomy’, The Essays of Adam Smith, (London, 1869), p. 353.]

Adam Smith (1723-1790) was one of the most outstandingly intelligent economists of his time. His works such as The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations are thought to be the cornerstone of western literature. The latter work (studied as a reference point to this day) seems to be very much concerned with an inquiry into how nations might acquire success and prosperity. Some of the ways of acquiring prosperity and scientific advancement, which he expressed in the aforementioned quote, are through a sense of security, tranquility and justice, and he believed that the mild, just and religious government of the Muslim Caliphs (who governed with Shariah Law) made all of that possible. 

Adam Smith further reminded the Europeans of the benefits they had reaped from the civilization of Islam:

"The victorious arms of the Saracens (i.e. Muslims) carried into Spain the learning as well as the gallantry, of the East; and along with it, the tables of Almamon, and the Arabian translations of Ptolemy and Aristotle; and thus Europe received a second time, from Babylon, the rudiments of the sciences of the heavens. The writings of Ptolemy were translated from Arabic into Latin; and the Peripatetic philosophy was studied in Averroes [Ibn Rushd] and Avicenna [Ibn Sina] with as much eagerness and as much submission to its doctrines in the West, as it had been in the East." [Adam Smith, The Essays of Adam Smith, (London, 1869), p. 354.]




In some cases, excessive indulgence in the study of science and philosphy was resented by some orthdox scholars of Islam. However there are other examples whereby some of the most orthodox scholars of Islam, such as Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (b. 1263), studied philosophy to refute the absurdities of the Greeks and their admirers. 

If we call some of these famous scientists "heretics" such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), they were still a product of that very society which produced those orthodox schools in the first place and none of the “heretics” were burnt alive. Both the Muslim theology and the Islamic science were a product of societies nurtured by the law of Islam. Baghdad, Damascus and Cordova were governed by Sharia law and the philosophers, scientists and poets therein cannot be separated from the law that protected their freedom and facilitated their study.


• As early as the 1920s De Lacy O’ Leary (one of the leading authorities on the history of Islam in the 20th century) felt compelled to state:

"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated." [De Lacy O’ Leary, Islam at the Crossroads, (London, 1923), p. 8.]

• A. S. Tritton, the author of the widely acclaimed ‘Caliphs and their non-Muslim Subjects’, also ventured to disprove the claim that the early Muslims were converting the masses forcefully:

"The picture of the Muslim soldiers advancing with a sword in one hand and a Koran in the other is quite false." [A. S. Tritton, Islam, (London, 1951), p. 21.]

• Lawrence E. Brown concedes:

"Incidentally these well established facts dispose of the idea so widely fostered in Christian writings that the Muslims wherever they went forced people to accept Islam at the point of sword." [Lawrence E. Browne, The Prospects of Islam, (London, 1944), p. 14.]

• Hugh Kennedy, a prominent historian of the early Islamic conquests, expressed similar views:

"The Koran certainly provided scriptural support for the idea that Muslims could and should fight the unbelievers, but at no point does it suggest that they should be presented with the alternatives of conversions or death." [Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, (London, 2008), p. 50.]

• Michael Bonner, an authority on the history of early Islam, comments on the Quranic verse,

"There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path..." (Quran 2:256)

"To begin with, there was no forced conversion, no choice between “Islam and the Sword”. Islamic law, following a clear Quranic principle (2:256), prohibited any such things: dhimmis [i.e. those under agreement of protection] must be allowed to practice their religion." [Michael Bonner, Jihad in Islamic History, (Princeton, 2006), p. 89-90.]


The Quran transformed the people of Arabia who emerged as the torch bearers of peace and justice in the world. This peace then enabled different faith communities to co-exist and this co-existence then consequently produced, as Maria Rosa Menocal calls it, the Ornament of the World. One cannot separate the fruit from the tree and the tree cannot be conceived without the seed. The seed of convivencia (co-existence) was laid by the Quran and the fruit subsequently emerged through the spiritual as well as material satisfaction of mankind.

[Adnan Rashid, Islam's War On Terror, A Historical Consideration, 2012]
[The Hittin Institute, Shariah Law: Terrorising or Modernising?]




"If asked who gave birth to the modern scientific method, how might you respond? Isaac Newton, maybe? Galileo? Aristotle?

A great many students of science history would probably respond, "Roger Bacon." An English scholar and friar, and a 13th century pioneer in the field of optics, he described, in exquisite detail, a repeating cycle of observation, hypothesis, and experimentation in his writings, as well as the need for independent verification of his work.

But dig a little deeper into the past, and you'll unearth something that may surprise you: The origins of the scientific method hearken back to the Islamic World, not the Western one. Around 250 years before Roger Bacon expounded on the need for experimental confirmation of his findings, an Arab scientist named Ibn al-Haytham was saying the exact same thing.

Little is known about Ibn al-Haytham's life, but historians believe he was born around the year 965, during a period marked as the Golden Age of Arabic science. His father was a civil servant, so the young Ibn al-Haytham received a strong education, which assuredly seeded his passion for science. He was also a devout Muslim, believing that an endless quest for truth about the natural world brought him closer to God. Sometime around the dawn of the 11th Century, he moved to Cairo in Egypt. It was here that he would complete his most influential work.

The prevailing wisdom at the time was that we saw what our eyes, themselves, illuminated. Supported by revered thinkers like Euclid and Ptolemy, emission theory stated that sight worked because our eyes emitted rays of light -- like flashlights. But this didn't make sense to Ibn al-Haytham. If light comes from our eyes, why, he wondered, is it painful to look at the sun? This simple realization catapulted him into researching the behavior and properties of light: optics.

In 1011, Ibn al-Haytham was placed under house arrest by a powerful caliph in Cairo. Though unwelcome, the seclusion was just what he needed to explore the nature of light. Over the next decade, Ibn al-Haytham proved that light only travels in straight lines, explained how mirrors work, and argued that light rays can bend when moving through different mediums, like water, for example.

But Ibn al-Haytham wasn't satisfied with elucidating these theories only to himself, he wanted others to see what he had done. The years of solitary work culminated in his Book of Optics, which expounded just as much upon his methods as it did his actual ideas. Anyone who read the book would have instructions on how to repeat every single one of Ibn al-Haytham's experiments.

"His message is, 'Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself,'" Jim Al-Khalili, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Surrey noted in a BBC4 Special.

"This, for me, is the moment that Science, itself is summoned into existence and becomes a discipline in its own right," he added.

Apart from being one of the first to operate on the scientific method, Ibn al-Haytham was also a progenitor of critical thinking and skepticism.

"The duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and... attack it from every side," he wrote. "He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency."

It is the nature of the scientific enterprise to creep ahead, slowly but surely. In the same way, the scientific method that guides it was not birthed in a grand eureka moment, but slowly tinkered with and notched together over generations, until it resembled the machine of discovery that we use today. Ibn al-Haytham may very well have been the first to lay out the cogs and gears. Hundreds of years later, other great thinkers would assemble them into a finished product." [Ibn al-Haytham: The Muslim Scientist Who Birthed the Scientific Method, (March 25, 2014), by Ross Pomeroy]

{"I constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to Allah, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge." - Ibn al-Haytham 

...In the Muslim world, many of the greatest scientists were also religious scholars.} [Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]


{Next year, we will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and the 150th of the publication of his On The Origin of Species, which revolutionised our understanding of biology.
But what if Darwin (1809-1882) was beaten to the punch? Approximately 1,000 years before the British naturalist published his theory of evolution, a scientist working in Baghdad was thinking along similar lines.
In the Book of Animals, abu Uthman al-Jahith (781-869), an intellectual of East African descent, was the first to speculate on the influence of the environment on species. He wrote: "Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."

This world view, based on a mixture of theology and rational thinking, produced wonderful advances in philosophy, astronomy, medicine and mathematics, in particular the emergence of algebra and trigonometry.
Although the Muslim world is often now seen as ill-equipped for scientific discovery, we can look back to Baghdad and see the origins of the modern scientific method, the world's first physicist and the world's first chemist; advances in surgery and anatomy, the birth of geology and anthropology; not to mention remarkable feats of engineering.

For 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic; and Baghdad, the capital of the mighty Abbasid Empire, was the centre of the intellectual world. 

This was the starting point for a lifelong obsession with science and philosophy. Al-Ma'mun [the caliph of Baghdad] created the famous House of Wisdom, a library, translation house and scientific academy unmatched since the glory days of Alexandria.

The caliph would then recruit some of the greatest names in Arabic science, such as the mathematician al-Khwarizmi and the philosopher al-Kindi. 

Although many of these thinkers were not Arabs themselves, they conducted their science and wrote their books in Arabic.

{Following is an image of an Arabic manuscript illustrating how to use the Pythagorean Theorem. It is dated to the year 1258.}

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page and website: http://lostislamichistory.com/al-khawarizmi]

{In al-Khawarizmi's (d. 850) monumental book, Al-Kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala (English: The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing), he set forth the basic principles of algebraic equations. The name of the book itself contains the word “al-jabr”, meaning “completion”, from which the Latin word algebra is derived. In the book, al-Khawarizmi explains how to use algebraic equations with unknown variables to solve real-world problems such as zakat calculation and inheritance division. A unique aspect of his reasoning for developing algebra is the desire to make calculations mandated by Islamic law easier to complete in a world without calculators and computers.} [Lost Islamic History website:

The title page of al-Khawarizmi’s book

In the West, though, they were better known by their Latin names, such as Alkindus, Alhazen, Averroes and Avicenna. The most famous of all was Avicenna (or ibn Sina, to give him his correct name).

Born in Persia in 980, he was a child prodigy who grew up to become one of the world's greatest philosophers and physicians. His great work, the Canon of Medicine, was to remain the standard medical text both in the Islamic and Christian worlds until well into the 17th century.

He is credited with the discovery and explanation of contagious diseases and the first correct description of the anatomy of the human eye. As a philosopher, Avicenna is referred to as the Aristotle of Islam; as a physician, he is its Galen.

Indeed, it would not be inappropriate to refer to Aristotle and Galen as the Avicennas of the Greeks. My favourite of all the Abbasid scientists, however, is another Persian scholar by the name of al-Biruni.

Here was a polymath with a free-ranging and formidable intellect: not only did he make significant breakthroughs as a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, but he also left his mark as a theologian, encyclopaedist, linguist, historian, geographer, pharmacist and physician.

Famously, having developed the mathematics of trigonometry, he was able to measure the circumference of the Earth to within a few miles. The only other figure in history whose legacy rivals the scope of al-Biruni's scholarship would be Leonardo da Vinci.

The mystery is why the debt the West owed to Muslim scholars was then overlooked: acknowledged at all, the Abbasids are normally credited with nothing more than acting as the guardians of Greek science.

In a world of increasing religious tension, the untold story of Arabic science is a timely reminder of the debt the West owes to the Muslim world – and, perhaps more importantly, of the proud heritage today's Muslims should acknowledge.} [Science: Islam's forgotten geniuses, (29 January, 2008), The Telegraph. By Jim Al-Khalili]

[Abu Uthman Al-Jaahiz - Kitab al Hayawan (Book of Animals). 9th Century. Basra. A page from the Kitab al-Hayawan]
His book, Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of Animals), describes over 350 varieties of animals. Conway Zirkle, writing about the history of natural selection science in 1941, provided a quotation describing the struggle for existence, citing a Spanish translation of this work: "The rat goes out for its food, and is clever in getting it, for it eats all animals inferior to it in strength", and in turn, it "has to avoid snakes and birds and serpents of prey, who look for it in order to devour it" and are stronger than the rat. Mosquitos "know instinctively that blood is the thing which makes them live" and when they see an animal, "they know that the skin has been fashioned to serve them as food". In turn, flies hunt the mosquito "which is the food that they like best", and predators eat the flies. "All animals, in short, can not exist without food, neither can the hunting animal escape being hunted in his turn. Every weak animal devours those weaker than itself. Strong animals cannot escape being devoured by other animals stronger than they. And in this respect, men do not differ from animals, some with respect to others, although they do not arrive at the same extremes. In short, God has disposed some human beings as a cause of life for others, and likewise, he has disposed the latter as a cause of the death of the former." [Zirkle C (1941). "Natural Selection before the "Origin of Species"". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 84 (1): 71–123]

Al-Jaahiz was one of the firsts to have studied the influence of the environment on animals and developed an early theory of evolution. Al-Jahiz considered the effects of the environment on the likelihood of an animal to survive, and thus he became the first person to describe the struggle for existence.  His idea on the struggle for existence is not very different from Darwin's idea on this subject. In the Book of Animals he has summarized it like this; Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring. 

Al-Jaahiz says, “The rat goes out for collecting his food, and it searches and seizes them. It eats some other inferior animals, like small animals and small birds... it hides its babies in disguised underground tunnels for protecting them and himself against the attack of the snakes and of the birds. Snakes like eating rats very much. As for the snakes, they defend themselves from the danger of the beavers and hyenas; which are more powerful than themselves. The hyena can frighten the fox, and the latter frightens all the animals which are inferior to it...this is the law that some existences are the food for others... All small animals eat smaller ones; and all big animals cannot eat bigger ones. Men with each other are like animals... God makes cause of some bodies life," from some bodies death and vice versa. And according to al-Jahiz, the struggle does not exist only between the members of different species, but also between the members of the same species. [Al-Jahiz, Kiiab al-Ha vawan, (Cairo, 1909), Vol. VI, pp. 133—34; and there are many passages in different volumes illustrating the struggle for existence. See VI, 139; VII, 47, 80. 14. ldem., vol. VII, pp. 47-48]

Al-Jaahiz says, “People said different things about the existence of al-miskh (the original form of quadrupeds). . Some accepted its evolution and said that it gave existence to dog, wolf, fox and their similars. The members of this family came from this form (al-miskk).” [ See al-Jahiz, op. cit., vol. IV, p. 24; cf vol. VII, p. 77. and vol. IV, p. 23]

Al-Jahiz says, “Without doubt, we have seen that some Nabatheen navigators resembled the ape in some geographical environment, likely we have also seen some people from Morocco and have found them as like as al-maskh "18", except for a little difference... And it is possible that the polluted air and water, and dust made this change in the character of these Moroccans... If this effect goes on more and more in them, those changes in their bristles, ears, colours, and form (similar to the ape) increase more..." [I think al-Maskh is a kind of ape; see Vol. IV, p. 24. And do not confuse al-Maskh with al-Miskh. And Vol. IV, p. 24; and cf vol. IV, pp. 25-27]

Al-Jahiz’s theory has been repeated by Muslim zoologists and naturalists, especially by al-Zakariyya’ al-Qazwini, in his ‘Aja’ ib al-Makhluqat, Mustawfi al-Qazwini in his Nuzhat al-Qulub, and al- Damiri in his Hayat al-Hayawan, without mentioning other literary persons, such as al-Masudi and Ibn Qutayba. 

Perhaps the only main difference between al-Jahiz’s theory and modern theory is in ideology: al-Jahiz’s theory is theologic and more transcendental in this sense that he accepts that the first cause of evolution in living organisms is God and that the other factors are secondary; while Lamarck, Darwin and others’ evolution is more immanent and materialistic. Although the mechanistic explanations of the theories are more or less the same, Darwin and other modern scientists differ from al-Jahiz and other Muslim writers in ideological interpretation of the theory. 

Al-Damiri’s book Hayat al-Hayawan was partially translated into Latin by a Jew, called Abraham Echellensis (d. Italy 1664) and published in Paris in 1617. This book contains many passages taken from al-Jahiz’s Kitab al-Hayawan. Al-Nuwayri’s JVihaya was studied by D’Herbelot (1625—1695) in his Bibliotheca Orientalis, and later byJ. Heyman (?—1737). Ibn Tufayl’s Hay Ibn raqzan, which contains the philosophy of evolution, was first published by Edward Pocockes, Sr. (1604-1690), together with a Latin translation published by Edward Pococke, Jr. (1648-1727) in Oxford in 1671 (second edition, Oxford, 1700). [See Sarton (0.), op. cii., vol. II, Part 2, pp. 354—355]

"The 19th-century scientist John William Draper, a contemporary of Darwin, referred to Darwin's views as “the Muhammadan theory of evolution”. As I [Mehdi Hasan] pointed out on these pages back in January, 'one of the earliest theories of natural selection was developed by the 9th-century Iraqi zoologist (and Islamic theologian) al-Jahiz, 1,000 years before Charles Darwin'. And almost 500 years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, the acclaimed Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote his Muqaddimah, in which he documented how 'the animal world then widens, its species become numerous... the higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys...'" [Mehdi Hasan vs Richard Dawkins: My faith in God is not foolish. New Statesman, Britain's Current Affairs & Politics Magazine, 2012]

Link to John William Draper's (1811-1882) book, 'History of the conflict between religion and science', published in 1875 where he mentions 'the Muhammadan theory of evolution':

Page 188 of John William Draper's book entitled 'History of the conflict between religion and science', published in 1875.

{John William Draper, a contemporary of Darwin, called it the "Mohammadan Theory of Evolution"...Here are some pre-Darwinian Muslim philosophers who have expressed their views on evolution: 

- Al - Jahiz (160-256 A.H/776-869 A.D)...was the originator of idea of evolution through his famous work "Kitab al-Hayawan" (The Book of Animals)...George Sarton in "Introduction to the History of Science" narrates that the "Kitab al-Hayawan" of al-Jahiz contains the germs of many later theories: evolution, adaptation and animal Psychology. [Sarton, George, Introduction to the History of Science, vol. 1, p. 597.]

- Ibn Miskawaih (325-442 / ~ 1032 A.D)...put forth his theory of origin and evolution of life about one thousand years ago. Ibn Miskawaih presented his theory of biological evolution in his book "Al-Fauz al-Asghar" (The Small Achievement) but the difference between his theory and modern evolutionary theories lies in the fact that he has ascribed this supposed process to the Creator of this universe. In the first chapter, he has presented the Proof of the Maker. Ibn Miskawaih believes that all things owe their existence to Allah [Abdul Hamid, Khawaja, Ibn Maskawaih-A Study of His al-Fauz al-Asghar (Lahore: Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, 1946), p. 29.]

- Al-Biruni (362-448 A.H/973-1048 A.D). Although al-Biruni has described four kingdoms of beings (i.e. mineral, plants, animals and man) in his book "Kitab al-Jawahir fi Ma'rifat al Jawahir" (The Book Most Comprehensive in knowledge on Precious Stones) and has even underlined difference between plants and animals but he has not mentioned the transformation of one into other. He thinks Adam as the ancestor of all human beings. [.Maas Journal of Islamic Science, vol. 8, No. (Jan-June, 1992), p. 107.] [Al-Beruni, Abdu'l Rayhan Mohammad bin Ahmad, Kitab al-Jawahir fi Ma'rifat al-Jawahir, English translation (Islamabad: Pakistan Hijra Council, 1989) pp. 197, 244.]} ['Pre-Darwinian Muslim Scholars’ Views on Evolution' by Dr. Muhammad Sultan Shah, Chairman Department of Islamic Studies, G.C. University, Lahore]


• Ibn al-Natis, a Syrian from the late 13th century, is credited with giving the first correct description of blood circulation in the body, 400 years before the work of Thomas Harvey.
• The Polish astronomer Copernicus (1473-1543) has Arabic astronomers to thank for his calculations: indeed, there are diagrams in his books that appear to have been lifted exactly from the work of the Arab astronomer Ibn Shatir 100 years earlier.
• The modern scientific method, based on observation and measurement, is often said to have been established in the 17th century by Francis Bacon and René Descartes. But the Iraqi-born physicist Ibn al-Haythem (Alhazen), had the same idea in the 10th century.
• The word "alchemy" derives from the Arabic "alkimya", which means "chemistry". The world's first true chemist was a Yemeni Arab by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan, born in 721.
• Al-Razi (Rhazes) was the greatest clinician of the Middle Ages. Born near Teheran in 865, he ran a psychiatric ward in Baghdad at a time when, in the Christian world, the mentally ill would have been regarded as being possessed by the devil.
• The word "algebra" comes from the Arabic "al-jebr", and was made famous by the great ninth-century mathematician al-Khwarizmi. But contrary to popular myth, algebra was not an Islamic invention - its rules actually go back to the Greek mathematician Diophantus.

[Science: Islam's forgotten geniuses, (29 January, 2008), The Telegraph. By Jim Al-Khalili]

Throughout Islamic history, one of the main forms of art was geometric patterns. They were based on the amazing mathematical accomplishments of the Muslim Golden Ages.

The Şehzade Mosque in Istanbul, built in 1548 by Mimar Sinan. — at Şehzade Başı Cami.

The entrance to the library of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. — at Ayasofya.
The madrassa of Fes, Morocco.

The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran. — in Shiraz, Iran.
Geometric patterns on the side of the Dome of the Rock Masjid in Jerusalem.
[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• The 12th century Muslim polymath Omar Khayyam (d. 1122) calculated the length of the solar year to be 365.34219858156 days. By modern calculations, he was off by 0.69 seconds.

The first mathematician to realize that cubic equations can have more than one solution was Omar Khayyam. He pioneered a method of solving cubic equations through geometry that used a pair of intersecting conic sections.

Pictured is a page from Khayyam's "Maqalah fi al-Jabra wa-al Muqabalah", copied in the 1200s in Lahore, illustrating his solution. 
[Lost Islamic History, Facebook page]

• A proposed analysis of the Moon's orbit around the Earth, by Ibn al-Shatir (d. 1375), a 14th century Muslim astronomer who also worked as the chief timekeeper at the Umayyad Masjid in Damascus.

Ibn al-Shatir actually lived during one of the most unstable times in Islamic history. The nominally Muslim Mongol Ilkhanids ruling over Persia and Central Asia were exacting a reign of terror over local Muslim populations while simultaneously engaging in on-and-off conflict with the Egypt-based Mamluk Empire. Islam in Spain, meanwhile, was rapidly declining politically, and only the southern tip of the Peninsula was still under Muslim control. 

My point is that political security is not a pre-requisite for Islamic intellectual achievement. While political stability may be advantageous towards the promotion of institutes of knowledge, we also see that some of the greatest scholars of Islam (in both the "secular" and religious realms) lived in times of immense political and military insecurity.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook page]

• The following image shows the opening page of Ibn al-Nafis' (also known as al-Qurashi) commentary on Ibn Sina's "Cannon of Medicine". In the 13th century, Ibn al-Nafis was the first to describe pulmonary circulation, the transit of blood from the heart to the lungs and back to the heart.

Ibn al-Nafis' commentary on Ibn Sina's "Cannon of Medicine" opening page.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• Following is a title page of Mafatih al-Ghayb, a classical book of tafsir (Quranic exegesis) by the Persian scholar Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, copied in Egypt in the 1300s. During his lifetime in the 1100s, al-Razi wrote numerous books on theology, Quran, medicine, astronomy, law, and history.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• Following is a diagram on the construction of astrolabes, by the 10th century scientist, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

Following is an illustration of a lunar eclipse, drawn by al-Biruni and annotated in Persian:

[Lost Islamic History website: http://lostislamichistory.com/al-biruni]

• An illustration of the anatomy of the eyes by the father of the science of optics, Ibn al-Haytham, who lived in the 11th century.

• Following is a diagram of phases and eclipses of the moon, drawn by Zakariya al-Qazwini in the 1200s.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• An astronomical chart of the motions of the planet Mercury by the 14th century resident astronomer of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, Ibn al-Shatir.

The world's oldest university is the University of al-Qarawiyyin, in Fes, Morocco. It was founded by a Muslim woman, Fatimah al-Fihri, in 859 A.D. [Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• Following is an image of a page from a 12th century textbook about chemistry, with accompanying drawings of equipment used in distillation. It is from "Sharḥ Shudhūr al-dhahab", written in the 1100s by Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Anṣārī.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]

• Following is a picture of an untitled work on diet and foods compiled by Ghiyāth al-Dīn ‘Ali al-Iṣfahānī in the 1400s. This chart lists different types of water (آب) on the right and their qualities. The right column going down is the types of water in different temperatures then it goes from right to left to explain each one about its natural state, its benefit, disadvantage. 1st is spring water , 2nd rainwater, 3rd cold water , 4th snow water, 5th hot water.

[Lost Islamic History, Facebook Page]