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Moderate Islam: A Pipe Dream!

Reader comment on item: [The Search for Moderate Islam:] A Reply to Lawrence Auster
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Submitted by A (Keen) Student of Islam (India), Mar 1, 2005 at 03:32

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dear Dr. Pipes

Thank you for posting my earlier comment on your weblog.

This is a supplement to my letter about "radical vs. moderate Islam" sent to you last week.

At the time of dispatching that letter, however, I was not in possession of precise references that convincingly demolish the myth of a wholesome contribution of Islam to human excellence.

I have since been able to acquire them. But because I wrote them down as dictated over phone by a friend, it is quite likely that what I have reproduced below is not verbatim. This want notwithstanding, the general drift of what these formidable authorities have stated exposes the myth for what it is. In any case, the original sources can always be checked up.

These show quite clearly that the Muslim Arab contributed practically nothing in terms of knowledge or culture. What development there was under Islamic rule, had most certainly been entirely due to exponents of non-Muslim cultures who had been forced into Islam.

Those references are as follows:

From Islam and the Psychology of the Musulman, Andre Servier, p. 6-7

"The author [Jules Lemaitre] declared with fine assurance that Arab literature was the richest and most brilliant of all known literatures, and that the Arab civilization was highest and most splendid.

"Now these writings were not the original production of Arab genius, but translations of Greek works from the Schools of Alexandria and Damascus, first drawn up in Syriac and then in Arabic at the request of the Abbasid Caliphate, by Syrian scribes who had gone over to Islam.

"The thought of Greek authors was drowned in the religious formulae imposed by Islamic dogma; the name of the author translated was not mentioned so that European scholars could have no suspicion that the work before them was a translation and imitation, or an adaptation; and so they attributed to the Arabs what really belonged to the Greeks…..

"It is well to remember that at that epoch the greater part of the works of antiquity were unknown in Europe. The Arabs thus passed for inventors and initiators, feigning reality that they were nothing but copyists. It was not until later, at the time of the Renaissance, when the manuscripts of the original authors were discovered, that the error was detected….."

From History of the Arabs, Philip Hitti, p. 174

"By the conquest of the Fertile Crescent and the lands of Persia and Egypt, the Arabians came into possession of not only geographical areas but of the earliest seats of civilization in the whole world. Thus the sons of the desert fell heirs to these hoary cultures with their long traditions going back to Greco-Roman, Iranian, Pharaohnic and Assyrio-Babylonian times. In art and architecture, in philosophy and medicine, in science and literature, in government, the original Arabians had nothing to teach and everything to learn…..with an ever-sharp sense of curiosity and with latent potentialities ……these Muslim Arabians in collaboration with and by the help of their subject peoples began now to assimilate, adopt and reproduce their intellectual and aesthetic heritage."

From The Arabs in History, Bernard Lewis, p. 131

"DURING the peak period of the Arab and Islamic Empires in the Near and Middle East a flourishing civilization grew up that is usually known as Arabic. It was not brought ready-made by the Arab invaders from the desert, but was created after the conquests by the collaboration of many peoples, Arabs, Persians, Egyptians and others. Nor was it even purely Muslim, for many Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians were among its creators. But its chief medium of expression was Arabic, and it was dominated by Islam and its outlook on life. It was these two things, their language and their faith, which were the great contributions of the Arab invaders to the new and original civilization which developed under their aegis."

p. 306

"The history of Muslim arms under Al-Mahdi and Al-Rasheed over the inveterate Byzantine enemy undoubtedly shed its luster on this period…. what has rendered this age especially illustrious in world annals is the fact that it witnessed the most momentous intellectual awakening in the history of Islam and one of the most significant in the whole history of thought and culture. The awakening was due in a large measure to foreign influences, partly Indo-Persian and Syrian but mainly Hellenic, and was marked by translation into Arabic from Persian, Sanskrit, Syriac and Greek. Starting with very little science, philosophy or literature of his own, the Arabian Moslem, who brought with him from the desert a keen sense of intellectual curiosity, a voracious appetite for learning and many latent faculties, soon became, as we have learned before, beneficiary and heir of the older and more cultured peoples whom he conquered or encountered. As in Syria he adopted the already existing Aramaic civilization, itself influenced by the latter Greek, so did he in Iraq adopt the same civilization influenced by the Persian."

p. 306

"India acted as an early source of inspiration, especially in wisdom, literature and mathematics. About 771 CE an Indian traveler introduced into Baghdad a treatise on Astronomy, Sidhhanta, which by order of Al-Mansur was translated by Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Fazari (between 796 and 806) who subsequently became the first astronomer in Islam. The stars had of course interested the Arabians since desert days, but no scientific study had been undertaken until this time. Islam added impetus to the study of Astronomy as a means for fixing the direction in which prayers should be conducted Kaaba-ward. The famous Al-Khwarizimi (850 CE) based his widely known astronomical table on Al-Fazari's work and syncretized the Indian and Greek system of Astronomy, at the same time adding his own contribution. Among other translations of astronomical works from of this period were those from Persian to Arabic by Al-Fadl bin Nawbakht (815 CE), the chief librarian of Al-Rasheed.

"This same Indian traveler brought a treatise on mathematics by means of which the numerals called in Europe Arabic, and by the Arabs Indian (Hindu), entered into the Muslim world. Later, in the 9th century, the Indians made another contribution to Arabic mathematical science, the decimal system."


"Theological literature proper began under the influences of Syriac Christianity, later also of Greek thought. Greek influence was fundamental in philosophy and all the sciences: Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography, Chemistry, Physics, Natural History And Medicine. The immense effect of translation of Greek books either directly from the original or from Syriac versions produced a new growth of learning in the 9th and 10th centuries. Greek schools have survived in Alexandria and elsewhere…. The movement of translation began under the Umayyids…. The Caliph Mamun (813-833) who established a school of translators in Baghdad with a library and regular staff."

From Geschichte der herr Schendem Ideen des Islam by Von Kremer, (Translated by Khuda Bakhsh, New Delhi)

"Arabic grammar is a creation of foreigners, the Armenians and Persians, and was brought into being by the need felt by foreigners of learning to write and speak the Arabic language correctly; particularly by non-Arabs who wished to devote themselves to learned studies. The founder of Arabic grammar was the foreigner of Armenian and Persian nationality who had gone over to Islam. When it becomes a fashion to make a show of learned studies, write books, the Arab savants likewise applied themselves to these studies."

Indeed, it could thus even be said that any and every development that emerged under Muslim rule occurred in spite of Islam!

A [Keen] Student of Islam

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