Islamic Civilization in Spain - a Magnificient Example of Interaction and Unity of Religion and Science

Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Apr;29 Suppl 1:64-72.

Abstract

Islam and its followers had created a civilization that played very important role on the world stage for more than a thousand years. One of the most important specific qualities of the Islamic civilization is that it is a well-balanced civilization that brought together science and faith, struck a balance between spirit and matter and did not separate this world from the Hereafter. This is what distinguishes the Islamic civilization from other civilizations which attach primary importance to the material aspect of life, physical needs and human instincts, and attach greater attention to this world by striving to instantly satisfy desires of the flesh, without finding a proper place for God and the Hereafter in their philosophies and education systems. The Islamic civilization drew humankind closer to God, connected the earth and heavens, subordinated this world to the Hereafter, connected spirit and matter, struck a balance between mind and heart, and created a link between science and faith by elevating the importance of moral development to the level of importance of material progress. It is owing to this that the Islamic civilization gave an immense contribution to the development of global civilization. Another specific characteristic of the Islamic civilization is that it spread the spirit of justice, impartiality and tolerance among people. The result was that people of different beliefs and views lived together in safety, peace and mutual respect, and that mosques stood next to churches, monasteries and synagogues in the lands that were governed by Muslims. This stems primarily from the commandments of the noble Islam according to which nobody must be forced to convert from their religion and beliefs since freedom of religion is guaranteed within the Islamic order. The Islamic civilization in Spain encompasses many fields that left a profound imprint in the Iberian Peninsula and Europe. The cultural climate of Spain in the era of Muslim rule (711-1492) brought about a prospering of different aspects of science and culture. Numerous schools and libraries were established and books were procured due to which the majority of the people were literate. Literature and art flourished. Buildings were constructed and Islamic art with its specific qualities was cultivated. As a result of that movement, Cordoba became the civilization capital of both Spain and the West in general. Many schools were established in it, such as medical and technical schools in addition to the general education and other vocational schools. Hospitals, chemical plants and observatories were also built. The university in Cordoba was a beacon of thought, education and culture, and it made Cordoba the home of science and of a great number of scholars and scientists in medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and botany. Scholarly disciplines such as philosophy and logic were also studied and busy translation activities were underway. For that reason travelers and people in quest for knowledge and science from different European countries used to come to Cordoba. This scientific and civilizational movement was not limited to Cordoba alone, but also spread into other cities of Spain, such as Granada, Toledo and other cities under Islamic rule. Relevant historical sources state that young men from Europe, particularly from Italy and France, competed to enroll some of the Islamic universities in Andalusia. One of the students of the university in Cordoba was Gerbert, who later became known as Pope Sylvester II. He introduced science of mathematics and Arabic numerals in Italy. The same historical sources also read that Europe was acquainted with Aristotle's manuscripts via the city of Toledo which was a center of bustling translation work from the Arabic into the Latin language. It was in Toledo that many works of Plato and Galen were translated, as were the philosophy manuscripts by Ibn Sina, al-Farabi, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Rushd, and the medical manuscripts by Ibn Sina and al-Razi. These manuscripts quickly spread all over Europe and became a mandatory literature at great European universities. Ibn Sina's Al-Qānūn fi al-tibb was considered the fundamental reference book in studies of medicine in Europe for nearly six centuries and was called The Canon of Medicine. This paper cites numerous examples of interaction and unity of religion and science in the times when Islamic culture and civilization flourished in the Iberian Peninsula, the era that lasted for almost eight centuries.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Civilization / history*
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Islam / history*
  • Religion and Science*
  • Religious Philosophies / history*
  • Science / history*
  • Spain