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Islam's Influence

How and why did Jewish and Islamic philosophy become part of the scholastic tradition?

Arabs, Berbers, and other Muslims invaded Christian Spain in the year 711 as part of their Islamic military campaigns. These military invasions were followed by a kind of colonization, which supported lasting cultural exchange. The Muslims were inclined to tolerate Judaism as well as Christianity because it was also a monotheistic religion "of the book" (that is, like both Islam and Christianity, Judaism had its own Bible with one God). As result of the dual tolerance of Jews and Christian by Muslim rulers, the scholastic tradition, which was originally a christian tradition, came to incorporate both Jewish and Islamic philosophy.

How did the Islamic religion begin?

The Prophet Muhammad (570-632), who was born in Saudi Arabia and died in Medina, was the founder of Islam. At the age of 40, he experienced an epiphany in which the angel Gabriel appeared to him while he was meditating. Until he was 60, he experienced continuing revelations that identified him as the culmination of a tradition of prophets from Abraham in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, down to Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. His transcription of his revelations were the basis of the Qur'an, or Koran, the bible of Islam.

Muhammad had a divine mandate to spread the new religion. Within the first 100 years of Islam, jihad, or holy war, reached into France, where Charles the Sledgehammer defeated the Muslims at Tours; in Spain, the Moors built luscious gardens and beautiful buildings, chief among which were the magnificent libraries in Cordoba, Granada, Seville, and Toledo. (The Muslim cultural influence is still evident in Spanish architecture to this day.)

Was military invasion of Europe part of the religious practice of Islam during the medieval period?

Yes, but the Islamic religion was not opposed to christianity. In fact, as one of three great religions "of the book," Islam had much in common with christianity, as well as Judaism. Its doctrine included a belief in one God, the importance of prayer, the idea of a church or brotherhood for all members of the religion, and the obligation to care for the poor. What was distinctive about Islam, in comparison to Christianity, was its rejection of the idea of the catholic Trinity, requirements of fasting and other forms of bodily purification on holy days, and the necessity for every Muslim follower to make at least one journey or pilgrimage to Mecca. The

Philosophers owe a debt of gratitude to the Muslims, because it was Islamic scholars who rediscovered the works of the ancient Greeks (iStock)

Philosophers owe a debt of gratitude to the Muslims, because it was Islamic scholars who rediscovered the works of the ancient Greeks (iStock)

How did Islam contribute to Christian European philosophy?

Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars worked cooperatively in the Spanish libraries, established by Muslims, that were important centers of learning, as well as locations for book collections. The greatest achievement was the rediscovery and translation of ancient Greek texts done first by Islamic scholars. Aristotle was resurrected and became the fulcrum of scholastic educational activity. During the same time, both Islamic and Jewish thinkers became known to European philosophers, who respected them highly.

continual importance of God and homage to Old Testament prophets was shared with Judaism, although, unlike Judaism, Islam had a positive conception of Heaven.

What was al-Kindi's main contribution to philosophy?

Abu Yusuf al-Kindi (c. 800-850), known in Latin as Alkindus, had both a noble heritage and an important position in the caliphate (the governing body representing Islamic leaders, headed by the caliph). He promoted the introduction of Western philosophy into the Arabic world, with a focus on Plato and Aristotle. Unlike his successors, he believed that there was a literal correspondence between the metaphysical writings of the ancient Greeks and parts of the Qu'ran. His work was closer to Neoplatonism than Aristotelianism, and the tradition he began is contrasted by scholars to that of Matta Ybn Yanus (d. 940), who founded a school of Aristotelianism in Baghdad.

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