The transmission of Islamic knowledge

The spread of scientific knowledge was conducted in three significant ways. One was through the universal language of Arabic that was adopted as the medium for exchange of ideas, the second was through invitations extended by political leaders to attract the finest scientists to their domains, and third and most importantly, through the network of trade. Trade was the main way through which knowledge and entrepreneurship was transmitted from the East to the West, along the Silk Road. Along with goods and products, merchants carried knowledge to many parts of East Africa, India, China, and later to Indonesia.

Islam influenced Europe in all the major fields of science: mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and even philosophy. It is believed that the astronomical models developed by Muslim scientists were later used by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543). Copernicus borrowed ideas for shaping planetary models and lunar models from the Maragha Observatory scientists like Ibn Al-Shatir (1304 – 1375) and Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi. The work on optics by physicist Al-Haitham became the basis for Roger Bacon’s Optics. The work of Ibn Rushd influenced Jewish and Christian philosophers such as Maimonedes, Thomas Aquinas, and Albert the Great.

Without such fundamental borrowings from the Muslim World, G.M. Wickens writes, “we should lack the following sorts of things among others: agriculture, the domestication of animals, for food, clothing, and transportation; spinning and weaving; building; drainage and irrigation; road making and the wheel; metal-working, and standard tools and weapons of all kinds; sailing ships; astronomical observation and the calendar; wiring and the keeping of records; laws and civic life; coinage; abstract thought and mathematics.” Or, it would have at least taken many more centuries for Europe to develop such diversified knowledge base by using its endogenous resources.