Islamic Architecture


Islam is one of the world religions, which has impacted the development of the European counties during the Medieval. The favorable circumstances for such influence were created by the numerous crusades, which hit Muslim countries during the 11th – 13th centuries (Duke). The Middle East with its rich cultural and spiritual experience has played an important role in the development of the European civilization. Much attention in the history of Europe is paid to Islamicization, the process, which usually reflects the diffusion and assimilation of Islamic culture on the West. The process started in the Middle Ages, when the number of crusades increased and was one of the main source of new cultural elements. The place of the cultural and scientific development in Europe can be considered only from the position of the interaction of two cultures, Western Christianity and Eastern Islam with their fundamentally different socio-cultural references. Multifaceted and versatile influence of Islam on Medieval Europe affected different aspects of social life, including cultural perspective, scientific achievements, trade, political and economic relations, technical tools, literary, philosophical, and religious visions. During the period of extensive crusades, Europe was amazed at luxury and expansion of Muslim art. Graceful palaces, embroidered clothing, refined tablecloths, drapes and carpets astonished European with their beauty and elegance. All these issues were absent in Europe and being brought from the crusades, all these items influenced the development of European art significantly. The development of European visual art was conducted under the influence of Eastern culture. The development of science and particularly mathematics was promoted by knowledge received on the East. The development of European architecture, literature, science, and mathematics was conducted under the influence of Islamic tradition, which was brought to Europe during the medieval crusades, which were aimed to conquest new lands, but resulted into the acquisition of new knowledge and experiences.
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Islamic Architecture in the Evolution of European Cultures through the Middle Ages

Gothic architecture was predominant in the Medieval Europe. A deep analysis of the trends in the Medieval Europe and in the Islamic architecture can help understand the similarities, if any, and support the discussion of the possibility of the assimilation of Islamic art in the European countries. For example, the pointed arch appeared in Europe during the time of the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily in 1090. It substituted the previously popular rounded Roman arch. Another example that Gothic architecture takes roots from Islamic tradition can be referred to the Cathedral of St. Paul. Many elements in this church are referred to the Eastern common building elements. For example, the Islamic signs are seen in the combination of dome and tower in one architectural element. Moreover, the dome is constructed in the style of the corner squinches. Also, the structure of the domes in the aisles refers to the Eastern tradition. Europeans did not use this technique until the crusaders took place and they managed to see how Islamic countries resolved architectural issues. The contrast between dome and minaret was effectively used in the Easters building tradition. However, during the Medieval times, European countries also referred to this strategy having noticed how effectively this contrast highlighted the strength and power of the building. The towers of St. Mary-le-Bow are often referred to Islamic architectural design due to their similarity to Muslim minarets, the constructions inherent to Islam only. Their appearance in the Medieval Europe during the time of crusades confirms the source of knowledge and the way how Islamic architectural designs appeared in the European countries. Other examples of the signs of Muslim architectural knowledge are Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada and Santo Tomas de las Ollas, the buildings, which were constructed in Spain during the period of its rebuilding. The fact that the constructions have a close connection to Muslim tradition is confirmed by two aspects. First of all, the connection to Muslim architecture was confirmed by visual signs, such as vault arches. Second, the increased amount of Muslim architects and crafts, which fulfilled Europe during the crusades, also confirmed the insertion of Muslim architecture knowledge into the community. The reference to the three-dimensional elements was predominantly Muslim tradition. Moreover, Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock are two buildings, which may serve as the prototypes of Islamic architecture for such European buildings as London Temple Church, San Bernardo alle Terme, and St. Vitus Cathedral. All these examples show a close relation to the Islamic architecture, which impacted the development of the architecture of the Medieval Europe. Islamic arabesque development did not leave Europeans indifferent and they borrowed the technique called western arabesque . This type of decorative art appeared later in Europe. This small piece of architectural knowledge borrowed from Islamic tradition promoted the development of building techniques, which allowed constructing higher and stronger buildings.
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Islamic Literature in the Evolution of European Cultures through the Middle Ages

The influence of Islamic literature on the evolution of the medieval Europe can be explained by means of the analysis of a couple of works, written by Islamic and European authors. Robinson Crusoe by Defoe was published first in 1719. However, this story was told long before by Ibn Tufail in Hayy ibn Yaqzan. Hayy ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail tells a story of a boy, who grows up far away from the civilization (Bakhshi). Living on the island with his mother, he grows as a personality without any information from the society. Being a philosophical novel, Ibn Tufail tried to show the human development away from social prejudice. Analyzing the novel, Bakhshi states that in the book the boy shows the ideal human being, free from prejudice and any other social morale, and who shows an innate desire to know, the desire, which people, develop on the basis of the social need, but do not listen to their inner needs and wishes. Bakhshi states that the boy becomes morally conscious, while discovering shame, jealousy, aspiration, desire, eagerness to possess and practical reasoning with time and as his doe foster mother gets old, he learns to love and realizes death as she dies. The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights is a collection of stories, which have affected the literature development of the European countries in the Middle Ages. The original Arabic title is Alf Layla wa Layla. These stories were translated into English and were spread all over Europe. The specifics of these stories were in the nature how people were represented there: the Arabs are portrayed as inhabitants of a magical and mysterious kingdom of boundless wealth and unutterable beauty, full of Jinns, devils and goblins, men flying in the air, flying horses, magic, a Dance of Death, and supernatural birds, talking fishes, and exotic scenes of harems, slaves, eunuchs, princes, and kings along with wonderful stories like those of Ali Baba and Sindbad. The raise of these topics inspired many young writers of the medieval Europe. The idea to into the mystery world in a form of fairy-rale has allowed many authors reconsider their vision of literature and have a push to develop their personal writing in the same direction. The Thousand and One Nights helped Europeans understand the essence of Arabic culture and get insights into it. Nowadays, the pieces of the stories are recognized in such prominent works as Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Decameron by Boccaccio and The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Each of these works was influenced by The Thousand and One Nights in different ways. Thus, Dante Alighieri and Boccaccio used the strategy of telling different stories and explaining various situations from the position of a teller. In case with Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales referred to the motif of the mechanical horse. William Shakespeares Awakened Sleeper was also sourced from The Arabian Nights. These are some of the examples when Islamic literature and particularly The Thousand and One Nights influenced the development of European literature.

Islamic Science in the Evolution of European Cultures through the Middle Ages

Nowadays, science in Europe is one of the most developed and innovative. The use of information technology and other innovative tools have helped the European community raise their knowledge of the surrounding world to the heights. It all became possible with the raise of science during the Renaissance, the period when Europe flourished with new knowledge and discoveries. However, the generation of this knowledge started in the Middle Ages, the time, when most of the information was brought from Islamic countries. Sociological knowledge of Europeans was formed on the basis of the information, provided by Ibn Khaldun, the father of the modern sociology. Much scientific knowledge in the field of physics was taken from Islamic countries as well. Thus, such outstanding physical knowledge as scientific explanation of rainbow, optics, and reflection was offered by Ibn al Haytham, a Muslim physicist. Muslims worked much in the laborites, which is confirmed by numerous discoveries in chemistry and biology. Most of the scientific knowledge, European countries use till now, was brought from the Islamic countries during the middle Ages. Much astronomic knowledge was received from Muslims. For example, in astronomy, Muslims shared their knowledge and skills. The astrolabe was developed to follow the time of sunsets and sunrises during Ramadan. This invention was further used by the European astronomers. Many navigation tools came to Europe from Islam countries. One of the most useful and innovative was compass. It is a common knowledge that the fact that the earth rotates in its axis was proven by Galileo, but Al-Biruni was the first to offer this probability. Al-Idrisi and Ibn Barruta contributed to the development of the geographical knowledge of the whole world. Much knowledge in the field of medicine was brought from Islam countries as well. Muslims managed to make many achievements, such as anesthesia in surgery and cauterizing of wounds. Muslims were the first to discover that different diseases, which could lead to epidemics, were transmitted in touch and by air. For example, one of the first studies in the field of diseases was conducted by Al-Razi, who diagnosed smallpox and measles. Al-Kanun written by Ibn Sina was the first medical encyclopedia, which was used on the west for many centuries. Az-Zahrawi wrote Albucasis, the first book in surgery, which illustrated the use of surgical instruments for western surgeons.

Islamic Mathematics in the Evolution of European Cultures through the Middle Ages

The numbers people in Europe use nowadays, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, have Arabic roots. These numbers were brought to Europe from the East. Moreover, the very idea of Algebra was also borrowed from Islamic countries. Muhammad bin Moosaa Al-Khawaarizmi is the father of the contemporary algebra. He developed the basic calculation principles. The symbol for zero was brought to Europe from Islamic countries as well. This knowledge allowed developing decimal system in general, which is the basis for mathematical knowledge. Continuing studies and research in the field of mathematics allowed him present the notion of operations on fractions. Geometry also started its development in Islamic countries. Omar Khayyam brought into the world the basics of geometry, while Nasiruddin contributed with his research in the field of quadrilateral trigonometry and plain and spherical geometry (Islam and the Modern Sciences). The science was studied and developed by Al- Khwarizmi and Al-Karaju of Baghdad. The knowledge of algorithm and its development was also borrowed from Islam. Numerous publications written by these scholars promoted the development and mathematics and science in general in Europe (Ayyubi). Almost all of the notions, which were developed in the Middle Ages and are considered as the destination of the European scholars, were brought to Europe from the East, where algebra and other related disciplines were first developed.


Therefore, it can be concluded, that the role of Islamic culture in the European development of the Middle Ages cannot be overestimated. Despite the fact that most people are sure that Islam is related to the spiritual side of life only, Islamic culture brought much knowledge into the world heritage. It is a common mistake that Islamic religion refuses science. Moreover, it was Islamic culture, which developed most of scientific knowledge. The influence of Islamic discoveries made created numerous possibilities for Europe to flourish and prosper. Islamic culture was a leading culture in the Middle Ages in the sphere of progress and development of civilization. Islam was the one of the first cultures, which understood freedom of human mind in relation to the universe, its laws and forces her gifts and treasures. Muslim research, experimental thinking and methods of scientific knowledge have contributed to the development of science all over the world, and particularly in Europe. East vs. West and Islam vs. Christianity are the cultural and historical concepts, which reflect the stereotypes created in human mind. Islam is represented in human mind as aggressive and hostile religion. However, looking deeply into the question and trying to understand the essence of Islam, it will be possible to see that many discoveries and much scientific knowledge were developed due to Islamic scientists. Medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and physics are the major fields of knowledge, which gained the interest of the community. Having deep roots in Islamic culture, these disciplines were brought to Europe during the Middle Ages, the period when crusades invaded the world. These crusades allowed Medieval Europe use already developed and expanded knowledge in science and mathematics and to base their further discoveries on this knowledge. The raise of European Renaissance became possible with the spread of Islamic knowledge Europe received in the Middle Ages. Much research has been conducted in this sphere and there are not any rejections about this fact. The signs of Islamic architectural elements and forms prevail in the European construction in the Middle Ages. Churches and other buildings have changed during this period having shown close similarity with the buildings of Islamic culture. The development of Islamic literature also affected the development of European power of word. European literature was affected by rich Arab heritage and creative views. It is impossible to reject the power and strength of the mastery of Eastern word, which was not prevalent to the European writers until the Islamic culture entered it.