The Golden Age In Spain

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What was it that withheld Muslims from becoming unreasonable and arbitrary in new situations?
While most of Europe was experiencing the Middle/Dark ages, Spain was recognized to be in the “Golden Age.”
What differed Spain from the rest of Europe?

History has given the Middle Ages several different names. It is commonly understood that during this period a cultural, religious and civilizational “darkness” had fallen upon Europe. Nevertheless, Islamic Spain, al-Andalus, with its Eastern knowledge and tradition made many differences in terms of its impact on Europe. McKay points to some features that made mediaeval Spain different from the rest of Europe: “Indeed, the idea of ‘the Middle Ages’ in Spain has differed radically from that prevailing in the rest of Europe.” Indeed, the new comers from the East were not only warriors, architects of Arab nations, builders of new cities – they were also thinkers, theologians, well-informed religious scholars, philosophers, and the highest rank intellects. These Muslim influences gave al-Andalus a particular position in the Middle Ages in Europe. In relation to this, the Iberian Peninsula was given some wonderful names which depict its character. For instance, the expresson of the “Golden Age” is used commonly for Islamic Spain in the Middle Period. Hitti points out that Arabs had written about Cordova as the “Bride of al- Andalus” and even an Anglo-Saxon called this city the “Jewel of the world”. In additition, Menocal titles her book, “The Ornament of The World” in aiming to depict Islamic Spain in the Middle Ages.

In addition, in relation to its cultural and intellectual affluence and wealth, al-Andalus looked like a “peace island”. Indeed, somehow, there the three Abrahamic traditions built a model of peaceful coexistence on a religious basis. With a recognition of this fact, it is important to appreciate that there is nothing necessarily arbitrary and purely local about such a relationship among these traditions with respect to the Islamic discourse. In this context, although al-Andalus was unique in terms of its interreligious relationships, it was not the first Islamic interreligious experience. According to the Muslim understanding, Medina reflected the best pattern for such peaceful religious participation and it was represented by the Prophet (PbH). It is these Medina roots of the religious encounter that need to be clarified with respect to an Islamic interreligious position, and it is a strategy based on the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet (PbH). This Islamic principle of returning to the source in every new encounter saves Muslims and the Muslim community from becoming arbitrary and unreasonable in new stituations. As a matter of fact, the appeal of al-Andalus must also be seen in the light of the significance of this Islamic principle.

Particularly in the 8th-13th centuries C.E., including Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus), the Islamic world was in the midst of its “Golden Age,” and was paving the way for the growth of modern sciences. Of course, this growth must also be seen in the light of the significance of a religious impulse. Rather than stifling scientific inquiry, Islam encouraged its pursuit, producing along the way some of the greatest scholars and scientists. In fact, during this period the Muslim community led the world in the study of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, geography, chemistry, botany, and physics in al-Andalus and transmitted this knowledge to the West, where its work was built upon and further disseminated. There were many Islamic writers, hakims, including Muslim thinkers of Spain (Al-Andalus) such as Ibn Rusd, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Bacca, and Ibn Tufayl, who possessed knowledge of several disciplines, and in whom two or more levels of the hierarchy of knowledge may be found. In a sense, both intellectual achievement and religious experiences flourished upon the model of religious framework. For this reason, a model of the theoretical or ivory tower philosopher, theologian, and scientist is not the ideal in regards to the Muslim.

With regard to these religious and historical concerns, and even the extraordinary religious and cultural relationship established among the three monotheistic traditions, the purpose of this work is to clarify the Islamic influences relevant to its religious perspective. In relation to this, in the first chapter, I will address the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet (PbH) as two major sources which shaped the Islamic understanding and the religious experiences.

In the second chapter, I will discuss the Islamic approach to science and Muslim interest in the neighboring cultural and intellectual experiences in terms of the early periods. Indeed, Muslims were interested in medicine, theology, and philosophy and they carried on original thinking and research. In the later centuries in al-Andalus, Muslims advanced Islamic intellectual and theological studies.

In the third chapter, I will write about the flourishing of Islamic intellectual life in its own fountains. In relation to this, I discuss Fiqh which is not only jurisprudence, but also the revealed way of life, and Islamic intellectual and religious figures known in the Muslim community as Fukaha and Ulama.

Chapter four explains the second important movement in Islamic Spain with respect to the tolerance and the religious encounter among the three Abrahamic traditions. I try to understand this encounter against the background of the experience of the Prophet (PbH). In this respect, al-Andalus is unique, but it is not the first example of tolerance in the history of Islam.

Finally, although I refer to Muslim scholars in previous chapters and passages several times, chapter five is based on the contribution of Muslim scholars to both secular and religious scientific fields and branches as Ulama and Fukaha in the community, and Qadis in the governmental function. In this section, I will argue that Muslim religious figures have wrongly been understood by western scholars as intellectuals without a fundamental religious base, as in secular professionals, uninformed by the primary Islamic sources, or by the experience of Islamic tradition and history.

It will continue…

Questions about the text:

What was it that withheld Muslims from becoming unreasonable and arbitrary in new situations?
While most of Europe was experiencing the Middle/Dark ages, Spain was recognized to be in the “Golden Age.”
What differed Spain from the rest of Europe?

Most Western scholars acknowledge the modern scientific and intellectual advances the Islamic world contributed to in the 8th-13th centuries. However they forget and deny the main factor influencing these advancements, which was?

What were some names Spain achieved during its Golden Age based on its character?


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