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The haj set the world in motion by opening up borders and allowing trade to flourish. Muslims from all corners traveled to Mecca, and with them, they carried goods and ideas. Cultures and caravans were now allowed to flow freely. Where pilgrims walked, traders followed and, in this way, trade flourished as well as the Islamic way of life. In just two centuries the Arabic empire had spread such that it took almost a year to travel from one end of the empire to the other. Baghdad became the center of scholars from radically different cultural traditions who had come in search for answers to pragmatic questions. They had staggering engineering, and logistical problems to contend with and to solve them would need the most important minds (Misr). The challenge facing these scholars was daunting, and thus there was a need for them to transform the works of the ancients into a new body of knowledge. Furthermore, competition for jobs rose among the intellectual elites (Misr).
The language of philosophy and thus of medicine and science was mainly Greek in the ancient world. Crucial texts in subjects like medicine and engineering had obvious practical applications. From late antiquity to the rise of Islam, Christians, particularly those in Syria had continued using Greek as a language of intellectual activity. Greek philosophers had considerable influence in Egypt. As the Library of Alexandria was being built, scholars stored and copied books that were bought, borrowed and sometimes stolen from other places in the Mediterranean. Primitive as they seem, Muslims kept accounts of the Greek scholars particularly to challenge Judao-Christian scholars. As Arabic and Syriac came to dominate former Greek-speaking regions, the Greek texts became great objects of focus for Islamic thinkers. The caliphs spent as many resources as they could to get the texts translated and distributed, usually collaborating with Jewish and Christian scholars to achieve the task. The discovery of paper facilitated the Islamic civilization to spread their new-found knowledge to the rest of the world. Translated books were copied and recopied on paper which were then bound and disseminated to other parts of the world. Transmission of Greek philosophy and medicine was an international phenomenon, and this movement covered not only linguistic and religious but also geographical boundaries. By the tenth century, Arabic readers had nearly the same level of access to Aristotle as readers of English have currently.
Drivers for promoting the study of Greek were complicated. On one side, Muslims devoted a lot of energy in the research and translation of ancient Greek philosophy due to political reasons (Durani 15). The caliphs, in competition with the neighboring Byzantines and Persian culture, wished to create their own cultural hegemony. The Abbasids wanted to demonstrate that they were better at preserving the Hellenic culture that the Greek-speaking Byzantines. On the other side, Greek texts provided Muslim intellectuals with resources for safeguarding and better comprehending their own religion. Muslim thinkers did not find any insurmountable difference between their faith and the rules governing the natural world and thus embraced Aristotle and Plato. Al-Kindi became one of the first philosophers to accept this possibility. He is traditionally identified as the earliest philosopher to write in Arabic. He wrote a series of independent works, typically in the form of epistles and letters to his patrons, including the caliph himself (Saliba 176). Muslims scientists were also driven by curiosity. After collecting Greek knowledge, Muslims began questioning it. They wished to find out why Greek scholars would make errors and the foundations of certain ideas. Driven by competition, Muslim scholars wanted to be the first to make discoveries so that they could maintain good jobs.
Greek philosophy, mainly Aristotle's Greek is cryptic and hard to comprehend. The works of the Muslim thinkers aided in translating and illuminating Aristotle's heavy and obscure thoughts. Therefore, Western intellectual tradition is indebted to the Arabic scholars when it comes to Aristotle's ideas.
George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), Chapter Five, ‘Science between Philosophy and Religion: The Case of Astronomy,’ pp. 171-192
Matin, Durani. "Islamic Science."Physics World (2007): 15. Print.
Misr, Eddy. “Islam Empire of Faith Part 2 The Awakening Full PBS Documentary.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Dec. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_mqO910jUQ
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