I always like certain aspects of the European character. The values and standards, and the science. I was, as a child, astonished when I heard that people in some parts of Europe leave news-stands unattended. People come, pick up a newspaper and throw money into the box meant for the same purpose. I was impressed by their objective thinking. It seemed so far from what the mullah, waving his beard, was preaching.
Later when I became more aware of what Islam contained (and more and more unimpressed with the mullahs, atleast the ones that I saw till then), I came to know that these high moral standards (which, however, was not visible in inter-community or inter-country dealings) has a lot in common in Islamic standards. The mullahs always talked of some ‘Isa (peace on him and may God keep him) , I hardly had any idea that he is the same person as Jesus the Christ.
Though I respected Jesus for his teachings, I discovered , to my utter astonishment, that he is the same person as the unknown ‘Isa(PUBH) and that Jesus(PUBH) was a prophet. (This made my conviction, that one should speak in ‘language’ understandable to the audience, stronger.)
So there I was, I knew that the teachings of Jesus(PUBH) and Muhammad(PUBH) were the same, and that is why European morals were so close to Islamic ones. A new shock was yet to unfold.
Only very recently, a year ago, I discovered Europe’s (deliberately) forgotten Muslim past. That of Spain, of Cicily, of Greece, of Bulgaria and some other countries. I came to know that Spain, in particular the city of Cordoba, was the intellectual capital of Europe. And in the Muslim ruled Spain, Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars worked shoulder to shoulder to unravel mysteries of God’s worlds.
I came to know how the Muslims sent exploration teams to all the world they knew. To recover the ancient books of wisdom. Then to study and question them, only to accept after a test of logic. They then translated these books into Arabic. Arabic was the official language of Spain, no European language was as developed as it was. Surely enough, lingua franca of those days was Arabic.
I thought of the renaissance as some sort of self-discovery of Europe’s own potential, which lay hidden during the period between the Greek School of Athens and the Renaissance. I never had a hint as to how much the Muslims had lent to the Europeans to this effect.
When we read science textbooks, it starts with Aristotle, and the comes to the post renaissance period of Galileo and Copernicus. It never tells us about al-Farabi (10th c.), Avicenna (11th c.), Averroes (12th c.), al-Ghazali (12th c.), Ash-Shatibi (13th c.) and Ibn Khaldun (14th c.). My knowledge about them is limited. I know a little about Averroes (whose original name is Ibn-Rushd), and effect of his line of thoughton the consciousness of the Renaissance is not small. (Is it not very symbolic that my spellchecker can identify Galileo, but is unhappy with al-Farabi and company?)
When the textbooks deal with mechanics, they are eager to tell us the European names of Aristotle, Galileo and Newton. When discussing optics and pin-hole camera, the silence about the relevant Arab names is almost eloquent.
It was a shock to me to learn that the European renaissance and the standards of democracy, equality and justice on which they stand were not result of parallel, unconnected history of teachings of two prophets, but result of two very related history. Two histories so close that they can not be called two histories. At most one and a half.
Europe is deceiving nobody but themselves by denying their connection to the Muslim world.
Muhammad Assad thinks (thought, actually; may Allah grant him peace, forgiveness and paradise) that this prejudice against Islam originated from the Crusades, when the then Pope made the people of Europe aware of the danger of Islam. In order to motivate them to fight to reclaim the Holy Land. He travelled length and breadth of Europe, to collect force to fight the infidels in the name of gentle Jesus. That imposed perception of the Musilms and Islam manages to survive till today.
UPDATE: The discussion on this thread has been really good. Go through if you have the time.
BBC Four : AN ISLAMIC HISTORY OF EUROPE
A history of Muslim conquered southern Spain
Excellent history of the Muslim world