No. Never. Serbs are well-informed about the Arab contribution to the world! We always respected Arabs and their culture, even in terms of politics, especially via Non-Aligned Movement, created by Yugoslavia and other countries in 1961 in Belgrade (as the Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries)! We consider Arabs to be our friends!
I am now tempted to dedicate quite a few paragraphs to some of the major contributions of Arabs to the global civilization, for which we are indebted to great Arabian minds!
Let’s start from Mathematics – Arab sifr (or zero), the Arabic numeral – an improvement on the original Hindu concept – and the Arab decimal system facilitated immensely the course of science. The Arabs invented and developed algebra and made great strides in trigonometry…
In order to chart the precise time of sunrises and sunsets, and to determine the period for fasting during the month of Ramadan, Arab astronomers of the Middle Ages compiled astronomical charts and tables in observatories such as those at Palmyra and Maragha. Gradually, they were able to determine the length of a degree, to establish longitude and latitude, and to investigate the relative speeds of sound and light. Al-Biruni, considered one of the greatest scientists of all time, discussed the possibility of the earth‘s rotation on its own axis – a theory proven by Galileo six centuries later! Arab astronomers such as al-Fezari, al-Farghani, and al-Zarqali added to the works of Ptolemy and the classic pioneers in the development of the magnetic compass and the charting of the zodiac.
Also, in the field of medicine, the Arabs improved upon the healing arts of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
As with astronomy and mathematics, the great purpose of early Arab architecture was to glorify Islam. Architects devoted their skills primarily to the building of mosques and mausoleums. They borrowed the horse-show arch from the Romans, developed it into their own unique style, and made it an example for the architecture of Europe. The Great Mosque of Damascus, built in the early VIII century, is a beautiful demonstration of the use of the horseshoe arch. The Muslin minaret, itself inspired by the Greek lighthouse, became the campanile in Europe. One of the most famous examples of this can be seen in the San Marcos Square in Venice. Designs from the Islamic mosques of Jerusalem, Mecca, Tripoli, Cairo, Damascus, and Constantinople were borrowed in the building of ribbed vaults in Europe. Arab styles were elegant and daring. Arabesque designs, calligraphy, and explosions of color can be seen today in such structures as the Lion Court of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, and many of the great medieval religious and civic buildings of Europe.
The world‘s earliest navigational and geographical charts were developed by Canaanites who, probably simultaneously with the Egyptians, discovered the Atlantic Ocean. The medieval Arabs improved upon ancient navigational practices with the development of the magnetic needle in the ninth century.
One of the most brilliant geographers of the medieval world was al-Idrisi, a twelfth century scientist living in Sicily. He was commissioned by the Norman King, roger II, to compile a world atlas, which contained seventy maps. Some of the areas were therefore uncharted. Called Kitabal-Rujari (Roger‘s book), Idrisi‘s work was considered the best geographical guide of its time. Ibn Battuta, an Arab, must have been the hardiest traveler of his time. He was not a professional geographer, but in his travels by horse, camel and sailboat, he covered over seventy five thousand miles. His wanderings, over a period of decades at a time, took him to Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Persia, and central Asia. He spent several years in India, and from there was appointed ambassador to the emperor of China. After China, he toured all of North Africa and many places in western Africa. Ibn Battuta‘s book, Rihla (or ‘journey’), is filled with information on the politics, social conditions, and economics of the places he visited.
A twenty five year old Arab, captured by Italian pirates in 1520, has received much attention in the West. He was Hassan al-Wazzan, who became a protege of Pope Leo X. Leo persuaded the young man to become a Christian, gave him his own name, and later convinced him to write an account of his travels on the them almost unknown African continent. Hassan became Leo Africanus and his book was translated into several European languages. For nearly two hundred year, Leo Africanus was read as the most authoritative source on Africa. It should also be remembered that in the fifteenth century Vasco da Gama, exploring the east coast of Africa new Malindi, was guided by an Arab pilot who used maps never before seen by Europeans. The pilot‘s name was Ahmed ibn Majid.
Because the ancient Arabs believed that the arts served God, they raised small scale artistries to new levels of perfection. Glassware, ceramics, and textile weaves attest to their imagination and special skills. They covered walls and objects with intricately detailed mosaics, tiles, carvings, and paintings. Syrian beakers and rock crystals were in great demand in Renaissance Europe and the Azulejos. The iridescent luster pottery from the Moorish kilns in Valencia, also enjoyed great popularity. New glazing techniques were developed, and the brilliant blues took on many names. (The Chinese called them Mohammedan blues, and Dutch traders called them Chinese blues).
Because God spoke to Muhammad in Arabic, Muslims venerated the Arabic language. Thus, to Muslims, Arabic calligraphy itself became an art form. It was the chief form of embellishment on all the mosques of the Arab world, and the religious and public buildings of Palermo, Cordoba, Lisbon and Malaga are resplendent with it.
The Arabic language is rich and pliant, and poetry, literature, and drama have left their mark on both East and West. Among the earliest publications of the Arabs were the translations into Arabic of the Greek and Roman classics – the works of Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Dioscorides and Galen. Some note that the poet Nizami‘s translations of the twelfth century romance, Layla and Majnun, may have been an inspiration for the later work, Romeo and Juliet. Ibn Tufail‘s Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, Son of Awake), considered by many to be the first real novel, was translated by Pocock into Latin in 1671 and by Simon Ockley into English in 1708. It bears many similarities to Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe. A Thousand and One Nights and Omar Khayyam‘s Rubaiyat are among the best loved and most widely read of Arab literature. The fascination with Arabic, following the Hellenistic period of Louis XIV, is particularly evident in Shakespeare‘s characterizations of the Moors (Othello and the Price of Morocco), in Christopher Marlowe‘s Tamburlaine the Great, and in George Peel‘s The Battle of Alcazar.
The harp, lyre, zither, drum, tambourine, flute, oboe and reed instruments are today either exactly as they were used from earliest Arab civilization or variations of the Arabs‘ early musical instruments. The guitar and mandolin are sisters to that plaintive, pear-shaped stringed instrument, the oud.
Arab philosophers effectively integrated faith and scientific fact, letting one exit within the framework of the other. The Arab philosophers after Byzantium re-discovered the classic philosophy of Aristotle, Plotinus, and Plato in attempting to find answers to the fundamental questions concerning God‘s creation of the universe, the nature and destiny of the human soul, and the true existence of the seen as the unseen. Among the well-known philosophers of the medieval world were al-Kindi, who contributed to the work of Plato and Aristotle; al-Farabi, who made a model of Man‘s community; Avicenna (Ibn Sina), who developed theories on form and matter that were incorporated into medieval Christian Scholasticism; Ibn Khaldun, who expounded the cycles of a state in his Muqqadimah (Introduction).
In discussing contributions to human civilizations of some of the medieval Arab scientists, artists, educators, philosophers, poets and musicians, one must remember that their thought was molded and shaped by many ancient cultures – Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian, Byzantine, Canaanite and Egyptian, for example. Arab culture, from its ancient beginnings to the present, has given us three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In government and law, one refers to Hammurabi (Babylonian), Ulpian and Papinian (Phoenicians). Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Arabs to human civilization has been the phonetic alphabet.
In all aspects of our daily lives, then – in our homes, offices and universities; in religion, philosophy, science and the arts – we are indebted to Arab creativity, insight and scientific perseverance.
I hope you understand now, that Serbian nation, especially well-educated portion of our nation do respect Arab nations and cultivates a friendly relations towards the Arabs!