Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This is an article about the scholars known as Arabists, not the political movement Pan-Arabism.
Arabist also occasionally refers to an individual raised in the West who is knowledgable about and sympathetic to Arabic policies and concerns, especially of a political nature. There is, inevitably, some overlap with Arabists in the primary sense.
Origins of Arabism
Arabism began in Spain in the medieval era. Medieval Spain sat on the cusp between the Muslim and Christian worlds; at various times, either a Christian or a Muslim kingdom might be the most hospitable toward scholars. Although some translation of Arabic texts (mostly on mathematics and astronomy into Latin began as early as the 10th century, major work dates from the School of Toledo , which began during the reign of Alfonso VII of Castile, (1105–1157), when Jews literate in Arabic were driven from al-Andalus (now Andalusia), , but driven north by the religious rigidity of the Almohad dynasty.
Translations were made into the Vulgar Latin or early Spanish that was the vernacular language of that time and place into the Church Latin that was then Europe's lingua franca. Early translations included works by Avicenna, Al-Ghazali, Avicebron, etc.; books on astronomy, astrology, and medicine; and the works of the Ancient Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, previously unknown in medieval Christendom. The latter were accompanied by the commentaries of Al-Ghazali, Avicenna, and Averroes, to the point of there being an identifiable Averroist school of philosophy in Christian Europe.
Spain was so much the center of medieval Arabism as to draw scholars from throughout Christian Europe, notably Gerard of Cremona, Herman of Carinthia, Michael Scotus , and Robert of Ketton. In 1143, Robert of Ketton made the first Latin translation of the Qur'an, at the request of Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny. Marcos de Toledo produced another translation of the Qur'an in the 13th century under a mandate from archbishop Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada , who later edited the landmark Historia Arabum ("history of the Arabs"), drawing on the work of al-Razi for the knowledge of al-Andalus prior to the Almoravid conquest.
Arabism and proselytism
Beginning in the 13th century, with the Reconquista well under way, Arabist efforts in Spain were tied closely to the goal of the possibility of proselytizing Christianity in the Arab world. In this wave of activity, Raymundus Martini , author of Pugio fidei adversos mauros et iudaeos (The Fight of Faith Against Moors and Jews) wrote an Arabic vocabulary book and Ramon Llull, in 1275, established in Mallorca a school to teach Arabic to preachers. Pope Honorius IV granted permission to Martini and Llull to found a center for "oriental studies" in Rome.
While Llull may have been motivated in large measure by the desire to proseletise, his relationship to the Arab world was not so simple. According to Julián Ribera, Llull wrote his Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men in Arabic, then translated it into Catalan as the Llibre del gentil e dels tres savis.
This wave of Arabism gained its greatest impulse from Alfonso X of Castile, who commissioned translations of major works into the Latin and into the Castilian Spanish of the time. This led to the first Spanish translation of the Qur'an, and of such influential works as Kalilah and Dimnah , Libro de los engannos et de los assayamientos de las mugeres (Book of the Deceits and the ? of Women), the Escala de Mahoma (The Ascent of Muhammed?) and Los fuegos del ajedrez (The Fires of Chess). Alfonso's own works in history and astronomy drew on numerous elements of Muslim knowledge; the Tales of Count Lucanor , by Juan Manuel and El Libro de buen amor (The Book of Good Love) by ]]Arcipreste de Hita]] from this period both show an interpenetration and symbiosis of Oriental and Spanish cultures.
This trend continued in the 15th century, with Juan de Segovia's trilingual Qur'an (Arabic, Spanish, and Latin), now lost, and Cardinal Cisneros's multilingual Bible. In the 16th century, Pedro de Alcalá undertook several books intended to allow Spanish-speakers to learn Arabic; also, there are several 16th century histories of the Kingdom of Granada, of its conquest and the Moorish uprisings, including the Guerra de Granada (War of Granada) by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and the Historia de la rebelión y castigo de los moriscos (History of the Rebellion and Punishment of the Moors) by Mármol Carvajal.
The eclipse of Spanish Arabism
By this, time, however, Spanish Arabism was succumbing to the repressive atmosphere created by the Spanish Inquisition. Moriscos hesitated to show even the most minimal knowledge of ther mother tongue (Cabanelas, El morisco granadino Alonso del Castillo, Granada, 1965) and Arabic books were burned; any effort to understand Arabic language or culture became a cause for suspicion. It would be the mid-1700s until the power of the Inquisition began to wane and a new Arabism arose in Spain and elsewhere.
- Alfonso X, el Sabio Escuela de Traductores [1252-1277] (in English despite page name), on the site of Suzanne H. Petersen, University of Washington
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