Civilisational Dialogue: Medieval Social Thought, Latin-European Renaissance, and Islamic Influences
S. M. Ghazanfar
In 1998, the United Nations declared year 2001 as the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. This paper serves as a modest attempt in that spirit, with focus on the evolution of social thought in medieval Islam and its influence upon the Latin-West. The paper argues that the European Renaissance depended critically upon the intellectual armory, itself built upon the rediscovered Greek heritage, acquired through knowledge transfer from the early Islamic Civilisation. The mainstream literary paradigm, however, tends to neglect those connections, or at best, grudgingly acknowledges them but remotely and peripherally. Further, the paper documents the extensive influence upon Latin-European scholarship provided through the writings of several key Islamic scholastics. Briefly covered are the works of Al-Kindi, Al-Razi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Al-Ghazali, and, especially, Ibn Rushd, the Islamic Aristotle, whose contributions revolutionised the Church-dominated, authoritarian mold of medieval Europe. With extensive documentation and some quotes from well-known medievalists, the paper calls for greater integration of such civilisational connections in literary history so that, among other things, we can better understand the contemporary confrontational global environment.