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On the probable influence of Islam on western public and international law

On the probable influence of Islam on western public and international law

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Published by SaifullahMinInf
On the occasion of the fifteenth century of the hijra, many scholarly publications will deal with various aspects of Islamic history, among which is the contribution of the Arabo-Muslim culture to Western civilisation. Philosophical
and scientific contributions have already been discussed many times. The legacy of Islam in the field of international law has, however; not yet been studied
at length.
On the occasion of the fifteenth century of the hijra, many scholarly publications will deal with various aspects of Islamic history, among which is the contribution of the Arabo-Muslim culture to Western civilisation. Philosophical
and scientific contributions have already been discussed many times. The legacy of Islam in the field of international law has, however; not yet been studied
at length.

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Published by: SaifullahMinInf on Apr 02, 2009
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Int.J.Middle EastStud.
II(1980),
429-450PrintedintheUnitedStatesofAmerica
MarcelA. Boisard
ONTHEPROBABLE INFLUENCEOF ISLAMON WESTERNPUBLICANDINTERNATIONALLAW
Onthe occasionof thefifteenthcenturyof thehijra, many scholarly publica-tionswilldealwith variousaspectsof Islamichistory,amongwhichisthe con-tribution oftheArabo-Muslimcultureto Western civilisation.Philosophicalandscientificcontributionshavealreadybeendiscussedmanytimes. Theleg-acyofIslaminthe fieldof internationallawhas,however;notyetbeen studiedatlength.Given the size of thesubject,whichI haveapproachedfromaperspectiveuptillnow littleexplored,thispaperrepresentsamodestattempt.Asthefruitoflongconsiderations,itmay proveto stimulate morethoroughhistorical re-search,ifmy premisesarejudgedto beplausible.Ihavepresupposedaknowl-edgeof the internationalphilosophyofclassicalIslam' and ofthe difficultiesencounteredintheorderingof relations betweenChristiannationsduringtheMiddleAges.
THE PENETRATIONOFIDEAS
Foratleast sevencenturies,Islamrepresentedthequasi-totalityof the cul-ture of the MediterraneanBasin. ItsrelationswithChristianitywere bothmanyandcomplex.Therewasreciprocalhostilityanddistrust,somepeacefulex-change,and some humanisticandculturalintermingling.The information thatwepossessregardingthemutual relations arequitenumerous,ifscattered anduncertain.For several decadesnowspecialistresearchhasonce morebeentry-ingto demonstratehow the influencesandacquired knowledgeof various kindspassedfrom one civilisation to another.2Toanalysetheinfluencesinthe fieldof law is adifficulttask.Identical ideasmaybegeneratedspontaneouslywithoutshowing any imprintwhatsoever.What ismore,thetimelag, generally fairly long,thatspansthe time betweentheimpactofasymboland itsconcreteacceptanceisafurther source of diffi-culty.Metaphysicalspeculationevolvesmorerapidlythanthelegal theorythatflowsfromit,andyet,events,intheir socialcomplexity,are leavensoflegalinnovation. Wemustthereforeplaceour observationsintrulyhistoricalper-spective,that is tosay,inrelationto thegeneralevolution of ideasdeeplyem-beddedinsocialreality.Inconsideringtheperiod precedingthe modernera,?
1980CambridgeUniversityPress0020-7438/80/040429-22
$01.50
 
430MarcelA.Boisardwhen theconceptoftheStatehadonly justbeenformulated andwhen interna-tionallawwas based onadifferent series ofprinciplesfromthoseoftoday,it isdifficultnottosuperimposecurrentideasonthose ofpreviouseras.3Theinfluenceof Islam onthe Westawakeningfrom theMiddleAgesmeritsexaminationinitstotality.Toestimatethatmost subtle ofpenetrations,thatofideas,leads one ofnecessitytomake estimatesor,atbest,presumptions.Sincewe cannotfollow themintheirpassage throughthesystem,wemustassumethat thispassagetookplace.Ideas,andinparticular legalones,werepropa-gated bytravellers,pilgrims,andthoseengagedincommerce,bywarriorsofvarioussocialcategories,andby philosophersandintellectualswhosewritingshavenotcome down tous.Apartfrompsychological prejudicewhichled totheomission of reference tosources,the fanatic zeal ofaChristianity passingtothe counteroffensive led totheabsurddestructionofinnumerableworksinthereconqueredterritories.Thismakesit evenmore difficultto rediscover con-cretetracesof intellectualpenetration.We mustthereforeimaginerather thanprove.Itiswidelyheldthat thesearchforpointsofsimilaritybetween the essen-tially religious aspectsofIslamiclaw and that of arationallyconstructedWest-ernlegaltheorywould beabarrencourse,giventhat identicalterms haddiffer-entmeaningsand indicateddifferentconcepts.ThelegalinfluenceofIslamicArabic civilisation onEuropeat itsawakeningseems,however,to be incon-testable.Certainly,the coexistenceoftwocivilisations,when seenin theper-spectiveoftime,encouragedthetemptationto makeasuperficial juxtapositionof notions and to conclude that therehadbeenaninfluence. Wewillthereforelimitourselves toabrief mentionof the diversepointsandmodes of contact sothatwe can thenbring upsomeprecise examplesthatinvolveinternationallaw.Inapproachingthesubjectfrom a narrowperspective,we shall have re-coursemostofalltoinformationgleanedmainlyfrom thespecialisedworksofmodern authors.Amorecomplete studywouldnecessitatethe consultationofsuchoriginalsourcesasthe documentsrelatingtotheCrusades,to NormanSicily,and to"reconquered"Spain.Otherpossiblesources would bethearchivesofreligiousorders,thepilgrimaccounts,andthose ofdiplomatsandtradersaswellas theappraisalsof IslambyCatholictheologians,byreformersandhumanists,forexample.Inouropinionthis is a taskthatremainstobedone.4
WAR ANDTRADE
Means oftransmissionwerevaried,personalorcollective,peacefulorvio-lent. Themostfruitfulpointsof contact were inthoseterritories whichchangedhands,themost constantvectorsbeingsoldiersandtraders.Warandnegotia-tionbroughtaboutcommunication betweencultures.Beforegoingintotheanalysisofthe threemajorevents-the"reconquest"ofSpainand ofSicilyandthe Crusades-whichputIslam andEuropeintocontactover along period,weshouldmention the occasionalrelations thatwere able toexert a directinflu-
 
ProbableInfluence ofIslamonWesternLaw431
ence onthedevelopmentofWesterninternationalaw and inparticular,of
course,onthe"lawofwar.""'Bufferzones"were createdbetween Christian andMuslim,leavinganex-tremely,fluiddefinitionoffrontiers.Thevicissitudesofwarcausedurbancentres,even entiretowns,topassfrom one setof hands to another.Intheactualconductofhostilities,if not inthefieldoftheintellect,influenceswerethus infiltrated.Fornearlythree centuriesraidsandprivateeringexpeditionsaswellastemporaryinvasions werefrequentbetweenthe MediterraneanandtheSwissAlps.Itwasnotedthatthere was a successionof"murders,pillageandburnings'5or,incontrast,abenefit for those"regimeswhere thecuttingsof
Arabiccivilisation wouldlatertakeroot".6Theimmediateimpactwasun-doubtedlyofnogreatimportance,since theinvaders wereusuallynothingbutadventurersnsearchofbootyratherhanconquererswith theultimate deaofpermanentcolonisation.7Paralleltothis,the cultural evelof theEuropeanpopulationwas toolow,initially,to seeintheinvadersanythingother thanadivinepunishmentformen'ssins.With thepassingoftime,however,there cameto be an affirmationof Islamicinfluencesin aEuropethatwasgraduallyendingitsconfrontationwithIslam,and abeginningofinterestin itsculture.Onthefield ofbattle,theinvaderbegantointroduce hepracticeofgivingquarter,ollowedbythesys-tematicandregularransomofprisoners.Ifconcreteinfluencesare difficulttodetermine,and iftheywere,incontestably,much lessimportanthanthosecomingfromSpainorSicily,itisnonethelesscertain thattheydeeplyaffected
thepopularmind.The literature oftheperiod8 imaginedtheglorious exploitsof
Muslimleaderswho werepresentedasparagonsofnobilityand ofchivalricspirit, perhapstoincrease thegallantryofthe Christianknights.Thisglorifica-tionof the"unbelieving"Emirshadthe effectofconservinginthe Frenchmind animagethatpresented onlythecivilisingaspectoftheinvader. Hewasattributed uch merit thatthe Romanremainswere,byanaivedeformationofhistory,denoted as"Saracen."The direct victims ofcombat-hostages, prisonersof war orthosekidnappedandtakenintoslavery-inallprobabilityalsocontributed oatransmissionofcertainconceptionsandideasthathad beenencounteredntheOrient.The au-thor of DonQuixotewasimprisonedatAlgiers.Acenturylater,atthedawnofthe seventeenthcentury,he whowastobecome St.Vincent dePaul,aformerslaveinTunisia,foundedacongregationor the moralsuccour andrepurchaseofcaptives.Certain members ofEuropeannoblefamilieswere takenhostageand sent toMuslimcourts.Treatedasguests, theyprobablycannotbuthavebeenimpressedbyMuslimculture of whichtheywere the directpropagatorsupontheir returnhome. Muslimwomen werecapturedandtakenintothe Westwheretheymadeacontributionowards therefinementoffeudal courts.Fi-nally,nobles,adventurers,ocalchiefs,andprincesof the bloodsometimeshadtoexilethemselves intheArabworld.9On theindividualevel,it isevidentthatculturaltransmissionookplacefrom themore tothe lesscultivated,inotherwordsfrom IslamtowardstheWest.

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