instead of the cumbersome Roman numerals. Scholars from all over Europe and theMiddle East went to Al-Andalus to work as advisors, as translators, as teachers for themany madrassas or academies set by enlightened Arab rulers. Important scientific and philosophical works from ancient Rome and Greece, from India and Persia, were copied,translated, debated and exported. Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars worked together and learned from each other, resulting in great advances in mathematics, engineering,chemistry, agriculture, medicine, architecture and astronomy.The Arabic language of Al-Andalus also left its mark on Europe. In modern Spanish,which descends from Latin, about 20 % of its words are of Arabic origin.Even the English language is influenced by Arabic loan words for Andalusian productsand inventions. Everyone in this room is already a speaker of Andalusian Arabic. Let meshow you what I mean: let me ask you this:--who can tell me the name of that kind of fabric, which many of us may be wearing rightnow. It is not silk, not polyester (so 70’s!), it is cotton, from the Arabic al-khattan…-- who can tell us the name of this ingredient, that many of us use on a daily basis, to addflavor to our coffee, that makes cake and doughnuts taste so sweet….sugar, from theArabic al zukr...a couple more...-- who can tell me the name of that subject taught in mathematics class, that makes parents crazy when trying to help our kids do their homework? It is not geometry, it is notcalculus, it is instead…algebra, which comes for the title of the
arfī hīsāb al-ğabr wa’l-muqābala
"The Compendious Book onCalculation by Completion and Balancing
by Al-Kwarzimi, the inventor of this process of mathematical calculations.
-- last but not least,
-- who can tell me the name of that magic ingredient, found in wine,in beer and whiskey, which makes feel warm and fuzzy when we have our favorite drink?Alcohol…in Arabic is al-gowal…
or the “spirit” of a liquid.
Now we can all say: I understand a little Arabic!
Why this tolerance in Al-Andalus?
The Muslims of al-Andalus were striking in their ethnic diversity. The leadership andmuch of their sometimes imaginary ancestry were Syrian; most of the foot-soldiers werefirst-generation, immigrant Berbers; and the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, fromwhom within a few generations the majority of the Muslims descended, in part or in2