Years ago i had the chance to leaf through some Qur'an translations (Latin, German? some bilingual with Arabic text) in a library in northern Germany which are dated to 16th century and later. As we know that Muslims and their thoughts and sciences where more or less known in European countries and cities around the Mediterranean. I would like to know when they reached northern parts of Europe especially for: Germany and Scandinavian countries. I know that the German poet and thinker Goethe (1749-1832) already wrote a poem about Mohammad as a young man!

But my focus is what came first Muslims themselves, or books, like translations of books written by Muslims or the Qur'an? What evidence is there?

EDIT: I just found this about al-Mas'udi, where he seems to know about Kashubians (eastern Pommerania) which is not far from what is now called Germany!

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    I can't answer precisely to this, but the Norse had some contacts with the Islamic world, starting around the 9th century. They traded around the Caspian sea, and raided the Iberian Peninsula. So they probably brought back some parts of the culture too. More details here
    – Majuj
    Sep 24, 2015 at 8:08
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    Vikings also traded at the black sea (lower Dnjepr), directly with muslims.
    – mart
    Sep 24, 2015 at 10:40
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    Uh, I think you are making a lot of unwarranted assumptions here, like the idea that vikings could read. Sep 24, 2015 at 15:52
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    @TylerDurden they certainly could write (The Varangia Guard left "graffiti" in Hagen Sophia) so it's highly unlikely that they couldn't read.
    – user45891
    Sep 24, 2015 at 15:55
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    This talks about a Muslim writer's account of a Viking funeral in 10th century, although it's not clear where this happens.
    – user69715
    Sep 24, 2015 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


The Muslim Texts Arrived in Germany Before any Significant Muslim Population

In the medieval times, the Muslim conquest of western Europe was halted midway through France, never reaching Germany. Simultaneously, the Muslim foray into eastern Europe was directed into central Russia, and seems to never have been aimed toward the Germanic countries (although there was occasional diplomatic outreach). By comparison, the major academic institutions of Europe owned - and prized - copies of the great Arabic literary library. Let us review some dates and data below.

The landmark milestones of Islam's migration into medieval Europe are:


  • 609 - Muhammad begins to receive the revelation of the Quran

  • 632 - the Quran is completed on the year of Muhammed's death

  • 7th Century - Muslim forces invade western Europe at the Iberian peninsula; and eastern Europe in the Baltic region, past the Black Sea, into what is modern central Russia


  • cir. 930 - Ahmad ibn Rustah (of Isfahan, Persia) records his travels with the Rus to Novgorod (located between Moscow and St. Petersburg). He also compiles reports from other explorers in his "Book of Precious Records," demonstrating the range of Arab geographic knowledge about Anglo-Saxons, Bulgars, Croats, Khazars, Magyars, Slavs, and other peoples.

  • 921 - Almış iltäbär (also: the first Emir of Volga Bulgaria, Jaʿfar ibn ʿAbdullah, the king of Saqaliba) sends a formal request to the Abbasid Caliph (Baghdad) for religious instruction for himself and for the significant Muslim population already in the country.

  • 921-922 - Susan al-Rassi leads the Caliph's diplomatic party to Volga Bulgaria (approx modern Tatarstan, Russia) for the purpose of explaining Islamic law to the Islamic Bulgars living on the eastern bank of the Volga River. ¶ The secretary of the expedition - and lead counsel for religious doctrine and law - is Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who records an account of the journey in his "Risala." ¶ After the expedition's arrival, Ahmad ibn Fadlan is disappointed at the natives' practice of Islam, describing it as "imperfect" and "doctrinally unsound." ¶ He also documents his encounters with the Volga Vikings who travel the Volga River trade route. Depending on the historian, the Volga Vikings are identified as "North Germanic," "East Slavic," or "Scandanavian." (Incidentally, this real record inspired the fictional adventure novel "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton, and its subsequent film "The 13th Warrior".)

  • 922 - Volga Bulgaria officially adopts Islam, by order of the Emir Almış iltäbär. Additionally, Almış requests that the Caliph help fortify the Volga Bulgars against their enemies, the Khazars.

  • 986-987 Vladimir the Great (of Kiev) seriously investigates the great religions of the neighboring countries, but ultimately rejects Islam because of its stringent lifestyle restrictions, especially noting the prohibition on wine. He later declares Christianity the official religion of Russia.

  • cir. 1077-1116 - Kings of Hungary St. Ladislaus I and Coloman the Learned both pass laws (via the Synod of Szabolcs) that essentially require Muslims and Jews to integrate into the mainstream. Specific requirements include the violation of tenets key to both Islam and Judaism (consuming pork, forbidding circumcision, formal worship on Sunday only, etc.).

  • cir. 1200 - Islamic author Yaqut al-Hamawi relays statements from a Hungarian student residing in Aleppo, Syria, who reported the existence of 30 Muslim villages in Hungary.

  • cir. 1257 - The Golden Horde conquers the western part of Russia (including modern Ukraine) and adopts Islam as its primary religion, under the direction of Berke Khan.

  • 1258 - Hulagu Khan (of the Ilkhanate) destroys Baghdad in his conquest of Persia; Berke Khan vows a war of vengeance.

  • 1259 - Berke Khan orders his nephew Nogai Khan to raid Poland in order to collect booty to finance the coming war with Hulagu Khan. Several Polish cities are plundered, including Kraków and Sandomierz.

  • 1453 - The Ottoman Empire captures Constantinople, declaring Islam the state religion.


  • 711 - the Umayyad conquest of Hispania (Modern day Spain and Portugal with the exception of Northern regions)

  • 712 - the establishment of Arab governance in Seville, and later Cordoba (year 716)

  • cir. 719 - the Muslim armies march over the Pyrennes mountains and into France

  • 721 - the Arab forces are defeated in the battle of Toulouse (near the modern Spanish-French border) but persist in their conquests

  • 732 - the Muslim armies in France successfully advance northward, penetrating more than halfway across modern France before being defeated by the Franks at the Battle of Tours, which effectively repels them from further incursions into France

  • 756 - Exiled prince Abd al-Rahman I establishes the Emirate of Cordoba across the southern two-thirds of what is now modern Spain

  • 929 - the emir Abd al-Rahman III changes the name and structure of the state to The Caliphate of Cordoba

  • 1085 - the city of Toledo is recaptured by Christian forces


  • cir. 1126 - Archbishop Raymond of Toledo began the Toledo School of Translators at the Library of the Cathedral of Toledo

  • 1143 - While living in Spain, English scholar Robert of Ketton translates the Quran into Latin (the first translation into a western language) for the French Abbot Peter the Venerable

  • 1167 - Gerard of Cremona joins the Toledo translators and begins his work of translating into Castillian and Latin a total of 87 Arabic books and lost Greek manuscripts

  • cir. 1200 - the translations from Arabic proved to be in demand for their educational value, and were soon found in all major universities across Europe

  • 1216 - due to high demand for the Quran in European academia, Mark of Toledo completes an improved translation into Latin

  • 1492 - after being gradually driven southward across Spain, the last Moorish Emirate of Granada finally surrendered to Ferdinand V and Isabella

  • 1614 - Muslim civilians were completely expelled from Spain

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    +1, Excellect compilation which is correct mostly as I can tell but can use some references. Also one thing to note is, The Battle of Tours is glorified only in Europe. In contemporary Muslim texts, it is not mentioned as anything more than a small raid. So Andalusians hadn't entered France to conquer it, however they had some possessions in Aquitaine region. But then again, Muslims hadn't entered into Hispania to conquer it either, it was also a raid but its success turned the raid into fullscale invasion.
    – NSNoob
    Feb 15, 2017 at 9:16
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    Also another thing I note is, this is more about Europe in General, not about Northern Europe specifically. I would have expected the encounters of Vikings and Muslims in Rus states and Byzantine Empire to be mentioned in the answer
    – NSNoob
    Feb 15, 2017 at 9:19
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    @NSNoob nice and constructive comments, You've said what was my first impression of the answer, which so far is good!
    – Medi1Saif
    Feb 15, 2017 at 12:30
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    @Medi1Saif - as per the requests in the comments, here is an edit including some specifics about eastern europe and russia May 20, 2017 at 3:44
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    @Greg - Your comment is appreciated and duly noted. I take the Ottoman Empire to begin at about year 1300, and certainly later agitating in central Europe. There is ample evidence that the Koran and other writings were circulated throughout European libraries from about 1200-1220. Hence my answer. May 21, 2017 at 19:19

I don't know any stories about Muslims reaching Scandinavia, but it is well known that Vikings reached the Islamic world. Probably brought home from those travels was a ring inscribed with Islamic text that was buried in a 9th century Viking grave. This could be the first instance of a Muslim text arriving in Scandinavia.

  • I took the word "texts" in the original question to mean "manuscripts," not "examples of script writing." Fascinating article though! Thank you! Some of the commentators on the thread were not particularly satisfied with the related research. May 21, 2017 at 19:25
  • @EverettSteed yes, that was quite a broad interpretation of "texts".... and it's interesting to learn that there was some controversy over the finding. May 21, 2017 at 20:28

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