Were the Muslims viewed as barbarians similar to the Mongols, and as a people who only specialized in war? Or, were Muslims advanced enough to teach Europe scientific advancements? Did they invent any new science? Did they help world civilization progress?

  • 1
    This source would suggest a positive answer: "Mathematicians in Al-Andalus also did original work ..."
    – Drux
    Oct 24, 2012 at 5:02
  • 3
    Very difficult to provide a non-subjective answer. This is fundamentally question about Counterfactuals.
    – MCW
    Oct 24, 2012 at 11:28
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    Too broad. Is the question about Muslims, or Moors specifically? Which historical period? Islamic civilization had swings from being highly sophisticated scientifically to very hostile to science. Also, Mongols established observatories and schools, so "viewed" is the keyword here. They were in many things less barbaric than medieval Europe.
    – DVK
    Nov 3, 2012 at 22:55
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    @mdnth I agree with DVK that the question is far too broad. The answer would necessarily involve several centuries of interaction all over the Mediterranean Sea (Spain, Sicily, Holy Land, Algeria, ...) It is an excellent question otherwise.
    – astabada
    Jan 21, 2013 at 13:21
  • 2
    There is no such thing as "helping civilization evolve". Sep 21, 2017 at 14:28

3 Answers 3


Yes, the Moors helped to advance civilization within Medieval Europe.......via Spain.

From 711 AD/CE, until 1492 AD/CE, the region of Andalusia-(or Southern Spain) had 2 Capitals of the Moorish Caliphate. It began with the city of Cordoba, followed by the city of Granada-(for approximately 200 years, 1292-1492 AD/CE). Although the Christian led "Reconquest"-(which originated in the Northwest of Spain, specifically in the Galicia region) captured and controlled town after town, as well as city after city from the 800's AD/CE, until, May, 1492, the Muslim Moors were still able to produce one of the most refined and intellectually advanced civilizations within the history of Spain, the greater Iberian peninsula, Europe and indeed........world history.

Fields, such as Philosophy, Theology, Horticulture, Architecture, Poetry, Music, Medicine, Mathematics, as well as perfecting the practice of translating the Greek "classics" from Antiquity, were central to the intellectual character of Medieval Moorish Spain-(as well as throughout the greater Medieval Islamic world, reaching to distant lands, such as, Uzbekistan). The city of Cordoba alone had schools and Libraries centuries before the establishment of the great Universities and Libraries in Medieval Northern Europe-(with the notable exception of Charlemagne's Capital City of Aachen in Northwest Germany).

During the height of the Middle Ages, the Moorish Muslim Caliphate was losing its territorial influence within the Central region of Spain, though it was also during this time that congenial cultural relations were opening up between Muslims, Jews and Catholic Christians in the city of Toledo. However, it was the Catholics who were becoming increasingly interested in and fascinated with the Greco-Roman "classics" which had been well preserved-(and even furthered) by the Muslim Moors for a few centuries. The Greco-Roman intellectual and cultural legacy was both transmitted and translated by the Iberian Moors, as well as by Spanish Jews, to the Catholic Intelligentsia and Scholarly classes during the late Middle Ages, thereby helping to contribute to "The Age of Scholasticism"-(the North European forerunner to the Northern Italian Renaissance).

Could Medieval Northern Europe have "evolved" or intellectually progressed without the assistance of the Spanish Jews and Muslims? It certainly is very possible. As I had stated earlier, Charlemagne, produced-(albeit for a short while), The Carolingian Renaissance which also embraced the Greco-Roman intellectual and cultural legacy. However, after Charlemagne's death, the Scandinavian Vikings literally "came to town" and the Carolingian Renaissance abruptly ended. Perhaps if the Vikings had not invaded the European territories under Carolingian control, the intellectual and cultural progress of Northern Europe may have started 200-250 years earlier and the Spanish Moorish influence may have been inconsequential or of secondary importance. There may have even been a chronologically lengthy cultural and intellectual competition between Carolingian Europe and Moorish Andalusia.

Nevertheless, such an idea is merely theoretical and ultimately, it was the Spanish Muslim Moors who helped Catholic Europe "evolve" into The Late Middle Ages.......also known as, "The Age of Scholasticism".

  • Alex, have a look at my answer.
    – fdb
    Sep 21, 2017 at 16:02
  • Thank you for you response. It is certainly true that Christian scholars from the Abbasid Muslim, as well as the Byzantine Christian East) were directly responsible for the translation of Greek "classics", as well as the dissemination of these works throughout the greater Medieval Islamic world-(including, most especially, Moorish Andalusia). However, the emphasis of my posting wasn't so much about the Moorish invasion of Spain, bur rather, the subsequent culture that the Moors produced within Toledo and particularly, Andalusia.
    – user26763
    Sep 21, 2017 at 20:55
  • If you look at the secondary questions: "Were Muslims advanced enough to teach European scientific advancements?, Did they invent science? Did they help world civilization progress? I think my posting is quite clear in its answer.
    – user26763
    Sep 21, 2017 at 20:58

Moors were more advanced than Europe during the Dark Ages (a period that represented a low point in European civilization). Moors had knowledge of algebra, geometry, and other forms of mathematics several hundred years ahead of the Europeans. As such, they also had more advanced trade practices, as well as access to more trade goods such as silks and spices via the Middle East.

Moors occupied and made their mark particularly in Spain. Their knowledge (including navigation) seeped out into that country (and Portugal) giving those countries a lead in the race to the New World. Until the Spanish persecution, Moors also handled much of the trade of Spain, which is why that country prospered in the 15th century (relative to the rest of Europe), but lagged behind in the 16th century (after the Moors were driven out).


The actual question that was posed on here five years ago now was whether “the Moors and Arabs, ‘Muslims’ who invaded Europe, i.e. Spain” helped the “evolution of civilisations of Europe”. The answer to this question is that the Arabs “who invaded Europe”, namely the Arab warriors who conquered parts of Europe in the 7th century, did not bring copies of Aristotle and Ptolemy with them in their saddle bags. The translations of Greek classics into Arabic were produced a good 200 years later, and they were the work not of warriors, but of mainly Christian scholars in the Eastern part of the Abbasid caliphate, and they were introduced later in al-Andalus mainly by Muslim scholars (again not by warriors). Conquerors do not help the “evolution of civilisations”.

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