Originality and Derivativeness

Originality is common to all civilizations. Each civilization created some of its features and borrowed others. It has its own characteristic traits among world civilizations. There is no civilization whatsoever that was unique in its originality or derivativeness or was devoid of characterizing traits that distinguished it from other civilizations.

The new controversy about the Aryans and Semites has set the Europeans against the Arab civilization, which they accuse of being entirely derivative. They saw fit to rate Arab civilization below Aryan civilizations even if the latter are oriental. They allege that Aryan civilization has the advantage of originality and free thought particularly in the field of theoretical researches envisaging science for science's sake, and not for application or utility in life. The distinction of the Eastern Aryans ends in the distinction of the European race in its earliest state, by virtue of which it justifies its predominance over the world.

Some people allege that derivativeness has always been characteristic of the Arab race ever since it has had contact with the history of the most ancient world. The Sumerians preceded the Arab peoples in Mesopotamia. They achieved a very great civilization, that can be ascertained from its remains. Hence, the Babylonians and Chaldeans were heirs of the civilization that already existed in Mesopotamia; they were originators or innovators.

When the Arabs re-emerged after Islam, they had their own civilization but still it was a copied one; it was not initiated or created by them. The derive character of this civilization was proved by making a statistical account of the savants and thinkers who were leaders of culture in the Arab State. They were mostly foreigners who became Muslims. Hardly any of them was originally Arab. And that is the argument with which European fanatics support their denial to all other peoples not related to them by kinship, of the faculty of initiation and creativity.

This book - as we see - is rendering a decisive judgment on this preposterous claim, or is at least indicating the probable and improbable claims made the examination of the Arabs' advantages is the substance of my thesis The Arabs' impact on European civilization).

We can throw doubt on this claim by asking in the first place where is that civilization that initiated and did not borrow? Then, where is that civilization whose scientists and savants were all of one pure race and had not admixed with other races?

The Greek, for instance, had borrowed before they innovated, and their savants and scientists had - as we have mentioned somewhere in this book - distinguished themselves in Asia Minor, the Aegean Islands, Sicily, Alexandria, Palestine, Syria and the limits of Iraq. Their distinction was not limited to one place that could be called the native place of the one pure race that had not been admixed by other races.

This applies to India, Persia and China as well as to any of the newly-emergent European states.

There is no doubt that the ancient Sumerians were of another genealogy other than the Arabs, from whom they differed in language and character. Different accounts were given about their origin. Some said they were the descendants of the Moguls; others said they were of Egyptian stock; other said were Europeans who had come down from the North.

However the allegation that the Arabs who inhabited their country had initiated nothing, is mere speculation and contexture. The world in their time, did not record a single feature of their civilization. When they developed relationships with the surrounding countries, then the Arab traits were conspicuously reflected in language, social customs, and thought. Hence it is pointless to affirm that the Arabs had copied and had not initiated, and that the Sumerians, who had anticipated them, had created and had not copied, although we are completely ignorant of their creative or original works.

It is true that during the reign of Islam foreign peoples took part in the development of culture. The greatest among them played a large in the promotion of science, and other studies. But that promotion came after the rise of Islam in these countries. In so far as their ancient glory is concerned, these foreign peoples had no advantage over the Arab race in the field of theoretic studies envisaged to enhance «Science for Science's sake», and not for application of utility in life.

For example, foreigners collected traditions in the initial stage of material-collection; a few of them were of pure Arab stock. Nobody claimed that the Arab had lacked the ability of story-telling, and learning lists of authorities and genealogies. The Arab learned by heart lists of authorities, genealogies and stories, a science that was not known to many urban and nomadic peoples. It is therefore necessary that we seek another reason than the racial one to explain the fewness of purely Arab scientists in some ages.

A further motive for seeking other reasons than the racial one is that purely Arab savants had worked on philosophy and wisdom on Andalusia, and during the reign of Alawides, and at the end of the rule of the Abasids. The history of Arab culture includes names of the Savants such as Ibn Al-Haitham, Al-Hassan Ben Ahmad Al-Hamdani (who died in 334), author of the books "Secrets of Wisdom and Ausab Homair" ( which is an encyclopedia of philosophic researches about the origin of the world, the principles of logic and rhetoric) and Ibn Al-Nadar the Judge (Al-Kadi), about whom Abu Al-Salat wrote in his treatise on soothsayers of Egypt,» The soothsayers in Egypt are the doctors. They cling to astrology of which they know nothing more than drawing a line and giving places of stars. They do not know deeper studies, cause and effect, and the principles of science, because they are not capable of rising to this level and exploring the stars except Al-Kadi Abaal-Hassan Ali Ben Al-Nadar, a well-known man of letters. He was one of the few notables reckoned among the blessings of fate.

He wrote translations and histories - particularly the «News of the Sages» by Kafti - He also wrote good résumé's of a number of Philosophers and Sages who had not been renowned at the beginning of Islam. The names of Kanadi, Muhammad Bin Ibrahim Ali Fazari, the three sons of Moussa Ben Shaker viz, Muhammad, Ahmad and Al-Hassan became famous among the foreign Savants who came of non-Arab stock.

We need not go far in seeking other reasons, than the racial one for the fewness of Arab Savants. There are many available reasons. The foreigners took up the art of writing before the Arabs because the latter were, at the beginning of Islam, engaged in leadership and world-wide conquests. They had to draw up the policies of the conquered countries. They therefore were not free to indulge themselves in art and science, which they assigned to their followers and subordinates.

Another reason was that the new states which had entered into Islam felt a great need to learn the Arabic language and Jurisprudence and search, for its sources. In their remote places, this was the only means by which they could maintain their religions, and the only thread that tied them to their state.

A further reason was that the Abbasid state patronized the foreigners and sponsored their studies. The Foreigners threw in their lot behind science and art, being sure that they would be remuneratively rewarded.

Another reason was that the number of distinguished foreigners was computed in proportion to the number of their people. But the number of the distinguished Arabs was computed in proportion to the number of invaders coming from the Arabian Peninsula, and that looks very small if we exclude those who remained behind in the desert to live their own life

Another reason is that conquered peoples take an interest in arguing and debating, as that compensates them for their lost prestige and sovereignty.

It follows that the racial shortcoming is not an established fact and cannot convince fair-minded people. It is established that the force which regenerated civilization in all the territories under Islam, had emanated from the Arabs. The patronage of the Islamic State allowed the continued existence of the remains of the Paranoiac, Greek, Persian and Indian civilizations. Had it not been for the positive genius of the Arabs, that force would not have come about, and that civilization would not have appeared.

Yet all that has been carried to us by the Islamic civilization was not purely Arab in its origin or development. Suffice it that it was not destroyed by them. The Islamic civilization linked up with ancient and modern history, thus preserving the whole human heritage, adding to it, and bequeathing it to succeeding civilization. Such an accomplishment is the best that can be expected from any civilization. Any claim of innovation or initiation from a civilization is tantamount to the nullification of all civilizations that had anticipated it, and that runs contrary to the greatest virtue of civilizations. That virtue lies in furtherance and preservation of the human heritage. The following is the heritage carried by the Arab civilization to the new world.