With the Name of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth


Part Three

Pan-Grecian Conceit

The Pan-Grecian Conceit is one of the characteristics of the authors of the Atlantic Monthly article.  From this point of view, everything worthwhile comes from Greece; ancient Greece is the origin and only source of just about everything.  The Greeks are the fathers of mathematics, musical theory, historiography, etc., etc., etc.  The history of mathematics is taught as though the Egyptians (Africans, which must unfortunately be repeatedly emphasized) knew nothing on the subject (even though Pythagoras studied in Egypt for 22 years), and as though the Muslim civilization never existed (despite the invention of algebra and the introduction of “Arabic numbers” and methods of arithmetic, called “algorism” associated with the use of those numbers).
This is a falsification of history. This falsification began with the Greeks themselves.  In the wake of Alexander’s conquests, the Greeks wanted to dignify their history; standing in the midst of civilizations at least three thousand years old made them feel inferior, so they puffed up their historical “résumé”.  Then, in the Middle Ages, the nations of Christendom, having learned so much from the Muslims, felt that their religious faith and institutions would be threatened by giving so much credit to the Muslims, so they concealed the extent of the Muslim influence and inflated the degree of influence from the ancient Greeks and Romans and exaggerated the role of the monasteries in preserving ancient knowledge.  Later, in the eighteenth century, Europeans engaged in what the British historian Martin Bernal calls the “invention of Ancient Greece”.  The current model of world history is that the dominant civilization, so-called “Western Civilization”, started with ancient Greece; fell into the Dark Ages when the Roman Empire collapsed; had a re-birth, a Renaissance, as a result of the ancient Greek and Roman knowledge saved in the monasteries; moved out into the world in the “Age of Discovery”; and now we are all becoming one big happy family.
My understanding of these events is quite different:  The ancient Greeks were a small part of ancient civilization; even at its height, the Greco-Roman empires were the tail end of a historical phenomenon that was over three thousand years old.  The Muslims came along when ancient civilization had exhausted itself; the two largest empires of the Middle East had worn themselves out in endless wars; the Christian church was fragmented and engaged in endless internal bickerings and persecutions.  For those of us who believe that the Qur’an was a message from the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and that Muhammad was the Messenger, it is not difficult to understand how the Arabs – the ignorant, uncivilized, disunited Arabs – could bring about a rise in the level of civilization once they had accepted the Message.  It is not to the credit of any particular race or nation – but to the grace of the Creator – that civilization rose from the ashes.  How else do we explain the Arabs accomplishing what the Germans, the Huns, the Slavs, the Turks and the Mongols failed to do?  It was the light of knowledge in the multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-racial Muslim civilization that brought Europeans out of their Dark Ages.  As a result, the Europeans were able to develop their own nations and to go out and navigate the oceans and discover other lands.
Previous     Back to beginning     Continued:  Part Four

Selected Bibliography

List of English Words Derived from Arabic
Bible and Qur'an Home