Sunday, May 6, 2018

When Islam met Western enlightenment

The cover of Alexander Bevilacqua’s “The Republic of Arabic Letters.”
In a closely researched and elegantly written book, “The Republic of Arabic Letters,” we learn that the foundations of the modern Western understanding were laid as early as the 17th century by scholars who pursued independent research and exchanged ideas with each other and influenced prominent Enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire and Edward Gibbon. They assimilated the factual content of these works and then wove their interpretations into the very fabric of Enlightenment thought.

The Republic of Arabic Letters” outlines the connections between these scholars and the Roman Catholic Church. One of the early library collections of Quranic texts was commissioned by Pope Clement XI in the early 18th century. These scholars, who included Protestants, went to great length to learn Arabic, Persian and Turkish and acquire, study and comprehend Arabic manuscripts.

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