First Translation Activities in Islamic Science History and their Contribution to Knowledge Production - İslam Bilim Tarihi’nde İlk Tercüme Faaliyetleri ve Bilgi Üretimine Katkısı

Cumhuriyet Ilahiyat Dergisi 21 (3):1905-1940 (2017)
Abstract
: With economic relations and conquests, Muslims have spread to a very wide geographical area. Consequently, they have encountered many different cultures. Muslims have had great interest and curiosity towards new cultures especially those of Byzantine, Iran and partly of the Indian cultures. Especially, the conquest of cities such as Alexandria, Harran and Jundīshāpūr and the scientific tradition in these cities had great influence on Muslims. After these conquests, Muslims not only studied Islamic sciences but also began the activities of translation into Arabic to get familiar with ancient tradition of thought and culture. These first translation activities, which are extremely important in terms of Islamic civilization and the history of science, have been studied extensively to date. However, it is observed that during the studies performed, the only information mentioned were usually the names of the translated works, the domains of study they were written for and the names of interpreters. This study aims to shed light on the first translation activities in the History of Islamic Science, as well as the fields in which these translations were done, the knowledge and the accumulation of Muslims in these fields before translation activities and the contribution of translation activities in development or change in these fields by providing examples from Muslim scientists in different centuries, whose works are also known in the West. The golden era of Muslims in science and technology between the 8th and 11th centuries and some important scientific activities carried out within this period are analyzed in three periods; “acquisition of the information”, “systematization of the information” and “production of original information”. Summary: Science is one of the most important mutual heritage of civilization and human history. Those who attach importance to science, scientific studies and scientists are mostly the ones who contributed to this heritage. Muslims, who are the members of a religion with the first holy command “Read,” have a respectful place among the societies that attached importance to science and therefore composed important works. Through economic relations and conquests, Muslims have spread to a very wide geographical area. Consequently, they encountered many different cultures. Muslims had great interest in and curiosity about new cultures especially those of Byzantine, Iran and partly of the Indian cultures. Especially, the conquest of cities such as Alexandria, Harrān and Jundīshāpūr and the scientific tradition in these cities had great influence on Muslims. After these conquests, Muslims not only studied Islamic sciences but also began the activities of translation into Arabic to get familiar with ancient tradition of thought and culture. Being extremely important in terms of Islamic civilization and the history of Islamic science, deals with the contribution of translation activities to information production. The golden era of Muslims in science and technology between the 8th and 11th centuries and the some important scientific activities carried out within this period are analyzed in three periods; “acquisition of the information,” “systematization of the information” and “production of original information”. The Holy Quran and the hadiths of the Prophet, which are regarded as two main sources of Islam, include many orders and recommendations praising and encouraging science. Moreover, according to Quranic verses and the hadiths, the role of science and scholarship has been a propelling power in religion, and consequently in whole human life. Therefore, the scientific activities that started in Mecca with Prophet Muhammad’s being prophet and continued in Medina, kept going intensively during the period of Rashidun Caliphate. Especially the first Islamic conquests helped Muslims encounter different civilizations specially Byzantine and Iran, make use of the works of these civilizations and begin translation activities intensively during the periods of Umayyads and ʿAbbāsids. As a result, Muslims have improved in social, applied and health sciences as well as religious sciences. What Muslims tried to do first is to understand the existing knowledge and then to improve and dedicate it to the use of world. In this study, the period commonly referred to as “acquisition of the information” encompasses the time when cities as Alexandria, Harran and Jundīshāpūr were conquered and the scientific tradition in these cities influenced Muslims and consequently the translation activities began. The purpose in that period was to get the knowledge regardless of its location and translate it into Arabic. “Systematization of the information” period addressed the process in which translation activities went on and the knowledge acquired via translation was systematized. The purpose of the period was to produce knowledge, make it utilizable and dedicate it to the society. In that period, also, science was praised and encouraged. Administrators and scholars of the period believed that all problems could be solved through science. Centers of translation and observatories were established in this period. Appealing and influencing the Muslims, translations of the period enriched their culture but never led them lose their genuine identity. On the contrary, Muslim scholars, investigating the works of early scholars and criticizing them whenever necessary, never accepted them as absolute authority and produced their authentic works. In the period that is referred to as “production of original information,” the level of development reached in terms of science, is revealed presenting the notable scholars of these period and the ones recognized by European science community. Aforementioned period encompasses the era when scholars such as al-Fazārī, Jabir b. Ḥayyān, al-Khwārazmī, al-Farghānī, al-Ali b. Rabban al-Ṭabarī, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, Battani, Abū l-Wafāʾ al-Būzjānī, Ibn Sīnā, ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā al-Kahhal, Ibn al-Haytham and al-Bīrūnī were at the top. In this period, translations continued intensively. Moreover, research studies gained their own qualifications in terms of rules, methods and concepts. Islamic science experienced its golden age. The most inspiring works of the period were on mathematics, medicine, physics, Alchemy/chemistry and astronomy. Such scientific knowledge was recognized by the western world living in the darkness of scholastic idea between the 5th and 11th centuries, only after the 11th century via translations from Arabic.
Keywords Islam   Science   Translation   Bayt al-Ḥikma   Muslim Scientists   Muslim Scientists
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DOI 10.18505/cuid.341838
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