In the middle of the 11th century, the Normans took Sicily and the southern portion of Italy from the Muslims, they granted the medical school founded by the latter the thorough protection that they granted to all Muslim institutions. The Muslim geographer, Al-Idrisi, worked under Roger II patronage in Sicily and even named his book after him (Al-Kitab al Rogery).
When in the middle of the 11th century, the Normans took Sicily and the southern portion of Italy from the Muslims, they granted the medical school founded by the latter the same protection that they granted to all Muslim institutions.(1)
Roger I, who in 1091, was the first to rule the island after the Muslims, took the risk of being considered a Muslim and ‘encouraged them to cultivate their gifts.'(2) Roger also kept the former system of administration and his kingdom presented the ‘unique spectacle' of a Christian kingdom in which Muslims held some of the highest positions.(3)
His son, Roger II was the most enlightened monarch of his time, and patron of science and art.(4) He delighted in the company of learned Muslims and in the last fourteen years of his life spent much of the time in scientific speculation in the true Muslim tradition. The Muslim geographer, Al-Idrisi, worked under his patronage and named his book after him (Al-Kitab al Rogery)
Under Frederick II, Muslim culture and science thrived ever more. He became king of Sicily in 1198 (he came of age in 1208), the head of the Holy Roman Empire in 1220, and king of Jerusalem in 1229.(5) It was under his rule, Briffault explains, that Muslim culture on the island reached its height and had ‘a great and far-reaching civilising influence over barbaric Europe.'(6) So much so, in fact, that he inspired awe and respect, tempered with a certain suspicion that his great culture and learning had fundamentally tainted his Christianity. Just like Al-Andalus itself, ‘he was viewed with astonishment, admiration, and envy combined with fear and suspicion.'(7)
Map of Italy showing the location of Sicily. Source: Atlas of the World, 1981, WHSmith.
1 G. Le Bon: La Civilisation des Arabes, IMAG, Syracuse, 1884.p.391
2 A. H. Miranda: The Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, in The Cambridge History of Islam, vol 2, edt: P. M. Holt. A.K.S. Lambton, and B. Lewis, Cambridge University Press, 1970, pp 406-439, pp: 432-39. p. 438.
3 P.K. Hitti: History of the Arabs, MacMillan, London, 1970 ed.p607.
4 G.Sarton: Introduction to the History of Science; 3 vols; The Carnegie Institute of Washington; 1927-48. p. 191.
5 G. Sarton: Introduction, op cit, p. 575.
6 R. Briffault: The Making of Humanity, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London 1928, p. 212.
7 Maria Rosa Menocal: The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1987, p.63.