Tentative Global Timeline of Contacts between the World of Islam and Western Europe: 7th -20th Cent.
By Omar Mubaidin*
The following timeline  presents a survey of Muslim presence in Europe from the 7th century CE until the 20th century. It lists the various and different contacts that shaped the relations of Muslims with Western Europe and gave rise to perceptions and labels of Muslims in the West during several centuries. These relations were various, religious, military, diplomatic, through trade and commerce, by intellectual exchanges in different domains. It is by thinking about these events of the past that we can understand the actual state of complexity of the relationships between these two major components of our world.
Table of contents 1. Introduction
2. Conquest of Spain and campaigns into France
3. Andalusian caliphate
4. Post Caliphal Spain through the Reconquista
5. The last Muslim power in Spain
6. Muslims in the Iberian peninsula after Granada's fall
7. Early Excursions into Sicily and Other Mediterranean Islands
8. Muslim Sicily
9. Muslims in non-Muslim Sicily
10. Mediterranean Islands after Sicilian conquest
11. Muslims in Italy
12. Nordic-Muslim relations
13. Muslims in Britain
14. Franco-Muslim relations
15. Muslims in Alpine nations
16. Benelux-Muslim contacts
17. German-Muslim contacts
18. Converts, corsairs, renegades and rebels (14th-20th centuries)
19. Monks, historians, scholars
20. Literary and artistic presence
|Figure 1: Remains of Fabriano (Italy) paper mill where handmade paper is still produced. This paper mill was one of the first to produce paper in Europe since 1276, after it was introduced by direct contact with the Muslim world (source).|
The image that results from such a survey builds a rich and somewhat colorful scheme of a forgotten shared history, that of 14 centuries of exchanges and mutual enrichment between two major civilisations of the ancient and modern world.
Since the majority of the timeline revolves around Middle Eastern Muslims in Western Europe, the timeline uses the term 'Muslims' instead of 'Islam' to emphasize the persons and cultural contacts. Also, the word 'presence' was preferred as a good portion of the timeline does not necessarily include Muslims as people but Muslim presence as a cultural entity ( i.e. scholarship, scientific contributions)
|Figure 2: Part of the permanent exhibition Al-Andalus y la Ciencia on the Andalusian scientific heritage at the Fundación El legado Andalusí and el Parque de las Ciencias de Granada in Spain (source).|
Both the designations Muslim and Western Europe frequently prove to be very loose definitions that serve to divide and create exclusivist tensions that are historically exaggerated. Often the exchange between Muslims and Western Europe will be redefined as Islam vs. Christendom, Islam vs. the West, East vs. West, etc.; all being both useful and useless in their own way. In this work, the terms are employed as conventional means of expressing historical connection between worlds that, due to varying (vastly political) reasons, are unfairly separated. Muslims from one era obviously will not have everything in common with Muslims of another era, including certain religious values, especially regarding political goals. To say that the Barbary corsair raids against European and American shipping are ancestors to the contemporary War on Terror would be a misconception and an overemphasis on an aspect of identity. Similarly, countries designated as Western Europe are often not homogenous in many realms (political, economic, etc.), especially not over the course of a millennium. Many regions of Western Europe share more in common with Eastern Europe (especially true historically) than with each other.
|Figure 3: Map showing the extent of the Almoravid Empire.|
The term Muslim used in this work is utilized as a dynamic aspect of identity and not to necessarily imply political unity or inherited cultural values. Although the subject of this timeline revolves around some kind of Muslim identity within the history of Western Europe, the intention is to exhibit a continuity of history between the Muslim world and Western Civilization when often their histories are seen as mutually exclusive. This work does not claim to be a sum total of all the significant events regarding Muslims in Western Europe; it is limited in its exclusive use of English sources. Its intended use is a somewhat comprehensive starting point and leisure reference regarding the subject. The time period dealt with is the 600s CE to 1900s. Just a listing of books printed within this period in Western Europe regarding Islam and its followers would take up numerous more pages. The timeline is not the total history, but hopes to be a sufficient vindicationalist history from which further inquiry may stem.
The subdivisions of the timeline are loose guidelines by which to follow an inconsistent history more easily. The majority of the subdivisions include national or regional specifications (such as Muslim Sicily, Spain's Caliphate, etc.) In these groupings, the interaction between/presence of Muslims has primarily been restricted to diplomatic, commercial, military, and political spheres. Due to the existence of an extensive recognized Muslim political unit within the lands, Spain and Sicily each have a number of subdivisions split up based on shifts in power. Muslims in Britain, in Italy, Franco-Muslim, and German-Muslim contacts are self-explanatory and based on a specific national experience. The Nordic region refers to the Scandinavian nations of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland. Benelux is the term used for Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Although including more countries, the term Alpine Nations, for the purposes of this work, refers primarily to Austria and Switzerland. Certain events in Eastern European history have been included where they bear relevance to Western European history in matters of Muslim presence. Islam in Eastern Europe could be a large project all in itself. Due to Greece's role in Western European tradition, as well as many other Mediterranean islands not considered part of Western Europe, it has been included in the timeline.
|Figure 4: Front cover of Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World History by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (Cambridge University Press, 1993, Paperback).|
The section titled "Converts, Corsairs, Renegades, and Rebels" simply showcases a few key individuals from only 14th-20th centuries that were on the forefront of the Islamic-Western European exchange. A section on "Monks, Historians and Scholars" intends to present the dynamics of discourse regarding such an exchange through a short description of the role of various academics on both sides of the experience. The section on "Literary and Artistic Presence" seeks to identify key masterpieces and popular works of cultural value that both facilitated a more harmonious social environment or perpetuated discriminatory myths.
 Note of the editor: The facts given in the timeline are under the responsibility of the author. If necessary, our readers are requested to check the sources listed in the references file below. These references are presented in the same order as the sections of the timeline.
* Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
by: FSTC Limited, Tue 19 February, 2008