5 Ways Medieval Islam Helped Make Western Civilization What It Is Today

On occasion I have seen a "poster" on Facebook that says something like "Islam: Contributing Nothing to Civilization for 1300 Years." I realize that some see that meme as an attack against ISIS and other jihadists (and I support any and all attacks against the jihadist threat to our world today). However, that poster makes me angry because it simply isn't so.

I am a Christian. I have no interest in defending the theology of Islam, but I am very interested in telling the truth. We should never be afraid of telling the truth. And just like in my previous article, where I discussed several contributions of Christian Europe to the civilized world, it is true that the Islamic culture of the medieval world made numerous contributions as well. I have cherry-picked just a few of the voluminous contributions to share with you:

1. Agriculture

If you enjoy peaches, apricots, oranges, lemons and limes, you can thank the Muslims of the Middle Ages. Their farmers brought these wonderful fruits from the Middle East and India to Spain. And soon enough the rest of Europe learned to love them! Like lemonade? Thank the Muslim culture of the medieval world. Artichokes and spinach were also introduced to Europe by the Muslims, but maybe those veggies are not as palatable. We can also thank the Muslims for cultivating and bringing to Europe rice, pepper, ginger, and cloves. Imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without many of the spices you have available in your grocery store.

But if you love coffee ... thank the Arabs and Turks. The coffee bean was first discovered by Christian Ethiopians, but other than chewing the beans or boiling the leaves, their use of the bean didn't really make a splash (ha!). The Arabs in Yemen decided to grind the beans and boil them, thus producing what they called "qahwa" in Arabic.

The Turks got wind of this new brew, further developed it (calling it "kahve") and turned it into the gourmet liquid it is today. The first coffee shop in Europe opened in Venice Italy in 1615, thanks to Turkish merchants who brought it over.