When (almost) all of Europe was in the dark ages, there was a part of the world that was in its heyday: Muslim Spain. These Muslims, known as Moors, were a hotbed for knowledge and discovery, bringing together peoples from all over Europe to investigate and learn the world. You’d be amazed at what we have today thanks to the Moors.
Muslim Spain was the height of knowledge in Medieval Europe. This was where people came to get educated. Toledo, a well-known city in Muslim Spain, was especially known for knowledge, and had libraries with more books than anywhere else in Europe. So, when Daniel of Morley went on the hunt for real academics, he made his way over to Toledo and stayed there for a few years, learning with and from the Moors. Eventually he returned to England, taking with him books of Moorish ideology and the spit to found today’s Oxford University.
In 859 CE, the daughter of a wealthy Moorish merchant founded a mosque and university in Fes, Morocco – this is the world’s oldest university, and the mosque right next door is one of the largest in North Africa. The freedom and hunt for knowledge was a huge part of Spanish Islam, so it makes sense that this is where you can find the oldest university in the world.
Back before the intellectual explosion of Spanish Islam, everybody was still on Roman numerals. If you think about it, Roman numerals make it hard to do pretty well anything, considering you’d take up all your paper writing the numbers! While the Moors did not invent the digits we use now, the Moors are the reason we use them today. They were first officially developed in India, thrown into the intellectual mix of the Spanish Muslims, and eventually brought to Europe by Leonardo Fibonacci, the Middle Ages’ most famous mathematician.
Bulk Manufacturing of Paper
The Chinese invented paper, but Spanish Muslims made it readily available by refining the process of paper-making and inventing machines to make it in mass quantities. This meant Muslims could use paper regularly, motivating advances in book production and bookbinding. All in all, the Spanish Muslims loved books, as shown in the sheer quantity of books in Moorish libraries.
Spanish Muslims were the first to create what we know today as hospitals. Called bimaristans at the time, they were a place to hold the sick, no matter your sex, wealth, race, or religion. These Moorish hospitals functioned better than even some of today’s hospitals:
- No patient was ever turned away
- There was no limit for how long a patient could stay
- The goal of the hospital was to work together to help the patients
- Patients were required to stay until they were fully recovered
- Men and women were kept in separate but identical wards
- These wards were separated into wards like those for contagious diseases and mental diseases
- Patients were attended to by a practitioner of the same sex
- Music and recreation was available to cheer patients up
- All patients received free treatment