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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Islam and the Canterbury tales of Geoffrey Chaucer

Islam and the Canterbury tales of Geoffrey Chaucer

We were surprised to learn that there are many Islamic references in this text.

It was written between 1339 and 1346 in time in which the aftermath of the Crusades were still ringing in the ears of the Europeans. But the reconquista of Spain was still in full swing as the Muslims last vestige of power in Granada was being threatened. Sometimes I think that the history may look at the war on terror in a similar way to the way the Crusades are seen by reasonable people now.

So it is in this caldron of emotions that this text was written and even though the messages stand the test of time there remains one question. Was the text influenced by a thousand and one nights? Let us go through the references of this text. We are using the Penguin popular classics edition.

“No Christen man so oft of this degree; In Gernade at the seege eek had he be; Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye.” Line 55-58, P.5.

This was in reference to the capture of the city of Grenada from the Muslims.

“Again another hethen in Turkye.” Line 66, p.5.

Again another reference to the Ottomans.

“... Razis, and Avicen, Averrois...” Line 433-434, p.20.
Razis referring to Imam Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya Al-Razi he was a pioneer in many sciences.

Avicen meaning Avicenna or Ibn Sina one of the leading philosophers of all time.
Averrois meaning Ibn Rushd another one of leading philosophers who championed Greek philosophy even though they were widely rejected in the Muslim world Europe to them on.

“Yemen on foot and communes many oon,”

Not sure about this reference.

“His Almageste and books greet and smile.”
p.107 The Miller’s tale

This refers to Ptolemy’s work on astronomy but this work has an interesting story because this Greek work came into Europe by the means of Arabic. A 9th century translation of the Greek text was sponsored by the Caliph Mamun and then this was eventually reached Spanish in the 12th century and Latin in the next. Also note that it is referred to in its Arabic name not in its Greek name. Isn’t it amazing that Europe failed to benefit from its Greek works until the Muslims came along?

Later in the text Ptolomee is used in the French language which indicates from where it was taken.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that - Just what I was looking for!