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On the Probable Influence of Islam on Western Public and International Law

  • Marcel A. Boisard (a1)


On the occasion of the fifteenth century of the hijra, many scholarly publications will deal with various aspects of Islamic history, among which is the contribution of the Arabo-Muslim culture to Western civilisation. Philosophical and scientific contributions have already been discussed many times. The legacy of Islam in the field of international law has, however, not yet been studied at length.



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1 See Hamidullah, Muhammad, Muslim Conduct of State (5th ed.; Lahore: Ashraf, 1968);al-Ghunaimi, Mohammad T., The Muslim Concept of International Law and Western Approach (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1968);Boisard, Marcel A., L'Humanisme de l'Islam (Paris: Albin Michel, 1979).

2 Among the numerous available publications, see the various works of Daniel, Norman, esp. The Arabs and Medieval Europe (London: Longmans, 1975);Arnold, Thomas and Guillaume, Alfred, eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford: University Press, 1965: repr. of 1931 ed.); and, from a less scientific approach, Akkad, Abbas M., The Arab Impact on European Civilisation, Kashmire, Ismail and Hadi, Mohammad El, trans. (Cairo: Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, n.d.).

3 Duby, Georges, Des societes medievales (Paris: Gallimard N. R. F., 1975), p. 46.

4 One that we are trying to undertake. This essay is a résumé of a wider research, to be published later.

5 de Ray, G., Les invasions des Sarrasins en Provence (Marseille, 1971; repr. of 1878 ed.), p. 203.

6 Hunke, Sigrid, Le soleil d'Allah brille sur l'Occident: notre heritage arabe, de Laléne, Solange and de Laléne, Georges, trans., from the German (Paris: Albin Michel, 1963).

7 We should perhaps extend this idea further. Muslims were installed for more than one century in Provence, maintaining continuous contacts with their fellow Muslims in Spain. It is probably from Catalonia that the bull was imported into Camargue, to use an example that does not directly concern our argument.

8 Sherwani, Haroun K., Muslim Colonies in France, Northern Italy, and Switzerland, being an English translation of Reinaud's “Invasion des Sarrasins en France, et de France en Savoie, au Piemont Ct en Suisse” (2d ed. rev.; Lahore: Ashraf, 1964), pp. 236 ff.

9 Such was the case of Alphonse VI who, upon becoming king and victorious, married the Khalifs daughter.

10 See Lévi-Provençal, Evariste, Histoire de l'Espagne musulmane (new ed.; 3 vols.; Paris: Maisonneuve, 1950), I, 396 ff.

11 Nasr, Seyyed H., Islam:Perspective et realities, Cres, H.., trans. (Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 1975), pp. 201203.

12 de Clerq, Alexandre and de Vallat, C., Guide pratique des Consulats (5th ed.; 2 vols.; Paris: Pedone, 1898), I, 2 ff.

13 Khadduri, Majid, The Islamic Law of Nations, trans. of Shaybani's Abwab al-Siyar fi Ard al Harb (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966), esp. pp. 158194.

14 Wansbrough, John, “A Mamluk Commercial Treaty Concluded with the Republic of Florence, 894/1489” in Stern, S. M., ed., Documents from Islamic Chanceries, Oriental Studies III (Oxford: Cassirer, B., 1965), pp. 3979.

15 Stone, Julius, Legal Control of International Conflict (rev. ed.; Sydney: Maitland, 1959), pp. 457 ff.

16 Jados, Stanley S., Consulate of the Sea and Related Documents (Alabama: University Press, 1975).

17 Fahmy, Mohamed, Muslim Naval Organisation in the Eastern Mediterranean from the Seventh to the Tenth Century (2d ed.; Cairo: National Publication, 1966).

18 Massignon has shown the Muslim influence on the creation of such “guilds” in Western Europe. It is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on this aspect.

19 Goitein, S. D., Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the Ages (5th ed.; New York: Schoecken Books, 1970), pp. 89 ff.

20 Agus, Jacob B., L'evolution de la pensée juive des temps bibliques au debut de l'`re moderne (Paris: Payot, 1961), pp. 183184.

21 Guillaume, Alfred, “Philosophy and Theology” in Arnold, Legacy, p. 268.

22 One of these, an Auvergnat monk called Gerbert, became Pope, taking the name of Sylvester II, between 999 and 1003.

23 Levi-Provençal, Espagne, I, 76.

24 Las Siege Partidas del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el IX, edited with Latin comments by Gregorio Lopez (3 vols.; Madrid (Leon Amarita) 1829; impression of the edition of 1555 in old Castillan), I, 399–702.

25 Practices that had been introduced also in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. See Nys, Ernest: Etudes de droit international et de droit politique (3 vols.; Brussels: Castaigne, 1896), I, 84.

26 Hauser, Henri, La prépondérance espagnole, 1559–1660 (3d ed.; Paris: 1973), introduction by Pierre Chaunu.

27 Hunke, Soleil d'Allah, pp. 285 ff.

28 Atiya, Aziz S., Crusade, Commerce and Culture (New York: 1966).

29 For example, the striking of Muslim maxims onto gold pieces and exhortations to abstain from the eating of pork.

30 Hitti, Philip K., Memoirs of an Arab-Syrian Gentleman: Translation of the Memoirs of Usamah ibn-Munqidh (Kitab Al-l'tibar) (Beirut: Khayats, 1964,) pp. 213 ff.

31 Grousset, René, L'épopée des Croisades (Paris: Plon, 1957), p. 199.

32 We should be reminded that one of these abbeys was an open window onto Muslim Spain.

33 Guardini, Romano, La fin des temps modernes, trans. Jeanne, Ancelet-Hustache (Paris: Seuil, 1952), pp. 3233.

34 The fact that the names of the principal philosophers and learned Muslims passed into the West under latinised forms, not only proves that they were known there before the Renaissance, but also leads us to suppose that they had an influence on the clergy, by a process of cultural transmission.

35 For a review of their contribution to a knowledge of Islam, see Henninger, Joseph, “Sur la contribution des missionnarires à la connaissance de l'Islam surtout pendant Ic moyen âge,” Nouvelle revue de sciences missionnaires (Fribourg), 9 (1953), 161185, esp. pp. 174 ff.

36 The Franciscans counted among their number St. Bonaventure, Robert Grossetête, Raymond Lull, Duns Scotius, and Bacon, by way of example.

37 With their successors. See Gorny, Léon, Croisés et Templiers (Paris: André Bonne, 1974).

38 See Eydoux, Henri-Paul, Saint-Louis et son temps (Paris: Larousse, 1971,) pp. 154 ff.

39 Guardini, Termps modernes, pp. 35 ff. He shows that both humanist criticism and experimental science drew from the same sources.

40 Tyan, Emile, Histoire de l'organisation judiciaire en pays d'Islam (2d ed.; Beirut, 1961,) pp. 23 ff.

41 We have even been able to read that it was not “a pure coincidence that the palace of Louis IX … became … the Palace of Justice” (in Paris). In Dunoyer, Jean-Marie, “La force de Saint-Louis,” Le Monde 18/19 October 1970.

42 Quoted by Klein, Charles, Saint-Louis, un roi aux pieds des pauvres, Paris: S. O. S., 1970,) pp. 6061.

43 To enable this a gate was opened called “The Gate of Justice” or Bab El Adl, under which they came to sit for a weekly audience. It is not without interest to mention in this context that the popular contemporary press unconsciously rejected any notions of value for those Muslim traditions which were maintained, out of a necessary desire to draw an ethnocentric parallel. We can read, for example, concerning the audience given by the King of Saudi Arabia in the work by Michel Clerc, “Le roi Fayçal ne reverra pas Jerusalem,” Paris Match, no. 1349, April 1975: “It was St. Louis at the foot of the oak, seven centuries late” (“c'était, avec sept siècles de retard (sic), Saint-Louis au pied du chêne”!).

44 Taube, Baron, quoted by Hamidullah: Muslim Conduct, p. 64.

45 Hitti, Islam and the West, pp. 80 ff.

46 Grousset, Epopdée, p. 79.

47 Declinchamps, Philippe Dupuy, La Chevalerie, “Que sais-je” (3d rev. ed.; Paris: P.U. F., 1973), p. 11.

48 Hunke: Soleil d'Allah, pp. 282 ff.

49 (After capture) “either liberation or ransom, until the war lays down its burden” (XLVII [Mohammed] 4).

50 Zananiri, Gaston, Eglise et Islam (Paris: Spes, 1969,) who demonstrates on pages 208–209 that “these monks wore habits of white wool and a cloak and scapular emblazoned with a red and blue cross”. The concordance of evidence is interesting even if we cannot extrapolate from this the influence that this might have had on the organisation created by Dunant seven centuries later.

51 See critical commentaries of a very incisive nature in Hassan, AbulNadawi, A., Islam and the World (2d ed.; Lahore: Ashraf, 1967,) pp. 118 ff.

52 Hamdullah: Muslim Conduct, pp. 67–68.

53 The Spaniard Michel Servet, for example, paid with his life in the Calvinist Geneva of the sixteenth century for his “discovery”, which was in fact nothing but a compilation or even simple translation of a thirteenth-century Arab work.

54 Did not Erasmus have to explain himself after having put the “holy” nature of war against Islam into doubt?

55 Abwab al-Siyarfi Ard el-Harb, trans. into English with the title: The Islamic Law of Nations Shaybani's Siyar by Khadduri, Majid (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1961).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
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