Natalie Gravenor | Monday March 7th, 2011
Count Count, the number-lovin’ nobleman from Transylvania by way of Sesame Street, demonstrates a contribution of Arab (and by definition Islamic, as most scholarship took place under the aegis of religion) learning to the Western and entire world: the Arabic numeral system. Actually invented in India around 500 A.D. it was later popularized around the world by the writings of Arabic mathematicians such as Al-Kindi, and early adopters such as Pope Sylvester II, who studied in Barcelona, where Arabic learning was introduced during the brief Moorish rule. The pontiff used the Arabic numeral system at the turn of the first millennium, though reportedly without the zero. By the high Renaissance, the Hindu-Arabic was practically in universal use in Europe; in the 19th century, Japan and China were the last cultures to adopt it. The Arabic (or Hindu-Arabic) numeral system streamlined and simplified the dominant Roman numeral system by a: introducing the concept of zero and b. allowing one digit to represent each number, unlike the Roman system, in which up to four letters represented one number (i.e. VIII vs. 8).
An example of Islamic-Christian cross-pollination that can inspire us today. Can we really say that Islam is not a part of our society?