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Early History

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Chapter Summary

The first attempts to study Arabic in Europe occurred in the Iberian Peninsula. For many years Europeans had little idea of the nature and the range of the scholarly texts which had been produced by the Arabic-Islamic tradition. This changed with the involuntary arrival in Europe of one of the most influential figures in the early history of oriental studies: al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan. He was born in Granada in 1494, two years after the Reconquista, or the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Muslims. In the course of the thirteenth century, when the Reconquista had established a firm footing, voices were raised in monastic circles in Spain in favour of the study of Arabic for missionary activities, with the object of obtaining a better understanding of Islam in order to combat it in direct debates with the 'Moors'.

Keywords: al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan; Arabic-Islamic tradition; Europe; missionary activities; Reconquista

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