Published On: Wed, Jun 21st, 2017

Highly classified secrets of the West Indies Company ( 2)

“Anansi, do I see right?  Are you wearing a hijab?? Since when are you a woman, and  have you converted to Islam?”

“Oh, you silly White man. I am not a woman and not a Muslim, but I am showing my solidarity with all my Muslim friends in Surinam and the Antilles. When The Dutch Kingdom still had Netherlands Indies as part of the kingdom, it was the largest Muslim kingdom in the world. Forgotten, haven’t you?”

“I am silly, he? Let me give you a mini-mini test on Islamic identity.

Who were Avicenna, Al Biruni, Omar Khayyam, Averoës, Idrisi, Ibn Battuta???? You lazy hammock spider, do you know any of these great, great people? Tell me!

I give you a hint; they were all polymath, superstars in astronomy, mathematics, anthropology, and geography.

Nevermind, I will play teacher again and tell you.  You better listen and remember.

We are now in the West Indies because of their contribution to navigation and cartography.

Avicenna or Ibn Sīnā (c. 980 – June 1037) was a Persian polymath.

Besides philosophy and medicine, Avicenna's work includes writings on astronomy, alchemy, geography, and geology, psychology

Al Bīrūnī, ( 973, in Khorāsān, died c. 1052, Ghazna), He was a Muslim astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, anthropologist, historian, and geographer of  Persie (Uzbekistan.)

Omar Khayyám; 18 May 1048 – 4 December 1131), was also a Persian polymath, scholar, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet, widely considered the most influential thinker of the Middle Ages. He also wrote on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, astronomy, and music. His Rubbyats, sonnets, became famous even in the Western world.

Avicenna, Al Biruni, and Omar Khayyam were the fathers of science in the Islamic Golden Age. Their influence traveled with the Ummayad to Andalusia, and on to Portugal and the Netherlands.

Ibn Rushd ( 1126 – 10  1198),  Latinized as Averroes, was also a medieval Andalusian polymath. He wrote on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography, mathematics, and the mediæval sciences of medicine, astronomy, physics, and celestial mechanics. Ibn Rushd was born in Córdoba, Al Andalus (present-day Spain), and died at Marrakesh in present-day Morocco.

Idrisi was born in Ceuta, just across from Gibraltar and part of the Almohad kingdom of present Marocco.  The most famous Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by Muhammad al-Idrisi for King Roger II of Sicily in 1154, incorporated Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Far East.  Idris gathered all kinds of information from travel logs, commercial shipping lists, and cargo of Arab merchants and explorers.  Some knowledge came from classical geographers, like Egyptians, Greek, and Romans,  to create the most accurate map of the world up until his time.

Ibn Battuta, (1304 – 1368 or 1369) was also a Moroccan, and a traveler and scholar.  Battuta was the Marco Polo of his time and wrote about all his trips in his diaries, "Travels (Rihla)." Ibn Battuta visited most of the known Islamic world, as well as many non-Muslim lands, from Africa, Europe to Southeast Asia and China.

Averroës, Idrisi and Ibn Battuta were all, what you would call today, Moroccans. Their mathematics, cartography, and geology made it to Andalusia, now Spain, and to Lisbon, Portugal.

Now, we arrived at the point where I wanted to be, Santo Domingo.

Bartholomew (Bartolomeo Colon) (c.1445-1514), a brother of Christopher Columbus, born in the Republic of Genoa, founded the city of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola between 1496 and 1498, which is now the capital of the Dominican Republic.

In the 1470s Bartholomew was a mapmaker in Lisbon, and with his knowledge joined his brother Christopher in the America- venture.  In 1495 Christopher made Bartholomew adelantado, or governor, of Española.

Many others became the bridge between Muslim cartography and navigational instrumentation and western ambition to circumvent the globe via the west route.

Like, Diego Ribeiro, a Portuguese cartographer, and explorer, who worked most of his life in Spain. He worked on the official maps of the Padrón Real from 1518-1532. He also made navigation instruments, including astrolabes and quadrants.  And, Pedro de Heredia who traveled to the West Indies with his brother Alonso de Heredia and settled in Santo Domingo.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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