Muslims influence in Sicily (Italy)
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On February 26, 1154 AD, King Roger II of Sicily died at the age of 59 in his capital Palermo. Sicily, which for over three centuries was a Muslim island and part of the empire of the Fatemid Shi’ite Muslim Dynasty, was seized by his father, Roger I – a Norman adventurer from Normandy in northern France. Influenced by the rich culture and civilization of Islam, Roger II drew around him distinguished Muslim scientists, architects, statesmen, and even soldiers. The famous Islamic geographer Seyyed Mohammad al-Hassani al-Idrisi and the Spanish Muslim polymath Abu Salt al-Andalusi – who had formerly served the Fatemids in Egypt – were among the dignitaries at the Norman court in Palermo. Idrisi – a descendent of Imam Hasan (AS), the elder grandson and 2nd Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) – wrote for Roger the book “Nuzhat al-Mushtaaq fi-Ikhteraaq al-Afaaq”.
Known in Latin as “Tabula Rogeriana”, it is a description of the world and the first world map ever drawn in Europe that later enabled navigators like Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Ferdinand Magellan and others to rediscover the Americas. It took Idrisi fifteen years to write this monumental work which contains commentaries and illustrations as well as the first perfect map of the Eurasian continent including its link to North Africa. Roger II also hired many Muslims who were trained in long-established traditions of centralized government. These included Abdur-Rahman an-Nasrani, a Greek convert whose name was Latinized as Christodulus and who served as the Emir of Palermo with the title ammiratus-ammiratorum (a corruption of Amir al-Omara), and later Amir al-Bahr (navy commander), which gave rise to the English word Admiral.