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It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation from Dr. Yahya
Mahmud bin Junayd and Dr. Awadh al-Badi to be with you today. I am very
happy to be able to speak to you on this special occasion about an important
and very large topic: the Arabic cultural influence on the Balkans. I am particularly
glad to be speaking on this theme in the hall of this eminent institute,
the King Faisal Centre for Islamic Studies and Research.
I will begin by saying that I shall not deal at length with either the history
or the geography of the Balkans, for I am justified in assuming that the
audience I am addressing today is familiar with these, at least in outline. I
shall therefore proceed at once to the topic itself.
Arabic and Islamic influences began to reach the Balkan peninsula
well before the Turks and the start of Ottoman imperial rule in the fifteenth
century. Museums throughout the Balkans still contain items from the
period of the first contacts of the Balkan peoples with the Arabs of Sicily,
southern Italy, and al-Andalus. We thus find Arabic utensils, for example
the ibrig,1 which we also call ibrik, with exactly the same meaning in
Bosnian as in Arabic. It is the same in the Serbian and Croatian languages,
The archives of Dubrovnik contain a large collection of Arabic manuscripts
that show clearly what kind of goods were traded between Arab
traders and those of the Balkans over many centuries. But Arab traders did
not only bring with them Arabic customs, books, items, ideas, and principles;
the Slavs themselves, who served first in the military with the Arabs ...