Again, in the formative phases of Islam's own philosophical and scientific tradition ideas were flowing into it from a multiplicity of sources, and here the complications of the situation were further compounded. When Alexandria fell in 2 1 / 6 4 1 , the Arab conquest of the Near East was virtually complete, and with this came the legacy of many Hellenized academies that had variously flourished during the first six centuries of the Christian era. Among them were the powerful seats of Syriac learning that had existed in Edessa (al-Ruha, modern Urfa east of the upper Euphrates), 3 Nisibis (near the upper Tigris, north-west of Mosul ) , 4 Resain (Ra's al-Ayn, Theodosiopolis) , 5 Kinnesrin (Qinnasrln), 6 Horns and Baalbek (Heliopolis). Also gained by Muslims was the important centre
of Harran (Classical Carrhae), which lay a short distance south of Edessa. Harran was primarily a locality of star worshippers which perpetuated an indigenous religion and influences from far in the East - these influences, it is important to note, included also those received from India. 7
But this represents only part of what the Muslims inherited. In 651 the last Sassanian shah died and Persia came completely into the expanding fold of Islam. Some fifteen years later, Muslim armies crossed the river Oxus, and by 95/713 Sind and Transoxiana were being ruled by Damascus. These cultural areas now contributed additional elements to a developing intellectual matrix of Islam. One of the most important elements from our point of view was that provided by the academy at Jundishapur in southern Persia which reached its zenith around the middle of the sixth century A . D . during the reign of Anushlrvan. Continuing to flourish long after the Islamic conquest, Jundishapur had become a cradle of intellectual activity when in A . D . 489 Emperor Zeno closed the academy of Edessa and some fleeing Nestorian scholars found in the Persian ruler a hospitable and enthusiastic host. Settling first at Nisibis, some of these Hellenized scholars later joined Jundishapur. Then, in 529 the Neoplatonic school at Athens too was closed by a decree of Emperor Justinian and, again, sacked scholars took refuge in Persia. Thus, with its elaborate hospital and enormous academic resources, Jundishapur came to function as the hub of exchange for the learning of Persia, Greece, Rome, Syria and, significantly, that of India. Indeed, reports have it that it actually housed a number of Indian sages. 8
Given this complex multiplicity of channels through which foreign ideas were travelling into the early world of Islam, and given the intellectual exchanges that had taken place within these channels whereby many indigenous ideas had been modified, integrated and transformed, it seems hardly possible to provide a simple and neat account of the role of Indian and Persian ideas in the development of Islamic thought. In fact, the problem is rendered even more difficult by the fact that Arabic translations of Sanskrit, Pahlavi and Syriac texts were carried out during the earliest phase of Islamic intellectual history, a phase at the end of which translators had directed their attention almost wholly to Greek works. These earliest translations have barely survived; likewise only fragments of some of the writings of the earliest Muslim thinkers have come down to us. Moreover, much of what has survived still lies unstudied in manuscripts in various libraries of the world. It seems, then, that the best one can accomplish at this stage of modern scholarship is a tentative and somewhat disjointed exposition based largely on later Arabic sources and secondary accounts, an exposition making no pretensions to a definitive grand picture.