“Let me highlight a handful of Islam’s contributions to Western culture. The guitar. Cough syrup. The university. Algebra. Mocha coffee...” (page 65)
This is one of the most common mistakes you can find in defence of Islam.
How can Islam itself have contributed the guitar, cough syrup, algebra, etc. to Western culture? How can a religion, or the Koran, the hadith, etc. have contributed these things?
It's absolutely ridiculous to claim that Islam - a religion primarily based on the Koran - could have had an hand in the invention of the guitar, algebra, cough syrup syrup, etc. Which passages in the Koran, or the hadith, etc. helped contribute to the creation of algebra? Which passages even helped inspire the invention of cough syrup? Again, this is plain silly!
What Manji must really mean is that people who happened to have been Muslims made these contributions to Western culture. Islam itself had absolutely nothing to do with it. I suppose we could say that Islam might have obliquely inspired these Muslims to invent these things. But those causal affects are very oblique indeed.
We can even say that these scientists, poets, inventors, mathematicians, etc. invented or created these things in spite of Islam, not because of it. Perhaps Islam, on the whole, got in the way of their inventions or creations – i.e., it didn’t help or inspire them. In fact it often did get in the way.
We can also say that these inventions and creations happened in spite of Islam, not because of it. Algebra, the guitar, cough syrup, etc. wouldn’t have been created or invented if it weren’t for the vitally important precedents which came from infidel (or non-Muslim) cultures. Even if Muslims were the inventors or creators of all these things, they wouldn’t have been the inventors or creators of any of them if it weren’t for the groundwork done by the infidels of ancient Greece, Rome, India, Persia, etc.
Above and beyond all that, some of the examples of “Islam’s contributions to Western culture” are a bit suspect anyway. Apart from the fact that every one of these examples would have required non-Muslim antecedents to set the groundwork, it's unquestionably the case that algebra is not a Muslim invention. Algebra goes back to the ancient Greeks. And it's also said that Diophantus (3rd century AD) was “the father of algebra”. He lived around 300 years before Islam.
So perhaps all Manji meant is that Muslims, not Islam itself, added to the tradition and extent of algebra. Muslims, let alone Islam, certainly didn’t invent or discover it!
As for both the guitar and the university, it depends on how these words or concepts are defined. Guitar-like instruments date back to various ancient cultures - all of them pre-dating Islam by hundreds if not thousands of years (especially in ancient India and Asia). Perhaps, in the end, Manji is only taking about the word ‘guitar’ itself (as also with the word algebra!). Yes, that word comes from an Andalusian Arabic source; though that doesn’t mean that Muslims - let alone Islam - invented the guitar.
Exactly the same kinds of thing can be said about Manji’s other examples of “contributions to Western culture”. Again, the idea that Islam itself - rather than people who happened to be Muslims (whom themselves were hugely indebted to non-Muslim culture and knowledge) - invented or created any of these things is plainly ridiculous. Indeed to say that Islam contributed, or invented, or created, algebra or anything else is a grammatical or conceptual mistake.
Because of all that, the same criticism can be levelled at what Manji claims in the very next paragraph. She writes:
“Innovation and the spirit of ijtihad went hand in glove. In the southern Spanish city of Cordoba, for example, a sexually spunky woman named Wallada organised literary salons where people analysed dreams, poetry and the Quran.”
A woman - who just happened to be a Muslim - organised literary salons where people analysed dreams, poetry and the Quran.
Did the Koran, etc. inspire or influence this “sexually spunky woman” to ‘analyse’ itself?