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MUSLIMS CONTRIBUTION TO SCIENCE


Teaching of Islam is based on Quran and also on Ahadith for its explanation, which is considered as the foundation of Islam ideology. In Quran, Almighty Allah has revealed many verses to invite our attentions pertaining to the foundation and expiation of many scientific facts which provide the very basis for the development of scientific knowledge. These include; creation of man, creation of the heaven & earth, human production, origin of life, animal & vegetable kingdom and astronomy.

 

Muslims in various field of science appeared during the period between 8th to 13th centuries. Scholars from Muslim world rule the world of knowledge Unchallenged by another Group. This period produced world famous scientist and scholars. [1]

 

Table of Contents

        

Astronomy

Muslims have always had a special interest in astronomy. The moon and the sun are of vital importance in the daily life of every Muslim. By the moon, Muslims determine the beginning and the end of the months in their lunar calendar. By the sun the Muslims calculate the times for prayer and fasting. It is also by means of astronomy that Muslims can determine the precise direction of the Qiblah, to face the Ka'bah in Makkah, during prayer. The most precise solar calendar, superior to the Julian, is the Jilali, devised under the supervision of Umar Khayyam. The Qur'an contains many references to astronomy.

 

"The heavens and the earth were ordered rightly, and were made subservient to man, including the sun, the moon, the stars, and day and night. Every heavenly body moves in an orbit assigned to it by God and never digresses, making the universe an orderly cosmos whose life and existence, diminution and expansion, are totally determined by the Creator." [Qur'an 30:22]

 

These references, and the injunctions to learn, inspired the early Muslim scholars to study the heavens. They integrated the earlier works of the Indians, Persians and Greeks into a new synthesis. Ptolemy's Almagest (the title as we know it is Arabic) was translated, studied and criticized. Many new stars were discovered, as we see in their Arabic names - Algol, Deneb, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran. Astronomical tables were compiled, among them the Toledan tables, which were used by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Kepler. Also compiled were almanacs - another Arabic term. Other terms from Arabic are zenith, nadir, albedo, azimuth.

 

Muslim astronomers were the first to establish observatories, like the one built at Mugharah by Hulagu, the son of Genghis Khan, in Persia, and they invented instruments such as the quadrant and astrolabe, which led to advances not only in astronomy but in oceanic navigation, contributing to the European age of exploration.

 

Geography

Muslim scholars paid great attention to geography. In fact, the Muslims' great concern for geography originated with their religion. The Qur'an encourages people to travel throughout the earth to see God's signs and patterns everywhere. Islam also requires each Muslim to have at least enough knowledge of geography to know the direction of the Qiblah (the position of the Ka'bah in Makkah) in order to pray five times a day. Muslims were also used to taking long journeys to conduct trade as well as to make the Hajj and spread their religion. The far-flung Islamic empire enabled scholar-explorers to compile large amounts of geographical and climatic information from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

 

Among the most famous names in the field of geography, even in the West, are Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Batuta, renowned for their written accounts of their extensive explorations. In 1166, Al-Idrisi, the well-known Muslim scholar who served the Sicilian court, produced very accurate maps, including a world map with all the continents and their mountains, rivers and famous cities. Al-Muqdishi was the first geographer to produce accurate maps in color. It was, moreover, with the help of Muslim navigators and their inventions that Magellan was able to traverse the Cape of Good Hope, and Da Gama and Columbus had Muslim navigators on board their ships.

 

Humanity

Seeking knowledge is obligatory in Islam for every Muslim, man and woman. The main sources of Islam, the Qur'an and the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad's traditions), encourage Muslims to seek knowledge and be scholars, since this is the best way for people to know Allah (God), to appreciate His wondrous creations and be thankful for them. Muslims were therefore eager to seek knowledge, both religious and secular, and within a few years of Muhammad's mission, a great civilization sprang up and flourished. The outcome is shown in the spread of Islamic universities; Al-Zaytunah in Tunis, and Al-Azhar in Cairo go back more than 1,000 years and are the oldest existing universities in the world. Indeed, they were the models for the first European universities, such as Bologna, Heidelberg, and the Sorbonne. Even the familiar academic cap and gown originated at Al-Azhar University.

 

Muslims made great advances in many different fields, such as geography, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, pharmacology, architecture, linguistics and astronomy. Algebra and the Arabic numerals were introduced to the world by Muslim scholars. The astrolabe, the quadrant, and other navigational devices and maps were developed by Muslim scholars and played an important role in world progress, most notably in Europe's age of exploration.

 

Muslim scholars studied the ancient civilations from Greece and Rome to China and India. The works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Euclid and others were translated into Arabic. Muslim scholars and scientists then added their own creative ideas, discoveries and inventions, and finally transmitted this new knowledge to Europe, leading directly to the Renaissance. Many scientific and medical treatises, having been translated into Latin, were standard text and reference books as late as the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

Mathematics

It is interesting to note that Islam so strongly urges mankind to study and explore the universe. For example, the Holy Qur'an states:

"We (Allah) will show you (mankind) Our signs/patterns in the horizons/universe and in yourselves until you are convinced that the revelation is the truth." [Qur'an, 14:53]

 

This invitation to explore and search made Muslims interested in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and the other sciences, and they had a very clear and firm understanding of the correspondences among geometry, mathematics, and astronomy.

 

The Muslims invented the symbol for zero (The word "cipher" comes from Arabic sifr), and they organized the numbers into the decimal system - base 10. Additionally, they invented the symbol to express an unknown quantity, i.e. variables like x.

 

The first great Muslim mathematician, Al-Khawarizmi, invented the subject of algebra (al-Jabr), which was further developed by others, most notably Umar Khayyam. Al-Khawarizmi's work, in Latin translation, brought the Arabic numerals along with the mathematics to Europe, through Spain. The word "algorithm" is derived from his name.

 

Muslim mathematicians excelled also in geometry, as can be seen in their graphic arts, and it was the great Al-Biruni (who excelled also in the fields of natural history, even geology and mineralogy) who established trigonometry as a distinct branch of mathematics. Other Muslim mathematicians made significant progress in number theory.

 

Medicine

In Islam, the human body is a source of appreciation, as it is created by Almighty Allah (God). How it functions, how to keep it clean and safe, how to prevent diseases from attacking it or cure those diseases, have been important issues for Muslims.

 

Prophet Muhammad himself urged people to "take medicines for your diseases", as people at that time were reluctant to do so. He also said: "God created no illness, but established for it a cure, except for old age. When the antidote is applied, the patient will recover with the permission of God."

 

This was strong motivation to encourage Muslim scientists to explore, develop, and apply empirical laws. Much attention was given to medicine and public health care. The first hospital was built in Baghdad in 706 AC. The Muslims also used camel caravans as mobile hospitals, which moved from place to place.

 

Since the religion did not forbid it, Muslim scholars used human cadavers to study anatomy and physiology and to help their students understand how the body functions. This empirical study enabled surgery to develop very quickly.

 

Al-Razi, known in the West as Rhazes, the famous physician and scientist, (d. 932) was one of the greatest physicians in the world in the Middle Ages. He stressed empirical observation and clinical medicine and was unrivaled as a diagnostician. He also wrote a treatise on hygiene in hospitals. Khalaf Abul-Qasim Al-Zahrawi was a very famous surgeon in the eleventh century, known in Europe for his work, Concessio (Kitab al-Tasrif).

 

Ibn Sina (d. 1037), better known to the West as Avicenna, was perhaps the greatest physician until the modern era. His famous book, Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb, remained a standard textbook even in Europe, for over 700 years. Ibn Sina's work is still studied and built upon in the East.

 

Other significant contributions were made in pharmacology, such as Ibn Sina's Kitab al-Shifa' (Book of Healing), and in public health. Every major city in the Islamic world had a number of excellent hospitals, some of them teaching hospitals, and many of them were specialized for particular diseases, including mental and emotional. The Ottomans were particularly noted for their building of hospitals and for the high level of hygiene practiced in them. [2][3]

 

Telescope

Galileo (d. 1442) is generally considered to be the inventor of the telescope. But the truth is that long before his time, Abu Ishaq ibn Jundub (d.767) had already made observations of the heavens. He had devised certain rules for observing distant objects and, in accordance with those rules, he had invented a telescopic instrument. It was this initial telescope which was further developwed by Galieleo, and which ws the actual forerunner of the now highly perfected electric telescope of modern time.

 

Botany

Abdullah ibn Baytar (d. 1248) was the best known botanist and pharmacist of Spain, in fact, of the Muslim world. He travelled as a herbalist in Spain and throughout North Africa, and later entered the service of th Ayyubid al-Malik al-Kamil in Cairo as chief herbalist. From Egypt he made extensive trips throughout Syria and Asia Minor. One of his two celebrated works, Al-Mughni fi al Aswiyah al-Mufradah, is on materia medica. The other, Al-Jami`fi al-Adwiya al-Mufradah, is a collection of simple remedies from the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds embodying Greek and Arabic data supplemented by the author's own experiments and researches. It stands out as the foremost medieval treatise of its kind. Some 1400 items are considered, of which 300, including about 200 plants, were novelties. The number of authors quoted is about one hundred and fifty, of whom twenty were Greek. Parts of the Latin version of Ibn al Baytar's Simplicia were printed as late as 1758 at Cremona.

 

In fact, the Muslims started investigating herbal species, and succeeded in enriching Dioscorides' Herbal by 2000 species.

 

Objective Experiment

After materia medica, astronomy and mathematics, the Arabs made their greatest scientific contribution in chemistry. This brought chemistry out of the sphere of alchemy and gave it the status of a regular science based on observation. In the study of chemistry and other physical sciences the Arabs introduced the objective experiment, a decided improvement over the hazy speculations of the Greeks. It was through them that the world was first introduced to the scientific method.

 

Jabir ibn Hayyan (d. 817) used findings based theron in his scientific studies, the written accounts of which were transmitted to Europe in translations. Thinking went on developing along these lines until it formed the basis for experimental science as it is known today.

 

Chemistry

After al-Razi, Jabir ibn Hayyan (721-815) is ranked greatest in the field of medieval chemical science. He more clearly recognized and stated the importance of experimentation than any other early alchemist, and made noteworthy adavanced in both the theory and practice of chemistry.

 

Jabir's books were held as the final authority on chemistry in Europe uptill the fifteenth century. The initial ladder to the modern western chemistry of the eighteenth century was produced by Jabir. It is believed that Jabir wrote two thousand books on different sciences. So many scholarly books had never been written before the Muslim eposh by any single writer.

 

Historiography

In known human history, Ibn Khaldun (1331-1406) is the only historian to have changed the pattern of historiography. It was he who raised historiography from the level of mere King-story to the level of genuine man-story. "Kingology" was changed into sociology. The truth is that the science known today as sociology is the gift of Ibn Khaldun. He himself claimed that he was the founder of sociology, and there is no reason to dispute his claim.

 

Khaldun's greatness was acknowledged in a similar vein by Robert Flint: "As a theorist on history he had no equal in any age or countgry until Vico appeared, more than three hundred years later; Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers."

 

It was indeed Ibn Khaldun who gave to Europe the modern science of history. And it was Islam which bestowed this gift upon him. The Islamic revolution produced Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Khaldun produced the modern science of history.

 

Professor Philip K. Hitti writes:

"The frame of Ibn-Khaldun rests on his Muqaddama (Introduction to his book on history). In it he presented for the first time a theory of historical development which takes due cognizance of the physical facts of climate and geography aw well as of the moral and spiritual forces at work. As one who endeavoured to formulate laws of national progress and decay, Ibn Khaldun may be considered the discoverer -- as he himself claimed -- of the true scope and nature of history, or atleast the real founder of the science of sociology. No Arab writer, indeed no European, had ever taken a view of history at once so comprehensive and philosophic. By the consensus of critical opinion Ibn-Khaldun was the greatest historical philosopher Islam produced, and one of the greatest of all time" [4]

 

List of Major Muslim contributions to science

Jabir Ibn Haiyan  (Geber)

Chemistry (Father of Chemistry)

Died 803 C.E.

Al-Asmai

Zoology, Botany, Animal Husbandry.

740 - 828

Al-Khwarizmi (Algorizm)

Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography. (Algorithm, Algebra, calculus)

770 - 840

'Amr ibn Bahr Al-Jahiz

Zoology, Arabic Grammar, Rhetoric, Lexicography

776 - 868

Ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi (Alkindus)

Philosophy, Physics, Optics, Medicine, Mathematics, Metallurgy.

800 - 873

Thabit Ibn Qurrah (Thebit)

Astronomy, Mechanics, Geometry, Anatomy.

836 - 901

'Abbas Ibn Firnas

Mechanics of Flight, Planetarium, Artificial Crystals.

Died 888

Ali Ibn Rabban Al-Tabari

Medicine, Mathematics, Caligraphy, Literature.

838 - 870

Al-Battani (Albategnius)

Astronomy, mathematics, Trigonometry.

858 - 929

Al-Farghani (Al-Fraganus)

Astronomy, Civil Engineering.

C. 860

Al-Razi (Rhazes)

Medicine, Ophthalmology, Smallpox, Chemistry, Astronomy.

864 - 930

Al-Farabi (Al-Pharabius)

Sociology, Logic, Philosophy, Political Science, Music.

870 - 950

Abul Hasan Ali Al-Masu'di

Geography, History.

Died 957

Al-Sufi (Azophi)

Astronomy

903 - 986

Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahravi (Albucasis)

Surgery, Medicine. (Father of Modern Surgery)

936 - 1013

Muhammad Al-Buzjani

Mathematics, Astronomy, Geometry, Trigonometry.

940 - 997

Ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen)

Physics, Optics, Mathematics.

965 - 1040

Al-Mawardi (Alboacen)

Political Science, Sociology, Jurisprudence, Ethics.

972 - 1058

Abu Raihan Al-Biruni

Astronomy, Mathematics. (Determined Earth's Circumference)

973-1048

Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Medicine, Philosophy, Mathematics, Astronomy.

981 - 1037

Al-Zarqali (Arzachel)

Astronomy (Invented Astrolabe).

1028 - 1087

Omar Al-Khayyam

Mathematics, Poetry.

1044 - 1123

Al-Ghazali (Algazel)

Sociology, Theology, Philosophy.

1058 - 1111

 

Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Yahya (Ibn Bajjah)

Philosophy, Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy, Poetry, Music.

1106 - 1138

Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar)

Surgery, Medicine.

1091 - 1161

Al-Idrisi (Dreses)

Geography (World Map, First Globe).

1099 - 1166

Ibn Tufayl, Abdubacer

Philosophy, Medicine, Poetry.

1110 - 1185

Ibn Rushd (Averroes)

Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Astronomy, Theology.

1128 - 1198

Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius)

Astronomy

Died 1204

 

Ibn Al-Baitar

Pharmacy, Botany

Died 1248

Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi

Astronomy, Non-Euclidean Geometry.

1201 - 1274

Jalal Al-Din Rumi

Sociology

1207 - 1273

Ibn Al-Nafis Damishqui

Anatomy

1213 - 1288

Al-Fida (Abdulfeda)

Astronomy, Geography, Histrory.

1273 - 1331

Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (Ibn Battuta)

World Traveler. 75,000 mile voyage from Morocco to China and back.

1304 - 1369

Ibn Khaldun

Sociology, Philosophy of History, Political Science.

1332 - 1395

Ulugh Beg

Astronomy

1393 - 1449

 

[5]

 

References

[1] http://simplelecture.com/what-is-contribution-of-muslim-scientists-in-science/

[2] http://en.islamway.net/article/8028

[3] http://www.scienceislam.com/muslims_science.php

[4] http://www.islamawareness.net/Science/muslims_contributions.html

[5] http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/

 

 

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