Islam · Muslims · Prophet Muhammad · Qur'an · Religion · Science

Islamic Golden Age

In Genesis, Allah informed Abraham of his firstborn’s future—of Ishmael’s future—saying: {17:20} And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly, twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

Pondering over the Arabs’ conditions nowadays, one couldn’t help but wonder: what exactly did Allah bless them with? Where exactly is the greatness in the Ishmaelites’ history? This post is nothing but a simplified trial to answer the previous questions, so here we go.

Throughout the Ishmaelites’ history, the greatest blessing they were ever granted by Allah was the coming of Prophet Muhammad from among them. Before him they were scattered fighting tribes, who had different gods, beliefs, religions, etc. Some embraced Christianity in its Unitarian form, some in its Trinitarian form, few individuals were still following Abraham’s pure creed, but the biggest portion were pagans and idolaters who have corrupted Abraham’s religion, and worshiped handmade idols claiming that those idols helped them get closer to their creator. After Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H., they united under the banner of Islam, they returned to Abraham’s pure creed of worshiping the sole Creator without associating other partners with Him. After Islam, Arabs developed a great civilization joining the peoples of Spain and North Africa in the west, with people of India and China in the east, passing by the ancient lands of Egypt, Sham, Mesopotamia and Arabia. It was the rapid expansion of Islam that initially brought this empire together, unifying them as one nation with one language and one religion. The 600 years between the 7th and 13th centuries A.D. marked a period in history when culture, arts, literature, science, discovery, and learning, flourished in the Islamic states. During the Islamic golden age, the heritage of the past was preserved, enriched, and new discoveries were made. The period of history called “The Dark Ages” by western thinkers, witnessed much learning and discoveries by brilliant Muslim scientists who lived under the Arabs’ caliphate.

Examples of brilliant Muslim scientists are the following:

  • Jabir Ibn Hayyan (721–815 AD): Latinized as Geber “The father of chemistry”. He was the student of “Ja’far Al-Sadeq” Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. His books strongly influenced the European alchemists and had great contribution in developing the science. Below is a 15th-century European portrait of “Geber”, preserved in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence.

Jabir_ibn_Hayyan

  • Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khuwarizmi (780–850 AD): Known as “The father of Algebra”. He invented Algebra, and contributed by his work in the development of trigonometry and calculus. Algorithm was named after him. Down below is one of the original Arabic manuscript for Algorithm’s book, written by an Arab student from the early tenth century, and the first page of the Latin translation of his book.

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  • Ahmad Ibn Al-Farghani (died after 861 AD): Latinized as Alfraganus in the West. He was an astronomer in 9th He had many contributions in the measurement of the diameter of the Earth as well as many other planets. His textbook of astronomy on the celestial motions, written about 833 and his calculations were used by astronomers since his time until Copernicus about 600 years later. The crater Alfraganus on the Moon is named after him. Below is the first page of the Latin translation of his book “A Compendium of the Science of the Stars,” along with sample pages of the original manuscript of his Arabic work.

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  • ‘Abbās Ibn Firnas (810–887 AD): An inventor and engineer who worked on developing the mechanics of flight even before “Eilmer of Malmesbury” and DaVinci. His back was hurt badly in his first experiment of flying, but he learned that the tail is very important in steerage while landing, and passed this essential piece of information to the next generations. He also built a planetarium.
  • Muhammad Ibn Sinan Al-Battani (858-929 AD): Latinized as Albategnius, was an astronomer and mathematician. He introduced a number of trigonometric relations, which were frequently used and quoted by many medieval astronomers, including Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Riccioli, among others. Down below is the latin translation of his most important book as preserved in the British museum.

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  • Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Al-Rāzī (865–925 AD): Known as “The father of pediatrics”. He wrote “The Diseases of Children” which is the first book to deal with pediatrics as an independent field. Below is the statue of Razi in the “Scholars Pavilion” in United Nations Office in Vienna, among other Muslim scholars.

Muslim_Scholar_pavilion_in_Viena_UN_(Rhazes)

  • Abul-Qasim Al-Zahrawi (936-1013 AD): Latinized as Zahravi “The father of modern surgery”. He wrote a 30-part medical encyclopedia in Arabic. The last part of the encyclopedia, dealing with surgery, was later translated into Latin. He was the first to describe and prove the hereditary pattern behind hemophilia, and the first to describe ectopic pregnancy and the first to describe stone babies. Below is a page from a 1531 Latin translation by Peter Argellata for Al-Zahrawi’s treatise on surgical and medical instruments.

zahrawi_surgical_tools

  • Abu al-Wafa’ Buzjani (940-998 AD): was a mathematician and astronomer who lived and worked till his death in Baghdad. He made important innovations in spherical trigonometry, and his work on arithmetic for businessmen contains the first instance of using negative numbers in a medieval Islamic text. His book, Almagest, remained a cornerstone for Arabic astronomers for centuries. Below are samples of the Arabic manuscripts of his work, some sample scans of the old manuscripts of his books, along with the image google placed this year celebrating his birthday.

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  • Al-Hassan Ibn Al-Haytham (965–1040 AD): Latinized as Alhazen, he was the developer of experimental physics, he discovered the theory of vision and wrote on the science of Optics. He is the author of the “Book of optics” that served as the concrete foundation for most optics’ scientists after him. Below is the cover page of the Latin translation of his book, part of the original Arabic manuscript of his book, and Hevelius’s Selenographia, showing Alhazen representing reason on the left side, and Galileo representing the senses on the right.

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  • Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī (973–1048 AD): Latinized as Alberonius, he is known to be the father of Indology. He had great contributions in anthropology, geodesy and he also had great contribution in the field of comparative religion. He also wrote tens of books about astronomy, mathematics, and related subjects like mathematical geography. Below is a sample page from one of the manuscripts of Al-Biruni’s books, and the statue of Al-Biruni in the “Scholars Pavilion” in United Nations Office in Vienna, among other Muslim scholars.

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  • ‘Abdullah Ibn Sina (981-1037 AD): A very well known physician known as Avicenna. He authored the “Canon of Medicine” and the “Book of Healing”. His writings were considered the authority of medicine in European universities for over 550 years after his departure. Below are different manuscripts of Avicenna’s “Canon,” along with a later Latin translation  dated 1484, located at the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

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  • Muhammad Al-Idrisi (1099–1165 AD): He created the most accurate map of the world in pre-modern times, which served as a concrete illustration of his book “Nuzhat Al-Mushtaq”, or “A Journey for the one longing to travel”. His map was copied by geographers for three centuries without alteration, it inspired great Islamic geographers such as “Ibn Battuta” and “Ibn Khaldun”, as well as European ones like “Christopher Columbus” and “Vasco De Gama”. Below is the Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by al-Idrisi for Roger II of Sicily in 1154. The map’s north is south on our modern maps, and all names are written in Latin letters according to the Arabic pronunciations of that day. Then there is a sample scan of Al-Idrisi’s manuscript description for Finland.

Al-idrisi TabulaRogeriana_upside-downAl-Idrisi_Finland

  • ‘Abdullah Ibn Al-Baytar (1188-1248 AD): He was a pharmacist and physician. He is considered one of the greatest pharmacists of the Islamic Golden Age and Muslim Agricultural Revolution. Ibn Al-Baytar’s two books “Al-Jami’ fi Al-Adwiya” and “Al-Mughni fi Al-Adwiya” were considered the greatest pharmaceutical, botanical and medical compilations in history, and served as botanical authority for centuries. They described more than 1200 plants and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. His work was translated into Latin in 1758 and was being used in Europe up until the early 19th century. Ibn Al-Baytar also discovered the earliest known herbal treatment for cancer: Al-Hindba’.

The above scientists are the tip of the iceberg. There are many other famous scientists, too many than could be listed here, even in this simplified way. Though their origins differed, but their faith united them, and they were all devout Muslims following the teachings of Islam that urges every Muslim to learn, seek after knowledge wherever it maybe, preserve and spread it. They lived and studied during the Islamic golden ages that the west calls the dark ages. They made many great discoveries, and authored many writings in all branches of science, philosophy and literature that affected humanity in all areas of knowledge, and laid the foundation of the west’s renaissance. So Allah’s blessing to Ishmael was fulfilled in raising the awaited prophet from among his offspring and the greatness of his nation was in embracing Islam. Kindly click on the scientist’s name to visit his Wikipedia page. You can also open any image in a new tab for a larger view.

The Qur’anic revelations began with the word “READ.” The only time in which the Qur’anic verses order Muslims to ask Allah for increase in anything is in “KNOWLEDGE.” Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Allah will raise those among you who believe, and those who acquire knowledge to higher ranks.” [The Qur’an (58:11)].
Acquiring knowledge form the foundation of Islam. Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. said: “Those who are knowledgeable are the heirs of prophets.” [Recorded by Abu-Dāwud, Tirmidhī, and Ibn Mājah].

IMME, ISBN:9789779027395
Written By: Ehab Shawky

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