Contribution of Muslim scholars to various sciences
By: Umer Riyaz
Muslim scholars have a great influence on many other civilizations with different sciences and made significant contributions in various fields as they made original discoveries, inventions and advancements in fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, history and other important sciences. Here are some notable contributions of Muslim scholars to science.
Chemistry: Chemistry is one of the most important sciences studied by Muslimsand history has recorded the names of many Muslim scholars as pioneer in this field, the most famous of which are the following:
Jaber bin Hayyan721 – 815CE:
One of the most important Muslim scholars and undisputedly the first founder of Chemistry and also excelled in different sciences. He allocated a chemical laboratory in Kufa underground to control temperatures and provided it with various laboratory equipment such as flasks, cones, tubes, distillation devices, crushing and grinding tools etc.
He was not satisfied with that, but he established a chemical school with a number of scholars apprenticing to him. It is known that the history of Jabir bin Hayyan is full of achievements, including his ability to manufacture non-combustible paper, and his discovery of some important acids such as nitric, hydrochloric and sulfuric, in addition to improving and developing the processes of distillation, crystallization, calcification, evaporation and sublimation, fusion and other methods.
Ibn Hayyan was called “the father of chemistry” and wrote hundreds of books that included chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, music and medicine. Unfortunately, some of them were lost and were doomed to annihilation while others were translated into Latin and became an information base for chemistry throughout the ages.
Among the Muslim scholars in chemistry are Abu Bakr Al Razi, Abu Qasim al-Majriti, who attributed the principle of the survival of the substance. He conducted several experiments to Lavoisier and Brosli, and Izz al-Din al-Jaldaki, the owner of the idea of fixed proportions, which was later attributed to the well-known Joseph Louis Priest.
One of the most important great discoveries that should be noted is that Muslim scholars were the first to invent gunpowder along with making steel and milling metals. They prepared royal water, a gold solvent, silver nitrate, mercury chloride, mercury oxide, sodium carbonate, iron sulfide, arsenic, and alkali.
Mathematics: Mohammad ibn MusaAl-Khwarizmi 780-850 CE:
The whole world owes “algebra” to Al-Khwarizmiin many discoveries of mathematics especially algebra and what confirms the genius of Al-Khwarizmi in algebra is that his science has been in continuous development for 3 centuries and algebra has remained one of the leading sciences taught in many universities worldwide and it has left a clear impact on all generations. He took the numbers and zero from the Indians but he was the first to use those numbers in arithmetic operations. The Europeans took zero from the Arabs and Al-Khwarizmi in particular.
Muslim scholars made important contributions to mathematics and its branches like arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. It is said that when Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid al-Kashi (1380 – 1429CE) devised the principles of converting ordinary fractions into decimal fractions the exploits of Muslims in this field were completed. Muslims have great credit for trigonometry and therefore they are considered the true founders of this branch. Muhammad ibn Jabir al-Battani and Naseer al-Din al-Tusi have reached a prominent position in trigonometry and its applications in astronomy.
Muslims paid special attention to astronomy and relied on it to determine the time for performing religious duties and determining the direction of Makkah Al-Mukarramah where the qiblah isand other practical benefits. Musa bin Shaker and his sons and al-Khwarizmi were among the first to engage in astronomy during the reign of al-Ma’mun. The translation of Indian and Greek astronomical books was completed and al-Khwarizmi developed an astronomical calendar.
Musa bin Shaker and his sons cared about classifying fixed stars and measuring the circumference of the earth and making accurate instruments to observe the stars and set times. So, astronomy was advanced by them to the highest levels.
One of the most prominent Arab astronomers was Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Sinan al-Harani, known as al-Battani. He and astronomical calendar “Sabian Zij” has a global position in astronomy. Al-Battani was able to measure the Earth’s rotation around the sun and the solar year as 365 days 5 hours46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is two minutes and 24 seconds less than the correct period. Al-Battani also wrote valuable studies on solar and lunar eclipses and the sun’s inclination from the equator. Ibrahim Yahya Al-Zarqali, one of the famous scholars in Andalusia, discovered the change in the apogee of the sun.
The Muslims were famous for making astronomical rings (i.e. the astrolabe), and developing them until they became a sign of technical and mathematical perfection. Europeans did not excel over Muslims in astronomy until after the invention of the astronomical by Galileo.
There is no doubt that the science of economics today is among the most important sciences on which many countries are based. The most famous Muslim scholar in the science of economics is the great scholar Ibn Khaldun which is considered today as the cornerstone of the science of economics including the study of the successive methods of human beings and the human transition from nomadism to civilization.
Medicine: Abu Bakr al-Razi 864-865 CE:
Muslim medical scholars were distinguished for being the first to define specialization. Among them were: ophthalmologists and they were called (kahalil), surgeons and phlebotomists (cuppers), and specialists in gynecological diseases and so on. One of the dazzling giants of this era was Abu Bakr Al-Raziwho is considered one of the greatest medical scientists in all history and he has many achievements. As soon as the wheels of time turned around in the Abbasid era Muslims became proficient in every branch of medicine and corrected the mistakes of previous scholars regarding specific theories.
Ali bin Issa Al-Kahhal 940-1010 CE:
Ophthalmology (kahala) has developed among Muslims not by Greeks or Latins who were contemporary to them and nor those who came centuries after them. Their writings were the first argument in it during long centuries and it is not surprising that many authors almost considered ophthalmology an Arab medicine. Historians decide that Ali bin Issa al-Kahhal was the greatest ophthalmologist in the entire Middle Ages and his book (Tadhkirah) is his greatest writing.
Abu al-Qasim khalif ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi 936-1013 CE:
If we turn that bright page of Al-Razi and Ibn Issa Al-Kahal we find ourselves facing another enormous personality who is considered one of the greatest surgeons in history and he is Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi which laid the foundations and laws for surgery, the most important of which is tying vessels to prevent bleeding, surgical sutures, and he was able to stop bleedingby coagulation. Al-Zahrawi was the first to introduce the science of surgical endoscopes through his invention. He used surgical syringes and trocars on which this science is based. His famous book “Al-Tasrif” was translated into Latin by the Italian scientist “Gerard”. It has the greatest influence on those who came after him from Western surgeons and it was extremely important especially for those who reformed the art of surgery in Europe in the sixteenth century.The great physiologistHaller says: “All European surgeons who appeared after the fourteenth century quench thirst from this book”.
Ibn Sina 980-1037 CE:
Ibn Sina is among those Islamic personalities who has emerged in the field of medical science. He was able to provide humanity with the greatest services with his discoveries and the great medical conquests that God has granted him. He was the first to discover many diseases that are still prevalent until now, as he was the one who discovered first time the parasite (Ancylostoma)called it the roundworm, and thus preceded the Italian scientist (Dubini) by about 900 years. He was also the first to describe meningitis, differentiated between paralysis caused by an internal cause in the brain, paralysis resulting from an external cause, described a stroke resulting from too much blood, differentiated between intestinal colic and renal colic, revealed the modes of infection for some infectious diseases such as smallpox and measles and stated that they are transmitted by some organisms, Microorganisms in water and air.
He said: “Water contains very small animals that cannot be seen with the naked eye, and they are the ones that cause some diseases. This was confirmed by (Van Leuthoek) in the eighteenth century and later scientists after the invention of the microscope. He also talked about the method of removing the tonsils, he performed very delicate surgeries, such as removing cancerous tumors in their early stages and removing abscesses from the pleural membrane of the lung etc.He also had a great deal of knowledge in the field of venereal diseases. He accurately described some gynecological diseases; Such as: vaginal obstruction, miscarriage, and fibroidsand he also exposed masculinity and femininity in the fetus, and attributed it to the man without Women, which was recently confirmed by modern science.
Ibn Sina was also well-versed in dentistry and he was very clear and precise in defining the goal of treating dental caries when he said: “The purpose of treating erosion is to prevent excess of what is eroded and that is by purifying the corrupt substance from it and analyzing the substance that leads to that.” His well-known book related medicine is “The canon of medicine” which was completed in twelfth century.
Philosophy: Abu Yousuf Yaqub ibn Ishaq as Sabbah Al- Kindi: (873-805 CE):
Encyclopedic scholar Al-Kindi is called the Philosopher of the Arabs and is considered one of the twelve geniuses who are of the first class in intelligence. In addition to his fame as a philosopher he was a scholar of mathematics, astronomy, physics, medicine, pharmacy, and geography. He wrote four books on the use of Indian numbers. He also contributed in the field of spherical geometry to help him in his astronomical studies, observing the conditions of stars and planets especially the sun and the moon in relation to the earth, its natural influence and the phenomena that arise from it which made many scientists concede that Al-Kindi is a deep thinker of a high caliber.
Muslims scholars have a great influence in many scientific fields and Western countries have translated their books from Arabic into other languages in order to benefit from these sciences that is why the names of Arab scholars rose in West.
Some may ignore the role of Muslim scholars as they were called in history that extend from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries especially since there are many historical mysteries that wronged some Islamic scientific affluence but, the Islamic civilization is one of the important civilizations in the world as it is full of creativity and has unparalleled discoveries in all scientific fields that include environment, medicine, psychology and so on. They also discovered new things from science that the whole world does not know which includes engineering designs and mathematics because they are able to construct large strong and solid buildings and they excel in focusing on the power of triangles.
(The author is a Research Scholar, Department of Arabic BGSB University, Rajouri)