A number of inventions were
made in the Muslim world. Many of these inventions had direct
implications for Fiqah related issues. Fiqah is the Islamic
jurisprudence. This is an expansion of what is called the Divine
Law. The technological development came so fast in the Islamic era
because of the Muslim culture and their way of living. In fact the
inventions of the Muslim world were outcome of their culture.
The history of Western
Europe typically divide the development of Western civilisation into
Ancient Greek period, Ancient Roman period, Early Middle Ages, High
Middle Ages, Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, and Twentieth
century. Many Muslims feel that the term “Dark Ages” inexact
suggests that for approximately 1000 years (early AD) nothing
valuable happened either scientifically or intellectually. No
discovery, no invention, no progress. This neglects the vibrant
scientific activity in the Islamic world during the period 750-1258
AD. Consequently, some Muslims prefer to call this period the
Islamic Golden Age.1
During the Middle Ages,
Islamic scholars made significant advances in mathematics, medicine,
astronomy, engineering and many other fields. Science was one of the
most powerful areas of the Islamic culture of the period. Islamic
people believed in truth and logic. They believed anything could be
proven through logic.1
These are some of the
fields Islamic science has worked with:
Mathematical science: The
Muslim mind has always been attracted to the mathematical sciences.
The mathematical sciences have traditionally included astronomy,
mathematics itself and physics. As for mathematics, like astronomy,
it received its direct stimulation from the Qur'an. Islamic mathematics is also known as Arabic mathematics due to most
of the text on Islamic mathematics being written in Arabic. Algebra
is for example an Arabic word. Islamic mathematics is the main
aspect of the greater history of Islamic science, and also an
important part of the history of mathematics. Many of the most
important Islamic mathematicians were Persians. Many of the ideas,
which were thought as brilliant and new conceptions due to European
mathematicians of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth
centuries, are now known to have been originated by Arabic/Islamic
mathematicians like Al-Khwarazmi and Khayyam, around four centuries
Geometry: The Muslims
also excelled in geometry as reflected in their art. The Muslim
geographers began to study the geography of practically the whole
globe and divided the earth into the traditional seven climes. They
studied each of these carefully from both the geographical and
climactic point of view. Columbus made use of Muslim geographers’
knowledge in his discovery of America. The word Euclid, which is a
synonym of the word geometry, has derived from the Arabic word
Botany, Zoology: The
Muslims also showed much interest in zoology especially in horses,
and falcons, and other hunting birds. The works of al-Damiri and
al-Jahiz are especially famous in the field of zoology and deal with
the literary, moral and theological dimensions of the study of
animals as well as the zoological aspects of the subject. Abu Yahya
al-Qazwini has written the most famous book about zoology “The
Wonders of Creation”.
Architecture: One of the
major achievements of Islamic civilization is architecture, which
combines technology of nature and art. Some of the greatest
masterpieces of Islamic architecture are the Cordoba Mosque, the
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and Taj Mahal in India.
Muslim physicians contributed significantly to the field of
medicine. Islam contains many instructions concerning health. Early
in Islamic history Muslims began to cultivate the field of medicine,
because of the great attention paid in Islam to the need of taking
care of the body and to hygiene. The scientist, Muhammad ibn Zakariyya’ al-Razi (born in 865- died in
925), was one of the greatest of physicians who emphasized clinical
medicine and diagnosis. He was a master of prognosis and
psychosomatic medicine and also of anatomy. He was the first to
identify and treat smallpox, to use alcohol as an antiseptic and
make medical use of mercury. Mercury is a metal used in medicine, in
form of various organic and inorganic compounds. Muhammad ibn
Zakariyya’ al-Razi was recognised as a medical authority in West up
to the 18th century.
The greatest of all Muslim physicians, however, was ibn Sina (born
in 980-died in 1037), who was called “the prince of physicians” in
the West. Ibn Sina is known as Avicenna in the West. Ibn Sina
discovered many drugs and identified and treated several physical
and mental disorders. His greatest contribution was however in the
philosophy of medicine. He created a system of medicine within which
medical practice could be carried out, and in which physical and
psychological factors, drugs and diet are combined. He synthesised
Islamic medicine in his major masterpiece “The Canon Of Medicine”,
which is the most famous of all medical books in history. It was the
final authority in medical matters in Europe for nearly six
centuries and is still taught wherever Islamic medicine has survived
to this day in such lands as Pakistan and India.
Islamic medicine has advanced to a large extent in the fields of
medical education, hospitals, bacteriology, medicine, anaesthesia,
surgery, pharmacy, ophthalmology, psychotherapy and psychosomatic
The development of efficient hospitals during the Middle Ages was an
outstanding contribution of Muslim medicine.
Hospitals were built all over the Muslim
World with high standards of hygiene. One of the reasons for the
Muslims' interest in health was the saying of the Prophet Muhammad
that God had given a cure for every disease. Furthermore, the third
Pillar of Islam was charity, which could go to the poor, and sick,
so the building of hospitals and taking care of the sick was a part
of a religious duty.
The hospitals served all citizens with best available medical
service and cared for all people free of charge without any regard
to their colour, religion, sex, age or social status. The hospitals
were run by government and the directors of hospitals were
physicians. There were separate wards for male patients and female
patients. Different diseases were allocated different wards.
Hospitals provided patients with unlimited water supply and with
bathing facilities. They had housing for students and house-staff.
Furthermore they had waiting rooms for visitors and patients. They
contained pharmacies dispensing free drugs to patients. On
discharge, each patient received five gold pieces to support himself
until he could return to work. For the first time in history, these
hospitals kept records of patients and their medical care.
A great medieval surgeon was Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas
Al-Zahrawi (born in 939 - died in 1013). Al-Zahrawi, who is known as
Abulcasis in the West, was an Arabic physician and scientist. He
shaped European surgical procedures up until the renaissance.
Al-Zahrawi is often regarded as the “Father of Surgery”. Al-Zahrawi
was also the inventor of several surgical instruments, and he made
the real breakthrough in surgical instrumentation. Many surgical
instruments were manufactured from bronze, iron and silver, such as
scalpels, lancets, curettes, tweezers, forceps, tubes, surgical
knives, etc. The catgut was among other things one of the inventions
of Al-Zahrawi. The catgut was used for internal stitching, a method
that is still practised in most of today’s surgery.
These are some of the surgical instruments invented by the
forefathers of surgery. These surgical instruments are still used in
Graspers, especially tweezers and forceps
Clamps and occluders for blood vessels and other organs.
Retractors, used to spread open skin, ribs and other tissue.
- Mechanical cutters like scalpels, lancets, drill bits, and
- Suction tips and tubes, for removal of bodily fluids.
- Irrigation and injection needles, tips and tubes, for
introducing fluid, etc.
Al-Zahrawi wrote his famous thirty volumes medical encyclopaedia
“Al-Tasrif” translated as “The Method of Medicine”. He introduced
more than 200 surgical tools in his medical encyclopaedia, which
included illustrations and detailed information on how and when each
instrument was to be used. Al-Zahrawi got a tremendous influence on
surgery in the West, When Al-Tasrif was translated into Latin in the
12th century. There can be no doubt that Al-Zahrawi
influenced the field of medicine and surgery very deeply, and the
principles laid down by him were recognized as authentic in medical
science, especially surgery, and these continued to influence the
medical world for further five centuries.
There are still many Muslim medicinal researchers, who are
innovating new techniques and engaging in original research.
We are living in a world where the technological development is
going very fast. The knowledge about medical science and many of the
surgical instruments from the Islamic Golden Age, are still being
used today, but they have been developed with the most up to date
technology. In today’s world we talk about Artificial Intelligence,
DNA, and cloning. The technological development is taking us to a
point where our caretakers will be robots and where it will be
normality for us to associate with cloned human beings. But do we
have any limit, when the talk about the development of technology
and science is surrounding us?
There are many arguments in terms of medical ethics. A female
Arabian doctor argued about using bone marrow as a source of stem
cells instead of having to resort to embryonic stem cells for stem
cell research, by following the Muslim jurisprudence and ethical
system. The arguments included that a cloned person would not fit
the scope of a kin, and would therefore be deprived of family
connections that all humans currently enjoy, such as filial or
sibling affiliations. Another argument used as a rejection of human
cloning, was that cloning would undermine the variation necessary
for the healthy continuation of the human gene pool.
The Muslim world has contributed to science in a very large extent.
They not only preserved, but also added to the achievements in
medicine. They have fostered the flame of civilization, made it
brighter, and handed it over to Europe in the best possible
condition. Europe, in turn, passed it to the United States of
America, and it will continue like that for the time to come.
Table of contents:
The Making Of Humanity, By Robert Briffault