The teaching of the Qur'an that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems.

(The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam)


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.[1]  

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:[2]

-         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.[3] 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 earlier.

-         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 Uqlaidas. 

-         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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

Islamic medicine has advanced to a large extent in the fields of medical education, hospitals, bacteriology, medicine, anaesthesia, surgery, pharmacy, ophthalmology, psychotherapy and psychosomatic diseases.[7]  

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

These are some of the surgical instruments invented by the forefathers of surgery. These surgical instruments are still used in developed shape:

- 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 rasps.
- 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


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