Unparalleled Scientific Legacy of Islam

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Islam is the primordial religion of man bearing an eternal validity. The word Islam basically means submission to God. As a way of life, it applies to all aspects of mans existence and performance. No aspect is given precedence over the other and there is a great coordination and coherence, a blending and balance between the material, the rational and the spiritual aspects of mans quest.

The Holy Quran bears testimony to the supreme values of learning and science. Commenting on the Surat-ul-alaq, Zamakhshari explains the meanings of the Quaranic words: God taught human beings that which they did not know, and this testifieth to the greatness of His beneficence, for He has given to His servants knowledge of that which they did not know. And He has brought them out of the darkness of the ignorance to the light of knowledge, and made them aware of the inestimable blessings of the knowledge of writing, for great benefits accrue therefrom which God alone compasses; and without the knowledge of writing no other knowledge could be comprehended, nor the sciences placed within bounds, nor the history of the ancients be acquired and their sayings be recorded, nor the revealed books be written; and if that knowledge did not exist, the affairs of religion and the world could not be regulated. The Holy Prophet often said: the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr; and repeatedly impressed upon his disciples the necessity of seeking knowledge even unto China. He further remarked: He who travels in search of knowledge, walks in the path of God. And that One hours meditation on the work of the Creator is better than seventy years of prayer. At another occasion, he said: To listen to the instructions of science and learning for one hour is more meritorious than standing up in prayer for a thousand martyrs, more meritorious than standing up in prayer for a thousand nights; To listen to the words of the learned, and to instill into the heart the lessons of science, is better than religious exercises better than emancipating a hundred slaves. Naturally such directions of the great Master and the Chief of the Disciples gave rise to a liberal policy and stimulated among Muslims a burning desire for learning, knowledge, science and technology, and gave impetus to the great intellectual movement in the Islamic world.

We see that the Muslims under the Ommeyyades seemed to pass through a period of probation; preparing themselves for the great task they were called upon to undertake. Under the Abbasids, however, we find them the repositories and stalwarts of the knowledge of science and philosophy. From every part of the globe students and scholars flocked to Cordova, Baghdad and Cairo to listen to the words of Muslim sages. Even Christians from remote corners of Europe attended Muslim colleges and institutions. Generally the persons who became in their after-life heads of the Christian church, acquired their scholarship from Islamic teachers. At that time the conditions of learning and science in Christendom were miserable. Learning was branded as magic or punished as treason, and philosophy and science were exterminated. The ecclesiastical hatred against human learning had found expression in the patristic maxim: Ignorance is the mother of devotion; and Pope Gregory gave effect to this dogma by expelling from Rome all scientific studies, and burning the Palatine Library founded by Augustus Caesar.

In Spain the same intellectual pursuit was in full swing at Seville, Cordova, Granada, Marcia, Toledo and other places, which were replete with public libraries and colleges in which free instruction in science and letters was given. Of Cordova, Stanley Lane-Poole writes in the Moore in Spain, “Beautiful as were the palaces and gardens of Cordova, her famous doctors, and even the nun Hroswitha far away in her Saxon convent of Gaulersheim, when she told of the martyrdom of Eulogius, could not refrain from singing the praises of Cordova, the brightest splendor of the world. Every branch of science was seriously studied there, and medicine received more and greater additions by the discoveries of the doctors and surgeons of Andalusia than it had gained during all the centuries that had elapsed since the days of Galen Astronomy, geography, chemistry, natural history, all were studied with ardor at Cordova.

To these we may add the words of Renan:

The taste for science and literature had, by the tenth century, established, in this privileged corner of the world, a toleration of which modern times hardly offer us an example. Christians, Jews and Musulmans spoke the same tongue, sang the same songs, participated in the same literary and scientific studies. All the barriers, which separated the various peoples, were effaced; all worked with one accord in the work of a common civilization. The mosques of Cordova, where the students could be counted by thousands, became the active canters of philosophical and scientific studies.

Unfortunately, due to the pride and prejudice of the West that there are so many discoveries that were long ago made by Muslim Scientists but for which the credit is given to the Westerners. Similarly the Muslim Scholars and Scientists invented many of the basic sciences, but it is not duly acknowledged. Only a few researchers like George Sarton admit the real facts. He correctly states that modern Western medicine did not originate from Europe and that it actually arose from the Islamic orient. It is told that the difficult cubic equations remained unsolved until the 16th century when Niccolo Tartaglia, an Italian mathematician, solved them. It is quite erroneous because as a matter of fact Muslim mathematicians solved Cubic equations as well as numerous equations of even higher degrees as early as the 10th century. Similarly it is taught that Isaac Newton’s 17th century study of lenses, light and prisms form the foundation of the modern science of optics. The factual status is that in the 11th century al-Haytham determined virtually everything that Newton advanced regarding optics centuries prior and is regarded by numerous authorities as the “founder of optics”. There is little doubt that Newton was influenced by him. Al-Haytham was the most quoted physicist of the Middle Ages. His works were utilized and quoted by a greater number of European scholars during the 16th and 17th centuries than those of Newton and Galileo combined.

Then erroneously it is asserted that in 1614, John Napier invented logarithms and logarithmic tables when actually it was al- Khawarizmi who invented logarithms and produced the logarithmic tables several centuries prior. Such tables were common in the Islamic world as early as the 13th century. Likewise there are numerous things that are quite inaccurately and adamantly attributed to the western scientists whereas actually these originated from or were invented by Muslim scientists. The most remarkable scientists who have made outstanding contribution to science are detailed as below:

JABIR IBN HAIYAN

Jabir Ibn Haiyan, the alchemist Geber of the Middle Ages, is generally known as the father of chemistry. In his early days, he practiced medicine and was under the patronage of the Barmaki Vizir during the Abbssid Caliphate of Haroon al-Rashid. He introduced experimental investigation into alchemy, which rapidly changed its character into modern chemistry. His works consist of more than 100 monumental treatises, of which 22 relate to chemistry and alchemy. His contribution of fundamental importance to chemistry includes perfection of scientific techniques such as crystallization, distillation, calcination, sublimation and evaporation and development of several instruments for the same. The very name chemistry is derived from the Arabic word al-Kimya, which was studied and developed extensively as a distinct branch of science by the Arab scientists. Perhaps Jabir’s greatest achievement was the discovery of mineral and others acids, which he prepared for the first time in his alembic (Anbique) . Apart from several contributions of a basic nature to alchemy, involving largely the preparation of new compounds and development of chemical methods, he also developed a number of applied chemical processes and thus became a pioneer in the field of applied science. Jabir laid great stress on experimentation and accuracy in his work.

His achievements in this field include preparation of various metals, development of steel, dyeing of cloth and tanning of leather, varnishing of water-proof cloth, use of manganese dioxide in glass-making, prevention of rusting, lettering in gold, and identification of paints and greases, etc. During the course of these practical endeavors, he also developed aqua regia to dissolve gold. The alembic is his great invention, which made the process of distillation easy and systematic. He described distinct types of substances and paved the way for such later classifications as metals, non-metals and volatile substances. He did not pursue the preparation of noble metals as an alchemist but seriously devoted his effort to the development of basic chemical methods and the study of mechanisms of chemical reactions in themselves and thus helped evolve chemistry as a science from the legends of alchemy. He emphasized that, in chemical reactions, definite quantities of various substances are involved and thus can be said to have paved the way for the law of constant proportions. Apart from chemistry, he also contributed to other sciences such as medicine and astronomy.

His books on chemistry, including his Kitab-al-Kimya, and Kitab al-Sab’een were translated into Latin and various European languages. These translations were popular in Europe for several centuries and have influenced the evolution of modern chemistry. Several technical terms devised by Jabir, such as alkali, are today found in various European languages and have become a part of the scientific vocabulary. Only a few of his books have been edited and published, while several others preserved in Arabic have yet to be annotated and published.

According to Sarton, the true worth of his work can only be known when all his books have been edited and published. His various breakthroughs, e.g., preparation of acids for the first time, notably nitric, hydrochloric, citric and tartaric acids, and emphasis on systematic experimentation are outstanding and it is on the basis of such work that he can justly be regarded as the father of modern chemistry. In the words of Max Mayerhaff, the development of chemistry in Europe can be traced directly to Jabir Ibn Haiyan. He died in 803.

MOHAMMAD BIN MUSA AL-KHAWARIZMI

Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi was born at Khawarizm (now Khiva, Uzbekistan), south of the Aral Sea. He was librarian at the court of Caliph al-Mamun and astronomer at the Baghdad observatory. His works on algebra, arithmetic, and astronomical tables greatly advanced mathematical thought, and he was the first to use for mathematical purposes the expression al-jabr (used in Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah), from which the English word algebra is derived. It is established that he flourished under Al- Mamun at Baghdad through 813-833 and probably died around 840.

Khawarizmi was a mathematician, astronomer and geographer. He is considered as one of the greatest mathematicians and the founder of several branches and basic concepts of mathematics. In the words of Phillip Hitti, he influenced mathematical thought to a greater extent than any other medieval writer did. His work on algebra was outstanding, as he not only initiated the subject in a systematic form but he also developed it to the extent of giving analytical solutions of linear and quadratic equations, which established him as the founder of Algebra. His arithmetic synthesized Greek and Hindu knowledge and also contained his own contribution of fundamental importance to mathematics and science. Thus, he explained the use of zero, a numeral of fundamental importance developed by the Arabs. His work on algorithms, a term derived from his name, introduced the method of calculating by use of Arabic numerals and decimal notation. He introduced the Indian system of numerals (now generally known as Arabic numerals), and developed several arithmetical procedures, including operations on fractions. It was through his work that the system of numerals was first introduced to Arabs and later to Europe through its translations in European languages. He developed in detail trigonometric tables containing the sine functions, which were probably extrapolated to tangent functions by Maslama. He also perfected the geometric representation of conic sections and developed the calculus of two errors, which practically led him to the concept of differentiation. He is also reported to have collaborated in the degree measurements aimed at measuring the volume and circumference of the earth. He also wrote a book on the development of astronomical tables, a significant contribution to the science of astronomy.

The contribution of Khawarizmi to geography is also outstanding, in that not only did he revise Ptolemy’s views on geography, but also corrected them in detail as well as his map of the world. His other contributions include original works related to clocks, sundials and astrolabes.

Several of his books were translated into Latin in the early 12th century. In fact, his book on arithmetic, Kitab al-Jam’a wal- Tafreeq bil Hisab al-Hindi, was lost in Arabic but survived in a Latin translation. His astronomical tables were also translated into European languages and later into Chinese. His geography captioned Kitab Surat-al-Ard, together with its maps, was also translated. The influence of Khawarizmi on the growth of science, in general, and mathematics, astronomy and geography in particular, is well established in history. Several of his books were readily translated into a number of other languages, and, in fact, constituted the university textbooks till the 16th century. His approach was systematic and logical, and not only did he bring together the then prevailing knowledge on various branches of science, particularly mathematics, but also enriched it through his original contribution. No doubt he has been held in high esteem and repute throughout the centuries.

YAQUB IBN ISHAQ AL-KINDI

Abu Yousuf Yaqub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi was born at Kufa around 800 and educated at Al Barah and Baghdad. His father was an official of Haroon al-Rashid. Al-Kindi was a contemporary of al-Mamun, al-Mu’tasim and al-Mutawakkil and flourished largely at Baghdad. He was formally employed by Mutawakkil as a calligrapher. On account of his philosophical views, Mutawakkil was annoyed with him and confiscated all his books. These were, however, returned later on. Al-Kindi was one of the earliest Arab students of the Greek philosophers and one of the first translators of the works of Aristotle into Arabic. Some of his works were translated into Latin during the Middle Ages and influenced European scholars. He died in 873 during the reign of al-M’utamid.

Al-Kindi was a philosopher, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, astrologer, physician, geographer and even an expert in music. It is surprising that he made original contributions to all of these fields. In mathematics, he wrote four books on the number system and laid the foundation of a large part of modern arithmetic. Al-Kindi also made rich contributions to the Arabic system of numerals largely developed by al-Khawarizmi. He also contributed to spherical geometry to assist him in astronomical studies.

In chemistry, he opposed the idea that base metals can be converted to precious metals. In contrast to prevailing alchemical views, he asserted that chemical reactions couldnt bring about the transformation of elements. In physics, he made rich contributions to geometrical optics and wrote a book on it. This book later on provided guidance and inspiration to such eminent scientists as Roger Bacon. In medicine, he resolved the conflicting views prevailing among physicians on the dosage that caused difficulties in writing recipes; he was the first to systematically determine the doses to be administered of all the drugs known at his time.

Very little was known about the scientific aspects of music in his time. He pointed out that the various notes that combine to produce harmony each have a specific pitch. Thus, notes with too low or too high pitch are non-pleasant. The degree of harmony depends on the frequency of notes, etc. He also pointed out when a sound is produced, it generates waves in the air, which strike the eardrum. His work contains a notation on the determination of pitch.

He was a prolific writer; the total number of books written by him was 270, the prominent of which were divided as follows: Astronomy 16, Arithmetic 11, Geometry 32, Medicine 22, Physics 12, Philosophy 22, Logic 9, Psychology 5, and Music 7.

Various monographs written by him concern tides, astronomical instruments, rocks, precious stones, etc. The fact that he was also an early translator of Greek works into Arabic largely over-shadowed his numerous original writings. It is unfortunate that most of his books are no longer extant, but those existing speak highly of his standard of scholarship and contribution. He was known as Alkindus in Latin and a large number of his books were translated into Latin by Gherard of Cremona. His books that were translated into Latin during the Middle Ages comprise Risalah dar Tanjim, Ikhtiyarat al-Ayyam, Ilahyat-e-Aristu, al-Mosiqa, Mad-o-Jazr, and Aduiyah Murakkaba. Al-Kindi’s influence on development of science and philosophy was significant in the revival of sciences in that period. In the Middle Ages, Cardano considered him as one of the twelve greatest minds. His works, in fact, led to further development of various subjects for centuries, notably physics, mathematics, medicine and music.

THABIT IBN QURRA

Thabit Ibn Qurra Ibn Marwan al-Sabi al-Harrani was born in the year 836 at Harran (present Turkey). As the name indicates, he was basically a member of the Sabian sect. But the great Muslim mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Ibn Shakir, impressed by his knowledge of languages, realized his potential for a scientific career and selected him to join the scientific group at Baghdad that was being patronized by the Abbasid Caliphs. There, he studied under the famous Banu Musa brothers. It was in this setting that Thabit contributed to several branches of science, notably mathematics, astronomy and mechanics, in addition to translating a large number of works from Greek to Arabic. Later on, he was patronized by the Abbasid Caliph al-M’utadid. After a long career of scholarship, Thabit died at Baghdad in 901.

Thabit’s major contribution lies in mathematics and astronomy. He was instrumental in extending the concept of traditional geometry to geometrical algebra and proposed several theories that led to the development of non-Euclidean geometry, spherical trigonometry, integral calculus and real numbers. He criticized a number of theorems of Euclid’s elements and proposed important improvements. He applied arithmetical terminology to geometrical quantities, and studied several aspects of conic sections, notably those of parabola and ellipse. A number of his computations aimed at determining the surfaces and volumes of different types of bodies and constitute, in fact, the processes of integral calculus as developed later. In astronomy he was one of the early reformers of Ptolemic views. He analyzed several problems related to the movements of sun and moon and wrote treatises on sundials. In the fields of mechanics and physics he may be recognized as the founder of statistics. He examined conditions of equilibrium of bodies, beams and levers. In addition to translating a large number of books, he founded a school of translation and supervised the translation of a large number of books from Greek to Arabic.

Among Thabit’s writings a large number have survived, while several are not extant. Most of the books are on mathematics, followed by astronomy and medicine. The books have been written in Arabic but some are in Syriac. In the Middle Ages, Gherard of Cremona translated some of his books into Latin. In recent centuries, a number of his books have been translated into European languages and published. He carried further the work of the Banu Musa brothers and later his son and grandson continued in this tradition, together with the other members of the group. His original books as well as his translations accomplished in the 9th century exerted a positive influence on the development of subsequent scientific research.

ALI IBN RABBAN AL-TABARI

This accomplished Hakim was the tutor of the unparalleled physician Zakariya al-Razi whom luck favored more than the teacher in terms of celebrity. He was born in 838 and hailed from an Israelite family. Since he had embraced Islam, he is classified amongst Muslim Scholars. His father, Sahl, was an extremely successful physician. He had command over the art of calligraphy and had a deep insight into the disciplines of Astronomy, Philosophy, Mathematics and Literature. Some complicated articles of Batlemus’s book al-Mijasti came to be resolved by way of Sahl’s scholarly expertise, translators preceding him had failed to solve the mystery.

Ali received his education in the disciplines of Medical science and calligraphy from his able father Sahl and attained perfection in these fields. He had also mastered Syriac and Greek languages to a high degree of proficiency. His world-renowned treatise Firdous al-Hikmat spread over seven parts and recently published is the first ever Medical encyclopedia which incorporates all the branches of medical science in its folds. Prior to this publication only five of his manuscripts were to be found scattered in libraries the world over which have been edited by Dr. Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui. His unique work, Firdous al-Hikmat, was published with the cooperation of English and German institutions. Following are the details of its seven parts:

  • Part one: Kulliyat-e-Tibb. This part throws light on contemporary ideology of medical science. In that era these principles formed the basis of medical science.
  • Part two: Elucidation of the organs of the human body, rules for keeping good health and comprehensive account of certain muscular diseases.
  • Part three: Description of diet to be taken in conditions of health and disease.
  • Part four: All diseases from head to toe. This part is of profound significance in the whole book and comprises twelve papers.
  • Part five: Description of flavor, taste and color.
  • Part six: Drugs and poison.
  • Part seven: Deals with diverse topics. Discusses climate and astronomy. Also contains a brief mention of Indian medicine. He also compiled Deen-o-Doulat and Hifdh al-Sehhat. The latter is available in manuscript-form in the library of Oxford University. Besides Medical science, he was also a master of Philosophy, Mathematics and Astronomy. He breathed his last around 870.

ABU ABDULLAH AL-BATTANI

Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Jabir Ibn Sinan al-Battani al-Harrani was born around 868 in Battan, a State of Harran. Battani was first educated by his father Jabir Ibn San’an al-Battani, who was also a well-known scientist. He then moved to Raqqa, situated on the bank of the Euphrates, where he received advanced education and later on flourished as a scholar. At the beginning of the 9th century, he migrated to Samarra, where he worked till the end of his life in 929.

Battani was a famous astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He has been held as one of the greatest Astronomers of Islam. He made a number of important discoveries in astronomy. His well-known and remarkable discovery is the accurate determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is very close to the latest estimates. He found that the longitude of the sun’s apogee had increased by 16°, 47′ since Ptolemy. This implied the important discovery of the motion of the solar apsides and of a slow variation in the equation of time. Al-Battani determined with remarkable accuracy the obliquity of the ecliptic, the length of the seasons and the true and mean orbit of the sun. He proved, in sharp contrast to Ptolemy, the variation of the apparent angular diameter of the sun and the possibility of annular eclipses. He rectified several orbits of the moon and the planets and propounded a new and very ingenious theory to determine the conditions of visibility of the new moon. His excellent observations of lunar and solar eclipses were used by Dun Thorne in 1749 to determine the secular acceleration of motion of the moon. He also provided very neat solutions by means of orthographic projection for some problems of spherical trigonometry. In mathematics, he was the first to replace the use of Greek chords by sines, with a clear understanding of their superiority. He also developed the concept of cotangent and furnished their table in degrees. He wrote a number of books on astronomy and trigonometry. His most famous book was his astronomical treatise with tables, which was translated into Latin in the 12th century and flourished as De scienta stellerum — De numeris stellerum et motibus. An old translation of this is available of the Vatican. His treatise on astronomy was extremely influential in Europe till the Renaissance, with translations available in several languages. His original discoveries both in astronomy and trigonometry were of great consequence in the development of these sciences.

AL-FARGHANI

Abu’l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir al-Farghani, born in Farghana, Transoxiana, in 860 was one of the most distinguished astronomers in the service of al-Mamun and his successors. He wrote “Elements of Astronomy” Kitab fi al-Harakat al-Samawiya wa Jawami Ilm al-Nujum (the book on celestial motion and comprehensive science of the stars), which was translated into Latin in the 12th century and exerted great influence upon European astronomy before Regiomontanus. He accepted Ptolemy’s theory and value of the precession, but thought that it affected not only the stars but also the planets. He determined the diameter of the earth to be 6,500 miles, and found the greatest distances and also the diameters of the planets. The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, written in 987, ascribes only two works to Al-Farghani: (1) “The Book of Chapters, a summary of the Almagest” (Kitab al-Fusul, Ikhtiyar al-Majisti) and (2) “Book on the Construction of Sun-dials” (Kitab ‘Amal al-Rukhamat). The Jawami, or ‘The Elements’ as we shall call it, was Al- Farghani’s best known and most influential work. Abd al-Aziz al-Qabisi (d. 967) wrote a commentary on it, which is preserved in the Istanbul manuscript, Aya Sofya 4832, fols. 97v-114v. Two Latin translations followed in the 12th century. Jacob Anatoli produced a Hebrew translation of the book that served as a basis for a third Latin version, appearing in 1590, whereas Jacob Golius published a new Latin text together with the Arabic original in 1669. The influence of ‘The Elements’ on mediaeval Europe is clearly vindicated by the presence of innumerable Latin manuscripts in European libraries.

References to it by medieval writers are many, and there is no doubt that it was greatly responsible for spreading knowledge of Ptolemaic astronomy, at least until this role was taken over by Sacrobosco’s Sphere. But even then, ‘The Elements’ of Al-Farghani continued to be used, and Sacrobosco’s Sphere was evidently indebted to it. It was from ‘The Elements’ (in Gherard’s translation) that Dante derived the astronomical knowledge displayed in the ‘Vita Nuova’ and in the ‘Convivio’.

MOHAMMAD IBN ZAKARIYA AL-RAZI

Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (864-930 C.E.) was born at Ray, Iran. Initially, he was interested in music but later on he learnt medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and philosophy from a student of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, who was well versed in the ancient Greek, Persian and Indian systems of medicine and other subjects. He also studied under Ali Ibn Rabban. The practical experience gained at the well-known Muqtadari Hospital helped him in his chosen profession of medicine and thus made him at an early age an expert in medicine and alchemy. It is reported that patients and students flocked to him from distant parts of Asia.

From being in-charge of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, he soon moved to a similar position in Baghdad where he remained the head of its famous Muqtadari Hospital for along time. He moved from time to time to various cities, especially between Ray and Baghdad, but finally returned to Ray, where he died around 930. His name is commemorated in the Razi Institute near Tehran.

Razi was a great Hakim, an alchemist and a philosopher. In medicine, his contribution was so significant that it can only be compared to that of Ibn Sina. Some of his works in medicine e.g. Kitab al- Mansoori, Al-Hawi, Kitab al-Mulooki and Kitab al-Judari wa al- Hasabah earned everlasting fame. Kitab al-Mansoori, which was translated into Latin in the 15th century, comprised ten volumes and dealt exhaustively with Greco-Arab medicine. His al-Judari wal Hasabah was the first treatise on smallpox and chickenpox, and is largely based on Razi’s original contribution: It was translated into various European languages. Through this treatise he became the first to draw clear comparisons between smallpox and chicken pox. Al-Hawi was the largest medical encyclopaedia composed by him that contained important information on each medical subject. A special feature of his medical system was that he greatly favored cure through correct and regulated food. This was combined with his emphasis on the influence of psychological factors on health. He also tried proposed remedies first on animals in order to evaluate in their effects and side effects. He was also an expert surgeon and was the first to use opium for anesthesia.

In addition to being a physician, he compounded medicines and, in his later years, gave himself over to experimental and theoretical sciences. In Chemistry, he portrayed in great detail several chemical reactions and also gave full descriptions of and designs for about twenty instruments used in chemical investigations. His description of chemical knowledge is in plain and plausible language. One of his books called Kitab-al-Asrar deals with the preparation of chemical materials and their utilization. Another one was translated into Latin under the name Liber Expermentorum, He went beyond his predecessors in dividing substances into plants, animals and minerals, thus in a way opening the way for inorganic and organic chemistry. By and large, this classification of the three kingdoms still holds. As a chemist, he was the first to produce sulfuric acid together with some other acids, and he also prepared alcohol by fermenting sweet products.

His contribution as a philosopher is also well known. The basic elements in his philosophical system are the creator, spirit, matter, space and time. He discusses their characteristics in detail and his concepts of space and time as constituting a continuum are outstanding. He was a prolific author, who has left monumental treatises on numerous subjects. He has more than 200 outstanding scientific contributions to his credit, out of which about half deal with medicine and 21 concern alchemy. He also wrote on physics, mathematics, astronomy and optics, but these writings could not be preserved. A number of his books have been published in various European languages. His contribution greatly influenced the development of science, in general, and medicine, in particular.

ABU AL-NASR AL-FARABI

Abu Nasr Mohammad Ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi was born in a small village Wasij, near Farab in Turkistan in 870. Known as al-Phrarabius in Europe, Farabi was the son of a general. He completed his earlier education at Farab and Bukhara but later on went to Baghdad for higher studies, where he studied and worked for a long time viz., from 901 to 942. He lived through the reign of six Abbasid Caliphs. As a philosopher and scientist, he acquired great proficiency in various branches of learning and is reported to have been an expert in different languages. During his early years he was a Qadi (Judge), but later on took up teaching as his profession. During the course of his career, he had suffered great hardships and at one time was the caretaker of a garden. He died a bachelor in Damascus in 950 at the age of 80 years.

Farabi contributed considerably to science, philosophy, logic, sociology, medicine, mathematics and music. His major contributions seem to be in philosophy, logic and sociology and, of course, stand out as an Encyclopedia. As a philosopher, he may be classed as a Neoplatonist who tried to synthesize Platonism and Aristotelism with theology. He wrote such rich commentaries on Aristotle’s physics, meteorology, logic, etc., in addition to a large number of books on several other subjects embodying his original contribution, that he came to be known as the ‘Second Teacher’ (al-Mou’allim al-Thani), Aristotle being the First. One of the important contributions of Farabi was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories viz., Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). Al-Farabi gave considerable more attention to political theory than did any other Islamic philosopher, adapting the Platonic system (as developed in Plato’s Republic and Laws) to the contemporary Muslim political situation in The Perfect City.

In sociology he wrote several books out of which Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila became famous. His books on psychology and metaphysics were largely based on his own work. He also wrote a book on music, captioned Kitab al-Musiqa. He was a great expert in the art and science of music and invented several musical instruments, besides contributing to the knowledge of musical notes. It has been reported that he could play a special instrument so well as to make people laugh or weep of his own accord. In physics he demonstrated the existence of void. He compiled a Catalogue of Sciences, the first Muslim work to attempt a systematization of human knowledge.

Although many of his books have been lost, 117 are known, out of which 43 are on logic, 11 on metaphysics, 7 on ethics, 7 on political science, 17 on music, medicine and sociology, while 11 are commentaries. Some of his more famous books include the book Fusus al-Hikam, which remained a text book of philosophy for several centuries at various centers of learning and is still taught at some of the institutions in the East. The book Kitab al-lhsa al ‘Ulum discusses classification and fundamental principles of science in a unique and useful manner. The book Ara Ahl al-Madina al- Fadila ‘The Model City’ is a significant early contribution to sociology and political science. Farabi exercised great influence on science and knowledge for several centuries.

ABUL HASAN ALI AL-MASU’DI

Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Ali Al-Masu’di was a descendant of Abdallah Ibn Masu’d, a highly learned companion of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). An expert geographer, a physicist and historian, Masu’di was born in the last decade of the 9th century, his exact date of birth being unknown. He was a Mutazilite Arab who explored distant lands and died at Cairo, in 957.

He traveled to Fars in 915 and, after staying for one year in Istikhar, he proceeded via Baghdad to India, where he visited Multan and Mansoora before returning to Fars. From there he traveled to Kirman and then again to India. Mansoora in those days was a city of great renown and was the capital of the Muslim State of Sind. In 918 Masu’di traveled to Gujrat, where more than 10,000 Arab Muslims had settled in the sea-port of Chamoor. He also traveled to Deccan, Ceylon, Indo-China and China, and proceeded via Madagascar, Zanjibar and Oman to Basra.

At Basra he completed his book Muruj-al-Thahab, in which he has described in a most absorbing manner his experience of various countries, peoples and climates. He gives accounts of his personal contacts with the Jews, Iranians, Indians and Christians. From Basra he moved to Syria and from there to Cairo, where he wrote his second extensive book Muruj al-Zaman in thirty volumes. His first book was completed in 947. He also prepared a supplement, called Kitab al-Ausat, in which he has compiled historical events chronologically. In 957, the year of his death, he completed his last book Kitab al-Tanbih wa al-Ishraf, in which he has given a summary of his earlier book as well as an errata.

Masu’di is referred to as the Herodotus and Pliny of the Arabs. By presenting a critical account of historical events, he initiated a change in the art of historical writing, introducing the elements of analysis, reflection and criticism, which was later on further improved by Ibn Khaldun. In particular, in al-Tanbeeh he makes a systematic study of history against perspective of geography, sociology, anthropology and ecology. Masu’di had a deep insight into the causes of rise and fall of nations.

With his scientific and analytical approach he gave an account of the causes of the earthquake of 955, discussions of the water of the Red Sea and other problems in the earth sciences. He is the first author to mention windmills, which were invented by the Muslims of Sijistan. Masu’di also made important contributions to music and other fields of science. In his book Muruj al-Thahab he provides important information on early Arab music as well as music of other countries. His book Muruj al-Thahab wa al-Ma’adin al-Jawahir (Meadows of Gold and Mines of Precious Stones) has been held as ‘remarkable’ because of the ‘catholicity of its author, who neglected no source of information and truly scientific curiosity’. In addition to writing a supplement Kitab al-Ausat, he completed Kitab al-Tanbih wa al-Ishraf. It is unfortunate that, out of his 34 books as mentioned by himself in Al-Tanbih, only three have survived, in addition to Al-Tanbih itself. Whatever he recorded was with a scientific approach and constituted an important contribution to geography, history and earth sciences. It is interesting to note that much earlier than Darwin, he was the first Muslim scientist who propounded several aspects of evolution viz., from minerals to plant, plant to animal and animal to man. His research and views extensively influenced the sciences of historiography, geography and earth sciences for several countries.

ABU AL-QASIM AL-ZAHRAWI

Almost a thousand years ago at a time when Spain (Andulesia) was part of the Islamic empire, there lived near the capital city of Cordoba one of the great, but now largely forgotten, pioneers of surgery. He was known as El Zahrawi, though in European languages his name is written in over a dozen different ways: Abulcases, Albucasis, Bulcasis, Bulcasim, Bulcari, Alzahawi, Ezzahrawi, Zahravius, Alcarani, Alsarani, Aicaravi, Alcaravius, Alsahrawi etc. One of the most renowned surgeons of the Muslim era, Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi was born in 936 in Zahra in the neighbourhood of Cordova. After a long medical career, rich with significant original contribution, he died in 1013. It is obvious from his life history and writings that he devoted his entire life and genius to the advancement of medicine as a whole and surgery in particular.

He is best known for his early and original breakthroughs in surgery as well as for his famous Medical Encyclopedia called Al-Tasrif, which is composed of thirty volumes covering different aspects of medical science. The more important part of this series comprises three books on surgery. These describe in detail various aspects of surgical treatment as based on the variety of operations performed by him, including cauterization, removal of stone from the bladder, dissection of animals, midwifery, styptics, obstetrics, the treatment of wounds and surgery of eye, ear and throat. He described the exposure and division of the temporal artery to relieve certain types of headaches, diversion of urine into the rectum, mammoplasty for excessively large breasts and the extraction of cataracts. He wrote extensively about injuries to bones and joints, even mentioning fractures of the nasal bones and of the vertebrae. In fact ‘Kocher’s method’ for reducing a dislocated shoulder was described in At-Tasrif long before Kocher was born!

El Zahrawi was the first to describe the so-called “Walcher position” in obstetrics; the first to depict dental arches, tongue depressors and lead catheters and the first to describe clearly the hereditary circumstances surrounding haemophilia. He also described ligaturing of blood vessels long before Ambroise Pare.

He perfected several delicate operations, including removal of the dead fetus and amputation.

Al-Tasrif was first translated by Gherard of Cremona into Latin in the Middle Ages and followed by several other editors in Europe. The book contains numerous diagrams and illustrations of surgical instruments, in use or developed by him, and comprised a part of the medical curriculum in European countries for many centuries. Contrary to the view that the Muslims fought shy of surgery, Al-Zahrawi’s Al-Tasrif provided a monumental collection for this branch of applied science. Al-Zahrawi was the inventor of several surgical instruments, of which three are notable: an instrument for internal examination of the ear, an instrument for internal inspection of the urethra, and an instrument for applying or removing foreign bodies from the throat. He specialized in curing disease by cauterization and applied the technique in as many as 50 different operations. In his book Al-Tasrif, Al-Zahrawi has also discussed the preparation of various medicines, in addition to a comprehensive account of surgical treatment in specialized branches, whose modern counterparts are E.N.T., Ophthalmology, etc. In connection with the preparation of medicines, he also described in detail the application of such techniques as sublimation and decantation. Perhaps the most importance treatise is the one on surgery and surgical instruments. This monumental work was the first in Arabic to treat surgery independently and in detail. It included many pictures of surgical instruments, most invented by El Zahrawi himself, and explanations of their use. El Zahrawi was the first medical author to provide illustrations of instruments used in surgery. There are approximately 200 such drawings ranging from a tongue depressor and a tooth extractor to a catheter and an elaborate obstetric device. This shows that Al-Zahrawi was also an expert in dentistry. He discussed the problem of non-aligned or deformed teeth and how to rectify these defects. He developed the technique of preparing artificial teeth and of replacement of defective teeth by these. In medicine, he was the first to describe in detail the unusual disease, hemophilia.

It goes without saying 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 five centuries. According to Dr. Cambell (History of Arab Medicine), his principles of medical science surpassed those of Galen in the European medical curriculum. Once At-Tasrif was translated into Latin in the 12th century, El Zahrawi had a tremendous influence on surgery in the West. The French surgeon Guy de Chauliac in his ‘Great Surgery’, completed in about 1363, quoted At-Tasrif over 200 times. El Zahrawi was described by Pietro Argallata as “without doubt the chief of all surgeons”. Jaques Delechamps (1513-1588), another French surgeon, made extensive use of At-Tasrif in his elaborate commentary, confirming the great prestige of El Zahrawi throughout the Middle Ages and up to the Renaissance. He was, without any iota of doubt, the father of surgery.

ABUL WAFA MUHAMMAD AL-BUZJANI

Abul Wafa Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Yahya Ibn Ismail al-Buzjani was born in Buzjan, Nishapur in 940. He flourished as a great mathematician and astronomer at Baghdad and died in 998. He learnt mathematics in Baghdad. In 959 he migrated to Iraq and lived there till his death.

  • Abul Wafa’s main contributions lie in several branches of mathematics, especially geometry and trigonometry. Some of his contributions in geometry are described below:
  • The solution of geometrical problems with opening of a compass. The construction of a square equivalent to other squares. Regular polyhedron.
  • Construction of a regular hexagon by taking for its side half the side of the equilateral triangle inscribed in the same circle. Constructions of parabola by points
  • Geometrical solution of the equations: x4 = a and x4 + ax3 = b Abul Wafa’s contribution to the development of trigonometry was extensive. He was the first to show the generality of the sine theorem relative to spherical triangles. He developed a new method of constructing sine tables, the value of sin 30′ being correct to the eighth decimal place. He also developed relations for sine (a+b) and the formula:
  • 2 sin2 (a/2) = 1 – cos a , and sin a = 2 sin (a/2) cos (a/2)

He made a special study of the tangent and calculated the table of tangents. He introduced the secant and cosecant for the first time, knew the relations between the trigonometric lines, which are now used to define them, and undertook extensive studies on conics.

Besides being a mathematician, Abul Wafa also contributed to astronomy. In this field he discussed different movements of the moon, and discovered ‘variation’. Interestingly, according to Sedat, what he discovered was the same as what was discovered by Tycho Brache six centuries later. He was also one of the last Arabic translators and commentators of Greek works. He wrote a large number of books on mathematics and other subjects, most of which have been lost or exist in modified forms. His contributions include Kitab ‘Ilm al-Hisab, a practical book of arithmetic, al-Kitab al-Kamil (the Complete Book), Kitab al-Handsa (Applied Geometry). Apart from this, he wrote rich commentaries on Euclid, Diophantos and al-Khawarizimi, but all of these have been lost. Nonetheless, his contribution to trigonometry was extremely significant in that he developed the knowledge on the tangent and introduced the secant and cosecant for the first time; in fact a sizeable part of today’s trigonometry can be traced back to him.

ABU ALI HASAN IBN AL-HAITHAM

Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham was one of the most eminent physicists, whose contributions to optics and the scientific methods are outstanding. Known in the West as Alhazen, Ibn al-Haitham was born in 965 in Basrah, and was educated in Basrah and Baghdad. Thereafter, he went to Egypt, where he was asked to find ways of controlling the flood of the Nile. Being unsuccessful in this project, he feigned madness until the death of Caliph al-Hakim. During this period, he had ample time for his scientific pursuits, which included optics, mathematics, physics, medicine and development of scientific methods on each of which he has left several outstanding books.

He made a thorough examination of the passage of light through various media and discovered the laws of refraction and carried out the first experiments on the dispersion of light into its constituent colors. His book Kitab-al-Manadhir was translated into Latin and exerted a great influence upon Western science e.g. on the work of Roger Bacon and Kepler. His research in catoptrics centered on spherical and parabolic mirrors and spherical aberration. It brought about great progress in experimental methods. He also wrote a book dealing with the colors of sunset. He dealt at length with the theory of various physical phenomena like shadows, eclipses, the rainbow, and speculated on the physical nature of light. He is the first to describe accurately the various parts of the eye and give a scientific explanation of the process of vision. He also attempted to explain binocular vision, and gave a correct explanation of the apparent increase in size of the sun and the moon when near the horizon. He is known for the earliest use of the camera obscura and later on the invention of the camera was based upon his theory. He contradicted Ptolemy’s and Euclid’s theory of vision that objects are seen by rays of light emanating from the eyes; according to him the rays originate in the object of vision and not in the eye. Through these extensive researches on optics, he has been considered as the father of modern Optics.

He made the important observation that the ratio between the angle of incidence and refraction does not remain constant and investigated the magnifying power of a lens. His studied the important problem known as Alhazen’s problem. In his book Mizan al-Hikmah Ibn al-Haitham discussed the density of the atmosphere and developed a relation between it and the height. He also studied atmospheric refraction. He discovered that the twilight only ceases or begins when the sun is 19° below the horizon and attempted to measure the height of the atmosphere on that basis. He has also discussed the theories of attraction between masses, and it seems that he was aware of the magnitude of acceleration due to gravity.

His contribution to mathematics and physics was extensive. In mathematics, he developed analytical geometry by establishing a link between algebra and geometry. He studied the mechanics of motion of a body and was the first to maintain that a body moves perpetually unless an external force stops it or changes its direction of motion. This would seem equivalent to the first law of motion. The list of his books runs to 200 or so in number, only a few of which have survived. Even his monumental treatise on optics survived through its Latin translation. During the Middle Ages his books on cosmology were translated into Latin, Hebrew and other languages. He has also written on the subject of evolution – a book that deserves serious attention even today. In his writings, one can see a clear development of the scientific methods as developed and applied by the Muslims and comprising the systematic observation of physical phenomena and their linking together into a scientific theory. This was a major breakthrough in scientific methodology, as distinct from guess and gesture, and placed scientific research on a sound foundation comprising systematic relationship between observation, hypothesis and verification.

Ibn al-Haitham’s influence on physical sciences in general, and optics in particular, has been held in high esteem due to the fact that it ushered in a new era in optical research, both in theory and practice.

ABU AL-HASAN AL-MAWARDI

Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Habib al-Mawardi was born at Basrah in 972. His proficiency in Fiqah (Islamic Jurisprudence), Ethics, Political science and literature proved useful in securing a respectable career for him. After his initial appointment as Qadi (Judge), he was gradually promoted to higher offices, till he became the Chief Justice at Baghdad. The Abbasid Caliph al-Qaim bi Amr Allah appointed him as his roving ambassador and sent him to a number of countries as the head of special missions. In this capacity he played a key role in establishing harmonious relations between the declining Abbasid Caliphate and the rising powers of Buwahids and Seljukes. He was favored with rich gifts and tributes by most Sultans of the time. He was still in Baghdad when it was taken over by Buwahids. Al-Mawardi died in 1058.

Al-Mawardi was a great jurist, mohaddith, sociologist and an expert in Political Science. His book Al-Hawi on the principles of jurisprudence is held in high repute. His contribution in political science and sociology comprises a number of monumental books, the most famous of which are Kitab al-Ahkam al-Sultania, Qanun al-Wazarah, and Kitab Nasihat al-Mulk. Two of these books, al-Ahkam al-Sultania and Qanun al-Wazarah have been published and also translated into various languages. He is considered as being the author/supporter of the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ in political science. He was thus in favor of a strong caliphate and discouraged unlimited powers delegated to the Governors, which tended to create chaos. On the other hand, he laid down clear principles for election of the caliph and qualities of the voters, chief among which are attainment of a degree of intellectual level and purity of character.

In ethics, he wrote Kitab Aadab al-Dunya wa al-Din, which became a widely popular book on the subject and is still read in some Islamic countries. Al-Mawardi has been considered as one of the most famous thinkers in political science in the middle ages. His original work influenced the development of this science, together with the science of sociology, which was further developed later on by Ibn Khaldun.

ABU RAIHAN AL-BIRUNI

Abu Raihan Mohammad Ibn Ahmad al-Biruni was one of the well-known figures associated with the court of King Mahmood Ghaznawi, one of the famous Muslim kings of the 11th century. Al-Biruni was a versatile scholar and scientist in physics, metaphysics, mathematics, geography and history. Born in the city of Kheva near “Ural” in 973 he was a contemporary of the well-known physician Ibn Sina. At an early age, the fame of his scholarship went around and when Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi conquered his homeland, he took al-Biruni along with him in his journeys to India several times and thus he had the opportunity to travel all over India during a period of 20 years. He learnt Hindu philosophy, mathematics, geography and religion from three Pandits to whom he taught Greek, Arabic, science and philosophy. He died in 1048 after having spent 40 years in gathering knowledge and making his own original contributions.

He recorded observations of his travels through India in his well-known book Kitab al-Hind. This book gives a graphic account of the historical and social conditions of the sub-continent. At the end of this book he makes a mention of having translated two Sanskrit books into Arabic, one called Sakaya, which deals with the creation of things and their types, and the second, Patanjal dealing with what happens after the spirit leaves the body. His descriptions of India were so complete that even the Aein-i-Akbari written by Abu-al- Fadal during the reign of Akbar, 600 years later, owes a great deal to al-Biruni’s book. On his return from India, al-Biruni wrote his famous book Qanun-i Masoodi (al-Qanun al-Masudi, fi al-Hai’a wa al-Nujum), which he dedicated to Sultan Masood. The book discusses several theories of astronomy, trigonometry, solar, lunar, and planetary motions and relative topics. In another well-known book al-Athar al-Baqia, he attempted an account of ancient history of nations and the related geographical knowledge. In this book, he discussed the rotation of the earth and gave correct values of latitudes and longitudes of various places. He also made considerable contribution to several aspects of physical and economic geography in this book.

His other scientific contributions include the accurate determination of the densities of 18 different stones. He also wrote the Kitab-al-Saidana, which is an extensive materia medica that combines the then existing Arabic knowledge on the subject with Indian medicine. His book the Kitab-al-Jamahir deals with the properties of various precious stones. He was also an astrologer and is reputed to have astonished people by the accuracy of his predictions. He gave a clear account of Hindu numerals, elaborating the principle of position.

He developed a method for trisection of angle and other problems, which cannot be solved with a ruler and a compass alone. He ascertained that the speed of the light is faster than that of sound. His scientific method, taken together with that of other Muslim scientists, such as Ibn al-Haitham, laid down the early foundation of modern science. Al-Biruni discussed, centuries before the rest of the world, the question whether the earth rotates around its axis or not. He was the first to undertake experiments related to astronomical phenomena. He explained the working of natural springs and artesian wells by the hydrostatic principle of communicating vessels. He observed that flowers have 3,4,5,6, or 18 petals, but never 7 or 9.

He wrote a number of books and treatises. Apart from Kitab-al- Hind (History and Geography of India), al-Athar al-Baqia (Ancient History and Geography), Kitab al-Saidana (Materia Medica) and his book al-Tafhim-li-Awail Sina’at al-Tanjim gives a summary of mathematics and astronomy. Some of Al-Biruni’s important works are:

  • Canon, his most comprehensive study of astronomy Kitab al-Jawahir, which records specific gravities of various metals, liquids, and gems
  • Astrolabe, one of the most valuable descriptions of that astronomical instrument
  • Pharmacology, which contains more than 700 descriptions of drugs India, his best-known work, in which he used his knowledge of Sanskrit to describe Indian customs, languages, science, and geography.

He has been considered as one of the greatest Muslim scientists, and, all considered, one of the greatest of all times.

His critical spirit, love of truth, and scientific approach were combined with a sense of toleration. His enthusiasm for knowledge may be judged from his claim that the phrase Allah is Omniscient does not justify ignorance.

IBN SINA

Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina was born in 980 at Afshana near Bukhara. The young Bu Ali received his early education in Bukhara. In any age Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, would have been a giant among giants. He displayed exceptional intellectual prowess as a child and at the age of ten was already proficient in the Qur’an and the Arabic classics. He started studying philosophy by reading various Greek, Muslim and other books on this subject and learnt logic and other subjects from Abu Abdallah Natili, a famous philosopher of the time. At the age of 17, he was fortunate in curing Nooh Ibn Mansoor, the King of Bukhhara, of an illness in which all the well-known physicians had given up hope. On his recovery, the King wished to reward him, but the young physician only desired permission to use royal library that contained many rare and unique books.

On his father’s death, Bu Ali left Bukhara and travelled to Jurjan where Khawarizm Shah welcomed him. There, he met his famous contemporary al-Biruni. Later he moved to Ray and then to Hamadan, where he wrote his famous book Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine). It was long preeminent in the Middle East and in Europe as a textbook. It is significant as a systematic classification and summary of medical and pharmaceutical knowledge up to and including Avicenna’s time. The first Latin translation of the work was made in the 12th century, the Hebrew version appeared in 1491, and the Arabic text in 1593, the second text ever printed in Arabic. He continued traveling and the excessive mental exertion as well as political turmoil spoilt his health. Finally, he returned to Hamadan where he died in 1037.

He was the most famous physician, philosopher, encyclopaedist, mathematician and astronomer of his time. His major contribution to medical science was his famous book al-Qanun, known as the “Canon” in the West. The Qanun fi al-Tibb is an immense encyclopedia of medicine extending over a million words. It surveyed the entire medical knowledge available from ancient and Muslim sources. Due to its systematic approach, “formal perfection as well as its intrinsic value, the Qanun superseded Razis Hawi, Ali Ibn Abbas’s Maliki, and even the works of Galen, and remained supreme for six centuries”. In addition to bringing together the then available knowledge, the book is rich with the author’s original contribution. His important original contribution includes such advances as recognition of the contagious nature of phthisis and tuberculosis; distribution of diseases by water and soil, and interaction between psychology and health. In addition to describing pharmacological methods, the book described 760 drugs and became the most authentic materia medica of the era. Of Ibn Sina’s 16 medical works, eight are versified treatises on such matter as the 25 signs indicating the fatal termination of illnesses, hygienic precepts, proved remedies, anatomical memoranda etc. He was also the first to describe meningitis and made rich contributions to anatomy, gynecology and child health. His philosophical encyclopedia Kitab al-Shifa was a monumental work, embodying a vast field of knowledge from philosophy to science.

Ibn Sina noted the close relationship between emotions and the physical condition and felt that music had a definite physical and psychological effect on patients. Of the many psychological disorders that he described in the Qanun, one is of unusual interest: love sickness! Ibn Sina is reputed to have diagnosed this condition in a Prince in Jurjan who lay sick and whose malady had baffled local doctors. Ibn Sina noted a fluttering in the Prince’s pulse when the address and name of his beloved were mentioned. The great doctor had a simple remedy: unite the sufferer with the beloved. His philosophy synthesizes Aristotelian tradition, Neoplatonic influences and Muslim theology. Ibn Sina also contributed to mathematics, physics, music and other fields. He explained the “casting out of nines” and its application to the verification of squares and cubes. In physics, his contribution comprised the study of different forms of energy, heat, light and mechanics, and such concepts as force, vacuum and infinity. He made the important observation that if the perception of light is due to the emission of some sort of particles by the luminous source, the speed of light must be finite. He propounded an interconnection between time and motion, and also made investigations on specific gravity and used an air thermometer.

In the field of music, his contribution was an improvement over Farabi’s work and was far ahead of knowledge prevailing elsewhere on the subject. Doubling with the fourth and fifth was a great step towards the harmonic system and doubling with the third seems to have also been allowed. Ibn Sina observed that in the series of consonances represented by (n + 1)/n, the ear is unable to distinguish them when n = 45. In the field of chemistry, he did not believe in the possibility of chemical transmutation because, in his opinion, the metals differed in a fundamental sense. These views were radically opposed to those prevailing at the time. His treatise on minerals was one of the main sources of geology of the Christian encyclopaedists of the thirteenth century. Besides Shifa his well-known treatises in philosophy are al-Najat and Isharat.

Ibn al-Nafis (1205-1288)

Ibn al-Nafis also known as Al- Qurayshi, was an ancient Islamic physician and expert on the Shafii school of Islamic law. Ibn al-Nafis is remembered for his numerous contributions to medicine, particularly the first description of pulmonary circulation—that is, the movement of blood from the right to the left ventricles of the heart via the lungs. Ibn al-Nafis, whose full name was Ala-ad-Din Abu al-Ala Ali Ibn Abi al-Haram al-Qurayshi ad-Dimashqi ibn an-Nafis, was born in Damascus, Syria, where he later studied medicine. His professional career was centered in Egypt, where he served as the chief of physicians and subsequently as the head of the Nasiri Hospital in Cairo.

Ibn al-Nafis is best known for his writings on physiology and medicine. His book Sharh Tashrih al-Qunun described pulmonary circulation centuries before noted English physician William Harvey described the circulation of blood in 1628. His voluminous book on the art of medicine, titled Kitab al Shamil, featured sections on surgical techniques and the obligations of surgeons to their patients. Other works by Ibn al-Nafis included treatises on eye disease and the diet, as well as commentaries on the medical writings of ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.

Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam (1050-1122) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and author of one of the world’s best-known works of poetry. He was born in Nishapur, now in Iran; his name means Omar the Tentmaker. As astronomer to the royal court, he was engaged with several other scientists to reform the calendar; their work resulted in the adoption of a new era, called the Jalalian or the Seljuk. As a writer on astronomy, algebra, geometry, and related subjects, Omar was one of the most notable mathematicians of his time. The Persian mathematician showed how to express roots of cubic equations by line segments obtained by intersecting conic sections, but he could not find a formula for the roots. A Latin translation of Al-Khwarizmi’s Algebra appeared in the 12th century. He is, however, most famous as the author of the Rubáiyát. About 1000 of these epigrammatic four-line stanzas, which reflect upon nature and humanity, are ascribed to him. The English poet and translator Edward Fitzgerald was the first to introduce Omar to the West through a version (1859) of 100 of the quatrains. This version is a paraphrase, often very close, that despite its flowery rhymed verse captures the spirit of the original.

Bibliography