The Golden Age of Islam series ( contd)
Another important contribution by Medieval Muslim Scientists was in the field of Ophthalmology.
The Muslim eye surgeons between 10th & 13 th Centuries were performing operations and writing about their findings. In all 30 books were written out of them 14 are still exists today.
” During the total darkness in Medieval Europe the Muslims lighted and fed the lamps of Ophthalmology ” Proffeor J. Hirschberg addressing American Medical Association in 1905.
Noted contribution in this field of Science was done my al – Mawsili – Ali ibn Isa – Al Razi – Muhammad ibn Qasim.
In Tenth Century Spain was a cutting the edge surgeon named Abdul Qasim al Zahrawi (known Abdulcasis in Europe)He is credited with developing over two hundred surgical tools.
Using instruments for surgery was a revolutionary concept because it enabled science to change from speculative to experimental.
In his book al – Tasrif a section is devoted to designing of surgery instruments and the surprising fact is that the designs are so accurate that they had only a few changes in following thousand years !!
Al – Zahrawi has a list of many first in Surgery. To name just one, he introduced catgut for internal stitching, which was in use till recently when synthetic absorber polymers were developed recently.
Be Amazed ! That is the purpose of my reading and sharing !
LEARNING & TEACHING
The Islamic ethos of learning was a culture where enquiring minds searched for truths based on scientific rigour …
Khalil Gibran – ‘ If he the teacher is indeed wise, he does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom ( which means he does not dish out knowledge in a platter as with modern day students studying Teacher’s Notes) but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. ( similar to education imparted in reputed IVY Colleges and premier educational institutes around the world.)
Just to name a few of the luminaries of Medieval Islam. Banu Musa Brothers. ( The book of Indigenous Devises) Mohammad, Ahmed and al – Hasan who were mathematicians of repute.al – Khawarizmi the father of Algebra.al – Kindi the inventor of decryption and musical theory.
The knowledge based on Quranic Teachings – The Rasail Ikhwan as Shafa ( Brothers of Purity) a collection of 52 epistles, was a treasure trove of Revealed Knowledge.
On my home page www.hikmaah.com in the section – The Great Muslim Scientist and Philosopher our Imam Jafar as Sadiq ( SA) I have written in great detail how our Imams ( SA) led the strong foundation of Learning.
The momentous intellectual awakening was the direct result of the untiring and ceaseless efforts made by Ahle Bait ( SA)
Jabir bin Hayyan ( known as Gaber in Europe) who wrote 120 volumes on Chemistry was a student of our Imam Jafar as Sadiq ( SA) and so were many other intellectual luminaries.
I would highly recommend to those who may be interested to know more to click on my home page and read about the contribution towards Learning and Teaching by Ahle Bait ( AS) in this month of Rajab al asab.
Rajab is derivative of Arabic verb rajaba is “to respect” to be in awe. So let us learn more in this month and show respect and reverence to Islamic Teachings, the doyens were our beloved Nabi ( SA) and Moulana Ali ( SA) and to be proud of our rich Heritage, and who knows you or some one from your family, from your lineage turns out to be a true torch bearer of ILM.
Sharing my personal experience in how learning happens. Apologies for making this ‘post’ wee bit long.
My quest to understand the meaning of ‘ Rajab’ started a chain of reflections. Rajab means the month of ‘ respect’ and to be ‘ in awe’
So during this month I have decided to be ‘ in awe’ of the azeem Ne’amats of ALLAH and our beloved Aqa Moula ( TUS)
To be ‘ in awe’ of our rich tradition and culture, to be ‘ in awe’ of a child’s innocent smile, to be ‘ in awe’ of the grit and determination of Farmers etc: You can reflect and find out what makes you look ‘ in awe’.
Hope my readers will also live a life of awe and wonder and in so doing ‘ shukr’ will be the outcome.
Libraries & Book Shops.
Arabic Proverb. Buy Books and write down knowledge, for weather is transitory, but knowledge is lasting.
There can be no education without books.
Right from 8th Century Muslims began producing Books, as they knew paper making, and they received encouragement from the State to record all their experiments.
The attachment to Books meant Muslims loved collecting Books and establishing public and private libraries.
Public Book Collections were so wide spread that many masjids, learning centres had attached libraries.
Before Mongols burnt down Bagdad in 1258 AD there were thirty six libraries in the city !!
Edward Gibbon, a historian tells about a private doctor who had a collection of books that would make a load for 40 camels !!
The celebrated Book Shop of Ibn al Nadim the 10th Century bibilophile and bookseller, occupied entire upper floor of the a building, where buyers came to examine manuscripts, enjoy refreshments and exchange ideas. !!
The same set up as seen in modern day Cross Words.
The catalogue ( Al – Firhist) of Nadeem contained more than sixty thousand titles on an unlimited range of subjects.
Read with awe the description of a tenth century Library complex in Shiraz. Iran by historian Muqadsasi.
‘ buildings surrounded by gardens and lakes and waterways .. topped with domes, comprising of upper and lower floors with a total of 360 rooms !!
The books were arranged in different sections as in our Modern Libraries.
People borrowed books. One Medieval historian Yaqut said that he borrowed 200 books to read without signing a pledge
Our Fatimid Imams ( SA) were great patrons of learning and in 1050 AD the famous al – Azhar library had a total of 120 thousand volumes recorded in a 60 volume catalogue, totaling about 3500 pages – just the list of collection. !!
Professor Heinz Halm in his book writes in great detail mainly on the Fatimids’ varied contributions to Islamic culture and civilization and their patronage of learning.
He goes on to write that in accordance with Shari’a, the State offered free public education to all Muslims, including women for whom special classes were held; the latter provided research facilities for scholars in the non–religious sciences, such as medicine, astronomy, mathematics, philology, logic, and the like. Both institutions ( al Azhar and Darul Hikmaah) were liberally endowed by the state and their teaching staff received regular remuneration.
Schools & Colleges
By 15th Century the Ottomans had revolutionized schools by setting learning complexes in towns. Their school system was called ‘ Kulliye’ a campus like education institute with Masjid, hospital, school, public kitchen and dining area etc: ( Like our Jamiah )
The Faith Kulliye in Istanbul was one such complex with sixteen schools teaching science and theology !!
All the schools were funded by Waqf. Because education was held in such high regard, donations were generous and learning flourished.
Ibn al Haitham who discovered how we see, taught at al – Azhar.
Another noteworthy institute of learning was the Masjid College campus was at Fez – Morocco in 859 AD. Fatima al Fihri a well educated pious young women vowed to spend her entire heritance received from his successful father on providing education.
So overwhelming was the number of applicants that the university had to introduce rigorous selection system. !!The condition included learning the entire Quran and good knowledge of Arabic and general sciences.
The teaching was in study group known as ‘ halaqat al – ilm in short ‘halaqat’
Interesting nugget : The word Chairman or Chair Person is directly related to the method of teaching a thousand years ago in Muslim Colleges.
The Teacher was always seated on a high Chair ( Kursi) surrounded by his students in front of him. There are many illustrations of renowned teachers sitting on high chairs and imparting knowledge.
BOTANY – the scientific study of plants and the use of plants in medicine went hand in hand. At the same time Chemistry was advancing at an incredible rate.
One of the best herbal book was written by al – Ghafiqi – The Book of simple Drugs, in the 12 th Century.
THE PHARMACY In 9th Century Bagdad pharmacists were prescribing drugs for Healing. They had their own dispensaries and manufacturing.
The notable contributors in this field besides Bu Ali Sina were al Razi, al Kindi who determined exact dosage to be applied.
In 11th Century al Baruni wrote one of the valuable book in the field called – The Book of Pharmacology, giving details of drugs, and the functions and duties of a pharmacist.
Now when you pop pills spare a thought for the pioneer. Al Al Zahrawi of Spain pioneered preperation of medicine by sublimation and distillation, which meant a whole range of new drugs could be produced.
He was credited with storing drugs in cat gut which could be swallowed !!
Another noteworthy was Abu al Mansur Muwaffaq in the 10th Century.
All these early treaties were avidly read by Europeans in the 13 th Century that helped them to dispense medicine.
How highly regarded was the findings of these Muslim pioneers in medicine can be understood by the fact that The Book of Simple Drugs by Ibn al Wafid was translated fifty times over the course of years in Latin.
As late as 1977 Muslim Pharmacy was revived by American Historian Martin Levey who researched on hugh list of drugs and treatments and published after translating from Arabic Texts.
From his pioneering work we come to understand that in the Muslim lands a thousand years ago, the populace was not suffering but finding cure and healing.
The hard pioneering work of Muslim medics greatly improved the general health of the masses.
Even the Crusaders who fought against the Muslims were in awe of the treatment they received. Richard the Lion Hearted was also healed by a Muslim medic. !
The direct result of development of Astronomy can be attributed to the need of the Muslims to determine the time of namaz depending on the Sun’s position in the sky during dawn, midday, sunset and the need to know the direction of Makkah to offer their daily namaz.
The other direct result was as Muslim Calender is based on Lunar year, the movement of the moon became observable study.
From this two basic religious concern rose the science of Astronomy a thousand years ago, and what they observed, noted and found out, lasted for more than a thousand years !!
My ‘AHA ! ‘ moment. Upholding the tenets of Deen like namaz and determining the month of Ramazan led to vast discovery in Astronomy.
The famous Copernicus refers repeatedly to the findings and writings of al- Zarqali and al- Batani, the Muslim astronomers of 10 th & 11 th Century. !!
Observing the sky was an intense activity for Muslims.
Al – Batani’s Sabian Tables was an influential work for centuries after him
Al – Biruni ( 973 – 1048 AD) stated that our Earth rotated around it’s own axis, and calculated the Earth’s circumference and fixed scientifically the direction of Makkah from any point of the Earth.
In all he wrote 150 works, 35 on pure astronomy, sadly only 6 have survived in modern times.
Ibn Yunus made observations for nearly 30 years from 977 AD using a large astrolabe ( Google it ) 1.4 meters in diameter. He recorded more than ten thousand entries of the Sun’s position.
Ibn Rushd in the 12 th Century known in the West as Averroes was a most famous Doctor, but he was also an astronomer of repute and discovered sunspot.
Jabir ibn Aflah was the first to design a portable celestial sphere to measure celestial coordinates. He is recognised for his work on spherical trigonometry.
Readers who may be interested may Google other noteworthy Muslim astronomers like Al – Farghani, Al – Zarqali, Ibn al Shatir.
The astronomical terms ‘ zenith’ ‘azimuth’ and name of some stars are of Arabic origin.
The first observatory near Baghdad was opend in 828 AD and there were many around the Muslim lands in following centuries.
The first German and probably first European Observatory was built at Kassel in 1558 AD !!
Earth Science – Minerology
There were many Muslim pioneers in this field, but two names stand out.
Bu Ali Sina & Al – Baruni. Bu Ali Sina was a true product of Muslim Civilization at the height of it’s scientific growth.
In his Book of Cure there is an important chapter on mineralogy and meteorology, where he presented a complete coverage of the knowledge of his day regarding what happens on earth.
The Latin translation of his Book influenced 15th Century Leonardo da Vinci, 17th Century Steno and 18th Century James Hutton !!
Al Biruni was a contemporary of Ibn Sina and spent much time in India studying the people, religions and places.
His famous mineralogy work which influenced later century pioneers in the field was – Treatises on how to Recognise Gems.
Honourable mentions in this field are :
Yahya ibn Masawayh ( died 857 AD) who wrote on Gems and Their Properties.
Al Kindi ( died 873 AD) wrote three monographs, sadly all lost.
Al Hamdani a 10th Century scholar wrote three books describes method of exploration of gold, silver and other minerals and gems.
The 10th Century Ikhwan al Safa ( Brothers of Purity) wrote an encyclopaedic work on the subject.
Muslims were guided by the teachings of Islam to reflect on the ‘ayaats of Allah ‘ in Quran and they did so sincerely and thus contributed immensely in this field.
I am wondering how many of my readers may be interested in the Series. However, I am indebted to all those whome I forward my post, as I consider it as an act of Iba’dat in the month of Rajab – the month of Ali Moula ( SA) the Al Kauser of Knowledge from which the various fountains of knowledge for ever will keep springing up till day of Akherat.
In the thousand years there are many illustrious Muslim pioneers in all field of Science.
Mine is a humble act of taking a mere drop and sharing. I conclude this series with Hamd & Shukr.
All my Series posts will be uploaded on my home page www.hikmaah.com where it can be shared and read in future.
Truly indebted for helping me in my Iba’dat.
The Golden Age of Islam series ( contd)