Take a moment and think about the things surrounding you. Maybe it’s your morning cup of coffee, or a new tab open of your bank account, or art hanging on the wall across your desk.
Do you ever wonder where these daily necessities came from? These are only a few of the many things Muslims have invented throughout our history.
This month we celebrate Islamic history by recognizing only a few of the significant contributions Muslims have had, not only to society but to humanity at large.
The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said:
“There are certain people whom Allāh chooses from amongst the masses to give them blessings so that they can be at the assistance of others. Allāh will keep such blessings with them so long as they continue using them to assist others. If they stop doing so, however, it is taken away from them and given to somebody else.” Narrated by At-Tabārani
In this article, we will look at the different ways Muslims have benefited society in hopes to be inspired by our past and provide more to our communities.
Here is a list of what I believe are 10 Muslim Inventions That Helped Shape The World.
Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, also known as Albucasis, was a great product of the time and place he was raised.
At the heart of Andalusia was the great city of Córdoba, which in the 10th century was one of the world’s most populous cities and an international center of art, science, culture, and economic growth.
Around the year 1000, Dr. Al-Zahrawi published a 1,500 page illustrated encyclopedia of surgery that was used as a medical reference in Europe for the next 500 years.
Ever wonder where your Tim Hortons cup of coffee came from?
Historians agree that coffee drinking began in Yemen in the middle of the fifteenth century and by the 16th century, it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Back when coffee was called the Arabic name qahwa, it was drunk by Sufi monks who were the first ever to brew the drink.
Today, coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world, second only to petroleum.
Many are surprised to learn that the first man to ever fly did it six hundred years before Leonardo da Vinci developed his designs for flying machines, and more than a thousand years before the Wright brothers made their famous flight.
It all began in the year 810 when a man by the name of Abbas ibn Firnas was born in Malaga Spain. He was a scientist, inventor, poet, philosopher, alchemist, and astrologer.
Aside from his many contributions to society he was the first to design, build, and successfully test artifacts that remained in a flight lasting between 2-10 minutes.
The world’s first-ever university wasn’t Oxford or Harvard, it was the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco.
Established in the year 859, by a brilliant woman by the name of Fatima al-Fihri the University of al-Qarawiyyin was the first degree-granting educational institute in the world.
Seeking knowledge is highly valued in Islam. The first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammed PBUH in the Quran was Iqra meaning to “read.”
Fatima, being a strong believer and devout Muslim, was committed to advocating intellectual advancement. This led to the foundation of the oldest university and a source of inspiration for all.
The Muslim scholar named Abu Ali al Hasan ibn al-Haytham was a pioneering scientific thinker who made great contributions to the understanding of optics, vision, and light.
An important observation in his seven-volume series on optics, “Kitab Al Manazer” led him to propose that the eyes receive light reflected from objects, rather than emanating light themselves, contradicting modern-day belief at the time.
Ibn Al-Haytham’s series which he wrote while incarcerated between 1011 to 1021, has been ranked alongside Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica as one of the most influential books ever written in physics.
This list would not be complete without the mention of the father of algebra, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, Latinized as Algorithmi.
He was the first to introduce raising a number to the power. His work offered answers for rules on inheritance, land distribution, and salary distribution. He also developed the concept of the algorithm in mathematics, which is why some have called him the “grandfather of computer science.”
Modern science would not be complete without the work this man has provided.
Islam has given so much importance to cleanliness internally and externally as it is considered to be a part of faith.
The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: “The taking of a bath on Friday is compulsory for every male Muslim who has attained the age of puberty and (also) the cleaning of his teeth with Miswaak (a type of twig used as a toothbrush), and the using of perfume if it is available.” (Recorded in Sahih Bukhari)
In the 10th century, Islam played a pivotal role in introducing revolutionary concepts of purity and cleanliness. Muslims during the time made soap by mixing olive oil with a salt-like substance. This was then boiled to achieve the right mix, left to become solid, and used in washrooms.
Alkindi, a chemist and the founder of the perfume industry, carried out extensive research and experiments in combining various plants and other sources to produce a variety of scent products. His book named ‘Book of the Chemistry Perfume and Distillations’ contained more than a hundred recipes for fragrant oils, salves, and aromatic waters.
One of the world’s most influential scientists/philosophers Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) was born during the Islamic Golden Age.
He is known for composing the book The Canon of Medicine which is now credited as forming the basis of Western medicine.
Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine presented a clear and organized summary of all the medical knowledge of the time, including a long list of drugs, several hundred substances, and treatments of different illnesses.
Astronomy may be the oldest science in the world dating back to nearly 5,000 years ago, however Muslims contributed a vast amount to this branch of knowledge.
While Europe was in an intellectual coma, the Islamic empire which stretched from Moorish Spain to Egypt and even China was entering its “Golden Age.”
Astronomers like Ibn Yunus from Egypt found faults in previous calculations about the movements of the planets. Scientists like Nasir al-Din al-Tusi created the famous mathematical device (the Tusi Couple) that helped explain the apparent linear motion of certain heavenly bodies on the basis of circular motion.
A millennia later, around 200 stars bear the Arabic names of astronomers who made significant contributions to the field. On the surface of the moon, there are twenty-four craters named after the Muslim astronomers who’ve paved the way for modern science and astronomy.
Most historians believe that it was the Crusaders who introduced windmills to Europe in the 12th century.
The first windmill was brought by a Persian who had come to Umar Ibn al Khattab (RA) around the year 634 and claimed he could build a mill operated by the wind. Umar (RA), who was the caliph of the time, ordered him to have one built.
After this, wind power became widely used to run millstones, grind grain, and to draw up water for crops.
Just as these Muslims strived for the heights without tarnishing their morals and values we must do our best to excel in each of our respective fields without sacrificing our faith and beliefs.
The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” (Daraqutni, Hasan)
May Allah grant us all the ability to excel in our careers, seek knowledge, and provide most to our communities.