Select Page
Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

By Saheeh International

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic HistoryThe frameworks of Islamic thought represent a comprehensive view of the life and the universe. A Muslim is thereof required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge; in fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpass other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.

Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.

While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few. Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra. Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.

Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much the earth´s population. Even something as simple so simple as a glass can be filled either with nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teaching.

A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is the right for all individuals and the intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualifies people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since ever society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.

Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the world. Prophet Muhammad said, ”For one who treads a path to knowledge, God will make it easy the path to paradise.” And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:

Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s sovereignty) for people who have sense. (Al-Baqarah 2:164)

Say, Are those who know equal to those who do not know? (Az-Zumar 39:9)

God will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58:11)

Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that given human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate. This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 15 centuries ago:

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is truth. (Fussilat 41:53)

Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.

There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increase the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam activity encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.

To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.



Soucre Link
Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

By Salah Zaimeche

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 2History books in schools usually convey the notion that the agricultural revolution took place in recent times in the form of rotation of crops, advanced irrigation techniques, plant improvements, etc… some such changes only taking place in the last couple of centuries in Europe, and some even taking place nowadays.

It is explained that such revolutionary changes fed the increasing European population, released vast numbers from the land and allowed agriculture to produce a capital surplus, which was invested in industry, thus leading to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th century.

This is the accepted wisdom until one comes across works on Muslim agriculture and discovers that such changes took place over ten centuries ago in the Muslim world, some such changes being the foundations of much of what we have today.

Watson, Glick and Bolens, in particular, indeed, show that the major breakthroughs were achieved by Muslim farmers on the land, and by Muslim scholars with their treatises on the subject.

Thus, as with other subjects, prejudice distorts history, Muslim achievements of ten centuries ago covered up; a point raised by the French scholar, Cherbonneau, who holds: ‘It is admitted with difficulty that a nation in majority of nomads could have had known any form of agricultural techniques other than sowing wheat and barley.

The misconceptions come from the rarity of works on the subject… If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed.’

The Agricultural Revolution

As early as the ninth century, a modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Muslim land.

The great Islamic cities of the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Artz explains, were supported by an elaborate agricultural system that included extensive irrigation and an expert knowledge of the most advanced agricultural methods in the world.

The Muslims reared the finest horses and sheep and cultivated the best orchards and vegetable gardens. They knew how to fight insect pests, how to use fertilizers, and they were experts at grafting trees and crossing plants to produce new varieties.

Glick defines the Muslim agricultural revolution in the introduction of new crops, which, combined with extension and intensification of irrigation, created a complex and varied agricultural system, whereby a greater variety of soil types were put to efficient use; where fields that had been yielding one crop yearly at most prior to the Muslims were now capable of yielding three or more crops, in rotation; and where agricultural production responded to the demands of an increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan urban population by providing the towns with a variety of products unknown in Northern Europe.

Whilst for Scott, the agricultural system of the Spanish Muslims, in particular, was `the most complex, the most scientific, the most perfect, ever devised by the ingenuity of man.’

Such advancement of Muslim farming, according to Bolens, was owed to the adaptation of agrarian techniques to local needs, and to `a spectacular cultural union of scientific knowledge from the past and the present, from the Near East, the Maghreb, and Andalusia.

A culmination subtler than a simple accumulation of techniques, it has been an enduring ecological success, proven by the course of human history.’

Fertilizers, in their variety, were used according to a well-advanced methodology; whilst a maximum amount of moisture in the soil was preserved.

Soil rehabilitation was constantly cared for, and preserving the deep beds of cropped land from erosion was, according to Bolens, again, `the golden rule of ecology,’ and was `subject to laws of scrupulous careful ecology.’

For Scott, the success of Islamic farming also lay in hard enterprise. No natural obstacle was sufficiently formidable to check the enterprise and industry of the Muslim farmer. He tunneled through the mountains; his aqueducts went through deep ravines, and he leveled with infinite patience and labor the rocky slopes of the sierra (in Spain).

The rise of productivity of agricultural land and sometimes of agricultural labor owe to the introduction of higher yielding new crops and better varieties of old crops, through more specialized land use which often centered on the new crops, through more intensive rotations which the new crops allowed, through the concomitant extension and improvement of irrigation, through the spread of cultivation into new or abandoned areas, and through the development of more labor intensive techniques of farming.

These changes, themselves, were positively affected by changes in other sectors of the economy: growth of trade, enlargement of the money economy, increasing specialization of factors of production in all sectors, and with the growth of population and its increasing urbanization.

Irrigation, from Andalusia to the far East, from the Sudan to Afghanistan, remained central, `the basis of all agriculture and the source of all life.’

The ancient systems of irrigation the Muslims became heirs to were in an advanced state of decay, and ruins.’

The Muslims repaired them and constructed new ones; besides devising new techniques to catch, channel, store and lift the water, and making ingenious combinations of available devices.

All of the Kitab al-Filahat (book of agriculture), whether Maghribi, Andalusian; Egyptian, Iraqi; Persian or Yemenite, Bolens points out, insist meticulously on the deployment of equipment and on the control of water.


Water Management

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 1Water, so precious a commodity in a more Islamically aware age, was managed according to stringent rules, any waste of the resource banned, and the most severe economy enforced. Thus, in the Algerian Sahara various water management techniques were used to make the most effective use of the resource.

The Foggaras, a network of underground galleries, conducted water from one place to the other over very long distances so as to avoid evaporation. Although the system is still in use today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water. Still in Algeria, in the Beni Abbes region, in the Sahara, south of Oran, farmers used a clepsydra to determine the duration of water use for every user in the area.

This clepsydra regulates with precision, and night and day, the amount going to each farmer, timed by the minute, throughout the year, and taking into account seasonal variations. Each farmer is informed of the timing of his turn, and summoned to undertake necessary action to ensure effective supply to his plot.

In Spain, the same strict management was in operation. The water conducted from one canal to the other was used more than once, the quantity supplied accurately graduated; distributing outlets were adapted to each soil variety, two hundred and twenty four of these, each with a specific name.

All disputes and violations of laws on water were dealt with by a court-whose judges were chosen by the farmers themselves, this court named The Tribunal of the Waters, which sat on Thursdays at the door of the principal mosque. Ten centuries later, the same tribunal still sits in Valencia, but at the door of the cathedral.


The Loss of Ecological Balance

`With a deep love for nature, and a relaxed way of life, classical Islamic society,’ Bolens concludes, `achieved ecological balance, a successful average economy of operation, based not on theory but on the acquired knowledge of many civilized traditions.’

It was colonialism, she recognizes, which subsequently and seriously upset the traditional agricultural balance in order to increase profitability for the colonizers.

The decline of agriculture as the destruction of other aspects of Islamic civilization had, however, begun with the various invaders, from the Crusaders to the Mongols, from the Banu Hillal to the Normans and Spain’s conquistadors in the West. Such invasions caused the ruin of irrigation works, destroyed permanent crops, closed down trade routes, and caused farmers to take flight.

The Muslim farmers also became over taxed by their new masters in Christian Spain and Sicily, and were exterminated in those countries; their system perishing with them.

The later colonizers, the French, only finished off whatever was left. No better place to see that than in Algeria, where the French on arrival in 1830 found a much greener country than the one they left 130 years later, and a population living more or less in harmony with its environment. In their wars of devastation against Algerian resistance, the French destroyed the garden rings that surrounded towns and cities, cutting trees and orchards.

After that, they deforested whole regions to exploit timber, and took all fertile lands from their Muslim owners, forcing them to subside on arid lands, and in the vicinity of forests causing their degradation.

Later, during the war of independence 1954-62, the French set ablaze millions of acres of forest lands; and then departed, leaving a legacy of bareness and hostility to greenery from which the Algerians have not recovered yet.



Courtesy with slight editorial modifications to the original article titled: Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture.

FSTC stands for the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization. The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a British not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organisation founded in 1999 by a group of philanthropic historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists. It is dedicated to researching and popularising the history of pre-Renaissance civilisations, especially the Muslim civilisation, that have had an impact upon the scientific, technological and cultural heritage of our modern world.



Soucre Link

Prophet Muhammad’s Call to Muslims to Serve People


The call is to all people

natural-sceneryThe religion of Islam is the religion of benevolence to the people. Therefore the honorable Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best practical example for serving people and meeting their needs.

His sayings are full of examples of exhorting Muslims to serve one another and help others because the one who helps his Muslim brothers, Allah will be in his support. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He who alleviates the suffering of a brother out of the sufferings of the world, Allah would alleviate his suffering from the sufferings of the Day of Resurrection, and he who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, Allah would make things easy for him in the world and in the Hereafter, and he who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in the world and in the Hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother.”

Imam An-Nawawi said: “This is a great Hadith, which collects all kind of sciences, rules, and proprieties. Moreover, it contains the virtue of meeting people’s needs and benefiting them with Knowledge, money, aid, advantage, and advice, etc.”

Likewise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) exhorted Muslims to fulfill peoples’ needs. `Abdullah in `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.”

Scholars said: As for his saying: “Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother,” it means: Fulfill it by action or by being a cause for it.

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When a person makes efforts to help his brother, he earns the reward for performing I`tikaf for ten years. Whomsoever performs I`tikaf for a day, thereby seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will spread three trenches between him and the fire of Hell, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between heaven and earth.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to help the needy

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “And assisting a man to ride upon his beast, or helping him load his luggage upon it, is a Sadaqah; and a good word is a Sadaqah.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to the general benefit of people

Jabir ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: A scorpion stung one of us as we were sitting with Allah’s Messenger (may peace upon him).

Thereupon, a man said: O Messenger Allah, Shall I use incantation (for curing the effect of sting)? Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Whoever among you is able to benefit his brother, then let him do so. This Hadith is general in all things that may contain benefits, so anyone is able to benefit his Muslim brother or people in general should do so.

The Prophet’s exhortation that a person serves his friends

The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a man who used to bake bread for his companions during a journey and the heat of fire harmed him.

Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He shall never be harmed by the heat of Hell-Fire.” Abu `Ubaidah said: The Hadith is a proof that the Messenger of Allah praised that man for serving his companions during the journey.

The Prophet’s exhortation to look after the widow and the needy

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to treat orphans well and fulfill their needs

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I and the one who looks after an orphan will be like this in Paradise,” showing his middle and index fingers and separating them.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to reconcile between people by saying: “And for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of a Sadaqah (i.e. charitable gift) for the one who establishes justice among people.”

The Hadith contains exhortation to reconcile among people. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Abu Ayyub (may Allah be pleased with him): Shall I guide you to a charity which pleases Allah and His Messenger? He said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah. He said: Reconcile between people when their relations are corrupt and bring them near when they are apart.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to help the fool

Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “What is the best deed?” He replied: “To believe in Allah and to fight for His Cause.” I then asked, “What is the best kind of manumission (of slaves)?” He replied, “The manumission of the most expensive slave and the most beloved by his master.” I said: “If I cannot afford to do that?” He said, “Help the weak or do good for a person who cannot work for himself.” I said, “If I cannot do that?” He said, “Refrain from harming others for this will be regarded as a charitable deed for your own good.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to spend for the sake of Allah and guide the lost

Al Bara’ ibn `Azib (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, “If anyone gives a Manihah of milk or silver, or guides one who is lost then he will get reward for setting free a male slave or a female slave.”

So, we are in dire need to ponder over these examples, their meanings, and wisdom because there are no instructions equal or even try to reach its status.

We need to apply them and act according to their instructions.



Soucre Link
Learning Institutions in Islam

Learning Institutions in Islam


Learning Institutions in IslamLearning institutions in Muslims lands took a variety of shapes and sizes and ranged from Madrasas, khans, Mosques, and academies of diverse sorts. These institutions, as S.P. Scott notes, [1]

“….composed voluminous treatises on surgery and medicine. They bestowed upon the stars the Arabic names which still cover the map of the heavens. Above the lofty station of the muezzin, as he called the devout to prayer, were projected against the sky the implements of science to whose uses religion did not refuse the shelter of her temples,—the gnomon, the astrolabe, the pendulum clock, and the armillary sphere.” [2]

It is already known that institutions such as al-Qayrawan, al-Qarawiyyin and al-Azhar, above all, were amongst the first universities throughout history. Another great body of institutions initiated by the Muslims were the Madrasas, or colleges, [3] of which Ibn Jubayr (d. 614H/1217CE) counted thirty on his visit to Baghdad. Before we take a close look at a Madrasa by the name of al-Mustansiriyah, [4] we will first receive a background of how learning institutions thrived in Muslim lands.


Following the establishment of Seljuk rule, Muslim lands experienced a considerable rise in the number of scholarly institutions, which were largely sponsored by the powerful and wealthy elite. Hence, in Iraq it was the Vizier Nizam al-Mulk (d. 485H/1092CE) that both founded and took responsibility for the spread of Madrasas within his jurisdiction. Al-Mulk founded the Madrasa system towards 459H/1066CE within Baghdad, and was then responsible for the spread of such institutions to the more Eastern parts of the Muslim World. According to Abu Shamah, ‘the schools founded by Nizam al-Mulk are very famous all over the world. No single village lacks one of these schools.’ [5] The state exercised some supervision over teaching, such as that at the Nizamiyya, in which the permission of the Caliph had to be obtained before a teaching post was occupied. [6]

Following Nizam al-Mulk, it became a practice, or rather a competition between rulers, to build more Madrasas. Nur ad-Din, who ascended to the throne in 541H/1148CE, founded many such institutions in Damascus and the other large cities of his kingdom. In Egypt, it was Salah ad-Din who founded five colleges in Cairo, followed by over twenty six other such Madrasas that were established by both his followers and later Mamluk sultans. [7] Individuals, too, did the same. A Madrasa for women was established in Cairo in 634H/1237CE by the daughter of the Mamluk Sultan Tahir, while Khatun, the daughter of Malik Ashraf constructed a women’s Madrasa in Damascus; yet another such Madrasa was founded by Zamurrad, wife of Nasir ad-Din of Aleppo. [8] The spread of the Madrasa was so rapid that at some point in the medieval times, according to Tawtah, [9] there were 73 colleges in Damascus, 41 in Jerusalem, 40 in Baghdad, 14 in Aleppo, 13 in Tripoli, 9 in al-Mawsil and 74 in Cairo, in addition to numerous institutions in other cities. A later author, writing around 1,500, counted about 150 Madrasas in Damascus alone. [10] At some point, the whole of the Muslim land with the exception of Spain and Sicily was just a wide, dense network of colleges, of varying sizes, providing education to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of pupils, at a time, when education in Europe was just the privilege of a minority of clergy or the top elite, most certainly not exceeding the few hundreds.

Jerusalem had a great number of famed institutions, described in great detail by the late medieval scholar, Qadi Mudjir ad-Din (d. 918H/1521CE). [11] Inside al-Aqsa Mosque, just near the women’s area, is the Madrasa Farisiya founded by Emir Faris ad-Din al-Baky. There were also the Madrasas Nahriya and Nasiriya. The latter was named after the Jerusalem scholar, Sheikh Nasr, before it became known as the Ghazaliya, after the famed scholar al-Ghazali, as it was a place both of his residence and employment. Outside of al-Aqsa Mosque were the Qataniya, the Fakriya, al-Baladiya and the Tankeziya. The latter, says Ibn Mudjir, is an immense Madrasa, situated on the Khatt road (it is also worth noting that the founder of this Madrasa Emir Tankiz Nasri, vice ruler of Syria, was also responsible for building the aqueduct for the water supply of Jerusalem). A number of the Madrasas within and around al-Aqsa Mosque were built by Turkish women. For example, the Madrasa Othmania was constituted in trust by a woman belonging to one of the greatest families of the country, Isfahan Shah Khatun in the year 920H/1523CE. Earlier, in 751H/1354CE, the Khatuniya Madrasa was constituted in a trust by Oghl Khatun, daughter of Shams ad-Din Mohammed ibn Sayf ad-Din of Baghdad. This Madrasa itself was financed by the local businesses. [12]

Shalaby offers an excellent description of one such illustrious Madrasa: al-Nuriyyah al-Kubra in Damascus [13] founded by Nur ad-Din, which was described by Ibn Jubair as one of the best colleges in the world. [14] Here follows the summary of Shalaby’s description:

“The school is situated in Khatt al-Khawwasin which is now called `al-Khayyarin’, about half a mile south west of the Umayyad Mosque. The school has a ‘monumental’ entrance: an arch with an outer door, and a broad passage leading to the court with a second door halfway along. The lintel of the outer door is adorned with the endowment tablet. The school had its Iwan, which then, was the most important place in the Muslim school. It is the equivalent of the modern lecture room, and there where the halaqat were held. Not far from the Iwan was the Mosque, which took the significant place in a medieval school. The Mosque was also open to other worshippers, and it was thus normal that it was remote from the Iwan. The school also included eight lodges for the students, and the caretaker’s lodgings, the latrines, and also a kitchen and dining hall, the food store, and the general store for the building. This Madrasa, in most parts, still stands up to now.”[15]


Madrasas varied in size and layout, some were small with one or two classrooms, whilst others were much larger, and with huge libraries, and facilities and large lecture halls. As far as al-Mustansiriyah is concerned, according to Dodge, it was the college which, at the time, ‘most closely resembled a university.’ Two good descriptions, taken from original sources: Yaqut [16] and Naji [17], by Dodge [18] and Nakosteen [19] which are presented together below:

“The Mustansiriyah was founded in 631 H/1234 A.D by Caliph al-Mustansir. He was the penultimate Abbasid Caliph, the father of al-Mustassim, who was later to be put to death by Hulagu. It was located immediately south of the Gharabah gate, on the shore of the Tigris. It was built as a large, two-storied structure. In its outward appearance, and its internal sumptuousness and wealth, the Mustansiriyah surpassed all that was previously seen in Islam. It was oblong in shape with a great open court in the centre. Around the courtyard there were rooms for teachers and students, opening out to arched cloisters. Nearby, the Great Mosque of the Palace (Jami al-Kasr) was also restored by Mustansir, who also restored the four platforms (Dikkah) on the Western side of the pulpit. There, the students sat and held their disputations after the Friday public prayers. The remains of this Mosque still exist to the present.

“At the Mustansiriyah, professors received monthly salaries, and the three hundred students received each one gold dinar a month. The college had large lecture halls, where students were taught by a head professor and his assistants. There were also small classes, tutorial like, of a teacher for ten students. Students learnt subjects that included the traditional linguistic, legal and religious subjects, but also arithmetic, land surveying, history, poetry, hygiene, the care of animals and plants and other phases of natural history. There was also a course in medicine with a physician in charge.

“The Mustansiriyah included major facilities. It had a very large library, manned by a librarian with an assistant and attendants. According to Ibn al-Furat, the library (Dar al-Kutub) had rare books dealing with various sciences, and made available easily to students, either for consultation, or copying. Pens and paper were supplied, and so were lamps and due provision of oil. The students also received medical care and financial aid, in addition to free tuition. Daily rations of bread and meat were also provided to all inmates by a large kitchen. Somewhere in the building were store rooms and bathing facilities (hamam). Also attached to the college was a hospital with a dispensary and rooms for teaching medicine. One of the rarities of the Mustansiriyah was its famous clock, set in a design of the heavens, with twelve doors, each opening to announce the hour.

“The Caliph al-Mustansir himself took great interest and passion in the work of ‘his’ institution and inspected it nearly every day. He also had a belvedere (Manzarah) overlooking the college, with a window opening upon one of the college halls, from where he watched the building, and heard the lectures of the professors and the disputations of the students. Just a century after its foundation, Ibn Battuta, who visited Baghdad in AH 727 (1327), speaks of the magnificence of the place, which by miracle, escaped the Mongol sacking of Baghdad (in 1258). He states that lectures were still provided. Twelve years after him, the geographer Hamd Allah also refers to the Mustansiriyah as the most beautiful building in Baghdad.

“The Mustansiriyah appears to have stood intact for many centuries, but surely not by the mid-18th. Then, when Niebuhr visited Baghdad in 1750, he found that the ancient kitchen of the college was being used as a weighing house. Today, only ruins of it remain.”

“The age of Arabian learning,” Gibbon observes, “continued about five hundred years, till the great eruption of the Moguls, and was coeval with the darkest and most slothful period of European annals; but since the sun of science has arisen in the West, it should seem that the Oriental studies have languished and declined.” [20]


Given Islam’s love for knowledge and its elevation of scholars and writers to exalted positions, the evolution of a publishing industry was a foregone conclusion at the advent of Islam [21]. Within one hundred years after the advent of Islam, a sophisticated and highly integrated book industry was flourishing in the Muslim world. Techniques were evolved for each stage of book production: composition, copying, illustrating, binding, publishing, storing and selling. Reading books, as well as hearing them being dictated, became one of the major occupations and pastimes. In certain major cities, such as Baghdad and Damascus, almost half the population was involved in some aspect of book production and publication. However, book production was both an industry and an institution, an institution with its own customs and practices, its own checks against fraud and misrepresentation and, above all, an institution that ensured that learning and books were not the prerogative of a select few but were available to all those who had the desire. It also ensured that the scholars and authors themselves also benefited, both economically and in terms of recognition from their work [22].



[1] S. P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire in Europe; Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1904, vol. 3; p. 468.

[2] Ibid, p. 468.

[3] For a summary on the role and impact of the Madrasa: -George Makdisi: The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West; Edinburgh University Press, 1990. -B. Dodge: Muslim Education in the Medieval Times; the Middle East Institute; Washington D.C; 1962.

[4] Ibn Jubayr in J. Pedersen, The Arabic Book, translated by G. French, Princeton-New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984, p. 128.

[5] Quoted in A. Shalaby. History of Muslim Education, Beirut: Dar Al Kashaf, 1954, p. 58.

[6] A. S. Tritton: Muslim Education in the Middle Ages. London: Luzac and Co. Ltd., 1957, p. 91.

[7] Bayard Dodge: Muslim Education in Medieval Times; op cit; p. 22.

[8] S. M. Hossain: A Plea for a Modern Islamic University; op cit; p. 100.

[9] Bayard Dodge, Muslim Education in Medieval Times; Washington D.C.: The Middle East Institute, 1962, p. 23.

[10] J. Pedersen: The Arabic Book, p. 128.

[11] Mudjir Eddin: Al-Euns al-jalil bi Tarikh el-Qods wa’l Khalil, translated into French as Histoire de Jerusalem et Hebron, by H. Sauvaire; Paris; Ernest Leroux; 1875; and 1926; pp. 140 fwd.

[12] Mudjir Eddin: Al-Euns (Histoire de Jerusalem); p. 145.

[13] A. Shalaby: History, op cit, pp. 65-67.

[14] Ibn Jubayr: Al-Rihla, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, Tr. R.J.C. Broadhurst, Jonathan Cape, 1952 , p. 284).

[15] A. Shalaby: History, op cit, pp 65-7.

[16] Yaqut: Irshad al-Arib ila Ma’arifat al-Adib, or Muja’am al-Udaba (Dictionary of learned men), edt. D.S. Margoliouth (Luzac, 1907 ff), Vol.V, p. 231. Vol VI. p. 343.

[17] Ma’ruf, Naji, al-Madrassah al-Mustansiryah, Nadi al-Muthanna, Baghdad, 1935.

[18] B. Dodge: Muslim education, op cit, pp 23-4.

[19] M. Nakosteen: History of Islamic Origins of Western Education: 800-1350. Boulder-Colorado: University of Colorado Press, 1964, pp. 50-1.

[20] E. Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. J. M. Dent, 1962, vol 6; 1925 ed; pp. 28.

[21] Z. Sardar and M.W. Davies: Distorted Imagination; op cit; p. 97.

[22] Ibid.



Taken with slight editorial modifications from



Soucre Link
Muslim Contribution to the Geometry

Muslim Contribution to the Geometry


geometryThe greatest scientific contribution Muslims made to the world is the creation of mathematical science. Algebra, geometry, algorithm and arithmetic are at the heart of every scientific and social aspect of life.

There is hardly a single device, business entity, industry, architecture built without the Arabic numerals, the decimal point, the sign and cosine, the ruler and the compass, all of which are Islamic inventions.

Many of the intellectual sciences Muslims developed were a direct result of the Qur’anic inspirations and of their need to fulfill the rituals and duties of worship.

The Islamic duty of Zakah or alms giving, and the distribution of properties in the will are examples of the duties laid the foundation of geometry and arithmetic.

A Muslim is to give annually in charity and in taxation detailed amounts of currency and/or crops. Figuring out the exact distribution of Zakah and property distribution of the will do not come without complicated math. Each commodity requires precise scaling and percentage.

For example, for an acre of an irregular piece of land is to be split among a family of two boys and two girls with the male share twice as that of the girl, a complicated formula and exact geometry of the land must take place before this duty is accomplished.

Thus, mathematics and geometry came to existence.

The prominent historian, De Vaux , in his book, “The Philosophers of Islam” said: “they (the Muslims) were indisputably the founders of plane and spherical geometry.”

He further stated: “By using ciphers, (Arabic for zero) the Arabs became the founders of the arithmetic of everyday life; they made algebra an exact science. The Arabs kept alive higher intellectual life and the study of science in a period when the Christian West was fighting desperately with barbarism.”

According to Gerard De Vaucouleurs, in his book, Discovery of the Universe, Page 35. Al Battani, (939-998) was a great astronomer and mathematician. He published an original Almagest and developed the science of trigonometry and discovered the inequality in the moon’s motion known as the variation.

Gerard De Vaucouleurs, further said: “Albattani made new observations for the Sun’s position improved the value of the tropical year, rectified Ptolemy’s precession constant and measured the obliquity of the elliptic with care. He introduced the sine into trigonometry.”

Albattani composed a work on astronomy, with tables, containing his own observations of the sun and moon and a more accurate description of their motions than that given in Ptolemy’s “Almagest”.

In it moreover, he gives the motions of the five planets, with the improved observations he succeeded in making, as well as other necessary astronomical calculations. Some of his observations mentioned in his book of tables were made in the year 880 and later on in the year 900.

Nobody is known in Islam who reached similar perfection in observing the stars and scrutinizing their motions.



Courtesy with slight modifications.



Soucre Link
The Prophet’s Mercy towards the Elderly (P. 2/2)

The Prophet’s Mercy towards the Elderly (P. 2/2)

By Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut

                       Member — The Afro-Asian Writers’ Association

Easy Rulings for the Elderly

Shari`ah always adopts leniency and ease with persons having excuses, such as the elderly. This can be noticed in expiations and obligations required from them.

The best evidence of easing expiations for the elderly is the story of Khawlah bint Tha`labah, which was mentioned at the beginning of Surat Al-Mujadilah. Her aged husband, Aws ibn As-Samit, who was also her cousin, pronounced zhihar (declaring her unlawful to him as a wife, while at the same time not divorcing her so she can remarry). Thereupon the general Islamic ruling concerning zhihar was revealed:

Those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterward would go back on that which they have said, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another [that is, have intercourse]. Unto this you are exhorted; and Allah is Informed of what you do. And he who finds not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another [that is, have intercourse]; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones. (Al-Mujadilah 58:3–4)

After this revelation the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke to Khawlah:

The Prophet said to Khawlah, “Let him free a slave.” She said, “O Messenger of Allah, he does not have the means to do that.” The Prophet said, “Then let him fast for two consecutive months.” She replied, “By Allah, he is an old man; he is not able to do that.” So the Prophet told her, “Then let him feed sixty poor people with a wasaq (a measure equal to approximately 132.6 kilograms) of dates.” She said, “O Messenger of Allah, he does not have that much.” The Prophet then promised to help him by giving him an amount of dates; after all this he did not forget to advise the lady, “Take care of your cousin properly.” (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, vol. 8)

Concerning obligations, Islam exempts the elderly who cannot bear fasting the month of Ramadan from observing this obligation, but requires them to feed a poor person for each day that they miss. Also, the elderly who cannot pray standing up are allowed to pray sitting down; if they cannot pray sitting down, they are allowed to pray lying on a side.

In addition, it is authentically reported that the Prophet once rebuked Mu`adh ibn Jabal when he led people in prayer and prolonged it:

The Prophet said to him, “O Mu`adh! Are you putting the people to trial? [Thrice] It would have been better if you had recited Sabbihisma Rabbika-l-a`la [Surah 87], Wash-shamsi wa duhaha [Surah 91], or Wal-layli idhayaghsha [Surah 92], for the old, the weak, and the needy pray behind you.” (Al-Bukhari)

Also, Islam allowed the elderly who cannot perform Hajj to delegate another person to perform it on their behalf. Al-Fadl narrated that a woman from the tribe of Khath`am came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, “O Allah’s Prophet! The obligation of Hajj has become due on my father while he is old and weak, and he cannot sit firm on the mount; may I perform Hajj on his behalf?” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Yes, (you may)” (Muslim).

Examples of the Prophet’s Mercy

Having discussed the Islamic code of treating the elderly, it is now appropriate to give some practical examples from the Prophet’s life. We will see him listening politely and respectfully to an elderly polytheist, seeking to release an elderly man captured by Quraish, and honoring an elderly person and ordering him to improve his appearance.

Listening to an elderly polytheist respectfully. Ibn Kathir, in his biography of the Prophet, narrated that `Utbah ibn Rabi`ah, one of the chiefs of Makkah’s polytheists, came to the Prophet trying to dissuade him from his call. He addressed the Prophet in a ridiculing manner, “Are you better than `Abdullah (the Prophet’s father)? Are you better than `Abdul-Muttalib (the Prophet’s grandfather)?” But the Prophet did not respond to those degrading remarks. `Utbah continued, “If you say that they are better than you, then they worshiped the gods you criticize; and if you claim that you are better than they, you can proclaim this loudly in order to be heard. You exposed us before the Arabs until it was spread among them that the Quraish has a magician or a monk. Do you want us to unsheathe the sword and engage in a bitter war until annihilation?”

When `Utbah noticed the politeness of the Prophet, he changed his offensive tone and continued, “Oh my nephew! If you desire money and wealth by preaching what you are preaching, we will collect enough for you from our own. We will make you the wealthiest of all of us. If it is chieftainship that you desire, we are ready to make you our paramount chief, so that we will never decide on a matter without you. If you desire rulership, we will make you our ruler. And if this condition that you call revelation is a jinn whose grip you cannot escape from, we are ready to call the most distinguished physicians of time to examine you, and we will spend generously till you are completely cured. For sometimes a jinn seizes hold of a victim totally till the former is exorcised.”

When `Utbah finished his impudent speech, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him politely, “Is that all, Abu Al-Walid?” “Yes,” he replied. “Then listen to me,” the Prophet said to him. “I will,” agreed `Utbah. Then the Prophet recited the beginning of Surat Fussilat (41).

Seeking to release an elderly captive. In his biography of the Prophet, Ibn Hisham reported that when the Muslims captured `Amr ibn Abi Sufyan ibn Harb in the Battle of Badr, it was said to Abu Sufyan, “Pay for the ransom of your son `Amr.” However, Abu Sufyan answered, “Must I lose twice! They have killed Handhalah and now I must pay for the ransom of `Amr! Let him stay with them, they can keep him as long as they wish.” Afterwards an old man called Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf departed for Makkah to perform `Umrah. In spite of the critical political conditions, especially after the Battle of Badr, Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man thought that he would not be captured in Makkah since the Quraish did not harm pilgrims. However, Abu Sufyan attacked him and held him hostage until the Muslims in Madinah released his son. Some people of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and told him what had happened to their relative. They asked him to give them the son of Abu Sufyan to free Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man from captivity. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) released the son of Abu Sufyan without a ransom and then sent him to his father who, consequently, released the old man.

Treating the elderly gently. Ibn Kathir tells the following in his biography of the Prophet. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Makkah in Ramadan AH 8 (January 630) and entered the Sacred Mosque, Abu Bakr brought his father, Abu Quhafah, to the Prophet to embrace Islam. When the Prophet saw him, he said to Abu Bakr, “Why didn’t you leave the old man at his house and I would’ve gone to him there?” Abu Bakr said, “You are more deserving of him coming to you than he is of you going to him.” The Prophet seated Abu Quhafah in front of him and honored him. Then he passed his hand on Abu Quhafah’s chest and asked him to embrace Islam and Abu Quhafah did. The Prophet, noticing that Abu Quhafah’s hair was white, directed that his hair be dyed.

These are just few examples of the Prophet’s gentleness, mercy, and respect towards the elderly. These examples, and many others, translate the sublime Islamic code of ethics for treating the elderly and provide Muslims, generation after generation, with a practical model that they should follow. Such care for the elderly is in line with the Islamic principle of the dignity of the human being and with the spirit of solidarity and mercy that pervades the Muslim society.



Taken with slight editorial modifications from

Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut is an Egyptian preacher and  researcher. He prepares and presents programs on the Egyptian TV and other Arab satellite channels. He is a member of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association.



Soucre Link