My Brothers and Sisters in Humanity, as-Salaamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi
As I have promised, we will continue to review the glorious history
of Islam and its contribution to Western development. Before we continue,
it must be noted that many of the scholars mentioned in the previous
pamphlet, and this one, were not Arab born. Some were Mongols, Indians,
Africans, Jews etc. It should also be noted that 90% of them were
experts in more than one filed of the sciences, and this attests to
their hunger for knowledge. It also highlighted the unity of Muslims
at that period, when race, culture, or nationality was of no importance
to a man's elevation in society. This was a result of the unity of
ALLAH and the universality of HIS teachings.
Let us look at some more examples of Islamic influences in the sciences
and understand more of our common heritage and history. We go back
to medicine, to look at some of the works of IBN SINA, that Persian
philosopher and physician, the most famous of which is "Al-Qanun Fi'l-Tibb"
(The Canon of Medicine) which was studied in European universities
for centuries. Then there is the "Teisir" (Rectification of Health)
by ABU MARWAN ABD UL-MALIK IBN ZUHR (1113-1162); the AL-HAWI and KITAB
AL-MANSUR, two important medical works by ABU BAKR IBN ZAKARIYYA AR-RAZI,
who also wrote a treatise on smallpox and measles, and did vaccinations
long before Jenner.
In the field of Geography we have such men as ABU AL-FIDA (1273-1331)
historian and geographer, best known for his "Taqwim al-Buldan" (Geography
of Countries); AL-HAMDANI, who wrote the "Jazirat ul-Arab" (Geography
of the Arabian Peninsula); ABU 'ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD IBN MUHAMMAD ASH-SHARIF
AL-IDRISI (1100-1166), geographer, scientist and poet, wrote the "NUZHAT
AL-MUSHTAQ FI'KH-TIRAAQ AL-AFAAQ" (Delight of Him Who Wishes to Traverse
the Regions of the World). There are also MUHAMMAD IBN AHMAD AL-MAQDISI
(c. 946-1000), Arab traveller and geographer who wrote the "Kitab
Al-Aqalim" (Book of Countries); and AHMAD IBN YA'QUB IBN JA'FAR IBN
WAHB IBN YA'QUBI, historian and geographer, author of a history of
the world and "Kitab Al-Buldan" (A General Geography). The traveller
and merchant, IBRAHIM IBN AHMAD AL-TARTUSHI visited the Viking trading
town of Hedeby in the 10th. century, and described the town as "an
appalling place, noisy and filthy". Another traveller IBN FADLAN described
the Vikings as 'the filthiest of God's creatures. They do not wash
after discharging their natural functions, neither do they wash their
hands after meals". being accustomed to washing and bathing regularly,
Ibn Fadlan would naturally react in this manner.
Astronomy was also one of the many sciences in which the Muslims
excelled. They were the leading exponents of this science, heir to
the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. Many persons in the West and
many Muslims are not aware that GHIYATH-UD-DIN ABUL FATH 'OMAR IBN
IBRAHIM AL-KHAYYAM (Omar Khayyam)., was an astronomer and mathematician
besides being a great poet, for which he is well-known. His contribution
to the science of astronomy is well documented. He and ABD UR-RAHMAN
HASEINI, by their astronomical observations, reformed the calendar
10 centuries ahead of the Gregorian reform, and also, more accurately.
The Mongol rulers also encouraged the science of astronomy. HULAGU,
the IL Khan (ruler) of Persia (1256-1265), known for the destruction
of Baghdad, built the Meragah observatory, whose director was NASR
UD-DIN THUSI, the author of the Ilkhanian Tables, who was also responsible
for the perfection of the numerous instruments used in the observatory.
During the reign of ULUG BEG (grandson of Timur) Islamic astronomy
achieved its greatest brilliance. Ulug Beg is reported to have compiled
a work on the phases of the moon, and he calculated these phases so
accurately, and for almost 600 years after his time, that these tables
are still accurate today. Another of his works published in 1437,
gives a comprehensive survey of contemporary knowledge of astronomy.
A century earlier than Kepler, he linked up the astronomy of the ancients
with that of the modern era.
History also had its great scholars, such as ABU AL-HASAN IZZ-UD-DIN
IBN AL-ATHIR; ABU AL-WALID 'ABDULLAH ABN AL-FARABI (962-1013), best
known for his "Ta'rikh Ulama'al-Andalus" (History of the Andalusian
Scholars); AL-BALADHURI; ABU AL-FIDA, who wrote "Mukhtasar Ta'rikh
Al-Bashar" (Abridgement of the History of the Human Race), extending
from creation to 1329. 'ABD AR-RAHMAN IBN KHALDUN 91332-1406), historian
and sociologist, wrote four volumes of general Islamic history and
tow volumes of the history of the Berbers; while ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD
IBN JARIR AT-TABARI, historian and theologian, wrote "Ta'rikh Al-Rusul
Wal-Mulk" (History of the Prophets and Kings) known as the "Annals".
In the natural sciences, after commencing with commentaries on Greek
authors, the Muslims soon devoted themselves to studying nature itself
and making their own observations. Thus they succeeded in enriching
Disocorides' "Herbal" by over 2000 species. The Muslim Pharmacopeia
(a standard and authoritative book containing a list of medicinal
drugs with information on their preparation and dosage), contained
several plants and medical substances entirely unknown to the Greeks.
To the Muslims is due the use of rhubarb, tamarind pulp, cassia, manna,
senna leaves, and camphor. The use of sugar, which they preferred
to honey, led to a whole series of pleasant and health-giving preparations.
With the aid of sugar, they concocted syrups and preserved herbs and
fruits. The Muslims introduced to the West, perfumes and spices, incense
and other sweet-smelling resins from Arabia, attar of roses, nutmegs,
cloves, and pepper. From the East came such vegetables as asparagus,
artichokes; many fruits such as oranges, tamarind ("tamar hind"; "date
of India") etc., as well as sweetmeats and a wealth of exquisite flowers
such as lilac, jasmine, tulips, camellias etc. Coffee, of course,
originates in Yemen. Amongst the domestic animals, the finest horses
come from Arabia, the best breed of goats from Asia Minor, and the
most renowned sheep from Morocco. The Muslims also developed agriculture
to a very high standard, through better irrigation and crop management,
and had a strong interest in geology.
The reasons for the Muslim dominance of the sciences in the earliest
periods are: The Muslims followed the injunctions of the Holy Qur'an
and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAWS). Nothing can more emphasize the
fact that some 75 verses of the Qur'an exhorts believers to study
nature, to reflect, to make the best use of reason, and make scientific
enterprise an integral part of the community's life. Cohesion of the
Ummah was another reason... the Islamic nations, with all their political
and cultural differences, acted as a single unified commonwealth,
especially where religion and learning was concerned.
My Brothers and Sisters, we must continue the great work of those
who have gone before us and we can only do this by seeking knowledge,
as ordained by our Creator and Greatest of all teachers. Science is
important because of the understanding it provides of the world around
us, of the immutable Laws and Allah's design. It is also important
because of the material benefits and strength in defense its discoveries
can give us. Muslims have contributed greatly to the development of
the present civilization, and can do more. We must continue to discharge
our duty to our fellow men and to our Creator if we are to play a
vital role in the modern world.
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