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Islamic Ideology ( 8 Oct 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Contribution of Islam to world civilization

Let us remember our great and glorious heritage by briefly surveying what Islam has already contributed to the world's civilization, education, culture and to scientific development.


Unlike Christianity where Religion and Science are two separate elements, the study of Science has always been compatible with Islam.


Many young Muslims are discouraged when they see the poor standard of living of Muslims throughout the world and their limited opportunities. They also know the undeveloped status of technology within the Muslim countries in comparison with the West. From these observations, they immediately leap to the conclusion that the Muslim countries are ‘backward’, because Islam cannot adapt itself to the changing conditions; cannot assimilate new knowledge. Some even go so far as to say that Islam is actually against progress and against scientific advancement. However, those Muslims who have studied the later part of Islamic history will know that this is a complete fallacy and misconception.


Let us do a brief review of the contribution of Islam to civilization as we know it.


Trigonometry, Sine, Tangent, Co-Tangent


The Arabs developed these functions in trigonometry and Ibn Moosaa's work Hisaab-Al Jab-Wal Muqaabala (The Calculation of Integration and Equation) presented 800 examples in the 8th century CE. His work was translated from Arabic into Latin and until the 16th century CE, it was Europe's main textbook on the subject.


Algebra and Geometry


Muhammad bin Moosaa Al-Khawaarizmi is considered to be one of the founders of Algebra. The word ‘Algorithm’ or 'Algorizm' is a corruption of his name or the name of the town Khwaarizm (Kheva), in what is now Uzbekistan, where he was born. He adopted the use of ‘cipher’ (zero), that was devised in India some centuries earlier, a numeral of fundamental importance, leading up to the so-called arithmetic of positions and the decimal system. The very word ‘zero’ is a derivative of the Arabic ‘sifr’ or ‘cipher’. His pioneering work on the system of numerals is well known as "Algorithm," or "Algorizm." In addition to introducing the Arabic numerals, he developed several arithmetical procedures, including operations on fractions.


Another great mathematician was Omar Khayyaam, who offered to the world geometric and algebraic solutions of the second degree. Naseeruddeen wrote the treatise on quadrilateral trigonometry, as well as plain and spherical geometry.


Physics and Chemistry


Kamaaluddeen examined the refraction of sunlight in raindrops and offered an explanation of the genesis of primary and secondary rainbows. The story of the invention of the pendulum and the presentation of a water clock to Emperor Charlemagne by Haaroon Ar-Rasheed is well known.


The great historian Gibbons wrote in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volume 5) that the science of chemistry owes its origin and improvements to the Muslims.


Science of Mechanics


The development of the science of mechanics in Islam is an act of genius. Moosaa bin Shaakir described one hundred pieces of mechanical equipment in his book of artifices. Other outstanding Muslim treatises included Al Kitaab Fi Ma`rifat Al-Hiya Al-Handasiyyah (The Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Geometrical Contrivances) by Abul Fiaz bin Al Raz and Al Kitaab Meezanal-Hikmah (The Book of Balance and Wisdom) by Al-Khazini. He also did work on accurate weighing, and determination of the specific gravity of substances.


Camera Obscura


In the field of optics, Camera Obscura was invented by Ibn Haytham in 1038 CE.


Theory of Relativity


Qaadhi Abu Bakr had developed the theory of relativity in the 8th century CE in terms of time and space by means of mathematical equations and astrophysics. Imagine, Einstein was not even born in the Western world, who propounded the same theory of relativity much later in the 20th century CE.




As far as geography was concerned, Muslim scientists established that the world was round in the 9th century CE, and the first map of the globe was made during the Caliphate of Ma’moon.


Paper Making


This was one of the earliest skills attained by the Muslims. As early as the 8th century CE, high quality paper was being manufactured in Samarqand. Egypt was known to have its first paper mill in the year 900 CE. The earliest Arabic manuscript written on paper that has been discovered is the Ghareeb Al Hadeeth by Abu ‘Ubayed, dated 837 CE. It can be seen in Holland preserved in the library at the University of Leyden.


Advances in Industry


Under Islamic rule, Spain was an industrial center. It was one of the wealthiest and most thickly populated of the European countries. Muslims were leading in weaving wool, producing silk, pottery, jewelry, leather and perfume industry. In the Middle Ages, world trade was commanded by Muslims and Baghdad, Bukhaara and Samarqand remained centers for world fairs until the 16th century CE. The Bayt Al-Hikmah at Cairo contained two million books, the library at Tripoli contained some three million, but this library was burned down by the Christians during the first Crusade.


 Miracles of the Quran


Let us consider the hundreds of scientific facts mentioned in the Holy Quran. For example, the fact that the earth was previously a part of the sun and after its separation, it became a habitable place for humankind, as mentioned in chapter 21, verse 30. That matter is made up of sub-atomic particles (chapter 10, verse 61). That the embryo in the mother's womb in enclosed by three epithelial coverings (chapter 39, verse 6). That each human being has a unique fingerprint (chapter 75, verse 4) etc. There are thousands of other scientific facts in the Holy Quran.


Regrettably, today the West is at its peak and we have lagged behind so far. However, our downfall is not due to Islam, as the West would like us to believe, but due to our sheer neglect of Islamic principles. We must realize that Islam is undeniably the most progressive religion, which is in fact a way of life with a very wide scope.


Of course, life is a very hard struggle. However, struggle is an inbuilt instinct of human nature. Struggle is a way but not an accomplishment or attainment in itself. We should make an effort and struggle but at the same time make Du'aa. This is where Tawakkul, i.e. trust in Allaah comes because destiny supersedes thought. We must trust in Allaah for our betterment, because if success depended merely upon one’s personal struggle, then nobody in the world would be unsuccessful. Furthermore, struggle is itself predestined by Allaah. Man should do his best, then leave the rest to Allaah, Most High.


 Thursday : 29/03/2007





Muslims: pioneers of pharmacology


Muslim pharmacy (Saydalah) as a profession and a separate entity from medicine was recognised by the beginning of the ninth century. This century not only saw the founding and increase in the number of privately owned pharmacy shops in Baghdad and its vicinity, but in other Muslim cities as well. Many of the pharmacists who managed them were skilled in the apothecary's art and quite knowledgeable in the compounding, storing, and preserving of drugs.


State-sponsored hospitals also had their own dispensaries attached to manufacturing laboratories where syrups, electuaries, ointments, and other pharmaceutical preparations were prepared on a relatively large scale. The pharmacists and their shops were periodically inspected by a government appointed official, 'Al-Muhtasib', and his aides. These officials were to check the accuracy in weights and measures as well as the purity of the drugs used. Such supervision was intended to prevent the use of deteriorating compounded drugs and syrups, and to safeguard the public.


This early rise and development of professional pharmacy in Islam - over four centuries before such development took place in Europe - was the result of three major occurrences: the great increase in the demand for drugs and their availability on the market, professional maturity, and the outgrowth of intellectual responsibility by qualified pharmacists.


The ninth century in Muslim lands witnessed the richest period thus far in literary productivity insofar as pharmacy and the healing arts were concerned. This prolific intellectual activity paved the way for still a greater harvest in the succeeding four centuries of both high and mediocre calibre authorship. For pharmacy, manuals on materia medica and for instructing the pharmacist concerning the work and management of his shop were circulating in increasing numbers. A few authors and their important works will be briefly discussed and evaluated.


Abu Hasan At-Tabari:


One of the contributors to Muslim Pharmacy was Abu Hasan 'Ali At-Tabari. He was born in 808. At about thirty years of age, he was summoned to Samarra by Caliph al-Mu'tasim (833-842), where he served as a statesman and a physician. At-Tabari wrote several medical books, the most famous of which is his Paradise of Wisdom, completed in 850. It contains discussions on the nature of man, cosmology, embryology, temperaments, psychotherapy, hygiene, diet, and diseases - acute and chronic - and their treatment, medical anecdotes, and abstracts and quotations from Indian source material. In addition, the book contains several chapters on materia medica, cereals, diets, utilities and therapeutic uses of animal and bird organs, and of drugs and methods of their preparation.


At-Tabari urged that the therapeutic value of each drug be utilised in accordance with the particular case, and the practitioner should always choose the best of samples. He explained that the finest types of samples come from various places: black myrobalan comes from Kabul; clover dodder from Crete; aloes from Socotra; and aromatic spices from India.


He was also precise in describing his therapeutics. He said, 'I have tried a very useful remedy for the swelling of the stomach; the juices of the liverwort (water hemp) and the absinthium after being boiled on fire and strained to be taken for several days. Also, powdered seeds of celery (marsh parsley) mixed with giant fennel made into troches and taken with a suitable liquid, release the wind in the stomach, joints and back (arthritis).'


To strengthen the stomach and to insure good health he prescribed 'black myrobalan powdered in butter, mixed with dissolved plant sugar extracted from liquorice and this remedy should be taken daily.' For storage purposes he recommended glass or ceramic vessels for liquid (wet) drugs; special small jars for eye liquid salves; lead containers for fatty substances. For the treatment of ulcerated wounds, he prescribed an ointment made of juniper-gum, fat, butter, and pitch. In addition, he warned that one Mithqaal (about 4 grams) of opium or henbane causes sleep and also death.


The first medical formulary to be written in Arabic is Al-Aqrabadhin by Saboor bin Sahl, who died in 869 AH. In it, he gave medical recipes stating the methods and techniques of compounding these remedies, their pharmacological actions, the dosages given of each, and the means of administration. The formulas are organised in accordance with their types of preparations into which they fit, whether tablets, powders, ointments, electuaries or syrups. Each class of pharmaceutical preparation is represented along with a variety of recipes made in a specific form; they vary, however, in the ingredients used and their recommended uses and therapeutic effects. Many of these recipes and their pharmaceutical forms are remindful of similar formulas given in ancient documents from the Middle East and the Greco-Roman civilisations. What is unique is the organization of Saboor's formulary-type compendium purposely written as a guidebook for pharmacists, whether in their own private drugstores or in hospital pharmacies.


Hunayn bin Is'haaq:


He was an Arab scholar who died in 873 AH. His translations of Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, and the Neoplatonists made accessible to Arab philosophers and scientists the significant sources of Greek thought and culture.


Hunayn was a Nestorian Christian who studied medicine in Baghdad and became well versed in ancient Greek. He was appointed by Caliph Al-Mutawakkil to the post of chief physician to the court, a position that he held for the rest of his life. He travelled to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt to gather ancient Greek manuscripts. From his translators' school in Baghdad, he and his students transmitted Arabic and (more frequently) Syriac versions of the classical Greek texts throughout the Islamic world. Especially important are his translations of Galen, most of the original Greek manuscripts of which are lost.


Hunayn's book of the Ten Treatises on the Eye was completed in 860 AH. After finishing the ninth treatise, the author felt the need for a closing treatise to be devoted to compounded drugs for eye medication. He extracted some recipes from earlier treatises and added more prescriptions recommended by Greek authors.


As one obvious example of the uses and therapeutic values of using compounded drugs, Hunayn gave that of the theriac - the universal antidote against poisoning. Hunayn, who knew Greek, defined the Greek word theriac as an animal that bites or snaps. Since these antidotes were used against animal bites, the word eventually was applied to all antidotes, especially when snake flesh was incorporated.


Hunayn corrected the translation in Arabic of the major part of Dioscorides', Materia Medica, undertaken by his associate Istifaan bin Basil (about mid ninth century) in Baghdad. Due to the influence of this work, several books of materia medica were written in Arabic. Dioscorides definitely influenced the writing and direction of Sabur's formulary, which has been mentioned earlier.


Hunayn’s Herbal Treatise established the basis for Arabic pharmacology, therapy, and medical botany. It also provided a description of the physical properties of drugs, types, and means of testing their purity, and usefulness. As a result, Muslim pharmacology advanced beyond the Greco-Roman contribution. In turn, this helped and influenced a similar development in Europe through the Renaissance.


Sources: Islamic Organisation of Medical Sciences


Encyclopedia of Islamic World


Encyclopedia Britannica


Saturday: 08/07/2006





Muslims laid the foundation of physical science


It is an undeniable historical fact that before the advent of Islam, the pursuit of Science was condemned as heresy. One does not have to go far to seek the reason for this. At that time, most people could not think in the abstract and they looked upon the elements of Nature (the subject that Science concerns itself with) as sacred objects, possessing supernatural powers. They made idols symbolizing different elements and worshipped them as gods and goddesses, either for protection from evil or for attainment of certain objects. It was in this way that a pantheon was created and the sun, moon, stars, air, water, animals, and even trees and stones, were deified and adored.


It was not unnatural that in such circumstances, any deviation from the prevailing belief in their sanctity should have been branded as sacrilege, and any attempt at a critical examination of their potentiality, for good or evil, stigmatized as profanity. Thus, all that was useful in the heavens and the earth remained altogether unexplored, and for thousands of years man did not realise the sublime utility of the forces of Nature. It was reserved for the untutored son of the desert to open man's eye to the wonderland of Nature by bringing down her elements from the high pedestal of divinity on which they had been placed, to the position of servants of mankind.


The subservience of natural elements to man


The Quran says (what means):


“And He has made subservient to you the night and the day and the sun and moon and the stars are made subservient by His commandment; most surely there are signs in this for people to ponder...” [Quran 16:12]


Thus were the gods of the pre-Islamic people reduced by one stroke to the status of man's servants. For the first time in the history of the world, the Holy Quran declared in unmistakable language that the main purpose for which all objects -- from the mightiest sun to the most insignificant atom -- were created was to minister to man's needs. Everything in the Universe being intended for his use, man has been commanded to use his faculties to investigate their intrinsic properties -- in other words, to cultivate every branch of Science in order to discover the Divine that designed him and the world around him.


In the Quran, man was declared the vicegerent on earth by the Lord of the Universe and everything in it was subservient to him. Thus, the Quran gave a tremendous impetus to the development of scientific research. In fact, the foundation of modern Science was thus laid by acquainting man with the real nature of the forces and laws of Nature and by teaching him how to harness them for the service of human beings.


The initiation of the conquest of Nature leading to the utilisation of its forces for the benefit of humanity is, indeed, one of the greatest blessings Islam has conferred upon mankind.


The Quran clearly indicated the way in which to reduce Nature to human service by contemplation and observation of four kinds, viz., Tafaqquh, Tadabbur, Tafakkur and Ta’aqqul (learning, pondering, contemplation, and meditation). By means of Tafaqquh (learning) a correct idea of things and their different features can be arrived at; by Tadabbur (pondering) the knowledge of        how to utilize them properly can be acquired, Tafakkur (contemplation) teaches the ways by which things have come into existence while Ta'aqqul (meditation) gives the knowledge which enables man to make the right use of different things in everyday life.


It was the meditations indicated by Tafakkur and Ta'aqqul that actuated different kinds of scientific research among the early Muslims. This is how the Quran placed in the hands of man the key to the treasures of Nature and Divine Revelation came to show him the way to material progress. Everything in the Universe having been intended for the use of man, it was a virtuous act for him to conduct research into the realms of Nature in order to discover the utility of its various components. Thus the first principle of progress — the exploration and subsequent utilization of the forces of Nature to serve the needs of mankind and help him realize the Greatness of his Creator— became an article of faith with the Muslims, and impelled them to engage in scientific research.


From: A Simple Guide to Islam’s Contribution to Science and Civilisation


By: Maulvi Abdul Karim


Saturday : 01/07/2006




Islam encourages and urges its followers to learn, read, write and do research. Here are some proofs of the attitude of the religion of Islam towards education, learning and scientific thinking:


1. The first verses revealed in the Holy Quran say (what means): "Read in the name of the Lord, who created man from congealed blood." This means that the first revealed word was "read". This reflects the importance of reading and learning according to Islam.


2. The Holy Quran repeatedly orders Muslims to contemplate the universe, creatures, animals, seas, stars, the human body and plants.


3. The Holy Quran is scientific in its approach and thus it gives Muslims an example of scientific objectivity and the scientific approach. The Holy Quran often gives proofs to its statements.


4. The scientific approach of the Holy Quran is also clear when the Holy Quran requires proofs from the disbelievers for whatever claims they make.


5. The Holy Quran gives another example of scientific objectivity by repeatedly blaming disbelievers for their blind imitation of their forefathers. This is certainly an invitation from the Holy Quran to the believers and people to think independently and critically. Independent thinking is an essential condition for creativity, which is the first condition to scientific innovations and technological progress.


6. Prophet Muhammad , , urged his Companions   to use their own judgment if they faced problems to which there was no specific solution in the Holy Quran or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad . This encouragement of free judgment is a green signal that stimulates people to think, but without going against the principles of Islam.


7. Prophet Muhammad , ordered people to record knowledge in books.


Science Alone Is not Enough:


As we know, Islam as a religion holds that science alone is not enough to bring real progress. In secular countries that are technologically advanced, we notice that technology itself may create serious problems to those countries and other countries.


For example, Science has led to the invention of atomic bombs that are capable of destroying a whole city with its millions of civilians in a minute. Killing one million civilians or more in a minute is a terrible act of brutality. This act is the product of Science with the absence of true religion. According to Islam, civilians should not be harmed during war.


Further, Science has led to the invention of bombs that destroy plant life. Again, this is an act of extreme materialism devoid of spiritualism. According to Islam, civilians, animals and plants should not be harmed during war. This shows that while Science gives us the instruments of destruction, the misuse of these instruments does not take place through Science. These destructive instruments are employed through a political decision. This means that we have to go back to the politician's psychology to determine what kind of behavior is expected. Science and technology alone are not enough to achieve progress in society; on their own they may, in fact, create real problems for everybody. However, if Science is accompanied with the practice of the true religion and submission to Allaah, it will be used to serve man and not to torture or destroy him.


Limited Effect of Science:


Scientific findings and research do not always affect human life satisfactorily. For example, scientific research has shown that alcohol has a destructive influence on the brain, the digestive system, the heart and the nervous system. Everybody who drinks alcohol knows that alcohol is destructive to physical and mental health. Nevertheless, this scientific knowledge has not decreased the number of alcoholics. On the contrary, the number of alcoholics is increasing tremendously despite the findings of Science!


Science works successfully when it comes to the treatment of matter, but when it comes to human behavior, Science cannot do much. It cannot overcome bad customs, but a true religion can easily do that. In pre-Islamic times, people used to love wine, but when Islam prohibited drinking alcohol, wine was poured out on streets the moment the prohibition was declared. If a person fully submits to Allaah, he obeys Him completely.


The Mercy of Allaah:


Allaah is Merciful, so He sent Apostles and Prophets, may Allaah exalt their mention, to help humankind in the area where they need help: life. All religions, particularly Islam being the last religion, came with answers to the questions that puzzle man: Where did man come from? What is the end of man? How to worship Allaah? What are man's duties towards others? What are the regulations of peace and war? What are the regulations of food, drinks, and clothes? What to do and what not to do? What is right and what is wrong?


These questions cannot be answered by Science or man; they have been answered by Allaah, the Creator of man. The answers are available, but unfortunately, some people do not hear or listen or think of them. Those who do not listen to God's answers and God's guidance insist on experimenting with humans and their lives. Sometimes a country abolishes the death punishment, then it decides to use death as a capital punishment. Another country decides to ban alcohol, then suddenly allows it!


Fatal Experimentation:


These experimentations with human lives are fatal. The victims of these experiments are not animals, but the victims of each social experiment are millions of families, innocent people and children. When a government allows alcohol, the victims of this experiment are millions of would-be alcoholics and the women and children who form the families of such alcoholics. When a government decides not to punish murder by capital punishment, this decision will encourage millions of similar murders.


To sum up, whether it comes to material or spiritual matters, let us seek the answers from the One who created everything.