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Arab-Islamic science



Starting around 750 AD, science flourished under the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad, gradually spreading its influence as far west as Spain and eastwards into Central Asia, over a period of more than 600 years.

By drawing on a variety of texts - Greek, Indian and Persian - and translating them into Arabic, the early scholars accumulated the greatest body of scientific knowledge in the world … and built on it through their own discoveries.

Often, there was a practical Islamic relevance. Astronomy could be used to work out the direction of prayer. Mathematics was needed for dividing property according to the Islamic law of inheritance.

Although science flourished under Arab-Islamic patronage, by no means all the important figures in science were Muslims, or even Arabs.

The common factor, however, was the Arabic language, which for a time became the international language of science. It was only later, in the 12th and 13th centuries, when the Arabic works began to be translated into Latin, that such knowledge passed to the west.

Centuries in the House of Wisdom 
Iraq's golden age of science brought us algebra, optics, windmills and much more. (The Guardian, 23 September 2004)

Muslim scientists and Islamic civilisation
Scientific Contributions Before European Renaissance, 700 - 1500 CE.

History of Arab-Islamic science 
by Professor Hamed Ead, Cairo University:

Eighth century - Jabir Ibn Haiyan
Ninth century (part 1) - Al-Khwarizmi
Ninth century (part 2) - Al-Razi
Tenth century (part 1) - Al-Mas'udi
Tenth century (part 2) - Abu al-Wafa
Eleventh century (part 1) - Al-Biruni
Eleventh century (part 2) - Omar Khayyam


Probably the best introduction to the history of medicine in the Arab world is Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts, which is based around an exhibition held in 1994 to mark the 900thMANUSCRIPT.GIF (11251 bytes) anniversary of the oldest Arabic medical manuscript (pictured on the right) at the National Library of Medicine in the United States. The site, which includes illustrations from old manuscripts, also has suggestions for further reading.

An on-line book, Islamic Medicine, provides a more detailed and wide-ranging study with essays by a variety of physicians and scholars. A chapter on Islamic medical ethics deals with some contemporary issues, such as euthanasia, surrogate motherhood and AIDS.

The comparatively advance stage that Arab medicine had reached by the 12th and 13th centuries can be seen from Professor Maher Ali's article about medical schools.

Numerous articles on the web argue that Arab and Islamic achievements in medicine have long been overlooked by the west - and seek to redress the balance. These include:

The Arab (Muslim) Roots of European Medicine

The discovery of the pulmonary circulation
This paper, by two doctors in the United States, engages in historical controversy, arguing that pulmonary circulation was discovered by Ibn Nafis, an eminent physician of the 13th century and not - as is usually believed - by Europeans in the 16th century.

Arabic (or Islamic) influence on the historical development of medicine
A series of articles edited by Professor Hamed Ead:


Independent contributions of Arabian medicine to medical science

The greatest educators and physicians of the Middle Ages


Al-Khwarizmi and algebra

The concept of Zero
(and other Arab contributions to mathematics)

Arabic mathematics

The development of Algebra
Arab and Hindu influences

Alchemy and chemistry

Alchemy is often associated with the magical transformation of base metals into gold. In reality, it was the forerunner of modern chemistry.

The Book of Knowledge Acquired Concerning the Cultivation of Gold
Transcript from a 14th century Arabic manuscript by the Abu al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn Ahmed al-'Iraqi.

Alchemy in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah

Alchemy in the context of Islamic science
edited by Professor Hamed A Ead

Chemistry in the Middle Ages
J. Plambeck, University of Alberta

Alchemy in Islamic times

Pioneers of science

Abd al-Malik Ibn Quraib al-Asmai (740-828)
Zoology, botany, animal husbandry

Muhammad Bin Musa al-Khwarizmi (Algorizm)
Mathematics, astronomy, geography, (algorithm, algebra, calculus)

Abu 'Uthman 'Amr ibn Bakr al-Basri al-Jahiz
Zoology, Arabic grammar, rhetoric, lexicography

Yaqub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (Alkindus) (800-873)
Philosophy, physics, optics, medicine, mathematics, metallurgy

Jabir Ibn Haiyan (Geber)
(Died 803)

Thabit Ibn Qurrah (Thebit)
Astronomy, mechanics, geometry, anatomy

Ali Ibn Rabban al-Tabari
Medicine, mathematics, calligraphy, literature

Abu Abdullah al-Battani (Albategnius) (858-929)
Astronomy, mathematics, trigonometry

Abul-Abbas Ahmad al-Farghani (al-Fraganus)
(C. 860)
Astronomy, civil engineering

Muhammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (Rhazes)
Medicine, ophthalmology, smallpox, chemistry, astronomy

Abu al-Nasr al-Farabi (al-Pharabius)
Sociology, logic, philosophy, political science, music

'Abbas Ibn Firnas
(Died 888)
Mechanics of flight, planetarium, artificial crystals, Also, reputedly, the first man to fly.

Abd-al Rahman al-Sufi (Azophi) (903-986)

Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Albucasis)
Surgery, medicine (father of modern surgery)

Abul Wafa Muhammad al-Buzjani
Mathematics, astronomy, geometry, trigonometry

Abul Hasan Ali al-Masu'di
(Died 957)
Geography, history

Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham (Alhazen)
Physics, optics, mathematics

Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi (Alboacen) (972-1058)
Political science, sociology, jurisprudence, ethics

Abu Raihan al-Biruni
Astronomy, mathematics. Determined the earth's circumference

Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (Avicenna)
Medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Ibn Yahya al-Zarqali (Arzachel)
Astronomy (invented astrolabe)

Omar al-Khayyam
Mathematics, poetry

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (Algazel)
Sociology, theology, philosophy

Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar, Abumeron)
Surgery, medicine

Abu Abdallah Muhammad al-Idrisi (1099-1166)
Geography (world map, first globe)

Abul Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
Philosophy, law, medicine, astronomy, theology

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi
Astronomy, non-Euclidean geometry

Nur al-Din Ibn Ishaq al-Bitruji (Alpetragius)
(Died 1204)

Jalal al-Din Rumi

Ibn al-Nafis Damishqi

Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn al-Baitar
(Died 1248)
Pharmacy, botany

Mohammed Targai Ulugh Beg

Abd al-Rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Khaldun
Sociology, philosophy of history, political science

Portraits of 12 Muslim scientists in various fields

Science and Islam today

Islam and evolution 
Background to the debate

Science and Civilisation in Islam
by Seyyed Hossain Nasr

Embryology in the Qur'an
by Dr Keith L Moore (with illustrations)

The Qur'an, knowledge, and science
by A. Abd-Allah
The relationship between the Qur'an and modern science.

The Qur'an and Modern Science
From Maurice Bucaille's book, "The Origin of Man." Compares the Qur'an and the Bible in relation to modern science.


In the science section



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Last revised on 05 August, 2015