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A. Zahoor, Z. Haq

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Islamic Sciences and Famous Historians of
Science




Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq


Western
writers have often used the word Arabs or Muhammadans for Muslims
and Arabic civilization for Islamic Civilization. In other
instances, the words Saracen(ic) and Moor(ish) are also used for
Muslims (Arabs and non-Arabs) from various parts of Europe,
Africa, Arabia and Asia. According to a tradition of the Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) anyone whose primary language is Arabic is an Arab
despite his ethnic origin, place of birth, or national origin.
Arabic was the medium of communication throughout the Muslim world
until a couple of centuries ago, regardless of the type of
activity whether religious, social or scientific. During 800-1500
C.E. essentially all scientific works were written in Arabic. It
is only after colonization of Muslim lands that this practice
became less prevalent and in many instances was
eliminated.


George Sarton's Tribute to Muslim Scientists in the
"Introduction to the History of Science," I


"It will
suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without contemporary
equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan, al-Kindi, al-Khwarizmi,
al-Fargani, al-Razi, Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Battani, Hunain ibn
Ishaq, al-Farabi, Ibrahim ibn Sinan, al-Masudi, al-Tabari, Abul
Wafa, 'Ali ibn Abbas, Abul Qasim, Ibn al-Jazzar, al-Biruni, Ibn
Sina, Ibn Yunus, al-Kashi, Ibn al-Haitham, 'Ali Ibn 'Isa
al-Ghazali, al-zarqab, Omar Khayyam. A magnificent array of names
which it would not be difficult to extend. If anyone tells you
that the Middle Ages were scientifically sterile, just quote these
men to him, all of whom flourished within a short period, 750 to
1100 A.D."


John William Draper in the "Intellectual Development of
Europe"


"I have to
deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe
has continued to put out of sight our obligations to the
Muhammadans. Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice
founded on religious rancour and national conceit cannot be
perpetuated forever. The Arab has left his intellectual impress on
Europe. He has indelibly written it on the heavens as any one may
see who reads the names of the stars on a common celestial
globe."


Robert Briffault in the "Making of Humanity"


"It was
under the influence of the arabs and Moorish revival of culture
and not in the 15th century, that a real renaissance took place.
Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After
steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached
the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when cities of the
Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, and Toledo, were growing
centers of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there
that the new life arose which was to grow into new phase of human
evolution. From the time when the influence of their culture made
itself felt, began the stirring of new life.


"It was
under their successors at Oxford School (that is, successors to
the Muslims of Spain) that Roger Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic
Sciences. Neither Roger Bacon nor later namesake has any title to
be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger
Bacon was no more than one of apostles of Muslim Science and
Method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that
knowledge of Arabic and Arabic Sciences was for his contemporaries
the only way to true knowledge. Discussion as to who was the
originator of the experimental method....are part of the colossal
misinterpretation of the origins of European civilization. The
experimental method of Arabs was by Bacon's time widespread and
eagerly cultivated throughout Europe.


"Science
is the most momentous contribution of Arab civilization to the
modern world; but its fruits were slow in ripening. Not until long
after Moorish culture had sunk back into darkness did the giant,
which it had given birth to, rise in his might. It was not science
only which brought Europe back to life. Other and manifold
influence from the civilization of Islam communicated its first
glow to European Life.


"For
Although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which
the decisive influence of Islamic Culture is not traceable,
nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that
power which constitutes the permanent distinctive force of the
modern world, and the supreme source of its victory, natural
science and the scientific spirit.


"The debt
of our science to that of the Arabs does not consist in startling
discoveries or revolutionary theories, science owes a great deal
more to Arab culture, it owes its existence. The Astronomy and
Mathematics of the Greeks were a foreign importation never
thoroughly acclimatized in Greek culture. The Greeks systematized,
generalized and theorized, but the patient ways of investigation,
the accumulation of positive knowledge, the minute method of
science, detailed and prolonged observation and experimental
inquiry were altogether alien to the Greek temperament. Only in
Hellenistic Alexandria was any approach to scientific work
conducted in the ancient classical world. What we call science
arose in Europe as a result of new spirit of enquiry, of new
methods of experiment, observation, measurement, of the
development of mathematics, in a form unknown to the Greeks. That
spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world
by the Arabs.


"It is
highly probable that but for the Arabs, modern European
civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely
certain that but for them, it would not have assumed that
character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of
evolution."


Arnold and Guillaume in "Lagacy of Islam" on Islamic science
and medicine


"Looking
back we may say that Islamic medicine and science reflected the
light of the Hellenic sun, when its day had fled, and that they
shone like a moon, illuminating the darkest night of the European
middle Ages; that some bright stars lent their own light, and that
moon and stars alike faded at the dawn of a new day - the
Renaissance. Since they had their share in the direction and
introduction of that great movement, it may reasonably be claimed
that they are with us yet."


George Sarton in the "Introduction to the History of
Science"


"During
the reign of Caliph Al-Mamun (813-33 A.D.), the new learning
reached its climax. The monarch created in Baghdad a regular
school for translation. It was equipped with a library, one of the
translators there was Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-77) a particularly
gifted philosopher and physician of wide erudition, the dominating
figure of this century of translators. We know from his own
recently published Memoir that he translated practically the whole
immense corpus of Galenic writings."


"Besides
the translation of Greek works and their extracts, the translators
made manuals of which one form, that of the 'pandects,' is typical
of the period of Arabic learning. These are recapitulations of the
whole medicine, discussing the affections of the body,
systematically beginning at the head and working down to the
feet."


"The
Muslim ideal was, it goes without saying, not visual beauty but
God in His plentitude; that is God with all his manifestations,
the stars and the heavens, the earth and all nature. The Muslim
ideal is thus infinite. But in dealing with the infinite as
conceived by the Muslims, we cannot limit ourselves to the space
alone, but must equally consider time.


"The first
mathematical step from the Greek conception of a static universe
to the Islamic one of a dynamic universe was made by Al-Khwarizmi
(780-850), the founder of modern Algebra. He enhanced the purely
arithmetical character of numbers as finite magnitudes by
demonstrating their possibilities as elements of infinite
manipulations and investigations of properties and
relations.


"In Greek
mathematics, the numbers could expand only by the laborious
process of addition and multiplication. Khwarizmi's algebraic
symbols for numbers contain within themselves the potentialities
of the infinite. So we might say that the advance from arithmetic
to algebra implies a step from being to 'becoming' from the Greek
universe to the living universe of Islam. The importance of
Khwarizmi's algebra was recognized, in the twelfth century, by the
West, - when Girard of Cremona translated his theses into Latin.
Until the sixteenth century this version was used in European
universities as the principal mathematical text book. But
Khwarizmi's influence reached far beyond the universities. We find
it reflected in the mathematical works of Leonardo Fibinacci of
Pissa, Master Jacob of Florence, and even of Leonardo da
Vinci."


"Through
their medical investigations they not merely widened the horizons
of medicine, but enlarged humanistic concepts generally. And once
again they brought this about because of their over riding
spiritual convictions. Thus it can hardly have been accidental
that those researches should have led them that were inevitably
beyond the reach of Greek masters. If it is regarded as symbolic
that the most spectacular achievement of the mid-twentieth century
is atomic fission and the nuclear bomb, likewise it would not seem
fortuitous that the early Muslim's medical endeavor should have
led to a discovery that was quite as revolutionary though possibly
more beneficent."


"A
philosophy of self-centredness, under whatever disguise, would be
both incomprehensible and reprehensible to the Muslim mind. That
mind was incapable of viewing man, whether in health or sickness
as isolated from God, from fellow men, and from the world around
him. It was probably inevitable that the Muslims should have
discovered that disease need not be born within the patient
himself but may reach from outside, in other words, that they
should have been the first to establish clearly the existence of
contagion."


"One of
the most famous exponents of Muslim universalism and an eminent
figure in Islamic learning was Ibn Sina, known in the West as
Avicenna (981-1037). For a thousand years he has retained his
original renown as one of the greatest thinkers and medical
scholars in history. His most important medical works are the
Qanun (Canon) and a treatise on Cardiac drugs. The 'Qanun
fi-l-Tibb' is an immense encyclopedia of medicine. It contains
some of the most illuminating thoughts pertaining to distinction
of mediastinitis from pleurisy; contagious nature of phthisis;
distribution of diseases by water and soil; careful description of
skin troubles; of sexual diseases and perversions; of nervous
ailments."


"We have
reason to believe that when, during the crusades, Europe at last
began to establish hospitals, they were inspired by the Arabs of
near East....The first hospital in Paris, Les Quinze-vingt, was
founded by Louis IX after his return from the crusade
1254-1260."


"We find
in his (Jabir, Geber) writings remarkably sound views on methods
of chemical research, a theory on the geologic formation of metals
(the six metals differ essentially because of different
proportions of sulphur and mercury in them); preparation of
various substances (e.g., basic lead carbonatic, arsenic and
antimony from their sulphides)."


Ibn
Haytham's writings reveal his fine development of the experimental
faculty. His tables of corresponding angles of incidence and
refraction of light passing from one medium to another show how
closely he had approached discovering the law of constancy of
ratio of sines, later attributed to snell. He accounted correctly
for twilight as due to atmospheric refraction, estimating the
sun's depression to be 19 degrees below the horizon, at the
commencement of the phenomenon in the mornings or at its
termination in the evenings."


"A great
deal of geographical as well as historical and scientific
knowledge is contained in the thirty volume meadows of Gold and
Mines of Gems by one of the leading Muslim Historians, the tenth
century al Mas'udi. A more strictly geographical work is the
dictionary 'Mujam al-Buldan' by al-Hamami (1179-1229). This is a
veritable encyclopedia that, in going far beyond the confines of
geography, incorporates also a great deal of scientific
lore."


"They
studied, collected and described plants that might have some
utilitarian purpose, whether in agriculture or in medicine. These
excellent tendencies, without equivalent in Christendom, were
continued during the first half of the thirteenth century by an
admirable group of four botanists. One of these Ibn al-Baitar
compiled the most elaborate Arabic work on the subject (Botany),
in fact the most important for the whole period extending from
Dioscorides down to the sixteenth century. It was a true
encyclopedia on the subject, incorporating the whole Greek and
Arabic experience."


"'Abd
al-Malik ibn Quraib al-Asmai (739-831) was a pious Arab who wrote
some valuable books on human anatomy. Al-Jawaliqi who flourished
in the first half of the twelfth century and 'Abd al-Mumin who
flourished in the second half of the thirteenth century in Egypt,
wrote treatises on horses. The greatest zoologist amongst the
Arabs was al-Damiri (1405) of Egypt whose book on animal life,
'Hayat al-Hayawan' has been translated into English by A.S.G.
Jayakar (London 1906, 1908)."


"The
weight of venerable authority, for example that of Ptolemy, seldom
intimidated them. They were always eager to put a theory to tests,
and they never tired of experimentation. Though motivated and
permeated by the spirit of their religion, they would not allow
dogma as interpreted by the orthodox to stand in the way of their
scientific research."


De Lacy O'Leary in "Arabic Thought in History"


"The Greek
material received by the Arabs was not simply passed on by them to
others who came after. It has a very real life and development in
its Arabic surroundings. In astronomy and mathematics, the work of
the Greek and Indian scientists was coordinated and there a very
real advance was made. The Arabs not only extended what they had
received from the Greeks but checked and corrected older
records."


Carra de Vaux in the "Legacy of Islam"


"Arithmetic and algebra also flourished alongside of
astronomy. This was the period of the cerebrated al-Khwarizmi
whose name, corrupted by the Latin writers of the West, gave us,
it so believed, the term Algorism (sometimes written
Algorithm)."


Silberberg in "Zeitschrift fuer Assyriologie,"
Strassburg


"Anyhow it
is astonishing enough that the entire botanical literature of
antiquity furnishes us only two parellels to our book (of
ad-Dinawari, died 895 C.E.). How was it that the Muslim people
could, during so early a period of its literary life, attain the
level of the people of such a genius as the Hellenic one, and even
surpassed it in this respect. [Ad-Dinari wrote 'Kitab an-Nabat'
(Encyclopaedia Botanica) in six thick volumes. It was written
before any translation of Greek works into
Arabic.]"


F.G. Alfalo in "Reguilding the Crescent"


"His
(al-Khwarizmi) works in arithmetic and algebra were translated into Latin by the name of Algorithm
(which should have been Algorism). His name is the origin
of the word Logarithm."


Joseph Hell in the "Arab Civilization"


"In the
domain of trigonometry, the theory of Sine, Cosine and tangent is
an heirloom of the Arabs. The brilliant epochs of Peurbach, of
Regiomontanus, of Copernicus, cannot be recalled without reminding
us of the fundamental and preparatory labor of the Arab Mathematician (Al-Battani, 858-929
A.D.)."


"The
adoption of the sign of 'Zero' (Arabic Sifr or Cipher) was a step
of the highest importance, leading up to the so called arithmetic
of positions. With the help of the Arab system of numbers,
elementary methods of calculations were perfected; the doctrines
of the properties of, and relations between, the equal and the
unequal and prime numbers, squares and cubes, were elaborated;
Algebra was enriched by the solution of the third degree and
fourth degrees, with the help of geometry, and so on. About the
year 820 A.D. the mathematician Al-Khawarizmi, wrote a text book
of Algebra in examples, and his elementary treatise - translated
into Latin - was used by Western scholars down to the sixteenth
century."


French Orientalist Dr. Gustav Lebon


"It must
be remembered that no science, either of chemistry or any other
science, was discovered all of a sudden. The Arabs had established
one thousand years ago their laboratories in which they used to
make experiments and publish their discoveries without which
lavoisier (accredited by some as being the founder of chemistry)
would not have been able to produce anything in this field. It can
be said without the fear of contradiction that owing to the
researches and experimentation of Muslim scientists modern
chemistry came into being and that it produced great results in
the form of great scientific inventions, viz, steam, the
electricity, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, the
photography, the cinematography and so
on."


References:


1. George
Sarton, "Introduction to the History of Science, Vol. I-IV,"
Carnegie Institute of Washington, Baltimore, 1927-31; Williams and
Wilkins, Baltimore, 1950-53.


2. Robert
Briffault, "The Making of Humanity," London, 1938.


3. Thomas
Arnold, "The Legacy of Islam," Oxford University Press,
1960.


4. T. Arnold
and A. Guillaume, "The Legacy of Islam," Oxford University Press,
1931.


5. E.G.
Brown, "Arabian Medicine," Cambridge, 1921.


6. D.
Campbell, "Arabian Medicine and its influence on the Middle Ages,"
London, 1926.


7. P.K.
Hitti, "A History of Arabs," London, 1937; MacMillan,
1956.


8. Carra de
Vaux, "Legacy of Islam" and "The Philosophers of Islam," Paris,
1921; "Les Penseurs de l'Islam," 5 Vols., Paris,
1921-26.


9. De Lacy
O'Leary, "Arabic Thought in History."


10. A.A.
Khairallah, "Outline of Arabic Contribution to Medicine," Beirut,
1946.


11. S.H.
Nasr, "An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrine," Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1964.


12. Joseph
Hell, "The Arab Civilization." Tr. Khuda Baksh, Lahore
1943.


13.
Silberberg, "Zeitschrift fuer Assyriologie," Strassburg, Vols.
24-25, 1910-1911.


14. A.P.
Newton, Ed., "Travel and Travellers of the Middle Ages," London,
1926.


15. L.
Sedillot, "L' Historie des Arabes," Paris, 1850.


16. E.G.R.
Taylor, "Some Notes on the Early Ideas of the Form and Size of the
Earth," Geographical Journal, Vol. LXXXV, January
1935.


17. E.
Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of Roman Empire," London,
1900.


Additional References:


18. E.
Renan, "Miscellany of History and Travel," Paris, France,
1878.


19. C.A.
Ronan, "Science: Its History and Development Among the World's
Culture's," Hamly Publ. Group, New York, 1982.


20. P.K.
Hitti, "Makers of Arab History," St. Martins Press, New York,
1968.


21. J.R.
Hayes (Ed.), "The Genius of Arab Civilization," M.I.T. Press,
Cambridge, MA, 1983.


22. S.H.
Nasr, "Science and Civilization in Islam," New York,
1970.


23. Will
Durant, "The Age of Faith," Simon and Schuster, New York,
1950.


24. J.D.
Bernal, "Science in History (vol. 5)," M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA,
1965.


25. S.P.
Scott, "History of the Moorish Empire, J.B. Lippincott Co., London,
1904.


26. D.M.
Dunlop, "Arabic Science in the West," Pakistan Historical Society,
Karachi, 1958.


27. M. Watt,
"Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe," Edinburgh Univ. Press,
1972.


28. S.
Lane-Poole, "Story of the Moors in Spain," New York,
1889.


29. J. Burk,
"The Day the Universe Changed," Little Brown & Co., Boston, pp.
36-44, 108-109, 195-220, 1985.


30. S.
Hamarneh, "Bibliography on Medicine and Pharmacy in Medieval Islam,"
Stuttgart, 1964.


31. A.
Mieli, "La science arabe et son role dans l'evolution scientifique
mondiale," Leiden, R. J. Brill, 1939.


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