Islamic contributions to World History were several, touching such different areas as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, and technology. The medieval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of wisdom flourished. The many references to astronomy in the Qur’an and hadith inspired the early Muslim scholars to study the heavens. Astronomical tables were compiled, among them the Toledan tables, which were used by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Kepler. Muslim astronomers were the first to establish observatories and they invented instruments such as the quadrant and astrolabe, which led to advances not only in astronomy but in oceanic navigation.
Al-Biruni, a famous Muslim scholar of the 11th century, worked out that the earth is round and calculated its circumference. He also stated that the earth spins on its axis and rotates around the sun, nearly 600 years before Galileo. The first great Muslim mathematician Al-Khawarizmi invented the subject of algebra (al-Jabr), which gave mathematics a whole new dimension. Al-Khawarizmi also introduced a method similar to long division to extract the square root (jithr) of a number and the concept of mal (power) for the squared unknown variable. The word “algorithm” is derived from his name. The Muslims invented the symbol for zero (an invaluable addition made to mathematical science), spherical trigonometry, discovered the tangent.
Muslim Contributions to World History
The Muslims have also made a lasting contribution to the development of Medical Science. Al-Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Abu Ali al-Hasan (Alhazen) were the greatest medical scholars of mediaeval times. Al-Razi was a versatile Persian scholar who made fundamental and enduring contributions to the fields of medicine, alchemy, and philosophy, recorded in over 184 books. The 10th century surgeon al-Zahrawi was the first to develop sophisticated surgical tools for operations. Avicenna wrote ‘Al-Qanun Jil Tib known as Cannon’, which was the most widely studied medical work of medieval times and was reprinted more than 20 times during the last 30 years of the 15th century in many different languages also remained a standard textbook even in Europe, for over 700 years. Besides these chemistry is the fourth major science in which Muslims have made the greatest contribution.
Among the long list of great Muslim chemists we find two names. Jabir Ibn Hayyan (722 CE – 815 CE), is unanimously considered as the founder of chemistry. He identified many new acids, alkalines and salts. Ten centuries before John Dalton, Hayyan defined chemical combinations as a union of the elements together, in too small a particle for the naked eye to see, without loss of character. Al-Razi (born in 850 CE) established the firm foundations of modern chemistry by setting up, for the first time, the laboratory in the modern sense. As an alchemist, Razi is credited with discovering Sulphuric acid, and the basic notions of modern chemistry and chemical engineering. But because we have tended to see Islam as the opponent of the West, as a foreign culture, we have tended to disregard or erase its great consequences to our own history.