Inventions and Discoveries from the Muslim World
By Adnaan Idrees
Have you ever noticed that all the books on science and technology somehow only seem to be filled with discoveries and inventions from the likes of Aristotle, Archimedes, Da Vinci and Thomas Edison... but what about the Muslims? Where are all our discoveries? A period of a thousand years exists between these thinkers and when great Muslim men and women expressed their religiosity through contributions made to society and the sciences. So what were these contributions? And how many of these things are used today? MEDICINE:
Masters of Ophthalmology: All the modern terms that your optician uses like conjunctiva, cornea, uvea and retina come from Muslim eye surgeons of the 10th to the 13th Century. They were conducting operations on diseases of the lids like trachoma, glaucoma or as they called it ‘the headache of the pupil’ back then but the greatest contribution they made to ophthalmology was developing a treatment for cataracts. Also known as al-ma’ nazul’ayn Ma’, which meant “the descending water onto the eye” (the water accumulating in the lens making it cloudy). Al-Mawsili in the 10th Century Iraq designed a hollow needle and inserted it through the limbus to remove the cataract by suction. This very same procedure is carried out to this very day. From his study and practice he wrote a book called The Book of Choices in the Treatment of Eye Diseases. Not a very good name for a book but hey the man was a genius when it came to diseases of the eye as the book discusses 48 different diseases! The manuscript of this book can still be found to this very day, in the Escorial Library in Madrid, Spain. Surgical instruments: The Muslim Surgeon named Abu Al Qasim Al-Zahrawi (10th century) known as Abulcasis in the West is truly the father of surgery. He devised over 200 instruments; his scalpels, bone saws, forceps and fine scissors amongst others are still used in their original form today! He is the author of Kitab Al-Tasrif (method of medicine)- a 30 volumes encyclopaedia on medical practices and his greatest contribution to medicine; this book includes symptoms and treatments of 100’s of diseases, descriptions of particular aspects of pharmacology and diet; and the last, most famous and influential volume about surgical practices. EVERYDAY INVENTIONS and DISCOVERIES
Cheques: comes from the Arabic “saqq”. As a form of payment it is a written vow to honour payment for merchandise when its destination is reached. The cheque was created due to the possible dangers of transporting coins as legal tender. In promoting the concept of the saqq or cheque Muslims made the financing of commerce and intercontinental trade possible. In the 9th century it was possible to cash a cheque in China and then withdraw it in Baghdad. Can you say Kerching!? Fountain Pen: Before pens ever came into existence as we know them today, there were other writing instruments like Qalams or reed pens, which were used by the Arabs in the art of calligraphy. But the problem was the same, the ink always existed outside of the pen and it constantly had to make use of an ink-holder. An Arab called Qadi abu Hanifah al-Nu’man ibn Muhammed, who was a close companion to the Egyptian sultan al-Mu’izz, in 953 CE, wrote a book called ‘The Book of Audiences and Concurrence’ in which he recollects how the Al-Mu’izz ordered the commissioning of the fountain pen: “We wish to construct a pen which can be used for writing without having recourse to an ink-holder and whose ink will be contained inside it. A person can fill it with ink and write whatever he likes and the writer can put it in his sleeve and it will not stain nor leak. The ink will flow only when there is an intention to write.” The companion asked: “Is this possible?” And the sultan replied: “It is possible if God so wills.” Sure enough a few days later the craftsman brought a pen which wrote when it was filled with ink, never leaked when turned...
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