View Printable Version :: Email to a Friend
Muslim Contribution to Science and Culture (2)
Science and Religion
M.A.R Khan

Partronage at the Eastern Provincial Courts

When the power of the ‘Abbasid Khalifahs weakened in the provinces and distant governors began to wield more or less unrestricted authority, scientific inquiry continued unabated under the patronage of local rulers. It was thus that the short-lived Tulunid dynasty (868-905 AD) acquired credit for the founding of a Bimaristan in Cairo (in 873 AD) during the rule of Ibni Tulun. This Tulunid hospital continued to function till the fifteenth century.

One of the most renowned physicians of the entire world, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibni Zakariya Al-Razi (Latin: Rhazes) was born in 850 AD at Rayy near modern Teheran. He received his early training as a pupil of ‘Ali Ibni Sahl Rabban Al-Tabari (a Jewish convert to Islam) author of “Firdaus-ul-Hikmah” and himself a great investigator not only in medicine but in a number of other sciences. Al-Razi’s book, “Al-Hawi” (Latin: Continens) was an encyclopaedia of medicine with many extracts from Greek and Hindu authors as well as his own personal observations. While at the court of Mansur Ibni Ishaq, the Samanid ruler of Faras and Transoxiana, he wrote his “Kitab-ul-Mansuri (Latin: Liber Almansoris), a smaller compilation in ten volumes based largely on Greek medicine. He has contributed largely to Muslim knowledge of gynaecology, obsteterics and ophthalmology; but the most outstanding work to his credit is his tract on small-pox and measles “Al-Judari Wal Hasbah” (Hitti, “History of The Arabs”, London, Pg 336), available in English through William A. Greenhill’s translation (London 1848). It is stated to be one of the most accurate works on these two diseases even from the point of view of modern research. Liber Almansoris was published in several editions, one as late as 1890 in Milan.

Al-Razi left his mark on surgery also. He was the inventor of the seton. His interest in physics is evident from his investigations on the determination of specific gravity by means of the hydrostatic balance, called by him Mizan-ul-Tab’i; and his book Kitab-ul-Asrar displays his keenness on chemistry as well, through his description of chemical processes and apparatus. He went over to Baghdad to take up his duties as chief physician and to select a suitable site for a bimaristan, which he did by hanging up raw meat in various localities and chose the spot where it showed least signs of putrefaction (Ibni-Abi-Usaybi’ah, Vol 1, Pgs 309-10). The “Fihrist” credits Razi with the authorship of 113 major and 28 minor works.

Here mention must be made of ‘Ali Ibni Al-’Abbas Al-Majusi’s (d: 994 AD) “Kitab-ul-Maliki”. He was known to Latin Europe as Hally Abbas and his book as Liber Regius, written for the Buwayh Sultan ‘Adud-Al-Dawlah and less voluminous than Al-Razi’s “Al-Hawi”. It remained a standard text-book for a number of years until it was superseded by Ibni Sina’s world-famous “Al-Qanun fi-Al-Tibb”. ‘Ali Ibni Al-Abbas was the first to discuss in a rudimentary manner the structure and function of the capillaries and to give the right explanation of child-birth not, as was erroneously supposed for ages as a voluntary effort on the part of the child itself, but as the timely reaction of the muscles of the womb at parturition. Even more illustrious than Al-Razi’s name in the history of medicine is that of ‘Ali Ibni-Al-Husayn IbniSina (Latin: Avicenna, 980-103 AD). His all-round knowledge representing all that could be discerned at the time raises him to a position second only to that of Aristotle. For generations to come his word was law. The reverence he enjoyed was due not so much to the absolute correctness of the views he put forward, as it was for his grasp of the subjects he handled and the clarity of his exposition. The title Shaykh-Al-Ra’is bestowed on him by his disciples was well merited on account of these rare natural gifts and qualifications.

Young Ibni Sina visited Bukhara to wait on the Samanid ruler Nuh the second, and having access to the well-equipped royal libraries, engrossed himself in the systematic study of all that was available. His “Qanun” in its Latin translation passed through 15 editions in the last 30 years of the fifteenth century (Hitti, loc. cit. Pg 368). Its pharmacopia contained 760 drugs. Ibni Sina was the first to detect the contagiousness of phthisis and the spreading of diseases by water. His “Kitab-ul-Shifa’” (Latin: Sanatio), a philosophical encyclopaedia was also very popular. It contained much original matter on the theory of music, which in the hands of Al-Farabi led subsequently to far-reaching practical results. Ibni Sina was opposed to the then current belief in the transmutation of metals as he considered their differences to be innate and far from superficial. It is a great pleasure to note that the portraits of Al-Razi and Ibni Sina still adorn the great hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Paris.

Ophthalmology was a specially favourite subject of Arab physicians. ‘Ali Ibni ‘Isa’s “Tadhkirat-Al-Kahhalin” treats of 132 diseases of the eye and is one of the earliest Arab treatises on the subject. In the time of Al-Hakim of Egypt, ‘Ammar Ibni ‘Ali Al-Mawsili wrote “Al-Muntakhab fi-’illaj Al-’Ayn”. Much valuable work was done on the diseases of the eye and their treatment in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries also, as may be judged from the masterly expositions of Ibn-Al-Naqid of Cairo (d: 1188 AD) in his “Kitab-ul-Mujjarabat, of Mahasin of Halab in his “Al-Kafi fi-Al-Kuhl” (1256) in his “Nur-ul-’Uyun Wal-Jami’ Al-Funun”, which was unsuperseded (it is said), even in the nineteenth century.

The interest roused in astronomy by the school of Al-Mamun was carried on to later courts usurping the power of the ‘Abbasid Khalifahs. The Buwayh Sultan Sharaf-ul-Dawlah built an observatory in his palace at Baghdad in 982 AD, where ‘Abdal-Rahman Al-Sufi, Ahmad-Al-Saghani and the celebrated Abu-Al-Wafa’ were engaged on active observational work. ‘Abd-al-Rahman Al-Sufi was one of the three greatest practical astronomers of Islam (the two others being Ibni Yunus and Ulugh Beg, who will be referred to later). Al-Sufi’s illustrated treatise, “Kitab-al-Kawakib Al-Thabit Al-Musawwar” (available in original Arabic, as well as in a French translation by Schjellerup) contains a catalogue of stars based on his own observations, giving their magnitudes and co-ordinates. It is the first star atlas to take cognizance of the nebula in Andromeda and is of great importance even at present, as it has revealed the changes undergone by a number of prominent stars in their magnitudes in the course of ten centruries (for example, theta Eridani), and may throw some light on their proper motions also.

Ahmad Al-Saghani probably made the astrolabes and other instruments used by himself and other astronomers working in Sharaf-Al-Dawlah’s observatory. Abu-Al-Wafa’ Muhammad Ibni Muhammad Ibni Yahya Ibni Ismail Ibni Al-Abbas Al-Buzjani (940-998 AD) did valuable astronomical work in Baghdad but this is eclipsed by his researches in pure mathematics. Apart from discussing and solving a number of interesting problems in pure geometry he contributed considerably to the development of trigonometry both plane and spherical. He gave a new method of constructing sine tables, the value of sine 30’ being correct to the 8th place of decimals (Sarton, “Introduction to the History of Science”, Vol 1, Pg 667). A number of European mathematicians have discussed isolated problems handled by Abu-Al-Wafa’, as for example Delambre in “Histoire de Pastronomie an Moyen Age” and H. Suter in the “Encyclopoedia of Islam”, but no extensive text of his has as yet been published.

Among other Muslim mathematicians of this period ( really large number) may be mentioned Abu-Al-Isfahani, Rustam Al-Kuhi and Ahmad Ibni Muhammad Ibni ‘Abd-Al-Jalil Al-Sijazi. Al-Isfahani commented on the first five books of Apollonius of Perga’s “Conic Sections” and gave a better Arabic edition of the complete work-books 1-7. We may here note in passing that the first four books were translated by Hilal Al-Himsi and the last three by Thabit Ibni Qurrah about a century earlier. Books 5 to 7 are lost completely in the original Greek, and it was from this Arabic translation alone that Abraham Ecchellensis, Professor of Arabic and Syriac in Rome and Paris and G.A. Borelli published a Latin version of the work in Florence in 1661. Rustam Al-Kuhi solved some of the problems of Archimedes and Apollonius that led to equations of a higher degree than the second and discussed the conditions of their solvability---these investigations being among the most brilliant in Muslim geometry. Al-Sijazi made a special study of intersections of conic sections and circles, and replaced the old Kinematical method of trisection of an angle by a purely geometric solution (intersection of a circle by an equilateral hyperbola).

At the court of another Buwayh Sultan Rukn Al-Dawlah (932-976 AD) at Rayy, Abu-Ja’far Al-Khazin Al-Khurasani re-determined the inclination of the Ecliptic and solved an old problem from the time of Archimedes that had baffled Al-Mahani (died some time about 874 to 884 AD) viz., the division of a sphere by a plane, in a given ratio (in later times known as Mahani’s problem), by solving a cubic equation.

Astronomy was such a favourite recreation with the early Muslims that even private persons with independent means (like the three sons of Musa Ibni Shakir at Baghdad) installed observatories at their homes. There were astronomers in Shiraz, Samarqand, Nishapur engaged on celestial observations. In yet another independent Sultanate of the ‘Abbasid Khilafat (that of Ghaznah) we have to record the appearanc of an illustrious exponent of the mathematical and physical sciences, Abu Rayhan Muhammad Ibni Ahmad Al-Biruni (973-1048 AD), a contemporary of Ibni Sina and a distinguished member of the University founded by Sultan Mahmud at Ghaznah and patronised later by his son and successor Mas’udi. Al-Biruni wrote his Al-Qanun-Al-Mus’udi for this same sultan. It is a treatise on Astronomy and surveys the entire field explored at the time by the Greeks, Persians and Hindus. He was a great admirer of the Hindu notation of numerals (including the zero, Arabic: Al-Sifr) and introduced it along with their newly discovered system of decimals to the scientific world. His “Athar-Al-Baqiyah-fi-Qurun-ul-Khaliah”, edited by Edward Sachau contains all the details (technical and historical) of all the systems then known and in vogue among various nations for the computation of chronology. Sachau’s enthusiasm for the author and Muslim savants in general, leads him to remark that “the fourth century AH is the turning point in the history of Islam, and the establishment of the orthodox faith about 500 AH sealed the fate of independent research for ever. But for Al Ash’ari and Al-Ghazzali the Arabs might have been a nation of Galileos, Keplers and Newtons.”

Al-Biruni wrote in Arabic and Persian. He possibly knew some Hebrew and Syriac, but seems to have been ignorant of Greek. While in India, he studied Sanskrit and had thus direct access to Hindu mathematics and astronomy. He was a keen observer of nature and his description of various natural phenomena like the Zodiacal Light, his correct explanation that the rise of water in springs is due to hydrostatic pressure and his suggestion that the Indus Valley was an arm of the sea, reveal his remarkable powers of accurate observation and investigation. All this is clearly borne out by his answers to self-imposed questions in his “Kitab Al-Tafhim Li-awai’l-i Sina’at aA-Tanjim”. His determination of the specific gravities of various metals, precious stones and minerals as a means of ascertaining their purity published in Al-Khazini’s “Mizan-ul-Hikmah” presents him in the light of an ardent experimentalist. The values deduced from his tables are remarkably accurate, if we bear in mind the imperfections of the apparatus at his disposal.

With the gradual dismemberment of the ‘Abbasid Khilafat new dynasties rose to power in different parts of the Islamic world, that brought down the general level of Muslim supremacy in arms over non-Muslim countries but continued almost unabated the traditions of scientific inquiry and literary output established at Baghdad in its golden prime. Some reference has been made to the scientific activities of the reigns of the Tulunids, the Samanids (874-999 AD) the Buwayhids (945-1055 AD) and the Ghaznawids (962-1186 AD).

For Questions on Islam, please use our

Replica Handbags Bottega Veneta fake Bvlgari fake Celine fake Christian Dior fake Gucci fake Gucci Bag fake Gucci Wallet fake Gucci Shoes fake Gucci Belt fake Hermes fake Loewe fake Louis Vuitton fake Louis Vuitton Belt fake Louis Vuitton Calf Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Graphite Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Infini Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Quilt lamb fake Louis Vuitton Embossed Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton Epi fake Louis Vuitton Game On Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Jewellery fake Louis Vuitton Key Holder fake Louis Vuitton Mahina Leather fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Denim fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Eclipse Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Seal fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Shadow fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Watercolor fake Louis Vuitton New Wave fake Louis Vuitton Shoes fake Louis Vuitton Since 1854 fake Louis Vuitton Strap fake Louis Vuitton Taiga Leahter fake Louis Vuitton Taurillon leather fake Louis Vuitton Transformed Game On canvas fake Louis Vuitton Utah Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton X Supreme fake Mulberry fake Prada fake YSL fake