طراحی سایت

The Islamic Contributions To Western Science And Civilization

Written by: Dr. Youssef Mroueh

Published on: August 8th, 2019

Picture above is a european depiction of the Persian Muslim doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona’s Receuil des traités de médecine (1250–1260). Gerard de Cremona translated numerous works by Muslim scholars, such as al-Razi and Ibn Sina.


No doubt that the Muslim scientific heritage has a basic influence and deep effect on the development of Modern World science and civilization. What I mean here by the Muslim or Islamic science, are all the scientific activities which were carried out by the Muslim scholars and documented in Arabic, the language of the Qur’an and the official language at the time. This includes their studies, research experiments, theories, discoveries, inventions, observations, books, and manuscripts in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medicine, pharmacy, and so forth. The works originate from Muslim empire countries, which extended from the Atlantic ocean in the West to the banks of the Indus river in the East, as well as the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea during a period of eight centuries (7th to 15th century A.D.). The importance of the Muslim science is actually acknowledged by hundreds of European and Western scholars, researchers and scientists.

History tells us that at a time where Europe was prosecuting its scientists, burning their works and suppressing their new ideas, Muslims were asked by the Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.) to  “search for knowledge even in China”. Over and over again, reading, writing, the pen, the book, and knowledge were mentioned in the Qur’an. The ink with which scientist wrote was considered the equivalent of the blood of “Martyrs”. A prisoner of war was usually asked to teach the Muslims how to read, and write, to regain his freedom and be set free. Later on, some scientists were given the weight of their books in gold.

The direct result of this admiration for learning was an untiring search for Greek, Syriac, Egyptian, Persian, Indian and Chinese knowledge. And upon this past knowledge the Muslims founded a civilization which contributed tremendously to the Renaissance of Europe and subsequently to our present civilization.

It is known that when the Muslims, during early days of Islam, directed their attention to intellectual activity they turned first to applied sciences such as mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.


Highlights Of The Islamic Scientific Heritage

There are two aspects of Islamic science, on the one hand the scientific ideas which were imported from outside and, on the other, the contribution of the Muslims themselves to the sum of the scientific knowledge. This latter, the Muslims’ own contributions, has often been neglected in favor of the more exciting advances which were to come in Western Europe from the 16th century onward. Too often Islamic scientific heritage has been seen as nothing more than a holding operation. The Muslim land has been viewed as a giant storehouse for previously discovered scientific facts, keeping them until they could be passed on for use in the West. But this is, of course, a travesty of the truth. Certainly the Muslims did inherit Greek science – and some Indian and Chinese science too, for that matter – and later passed it on to the West. But this is far from being all they did. They interpreted what they inherited, commented on it and added valuable analyses of what it contained, and, above all, they made many original contributions of their own. Indeed Muslim land produced some original scientific minds; it nurtured them and encouraged them to make their own individual contributions. So when we think of the West’s indebtedness to Islamic culture, it is important to appreciate both aspects, the original work as well as the transmitted ideas of an earlier age. It is important also not to forget that Arabic language proved a highly flexible and appropriate medium for the expression of scientific concepts.

1-Abu Ishaq al-Zarqali of Toledo from Spain, wrote on scientific instruments, and, in particular, on those concerned with drawing or” projecting” the sphere to a flat surface.

In his own day, however, he seems to have been most famous for his complex water-clocks, some of which even showed the movements and phases of the moon. These were made at Toledo, which al-Zarqali left in 1078 because of the disturbances caused by the repeated attacks of Christian armies under Alfonco VI of Castile. In 1133, after the city was conquered by the Christians, Alfonso VI gave permission for the clocks to be dismantled by a craftsman, Hamis ibn Zabara, to discover how they worked. But Ibn Zabara was not equal to the task; he took them to pieces, failed to discover how they worked, and was quite unable to reassemble them. By then al-Zarqali was dead and details of his methods of construction were therefore lost.

2-Al-Battani’s achievement was his use of trigonometry, and the projection of figures from sphere on a plane allow him to get some new and elegant solutions to astronomical problems. His methods were copied in Western Europe in the 15th century by the astronomer Regiomontanus.

3-Al-Samaw’al was the first Muslim mathematician to display an understanding of negative numbers, choosing to treat them as separate identities. He was able to subtract numbers from zero, devising rules that only appeared in Europe 300 years later.

4-Ibn Al-Haytham claimed that light is something emitted from every self-luminous source, it is a ‘primary emission”. He also considered a “’secondary emission”, from what he termed an “accidental source”. Light from such a source is emitted in the form of a sphere (i.e. in all directions). Such light would, like light from a primary source, travel in straight lines (as al-Kindi had pointed out) but it would be weaker. This was original thinking indeed, really enshrining the principle of secondary wavelets proposed six centuries later by the Dutchman Christian Huygens. Ibn Al-Haytham’s work was important; how important may be judged not only from its continual quotation by later medieval scholars in the West, but also by the fact that his conclusion that the refraction of light is caused by light rays traveling at different speeds in different materials, as well as his laws of refraction, were used in the 17th century by Kepler and Descartes. Al-Haytham, then, represented the modern physical scientist. His work marked the high point of Islamic Physics.



There can be no doubt that the philosophers, scientists, geographers, natural historians and medical men of Islamic culture contributed materially to the sum of man’s knowledge about the material world. This was pan of their bequest to the late Medieval West. The other was the whole corpus of Greek science, sometimes filtered through the sieve of Islamic culture, sometimes not. No doubt that the early Muslims and the whole Islamic world studied science and made notable contributions and achievements.

The late medieval scientific movement concentrated on physical science because it was a subject in which it was possible to exercise precision of thought and freedom of speculation which would have been more difficult or even impossible in other fields. It was a work that was to be continued in the following centuries, in the time that has come to be called the Renaissance, and on into the period of what is often called the scientific revolution. And it is in the physical sciences that we see most clearly the emergence of modern science, which was to a great extent on the inquiring attitudes of late medieval scholars.


The Islamic Scientific Heritage

The Islamic scientific heritage included the remarkable works in the fields of basic and fundamental sciences such as: mathematics, physics mechanics, hydraulics, thermionic and optics, chemistry, metallurgy, astronomy, medicine, pharmacology, toxicology, architecture, geography, cartography. meteorology, climatology and marine navigation.

The following is a list of the branch of science, followed with examples of Muslim Scholars, their discoveries and Contributions.


1) Mathematics:

al-Khawarizmi, Thabit ibnQurrah, Sinan ibn Thabit, al-Mahani, Jaafar al-Khazen, Abu-el Wafa al-Bouzjani, al-Kouhi, al-Karkhi, al-Khayam, at-Toussi, ibn Younes, al-Battani, al-Kalsadi, al-Khujandi, al-Kashi, ibn Hamza, ibn al-Banah, al-Batruji etc.

  • Established Algebra and its symbols and its equations
  • Developed Arabic Numerals
  • Originated general formula for solving third degree equations
  • Prepared mathematical tables, established trigonometric ratios, formulas, and equations.
  • Originated basic equations of spherical trigonometry etc.


2) Physics

Ibn al-Haytham, abu Rihan al Biruni, abi al-lz bin Ismail, abi Sahel al-Koubi, Abdul Raliman al-Khazen, ibn Younes, al-Khazini etc.

  • Established science of power (Mechanics).
  • Described the center of gravity
  • Described Mechanical Properties of Geometric bodies
  • Developed techniques of gravity, capillarity and leveling measurements. Developed hydrometer, aerometer, lever, Balance-scale etc
  • Measured specific gravity of different substances
  • Applied Archimedes’ rule to gases.
  • Measured atmospheric pressure.
  • Invented the Pendulum, spring and wall water clock.
  • Discovered the laws of the optical phenomenon of light; single/multiple reflection, partial/ total reflection, single/double atmospheric refraction, lst/2nd
  • Critical angle of refraction, rectilinear propagation of light etc.
  • Described heating and cooling methods.
  • used magnetic power and water wheel etc.


3) Chemistry

Khaled ibn Yazid, Jabir ibn Hayyan, Yacoob bin As-Sabbah, Al-Kindi, Al-Biruni, Abu Bakr, Ar-Razi etc

  • Introduced Atomic theory of matter.
  • Developed processes of evaporation, Sublimation, Crystallization,Distillation, Filtration, Pigmentation, melting and Cupellation.
  • Introduced methods of steel making, metal work, and amalgamation of metals.
  • developed procedures for dyeing of cloths and textiles.
  • Established preparation methods of chemicals sulphuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids,Ammonium chloride, silver nitrate, mercuric oxide, chloride and sulphide, sodium and potassium carbonates and hydroxides.
  • Developed chemical processes and methods for manufacturing of glass, soap, perfumes,Resins, oils, paints, paper, inks, sugar, medicaments and gun powder.
  • Introduced the uses of alembic, jars, flasks, scales, tubes and graduated tubes in their chemical experimental works etc.


4) Astronomy

Thabit bin Qurra, Al-Bartani, Al-Biruni, Al-Farghani, Sind bin Ali, Al-Kindi, Abu-L-Wafa Al-Buzjani, Abu Sahl Al-Quhi, Abu-L-Hassan Ibn Younus, Al-Batruji, Omar Khayyam, Jaber ibn Al-Aflah, Nasir Eddin At-Toussi, Ala-Edin ibn Ashater, Az-Zerqualli, Ghiyath Edin Al-Kashi.

  • Developed Astrolabes & sextants.
  • Prepared star catalogues & tables of planetary motion.
  • Named over 200 stars with Arabic names which are in use nowadays in modern star catalogues.
  • Proved the earth is spherical in shape
  • Calculated the length of terrestrial arc degree.
  • Determined the value of the earth’s diameter and circumference.
  • Measured the solar inclination angle.
  • Calculated the length of the stellar year.
  • Charted die positions and orbits of stars and planets
  • Studied the spots on the sun’s surface etc.


5) Medicine

Qusta ibn Luqa, Ishaq ibn Hunayn, Ar-Razi, Ibn Sina, Al-Zahrawi, Ibn Khatib, Ibn Khatima, Ibn An Nafis, Ibn Rshod, Ibn Zohr, Ibn Al-Quff etc.

  • Performed gynecology,
  • obstetrics & ophthalmic surgery.
  • Wrote medical encyclopedias.
  • Performed therapy procedures.
  • Used animal gut for sutures.
  • Prepared mercury ointments.
  • Discovered a blood circulation & described pulmonary circulation & the function of die lungs in aerating blood.
  • Recognized the contagious nature of tuberculosis and the transmission of disease by water and soil.
  • Performed surgical treatment of eyes, ears and teeth
  • Used and described over 200 surgical instruments
  • Described 130 eye diseases and characterized 143 drugs etc.

6) Pharmacology

Jaber ibn Hayyan, ibn Al-Bitar, Dawood Al-AntakL, Ah ibn Issa etc.

  • PreparedAlcohol,Acids, Nitrates, and Carbonates etc.
  • Introduced the use of picrotoxin and Nuxvomica
  • Prepared chemical medicament in pills & solutions.
  • established chemist shops for dispensing prescriptions.
  • Introduced to Europe quite a number of medicines and herbs which betray theirArabic origin (Alcanna, Alcohol, Alkali, Al Falfa, Al-Zafaran, Camphor, Cotton, Hakeem, Jasmin,Saffron, etc.)


7) Geography

Hisham bin Al-Kalbi, Al-Jarmi, Al-Yaqubi, Al-Farghani, Haroon Bin Yahya, Ibn Fadhlan, Al-Masudi, Ibn Khurdadhbih, Al-Mukdassi, Al-Bakri, Ibn Hawqal, Al-Idrissi, Al-Qazwini, Ibn Jubair, Yaqoot Al-Hamwi, etc.

  • invented geographic & surveying instruments and devices.
  • Prepared many accurate & detailed nautical & land road maps of the world.
  • Calculated & prepared ephemeris tables of ocean tides and seasonal winds.
  • Introduced valuable geographic information in their classical works
  • Described the lands and natives of the new world (America) in their reports and books.
  • Divided the known world into climatic & urban regions.
  • Established and measured the longitudes & latitudes of the globe.



The influence and effect of Islam on Western Science and European Renaissance can be easily traced and noticed in the following fields:


1) The Islamic Technical & Scientific Terminology in European Languages

It is easy to notice, nowadays, the existence of thousands of Arabic terms and words in European  languages which are used to express and explain many different scientific ideas in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, pharmacology, geography, engineering, navy, music, in addition to many terms of business and administration. Plus many names of fruits, vegetables, spices, sweets and kitchen ware.

There are over 3400 Arabic words in Spanish, 3100 words in Portuguese, 2300 words in Latin, 2500 words in Italian, 2600 words in French, 2400 words in English, and 1600 words in German.


2) The Arabic Numerals

The most important Islamic contribution to the Western civilization & science is the Arabic Numerals and the Decimal System which is used nowadays by all nations of the world. The Arab decimal and numerical system adopted and used by western mathematicians. This system was a great achievement without which modem science, space  missions  and  present  day economic, business and commercial transactions would be impossible.


3) The Islamic Scientific Theories and Experiments                                              

The early Renaissance Scholars have been influenced directly by Islamic theories. Some of them have transcribed and copied the Islamic theories without acknowledgment. Some other European scholars have attributed the Islamic works to themselves and plagiarized them. Fortunately, some western historians of the 19th and 20th century have discovered these plagiarisms and did their best to treat the real Muslim founders with justice. Thanks to the great western scholars (Aldo Mielli, Julius Ruska, Max Myerhof, Siegrid Hunke, Carlo Alfonso Nallina, Julian Ribera, Henry Ernest Stapleton, Jose Valli Crosa, Baron Carra de Vaux, John Holmyard, and others) for their truthfulness,  sincerity andjustice that  revealed and  uncovered the plagiarism in some of the western early works. Their proof is presented in the following list, which revealed that some of the well-known European Renaissance scientists have copied some Islamic scientific works


  1. Roger Bacon, English (1214-1294): Copied many theories from the books of Al-Kindi. Al-Razi, and Ibn Al-Haithem.
  2. Johannes Muller, German (1436-1476): Copied several mathematical and  astronomical  theories of Al-Batrouji and Abou-L-Wefa for himself.
  3. Leonardo de-Vinci, Italian (1452-1519): The historian Karbinski proved that Leonardo copied many theories from “The Algebra” of Abi-Kamal and Ibn Al-Bannah.
  4. Nicholas Copernicus,  Polish (1473-1543): Used the laws of Al-Abu-L-Wefa, Al-Mejeriti and Omar Khayyam in solving the third degree equations.
  5. Techo    Brahe,    Danish   (1546-1601): Copied many Astronomical theories of Abu-L-Wefa, Al-Bouzjani, Al-Battani and Ibn-Younes and credited the invention of the astrolabe for himself.
  6. Johannes Kepler, German (1571-1630): Used Al-Mahani’s formula, the ideas of Ibn Al-Haithem, Al-Khawarizmi equations, and Abu-L-Wefa’s   formula in formulating his new astronomical laws.
  7. Rene Descartes, French (1596-1650): The father of modem analytical geometry used Al-Khawarizmi’s formulas in formulating his theories of analytical geometry.
  8. Pierre de Fermat, French (1601-1665): The great French mathematician, who copied the trigonometric dieories of Abu-L-Wefa and credited them for himself.
  9. John Wallis, English (1616-1703):  The famous mathematician used the works of Nasir Eddine At-Toussi in his research on Euclid’s Axiom of Parallelism.
  10. Sir Isaac Newton, English (1642-1727):  Studied  the  works  of Abi-Sahel Al-Kouhi and Abi-L-Ezbin Ismail Al-Jazi on the center of gravity and the attraction of moving bodies  before he formulated his universal law of gravitation. Newton also copied Al-Biruni’s Corpuscular Theory of Light and the Bionomial Theory of Al-Kashi.


The above list is just a random sample of the European Scientists who copied/used Islamic theories during the Renaissance period and attempted to pass them off as their own. There are many more prominent names that can be added to the above list.

The Islamic Influence On The Development Of The Western Technology

The following Muslim achievements were adopted and developed by Europeans during the Crusade wars (1100-1300 A.D.):

1) Chemical Industries:

Textile, Glass, Pottery and Porcelain, Paper, Paint, Soap, Ink, Wax, Sugar, Starch, Olive, Vegetable & Mineral oil, Perfumes, Medicaments & chloroform, Horology (wall, water and sand clocks), Water wheel & Pumps, Water and wind mills, Boussole (Compass), Sextant & Marine devices.

2) Mechanical Inventions:

Balance & Weight, Spring & Pendulum, Astrolabe & astronomical, Hollow needle & Surgical, Zdrometer & Aerometer, Cannon & Military equipment

3) Engineering & Technology:

Horology (wall,water and sand clocks), Canals, Aqueducts, Harbours & Shipyards, Lighthouses, Cooling & Heating systems, Dams and irrigations systems, Balneology and public baths devices, Mosques, Minarets & Domes devices, Caravan & Military roads, Government Palaces & Offices, Forts and towers.

4) Public institutions, Finance, Administrations, & Agriculture Universities:

Public Libraries, Public schools, Observatories, Hospitals, First Aid Clinics, Post Offices, Hotels and Motels, I.D cards and Passports, Coins, Drafts &. Cheques, Horticulture, agrology, & farming, Carpology’, pomology, grafting & budding

d) Arts:

Applied Arts, Music, Poetry & Prosody, Calligraphy, Chirography, stylography & cryptography, Bibliotics and Bookbinding, Arabesque & Moresque.



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