The Effect of Islamic Civilization on Modern Science

The one who contemplates the reason modern science and technology have taken giant steps and advanced to their present state would certainly agree that it is in part due to the Islamic civilization which transmitted and introduced vast amounts of knowledge and produced many scientific scholars.

C.H. Haskins (1) said: The broad fact remains that the Arabs of Spain were the principal source of the new learning for Western Europe.

They are the ones who placed the fundamentals from which modern civilization advanced. Whoever reviews the Dictionary of Technical Terms for Aerospace(2) would certainly conclude that sixty percent of the known stars are given names that are derived from Arabic.

The books and works of early Muslim scholars were the main resource texts which the West benefited from, especially the Europeans who used these works during the Renaissance period. Many of these texts were used in European universities.

Marquis of Dufferin and Ava (3) said: It is to Mussulman science, to Mussulman art, and to Mussulman literature that Europe has been in a great measure indebted for its extrication from the darkness of the Middle Ages.

J.H. Denison said (4) said: In the fifth and sixth centuries the civilized world stood on the verge of chaos. The old emotional cultures that had made civilization possible, since they had given to men a sense of unity and of reverence for their rulers, had broken down and nothing had been found adequate to take their place. It seemed then the great civilization which it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order was unknown. The old tribal sanctions had lost their power. The new sanctions created by Christianity were working division and destruction instead of unity and order. It was a time fraught with tragedy. Civilization, like a gigantic tree whose foliage had overarched the world and whose branches had borne the golden fruits of art and science and literature, stood tottering and rotted to the core. Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in to gather mankind once more into unity and to save civilization? It was among these people that the man, Muhammad, was born who was to unite the whole known world of the east and south.

Muslims had advanced in all technical, scientific and intellectual fields. Here we will mention a few of the outstanding scholars in various fields.

  • Al-Khawarizmi (780-850CE) was a great scholar in the fields of mathematics, algebra, logarithms and geometry. He was perhaps one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived. In fact, he was the founder of several branches and basic concepts of mathematics. He was also the founder of Algebra.

  • Al-Biruni(973–1050AD) was a great scholar in many fields. He wrote on topics ranging from astronomy to mathematics, mathematical geography to mechanics, pharmacology and history. Al-Biruni discussed the theory of the earth rotating on its own axis six hundred years before Galileo!

    The German Orientalist E. Sachau said about Al-Biruni:
    “He was the greatest intellectual known to man.” (5)
    As Muslims we say that the greatest intellectual known to man is our Prophet Muhammad .

In the field of medicine and pharmacy, Muslim scholars left behind a wealth of knowledge in their works, which were used to advance modern day medicine. Among these scholars were:

  • Ibn Rushd (780-850CE) was a great scholar in the fields of mathematics, algebra, logarithms and geometry. He was perhaps one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived. In fact, he was the founder of several branches and basic concepts of mathematics. He was also the founder of Algebra.

  • Ibn An-Nafees (1213-1288 CE) was a physician who was mostly famous for being the first to describe the pulmonary circulation of the blood. He discovered blood circulation before the Englishman Harvey and the Spaniard Michael Servetus by hundreds of years.

  • Al-Hasan ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen 965-1040 AH) was a great mathematician. He was a pioneer in optics, engineering and astronomy. According to Giambattista della Porta, Al-Hasan was the first to explain the apparent increase in the size of the moon and sun when near the horizon. His seven volume treatise on optics Kitab AlManadhir (Book of Optics) is possibly the earliest work to use the scientific method. He used the results of experiments to test theories

  • Al-Mansoori and Abu Bakr Ar-Razi were renowned, versatile physicians. They made fundamental and enduring contributions to the fields of medicine and philosophy

  • Muwaffaq Al-Baghdadi and Abul-Qasim Az-Zahrawi were renowned in dental practices. They wrote books concerning this, and put illustrative pictures of the tools used in surgical operations and how to use the tools.

  • In the field of geography and geology many notable scholars can be mentioned, among whom is:

    Shareef Al-Idrisi (1100-1165 AH) was a cartographer, geographer and traveler. He was renowned for his excellent maps of the world. He also invented navigational instruments.

    There are many Muslim scholars who participated and took part in advancing civilization. Whoever wants to know more, should review books that are written specifically on this topic. Numerous times, works of research written by Muslims were plagiarized and wrongfully attributed to others.

Major Arthur Glyn Leonard (6) said:
Do not we, who now consider ourselves on the topmost pinnacle ever reached by culture and civilization, recognize that, had it not been for the high culture, the civilization and intellectual, as the social splendors of the Arabs and soundness of their system, Europe would to this day have remained sunk in the darkness of ignorance?