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 The Religion of ISLAM

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PostSubject: The Religion of ISLAM   Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:30 am

The Religion of ISLAM

"This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as your religion Islam." (Quran, Surah V:3)
INTRODUCTION

Islam is a religion based upon the surrender to God who is One. The very name of the religion, ALISLAM in Arabic, means at once submission and peace, for it is in submitting to God's Will that human beings gain peace in their lives in this world and in the hereafter. The message of Islam concerns God, who in Arabic is called Allah, and it addresses itself to humanity's most profound nature. It concerns men and women as they were created by God--not as fallen beings. Islam therefore considers itself to be not an innovation but a reassertion of the universal truth of all revelation which is God's Oneness.

This truth was asserted by the prophets of old and especially by Abraham, the father of monotheism. Islam reveres all of these prophets including not only Abraham, who is the father of the Arabs as well as of the Jews, but also Moses and Christ. The Prophet and Messenger of God, Muhammad--may peace and blessings be upon him, his family and his companions--, was the last of this long lime of prophets and Islam is the last religion until the Day of Judgement. It is the final expression of the Abrahamic tradition. One should in fact properly speak of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. One should in fact properly speak of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, for Islam shares with the other Abrahamic religions their sacred history, the basic ethical teachings contained in the Ten Commandments and above all, belief in the One God. And it renews and repeats the true beliefs of Jews and Christians whose scriptures are mentioned as divinely revealed books in Islam's own sacred book, the Quran.
THE QURAN

For Muslims, or followers of Islam, the Quran is the actual Word of God revealed through the archangel Gabriel to the Prophet of Islam during the twenty-three-years period of his prophetic mission. It was revealed in the Arabic language as a sonoral revelation which the Prophet repeated to his companions. Arabic became therefore the language of Islam even for non-Arab Muslims. Under the direction of the Prophet, the verses and chapters were organized in the order known to Muslims to this day. There is only one text of Quran accepted by all schools of Islamic thought and there are no variants.

The Quran is the central sacred reality of Islam. The sound of the Quran is the first and last sound that a Muslim hears in this life. As the direct Word of God and the embodiment of God's Will, the Quran is considered as the guide par excellence for the life of Muslims. It is the source of all Islamic doctrines and ethics. Both the intellectual aspects of Islam and Islamic Law have their source in the Quran. Perhaps there is no book revered by any human collectivity as much as the Quran is revered by Muslims. Essentially a religion of the book, Islam sees all authentic religions as being associated with a scripture. That is why Muslims call Christians and Jews the "people of the book".

Throughout all its chapters and verses, the Quran emphasizes the significance of knowledge and encourages Muslims to learn and to acquire knowledge not only of God's laws and religious injunctions, in a language rich in its varied terminology, to the importance of seeing, contemplating, and reasoning about the world of creation and its diverse phenomena. It places the gaining of knowledge as the highest religious activity, one that is most pleasing in God's eyes. That is why wherever the message of the Quran was accepted and understood, the quest for knowledge flourished.
THE PROPHET OF ISLAM

The Prophet of Islam is loved and revered by Muslims precisely because he was chosen by God to reveal His Word to mankind. The Prophet Muhammad is not considered to be divine but a human being. However, he is seen as the most perfect of human beings, shining like a jewel among stones. He was born in 570 A. D. in one of the most powerful tribes in the Arabia of that time, for it had guardianship over the Ka'bah in Makkah. An orphan brought up by his grandfather and later by his uncle, the young Muhammad displayed exceptional virtue as a trustworthy individual whom members of various tribes would invite to act as arbitrator in their disputes.

At that time the Arabs followed a form of idolatry, each tribe keeping its own idols at the Ka'bah, the cubical structure built originally by Abraham to celebrate the glory of the One God. But the monotheistic message of Abraham had long become forgotten among the general population of the Arabian peninsula. The young Muhammad, however was a believer in the One God all of his life and never participated in the idolatrous practices of his tribe.

When forty years old, during one of the retreats which he made habitually in a cave on top of a mountain outside Makkah, Muhammad first saw the archangel Gabriel who revealed God's Word to him, the Quran, and announced the Muhammad is the messenger of God. For the next thirteen years he preached the Word of God to the Makkans, inviting them to abandon idolatry and accept the religion of Oneness. A few accepted his call but most Makkans, especially those of his own tribe, opposed him violently, seeing in the new religion a grave danger to their economic as well as social domination based upon their control of the Ka'bah. But the Prophet continued to call the people to Islam and gradually a larger number of men and women began to accept the faith and submit themselves to its teachings. As a result, persecution of Muslims increased until the Prophet was forced to send some of his companions to Abyssina where they were protected by the Christian King.

The Makkan period was also one of intense spiritual experience for the Prophet and the noble companions who formed the nucleus of the new religious community which was soon to spread worldwide. It was during this period that God ordered the direction of prayers to be changed from Jerusalem to Makkah. To this day Jerusalem remains along with Makkah and Madinah one of the holiest cities of Islam.

In 622 A. D. the Prophet was ordered by God to migrate to Yathrib, a city north of Makkah. He followed the Divine Command and left with his followers for that city which henceforth was known as "The City of the Prophet" (Madinat al-nabi) or simply Madinah. This event was so momentous that the Islamic calendar begins with this migration (hijrah).

In Madinah, the Prophet established the first Islamic society which has served as the model for all later Islamic societies. Several battles took place against the invading Makkans which the Muslims won against great odds. Soon more tribes began to join Islam and within a few years most of Arabia had embraced the religion of Islam.

After many trials and eventually successive victories, the Prophet returned triumphantly to Makkah where the people embraced Islam at last. He forgave all his former enemies and marched to the Ka'bah, where he ordered his companion and cousin 'Ali to join him in destroying all the idols. The Prophet reconstituted the rite of pilgrimage as founded by Abraham. The Prophet then returned to Madinah and made another pilgrimage to Makkah. It was upon returning from this last pilgrim that he delivered his farewell address. Soon he fell ill and after three day s died in 632 A. D. in Madinah where he was buried in the chamber of his house next to the first mosque of Islam.

The Practices and traditions (Sunnah) of the Prophet which includes his sayings (Hadith) became the guide for Muslims in the understanding of the Quran and the practice of their religion. The Quran itself asserts that God has chosen in the Prophet an example for Muslims to follow. Besides this emulation of the Prophet in all aspects of life and thought, his sayings were assembled by various scholars. Finally they were codified in books of Hadith where the authentic were separated from the spurious. The Sunnah has always remained, after the Quran, the second source of everything Islamic.
WHAT IS THE ISLAMIC RELIGION?

According to a famous saying of the Prophet Islam consists of five pillars which are as follows: affirmation of the faith (shahadah), that is, witnessing that La ilaha illa 'Llah (There is no divinity but Allah) and Muhammadun rasul Allah (Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah); the five daily prayers (al-salat) which Muslims perform facing Makkah; fasting (al-sawm) from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan; making the pilgrimage to Makkah (al-hajj) at least once in a lifetime if one's financial and physical conditions permit it; and paying a 2 1/2% tax (al-zakat) on one's capital which is used for the needs of the community. Muslims are also commanded to exhort others to perform good acts and to abstain from evil. Ethics lies at the heart of Islamic teachings and all men and women are expected to act ethically towards each other at all times. As the Prophet has said, "None of you is a believer until you love for your brother what you love for yourself."

As for faith according to Islam (al-iman), it means having faith in God, His books, His messengers, the Day of Judgment and God's determination of human destiny. It is important to understand that the definition of al-iman refers to books and prophets in the plural thus pointing directly to the universality of revelation and respect for other religions emphasized so much in the Quran. There is also the important concept, al-ihsan or virtue, which means to worship God as if one sees him, knowing that even if one does not see Him, He sees us. It means to remember God at all times and marks the highest level of being a Muslim.
ISLAMIC LAW (al-Shari'ah)

Islam possesses a religious law called al-Shari'ah in Arabic which governs the life of Muslims and which Muslims consider to be the embodiment of the Will of god. The Shari'ah is contained in principle in the Quran as elaborated and complemented by the Sunnah. On the basis of these principles the schools of this day were developed early in Islamic history. This Law, while being rooted in the sources of the Islamic revelation, is a living body of law which caters to the needs of Islamic society.

Islamic laws are essentially preventative and are not based on harsh punishment except as a last measure. The faith of the Muslim causes him to have respect for the rights of others and Islamic Law is such that it prevents transgression from taking place in most instances. That is why what people consider to be harsh punishments are so rarely in need of being applied.
THE SPREAD OF ISLAM

From the oasis cities of Makkah and Madinah in the Arabian desert, the message of Islam went forth with electrifying speed. Within half a century of the Prophet's death, Islam had spread to three continents. Islam is not, as some imagine in the West, a religion of the sword nor did it spread primarily by means of war. It was only within Arabia, where a crude form of idolatry was rampant, that Islam was propagated by warring against those tribes which did not accept the message of God--whereas Christians and Jews were not forced to convert. Outside of Arabia also the vast lands conquered by the Arab armies in a short period became Muslim not by force of the sword but by the appeal of the new religion. It was faith in One God and emphasis upon His Mercy that brought vast numbers of people into the fold of Islam. The new religion did not coerce people to convert. Many continued to remain Jews and Christians and to this day important communities of the followers of these faiths are found in Muslim lands.

Moreover, the spread of Islam was not limited to its miraculous early expansion outside of Arabia. During later centuries the Turks embraced Islam peacefully as did a large number of the people of the Indian subcontinent and the Malay-speaking world. In Africa also, Islam has spread during the past two centuries even under the mighty power of European colonial rulers. Today Islam continues to grow not only in Africa but also in Europe and America where Muslims now comprise a notable minority.
ISLAM A WORLD CIVILIZATION

"Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that you may be witnesses upon mankind." (Quran, surah 11:43)
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION

Islam was destined to become a world religion and to create a civilization which stretched from one end of the globe to the other. Already during the early Muslim caliphates, first the Arabs, then the Persians and later the Turks set about to create classical Islamic civilization. Later, in the 13th century, both Africa and India became great centers of Islamic civilization and soon thereafter Muslim kingdoms were established in the Malay-Indonesian world while Chinese Muslims flourished throughout china.

Islam is a religion for all people from whatever race or background they might be. That is why Islamic civilization is based on a unity which stands completely against any racial or ethnic discrimination. Such major racial and ethnic groups as the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Africans, Indians, Chinese and Malays in addition to numerous smaller units embraced Islam and contributed to the building of Islamic civilization. Moreover, Islam was not opposed to learning from the earlier civilizations and incorporating their science, learning, and culture into its own world view, as long as they did not oppose the principles of Islam. Each ethnic and racial group which embraced Islam made its contribution to the one Islamic civilization to which everyone belonged. The sense of brotherhood and sisterhood was so much emphasized that it overcame all local attachments to a particular tribe, race, or language-all of which became subservient to the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of Islam.

The global civilization thus created by Islam permitted people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to work together in cultivation various arts and sciences. Although the civilization was profoundly Islamic, even non-Muslim "people of the book" participated in the intellectual activity whose fruits belonged to everyone. The scientific climate was reminiscent of the present situation in America where scientists and men and women of learning from all over the world are active in the advancement of knowledge which belongs to everyone.

The global civilization created by Islam also succeeded in activating the mind and thought of the people who entered its fold. As a result of Islam, the nomadic Arabs became torch-bearers of science and learning. The Persians who had created a great civilization before the rise of Islam nevertheless produced much more science and learning in the Islamic period than before. The same can be said of the Turks and other peoples who embraced Islam. The religion of Islam was itself responsible not only for the creation of a world civilization in which people of many different ethnic backgrounds participated, but it played a central role in developing intellectual and cultural life on a scale not seen before. For some eight hundred years Arabic remained the major intellectual and scientific language of the world. During the centuries following the rise of Islam, Muslim dynasties ruling in various parts of the Islamic world bore witness to the flowering of Islamic culture and thought. In fact this tradition of intellectual activity was eclipsed only at the beginning of modern times as a result of the weakening of faith among Muslims combined with external domination. And today this activity has begun anew in many parts of the Islamic world now that the Muslims have regained their political independence.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ISLAM: THE RIGHTLY GUIDED CALIPHS

Upon the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, the friend of the Prophet and the first adult male to embrace Islam, became caliph. Abu Bakrruled for two years to be succede by 'Umar who was caliph for a decade and during whose rule Islam spread extensively east and west conquering the Persian empire, Syria and Egypt. It was 'Umar who marched on foot at the end of the Muslim army into Jerusalem and ordered the protection of public treasury and a sophisticated financial administration. He established may of the basic practices of Islamic government.

'Umar was succeeded by 'Uthman who ruled for some twelve years during which time the Islamic expansion continued. He is also known as the caliph who had the difinitive text of the Nolble Quran copied and sent to the four comers of the Islamic world. He was in turn succeeded by 'Ali who is known to this day for his eloquent sermons and letters, and also for his bravery. With his death the rule of the "rightly guided" caliphs, who hold a special place of respect in the hearts of Muslims came to an end.
THE CALIPHATES

The Umayad calighe established in 661 was to last for about a century. During this time Damascus became the Capital of an Islamic world which stretched from the western borders of China to southern France. Not only did the Islamic conquests continue during this period through North Africa to Spain and France in the West and to Sind, Central Asia and Transoxiana in the East, but the basic social and legal institutions of the newly founded Islamic world were established.

The Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyads, shifted the capital to Baghdad which soon developed into an incomparable center of learning and culture as well as the administrative and political hear of a vast world.

They ruled for over 500 years but gradually their power waned and they remained only symbolic rulers bestowing legitimacy upon various sultans and princes who wielded actual military power. The Abbasid caliphate was finally abolished when Hulagu, the Mongol ruler, captured Baghdad in 1258, destroying much of the city including its incomparable libraries.

While the Abbasids ruled in Baghdad, a number of powerful dynasties such as the Fatimids, Ayyubids and Mamluks held power in Egypt, Syria and Palestine. The most important event in this area as far as the relation between Islam and the Western world was concerned was the series of Crusades declared by the Pope and espoused by various European kings. The purpose, although political, was outwardly to recapture the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem for Christianity. Although there was at the beginning some success and local European rule was set up in parts of Syria and Palestine, Muslims finally prevailed and in 1187 Saladin, the great Muslim leader, recaptured Jerusalem and defeated the Crusaders.
NORTH AFRICA AND SPAIN

When the Abbasids captured Damascus, one of the Umayyad princes escaped and made the long journey from there to Spain to found Umayyad rule there, thus beginning the golden age of Islam in Spain. Cordoba was established as the capital and soon became Europe's greatest city not only in population but from the point of view of its cultural and intellectual life. The Umayyads ruled over two centuries until they weakened and were replaced by local rulers.

Meanwhile in North Africa, various local dynasties held sway until two powerful Berber dynasties succeeded in uniting much of North Africa and also Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries. After them this area was ruled once again by local dynasties such as the Sharifids of Morocco who still rule in that country. As for Spain itself, Muslim dynasty was defeated in Granada in 1492 thus bringing nearly eight hundred years of Muslim rule in Spain to an end.
ISLAMIC HISTORY AFTER THE MONGOL INVASION

The Mongols devastated the eastern lands of Islam and ruled from the Sinai Desert to India for a century. But they soon converted to Islam and became known as the II-Khanids. They were in turn succeeded by Timur and his descendants who made Samarqand their capital and ruled from 1369 to 1500. The sudden rise of Timur delayed the formation and expansion of the Ottoman empire but soon the Ottomans became the dominant power in the Islamic world.

From humble origins the Turks rose to dominate over the whole of Anatolia and even parts of Europe. In 1453 Mehmet the Conqueror captured Constantiople and put an end to the Byzantine empire. The Ottomans conquered much of eastern Europe and nearly the whole of the Arab world, only Morocco and Mauritania in the West and Yemen, Hadramaut and parts of the Arabian peninsula remaining beyond their control. They reached their zenith of power with Suleyman the Magnificent whose armies reached Hungary and Austria. From the 17th century onward with the rise of Western European powers and later Russia, the power of the Ottomans began to wane. But they nevertheless remained a force to be reckoned with until the First World War when they were defeated by Western nations. Soon thereafter Kamal Ataturk gained power in Turkey and abolished the six centuries of rule of the Ottomans in 1924.

While the Ottomans were concerned mostly with the western front of their empire, to the east in Persia a new dynasty called the Safavids came to power in 1502. The Safavids established a powerful state of their own which flourished for over two centuries and became known for the flowering of the arts. Their capital Isfahan, became one of the most beautiful cities with its blue tiled mosques and exquisite houses. The Afghan invasion of 1736 put an end to Safavid rule and prepared the independence of Afghanistan which occurred formally in the 19th century. Persia itself fell into turmoil until Nader Shah, the last Oriental conqueror, reunited the country and even conquered India. But the rule of the dynasty established by him was short-lived. The Zand dynasty soon took over to be overthrown by the Qajars in 1779 who made Tehran their capital and ruled until 1921 when they were in turn replaced by the Pahlavis.

As for India, Islam entered into the land east of the Indus River peacefully. Gradually Muslims gained political power beginning in the early 13th century. But this period which marked the expansion of both Islam and Islamic culture came to an end with the conquest of much of India in 1526 by Babur, one of the Timurid princes. He established the powerful Mogul empire which produced such famous rulers as Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan and which lasted, despite the gradual rise of British power in India, until 1857 when it was officially abolished.

Farther east in the Malay world, Islam began to spread in the 12th century in northern Sumatra and soon Muslim kingdoms were established in Java, Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. Despite the colonization of the Malay world, Islam spread in that area covering present day Indonesia. Malaysia, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand, and is still continuing in islands farther east.

As far as Africa is concerned, Islam entered into East Africa at the very beginning of the Islamic period but remained confined to the coast for some time, only the Sudan and Somaliland becoming gradually both Arabized and Islamized. West Africa felt the presence of Islam through North African traders who traveled with their camel caravans south of the Sahara. By the 14th century there were already Muslim sultanates in such areas as Mali, and Timbuctu in West Africa and Harar in East Africa had become seats of Islamic learning.

Gradually Islam penetrated both inland and southward. There also appeared major charismatic figures who inspired intense resistance against European domination. The process of the Islamization of Africa did not cease during the colonial period and continues even today with the result that most Africans are now Muslims carrying on a tradition which has had practically as long a history in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa as Islam itself.
ISLAM AND KNOWLEDGE

"HE HAS TAUGHT YOU THAT WHICH [HERETOFORE] YOU KNEW NOT" (QURAN, SURAH II: 239)
THE ATTITUDE OF THE QURAN AND THE PROPHET TOWARD KNOWLEDGE

Islam is a religion based upon knowledge for it is ultimately knowledge of the Oneness of God combined with faith and total commitment to Him that saves man. The text of the Quran is replete with verses inviting man to use his intellect, to ponder, to think and to know, for the goal of human life is to discover the Truth which is none other than worshipping God in His Oneness. The Hadith literature is also full of references to the importance of knowledge. Such sayings of the Prophet as "Seek knowledge even in China", "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave", and Verily the men of knowledge are the inheritors of the prophets", have echoed throughout the history of Islam and incited Muslims to seek knowledge wherever it might be found. During most of its history, Islamic civilization has been witness to a veritable celebration of knowledge. That is why every traditional Islamic city possessed public and private libraries and some cities like Cordoba and Baghdad boasted of libraries with over 400,000 books. Such cities also had bookstores, some of which sold a large number of titles. That is also why the scholar has always been held in the highest esteem in Islamic society.
THE INTEGRATION OF THE PRE-ISLAMIC SCIENCES

As Islam spread northward into Syria, Egypt, and the Persian empire, it came face to face with the sciences of antiquity whose heritage had been preserved in centers which now became a part of the Islamic world. Alexandria had been a major center of sciences and learning for centuries. The Greek learning cultivated in Alexandria was opposed by the Byzantines who had burned its library long before the advent of Islam. The tradition of Alexandrian learning did not die, however. It was transferred to Antioch and from there farther east to such cities as Edessa by eastern Christians who stood in sharp opposition to Byzantium and wished to have their own independent centers of learning. Moreover, the Persian king, Shapur I, had established Jundishapur in Persia as a second great center of learning matching Antioch. He even invited Indian physicians and mathematicians to teach in this major seat of learning, in addition to the Christian scholars who taught in Syriac as well as the Persians whose medium of instruction was Pahlavi.

Once Muslims established the new Islamic order during the Umayyad period, they turned their attention to these centers of learning which had been preserved and sought to acquaint themselves with the knowledge taught and cultivated in them. They therefore set about with a concerted effort of translate the philosophical and scientific works which were available to them from not only Greek and Syriac (which was the language of eastern Christian scholars) but also from Pahlavi, the scholarly language of pro-Islamic Persia, and even from Sanskrit. Many of the accomplished translators were Christian Arabs such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, who was also an outstanding physician, and others Persians such as Ibn Muqaffa', who played a major role in the creation of the new Arabic prose style conductive to the expression of philosophical and scientific writing. The great movement of translation lasted from the beginning of the 8th to the end of the 9th century, reaching its peak with the establishment of the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-hikmah) by the caliph al-Ma'mun at the beginning of the 9th century.

The result of this extensive effort of the Islamic community to confront the challenge of the presence of the various philosophies and sciences of antiquity and to understand and digest them in its own terms and according to its own world view was the translation of a vast corpus of writings into Arabic. Most of the important philosophical and scientific works of Aristotle and his school, much of Plato and the Pythagorean school, and the major works of Greek astronomy, mathematics and medicine such as the Almagest of Ptolemy, The Elements of Euclid, and the works of Hippocrates and Galen, were all rendered into Arabic. Furthermore, important works of astronomy, mathematics and medicine were translated from Pahlavi and Sanskrit. As a result, Arabic became the most important scientific language of the world for many centuries and the depository of much of the wisdom and the sciences of antiquity.

The Muslims did not translate the scientific and philosophical works of other civilizations out of fear of political or economic domination but because the structure of Islam itself is based upon the primacy of knowledge. Nor did they consider these forms of knowing as "un-Islamic" as long as they confirmed the doctrine of God's Oneness which Islam considers to have been at the heart of every authentic revelation from God. Once these sciences and philosophies confirmed the principle of Oneness, the Muslims considered them as their own. They made them part of their world view and began to cultivate the Islamic sciences based on what they had translated, analyzed, criticized, and assimilated, rejecting what was not in conformity with the Islamic perspective.
THE MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES AND PHYSICS

The Muslim mind has always been attracted to the mathematical sciences in accordance with the "abstract" character of the doctrine of Oneness which lies at the heart of Islam. The mathematical sciences have traditionally included astronomy, mathematics itself and much of what is called physics today. In astronomy the Muslims integrated the astronomical traditions of the Indians, Persians, the ancient Near East and especially the Greeks into a synthesis which began to chart a new chapter in the history of astronomy from the 8th century onward. The Almagest of Ptolemy, whose very name in English reveals the Arabic origin of its Latin translation, was thoroughly studied and its planetary theory criticized by several astronomers of both the eastern and western lands of Islam leading to the major critique of the theory by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and his students, especially Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, in the 13th century.

The Muslims also observed the heavens carefully and discovered many new stars. The book on stars of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi was in fact translated into Spanish by Alfonso X el Sabio and had a deep influence upon stellar toponymy in European languages. Many star names in English such as Aldabran still recall their Arabic origin. The Muslims carried out many fresh observations which were contained in astronomical tables called Zij. One of the acutest of these observers was al-Battani whose work was followed by numerous others. The Zij of al-Ma'mun observed in Baghdad, the Hakimite Zij of Cairo, the Toledan Tables of al-Zarqali and his associated, the II-Khanid Zij of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi observed in Maraghah, and the Zij of Ulugh-Beg from Samarqand are among the most famous Islamic astronomical tables. They wielded a great deal of influence upon Western astronomy up to the time of Tycho Brahe. The Muslims were in fact the first to create an astronomical observatory as a scientific institution, this being the observatory of Maraghah in Persia established by al-Tusi. This was indirectly the model for the later European observatories. Many astronomical instruments were developed by Muslims to carry out observation, the most famous being the astrolabe. There existed even mechanical astrolabes perfected by Ibn Samh which must be considered as the ancestor of the mechanical clock.

Astronomical observations also had practical applications including not only finding the direction of Makkah for prayers, but also devising almanacs (the word itself being of Arabic origin). The Muslims also applied their astronomical knowledge to questions of time-keeping and the calendar. The most exact solar calendar existing to this day is the Jalali calendar devised under the direction of 'Umar Khayyam in the 12th century and still in use in Persia and Afghanistan.

As for mathematics proper, like astronomy, it received its direct impetus from the Quran not only because of the mathematical structure related to the text of the Sacred Book, but also because the laws of inheritance delineated in the Quran require rather complicated mathematical solutions. Here again Muslims began by integrating Greek and Indian mathematics. The first great Muslim mathematician, al-Khwarazmi, who lived in the 9th century, wrote a treatise on arithmetic whose Latin translation brought what is known as Arabic numerals to the West. To this day guarismo, derived from his name, means figure or digit in Spanish while algorithm is still used in English. Al-Khwarzmi is also the author of the first book on algebra. This science was developed by Muslims on the basis of earlier Greek and Indian works of a rudimentary nature. The very name algebra comes from the first part of the name of the book of al-Khwarazmi, entitled Kitab al-jabr wa'l-muqabalah. Abu Kamil al-Shuja' discussed algebraic equations with five unknowns. The science was further developed by such figures as al-Karaji until it reached its peak with Khayyam who classified by kind and class algebraic equations up to the third degree.

The Muslims also excelled in geometry as reflected in their art. The brothers Banu Musa who lived in the 9th century may be said to be the first outstanding Muslim geometers while their contemporary Thabit ibn Qurrah used the method of exhaustion, giving a glimpse of what was to become integral calculus. Many Muslim mathematicians such as Khayyam and al-Tusi also dealt with the fifth postulate of Euclid and the problems which follow if one tries to prove this postulate within the confines of Eucledian geometry.

Another branch of mathematics developed by Muslims is trigonometry which was established as a distinct branch of mathematics by al-Biruni. The Muslim mathematicians, especially al-Battani, Abu'l-Wafa', Ibn Yunus and Ibn al-Haytham, also developed spherical astronomy and applied it to the solution of astronomy and applied it to the solution of astronomical problems.

The love for the study of magic squares and amicable numbers led Muslims to develop the theory of numbers. Al-Khujandi discovered a particular case of Fermat's theorem that "the sum of two cubes cannot be another cube", while al-Karaji analyzed arithmetic and geometric progressions such as: 13+23+33+...+n3=(1+2+3+...+n)2. Al-Biruni also dealt with progressions while Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid al-Kashani brought the study of number theory among Muslims to its peak.

In the field of physics the Muslims made contributions in especially three domains. The first was the measurement of specific weights of objects and the study of the balance following upon the work of Archimedes. In this domain the writings of al-Biruni and al-Khazini stand out. Secondly they criticized the Aristotelian theory of projectile motion and tried to quantify this type of motion. The critique of Ibn Sina, Abu'l-Barakat al-Baghdadi, Ibn Bajjah and others led to the development of the idea of impetus and momentum and played an important role in the criticism of Aristotelian physics in the West up to the early writings of Galileo. Thirdly there is the field of optics in which the Islamic sciences produced in Ibn al-Haytham (the Latin Alhzen) who lived in the 11th century, the greatest student of optics between Ptolemy and Witelo. Ibn al-Haytham's main work on optics, the Kitab al-manazir, was also well known in the West as Thesaurus opticus. Ibn al-Haytham solved many optical problems, one of which is named after him, studied the property of lenses, discovered the Camera Obscura, explained correctly the process of vision, studied the structure of the eye, and explained for the first time why the sun and the moon appear larger on the horizon. His interest in optics was carried out two centuries later by Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi and Kamal al-Din al-Farisi. It was Qutb al-Din who gave the first correct explanation of the formation of the rainbow.

It is important to recall that in physics as in many other fields of science the Muslims observed, measured and carried out experiments. They must be credited with having developed what came to be known later as the experimental method.
THE MEDICAL SCIENCES

The Hadiths of the Prophet contain many instructions concerning health including dietary habits; these sayings became the foundation of what came to be known later as "Prophetic medicine" (al-tibb al-nabawi). Because of the great attention paid in Islam to the need to take care of the body and to hygiene, early in Islamic history Muslims began to cultivate the field of medicine turning once again to all the knowledge that was available to them from Greek, Persians and Indian sources. At first the great physicians among Muslims were mostly Christian but by the 9th century Islamic medicine, properly speaking, was born with the appearance of the major compendium, The Paradise of Wisdom (Firdaws al-hikmah) by 'Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari, who synthesized the Hippocratic and Galemic traditions of medicine with those of India and Persia. His student, Muhammad ibn Zakariyya' al-Razi (the Latin Rhazes), was one of the greatest of physicians who emphasized clinical medicine and observation. He was a master of prognosis and psychosomatic medicine and also of anatomy. He was the first to identify and treat smallpox, to use alcohol as an antiseptic and make medical use of mercury as a purgative. His Kitab al-hawi (Continens) is the longest work ever written in Islamic medicine and he was recognized as a medical authority in the West up to the 18th century.

rce: Islamic Affairs Department, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
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