Contribution of Islam to the World's Civilisation

By: Dr. Zakir Hussain Kapadia, ph D, CISA, MBCS


The Greatest Civilization in the World

Let us remember our great and glorious heritage by briefly surveying what Islam has already contributed to the worlds civilization, education, culture and to scientific development.

Unlike Christianity where Deen, the religion, and Science are two separate elements, the study of science has always been compatible with Islam. Indeed the Holy Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said "The study of science has the value of fast; the teaching of science has the value of a prayer." Indeed Hazrat Ghousul Azam Dastageer, Ghous Ath Thaqalain, Hazrat Ghous Paak, Shaikh Muhyiddin Abdul Qadir Jilani rahimahullaah, too came to Baghdad Sharif for advancement of studies in Tafsir, Fiqh and Hadith because on the knowledge of these subjects depended the perfection of ones iman and the purification of ones nafs. Someone asked Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani rahimahullaah what he received from ALLAH to which he answered "good conduct and knowledge".

Many young Muslims are discouraged when they see the poor standard of living of Muslims throughout the world and their limited opportunities. They also know the undeveloped status of technology within the Muslim countries in comparison with the west. From these observation they immediately leap to the conclusion that the Muslim countries are backward, because Islam cannot adapt itself to the changing conditions; cannot assimilate new knowledge. Some even go so far as to say that Islam is actually against progress and against scientific advancement. But those Muslim who have studied later part of Islamic era and history will know that this is a complete fallacy and misconception. So lets do a brief review of the contribution of Islam to the civilization as we know it:

First of all, the zero was invented by Muhammad Ibn Musa, who was also the first to use the DECIMAL POINT notation.

Great Historian Gibbons: He wrote in his fifth volume of "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" that the science of Chemistry owes its origin and improvements to the Muslims.

Trigonometry / Sine / Tangent / Co. - Tangent : The Arabs developed these and Ibn Musa's work "Hisab-Al Jab-Wal Muqabala" (meaning the Calculation of Integration and Equation) presented 800 examples in the eight century. His work was translated from Arabic into Latin and until the 16th century, it was Europe's main text book on the subject.

Geometry / Algebra: An other great mathematician was Omar Khayyam, who offered to the world geometric as well as algebraic solutions of the second degree. Nasiruddin wrote the treatise on the quadrilateral trigonometry, as well as plain and spherical geometry.

Physics: Kamaluddin examined the refraction of sun light in rain drops and actually offered an explanation of the genesis of primary and secondary rainbows. The story of the invention of the pendulum and the presentation of a water clock to Emperor Charlemagne by Harun Al Rashid is well known.

Science of Mechanics: The development of science of Mechanics in Islam is an act of genius. Musa Ibn Shakir described one hundred peices of mechanical equipment in his book of artifices. Other outstanding Muslim treatises included "Al Kitab Fi Marifat Al Hiya Al Handasiyya" (The Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Geometrical Contrivances" by Abul Fiaz Ibn Al Raz.

Al Kitab Mizanal Hikmah (The book of the Balance and Wisdom by Al Khazini). He also did work on accurate weighing, determination of specific Gravity.

Camera Obscura: In the field of optics, Camera Obscura was invented by Ibm Haitham in 1038 AD. Incidentally, Hazrat Ghous Paak rahimahullaah was born in the year 1077 AD.

Theory of Relativity: Qazi Abu Bakr had developed the theory of relativity in the Eighth Century in terms of time and space by means of mathematical equations and Astrophysics. Imagine, Einstein wasn't even born in the western world, who propounded the same theory of relativity in the Twentieth Century.

Geography: As far as Geography was concerned, the Muslim Scientists established in the ninth century that the world was round and under the Caliphate of Mamun, the first map of the globe was made.

Paper Makings: This was one of the earliest skills attained by the Muslims. As early as the Eighth Century, high quality paper was being manufactured in Samarkand. Egypt was known to have its first paper mill in the year 900 A.C. The earliest Arabic manuscript written on paper that have been discovered is the Gharib Al Hadith by Abu Ubayed, dated 837 A.C.. It can be seen in Holland preserved in the Library of University of Leyden.

Advances in the Industry: Spain under the Islamic rule was an industrial centre. It was one of the wealthiest and thickly populated of European countries. Muslims were leading in Weaving Wool, Silk, Home Pottery, Jewelry, Leather and Perfume Industry. In the middle ages, the world trade was commanded by the Muslims and Baghdad, Bokhara and Samarkand remained centers for world fairs until the 16th Century.

The Bait Al Hikmah, at Cairo contained 2 Million books, the library at Tripoli some 3 Millions but this library was burned down by the Christians during the first crusade.

Leaving this aside, let us consider the hundred of scientific facts in the Holy Quran. For example, that the earth was previously a part of the sun and after its separation it became a habitable place for mankind, as mentioned in Surah 21, Ayat 30.

That the matter is made up of sub atomic particles Surah, 10, Ayat 61. That the embryo in the mother's womb in enclosed by 3 epithelial coverings, Surah 39, Ayat 6. That each human being has a unique finger print, Surah 75, Ayat 4 etc. etc. There are thousands of other scientific facts in the Holy Quran.

Regrettably, today the West is at its peak and we have lagged behind so far. However, our downfall is not due to Islam as the West would have us believe but due to Muslims themselves by our sheer neglect of Islamic principles. We must realize that Islam is undeniably the most progressive Deen which is in fact a way of life with a very wide scope.

Of course life is a very hard struggle. But struggle is an inbuilt instinct of human nature. Struggle is a way but not an accomplishment or attainment. Struggle, however, is one step before victory it has to be otherwise victory is predestined. We should make an effort and struggle but do not depend on it 100% and at the same time make Dua.

This is where Tawakkul, i.e., trust in ALLAH comes. Because destiny supersedes the thought. We must trust in Allah for our betterment because if success depended merely upon struggle then nobody in the world would be unsuccessful. Furthermore, struggle is itself predestined by ALLAH. Man should do his best then leave it to Allah T'ala.