Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;-(Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.
(Al-Baqara, 286 verses)
The Islamic Golden Age is one of the greatest times to world history, in which Islamic Renaissance brought the dark age of human being to the bright time. This era dated from 700 A.D. (Muhammad Rasulullah era) to 1200 A.D.C.E., but has been extended to the 15th and 16th centuries by some scholars. During this period, Muslim scholars with the nuur or light of the Qur’an made some inventions and enriched the knowledge by their research in all branches of knowledge.
By that time, a lot of great scholars born such as Al Biruni, Al Khwarizmi, Al Kindi, Ibnu Al Haytham, ect as an artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders. Their invention contributed to the arts, agriculture, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving and building upon earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own. The effect of Islamic Golden Era was spread all over the world until now.
Basically seeking knowledge is a part of the revelation itself. The revelation which is Al Qur’an is a book of guidance, mainly brought by God to guide human to the truth. It is not necessarily about heaven and hereafter but also about the world, universe and human. Of course Qur’an is not a book of science, its book of God’s sign.
Moreover, the Qur’an which is a miracle of God, stated the scientific fact that can be proofed in nowadays technology, indeed Qur’an already mentioned that fact 1400 thousand years ago. No wonder, Muslim scholars had the intention to do more research at their favorite branch of knowledge to disclose this sign of God.
In Islamic empire, the science is flourished. Muslim scholar is a part of society who has a variety of duties. Most of the Muslim Scholars live in the dessert, the afternoon is very hot but the night is very cold. One of Muslim Astronomer, al-Khujandi, during the year 994 used the very large instrument to observe a series of meridian transits of the sun near the solstices. He used these observations, to calculate the obliquity of the ecliptic, and the latitude of Rayy. He described his measurements in detail in a treatise on the obliquity of the ecliptic and the latitudes of the cities. In summary, He found that the earth has an angle about 23 degrees to the sun, so that the earth have several climate and seasons. He also developed the almanac to that age, which is very important to Muslims daily life.
The five times prayer is a basic ‘ibadah which has particular time to do. Shubuh, Dzuhur, ‘Asr, Maghrib, and Isya’. The pray time is based on the sun movement.
In the early age Muslim measure this times by the wood clock. In the golden age, contemporary Muslim astronomers and engineers constructed a variety of highly accurate astronomical clocks for use in their observatories, such as the timekeeping astrolabe by Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (Azophi) in the 10th century, the castle clock (a water-powered astronomical clock) by Al-Jazari in 1206, and the astrolabic clock by Ibn al-Shatir in the early 14th century. By this invention, they can measure the stars, earth and sun movement to know the time to pray, to go hajj, and also when the Ramadhan month come. It is also like a compass; Muslim will bring along astrolabe and use it to know the direction and time to fasting and to eat as stated on the Holy Qur’an.
It is He Who makes the stars (as beacons) for you that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea: We detail Our signs for people who know.
(Al-Anaam, 165 verses)
In mathematics, we know Al Khwarizmi (the founder of zero and one), but yes, he was not the only mathematician at that era. Thus mathematicians extended the Hindu decimal positional system of arithmetic from whole numbers to include decimal fractions. In algebra, al-Karaji (c. 1000) completed Muhammad al-Khwarizmi’s algebra of polynomials to include even polynomials with an infinite number of terms. (Al-Khwarizmi’s name, incidentally, is the source of the word algorithm, and the title of one of his books is the source of the word algebra.) Geometers such as Ibrahim ibn Sinan (908-46) continued Archimedes’ investigations of areas and volumes, and Kamal al-Din (1156-1242) and others applied the theory of conic sections to solve optical problems.
These inventions in mathematics are very important in The Latin West during 12century which is the century of translation. Together with translations of the Greek classics, these Muslim works were responsible for the growth of mathematics in the West during the late middle Ages. Italian mathematicians such as Leonardo Fibonacci (1170-1230) and Luca Pacioli (c. 1450-c. 1520), one of the many 15th-century writers on algebra and arithmetic for merchants, depended heavily on Arabic sources for their knowledge.
One of the great physicians is Ibn Al-Haytham (and known in Europe as Alhacen or Alhazen) who also known as Ptolemaeus Secundus (“Ptolemy the Second”). He also regarded as the “father of modern optics” for his influential Book of Optics (written while he was under house arrest), which proved the intromission theory of vision and refined it into essentially its modern form. His Book of Optics has been ranked with Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica as one of the most influential books in the history of physics, for starting a revolution in optics and visual perception.
He made the Camera Obscura or veiled chamber to explain the eyes technique to capture an image.
Ibn al-Haytham was the first to demonstrate this with his lamp experiment where several different light sources are arranged across a large area. He was thus the first to successfully project an entire image from outdoors onto a screen indoors with the Camera Obscura. He also proved that the light travels in straight line using the scientific method in his book.
Furthermore, al-Haytham not only contributed in physics, likes other Muslim Scholars, He also contributed in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and psychology.
In engineering, Al Jazari was the well known until know because of his contribution especially on his written the Kitáb fí ma’rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya (Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices) in 1206, where he described fifty mechanical devices along with instructions on how to construct them. His creative stuff like a pump, steam engine, and pistol use rotary movement of a crankshaft. This was the basic technology to the future invention of the bicycle.
There were lots of Muslim Scholars lived in the Golden Era who makes a lot of inventions during that time. Their contributions have the economics and social impact at that time. By some of those scholars we know that they improve the stage of human being with modern technology and implement it in their society, particularly in the age of Islamic Civilization. This era was a dark era in the western history but not in Islamic Renaissance.
Al Andalusia (now known as Spain) is one of the evidence of the successful empire (at Ummayyat Era) and showed us not only the beautiful buildings but also great improvement on technology. The invention of chemical technology founded by Al Kemi used to decorate the cups, vases by the chemical technology which can change the raw materials (soils, water, gold, ect.) to beautiful calligraphy and decorations.
At that time, the Mosque had modern fountains which use Hydrolic technology to make the water spread to the air and decorated by beautiful sculptures and carving. The Curt of the Lion decorates the fountains and still can be seen until now.
El Hambra also introduced the tunnel technology to spread the water from Sierra Nevada Mountain to the palace. This was the brilliant method to bring the water and spread to the town. The irrigation used at that age to help the farmers watering their fields.
Additionally, El Hambra had maintained the books in the libraries which contain the scientific discoveries and brilliant devices. Cordoba as a town has 70 libraries and the largest of which had 600 000 books. The books contain the knowledge of history, mathematics, art, poems, engineering, medical, and philosophy. These books were translated in Latin and Greek. The Crusades destroyed all the books and some of the books stolen by them. It was the first step from Muslim and non-Muslim scholars to spread the knowledge over the world.
Not only El Hambra (or also known as Al Andalus), there were great technology and invention was booming in the Middle East. It was also contribute to make some of the useful institutions. Some of them are public hospital, psychiatric hospital, public library, lending library, the academic degree-granting university, and also the first astronomical observatory, the most famous was the Maragheh observatory. These achievements in Islamic History granted by The Guinness Book of World Records, one of them is University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 CE.
The history of Muslim Renaissance and the ancient invention of Muslim Scholars had many impact to establish the root of the science. Knowledge also brought Arabs society in modern society. Nowadays, western use this basic knowledge to make new modern technology. Zoology, botany, genetics, and astronomy are some braches of science widely research by them. Above and beyond, the science from the Islamic era and western era nowadays is complementary.
Muslim scholars start their knowledge by a book of knowledge which is Al Qur’an, the revelation from God, while the western has no idea of this basic knowledge. But, Qur’an as miracle more and more proofed by the western scientist in 21th century. Especially the discoveries of the universe in six days, the stage of the baby in the womb and also the unique creation of the human DNA while Qur’an already stated in 7th century.
Say: “Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation: for Allah has power over all things.
(Al-Ankaboot, 69 verses)
For a Muslim, seeking knowledge is a mandatory as a khalifah fii Al Arld (caliph in the world) and also to discover more about God’s creations in order to know the creator. The main difference between Muslim Scholars and Western Scholars is their motive to seeking knowledge.In addition, Muslim believes that Allah is The Most Knowledgeable over His creation. No wonder, their sincere aim and believe in God can be seen in their determination to seeking knowledge and helping the society.
Those who conceal Allah’s revelation in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit, – they swallow into themselves naught but Fire; Allah will not address them on the Day of Resurrection. Nor purify them: Grievous will be their penalty.
(Al- Baqara, 286 verses)
In conclusion, we as a student and young Muslim generation must have the same spirit. Study hard and do our best because Allah always sees our works. Muslim always remembers that dead is not the end of this life and successful person is someone who prepares his future life. With all the pure niah (aim) just for Allah Ta’ala may Allah give us the chance to change this world. Insha’Allah.
Written by Ana Uswatun Khasanah to accomplish the article review on Islam, Knowledge, and Civilization subject.
Kulliyyah of ICT
IIUM, Gombak Malaysia