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February 2015 eGazette – Muslim Heritage

– Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages of Europe! – Muslim Contributions to Ophthalmology – Ibn Alnafis, Discovering the Pulmonary Circulation – Book Review: Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim al-Khalili – Science and Islam, Jim Al-Khalili — 3 Part BBC Documentary

Al Islam eGazette

Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages of Europe!

By Zia Shah


Cave of Hira where the prophet had his first revelation

An honest study of the causes of the Dark Ages and European renaissance will lead to the inevitable conclusion that Muhammad, may peace be on him, was the Light and the Messiah of the Dark Ages. John Davenport writes in, an apology for Mohammed and the Koran: “It is in the compositions of Friar Bacon, who was born in 1214, and who learned the Oriental languages, that we discover the most extensive acquaintance with the Arabian anthors. He quotes Albumazar, Thabet-Ebu-Corah, Ali Alhacer, Alkandi, Alfraganus and Arzakeb; and seems to have been as familiar with them as with the Greek and Latin classics, especially with Avicenna, whom he calls ‘the chief and prince of philosophy.’ The great Lord Bacon, it is well known, imbibed and borrowed the first principles of his famous experimental philosophy from his predecessor and namesake Roger Bacon, a fact which indisputably establishes the derivation of the Baconian philosophical system from the descendants of Ishmael and disciples of Mohammed.” In a short paragraph, John Davenport has very precisely identified all the links in the human intellectual evolution. Additionally, his book, which is available in Google books, is a master piece in the defence of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. Read his two page Preface and he is standing shoulder to shoulder with other great defenders of the Prophet Muhammad in the Western world, like Thomas Carlyle. Unfortunately, some Western scientists and historians propose the European science to be some sort of magical wand and what preceded it as not good enough or label it as pre-science or mystical science etc!

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and outstanding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?”

– Alphonse de Lamartine

Allow me to make the lion’s share of my case by quoting a classic book History of the Moorish Empire in Europe published in 1904 in three volumes and extending over more than 2000 pages. The insightful writer, Samuel Parsons Scott, a lawyer from Hillsboro Ohio writes, as he attributes all the success of Europe to the Prophet Muhammad:

"Unlike most theological systems to which men, in all ages, have rendered their obedient and pious homage, no mystery obscures the origin and foundation of Islam. The purity and simplicity of its principles have undergone no change. Its history has been preserved by the diligence of innumerable writers. The life and characteristics of its Prophet, even to the smallest detail, are accessible to the curiosity of every enterprising scholar."

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Muslim Contributions to Ophthalmology

Zakaria Virk

Science progressed at an impressive pace in the Muslim world during the Islamic golden age i.e. from 8th to 12th century. Not only voluminous & insightful books were composed on various scientific disciplines but new inventions and ground breaking discoveries were made. Of the various medical disciplines, most of the contributions were made by medical practitioners in the field of ophthalmology.


Anatomy of the Eye

Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye including the eye, brain, and areas surrounding the eye, such as the lacrimal system and eyelids. An eye specialist is known in Arabic as Al-Kahhal from the word Kuhl (kollyre).

Renowned Muslim scholars like Zakariya al-Razi, Ibn Sena, al-Haytham, al-Zahrawi, Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Nafis made significant contributions in this field. Books authored by Al-Razi, Ibn Sena, & al-Zahrawai were used as medical text books in European universities for centuries. In the main hall of the Paris University’s Faculty of Medicine, there hang portraits of al-Razi and Ibn Sena as a tribute to these two giants of medicine. On the stained glass window pane of a church in Princeton University, al-Razi portrait is painted as acknowledgment to his skill and immense benefits of his skill & knowledge to humanity.


The way science is divided these days into various branches, this was not the case during the middle ages. I have yet to see curriculum of medical schools. To become a practitioner there was no fixed path. All one had to do was study medical books and get training under a seasoned physician. To become an ophthalmologist a license was required granted by Hakim-bashi, royal physician to the Caliph. Before 931 there was no medical certification, when Caliph al-Muqtadir asked Sinan ibn Sabit to examine and approve physicians. Ophthalmologists hence had to satisfy the examiner that they knew the principal diseases of the eye as well as their intricate complications, and were able to properly prepare collyria and ophthalmic ointments. Moreover they had to assert under oath not to allow unauthorized persons access to any surgical instruments, such as the lancet that was used for cases of pannus and pterygium, or the curette used for cases of trachoma. Compared to a physician, eye doctor fee was small.

Muslim physicians-oculists made astonishing contributions and discoveries in eye diseases and cures. It was a Muslim scholar who produced anatomy of the eye for the first time. The Latin word “retina” is derived from Avicenna’s Arabic term for the organ. The “injection syringe”, a hollow needle, was invented by Ammar ibn Ali of Mosul, Iraq. Al Mosuli attempted the earliest extraction of cataracts using suction. Eye conditions such as pannus, glaucoma (described as ‘headache of the pupil’), phlyctenulae, and operations on the conjunctiva were described by Muslim physicians/oculists. Ibn Rushd (1198) was the first to attribute photoreceptor properties to the retina. Arabic terms such as Eyeball, Conjunctiva, Cornea, Uvea and Retina were introduced by Muslims. Muslims also did operations on diseases of the lids such as trachoma, a hardening of the inside of the lid. Glaucoma (an increase in the intra-ocular pressure of the eye) under the name of “Headache of the pupil” was first described by a Muslim.

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Ibn Alnafis, Discovering the Pulmonary Circulation

By Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal


The pulmonary circulation according to Ibn Al-Nafis.

Ala-al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (known as Ibn Al-Nafis) was born in 1213 A.D. in Damascus. He was educated at the Medical College Hospital (Bimaristan Al-Noori) founded by Noor al-Din Al-Zanki. Apart from medicine, Ibn al-Nafis learned jurisprudence, literature and theology. He thus became a renowned expert on the Shafi’i School of Jurisprudence as well as a reputed physician.

In 1236 Ibn Nafis moved to Egypt and worked in Al-Nassri Hospital then in Al-Mansouri Hospital where he became chief of physicians and the Sultan’s personal physician. When he died in 1288 A.D. he donated his house, library and clinic to the Mansuriya Hospital.

The most voluminous of his books is Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb, which was designed to be an encyclopedia comprising 300 volumes, but was not completed as a result of his death. The manuscript is available in Damascus. His book on ophthalmology is largely an original contribution and is also extant.

His book that became most famous, however, was Mujaz al-Qanun (The Summary of Law) and a number of commentaries that were written on this same topic. His commentaries include one on Hippocrates’ book, and several volumes on Ibn Sina’s Qanun, which are still extant.

Likewise he wrote a commentary on Hunayn Ibn Ishaq’s book. Another famous book embodying his original contribution was on the effects of diet on health entitled Kitab al-Mukhtar fi al-Aghdhiya.

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Book Review: Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim al-Khalili

Source: The Guardian


Taj Mahal is a symbol of Muslim Heritage — Samuel Parsons Scott’s work was monumental towards documenting Muslim Heritage

The ‘bubbling invention’ of the Islamic world lit up the dark ages.

The relay-race model of intellectual history is simple enough: a go-ahead culture picks up the torch, runs as far as it can, and hands the light of learning to a younger contender before sinking into exhaustion.

The ancient Greeks fan the flame of rational inquiry and surrender it to the Romans, who leave it to flicker. The Vandals and Visigoths snuff it out. But embers of scholarship still glow in the eastern empire of Byzantium, and when the Arabs emerge from the desert darkness and establish the fabulous empire of Islam, inquiring minds in Baghdad and Isfahan translate, preserve and annotate the wisdom of Ptolemy and Aristotle for the next six centuries. The sultans and satraps storm Europe with the sword, but with them too arrives the astrolabe, algebra and the glory that was Greece.

This is enough to light up the dark ages, ignite the Renaissance, and inflame modern science. The evidence is in the nouns: algebra, alchemy, alcohol and even the capital letters of astronomy and history, Aldebaran and Avicenna and the Almagest of Ptolemy.

So far, so familiar. But Jim al-Khalili’s book does more than just enrich a familiar narrative: it brings alive the bubbling invention and delighted curiosity of the Islamic world. The Greeks certainly provide the thread for the story, but from such thread the Ummayyads and Abbasids wove their own astonishing fabric of discovery and enlightenment. Empires are built on bloodshed but survive on know-how. “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr,” said the prophet Muhammad, and the empire founded in his name had a communication problem to solve before it could build its knowledge economy.

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Science and Islam, Jim Al-Khalili — 3 Part BBC Documentary


Jim Al-Khalili

Science and Islam is a three-part BBC documentary about the history of science in medieval Islamic civilization presented by Jim Al-Khalili. The series is accompanied by the book Science and Islam: A History written by Ehsan Masood.

To read more click here


February 2015


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Archives about Muslim Heritage in Alislam-eGazette

January 2010 eGazette — Europe’s debt to the Muslim Empire?

January 2011 eGazette — Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages

February 2012 eGazette — The Majesty that Islam was and soon will be!

March 2013 eGazette — The Muslim Heritage and the European Renaissance

February 2014 eGazette — Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages


 

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