The Law of Gravity and other Arab Findings

Assalaamu-Alaykum – Peace be Upon You

So how did Islam contribute to mankind’s intellectual crusade?

What would the state of scientific knowledge as we know it today be in without Islam?

Well, the whole of history will testify to the indispensable contribution the religion of Islam has made to man’s scientific endeavour.  Indeed, Islamic history is peppered with intellectual and academic personalities, without whose efforts, mankind would not be in the advanced state of learning that it finds itself in today.

Alhumdulillah (all Praise belongs to Allah) Islamic history is one of my interests (but I still don’t know that much!) and so I thought I would publish an article which I read in a book entitled: The Road to Recovery – Borderless Interactions of Islam and the West edited by Dr Mohammad Ilyas and his daughter Dr Sajidah Ilyas.

This book is a collection of articles which first appeared in Muslim World League Magazine.  The one which I publish here is called The Law of Gravity and other Arab Findings and is one of the shorter articles!  Unfortunately the name of the author is not known:

Many of things hitherto ascribed to Aristotle, Plato or Galen, the personal Greek-Roman physician to Marcus Aurelius, stem from Arab-Islamic scientists. Whether it is a matter of Raimundus Lullus or Roger Bacon-whom we associate with the initiators of experimental research-in reality they are standing on the shoulders of disavowed predecessors from the onental world.

Copernicus reached for the stars which Arab Astronomers also saw and whose records he knew. Even Newton will probably have to relinquish his fame as the discoverer of the law of gravity in favour of an Arab-Islamic scholar who lived half a century before him. Must European intellectual history be rewritten? The first six of planned 20-volume encyclopedia of Arab writings leave little doubt in the experts’ minds. Fuat Sezgin, the author of the encyclopedia, teaches history at Frankfurt University. Since occupying the chair for the History of the Natural Sciences at Frankfurt University 17 years ago, Prof. Sezgin has been working on the evaluation. The currently achieved results earned him a prize of DM110,000 awarded by the Saudi Arabian King Faisal Foundation in 1979.

The actual purpose of the project is a scientifically correct record of Arabic writings from the beginning of Islam to the 17thcentury. The discovery that the medieval western world deligently imitated, copied and plagiarised has emerged as a by-product as it were. What is more, Arab Islamic cultural circles were aware of this. At the outset of the 12th century a decree was issued in Seville, forbidding the sale of scientific writings to Christians since the latter translated the writings and published them under another name.

The Arab world, extending from East Persia via Egypt to Morocco and Spain, took over discoveries by other nations. Particularly during the assimilation phase of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, Arab scientists processed the state of knowledge of the Greeks and Syrians, Persians, Indians and Babylonians. But they also contributed a vast wealth of original findings, particularly during the creative period in the Arab area from the middle of the 9th century to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Sezgin points out: “This applies to astronomy, physics, mathematics and chemistry as well as to numerous other disciplines, such as medicine, for example.”

The adoption of Arab cultural assets took place in all those regions of the Western world bordering on the Arabic Islamic sphere or amalgamated with it. Gerhard von Cremona translated no fewer than 90 manuscripts from Arabic in the 12th century alone. Platonvon Tivoli translated the ‘Handbook of Astronomy’ by AI-Battani. The Arab scholar, about 1120 C.E., thus making the Ptolemaic conception of the world available in greater detail to the West.

The Arab knowledge of the moon’s phases and fixed stars, the zodiac and the planets was so impressive that the majority of the Arabic names for the stars have been retained to the present day.  In 1932 an astronomical chart witn 400 stars and constellations, including the ecliptic and equatorial coordinates, was discovered in the cupola of the Qusair Amra Palace east of the Jordan.

This provides exemplary information on the state of Arab astronomy at that time. The painting dates from sometime between 711 and 715 C.E. Caliph Al-Mamun, who founded Baghdad in 770 C E., had the length of an arc of the meridian measured by means of which earth’s equatorial circumference of 4,02,534 kilometres can be calculated. Present-day measurements come to a figure of 4,00,700 kilometres.

Salaried astronomers in Samarkand and Maraga calculated the exact values of the changeability of the sun’s diameter and the eccentricity of the sun’s course. By using spherical trigonometry and spherical law of sines they decided that the Milky Way belongs to the fixed stars and corrected the measuring data and the equinox.

Whether they discovered the lesser pulmonary circulation or undertook complicated eye operations 600 years earlier than in Europe, invented spherical trigonometry in the late 10th century or solved equations of the third and fourth degree, further developed differential and integral mathematics, established new disciplines such as stylistic grammar, historical philosophy and sociology, or whether they used the camera obscure 300 years before Europe or knew the modern values of specific weights, there is scarcely a field where Arab scientists did not think out, investigate or invent something exemplary.

And Allah knows best.

Ma’as-salaam – With Peace

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3 Responses to “The Law of Gravity and other Arab Findings”

  1. Interesting video on YouTube which details the true role that Muslims have played in todays world.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH1CeEC-Ok8

  2. Call that a short article? BLIMEY SID!
    In future can you please summarise for the less interlectual readers?

  3. Sorry my mistake intellectual!

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