Ibn Seereen says:
“The knowledge of hadith (in the same manner all other religious subjects) are included in the deen. Therefore, before acquiring knowledge, be aware from whom knowledge is acquired”.
Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin and Nikola Tesla! We’ve all heard of these outstanding inventors with their mind-boggling inventions that has drastically changed the course of human history.
However, have we heard of the true pioneers – on the other side of the world – who brought a refreshing outlook towards science, economic development, art and cultural works? These are the true heroes hidden in archaic historical books, and rarely found in contemporary, one-dimensional Western history.
Let us take a quick look at the Golden Era of Islam dating back to the 8th century when the East was prospering with knowledge and scientific discovery that greatly benefited the growth of human civilization. On the contrary, at this point of time, the West was facing the ‘Dark Ages’ and were just creeping into the early stages of the ‘Renaissance’ era, meaning enlightenment or revival.
The era began during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786–809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Scholars from all over the world were mandated to unite together at the House of Wisdom to translate all of the world’s classical knowledge into the Arabic language.
After its completion, the major Islamic capital cities of Baghdad, Cairo, and Córdoba became the main intellectual centres for science, philosophy, medicine, and education. Thus, the inquisitive starts to dive deep into the ocean of knowledge and created extraordinary inventions that changed the world forever. Here are some of the greatest Muslim inventions worth knowing:
According to A. Murad Merican, a professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia (ISTAC-IIUM), coffee was first discovered in 15th-century Ethiopia, by an Arab goatherd named Khalid. He noticed that his goats were excited after eating a particular breed of berries. These berries were then taken and it was quickly spread to Yemen. Even the English word ‘coffee’ was derived from the Turkish kahveh, itself from the Arabic Qahwah!
Coffee was initially used by the Sufis to stay awake at nights to perform zikir and worship, and later, coffee crossed all the cities of the Levant and Turkey long before it migrated to Europe. The Muslim world gave birth to the coffee house, later to be popularly associated with the European Enlightenment.
- The Elephant Clock
This peculiar clock was unlike any other clocks you’ve seen these days. Al-Jazari created the Elephant Clock as a symbol of diversity and the universal nature of Islam. Due to the spread of Islam from Spain to Central Asia, he carved an Indian elephant, Egyptian phoenix, Arabic figures, a Persian carpet and Chinese dragons onto an enormous clock.
Besides the symbolistic diversity, al-Jazari also wanted to develop greater machines than ever before. Hence, he adapted the perforated water bowl (Archemdian/Indian ghati) method so it oscillated at the rim rather than sinking vertically!
The famous al-Jazari who wrote a book entitled ‘The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices’ has become a reference for engineers to describe their mechanical devices, including the wudhu’ machine, which was a very elaborate and water-conserving device. The Muslim world was also responsible for the making of soaps by mixing oil and al-qali, which is a salt like substance. This mixture were then boiled, and left to dry and harden to become soaps.
Besides cleanliness, al-Zahrawi wrote a book called ‘The Medicines of Beauty’ comprising of cosmetics, as a definite branch of medicine. He was inspired by hadiths of the Prophet on beauty, so he embarked on a journey of cosmetology. In his book, he described the care and beautification of hair, skin, teeth and other body parts within the Islamic boundaries. He also mentioned about perfumes and named medicated cosmetics hair dyes, lotions and much more.
The scholars mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg and our youth should know more about how magnificent the Golden era was, once upon a time. Hopefully, by recognizing our Muslim masters and scholars who devoted their lives to the deen and knowledge, our children will be inspired and strive towards the same path, to seek the rightful knowledge for the sake of Allah.