The Arab Human Development Report (2002) published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a well-documented study in which facts have been meticulously marshaled, systematically analyzed, and some very valid and logical conclusions have been drawn regarding the backwardness of the Arab region.  However, the data on the number and proportion of students, by gender, in medical, engineering, technology and other professional courses, a highly sensitive index of human development, is conspicuous by its absence.  The authors of the Report have also overlooked the historical background, which might have been helpful in explaining, partly, the present backwardness of the Arab region.  Nonetheless it is a landmark document, which identifies the key factors, which have impeded markedly the socio-economic development of the Arab world.  It also suggests a pragmatic strategy to accelerate their socio-economic development.  This is indeed shocking as the Arab countries are endowed bountifully with natural resources and there   is no dearth of monetary resources because of their oil and mineral wealth.  This poverty of human development amidst plenty of natural resources sound anachronistic and points to some serious shortcomings in the development strategies adopted by the Arab countries.

Three Critical Areas of Deficit in the Arab Region

The UNDP  Report 2002 pointedly refers to three critical areas of deficit in the Arab region.  They are: (a) the knowledge deficit, (b) the freedom deficit, and (c) the woman’s empowerment deficit.  It is assumed in this paper that what is valid for the Arab region is equally valid for the other Islamic countries and is well substantiated by the data in Table 1, on Human Development Indicators.  Of the three areas of deficit, the deficit of knowledge is by far the most important and of the greatest concern since the absence of knowledge accounts for shortcomings in the other socio-economic segments including freedom deficit and absence of empowerment of women in most of the Muslim societies.  In view of this the knowledge deficit will be examined in greater depth and detail in the following paragraphs. 

Knowledge Deficit in the Arab Region and other Islamic countries

The people constitute the real wealth of any society and knowledge is their most powerful weapon and significant asset.  Acquisition of knowledge opens up wide avenues of developmental opportunities.  It is the responsibility of the governments of the respective countries to make knowledge accessible to all the citizens of the country through the latest tools available for its acquisition. The governments of these countries have signally failed to raise the capabilities of their human resource to their full potential. This negligence has adversely affected the political, social and economic development of the Arab and other Muslim countries .it is really shocking that it should happen in Islamic countries .The Holy Qur’an exhorts the Muslim to advance the frontiers of knowledge and the Prophet (SAW) encouraged them to go even to china to seek knowledge. In one of his Traditions the Prophet (SAW) stated that “no gift among all gifts of a father to his child is better than education ’’and that “seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim man and women ’’(Bukhari).Further it is obligatory on the Muslim to read and understand the meaning and significance of the Holy Qur’an. In the light of this Divine command and saying of the Prophet (SAW) no Muslim should ever remain illiterate and uneducated .it is obvious that the government of the Arab and other Muslim countries are not following the Qur’anic injunctions and Tradition of the Prophet (SAW) in their letter and spirit. Because of this flagrant violation of the Qur’anic directions, 65 million adult Arabs are illiterate, no Muslim country has 100 percent literacy ; Bangladesh and Pakistan are among the countries with the high rates of illiteracy,61and 56per cent respectively . Thus one of the basic tasks of the Arab and other Muslim countries ought to be, as the Report stresses , “to over come the under supply of knowledge to people and the under supply of knowledgeable people”.

Table 1

(Corresponding to 36 AHDI pp: 166-167 of the Report)

Ranking of Arab and Some other Islamic Countries on Some Human Development Indicators




















Ranking Among the


Per 1000 people






Countries of the World




1998 1998







0.79 2.16 72.2 0.33






0.89 0.38







0.76 0.73 69.3 0.48





0.82 0.06 70.4 0.48       0.23



0.79 0.07 65.6 0.2





0.73 3.44 76.1 0.35





0.82 0.74 70.1 0.18


United Arab Emirate



0.73 7.61 75 0.18





0.48 0.07 67 0.35






0.01 62.9 0.82





0.39 0

  . 58.6






0.52 0.01 59.2 0.35





0.34 0 53.7 0.67





0.36 0.02 52.7 0.5





0.44 0.02 64.4 0.48





0.7 0 69.8 0.18





0.6 0.04 66.7 0.17





0.64 0 54.5 0.03





0.67 0 69.2 0.1





0.49 0.01 50.8 0.33





0.73 0 69.5 0.17





0.68 0 69.2 0





0.48 0 55.4 0





0.55 0 . 50.1 0.2





0.41 0.01 53.9 0.18





0.52 0 63.8 0


Source: Arab Human Development Report (2002)-UNDP

Data on Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar are not given in the Report. *India has been included because it has the second largest Muslim Population after Indonesia.

HDI (Human Development Indicator): Contains four variables.

  1. Life Expectancy at birth.
  2. Adult Literacy Rate.
  3. Combined enrolment rate at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
  4. Real GDP per capita.

AHDI (Alternate Human Development Indicator) contains the following variables:

  1. Life Expectancy at birth (LE).
  2. Educational Attainment (EA).
  3. Freedom Score (Fs) – (Civil and Political Liberties).

4.     Women’s access to power in society in General (GEM).

Structurally the AHDI consists of two fundamental capabilities – Living long and healthy life and knowledge acquisition through education Internet Host per capita (IH): to reflect access to Information Communication Technology (ICT).

              This knowledge gap between the Developed countries and the Islamic countries has been widening progressively because of the differentiated investment pattern in education as is highlighted in the Report.  During the period 1980 to 1995 the Developed countries nearly doubled their per capita expenditure on education from $500 to $900, whereas in the Arab countries it has been static at $ 100 per capita and in the developing countries, which include the other Muslim countries investment in education has increased only marginally during 1990-1995 and is only approximately US dollar 50 per capita.  (Fig. 1 corresponding to Fig. 4.7, p. 54 of Report) On account of this ever-increasing gap in expenditure on education between the developed and the Arab countries the former are progressing at a phenomenal pace in acquisition and application of advanced scientific and technological knowledge, leaving the Arab and other Islamic countries way behind.  The Arab Human Development Report has correctly identified (a) the language barrier, (b) the digital divide and (c) the difference in quality of education as the basic factors accounting for this ever-increasing knowledge gap between the developed countries and the Arab and other Islamic countries.  A strategy must soon be evolved to bridge this knowledge gap as speedily as possible.

Language Barrier

            The language barrier has been a most determining factor in preventing the emergence of knowledgeable society particularly, in the Arab countries.  The relevant books and research works in sciences, technology and social sciences are predominantly in the English language.  They are inaccessible to most of the Arab scholars who have not cared to learn this language.  Further the number of books translated annually from foreign languages has been a mere 300.  Compared to this, in a small country like Greece it was five times the number of books translate in the entire Arab region and in Spain alone approximately 100,000 books are translated annually (Al-Hassan-DonaldHill, 1988, Islamic Technology ).  The Arab scholars living in the Arab countries overlook the fact that during the peak period of the rise of sciences in the Islamic world from 9th to 14th centuries A.D>, the Arab scholars never hesitated to learn the Greek and Sanskrit languages – the two distinguished names in this respect are those of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq who learnt Sanskrit in the Taxila Academy in India (?)*  and even translated Sanskrit works on astronomy and mathematics into Arabic.

Digital Divide

             The Internet facility is a cutting edge technology and the most powerful and effective instrument in accelerating acquisition of knowledge.  It is not accessible to Arab scholars partly due to language barrier and partly because of the regressive policies of the authorities in the Arab and other Islamic countries.  This digital divide is highlighted in (Fig. 2, corresponding to Fig. 2.9,p.29 of the report) displaying the number of Internet hosts per 100 population in the world regions.  The differences in number of Internet connections between the developed industrialized economies and the Arab and other Islamic countries are marked.  In the developed economies even the school going children in the age group 9 years and above do their homework and search for information on the Internet.  It should not be difficult to bridge this gap because the number of personal computers (PCs) per 1000 is fairly high, particularly in the Arab countries (Fig 3 corresponding to 5.2 – Indicators of Digital Dived, p. 75, of the Report).  These PCs have only to be provided with Internet connections.  The Internet facility is a great equalizer of knowledge for it is a facility is a great equalizer of knowledge for it is a veritable library and makes accessible, cost free, vast vista of development in all branches of knowledge.  Most of the latest research articles in the fields of sciences, technology. etc., are put on the websites of the respective institutions i/individuals and can be easily accessed.          

Quality of Education

The quality and standards of education in the Arab countries and other Islamic countries is extremely poor because their syllabi are out dated.  They are not taught the recent advances in they various branches of learning.  They are taught obsolete theories and the prescribed textbooks are out of date editions.  The teaching is not research oriented and is largely based on borrowed knowledge.  The teachers thus lack competence and ability.  Moreover in most cases they are not appointed on merit.  The poor quality and low standard of education can be inferred from the following figure.  (Fig. 4 corresponding to Fig. 1, p. 41; Islam and Science, Pervez Hoodbhoy, p. 28).  Further none of the 120 scholars holding M. Sc., M. Phil., and Ph. D. degrees in Physics could pass a multiple choice test in Physics, designed by Samuel Ting a Noble Laureate and conducted by the Center for Basic Sciences in Pakistan in January 1986. ( Pervez Hoodbhoy, op. cit., p. 42 ).  The situation is not very different in most of the other Islamic countries and is a matter of deep concern.

In this age of globalization and rapid changes in the tools and technology of socio-economic development the Arab world and the entire Islamic society from Indonesia to Morocco is passing through a vicious circle of challenges and divides.  If this is not broken with vision, promptness and courage of conviction it may push the Islamic world into the backwater of development, perpetuating its socio-economic backwardness.  Thus the basic challenge to the Arab Society and the Islamic world is to initiate immediate steps to transform the vicious circle into a “virtuous circle” of progress and development on all fronts with particular emphasis on quality education.  They ought to concentrate on building up of intellectual capital, which constitutes the backbone of social, economic, technological and political progress of any region and nation.  In order to offer a reasonable and meaningful solution to the grave challenges facing the Muslim societies, a synoptic view of the historical perspective into the phenomenal achievements of the Islamic society in the fields of science and technology seems appropriate.  We may draw some meaningful lessons from our historical past, which may furnish some distinct clues to meet the contemporary challenges.

Development of Science and Technology in Early Islam – 9th to 14th centuries A.D.

         The expansion of the political domain of Islam, which started, with the Caliphate of ‘Umar (R.A.) in 634 A.D. continued unabated until 750 A.D. when it extended to Transoxiana bordering China in the north east and Sindh in India in the east, and to the lberian Peninsula in the west.  Thus the political territory of Islam by 756 A.D. extended far beyond the combined territory of the Byzantine (Roman) and Sassanid (Persian) Empires.  With this enormous expansion of the Islamic territory it inherited the ancient scientific and technological legacy of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian and the Hellenic civilizations and on its far eastern frontiers was again in contact with the ancient civilizations of China and India.  This territorial inheritance of ancient intellectual, artistic and technological legacy and direct interaction with two other ancient cultures and civilization produced a tremendous impact in shaping the scientific and intellectual future of the Islamic world.  This rich scientific legacy together with Islamic dynamism inspired by the Qur’anic vision gave birth to a unique Islamic culture and civilization, which not only politically but also culturally, intellectually and technologically dominated the world until the 15th century. Islam improved tremendously with innovation and ingenuity upon the intellectual and technological legacy it inherited and left a highly enriched, innovative and improved legacy of science and technology for Europe to borrow, innovate and improve upon it.  A proper appreciation of the tools and techniques employed by the Muslim rulers and scientists to advance phenomenally the frontiers of knowledge may help the present rulers in the Arab world and other Islamic countries to impart dynamism to their efforts to plan the growth of science and technology at an accelerated pace in order to overcome the short supply of knowledge and knowledgeable people, bridge the digital divide, and face the challenges of digitization and globalization with confidence.


The Advancement of knowledge and technology from 9th to 14th Centuries A.D. –Patronage of the Ruling Elite


            One of the most significant factors in the phenomenal growth of knowledge and advancement of scientific research in the Islamic realm was the patronage of the ruling dynasties in both Baghdad and in Andalus.  In Baghdad the ‘Abbasid rulers established khizanat al-Hikmah (Treasure of Wisdom ) and Baytal-Hikmah (House of wisdom) as research academies and translation bureaus.  The rulers themselves maintained large libraries, appointed paid esearch scholars to pursue their academic pursuits and were themselves keen to acquire knowledge and participate in intellectual discourses.  Robert Biffault writes in his book:  The making of humanity:  “The incorruptible treasures and delights of intellectual culture were accounted by the princes of Baghdad, Shiraz and Cordova, the truest and proudest pomps of their courts. But it was not a mere appendage of their princely vanity that the wonderful growth of Islamic science and learning was fostered by their patronage… Learning used to have become with them the chief business of life.  Khalifah and Amirs hurried from their Diwans to closet themselves in their libraries and observatories… caravans laden with manuscripts and botanical specimens plied from Bukhara to Tigris, from Egypt to Andalusia; embassies were sent to Constantinople and to India for the purpose of obtaining books and teachers; collection of Greek authors or a distinguished mathematician was eagerly demanded as the ransom of Empire” (Quoted in :K.J. Ahmad, Hundred great Muslims, pp. 175-76, Library of Islam, U.S.A. ) Caliph Al-Hakam ll of Andalusia founded a Library containing 500-000 books, mostly rare manuscripts (Ahmed, op. cit., p. 176).


Breaking the Language Barrier : Arabicising the Entire Corpus of Grek and Indian Scientific Literature

The language barrier was the major obstacle in the development of science and technology in the early Islamic world.  The political climate was, however, favourable in overcoming this barrier.  Arabic had become the Lingua Franca of the entire Islamic territory from Bokhara in the east to Cordova in the west.  Even the Jewish and Christian scholars in Andalusia (Spain) and Syrian scholars in Egypt and Syria had obtained a high degree of proficiency in the Arabic language.  The Syrian scholars were equally proficient in Greek.  This facilitated the translation of Greek scholarly works into Arabic on a massive scale.  Eminent groups of multi-religious translators were appointed, such as Musa Brothers and Qusta Ibn Luqa (Muslim),  Thabit bin Qurra’ (Sabian). Hunayn Ibn Ishaq ( Nestorian Christian ) who was also the Director of the Bureau of Translation.  These translators, together with a number of others, translated the entire corpus of Greek scientific works written by such distinguished scholars as Plato and Aristotle ( Philosophy ).  Euclid, Archimedes, Appolonios (Geometry), Galen, Hippocrates, Dioscorides  (Medicine).  Hipparchos, Ptolemy (Astronomy) and many others into Arabic.  This had the dramatic effect of transforming Arabic into a language of science and technology and also made science and technology accessible to the common man.  This Arabicising of scientific literature gave a tremendous impetus to the development of science and technology within the Islamic domain.  It helped the emergence of a unique scientific temper and culture in the Islamic world, which led to unhindered growth of original and innovative ideas in science and technology and its rapid dissemination across the Islamic world from Samarqand in the east to Seville and Cordova in the west.  The scientific culture had the full support of the ruling elite and religion did not impede its growth for it had the formidable backing of the Qur’anic injunctions and the ahadtih (Traditions of the Prophet (SAW).  The enthusiasm and keenness to acquire and advance the frontiers of knowledge transcended the barriers of religion and language.  Thus the political and religious climates were most conducive to usher in an intellectual revolution in the world of Islam.  We thus observe the emergence of a galaxy of Muslim scientists who not only excelled the scientific achievements of their Greek and Indian predecessors but also left a rich legacy,. Which laid the intellectual foundation to usher in the Renaissance and development of modern science and technology in Western Europe.


Achievements of Muslim Scientists from 9th to 14th Centuries A.D.

The Arab scholars initially assimilated the corpus of scientific knowledge from Greece and India and built upon this legacy a majestic scientific edifice, which in brilliance and originality outshone its Hellenistic predecessor and remained unrivalled till the rise of modern science and technology in Western Europe in the 17th century. George Sarton in his Introduction to the History of Science admits that during the period 750 to 1100 A.D. there was an explosive growth of scientific knowledge unmatched in its brilliance which dazzled the world with its original, pioneering and path breaking contribution to the advancement of the frontiers of knowledge. It includes encyclopaedic scholars of extraordinary brilliance such as Farabi, Ibn shatir, Ibn Rushed and Ibn Khaldun who commanded the realm of knowledge for their ingenious and innovative ideas. In the process they rectified the Aristotelian misconception on human embryology that male sperm does not play any role in the fertilization process leading to the formation of human embryo and many of the errors in astronomical calculations by Ptolemy in al-Majest. They originated new scientific disciplines and new scientific theories in almost every discipline. Al-Battani introduced Indian numericals with zero and Sines, Conices into Greek mathematics and transformed Astronomy into a rigorous mathematical and exact discipline. Modern Algebra owes its origin to al-Khwarizmi. If Ibn-Sina  (Avicenna) the famous philosopher and physician provided a remarkable unified synthesis of medical knowledge from the earliest till his time in his  book; Canon (Al Qanun fi al-Tibb) which superceded the works of all his distinguished predecessors like Galen, Hippocrates and Dioscorides, and al-Razi ( Rhazes)laid  the foundation of clinical or case medicine based on observational and experimental methods in the treatment of patients which is now even more rigorously practised.  It was ‘Ala al-Din lbn al-Nafis who for the first time discovered, based on his anatomical observations, that the blood moves into the left ventricle of the heart via the lung and not through a hole in the heart as suggested by Galen and even lbn Sina.  The foundation of experimental chemistry was laid by Jabir (Geber) lbn al-Hayyan in the late 8th century but was given a definite shape and formalized with the establishment of a fully equipped laboratory for experiments in chemistry by al-Razi (Rhazes ) in the late 9th century Laboratories in chemistry until the end of the 19th century differed little from the laboratory set up earlier by al-Razi in the 10th century A.D. Modern scientific studies on optics owe their origin to lbn al-Haitham (Al-Hazen) and modern Botanical studies owe their origin to the Andalusian (Spanish) botanist lbn al-Baitar (13th century A.D.) who was the first botanist in the history of botanical sciences to have conducted field studies specifically for the collection of plants along the Mediterranean coast from east coast of Andalus (Spain) through North Africa to the Syrian coast.  He conducted his botanical research in the Royal Botanic Garden in Seville.  The concept of Royal Botanic Garden was unheard of in Europe until the 16th century (for details refer Appendix A).

                                                                                                                                             Establishment of teaching hospitals for the treatment of both in-and out-patients and well organized astronomical observatories equipped with mathematical tools to calculate planetary movement were distinct gifts of Islam to modern medical system and astronomy respectively.  Hospitals established by the Muslims offered free treatment to in and out patients without any discrimination.  They had separate wards each for contagious diseases and psychiatric cases; they had their own pharmacy and an excellent library for students and teachers.  Tyco Brahe, the Danish astronomer, modeled his observatory after the observatory established by Taqi al-Din in Istanbul in the mid 16th century and used the mathematical models of Tusi and lbn Shatir for astronomical observations and calculations.

Distinguished Islamic philosophers such as al-Kindi, Farabi, lbn Sina and lbn Rushd who were considered as the fountainhead of knowledge were inspired by philosophical thoughts of Aristotle and Plato.  They turned out to be the greatest exponents of Aristotelian rationalism.  The exquisite commentaries of these brilliant Muslim scholars on the works of Aristotle and their translation into Latin in the 13th century A.D. reignited European interest in Aristotelian rationalism, which eventually ushered in intellectual Renaissance Movement in Europe.  It may, however, be mentioned incidentally that at the time when the Islamic realm was experiencing unparalleled intellectual and scientific revolution in the Middle Ages, Europe was steeped in darkness owing to fanaticism and religious intolerance of scientific and rational ideas by the Church.

Technological Advancement in Early Islam

The Muslim contribution to the advancement of technology was equally remarkable.  Charles Singer, a historian of Technology, writes in his book the History of Technology. “Europe, however is but a small peninsula extending from the great landmass of Afro-Asia.  This is indeed its geographical status and this until the 13th century was generally also its technological status-for nearly all products of technology the best products available to the west were those of the Near East”.  The paper manufacture borrowed from the Chinese was first established in Samarqand in 751 A.D., later spread to Baghdad, Cairo, Fez and Jativa in Valencia region in Spain from where it moved to Europe.  The first paper industry in Europe was set up in Italy in 1276 A.D.  the glass making technology from Syria, which produced the finest quality of glass products, was transferred to Venice in 1277 A.C. under a treaty agreement.  The weight driven mechanical clocks were first used by the Muslim in Spain in the 11th century, nearly 250 years before it appeared in Northern Europe.  They also initiated the use of windmill.  According to Needham  “The history of wind mills really begins with Islamic culture and Iran.”  In Europe it appeared only in the 16th century.  However, the most spectacular Islamic contribution in the transfer of technology was in the field of irrigation and agronomy.  They inherited the Noria and the Saqiya water drawing machines from the Romans but effected significant technological improvements. These improved madels reached Europe from Andalusia (Spain).  The most notable and original contribution in this area was the introduction of the Qanat system of irrigation to exploit ground water or subternean water from an aquier (precursor of modern artesian wells).  According to AlHassan and R. Hill the Arabs introduced intensive cropping, raised four crops instead of two from the same field, used crop rotation to conserve the fertility of the soil and in the words of Herbert Rowen “…they practiced farming in a scientific way.  They knew the value of the fertilizer.  They fitted their crops to the quality of ground”.  (History of Early Modern Europe,  1960, p. 359).  Al-Hassan and R. Hill sum up the situation in the following words “Muslim operations in agriculture,  irrigation, hydraulic engineering and manufacture were an integral part of every day life in the southern half of the Spanish Peninsula (Andalusia), and …Muslim ideas in these fields and others, passed from Spain into Italy and northern Europe”  (Al-Hassan Hill, op. cit., 34). (For details refer Appendix B).

One of the most remarkable achievements of the Islamic civilization from the 9th to 14th century was to inculcate scientific temper and create a scientific environment leading to incessant search for the truth, conducting coordinated scientific research in different centers and conducting experiments to test the veracity of scientific theories transmission of new scientific ideas and transfer technology.  These men of erudition from the Islamic world laid the foundation for the scientific and industrial revolution in Europe.  Biffault  writes: “What we call science arose as a result of new methods of experiments, observation and measurement which were introduced into Europe by the Arabs”  (Quoted in Abdussalam, Islam and Science, p,8, 1986).  This view is strongly reinforced by George Sarton who admits that “the main and the least obvious achievement of the Middle Ages was the creation of the experimental spirit and this was primarily due to Muslims down to the 12th century”.  (George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, vol. 2, chapter 29, 1947).

Decline in Political Power, Rise of Fanaticism and Decadence of Science and Technology in the Islamic Realm

The transfer of science and technology from the Islamic realm to Europe was followed by a sharp decline of political power of Islam, and the rise of fanaticism in Islam dealt a mortal blow to the development O’ science.  It is symbolized by the destruction of the Istanbul Astronomical Observatory in 1580 by the fanatics which was established by Taqi al-Din in 1545.  The rise of the clerics and fanaticism stifiled the growth of science in the countries ruled by Islam such as Mughul Empire in India, Ottoman Empire in Turkey and Arabia and smaller kingdoms in the Maghreb. The language barrier re-emerged forcefully since most of the post 16th century scientific researches were conducted in Spanish, German, Italian, French and English languages.  Hence the language of science and technology once again became inaccessible to Muslims allover the world and consequently the Muslim countries rapidly lapsed into decay.  The process of decadence has further worsened with the rise of satellite and information technology.  This has been largely due to the language barrier, economic constraints and indifferent attitude of the ruling elite.  These factors have led to the development of a vicious circle.  A strategy has now to be evolved to transform this vicious circle into “virtuous circle” so that not only the Arab World but the entire Islamic belt from Indonesia and Brunei in the east to Morocco and Mauritania in the west regains its status as a leading knowledgeable society in the world and its deficit of knowledgeable people is converted into a surplus with the rapid formation of human capital which plays a key role in building up a “virtuous circle”.

In order to assess the situation correctly we should draw our lessons from history, as outlined, and critically examine the strategy suggested by the Arab Human Development Report (2002) to meet the challenges confronting the Arab and the Islamic society in the contemporary scenario.  Historically we observe that a generous and enlightened support from the ruling elite was the prime mover in ushering in scientific revolution in the Islamic realm from the 9th to 14th century A.D.  Both the rulers and the scholars received their inspiration from Islam, the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet (     ). It is interesting to observe that during the peak period of scientific achievement of Islam, religion was instrumental in stimulating scientific progress and not a hindrance. Further religious education was never separated from scientific education. In fact, they harmoniously complemented each other. A distinguished physician, astronomer, philosopher etc. could also perform with equal competence the duties of qadi ( judge)  in a court of law. A muezzin (mu’adhdhin) one who calls people to salah or prayer) may also be serving as an astronomer in an observatory. Admitting the fact that Islam was the main impulse for the glorious scientific achievements of the Arab civilization Al-Hassan and R. Hill state: “For Islam, as we have mentioned, was the driving force behind the Muslim scientific revolution when the Muslim state had reached its peak” (p. 282, , op. cit.). During this peak period Islam had a most liberal outlook. Religious tolerance was its hallmark as is evident from the appointment of a multi religious group of translators during the ‘ Abbasid  period.  Even the Hindu scholars were invited from India to supervise the translation of scientific works in Sanskrit, mainly astronomy and mathematics.  Differences in religion were never allowed to stand in the way of acquisition, promotion and advancement of knowledge.  There were occasional fits of fanaticism by a group of scholars when it was perceived that a particular scholar had deviated from the fundamentals of Islam exemplified by Ghazali’s scthing criticism of Ibn Sina’s rationalism and materialistic outlook influenced by Aristotelian philosophy.  Barring these aberrations Islam was always a source of strength and inspiration to scientific achievements.  However during the political and economic decadence in the Arab countries   “The movement of religious fanaticism against science was no other than an outstanding symptom of political and economic disintegration”  (Al-Hassan and R. Hill, op. cit., p. 282 ).  Religious fanaticism and obscurantism combined with anti-intellect role played by the despots and dictators in the Muslim countries have deprived Muslims of their vital source of intellectual and scientific inspiration and consequently from the Scientific spirit and allowed science to wither away in the Islamic society including the Arab world.  It is removal of the deficit in the Qur’anic revelation,  along with the elimination of other deficits, hold the key to the renaissance of science and technology in the Islam world as identified in the Report.

Strategy Adope in  early ism for the growth of science and Technology

In the light of the above the  strategy  adopted in early Islam to inculcate   scientific spirit and ensure accelerate progress of science and technology may be identified as follows:

  • Adequate understanding of the meaning and significance of the multidimensional character of Qur’anic Revelations.
  • Generous and enlightened patronage by the Ruling Elite to ensure total freedom of research liberal funding of scientific research and of scientists in order to ensure their economic stability.
  • Arabicising the entire corpus of Greek scientific works, and Indian astronomical and mathematical works.
  • Coordination of research and rapid dissemination of knowledge within the Islamic realm from Samarqand in the east to Cordova in west.
  • Emergence of centers of excellence in astronomy, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agronomy etc.
  • Religious tolerance and full support and encouragement to Non-Muslims on par with Muslims in their academic pursuits.


Strategy Suggested by Arab Human Development Report 2002 to Create Knowledge Society

The strategy suggested by the Arab Human Development Report 2002 (UNDP) is multifold and may be summarized as follows:


  • Substantial increase in Research and Development fund from current 0.5 percent of GDP to 2 percent within a decade.
  • Prompt application of modern tools for the acquisition of knowledge to minimize the knowledge gap and eliminate the digital divide.  The Internet connectivity should be maximized in the Arab world in the educational, administrative, economic, commercial, banking services etc.
  • Establishment of specialized centers/centers of excellence in education and research for the optimum utilization of natural/intellectual resources in the Arab world.
  •  Significant improvement in the quality of education from the school to the University level.
  • Women constitute a significant component of human capital.  They should be provided with the best of education, on par with men, in every field to enable them to play an active and constructive role in the development of the Arab society.
  • Elimination of Language Barrier;

Although the Report stresses the importance of the removal of language barrier its recommendations in this regard are not clear and categorical.  It states: “Linguistically, the world of Information Communication (ICT) is at a watershed.  It can maintain linguistic diversity, a choice that entails difficult communication and hinders the flow of information and knowledge, or it can turn to a standard unified language, mostly English – Arabic meanwhile has its own watershed.  It can ( become a means for the Arab countries to catch up with the information train, or it can lead to a wider linguistic divide between the Arabs and the rest of the world at various levels.”

  • Reduce dependency on external sources for Research and Development and expert consultancy.
  • Knowledge should be made accessible to all sections of the community rich and poor and establish a culture of excellence and merit.
  • Pooling of financial and intellectual resources from the Arab world.
  • Information communication technology is by far the most important enabler and equalizer of technology (ICT) assess available today.  Priority should be given to ICT education.
  • Arab Cooperation and Institutional Arrangement – Arab League to function like the European Union and the Creation of an Arab Common Market,

The Report emphasizes the point that individually Arab countries offer very limited possibilities because of the size of their market and resources but “by coming together, Arab countries can reap the benefits of size and scale, diversify their combined economies, and open up opportunities for investment that would be unavailable in the absence of coordinated efforts and cooperation” (p. 122).  In order to achieve this goal, the Arab League must be made an effective organization like the European Union.  The first step in this direction would be to constitute the Arab Common Market and create the requisite institutions and instruments in order to implement the program vigorously.

It may be noted that barring the modern developmental tools such as Information Communication Technology (ICT), and conceptual jargons such as ‘investment strategy’, and Research and Development (R&D), the similarities between the strategies of early Islam and the Arab Human Development Repot (2002) UNDP are striking.  The recommendations of the Report are highly pragmatic and if implemented with sincerity and conviction they will indeed accelerate the socio-economic development of the Arab world and benefit it immensely.  There are, however, two significant omissions in the Report.  Firstly the Report failed to identify the key deficit of the Arab world as well as the rest of the Islamic realm, i.e. absence of Qur’anic education and appreciation of the significance of the Qur’anic Revelations, the élan vital, or the main inspiring force of Islamic Civilization.  Secondly, the extension of the concept of an Arab Common Market to the entire Islamic realm.  These omissions are, however, understandable because the terms of reference of the Report were restricted to the Arab World.  Being a United Nations official document it had to adhere to its secular credentials hence the mention of the Holy Qur’an has been avoided.  As against this a study on Islamic Technology conducted by Ahmed Y. al-Hassan and Donald R. Hill and sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1986 stated in its Epilogue that “Islamic religion was the main impulse behind the renaissance of science at the zenith of Muslim Arab Civilization, it was partly the post 16th century rise of a clerical faction which froze this same science and withered its progress”  ( p. 282).  While supporting the idea of an Arab common market because of its “cultural unity of language, religion and history” it pleads for wider regional, educational and scientific cooperation among the Islamic countries because that would enrich and diversify natural resources immensely and will also add significantly to the richness and size of human resources.  It states as follows:  “The Islamic world is rich in natural and human resources, which is fortunate because the future of its science and technology depends upon the successful utilization of a combination of these two ingredients. Though most individual Islamic states now realize the importance of science and technology for their future development, and though some have achieved considerable success along this road, future progress in all Muslim countries, rich and poor, depends on the extent of economic cooperation and integration among them on a regional basis… To achieve this the countries of Islam require perception, determination and cooperative leadership.”  (pp. 285-286).

Additional strategy recommended in this paper

In view of the ideas expressed in the foregoing paragraphs it is proposed to add the following to the recommendations made in the Arab Human Development Report (2002), UNDP. Further these recommendations will cover the entire Islamic realm.

Eliminating the Acute Deficit it in Qur’anic Education and Appreciation of the Multifaceted Dimensions of the Holy Qur’an

In order to accomplish this the meaning and significance of the Holy Qur’an, both in their letter and spirit, should be thoroughly internalized by all the Muslims, rich and poor, male and female within the Islamic realm. The Qur’anic values and precepts and practices of the Prophet (     ) should be thoroughly enshrined in the hearts and minds of all the Muslim. This will correct the distortions, which have crept into the Islamic values. It will act against dogmatism, fanaticism, and obscurantism, will inculcate tolerant and liberal outlook while adhering firmly to the fundamentals of Islam, and will ensure removal of deficits relating to women empowerment, freedom of speech and democracy (Fig. 5. Dimensions of Qur’anic Revelations).

A Twin Track Strategy to Overcome Language Barrier may be Adopted

Track  1: Arabicising the Scientific Literature: The corpus of scientific literature in non-Arabic language is enormous. Hence only selected and important scientific works in diverse disciplines in English, French, Spanish, German and Russian languages will be picked up for translation into Arabic. In order to implement it Translation Bureaus may be established and bilingual scholars: French-Arabic, English-Arabic, German-Arabic, Spanish-Arabic and Russian-Arabic may be appointed to carry out this onerous task.

Track  2: Introduction of English as a second language in the schools and colleges of all the Arab and other Islamic countries where English is not the medium of instruction.  The scholars must develop enough proficiency in English language to access on the internet available literature in different branches of science and to adequately understand them and other scientific works.  This will substantially accelerate the pace of acquisition and advancement of knowledge in the entire Islamic realm including the Arab world.

Acquaintance and Awareness of the Scientific Legacy of Islam

According to al-Hassan and Donald Hill there are more than 100,000 Arabic manuscripts on science and technology in different museums of the world.  It is therefore important and will be extremely useful:

That an annotated bibliography in Arabic and English is prepared of all the ancient manuscripts on Science and Technology in Arabic and printed for international circulation, and that,

A selected number of these manuscripts representing different branches of knowledge may be printed both in Arabic and English.

These steps will help us to appreciate correctly the scientific legacy of Islam and its contribution to the advancement of the frontiers of knowledge as a whole.

Establishment of the Islamic Economic Union and Common Market of the Arab and Other Islamic Countries

The establishment of Arab cum Islamic Countries Economic Union is absolutely essential if the Arab and other Islamic countries want to lift their economic status in the comity of nations. Presently they claim a growing share of the world’s population but a shrinking share of its economy. The situation is rather extremely gloomy when we realize the fact that “last year, the entire Muslim world received barely more foreign investment than Sweden” (Charene Barshefsky –New York Times, 22nd February, 2003). The situation cannot be saved by the Arab Common Market alone for the Middle East is passing through a phase of economic decadence which is evident from the fact that “In 1980 Muslim countries in the Middle East controlled 13 percent of world exports and received almost 5 percent of direct investment, today the figures are barely 3 percent of world exports and 1.5 percent of investment” (Barshefsky, op. cit.). Hence the creation of a Common Market and formation of an economic Union of the Muslim countries of the world seems imperative to promote inter-regional economic cooperation and to accelerate the pace of their economic growth. These Islamic countries together will constitute a colossal market of the size of 1.3 billion population whereas the Arab union will provide a market of only 266 million.  The resources of the Muslim countries in their Common Market will be vastly diversified, will command an internal market of enormous size and the therefore can benefit from the economy of scale and market it more competitive in the international market.  The Muslim countries are almost located contiguously from Indonesia in the east to Morocco and Mauritania in the west, Kazakhstan in the north to Somalia in the south.  The contiguity is broken by the intervening India, which incidentally has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia (Fig. 6 Pan Islamic map showing Member Countries of the Organization of Islamic Countries, p. 30 ).  The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) should draw its inspiration from the European Union (EU) and model the Common Market on the lines established by the EU with modifications wherever necessary.  The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) should play a pivotal role in aggressively promoting a well-coordinated economic development strategy for the Muslim countries in order to maximize the benefit of their resource endowment.  The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) should attract skilled manpower from across the world including India and China, which have sufficiently skilled manpower, and from the European Union, U.S.A. and Canada, which can provide highly skilled Muslim manpower in different fields of science and technology and social sciences.  Similarly the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) may be assigned a more constructive role in building human capital in the Islamic countries.  It should coordinate educational, Research and Development (R&D) activities among the Muslim countries, search for Muslim and non-Muslim talent in sciences and social science across the globe and attract them through incentives to work in their respective areas of specialization in the centers of excellence, which will be established by ISESCO.  It should establish Islamic Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Islamic Council for Historical Research, Islamic Council for Social Science Research.  These Research Councils will be liberally funded to promote both theoretical and applied research in their respective areas and in different centers spread across the Muslim Countries.  The ISESCO will also ensure that the quality of education and of research in the Islamic countries is of the highest order comparable to the best in the world.  There should be no compromise on standards and merit ought to be always encouraged and fully rewarded in the true spirit of Islam.


Islam and Muslim countries are passing through a critical phase of their contemporary history. The survival of both Islam and Muslim countries is at stake. The Muslim are facing a twin challenge that challenge that while adhering to the fundaments of their faith, their religion, Islam, can also be instrumental in accelerating the development of science, technology and economy. It is indeed shocking that all the Muslim countries without exception are among the most backward countries socially, economically, politically and educationally. This raises a question mark on contemporary Islam itself. Does it breed only fanaticism and backwardness and has it lost its relevance in the contemporary world? The answer to both the questions is an emphatic No! Nonetheless the fact is that fanaticism in any religion has prevented the progress of science. While Tyco Brahea Danish astronomer was establishing his astronomical observatory modeled on the lines of Taqi al-Din’s Observatory in Istanbul, the Istanbul Observatory was being destroyed by the fanatics in 1580. It was just like Galileo being threatened with inquisition by the fanatic catholic clergy for his heliocentric theory of planetary movement as against the geocentric theory taught by the clergy in their institutions. The basic cause behind the over all backwardness is that the ruling elite among the Muslims have markedly deviated from their inspirational force i.e. the Qur’anic injunctions and Traditions of the Prophet (SAW). It was this inspirational force, which motivated the Muslims to attain the peaks of scientific achievements from the 9th to the 14th century A.D. The Islamic scientific achievements laid a solid visionary foundation to serve as a launching pad for the phenomenal progress of modern science and technology. We must return to our basic source of inspiration to regain our spiritual, emotional and intellectual vitality in order to usher in a new dynamic phase of renaissance of science and technology and regain new heights of scientific achievements, ensuring peace and prosperity for all the peoples of world.

In conclusion it may be reiterated that Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) should transform itself to function as the Organization of the Union of Islamic Countries.  It should run on the lines of the European Union and focus sharply to mobilize the natural and intellectual resources of the Union of Islamic countries in a coordinated way making full use of the economies and building up human capital in diversified trades and technologies in order to optimize the development of their diversified resources.  Such a development will call for a distinct change of heart, mind and values of the ruling elite in the respective countries.  Firstly they ought to see that the multi dimensional injunctions of the Qur’an are thoroughly internalized by the people of their respective countries.  Secondly they must bear in mind the principles which governed the foundation of the ideals Islamic State established by the Prophet (SAW) in Madinah, and the unique message on the Geovernance of the state which Abu Bakar (R.A.), the First Khalifah (Caliph) of the Islamic State delivered on assuming charge of the caliphate after the death of the Prophet (SAW):  “Gentlemen, now that I am elected as your Amir, although I am no better than you.  Help me if I am in the right.  Set me right if I am in the wrong.  Truth is a trust, falsehood is treason.  The weak among you shall be strong with me till, God willing, his rights have been vindicated, and strong among you shall be weak with me till, the Lord will, I have taken what is due from him”  ( Sirah, Ibn Hisham), vol, 3, p. 102.  It is the denial of this right to the people “to correct” the wrong policies of their rulers by the ruling elite of all the Muslim countries, without exception, that has brought disaster to contemporary Islamic polity.  This “right’ must be restored to the people in conformity with the Islamic idealism as enjoined in the Qur’an, determined by the Prophet ( ) and scrupulously followed by the first four rightly guided Caliphs of Islam.  In view of this the Muslim rulers should act as the “first servants of the state” and not as dictators and despots.

If the rulers and the people are inspired by the Qur’an injunctions and Traditions of the Prophet ( ) they will inculcate compassionate and tolerant, attitude of mind, will ceaselessly search for the truth and will be open to ingenious and innovative ideas in order to advance the frontiers of knowledge for the benefit of mankind.  Such an Islamic State will be religiously tolerant, emotionally cohesive, intellectually progressive, socially, benevolent, economically prosperous, educationally, scientifically and technologically advanced.  Islamic has strength and resilience to face the twin challenge of retaining and harmonizing the fundamentals of faith with the secular development of science and technology.  It has proved it once in the annals of history with glory and distinction and will prove it again with even greater glory and distinction.  Scientific and technological advancement inspired by the Qur’anic vision will ensure tranquility, peace and prosperity of the mankind and will shun the preparation of sophisticated weapons of mass destruction to bully the weaker nations into political and economic subjugation and for the death and  destruction of mankind which appears to be the primary goal of scientifically, technologically and economically advanced nations.  This is total perversion of the ethical norms and values of science and technology and repugnant to Islam.


The author expresses his profound thanks to:

1        Dr. Syed Fareeduddin, former Director International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA ) for his valuable help in compiling the information given in Appendix  A on Muslim scientists and their achievements.

2        Mr. Shahab  Alam and Mr. Jang Bahadur for kindly arranging for the reproduction of diagrams and map included in this paper.

3        Ms. Arshi Siddiqi for her valuable comments and innovative ideas, which have been incorporated in the text.

4        Ms. Shaheda for kindly typing the text and the table most carefully and patiently.

5        Administrator UNDP for kindly permitting me to reproduce a Table and Figs. 2,3, and 4 from the Arab Human Development Report (2002) UNDP.

6        Dr. Pervez Hoodbohy for kindly permitting me to reproduce the Figs.  1.1 and 1.2 from his book Islam and Science.

7        D.K.Publishing for reproducing the Map: Pan Islamic, on page 7 of the book,  Islam by Lunde Paul.


  1. Ahmed, Akbar S., Islam Today, I.B. Tauris Publishers, New York, 1999.
  2. Ahmad, K.J., Hundred Great Muslims ,Library of Islam, Kazi Publications, Chicago, U.S.A., 1987.
  3. Al-Hassan, Ahmad Y. and Hill, Donald R., Islamic Technology, An IIIustr History, ( UNESCO sponsored ), Cambridge, University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1988.
  4. Barshefsky, Charlene, “ The Middle East in the World Economy”, New York Times, 27th February, 2003.
  5. The Economist weekly, “ A Survey of Malaysia”, London, April 5th, 2003.
  6. Esposito, John L., (ED), The Oxford History of Islam, Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K./New York, 1999.
  7. Fakhry, Majid, Averroes (Ibn Rushd) : His Life, Works and Influence,Oneworld Publications, Oxford, U.K., 2001.
  8. Hoodbhoy, Pervez, Islam and Science – Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality,Zed Books, Ltd., London, New Jersey, 1991.
  9. Lunde, Paul, Islam, DK. Publishing Incorporated, New York, 2002.
  10. Sarton, George, Introduction to the History of Science, Robert & Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida, U.S.A. 1975.
  11. United Nations Development Program ( UNDP), Arab Human Development Report-2002, United Nations Publications, Room No. DC 2 – 853 New York, NY 10017, U.S.A.
  12. Watson, Peter, “Crossroads of Culture”.  OP-ED, New York Times, April 21, 2003.





Islamic Realm: Epoch Making Contribution of Muslim Scientists: 9th to 14th Century A.D.


Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century / year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

1.0       Astronomy1.1       Al-Battani

858-929 A.D.

Known as Arab Ptolemy – First to replace Greek chords and arcs by Indian sines / cosines in astronomical calculations calculated correctly length of solar years 356 days, 5 hrs., of 46 mins and 24 secs. The translation of al – Biruni’s book Canon of masudi  in astronomical studies almost in Italy, Denmark and other countries of Europe.
1.2       Al-Biruni 


973-1045 A.D.

Completely mathematized astronomy.  His book Europe got acquainted with the Indian numerals including zero with the translation into Latin of the Al-battani, Al-Biruni and Omar Khayam.
1.3       Omar Al-Khayyam 


1044-1045 A.D.

Improved Khwarizmis Algebra and solved cubic equations prepared a Islamic calendar which has an error of 1  day in  3777 years.
 2.0      Astronomical             Observatories2.1         Rayy in Iran under al-     Khujansi 


10th  Century    A.D.10th  Century   A.D. These chain of observatories were           interlinked – even scholars wereExchanged – astronomical researches Were well coordinated – the work  started by Toosi to devise mathematical tools for the calculation of planetary  The observatories established by Danish Astronomer Tyco Brahe in Uraniborg ( 1576  A. D. ) and Stejenborg  ( 1584 ) were modeled after Taqi  al – Din’s observatory in Istanbul (1545).



Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

2.2       Baghdad under Abu’l Wafa al – Buziani2.3       Margha in Azerbaijan under Nasiruddin Tusi2.4       Damascus under Ibn Shatir

2.5       Samarkand under Ulugh Beg

13 th Century  A.D.13thCentury  A.D.14th Century A.D.

14th Century A.D.

15th Century A.D.


movements was eventually completed by Ibn Shatir in Damascus who devised such a mathematical tool which could be used for the calculation of planetary movements under both geo-centric and helio- centric systems.  The Polish astronomer Nikaulus Copernicus and Tyco Brahe used many of the mathematical models used such as Tusi couple, Urdi Lemma and Ibn Shatir’s comprehensive model.
3. 0      Botony3.1       Ibn  al-Baytar Andauls           (Spain)  Died  1248  A.D. The first botanist to conduct field studies to collect plants and to classify them by their medicinal characteristic – and alphabetically Ibn Baytar’s system of plant classification was followed in Europe till the 16th century
3.2       Royal Botanical Gardens 11th Century These botanical gardens were established in the suburbs of Toledo and Seville for research in medicinal plants and agronomy Botanical Gardens for research appeared in Europe in the early 16th Century
4.0  Chemistry4.2  Jabir Ibn Hayyan (Geber) Died around                   776 A.D. Founding father of research in chemistry – discovered the process to prepare nitric acid, acitic acid, white lead, etc.  Thoroughly acquainted with the process of distillation Europe was introduced to modern chemistry with the translation in Latin by Gerard of Cramona and Robert Chester of the books on Alchemy by Geber: Kitab al – Istimam ( Summa Perfectionlst ), – and by Al – Razi : Kitab al-Asrar ( Book On the Art of Alchemy ) George Sarton found in their works: “ remarkably sound chemical Research”


Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

4.2       Zakariya al- Razi(Rhazes )

865 – 925

Further improved the technique for research in chemistry – developed a complete research lab. in Baghad with the requisite equipments – very much like labs. In chemistry until 19thcentury, perfected the process of distillation and besides inorganic acids could prepare alcohol as well. 
5.0       Mathematics                          5.1       Al  Khwarizmi

780 – 845 A.D.

Founder of Modern Algebra named after his book Hisab al jabr wa’l  muqabla.  Europe got acquainted with modern Algebra after the translation of Khwarizmi’s book into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 13thCentury A.D. 
5.2       Omar Khayyam

1044 – 1123 A.D.

Made significant improvements in Khwarizmi Algebra – Worked on and solved cubic equations. The word algorithm / algorism is also derived from his name.
5.3       Nisar al-Din Tust

1201 – 1275  A.D.

Introduced  trigonometry as an independent discipline; Originated the concept of maximum algebraic


Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

6.0       Medicine6.1       Ibn Zakariya al Razi(Rhazes)

865-925 A.D.

One of the greatest physicians of all time originator of clinical or case medicine, the frist physician to conduct controlled experiments to test the effectiveness of his medicine – developed a substance like plaster of Paris to bandage broken arms/legs etc.  The system of clinical medicine was introduced into Europe after the publication of his book Al – Hawi in Latin under the title : Continens in 1279
6.2       Abu Ali Ibn Sina

980 – 1037 A.D.

An intellectual genius.  The greatest theoretician of medicine.  In his book Al – Qanun Fi al – Tibb he provided a superb synthesis of medical knowledge which superceded the works of great Greek physicians : Galen, Hippocrates and Discorides    His book was translated into Latin and published under the title: The Canon –completely replaced the Greek physicians and according to Sarton “ Latin scholars considered the ‘Canon’ as they did the Vulgate” until the 17th century.
6.3       ‘Ala al-Din Ibn al-Nafis (             Anatomist )

Died 1288 A.D.

His discovery of the Pulmonary circulation of Blood – that blood reaches the left ventricle of the heart through lung revolutionized studies on the system of blood circulartion in the human body Al – Nafis discovery corrested the Aristotelian idea that the blood reaches the heart through a hole in the heart – subsequent studies of blood circulation followed al – Nafis’s approach.


Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

7.0       Establishment of Hospitals A chain of hospitals were established in the entire Muslim realm from the kingdom of Golconda in the east in India to Andalusia in the west.  The main concentration of hospitals was in Baghdad.  Damascus and Cairo these had developed distinctive and unique characteristics. Perhaps Dar us Shafa in Hyderabad, the Capital of the kingdom of Golconda was the last hospital in this chain (built in 1604 AD.)

From 8th to 16th

century A.D.

Presumably the Arab rulers borrowed the concept of hospitals  from Iran where they had developed in a rudimentary form and were called “Bimaristin”.  The Arabs developed the concept of hospitals to a high level of excellence and unique in character:(a)    The hospitals treated both in and out-patients.(b)   the treatment of all patients was free

(c)    They were teaching hospitals as well with an excellent library and pharmacy.

(d)   There were residential quarters for the staff of the hospitals.

(e)    There were separate wards for patients with contagious diseases and for psychiatric cases.

(f)    Moblie and camp hospitals were established for military in the combat areas and for rural areas.


The modern system of hospitals in the world owes its origin to the system of hospitals developed in the Islamic centuries Hospitals appeared in Europe only in the 13th  century.


Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

8.0    Optics                                  8.1    Ibn al Haytham  ( al- Hazen)

965 – 1039  A. D.

Made a stunning discovery in optics which changed the direction of research and studies in this field – corrected the Greek misconception as to the nature of Vision – supported by anatomic investigation and geometric discussion he proved that the rays of light come from external objects to the eye and do not issue forth from the eye impinge upon external things He also developed parabolic mirror like the ones used in reflecting telescopes.  His book on optics Kitab al Manazir when translated into Latin Optica Theserus influenced such intellectual luminaries as Roger Bacon, Vitelo, Leonardo da Vincil, John Kepler and changed the entire course of studies in optics in Europe.
9.0   Philosophy                            9.1 Ishaq al Sabah  al- kindi

795 – 866 A.D.

An intellectual genius was called the Philosopher of Islam”  a great rationalist and an admirer of Aristotle.  He did not visulaise any conflict between religion and philosophy. These four Muslim philosopher and rationalists profoundly influenced the intellectual renaissance of Europe.  The commentarises of ibn Sina and Ibn Rushed when translated into Latin in the 13thcentury reintroduced Aristotalian philosophy in the intellectual domain of Europe which eventually ushered in European Renaissance. 



Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

9.2  Abu Nasr Farabi(al Pharabeus )

870 – 950  A.D.

An intellectual giant and a great rationalist of his time – admired Aristotle’s rationalism and wrote superb commentaries on all his works – Orgenon, Rahetoric, Poetics.  He also did not see any conffict between religion and philosophy and laid the foundation of the Neo – Plato’s Republic he developed the concept of Virtuous City which was Madinah.  He was a musician parexcellence – he could change people’s emotion with his music, could also put them to sleep and wake them up from slumber.
9.3 Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

980 – 1037 A.D.

A superb intellect – as a philosopher he was treated by the West as the “fountainhead of knowledge” along with Cicero and Aristotle.A great rationalist, his ideas on dualism of mind and matter and materialistic outlook of life was severely criticized by Ghazali.  He also wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s work. Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd found a distinct place in academic resurgence of European Universities.  Two distinct schools of thought supporting Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina had emerged in the University of Paris as two rival intellectual groups.
9.4 Ibn Rushd (Averroes) ofCordova (Andalus)

1126-1198 A.D.

As rationalist he ranked even above Farabi and Ibn Sina.  He wrote exquisite commentaries on Aristotle.  He argued to establish harmony between rationalism and religion and supported his arguments with Qur’anic verses.

Distinguished Muslim Scientists Establishment of Unique Institution

Century /year

Epoch Making Contribution

Influence on Europe

10.0 Historiography10.1 ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun

1332-1406 A.D.

One of the greatest theoretician of history of all ages.  He originated the theory of Cyclical changes of human civilization caused by the dynamically changing social, economic and geo-political factors.The Muqaddamah (Prolegomena) of his book: Kitab al-Ibar, radically transformed the direction of historical studies and made history a “Science of Culture”.


He also pioneered the growth of the discipline of Sociology which is currently a key social science discipline in the universities the world over.


The Muqaddamah (Prolegomena) was translated into French in 1697 and again in 1816, in German in 1812 and in English in 1956.  These translations influenced scholars like H.G. Wells and Toynbee and others, provided a dynamic dimension to historical studies which made history lively and fascinating.


Sources Used to Compile the Information contained in Appendix A


  1. Ahmed, K.J., 1987, Hundred Great Muslims, Library of Islam Kazi Publications, Chicago, USA
  2. Al-Hassan, Ahmad Y. and Hill, Donald R, 1988 Edition, Islamic Technology, An Illustrated History (Sponsored by UNESCO), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.
  3. Association of Muslim Social Scientists, 2001, Muslim Contribution to Human Civilization, pp. 58 to 86, publisher Dr. Bashir Ahmad, 10 Home Place Court, Arlington, Texas-76016, U.S.A.
  4. Esposito, John L. (Editor), 1999, The Oxford History of Islam, Oxford University Pres, Oxford, U.K./New York.
  5. Fakhry, Majid, 2001, Averroes (Ibn Rushd) – His Life, Works and Influences, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England.
  6. Hughes, Thomas, P., 1994, Dictionary of Islam, Kazi Publications, Chicago, U.S.A.
  7. Sarton, George, 1975 Edition, Introduction to the History of science, Robert Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar Florida, U.S.A.
  8. Stimson Dorothy (Editor) 1962, Sarton on the History of Science (Essays by George Sarton), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  9. Watson Peter, ‘Crossroads of Culture’, OP-ED, New York Times, April 21, 2003.



Transfer of Technology in the Middle Ages From Islamic Countries To Europe


Country / Region of Origin

Period of origin / access in Islamic Countries

Transfer of Technology to Europe

1.0       Weight Drie Clock Andalusia(Spain)Seville 11th Century A.D. Appeared 250 years later in Northern Europe
2.0       Water Drawomg Machine2.1       Saqiya and Noria Roman Inherited by Islamic Countries on the conquest of Syria and Egypt with significant technological improvements reached Anadus (Spain) by 9th Century A.d. Reached Europe via Spain by the 12th Century A.D.
2.2       Qanat System – Drawing             water   from underground             aquifers Iraq and other Arab Countries Spread across the Islamic Realm from Iran to Andalusia by the 10th Century A.D. Reached Europe via Spain by the late 12th Century A.D.
3.0       Wind PowerNeedham an expert on Iran, Chinese history of science writes “The history of wind mills really begins with Islamic culture and Iran”  Persia Wind power was extensively used in Khorasan, Balkh Bokhara etc. from 10th Century A.D. onward Wind mills appeared in Europe in the 16th century A.D.
4.0       Glass Manufacture Greek and Mesopotamia in B.C. Refined in quality with improved technology particularly in Damascus (Syria), Samarra (Iraq), Cairo (Egype) by 9thCentury A.D. Transferred under the terms of a Treaty from Damascus to Venice in 1277 A.D.




Country / Region of Origin

Period of origin / access in Islamic Countries

Transfer of Technology to Europe

5.0       Paper Manufacture China Started in Samarqand in 751 A.D. by Chinese prisoners of war – spread from Baghdad, Cairo to Jativa (Valencia) in Andalusia (Spain) by 10thCentury A.D. Reached Fabriano in Italy via Spain in 1276 A.D. and Nuremberg in Germany by 1390 A.D.
6.0       Gunpower China Had spread to all the Islamic countries by early 12thcentury and was effectively used by Salah al-Din (Saladin) Ayyubi against the European Crusaders and decisively defeated them in 1187 in Palestine. Reached Europe by mid 12th century used by the Crusaders in the last crusade but were defeated by the superior fire power of Salah al-Din Ayyubi Halten and regained control of
7.0              Navigation7.1       Mariner’s compass One of the Islamic countries around 13th George Sarton writes “The Arabs were the first to make use of it, a fact which has been admitted by the Chinese themselves. Period of entry in Europe is not known but Vasco da Gama did use it in 1498 while sailing for Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and onward to India and century the East Indies.


Sources Used to Compile the Information contained in Appendix B

  1. Al-Hassan, Ahmad Y. and Hill, Donald R, 1988 Edition, Islamic Technology, An Illustrated History (Sponsored by UNESCO), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.
  2. Esposito, John L. (Editor), 1999, The Oxford History of Islam, Oxford University Pres, Oxford, U.K./New York.
  3. Sarton, George, 1975 Edition, Introduction to the History of Science, Robert Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar Florida, U.S.A.
  4. Stimson Dorothy (Editor) 1962, Sarton on the History of Science (Essays by George Sarton), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.