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Inventions in the medieval Islamic world

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A number of inventions were developed in the medieval Islamic world, a geopolitical region that has at various times extended from Spain and Africa in the west to the Indian subcontinent and Malay Archipelago in the east.[1] The inventions listed here were developed during the medieval Islamic world, which covers the period from the early Caliphate to the later Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires.[2] In particular, the majority of inventions here date back to the Islamic Golden Age, which is traditionally dated from the 8th to the 13th centuries,[3][4] but has been extended to the 15th[5] and 16th[6] centuries by recent scholarship. For later inventions, see Inventions in the modern Islamic world.

Notable Muslim inventors from the 8th to 18th centuries included Muhammad al-Fazari, Geber, the Banū Mūsā brothers, Armen Firman, Abbas Ibn Firnas, al-Razi (Rhazes), Ammar ibn Ali al-Mawsili, Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi, Ibn Yunus, Abu al-Qasim (Abulcasis), Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen), Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, Arzachel, Ibn Bassal, Ibn Samh, Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), al-Khazini, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī, Hasan al-Rammah, Taqi al-Din, the Çelebi brothers, Tipu Sultan, Sake Dean Mahomet, and especially al-Jazari, who is considered the "father of robotics"[7] and the "father of modern day engineering".[8]

Chemical industriesEdit

File:Jabir ibn Hayyan.jpg

Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi (Rhazes) isolated many chemical substances, produced many medications, and described many laboratory apparatus.

File:Steam Distillation.JPG
File:Aqua regia in NMR tubes.jpg
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File:Nitric acid lab.jpg
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See also: Alchemy and chemistry in Islam

Early forms of distillation were known to the Babylonians and Egyptians since ancient times, but it was Muslim chemists who first invented pure distillation processes which could fully purify chemical substances. They also developed several different variations of distillation (such as dry distillation, destructive distillation and steam distillation) and introduced new distillation aparatus (such as the alembic, still, and retort), and invented a variety of new chemical processes and over 9,000 chemical substances.[9]

Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization IV: The Age of Faith:

"Chemistry as a science was almost created by the Muslim; for in this field, where the Greeks (so far as we know) were confined to industrial experience and vague hypothesis, the Saracens introduced precise observation, controlled experiment, and careful records. They invented and named the alembic (al-anbiq), chemically analyzed innumerable substances, composed lapidaries, distinguished alkalis and acids, investigated their affinities, studied and manufactured hundreds of drugs. Alchemy, which the Moslems inherited from Egypt, contributed to chemistry by a thousand incidental discoveries, and by its method, which was the most scientific of all medieval operations."[10]

Robert Briffault wrote in The Making of Humanity:

"Chemistry, the rudiments of which arose in the processes employed by Egyptian metallurgists and jewellers combining metals into various alloys and 'tinting' them to resemble gold, processes long preserved as a secret monopoly of the priestly colleges, and clad in the usual mystic formulas, developed in the hands of the Arabs into a widespread, organized passion for research which led them to the invention of distillation, sublimation, filtration, to the discovery of alcohol, of nitric and sulphuric acids (the only acid known to the ancients was vinegar), of the alkalis, of the salts of mercury, of antimony and bismuth, and laid the basis of all subsequent chemistry and physical research."[11]

Chemical processesEdit

The following chemical processes were invented by Muslim chemists:

Chemical substancesEdit

  • Medicinal substances: Muslim chemists discovered 2,000 medicinal substances.[9]

Cuisine / Food / DrinkEdit

  • Coffee: The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.[28] The most important of the early writers on coffee was Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa (عمدة الصفوة في حل القهوة).[29][30] He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani (d. 1470), mufti of Aden, was the first (circa 1454) to adopt the use of coffee: "He found that among its properties was that it drove away fatigue and lethargy, and brought to the body a certain sprightliness and vigour." Sufis used it to keep themselves alert during their night-time devotions. A translation[31] traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (present day Yemen) northward to Mecca and Medina, and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Constantinople. It was in Yemen that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed as they are today. From Mocha, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa,[32] and by the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia, and Turkey. From the Muslim world, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.[33]
  • Coffeehouse / Cafe: The Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Peçevi reports in his writings (1642–49) about the opening of the first coffeehouse in Istanbul: "Until the year 962 [1555], in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffee-houses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hakam from Aleppo and a wag called Shams from Damascus came to the city; they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee."[34] Various legends involving the introduction of coffee to Istanbul at a "Kiva Han" in the late 15th century circulate in culinary tradition, but with no documentation. In 1530, the first coffee house was opened in Damascus,[35] and not long after there were many coffee houses in Cairo. The 17th century French traveler Jean Chardin gave a lively description of the Persian coffeehouse scene: "People engage in conversation, for it is there that news is communicated and where those interested in politics criticize the government in all freedom and without being fearful, since the government does not heed what the people say. Innocent games... resembling checkers, hopscotch, and chess, are played. In addition, mollas, dervishes, and poets take turns telling stories in verse or in prose. The narrations by the mollas and the dervishes are moral lessons, like our sermons, but it is not considered scandalous not to pay attention to them. No one is forced to give up his game or his conversation because of it. A molla will stand up in the middle, or at one end of the qahveh-khaneh, and begin to preach in a loud voice, or a dervish enters all of a sudden, and chastises the assembled on the vanity of the world and its material goods. It often happens that two or three people talk at the same time, one on one side, the other on the opposite, and sometimes one will be a preacher and the other a storyteller."[36]
  • Confectionery: Due to advances in sugar production and the invention of sugar refineries, this led to the production of early confectioneries by the Arabs.[37]
  • Ice creamArabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream. They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world's major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. It was produced from milk or cream, often with some yogurt, and was flavoured with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that the recipe was inspired by older Ancient Arabian recipes, which were, it is presumed, precursors to Persian faloodeh. In the 16th century, the Mughal emperors used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets.[41]
  • Restaurant and three-course meal: The earliest restaurants came into existence throughout the Islamic world from the 10th century, shortly before restaurants appeared in China in the 11th century. The Islamic world had "restaurants where one could purchase all sorts of prepared dishes." These restaurants were mentioned by Al-Muqaddasi (born 945) in the late 10th century.[44] Restaurants in medieval Islamic Spain served three-course meals, which was earlier introduced in the 9th century by Ziryab, who insisted that meals should be served in three separate courses consisting of soup, the main course, and dessert.[45]
  • Sherbert, juice, soft drink: Sherbet, a juiced soft drink of crushed fruit, herbs, or flowers has long existed as one of the most popular beverages from and of the Muslim world, winning over Western figures such as Lord Byron. Muslims developed a variety of juices to make their sharab, an Arabic word from which the Italian sorbetto, French sorbet and English sherbet were derived. Today, this juice is known by a multitude of names, is associated with numerous cultural traditions, and is produced by countries ranging from India to the United States of America. The medieval Muslim sources also contain a lot of recipes for drink syrups that can be kept outside the refrigerator for weeks or months.[46] In the 12th century, Persian book of Zakhireye Khwarazmshahi, Gorgani describes different types of Sharbats in Iran, including Ghoore, Anar, Sekanjebin, etc. It was popularised in the Indian subcontinent by the Mughal rulers, one of whom sent for frequent loads of ice from the Himalayas to make a cool refreshing drink. In the gardens of the Ottoman Palace, spices and fruits to be used in sherbet were grown under the control of pharmacists and doctors of the Palace.
  • Syrup: Sugar-sweetened syrups were an invention of Arabic physicians that reached Europe in the Middle Ages. The word "syrup" is derived from the Arabic word sharab.[47] Muslims produced recipes for drink syrups that can be kept outside the refrigerator for weeks or months.[43] The medieval Muslim sources also contain a lot of recipes for drink syrups that can be kept outside the refrigerator for weeks or months.[48]

Glass industryEdit

  • Artificial pearl and purification of pearls: In his Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl), Jabir described the first recipes for the manufacture of artificial pearls and for the purification of pearls that were discoloured from the sea or from grease.[51]
  • Clear, colourless and high-purity glass: The earliest examples of clear, colourless and high-purity glass were produced by Muslims in the 9th century, such as the quartz glass invented by Abbas Ibn Firnas. The Arabic poet al-Buhturi (820-897) describes the clarity of such glass as follows: "Its colour hides the glass as if it is standing in it without a container."[49] Extensive experimentation was carried out at the factory complex in Ar-Raqqah, Syria, in the 8th century, and a variety of innovative high-purity glass were developed there. Two other similar complexes have also been discovered, and nearly three hundred new chemical recipes for glass were produced at all three sites.[52]
  • Coloured stained glass windows: Muslim architects in Southwest Asia were the first to produce stained glass windows using coloured glass rather than stone producing a stained glass-like effect, as was the case in early churches. In the 8th century, the Arab chemist Geber scientifically described 46 original recipes for producing high-purity coloured glass in Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl), in addition to 12 recipes inserted by al-Marrakishi in a later edition of the book.[49][50]
  • Dying and artificial colouring of gemstones and pearls: In The Book of the Hidden Pearl, Geber described the first recipes for the dying and artificial colouring of gemstones and pearls.[51]
  • Fine glass: The art of fine glass production was developed by Muslims. The Venetians later learnt it from Syrian artisans during the 9th and 10th centuries.[17]
  • Glass factory: The first industrial complex for glass and pottery production was built in Ar-Raqqah, Syria, in the 8th century. Extensive experimentation was carried out at the complex, which was two kilometres in length, and a variety of innovative high-purity glass were developed there. Two other similar complexes have also been discovered, and nearly three hundred new chemical recipes for glass are known to have been produced at all three sites.[52] The first glass factories were thus built by Muslim craftsmen in the Islamic world. The first glass factories in Europe were later built in the 11th century by Egyptian craftsmen in Corinth, Greece.[55]

Oil industryEdit

  • Oil field, petroleum industry, naphtha, tar: An early petroleum industry was established in the 8th century, when the streets of Baghdad were paved with tar, derived from petroleum through destructive distillation. In the 9th century, oil fields were first exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha. These fields were described by al-Masudi in the 10th century, and by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of its oil wells as hundreds of shiploads.[17]
  • Shale oil and oil distillation: As a decorative material, oil shale was used during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods to decorate mosaics and floors of the palaces, churches and mosques.[61][62] Shale oil was used for medical and military purposes,[63] as well as for lighting. In the 10th century, the Arabian physician Masawaih al-Mardini (Mesue the Younger) described methods of distillation of empyreumatic oils, including a method of extracting oil from "some kind of bituminous shale," the earliest known description of shale oil extraction. It was described in his pharmacopoeia, which was translated into Latin as Antidotarium sive Grabadin medicamentorum in Europe, where it was a popular textbook for centuries.[64] Shale oil is today cited as the next major revolution in worldwide energy production. [3]


Main article: Islamic pottery

Tin-glazed Hispano-Moresque ware with lusterware decoration, from Spain circa 1475.

  • Albarello: An albarello is a type of maiolica earthenware jar originally designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs. The development of this type of pharmacy jar had its roots in the Islamic Middle East. Brought to Italy by Hispano-Moresque traders, the earliest Italian examples were produced in Florence in the 15th century.
  • Fritware: It refers to a type of pottery which was first developed in the Near East, where production is dated to the late first millennium AD through the second millennium AD. Frit was a significant ingredient. A recipe for "fritware" dating to c. 1300 AD written by Abu’l Qasim reports that the ratio of quartz to "frit-glass" to white clay is 10:1:1.[65] This type of pottery has also been referred to as "stonepaste" and "faience" among other names.[66] A ninth century corpus of "proto-stonepaste" from Baghdad has "relict glass fragments" in its fabric.[67]
  • Hispano-Moresque ware: This was a style of Islamic pottery created in Islamic Spain, after the Moors had introduced two ceramic techniques to Europe: glazing with an opaque white tin-glaze, and painting in metallic lusters. Hispano-Moresque ware was distinguished from the pottery of Christendom by the Islamic character of it decoration.[68]
  • Iznik pottery: Produced in Ottoman Turkey as early as the 15th century AD.[69] It consists of a body, slip, and glaze, where the body and glaze are "quartz-frit."[70] The "frits" in both cases "are unusual in that they contain lead oxide as well as soda"; the lead oxide would help reduce the thermal expansion coefficient of the ceramic.[71] Microscopic analysis reveals that the material that has been labeled "frit" is "interstitial glass" which serves to connect the quartz particles.[72]
  • Lusterware: Lustre glazes were applied to pottery in Mesopotamia in the 9th century; the technique soon became popular in Persia and Syria.[73] Lusterware was later produced in Egypt during the Fatimid caliphate in the 10th-12th centuries. While the production of lusterware continued in the Middle East, it spread to Europe—first to Al-Andalus, notably at Málaga, and then to Italy, where it was used to enhance maiolica.
  • Stonepaste ceramic: Invented in 9th-century Iraq,[74] it was a vitreous or semivitreous ceramic ware of fine texture, made primarily from non-refactory fire clay.[75]
  • Tin-glazing: The tin-glazing of ceramics was invented by Muslim potters in 8th-century Basra, Iraq. Tin-opacified glazing was one of the earliest new technologies developed by the Islamic potters. The first examples of this technique can be found as blue-painted ware in 8th-century Basra.[76]
  • Tin-glazed pottery: The earliest tin-glazed pottery appears to have been made in Iraq in the 9th century, the oldest fragments having been excavated during the First World War from the palace of Samarra about fifty miles north of Baghdad.[77] From there, it spread to Egypt, Persia and Spain, before reaching Italy in the Renaissance, Holland in the 16th century, and England, France and other European countries shortly after.

Civil engineeringEdit

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File:The spiral minaret in Samarra.jpg
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See also: Muslim Agricultural Revolution

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, the early Muslim Arab Empire was ahead of its time regarding domestic water systems such as water cleaning systems and advanced water transportation systems resulting in better agriculture, something that helped in issues related to Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.[78] Al-Jazari invented a variety of machines for raising water in 1206,[79] as well as water mills and water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata in the late 12th century.[80]

  • Copper pipe: The Jayrun Water Clock, built by Muhammad al-Sa'ati in the 12th century, employed the earliest known use of early copper pipes, the construction of which was described by his son Ridwan ibn al-Sa'ati, in his On the Construction of Clocks and their Use (1203), when repairing the clock.[81]
  • Surveying instruments: Muslim engineers invented a variety of surveying instruments for accurate levelling, including a wooden board with a plumb line and two hooks, an equilateral triangle with a plumb line and two hooks, and a "reed level". They also invented a rotating alidade used for accurate alignment, and a surveying astrolabe used for alignment, measuring angles, triangulation, finding the width of a river, and the distance between two points separated by an impassable obstruction.[85]
  • Tar roads and pavements: The streets of Baghdad were the first to be paved with tar from the 8th century AD. Tar was derived from petroleum, accessed from oil fields in the region, through the chemical process of destructive distillation.[17]
  • Ventilator: The first ventilators were invented in Islamic Egypt and were widely used in many houses throughout Cairo during the Middle Ages. These ventillators were later described in detail by Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi in 1200, who reported that almost every house in Cairo has a ventillator, and that they cost anywhere from 1 to 500 dinars depending on their sizes and shapes. Most ventillators in the city were oriented towards the Qibla (the direction of Mecca), as was the city in general.[86]
  • Water management technological complex: In much the same way the Neolithic 'toolkit' or 'technological complex' was central to the Neolithic Revolution,[87] a 'water management technological complex' was similarly central to the Islamic Green Revolution and,[88] by extension, a precondition for the emergence of modern technology.[89] The various components of this toolkit were developed in different parts of the Afro-Eurasia landmass, both within and beyond the Islamic world. However, it was in the medieval Islamic lands where the technological complex was assembled and standardized, and subsequently diffused to the rest of the Old World.[90] Under the rule of a single Islamic Caliphate, different regional hydraulic technologies were assembled into "an identifiable water management technological complex that was to have a global impact." The various components of this complex included canals, dams, the qanat system from Persia, regional water-lifting devices such as the noria, shaduf and screwpump from Egypt, and the windmill from Afghanistan.[90]


  • Cobwork: The earliest appearance of cobwork (tabya) dates back to the Maghreb and Al-Andalus in the 11th century, and was first described in detail by Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century, who regarded it as a characteristically Muslim practice. Cobwork later spread to other parts of Europe from the 12th century onwards.[97]
  • Diversion dam: The first diversion dam was built by medieval Muslim engineers over the River Uzaym in Jabal Hamrin, Iraq. Many of these were later built in other parts of the Islamic world.[95]
  • Double arches: Originates from the Great Mosque of Córdoba, built in 784. The double arches were a new introduction to architecture, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch. The famous alternating red and white voussoirs of the arches  were inspired by those in the Dome of the Rock.[98] To the people of Al-Andalus, “the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.”[98]
  • Geared and hydropowered water supply system: Al-Jazari developed the earliest water supply system to be driven by gears and hydropower, which was built in 13th century Damascus to supply water to its mosques and Bimaristan hospitals. The system had water from a lake turn a scoop-wheel and a system of gears which transported jars of water up to a water channel that led to mosques and hospitals in the city.[99]
  • Girih tiles, quasicrystal pattern, self-similar fractal quasicrystalline tiling, Penrose tiling: Geometrical quasicrystal patterns were first employed in the girih tiles found in medieval Islamic architecture dating back over five centuries ago. In 2007, Professor Peter Lu of Harvard University and Professor Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University published a paper in the journal Science suggesting that girih tilings possessed properties consistent with self-similar fractal quasicrystalline tilings such as the Penrose tilings, predating them by five centuries.[100][101] Templates found on scrolls such as the 97 foot (29.5 metres) long Topkapi Scroll may have been consulted. Found in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and believed to date from the late 15th century, the scroll shows a succession of two- and three- dimensional geometric patterns. There is no text, but there is a grid pattern and color-coding used to highlight symmetries and distinguish three-dimensional projections. Drawings such as shown on this scroll would have served as pattern-books for the artisans who fabricated the tiles, and the shapes of the girih tiles dictated how they could be combined into large patterns. In this way, craftsmen could make highly complex designs without resorting to mathematics and without necessarily understanding their underlying principles.[102]
File:Shibam Yemen Interior.jpg
  • Muqarnas and corbel: Muqarnas is an early type of corbel employed as a decorative device in traditional Islamic and Persian architecture. The related mocárabe refers only to projecting elements that resemble stalactites, alveole.[108][109] An architectural ornamentation reminiscent of stalactites, muqarnas developed around the middle of the 10th century in northeastern Iran and almost simultaneously — but seemingly independently — in central North Africa; they take the form of small pointed niches, stacked in tiers which project beyond lower tiers, commonly constructed of brick, stone, stucco, or wood, clad with painted tiles, wood, or plaster, and are typically applied to domes, pendentives, cornices, squinches and the undersides of arches and vaults.[108]
  • Minaret: The minaret is a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic architecture, especially mosques, dating back to the early centuries of Islam. Minarets are generally tall spires with onion-shaped crowns, usually either free standing or much taller than any surrounding support structure. The tallest minaret in pre-modern times was the Qutub Minar, which was 72.5 meters (237.9 ft) tall and was built in the 12th century, and it remains the tallest brick and stone minaret in the world.

Industrial millingEdit

See also: Muslim Agricultural Revolution

The industrial uses of watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use since at least the 9th century, alongside the first windmills. A variety of industrial mills were active in the medieval Islamic world, including fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, some of which were driven by watermills and others by early windmills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from Al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.[111] These advances made it possible for many industrial operations that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be driven by machinery instead in the Islamic world. The transfer of these technologies to medieval Europe later laid the foundations for the Industrial Revolution in 18th century Europe.[112]

  • Factory milling installation: The first factory milling installations were built by Muslim engineers throughout every city and urban community in the Islamic world. For example, the factory milling complex in 10th century Baghdad could produce 10 tonnes of flour every day.[114] The first large milling installations in Europe were built in 12th century Islamic Spain.[115]
  • Geared and wind-powered gristmills with trip hammers: The first geared gristmills[116] were invented by Muslim engineers in the Islamic world, and were used for grinding corn and other seeds to produce meals, and many other industrial uses such as fulling cloth, husking rice, papermaking, pulping sugarcane, and crushing metallic ores before extraction. Gristmills in the Islamic world were often made from both watermills and windmills. In order to adapt water wheels for gristmilling purposes, cams were used for raising and releasing trip hammers to fall on a material.[117] The first wind-powered gristmills driven by windmills were built in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the 9th and 10th centuries.[115]
  • Hulling mill: Early Islamic societies made early use of watermills for hulling rice.[118]
  • High-rise noria: Some medieval Islamic compartmented water wheels could lift water as high as 30 meters.[119]
  • Hydropowered forge and finery forge: The first forge to be driven by a hydropowered water mill rather than manual labour, also known as a finery forge, was invented in 12th century Islamic Spain.[115]
  • Mechanical fulling mill: The first clear references to fulling mills are reported in Persia from the 10th century. By the time of the Crusades in the 11th century, fulling mills were active throughout the Islamic world, from Islamic Spain and North Africa to Central Asia.[111] They appear to have originated in 9th or 10th century in the Islamic world, either in the Middle East or North Africa. Mechanical fulling was subsequently disseminated into Western Europe through Islamic Spain and Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries.[120]
  • Paper mill: Paper was introduced into the Muslim world by Chinese prisoners after the Battle of Talas. Muslims made several improvements to papermaking, such as the use of hydropower (as well as animal power) rather than manual labour to produce paper, and they built the first paper mills in Baghdad, Iraq, as early as 794. Papermaking was transformed from an art into a major industry as a result.[121][122] Paper mills were first developed in the Muslim world,[123] where Muslim authors called a production center a "paper manufactory"[124] since the 8th century.[125] Donald Routledge Hill has identified a reference to a water-powered paper mill in Samarkand, referred to in the work of the Persian scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni.[126] This is seen as evidence that Samarkand was the first to harness waterpower in the production of paper.[127] Paper manufacturing mills were introduced to Islamic Spain in the mid-10th century and then to Christian Spain by the mid-12th century.[115]
  • Pulp mill: Early Islamic societies made early use of watermills to prepare pulp, the main material used for papermaking.[128]
  • Spiral scoop-wheel: The earliest known appearance of the spiral scoop-wheel dates back to the Islamic world, at some time no later than the 12th century.[130]
  • Sugar refinery: The first sugar refineries were built by Muslim engineers.[111] They were first driven by water mills, and then windmills from the 9th and 10th centuries in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.[115]
  • Underground watermill: Another innovation that was unique to the Islamic world includes the situation of watermills in the underground irrigation tunnels of a qanat and on the main canals of valley-floor irrigation systems.[115]
  • Windmill: The first windmills were built in Sistan, Afghanistan, sometime between the 7th and 9th centuries, as described by Muslim geographers. These were vertical-axle windmills, which had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades.[134] The first windmill may have been constructed as early as the time of the second Rashidun caliph Umar (634-644 AD), though some argue that this account may have been a 10th century amendment.[135] Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries.[117] The first horizontal windmills were built in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the 9th and 10th centuries. They had a variety of uses, such as grinding grain, pumping water, and crushing sugar-cane.[115] Windmills later spread to Christian Europe by the late 12th century.[136][137]

Cosmetics / HygieneEdit

Early forms of cosmetics had been used since ancient times, but these were usually created primarily for the purpose of beautification and often used harmful substances. This changed with Muslim cosmetologists who emphasized hygiene, due to religious requirements, and invented various healthy and hygienic cosmetics that are still used today.[138]

A number of hygienic cosmetics were invented by Muslim chemists, cosmetologists and physicians.[138]

  • Bangs: In the 9th century, Ziryab introduced a new hairstyle for women in Al-Andalus: a "shorter, shaped cut, with bangs on the forehead and the ears uncovered."[140]
  • Beauty parlour and cosmetology school: In the 9th century, Ziryab opened the first beauty parlour and "cosmetology school" for women near Alcázar, Al-Andalus."[140]
  • Chemical depilatory for hair removal: In the 9th century, Ziryab taught women in Al-Andalus "the shaping of eyebrows and the use of depilatories for removing body hair".[140]
  • Hair care and hair dye: In his Al-Tasrif (c. 1000), Abulcasis first described hair dyes for changing human hair color to blond or black hair, and hair care for correcting kinky or curly hair.[139] Dyestuff was also created by earlier Muslim chemists.[22]
  • Lipstick, solid: In 1000 CE, the Andalusian Arab cosmetologist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis) invented solid lipsticks, which were perfumed stocks rolled and pressed in special molds, and he described them in his Al-Tasrif.[139]
  • Pomade: Produced by Arabs.[23]


  • Hand cream, hand lotion, suntan lotion: In his Al-Tasrif (c. 1000), Abulcasis described the first hand creams and lotions, and the first early suntan lotions, describing their ingredients and benefits in depth.[139]
  • Soap: The soap now used in modern times is made of vegetable oils (such as olive oil) with sodium hydroxide and aromatics (such as thyme oil). This formula was invented by Muslim chemists, and differed from the earlier soap-like detergents used in ancient times.[7] Sodium lye (al-soda al-kawia), perfumed and colored soaps, and liquid and solid soaps, were also produced by Muslim chemists.[138] Sodium Lye (Al-Soda Al-Kawia) was used for the first time, and the formula hasn't changed from the current soap sold in the market. From the beginning of the 7th century, soap was produced in Nablus (Palestine), Kufa (Iraq) and Basra (Iraq). Soaps, as we know them today, are descendants of historical Arabian Soaps. Arabian Soap was perfumed and colored, while some of the soaps were liquid and others were solid. They also had special soap for shaving. It was commercially sold for 3 Dirhams (0.3 Dinars) a piece in 981 AD. A manuscript of Al-Razi (Rhazes) contains various modern recipes for soap. A recently discovered manuscript from the 13th century details more recipes for soap making, e.g. take some sesame oil, a sprinkle of potash, alkali and some lime, mix them all together, and boil. When cooked, they are poured into molds and left to set, leaving hard soap (soap bar).[138]
  • Soap bar and hard soap: The first hard soap bars were produced by Muslim chemists.[7] They gave recipes for soaps made from sesame oil, potash, alkali, lime, and molds, leaving hard soap.[138]
  • Toothpaste, functional and pleasant: In the 9th century, the Persian musician and fashion designer Ziryab is known to have invented a type of toothpaste, which he popularized throughout Islamic Spain.[141] The exact ingredients of this toothpaste are not currently known,[140] but unlike the earlier Egyptian and Roman toothpastes, Ziryab's toothpaste was reported to have been both "functional and pleasant to taste."[141] In circa 1000, Abulcasis recommended a toothpaste made from cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and coriander leaves, as a remedy for bad breath resulting from eating garlic or onions.[139]


Perfume usage was recorded in the Arabian Peninsula since the 7th century, and Muslims made many advances in perfumery in the proceeding centuries. This included the extraction of numerous fragrances, as well as the cheap mass-production of incenses. Muslim scientists such as Al-Kindi elaborated a vast number of recipes for a wide range of perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

  • Perfume industry: Established by Geber (Jabir) (b. 722, Iraq) and Al-Kindi (b. 801, Iraq).[142] Jabir developed many techniques, including distillation, evaporation and filtration, which enabled the collection of the odour of plants into a vapour that could be collected in the form of water or oil.[142] Al-Kindi carried out extensive research and experiments in combining various plants and other sources to produce a variety of scent products.
  • Camphor: In the 9th century, the Arab chemist Al-Kindi (Alkindus) provided the earliest recipe for the production of camphor in his Kitab Kimiya' al-'Itr (Book of the Chemistry of Perfume).[143]
  • Deodorants, under-arm and roll-on: In the 9th century, Ziryab invented under-arm deodorants in Al-Andalus.[45] In circa 1000, another under-arm deodorant was described in Al-Andalus by Abulcasis,[139] who also invented perfumed stocks, rolled and pressed in special moulds, similar to modern roll-on deodorants.[144]
  • Extraction of fragrances through steam distillation: Introduced by Abū Alī ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) in the 11th century. Islamic cultures contributed significantly to the development of perfumery in both perfecting the extraction of fragrances through steam distillation and by introducing new raw ingredients. Both the raw ingredients and distillation technology significantly influenced Western perfumery and scientific developments, particularly chemistry.
  • Ghaliya: The preparation of a perfume called ghaliya, which contained musk, amber and other ingredients, and the use of various drugs and apparatus], was produced by al-Kindi.
  • Musk, Ghaliya and floral perfumes: Invented some time prior to the 11th century in Arabia. In the 9th century, Al-Kindi spoke of the preparation of a perfume called Ghaliya, which contained musk, amber and other ingredients, and reveals a long list of technical names of drugs and apparatus. Musk and floral perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world and with the returning Crusaders. Those who traded for these were most often also involved in trade for spices and dyestuffs. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London, going back to 1179, which show them trading with Muslims in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.[22]
  • Jasmine and citrus perfumes: Muslims introduced new raw ingredients in perfumery, which were produced from different spices, herbals, and other fragrance materials, which are still used in modern perfumery. These included jasmine from South and Southeast Asia, and citrus fruits from East Asia.
  • Rose water: See Chemical substances above.


A number of important economic, educational, legal and scientific institutions previously unknown in the ancient world have their origins in the medieval Islamic world.

Educational and scientific instutitionsEdit

File:Maragheh Observatory.jpg

Legal and economic institutionsEdit

  • Agency and Aval: The first agencies were the Hawala, mentioned in texts of Islamic jurisprudence as early as the 8th century. Hawala itself later influenced the development of the agency in common law and in civil laws such as the Aval in French law and the Avallo in Italian law. The words Aval and Avallo were themselves derived from Hawala. The transfer of debt, which was "not permissible under Roman law but became widely practiced in medieval Europe, especially in commercial transactions", was due to the large extent of the "trade conducted by the Italian cities with the Muslim world in the Middle Ages." The agency was also "an institution unknown to Roman law" as no "individual could conclude a binding contract on behalf of another as his agent." In Roman law, the "contractor himself was considered the party to the contract and it took a second contract between the person who acted on behalf of a principal and the latter in order to transfer the rights and the obligations deriving from the contract to him." On the other hand, Islamic law and the later common law "had no difficulty in accepting agency as one of its institutions in the field of contracts and of obligations in general."[164]
  • Assize of novel disseisin and contract protected by the action of debt: According to Professor John Makdisi, the "royal English contract protected by the action of debt" has origins in "the Islamic Aqd", and "the English assize of novel disseisin" has origins in "the Islamic Istihqaq", in classical Maliki jurisprudence.[165]
  • Jury and jury trial: The closest predecessor to the English jury trial was the Lafif in the Maliki school of classical Islamic law and jurisprudence, which was developed between the 8th and 11th centuries. Like the English jury, the Islamic Lafif was a body of twelve members drawn from the neighborhood and sworn to tell the truth, who were bound to give a unanimous verdict, about matters "which they had personally seen or heard, binding on the judge, to settle the truth concerning facts in a case, between ordinary people, and obtained as of right by the plaintiff." According to John Makdisi, "no other institution in any legal institution studied to date shares all of these characteristics with the English jury."[165] According John A. Makdisi, many concepts of English common law, including juries, derive from Islamic law. In the same period as William the Conquerer conquered England, Norman adventurers led by Robert Guiscard had taken Sicily, previously under the Arab Fatimid Caliphate. Thus, according to Makdisi, English law became influenced by the Islamic law used in Sicily under the Fatimids, including the use of the twelve man jury. Makdisi points to Henry II's laws as having been influenced through people such as Thomas Brown, a member of Henry's government who had previously served in the Sicilian government.[166]
  • Trust institution and charitable trust: The Waqf in Islamic law, which developed in the Islamic world from the 7th to 9th centuries, were the first charitable trust.[167] Every waqf was required to have a waqif (founder), mutawillis (trustee), qadi (judge) and beneficiaries.[168] Under both a waqf and a trust, "property is reserved, and its usufruct appropriated, for the benefit of specific individuals, or for a general charitable purpose; the corpus becomes inalienableestates for life in favor of successive beneficiaries can be created" and "without regard to the law of inheritance or the rights of the heirs; and continuity is secured by the successive appointment of trustees or mutawillis."[169]

Medical institutionsEdit

See also: Bimaristan, Islamic medicine, and Islamic psychology
  • Apothecary, Drugstore, Pharmacy: The first drugstores and pharmacies were opened by Muslim pharmacists in Baghdad in 754,[9] while the first apothecary shops were also founded by Muslim practitioners at the time.[170]
  • Geriatric medicine: Arabs were the first to write books on geriatric medicine.
  • Medical degree and diploma: From the 9th century, in Bimaristan medical schools founded in the medieval Islamic world, medical degrees and diplomas were issued to students of Islamic medicine who were qualified to be a practicing Doctor of Medicine.[149][171]
  • Medical school: The Islamic Bimaristans were not only hospitals, but also the first medical schools and universities to issue diplomas. The first of these institutions was opened in Baghdad during the time of Harun al-Rashid. They then appeared in Egypt from 872 and then in Islamic Spain, Persia and the Maghreb thereafter. Physicians and surgeons at Islamic hospital-universities gave lectures to medical students and diplomas were issued to students who completed their education and were qualified to be doctors of medicine.[172]
  • Psychiatric hospital: The first psychiatric hospitals were built in the medieval Islamic world. The first of these were built built in Baghdad in 705, Fes in the early 8th century, and Cairo in 800.[173]
  • Public hospital: The Islamic Bimaristans were the first free public hospitals, and replaced the healing temples and sleep temples found in ancient times.[148] They were hospital in the modern sense, an establishment where the ill were welcomed and cared for by qualified staff. In this way, Muslim physicians were the first to make a distinction between a hospital and other different forms of sleep and healing temples, hospices, lazarets and leper-houses, all of which in ancient times were more concerned with isolating the sick and the mad from society "rather than to offer them any way to a true cure." The medieval Bimaristan hospitals are thus considered "the first hospitals" in the modern sense of the word.[174]
  • Quarantine: The discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases and the use of quarantine to limit the spread of contagious diseases was introduced by Avicenna in The Canon of Medicine (1025).[175]

Mechanical technologyEdit

Purposes of mechanical inventionsEdit

File:Al-Jazari portrait.jpg

Studies have arisen about the place, purpose and motivations of these inventions in their societal context.[176] Certain scholars point out that many inventions created during the medieval period by certain popular Muslim inventors, such as the Banu Musa brothers or Al-Jazari, were in a sense "toys" that were only created for purposes of amusement. This view states that as impressive and complex that these machines were, some of them may not have contributed much real function to their society. Various hydraulic machines, clocks and automata invented may have only have had a superficial purpose, related to amusement or luxury.[177]

However, such a view may be limited in scope, and may not properly assess the context in which the inventors work. In many cases, wealthy patrons supported inventors to create machines, such as clocks and water-raising devices, that would benefit society as a whole. These devices, such as those invented by Al-Jazari, may have been aesthetically appealing at the same time as they were useful. Also the fact that certain automata and other entertaining technologies were described or created illustrates the strong economic situation of certain Medieval Islamic societies.[178] George Saliba notes, in the minds of many scientists the art of mechanics did not make a strong distinction between technology that was "useful" and that which was "toy-like." Further study will serve to situate the role of mechanical technology in the economic and social context of Islamic society.

The early Muslim Arab Empire was ahead of its time regarding water cleaning systems and also had advanced water transportation systems resulting in better agriculture, something that helped in issues related to Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.[179] Al-Jazari invented machines for raising water[79] and water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata[80] in the 12th century.

Automata / RoboticsEdit

File:Al-jazari robots.jpg
File:Al-Jazari - A Musical Toy.jpg
File:Al-Jazari - The Basin.jpg

Mark E. Rosheim summarizes the advances in robotics made by Arab engineers as follows:

"Unlike the Greek designs, these Arab examples reveal an interest, not only in dramatic illusion, but in manipulating the environment for human comfort. Thus, the greatest contribution the Arabs made, besides preserving, disseminating and building on the work of the Greeks, was the concept of practical application. This was the key element that was missing in Greek robotic science."[180]
"The Arabs, on the other hand, displayed an interest in creating human-like machines for practical purposes but lacked, like other preindustrial societies, any real impetus to pursue their robotic science."[181]
  • Mechanical singing bird automata: Caliph al-Mamun had a silver and golden tree in his palace in Baghdad in 827, which had the features of an automatic machine. There were metal birds that sang automatically on the swinging branches of this tree built by Muslim engineers at the time.[59][183] The Abbasid Caliph al-Muktadir also had a golden tree in his palace in Baghdad in 915, with birds on it flapping their wings and singing.[59][184]
  • Mercury-powered automata: One of the clocks invented by Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi in 11th-century Spain incporated a "complicated and ingenious system which, at the top of each hour, puts into motion a series of mechanical automata, including mechanical snakes, women and men which function through a system based on water, mercury and pulleys."[185] This was the earliest known use of mercury in hydraulic linkages to power automata.[185][186]
  • Peacock fountain and automated humanoid servants: Al-Jazari's "peacock fountain" was a sophisticated hand washing device featuring humanoid automata as servants which offer soap and towels. Mark E. Rosheim describes it as follows: "Pulling a plug on the peacock's tail releases water out of the beak; as the dirty water from the basin fills the hollow base a float rises and actuates a linkage which makes a servant figure appear from behind a door under the peacock and offer soap. When more water is used, a second float at a higher level trips and causes the appearance of a second servant figure — with a towel!"[180]
  • Programmable humanoid robot and robot band: Al-Jazari (1136–1206) created the first recorded designs of a programmable humanoid robot in 1206, as opposed to the non-programmable automata in ancient times. Al-Jazari's robot was originally a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. His mechanism had a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operate the percussion. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around.[188] According to Charles B. Fowler, the automata were a "robot band" which performed "more than fifty facial and body actions during each musical selection."[189]
  • Wind-powered automata: The first wind-powered automata in history were the wind-powered statues invented by the Abbasids in the mid-8th century. The statues "turned with the wind over the domes of the four gates and the palace complex of the Round City of Baghdad". The "Green Dome of the palace was surmounted by the statue of a horseman carrying a lance that was believed to point toward the enemy. This public spectacle of wind-powered statues had its private counterpart in the 'Abbasid palaces where automata of various types were predominantly displayed."[190]


  • Crankshaft-driven and hydropowered saqiya chain pumps: The first known use of a crankshaft in a chain pump was in one of Al-Jazari's saqiya machines described in 1206.[193] Al-Jazari also constructed a water-raising saqiya chain pump which was run by hydropower rather than manual labour, though the Chinese were also using hydropower for other chain pumps prior to him. Saqiya machines like the ones he described have been supplying water in Damascus since the 13th century up until modern times, and were in use throughout the medieval Islamic world.[193]
  • Crankshaft-driven screw and screwpump: In ancient times, the screw and screwpump were driven by a treadwheel, but from the 12th and 13th centuries, Muslim engineers operated them using the crankshaft.[194]
  • Six-cylinder 'Monobloc' pump: In 1559, Taqi al-Din invented a six-cylinder 'Monobloc' pump. It was a hydropowered water-raising machine incorporating valves, suction and delivery pipes, piston rods with lead weights, trip levers with pin joints, and cams on the axle of a water-driven scoop wheel.[195]
  • Suction pump, double-action piston pump, reciprocating piston engine: In 1206, al-Jazari demonstrates the first suction pipes and suction piston pump, the first use of double-action, and one of the earliest valve operations, when he invented a twin-cylinder double-action reciprocating suction piston pump, which seems to have had a direct significance in the development of modern engineering. This pump is driven by a water wheel, which drives, through a system of gears, an oscillating slot-rod to which the rods of two pistons are attached. The pistons work in horizontally opposed cylinders, each provided with valve-operated suction and delivery pipes. The delivery pipes are joined above the centre of the machine to form a single outlet into the irrigation system. This pump is remarkable for three reasons: The earliest known use of a true suction pipe in a pump, the first application of the double-acting principle, the first conversion of rotary to reciprocating motion.[196]
  • Weight-driven pump: Most ancient and medieval pumps were either driven by manual labour or hydraulics. The first weight-driven pump was described as part of a perpetual motion water-raising machine in a medieval Arabic manuscript written some time after Al-Jazari. It featured a mercury-powered clockwork escapement mechanism and had two out gear-wheels driven by lead weights which mesh with a large central gear-wheel.[197]
  • Wind-powered pump: Windmills were used to pump water since at least the 9th century in what is now Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.[115]

Other mechanical devicesEdit

File:Al-Jazari - A Candle Clock.jpg
File:Banu musa mechanical.jpg
File:Al-jazari water device.jpg
  • Artificial thunder, lightningelectricity, weather simulation: Abbas Ibn Firnas invented an artificial weather simulation room, in which spectators saw stars and clouds, and were astonished by artificial thunder and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms hidden in his basement laboratory.[198][199] It is possible that some electricity may have been involved in producing the artificial thunder and lightning effects.
  • Bayonet fitting: Al-Jazari's candle clock in 1206 employed, for the first time, a bayonet fitting, a fastener mechanism still used in modern times.[200]
  • Boiler with tap: The Banu Musa brothers' Book of Ingenious Devices describes a boiler with a tap to access hot water. The water is heated through cold water being poured into a pipe which leads to a tank at the bottom of the boiler, where the water is heated with fire. A person can then access hot water from the boiler through a tap.[201]
  • Bolted lock and mechanical controls: According to Donald Routledge Hill, Al-Jazari first described several early mechanical controls, including "a large metal door...and a lock with four bolts."[117]
  • Complex gearing, segmental gearing, epicyclic gearing: Segmental gears ("a piece for receiving or communicating reciprocating motion from or to a cogwheel, consisting of a sector of a circular gear, or ring, having cogs on the periphery, or face."[205]) and epicyclic gears were both first invented by the 11th century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi from Islamic Spain. He employed both these types of gears in the gear trains of his mechanical clocks and automata. Simple gears have been known before him, but this was the the first known case of complex gears used to transmit high torque. His mechanisms were the most sophisticated geared devices until the mechanical clocks of the mid-14th century. Segmental gears were also later employed by Al-Jazari in 1206.[206][207] Professor Lynn Townsend White, Jr. wrote: "Segmental gears first clearly appear in Al-Jazari, in the West they emerge in Giovanni de Dondi's astronomical clock finished in 1364, and only with the great Sienese engineer Francesco di Giorgio (1501) did they enter the general vocabulary of European machine design."[208] Al-Muradi's work was known to scholars working under Alfonso X of Castile.[209]
  • Conical valve: This was a mechanism developed by the Banu Musa and of particular importance for future developments. It was used in a variety of different applications,[210] including its use as "in-line" components in flow systems, the first known use of conical valves as automatic controllers.[80]
  • Control engineering: The work of the Banu Musa brothers, which included innovations involving subtle combinations of pneumatics and aerostatics, closely parallels the modern fields of control engineering and pneumatic instrumentation.[211]
  • Crankshaft and crank-connecting rod mechanism: The crank mechanism was previously known in Han China and to the Banu Musa brothers. Centuries later in 1206, Al-Jazari invented the crankshaft,[7][213] which he incorporated with a crank-connecting rod mechanism in his twin-cylinder pump. Like the modern crankshaft, Al-Jazari's mechanism consisted of a wheel setting several crank pins into motion, with the wheel's motion being circular and the pins moving back-and-forth in a straight line.[213] Al-Jazari's invention of the crankshaft is considered to be the most important single mechanical invention after the wheel, as it transforms continuous rotary motion into a linear reciprocating motion, and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, including the internal combustion engine[7] and steam engine.[214] He employed it in two of his water raising machines.[215]
  • Escapement mechanism in rotating wheel: Al-Jazari invented a method for controlling the speed of rotation of a wheel using an escapement mechanism in 1206.[218]
  • Foot pedal and pedal-operated loom: The foot pedal was originally invented for the purpose of operating a loom, for use in weaving. The first such devices appeared in Syria, Iran, and Islamic parts of East Africa, where "the operator sat with his feet in a pit below a fairly low-slung loom." By 1177, it was further developed in Islamic Spain, where having the mechanism was "raised higher above the ground on a more substantial frame." This type of loom spread to the Christian parts of Spain and soon became popular all over medieval Europe. The idea was adopted by Christian woollen weavers, particularly in Flanders. This became the standard European loom, it had the great advantage that the weavers hands were free to pass the shuttle, while the monotonous job of operating the heddles was done by the feet.[219] This laid the foundations for the development of the power loom, which was instrumental to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Fountain pen: The earliest historical record of a reservoir fountain pen dates back to the 10th century. In 953, Al-Muizz Lideenillah, the caliph of Egypt, demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen which held ink in a reservoir and delivered it to the nib via gravity and capillary action. As recorded by Qadi al-Nu'man al-Tamimi (d. 974) in his Kitdb al-Majalis wa 'l-musayardt, al-Mu’izz instructed and commissioned the construction of a fountain reservoir pen.[220][221]
  • Funnel with bent end: Invented by the Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century for pouring in different liquids.[222]
  • Gas mask: The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century invented an early gas mask,[80] for protecting workers in polluted wells.[223] They also described bellows that remove foul air from wells.[192] They explained that these instruments allow a worker to "descend into any well he wishes for a while and he will not fear it, nor will it harm him, if God wills may he be exalted."[224]
  • Gate operator and automatic gate operator: The first automatic doors were created by Chinese engineers under Emperor Yang of Sui prior to Islam. This was followed by the first hydraulics-powered automatic gate operators, invented by Al-Jazari in 1206.[225] Al-Jazari also created automatic doors as part of one of his elaborate water clocks.[117]
  • Grab and clamshell grab: The mechanical grab,[117] specifically a clamshell grab,[80] is an original invention by the Banu Musa brothers that does not appear in any earlier Greek works.[222] The grab they described was used to extract objects from underwater,[192] and recover objects from the beds of streams.[80]
  • Intermittent working: The concept of minimizing intermittent working is first implied in one of al-Jazari's saqiya chain pumps, which was for the purpose of maximising the efficiency of the saqiya chain pump.[193]
  • Metal block printing and printed amulet: Printing was known as tarsh in Arabic. After woodblock printing appeared in the Islamic world, which may have been adopted from China, a unique type of block printing was invented in Islamic Egypt during the 9th-10th centuries: print blocks made from metals such as tin, lead and cast iron, as well as stone, glass and clay. The first printed amulets were invented in the Islamic world, and were printed with Arabic calligraphy using metal block printing. This technique, however, appears to have had very little influence outside of the Muslim world, since metal and other non-wooden forms of block printing were unknown in China or Korea, which later developed metal movable type printing instead. Block printing later went out of use in Islamic Central Asia after movable type printing was introduced from China.[226]
  • Movable brass type printing: After the invention of movable wood type printing in China, this was followed by the development of movable brass type printing in Islamic Spain in the 14th century, which was where Europe's first printing devices were made.[17]
  • On/off switch and feedback control: The on/off switch, an important feedback control principle, was invented by Muslim engineers between the 9th and 12th centuries, and it was employed in a variety of automata and water clocks. The mechanism later had an influence on the development of the electric on/off switch which appeared in the 1950s.[227]
  • Spinning wheel: The earliest clear illustrations of the spinning wheel come from Baghdad (drawn in 1237), and then from China (c. 1270) and Europe (c. 1280). There is evidence that spinning wheels had already come into use in the Islamic world long before that, as can be seen in an Islamic description of the spinning wheel dating from before 1030, while the earliest Chinese description dates from around 1090.[228] According to Irfan Habib, the spinning wheel was introduced into India from Iran in the thirteenth century.[228] In France, the spindle and distaff were not displaced until the mid 18th century.[229]
  • Steam turbine, impulse steam turbine, steam engine, steam jack, self-rotating spit: In 1551, Taqi al-Din invented the first impulse steam turbine and described the first practical applications for it as a prime mover for a self-rotating spit, predating Giovanni Branca's later impulse steam turbine from 1629. Taqi al-Din described his invention in his book, Al-Turuq al-saniyya fi al-alat al-ruhaniyya (The Sublime Methods of Spiritual Machines), completed in 1551 AD (959 AH).[230] This device is today known as a steam jack.
  • Trip hammer in papermaking: Muslim engineers introduced the use of trip hammers in the production of paper, replacing the traditional Chinese mortar and pestle method of papermaking. In turn, the trip hammer method was later employed by the Chinese in papermaking.[231]
  • Two-step level discontinuous variable structure controls: Two-step level controls for fluids, an early form of discontinuous variable structure controls, was developed by the Banu Musa brothers.[232]

In the 9th century, the Banū Mūsā brothers invented a number of automata (automatic machines) and mechanical devices, and they described a hundred such devices in their Book of Ingenious Devices. Some of the devices that make their earliest known appearance in the Book of Ingenious Devices include:

In 1206, Al-Jazari also described over fifty mechanical devices in six different categories in The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, most of which he invented himself, along with construction drawings. Along with his other mechanical inventions described above, some of the other mechanical devices he first described include:[79][80][235][236]

  • Devices able to elevate water from shallow wells or flowing rivers

Medical productsEdit

See also: Islamic medicine

Drugs, Medications, TreatmentsEdit

Muslim physicians pioneered a number of drugs and medications for use in medicine, including:

  • Alcohol as an antiseptic: The application of pure alcohol to wounds as an antiseptic agent, and the use of alcohol as a solvent and antiseptic, was introduced by Muslim physicians and surgeons in the 10th century.[17]
  • Cancer therapy, pharmacotherapy, and Hindiba: Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1025) attempted the earliest known treatments for cancer. One method he discovered was the "Hindiba", a herbal compound drug which Ibn al-Baitar later identified as having "anticancer" properties and which could also treat other tumors and neoplastic disorders. Avicenna wrote a separate supplement treatise dedicated to the pharmacotherapy of Hindiba, giving details on the drug's properties and uses, and he then gives instructions on its preparation as medication.[237] After recognizing its usefulness in treating neoplastic disorders, Hindiba was patented in 1997 by Nil Sari, Hanzade Dogan and John K. Snyder.[238]
  • Chemotherapeutic drugs: Pioneered by Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes), who introduced the use of chemical substances such as vitriol, copper, mercuric and arsenic salts, sal ammoniac, gold scoria, chalk, clay, coral, pearl, tar, bitumen and alcohol for medical purposes.[239]
  • Clinical pharmacology, clinical trial, randomized controlled trial, and efficacy test: The origins of clinical pharmacology date back to Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine in 1025.[240] His emphasis on tested medicines laid the foundations for an experimental approach to pharmacology.[241] The Canon laid out the rules and principles for testing the effectiveness of new drugs and medications, which still form the basis of clinical pharmacology[242] and modern clinical trials,[243] randomized controlled trials[244][245] and efficacy tests.[246][247]
  • Cough medicine and syrup: The use of syrups for treating coughs originates from medieval Arabic physicians.[23][47]
  • Drugs, foods, herbs, plants and chemical substances: In antiquity, Dioscorides listed about 500 plants in the 1st century. Muslim botanists, chemists and pharmacists discovered many more during the Middle Ages. For example, Al-Dinawari described more than 637 plant drugs in the 9th century,[248] and Ibn al-Baitar described at least 1,400 different plants, foods and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries, in the 13th century.[249] In total, at least 2,000 medicinal substances were discovered by Muslim botanists, chemists and pharmacists.[9]
  • Epilepsy and seizure medications: Abulcasis, in his Al-Tasrif (c. 1000), invented medications called Ghawali and Lafayfe for the treatment of epilepsy and seizure.[139]
  • Medicinal-grade alcohol: Produced through distillation. These distillation devices for use in chemistry and medicine were manufactured on a large scale in the 10th century.
  • Pharmacopoeia: The first pharmacopoeia books were written by Muslim physicians.[251] These included Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine and other pharmacopoeia books by Abu-Rayhan Biruni in the early 11th century,[252] Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) in the 12th century (and printed in 1491),[253] and Ibn al-Baitar in the 14th century.[17]
  • Phytotherapy, Taxus baccata, and calcium channel blocker: Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine introduced the medicinal use of Taxus baccata L. He named this herbal drug "Zarnab" and used it as a cardiac remedy. This was the first known use of a calcium channel blocker drug, which were not used in the Western world until the 1960s.[254]
  • Sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction drugs: Muslim physicians identified the issue of sexual and erectile dysfunction, and they were the first to prescribe medication for the treatment of the problem. They developed several methods of therapy for this issue, including the single drug method where a drug is prescribed, and a "combination method of either a drug or food." These drugs were also occasionally used for recreational drug use to improve male sexuality in general by those who did not suffer from sexual dysfunctions. Most of these drugs were oral medication, though a few patients were also treated through topical and transurethral means. Sexual dysfunctions were being treated with tested drugs in the Islamic world since the 9th century until the 16th century by a number of Muslim physicians and pharmacists, including al-Razi, Thabit bin Qurra, Ibn Al-Jazzar, Avicenna (The Canon of Medicine), Averroes, Ibn al-Baitar, and Ibn al-Nafis (The Comprehensive Book on Medicine).[255]
  • Topical cream: For the relief and treatment of common colds, Abulcasis invented Muthallaathat, which was prepared from camphor, musk and honey, similar to the modern Vicks Vapour Rub.[139]

Other medical treatments believed to have been developed by Muslim physicians include:[17]

Surgical instrumentsEdit

File:Al-zahrawi surgical tools.gif

A wide variety of surgical instruments and techniques were invented in the Muslim world, as well as the refinement of earlier instruments and techniques. In particular, over 200 surgical instruments were listed by Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis) in the Al-Tasrif (1000), many of which were never used before by any previous surgeons. Hamidan, for example, listed at least twenty six innovative surgical instruments that Abulcasis introduced.

  • Cancer surgery: Another method for treating cancer first described by Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine was a surgical treatment. He stated that the excision should be radical and that all diseased tissue should be removed, which included the use of amputation or the removal of veins running in the direction of the tumor. He also recommended the use of cauterization for the area being treated if necessary.[256]
  • Catgut suture: The use of catgut for internal stitching was introduced by Abulcasis. It is still used today in modern surgery. The catgut appears to be the only natural substance capable of dissolving and is acceptable by the body.[259] Salim Al-Hassani considers it to be one of the most important Muslim medical contributions.[260]
  • Fetus extraction: Abulcasis, in his Al-Tasrif (1000), first described the surgical procedure of extractiing a dead fetus using forceps.[262]
  • General anaesthesia, general anaesthetic, oral anesthesia, inhalational anaesthetic, narcotic-soaked sponge: Surgeries under inhalant anesthesia with the use of narcotic-soaked sponges which were placed over the face, were introduced by the Muslim anesthesiologists, Abu al-Qasim (Abulcasis) and Ibn Zuhr, in Islamic Spain. Sigrid Hunke wrote: "The science of medicine has gained a great and extremely important discovery and that is the use of general anaesthetics for surgical operations, and how unique, efficient, and merciful for those who tried it the Muslim anaesthetic was. It was quite different from the drinks the Indians, Romans and Greeks were forcing their patients to have for relief of pain. There had been some allegations to credit this discovery to an Italian or to an Alexandrian, but the truth is and history proves that, the art of using the anaesthetic sponge is a pure Muslim technique, which was not known before. The sponge used to be dipped and left in a mixture prepared from cannabis, opium, hyoscyamus and a plant called Zoan."[264]
  • Illustrated surgical atlas: Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu's Cerrahiyyetu'l-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery), produced in the 15th century, was the first surgical atlas. Surgical operations were illustrated for the first time in the Cerrahiyyetu'l-Haniyye.[265]
  • Prosthesis, prosthetic limb, prosthetic arm: The Barbary pirate, Barbarossa, in the early 16th century lost his left arm, earning him the nickname Silver Arm, in reference to the silver prosthetic device which he used in place of his missing limb.
  • Surgery in cauterizationAbulcasis, circa 1000, was the first to use surgery in cauterization. [5] Some two decades later, Avicenna also recommended the use of cauterization for the area being treated if necessary.[256]
  • Tracheotomy, correct description of: While tracheostomy may have possibly been portrayed on ancient Egyptian tablets, the first clear and correct description of the tracheotomy operation for suffocating patients was described by Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) in the 12th century.[267][268]


See also: Alchemy and chemistry in medieval Islam: Military products
  • Counterweight trebuchet and mangonel: The first clearly written record of a counterweight trebuchet comes from Mardi bin Ali al-Tarsusi, who wrote a military manual for Saladin circa 1187. He describes a hybrid trebuchet that he said had the same hurling power as a traction machine pulled by fifty men due to "the constant force [of gravity], whereas men differ in their pulling force." (Showing his mechanical proficiency, Tarsusi designed his trebuchet so that as it was fired it cocked a supplementary crossbow, probably to protect the engineers from attack.)[270] In his book, Medieval Siege, Jim Bradbury[271] extensively quotes from Mardi ibn Ali concerning mangonels of various types, including Arab, Perisan and Turkish, describing what could be trebuchets, but not quoted as above. In On the Social Origins of Medieval Institutions,[272] more detailed quotes by Mardi ibn Ali may be found on the various types of trebuchets.
  • Horseman's axe and war hammer: The horseman's axe was an early type of war hammer that was of Islamic origin. The Tirant lo Blanch in the 15th century maintained that it was "the deadliest weapon when fighting in full armour, when it was hung from a cavalryman's saddle-bow."[274]


  • Adarga: A hard leather shield used originally by the Moors of Islamic Spain. The adarga was a traditional defense employed by the Moorish light horseman who used it along with the lance. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries the adarga was also used by Spanish Christian soldiers including their own light cavalry (la jineta) some of whom adopted Moorish fighting patterns. The adarga was in widespread use until the 16th century and the progress of firearms.[275]
  • Camail: It was used as part of the mighfar, an Islamic helmet. It was in use from the 8th to the 14th century.[276]
  • Defensive trench: A military innovation developed by early Muslims during the Battle of the Trench in 627, when the Meccans invaded Medina. The idea was suggested by Salman the Persian to the commander Muhammad, who then ordered the digging of a wide trench around Medina to halt their invasion. The battle resulted in the withdrawal of the Meccan army and a victory for Medina.[277]
  • Fireproof clothing: In 1260, Egyptian Mamluk soldiers at the Battle of Ain Jalut wore fireproof clothing to protect themselves from gunpowder fires as well as chemicals in gunpowder warfare. Their clothing consisted of a silk tunic (still worn by Formula One drivers underneath their Nomex fire suits), aketon (from the Arabic al-qutn "the cotton"), and mainly a woolen overtunic that protects against fires and chemical weapons, similar to the clothing worn by modern soldiers for protection against biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Due to the effectiveness of their fireproof clothing, the Egyptian soldiers were able to attach gunpowder cartridges and incendiary devices to their clothing.[278][279]
  • Mail-and-plate armour: In Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl) written in the 8th century by Geber, he describes the production of mail-and-plate armours (jawasin), helmets (bid) and shields (daraq).
  • Short-hemmed and short-sleeved hauberk: The short-hemmed, short-sleeved hauberk is thought to be of Islamic origin. It was usually worn with a mail.[280]
  • Steel helmet: An early Mamluk steel helmet from the 13th century has been preserved. It was worn by Sultan Mohammad en-Nasser ibn Qalaoun (died 1290).[281]
  • Turban helmet: A type of helmet worn over turbans. The earliest evidence for it dates back to the 15th century, to Farrukh Yassar and the Ottoman Sultan Bayzid.[282]

Gunpowder technologyEdit

File:Ibn Ghanims gun.jpg
  • Abus gun and Howitzer: The Abus gun was an early form of howitzer created by the Ottoman Empire. Abus guns were a significant part of the Ottoman Empire's artillery, and could perhaps even be referred to as the signature piece of artillery during the height of their power, in the 16th and 17th centuries, for no other civilization used a gun quite like this gun up until this time.[283]
  • Ballistic war machine and siege cannon: The use of cannons as siege machines dates back to Abu Yaqub Yusuf who employed them at the siege of Sijilmasa in 1274 according to Ibn Khaldun.[279] In the 12th century, the Seljuqs had facilities in Sivas for manufacturing war machines. Ballistic weapons were manufactured in the Muslim world since the time of Kublai Khan in the 13th century. According to Chinese sources, two Muslim engineers, Alaaddin and Ismail (d. 1330), built machines of a ballistic-weapons nature before the besieged city of Hang-show between 1271–1273. Alaaddin's weapons also played a major role in the conquest of several other Chinese cities. His son Ma-ho-scha also developed ballistic weapons. Ismail (transliterated as I-ssu-ma-yin) was present in the Mongol siege of Hsiang-yiang, where he built a war machine with the characteristics of a ballistic weapon. Chinese sources mention that when this war machines were fired, the earth and skies shook, the cannons were buried seven feet into the ground and destroyed everything. His son Yakub also developed ballistic war machines.[59]
  • Cannon, hand cannon, handgun, small arms, portable firearms: The first portable hand cannons (midfa) loaded with explosive gunpowder, the first example of a handgun and portable firearm, were used by the Egyptians to repel the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, and again in 1304. The gunpowder compositions used for the cannons at these battles were later described in several manuscripts in the early 14th century. According to Shams al-Din Muhammad (d. 1327), the cannons had an explosive gunpowder composition (74% saltpetre, 11% sulfur, 15% carbon) almost identical to the ideal compositions for explosive gunpowder used in modern times (75% saltpetre, 10% sulfur, 15% carbon).[278][279] According to Ahmad Y. al-Hassan, the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 saw the Mamluks use "the first cannon in history" with gunpowder formulae which were almost identical with the ideal composition for explosive gunpowder, which were not known in China or Europe until much later.[286][55]
  • Cartridge: Gunpowder cartridges were employed by the Egyptian Mamluks, for use in their fire lances and hand cannons against the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.[278][279]
  • Explosive gunpowder: The ideal composition for explosive gunpowder used in modern times is 75% potassium nitrate (saltpetre), 10% sulfur, and 15% carbon. Several almost identical compositions were first described by the Arab engineer Hasan al-Rammah as a recipe for the rockets (tayyar) he described in The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices in 1270. Several examples include a tayyar "rocket" (75% saltpetre, 8% sulfur, 15% carbon) and the tayyar buruq "lightning rocket" (74% saltpetre, 10% sulfur, 15% carbon). He also states recipes for fireworks and firecrackers made from these explosive gunpowder compositions. He states in his book that many of these recipes were known to his father and grandfather, hence dating back to at least the late 12th century.[278] Medieval French reports suggest that Muslim armies also used explosives against the Sixth Crusade army led by Ludwig IV, Landgrave of Thuringia in the 13th century.
  • Firearms: A commonly held view is that the first firearms were invented in China, but some scholars such as Reinuad and Fave argue that the first firearms may have possibly been invented by Muslims first.[17] The use of saltpeter in military applications by the Arabs dates back to the 10th century. The three ingredients of gunpowder were used, often with the addition of naphtha to make "tubes of incendiaries," which were thrown by catapults[287][288], and some Arabic greekfire receipts contained saltpeter[289], Shawar vizier of the Fatimid Caliph Al-'Āḍid's used 20,000 tubes of incendiaries and 10,000 lighting bombs in the year 1168, by 1916, Bahjat and Gabriel had gathered dozens of nearly intact ceramic grenades of different types, and fragments of hundreds more. and in the 1940s those ceramics caught the attention of yet another French scientist Maurice Mercier where he noticed that those that had the strongest walls and the most aerodynamic designs often had their tops broken off, while the rest of the body was intact. Only a powerful internal explosion, he reasoned, could have caused such clean, sharp fractures. He had a number of the pots carefully examined and discovered that they contained traces of nitrates and sulfur, essential ingredients of gunpowder. Many now on display in the Cairo Museum and the Louvre, the components of the grenades were volatile jelly of kerosene, potassium nitrates and sulfur.[290][291] Another early use of gunpowder in military applications in al-Andalus (modern Spain) is as early as 1118[292], later in 1248 it was used in the defence of Seville[293] and such devices were called "Thunderers", another early use was in 1250 by the Mamluks against the Franks led by Louis IX in Battle of Al Mansurah[294], and the explosive hand cannons first used by the Mamluks to repel the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.[279][14]
  • Gunpowder: Most sources credit the discovery of gunpowder to Chinese alchemists in the 9th century searching for an elixir of life.[296] The discovery of gunpowder was probably the product of centuries of alchemical experimentation.[297] Saltpetre was known to the Chinese by the mid-1st century AD and there is strong evidence of the use of saltpetre and sulfur in various largely medicinal combinations.[298] A Chinese alchemical text from 492 noted that saltpeter gave off a purple flame when ignited, providing for the first time a practical and reliable means of distinguishing it from other inorganic salts, making it possible to evaluate and compare purification techniques.[297] While it is commonly held that gunpowder was invented in China, it has been argued that gunpowder may have possibly been invented by Muslims first.[295][299] Potassium nitrate was known to earlier Arab chemists, and was described many times. The earliest description is by Khalid ibn Yazid (635-704)[300], and was later described and used many times, for example by Jabir ibn Hayyan (722-815) to make nitric acid and by al-Razi and others. Saltpeter was called "natrun" but also had other names indicating its ore origins, for example, (Shabb Yamani or "Yemeni alum") and (thalj al-Sīn, or "Chinese snow," as Muslims got the ore from China, among other places[301]). Muslims went beyond the use of the impractical ore material, and began purifying it. George Sarton states in that Muslims were the first to purify saltpeter and he shows that black slaves were purifying saltpeter in Basra, Iraq and that those slaves rebelled in (869)[302] The earliest Arabic manuscripts with gunpowder recipes are two undated manuscripts, but one of them (the al-Karshuni manuscript) was dated by Berthelot and Duval to be from the ninth to the eleventh century[303], both manuscripts mention saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur as the sole ingredients of gunpowder. We can find the first book dedicated to gunpowder and its uses in the works Hasan al-Rammah's Al-furusiyyah wa al-manasib al-harbiyya (The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices), written in the 1270s, which included the first gunpowder recipes to approach the ideal composition for explosive gunpowder used in modern times (75% saltpetre, 10% sulfur, 15% carbon).[279][14]
  • Iron-cased and metal-cylinder rocket artillery: The first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rocket artillery were developed by Tipu Sultan, a Muslim ruler of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore, and his father Hyder Ali, in the 1780s. He successfully used these metal-cylinder rockets against the larger forces of the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. The Mysore rockets of this period were much more advanced than what the British had seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missile (up to 2 km range). After Tipu's eventual defeat in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and the capture of the Mysore iron rockets, they were influential in British rocket development, inspiring the Congreve rocket, which was soon put into use in the Napoleonic Wars.[304] According to Stephen Oliver Fought and John F. Guilmartin, Jr. in Encyclopædia Britannica (2008): "Hyder Ali, prince of Mysore, developed war rockets with an important change: the use of metal cylinders to contain the combustion powder. Although the hammered soft iron he used was crude, the bursting strength of the container of black powder was much higher than the earlier paper construction. Thus a greater internal pressure was possible, with a resultant greater thrust of the propulsive jet. The rocket body was lashed with leather thongs to a long bamboo stick. Range was perhaps up to three-quarters of a mile (more than a kilometre). Although individually these rockets were not accurate, dispersion error became less important when large numbers were fired rapidly in mass attacks. They were particularly effective against cavalry and were hurled into the air, after lighting, or skimmed along the hard dry ground. Hyder Ali's son, Tippu Sultan, continued to develop and expand the use of rocket weapons, reportedly increasing the number of rocket troops from 1,200 to a corps of 5,000. In battles at Seringapatam in 1792 and 1799 these rockets were used with considerable effect against the British."[305] Tippu Sultan wrote a military manual on his rocket artillery, the Fathul Mujahidin.
  • Purified gunpowder, purified saltpetre, purified potassium nitrate: Muslim chemists were the first to purify potassium nitrate (saltpetre; natrun or barud in Arabic) to the weapons-grade purity for use in gunpowder, as potassium nitrate needs to be purified to be used effectively. This purification process was first described by Ibn Bakhtawayh in his al-Muqaddimat in 1029. The first complete purification process for potassium nitrate is described in 1270 by the Arab chemist and engineer Hasan al-Rammah of Syria in his book al-Furusiyya wa al-Manasib al-Harbiyya ('The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices', a.k.a. the Treatise on Horsemanship and Stratagems of War). He first described the use of potassium carbonate (in the form of wood ashes) to remove calcium and magnesium salts from the potassium nitrate. Hasan al-Rammah also describes the purifying of saltpetre using the chemical processes of solution and crystallization, and this was the first clear method for the purification of saltpetre.[278] Bert S. Hall,[307] however, disputes the efficacy of al-Rammah's formula for the purification of potassium nitrate.
  • Supergun: The first supergun was the Great Turkish Bombard, used by the troops of Mehmed II to capture Constantinople in 1453. It had a 762 mm bore, and fired 680 kg (1500 lb) stones. The chief architect for the supergun was a Hungarian named Urban. Though his religion is unknown, he lived and worked in the Islamic world.
  • Torpedo: The invention of torpedoes occurred in the Muslim world, and were driven by a rocket system. The works of Hasan al-Rammah in Syria in 1275 shows illustrations of a torpedo running on water with a rocket system filled with explosive materials and having three firing points.

Jean Mathes indicates that Muslim rulers had stockpiles of the following gunpowder weapons decades before such devices were used in Europe:[17][59][308]


  • Damascus steel: One of the most famous steels produced in the medieval Near East was Damascus steel used for swordmaking, and mostly produced in Damascus, Syria, in the period from 900 to 1750. This was produced using the crucible steel method, based on the earlier Indian wootz steel. This process was further refined in the Middle East using locally produced steels. The process allowed carbides to precipitate out as micro particles arranged in sheets or bands within the body of a blade. The carbides are far harder than the surrounding low carbon steel, allowing the swordsmith to make an edge which would cut hard materials with the precipitated carbides, while the bands of softer steel allowed the sword as a whole to remain tough and flexible. A team of researchers based at the Technical University of Dresden that uses x-rays and electron microscopy to examine Damascus steel discovered the presence of cementite nanowires[309] and carbon nanotubes.[310] Peter Paufler, a member of the Dresden team, says that these nanostructures give Damascus steel its distinctive properties[311] and are a result of the forging process.[311][312]
  • Flyssa and Kaskara: The swords developed in early Islamic Morocco and the Baguirmi Sultanate, respectively.[313]
  • Grip: In the late 12th century, the figure of a Turkish cavalryman was depicted holding a sabre which was carried using what what would later be known in Europe as the 'Italian Grip'.[314]
  • Kilij: A sabre developed by the Turks in Central Asia, it came into widespread use by the 15th century. Polish sabres of the 17th century (known as pallash or palache) were derived from this weapon.[315]
  • Nimcha: An Arab short sabre with a knuckle guard developed in Morocco.[316]
  • Pulwar, Qama, and Quaddara: The pulwar is a form of talwar that was developed in Islamic India. The qama was a sword developed in Islamic Georgia, and is probably the origin of the Cossack kindjal. The quaddara was a Persian broadsword, like a long kindjal, used in the Caucasus.[317]
  • Sabre and Saif: The sabre and the Arab saif were developed in the early Islamic world.[317]
  • Scimitar and Shamshir: The earliest evidence of the scimitar, or curved sword, is from the 9th century, when it was used among soldiers in the Khurasan region of Persia.[318] The Persian shamshir in its current form dates to the 15th century.[319]
  • Shashka and Shotel: Developed in the Caucasus and Abyssinia, respectively.[320]
  • Takouba, Talwar, and Yatagan: The takouba was developed by the Taureg people of the Sahara. The talwar is an Indian sword based on the Persian shamshir. The yatagan was developed in Turkey.[321]
  • Zulfiqar: An early Islamic sword that belonged to Ali in the 7th century.[322]

Navigational technologyEdit

See also: Geography in medieval Islam, Astronomy in medieval Islam, and Physics in medieval Islam
File:WInd Rose Aguiar.png


  • Baculus: The baculus, used for nautical astronomy, originates from Islamic Spain and was later used by Portuguese navigators for long-distance travel.[323]
  • Cartographic Qibla indicator with sundial and compass: This was a Qibla instrument with a sundial and compass attached to it,[325] and was invented by Muhammad Husayn in 17th century Safavid Iran.[326]
  • Compass dial: In the early 14th century, Ibn al-Shatir invented the compass dial, a timekeeping device incorporating both a universal sundial and a magnetic compass. He invented it for the purpose of finding the times of Salah prayers.[327]
  • Compass rose: The Arabs invented the 32-point compass rose during the Middle Ages.[328]
  • Dry compass (Mariner's compass): In 1282, the Yemeni sultan Al-Ashraf developed an improved compass for use as a "Qibla indicator" instrument in order to find the direction to Mecca. Al-Ashraf's instrument was one of the earliest dry compasses, and appears to have been invented independantly of Peter Peregrinus.[329] The dry compass is commonly known as the "Mariner's compass".


  • Caravel: The origins of the caravel ship, used for long distance travel by the Spanish and Portuguese since the 15th century, date back to the qarib used by explorers from Islamic Spain in the 13th century.[332]
  • Kamal: Arab navigators invented a rudimentary sextant known as a kamal, used for celestial navigation and for measuring the altitudes and latitudes of the stars, in the late 9th century.[333] They employed in the Indian Ocean from the 10th century,[334] and it was adopted by Indian navigators soon after,[335] followed by Chinese navigators some time before the 16th century.[336] The invention of the kamal allowed for the earliest known latitude sailing,[334] and was thus the earliest step towards the use of quantitative methods in navigation.[336]
  • Lateen sail and triangular sail: The lateen sail was previously believed to have been introduced from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea by Muslim sailors in the 9th century.[337] The Arabic triangular sail was later adopted by European sailors, including Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the Americas. [6]
  • Qarib: The origins of the caravel ship, used for long distance travel by the Spanish and Portuguese since the 15th century, date back to the qarib.[332]
  • Rudder with tackle and permanent sternpost-mounted rudder: The Arabs used a sternpost-mounted rudder which differed technically from both its European and Chinese counterparts. On their ships "the rudder is controlled by two lines, each attached to a crosspiece mounted on the rudder head perpendicular to the plane of the rudder blade."[338] The earliest evidence comes from the Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Marifat al-Aqalim ('The Best Divisions for the Classification of Regions') written by al-Muqaddasi in 985.[339] According to Lawrence V. Mott, the "idea of attaching the rudder to the sternpost in a relatively permanent fashion, therefore, must have been an Arab invention independent of the Chinese."[338]
  • Submarine: On October 1, 1720, the Ottoman dockyard architect Ibrahim Efendi invented a submarine called the tahtelbahir. The Ottoman writer Seyyid Vehbi, in his Surname-i-Humayun, compared this submarine to an alligator. He recorded that during the circumcision ceremony for Sultan Ahmed III's sons, "the alligator-like submarine slowly emerged on the water and moved slowly to the sultan, and after staying on the sea for half an hour, submerged in the sea again to the great surprise of the public; then emerged one hour later, with five people walking outside the mouth of this alligator-like submarine, with trays of rice and zerde (a dish of sweetened rice) on their heads." He explained the technical information concerning the submarine "submerging in the sea and the crew being able to breath through pipes while under the sea".[59]
  • Three-masted merchant vessel: According to John M. Hobson, Muslim sailors introduced the large three-masted merchant vessels around the Mediterranean Sea, though they may have borrowed the three-mast system from Chinese ships.[332] However, Howard I. Chapelle argues that some ancient Roman ships may have also been three-masted cargo ships,[340] though Kevin Greene writes that three-masted ships were not developed until the 15th century.[341]
File:Sail plan xebec.svg
  • Xebec and Polacca: The xebec and polacre sailing ships used around the Mediterranean from the 16th to the 19th centuries originated from the Barbary pirates, who successfully used them for naval warfare against European ships at the time. A combination of the fore and aft sails and aerodynamics, along with the improved square sail on the Polacca, allowed these ships to sail much closer to the wind than European and American ships. An expert on the Barbary pirates said that their ships had guns at the bow and stern. "They would approach, pounding away, and it took too long for our square riggers to bring the broadside guns around. The Arabs had oars and a sail arrangement that meant they were able to turn more quickly and could flee closer to the wind than we could chase them."[346]


  • Parachute: In 852, Armen Firnas (Abbas Ibn Firnas) invented a primitive version of the parachute.[349][350][353][354] John H. Lienhard described it in The Engines of Our Ingenuity as follows: "In 852, a new Caliph and a bizarre experiment: A daredevil named Armen Firman decided to fly off a tower in Córdoba. He glided back to earth, using a huge winglike cloak to break his fall."[355]

Scientific disciplinesEdit

See also: Islamic science and technology, Alchemy and chemistry in medieval Islam, Islamic astronomy, and Islamic psychology
  • Cryptanalysis and frequency analysis: In cryptology, the first known recorded explanation of cryptanalysis was given by 9th-century Arabian polymath, Al-Kindi (also known as "Alkindus" in Europe), in A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages. This treatise includes the first description of the method of frequency analysis.[356] It has been suggested that close textual study of the Qur'an first brought to light that Arabic has a characteristic letter frequency. Its use spread, and similar systems were widely used in European states by the time of the Renaissance.
  • Geomancy and geomantic instrument: The most widely accepted origin for this practice is in the medieval Arabic world,[359] as part of Islamic astrology.


See also: Islamic mathematics
  • Algebra: While the roots of algebra can be traced back to earlier civilizations, where mathematicians solved linear and quadratic equations using arithmetic and geometric methods, it was Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī's Al-Kitāb al-muḫtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) which established algebra as an independent mathematical discipline in its own right.[364] Al-Khwarizmi was the first to clearly establish algebra as a discipline that is independent of geometry and arithmetic.[365] The name he coined for the discipline, al-jabr, referred to the underlying method of "reduction" and "balancing" he introduced, meaning the transposition of subtracted terms to the other side of an equation, that is, the cancellation of like terms on opposite sides of the equation.[366]
  • Arabic numerals: The Indian numeral system came to be known to both the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, whose book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals written circa 825, and the Arab mathematician Al-Kindi, who wrote four volumes, On the Use of the Indian Numerals (Ketab fi Isti'mal al-'Adad al-Hindi) circa 830, are principally responsible for the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration in the Middle-East and the West [7]. In the 10th century, Middle-Eastern mathematicians extended the decimal numeral system to include fractions using decimal point notation, as recorded in a treatise by Syrian mathematician Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi in 952-953. In the Arab world, the Arabic numeral system was most often used by mathematicians, while Muslim astronomers mostly used the Babylonian numeral system. A distinctive "Western Arabic" variant of the symbols begins to emerge in ca. the 10th century in the Maghreb and Al-Andalus, called the ghubar ("sand-table" or "dust-table") numerals, which is the direct ancestor to the modern Western Arabic numerals now used throughout the world.[367] Al-Hassār, a mathematician from the Maghreb (North Africa) specializing in Islamic inheritance jurisprudence during the 12th century, developed the modern symbolic mathematical notation for fractions, where the numerator and denominator are separated by a horizontal bar. The "dust cipher he used are also nearly identical to the digits used in the current Western Arabic numerals. These same digits and fractional notation appear soon after in the work of Fibonacci in the 13th century.[368]
  • Decimal fractions and decimal point: In discussing the origins of decimal fractions, Dirk Jan Struik (p. 7) states that:[369] "The introduction of decimal fractions as a common computational practice can be dated back to the Flemish pamphelet De Thiende, published at Leyden in 1585, together with a French translation, La Disme, by the Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin (1548-1620), then settled in the Northern Netherlands. It is true that decimal fractions were used by the Chinese many centuries before Stevin and that the Persian astronomer Al-Kāshī used both decimal and sexagesimal fractions with great ease in his Key to arithmetic (Samarkand, early fifteenth century)."[370] While the Persian mathematician Jamshīd al-Kāshī claimed to have discovered decimal fractions himself in the 15th century, J. Lennart Berggrenn notes that he was mistaken, as decimal fractions were first used five centuries before him by the Baghdadi mathematician Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi as early as the 10th century.[371] In the 10th century, Middle-Eastern mathematicians extended the decimal numeral system to include fractions using decimal point notation, as recorded in a treatise by Syrian mathematician Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi in 952-953.
  • Functional algebra and dynamic functional algebra: In the 12th century, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī developed the concept of a function. In his analysis of the equation \ x^3 + d = bx^2 for example, he begins by changing the equation's form to \ x^2 (b - x) = d. He then states that the question of whether the equation has a solution depends on whether or not the “function” on the left side reaches the value \ d. To determine this, he finds a maximum value for the function. He proves that the maximum value occurs when x = \frac{2b}{3}, which gives the functional value \frac{4b^3}{27}. Sharaf al-Din then states that if this value is less than \ d, there are no positive solutions; if it is equal to \ d, then there is one solution at x = \frac{2b}{3}; and if it is greater than \ d, then there are two solutions, one between \ 0 and \frac{2b}{3} and one between \frac{2b}{3} and \ b. This was the earliest form of dynamic functional algebra.[372]
  • General proof: In the 10th century, the Iraqi mathematician Al-Hashimi provided general proofs for numbers (rather than geometric demonstrations) as he considered multiplication, division, etc. for ”lines.” Using this method, he provided the first proof for irrational numbers.[373]
  • Numerical analysis: In numerical analysis, the essence of Viète's method was known to Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī in the 12th century, and it is possible that the algebraic tradition of Sharaf al-Dīn, as well as his predecessor Omar Khayyám and successor Jamshīd al-Kāshī, was known to 16th century European algebraists, of whom wikipedia:François Viète was the most important.[375] A method algebraically equivalent to Newton's method was also known to Sharaf al-Dīn. In the 15th century, his successor al-Kashi later used a form of Newton's method to numerically solve \ x^P - N = 0 to find roots of \ N. In western Europe, a similar method was later described by Henry Biggs in his Trigonometria Britannica, published in 1633.[376]
  • Real number and irrational number: Arabic mathematicians were the first to treat irrational numbers as algebraic objects,[377] which was made possible by the development of algebra. Arabic mathematicians merged the concepts of "number" and "magnitude" into a more general idea of real number, and they criticized Euclid's idea of ratio, developed the theory of composite ratios, and extended the concept of number to ratios of continuous magnitude.[378] In his commentary on Book 10 of the Elements, the Persian mathematician Al-Mahani (d. 874/884) examined and classified quadratic irrationals and cubic irrationals. He provided definitions for rational and irrational magnitudes, which he treated as irrational numbers.[379] In contrast to Euclid's concept of magnitudes as lines, Al-Mahani considered integers and fractions as rational magnitudes, and square roots and cube roots as irrational magnitudes. He also introduced an arithmetic approach to the concept of irrationality.[379] The Egypt mathematician Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam (c. 850–930) was the first to accept irrational numbers as solutions to quadratic equation or as coefficient in an equation, often in the form of square roots, cube roots and fourth roots.[380] In the 10th century, the Iraqi mathematician Al-Hashimi provided general proofs for numbers (rather than geometric demonstrations) as he considered multiplication, division, etc. for ”lines.” Using this method, he provided the first proof for irrational numbers.[381] Abū Ja'far al-Khāzin (900-971) provides a definition of rational and irrational magnitudes.[382]

Scientific instrumentsEdit

See also: Islamic astronomy, Islamic physics, and Alchemy and chemistry in Islam

Muslim astronomers developed a number of astronomical instruments, including several variations of the astrolabe, originally invented by Hipparchus in the 2nd century BCE, but with considerable improvements made to the device in the Muslim world. These instruments were used by Muslims for a variety of purposes. In the 10th century, Al-Sufi first described over 1,000 different uses of an astrolabe, related to astronomy, astrology, horoscopes, navigation, surveying, timekeeping, Qibla (direction to Mecca), Salah prayers, etc.[387]

Analog computersEdit

File:Spherical astrolabe.jpg
  • Mechanical geared astrolabe: Invented by Ibn Samh (c. 1020).[395]
  • Mechanical lunisolar calendar computer: Featured a gear train and gear-wheels, and was invented by Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī in the early 11th century.[396]
  • Saphaea: An astrolabe, invented by Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī (Arzachel) in 11th century Islamic Spain.[397]
  • Programmable analog computer and castle clock: The castle clock, an astronomical clock invented by Al-Jazari in 1206, is considered to be the earliest programmable analog computer.[204] It displayed the zodiac, the solar and lunar orbits, a crescent moon-shaped pointer travelling across a gateway causing automatic doors to open every hour,[117][400] and five robotic musicians who play music when moved by levers operated by a camshaft attached to a water wheel. The length of day and night could be re-programmed every day in order to account for the changing lengths of day and night throughout the year.[204]
  • Calendar computer and mechanical geared astrolabe with calendar computer: Invented by Abi Bakr of Isfahan in 1235.[401]
  • Planetary computer: The Plate of Zones, a mechanical planetary computer which could graphically solve a number of planetary problems, was invented by al-Kashi in the 15th century. It could predict the true positions in longitude of the sun and moon,[402] and the planets in terms of elliptical orbits;[403] the latitudes of the Sun, Moon, and planets; and the ecliptic of the Sun. The instrument also incorporated an alidade and ruler.[404]


Several different types of globes and armillary spheres were invented by medieval Muslim astronomers and engineers:

  • Portable celestial globe: In the 12th century, Jabir ibn Aflah (Geber) was "the first to design a portable celestial sphere to measure and explain the movements of celestial objects."[406]

Laboratory apparatusEdit

  • Refrigerated coil and refrigerated tubing: In the 11th century, Avicenna invented the refrigerated coil, which condenses aromatic vapours.[416][417] This was a breakthrough in distillation technology and he made use of it in his steam distillation process, which requires refrigerated tubing, to produce essential oils.[18]
  • Tools for melting substances: Al-Razi (Rhazes), in his Secretum secretorum (Latinized title), described the following original tools for melting chemical substances (li-tadhwib): crucible (bawtaqa)[13] and kilns with superimposed crucibles known as but bar but (crucible on crucible) in Arabic and botus barbatus in Latin.[419]

Mural instrumentsEdit

File:Ulugh Beg observatory.JPG
  • Quadrant: The quadrant, as well as several other forms of it, were invented by Muslims in Iraq. Among them was the sine quadrant used for astronomical calculations and various forms of the horary quadrant, used to determine time (especially the times of prayer) by observations of the Sun or stars. A center of the development of quadrants was 9th century Baghdad.[421]
  • Almucantar quadrant: Invented in the medieval Islamic world. It employed the use of trigonometry. The term "almucantar" is itself derived from Arabic.[422]
  • Horary quadrant: For specific latitudes, by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad.[420]
  • Sine quadrant: Also known as the "Sinecal Quadrant", the Arabic term for it is "Rubul Mujayyab". Used for solving trigonometric problems and for astronomical calculations, by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad.[420]
  • Quadrans Vetus: Meaning "Old Quadrant", this was a universal horary quadrant which could be used for any latitude and at any time of the year to determine the time, as well as the times of Salah, invented by al-Khwarizmi in 9th century Baghdad. This was the second most widely used astronomical instrument during the Middle Ages after the astrolabe. One of its main purposes in the Islamic world was to determine the times of Salah prayers.[423]
  • Quadrans Novus: An astrolabic quadrant invented in Egypt in the 11th century or 12th century, and later known in Europe as the "Quadrans Novus" (New Quadrant).[424]
  • Sextant: The first sextant was constructed in Ray, Iran, by Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi in 994. It was a very large sextant that achieved a high level of accuracy for astronomical measurements, which he described his in his treatise, On the obliquity of the ecliptic and the latitudes of the cities.[425] In the 15th century, Ulugh Beg constructed the mural "Fakhri Sextant", which had a radius of approximately 36 meters. Constructed in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the arc was finely constructed with a staircase on either side to provide access for the assistants who performed the measurements.

Optical instrumentsEdit

  • Observation tube: The "observation tube" (without lens) was invented by Al-Battani (Albatenius) (853-929) and first described by al-Biruni (973-1048). These observation tubes were later adopted in Europe, where they influenced the development of the telescope.[426]
  • Camera obscura and camera: From the Arabic word qamara for a dark or private room. Ibn al-Haytham worked out that the smaller the hole, the better the picture, and set up the first camera obscura,[7] a precursor to the modern camera.
  • Pinhole camera: Ibn al-Haytham first described pinhole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters.[7]
  • Telescope and long-distance magnifying device: A long-distance magnifying device was invented by Taqi al-Din, as described in his Book of the Light of the Pupil of Vision and the Light of the Truth of the Sights around 1574. He describes it as an instrument that makes objects located far away appear closer to the observer, and that the instrument helps to see distant objects in detail by bringing them very close. He states that he wrote another earlier treatise explaining the way this instrument is made and used, suggesting that he invented it some time before 1574. This device is considered to be a rudimentary telescope.[432]

Other instrumentsEdit

  • Alidade: Invented in the Islamic world. The term "alidade" is itself derived from Arabic word al-idhâdah "ruler".
  • Astronomical compass: The first astronomical uses of the magnetic compass is found in a treatise on astronomical instruments written by the Yemeni sultan al-Ashraf in 1282. This was the first reference to the compass in astronomical literature.[434]
  • Compendium instrument: A multi-purpose astronomical instrument, first constructed by the Muslim astronomer Ibn al-Shatir in the 13th century. His compendium featured an alidade and polar sundial among other things. Al-Wafa'i developed another compendium in the 15th century which he called the "equatorial circle", which also featured a horizontal sundial. These compendia later became popular in Renaissance Europe.[436]
File:Tycho instrument sextant 16.jpg
  • Seamless globe and celestial globe: Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, they were invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE), and twenty other such globes were later produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire. Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams, even with modern technology. These Mughal metallurgists pioneered the method of lost-wax casting while producing these seamless globes.[438]
  • Shadow square: An instrument used to determine the linear height of an object, in conjunction with the alidade for angular observations, invented by Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī in 9th-century Baghdad.[439]

Timekeeping devicesEdit

File:Al-jazari elephant clock.png

Astronomical clocksEdit

Muslim astronomers and engineers constructed a variety of highly accurate astronomical clocks for use in their observatories.[17]

  • Geared mechanical astrolabe: Featured a calendar computer and gear-wheels, and was invented by Abi Bakr of Isfahan in 1235.[401]
  • Mechanical astrolabe: Mechanical astrolabes were developed in the Muslim world, and were perfected by Ibn Samh. These can be considered as an ancestor of the mechanical clocks developed by later Muslim engineers.[440]
  • Monumental water-powered astronomical clocks: Al-Jazari invented monumental water powered astronomical clocks which displayed moving models of the sun, moon, and stars. His largest astronomical clock displayed the zodiac and the solar and lunar orbits. Another innovative feature of the clock was a pointer which travelled across the top of a gateway and caused automatic doors to open every hour.[117]
  • Timekeeping astrolabe: In the 10th century, al-Sufi described over 1,000 different uses of an astrolabe, including timekeeping, particularly for the times of Salah prayers and Ramadan.[387]

Mechanical clocksEdit

  • Geared clock: The first geared clock was invented by the 11th-century Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi in Islamic Iberia; it was a water clock that employed both segmental and epicyclic gearing. Other monumental water clocks constructed by medieval Muslim engineers also employed complex gear trains and arrays of automata.[441] The first European clock to employ these complex gears was the astronomical clock created by Giovanni de Dondi in c. 1365.
  • Clock measured in hours and minutes: In the early 11th century, Ibn al-Haytham's Maqala fi al-Binkam described a mechanical water clock that, for the first time in history, accurately measures time in hours and minutes. According to engineering historian Salim Al-Hassani: "In his description, Ibn al-Haytham gives details of the water clock. He describes it as a new invention in that it gives hours and minutes, which no other clock gave before his time."[442]
  • Inflow clepsydra with uniform motion: When designing an inflow clepsydra, Chinese engineers "struggled with the problem of keeping the flow uniform"; Ibn al-Haytham overcame this "problem of non-uniform motion of the sinking cylinder" by attaching the cylinder "to a rope/string, which after passing over pulleys is connected to a shaft and a bearing onto which a circular disc is mounted." According to Al-Hassani, as "the cylinder sinks vertically and concentrically into an outer cylindrical tank, the string rotates the disc about its own horizontal axis." Al-Hassani also writes: "He mentions that the cylinder sinks at a faster speed as it gains more water inside it. He allows for this by calibrating the rotating disc dial such that the spacing’s between the hour divisions become larger nearer the end of its rotation."[442]
  • Clock face and clock with 24-hour analog dial: To represent the hours and minutes, Ibn al-Haytham invented a clock face. It featured a 24-hour analog dial, including a large marker for each hour and a small marker for each minute, along with medium-sized markers to indicate half-hours and quarter-hours.[442]
  • Weight-driven mercury clock: A mercury clock, employing a mercury escapement mechanism[441] and a clock face similar to an astrolabe dial, was described in a Spanish language work for Alfonso X in 1277, compiled from earlier Arabic sources that likely date back to the 11th century. The Jewish author of the relevant section, Rabbi Isaac, constructed the mercury clock using principles described in earlier Arabic sources on how heavy objects may be lifted.[443] Knowledge of the mercury clock was later transmitted to other parts of Europe through translations.[17]
  • Weight-driven water clock: Arab engineers invented weight-driven water clocks, where heavy floats were used as weights and a constant-head system was used as an escapement mechanism, which was present in in the hydraulic controls they used to make heavy floats descend at a slow and steady rate.[441]
  • Weight-driven water-powered scribe clock: In 1206, Al-Jazari invented some of the earliest weight-driven water clocks, including the water-powered scribe clock. This water-powered portable clock was a meter high and half a meter wide. The scribe with his pen was synonymous to the hour hand of a modern clock. This is an example of an ingenious water system by Al-Jazari.[80][444] Al-Jazari's famous water-powered scribe clock was reconstructed successfully at the Science Museum (London) in 1976.
  • Alarm clock, mechanical alarm clock, astronomical clock with alarm: The first user adjusted mechanical alarm clock was described in 1559 by Taqi al-Din, who developed a mechanical astronomical clock employing an alarm arrangement, which was capable of sounding at a specified time, achieved by means of placing a peg on the dial wheel to when one wants the alarm heard and by producing an automated ringing device at the specified time. He described it in his book, The Brightest Stars for the Construction of Mechanical Clocks (Al-Kawākib al-durriyya fī wadh' al-bankāmat al-dawriyya), published that year.[446]
File:Wall clock.jpg
  • Observational clock, three-dial clock, clock measured in seconds: Taqi al-Din invented the "observational clock", which he described as "a mechanical clock with three dials which show the hours, the minutes, and the seconds." This was the first clock to measure time in seconds, and was used for astronomical purposes, specifically for measuring the right ascension of the stars. This is considered one of the most important innovations in 16th century practical astronomy, as previous clocks were not accurate enough to be used for astronomical purposes.[448] At the Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din, he further improved his observational clock, using only one dial to represent the hours, minutes and seconds, describing it as "a mechanical clock with a dial showing the hours, minutes and seconds and we divided every minute into five seconds."[449]


  • Universal sundial: A universal sundial for all latitudes, used for timekeeping and for the determination of the times of Salah, was produced in 9th-century Baghdad.[450]
  • Navicula de Venetiis: A universal horary dial used for accurate timekeeping by the sun and stars, and could be observed from any latitude, invented in 9th century Baghdad.[451] This was later considered the most sophisticated timekeeping instrument of the Renaissance.[324]
  • Polar-axis sundial: The ancient sundials were nodus-based with straight hour-lines, they indicated unequal hours—also called temporary hours—that varied with the seasons, since every day was divided into twelve equal segments; thus, hours were shorter in winter and longer in summer. The idea of using hours of equal time length throughout the year was the innovation of Ibn al-Shatir in 1371, based on earlier developments in trigonometry by Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī (Albategni). Ibn al-Shatir was aware that "using a gnomon that is parallel to the Earth's axis will produce sundials whose hour lines indicate equal hours on any day of the year." His sundial is the oldest polar-axis sundial still in existence. The concept later appeared in Western sundials from at least 1446.[452][453]
  • Compass dial: See Instruments above.
File:Clock of al Jazari before 1206.jpg

Water clocksEdit

New water clocks have recently been discovered in Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi's Book of Secrets (1000), as shown in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.[456]

Other inventionsEdit

File:Geomantic instrument Egypt or Syria 1241 1242 CE Muhammad ibn Khutlukh al Mawsuli.jpg

Other inventions from the Islamic world include:

  • Biographical dictionary: In the medieval Islamic civilization, biographies began being produced on a large scale with the advent of paper. This led to the introduction of a new literary genre: the biographical dictionary. The first biographical dictionaries were written in the Muslim world from the 9th century onwards. They contain more social data for a large segment of the population than that found in any other pre-industrial society. The earliest biographical dictionaries initially focused on the lives of the prophets of Islam and the their companions, with one of the earliest examples being The Book of The Major Classes by Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, and then began documenting the lives of many other historical figures (from rulers to scholars) who lived in the medieval Islamic world.[460]
  • Check reading: The medieval Islamic world also developed a unique method of reproducing reliable copies of a book in large quantities, known as check reading, in contrast to the traditional method of a single scribe producing only a single copy of a single manuscript, as was the case in other societies at the time. In the Islamic check reading method, only "authors could authorize copies, and this was done in public sessions in which the copyist read the copy aloud in the presence of the author, who then certified it as accurate."[461] With this check-reading system, "an author might produce a dozen or more copies from a single reading," and with two or more readings, "more than one hundred copies of a single book could easily be produced."[462]
  • Diary: In the medieval Near East, Arabic diaries were written from before the 10th century. The earliest surviving diary which most resembles the modern diary was that of Ibn Banna in the 11th century. His diary is the earliest known to be arranged in order of date (ta'rikh in Arabic), very much like modern diaries.[463]

Fielding H. Garrison wrote in the History of Medicine:

"The Saracens themselves were the originators not only of algebra, chemistry, and geology, but of many of the so-called improvements or refinements of civilization, such as street lamps, window-panes, firework, stringed instruments, cultivated fruits, perfumes, spices, etc..."

Other inventions from the Muslim world include liquefaction, crystallisation, purification, oxidisation, evaporation, filtration, uric acid, nitric acid, quilting, pointed arch, bone saw, inoculation, smallpox vaccine, frequency analysis, cryptanalysis, three-course meal, Persian carpet, modern cheque, and royal pleasure gardens,[7] as well as homing pigeons (by Fatimid Caliph Aziz), how the eye works, 1000 year old recipes, rock crystals, musical instruments, musical theory, various fashions, Henna, Miswak, sea navigation techniques, and irrigation techniques.[457][458][464]

Board gamesEdit


  • Flat bronze stirrup: An early type of short stirrup that had originated in Turkey and was brought to the Americas by Spanish conquistadors.[470]
  • Fustian: The original medieval fustian was a stout but respectable cloth with a cotton weft and a linen warp, derived from El-Fustat, the name of a suburb of Cairo where this cloth was originally manufactured.[471][472]
  • Jinete: A short-stirrup riding style that was adopted by Spanish riders from the Moors during Islamic rule in Spain. American cowboys in turn adopted the jinete riding style from the Spanish tradition.[473]
  • Graph paper and orthogonal and regular grids: The first known use of graph paper dates back to the medieval Islamic world, where weavers often carefully drew and encoded their patterns onto graph paper prior to weaving.[474] Islamic quadrants used for various astronomical and timekeeping purposes from the 10th century also introduced markings with orthogonal and regular grids that are still identical to modern graph paper.[475][476]
  • Paper book and paper bookbinding: The Arabs revolutionised the book's production and its binding. They were the first to produce paper books after they learnt papermaking from the Chinese in the 8th century.[477] Particular skills were developed for script writing (Arabic calligraphy), miniatures and bookbinding. The Arabs made books lighter—sewn with silk and bound with leather-covered paste boards; they had a flap that wrapped the book up when not in use. As paper was less reactive to humidity, the heavy boards were not needed. The production of books became a real industry and cities like Marrakech in Morocco had a street named "Kutubiyyin" or book sellers which contained more than 100 bookshops in the 12th century.[478] In the words of Don Baker: "The world of Islam has produced some of the most beautiful books ever created. The need to write down the Revelations which the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, received, fostered the desire to beautify the object which conveyed these words and initiated this ancient craft. Nowhere else, except perhaps in China, has calligraphy been held in such high esteem. Splendid illumination was added with gold and vibrant colours, and the whole book contained and protected by beautiful bookbindings."[479]
  • Paper packaging: The earliest recorded use of paper for packaging dates back to 1035, when a Persian traveler visiting markets in Cairo noted that vegetables, spices and hardware were wrapped in paper for the customers after they were sold.[480]

Musical instrumentsEdit

See also: Arabic music, Islamic music, and Andalusian classical music
  • Automatic flute player and programmable automatic flute player: In the 9th century, the Banū Mūsā brothers invented an automatic flute player which appears to have been the first programmable machine, and which they described in their Book of Ingenious Devices.[187] The flute sounds were produced through hot steam and the user could adjust the device to various patterns so that they could get various sounds from it.[482]
  • Guitar, Lute, Oud: The modern guitar (qitar in Arabic) is descended from the four-string oud brought by the Moors after the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the 8th century, and which evolved into the modern lute.[483] The four-string guitar introduced by the Moors had eventually evolved into two types in Spain: the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar) which had a rounded back, wide fingerboard and several soundholes, and then by 1200, the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) which resembled the modern guitar with one soundhole and a narrower neck.[484]
  • Long-distance organ: A long-distance hydraulic organ that could be heard from sixty miles away was first described in the medieval Arabic treatise Sirr al-asrar and later translated into Latin by Roger Bacon in the 13th century.[485]
  • Mechanical musical instrument and automatic hydraulic organ: In the 9th century, the Banū Mūsā brothers invented "the earliest known mechanical musical instrument", in this case a hydropowered organ which played interchangeable cylinders automatically. According to Charles B. Fowler, this "cylinder with raised pins on the surface remained the basic device to produce and reproduce music mechanically until the second half of the nineteenth century."[486]
  • Timpani, Naker, Naqareh: The modern timpani (kettle drum) evolved from the naker, the direct ancestor of most timpani, were were derived from the Arabic naqareh and brought to 13th century Continental Europe by Saracens and Crusaders.[481][489]
  • Violin, Rebec, and Rebab: The modern violin evolved from various bowed stringed instruments which were brought from the Middle East during the Middle Ages.[490] The first violins were largely derived from the rebec, which was in use since the 10th century,[491] and was derived from the rebab which originated in medieval Arabic music and Islamic music.[481]


  • Hookah and waterpipe: According to Cyril Elgood (PP.41, 110), the physician Irfan Shaikh, at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542- 1605 AD) invented the Hookah or waterpipe used most commonly for smoking tobacco.[492][493][494][495]

See alsoEdit


  1. Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong:
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  2. Danny Yee. "Islam: The Straight Path, John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press 1998". Danny Yee's Book Reviews. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  3. p. 45, Islamic & European expansion: the forging of a global order, Michael Adas, ed., Temple University Press, 1993, ISBN 1-56639-068-0.
  4. p. 53, Max Weber & Islam, Toby E. Huff and Wolfgang Schluchter, eds., Transaction Publishers, 1999, ISBN 1-56000-400-2.
  5. George Saliba (1994), A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam, p. 245, 250, 256-257. New York University Press, ISBN 0-8147-8023-7.
  6. Ahmad Y Hassan, Factors Behind the Decline of Islamic Science After the Sixteenth Century
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 Paul Vallely, How Islamic Inventors Changed the World, The Independent, 11 March 2006.
  8. 1000 Years of Knowledge Rediscovered at Ibn Battuta Mall, MTE Studios.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 S. Hadzovic (1997). "Pharmacy and the great contribution of Arab-Islamic science to its development", Med Arh. 51 (1-2), p. 47-50.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Will Durant (1980). The Age of Faith (The Story of Civilization, Volume 4), p. 162-186. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-01200-2.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Robert Briffault (1938). The Making of Humanity, p. 195.
  12. Diane Boulanger (2002), "The Islamic Contribution to Science, Mathematics and Technology: Towards Motivating the Muslim Child", OISE Papers in STSE Education, Vol. 3.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Georges C. Anawati, "Arabic alchemy", p. 868, in (Rashed & Morelon 1996, pp. 853-902)
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 Hassan, Ahmad Y. "Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part III: Technology Transfer in the Chemical Industries". History of Science and Technology in Islam. Retrieved on 2008-03-29.
  15. Diane Boulanger (2002), "The Islamic Contribution to Science, Mathematics and Technology: Towards Motivating the Muslim Child", OISE Papers in STSE Education, Vol. 3.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Derewenda, Zygmunt S. (2007), "On wine, chirality and crystallography", Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography 64: 246–258 [247]
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 17.12 17.13 17.14 17.15 17.16 17.17 Dr. Kasem Ajram (1992). Miracle of Islamic Science, Appendix B. Knowledge House Publishers. ISBN 0-911119-43-4.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Marlene Ericksen (2000), Healing with Aromatherapy, p. 9, McGraw-Hill Professional, ISBN 0-658-00382-8
  19. Eser Eke Bayramoglu, Gürbüz Gulumser, İsmail Karaboz (2008), "The Investigation of Antibacterial Activities of Some Essential Oils in Wet Blue Leather", International Journal of Natural and Engineering Sciences 2 (1): 33–36 [33]
  20. Ahmad Y Hassan, The Colouring of Gemstones, The Purifying and Making of Pearls, And Other Useful Recipes
  21. Hassan, Ahmad Y. "Arabic Alchemy: Science of the Art". History of Science and Technology in Islam. Retrieved on 2008-03-29.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Dunlop, D.M. (1975), "Arab Civilization", Librairie du Liban
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 George Rafael, A is for Arabs,, January 8, 2002.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Sarton, George, Introduction to the History of Science (cf. Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq (1997), Quotations From Famous Historians of Science)
  25. Olga Pikovskaya, Repaying the West's Debt to Islam, BusinessWeek, March 29, 2005
  26. Khairallah, Amin A. (1946), Outline of Arabic Contributions to Medicine, chapter 10, Beirut
  27. 27.0 27.1 Strathern, Paul (2000), Mendeleyev’s Dream – the Quest for the Elements, New York: Berkley Books
  28. (2001) The world of caffeine, Page 3–4. 
  29. The 19th-century orientalist Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy edited the first two chapters of al-Jaziri's manuscript and included it in the second edition of his Chrestomathie Arabe (Paris, 1826, 3 vols.). Antoine Galland's De l'origine et du progrès du Café (1699) was recently reissued (Paris: Editions La Bibliothèque, 1992).
  30. عمدة الصفوة في حل القهوة لزين الدين الجزيري
  31. Al-Jaziri's manuscript work is of considerable interest with regards to the history of coffee in Europe as well. A copy reached the French royal library, where it was translated in part by Antoine Galland as De l'origine et du progrès du Café.
  32. John K. Francis. "Coffea arabica L. RUBIACEAE". Factsheet of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved on 2007-07-27.
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  34. Quoted in Bernard Lewis, Istanbul and the Civilization of the Ottoman Empire, University of Oklahoma Press (reprint, 1989), p. 132 Google Books. ISBN 978-0-8061-1060-8.
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  84. S. P. Scott (1904), History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, 3 vols, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London.
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  101. Supplemental figures </li>
  102. <cite class="book" style="font-style:normal" >Gulru Necipoglu   (1995). The Topkapi Scroll:  Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture. Getty Research Institute.</cite>  </li>
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  120. Lucas, Adam (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, Brill Publishers, p. 278, ISBN 9004146490 </li>
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  123. *Thompson, Susan (1978), "Paper Manufacturing and Early Books", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 314: 167–176 (169):
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  124. Burns 1996, pp. 414f.:
    Indeed, Muslim authors in general call any "paper manufactory" a wiraqah - not a "mill" (tahun)


  125. Bloom, Jonathan M. B (February 12, 2010), Paper in the Medieval Mediterranean World, Early Paper: Techniques and Transmission - A workshop at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study,, retrieved 2010-03-19 </li>
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    Donald Hill has found a reference in al-Biruni in the eleventh century to stones "fixed to axles across running water, as in Samarkand with the pounding of flax for paper," a possible exception to the rule. Hill finds the notice "too brief to enable us to say with certainty" that this was a water-powered triphammer.


  127. Leor Halevi (2008), "Christian Impurity versus Economic Necessity: A Fifteenth-Century Fatwa on European Paper", Speculum (Cambridge University Press) 83: 917-945 [917-8], Error: Bad DOI specified </li>
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    "Further evidence of the Muslims' eagerness to harness every available source of water power is provided by their use of tidal mills. This application is, of course, not possible in the Mediterranean, but in the fourth/tenth century in the Basra area there were mills that were operated by the ebb-tide. Tidal mills did not appear in Europe until about a century after this."


  132. Adam Lucas (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, p. 89. BRILL, ISBN 9004146490. </li>
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    Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the middle ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.


  153. Encyclopedia of Islam has an entry on "madrasa" but notably lacks one for a Muslim "university" (Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R. "Madrasa." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 21/03/2010) </li>
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  156. Jomier, J. "al- Azhar (al-Ḏj̲āmiʿ al-Azhar)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20/03/2010 </li>
  157. Makdisi, George (April-June 1989), "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West", Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (2): 175–182 [176], Error: Bad DOI specified:
    There was no other doctorate in any other field, no license to teach a field, except that of the religious law. To obtain a doctorate, one had to study in a guild school of law.


  158. Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R. "Madrasa." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20/03/2010:
    Madrasa, mediaeval usage, essentially a college of law in which the other Islamic sciences, including literary and philosophical ones, were ancillary subjects only.


  159. Jomier, J. "al- Azhar (al-Ḏj̲āmiʿ al-Azhar)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010
    There was no examination at the end of the course of study. Many of the students were well advanced in years. Those who left al-Azhar obtained an idjāza or licence to teach; this was a certificate given by the teacher under whom the student had followed courses, testifying to the student's diligence and proficiency.


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