Baghdad: Famous Scholars

 

Islam was the major catalyst which enabled Baghdad to reach its glorified stature. In addition to encouraging the gathering of knowledge and the use of reasoning, Islam was more than just a religion. Being a “way of life”, it was not confined to the mosque but was apparent in everyday activities of people. The Muslims of Baghdad refined astronomy as a science in order to offer their five daily prayers at accurate times, to predict when the crescent moon will appear, to find the direction to Mecca for prayers; in the process, and to achieve these aims, they perfected the astrolabe.

The Quran specified with clarity that God’s Universe was not random, a mere chance, but was created with wisdom and purpose.[1] This led many scientists to consider the entire world as their research field, resulting in numerous astronomical, mathematical, and geographical discoveries.

Islam also taught human beings that they were free from Original Sin, leading Muslims to believe in the inherent goodness of humans; this modern outlook enabled scientists to study disease in a matter-of-fact manner. Therefore, as explained by Michael Hamilton Morgan in Lost History, “disease [had] specific, scientifically based physical causes. It [was] not a punishment visited on men from God.”

Furthermore, the Quran declares, “O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.” (49:13) This universalism of Islam allowed it to expand its borders. Muslim scientists were eager to learn from people of other cultures and faiths, which is apparent in the prolific translations which took place during this period. On the whole, their faith facilitated them and provided them with a strong foundation which propelled them to reach new heights in their chosen fields.

Here is a brief introduction of some of the famous scholars of Baghdad:

Ibrahim al-Fazari (d. 777 C.E.): constructed the first Muslim astrolabe circa 750 C.E.

 

astrolabe
Jabir ibn Hayyan (721-815 C.E.): represented the multi-disciplinary trend among scientists of that time. He was a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician all in one. Also known as Geber in Latin, he is considered by many to be the “father of chemistry.” He served as the chemist in the court of Haroun al-Rashid.
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Al Khwarizimi (780-850 C.E.): the father of Algebra. The term “algebra” is in fact derived from Khwarizmi’s book on the subject title “Kitab al-Jabr.” Even the word “algorithm” is derived from his Latinized name, Algoritmi. A stamp issued September 6, 1983 in the Soviet Union, commemorating al-Khwarizmi’s (approximate) 1200th birthday.
al_khwarizmi
A stamp issued September 6, 1983, in the Soviel Union, commemorating al-Khwarizmi’s (approximate) 1200th birthday
The Banu Musa Brothers (~803-873 C.E.) : skilled in astronomy, geometry, and mechanics. The Book of Mechanical Devices, written in 850 C.E., can be found in The Vatican Library, Gotha and in Berlin; it contains descriptions of about a hundred devices, including trick inventions. They have influenced many aspects of modern technology.banu_musa (2) 

 

Drawing of Self trimming lamp in Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Shakir’s treatise on mechanical devices. The manuscript was written in Arabic.

 

Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873 C.E.): a Nestorian Christian physician in the House of Wisdom who translated Galen, Aristotle, Hippocretes, and other classics from Greek into Syriac and Arabic. He had mastered four languages: Arabic, Syriac, Greek, and Persian. His translations were error-free and later translators followed his method widely.

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Al Razi (865-925 C.E.): another polymath, he was a physician, alchemist and chemist, philosopher, and scholar. Renowned as Rhazes in Latin, he is considered to be among the greatest physicians of all times. Many “firsts” are attributed to him: he accurately differentiated between smallpox and measles and prescribed treatments; in addition, he discovered numerous compounds and chemicals including alcohol and kerosene, among others. He authored over 200 books and articles in various fields of science.

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Al Ghazali (1058-1111 C.E.): a renowned Muslim theologian who is known as Algazel in Latin. His famous book Maqasid al-Falsafiyah (Aims of the Philosophers) was translated into Latin in the 12th century and went on influence Christian theologians, in particular, Sir Thomas Aquinas. He is credited with successfully changing the course of early Muslim philosophy away from Greek influences and towards an Islamic philosophy based on the teachings of Islam.

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[1]Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne. He covers the day with the night, each pursuing the other urgently; and the sun and moon and stars are subservient to His command. Both creation and command belong to Him. Blessed be Allah, the Lord of all worlds.” (Quran, 7: 54)

 

 

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of the night and day, and the sailing of ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind, and the water which Allah sends down from the skies, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing therein all kinds of beasts, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds subjugated between heaven and earth: are signs for people who have sense.” (Quran 2:164)


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