10 Things You Didn’t Know Islam Invented

10 Things You Didn't Know Islam Invented 10 University If you ask the question “what was the first university in the world?”, you’d probably get a lot of people giving the most famous historical examples like Oxford, Cambridge, maybe even the University of Bologna

But those people would be about two centuries off The world’s first recognizable university was actually the University of Al Quaraouiyine [Al Ka-ru-een] in Fez, Morocco It was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri That’s not to say there weren’t other similar learning institutions before that, some even dating back to 3500BC But Al Quaraouiyine is unique since it’s the first ever to have granted degrees

And what’s more, it’s still operating to this day The institution is home to some of the oldest islamic texts in the world, including a 9th century Quran written on Deerskin It even counted Pope Sylvester II in its alumni, who is said to have introduced arabic numerals to Europe after studying there All that said, it was still quite different from modern establishments Much like Oxford, Bologna and even Harvard in the 1600s, Al Quaraouiyine began as a center of religious study before becoming a university in the modern sense

9 Natural Selection Theory Chances are you probably associate the concept of evolution with Charles Darwin – celebrated biologist, author of On the Origin of Species and a man whose beard growing capability makes my scriptwriter incredibly jealous But what if I told you that there was another man who had a claim to the idea long before Darwin? A man who went by the name Al-Jahiz Al-Jahiz was a 9th century philosopher and theologian who’s now most famous for his work ‘The Book of Animals’ It covers a lot of ground, but it includes this passage: ""Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming them into new species

Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to their offspring"" That, uh, sounds an awful lot like evolution to me Now, I should say that Al-Jahiz made the argument in favour of god’s design, so he didn’t exactly layout a concept of pure evolutionary science But as far as theories go, the guy was clearly ahead of his time 8

Distillation Distillation has existed for millennia in some form, but while crude methods date back to the Greeks, the science didn’t really develop until the Islamic Golden Age Known as the ‘father of chemistry’, Jabir ibn Hayyan was instrumental in the development of processes like crystallization, research into acids and alkalis and, most notably designing the alembic still Jabir initially used the apparatus to distill wine into a flammable spirit, which he said was “of little use but of great importance to science” While we don’t know who was responsible, it wasn’t long before it was used to make alcohol that Arab Poet Abu Nuwas described as “the color of rain-water and hot inside the ribs as a burning firebrand” So even if unintentional, you have Jabir to thank for shots, shots, shots shots, shots shots! Oh and fun story: when his works were translated into Latin, Jabir became Geber, and the alchemical code he used to write one book was so incomprehensible to European scholars that they called it gibberish

So that’s where the word comes from Neat! 7 Do Re Me Fans of the Sound of Music will undoubtedly be familiar with ‘Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do’ Music theory buffs know that as solfege, where pupils are taught to associate a note of the musical staff with a specific sound The system is normally credited to an Italian monk named Guido d’Arezzo, who was said to have based them syllables on a latin hymn

But there’s actually a strong case that it was in fact taken from the arab world Musicologist Michael Vincent makes the argument that his field is often preoccupied with Western Europe and ignores the rest of the world, pointing back to an 18th century compendium of musical history written by Jean-Benjamin de La Borde La Borde noted the extreme similarities between the Italian and Arabic syllables – the latter being Dal Ra Mi Fa Sad La Sin Musicologist Henry George Farmer even went as far as saying the monk’s hymn was based on the syllables, not the other way around, because it doesn’t make sense on its own All of that plus cultural exchange between Italy, France and Islamic Spain makes it very possible that d’Arezzo was actually just the first European to write down the system

6 Automatic Music You probably know the player piano, the iconic automatic musical instrument from the 1900s But more than a thousand years before people were feeding spools of sheet music into fancy sets of wood and ivory, the Islamic world was sitting back and chilling to some organ jams All the way back in 850, a group of scholars called the Banū Mūsā brothers of Baghdad published the Book of Ingenious Devices The work included instructions on how to make a bunch of mechanisms like valves, cranks and even automatic water fountains

But possibly the most notable innovation of the lot was their hydraulic organ, which used programmable air and water pressure mechanics to operate a flute According to Music writer Charles B Fowler, that system “remained the basic device to produce and reproduce music mechanically until the second half of the nineteenth century"" Luckily, while a lot of the brothers’ works are now lost due to mongol pillaging, there are plenty of recreations of the hydraulic organ in music museums around the world It could even be considered one of the first examples of robotics

5 Flying Machines For the majority of human history, man has been trapped on the ground like some kind of flightless bird moron But who do we thank for saving us from the surly bonds of gravity? Is it the Wright Brothers? Is it Leonardo Da Vinci? Perhaps, but first, spare a thought for Abbas ibn Firnas Long before the concepts for flying machines that we’re familiar with, this Spanish polymath of North African Berber descent undertook an audacious attempt at flight In 875, he launched from a tower using a cloak designed to mimic birds’ wings

The machine was made from a wooden, likely bamboo frame, lined with silk and decorated with bird feathers – because who says science can’t have a sense of style? The flight was largely successful, but Firnas didn’t account for reaching the floor again so neglected to make a landing mechanism As a result, he ended up breaking his back upon landing But luckily he survived the fall, and his work went on to set the stage for aviators the world over 4 Modern Soap Substances resembling soap stretch all the way back through history, from Ancient Babylon through to Roman Empire and early China

But the problem with those is that while they while they could be used for cleaning, they were pretty gross – as untreated animal fat tends to be It wasn’t until the 9th Century Islamic Middle East that soap we would recognise came into being And it’s thanks to a guy called Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi Al-Razi, along with other alchemists over the centuries, developed hard, pleasant-smelling toilet soap using mixtures of fats, oils, alkalis and occasionally lime for that citrusy-freshness In fact, by the 1200s, the Islamic world had turned the production of soap into a full-scale industry, with exports across the middle east and through to Europe coming out of bases in Nablus, Fes, Damascus, and Aleppo

While it’s not really proveable, it’s generally believed that the innovation in soap came from the Islamic faith’s emphasis on hygiene, especially when it comes to religious activities like prayer – a doctrine that also informed Islam’s early adoption of toothbrushes, called Miswaks 3 Coffee I don’t have to tell you that coffee is a big deal It fuels the working world, provides livelihoods for millions of farmers and it’s the reason I’m so chirpy on camera But what are the drink’s origins? Was it Italy, the most celebrated purveyor of espresso? Perhaps Brazil? Well, no and… no

The first credible evidence of drinking coffee comes from the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in the 15th century, where it was used as a way for religious scholars to work deep into the night But before that, there are quite a few claims based in folk history For example, a Yemeni mystic supposedly saw birds overhead acting very excited, so he ate some of their beans and felt the buzz himself The oldest account goes back to 9th Century Ethiopia, where a farmer took some beans to a local monk He denounced them and threw them into the fire, but noticing the trademark smell, made the roasted grounds into a beveridge

But given the complete lack of substantiation there, Yemen’s our best bet 2 The Scientific Method Nowadays anyone even remotely well versed in science knows that hypotheses are proved by constant iteration and scrutiny by others In other words, it’s not deemed true until a lot of people try to disprove it and fail That’s what we call the scientific method, something many would accredit to English medieval friar Roger Bacon

In fact, the true origin came more than 200 years before around the turn of the 11th century Ibn al-Haytham was an Arab scientist who completed his most important work in Cairo Most notably, he took the ancient conceptions of optics by Euclid and Plato and proved them false, showing that our eyes don’t emit light to see, by they in fact take it in He also proved that light travels in straight lines, explained the science of mirrors and showed how light bends through different surfaces But perhaps most importantly, his work The Book of Optics gave exact instructions on how to replicate his findings

Al-Haytham made all of those advances while telling people to scrutinize him and encouraging them to scrutinize themselves And that, my friends, is good science 1 Hospitals Treatment centres for the sick are nothing new From the temples for the greek healer gods right through to medieval Europe and beyond, they always existed in some form

But the medieval islamic world gave us what we would recognise as a hospital Known as bimaristans – a mix between bimar, meaning sick, and stan, meaning place – Islamic hospitals were the first establishments that openly catered to the health problems of the general public This is whether it was lepers, the mentally ill or retirement homes for people without families In past societies, it was normally a very specific, normally religious purpose For example, some Christian monasteries had healing centres and ancient Rome had recovery sites for Gladiators

Unlike them, bimaristans were obligated to serve everyone, no matter their faith or where they came from And because they were funded by waqfs, which are obligatory donations from the wealthy under islamic law, treatment was free So take note America, if medieval Cairo managed single payer healthcare more than a thousand years ago, what’s your excuse?

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