Five Inventions We Can Thank Islam For

IslamWhile there is a lot of prejudice in the world today towards the worshipers of Islam and people from the Middle East, in general, you might be surprised by what we have to be thankful that they’ve given the Western world.  Yes, this strange culture from the east is responsible for many of the innovations that we take for granted.  The Muslim people are a group of forward thinkers who were far more advanced than their Christian counterparts all throughout the Middle Ages.  During the Crusades, returning soldiers brought back some of these inventions and amazed Europe.  Here are five inventions brought to you by Muslim people!

 

 

myfivebest -1THE INVENTION OF FLIGHT

We’ve all heard about the drawings of DaVinci and the Wright Brothers first flight, but did you know that a Muslim inventor by the name of Abbas ibn Firnas tried creating a flying machine over a thousand years before Kitty Hawk?  In 852, he jumped from a minaret tower of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. It didn’t actually work as he planned, but the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and he walked away with only minor injuries. Then, in 875, at the age of 70, he created a machine of silk and eagles’ feathers.  This time he jumped from a mountain! He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes before crash landing. This time he was hurt very bad, but survived.  He concluded from the experiment that it did not work because a bird lands with its tail feathers and he did not put this into his device. Today, Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

 

myfivebest - 2A STEAMING CUP OF COFFEE

Did you think Starbucks invented the cup of coffee?  It was actually a Muslim from Eastern Africa.  The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia. While sitting around watching the goats, he noticed his animals became lively and agitated  after eating berries off of certain plants. He boiled the berries and found out that they made a tasty drink, which we now call coffee. The first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where people drank it to stay awake all night so they could pray.  By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645.  It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic name qahwa became the Turkish kahve. The Italians called it caffé and then English coffee – although, they still prefer tea.

 

myfivebest - 3THE CRANK SHAFT

While Muslims didn’t invent the automobile, the car wouldn’t go anywhere if it wasn’t for this Muslim invention.  The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, including the internal combustion engine. This is arguably one of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind and it was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics.  Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.

 

myfivebest - 4MATH CLASS

Students now have a finger to point to when it comes to hating math.  The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi’s book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use.  The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi’s discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.  In an ironic way, Islam helped Dan Brown write the DaVinci Code.

 

myfivebest - 5SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS

If you were to look at modern surgical instruments you will find that they are exactly the same design as those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi.  On his table, he had scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and 200 other instruments devised which would still be recognizable to a modern surgeon. al-Zahrawi also discovered that catgut could be used for internal stitches which would dissolve away naturally.  He found this out after his monkey swallowed his lute strings!  In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey “discovered” it. Muslims doctors also invented anesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes – a technique still used today.