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8 Muslim Inventions That Completely Changed The World


Santriani Bohari •  Oct 14, 2017


These days, it seems that Muslims and Islam in general are almost always painted in a negative light by news channels the world over. Yet the reality, though lesser known, is that much of the modern world we live in today was unquestionably shaped by the stellar achievements and inventions introduced by the Muslims during the Golden Age of Islamic civilization.

Credit: Giphy

Mathematics, medicine, philosophy, engineering, even food (of course ?): name any field, and you'll find that Muslims were some of the greatest contributors to its advancement back then. In fact, modern-day successes and developments were actually built upon the achievements of Muslim inventors! If you never knew about this, don't fret, that's what we're here for ? Here's 8 revolutionary everyday inventions you use today that you never knew were invented by Muslims.
1. Coffeehouses
What would Monday mornings be without that first much-needed cup of coffee to start the day with? ? Coffee culture has become such a pervasive part of our everyday lives today, but without its introduction into the mainstream world by Muslim civilizations long ago, this wouldn't have been the case.
No, Muslims didn't invent coffee itself, of course, since the coffee plant has been around for ages. But it was the Muslims of Yemen, and then Turkey, that popularized coffee in Muslim society, and later on, in the Western world. In fact, it was the Ottoman Muslims of ancient Turkey who first pioneered the concept of coffee houses, the predecessor to what we know (and love!) today as cafes. The Ottoman Muslims of the time were already used to milling around alone or in large groups over steaming cups of coffee, talking politics, exchanging ideas, or simply just catching up with friends!
Credit: Ottoman Imperial Archives on Facebook Because of the sheer vastness of the Ottoman Empire back then, it wasn't long before coffee houses sprouted up all over the Muslim world, from Istanbul to Cairo to Damascus and beyond. #HHWT Tip: Muslims back then used to drink coffee to help them stay awake during long nights of worship. There are even specific du'as you can recite while preparing and before drinking coffee ☺️
Credit: Latte Art ve Barista on Facebook Trade between the Muslims and Europe also soon introduced coffee into the Western world, where it immediately became the new luxury must-have amongst the upper classes of the time. #HHWT Tip: "Mocha" actually got its name from the port city of Mocha in Yemen, where coffee was first exported to the rest of the world in the 15th century!
2. Camera
Can you imagine a world without cameras?! Nope, neither can we ? After all, part of the joy of travelling is being able to capture the spirit and culture of the places one travels to in a picture.
For that, we have Al-Haytham, one of the greatest scientists and physicists of all time, to thank. Back in 1011 AD, he invented the first pinhole camera the world had ever seen at the time.
Long after his passing, his most influential piece of work to date, The Book Of Optics, became a reference for scientists and inventors the world over in creating other everyday objects we use today, including magnifying glasses and telescopes!
He didn't just revolutionize the field of optics, though--he basically built the foundation for science as we know it today after introducing The Scientific Method to the world.
3. Flight
Modern-day travel would be a very different ball game if there were no such thing as airplanes--even weekend getaways would be almost impossible to do! Though the invention of airplanes themselves are more commonly attributed to the Wright brothers, it was a Muslim man by the name of Abbas ibn Firnas who was the first man to invent a flying machine.
A man of many talents, Ibn Firnas was an accomplished engineer, physician, poet and musician, among other things, but his most impressive achievement was being the first human to ever fly. In 875 AD, after years of studying aeronautics, Ibn Firnas built a rudimentary flying machine made of wood, silk and feathers. Despite already being almost 70 years old, he took his machine up the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Cordoba and jumped!
Credit: Les Adaptes de l'Emir Abd El-Kader on Facebook He spent the rest of his life perfecting his machine, which looked like an early version of a hang glider. Ibn Firnas would go on to make a second attempt at flight, even launching himself off a mountain!
And if you were wondering, yes, he survived. Now THAT's what we call dedication ?
4. Recreational gardens
Before the construction of the world-renowned gardens of Versailles in France, it was the Muslims who pioneered the idea of recreational botanical gardens bursting with flora and fauna.
Credit: Salvador Fornell on Flickr Muslim households often housed walled-in gardens in their inner courtyards, and much care and thought went into the landscaping of these gorgeous gardens. It was meant as a way to facilitate quiet contemplation, reflection and worship through a tranquil environment, and was also symbolic of the Gardens of Paradise in the afterlife.
Credit: Peter on Flickr The exquisite gardens of the Alhambra in Granada are perhaps one of the most well-kept gardens built by the Muslims which still exists today. Rectangular pools, trimmed bushes and flowers of purple, orange, pink and yellow are just some of the common features of the gardens built by the Muslims, from Andalusia to Iran to Iraq and more.
Credit: Laurent Buzz on Flickr More often than not, the gardens would also be symmetrical, to reflect the Islamic belief that everything in the universe exists in complementary pairs except for Allah Himself.
Credit: Camino al paraiso on Facebook#HHWT Tip: Today,the locals of Cordoba, which used to be the centre of Andalusia or Muslim Spain, still take great pride in having beautifully decorated patios and gardens. Come in spring to witness the Cordoba Patio Festival and see it for yourself ?
 5. Universities
At a time when women outside the Muslim world were generally looked down upon and barred from receiving any kind of education at all, a noble Muslim woman from Fez, Morocco, was building the world's first university. The University of al-Qarawiyyin still stands and functions today within the ancient medina of Fez in Morocco!
Credit: Geep Charlebois on Facebook In 859 AD, finding herself with a sizeable inheritance from her businessman father, Fatima al Fihriya spent most of it on the construction of the Qarawiyyin university, which became the world's first degree-awarding academic institution. It's even been named a UNESCO World Heritage site today! #HHWT Tip: Fatima's sister, Mariam, used her own inheritance to build the Al-Andalus Mosque which also still stands today in Fez.
Credit: Simply Morocco on Facebook The university's library, the al-Qarawiyyin Library, is also the world's oldest library and is home to more than 4000 ancient manuscripts, including copies of the Qur'an from the 9th century! The library is still open to the public today. P.S. Planning to visit Morocco? Check out this 7D6N Muslim-Friendly Morocco Itinerary!
Credit: Judy Israel on Facebook The Qarawiyyin university is particularly fascinating because of the fact that the university and the mosque were originally purposely built side by side, reflecting the Muslim belief that studying and pursuing academic excellence is itself an act of worship, and one that is compulsory upon every Muslim.
"He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah makes the path of Jannah easy to him." - Prophet Muhammad SAW (Riyad as Salihin)
6. Robots
200 years before Leonardo Da Vinci and his ingenious inventions made their debut, Al Jazari was known as the father of robotics. A Chief Engineer in one of the palaces that dotted the Islamic world, all of his inventions were rooted in practicality in order to make everyday tasks easier for those who used them.
Credit: FriendZz Fun Club on Facebook He was the first to introduce countless innovations into the field of mechanical engineering, including being the first to use cog wheels and crank shafts, both of which were used centuries later to run steam trains. He even invented a mechanical waitress who served drinks, and a band of robot musicians who played their instruments on a boat floating in the palace's lake to entertain guests!
Credit: Canadian Arab Institute on Facebook But al-Jazari is perhaps most known for his innovative clocks. He created castle clocks, candle clocks, and water clocks, including his most famous invention to date: the elephant clock, a towering 8-metre structure that marked the passing of every half hour!
Credit: Fatima Nour on Facebook The elephant clock itself is a celebration of the diversity of mankind and of the universality of the Islamic faith, incorporating Chinese dragons, Indian elephants and Egyptian phoenixes into its design. #HHWT Tip: You can see real-life replicas of the original elephant clock in Dubai and Switzerland!
Credit: MTE Studios on Facebook
7. Windmills
If you've ever been to the Netherlands and wandered through the Dutch countryside, you would have come across the colourful windmills that dot the vast landscape there. But did you know that the windmill was first invented by the Muslims as early as 634 AD? ?
Credit: LG Photographix on Facebook The first windmill was commissioned by Sayyidina Umar al Khattab R.A., who was then the second Caliph, and was built by the Persians. In the dusty deserts of Arabia, wind was the most abundant natural resource, blowing steadily for months on end, so having a machine that could harness the power of wind worked greatly to the Muslims' advantage.
Credit: Amazing Places Of The World on Facebook Using windmills, they harnessed the power of the wind to generate power to water gardens and grind grain. It was an incredibly efficient system which revolutionized the agricultural economy.
Credit: Francesca Cappa on Flickr
It wasn't until 500 years later that Europe caught up and started to build windmills of their own, building on the designs and systems already laid out by the Muslims ? P.S. Always dreamt of visiting Europe? Check out these 8 most affordable European cities every Muslim traveller should visit at least once!
8. Algebra
Though it is often the bane of students' lives the world over, algebra underpins the invention of countless everyday gadgets, the least of which are computers. But did you know that it was a Muslim mathematician who invented Algebra itself?
Credit: 11Alive on Facebook At a time when Baghdad was a flourishing economic and intellectual centre of Islamic civilization, Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was one of the foremost scholars and mathematicians in the city. The term "algebra" itself is coined from the arabic phrase "al jabr", meaning restoration, which is what Al-Khwarizmi called one of the two methods he came up with to solve quadratic equations!
Credit: Yeong Haur Kok on Facebook In those days, scholars were often trained in several disciplines, not just one, and although al-Khwarizmi is most famous for inventing Algebra, he also made significant contributions in astronomy and geography.
Al-Khwarizmi also held very strongly to ethics and manners, which, in traditional Islam, is considered the foundation of all education. When asked about human beings, he answered (interestingly enough!) using the following equation:
If a person had ethics and manners then s/he is = 1 If this person was beautiful then add a zero to the one = 10 If this person had money, then add another zero = 100 If this person had a good family and relatives, then add another zero = 1000 If you lose number 1 which is ethics and manners, the value of that person is lost and what remains are the zeros which have no value at all.
Much like these exceptional Muslims strived for the height of success in each of their respective fields without sacrificing their faith, so should we, inshaAllah. May Allah grant each of us success in this world and the next❤️