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8. Arab Civilization

•    In the 7th Century, Islam, a new religion arose in Arabia, this led to the establishment of big empire.
•    Muhammad, the prophet of Islam was born in Mecca in 571AD
•    At 40, Muhammad had ‘vision of truth’ and thus became the Prophet.
•    The vision of truth convinced him that Allah was only God.
•    He forbade the worship of idols and made many enemies. Ultimately he had leave Mecca and took refuse in Medina. This happened in 622 AD and years is termed as Hijira meaning migration and from it muslims date their era as Hijira Samvat.

•    The Quran, the only Islamic Holy Book is divided into a many sutras or chapters, and contains the teachings of Muhammad. Besides the Quran, the life of a Muslim is guided by the Sunna, the practices of Muhammad, and the Hadees, the sayings of Muhammad.
•    Muhammad was not only a religious leader but also a political leader.
•    After his death in 632 AD, his successors were known as Caliphs or Khalifas who held both religious and political authority.
•    Nearly all Arabia had accepted the new religion and became a unified state before the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD.
•    From Arabia, Islam spread very fast to many other parts of the world. Within a hundred years, the Khalifas and their generals had conquered Iran, Syria, Egypt, Central Asia, North Africa and Spain. The Arab Empire was the largest the world had so far seen.
•    The first three Khalifas ruled from the city of Medina; then the capital was shifted Kufah.
•    By 660 AD, when the Omayyad dynasty took over the reins of government the principal city was Damascus.
•    About 750 AD, the Omayyad were overthrown by Abbasids, who made Baghdad their capital. Harun Rashid, famous in many legends was an Abbasid ruler.
•    The Abbasids ruled for about 300 years, till the Seljug Turks took Baghdad and ended the Arab rule. During the next four centuries, the Turks dominated the Islamic world.
•    In the 15th Century, most of these territories were under the domination of Ottoman Turks. It was the Ottoman Turks who took Constantinople and ended the eastern Roman Empire in 1453.

List Of Arabic Contributions


No significant architectural art existed during the early Muslim era in the beginning of Hijra. The beautiful Islamic architectural art was born after their conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean countries. Once it was established it quickly spread throughout the vast empire of the Caliphs.

The Abbassid capital Baghdad was a miracle of beauty in its monuments. Unfortunately no trace was left of these monuments which were destroyed by the Mongol's invasion. Only descriptions of these palaces can evoke the splendors that belonged to the Thousand and One Nights. Also the remaining palaces in Alhambra and Alcazar in Spain reflect the luxurious refinements of the other palaces that disappeared forever.


Some of the works of Arab and Muslim astronomers:
- Discovery of the sun's apogee and perigee.
- Discovery of the irregularity of the moon's highest latitude
- Discovery of the third lunar inequality (variation)
- Forecasted sunspots
- Studied eclipses and other celestial phenomena
- Perfected numerous instruments used in observation


The Arab chemists were the first to discover the following substances-

- Sulphuric acid
- Aqua regia
- Nitric
- Potassium
- Sal ammoniac
- Silver nitrate
- Corrosive sublimate

The Arab chemists were the first to discover the following chemical processes-

- Distillation
- Sublimation
- Crystallization
- Coagulation
- Cupellation

The Arab chemists were the first to invent the following processes-

- Manufacturing paper from cotton, linen and rags. This opened a new era for civilization replacing the silk paper of the Chinese

Great Arab chemists:

- Jabir Ibn Hayyan (Latinized as Geber), 8th century, several of his works were translated to Latin such as the Sum of Perfection.

- Al-Razi (Latinized as Rasis or Rhazes), discovered the process of making alcohol and sulphuric acid from starches or sugars.

One striking trait of the Arab character is the passion for travel. As early as the 9th century, Arab merchants were the first to explore distant regions such as China, Africa and the far North (U.S.S.R).

Al Masudi traveled in middle of the 10th century to numerous countries and wrote his famous work (Golden Pastures), describing the countries he visited. He described their mountains, seas, realms dynasties, and their beliefs and customs. Al Masudi was also a famous historian.


Astronomy and mathematics were the most favored by the Arab scientists.

The Arabs discovered and invented many of the basic principles of:
- Arithmetic
- Geometry
- Algebra
- Trigonometry

Did you know:
- The word (Algebra) is taken from the Arabic word (Al Gabr or Al Jabr). The word (Algorithm) is a variant taken from the name of the author Al Khwarizimi. Al Khwarizmi is the father of Algebra and he wrote his treatise titled " Hisab al-Jabr wa'l-muqabala" from which the word Al Jabr is taken.


Arab and Muslim doctors played an important role in the Western medical science.

Famous Arab Doctors

Al Razi, who wrote Al Hawi. This book was one of nine volumes constituting the whole library of the Paris Faculty of Medicine in 1935. It contained the first description of certain eruptive fevers such as smallpox and measles.

Al Razi introduced the use of mild purgatives, cupping for apoplexy, and cold water for fevers. He wrote many other books, one was titled Mansuri after the Caliph Al Mansur. It remained for several hundreds of years as the most highly esteemed and widely used medical manual.

Ibn Sina (or Abu Sina, Latinized Avicenna), was the greatest of all Muslim doctors. His book Qanun fi-l-Tibb translated into (Canon of Medicine)or Precepts of Medicine appeared in five volumes and dealt with physiology, hygiene, pathology, and therapeutics. This mastery work served as the basis of medical studies in French and Italian universities for six centuries. Ibn Sina also wrote poems about medicine.


Islam in particular and in principle is very reserved in its attitude towards music. The founders of the four schools of Muslim law were hostile to music. They feared the emotive power of music in unleashing passions in a man's heart and leading him to moral disturbances.

However, supporters of this Muslim theology could not stop music from developing in the Arabic society.

During the rule of the Caliphs in Baghdad and Damascus, music had the same patronage as science and other arts.

Arabic music entered Spain by way of the Maghreb (countries that are in the Western side of the Arab World, i.e. Morocco and Tunisia), there it was cultivated with passion.

Ziryab was a musical genius who created a conservatoire. Al-Farabi the illustrious philosopher, mathematician and physicist who wrote the Kitab al-Musikia (Manual of Music).


Ibn al-Haytham is regarded as the father of optics for his influential Book of Optics, which correctly explained and proved the theory of vision, and for his experiments on optics. He was the first to give an exact description of the eye, lenses and binocular vision.

- The Arabs were the first to invent mechanical clocks driven by water and weights entirely different from the clepsydra - see pictures of the first mechanical clock invented by Al Jazari.

- Arab engineers were the first to invent the reciprocating.

- The Arabs perfected the compass and made it practical in its use by adding the magnetic needle (The compass was invented by the Chinese though).


Al Farabi, the greatest Arab Muslim philosopher wrote about the Model City assigning high moral aims to the state and its governors and assuring its citizens a perfect government.

Al Mawardi, a renowned lawyer ad the author of the famous book Kitab al Ahkam Es Sultanianh (The book of the rules of power). This work is devoted to the principal political, social and legal institutions of the state of Islam.

Ibn Khaldun, was the greatest Islamic historian that ever lived. He wrote a history of the world composed of three books, talking about diverse forms of civilization that result from different climates and life styles. He speaks about religion, math, singing, music and agriculture. He uses the analogy of any living creature to speak about the life of any state where the cycle of birth, growth, and then death.

His views in economy have a modern ring to them. He sees moderate taxes are the best incentive to work. State intervention as Ibn Khaldun saw it, decreases the state's wealth and hinders the normal development of economy.

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