Muslims in all their glory: 10 of the most incredible Islamic inventions

Published August 6th, 2013 - 11:03 GMT

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Move aside Einstein! Before there was a spate of modern inventions in the 1800s, innovators from across the Arab world were making amazing societal progress and creating objects that we still use today. Paving the way for the Wright brothers, Tessler and all the other big names, we thought it was time to shine the spotlight on all the incredible ways the unsung heroes of the Islamic inventing world have contributed to world civilisation and modern development.

With the dangerous double edged sword of Western media intent on portraying Arabs and Muslims as crazed suicide bombers, it’s time to take a step back and realise just how much Islamic civilisations have advanced the world - and that’s not even counting the invention of hummus! Continue reading below »

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Who knew that a Muslim poet was a pioneer in aviation - and not just flights of fancy. Before the Wright brothers got aerodynamic, the bard Abbas Ibn Firnas crafted a flying machine in 852. The lyrical engineer tried to fly his contraption from a mosque minaret in Cordoba using a loose cloak, which flopped and hey presto, the first parachute.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10Who knew that a Muslim poet was a pioneer in aviation - and not just flights of fancy. Before the Wright brothers got aerodynamic, the bard Abbas Ibn Firnas crafted a flying machine in 852. The lyrical engineer tried to fly his contraption from a mosque minaret in Cordoba using a loose cloak, which flopped and hey presto, the first parachute.

Enlarge
Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.

Enlarge
Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt  Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah  insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.

Enlarge
Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.

Enlarge
Quasi-Muslim invention: Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim 'ancestors'' brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon and Palestine, making soap from olive oil and ash.
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10Quasi-Muslim invention: Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim "ancestors'" brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon and Palestine, making soap from olive oil and ash.

Enlarge
The west has popularized the long-held notion that Jenner and Pasteur invented inoculation (protection from viruses). Muslim Indians' 'ancestors' brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10The west has popularized the long-held notion that Jenner and Pasteur invented inoculation (protection from viruses). Muslim Indians' "ancestors" brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.

Enlarge
Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Muslim Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Muslim Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.

Enlarge
Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.
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Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.

Enlarge
Not just run of the Muslim mill: The first windmill did not spin on the planes of The Netherlands, but in Arabia in 634 AD. Windmills were originally made for a Persian caliph who lived in the infinite deserts of Arabia with plenty of hot-air to to harness.
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Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10Not just run of the Muslim mill: The first windmill did not spin on the planes of The Netherlands, but in Arabia in 634 AD. Windmills were originally made for a Persian caliph who lived in the infinite deserts of Arabia with plenty of hot-air to to harness.

Enlarge
As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.
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Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.

Enlarge

1

Who knew that a Muslim poet was a pioneer in aviation - and not just flights of fancy. Before the Wright brothers got aerodynamic, the bard Abbas Ibn Firnas crafted a flying machine in 852. The lyrical engineer tried to fly his contraption from a mosque minaret in Cordoba using a loose cloak, which flopped and hey presto, the first parachute.

Image 1 of 10Who knew that a Muslim poet was a pioneer in aviation - and not just flights of fancy. Before the Wright brothers got aerodynamic, the bard Abbas Ibn Firnas crafted a flying machine in 852. The lyrical engineer tried to fly his contraption from a mosque minaret in Cordoba using a loose cloak, which flopped and hey presto, the first parachute.

2

Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.

Image 2 of 10Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.

3

Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt  Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah  insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.

Image 3 of 10Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.

4

Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.

Image 4 of 10Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.

5

Quasi-Muslim invention: Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim 'ancestors'' brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon and Palestine, making soap from olive oil and ash.

Image 5 of 10Quasi-Muslim invention: Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim "ancestors'" brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon and Palestine, making soap from olive oil and ash.

6

The west has popularized the long-held notion that Jenner and Pasteur invented inoculation (protection from viruses). Muslim Indians' 'ancestors' brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.

Image 6 of 10The west has popularized the long-held notion that Jenner and Pasteur invented inoculation (protection from viruses). Muslim Indians' "ancestors" brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.

7

Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Muslim Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.

Image 7 of 10Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Muslim Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.

8

Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.

Image 8 of 10Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.

9

Not just run of the Muslim mill: The first windmill did not spin on the planes of The Netherlands, but in Arabia in 634 AD. Windmills were originally made for a Persian caliph who lived in the infinite deserts of Arabia with plenty of hot-air to to harness.

Image 9 of 10Not just run of the Muslim mill: The first windmill did not spin on the planes of The Netherlands, but in Arabia in 634 AD. Windmills were originally made for a Persian caliph who lived in the infinite deserts of Arabia with plenty of hot-air to to harness.

10

As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.

Image 10 of 10As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.

Reduce

Western inventors, such as telephone pioneer Alexander Graham Bell, get way too much credit...the elimination of smallpox would not have been possible without the crucial findings of Indian Muslims. Thanks, but no thanks Bell - I’d rather be clear of smallpox than chat to my mates! Crucially, Muslim inventors also came up with the camera...no Muslim inventors = no selfies. A modern day nightmare!

Similarly, if it weren’t for the ancient denizens of Babylon (modern Muslim majority Iraq) we wouldn’t have soap. Just imagine the stench of a world without this dainty bar...if the thought of rampant BO horrifies you, then take a minute to thank your lucky stars that those pioneering "precursory" Islamic inventors of 2800 B.C created the forerunner of your fancy showergel and pristine hand sanitizer by the time it passed into Muslim hands in Iraq.

From the first conception of the airplane, to cheques, fountain pens and medical supplies, take a long look at the Muslim brainboxes and their creations that helped civilisation come on in leaps and bounds.

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