By US-China Investment News contributor Kaya Johnson
Arabic civilization has a rich scientific history that stretches back thousands of years and this country was frequently far more developed than its Western counterparts of the same era. Here, we’ll take a look at six innovations given to us by the Arab world that we still use today.
While many countries can claim their own achievements in science and technology, none of them would’ve been possible without algebra. The mathematical system first entered European shores in the twelfth century when the writings of the scholar Al-Khwarizmi were translated into English. The word ‘algorithm’ was derived from the name of this scholar.
2. The Toothbrush
Islam might not have been the first religion to place importance on bodily hygiene but it certainly emphasised it the most heavily. Many parts of the Qur’an give directions for washing in accordance with the religion’s guidelines. Little surprise, then, that it also coincided with the growth of oral cleanliness. Known as “miswak”, the twigs were used to clean teeth in the Arab world. Despite no mention of “miswak” per se in the Qur’an, many Muslim scholars have cited it in their works.
3. The Guitar
The guitar as we know it today has its roots in the Arabic instrument oud, a lute with a curved neck. In the Middle Ages, it made its way to Muslim Spain where it was dubbed “qitara”. While there were other innovations in guitar making over time, the oud was one of the most crucial influences.
The Arab world paved the way in the field of optics. The basaran scholar Alhazen was one of the first to explain in detail the function of the eye. Using reflective materials, he toiled at his experiments to discover that the eye didn’t receive visual stimulation through “sight rays” as previous thinking had surmised. He also found out that using glass with convex or concave surface could affect magnification levels. The “reading stones” he made from these discoveries were the earliest magnifying glasses in the history of the world that would later lead to the design of spectacles.
Coffee is one of the most famous innovations Arabic civilisation gave to the world. Although it originated in Ethiopia, it was the Arabian peninsula where it migrated and was popularised. Legend has it an Ottoman merchant brought it to London in the 17th century and ever since, the world hasn’t been able to get enough of it.
6. Hospitals & Medicine
Established in the year of 1872, the Tulun hospital gave medical care at no cost to all, as was the Muslim tradition. Some had been established at Baghdad beforehand but it was this hospital at Cairo that served as the blueprint for what we have today. The tenth-century doctor Alubcasis was one of the most influential contributors to medicine in the Middle Ages. Having written over thirty volumes, the Arab scholar extolled the need for good relations between doctor and patient and implored an egalitarian approach to medical assistance. He also developed many surgical techniques for various ailments and was such a figure of stature that his works remained quoted by doctors even in the 16th century.
It’s fascinating to know that many of the things we use today come to us from the Arabian peninsula that always boasted rich culture and talented scholars.