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April 20, 2014 | Jumada Al-Thani 19, 1435
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IslamiCity > Articles > Seeking Knowledge an Imperative
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You have to guard your wealth but knowledge guards you. So knowledge is better ..
Audio Seeking Knowledge an Imperative

Seeking Knowledge an Imperative
4/5/2013 - Education Social Religious - Article Ref: IC0602-2913
Number of comments: 41
By: Dr. Habib Siddiqui
IslamiCity* -

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni was a great scientist, physicist, astronomer, sociologist, linguist, historian and mathematician whose true worth may never be known. He is considered the father of unified field theory by Nobel Laureate - late Professor Abdus Salam. He lived nearly a thousand years ago and was a contemporary of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni.

When he was on his deathbed, Biruni was visited by a jurisprudent neighbor of his. Abu Rayhan was still conscious, and on seeing the jurisprudent, he asked him a question on inheritance law or some other related issue. The jurisprudent was quite amazed that a dying man should show interest in such matters. Abu Rayhan said, "I should like to ask you: which is better, to die with knowledge or to die without it?" The man said, "Of course, it is better to know and then die." Abu Rayhan said, "That is why I asked my first question." Shortly after the jurisprudent had reached his home, the cries of lamentation told him that Abu Rayhan had died. (Murtaza Motahari: Spiritual Discourses)

That was then, nearly a millennium ago, when Muslims were the torchbearers of knowledge in a very dark world. They created an Islamic civilization, driven by inquiry and invention, which was the envy of the rest of the world for many centuries.

In the words of Carli Fiorina, the former highly talented and visionary, CEO of Hewlett Packard, "Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration. Its writers created thousands of stories; stories of courage, romance and magic. When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others. While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I'm talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent. Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians."

Truly, there is hardly a field that is not indebted to these pioneering children of Islam. Here below is a short list, by no means a comprehensive one, of Muslim scientists from the 8th to the 14th century CE: 1

701 (died) C.E.  * Khalid Ibn Yazeed * Alchemy 
721-803 * Jabir Ibn Haiyan (Geber) * Alchemy (Great Muslim Alchemist) 
740 * Al-Asma'i * Zoology, Botany, Animal Husbandry
780 * Al-Khwarizmi (Algorizm) * Mathematics (Algebra, Calculus), Astronomy
776-868 *  Amr ibn Bahr al-Jajiz * Zoology
787 * Al Balkhi, Ja'far Ibn Muhammas (Albumasar) * Astronomy 
796 (died) * Al-Fazari,Ibrahim Ibn Habib * Astronomy 
800 * Ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi - (Alkindus) * Medicine, Philosophy, Physics, Optics 
815 * Al-Dinawari, Abu-Hanifa Ahmed Ibn Dawood * Mathematics, Linguistics
816 * Al Balkhi * Geography (World Map)
836 * Thabit Ibn Qurrah (Thebit) * Astronomy, Mechanics, Geometry, Anatomy
838-870 * Ali Ibn Rabban Al-Tabari * Medicine, Mathematics
852 * Al Battani Abu Abdillah * Mathematics, Astronomy, Engineering
857 * Ibn Masawaih You'hanna * Medicine 
858-929 * Abu Abdullah Al-Battani (Albategnius) * Astronomy, Mathematics
860 * Al-Farghani, Abu al-Abbas (Al-Fraganus) * Astronomy, Civil Engineering
864-930 * Al-Razi (Rhazes) * Medicine, Ophthalmology, Chemistry
873 (died) * Al-Kindi * Physics, Optics, Metallurgy, Oceanography, Philosophy
888 (died) * Abbas ibn Firnas * Mechanics, Planetarium, Artificial Crystals
900 (died) * Abu Hamed Al-ustrulabi * Astronomy 
903-986 * Al-Sufi (Azophi) * Astronomy
908 * Thabit Ibn Qurrah * Medicine, Engineering 
912 (died) * Al-Tamimi Muhammad Ibn Amyal (Attmimi) * Alchemy 
923 (died) * Al-Nirizi, AlFadl Ibn Ahmed (Altibrizi) * Mathematics, Astronomy
930 * Ibn Miskawayh, Ahmed Abu-Ali * Medicine, Alchemy 

932 * Ahmed Al-Tabari * Medicine 
934 * al Istakhr II * Geography (World Map)
936-1013 * Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahravi (Albucasis) * Surgery, Medicine
940-997 * Abu Wafa Muhammad Al-Buzjani * Mathematics, Astronomy, Geometry 
943 * Ibn Hawqal * Geography (World Map)
950 * Al Majrett'ti Abu-al Qasim * Astronomy, Alchemy, Mathematics 
958 (died) * Abul Hasan Ali al-Mas'udi * Geography, History
960 (died) * Ibn Wahshiyh, Abu Baker * Alchemy, Botany
965-1040 * Ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen) * Physics, Optics, Mathematics
973-1048 * Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni * Astronomy, Mathematics, History, Linguistics
976 * Ibn Abil Ashath * Medicine 
980-1037 * Ibn Sina (Avicenna) * Medicine, Philosophy, Mathematics, Astronomy
983 * Ikhwan A-Safa (Assafa) * (Group of Muslim Scientists) 
1001 * Ibn Wardi * Geography (World Map)
1008 (died) * Ibn Yunus * Astronomy, Mathematics.
1019 * Al-Hasib Alkarji * Mathematics 
1029-1087 * Al-Zarqali (Arzachel) * Astronomy (Invented Astrolabe) 
1044 * Omar Al-Khayyam * Mathematics, Astronomy, Poetry 
1060 (died) * Ali Ibn Ridwan Abu'Hassan Ali * Medicine 
1077 * Ibn Abi-Sadia Abul Qasim * Medicine 
1090-1161 * Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) * Surgery, Medicine 
1095 * Ibn Bajah, Mohammed Ibn Yahya (Avenpace) * Astronomy, Medicine
1097 * Ibn Al-Baitar Diauddin (Bitar) * Botany, Medicine, Pharmacology
1099 * Al-Idrisi (Dreses) * Geography, Zoology, World Map (First Globe) 
1110-1185 * Ibn Tufayl, Abubacer Al-Qaysi * Philosophy, Medicine 
1120 (died) * Al-Tuhra-ee, Al-Husain Ibn Ali * Alchemy, Poem 
1128 * Ibn Rushd (Averroe's) * Philosophy, Medicine, Astronomy 
1135 * Ibn Maymun, Musa (Maimonides) * Medicine, Philosophy 
1140 * Al-Badee Al-Ustralabi * Astronomy, Mathematics 
1155 (died) * Abdel-al Rahman Al Khazin * Astronomy 
1162 * Al Baghdadi, Abdel-Lateef Muwaffaq * Medicine, Geography 
1165 * Ibn A-Rumiyyah Abul'Abbas (Annabati) * Botany 
1173 * Rasheed Al-Deen Al-Suri * Botany 
1180 * Al-Samawal * Algebra
1184 * Al-Tifashi, Shihabud-Deen (Attifashi) * Metallurgy, Stones 
1201-1274 * Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi * Astronomy, Non-Euclidean Geometry 
1203 * Ibn Abi-Usaibi'ah, Muwaffaq Al-Din * Medicine 
1204 (died) * Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius) * Astronomy
1213-1288 * Ibn Al-Nafis Damishqui * Anatomy 
1236 * Kutb Aldeen Al-Shirazi * Astronomy, Geography 
1248 (died) * Ibn Al-Baitar * Pharmacy, Botany
1258 * Ibn Al-Banna (Al Murrakishi), Azdi * Medicine, Mathematics 
1262 (died) * Al-Hassan Al-Murarakishi * Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography
1270 * Abu al-Fath Abd al-Rahman al-Khazini * Physics, Astronomy
1273-1331 * Al-Fida (Abdulfeda) * Astronomy, Geography 
1306 * Ibn Al-Shater Al Dimashqi * Astronomy, Mathematics 
1320 (died) * Al Farisi Kamalud-deen Abul-Hassan * Astronomy, Physics
1341 (died) * Al-Jildaki, Muhammad Ibn Aidamer * Alchemy 
1351 * Ibn Al-Majdi, Abu Abbas Ibn Tanbugha * Mathematics, Astronomy
1359 * Ibn Al-Magdi, Shihab-Udden Ibn Tanbugha * Mathematic, Astronomy
1375 (died) * Ibn Shatir * Astronomy
1393-1449 * Ulugh Beg * Astronomy.
1424 * Ghiyath al-Din al Kashani * Numerical Analysis, Computation

With such a train of Muslim scholars, it is not difficult to understand why George Sarton said, "The main task of mankind was accomplished by Muslims. The greatest philosopher, Al-Farabi was a Muslim; the greatest mathematicians Abul Kamil and Ibrahim Ibn Sinan were Muslims; the greatest geographer and encyclopaedist Al-Masudi was a Muslim; the greatest historian, Al-Tabari was still a Muslim."

History before Islam was a jumble of conjectures, myths and rumors. It was left to the Muslim historians who introduced for the first time the method of matn and sanad tracing the authenticity and integrity of the transmitted reports back to eyewitness accounts. According to the historian Buckla "this practice was not adopted in Europe before 1597 AD." Another method: that of historical research and criticism - originated with the celebrated historian Ibn Khaldun. The author of Kashfuz Zunun gives a list of 1300 history books written in Arabic during the first few centuries of Islam. That is no small contribution!

Now look at today's Muslim world. When was the last time you heard of a Muslim winning the Nobel Prize in science or medicine? How about scientific publications? Unfortunately, you won't find too many Muslim names in scientific and engineering journals either. Why such a paucity? What excuses do we have? 

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