Muslims and Islam are negatively shaded by the media now more than ever. The Middle East is mostly popular only for its focus on religion, food, and recent problematic history. But the lesser-known fact is that people in the Middle East invented a lot of things that we use daily.
The book of “1001 Inventions” discusses a lot about the forgotten Muslim heritage. Although this book examines more than a thousand inventions, there are some prominent inventions that we, Muslims, need to know. From toothbrush to coffee and the first university have been introduced to the world by Muslims. However, there are several more innovations that I need to mention, so let’s get started.
Ethiopian Shepherd, Khalid, was the first to find the benefit of coffee beans. He studied that his goats became more active after consuming a specific berry. Khalid then boiled the berries to make coffee. Only after Khalid’s attempt in boiling the berries it was found that the berry was the coffee bean that is widely used by everyone around the world these days.
Over time, coffee was exported to Yemen from Ethiopia. Sufis in Yemen drank coffee to stay awake when engaging in prolonged prayers. In the late 15th century, coffee got introduced in Turkey, Mecca, and Venice. Coffee became the life-saver for people who have been fighting to stay awake.
The famous doctor Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbad al-Zahrawi was the first person to discover and give life to the concept of advanced surgery. He was known as Abulcasis in the West. His medical encyclopedia, Al-Tadrif, includes “on surgery” treatise that is treasured to date. It displays more than 200 surgical tools, including bone saws, fine scissors, scalpels, forceps, etc.
The introduction of instruments to the surgery was a concept that changed the state of it. Al Zahrawi illustrated the usage of surgical instruments, and it was the medicine history’s first treatise. Even the designs of these instruments have only changed a little bit in ages. It has been reported that he was the first doctor who successfully did cesarean operations. He also founded that internal stitches using catguts dissolve naturally.
Also, Ibn Nafis was another Muslim doctor who founded the concept of blood circulation. It was 300 years before assertions made by William Harvey.
Most Asian families would deny that Islam promotes education for women, but unfortunately, a Muslim princess named Fatima al-Firhi was the founder of the world’s first university. She opened the university in 859 AD in her hometown Fez, Morocco. Her sister, Miriam, found the mosque adjacent to the university. The entire complex with the university was named as al-Qarawiyyin. It offered degrees on Islamic science and law and still runs as a successful university even after 1200 years.
The Al-Firhi sisters are a great inspiration and example for the present Muslim women that Islam never brushed education under the carpet. Every Muslim must have a quest for learning and seeking knowledge because it has been a Muslim trait since then. The Holy Quran itself is an endless source of knowledge that urges us to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Although the Wright brothers have their share in innovating flying machines, it was not their idea initially. The credits to be given to Abbas Ibn Firnas who attempted to innovate a flying machine in the 9th century. The rough draft of the flying machine made by Abbas Ibn Firnas had winged apparatus that mimicked a bird. He made his first trial in Spain (Cordoba), but it flew in the sky only for a few minutes and crashed down.
However, it is essential to know that his idea and draft have been a great inspiration for the flying machine’s outcome. He was an engineer, poet, and musician who was based in Andalusia (now Spain). Besides, the Baghdad international airport was named after him.
There are two things to the concept of numbering: system and style. The numbering system could be an Indian origin, but the numbering style is Arabian. The style first appeared in the book “Kitab al-Jabr Wa l-Mugabala” in the 9th century. And the founders were mathematicians Al-Kindi and Al-Khwarizmi.
However, the term “Algebra” was named after the book Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah authored by Al-Khwarizmi. Some of the information in the book is still in use. Only after 300 years, Muslim scholars’ work was derived by the mathematician Fibonacci (Italian).
Also, trigonometry, algorithms, and many more concepts came into use because of the Muslim mathematicians and scholars. Most importantly, the basement of modern cryptology was derived from the frequency analysis made by the famous mathematician Al-Kindi.
It’s insane that Muslims are portrayed unhygienic by the anti-Islamic propaganda, whereas Muslims have been the users of miswak (toothbrush) even before the West knew toothbrush. In Islam, it is mandatory to maintain a hygienic lifestyle. The very concept of wudu proves that Islam focuses on cleanliness.
However, the invention of the toothbrush by the Muslim community is a lesser-known fact. Although it was not introduced as the modern-day toothbrush, Miswak was used by the Prophet to keep up oral hygiene. The basic form of miswak is a twig from the tree of Salvadora persica. The shape of the twig had been like a toothbrush. But they had to soak it in warm water to soften the bristles.
According to hadiths and Islamic history, it is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made it a habit to use miswak to maintain oral hygiene. Several ahadith support the virtues of miswak and its benefits,
“Were I not afraid that it would be hard on my followers, I would order them to use the miswak (as obligatory, for cleaning the teeth).” Sahih Bukhari
And another hadith narrates as:
“Hudhaifa narrated that whenever the Prophet ﷺ got up for Tahajjud prayer he used to clean his mouth (and teeth) with miswak.” Sahih Bukhari
Nowadays, most Muslims follow the practice of using miswak to earn merits and maintain their oral hygiene. Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended using miswak to support oral health in 1986.
Lastly, you can learn more about exciting innovations by visiting the site “1001 Innovations.”