About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily routines. And yet, very few people are aware of the Muslim origins of this ubiquitous drink. According to the historical record, in the 1400s coffee became a very popular drink among Muslims in Yemen, in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Legend goes that a shepherd (some say in Yemen, some say in Ethiopia) noticed that his goats became very energetic and jumpy when they ate beans from a particular tree. He had the courage to try them himself, noticing they gave him an energy boost. Over time, the tradition of roasting the beans and immersing them in water to create a sour yet powerful drink developed, and thus, coffee was born.
Regardless of whether or not the story of the shepherd ever really happened, coffee found its way from the highlands of Yemen to the rest of the Ottoman Empire, the premier Muslim empire of the 15th century. Coffeehouses specializing in the new drink began to spring up in all the major cities of the Muslim world: Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad. From the Muslim world, the drink found its way into Europe through the great merchant city of Venice. Although it was at first denounced as the “Muslim drink” by Catholic authorities, coffee became a part of European culture. The coffeehouses of the 1600s was where philosophers met and discussed issues such as the rights of man, the role of government, and democracy. These discussions over coffee spawned what became the Enlightenment, one of the most powerful intellectual movements of the modern world.
From a Yemeni/Ethiopian shepherd to shaping European political thought to over 1 billion cups per day, this Muslim innovation is one of the most important inventions of human history.
While many secondary school students struggling through math classes may not particularly appreciate the importance of algebra, it is one of the most important contributions of the Muslim Golden Age to the modern world. It was developed by the great scientist and mathematician, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi, who lived from 780 to 850 in Persia and Iraq.
In his monumental book, Al-Kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala (English: The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing), he set forth the basic principles of algebraic equations. The name of the book itself contains the word “al-jabr”, meaning “completion”, from which the Latin word algebra is derived. In the book, al-Khawarizmi explains how to use algebraic equations with unknown variables to solve real-world problems such as zakat calculation and inheritance division. A unique aspect of his reasoning for developing algebra is the desire to make calculations mandated by Islamic law easier to complete in a world without calculators and computers.
Al-Khawarizimi’s books were translated into Latin in Europe in the 1000s and 1100s, where he was known as Algoritmi (the word algorithm is based on his name and his mathematical works). Without his work in developing algebra, modern practical applications of math, such as engineering, would not be possible. His works were used as math textbooks in European universities for hundreds of years after his death.
Speaking of universities, that is also an invention made possible by the Muslim world. Early on in Islamic history, mosques doubled as schools. The same people who led prayers would teach groups of students about Islamic sciences such as Quran, fiqh (jurisprudence), and hadith. As the Muslim world grew however, there needed to be formal institutions, known as madrasas, dedicated to the education of students.
The first formal madrasa was al-Karaouine, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri in Fes, Morocco. Her school attracted some of the leading scholars of North Africa, as well as the land’s brightest students. At al-Karaouine, students were taught by teachers for a number of years in a variety of subjects ranging from secular to religious sciences. At the end of the program, if the teachers deemed their students qualified, they would grant them a certificate known as an ijaza, which recognizes
that the student understood the material and is now qualified to teach it.
These first degree-granting educational institutes quickly spread throughout the Muslim world. Al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo in 970, and in the 1000s, the Seljuks established dozens of madrasas throughout the Middle East. The concept of institutes that grant certificates of completion (degrees) spread into Europe through Muslim Spain, where European students would travel to study. The Universities of Bologna in Italy and Oxford in England were founded in the 11th and 12th centuries and continued the Muslim tradition of granting degrees to students who deserved them, and using it as a judge of a person’s qualifications in a particular subject.
Military Marching Bands
Many students who attended high schools and universities in the Western world are familiar with the marching band. Made up of a group of a few hundred musicians, a band marches onto a field during an sporting event to entertain the audience and cheer on the players. These school marching bands developed from the use of marching military bands during the Gunpowder Age in Europe that were designed to encourage soldiers during battle. This tradition has its origins in the Ottoman mehter bands of the 1300s that helped make the Ottoman army one of the most powerful in the world.
As part of the elite Janissary corps of the Ottoman Empire, the mehter band’s purpose was to play loud music that would frighten enemies and encourage allies. Using enormous drums and clashing cymbals, the sounds created by a mehter band could stretch for miles. During the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans throughout the 14th -16th centuries, mehter bands accompanied the fearsome Ottoman armies, who seemed almost invincible even in the face of huge European alliances.
Eventually, Christian Europe also caught on to the use of military bands to frighten enemies. Legend has it that after the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, the retreating Ottoman army left behind dozens of musical instruments, which the Austrians collected, studied, and put to their own use. Armies all over Europe soon began implementing marching military bands, revolutionizing the way war was fought in Europe for centuries.
CamerasIt’s hard to imagine a world without photography. Billion dollar companies like Instagram and Canon are based on the idea of capturing light from a scene, creating an image from it, and reproducing that image. But doing so is impossible without the trailblazing work of the 11th century Muslim scientist, Ibn al-Haytham, who developed the field of optics and described how the first cameras work.
It’s hard to imagine a world without photography. Billion dollar companies like Instagram and Canon are based on the idea of capturing light from a scene, creating an image from it, and reproducing that image. But doing so is impossible without the trailblazing work of the 11th century Muslim scientist, Ibn al-Haytham, who developed the field of optics and described how the first cameras work.
Working in the imperial city of Cairo in the early 1000s, Ibn al-Haytham was one of the greatest scientists of all time. To regulate scientific advancements, he developed the scientific method, the basic process by which all scientific research is conducted. When he was put under house arrest by the Fatimid ruler al-Hakim, he had the time and ability to study how light works. His research partially focused on how the pinhole camera worked. Ibn al-Haytham was the first scientist to realize that when a tiny hole is put onto the side of a lightproof box, rays of light from the outside are projected through that pinhole into the box and onto the back wall of it. He realized that the smaller the pinhole (aperture), the sharper the image quality, giving him the ability to build cameras that were incredibly accurate and sharp when capturing an image.
Ibn al-Haytham’s discoveries regarding cameras and how to project and capture images led to the modern development of cameras around the same concepts. Without his research into how light travels through apertures and is projected by them, the modern mechanisms inside everyone’s cameras would not exist.
Article originally found on: http://lostislamichistory.com/5-muslim-inventions-that-changed-the-world/
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) promised his followers in the Arabian Desert that they would one day conquer the most powerful and legendary city of the day, Constantinople. For centuries, it seemed like an impossible task. The city is incredibly well-defended, being a peninsula with a giant wall on it’s land side that deterred most conquerors. The city was laid siege to by Muslim armies during the Umayyad Caliphate, but those sieges were unable to defeat her mammoth walls.
When the Ottoman Empire sprang up in the early 1300s as a small Turkish beylik in Western Anatolia, it threatened the security of the Byzantines and their capital, Constantinople. By the time Sultan Mehmed II takes the throne in 1451, the Ottomans have expanded to control land in both Europe and Asia, thus surrounding the city of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmed made it his goal from the moment he took the throne to finally capture the legendary city. He ordered the building of a fortress on the Bosporus Strait, north of Constantinople to control ship movement in and out of the city. To honor the Prophet who declared the Muslims would conquer Constantinople, Mehmed had the fortress built in a way that it’s shape spelled out “Muhammad” in Arabic when seen from above.
On April 1st, 1453, Mehmed and his Ottoman army of over 100,000 soldiers arrived at the walls of Constantinople. The sight that greeted them must have been terrifying. The inner walls of Constantinople were 5 meters thick at their base and 12 meters high. 20 meters away from the inner wall was the outer wall, which was 2 meters thick and 8.5 meters tall. These walls had never been conquered in history, and numerous previous sieges by the Ottomans as well as the Umayyads during the caliphate of Mu’awiya in the 600s attested to that.
In addition to the walls, the Byzantines had a giant iron chain installed in the Golden Horn, a small inlet to the north of the city. This would prevent a navy from sailing to the weaker northern coast of the city and attacking from there. The Byzantines had a clear defensive advantage before the battle began. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the Byzantines were confident of their impending victory. Especially once additional soldiers and commanders were sent from the Italian city-state of Genoa.
Mehmed offered the defenders the option to surrender and remain in possession of their property, lives, and families in peace, but this offer was refused by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI. Thus, Mehmed began the attack on the city on April 6th. Despite the best effort of the Ottoman soldiers, and the bombardment of the world’s biggest cannons, the city held out for weeks. On April 22nd, Mehmed ordered the Ottoman navy to be carried over land to bypass the chain in the Golden Horn. Over one night, 72 ships were carried over land and put into the Golden Horn, threatening the city from the north.
It seemed that the battle of the city would soon be over as the Ottomans clearly had the upper hand. On May 28th, Mehmed halted all attacks and allowed his army to spend the day praying to Allah for victory. The next day, on May 29th, the army began a final assault on the city walls and before the morning was over, the walls were conquered and the city was taken.
Perhaps the most important part of this historical event was Mehmed II’s treatment of the defeated Byzantines. He did not kill the residents of the city and in fact encouraged them to stay in Constantinople by absolving them of taxes. He insisted that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate stay in the city and rule the Christians of the city on his behalf. While to the rest of Europe, the idea of religious tolerance was a foreign concept, Mehmed followed the Islamic principles on treatment of non-Muslims and gave religious freedom and rights to the Christians of Constantinople. His abilities in battle and his virtuous qualities earned him the nickname “al-Fatih” or “the Conqueror”.
Freely, J. (2009). The Grand Turk. New York: Overlook Press.
Ochsenwald, W., & Fisher, S. (2003). The Middle East: A History. (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Article originally found on: http://lostislamichistory.com/mehmed-ii-and-the-prophets-promise/
If Prophet Muhammad visited you
Just for a day or two,
If he came unexpectedly,
I wonder what you would do?
Oh I know you would give your nicest room,
To such an honored guest,
And you would serve him your very best.
You would be the very best,
Cause you're glad to have him there,
That serving him in your home
Would be a joy without compare.
But...when you see him coming,
Would you meet him at the door
With your arms outstretched in welcome,
To your visitor?
Or...would you have to change your clothes
before you let him in?
Or hide some magazines and put
The Quran where they had been?
Would you still watch those movies,
Or your T.V. set?
Or would you switch it off,
Before he gets upset.
Would you turn off the radio,
And hope he had not heard?
And wish that you did not utter
your last loud hasty word?
Would you hide your wordly music,
And instead take out Hadith books?
Could you let him walk right in,
Or would you rush about?
And I wonder...if the Prophet spent, a day or two with you,
Would you go on doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on and say the things You always say?
Would life for you continue
As it does from day to day?
Would your family conversations,
Keep up their ususal pace?
And would you find it hard each meal,
To say a table grace?
Would you keep up each and every prayer?
Without putting on a frown?
And would you always jump up early,
For Fajr at dawn?
Would you sing the songs you always sing?
And read the book you read?
And let him know the things on which,
Your mind and spirit feed?
Would you take the Prophet with you,
Everywhere you plan to go?
Or, would you maybe change your plans,
Just for a day or so?
Would you be glad to have him meet,
Your very closest friends?
Or, would you hope they stay away,
Until his visit ends?
Would you be glad to have him stay,
Forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief,
When he at last was gone?
It might be intresting to know,
The things that you would do.
If Prophet Muhammad, came,
To spend some time with you.
- Author Unknown
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