Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Optics, Pharmacy, Opthalmology
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Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography, Chemistry,
Physics, Medicine, Optics, Pharmacy, Opthalmology,
© Not Reserved
Muslim Contributions to Sciences
Zakaria Virk, Toronto, Canada
edition, online version
: 29 July 2017
Apnaorg.com – USA
I dedicate this book to my loving mother Zainab Bibi who died in 1949 when I was only three years old.
Although I have missed her all my life, but in my old age, I miss her tremendously. Her memory has
always been burning in my heart like a candle. Fortunate are those who have their mothers, this is my
biggest loss and misfortune.
Chapter Name Page
Muslim Contributions to Opthalmology
Muslim Contributions to Pharmacy
Muslim Contributions to Mathematics and Astronomy
Golden Age of Islamic Medicine
Zakariya al-Razi – The Arab Galen
Ibn al-Haitham – Father of Optics
Medical Breakthroughs in Islamic Medicine
Hospitals and Health Care in Medieval Islam
Scientists and Scholars of Islamic Renaissance
Islamic Influence on European Science
Science in India during the Muslim rule
Muslim Contributions to European Awakening
about the author
(1946- ) is a Canadian author, historian of science, and journalist. He has written scores
of articles in English and Urdu which have been published in renowned journals and newspapers of India,
Pakistan, UK, USA and Canada. He is editor for Canada for The Muslim Times, USA. He is member of
editorial board of Qindeel-e-adab, a mothly journal published from London. He is also a member of
consulting board of a journal Mujalla Tarikh wa Saqafate Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
He was taken part in essay competitions and won awards.
He has authored, translated, and compiled 19 books, five of which are on the eventful life and glorious
achievements of Nobel Laureate Prof. Abdus Salam. His forthcoming book ‘Tilsam Insani Jism- wonders
of the human body’ is under print from India, due August 2017.
All his English articles are available at
. Some of his books are
available at apnaorg.com (USA) as well as alislam.org (UK). ICTP Theoretical Centre Italy,
USA library of congress https://catalog.loc.gov/
(Urdu) 1. Azeem Zindagi, 2.Ramooze-fitrat, 3.Nishan-e-manzil, 4.Musalmano ka Newton (life of Dr.
Abdus Salam), 5.Muslamano kay science karnamay Aligarh, 6. Biography of Ibn Rushd Aligarh, 7.
Biography of al-Biruni New Delhi, 8. Summary of J.D. Bernal book ‘science in history’, 9. Urdu
Translation of ‘Salman Rushdie Haunted by his unholy ghosts’, 10. Hukamaye Islam -Delhi, 11. Zikray
Abdus Salam India, 12. Musalmano kay science karnamay- expanded edition New Delhi, 13. 111 Muslim
sciencedan, Lahore & Varanasi India, 14. Salaam Abdus Salam, India. 15. Tilsam Insani Jism – Wonders
of the Human Body, Varanasi, India.
(English): 16. Translation from Urdu: A Brief history of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, 17. Scientist of the
East – Dr Abdus Salam, 18. Translation from Urdu: Translators and commentators of Qanun ibn Sena,
By Padam Shri Prof Dr. Syed Zillur Rahman, Aligarh. 19. Muslim Contributions to Scieces. 20. Currently
working on ‘Islamic Quiz’ 510 questions and answer about Islam, Quran, Hadith, & Islamic history.
Muslim Contributions to Ophthalmology
Science progressed at an impressive pace in the Muslim world during the Islamic golden age i.e. from 8
century. Not only voluminous & insightful books were composed on various scientific disciplines but new
inventions and ground breaking discoveries were made. Of the various medical disciplines, most of the contributions
were made by medical practitioners in the field of ophthalmology.
Eyes are windows to your soul
Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye
including the eye, brain, and areas surrounding the eye, such as the lacrimal system and eyelids. An eye specialist is
known in Arabic as Al-Kahhal from the word Kuhl (kollyre).
Renowned Muslim scholars like Zakariya al-Razi, Ibn Sena, al-Haytham, al-Zahrawi, Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Rushd,
Ibn Nafis made significant contributions in this field. Books authored by Al-Razi, Ibn Sena, & al-Zahrawai were
used as medical text books in European universities for centuries. In the main hall of the Paris University’s Faculty
of Medicine, there hang portraits of al-Razi and Ibn Sena as a tribute to these two giants of medicine. On the stained
glass window pane of a church in Princeton University, al-Razi portrait is painted as acknowledgment to his skill
and immense benefits of his skill & knowledge to humanity.
The way science is divided these days into various branches, this was not the case during the middle ages. I
have yet to see curriculum of medical schools. To become a practitioner there was no fixed path. All one had to do
was study medical books and get training under a seasoned physician. To become an ophthalmologist a license was
required granted by Hakim-bashi, royal physician to the Caliph. Before 931 there was no medical certification, when
Caliph al-Muqtadir asked Sinan ibn Sabit to examine and approve physicians. Ophthalmologists hence had to satisfy
the examiner that they knew the principal diseases of the eye as well as their intricate complications, and were able
to properly prepare collyria and ophthalmic ointments. Moreover they had to assert under oath not to allow
unauthorized persons access to any surgical instruments, such as the lancet that was used for cases of pannus and
pterygium, or the curette used for cases of trachoma. Compared to a physician, eye doctor fee was small.
Muslim physicians-oculists made astonishing contributions and discoveries in eye diseases and cures. It
was a Muslim scholar who produced anatomy of the eye for the first time. The Latin word "retina" is derived from
Avicenna's Arabic term for the organ. The “injection syringe”, a hollow needle, was invented by Ammar ibn Ali of
Mosul, Iraq. Al Mosuli attempted the earliest extraction of cataracts using suction. Eye conditions such as pannus,
glaucoma (described as ‘headache of the pupil’), phlyctenulae, and operations on the conjunctiva were described by
Muslim physicians/oculists. Ibn Rushd (1198) was the first to attribute photoreceptor properties to the retina.
Zakaria Virk, Biography of Ibn Rushd (Urdu) Aligarh Muslim University, India 2007
Arabic terms such as Eyeball, Conjunctiva, Cornea, Uvea and Retina were introduced by Muslims. Muslims also did
operations on diseases of the lids such as trachoma, a hardening of the inside of the lid. Glaucoma (an increase in the
intra-ocular pressure of the eye) under the name of "Headache of the pupil" was first described by a Muslim.
Muslim physicians/ oculists made significant contributions in ophthalmology: Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, al-
Tabari, Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (994), a-Zahrawi (1013) Ammar bin Ali al-Mosuli, Hunayn ibn Ishaq (a Christian),
Ali ibn Isa, al-Razi, Ibn Sena, Ibn al-Haytham (1039) Abu Abdulla al-Tamini, Adnan al-aynzarbi (12
Ghafiqi, Ibn Rushd, Khalifa abi al-Mahasin, Fatah al-Din al-Qaysi, Ibn al-Quff al-Karki, ibn Nafis, Daud al-Antaki
(1599), Ibrahim al-Hanafi, Abd al-Qadir al-Khulasi al-Dimishqi, Ahmad Hassan al-Rashidi (1840).
Translations of more than 400 Arab authors, writing on such varied topics as ophthalmology, surgery,
pharmaceuticals, child care and public health, deeply influenced the rebirth of European science. Works of the
Muslim ophthalmologists were translated into Latin and became the foundation of the ophthalmology in Europe,
with many Arabic texts used well into the nineteenth century.
Hunyan ibn Ishaq (873 Baghdad) was the first one to provide anatomy of the eye in his ground breaking
work Kitab al-ashr maqalat fil Ayn – i.e. Ten Treatises on the Eye. His detailed explanations of the physiology of
the eye, reached Europe during the Renaissance and carried many terms still used today, based upon the Arabic
words. European scholars gave diagrams of the eye made by Hunayn. He described cysts, tumors and ulcers, their
causes and also laying out recommended treatments and suggestions for repairing cataracts.
Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (923 Iran/Baghdad) was known in Medieval Europe by the
title of The Arab Galen. He was the first one to state retina reacts to light. Also he was the first doctor to describe the
reflex action of the pupil. In his treatise On the Nature of Vision he stated eyes do not emit rays of light, as the Greek
scholars had thought. In his landmark book Kitab al-Mansuri, Razi documented the removal of cataracts with a glass
tube and described the cauterization of lachrymal fistulas, truly innovative work in the field. His treatise on
ophthalmology was translated into German in 1900. In his magnum opus Kitab al-Havi there is a chapter on
ophthalmology. He explained causes for glaucoma i.e. salt consumption. His other books in this field are fee
kaifiyat al-absar, kitab fee hait-al ayn, kitab fee elaj al-ayn bil-hadid.
There are some sections in Kitab al-Mansuri that deal with anatomy of the eye and eye ailments. He
observed how airborne germs can cause infectious diseases, including inflammation of the eye: “Among the things
that are infectious are: leprosy, scabies, consumption and epidemic fever, when one sits with those who are afflicted
in small houses and downwind (from them). Often ophthalmia infects by being looked at and often (the condition of)
multiple evil ulcers is (also) transferable. Generally speaking in every illness which has decomposition and (bad)
air, one should distance oneself from the afflicted or sit upwind from them.
His essay on infectious diseases was
the first scientific treatise on the subject. His originality is evident in his veritable clinical observations.
The earliest known medical description of the eye, from a ninth-
century work by Hunayn ibn Ishaq, is shown in this copy of a 12th-century manuscript at the Institute for the History
Arab-Islamic Science in Frankfurt.
Abu Mansur al-Hassan al-Qumri (990) lived in Khorasan, Iran. He was teacher of Ibn Sina. His only
treatise Kitab al-Ghina wa-al Muna is preserved in NLH, USA. He explained reasons for weak eyesight namely:
such a person had constipation, looked at a bright object, read books with small letters, consumed too much salt in
food, or had too much sugar for a prolonged period. Now a day it is called diabetic retinopathy.
Al-Qumri’s Kitab al-Ghina wal-Mina, this page explains treatment of trachoma (al-
jarab in Arabic). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/E7.html.....
Abul Hassan Muhammad bin Tabari (10
century) his book Mu’alijat al-Buqratiyya contains 10
one is on diseases of the eye, giving its layers and their uses. Hirshberg has praised his depth of
experience in this field.
Kitab Al-Mansuri- French translation by de Koning, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Marsh collection
Hamarneh, Arabic ophthalmology in ‘Essays on Science ‘by H.M. Said, Hamdard, Karachi 1987 pp 75-89
Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (994) composed a book on ophthalmology Kamil al-San’aa al-Tibbiya. It’s
translation in Latin by Constantine the African in the 11
century was known as Liber Regius (Kitab al-Malaki). In
chapter there is description of eyes and its uses, eye ailments and their treatments like ophthalmia, swelling,
hardness in conjunctiva, itch, pannus, blood spot, ulcers, pustules, protuberance in the eyes, treatment of corneal
cancer, chemosis, thrush, tinea and scrofula.
It was translated into Urdu by Hakim Ghulam Hussain Kantori and published from Lucknow in 1889. In
this book he presented the idea of capillary system and Pterygium. He knew three eye ailments i.e. optic nerve,
retina, and choroidal disease. He prescribed special foods for people
al-Majusi's Complete Book of the Medical Art in which it is stated that the copy
was finished on 7 Dhu al-Qa‘dah 604 [= 15 May 1208) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/E5_E6.html#E6
with eye ailments. He stated that people who have diabetes and kidney complications their eyes can be affected. He
described 130 eye diseases, 143 simple drugs, and names of herbs beneficial for the afflicted eyes. It was translated
into Latin 1499, French 1903, & in German 1904.
Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi (1009) was pioneer of modern surgery. He performed cataract operations and
expounded it in detail. In his comprehensive book on surgery Kitab al-Tasrif, he divides eye diseases into 12
divisions, including those of the eyelids such as scabies, adhesion, and cohesion. He says chemosis is of two kinds.
He described diseases of conjectiva such as ophthalmia, blood clot in the white of the eye, diseases of cornea such as
ulcers, causing severe pain, headache and flowing of tears. In Maqala 30 he described surgical operations on the eye.
He was the first one to give diagrams of surgical instruments.
Y.Z. al-Hasan, Science & Technology is Islam, UNESCO, page 466, NY 2001
M.S. Spink, On surgery and instruments ; a definitive edition of the Arabic text with English translation and
commentary (Kitab al-Tasrif) , Welcome Institute, London 1973
This page from a 14
century copy of
Kitab al-Qanoon describes several internal
organs, as well as skull and bones. National
Ali ibn Isa (Jesu Hali 1010) was a famous physician and eminent eye specialist of Baghdad. He produced
his researches on ophthalmology in a book Tazkira al-Kahhalain (Memorandum to Oculists) which is a
comprehensive tome on this topic in Arabic, combining Greco-Roman knowledge with his own observations. It is
relates over 130 eye conditions. During the middle ages it was used as a text book in European medical colleges and
considered a bible on the subject up to the 18
century. It consists of 3 volumes: volume 1 is on anatomy &
physiology of the eye, volume 2 is external diseases of the eye, their causes and symptoms, volume 3 is hidden
diseases of the eye that are not visible which cause damage to the eyes
. It was translated into Latin. Later it was
printed by Daira’tul’ma’arif Usmaniyya, Hyderabad, India. Hirschberg wrote a commentary on it. 5
Ammar bin Ali al-Mosuli (1010 Cairo) was a distinguished royal physician of Fatimid Khalifa al-Hakim
(996-1020). He was an expert eye specialist. His monumental work Kitab al-Muntakhib fee Elaj al-Ayn (selected
material on the treatment of the eye cures) was dedicated to great patron of scholars Qazi Malak bin Sa’eed (1014).
He gave detailed cures for eye ailments in a logical way. He dealt at length with anatomy of the eye, its physiology,
and preparation of prescriptions. He explained 48 eye ailments, narrated some clinical cases, recorded his personal
observations, and told about surgical instruments. He performed the earliest extraction of cataracts using suction. It
was not until the 18
century that the removal of cataract by a hollow needle was employed in Europe. He described
six types of cataract operations. George Sarton has described al-Mosuli as the pre-eminent eye doctor among all the
. He invented his own method of operation for soft cataract by seduction through a
It has been translated into English; this writer has studied it at Queen’s University Douglas Library Kingston,
Ontario. Memorandum book of a tenth-century oculist for the use of modern ophthalmologists; a
translation of the Tadhkirat of Ali ibn Isa of Baghdad (cir. 940-1010 A.D.), the most complete practical and
original of all the early textbooks on the eye and its disease
'Ali ibn 'Isa, al-Kahhal, 10th century 1936 call number RE 41.A39
George Sarton, History of Science, volume 1, 1927, page 729
hollowed tube. On his invention he wrote: “Then I constructed the hollow needle, but I did not operate with it on
anybody at all, before I came to Tiberias. There came a man for an operation who told me: Do as you like with me,
only I cannot lie on my back. Then I operated on him with the hollow needle and extracted the cataract; and he saw
immediately and did not need to lie, but slept as he liked. Only I bandaged his eye for seven days. With this needle
nobody preceded me. I have done many operations with it in Egypt."
Abu 'Ali al-Husayn ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Sina (1037) wrote The Canon of Medicine which first appeared in
Europe at the end of the 12th century, and its impact was dramatic. Copied and recopied, it quickly became the
standard European medical text book. In the last 30 years of the 15th century, just before the printing, it was issued
in 16 editions; in the following century twenty further editions were printed. From the 12th to the 17th century, its
materia medica was the pharmacopoeia of Europe. As late as 1537 The Canon was still a required textbook at the
University of Vienna. He was the first one to describe six extrinsic muscles of the eye which control eye
movements. He also expounded the dilation and contraction of the pupils and their diagnostic value, and discussed
the functions of the tear ducts.
Ibn Sina is still a hero in the Muslim World. His portrait decks a wall in Bukhara Uzbekistan.
In Kitab al-Qanoon he described sight as one of the five external senses.
Ibn al-Haytham (1039 Cairo) the father of modern optics, provided anatomy of the eye in chapter five of
his renowned & fundamental book on optics Kitab al-Manazir. He gave in the book physiology of the eye,
specifically described cornea, humor aqueous, lens, and corpus vitreum. He examined the effect of light on seeing.
He caused changes in the prevailing ideas of his age, and suggested that light came from objects, not from the eye.
He provided information regarding the optic nerve, retina, iris, and conjunctiva. He showed the system of the eye as
a dioptric, and the relations between the parts of the eye. It is understood that he mastered all knowledge on the
structure of the eye in his century. The best proof of this is the eye picture that he drew. He devised technical terms
to deal with sight, and everything concerned with it. For example Saqab al-anabiyya (Pupil), al-Qarnia (cornea), al-
A’asab al-Basariyya (optic nerve), al-Bayzia (albugenous humour), al-Jalidiyya (crystalline humour), al-Zujajiyya
(virtuous humour. He explained that vision was made possible due to refraction of light rays. After doing
experiments he stated light falls on retina the way light falls in a dark room on the wall through a small hole. The
inverted image made on the retina goes to brain through the optic nerve.
Ibn al-Haytham had used a camera obscura (bait al-muzlima) in his extensive optical experiments and
compared it to the eye.
Dr. M.H. Shah, English translation of Kitab al-Qanoon, Karachi 1966, NY 1970
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