Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new,…” said the Pope. “No problem,” says Doug’s Darkworld.

with 16 comments

Does the Pope know that the pointed arch is a Muslim invention. Did you?

Recently I have heard people say that nothing good ever came out of the Islamic world. In fact educated people like the Pope have repeated this canard as if it were a statement of fact. What can I say, many white Christians of European ancestry think that white Christians pretty much invented everything that was worth inventing, and the brown people of the world copied them at best. Even if they don’t think this consciously, it is pretty much what they were taught in school and underlays their world view in a million subtle and not so subtle ways. This kind of thinking about Muslims is just another facet of that, I’ve heard the exact same applied to Asians, native Americans, whatever.

Well, for those who think this way because they were taught this and never really thought about it or looked it up, I have some interesting news for you. Turns out all sorts of things were invented in the Muslim World. In fact it’s simple to refute the Pope…

  • Mathematics: The words algebra and algorithm are of Arabic origin. That’s because the zero, the base ten number system, and algebra were invented in what is now Iraq. For all practical purposes modern practical mathematics was invented by Muslim scholars. The Romans and Greeks had geometry and arithmetic, but had no way of actually working with numbers. The modern scientific age is based on modern mathematics, to put it mildly, this one area of Muslim discovery whose importance cannot be underestimated, the renaissance could not have occurred with modern mathematics.
  • Architecture: The pointed arch, used in Cathedrals throughout Europe, is a Muslim invention. It is much stronger than the round Roman arch. Pretty much all the features of Medieval European castles were invented by Muslims, and copied by the Crusaders when they returned home to Europe. The window pane was a Muslim invention apparently.
  • Mechanics: Crank and the crankshaft. The crank and crankshaft are the second most important mechanical invention after the wheel and are used in virtually all modern factories, engines, machines, and automobiles. They were invented by al-Jazari, who also invented the combination lock among other things. The modern mechanical clock, the pendulum, the pendulum clock, and the wristwatch are Muslim inventions. As were the piston engine, the first true pump, and the steam turbine. The windmill was invented in ninth century Persia.
  • Chemistry: Modern chemistry got it’s start in the Muslim world, Jabir ibn Hayyan is considered the father of modern chemistry and is credited with transforming alchemy into chemistry. He also invented sulfuric acid, nitric acid, distilled alcohol and many of the basic chemistry processes that are still used today. Kerosene is also a Muslim invention.
  • Optics and physics: Ibn al-Haytham was the first person to realize that light enters the eyes, before then people thought that the eyes emitted rays which allowed people to see. He is called the father of modern optics, is credited with making physics an experimental science instead of a philosophical one, and invented the camera obscura and the pinhole camera. In other words, he invented the camera, photography followed centuries later with the invention of film. There is also evidence that the telescope was invented in the Islamic world.
  • Personal hygiene: Bar soap, shampoo, perfume. The carpet was a Muslim invention as well, and they proved to be a huge and popular improvement over the previous European floor covering…dirt with reeds laid on it.
  • Medicine: Much of modern medicine was invented in the Muslim world, including anaesthetics, antiseptics, the forceps, and the syringe. Muslim doctors were the first to realize the importance of sterilization before, during, and after surgery.
  • Military technology: The counterweight trebuchet, the most effective catapult ever invented, was possibly a Muslim invention. (People still build them to toss cars for fun.) Military rockets, guns, and grenades were invented by Muslims, Muslims were the first to realize that gunpowder could be used as a weapon, or at least the first to make widespread use of it as such. And indeed they are still pioneering military uses for it, as the effectiveness of IED technology shows.
  • Miscellaneous: Modern glass making from sand was invented in the Muslim world. Eyeglasses. The glass mirror. The sextant. The fountain pen. Three course meals. Homing pigeons. Sherbet.
  • Sanity: Coffee is an invention of the Islamic world, now where would we be without it? Slurp. I rest my case.

The golden age of Islamic science and invention contributed much to modern civilization, in fact it would be almost impossible to go a day without using many items that were invented by Muslims. (And if anyone decides to do so as a matter of principle, please avoid me because I think bar soap and shampoo were really good ideas.) Why did the Islamic golden age of science and discovery end? Historians still argue about it. Waves of invaders from the Crusaders, to the Mongols, to colonial Europeans, to the current Israeli and American meddling and occupations haven’t helped any. In any event the idea that Islam “never contributed anything new” is beyond downright ignorant. The Pope’s pointy hat was on too tight I guess.

More information and links about this topic can be found here and here.

(The above image of Well’s Cathedral is legally reproduced in accordance with the author’s permission: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Credit: Antoine)

Written by unitedcats

July 9, 2007 at 9:39 am

16 Responses

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  1. This was a very well written post, Doug, but I must point out there are some deep-seeded flaws in your enumerations too. (No, I am not white, nor am I a christian any more).
    First of all, I would like to enlighten you (and the readers of this post who have been misguided herein), that “zero” was not invented in what is now Iraq, as you very tastelessly suggest.
    It is a well documented fact that zero was invented by Indians, in India.

    Secondly, my dear friend, the “personal hygienes” provided by soaps and shampoos, were again, invented way before in India, before Islam even took shape. They are documented in the Sanskrit manuscripts Vedas if you’ve ever heard of them.

    Thirdly, I might add, that innumerable medical achievements have again be recorded in the Vedas, the Indian Sanskrit documents, written long before the origin of even Christianity, forget Islam. These documents talk heavily about sterilizations. The only thing is that they’ve been translated globally much later, and hence the credit has gone to people who have “re-discovered” some of these facts.

    these were three observations I would like to correct you with, which, otherwise, is a fantastic post. I don’t know about your other observations, but I am assuming they would be correct.

    Thank You!


    July 9, 2007 at 11:10 am

    • narziss I’d like to point to you that the soap and shampoos invented “way” before islam are very much different from the ones tat muslims invented. The mordern soaps and shampoos we use today were invented by muslims and they are very different from the ancient ones in india. the zeros invented in india were totally lost. the muslims re-started the use


      April 29, 2009 at 6:12 am

      • You are not correct regarding soap; first of all as what Italians perfected soap to begin with as we use it today, but its first form was discovered by Phoenicians, they were not Arab to give claim to Islam or Arabs.

        Second all of the inventions from Mathematics, Medicine, Sciences, Astronomy, Chemistry, Poetry and so much more, Carpets, textiles were all inventions of Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans to start, the Arab or Islamist want to take credit for when they invaded Persia and Iraq was part of the Persian Empire for 1400 years. Hospitals, schools to educate these people was all by Persians not Arabs to give any credit to an Arab or Islam, people were forced into a religion that wants to make itself look good & take advantage of others.

        What did Muhammad bring that was new? Enslavement, Oppression, mass force of convergence to Islam, by taxation, by humiliation & many other ways that Arabs had learned. These types of humiliation & taxation were worst to non Muslims that were not accepted as religions of the book. Look how Zoroastrians, Bahai, Buddhist, Hindus & many others were treated far worst than Jews or Christians.

        What does Science, Medicine, Astronomy, Chemistry have to do with religion, how did a bunch of Bedouin Arabs that came out of the desert with nothing & had nothing to offer the civilized world any thing but military conquering & gathering booty, have any knowledge before they left Arabia? Where was all this before they invaded other nations?

        It is time to give credit to the nations & its people not a religion.


        May 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

  2. Thanks. I tried to put qualifiers in there, agreed, almost every human invention was based to some extent on stuff that happened before. And some of the above as you suggest were no doubt invented earlier and only brought to Europe by way of the Muslim world. I only have time to do so much research per post and one like this is sure to have a few mistakes.


    July 9, 2007 at 11:28 am

  3. i thought the form of counting that we use today was invented in india, but i may be mistaken

    let me check wikipedia really quick

    okay i get it now

    this is amazing, i knew about the pointed archa nd the crank

    didnt the egyptians perform eye surgery adn whatnot before they were invaded?


    July 9, 2007 at 12:35 pm

  4. Add most of our surgical instruments still in use today (invented by Al-Zahrawi, known in the west as Abulcasis, who introduced more than 200 surgical tools in his medical encyclopedia). More info at 1001 Inventions


    July 10, 2007 at 5:01 am

  5. […] July 10th, 2007 “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new,…” said the Pope. “No problem,” says Doug… […]

  6. […] discusses Islam’s contribution to Science: Turns out all sorts of things were invented in the Muslim World. In fact it’s simple to refute […]

  7. I’m sorry but zero is not an islamic invention. Never was ~ never will be. It has been a mathematical concept from Mayan/Aztec science to its original invention in India and Babylon from whence Greek mathematicians developed the idea that Moslem conquerors would later adopt and elaborate upon. A cursory investigation into this matter will prove it to be true to anyone with an open mind. Fact I’m afraid.

    The use of a blank on a counting board to represent 0 dated back in India to 4th century BC; By 130, Ptolemy, influenced by Hipparchus and the Babylonians, was using a symbol for zero (a small circle with a long overbar) within a sexagesimal numeral system otherwise using alphabetic Greek numerals. Because it was used alone, not just as a placeholder, this Hellenistic zero was perhaps the first documented use of a number zero in the Old World. The oldest known text to use zero is the Jain text from India entitled the Lokavibhaaga, dated 458 AD. (some 200 years before Islamic claims to notice) Like most things Islam claims as being unique to itself – zero is in fact a Greek borrowing and that an elaboration and borrowing in itself from the east. Sorry.

    Algebra however is a different matter.


    April 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

  8. This is a joke. Islam had nothing to do with Mathematics, Sciences, Chemistry, Medicine or any thing else you are posting here.

    The truth is Arabs never came out with any thing new in their entire history. Show me where Arabs coming out of Arabia had any knowledge or education to speak of. Taking credit for Persians that had this education, schools of medicine, mathematics, astronomy & all you claim is Islamic. Arabs take credit for Indian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian & Chinese knowledge & place it under Islam to advance their religion.

    This is a bunch of nonsense. Please grow up and look at the people & where they are from, knowledge existed for thousands of years before Arab came out of the desert with little or nothing to speak of.


    July 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

  9. im pretty sure that glass was invented by the eygptians and the carthiginians hundreds of years before muhammed or even jesus.


    July 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  10. Sean you are a nonsense. Persians are muslims too. Plus arabs did not invade persians. So you jackheads blame muslims for everything but british people are the ones who stole everything from India, africa and middle east. They are the ones who brutally started slavery.


    January 6, 2010 at 1:10 am

  11. Muslims invented the syringe, ethanol, distillation, fractional distillation, chromatography, lenses, optical instruments, algebra, logarithm, windmill, graph paper, kerosene lamp, pinhole camera, they were the first to extract refined sugar, distilled water, coffee, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, arsenic was first isolated by jabir, and so was antimony, jabir also isolated carboxylic acid, and other organic acids, muslims were also the first to describe double circulation of the human body, muslims were the first to produce petrol from crude oil, they also came up with the The on/off switch, an important feedback control principle, was invented by Muslim engineers between the 9th and 12th centuries, and it was employed in a variety of automata and water clocks. The mechanism later had an influence on the development of the electric on/off switch which appeared in the 1950s. IBN sina is the father of medicine and he was a muslim. Some of the earliest pumps were invented by muslims. American historian Will Durant said, : “Chemistry the subject it self was almost invented by the Moslems.” Muslim had many influence in agriculture too


    January 6, 2010 at 1:22 am

    • This is really true the arabs and the egyptians during abbasids period were the hub of all the scientific knowledge of that time untill the crusaders start to raid muslim territories and kill the learned people.taking the scientific and research papers and journals with them and burning most of what was left behind.
      Muslims were the pioneer of civil engineering.They were the first one to construct tall buildings.the world’s tallest brick and stone minaret has been constructed by the muslims and is famously known as “qutub minar”.
      1000 years before the wright brothers ABBAS-IBN-FIRNAS gave the idea of flying and attempted to do so by using a loose cloak with wooden frame.Although he did no fly but his velocity of falling down was decreased to a big extent and that loose cloak with wooden frame is now regarded as the first parachute known to mankind.
      Secondly if the pope asks the same again i question him that what did they do.the christian churches and popes have in history declared science as a devils subject.Anyone who studied science was sentenced to death.The very same happened to Pythagoras.He was sentenced to death by the church when he put forward pythagoras theorem.


      March 10, 2011 at 10:46 am

  12. Pope was abaut etics of islam, you are maroon.


    December 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    • You have made the error of confusing the inventions of Arabs and Persians with what was brought by Mohammed. You wouldn’t claim the we owe the automobile to Christ, I suppose.


      January 25, 2012 at 5:36 am

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