Muslims come from all races, nationalities
and cultures across the globe. They have varied languages, foods, dress, and
customs; even the way they practice may differ. Yet they all consider
themselves to be Muslim.
Less than 15% of Muslims live in the Arab world;
a fifth are found in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the world’s largest Muslim
community is in Indonesia. Substantial parts of Asia, and almost all Central
Asian republics, are Muslims. Significant Muslim minorities are found in China,
India, Russia, Europe, North America and South America.
Over a billion people from all races,
nationalities and cultures across the globe are Muslims-from the rice farms of
Indonesia to the desert heart of Africa; from the skyscrapers of New York to
the Bedouin tents in Arabia.
How did the spread of Islam affect the World?
The Muslim community continued to grow after
Prophet Muhammad’s death. Within a few decades, vast numbers of people across
three continents-Africa, Asia and Europe- had chosen Islam as their way of
One of the reasons for the rapid and peaceful
spread of Islam was the purity of its doctrine-Islam calls for faith in only
One God. This, coupled with the Islamic concepts of equality, justice and
freedom, resulted in a united and peaceful community. People were free to
travel from Spain to China without fear, and without crossing any borders.
Many Muslims scholars traveled to these cities
seeking knowledge. They translated into Arabic volumes of philosophical and
scientific works from Greek and Syriac languages (the languages of Eastern
Christian scholars), from Pahlavi (the scholarly language of Pre-Islamic
Persia), and from Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language). As a result, Arabic
became the language of worldly scholarship, and people migrated from all over
the world to study in the Muslim Universities.
By 850, most of the philosophical and scientific
works of Aristotle; much of Plato and the Pythagorean School; and the major
works of Greek astronomy, mathematics and medicine such as the Almagest of
Ptolemy, the Elements of Euclid, and the works of Hippocrates and Galen, were
all rendered into Arabic. For the next 700 years, Arabic became the most
important scientific language of the world and the repository of much of the
wisdom and the sciences of antiquity.
The achievement of scholars working in the
Islamic tradition went far beyond translation and preservation of ancient
learning. These scholars built upon the ancient heritage with their own
scientific advances. These advancements were a direct cause of the Renaissance
Muslims excelled in art, architecture,
astronomy, geography, history, language, literature, medicine, mathematics and
physics. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and the
very concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were
formulated by Muslim scholars and shared with medieval Europe. Muslims invented
sophisticated instruments that made future European voyages of discovery
possible: the astrolabe, the quadrant, and detailed navigational maps and
Muslims Contribution To Science
Muslims have always had a special interest in
astronomy. The moon and the sun are of vital importance in the daily life of
every Muslim. By the moon, Muslims determine the beginning and the end of the
months in their lunar calendar. By the sun the Muslims calculate the times for
prayer and fasting. It is also by means of astronomy that Muslims can determine
the precise direction of the Qiblah, to face the Ka'bah in Makkah, during
The Quran contains many references to astronomy.
"The heavens and the earth were ordered rightly,
and were made subservient to man, including the sun, the moon, the stars, and
day and night. Every heavenly body moves in an orbit assigned to it by God and
never digresses, making the universe an orderly cosmos whose life and
existence, diminution and expansion, are totally determined by the
Creator." (Quran 30:22)
These references, and the injunctions to learn,
inspired the early Muslim scholars to study the heavens. They integrated the earlier
works of the Indians, Persians and Greeks into a new synthesis. Ptolemy's
Almagest (the title as we know it is Arabic) was translated, studied and
criticized. Many new stars were discovered, as we see in their Arabic names -
Algol, Deneb, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran. Astronomical tables were compiled,
among them the Toledan tables, which were used by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and
Kepler. Also compiled were almanacs - another Arabic term. Other terms from
Arabic are zenith, nadir, albedo, azimuth.
Muslim astronomers were the first to establish
observatories, like the one built at Mugharah and they invented instruments
such as the quadrant and astrolabe, which led to advances not only in astronomy
but in oceanic navigation, contributing to the European age of exploration.