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Flying Machine: Muslims Inventions in Forgotten Islamic Golden Age

Written by Yushau Shuaib
Flying Machine by Abbas ibn Firnas

Flying Machine by Abbas ibn Firnas

While some Muslims may be associated with negative developments, Islam has history of great inventors, scientists, philosophers, astronomers and other great men and women who influenced the cause of history. It was the period of Islamic Golden Age of Science and Technology over a thousand year ago.

Some early inventions towards discovery of aircraft, surgery, calculation, university education, toothbrush among others were influenced by Muslim scholars and scientists. This forms part of knowledge sharing from an email I received from a friend.

The report which was first published on, provides insight into golden age of Islamic civilisation at the period of Dark Ages of western civilisation.

The report was compiled by Professor Salim Al-Hassani Salim T S Al-Hassani an Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester. He is Chairman of the Foundation of Science, Technology and Civilization (FSTC), founder of the academic portal

Enjoy the Al-Hassani’s Top 10 Outstanding Muslim Inventions

Yushau A. Shuaib
Excerpt from Al-Hassani’s top 10 outstanding Muslim inventions:
1. Surgery
Around the year 1,000, the celebrated doctor Al Zahrawi published a 1,500 page illustrated encyclopedia of surgery that was used in Europe as a medical reference for the next 500 years. Among his many inventions, Zahrawi discovered the use of dissolving cat gut to stitch wounds — beforehand a second surgery had to be performed to remove sutures. He also reportedly performed the first caesarean operation and created the first pair of forceps.

2. Coffee
Now the Western world’s drink du jour, coffee was first brewed in Yemen around the 9th century. In its earliest days, coffee helped Sufis stay up during late nights of devotion. Later brought to Cairo by a group of students, the coffee buzz soon caught on around the empire. By the 13th century it reached Turkey, but not until the 16th century did the beans start boiling in Europe, brought to Italy by a Venetian trader.

3. Flying machine
“Abbas ibn Firnas was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and fly,” said Hassani. In the 9th century he designed a winged apparatus, roughly resembling a bird costume. In his most famous trial near Cordoba in Spain, Firnas flew upward for a few moments, before falling to the ground and partially breaking his back. His designs would undoubtedly have been an inspiration for famed Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci’s hundreds of years later, said Hassani.

4. University
In 859 a young princess named Fatima al-Firhi founded the first degree-granting university in Fez, Morocco. Her sister Miriam founded an adjacent mosque and together the complex became the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University. Still operating almost 1,200 years later, Hassani says he hopes the center will remind people that learning is at the core of the Islamic tradition and that the story of the al-Firhi sisters will inspire young Muslim women around the world today.

5. Algebra
The word algebra comes from the title of a Persian mathematician’s famous 9th century treatise “Kitab al-Jabr Wa l-Mugabala” which translates roughly as “The Book of Reasoning and Balancing.” Built on the roots of Greek and Hindu systems, the new algebraic order was a unifying system for rational numbers, irrational numbers and geometrical magnitudes. The same mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi, was also the first to introduce the concept of raising a number to a power.

Al-Qarawiyyin University, First Islamic University

Al-Qarawiyyin University, First Islamic University

6. Optics
“Many of the most important advances in the study of optics come from the Muslim world,” says Hassani. Around the year 1000 Ibn al-Haitham proved that humans see objects by light reflecting off of them and entering the eye, dismissing Euclid and Ptolemy’s theories that light was emitted from the eye itself. This great Muslim physicist also discovered the camera obscura phenomenon, which explains how the eye sees images upright due to the connection between the optic nerve and the brain.

7. Music
Muslim musicians have had a profound impact on Europe, dating back to Charlemagne tried to compete with the music of Baghdad and Cordoba, according to Hassani. Among many instruments that arrived in Europe through the Middle East are the lute and the rahab, an ancestor of the violin. Modern musical scales are also said to derive from the Arabic alphabet.

8. Toothbrush
According to Hassani, the Prophet Mohammed popularized the use of the first toothbrush in around 600. Using a twig from the Meswak tree, he cleaned his teeth and freshened his breath. Substances similar to Meswak are used in modern toothpaste.

9. The crank
Many of the basics of modern automatics were first put to use in the Muslim world, including the revolutionary crank-connecting rod system. By converting rotary motion to linear motion, the crank enables the lifting of heavy objects with relative ease. This technology, discovered by Al-Jazari in the 12th century, exploded across the globe, leading to everything from the bicycle to the internal combustion engine.

10. Hospitals
“Hospitals as we know them today, with wards and teaching centers, come from 9th century Egypt,” explained Hassani. The first such medical center was the Ahmad ibn Tulun Hospital, founded in 872 in Cairo. Tulun hospital provided free care for anyone who needed it — a policy based on the Muslim tradition of caring for all who are sick. From Cairo, such hospitals spread around the Muslim world.



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Yushau Shuaib


  • News and history that gladden heart but the current generations of islamic scholars and leaders are not doing the right thing to promote Islam in its purest forms. Jazakalllahu Khairan

  • The picture look like that of Arabian herbalist or wichcraft rather than that of scientist. the message content too is over exaggerated. Early inventors were chinese not Muslims or Arab. Go to history

  • @mshelia, I think it is you who is suppose to further your research. everyone knows the Islamic golden age and without doubt the various. contributions of Muslims to the growth of knowledge. what is worrying you is islamaphobia

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