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1001 Islamic Inventions 1034

pev writes "There's a new traveling exhibition in the UK entitled 1001 inventions. It contains some of the most interesting inventions from the past few thousand years. The common theme, however, is that they all came from the Islamic world and not the west. In some cases [the list is] quite surprising. For the lazy, the Independent newspaper in the UK printed their top 20 from the exhibition."
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1001 Islamic Inventions

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  • But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:23AM (#14907034) Homepage
    Mohammed lived a few hundred years after Jesus, so the Islam can never be more than 1.5 thousand years old!
  • Re:But... (Score:3, Informative)

    by stupidfoo ( 836212 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:28AM (#14907076)
    570 AD []
  • by Derek Pomery ( 2028 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:33AM (#14907119) merals/india.html []
    Numbers is a poor example.
    Credit where credit is due.
  • From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by obender ( 546976 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:41AM (#14907195)
    The windmill was invented in 634 for a Persian caliph

    The moslems only attacked Persia in 638. It seems to me that at least one of these inventions have nothing to do with Islam.

  • by Burb ( 620144 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:42AM (#14907210)
    Not quite. The dude in question was a talented mathematician, one of those responsible for introducing the concept of hindu-arabic numeration to the middle east and, later, to the west. But the attribution of a corruption of his name to the concept of algorithm is a historical accident. From wikipedia: "The word algorithm comes from the name of the 9th century Persian mathematician Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi. The word algorism originally referred only to the rules of performing arithmetic using Hindu-Arabic numerals but evolved via European Latin translation of al-Khwarizmi's name into algorithm by the 18th century. The word evolved to include all definite procedures for solving problems or performing tasks."
  • by MadTinfoilHatter ( 940931 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:43AM (#14907219)

    From TFA: By the 9th century, many Muslim scholars took it for granted that the Earth was a sphere. The proof, said astronomer Ibn Hazm, "is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth". It was 500 years before that realisation dawned on Galileo.

    The fact that the Earth was round (contrary to popular belief) was not big news in the 9th century. The ancient Greeks knew very well that the Earth was a sphere, and they too had calculated the circumference with surprising accuracy several centuries B.C. (not to mention before Mohammed). Also Galileo wasn't controversial because he claimed the Earth was round - it was because he claimed that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not vice versa. Sigh.

  • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by pnewhook ( 788591 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:46AM (#14907256)

    No, Mohammed didn't create the religion, he's just the last prophet.

    Similarly, Jesus didn't really create Christianity, he was Jewish. The Jews that became Christians decided that Jesus was the son of God as foretold in the old Testament, while the rest of the Jews decided that he was just another prophet and the true son of God hadn't come yet.

    Christianity traces its roots to before Christ, just as Islam traces its roots to a time before Mohammed.

  • "qamara" obscura (Score:5, Informative)

    by ebcdic ( 39948 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:50AM (#14907295)
    I'm very doubtful of the claim that the term "camera obscura" comes from an Arabic word "qamara", since it is a Latin phrase meaning "dark chamber", and the Latin word comes from the Greek "kamara".
  • by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:51AM (#14907310) Homepage
    In the Muslim mythology, Ishmael is the legendary ancestor of all Arabs, like Isaac is the legendary ancestor of... well, of Jacob, who's the legendary ancestor of all Jews. And yes, this conflates religion and ethnicity, but I suppose it wasn't such a problem back in the day.
  • by tjic ( 530860 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:56AM (#14907353) Homepage

    Islam is merely a religion

    Islam is not *merely* a religion; it is a combined religion, culture, and political system, in a way that western religions are not. The Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages - the Koran is *inherently* an Arabic document, and - it is argued -can not be translated, but only glossed in other languages. Christianity and Judaism speak to morality and salvation, but do not specify the political system. Islam does, and specifies crimes, punishments, etc.

    From time to time other Western religions have taken control of the apparatus of governments, and resulted in theocracy. In Islam, this is not an abberation - it is a key tenet of the politico-religious philosophy.
  • by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:06AM (#14907448) Journal

    Those inventions were created by people, not by Islam. Islam is merely a religion, and hence useless and incapable of anything at except stroking peoples emotions (for good or bad).

    Yet the relative social order and stability brought about by the Baghdad caliphate was sufficient to allow some branches of science advance. That order ended with the Abbasid dynasty in 1200's with the Mongol invasions. Since then much of the middle east has been a backwater. The Sharia no longer serves Muslim civilization well.

  • by Blorgo ( 19032 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:06AM (#14907450) Homepage
    Close... but a 'petard' was a primitave (Elizabethean) anti-personnel land mine.
  • Re:Discrimination (Score:2, Informative)

    by Uber Banker ( 655221 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:13AM (#14907518)
    ...proud of straight, male, caucasian heritage... and were achieved by straight, white, Christian males

    I dispute your casual assumption of causasian and Christian being equivalent.
  • From TFA: (Score:3, Informative)

    by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:19AM (#14907571) Journal
    One of the top 20 was Chess.

    First of all, Persian != Islamic. Second, Chess predates Islam.
  • Uh, no... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dh2000 ( 71834 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:32AM (#14907677) Journal
    Jews did not and do not believe a "son of God" is coming back. Some do believe in a messiah, but that's completely different.

    Christians like to read a lot into the Old Testament that isn't there.

  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:5, Informative)

    by scheme ( 19778 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:34AM (#14907689)
    You are pretty out of touch to compare relgious fundamentalism in the US with islamic fundamentalism...When was the last time someone had their throat slit for Jesus?

    It was just a few years ago that abortion clinics and doctors were being firebombed and shot in order to protect the sanctity of human life.

  • by TwinkieStix ( 571736 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:43AM (#14907770) Homepage
    So, what percent of US Citizens are part of these groups? There's a chart on page 13 of this pdf for reference [].
  • by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:13PM (#14908075)
    Your thesis is interesting.

    Unfortunately, the nations with the most muslims are not places where arabic is spoken. India is number one, Indonesia is number two, and Pakistan is number three.
  • Re:FYI... (Score:3, Informative)

    by tenchiken ( 22661 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:14PM (#14908089)
    Try again, there are plenty of documented evidence that the people in Jerusalem were treated horribly (as were the others who were captured early on during the periods of expansion). At a minimum Jews, Christians and anyone else who lived in Muslim lands were second class citizines (just as Jews were in Europe). There were many incidents, because one was a oppressor, one was oppressed.
  • by larkost ( 79011 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:17PM (#14908124)
    Actually... if you read the list over, several of those inventions (the numbering system, gunpowder, etc..), and much of the governmental systems (especially the ideas of meritocracies and tolerance) were brought to the region by the Mongols. The Mongols did not invent those things, but

    They were very effective warriors, and ruthless to those they thought were not cooperating or playing by the rules, but they were also the most effective governors the world had know to that point.
  • " Children in Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox at least 50 years before the West discovered it."

    This is just plain WRONG! The practice of deliberately infecting people with SMALLPOX (not cowpox) from a mild case to make them immune (variolation) was a process developed sometime around the 10th century in China and/or India. It involved taking pus from the pox of someone suffering from smallpox, or the scabs from the pox, and inoculating healthy people with it. Usually a mild case of smallpox developed, giving lifelong immunity afterwards. The first written account of variolation describes a Buddhist nun practicing around 1022 to 1063 AD. She would grind up scabs taken from a person infected with smallpox into a powder, and then blow it into the nostrils of a non-immune person. Another method, more common, involves rubbing the pus from the pox into a scratch in the skin of the non-immune person.

    By the 1700's, variolation was common practice in China, India, and Turkey, where it was carried to England by a diplomat's wife. In the late 1700's European physicians used this and other methods of variolation, but reported "devastating" results in some cases. Overall, 2% to 3% of people who were variolated died of smallpox, but this practice decreased the total number of smallpox fatalities by 10-fold. However, a variolated patient could transmit genuine smallpox and could even start an epidemic!

    Jenner, on the other hand, was the first to use cowpox (vaccinia virus) instead of live smallpox ... hence the name of "vaccination".

  • Re:Noticed also. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:34PM (#14908280) Homepage
    I agree.

    I'm Muslim, but I'm certainly not an Arab. For some reason Muslims are always associated with Arabs. Most Muslims are NOT Arabs.

    My ancestor civilization was associated with the invention of guns and paper money, but since they were not Arab, those inventions will not be listed as Muslims.

    OTOH Arab inventions since before the time of Mohammed are listed. To really know Muslims, you have to travel to Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, Africa and Turkey as well as Arabia.
  • by Ayaress ( 662020 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:38PM (#14908322) Journal
    The collonial period is why the West has advanced so much faster than any civilization before it. The Chinese didn't expand, and eventually stagnated in their own beauracracy at home. The Arabs expanded slowly, and didn't progress that far - they moved into India and North Africa, but that was about it.

    Europe, however, expanded with astonishing speed. From their emergence onto the world stage, it was less than two hundred years before they'd colonized the Americas. By the end of the 1800's, nearly the entire world was under some degree of control of European states. Even standing governments, like China, were being trivialized by European authority in their own lands. They had an immense amount of space to fill up, so their population exploded like nothing the world's seen in recorded history. Add in the American and French revolutions and the Napoleanic Wars, which between them sealed the fate of the old forms of government that had held civilizations back for thousands of years, upending the social order and replacing them with new and highly progress-driven governments.

    The West managed to create a civilization that had a rapidly growing population, access to every resource they could ever want, plenty of space to grow, and a lot of available money (since most of the wealth was no longer going to the glorification of kings). Advancement was no longer something that just "happened" like it had in Arabia and China, it was an end unto itself that people spent their whole lives chasing.
  • by yurnotsoeviltwin ( 891389 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:39PM (#14908334) Homepage
    Close, but Jacob was actually the son of Isaac, not the other way around. Abraham -> Isaac -> Jacob. Ishmael was Isaac's half brother.
  • Re:Noticed also. (Score:3, Informative)

    by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:39PM (#14908339) Homepage
    And it's also, in part, an exercise in bullshitting.
    "He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one."

    Only by people who don't consider measuring the diameter of the earth to be physics.

    Or by people who don't consider measuring the weight of displaced water by floating and immersed bodies physics.

    Or by people who generally don't realise quite how brilliant some of the Greeks, some of whom predate the era being talked about by over a thousand years, were.

    Don't get me wrong - at other times I praise highly the incredible advances made in the region we now call the middle east in ancient times, in particular in my favourite field - discrete mathematics. But I simply think that you shouldn't tarnish an otherwise good report with unverifiable or refutable fabrications.

  • Re:But... (Score:3, Informative)

    by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:49PM (#14908424) Homepage
    (Taking comment seriously despite "funny" modifier)

    By this definition all religions are "timeless". However, as I understand it, Islam (submission) is the third "covenant" after the Old and New Testaments, which makes the religion (as an organized set of beliefs driven by a document defining God's revealed plan to Mohammad) around 1.5 thousand years old.
  • Re:But... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jdray ( 645332 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:50PM (#14908437) Homepage Journal
    Islam started with Mohammed, who lived in the late 500's (date uncertain, evidently even to Mohammed, who was an orphan, though 545 is the "official" date) and died in 632. I'm not expert on Islamic history, but I'm reading an excellent book entitled "No god but God" by Reza Aslan []. It's a very approachable look at the history (that's as far as I've gotten) of Islam and the culture of the Arabic world around Mohammed's time.
  • Re:But... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zenmonkeycat ( 749580 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:59PM (#14908514)
    Why is this "funny?" I think that's one of the fundamental ideas behind Islam. If I remember correctly, Adam and Eve were both supposed to have been the first "muslims," living under God's (Allah's) laws before the fall, and Mohammed simply rediscovered those laws and made people follow them again. Whether or not you believe it is a matter of faith, but I wouldn't consider it "funny."
  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:4, Informative)

    by JohnFluxx ( 413620 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:24PM (#14908765)
    Tony blair said this:

    The statement was released this morning after Mr Blair spoke by phone to his Danish counterpart.

    "We understand the offence caused by the cartoons depicting the prophet and of course regret that this has happened. Such things help no one," Mr Blair's spokesman said. "It is always sensible for freedom of expression to be exercised with respect for religious belief. But nothing can justify the violence aimed at European embassies or at the country of Denmark.

    "The attacks on the citizens of Denmark and the people of other European countries are completely unacceptable, as is the behaviour of some of the demonstrators in London over the last few days.

    "We also strongly welcome the statements of Muslim leaders here who are themselves tackling the extremists who abuse their community's good name."

    This hardly fits what you say about Blair. Please give links to back up your side. It seems that Blair has, once again, given an intelligent statement about the situation.
  • Re:But... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:28PM (#14908801)
    I love how religious threads like this are populated by people who think they have universal knowledge (I deal with computers, so therefore, I know all about other religions because they read a webpage somewhere. As evidence above. A tremendously good apologetic for Paul's take on Jesus' teaching is 'What Saint Paul really said' by N.T. Wright, a british theologian, 0/qid=1142270602/ref=pd_bbs_10/103-6213093-7503824 ?_encoding=UTF8 []available at Amazon. Basically, Paul was the right guy at the right time; he was a Jewish elder who because of his extensive knowledge of the old testament extrapolated Jesus' teaching to tie in the Jewish religion and effectively show Jesus as the Messiah and fulfillment of the Jewish tradition.
  • by Ugmo ( 36922 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:35PM (#14908858)
    For reasons that I don't understand, the Christian and Muslim worlds seem to have flip-flopped regarding the dominance of religion vs. rational thought somewhere in the past 200-500 years. Of course this is a great over-simplification, but it's worth remembering that there was a time when the Arab world was the center of learning and enlightenment in the non-eastern-Asian world (I phrase it like that b/c I don't want to flamebait the Indians or Chinese).

    I, too, find this an interesting observation and have recently read a great deal about the mediteranean world between the fall of Rome and 1000 A.D, during which Islam became a powerful force, culturally and politically and Europe declined. This period was followed by the Crusades, when European contact with Islam brought about an infusion of many of the ideas and inventions mentioned in the article. The period 1000-1500 seems to be a point at which the European and Islamic cultures were neck and neck after which the Europeans pulled ahead during the Rennaisance and the Enlightenment.

    During the first period, The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) suffered from some early defeats due to un-preparedness and bad policy decisions. Also a sort of hubris. They thought, "We're the ROMAN EMPIRE, a bunch of desert tribes can't mess with us, they'll go away if we pay them off". What happened next is key, I believe. It became a popular idea in the Eastern Roman Empire that the reason they were repeatedly defeated by the Muslims was because they had strayed from the favor of God. This is an idea they got from the Old Testemant of the Bible which on a number of occasions said that Israel was defeated (e.g. the Babylonian captivity) because the people had strayed from proper religious observance. In Byzantium people decided that icons, for example, were a violation of the rule against idol worship and that by destroying icons they would regain the favor of God thereby turning the tide and begin winning battles against the Muslims. In reality, the iconoclastic movement caused civil war further weakening Byzantium.

    The tide began to turn against Islam, about 1500 ironically, just after the complete defeat and capture of Byzantium. Actually, Islam was as strong and as healthy as ever at that time but Europe began to grow and expand through exploration and experimentation and this lead to their advancement and Islam's RELATIVE decline. They began to think like the former Eastern Roman Empire. They had just conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul), their goal for 700 years, the greatest city in the world (in the Turk's mind). The rest of Europe were a bunch of barabrians by comparison and would fall eventually.

    In more recent times, as you mention the last 200 years, Islam has fallen behind (really they just never advanced, they stagnated). Currently, they are looking around and saying. "Why are we not as great as we once were?" and some are coming up with the same answer the Byzantines did. Some believe that they are not religiously observant enough and that if they get fundamentalist enough they will win back the favor of God and start to defeat the West.

    After 9/11 some of the American fundamentalist preachers tried to pull the same B.S. They said that 9/11 was a punishment by God because we listen to Rock and Roll and try to legalise gay marriage etc. We also have been trying to restrict the free flow of people (locking out foreign students) and ideas (the fight against teaching evolution in schools, though this is not directly connected 9/11). The point is, a resting on our laurels attitude and a turning away from cultural growth and economic expansion and towards ignorance, stagnation and fundamentalism could weaken the U.S as much as it did the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires before it.

    The Byzantines, the Muslims and the American fundametalists were all wrong. What wins in the long run is openess to new ideas, economic expansion and not resting on your former glory.

    Religious fundamentalism and internal fighting only weaken cultures. God won't come to our rescue if we all become vegitareans. God helps those who help themselves.
  • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:46PM (#14908969) Homepage Journal
    The other "Christian gospels" were left out because they are historically inaccurate and contradictory. Also, some may be called "Christian" but they were really created by Gnostics who predate Christianity and modified some Christian concepts for their own uses, much like Mohammed did.
  • Re:Uh, no... (Score:3, Informative)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:50PM (#14908996) Homepage Journal
    Jews did not and do not believe a "son of God" is coming back. Some do believe in a messiah, but that's completely different.

    I don't know if it's a common viewpoint among Jews, but a good friend of mine who is Jewish once said that she thought the idea of Jesus being special because he was "the son of God" was offensive - the idea being that in Judaism we are *all* the sons and daughters of God.
  • Re:Uh, no... (Score:2, Informative)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @01:50PM (#14909000) Homepage Journal
    No, it's not. It's a belief. There are many, many prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah and many of them could not possibly predict a mere human being-- unless he had a death wish, because ascribing those qualities to oneself was blasphemy and punishable by death. And that's pretty much what happened.
  • Accuracy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hacksoncode ( 239847 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:19PM (#14909250)
    One of the inventions mentioned in the lazy man's summary is the discovery by the 9th century that the Earth was round and its approximate circumferance. If this is an example of the accuracy of this list, I'm not impressed.

    Eratosthenes discovered this (include the circumference to about the same error) in the 3rd century BC using the same method.

  • Re:Uh, no... (Score:3, Informative)

    by pizzaman100 ( 588500 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:20PM (#14909273) Journal
    Isaiah 9:6 is one such prophesy:

    For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

  • Re:But... (Score:3, Informative)

    by samkass ( 174571 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:30PM (#14909355) Homepage Journal
    The other "Christian gospels" were left out because they are historically inaccurate and contradictory.

    So says the modern Catholic church. We'll never know, because they were not just "left out", they were ordered completely destroyed in antiquity, and only accidental incomplete findings of the texts survive. As for the historical accuracy of the existing New Testament, almost none of it can be archeologically verified, including the actual authors of the remaining gospels, which were assigned their "authors" hundreds of years later.

    In any case, as to the topic at hand, I don't think one can claim a religion predates its differentiator (ie. the person who caused the religion's followers to differentiate themselves from others.) The belief structure can go back to antiquity, just like you could claim that much of Judeo-Christian-Muslim thought goes back to the addition of "good" and "evil" to Western religious dogma in Zoraster's time.

  • by Scarletdown ( 886459 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:39PM (#14909451) Journal
    In the Muslim mythology, Ishmael is the legendary ancestor of all Arabs

    If I remember correctly, that belief is also held in both the Jewish and Christian mythologies.

  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alaska Jack ( 679307 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:11PM (#14909755) Journal
    This is pretty funny. Would it be out of place for me to point out that the "quote" is a paraphrase from the Palestinian Prime Minister, given two years after Bush supposedly said it? And even then, you don't get it right -- you say Bush said "God told me to go to war with other countries." The closest thing the story actually says is that the Palestinian PM says that GB said "God told him to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and end the tyranny in Iraq." You simply chose to interpret the story in the most anti-Bush way you could.

    (Note that, according to the quotees, Bush also supported the establishment of a Palestinian state).

          - AJ
  • Re:But... (Score:2, Informative)

    by a.d.trick ( 894813 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:34PM (#14909987) Homepage
    As for your last comment, it's actually a very good thing they ownly accept a subset of what has been written as scripture. In making up the cannon, they wanted to maintain a very high standard of reliability. In the Christian New Testament all the books had to be writen by an eyewittness of the man Jesus or a very close associate of one (Paul is counted as an eyewittness because of the Damascus incedent). That alone cuts out the bulk of the stuff, not to mention all the apocryphal literature that had popped up (the Gnostics were particularly miscevious). Also the stuff had to have been accepted by the church as a whole (democracy at work). Finally, it had to be relevant (i.e. the kind of content that belongs in scriptures).

    Don't think that the inclusion of a book in scripture was just a willy nilly decision. It was considered with all the weight that such a question should have. Since then, they have goon though plenty of literary and historical critisism. The New Testament is, hands down, the most citisied (here critisim isn't nessisarly bad) book in history. That's a really good thing. The Hebrew Scripture have definetly recieved their fair share too. Unfortunatly the Islamic scriptures have been largely ignored, probably because taking an objective look at them usually ended up with someone losing a head.
  • Re:It's sad . . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alaska Jack ( 679307 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:57PM (#14911636) Journal
    Oh one more thing, which I just add because you might be interested. A year or so ago there was a quote which made all the usual rounds, in which Bush supposedly said (IIRC it was at a meeting in Pennsylvania) that God "speaks to him" or somesuch. Of course this was used to show what a raving religious loony Bush is.

    I researched it a little -- it set off my BS detector because it just seemed too damn convenient -- and found that not only was the reporter who reported this not at the meeting, but the guy who *TOLD* the reporter about it wasn't at the meeting either! The reporter said, basically, that someone told him that someone told HIM that Bush said something like that at the meeting. And yet of course people jumped all over it, because it met their preconceived ideas of what Bush must have said.

    Just kind of an interesting aside. There truly is no stronger human impulse than to believe what we want to believe!

            - AJ

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault