Cats in Islamic Cultures

by Cem Nizamoglu

This article describes the various cultural representations associated to cats in Islamic civilisation and shows examples of the respect, love and understanding with which cats were treated and regarded in Islamic history. This original attitude has developed throughout the history of Islam and crystallised in strong cultural and mystical dimensions, of which we find evident and numerous traces in Islamic art, science, medicine, zoology and so on...

Muslim Cats Picture Gallery:
PS1. will be updated time to time
PS2. Some pictures takes time to load so do not worry if they are blur in the beginning…
PS3. … and please do not hesitate to send any picture you find regarding cats in Islamic cultures as a contribution to the web album.

Acknowledgments: Professor Salim Al-Hassani, Margaret Morris, Dr. Salim Ayduz, Selcuk Nizamoglu, Elif Nizamoglu, Zeynep Esra Ergin …

Muslim Heritage Newsletter 2: March Issue

Latest Title: Ahmed Ibn Fadlan and Beowulf - A Survey of his Account of Russian Vikings in the 10th Century: One of the earliest detailed descriptions of Northern Europe is reported in the account written by the Arab Muslim writer and traveler Ahmad Ibn Fadhlan, who was sent in 921 CE as the secretary to an ambassador from the Abbasid Caliph al-Muqtadir from Baghdad to the Volga Bulgars by the Black Sea and the Caspian. Ibn Fadhlan's travel account was the source of inspiration to many fictional narratives in Western literature and art, such as the the well known novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, filmed as The 13th Warrior directed in 1999 by John McTiernan, and the film Beowulf, released in November 2007.
Also: The Travels of Ibn Fadlan & Scandinavia and Ibn Fadlan

Who Was the First Scientist?

by Bradley Steffens

"I am pleased to see your comment about the contributions of all the Muslim scholars, especially Ibn al-Haytham. I would add that he not only contributed to the field of optics, but also was the first person to insist on systematically testing hypotheses with experiments, earning himself a place in history as the first scientist. If your readers would like to know more about him, I would encourage them to read my new book Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist. It is the first full biography of the eleventh-century Muslim scholar known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen. "
Posted by Bradley to Cem Nizamoglu at 20 November 2007 10:43

We live in a scientific age. Millions of young people study science, thousands of universities teach it, and hundreds of publications chronicle it. We even have a cable channel devoted exclusively to its wonders. We are immersed in technology rooted in its discoveries. But what is science, and who was its first practitioner?

Science is the study of the physical world, but it is not just a topic, a subject, a field of interest. It is a discipline—a system of inquiry that adheres to a specific methodology—the scientific method. In its basic form, the scientific method consists of seven steps:

1) observation;
2) statement of a problem or question;
3) formulation of a hypothesis, or a possible answer to the problem or question;
4) testing of the hypothesis with an experiment;
5) analysis of the experiment’s results;
6) interpretation of the data and formulation of a conclusion;
7) publication of the findings.One can study phenomena without adhering to the scientific method, of course. The result, however, is not science. It is pseudoscience or junk science.

Throughout history, many people in many parts of the world have studied nature without using the scientific method. Some of the earliest people to do so were the ancient Greeks. Scholars such as Aristotle made many observations about natural phenomena, but they did not test their ideas with experiments. Instead they relied on logic to support their findings. As a result, they often arrived at erroneous conclusions. Centuries later the errors of the Greeks were exposed by scholars using the scientific method.

Perhaps the most famous debunking of Greek beliefs occurred in 1589 when Galileo Galilei challenged Aristotle’s notions about falling bodies. Aristotle had asserted that heavy bodies fall at a faster rate than light bodies do. His contention was logical but unproven. Galileo decided to test Aristotle’s hypothesis, legend says, by dropping cannon balls of different weights from a balcony of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He released the balls simultaneously and found that neither ball raced ahead of the other. Rather, they sped earthward together and hit the ground at the same time. Galileo also conducted experiments in which he rolled balls of different weights down inclines in an attempt to discover the truth about falling bodies. For these and other experiments, Galileo is considered by many to be the first scientist.

Galileo was not the first person to conduct experiments or to follow the scientific method, however. European scholars had been conducting experiments for three hundred years, ever since a British-born Franciscan monk named Roger Bacon advocated experimentation in the thirteenth century. One of Bacon’s books, Perspectiva (Optics) challenges ancient Greek ideas about vision and includes several experiments with light that include all seven steps of the scientific method.

Bacon’s Perspectiva is not an original work, however. It is a summary of a much longer work entitled De aspectibus (The Optics). Perspectiva follows the organization of De aspectibus and repeats its experiments step by step, sometimes even word for word. But De aspectibus is not an original work, either. It is the translation of a book written in Arabic entitled Kitāb al-Manāzir (Book of Optics). Written around 1021, Kitāb al-Manāzir predates Roger Bacon’s summary of it by 250 years. The author of this groundbreaking book was a Muslim scholar named Abū ‘Alī al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham.

Born in Basra (located in what is now Iraq) in 965, Ibn al-Haytham—known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen—wrote more than 200 books and treatises on a wide range of subjects. He was the first person to apply algebra to geometry, founding the branch mathematics known as analytic geometry.

Ibn al-Haytham’s use of experimentation was an outgrowth of his skeptical nature and his Muslim faith. He believed that human beings are flawed and only God is perfect. To discover the truth about nature, he reasoned, one had to allow the universe to speak for itself. “The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them,” Ibn al-Haytham wrote in Doubts Concerning Ptolemy, “but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration.”

To test his hypothesis that “lights and colors do not blend in the air,” for example, Ibn al-Haytham devised the world's first camera obscura, observed what happened when light rays intersected at its aperture, and recorded the results. This is just one of dozens of “true demonstrations,” or experiments, contained in Kitāb al-Manāzir.

By insisting on the use of verifiable experiments to test hypotheses, Ibn al-Haytham established a new system of inquiry—the scientific method—and earned a place in history as the first scientist.

Bradley Steffens is the author of twenty-one books, coauthor of seven, and editor of the 2004 anthology, The Free Speech Movement. His Censorship was included in the 1997 edition of Best Books for Young Adult Readers and his Giants won the 2005 San Diego Book Award for Best Young Adult & Children's Nonfiction. His latest book is Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist, the world's first biography of the eleventh-century Arab scholar known in the West as Alhazen.

Muslim Heritage: November Issue

From: Muslim Heritage Newsletter []
Sent: Saturday, November 24, 2007 10:32 PM
To: Cem Nizamoglu
Subject: Muslim Heritage: November Issue

Discover the Scientific and Technological Muslim Heritage in Our World

Introducing FSTC

The Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a United Kingdom based educational entity which was formed to popularise, disseminate and promote an accurate account of Muslim Heritage and its contribution to present day science, technology and civilisation. Read more.

1001 Inventions Exhibition in Glasgow

After Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff, the touring exhibition 1001 Inventions begins at the Glasgow Science Centre since October 23, 2007.

Location: Glasgow Science Centre
Venue Dates: Oct 24, 2007 - January 8, 2008
Exhibition Guide: Click here to download
Read more.

New Publications on

A compilation of our most recent publications on various aspects of Muslim heritage: scientific, technological, historical and cultural.

A Wealth of Scholarship: Recent Publications in Islamic Art, Culture and History
This is a general review of some 23 recent publications (books, films, and articles) on various aspects of Islamic culture, history and civilisation. The survey concentrates on titles related to three categories: art and architecture, Islamic history and culture and Islam-Europe exchanges in medieval times.

Famous Figures of the Modern Turkish Medical School
To throw light on famous figures of the Turkish modern medical school, this article introduces a set of nine posters on the contribution of eight late Ottoman and early Turkish physicians (whose careers spanned from the middle of the 19th century until the mid-20th century).

Illustrious Names in the Heavens: Arabic and Islamic Names of the Moon Craters
24 craters of the Moon bear names of Arabic and Islamic origin. In majority, these names are those of famous scholars of Islamic civilisation. We present below a list of those crater-names on the Moon, with their geographical coordinates and biographical sketches on the scholars thus honoured and immortalized.

Recognizing a Decisive Tribute: Islam's Contribution to Western Civilization
This is a review of What Islam Did For Us: Understanding Islam's Contribution to Western Civilization, a book by Tim Wallace-Murphy that emphasizes Islam's immense contributions to the Western civilization in many groundbreaking domains such as education, science, architecture, medicine and social organisation.

Precious Records of Eclipses in Muslim Astronomy and History
On the occasion of the lunar eclipse that occurs on 28 August 2007, we produce a short survey of some records of lunar and solar eclipses reported on in Muslim heritage, drawn from various sources, including astronomical texts of professional historians as well as the books of history, chronicles and annals.

The Arabic Sources of Jordanus de Nemore
The following article by Professors Menso Folkerts and Richard Lorch, from Munich University in Germany, describes the influences of Arabic sciences in the works of Jordanus de Nemore, a scholar who flourished in Western Europe in the 13th century.

Echoes of What Lies Behind the 'Ocean of Fogs' in Muslim Historical Narratives
This article is an edited version of the article originally written by the late Professor Mohammed Hamidullah, "Muslim Discovery of America before Columbus", Journal of the Muslim Students' Association of the United States and Canada. It accounts in part for the ongoing debate about a possible discovery of America before Columbus.

The Mechanics of Banu Musa in the Light of Modern System and Control Engineering
This article is a review of the book published recently by Professor Attila Bir (Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Istanbul) on Banu Musa's book of mechanics studied in the framework of modern system and control engineering.

Leonard of Pisa (Fibonacci) and Arabic Arithmetic
Professor Charles Burnett shows that Fibonacci failed to give adequate recognition to other sources of learning which he took from to produce his Liber Abacci. These other sources were translations of Arabic works from Toledo and Sicily.

Deciphering Egyptian Hieroglyphs in Muslim Heritage
The article surveys some results of Okasha El Daly's exciting discoveries about the precedence of Muslim scholars of the Golden Age of Islamic culture in deciphering the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt.

Tolerance or Compatibility? The Search for a Qur'anic Paradigm of Science
An authoritative study by Ahmad Dallal relating to some episodes of the exegesis of the scientific verses of the Qur'an, the Holy text of Islam, focusing on the exegesis (tafsir) of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi.

Hindiba: A Drug for Cancer Treatment in Muslim Heritage
A detailed study by Nil Sari investigating the historical and medical aspects of the lasting fate of the hindiba, a plant of Middle Eastern lands that was under scrutiny in the different periods of Islamic medicine for its therapeutic value as a drug for the treatment of various diseases, including cancer.

Copernicus and Arabic Astronomy: A Review of Recent Research
A selected list of references documenting the influence of Islamic astronomy, mainly that of the Maragha observatory, on the astronomical and mathematical models described by Copernicus, published on the occasion of 464th anniversary of his death.

Rediscovering Arabic Science
This article presents the folder on Arabic and Islamic science published by the magazine Saudi Aramco World (issue May-June 2007). The folder consists of three articles illustrated with a rich iconography, accompanied with illuminating explanatory captions. They were written by Richard Covington, a journalist based in Paris, who collaborates with several newspapers and Medias.

The Appreciation of Arabic Science and Technology in the Middle Ages
This article by Charles Burnett describes the appreciation of Arabic science and technology in the Middle Ages through the example of Adelard of Bath, an English scholar of the early 12th century.

The Influence of Islamic Culinary Art on Europe
This paper describes the results of a novel research on the Muslim influence on the European culinary art during the Renaissance. Presenting evidence of how this influence entered the aristocratic circles in Europe, it draws attention to the way in which it shaped the use and trade of spices.

The Syriac-speaking Christians and the Translation of Greek Science into Arabic
John Healey describes in this penetrating analysis the key role in the development of Muslim science which was played by the Syriac-speaking Christians in the early Islamic era.

Süleymaniye Medical Madrasa
Salim Ayduz discusses the emergence and origins of institutional Ottoman medical practice and learning, and provides an insight into the trade of expertise between the Ottoman provinces and further a field, focusing on the Süleymaniye medical school built by Süleyman the Magnificent in the middle of the 16th century in Istanbul.

Al-Hassâr's Kitâb al-Bayân and the Transmission of the Hindu-Arabic Numerals
This article by Paul Kunitzsch presents a new manuscript of the mathematical work Kitâb al-Bayân by the Moroccan mathematician of the 12th century Al-Hassâr, together with related remarks on the transmission of the Hindu-Arabic numerals to the medieval West.

The Arabic Partial Version of Pseudo-Aristotle's Mechanical Problems
Based on manuscript evidence, the article authored by Mohammed Abattouy analyses the historical and textual traditions of a fragment of Arabic mechanics which is also edited in Arabic and translated into English. This fragment, entitled Nutaf min al-hiyal, presents an Arabic translation of the theoretical part of the Probelama mechanica, a famous treatise of ancient mechanics attributed to Aristotle.

Sinan: A Great Ottoman Architect and Urban Designer
Mimar Sinan is the most celebrated of all Ottoman architects. His architectural models, perfected in the construction of mosques and other buildings, served as the basic themes for virtually all later Ottoman religious and civic architecture.

Sinan's Acoustical Technology
An account by Mutbul Kayili of a research project studying the acoustical properties of several Ottoman mosques designed by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century. Important conclusions are deduced from this carefully conducted analysis, demonstrating the innovative designs of in-built acoustical systems.

15th Century Islamic Architecture Presages 20th Century Mathematics
Review of the exciting discovery about sophisticated geometry in Islamic architecture, in which geometry meets artistry tile work, published in Science Magazine (vol. 315, n° 1106, 2007) by Peter J. Lu and Paul J. Steinhardt.

Automation and Robotics in Muslim Heritage: The Cultural Roots of al-Jazari's Mechanical Systems
An introduction to a longer essay by Gunalan Nadarajan devoted to a new interpretation of the mechanical work of al-Jazari, the famous 13th century Islamic scholar, engineer and scientist.

When Ridhwan al-Sa'ati Anteceded Big Ben by More than Six Centuries
In this article, Abdel Aziz al-Jaraki describes the context of the investigation carried on since several decades on the clock built by Fakhr al-Din Ridhwan al-Sa'ati around 1202 CE and surveys his ongoing endeavours to reconstruct this instrument and make it live again.

Activities and Announcements

See other activities of FSTC:

Lecture: 1000 Years of Missing Science, Technology and Culture
By Professor Salim Al-Hassani (Chairman, FSTC). Saturday, 3rd November 2007, 2pm, Glasgow Science Center. The first lecture in a series of informative talks in which Professor Al-Hassani explores how discoveries from the Muslim culture between 7th and 17th centuries shaped the future of scientific technologies. Contact: Call 0871 540 1000 to reserve a ticket in advance.

Presentation: The Clock of Civilisations
Speakers: Peter Raymond, Prof. El-Gomati, Prof. Al-Hassani and Dr Brennan. Wednesday, 12th September 2007, 17.00 - 19.00, Room 2, Vanbrugh V123, Vanbrugh College, York University. A fascinating presentation on the 800 years old Elephant clock of Al-Jazari which reflects the contributions of Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese and Muslim civilisations. Read more.

Lecture: Arabic Astronomy and Its Influence on the Renaissance
By Dr Rim Turkmani (Royal Society Research Fellow, Imperial College). 25 August 2007, Saturday,, Thinktank Planetarium.

Lecture: Mapping the Earth in the Medieval Islam
By Professor Emilie Savage-Smith, (Oxford University). 23 August 2007, Thursday,, Thinktank Birmingham.

1001inventions on DM Islam TV Channel
TV show series led by Professor Salim Al-Hassani on Muslim scientific and technological inventions and innovations in world history and in present day life. Every Saturday starting 11 August 2007 on SKY 805, at 12.00 - 12.30,UK time. Read more.

Lecture: Arabic-Islamic Science and the Making of the Renaissance
By George Saliba, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science at Columbia University. Venue 1: Saturday, May 26th 2007, 3.30pm, Thinktank Theatre, Thinktank, Millenium Point, Birmingham. Venue 2: Tuesday, May 29th 2007, 6.30 pm, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London. Read more.

Lecture: Islam, Modernity and the Enlightenment: A New Perspective
By Samer Akkach. Organised by The Council for Arab-British Understanding and the FSTC. Thursday 3rd May 2007, 6:30pm, Lecture Hall, Royal Asiatic Society, London. Read more.

Lecture: 1001 Nights -v- 1001 Inventions: Muslim Scientific Heritage in Our World
By Professor Salim Al-Hassani (Emeritus Professor, University of Manchester, Chairman, Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation). Thursday, 29 March 2007,, Royal Society of Arts, Manchester. Professor Al-Hassani will showcase some of the fascinating inventions of this period and explore their relevance to today's world and society. Read more.

1001 inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World
Chief Editor Salim al-Hassani, Published by FSTC, Manchester, 2006. 1001 Inventions book presents an excellent overview of Muslim heritage written to appeal to the everyday reader and to amaze and redefine many people's current assumptions of medieval times. Read more.

Newsletter Team:

Chief Editor: Mohammed Abattouy
Deputy Editor: Anne-Maria Brennan
Associate Editor (History of Science): Salim Ayduz
Associate Editor (Education): Ian Fenn
Production Team: Sondoss Al-Hassani, Margaret Morris.

Published by FSTC - All rights reserved.

How Islam invented a bright new world

by CATE DEVINE (The Scottish Herald)
October 24 2007

We all know that thousands of familiar items were invented, discovered or created by Scottish ingenuity. The television, Tarmac, penicillin, radar and, more recently, Dolly the sheep are just some of them.

But how many of us realise that coffee, clocks, deodorant, the fountain pen, libraries, sofas, surgical instruments, toothpaste, chemistry, herbal medicine, town planning, vaccinations and even the crankshaft - among thousands of other inventions - have a claim to originate in the Muslim world between the seventh and seventeenth centuries?

Too many of us in the west are unaware of the enormous contribution Islamic scholars have made to our cultural and social life. In an attempt to shed light on this largely ignored "golden age" of scientific innovation, Salim al Hassani, chairman of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation and emeritus professor at Manchester University, has created an interactive exhibition called 1001 Inventions, which opened yesterday at the Glasgow Science Centre.

The Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Babylonians also have claims to incredible creativity, but al Hassani's point is that the Islamic world's contribution is often sidelined. "If it had not been for Muslim inventions, we would not have had the Renaissance, nor present-day civilisation.
"Western history books tend to jump from Greek times to Newton and Einstein, so there's a huge gap of knowledge that needs to be filled in the interests of social and cultural cohesion, and even world peace."

This 1000-year gap is a fluke of history, not a conspiracy, he says. However, he believes the time has come for recognition and acknowledgment. "Because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the west, as an alien culture, society and belief system, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history."

The exhibition has a message for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. "In the post-9/11 era there have been tensions in world relations," says al Hassani. "I want non-Muslims to recognise their neighbours, but there is also a message here for young Muslims in Britain: recognise the contribution of your ancestors. These people expressed their religiosity through beneficial contributions to society and humanity.

"Young Muslims should also learn that great inventors were men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim, working in harmony together. This track record of co-operation over the centuries, although deeply rooted within early Muslim society, seems to have been forgotten. The 1001 Inventions project taps directly into that tradition by seeking to develop a better understanding between peoples and cultures."

Professor Robert Hillenbrand, director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World, based at Edinburgh University, also believes the exhibition is timely. "The Arab world is one of the big four global players today, along with Russia, China and Japan," he says. "Scottish students are still choosing to learn French, but who do you think is going to run the planet in 100 years' time? Not the French."

Here, then, are 10 of the inventions for which we should thank the Muslim world
Camera obscura
Although the Greeks had written treatises on optics, it was the ninth-century polymath al Kindi who first laid down the foundations of its modern study, discussing how light rays came in a straight line and the influence of distance and angle on sight.

This was built on by Ibn al Haitham in the tenth century, and his Book of Optics is still quoted by professors 1000 years on. During his practical experiments he used the term al Bayt al Muthlim, which was translated into Latin as "camera obscura". His Book of Optics was translated into Latin by the medieval scholar Gerard of Cremona, and this had a profound impact on the thirteenth-century big thinkers such as Roger Bacon and Witelo, and even on the later works of Leonardo da Vinci.

More than 1200 years ago, legend has it that coffee was discovered by Ethopian Arab goatherds when they noticed their goats became more lively after eating certain berries. These berries were boiled, and became known as al Qahawa. It was a Turkish merchant, Pasqua Rosee, who first brought coffee to the UK in 1650.

In 1206, the mechanical engineer al Jazari, working for the Urtuq kings of Diyarbakir in Turkey, was commissioned to write a book on engineering. It described 50 mechanical devices, including the first water-powered astronomical clock, a programmable humanoid robot and the crankshaft.

Toothbrushes and toothpaste
In the sixth century, the Prophet Muhammad is described as believing bad breath and food bits in your teeth were unhygienic, and scrubbing his teeth with a twig of miswak before each prayer. Although the Chinese can lay claim to a sixteenth-century version of the toothbrush, miswak is still used today - and a Swiss pharmaceutical company has since discovered that it has antibacterial properties.

In his tenth-century medical encyclopaedia al Tasrif, the physician and surgeon al Zahrawi included a chapter devoted to "cosmetology" and elaborated on perfume and perfumed stocks, rolled and pressed in special moulds - like today's roll-on deodorants.

Although the Greeks and Romans had houses of scrolls open to the public, they were not lending libraries. Muslims began producing books in the eighth century because they knew how to make paper and were encouraged to record all their experiments. The Abbasid Caliph al Ma'mun paid translators the weight of each book in gold that they translated from Greek into Arabic. This produced a vast stack of books. Mosque libraries were called dar al-kutub, or the house of books.

Many scholars give the title of the father of chemistry to Jabir, or Gerber, ibn Hayyan, born around 722, the son of a druggist from Iraq. His use of experimental method in alchemy is seen as influential to this day.

Fountain pens
Before pens as we know them today came other writing instruments, including the qalam or reed pen. The most sought-after reeds came from the coastal lands of the Arabian Gulf. Each style of script required a different reed, cut at a specific angle. Calligraphers usually made their own inks and kept the recipes secret.

The language of Arabic calligraphy belongs to the family of ancient semitic languages, the most famous of which are Kufic and Naskh. The Kufic script comes from the city of Kufa, Iraq, where it was used by seventh- century scribes translating the Koran. Calligraphy is still used today for writing the Koran.

Surgical instruments
In his medical encyclopaedia, the aforementioned al Zahrawi introduced a staggering collection of more than 200 surgical tools. Their design was so precise that they have had only a few changes in 1000 years, and it was these illustrations that laid the foundations for surgery in Europe.

Post and mail
In fourteenth-century India, couriers took messages to the Muslim sultan sitting in Delhi. A man carrying a rod with copper bells on the top would sprint as fast as he could for one-third of a mile, and on hearing the bells the next man would get ready to take the mail. It took only five days for a message to get from the eastern edge of India to the capital.