Are there any Muslim scientists known worldwide?

Details of the Question

-  Was there worldwide development in science in the Ottoman State and the Islamic states (Umayyad and Abbasid States)? Who were the scientists that were brought up in those periods?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Science is a way of seeing the art of Allah, His superiority in creation, perfection and miraculous features. If a person conducting research in any branch of science does not have certain prejudices or an ideology he follows blindly, he will see that there is a perfect design in every detail he sees, and he can easily understand that this design can only be the work of an eternal mind. For this reason, the great majority of scientists who made great discoveries throughout history and who were the pioneers of scientific development turned toward Allah.

In this answer, which you will read, it will be shown what a big mistake is made by those who claim that science and religion contradict, and that a scientist cannot be a religious person or a religious person cannot be a scientist. In the first part of this article, which is composed of two separate chapters, the scientists who were raised in an environment dominated by the religion of Islam, who are recognized and praised by their belief in Allah, and who made history by discovering and inventing many things in science, will be mentioned. The second part deals with the Western scientists who are known for their discoveries and scientific studies throughout history and who believed in Allah in the face of scientific facts they witnessed.

Some of the Islamic scholars who are pioneers of science

Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is an Islamic philosopher and medical scholar who was born in 980 near Bukhara. He learned logic, mathematics and astronomy from his father, and then from the famous scholars of the period. He was appointed as the private physician of Nuh II because of his success in the field of medicine.

His famous work "al-Qanun" is a large medical encyclopedia of about a million words. It contains all of the old medicine and Muslim medical science. This work dominated the world medical literature for centuries in terms of both its content and its way of arrangement. It was the source of all medical books written in Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Western languages until the emergence of new medicine.

This work of Ibn Sina, which gives detailed information about the principles of the science of medicine, drugs and various diseases, was used and preferred as a basic reference book in the era of both Anatolian Seljuks and Ottomans.

Ibn Sina, who marked a new era in medicine, influenced both the Eastern and Western philosophers in the field of philosophy. His works were translated into Latin in the 12th century and then spread throughout the world.

Kadızade Rumi (Qadizada ar-Rumi)

Somebody was in the limelight regarding exact sciences at the end of the 16th century in the Ottoman State. This person was a Turkish mathematician and astronomer known as Musa Pasha b. Mahmud b. Muhammad Salahuddin; he became famous as Qadizada ar-Rumi. He wrote interpretations/explanations called "sharh" about various important books and became famous for them. One of them was the explanations he wrote for the astronomy book called "Mulakhkhas fil-Hay'a" which was written by al-Kwharizmi and which was used as a textbook in the Ottoman schools. He also wrote explanations for the book called "Ashkalut-Ta'sis", which was written by Shamsuddin Samarqandi about geometry and properties of triangles. He wrote an Arabic book called "Mukhtasar fil-Hisab", consisting of three parts: the first part about arithmetic, the second part about algebra and equations and the third part about measurements.  

The most important work of Qadizada is the explanation he wrote for Ghiyasuddin Jamshid's "Risala fi Istikhrajil-Jaybi Daraja Wahida". Although he wrote interpretations about the book, he explained the method of calculating one degree arc sine in a better and simpler way than the author. Qadizada is mentioned as the best and real astronomer of the age he lived in. Thus, we can regard Qadizada as the first real astronomer of the Ottoman Turks.

Mahmut Şirvani (Mahmud Shirwani)

Shirwani, who lived in the first half of the 15th century, is one of the most important physicians, perhaps the first one, of the Ottoman medicine. He was born in Anatolia of a family of Shirwan origin. He wrote eleven books and dedicated all his works to the statesmen of the era he lived in. "Murshid", which was his last and the most important work and which was dedicated to Sultan Mehmet II (the Conqueror), is the largest book related to eye diseases in the Ottoman medicine.

"Tuhfe-i Muradi", another book he wrote, is included in the list of the first medical works written in Anatolia due to the information it contains. Although the topic is based on precious stones, it is accepted as a medical book by historians since he explains how those stones are used in medicine.

Four of Shirwani's works were written in Arabic and six in Turkish. There is no other productive medical writer in the first period of Ottoman medicine. In addition to reflecting the scientific mentality of the period clearly, it is of great importance since he wrote his works in plain Turkish, which everyone can understand even today.

Mukbilzade Mümin (Muqbilzada Mumin)

One of the important scientists of the Ottoman period is Muqbilzada Mumin, who lived during the reign Murad II and left two important works. Mumin was one of the first Ottoman physicians along with Shirwani, who was interested in eye diseases specially.

The author's first work is "Zahire-i Muradiye", which was dedicated to the sultan. His second work "Miftahun-Nur wa Khazainus-Surur" is an important medical book, which was also dedicated to the sultan. The book describes the details of eye diseases after the diagnosis and health information is mentioned in general. In this important work, head and skull structure and diseases, eye diseases, eyelid disorders, conjunctiva and corneal diseases are described in detail, measures against those diseases and their cures are explained.

The presence of Muqbilzada Mumin in the lists of physicians in all of the Darush-Shifa foundations in the Ottoman State proves that he was a very important physician of the period and it reflects the importance given to eye diseases at that time.

Ali Kuşçu (Ali Qushji)

Ali Qushji, who has a well-deserved reputation among the scientists of astronomy and mathematics in the Turkish-Islamic world, is considered to be the leading scientist of astronomy among Ottoman Turks. The Western and Eastern Science world regard him as an exceptional scientist that lived in the 15th century. Qushji learned mathematics from Ulugh Bey and Qadizada. He went to Azerbaijan, where he served as the embassy under the command Sultan Hasan the Tall of Akkoyunlu State for a while; then, he worked as a scientist in the palace of Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror).

Ali Kuşçu, who made a sundial in the Fatih Complex, and who took part in scientific discussions, determined the degree of latitude and longitude of Istanbul. Ali Qushji, produced the first map of the Moon; his name was given to a region in the Moon. Ali Qushji's works can be divided into two main parts. The first one is about religion and philology. The other is about mathematics and astronomy. The most important one of these works is "Risale fil-Hay'a". It was presented to Fatih (the Conqueror) with the name "Fathiya" as it was completed on the day of the Conquest of Istanbul. This work, which is a major breakthrough in the field of mathematics and astronomy, contains all of the scientific details of heavenly bodies, including the distance of them to the world. The book was written in Persian and then translated into Arabic. It was still preferred as a book on astronomy even after the Western science became widespread in Turkey.

Mirim Çelebi (Chalabi)

Mirim Chalabi, whose real name Mahmud b. Mehmed, was one of the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians in the Ottoman State in the 16th century. He was born in Istanbul, studied in madrasas and worked as a teacher when Bayezid II was a prince; he occupied important positions in the state.

One of the most important works of Chalabi, who is the grandson of Qadizada and Ali Qushji, is an explanation called "Dusturul-Amal wa Tashihul-Jadwal", which   he wrote in Persian, about Ulugh Bey's Zij (Catalogue of Stars). The author described the topics in a variety of ways; for example, he showed five clear solutions to calculate one degree of arc sine.

Mirim Chalabi, also wrote an explanation for Fathiya, written by his grandfather Ali Qushji on astronomy, upon the insistence Sultan Selim I. He wrote seven or eight booklets about mathematics and astronomy. Mirim Chalabi is one of the Muslim scientists who worked the hardest for the advancement of the sciences of astronomy and mathematics in the Ottoman State.

Taqiyuddin Efendi

He is one of the most important astronomers of the 16th century. He came to Istanbul from Cairo to work for the state. He was welcomed due to his mastery in mathematics and was introduced to the Sultan. An observatory was established thanks to his great help. The observatory he founded was equipped with the most important astronomical instruments of that time. It is a very important place with the observations made in it, the tools used there and the astronomers who worked there.

The most important work of Taqiyuddin is "Sidratul-Muntaha". In this work, he calculated solar parameters by using the three observation points method. Taqiyuddin is the third person in the world to use this method after Tycho Brahe and Copernicus. Although they obtained similar results, Taqiyuddin's calculations related to the solar parameters were recorded as the most accurate calculations of the 16th century.

Taqiyuddin mentions “clocks” in his works as if they are astronomical tools. The most important features of his clocks was that they showed minutes and seconds precisely. The production of a clock including minutes and seconds in Europe took place in the same period when Taqiyuddin mentioned that mechanism.

In his small catalogue of stars called "Haridatud-Durar wa Faridatul-Fikr", Taqiyuddin used decimal fractions and gave information about them. In other words, decimal fractions were not only introduced but also used by Taqiyuddin much earlier than they were known in Europe. When this information is considered, it is clearly seen that Taqiyuddin is one of the scientists who did several things for the “first” time in the world.

Saydi Ali b. Husayn

Saydi Ali b. Husayn, is a great sailor who specialized in astronomy, participated in several sea expeditions, especially wars, and worked in the service of Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha.

The most important work of Husayn, which shows that he is a scientist that is an expert in marine astronomy and geography is "Muhit". Many important issues like direction finding, time calculation, calendar, sun and moon timings, compass sections, the altitudes of various islands and famous ports related to the pole star, some information about astronomy, winds, transportation routes, big storms and measures to be taken against them are included in this work. As it can be understood from the topics, Muhit is a very scientific and important work.

Husayn also translated Ali Qushji’s "Fethiye" and made some additions. He added astronomical terms when he listed the skies, stated that the center of the realm was the center of the earth and that the heavy objects fell toward the center of the earth.

In his other work called "Mir'at-i Kainat", the author gives information about the altitude of the sun, the places of the stars, the determination of the qiblah and the noon time, finding sines, chords and tangents of circles, and measuring the width of a river that cannot be crossed. He is a superior sailor and astronomer who gave very important information about astronomy and wrote several valuable books.

Katib Chalabi

He is a great scientist who lived in the seventeenth century. At the age of fourteen, he was admitted to Anatolian Accounting Office and learned the rules of calculations from one of the scholars there. After that, he studied with various teachers and expanded his knowledge.

Perhaps the most important work of Katib Chalabi among his approximately twenty books is "Kashfuz-Zunun an Asamil-Kutub wal-Funun". The book contains information about three hundred independent branches of science/knowledge and their aims and topics, along with researches.

His second major work is "Cihannüma". The author divides the five continents on the earth into six and gives general information about them (Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia and Polar regions) in this book on geography and cosmography. Various evidences are given to prove the roundness of the earth and all of the plants and animals from Japan to Erzurum are introduced in the work. "Cihannüma" is the first and only systematic geography book that contains valuable information that is not found anywhere about the Ottoman State on three continents, its cities and towns.

Katip Chalabi is an intellectual who made great moves in the Ottoman society in the period when the atmosphere was stagnant and closed to innovations. He was a scholar who was engaged in translating astronomy books of the West. Chalabi is considered to be one of the first architects of a scientific understanding that exceeded the conditions of the era he lived in.

Ibn an-Nafis

Another person that left his mark on important developments in science in the 13th century is Alauddin Ali Abil-Hazm al-Qurayshi, also known as Ibn an-Nafis. Ibn an-Nafis made many important explanations about medicine in his famous book called "Mu'jazul-Qanun" and it became very popular. The most important feature of his book was that Ibn an-Nafis described the small blood circulation just like Michel Servetus, who described it in the 16th century before Harvey did.

It is extremely important that Servetus explained the small blood circulation about three centuries after Ibn an-Nafis and that he described the same anatomical structure. For, until that time, the classical belief in anatomy was that the septum (the separating membrane or wall separating two different parts of an organ) was permeable. However, Ibn An-Nafis concluded this fact acting upon the idea that the septum was not permeable without any observations. As a matter of fact, it was proved in the following centuries by observations that the septum was not permeable.

Ibn An-Nafis is undoubtedly one of the most important names in the history of medicine with this important discovery. Although the importance and value of his discovery became known three centuries after his death, he was known as the great medical person who contributed a lot to the Ottoman period.

Akşemseddin (Akshamsaddin)

His real name is Shamsaddin Muhammad b. Hamza. However, he was called Akshamsaddin because of his white (gray) beard and mustache and wearing white clothes. He was born in Damascus and moved to Anatolia at an early age; he settled in a county of Amasya. He became very successful in various sciences at a young age and had a good medical education.

Akshamsaddin, who made deep research in the field of medicine, described germ five hundred years ago by saying, "It is wrong to think that diseases emerge in humans one by one. Diseases pass from person to person through infection. This infection occurs through tiny living seeds that are too small to see with the eyes." He made this statement about a hundred years before the Italian physician Fracastor, who first introduced the term germ. Akshamsaddin, who made such a great discovery, has an important place in the history of medicine. Akshamsaddin, who was very close to Sultan Murad II and Mehmet II, is known for healing many patients in and around the palace with his medications.

Akşemseddin wrote many religious books as well as two great medical works of utmost importance. His works still maintain their importance in medical literature.

Al-Battani

Al-Battani, who was born in Harran in 868, received his first education from his father Jabir bin San'an al-Battani, who was a famous scientist. He continued his education afterwards and became an expert in a wide range of subjects.

Battani is a famous astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He made many important discoveries about astronomy. The most important of them was that he calculated the solar year as 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds. This discovery is very close to today's measurements. He also discovered that the longitude of the sun at its peak increased 160 47' since the discovery by Ptolemy. This is an important discovery that shows the orbital movements of the sun and the small differences in synchronicity.

The innovations introduced by al-Battani reveal that there is a remarkable curve in the ecliptic plane, and shows the length of the seasons and the orbit of the sun with precise measurements. His observations related the moon and the sun were used by Dunthorne in 1749 to understand the movement of the moon. In mathematics, he was the first person to use the sine instead of the Greek chord. In addition, he introduced the concept of cotangent and formed a graded table. He has numerous works on astronomy and trigonometry. His works on astronomy influenced Europe until the Renaissance, and his discoveries in astronomy and trigonometry led the development of these branches of science.

Al-Khwarizmi

Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi was born circa 770 AD in Uzbekistan. He is known as the mathematician who had the most constant and profound impact on the Western world of science.

Khwarizmi is the person to write the first book on the science of algebra in the Eastern world of science. This branch of science had previously been dealt with to a certain extent and was regarded as a science different from geometry. Simple equations had been solved, but the origin of second degree equations had not yet been understood. Khwarizmi was the first person to systematically determine the solution of second degree equations in his second book called "al-Jabr wal-Muqabala". Khwarizmi explained the methods mentioned in his work with the ability of a teacher and proved those rules geometrically.

This work of Khwarizmi caused the start of very important developments in the history of mathematics; it was considered as the basis for mathematics learning for more than six hundred years. Scientists such as Roger Bacon and Fibonacci studied this work with admiration and benefited from it in their teachings. In 1598-1599, the only source of algebra was still this work of Khwarizmi.

In addition to mathematics, he also wrote books on astronomy and geography. He also wrote books on sundials and clocks.

Thabit Bin Qurra

Thabit bin Qurra is one of the Islamic scientists who specialized in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. He pioneered very big developments in all these areas; he introduced several innovations in the fields of geometry and algebra in the period when he lived. The orientalist Georges Rivoire writes about the place of Thabit bin Qurra in geometry as follows:

"We owe the application of algebra to geometry to Muslims. It is the work of Thabit bin Qurra, who died in 900."

It is known that Thabit, who was engaged in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, medicine and translation, wrote seventy-nine books. Twenty-one of them are about medicine, two about music, and the remaining twenty-five about mathematics and philosophy.

Using the information of Euclid, Thabit succeeded in showing solutions of much more general equations in algebra. He was also engaged in the solution to positive rooted second degree equations like Khwarizmi. The solution the the third degree equations was found by Umar Khayyam two centuries later. C. B. Boyer, states the following for this master mathematician:

"9th century was the golden age of Muslim mathematicians. The first half of the century was marked by Khwarizmi, and the second half was marked by Thabit bin Qurra. Khwarizmi and Euclid are similar as 'foundationalists' while Thabit is, like Pappus, an interpreter of calculus." [Boyer, C. B. (1968). A History of Mathematics, John Wiley and Sons, New York, p. 258]

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