Essay: Islamic Technology Cultural and Construction

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[. . .] Another contribution from the Islamic world was its modifications to libraries. The libraries in Muslim countries had collections of ancient manuscripts that made the scientific discoveries of ancient cultures accessible. In addition, they introduced the public library and the ability to borrow books on loan, thus giving some the opportunity to increase their knowledge. Libraries also served as places to discuss scientific theories and discoveries, rendering science more understandable to the public. Finally, the organisation of books into categories and genres in a catalogue was first introduced in medieval Islamic libraries (Francoise 988 -- 91).

The Islamic Golden Age nourished public education by creating the university. The world's oldest university to grant diplomas is at Al-Karaouine in Morocco. No doubt different than European universities, the early Islamic institutions were a major influence on their later European counterparts (Makdisi 175 -- 82). The doctorate degree was conceived in the medieval Islamic system of legal education. Makdisi mentions other Muslim influences on the university. He says that "the fact that we still talk of professors holding the 'Chair' of their subject" comes from the "traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair and the students sit around him." He explains that "practices such as delivering inaugural lectures, wearing academic robes, obtaining doctorates by defending a thesis, and even the idea of academic freedom are also modelled on Islamic custom." Thus, the Islamic Golden Age not only furthered the scientific method, but also enhanced public learning through pedagogical methods that are still intact today.

The Islamic world saw the founding of the first university's between the 11th and 13th century. This led to an increase in literacy and learning. The idea of the university had spread through most of Europe by the 14th century (Hassan). The establishment of higher educational institutions allowed for more rapid spread of technology and knowledge, a factor that was necessary for the scientific revolution that was to come later.

Transmission of Greek Philosophy

Transmission of Greek Philosophy is another important Islamic contribution. The collapse of the Roman Empire had a knock-on effect whereby many texts of classical antiquity came into the possession of the Europeans. As explained in the section exploring the Byzantine Empire, many of these texts had previously been provided to the Islamic countries. This goodwill gesture led to an unpredictable turn of fate, as during the Middle Ages many of these texts were translated from Arabic back into European languages. Thus, while the original copies in Europe were lost, the passing of the texts to the Middle East led to retranslated texts, which allowed the works of philosophers such as Aristotle to be known once again to the Europeans (Lebedel 109).

Another way in which Greek ideas were reintroduced to Europe was through the expansion of Islam from the Middle East to Europe. Sicily and Spain were conquered in approximately AD 700, with southern France becoming populated by Muslims by AD 730. Al-Hakam II gathered as many books as possible from Arab countries and placed them in a library, which later became a translation centre for the texts to be rewritten in Latin (Lindberg 57 -- 8). Their reintroduction was also furthered by the relocation of Arab scholars who, having studied the Greek texts in their home countries, moved to Europe and brought Greek ideas with them (Laughlin 120).

The translation of ancient Greek texts allowed for the transmission of knowledge into Europe. Ancient Greek texts were translated into Latin for distribution throughout Europe. There are many such books that made their way into European universities via this route (Campbell 6). Arabic works also made their way to Europe through the same route of transmission (Hassan). The filtration of these works into Europe was still limited to those who were literate in European Society. Advancement of science in Europe was slow, and is attributed to the upper class where it remained until the Renaissance.

Alchemy and chemistry

Advances in Alchemy and in chemistry made their way into Europe and served as standard texts for European alchemists as early as the 12th century. During the same time, many famous mathematical books were transmitted to Europe, first being translated into Latin (Katz 291). Some of the more notable books included Al-Khazini's Zij, translated into Greek in the 13th century (Hassan), the twelfth-century work of Jabir ibn Aflah (Katz 292), and others. Hundreds of ancient texts made their way into the hands of European scientists via this route.

In Avicenna's the Canon of Medicine, written and 1025 AD, it was noted that infectious diseases could be spread by air. This book also examined how to test new medicines safely and effectively (Tschanz). European surgical techniques for advanced to the translation of the works ofAbu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, in Kitab al-Tasrif, which made its way into Europe during the 1100s. The descriptions of surgical procedures from this text were still being reprinted in the 1770s (Campbell 3).


The works of Sir Isaac Newton are attributed to advances in physics and optics. However, if one examines the historical record, they will find that many of the ideas presented in Newton's famous works can be found in Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)'s Book of Optics, which was also published in 1021 AD (Salih, Al-Amri and Gomati). Many other advances, such as cartography and theories of motion also had their roots in ancient Islamic texts (Hassan).

The amount of information in science and technology that had a direct effect on the advancement of European science during the Renaissance has led to the argument that the European renaissance may not have happened at all had it not been for the knowledge gained through Islamic texts. Of course, this is pure speculation and no one can tell what would have happened if Europeans did not have access to this knowledge. It is anybody's guess how science and technology to the progress. However, one thing is certain, the Islamic world was a key influence in the direction that scientific want in discovery took as a result of the knowledge gained from the writings.

3. Economic Environment


Science was not the only area where Islamic knowledge played a significant role in the development of European Society. Many traditional economic concepts had their roots in the early days of the Golden Age of Islam. The idea of taxing certain goods, such as harvest for distribution to the needy was an idea that developed out of the Islamic world. Islamic jurisprudence also played a key role in the development of European law, as we know it today (Roy 132).

Islamic law played a key role in the development of formal economic systems that are still in place today. For instance, Islamic law was developed in areas that are similar to contracts and torts. These laws laid the foundation for an economic system in which all participants were treated more fairly. This fairness was a result of the idea in the Koran that the flow of money and goods needed to be purified by more equal distribution. In accordance with the laws of Islam, the caliphate became one of the first welfare states (Crone 308-309). The idea of charity became an important concept and interest loans were discouraged. One example of this occurred when the Prophet instituted economic policies that included disallowing permanent buildings in the market of Medina in the abolition of rents for setting up a stand (Bonner 391-406). It is suggested that by this action the Prophet was giving the poor an equal chance to compete with more wealthy merchants. The economic system stressed fairness in lending and borrowing. The system was designed so that no one would be taken advantage of.

The economic system of the Islamic Golden Age saw the development of certain organized trades. Technology led to the development of these trades, which had a reciprocal effect on the development of the economy. This era saw the development of a thriving perfume industry. Chemical glazes were developed to help them compete with the Chinese ceramic industry. The system relied on the merchants who would buy and sell on commission. The merchants bought their goods with money from investors were joint ventures. In the spirit of diversity, partnerships often involved Muslims, Christians, in Jewish Partners. The merchant class was not restricted to only Muslims. Kinship bonds also played a role in the development partnerships and allowed trade to occur over vast differences. International trade developed in the emergence of the banking system that allowed the check to be drawn in Baghdad and cashed in Morocco (Peters 125). A world banking system was established.

The Islamic Golden Age saw the development of one of the most extensive trade networks. Muslim traders were active explores and traveled over most of the Old World (Hobson 29-30), they extended into the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and China Sea (Labib 79-96). The Arabs silver coins were… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Islamic Technology Cultural and Construction.  (2011, July 22).  Retrieved March 23, 2019, from

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"Islamic Technology Cultural and Construction."  July 22, 2011.  Accessed March 23, 2019.