Science in islam, History of philosophy, literature and the mosque | It is difficult today to reconstruct, or even to imagine, the results of the encounter, primarily in and around 9th-century Baghdad, between the science in islam and philosophy of antiquity and the new faith, confident in its physical power and eager to include all knowledge in its systems of thought.
Two aspects of this encounter are pertinent to the arts. One is that it was not restricted to Baghdad. In the provinces of northeastern Iran – Khorasan and Transoxiana – and in al-Andalus at the other extreme of the Muslim world, local schools of philosophy, theology, law, and sciences developed quite rapidly and often with much originality as early as in the 10th century.
Later on, northern Iraq, Azerbaijan, and, of course, all the imperial capitals like Cairo, Istanbul, Samarqand, Delhi, to a lesser degree Isfahan, and religious capitals like Madhiya, Mashhad, or Qum in Iran acquired more or less significant scientific and philosophical schools.
History of philosophy, literature and science in islam,
For, just as with the arts, it was a proper function of rulers to support learning and the scholars engaged in its search. At times, rulers themselves or the ruling establishment were tempted to impose some views and intellectual attitudes at the expense of others and alternate positions, sometimes highly heterodox ones, developed, more or less openly, in most major centers.
Science in Islam; these various antagonisms were often displayed in urban confrontations which could become riots, but their impact, if any, on the arts is still unclear. Another aspect of this growth of science and philosophy within Muslim civilization is the identification of areas where a relationship with the arts can be established.
Science in islam, Theory and geometry,
Examples are aesthetic theory and geometry. In the past, a few scholars tried to identify an “Islamic” aesthetic theory, and a vague consensus had been established around two philosophical themes and the arts. One is “atomism.”
This is the notion that all things, living or not, are made up of combinations of exactly identical atoms. The composition of atoms into “things, it is argued, is a divine prerogative, but artists or artisans, who must not compete with God, are allowed to organize these atoms in any
arbitrary way they wish.
Thus the free and imaginative variations of Islamic Ornament or unusual combinations of motifs were seen as reflections of a halophical docume on the nature of reality.
The other theme pertinent to the ants was detected in the contrast between outer and inner meaning. Much used in mysticismthis is a belief in the simultaneous existence of two mean
ing for any form an exterior meaning easily accessible to everyone, and a hidden ene available only to the enlightened” few.
Art and science,
This particular theory brought to the fore a variety of mystical interpretations of Islamic art, which may well be justified by the significance of mystical movements in Islamic history and by the special role they have played in the realms of culture, symbolism and taste.
But these interpretations must be used with care, as they do not apply to all times and in all places. In general, the difficulties with all these explanations is that they are too
broad to be really useful in understanding works of art, and they are therefore
unlikely to have been consistently effective artistically.
More recent investigattions and reflections tend to suggest that there were many aesthetic theories operating in the Islamic world, each influenced by its temporal, regional, or intellectual origins.
There were, for instance, aesthetic theories connected to the philosophe found in the essays written by the Brethren of Purity a fascinating group of texts from 10th century Baghdad, or to the writings of Ibn Hazm (994-1064), the sophisticated philosopher and writer of Muslim Spain, determined opponent of the concept of allegorical interpretation.
Science in islam, Old scientists!
The Aris torelan concept of mimesis – the practice of imicating nature or reality – appears in the philosophical treatise of al-Farabi (6.870 950). Ibn Sina (Avicennat 980 1037), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes: 1126-1198), without, however, direct references to work of art. Al Ghazali (1058-11), the great eclectic thequently expressed his personal pleasure ar seeing or feeling beautiful things without apprend venturing bevond platinues to explain his feelings.
It was within these milieus that the distinction began to be made between significance
(maana) and form (sura, which also used to “picture”). A more interesting and a more fruitful approach was provided by Iba al-Haitam (Alhazen; 965-1039).
Science in islam, Hisrorical Science,
A scientist from Basra who set the study of optics on a totally new track. He developed a theory of beauty on the basis of his almost empirical theory of perception, emphasizing, in particular, the very contemporary notion of “visual meaning as well as more traditional concepts like “proportion” and “harmony.”
The 14th-century philosopher and historian Ibn Khaldun, discussed the arts in more sociological terms and was very conscious of their importance to the functioning of society. He emphasized. among other things, the social position of artists – from architects to silk weavers and calligraphers – which he regarded as more than artisans.
Classical centuries of Islam,
It is therefore, more appropriate to conclude that, beyond the few general tendencies established by the Koranic revelation at the very beginning of Islamic history, many aesthetic theories arose throughout the classical centuries of Islam.
Their rise, growth, and interrelationships are still too little understood to be successfully utilized by art historians. An interesting case, the source of an abundance of theories, is that of geometry, where two cultural phenomena met.
First, from the 10th century onward, sophisticated geometrical ornamentation became one of the major modes of decorating the walls of buildings and objects of all sorts; it also affected the composition and design of buildings. The other phenomenon was the appearance, at the same time, not only of new theoretical mathematics at the highest level but also of applied mathematics which could use novel and complex ideas for the solution of practical, everyday problems of construction and measurement.
Islam and Literature!
As in many cultures, literature in the dassical centuries of Islam, mostly in Ara bic and Persian, was a major source of inspiration for the arts. Most of it was highly secular in mood and subject matter, although, especially in the case of Persian lyrical poetry mystical thoughts and aninudes can be deadly detected, just as poetry self had an impact on the symbolism of mystical writing.
The ways in which literature inspired the arts can be discussed in three different ways,
The first and most obvious one, is iconographic, Literary subjects inspired artists working in many different media (ceramics, wall painting meralwork, even textiles), while from the 12th century onward, book illustration became a significant artistic activity.
The variety of genres illustrated was considerable and only a few of the most significant examples follow.
The Maqamar (Assem blies) of al-Hariri of Basra (1054-1122), is remarkable for brilliant use of the Arabic language to recount the adventures of its cunning hero, Abu Zaid. The illustrations of the various manuscripts, executed over a period of a century and a half, aimed to depict the stories involved, and, through them, the urban milieu in which they were supposed to have taken place.
The epic Shabname (King’s Book), composed by the Persian poet Firdausi (d. 1020) around the year 1000, consists of a heroic and largely mythical history of Iran from the time of Creation to the beginning of Islam. Its many stories of kings, warriors, battles, feasts, and love lent themselves to illustrations, of which hundreds have our vived from the end of the 13th century onward. Most of them exhibi dramatic mood and a highly symbolic rendering.
The Indian animal fables Kalila wa-Dimna (Kalila and Dimna), translated in the 8th century from
Persian into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa, are in fact a “Mirror of Princes” used for the moral and political edification of rulers, but they contain wonderful anecdotes, which are illustrated in Persian as well as Arabic manuscripts.
And, as a final example, one must mention Persian lyrical poetry, especially the beautil romances known as the Khamsa (Quintet) composed c. 1200 by the poet Nurami (d. 1209). From the end of the 19th century, these were often illustrated, as were also, but more rarely, the poems of the Persian Hafez (d.1989).
Science in islam, Mystic Poet,
Histories were occasionally illustrated, although, for the most part, they hardly qualify as literature several examples exist of illustrations provided forthe moralizing stories of the mystic poet Saadi (1219–1292).
Enormous variations exist between these texts and the ways in which they were illustrated. As
a general rule, imagery was created which directly reflected the written content but over the centuries, complex relationships were developed between images relating to different texts. Most of this iconography was restricted to books until fairly late in the 17th century, and, except for the epic stories of the Shahname, there is little evidence that it was used in wall painting, or in other forms of decoration.
Altogether, although not as varied nor as huge as the repertoires found in Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu art, the primarily secular vocabulary of Islamic painting provides examples illustrating a vast range of historical, legendary, and romantic events.
The second way,
The second way in which literature inspired the arts is more interesting than a simple recital of topics. As carly as the last decade of the 12th century (at least in so far as preserved examples are concerned), literary works were used to express messages other than simply the illustration of a story.
Many manuscripts were provided with frontispieces and dedications intended to reflect the glory of ruling princes. They could also be used as lessons in statesmanship, and, in many
instances, served as ways to recollect, and to interpret, contemporary events through references to past heroes.
Satire could also be a feature, as in 13th-century Arabic, some 15th-century Iranian manuscripts, and, especially, from the 17th century onward, in the depiction of individuals. It is possible to argue that, as literature inspired paintings.
it also used paintings to make itself more immediately responsive to che pressures of any one time Painting permined constant aggiornamento, and thus the continuing relevance of literature. The deep involvement of both Persian and Arabic speakers in their liveranure affected art in yet another way.
As early as the 9th century, debates and discussions arose on literary toples, the qualities of poets or writers, and the hier archy of the genres they used, Literary criticism became the subject of theoretical analysis, and, of endless debates.
Some of this analysis, such as that of al-Jurjani in the 11th century dealing with semantics or with metaphors and their psychological effect, or of Ibn al-Rami in the 15th century aiming to define beauty by describing ideal women, can be used to understand are Just as with philosophy and the natural sciences, it is unlikely that many of these often abstruse theories of literature were commonly held or even known to the general public.
Their existence in written works is, however, certain, and through them it is possible to imagine the critical climate within which are was created. A word should finally, be added about a literary genre which, mostly emerged after the 15th century, and, apparently, was restricted to the Iranian world.
As exemplified by Safavid artists like Qadi Ahmad, Dust Muhammad and Sadiqi Beg. The artist’s autobiography is the most important factor for understanding Persian painting. Such personal artistic statements became par ticularly common in the Moghul period in India, where the memoirs of rulers like the Babur-name (Book of Babur), in which the emperor Babur recounts the story of his life and his opinions on nearly everything, are essential in constructing the framework within which the arts can be understood.
Science in Islam;
Science in islam was in its prime during the European Middle Ages, between the 9th and
the 13th centuries, particularly in the brilliant period of the Abbasid caliphate from the 9th
century to the 11th. A considerable degree of education and scientific knowledge existed on
many levels of Islamic society.
At the time of theCrusades, for instance, the Islamic knights could read and write, skills which were exceptional among their Western opponents. However, the encouragement of science and art was mainly the province of the courts, from the caliphate in Baghdad down to the residences of local governors and minor regional potentates. Many a second-tiered ruler made his court an important center of science and art, the best example being the Spanish taifa rulers of the 11th century.
All the major philosophers and scientists of the Islamic world spent at least some time at such a court. They not only received money from open-minded and interested rulers. But were often appointed their political advisers.
Science in islam, Socrates, plato!
The science in islam, particularly the so called exact or natural sciences in the widest sense, had from time immemorial taken as their unquestioned authorities (together with the religious sources of the Koran and the hadiths). The writers of Greek antiquity, more particularly the philosophers Socrates, Plato. And Aristotle, to whom every scientist referred in one way or
Another authority was the physician Galen. Contrary to what is generally thought in the West, where the achievements of Arab and Persian science are seen as consisting almost
exclusively in the preservation. And transmission of the inheritance of classical antiquity.
These scholars adopted an intellectually original and independent approach to the texts of antiquity:The Greek inheritance was not simply copied and read, but revised, brought into line with the requirements of Islamic culture (and religion), supplemented, and expanded.
A striking feature is the universal erudition of Islamic scientists. The thinkers of the early
period were almost all trained physicians and recognized medical authorities. They were also
skilled astronomers. And developed complex philosophical systems largely based on the
But they also tried to reconcile and interrelate religion and science, not a contradiction in terms in the Islamic concept ofreason. Many of them also produced travel writings and autobiographies, and experimented with alchemy particularly in the manufacturing of
precious metals, in each of these areas they wrote a great deal and compiled extensive
collections, taught students, gave lectures, and enriched the libraries of their princely patrons.
Many scientific terms and names of plants and spices reached the European languages by
way of Arabic or Persian. These words include alchemy, algebra, alcohol, amulet, caliber
carat, chemistry, cipher, elixir, magazine, mummy sugar, talisman, and zenith. Expansion of the
trade and travel routes of the Islamic world also ensured the extensive distribution of scholarship and written works.
Philosophy and the caliph’s dream
Philosophy and all the other sciences received their first major boost under the scholarly Caliph al-Mamun (813-833) and his direct successors. Al-Mamun made the rationalisticfaith of the Mutazilites the state religion, allowing philosophy to free itself from its subservience to theology.
This encouraged an interest in the thinking of classical antiquity by announcing that a dignified old man hadappeared to him in a dream, identified himself as Aristotle, and that he had expounded the nature of good on a basis of philosophical doctrine (rather than divine revelation).
The first major philosopher of Islam was al-Kindi (c. 800-870), a descendant of a distinguished
family, who took Platonic thinking as his point of departure, argued for the acceptance of
causality, and also wrote over 200 works on subjects ranging from philosophy, medicine,
mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and music.
He was also politically influential as the tutor of princes at the court of Caliph al-Mutasim, where he introduced arithmetic using Indian numerals. Al-Farabi (c. 870-950). Who bore the honorific title of “second teacher’ (that is to say, second only to Aristotle) and was
active at the court of the Hamdanids of Aleppo, combined Aristotelian thinking with neo-Platonism, and confidently stated that philosophy held the primacy over theology.
In this study The Model State he sets out the pattern of an ethical and rational ideal state, ruled by a philosopher king who also has some of the characteristics of an Islamic prophet.
One of the most important Islamic polymaths was Ibn Sina of Bukhara (c.980-1037), known in the West as Avicenna.
He worked to compile a detailed collection of all the knowledge of his time, wrote works on
philosophy, astronomy, grammar, and poetry, and was regarded as one of the most
outstanding physicians of his day. He also wrote remarkable autobiography, and held
important political offices at various princely courts.
The book of cure,
In his major work The Book of the Cure (of the Soul) he combines metaphysics and medicine with logic, physics, and mathematics. His compendium of medicine was regarded as a
standard work in Europe as well as the Islamic countries until the early modern period.
Avicenna’s contemporary al-Biruni (973-1048), who came by adventurous ways to the court of
the Ghaznavids Mahmud and Masud. And remained bound to it for the rest of his life in a
curious love-hate relationship. Proposed strong links between philosophy and astronomy in his book Gardens of Science.
He accompanied Mahmud of Ghazna on Indian military campaigns, and wrote a cultural history of the Indian world Ibn Tufail (c.1115-1185). Who enjoyed the protection of the Almohads, was an original thinker.
His work, The Living One, Son of the Watcher (God), tells the story of an Islamic Robinson Crusoe who is cast up on a desert island. Where he comes to an understanding of the world and the nature of the One God through natural reason alone.
Philosophy in islam,
Philosophy in Islam reached its peak with Ibn Rushd (c.1126-1198), who was also under the
protection of the Almohads. And became known in the West as Averroes. As an uncompromising champion of Aristotle. He supported the idea of the eternal existence of the world and the cosmos. Which had no beginning; in his doctrine they were created by God. But developed according to their own laws.
The intuitive mind, Aristotle’s nous, was a purely intellectual entity to Averroes. Operating on the souls of men from outside, and he therefore rejected ideas of the continued existence and immortality of individual souls. He came into violent conflict with Islamic orthodoxy, had to face many tribunals and hearings, and often survived only. Because he enjoyed the protection of the Almohad rulers.
The doctrine of the eternity of the world and its existence without beginning reached the West as “Latin Averroism” its outstanding proponent was Siger of Brabant at the Sorbonne in Paris), and it was contested by the most important European thinker of the Middle Ages.
Thomas Aquinas, who himself was strongly influenced by Aristotelianism of the
kind proposed by Averroes. In the Islamic world. However, orthodox and dogmatic theology
clearly gained the upper hand over philosophy.
The natural sciences: astronomy, physics, and medicine Islamic science’s special interest in astronomy was derived from the traditions inherited from old oriental religious communities, such as the Parsees, and in particular the Sabaeans of ancient Mesopotamia, whose center was in the north of Iraq and who were largely absorbed by Islam in the 11th century.
Under Hellenisticinfluence their original Babylonian cult of the heavenly bodies had given way to monotheism, but they still retained ancient oriental knowledge of the mathematical calculation of the course of the planets.
Such calculations fascinated Islamic scientists because, under Greek influence, they developed a concept of the divine architect of the universe as a great mathematician and geometrician. Who kept everything in order by the operation of precisely calculable laws.
Astronomy and astrology were closely connected in this system of thought and the calculation of favorable conjunctions became a politically influential field of knowledge. All the important philosophers, and many rulers, took an interest in astronomy calculated the courses
of the stars. And the dimensions of the earth, forecast the weather, and predicted the state of
the water supply – calculations that served very practical purposes
The Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, for instance, made use of the knowledge of the astronomer
and physicist Ibn al-Haitham or Alhazen (965-after 1040). Who was required to calculate the amount of water in the Nile for agricultural purposes.
Alhazen is regarded as the greatest physicist of the Middle Ages, and was outstanding for his work on optics, in which he described refractions of light in calculating earth’s distance from the stars.
Al-Biruni, mentioned above, drew up very precise measurements of the earth, constructed
a great globe. And made remarkable progress in the understanding of the rotation of the earth and the force of gravity.The phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses could be very precisely calculated at this time.
Many astrolabes and astronomical charts, once the property of rulers well versed in astronomy, have been preserved. Outstanding among such rulers was Ulugh Beg (1394-1449), the grandson of Timur. Whose residence was in Samarqand. In 1428/29 he had
a huge observatory built, with a sextant for calculating the height of the sun.
And with the aid of expert astronomers, drew up the most precise astronomical charts of the Middle Ages. Medicine was at first very closely linked to philosophy, and every Islamic thinker. Who was also a doctor developed theories about mankind from both a medical and a philosophical viewpoint. Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808-873).
An Arab Christian, had studied with Arab and Byzantine scholars and doctors and became the most important translator into Arabic of the medical writings of classical antiquity particularly the works of Galen.
Everywhere he went on his long journeys he collected the texts of classical authors, translated them compared them and then wrote commentaries on them. His meticulous methodology allowed for the compilation of a medical canon with a standardized vocabulary. Which became the basis of medical training in the Arab countries. He himself was an excellent eve specialist, and wrote compendia describing his own medical methods.
The independent-minded Persian, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (865-925), also known as Rhazes in the West. Organized hospitals in Baghdad and Rayy, compiled a collection of clinical cases, and thus created a great medical encyclopedia.
He communicated the knowledge that it contained in his own extensive teaching activities. He championed the liberation of medical and scientific thinking from the dogmas of religion. Made many experiments in alchemy, and described the symptoms of smallpox.
Science in islam, True imam,
Interestingly, he called the philosopher Socrates the “true imam” of reason. Since so far, to his way of thinking, the prophets had done nothing but sow discord among mankind.
The medical schools in the Islamic world made great progress in the fields of pharmacology. Infectious disease, therapeutics. And above all the treatment of eye disorders, around the year 1000 they were already successfully operating on cataract. And also knew a great deal about the circulation of the blood, which is shown in many illustrations.
Finally, the physician Ibn an-Nafis discovered pulmonary circulation through his understanding of the impermeability of the membrane of the heart. Many Islamic rulers founded
large hospitals which took patients from all walks of life. And nursed them round the dock
There were also special hospitals for the care of lunatics,” with trained staff.
The compendia of Ibn Ishaq, Rhazes, Avicenna, and other scholars reached Europe by way of southern Italy. And Andalusia, Avicenna’s Canon Medicinae. In particular, became a major
textbook of Western medical schools. Arab physicians thus not only handed on the
knowledge of classical antiquity. But were the direct forerunners of medical progress in
Europe from the Renaissance.
By the end of the 7th century only two or three generations after the appearance of Islam. The
basic functions and the formal typology of the Pricey (congregational) mosque (masjid al-am
had been established. Meant for use by the whole community of the faithfull in any one city,
it required space. The earliest mosques were of the hypostyle type with a large number of
single and relatively small supports (usually columns) over a potentially infinite spece.
This type, with many variations has remained to this day the most common in Arab countries. And also whenever, for instance in Southeast Asia patrons wished to recall. For ideological or other reasons, the beginnings of Islam.
Iin liram arter the 19th century, and in India, a different solution was found to provide spece a large central courtyard with four vaulted hails. (Renom technically as iwan) opening onto the court.
Science in islam, Ottomans Mosque,
The Ottomans developed the single central dome into the generator of a huge intemail
space, another response to the community requirements of a Friday mosque. Small private
mosques (simply called masjids) always existed as well and could take many forms.
But the mosque is not only a large space. It contains symbolic or functional features, each
one of which has its own history. The minbar (stepped pulpit) dates back to the time of the
Prophet. Originally a somewhat high, three stepped stool, it was used for sermons, procla-
mations, and readings.
Very rapidly it acquired additional steps and, in many cases, a seat at the top, covered by a canopy; elaborate examples its decorated side walls of carved wood or sculpted stone have been constructed, but the simple ones still remain.
In early Islam, the treasury of the Muslim community was kept in the mosque; a few examples have survived. For instance in Damascus, where the treasury is a domed octagon, set
on columns. On a more practical level, the requirement for ablutions before prayer led to
the installation of fountains. Sometimes of considerable artistic merit, either in the court-
yard of the mosque, or at the side.
Two features of a mosque are as symbolic as they are functional. One is the mihrab, a niche
indicating the qibla. The direction of prayer, which also commemorates the presence of the Prophet Developed around 700. The mihrab is found in all mosques, and has become
the most decorated part of the building. Often with lamps symbolizing the divine presence
and the universality of the Muslim message.