In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

The Muslim mind has always been attracted to the mathematical
sciences in accordance with the "abstract" character of the doctrine of Oneness
which lies at the heart of Islam. The mathematical sciences have traditionally
included astronomy, mathematics itself and much of what is called physics today.
In astronomy the Muslims integrated the astronomical traditions of the Indians,
Persians, the ancient Near East and especially the Greeks into a synthesis which
began to chart a new chapter in the history of astronomy from the 8th century
onward. The Almagest of Ptolemy, whose very name in English reveals the Arabic
origin of its Latin translation, was thoroughly studied and its planetary theory
criticized by several astronomers of both the eastern and western lands of Islam
leading to the major critique of the theory by Nasir alDin alTusi and his
students, especially Qutb alDin alShirazi, in the 13th century.
The Muslims also observed the heavens
carefully and discovered many new stars. The book on stars of 'Abd alRahman
alSufi was in fact translated into Spanish by Alfonso X el Sabio and had a deep
influence upon stellar toponymy in European languages. Many star names in
English such as Aldabran still recall their Arabic origin. The Muslims carried
out many fresh observations which were contained in astronomical tables called
Zij. One of the acutest of these observers was alBattani whose work was
followed by numerous others. The Zij of alMa'mun observed in Baghdad, the
Hakimite Zij of Cairo, the Toledan Tables of alZarqali and his associated, the
IIKhanid Zij of Nasir alDin alTusi observed in Maraghah, and the Zij of UlughBeg
from Samarqand are among the most famous Islamic astronomical tables.
They wielded a great deal of influence upon Western astronomy up to the time of
Tycho Brahe. The Muslims were in fact the first to create an astronomical
observatory as a scientific institution, this being the observatory of Maraghah
in Persia established by alTusi. This was indirectly the model for the later
European observatories. Many astronomical instruments were developed by Muslims
to carry out observation, the most famous being the astrolabe. There existed
even mechanical astrolabes perfected by Ibn Samh which must be considered as the
ancestor of the mechanical clock.
Astronomical observations also had practical applications including not only
finding the direction of Makkah for prayers, but also devising almanacs (the
word itself being of Arabic origin). The Muslims also applied their astronomical
knowledge to questions of timekeeping and the calendar. The most exact solar
calendar existing to this day is the Jalali calendar devised under the direction
of 'Umar Khayyam in the 12th century and still in use in Persia and Afghanistan.
As for mathematics proper, like astronomy, it received its direct impetus from
the Quran not only because of the mathematical structure related to the text of
the Sacred Book, but also because the laws of inheritance delineated in the
Quran require rather complicated mathematical solutions. Here again Muslims
began by integrating Greek and Indian mathematics. The first great Muslim
mathematician, alKhwarazmi, who lived in the 9th century, wrote a treatise on
arithmetic whose Latin translation brought what is known as Arabic numerals to
the West. To this day guarismo, derived from his name, means figure or digit in
Spanish while algorithm is still used in English. AlKhwarzmi is also the author
of the first book on algebra. This science was developed by Muslims on the basis
of earlier Greek and Indian works of a rudimentary nature. The very name algebra
comes from the first part of the name of the book of alKhwarazmi, entitled
Kitab aljabr wa'lmuqabalah. Abu Kamil alShuja' discussed algebraic equations
with five unknowns. The science was further developed by such figures as alKaraji
until it reached its peak with Khayyam who classified by kind and class
algebraic equations up to the third degree.
The Muslims also excelled in geometry as reflected in their art. The brothers
Banu Musa who lived in the 9th century may be said to be the first outstanding
Muslim geometers while their contemporary Thabit ibn Qurrah used the method of
exhaustion, giving a glimpse of what was to become integral calculus. Many
Muslim mathematicians such as Khayyam and alTusi also dealt with the fifth
postulate of Euclid and the problems which follow if one tries to prove this
postulate within the confines of Eucledian geometry.
Another branch of mathematics developed by Muslims is trigonometry which was
established as a distinct branch of mathematics by alBiruni. The Muslim
mathematicians, especially alBattani, Abu'lWafa', Ibn Yunus and Ibn alHaytham,
also developed spherical astronomy and applied it to the solution of astronomy
and applied it to the solution of astronomical problems.
The love for the study of magic squares and amicable numbers led Muslims to
develop the theory of numbers. AlKhujandi discovered a particular case of
Fermat's theorem that "the sum of two cubes cannot be another cube", while alKaraji
analyzed arithmetic and geometric progressions such as:
13+23+33+...+n3=(1+2+3+...+n)2. AlBiruni also dealt with progressions while
Ghiyath alDin Jamshid alKashani brought the study of number theory among
Muslims to its peak.
In the field of physics the Muslims made contributions in especially three
domains. The first was the measurement of specific weights of objects and the
study of the balance following upon the work of Archimedes. In this domain the
writings of alBiruni and alKhazini stand out. Secondly they criticized the
Aristotelian theory of projectile motion and tried to quantify this type of
motion. The critique of Ibn Sina, Abu'lBarakat alBaghdadi, Ibn Bajjah and
others led to the development of the idea of impetus and momentum and played an
important role in the criticism of Aristotelian physics in the West up to the
early writings of Galileo. Thirdly there is the field of optics in which the
Islamic sciences produced in Ibn alHaytham (the Latin Alhzen) who lived in the
11th century, the greatest student of optics between Ptolemy and Witelo. Ibn alHaytham's
main work on optics, the Kitab almanazir, was also well known in the West as
Thesaurus opticus. Ibn alHaytham solved many optical problems, one of which is
named after him, studied the property of lenses, discovered the Camera Obscura,
explained correctly the process of vision, studied the structure of the eye, and
explained for the first time why the sun and the moon appear larger on the
horizon. His interest in optics was carried out two centuries later by Qutb
alDin alShirazi and Kamal alDin alFarisi. It was Qutb alDin who gave the
first correct explanation of the formation of the rainbow.
It is important to recall that in physics as in many other fields of science the
Muslims observed, measured and carried out experiments. They must be credited
with having developed what came to be known later as the experimental method.
Source: Islam A Global Civilization