Ancient Muslim Inventions

Written by ashley seehorn
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Ancient Muslim Inventions
The first windmill was invented by a Muslim innovator. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Muslim scholarship thrived in the years A.D. 500 to 1500. This period is known as the "Golden Age" of Mulsim innovation and discovery. Islamic scholars and inventors made strides in all areas of science and technology during this era. In 2006, the London Museum of Science & Industry featured an exhibit highlighting the tremendous contributions of Muslim scientists and inventors.

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Medical Innovations

During the 10th century, a Muslim surgeon named al-Zahrawi developed the scalpel, along with other instruments similar to those used in modern surgery: bone saws, forceps and scissors. Al-Zahrawi also pioneered the use of catgut for stitches. Also in the 10th century, Ibn al-Haitham, a Muslim astronomer, physicist and mathematician, invented the first pinhole camera. Through this invention, al-Haitham discovered how light enters the human eye to enable vision. Previously, the ancient Greeks had thought that the eye made its own light. Islamic doctors were the first to use opium and alcohol for anaesthetics. Muslim doctors also developed a technique using hollow needles to remove cataracts from the eyes that is still in use in modern medicine.

Mechanical Inventions

In 634, the first windmill was invented for a Persian caliph approximately 500 years before they were used in Europe. Muslims used windmills for drawing water for irrigation and for grinding corn. Abbas Qasim Ibn Firnas, in the Spanish city of Cordoba, built a glider capable of carrying a human being during the ninth century, a full 600 years before Leonardo Da Vinci. In 953, the fountain pen was invented after the Sultan of Egypt demanded an implement that would not leave stains on the fingers. During the 10th Century, Muslim inventor Ibn Yunus created the first pendulum. Muslim engineer and father of robotics, al-Jazari invented the crankshaft for use in irrigation. In 1206, al-Jazari presented several inventions in his book, "Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices," including the combination lock.


Jabir ibn Hayyan, Muslim scientist and the founder of modern chemistry, invented the basic processes of chemistry we use today: distillation, oxidisation, purification, crystallisation, filtration, evaporation, and liquefaction. Through these processes, ibn Hayyan discovered how to make alcohol and perfume and isolated citric acid, tartaric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, acetic acid and sulphuric acid.

Daily Life

The Prophet Mohammed introduced or popularised the use of the toothbrush around A.D. 600. The modern method of producing soap was invented by Muslim individuals due to the religious significance of cleanliness in Muslim society. In the ninth century, Ali ibn Nafi introduced the use of crystal glasses, which were invented by Abbas ibn Firnas. Also in the ninth century, Muslim tradesmen pioneered the use of checks for financial transactions, including international business transactions. The first degree-granting university was founded in 859 by princess Fatima al-Firhi in Fez, Morocco.

Military Innovations

The Chinese actually invented gunpowder and used it to develop fireworks. However, Muslims were the first to use it for military purposes. By the 15th Century, Muslims had developed rockets and torpedos for military use.

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