List of inventions in the medieval Islamic world

  (Redirected from Inventions in the Muslim world)
Physicians employing a surgical method. From Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu's Imperial Surgery (1465)

The following is a list of inventions made in the medieval Islamic world, especially during the Islamic Golden Age,[1][2][3][4] as well as in later Islamic Gunpowder Empires such as the Ottoman and Mughal empires.

The Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century, with several contemporary scholars dating the end of the era to the 15th or 16th century.[3][4][5] This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world's classical knowledge into the Arabic language and subsequently development in various fields of sciences began. Science and technology in the Islamic world adopted and preserved knowledge and technologies from contemporary and earlier civilizations, including Persia, Egypt, India, China, and Greco-Roman antiquity, while making numerous improvements, innovations and inventions.


List of inventionsEdit

Early CaliphatesEdit

7th century
8th century
A giraffe from Kitāb al-Hayawān (Book of the Animals) by Al-Jāḥiẓ.
  • Arabesque: The distinctive Arabesque style was developed by the 11th century, having begun in the 8th or 9th century in works like the Mshatta Facade.[12][13]
  • Bowed string instrument, fiddle, rabāb: The Arabic rabāb, also known as the spiked fiddle, is the earliest known bowed instrument and the parent of the medieval European rebec.[14]
  • Checkmate: In early Sanskrit chess (c. 500–700), the king could be captured and this ended the game. The Persians (c. 700–800) introduced the idea of warning that the king was under attack (announcing check in modern terminology). This was done to avoid the early and accidental end of a game. Later the Persians added the additional rule that a king could not be moved into check or left in check. As a result, the king could not be captured,[15] and checkmate was the only decisive way of ending a game.[16]
  • Check reading: The medieval Muslim world developed a method of reproducing reliable copies of a book in large quantities known as check reading, in contrast to the traditional method of a single scribe producing only a single copy of a single manuscript. In the check reading method, only "authors could authorize copies, and this was done in public sessions in which the copyist read the copy aloud in the presence of the author, who then certified it as accurate."[17] With this check-reading system, "an author might produce a dozen or more copies from a single reading," and with two or more readings, "more than one hundred copies of a single book could easily be produced."[18]
  • Chemical element classification: The work of Jabir ibn Hayyan gave the seeds of the modern classification of elements into metals and non-metals as could be seen in his chemical nomenclature.[19]
  • Chemical equivalents: The origins of the idea of chemical equivalents might be traced back to Jabir ibn Hayyan, in whose time it was recognized that "a certain quantity of acid is necessary in order to neutralize a given amount of base."[20]
  • Cryptology: David Kahn notes in The Codebreakers that the field of cryptology originates from the Muslim Arabs, the first people to systematically document cryptanalytic methods.[21] Al-Khalil (717–786) wrote the Book of Cryptographic Messages.[22]
  • Damascus steel: The Arabs introduced the wootz steel to Damascus, where a weapons industry thrived.[23] Damascus steel blades were first manufactured in Syria from ingots of wootz steel that were imported from India.[24]
  • Geared gristmill: Geared gristmills were built in the medieval Near East and North Africa, which were used for grinding grain and other seeds to produce meals.[25]
  • Hawala and agency: The Hawala, an early informal value transfer system, has its origins in classical Islamic law, and is mentioned in texts of Islamic jurisprudence as early as the 8th century. Hawala itself later influenced the development of the agency in common law and in civil laws such as the aval in French law and the avallo in Italian law. The words aval and avallo were themselves derived from Hawala. The agency was also an institution unknown to Roman law as no individual could conclude a binding contract on behalf of another as his agent. On the other hand, Islamic law and the later common law "had no difficulty in accepting agency as one of its institutions in the field of contracts and of obligations in general."[26]
  • Hospital: The United States National Library of Medicine credits the hospital as being a product of medieval Islamic civilization. Compared to contemporaneous Christian institutions, which were poor and sick relief facilities offered by some monasteries, the Islamic hospital was a more elaborate institution with a wider range of functions. In Islam, there was a moral imperative to treat the ill regardless of financial status. Islamic hospitals tended to be large, urban structures, and were largely secular institutions, many open to all, whether male or female, civilian or military, child or adult, rich or poor, Muslim or non-Muslim. The Islamic hospital served several purposes, as a center of medical treatment, a home for patients recovering from illness or accidents, an insane asylum, and a retirement home with basic maintenance needs for the aged and infirm.[27]
  • Hospital pharmacy and pharmacy school: Muslim physicians established the first specialized pharmacy unit in hospitals, as well as a pharmacy school.[28]
  • Jury: An early example of a jury trial system was the Lafif in the Maliki school of classical Islamic law and jurisprudence, which was developed between the 8th and 11th centuries in the medieval Islamic world, specifically in North Africa, Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily. The Islamic Lafif was a body of twelve members drawn from the neighbourhood and sworn to tell the truth, who were bound to give a unanimous verdict, about matters "which they had personally seen or heard, binding on the judge, to settle the truth concerning facts in a case, between ordinary people, and obtained as of right by the plaintiff."[29][30]
  • Lusterware: Some scholars see this as a purely Islamic invention originating in Fustat.[31]
  • Oud and lute: The Arabic oud in Islamic music was the direct ancestor of the European lute.[32]
  • Paper mill: Scholars have identified paper mills in Abbasid-era Baghdad during 794–795.[33]
  • Paper bookbinding: In the 8th century Arabs learned the arts of papermaking from the Chinese and were then the first to bind paper into books at the start of the Islamic Golden Age.[34]
  • Paper cheque: Paper cheques first appeared in the Islamic world, by the 8th century. The word "cheque" is derived from the Arabic sakk.[35]
  • Papermaking with trip hammers: The Muslims introduced the use of trip hammers in the production of paper, replacing the traditional Chinese mortar and pestle method. In turn, the trip hammer method was later employed by the Chinese.[36]
  • Permutations and combinations: The Book of Cryptographic Messages written by Al-Khalil (717–786) contains the first use of permutations and combinations to list all possible Arabic words with and without vowels.[22]
  • Pointed arch: The pointed arch as an architectonic principle was first clearly established in Islamic architecture. As an architectonic principle, the pointed arch was entirely alien to the pre-Islamic world.[37]
  • Preventive healthcare: A unique feature of the bimaristan hospitals in Islamic medicine was that, in addition to curative medicine, they also emphasized preventive measures, for individuals to maintain their health.[38]
  • Probability and statistics: Forms of probability and statistics were developed by Arab mathematicians studying cryptology between the 8th and 13th centuries, dating back to the Book of Cryptographic Messages written by Al-Khalil (717–786).[22] The earliest writing on statistics was found in the 9th-century book Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages by Al-Kindi. In his book, Al-Kindi gave a detailed description of how to use statistics and frequency analysis to decipher encrypted messages. This text laid the foundations for statistics and cryptanalysis.[39][40]
  • Proto-capitalism and free-market economy: Early forms of proto-capitalism and free markets were present in the Caliphate.[41] An early market economy and early form of merchant capitalism developed between the 8th and 12th centuries.[42]
  • Proto-evolution theory and natural selection theory: The Kitab al-Hayawan is an encyclopedia of seven volume of anecdotes, poetic descriptions and proverbs describing over 350 varieties of animals. Al-Jahiz in his famous book Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of the Animals) described a proto-evolution theory on natural selection and the struggle for existence: "The rat goes out for its food, and is clever in getting it, for it eats all animals inferior to it in strength", and in turn, it "has to avoid snakes and birds and serpents of prey, who look for it in order to devour it" and are stronger than the rat. Mosquitos "know instinctively that blood is the thing which makes them live" and when they see an animal, "they know that the skin has been fashioned to serve them as food". In turn, flies hunt the mosquito "which is the food that they like best", and predators eat the flies. "All animals, in short, can not exist without food, neither can the hunting animal escape being hunted in his turn. Every weak animal devours those weaker than itself. Strong animals cannot escape being devoured by other animals stronger than they. And in this respect, men do not differ from animals, some with respect to others, although they do not arrive at the same extremes. In short, God has disposed some human beings as a cause of life for others, and likewise, he has disposed the latter as a cause of the death of the former."[43]
  • Pulp mill: The use of water-powered pulp mills, for preparing the pulp material used in papermaking, dates back to Samarkand in the 8th century.[44]
  • Retort: The alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān developed the process of distillation into what it is today by inventing several basic laboratory equipment, one of which was the retort.
  • Rib vault: Its introduction dates back to Islamic architecture in the eight century.[45]
  • Sal ammoniac: Substance discovered by Arab chemists.[46]
  • Scientific method, experimental method, quantification: There was greater emphasis on combining theory with practice in the Islamic world than there had been in ancient times, and it was common for those studying the sciences to be artisans as well, something that had been "considered an aberration in the ancient world." Islamic experts in the sciences were often expert instrument makers who enhanced their powers of observation and calculation with them.[47] Muslim scientists used experiment and quantification to distinguish between competing scientific theories, set within a generically empirical orientation, as can be seen in the works of Jābir ibn Hayyān (721–815)[48] and Alkindus (801–873)[49] as early examples. Ibn al-Haytham (965–1039), also known as Alhazen, was an Iraqi polymath who is considered by some to be the father of modern scientific methodology, due to his emphasis on experimental data and reproducibility of its results.[50][51] The earliest methodical approach to experiments in the modern sense is visible in the works of Ibn al-Haytham, who introduced an inductive-experimental method for achieving results.[52] The Persian scientist Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī introduced early scientific methods for several different fields of inquiry during the 1020s and 1030s.[53] He also developed an early experimental method for mechanics.[54] Al-Biruni's methods resembled the modern scientific method, particularly in his emphasis on repeated experimentation.[55]
  • Sharbat and soft drink: The origins of soft drinks lie in the development of fruit-flavored drinks. In the medieval Middle East, a variety of fruit-flavoured soft drinks were widely drunk, such as sharbat, and were often sweetened with ingredients such as sugar, syrup and honey. Other common ingredients included lemon, apple, pomegranate, tamarind, jujube, sumac, musk, mint and ice. Middle Eastern drinks later became popular in medieval Europe, where the word "syrup" was derived from Arabic.[56]
  • Synthetic life: Also called Takwin, this was first independently mentioned in the Kitāb Al-Tajmi as a hypothesis.
  • Tin-glazed pottery: The earliest tin-glazed pottery appears to have been made in Abbasid Iraq/Mesopotamia in the 8th century, fragments having been excavated during the First World War from the palace of Samarra about fifty miles north of Baghdad.[57]
  • Tin-glazing: The tin-glazing of ceramics was invented by potters in 8th-century Basra, Iraq.[58] The oldest fragments found to-date were excavated from the palace of Samarra about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Baghdad.[59]
  • Wind-powered automata: In the mid-8th century, the first wind powered automata were built, "statues that turned with the wind over the domes of the four gates and the palace complex of the Round City of Baghdad". The "public spectacle of wind-powered statues had its private counterpart in the 'Abbasid palaces where automata of various types were predominantly displayed."[60]
9th century
10th century
11th century
The structure of the human eye according to Ibn al-Haytham. Note the depiction of the optic chiasm. —Manuscript copy of his Kitāb al-Manāẓir (MS Fatih 3212, vol. 1, fol. 81b, Süleymaniye Mosque Library, Istanbul)
12th century
13th century
  • Elephant clock: Invented by Al-Jazari (1136–1206).[201]
  • Fritware: It refers to a type of pottery which was first developed in the Near East, beginning in the late 1st millennium, for which frit was a significant ingredient. A recipe for "fritware" dating to c. 1300 AD written by Abu’l Qasim reports that the ratio of quartz to "frit-glass" to white clay is 10:1:1.[202] This type of pottery has also been referred to as "stonepaste" and "faience" among other names.[203] A 9th-century corpus of "proto-stonepaste" from Baghdad has "relict glass fragments" in its fabric.[204]
  • Girih tiles: By the 13th century, Islamic architects discovered a new way to construct tile mosaic due to the development of arithmetic calculation and geometry—the girih tiles.[205]
  • Halva and halwa: First mentioned in the 13th-century Arabic text Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes).[206]
  • Naker: Arabic nakers were the direct ancestors of most timpani, brought to 13th-century Continental Europe by Crusaders and Saracens.[207]
  • Ogee: Ogee windows and arches were introduced to European cities from the Middle East, probably via Venetian Gothic architecture. Ogee arches became a feature of English Gothic architecture by the late thirteenth century.[208]
  • Penrose tiling: The physicists Peter J. Lu and Paul Steinhardt have presented evidence that a Penrose tiling underlies some examples of medieval Islamic geometric patterns, such as the girih (strapwork) tilings at the Darb-e Imam shrine in Isfahan.[209]
  • Quasicrystal: Quasiperiodical structures were first observed in some decorative tilings devised by medieval Islamic architects.[210][211] For example, Girih tiles in a medieval Islamic mosque in Isfahan, Iran, are arranged in a two-dimensional quasicrystalline pattern.[212]
  • Tusi couple:The couple was first proposed by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi in his 1247 Tahrir al-Majisti (Commentary on the Almagest) as a solution for the latitudinal motion of the inferior planets. The Tusi couple is explicitly two circles of radii x and 2x in which the circle with the smaller radii rotates inside the Bigger circle. The oscillatory motion be produced by the combined uniform circular motions of two identical circles, one riding on the circumference of the other.
  • Sample size: An important contribution of Ibn Adlan (1187–1268) was the concept of sample size for use of frequency analysis. He believed that the cryptogram "should be at least 90 letters long and that each of the 28 letters of Arabic should be represented at least three times".[22]
  • Symbolic algebra: Symbolic algebra is where full symbolism is used. Early steps toward this can be seen in the work of several Islamic mathematicians such as Ibn al-Banna (13th–14th centuries) and al-Qalasadi (15th century).[213]
    The ellipses (green, cyan, red) are hypotrochoids of the Tusi couple.
14th century
  • Polar-axis sundial: Early sundials were nodus-based with straight hour-lines, indicating unequal hours (also called temporary hours) that varied with the seasons, since every day was divided into twelve equal segments; thus, hours were shorter in winter and longer in summer. The idea of using hours of equal time length throughout the year was the innovation of Abu'l-Hasan Ibn al-Shatir in 1371, based on earlier developments in trigonometry by Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī (Albategni). Ibn al-Shatir was aware that "using a gnomon that is parallel to the Earth's axis will produce sundials whose hour lines indicate equal hours on any day of the year." His sundial is the oldest polar-axis sundial still in existence. The concept later appeared in Western sundials from at least 1446.[214][215]
  • Substitution cipher and transposition cipher: The work of Al-Qalqashandi (1355–1418), based on the earlier work of Ibn al-Durayhim (1312–1359), contained the first published discussion of the substitution and transposition of ciphers.[111]


9th century
10th century
  • Inheritance of traits: First proposed by Al-Zahrawi (936–1013) more than 800 years before Austrian monk, Mendel. Al-Zahrawi was first to record and suggest that hemophilia was an inherited disease.[222]
  • Ligatures: Described in the work of Al-Zahrawi (936–1013), Kitab al-Tasrif, one of the most influential books in early modern medicine. Describes the process of performing a ligature on blood vessels.
  • Mercuric oxide: First synthesized by Abu al-Qasim al-Qurtubi al-Majriti.
  • Migraine surgery: First performed by Al-Zahrawi (936–1013).
  • Modern surgery: Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (936–1013), better known in the west as Albucasis, is regarded as the father of modern surgery and is the most quoted surgeon of all times. Albucasis invented over 200 tools for use in surgery – many still in use today.
  • Speed of sound: Was proposed by the Cordoba scholar Ibn Hazm (994–1064). Ibn Hazm argued and calculated the speed of sound by echoes in the Mosque of Cordoba. He is also credited as being the first to propose that thunder was a production of lightning.[223]
  • Spherical Earth: Theory by Ibn Hazm (994–1064).
  • Surgical needle: Invented by Al-Zahrawi in 1000.[72]
  • Inhalational anaesthetic: Invented by Al-Zahrawi and Ibn Zuhr. They used a sponge soaked with narcotic drugs and placed it on a patient's face.[224] These Muslim physicians were the first to use an anaesthetic sponge.[225] Islamic physicians also made use of hemp fumes as inhaled anasthetics.[71]
  • Pathology: Various Muslim physicians in Spain were crucial in the development of modern medicine. Pathology, obviously was an important development in medicine. The first correct proposal of the nature of disease was described by Al-Zahrawi and Ibn Zuhr.
11th century
12th century
13th century
  • Botany: Spanish botanists, like Ibn al-Baitar, created hundreds of works/catalogs on the various plants in not only Europe but the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In these works many processes for extracting essential oils, drugs as well as their uses can be found.
  • Brass type movable printer press/first printing device in Europe: First invented in Muslim Spain 100 years prior to the invention of printing press, by Johannes Gutenburg of Germany, in 1454.
  • Essential oil: The earliest recorded mention of the techniques and methods used to produce essential oils is believed to be that of Ibn al-Baitar (1188–1248), an Al-Andalusian (Muslim-controlled Spain) physician, pharmacist and chemist.[239]
  • Mercury clock: A detailed account of technology in Islamic Spain was compiled under Alfonso X of Castile between 1276 and 1279, which included a compartmented mercury clock, which was influential up until the 17th century.[240] It was described in the Libros del saber de Astronomia, a Spanish work from 1277 consisting of translations and paraphrases of Arabic works.[241]
  • Mariotte's bottle: The Libros del saber de Astronomia describes a water clock which employs the principle of Mariotte's bottle.[240]
14th century
  • Hispano-Moresque ware: This was a style of Islamic pottery created in Arab Spain, after the Moors had introduced two ceramic techniques to Europe: glazing with an opaque white tin-glaze, and painting in metallic lusters. Hispano-Moresque ware was distinguished from the pottery of Christendom by the Islamic character of its decoration.[242]
  • Pharmacopoeia: During the 14th century, the physician from Malaga, Ibn Baytar, wrote a pharmacopoeia (book of medicine) naming over 1400 different drugs and their uses in medicine. This book was written 200 years before the supposed first pharmacopoeia was written by German scholar in 1542.


12th century
13th century
14th century
15th century
18th century
  • Iron-cased rockets: The Mysore rockets of this period (from the Mysore Sultanate) were much more advanced than what the British had seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missile (up to 2 km range). In contrast, rockets in Europe were not iron-cased and their range was far less than their Mysorian counterparts. The Congreve rocket was later based on Mysorean rockets.[292]

Ottoman EmpireEdit

14th century
15th century
  • Coffee: Stories exist of coffee originating in Ethiopia, but the earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.[297][298] It was in Yemen that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed as they are today. From Mocha, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa,[299] and by the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Turkey. From the Muslim world, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.[300]
  • Dardanelles Gun: The Dardanelles Gun was designed and cast in bronze in 1434 by Munir Ali. The Dardanelles Gun was still present for duty more than 340 years later in 1807, when a Royal Navy force appeared and commenced the Dardanelles Operation. Turkish forces loaded the ancient relics with propellant and projectiles, then fired them at the British ships. The British squadron suffered 28 casualties from this bombardment.[301]
  • Iznik pottery: Produced in Ottoman Turkey as early as the 15th century AD.[302] It consists of a body, slip, and glaze, where the body and glaze are "quartz-frit."[303] The "frits" in both cases "are unusual in that they contain lead oxide as well as soda"; the lead oxide would help reduce the thermal expansion coefficient of the ceramic.[304] Microscopic analysis reveals that the material that has been labeled "frit" is "interstitial glass" which serves to connect the quartz particles.[305]
  • Matchlock: The matchlock arquebus was first used by the Janissary corps of the Ottoman army in the first half of the 15th century,[306] possibly as early as 1394[294] but certainly by the 1440s.[307]
  • Standing army with firearms: The Ottoman military's regularized use of firearms proceeded ahead of the pace of their European counterparts. The Janissaries had been an infantry bodyguard using bows and arrows. During the rule of Sultan Mehmed II they were drilled with firearms and became "the first standing infantry force equipped with firearms in the world."[308]
16th century
17th century
19th century

Mughal EmpireEdit

16th century
A portrait of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir holding a globe probably made by Muhammad Saleh Thattvi.
17th century

See alsoEdit


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