By Fariha Asif
Muslims have made a significant contribution to the world’s knowledge bank. They have made many discoveries and written countless books about medicine,surgery, physics, chemistry, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and geometry, to name a few.
One of the most famous exponents of Muslim Universalism and an eminent figure in Islamic learning was Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in west .
Ibn Sina was born in Bukhara (in modern day Uzbekistan) then a leading city in Persia. His youth was spent in company of the most learned men of his times and he became accomplished in all sciences and arts. Avicenna had memorized the Quran by the age of 10. He learned Indian arithmetic from an Indian green grocer. He also studied Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).
Teenage and Adult life
As a teenager, he was greatly troubled by the theory of metaphysics of Aristotle which he could not understand until he read AlFarabi’s commentary on the work. For next few years he studied philosophy in which he encountered greater obstacles. In such moments of confusion, he would leave his books,perform ablution and go to the mosque and continue praying till light broke on his difficulties.
He turned to medicine at 16 and not only learned medical theory but, also by gratuitous attendance of sick, had discovered new methods of treatment. The teenager achieved full status as a qualified physician at age of 18.
Contributions and Discoveries
He spent last years of his life in Hamadan where he composed ‘The Canon Of Medicine’ which is among the most famous books in the history of medicine.
He divided Maths into branches such as geometry, astronomy, arithmetic and music. Then he further subdivided each of these topics. Geometry, for instance, he categorized into geodesy, statics, kinematic, hydrostatic and optics. Astronomy he subdivided into astronomical and geographical tables and calendars. Arithmetic he subdivided into algebra and Indian addition and subtraction.
Science and Philosophy
Ibn Sina discussed reason and reality claiming God is pure intellect and that knowledge consists of mind grasping intelligible. To grasp intelligible, both logic and reason are required. Ibn Sina gives the theory of knowledge describing the abstraction in perceiving an object rather than concrete form of object itself. The major work of Ibn Sina in philosophy and science is his famous book ‘Kitab Al Shifa’ (The book of Healing). Despite the book’s title, it is not concerned with medicine rather it is intended to cure or heal ignorance of the soul .
He examined existence. He considers the scientific and mathematical theory of world and it’s ultimate causation by God.
He made astronomical observations and made several correct deductions from these. For example, he observed Venus as a spot against the surface of sun and correctly deducted that Venus must be closer to Earth than the Sun. He invented an instrument for observing the coordinates of a star. The instrument had two legs pivoted at one end, lower leg rotated about a horizontal protractor, thus showing azimuth, while the upper leg, marked with a scale and having observing sights ,was raised in plane vertical to lower leg to give the star’s altitude .
It was a topic that Ibn Sina classified under mathematics. He defined simple machines and their combinations which involve rollers, levers, windlasses, pulleys and many others.
Ibn Sina is rarely remembered in the West today and his fundamental contributions to Medicine and the European Reawakening goes largely unrecognized. However, in the museum at Bukhara, there are displays showing many of his writings, surgical instruments from the period and paintings of patients undergoing treatment. An impressive monument to the life and works of the man who became known as the ‘doctor of doctors’ still stands outside Bukhara museum and his portrait hangs in the Hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Paris.
Jumuah Journals is a weekly series on MuslimMoms.ca where we will be focusing on inspirations, significance of days, events and history of Islam, as well as profiling notable Muslim thinkers, scholars and heroes.
About the author:
Mother to three wonderful energetic boys, Fariha Asif is a doctor by profession. She is also a dedicated student of Deen. She loves reading, writing, making new friends and strengthening ties with old friends.