Muslim Heritage: A Forgotten Contribution to Human Civilization- The Buried Sciences of Islam
By Youssef El Kaidi
Morocco World News
Fez, January 16, 2013
The Buried Sciences of Islam is the title of a German documentary film on the bright history of Islamic science and scholars shown lately on RTL channel, which is Germany’s largest free-to-air broadcaster. The film recounts the events of a very decisive era of Islamic history in a way that is stunningly objective and fair-minded. It does also pay homage to one of the greatest leaders in the history of Islam; namely, the Sultan Saladin Al- Ayyoubi (1138–1193).
The film starts with reference to what Muslim scholars achieved in the domain of science in the 10th century AD and their advanced technical and professional skills which were at that time too far ahead of what Europeans had known. Examples are given of very intricate clocks, magnifying lenses which looked like modern-day glasses and other complex technical tools used in astronomy, surgery and anatomy.
The producers of the film say that the Christians used to engage in industrial espionage widely and, thus, were aware of what Muslim scholars were doing. But they didn’t adopt their achievements; instead, they demonized and ‘satanized’ everything Muslim. Islamic Medicine, which was very developed at the time in comparison to European medicine, was banned and covered up for hundreds of years and the same happened to other practical sciences.
The film interviews the orientalist Fuat Sezgin, (he specializes in the history of Arabic-Islamic science) and the historian Thomas Schuetz who admits that history is written from above by the dominant and the victorious West. In the Middle Ages history was written by fanatic Christian monks who regarded Islam a bitter enemy and a demon!
Important Dates in the Film:
The year 1187 was very decisive in the history of the Islamic-Christian conflict. “The civilized leader, the Sultan Saladin Al- Ayyoubi,” as described by the film, got highly prepared for the Crusaders. He was convinced that victory cannot be achieved only by faith and self-confidence but also by careful planning and scientific thought, a belief that was very common among Islamic leaders at that time. This is because the new religion of Islam encourages its followers to be innovative and creative; the result was the emergence of an army of scientists in various fields of research.
The film goes through the events prior to the recapture of Jerusalem. The Muslim warriors were sure of their victory and their self-confidence was enough for the confrontation of the Crusaders. Perhaps, this confidence sprung from their great preparedness and well-planning. The Franks and the European Crusaders, on the other side, were training their fighters on hideous cruelty in fighting.
In early July of 1187, the battle took place. The Christian Crusaders (25 thousands fighters) were in Saffuriya and the Muslim army (30 thousands) in Tabarias. In Hittin, between the two camps was the decisive battle; the battle that was preceded by careful planning and great scientific progress. The film gives the example of the well-known scholar Ibn Al-Athir(1160-1233) and his teacher Badi’ Azzaman Al-Jazari (1136–1206)
In the 12th century, Al-Jazari invented a number of mechanical devices such as the lock with four keys encrypted by twelve Arabic letters. The scientific drawing of this lock is still preserved in one of the most important manuscripts. Al-Jazari used to hide a very precious book in his encrypted locker. The book was a treasure indeed because in it he explains the scientific knowledge of great Muslim scholars and preserves their inventions which no one has ever known of before! The German historian Thomas Schuetz comments that these sciences and inventions were aimed at promoting Islam and simplifying the practices of worship.
The film goes, in a graphic audio-visual simulation, describing Muslims’ passion for science and knowledge which made them develop very complex instruments for the measurement of time like the clock invented by Al-Jazari. The clock is similar to the contemporary hourglass but Al-Jazari’s works with water! On the top of the clock sits a man-doll with a stick indicating time with great precision. The clocks invented at that era were luxurious and very well trimmed and represented the manifestations of piety and wisdom of Muslim rulers. They used these clocks to know the exact time of the five prayers.
The 45 minutes time-span of the film is very informative and covers a history that is buried and unknown by many people nowadays. The film ends with very touching and thought-provoking words. “Up to the present day, many Muslims suffer inferiority complex towards the West because they don’t know the achievements of their ancestors and because they don’t know that the development today in optics, medicine, mechanics, and horology was impossible to achieve without the pioneering inventions of Muslim scientists. On the other hand, if the West acknowledges that much of what the Western civilization has now is built on the scientific legacy of Muslims, there will be, at least, some mutual respect between the two civilizations and cultures.”
To see the film on YouTube. The film is in German with Arabic subtitles
 He was a Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levantand recaptured Jerusalem in 1187.
 It is a town in north-east Palestine.
 He was an Arab or a Kurdish Muslim polymath: a scholar, inventor, mechanical engineer, craftsman, artist, and mathematician from Jazirat ibn Umar (current Cizre), who lived during the Islamic Golden Age (Middle Ages).
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