Before Galileo, da Vinci and Newton, there were Ibn Hazim, Ibn Nafis, Al-Zahrawi and al-Khwarizmi.
Who were they, you must be wondering. Well, it really is a shame that we all know people from the Western world who were pioneers, discoverers and trailblazers of their times and to whom the world owes much of its advancement.
But when it comes to people of similar stature and deeds from the East and the Muslim world, we go blank. We do not know if there are people who made important discoveries that the world today owes its progress to or that there are so many things popular everywhere but which originated from Asia and the East.
Today we will look at some of the things that were introduced to the world by Muslims.

The Muslims introduced coffee to the world. It arrived from Ethiopia to Yemen and the drink was found pleasant, so it began to spread from there to other places as well as to Makkah. As Muslims from far and wide visited the holy city, they took coffee to their country, thereby acquainting distant lands with this beverage.
After it was introduced in Turkey, it made its way from here to Europe as Turkey did good business with Europe, coffee too, figured in the trade. It is believed to have reached Venice by 1645 and then westward from there to other parts of Europe.
In 1650, a Turk by the name of Pasqua Rosee, opened a coffee shop on Lombard Street, London. The word coffee is derived from Arabic ‘qaveh’. In continental Europe it is called ‘café’.

Pinhole camera
In ancient Greece, it was thought that the eyes emitted rays like laser, and that enabled one to see objects. It was a Muslim scientist who lived in the 10th century, Ibn-al-Haithan, who said that light entered the eyes and not the other way around.
Al Haitham was a physicist, mathematician and astronomer. He discovered that light entering through a pin hole into a completely darkened box would create a picture at the back of the box. He called the box ‘qamarah’ from which the word ‘camera’ is derived.

First parachute
In 852, Abbas-ibn-Firnas, poet, astronomer, musician and engineer, built a cloak having wooden strips, allowing the cloak to spread out as birds’ wings do when in flight.
Although a resident of Baghdad, he moved to Cordoba in al Andalus (Muslim Spain). He climbed atop the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Cordoba and jumped from there. He didn’t fly, but rather floated down to earth and crashed. However, the crash was not severe and he sustained minor injuries.
The experiment showed the first ‘parachute’ in action. In 875, he built another flying machine using silk and eagle feathers. This time Ibn Firnas jumped from a mountainside. He did fly for a few minutes, but crashed again. Once again he sustained light injuries. He correctly noticed that absence of a tail resulted in the crash. Baghdad airport is named after him as well as a crater on the moon.

A form of chess was played in India and made its way to Persia. Here, the game was perfected as we know it today. From Persia, the game spread east and west.
It was introduced to al Andalus (Muslim Spain) in the 10th century and from there it found its way into Europe. The ‘rook’ of today’s chess is really derived from Persian ‘rukh’ which means chariot.

Muslims were the first to introduce soap as it is known today. They used vegetable oil, sodium hydroxide and herbal oils. In its earliest forms, Egyptians and Romans used soaps of sort.
In 1759, an Indian Muslim opened a bath in Brighton called ‘Mohammad’s Indian Vapour Bath’. He was appointed ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to King George IV and William IV.

Jabir ibn Hayyan was a scientist living in the ninth century. In the year 800, he changed alchemy into chemistry. Alchemy was based more on spiritual, magical and philosophical beliefs. Chemistry, on the other hand, is based on scientific facts, observations and experiments.
He invented distillation, which is a means through which liquids are separated according to their boiling points. He also developed processes and apparatus for liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidation, evaporation and filtration. Many of the processes and apparatus are still in use today.
In addition, he also discovered sulphuric acid and nitric acid. He also invented the alembic still which could make intense rosewater as well as alcoholic spirits. His contribution to chemistry is so monumental that he is called the father of modern chemistry.

Mechanical engineering
If Jabir ibn Hayyan is considered father of chemistry, then Ismail al-Jazzari (1136-1206), can be called the father of mechanical engineering. He was the inventor and designer of many mechanical objects.
Amongst his inventions is the crankshaft which converted rotary motion into linear motion. He wrote a book called ‘The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices’. He completed this book in 1206, a little before he died. He was familiar with the use of pistons and valves which were astonishing inventions for their time. These valves, pistons and crankshaft helped start the Industrial Revolution, first in Britain and later in Europe. He also developed the combination lock.

Quilting is the sewing of insulating material between two pieces of cloth. It was the Crusaders who came across quilted fabric when they came in contact with the locals in Palestine, whom they called Saracens. Saracens were the Muslim soldiers battling the Crusaders.
The clothes that the Saracens wore had quilt made of straw. This acted not only as insulation against the weather but also proved to be an effective protective armour. It was certainly much lighter than the iron armour the Crusaders used. The usefulness of the quilt was noticed by the Crusaders who brought back the idea to Europe where it was readily accepted. It was not long before quilting became a cottage industry in England and Holland.

Islamic arches
Islamic arches in buildings not only looked nice but they also provided structural strength to the building. This was in contrast to the round arches that were built by the Romans and adopted by Norman builders. As a result, the Islamic arches allowed construction of bigger and grander structures.
Consequently, European designers borrowed heavily from the Islamic designs and this showed in the arches of Gothic cathedrals. In addition, European castles and forts also borrowed from Islamic designs of narrow arrow slits, battlements, parapets and barbicans. The architect of Henry V’s castle was a Muslim.

Surgical instruments
The Muslim surgeon Al-Zahrawi developed surgical instruments which are still in use either in their original form or have been slightly modified.
Al Zahrawi developed 200 surgical instruments. Some of these are scalpels, bone saws, forceps and fine scissors for eye surgery. He also discovered that cat guts were good for internal surgical stitching as they dissolved away naturally.
Another medical scientist, Ibn al-Nafis, discovered blood circulation 300 years before William Harvey discovered it. Muslim scientists also developed anaesthesia using opium and alcohol. They also developed hollow needles for eye surgeries to suck out cataracts in a technique still used today.

Windmills first appeared in Persia in 634 and were used to grind corn and for the drawing of water for irrigation. From Persia the idea went to Arabia. These mills had six to 12 sails, covered either in cloth or palm leaves. Wind mills appeared 500 years later in Europe.

Neither Jenner nor Pasteur introduced inoculation. This is actually a Turkish discovery for use to inoculate children against smallpox. The wife of the English ambassador to Turkey, Lady Mary Montague, brought the inoculations to Europe in 1724. Smallpox vaccinations were being applied in Turkey 50 years before it was started in Europe.

The numbering system probably originated in India but it was the Arabian mathematicians, Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Kindi, who created numerals which appeared first in around 825.
Algebra was named after Al-Khwarizmi’s book ‘al Jabr wa’al Muqabalah’. Much of the contents of the book are still in use. An Italian mathematician, Fibonacci, was the first to introduce this mathematics to Europe. By doing so he introduced the continent to algorithm and trigonometry.
Al-Kindi is credited with the discovery of frequency analysis. This discovery is the basis of cryptography. Cryptography means establishing codes in order to communicate without anyone knowing about the contents of the communication. Only authorised people can understand what is in the communication.

Culinary art
Ali Ibn Nafi resided in Baghdad but moved to Cordoba (Muslim Spain) in the ninth century. He specialised in culinary art, introducing meals first with soup, followed by meat and vegetables and ended with nuts for dessert. He also introduced crystal glassware.
Crystal glass had been created by Abbas ibn Firnas. The idea about meal and glassware was then introduced to Europe where it became popular.

Persian carpets
Persian carpets having intricate designs and eye-catching colours, have always been in demand and as they were in the period called the Middle Ages (476-1500). These carpets commanded much value not only in Persia but also in Europe. The bright colours were the result of the development of chemicals and dyes which were unknown in Europe.

Bank cheques
Bank cheques are considered a norm of life these days. How many know that the word ‘cheque’ originated from the Arabic ‘saqq’, which was basically a written vow to pay for goods when they were delivered. It is said that in the ninth century, a businessman could cash his cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad. This ‘cheque’ system was introduced in Baghdad in the ninth century.

Spherical Earth
Muslim scholars of the ninth century had declared Earth to be a sphere and Ibn Hazm stated that Earth revolved around the Ssun and not the other way around. This fact also occurred to Galileo, but that was five centuries later.
Muslim astronomers also calculated the circumference of Earth as 40,253 km, which was less than 200 km from the actual circumference that was later to be calculated.
Muhammad Al Idrisi (1100-1165) was a geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist and lived in the court of King Rogers of Sicily. In 1139, he presented to the king a globe depicting Earth.

Gun powder
The Chinese are credited with the invention of the gun powder. However, it was the Arabs who discovered a way of purifying it by using potassium nitrate. It proved to be effective for military purposes. The Crusaders found the devices fearsome.
By the 15th century, Arab engineers had made interesting progress. They had devised a torpedo and rocket. Both were novelties of their time. The torpedo was really a device where an explosive charge was placed at the end of a lance. The propulsion was done by a large rocket that was attached to the torpedo. The lance would impale itself to the wooden ship’s side and the explosive within the torpedo would blow up, sinking the ship.

Flower gardens
Medieval Europe boasted kitchen gardens. However, Muslim rulers of al Andalus developed beautiful flower gardens sometime in the 11th century. The idea was taken up readily by the Europeans. Carnations and tulips originated in al Andalus and made their way to European gardens.

Fountain pen
The Sultan of Egypt king wanted a pen that did not stain his clothes, as the pens at that time did, so the fountain pen was invented for him in 953. It used gravity and capillary to feed the ink to the nib.

What you need to know about the Congo virus

The festival of festivals, Eidul Azha, is just around the corner. The excitement has begun. Many people have already purchased their sacrificial animals, while those who haven`t aren`t going to leave it too late. The animals just have to be bought and cared for well in advance or there is no fun.
No child, or adult for that matter, in Pakistan can claim that they haven`t petted, pampered or cared for a sacrificial animal. After all, this is part of the spirit behind remembering the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim on Eidul Azha.
But this time things are a bit different and dangerous too. Though we don`t want to scare you all, but you need to be careful about the contact you make with the sacrificial animals and the health status of the animal as the Congo virus is here.
You must have heard about cases of this disease in people and almost two dozen people have died from it this year alone in Pakistan.
There is an estimated 10-30 per cent fatality rate in humans and so far no vaccine is available for human use. In such a scenario, the only way to prevent people from catching this is through raising awareness and adopting precautionary measures.
Let us learn more about this disease so that we can stay safe and healthy during Eidul Azha when there is a greater risk of the spread of this disease.

What is Congo virus?
Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, or Congo virus, is viral infection transmitted by Hyalomma ticks to both animals and humans. The virus is transmitted by ticks living in the skins of goats, cows, buffalos and camels, feeding on their blood. The disease is rare in infected animals, who mostly act as carriers of the disease which they transmit, it is severe in infected humans.
It is prevalent in Asia, Africa, Middle East and South-Eastern Europe. Though cases have been reported throughout the year, the disease is more common between March to October. So right now the ticks are very active and can easily spread to other animals, places where livestock are kept and humans too.

People can get Congo virus by:

  • Being bitten directly by the tick.
  • Humans and animals can transmit the virus to other humans.
  • Through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately af ter slaughter.
  • Human-to-human transmission can occur by close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons.
  • Hospital-acquired infections can also occur due to improper sterilisation of medical equipment, reuse of needles and contamination of medical supplies.

After an incubation period of one to three days following a tick bite or five to six days after exposure to infected blood or tissues, flu-like symptoms appear, which may resolve after one week.
But in many cases, signs of haemorrhage appear within three to five days of the onset of the first symptoms.
Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrheal, red eyes, bleeding and severe body pain, especially in the joints, abdominal pain and sorethroat, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.
As the condition gets severe, bleeding from gums, skin and large intestine may also occur and red spots appear on the body. The bleeding is due to the shortage of white cells that this disease causes and this can be very dangerous.
Anyone who shows these symptoms needs to be immediately taken to the hospital as early diagnosis is important in saving the patient`s life. Recovery starts after the tenth day or so.


  • To avoid tick bites, people who go near animals or the cattle market should cover their face, hands, feet and so on. They should wear light coloured clothes so that a tick can be easily seen if it sticks on their clothes.
  • Long pants tucked into boots and long-sleeved shirts should be worn.
  • Avoid touching or going too close to animals that may have ticks or those that have been bought from markets where they have been in contact with many other animals from all over the country.
  • Contact with infected blood or tissues should also be avoided. Protective clothing and gloves should be used when handling infected animals, particularly when blood and tissues are handled.
  • Unpasteurised milk should not be drunk.
  • In meat, the virus is usually deactivated by post-slaughter acidification. It is also killed by cooking.
  • Use tick repellents.
  • Acaricides, which are pesticides that kill ticks and mites, can be used on livestock and other domesticated animals to control ticks, particularly where they are kept and before slaughter.
  • The waste material of sacrificial animals should be disposed properly.

The safest way to avoid Congo virus is to control your enthusiasm this year and don`t pet and play as freely with them as you have been doing previously. I know it is hard, but in the case of Congo virus, prevention is better than cure.

Facts versus Myths

We are blessed that we are living in the age of knowledge. Modern convergence of technologies, easy access to internet and advanced mobile applications are the sources through which knowledge can reach from one corner of the world to the other in just a few seconds.
Despite the fact that the world now is on our fingertips, there are a lot of misconceptions which we encounter almost every day. But, fortunately, if we dig a little bit deeper we can actually find the reality behind the thick smoke of illusion. I have hereby tried to discuss some myths briefly which are considered facts nowadays.

Bermuda triangle is a weird place where aircrafts and ships disappear
It is the most common myth about the area which is stretches from Florida to Puerto Rico and the mid-Atlantic islands of Bermuda.
Most people think that this place is cursed and due to this very reason the triangle is also called a `Devil`s Triangle`. The story starts with the records of Columbus. He observed that his compass halted and gave some strange signals when he came across this particu-lar region. The legend continued and was further sensationalised in 1955 when the book The Bermuda Triangle was published.
In 1975 Lary Kusche wrote the book named Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved. This book is sufficient to debunk the myth of the Bermuda Triangle. In his book, Kusche argued that all the previous researches on the said topic were inadequately done and provided misleading facts. He also argued that there were many other islandswhich were also known for missing individuals and aircrafts.
American research associations sent many scientists and experts to discover the reality about this area and the findings scientifically proved that this area is as natural as any other area in the world.

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world
Everyone thinks (though mistakenly) that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. It is a myth. Mount Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain when measuredfrom its base to summit but most of it is under the sea! This mountain is a dormant volcano and situated in the Islands of Hawaii, wearing its famous snow cap. Certainly, the highest point of Mauna Kea is definitely not higher than Everest`s from sea level, as Mauna Kea is only 4,205 metres above sea level, which is less than half as high as Everest.
If you discard the water that surrounds Mauna Kea and measure the mountain from its base a measurement called the `dry prominence`Mauna Kea is taller than Everest by almost 500 metres. Starting at the point where Mauna Kea begins to rise out of the surrounding crust, the mountain has a total height of over 10,000 metres. If they could be placed side-by-side on a flat plane, Mauna Kea would indisputably be the taller of the two.

Tomato is a vegetable
Many people think tomato is a vegetable because it tastes savoury rather sweet. But scientifically speaking, tomato is not a vegetable but a fruit. Fruits aredeveloped in the ovary, which is located in the base of a flower, and contain plant`s seeds. Examples are raspberries and blueberries and so forth.
So, technically what we eat is the fruit of the tomato plant, but it`s used as a vegetable in cooking.

Chameleons change their colour to match their environment
It is widely believed that chameleons change their colour to match their environment, but in reality it changes its colour to convey a particular mood and feeling and bydoing so they send social signals to other chameleons. For instance, darker colours tend to mean a chameleon is angry, etc.

News Stands for North, East, West and South
It is a very common misconception about this word. But, etymologically, this word news is a rare instance of the convergence of an adjective in to a noun from new to news.
Word new is derived from old French word `nouveau`, which means new thing. Thus, this word does not have anything to do with the four cardinal directions.

Microwave rays can cause cancer
People are afraid of microwave ovens because they think the microwave rays cause cancer. On the contrary, experts have confirmed that since the microwave rays cannot change the structure of the human DNA, they cannot cause cancer.
The type of radiation emitted by microwave ovens is non-ionising. This means that it doesn`t contribute to your chance of getting cancer like x-rays, ultraviolet light, etc. do.

The Great Wall of China is visible from space
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spent five months in the international space station, stat-ed: `The Great Wall of China is not visible from the orbit with the naked eyes.
Neil Armstrong added about the view from Apollo 11: `I do not believe that, at least with my eyes, there would be any man-made object that I could see. I have not yet found somebody who has told me they`ve seen the Wall of China from the Earth`s orbit.

Swimming after eating can cause drowning
Swimming after a full stomach meal can disturb digestive system and blood circulation as with any other exercise, but it does not cause drowning.
So kids, do you see how we easily start believing in wrong notions that are widely accepted as true in our society? It is always advisable to read and research before believing anything.