Mesopotamia and Egypt are the cradles of our present-day civilization. The origins of our science can be traced back to these two civilizations of four or even five thousand years ago. The Greeks inherited the science of these countries, appropriated it eagerly. They also endowed it with greater power of articulation and imparted fresh momentum to scientific work. In their hands scientific knowledge was not only considerably enriched, but it also gained substantially in refinement and theoretical stature. But with the advent of Christianity a period of stagnation gradually set in, and the era called the Dark Ages with all its superstitions and dearth of well- founded scientific enlightenment began to weigh heavily upon the old classical Mediterranean world and the Near East. The situation changed with the advent of Islam.
The history of Islam starts with the Hijra in 622 A. D. In that year Muhammed transferred the scene of his activities from the city of Mekka to Medina. The Prophet died ten years later, but before 650 the Arabs had managed to conquer Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, and in these rapid conquests religious faith had served remarkably as a motive power for building a gigantic empire.
In the Near and the Middle East the Arab conquerors met with remnants of civilizations much superior to their own, and, as the Islamic community became welded together, these civilizations cooperated activly in the formation of the emerging Moslem civili-zation. In the vast territory embraced by Islam the Arabs were coniderably outnumbered by the non-Arabic elements and, conse-quently their control over the destiny of Islam decreased substantially. The original conquerors played by no means a passive part, however, in the emergence of the new society.
The rise of the Abbasid Caliphate, about one hundred and twenty years after the death of the Prophet, marked the opening of a cultural and scientific era, important not only in the history of Islam but also in that of the whole world. This was made possible by the great value attached to knowledge and culture. Consequently, an intense process of cultivation of knowledge constituted a veritably strong component in the very foundations of the emerging Islamic civilization.
Moreover, this enthusiasm was far from being limited to religious and literary fields. The existence of rich Indian and especially Greek scientific and medical literature was gradually discovered, and an agressive curiosity to gain access to and appropriate that knowledge resulted. A great stream of Greek and other ancient learning began to pour into the Moslem World through the then newly founded city of Baghdad as a result of systematic and intense translation activities. Translations were made into Arabic from Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, and from the Pahlawi language.
At the court of the second Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur we witness acts of courtesy extended to scholars from India or from regions close to India who brought with them important Sanskrit works on astronomy, trigonometry, and medicine. And the same caliph received an important collection of manuscripts including Euclid’s Elements of Geometry. Through the initiative of Harun al-Rashid and also the Barmaks, originating from a family of high rank in the Buddhistic religious hierarchy of the city of Balkh, many additional scientific manuscripts of great importance were secured and the Baytulhikma was founded where these works were busily translated into Arabic. The seventh Abbasid caliph and son of Harun al-Rashîd, Al-Ma’mûn (813-833), took considerable pains to obtain Greek manuscripts and sent a special mission to the Byzantine emperor for that purpose.
Resolved to pursue knowledge to its sources, Hunayn ibn Ishaq famous physician and translator of Christian faith, decided to discon-tinue his medical studies until he had perfected his knowledge of the Greek language and for that purpose went into seclusion for many years. The diligence with which the legacy of Greece was sought and appropriated is well illustrated by an interesting story on the death of Hippocrates. According to this story, Luqmân, the legendary physician and Koranic sage, succeeded İn obtaining from Hippocrates the medical secrets which he guarded jealously; Hippocrates died of the chagrin caused by the loss of the torch of Greek medical knowledge to the Orient.
One feature of the medieval Islamic culture, which seems to be very significant for the intellectual history of the world, is the conspicuous achievements in the organization and systematization of education which were realized in Islam. Great strides were made in the direction of the dissemination and popularization of learning, especially in the field of Islamic or transmitted sciences.
In the Islamic Middle Ages, for the first time in history, the cultivation of knowledge came to be looked upon as something which ought to be within the reach of every individual. The abundance of public libraries and of schools, even those devoted to higher edu-cation, is a shining witness of this attitude and of the extent to which a goal so difficult to be attained was realized in practice. In addition, in Islam the promotion of education came to be considered a duty of the state.
There were several sayings attributed to the Prophet advocating the cultivation of knowledge and exalting the scholars. There is, it is true, the question of the authenticity of these Traditions. But some of these sayings at least should be genuine Traditions, since they are found in the earliest and most reliable collections of the sayings of the Prophet. Moreover, there are many verses in the Koran in which knowledge is highly recommended. The sayings in question of the Prophet arc therefore in complete harmony with these Koranic exhortations. Certain medieval Islamic thinkers tended to interpret the word “knowledge” in such passages so as to exclude the mathe-matical, physical, and natural sciences. Many scientists, however, referred to such verses and Traditions in exalting their fields of en-deavor. These verses and Traditions undoubtedly acted therefore as strong stimulants in the cultivation of the secular sciences as well as in the popularization of education in general.
An economical way of manufacturing a suitable from of rag paper was found and perfected in China. Islam learned the manu-facture of paper from Türkistan, and this industry was soon adopted all over the Moslem realm. This economic factor too should be con-sidered of great consequence. The manufacture of paper has probably played as important a part in the promotion of education and disse-mination of knowledge as the invention of the printing press with movable types did some centuries later in Europe. It must have been of service also in securing and facilitating contact between Europe and the Islamic World. We know that this contact proved to be of great moment in the intellectual history of the world.
Certain Islamic scholars, such as Al-Bayrûnî and Rashiduddin, physician, historian, and statesman, have criticized the Arabic script. They dwell upon certain disadvantages of that script, and their criticisms are very relevant from the point of view of the production of men of science and learning. Their thoughts have the earmarks of a deep interest in the question of the dissemination of knowledge.
The achievements of Islam in the direction of the popularization of education should probably be included among its major contributions to the world civilization. The question of the relations between the Islamic madrasa and the late medieval European uni-versity seems to gain considerably in importance when considered against the background of the Islamic contributions to the democra-tization of education.
The organization of education in Islam reveals some rather important contributions of the Turks to the Islamic civilization. The madrasa system came into being during the period of Turkish rule, the first of such institutions formally supported by the state being a creation of the Turkish Seljuqs. In a more general sense too the birth of the madrasa system owed much to Turkish initiative. It was developed in the region of Transoxiana and Khurasan, where Turks constituted a significant part of the population, and Turkish kings of the Qarakhanid, Ghaznawid, and Seljuq dynasties were the founders of the earliest of such schools. Turks appear, moreover, among the earliest bibliophiles and founders of libraries in Islam.
Persia was almost completely conquered by Arab armies in the time of the caliph Omar, in 641, only nine years after the death of the Prophet, and about ten years later the Sasanid monarch fell in the hand of the Arab armies in Merv. From this point on, from the Caspian to the south of Afganistan, the Arab armies met, in their advance, with local Turkish resistance, and the conquest of Transoxiana and Tokharistan with its capital Balkh could be brought to a successful conclusion only through the energetic initiatives of Qutayba ibn Muslim about a hundred years after the death of the Prophet.
Turks thus came to constitute a part of the Moslem community, and from this time on they undertook to defend the borders of Islam, while the other Turks of Central Asia from outside the Islamic realm began to accept the Moslem faith voluntarily. Al-Ma’mûn had a sizeable body of Turkish soldiers in Baghdad, who according to Jâhiz, were the most capable and efficient of his military personnel, while with his successor Al-Mu’tasim (833-842) opened a period of predominance of Turkish army officers of high rank. This gave rise to the so-called Samarra period, during which the scat of government was moved from Baghdad to Samarra. This period lasted from 836 to 892, extending through the reigns of eight successive caliphs.
Already in the ninth century independent Turkish states began to spring up in Islam, not only such as the Qarakhanids and the Ghaznawids in Central Asia, but such as the Tulunids and the Ikh- shidids in Egypt, in the heart of the vast Islamic realm. But Turks were not active and efficient only in administrative and military affairs and in the field of statesmanship. For the cities of Central Asia soon gained preeminence not only as nurseries of Islamic studies but also as cultural centres where valuable scientific work was carried on extensively.
Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406), in his well-known Muqaddima states in a categorical manner that in the field of scientific work the part played by the Arabs is a very minor one, while that of the non-Arabs or ‘ajams is very substantial and outstanding. Ibn Khaldun is one of the most eminent thinkers of the world of Islam, and it will be appropriate to dwell carefully on this sweeping general observation of his.
Ibn Khaldûn touches this question in a short and special chapter toward the end of this book. The word ‘ajam is a general term applying to all non-Arabs, and Ibn Khaldûn too naturally uses this word in its usual sense. In fact, he himself specifically mentions the Persians, the Turks, and the inhabitants of Anatolia in the East and the Berbers in the West as 'ajams in another chapter, coming shortly after the one referred to above and dealing with the question of taste in linguistic matters.
Nevertheless, when stating that great contributions to scientific pursuits in the realm of Islam came from non-Arabs, he has especially the Persians in mind. This is evidenced by his reference, on this same occasion, to a saying of the Prophet to the effect that ‘if knowledge stood hanging at the highest peak of the firmament, people of Fars would manage to attain to it’ and by his remark that this Tradition has proved its veracity.
Although Ibn Khaldun was a profound thinker with a thorough knowledge of history and a remarkable grasp of Islamic culture and civilization, there is no doubt that in this statement of his he is- not entirely fair to the Arabs. Such men as the above-mentioned Hunayn ibn Ishâq and Al-Kindî, one of the earliest nature philosophers of Islam and a truly distinguished scientist and translator, show clearly that his categorical pronouncement is not free from exaggeration.
W. Barthold makes a much more apt observation when he points to the importance of cooperation between peoples of different geographic regions in building up the Islamic civilization. He sees the main significance of the rise of Islam, for the intellectual history of the world, in the circumstance that thereby a realm came into being in which the cultural cooperation of a considerable part of mankind was possible.
The vast Islamic realm extending from the Pyrenees and the Atlantic Ocean, through north Africa, to Central Asia and the Indian Ocean embraced many groups of people of different ethnic origins. Religion was the main common bond, but there were also different faiths and many denominational variations. And although sectarian ideologies were often utilized in the foundation of regional kingdoms, as the Moslem religion itself had served as the motive power of building an empire, yet a state of tolerance prevailed in Islam which was quite remarkable on medieval standards. Moreover, belief in the paramount importance of the Arabic language, the language of the Koran and the Prophet, was, more or less, an article of faith among the Moslems, and thus Arabic also served as a veritable common bond in the huge Moslem domain.
It is of interest to consider the following assertion of Al-Bayrûnî, a truly towering genius of medieval Islam, in the light of this general perspective. He says, “The ideas and convictions of people often show great diversities, and the prosperity of the world rests on such divergences of opinion.”
In Zeki Velidi Togan’s estimation and interpretation, Al-Bayrûnî conceived the world civilization as divided into two major groups. These were the Orient and the Occident. The former comprised the Indians, the Chinese, and the Turks remaining outside the sphere of the Islamic culture. Islam itself constituted a continuation of the Classical World of Antiquity. Al-Bayrûnî is thus seen to attach great importance to the elements of continuity tying the ancient Greek civilization to Islam and made possible especially through the activity of translation. Moreover, Al-Bayrûnî believed that the acceptance of the moslem faith by the Turks resulted in a great extention of the sphere of the Occidental civilization and that thereby an important service was rendered to humanity.
Such soaring thoughts of Al-Bayrûnî are reminiscent of Bar-thold’s statement referred to above. Coming back to Ibn Khaldûn, although his sweeping pronouncement is undoubtedly exaggerated, there is nevertheless an important element of truth in his observation. For indeed the Persians played a great part in the intellectual and scientific activity of Islam. Moreover, a galaxy of truly remarkable thinkers and scientists of Islam are seen to have originated from the northeastern regions of Islam, from the districts of Khurasan and Central Asia in general. And it should be pointed out that these districts by far outweighed Persia proper in their participation in the scientific and intellectual endeavors of Islam. Al-Fârâbî, Al-Bayrûnî, Ibn Sina, Nasîruddîn at-Tûsî, and Ulugh Bey constitute examples of the vast group of scientists and thinkers produced and contributed by the districts of Khurasan and Transoxiana.
Such people were partly Persian and partly Turkish. But as the people of these eras did not feel the need of specifying their ethnic extractions, it is generally no easy task to determine their nationality with any degree of certitude. Only in certain exceptional cases, therefore, are we able to clearly distinguish their nationalities either on the basis of casual information concerning their lives which has come down to us, or because such inference becomes clearly possible from the titles they bore, or, in the case of scholars and scientists who lived in the earlier centuries especially, from the names of their ancestors.
For example, such scholars as Abû Naşr Muhammad ibn Mu-hammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzlugh al-Fârâbî (d. 950-951), the dean of the philosophers and logicians of Islam and one of its most distin-guished scientists, musicologists, and thinkers, and Abû Nasr Ismâ'îl al-Jawharî al-Fârâbî (d. 1002), one of its first lexicographers, bore the title “al-Turkî”, i.e., “the Turk” or “the Turkish”. They both originated from Fârâb, a city deep in the lands inhabited by Turks, as their title al-Fârâbî indicates. Likewise, certain other scholars were referred to by the title “al-Fârsî”, i.e., “the Persian”, or “from Fars”. Concerning Abû Naşr Muhammad al-Fârâbî, to whom several sources specifically refer as Turkish, we know, in addition, that throughout his long span of life he never abandoned the habit of wearing Turkish costumes and Turkish head gear. Moreover, the names of his forefathers, Tarkhân and Uzlugh, are Turkish.
With the advent of the Seljuqs Turks migrated in such large numbers into Islamic territories that the part of this population which settled in Asia Minor was able to trasform that territory into a predomincntly Turkish country in a relatively short time. From the eleventh century on, therefore, Turks could be expected to be encountered in any part of the Islamic East. But before the Seljuqs geographic considerations could serve more reliably as guides for the likelihood of Turkish and Persian origins.
Abû Bakr Muhammed ibn Zekeriya ar-Râzî, great physician and chemist and one of the foremost representatives of free and inde-pendent thought in Islam, who originated from Ray, on the outskirts of present-day Tehran, may, solely on the basis of geographic criterion, be considered a Persian. Abû’l-‘Abbâs Ahmed al-Fârghânî, who was a contemporary of Al-Ma’mûn and Al-Mutawakkil, on the other hand, may for similar reasons be deemed to be a Turk, while for scholars from Khurasan and its close neighborhoods it would be more difficult to reach such verdicts.
There is no need to emphasize that such a criterion alone would not be conclusive in individual cases, but could merely serve to es-tablish a probability. As the examples are multiplied, however, the probability of making mistakes on the basis of geographical criteria alone should undoubtedly decrease. In dealing with individual cases therefore it is very desirable to rely upon more specific and detailed items of information.
Al-Bayrûnî, for example, tells us that his mother tongue was neither Arabic nor Persian. He adds, moreover, that it is impossible to write scientific books in his maternal language. He asserts that Arabic is the language appropriate for writing books of science and learning and that Persian is suitable for eulogies and evening stories, adding, however, that he himself would prefer reproof in Arabic to being praised in Persian.
Al-Bayrûnî is seen to have known Turkish from occasional re-ferences he makes to words in that language. Apparently he knew Turkish already in his very tender ages. For at least on two occasions he speaks of somewhat detailed childhood memories concerning aged Turks who brought medicines made of herbs to his native town, one of them being to the palace of Khwarazm. Moreover, Al-Bayrûnî’s Turkish was, according to Zeki Velidi Togan, that of the Turks of his native country. And it is very unlikely that Al-Bayrûnî’s acquaintance with Turkish was a result of his formal or private education.
We may conclude that Al-Bayrûnî was most certainly not Persian and was very likely Turkish. His case İs somewhat like that of Al-Fârâbî, in that there exist certain detailed items of information that make possible the determination of his nationality.
It is of course not in any way essential or necessary to determine the nationalities of these scientists and thinkers one by one. But it is certainly of importance to do some such work at least in order to show that the production of such men was not a monopoly of any single national or racial group.
In the medieval Islamic World the patronage and encouragement of scientists and their work by kings and people of high rank such as viziers was an important factor in the production of scientists and the continuation of scientific work. For in Islam the principle of utility was of considerable weight in deciding in favor or against a branch of knowledge, and the Moslems were quite conscious of this pragmatic test and often mentioned it as a legitimate criterion. Notwithstanding certain apt criticisms directed against astrology and alchemy, on the other hand, the feeling of dependability on these pseudo-sciences was quite strong and widespread in Islam, and the encouragement and patronage accorded to them was quite substantial. Quite naturally, medicine also enjoyed popular and royal support.
In Islam astrology, with its branches, thrived well in royal courts. Moreover, in many cases, kings and princes patronized the type of astrology which required elaborate mathematical treatment and accurate observations with costly instruments.
Without this kind of royal patronage the popularity of astrology might have not served to encourage the cultivation of mathematics and pure astronomy to any considerable extent beyond that part falling within the province of the muwaqqit and satisfying the needs of religion. The public demand for forecasts and guidance in various affairs would have been satisfied with the types of sooth-saying and fortunetelling which did not depend on any substantial knowledge of mathematics.
Indeed, in Islam the transmitted sciences, i.e., those related to Islamic studies, were considered to be of far greater value as com-pared to the secular sciences, while the latter were subject to mild skepticism and suspicion and, at times, were made targets of rather severe criticism and of even active opposition. It may be said without hesitation that the support afforded by the kings to astrology, alchemy, and, at least thereby, to the secular sciences was quite often rather substantial. Indeed, royal patronage generally extended to the basic secular sciences quite generously.
Royal patronage of the secular sciences was undoubtedly an important factor in counteracting lay and theological disapprovals of the secular sciences. For kings usually combined temporal authority with some degree of spiritual power, and their authority was generally absolute both in theory and practice. It was also a favorable circumstance from the vantage point of the cultivation of such know-ledge that in Islam the system of a plurality of relatively small states rather than that of large central governments generally tended to prevail.
Indeed, beginning with the Abbasid caliphs such as Al-Mansûr, Harun Rashid, AI-Ma’mûn, Al-Mu‘tasim, and Al-Mutawakkil, royal patronage was the prime moving factor in the intellectual development that lay at the foundation of the emerging Islamic civilization. Turks, on the other hand, assumed an active part in administrative, military, and political affairs from relatively early years of the Abbasid rule on, as we have already seen, and soon they extended this activity of statesmanship by founding or heading many Islamic states. They were thereby instrumental to quite a substantial extent in promoting scientific work.
The most illustrious among Turkish rulers who encouraged and promoted scientific work is, without any doubt, Ulugh Bey. Indeed., if only three rulers should be singled out for consideration as the most remarkable patrons of science throughout the Middle Ages, they would undoubtedly be Al-Ma’mûn, Alfonso X, and Ulugh Bey, and Ulugh Bey should certainly be ranked as the most enlightened among them. There will be occasion in the following pages to refer to other Turkish rulers who patronized scientific work when speaking of observatories and hospitals.
Names of Turkish rulers in Islam who encouraged scientific work and were personally interested in its cultivation would run into a quite long list. It will be of interest, however, to mention here two specific examples of Turkish rulers who are most certainly not among the top celebrities and arc in fact quite obscure.
Mughith al-Din Muhammed ibn Arslanhâh of the twelfth century, the seventh king of Seljuqs of Kirman, was very fond of astronomy and astrology. He possessed some knowledge in these fields and in the science of calendar. He gave unusual encouragement to the pursuit of learning and supported promising young students by giving them pecuniary rewards. And according to Ibn Bîbî, ‘Alâuddin Dâwûdshâh ibn Bahrâmshâh, thirteenth century ruler of Erzincan was very learned in the science of stars, including astrology, and in mathematics, medicine, natural sciences, and logic, and could write good poetry.
In the Near and Middle East the Arab conquerors, as mentioned above, had come into contact with civilizations or remnants of civilizations far superior to their own, and as the Islamic community became welded together, these civilizations were duly represented in the emerging Moslem society. But in consolidating the intellectual foundations of the new society much concerted effort was expended and contact was secured also with cultures not so readily accessible. This was done, as said above, through systematic translation activities.
The majority of these translations was made by learned people from Syria, Iraq, and Persia, people mostly belonging to the Nestorian and Monophysite sects. But there were also prominent Moslem Arabs as well as Jews and Zoroastrians among the translators. Harran, a pagan center representing predominently the ancient Mezopotámián civilization, Jundisapur, a predominently Nestorian medical center in southwestern Persia, and Merv, at the edge of the district of Khurasan, and well within the borderlands of Central Asia, where the Nestorians had set up a center, were foremost among such cultural centers.
This brings us back to the regions to the northeast of Iran, and we may say that in the matter of the first fruitful intellectual contacts, certain early scholars of this area were among the trailblazers in translations from Sanskrit. Likewise, the Jewish scholar Sahl ibn Rabban at-Tabari from Merv figures among the earliest translators of the Almagest of Ptolemy.
Indeed, Al-Fârâbî clearly states that the last representatives of the tradition of instruction of philosophy in Alexandria and Antioch moved to Merv when the representatives of this tradition had to quit those cities and that they continued their activity in that new center. It should be of interest in this connection too that a man from Balkh and one from Nîshâbûr, both in the regions in the northeast of Persia, arc mentioned as teachers of Abu Bakr Muhammed ibn Zakarîyyâ ar-Râzî, a truly towering thinker and scientist of early Islam whose life stretches from 864 to 925 A.D.
The illustrious pre-Islamic medical center, Jundisapur, owed its importance particularly to Nestorian physicians who were forced to leave the territories of the Eastern Roman Empire because of their religious views and had enjoyed the protection of Iran. In Jundisapur there was a hospital which was apparently the most advanced institution of its kind in that era and which, most likely, served as the leading model for the medieval hospitals of Islam.
It would seem that this medieval center had been influenced to some extent by Indian medicine, but the prédominent influence had come from the healing art of the Greeks, and Jundisapur was at the time the foremost representative of Greek medicine. The physicians of Jundisapur were among the promoters of the translation activity from Greek and Syriac into Arabic, in which some of them also participated personally.
The hospitals of medieval Islam arc in the true sense of the word the forerunners of the modern hospital. The Greek asklepion was a temple of cure dedicated to the gods of healing. These institutions were shrines of miraculous cure with mystifying atmospheres calculated to have psychological effects on the patients, and in them, ordinarily, physicians practising Greek scientific medicine played no part. The Islamic hospitals, on the conrary, were well-organized and specialized institutions of charity, and they constituted strongholds of scientific medicine.
It is of great interest therefore that in the development of the hospital as a specialized philanthropic and scientific institution Turks seem to have played a prominent part. The fifth Islamic hospital was built by Fath ibn Khâqân ibn Gartuch, Turkish general and minister of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil, and the sixth one by Ahmed ibn Tulun. This latter institution was the first Islamic hospital supported by the waqf endowment. It may be added that out of the five earliest hospitals that had waqf, the four or at least three of the earliest dates of foundation were built by Turks.
The third Islamic hospital owed its existence to the initiative of the Barmaks who were from Balkh, and they may have had a hand in the foundation of the first Islamic hospital too. The third Islamic hospital was run by representatives of Indian medicine, and some such a situation may have obtained to some extent in the first Islamic hospital too. It should be added here that hospital-building activity gained great momentum beginning with the Seljuqs, i.e., during the period of prevalence of Turkish political power in Islam.
Like the hospital the observatory too was one of the most de-veloped institutions of science and learning in Islam and one of the highwater marks of the Moslem civilization. There is no doubt that the observatory as a specialized scientific institution owes a great deal to Islam. It may very reasonably be claimed, in fact, that it was first in Islam that the observatory, as a specialized institution with an official and legal status and with a fixed location where observation and other work on stellar bodies was carried out systematically through the cooperation of several scientists, came into existence. Al-Ma’mûn set the example and initiated the tradition of founding observatories in Islam, and two of the major but very short-lived observatories, the Shammâsîya in Baghdad and Qâsî- yûn in Damascus, were founded by that monarch.
Eight other examples of enterprises for building fullfledged and elaborate official state observatories occurred in the Islamic realm up to .the seventeenth century. The earliest in date among them was the Sharaf ad-Dawla Observatory built in 987 in Baghdad. This was an elaborate institution, but it was quite short-lived, apparently because it suffered from the ambitiousness of its project. The next large-scale observatory was founded by the Turkish king Melikshah in Isfahan in 1074. Al-Afdal and Al-Bata’ihî, two Fatimid viziers, were active in the building of an observatory in Cairo between 1120 and 1125. But the project could not be brought to full completion.
The Maragha Observatory, founded in 1259 under the patronage of Hulagu was one of the most elaborate institutions of its kind and the scene of important work. About 1300, Ghazan Khan founded another observatory in Tebriz, the characteristic feature of which seems to have been the weight given in it to instruction in astronomy. A gigantic observatory was built in Samarqand by the Turkish astronomer prince Ulugh Bey in 1420, and finally the Tophane Observatory of Istanbul was founded by the Ottoman ruler Murad III in 1575 or shortly thereafter.
It is seen that three out of these ten institutions owed their existence to Turkish rulers, and two among the remaining seven also belong to the period of Mongol-Turkish rule. Out of these five observatories, moreover, four were the most elaborate and the most highly developed of such institutions ever built in the World of Islam, while the fifth one, that founded by Ghazan Khan, is of great interest because of its special feature connected with the dissemination of the knowledge of astronomy and the mathematicalsciences, and also because it seems to bring into relief the effort to more truly integrate the observatory with the characteristics of the Islamic society through the endowment of that institution with waqf revenues.
It may be added that Ulugh Bey was about twenty five years old when he founded his observatory. The Turkish scientist Salâhuddîn Qâdizâde-i Rûmî from far away Bursa in Anatolia played a great part in the formation of the scientific circle of Samarqand headed and patronized by Ulugh Bey. Qâdizade had travelled to Samarqand to enrich his scientific knowledge. In his efforts to procure his travel expenses he was supported by his sister, who sold her jewelery for that purpose. He became there a student of Sayyid Sharîf-i Juzjânî.
It is very likely that in his decision to set up an observatory, Ulugh Bey was inspired at least partly by Qàdizàde. He was the teacher of Ulugh Bey who made him the director of his Samarqand Madrasa. In the introduction to his Zij Ulugh Bey writes: “... The work was started joinly, with the aid and assistance of His Excellency my master and my support, the most learned of the men of learning, the bearer of the banner of virtue and sagacity, the devotee of the path of truth and the guide of the road of scrutiny, our mawlâ Salâh al-Milla wa’d-Din Mûsâ, famous as Qâdizâde-i Rûmî, may God’s mercy and compassion be upon him. ...”
In Islam there were rather important special observatories set up by individual astronomers and also observation posts with limited scope of w'ork, some of which were quite elaborate though necessarily of a temporary nature and generally of short periods of activity. Real institutions should transcend individuals, and therefore special observatories belonging to individual astronomers are relatively in the background from the standpoint of the development of the observatory as an organized and specialized scientific institution. Nevertheless, such special observatories played an at least indirect part of primary significance in the birth and growth of that institution.
One such special observatory of great interest and of quite early date was that belonging to the Turkish Amajur family. Abû’I-Qâsim Abdullah ibn Amajur, his son Abû’l Hasan ‘Alî, a third member of the family, and Alt’s freed slave Muflih ibn Yûsuf were among the greatest observers of Islam. There is a record concerning a certain Amajur who was a high official of Damasscus and who died about 878. He may have belonged to the same family.
The Amajurs made extensive astronomical observations between 885 and 933, and, at times, seem to have had other collaborators. Their observations were made partly in Shiraz and mostly in Baghdad, and their work included observations of the fixed stars, as well as lunar, solar, and planetary observations. The Amajurs bore the title “al-Turki”, i.e., “the Turkish”.
The early date of these observations may be brought into pro-minence by noting that they took place before the foundation of the Sharaf ad-Dawia Observatory and that, likewise, they antedated such first-rate and early observation activities as those of Abdurrahman as-Sûfî and Abu’l-Wafâ. In fact, the activity of the astronomers of the Amajur family was preceded, among similar major undertakings, only by the observations conducted by Al-Mamûn and those made by the Banû Mûsâ Brothers, the observations of Al-Battânî having been carried out practically during the same period as those of the Amajur family.
The remarkably long stretch of the observation activity of the Amajurs, extending over nearly fifty years, did, very likely, not con-stitute an uninterrupted sequence of work. It should be noted, none-theless, that it was lengthier than the life span of any of the major Islamic observatories mentioned above, with the sole and possible exception of the Marâgha Observatory.
Only two other specific examples of great interest, concerning early medieval Islam, will be touched upon here. Abû'1-Fadl Abdulhamîd ibn Wâsi' ibn Turk was apparently the first Islamic ma-thematician to write a book on algebra. Indeed, he, very likely, wrote his algebra before Al-Khwârazmî wrote his. For, unlike Al- Khwârazmî, he wrote an unabridged algebra, and, moreover, there is evidence that Al-Khwârazmî was still alive at about the middle of the ninth century. Abdulhamid ibn Turk was also the author of certain books on numbers, on commercial arithmetic, and on the art of calculation, probably with the decimal system.
The fields of algebra and calculation with positional decimal system of numerals were fields in which Western Europe received important influence from the World of Islam. This influence was transmitted especially through the translation of the works of Mu-hammed ibn Mûsâ al-Khwârazmî.
Abû’I-Fadl ‘Abdulhamîd ibn Turk was either a contemporary of Al-Khwârazmî or of slightly earlier date. He must have lived therefore during the reigns of Harun Rashid and Al-Ma’mûn. His grandson Abû Barza was also a mathematician and likewise bore the title “ibn Turk”. Al-Khwârazmî too may have been a Turk, as his native land was Khwârazm where Turks constituted a considerable part of the native population. The likelihood that Al-Khwârazmî was Turkish is enhanced by the fact that he was opparently sent on an official mission to the Turkish Khazars.
Such examples of early date clearly show that Turks not only contributed substantially to the continuation and progress of scientific work in Islam, together with the Arabs and Persians, but that, like them, they also took part in the pioneering work of laying the intellectual foundations of the Islamic culture and civilization at its initial and formative stages. They thus figured prominently, İn a more general context, among the artisans and architects who brought the Islamic World to the forefront of the domain of world civilization and raised it to the position of the torch bearer of knowledge from which the Christian West received the light and inspiration with the help of which the Dark Ages became a thing of the past.
During the twelfth century in special Arabic works on science, medicine, and philosophy were translated into Latin as a result of intense and systematic efforts centered and organized in Toledo and Sicily. The importance of this process of appropriation of the legacy of Islam by Western Europe is brought into relief by giving the name “the Renaissance of the Twelfth Century” to this period of translation, implying thereby that it is quite comparable in importance, in the intellectual history of Europe, to the Renaissance of the sixteenth century.
But there is also the question of further Islamic contributions during the era extending from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, i.e., of indirect contributions of Islam to the rise of modern science in Europe. In other words, although Islam did not produce the Copernicuses, Vesaliuses, Harveys, Galileos, and Keplers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century scientific revolution and even though the decisive achievements leading to the rise of modern science were materialized in Europe only, yet Islam would seem to have contributed to a limited extent and in a roundabout manner to the actualization of that scientific revolution, and Turks were undoubtedly the most important element in Islam in the transmission of such influences.
Contacts of Europe with Islam were sharply reduced with the close of the twelfth century. But there is evidence that after the twelfth century too cultural contacts of intellectual significance between Islam and Europe continued to be of a magnitude that was by no means trivial or negligible.
There were Christian and Jewish communities and also important places of pilgrimage within the Islamic territory. Moreover, the time of the Ilkhans and the Ottoman era, especially the reigns of Muhammed the Conqueror and Süleyman the Magnificent marked periods of increased contact with Europe. By the beginning of the sixteenth century the whole of the Balkan peninsula had come under the Ottomans, and Turkish rule had penetrated into the heart of Europe. It is reasonable to think that these circumtances too were conducive to the growth and enhancement of cultural relations between the two realms.
In the Ptolemaic theory of the solar system, which had reigned supreme throughout the Middle Ages in Europe as well as in Islam, the model used for the moon resulted in a variation of the distance of the moon to the earth which was conspicuously exaggerated. It is of great interest from the standpoint of the repercussions of Islamic astronomy in Europe that the model used by Copernicus to correct this glaring discrepancy of the Ptolemaic model with observed facts was based on the use of secondary epicycles in the same way as they were utilized some two hundred years previously by the Islamic astronomer Ibn ash-Shâtir.
Parallelism also exists between Ibn ash-Shâtir’s and Copernicus’ model serving to account for the motions of Mercury and Venus. As Copernicus generalized the use of Ibn ash-Shâtir’s double epicycle device by applying it to planetary motions, Ibn ash-Shâtir’s model for lunar motion is considered to have served as a source of inspiration for Copernicus.
According to Copernicus’ younger contemporary and close associate Rheticus, Copernicus’ reflections on the changes observed in the brightness of Mercury contributed towards the creation of his system. It is noteworthy that a device used by Copernicus in connection with Mercury is also of Islamise origin.
In Ptolemy’s model for Mercury one of the constituent motions took place along a straight line segment. Copernicus replaced this by a device consisting of two circles, the diameter of the smaller being equal to the radius of the larger one. The small circle rolls within the larger one, always remaining tangent to it. As in such a device a point on the circumference of the small circle traces a straight line which is a diameter of the larger circle, the device serves to couvert uniform circular motion into an oscillatory motion along a straight line, or, rather, to represent a translational motion with the help of uniform circular motions.
Copernicus used this device to transform the translational motion in the Ptolemaic model into uniform circular motion which was deemed more appropriate for stellar bodies. This device had been utilized and perhaps also thought out by Nasîruddin at-Tûsî, the director of the Maragha Observatory founded by Hulagu.
It is of gerat interest also that Copernicus’ parallactic ruler was not fixed but could revolve about its vertical axis. This instrument was, either the first European example of its kind, or the second such example, the first use of it having been made by Regiomontanus shortly before the time of Copernicus.
The revolving parallactic ruler also reveals unmistakable Islamic influence upon Europe. It made its first appcarence in the thirteenth century in Islam. It was among the instruments designed for the Maragha Observatory, and about a century and half later Ghiyâthuddîn Jamslud al-Kâshi (or Kâshânî) used such an instrument in Samarqand where he worked in Ulugh Bey’s Observatory. In Europe it is later on seen among the instruments of Tycho Brahe.
Ghiyâthuddîn al-Kâshî is said to have thought of a new method with the help of which to measure the parallaxes of the lower planets and to have applied it to Venus, As these planets are not visible at their culmination, he is said to have proceeded as follows, in Samarqand. He found the latitude and longitude of Venus for a given time shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset and calculated its true altitude from these values of latitude and longitude. He then found its azimuth from this altitude, and fixing a parallactic ruler at this azimuth, he measured the apparent altitude of Venus. From this, finally, he deduced its parallax.
Two of the methods for measuring parallaxes of comets attri-buted to Regiomontanus are based on measurements of elevation and azimuth at two positions making acute angles with the meridian. The measurement of elevation at directions outside the meridian brings to the mind the method, just mentioned, of Ghiyâthuddîn for determining the parallaxes of the inferior planets. It is possible that the latter’s method had inspired Regiomontanus, and Regiomontanus may have had recourse to the revolving parallactic ruler for making the measurements in question.
Parallelisms have been found between the trigonometry of Regiomontanus and that of Nasîruddîn at-Tûsî as well as of Ulugh Bey’s circle. Again, Ghiyâthuddîn Jamshid al-Kâshî (d. 1429-30) gave an example of the use of positional decimal fractions in a period in which similar individual examples of it are encountered in Europe.
The mathematicians Mordecai Comtino (d. 1487) and Elia Misrahi (1456-1526) were well familiar with the Ottoman capital, and, in fact, they both died there. Mordecai Comtino gave the example of the use of positional decimal fractions, and Misrahi is known to have brought along with him, in his trip form Istanbul to Basel, a book containing certain important summation formulas. The knowledge of such formulas had been much developed and enriched in Islam through the work of Ghiyâthuddin al-Kâshî especially, and summation formulas were used by such mathematicians as Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598-1647) in connection with their w’ork paving the way towards the emergence of the integral calculus.
How did, e.g., Copernicus gain access to the knowledge of such things as the Nasîruddîn at-Tûsî device for converting circular motion into a rectilinear one and the Ibn ash-Shâtir model of double epicycle? Apparently none of these were to be found in European texts. Such ideas must in part have travelled and been transmitted orally and by elusive routes very difficult to determine with any degree of certitude in their full details.
Important books on astronomy were written in Eastern Islam during the period extending between the time of Nasîruddîn at-Tûsî and the end of the sixteenth century. And they were apparently well read and far from being merely committed to the shelves. An un-broken line of astronomers were produced, and substantial commen-taries to the more important works were composed. One finds, e.g., Nasiruddin’s above-mentioned device described and explained in several fourteenth and fifteenth century books on astronomy.
In the period spanning the life times of Regiomontanus and Copernicus there were at least two astronomers of note in Istanbul. They were both well versed in mathematics as well as in theoretical and practical astronomy, and they were productive writers. They were 'Ali Qushji (d. 1474) and Mîrum Chelebi (d. 1525). Istanbul, on the other hand, with its active commercial dealings especially in maritime trade and its thriving Venetian, Genoese, and Ragusan colonies, was a metropolis well suited to a traffic in ideas and cultural contacts between the East and the West.
Several Italian painters and men of letters are knowm to have visited Istanbul and to have stayed there for periods of different lenghts. Gentile Bellini resided in Muhammed the Conqueror’s court for some months during the years 1479-1480. In the opening years of the sixteenth century Leonardo da Vinci designed a plan for a bridge to be built accross the Golden Horn in Istanbul. His plan as w’ell as a letter concerning it have been preserved to our day.
Regiomontanus was a contemporary of ‘Alî Qushji and Muham-med the Conqueror, and Copernicus was a contemporary of Mîrum Chelcbi and Suleyman the Magnificent. Suleyman the Magnificent ruled from 1520 to 1561, and during the early years of his reign diplomatic activity of the Ottomans with all parts of Europe reached a high pitch.
Examples of cultural contacts of a similar nature but running in the opposite direction are likewise not lacking. The map of America by Pîrî Reis, an admiral of Suleyman the Magnificent, is a clear witness of fruitful cultural relations between the East and the West, this time Ottoman Turkey being on the receiving end.
It has been claimed that the ideas of Ibn al-Nafis of the thirteenth century influenced the discovery of the circulation of blood İn Europe. This is probable indeed, as Ibn al-Nafis’ book containing the first description in history of the pulmonary circulation was translated into Latin in 1547, i.e., several years before the publication of the same discovery by Michael Servetus and Rcaldo Colombo.
It is quite possible too that the trocar whose invention is at-tributed to Sanctorius (1561-1636), and sometimes to certain con-temporaries of his, was not unrelated to the similar instrument used by Sabunjuoglu Sherefuddin, fifteenth century Turkish physician and sugeon of Amasya. The probability of such a relation gains added strength from the fact that they both had also the syringe and the permanent probe and that Altunjuzâde (or Altunîzâde), a con-temporary of Sharafuddin, also had some such instruments. But the case is complicated by the possible priority of Abû’l-Qàsim az-Zahrâwî (d. ca. 1013) in these matters. This would again involve the problem of Islamic influence upon Europe, but in this case the influence in question could go back to a much earlier date. It is of interest in this connection that Sanctorius had been to Hungary and Croatia, so that he must have been in rather close contact with Ottoman medicine.
Nasiruddîn at-Tûsî’s ideas on Euclid’s parallel postulate became available in Europe in Latin translation in the middle of the seventeenth century. This is said to have influenced the substantial work of Girolamo Saccheri in the eigheenth century, clearing the way for the appearance of non-Euclidean geometry.
Interesting similarities have come to light between the instruments of Taqiyuddin in Istanbul and those of his contemporary Tycho Brahe. Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg Observatory was built in 1576, i.e., only one year after that of Taqiyuddin. They both had the mural quadrant, the azimuthal quadrant, and a “wooden quadrant” with common special features. Both astronomers had, moreover, the armillary sphere and the parallactic ruler.
Most of these instruments can be traced back to Ptolemy, but they had been improved in Eastern Islam and acquired new specific features, adapting them to the needs of large-size observatory in-struments. The Tychonic instruments were of this later Islamic variety, so that they are linked up and tied to those of late medieval observatories of Islam with very tangible and clear bonds of historical continuity.
Parallelism and continuity is likewise found between the other early observatories of modern Europe and those of late medieval Islam in many particulars and points of detail. There should be no doubt indeed that the modern observatories of Europe actually grew out of the observatories of the Turkish-Islamic World.
With the passing of centuries Europe made great strides in science and industry, and it was now the turn of the Islamic World to turn to the West to increase its knowledge, reform its institutions of science and learning, and modernize its industry. In fact, such a procedure had to be adopted eventually by the rest of the world too, e.g., by Japan, China, and India.
It should be noted here, even if very briefy, that outside of Eu-rope, the first example of such a movement of Westernization was given by Ottoman Turkey. This started with the opening, in Istanbul, of a naval engineering school in 1773 and of an army engineering school İn 1795. During the nineteenth century this movement of Westernization continued in Ottoman Turkey in various other fields and on a progressively broadening scale, and the same sort of reform was carried out by Muhammed Alî Pasha of Egypt during the second quarter of the last century and in Iran in a somewhat later era.
Turks are thus seen to have played an active part in the pursuit of science and learning in the Islamic World throughout its history. This activity started at the very formative stages of the process of building an historically momentous world civilization and continued, with its various turns of fortune, down to the present day.