During our brainwashing years that we like to call grade school, we were
force fed taught that the Renaissance was the birth of a new age and with it, new technologies. In reality, a lot of these were invented years before by either the Chinese, Indians, or Muslims (Chinese Indian Muslims rejoice!). A lot of these were stolen, sometimes deliberately (the horror!) by lesser talented people looking for some quick fame. That’s not this list, you can find those lists here and here. No, this is a list of the most world-changing, seemingly un-Islamic items in the world that originated from the mind of a Muslim.
Weeelll, not exactly. Viagra was made by some doctor guys who were looking into blood pressure medicine. What they didn’t realize was that the blood pressure was affecting other parts of the body. Since then, Viagra has come to define the life of any and every old person, earning its way into the hatred of all men everywhere. The doctors in question, Peter Dunn and Albert Wood thought they were onto something huge (zing!) when they patented their drug via Pfizer. Little did they know, they were beaten to the finish line; by 8 centuries.
The 12th century, known to most as after the 11th Century and slightly before the 13th Century, is also known as the Golden Age of Islam. It was during this time that Muslim scholars made a thousand advances in science and medicine a day . Scholars were on a roll and made it their goal to find every problem and make sure it was Muslims that made the biggest impact on it. So when the greatest scholars of time were presented with men who just couldn’t, uh, “make it rain” they set forward to find a solution.
The first ED medicine (not necessarily Viagra) was actually just a combination of foods that helped increase blood pressure (sound familiar?). But scholars (we’re talking Ibn Cina, Al Razi, the best of the best) weren’t happy and instead developed a drug that could be taken orally that has better results. Some patients were even treated trans-urethrally, something it took Pfizer a lot longer to develop. Oh, and remember when we said this all happened in the 12th century? We kinda exaggerated, it was more like from the 9th till the 16th centuries. For 6 centuries, Muslims everywhere were taking ED drugs. What could have happened that ended all this prosperity?
4) Marching Bands
Upon reading that title, the most common thought to go through one’s head is, “What? Really? But music’s haraam”. Nevertheless, it is indeed true. Janissaries were super awesome elite guards during the Ottoman Empire. They were the real life Shadow Troops from Star Wars, the Muslim version of the Roman Red Guard. Trained from childhood, Spartan-style, Janissaries had one goal- to protect the Mufti… and do whatever he needed them to do.
It was an Ottoman tradition to send freaking awesome diplomatic gifts to other rulers. One common such gift was a “mehter” or military band made of Janissaries. These elite, super amazing, soldiers would don ceremonial garb and play for the ruler they were sent to. The rulers (usually other Ottoman governors) liked it so much, meheteraan became an official thing and played for the ruler every Asr prayer. The mehteraan became a genre in music that was so famous, it went on to influence Beethoven and Mozart in their compositions. In fact, other super-powers adopted the military band as an official thing.
Not only did Muslims invent the marching bands, but they were so good at what they did, they influenced the world’s best musicians.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. After corruption infiltrated the government, the janissaries realized their potential was being wasted on selfish jerks. The movement started to wind down, until it was revived under Attaturk’s administration. The Ottoman Military Bands were made an official part of the military, and perform even today. Although, they’re largely traditional and serve a more patriotic purpose. Kind of like crappy Southern songs about ‘Merica, except without any of the racism and more adrenaline pouring out of each note. It is also widely agreed that every form of marching or military bands can be traced back to the mehter, which means the Ottomans single-handedly created an entire genre of geek.
If you thought that its weird Muslims dabbled in music now, wait till you hear that Muslims invented….
3) Classical Music (kinda)
Again, the title is a bit of a misnomer, but the basis is true. Everything from the guitar to musical notes can be traced back to Islam. Lets start with notes.
Musical notes make up the basis of all music. Its the first thing they teach you in singing class or any music class. The notes consist of Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. Or all together; a female deer puts some light in its pocket, declares itself independent, runs a mile before it decides to take a snack break and sew some stuff. Whichever you prefer. In either case, musical notes are derived from the Arabic language. According to one theory by Franciscus a Mesgnien Meninski, the phonetic similarities between the Arabic solmization scheme and the hexachord nature of the notes are enough to warrant that the latter was derived from the former.
For those of you (so all of you) who don’t understand music garble, that means the way the notes are broken down is eerily similar to the way letters are broken down in Arabic. Enough that you can conclude musical notes came from Arabic. While there’s no way to prove it (of course there isn’t-imagine the scandal!), the theory has a strong backing. Just think about it, the Arabic solmization scheme (or Durr-i-Mufassal) is made up of the letters: Dal, Ra, Meem, Fa, Sad, Lam. We’ll let you make up your mind on this one, buddy.
And now instruments. There are a startling amount of modern instruments that have their roots in traditionally arab instruments. Let’s list them: the lute, the guitar, the naker, the adufe, the alboka, the anafil, and the exabeba. And no, we didn’t just make the last five up, those are actual instruments. We just said how Turkish music influenced Mozart and Beethoven, but according to some, it goes way beyond that. According to a study by the Foundation for Science and Technology, there were 28 scholars who wrote extensively about music. And that it was the respect that Abbasid Caliphs had for poetry that fostered music in the Dark Ages and in the Muslim world. All in all, Islam can be ranked pretty high on the list of those who influenced classical music. That whole haram thing is soundy real weird right now.
Lets take a brake from all this music/Islam blasphemy and focus on something a little more strange: make up. This one’s tough, because cosmetics is one of those fields that multiple scientists have theorized about in their various books. It can also be noted, that make up was definitively made famous in Paris, most likely not by a Muslim. However, it is certain that it was Al Zahwari’s medical encyclopedia with its chapter on Cosmetics that introduced the West to the concept.
Al Zawhiri considered makeup another branch of medicine (thus, a chapter in his medical encyclopedia). When the encyclopedia was translated into Latin during the Renaissance, it was the first real scientific exposure the West had to cosmetics. We all know about kuhl, the origins of mascara that’s also a sunnah. But Al Zahwari went way pass that. For example, he took perfumes and put them into molds, making deodorant. He applied the same process to make the first lipstick.
In a bizarre twist in logic, he used the same science to make the first tampon. Literally, all Muslim women can thank this guy. His name will undoubtedly be used by every liberal Muslimah in the makeup debate that rages on in the Ummah. We mentioned kuhl, but it was Al Zahwari (or Al Zawhiri or Abulcasis, he has a million names- don’t wear them out) that actually turned the sunnah into the modern kohl most Indo-Paks use today. To him, makeup was used to keep the body clean and healthy. That isn’t off from today, where makeup is used to keep our eyes clean from the horror women try to mask. Again- we abstain from the compulsory joke. There are other Muslim scholars who also made advances in cosmetics, including al Kindi who found an ointment that helped with acne.
The best part, these were all made by devout Muslims who knew and understood deen- damn, AND the debate rages on.
Yeah, sure. Of course you can invent an abstract concept, just like how you can wage war with one (right, Georgie?). Yes, yes you can. To bring in number one- Muslims invented style.
Enter Muslim Scholar- Al Ziryab was the Hugo Boss, the Gucci, the Ralph Lauren of his day. He was the first person to turn clothing into something past a necessity. The rich of every civilization obviously wore clothing better than the poor, but al Ziryab established the designer label. He made it cool to wear a certain type of clothing, and made seasonal “ins” and “outs”. No seriously, Al Ziryab made different style clothing for winter than for summer. Based in Fes, Morocco, al-Ziryab was the first to incorporate velvet as a style in to his clothing. In its peak he had 86 tanneries working for him.
Not wanting to horde the love, al-Ziryab opened the first Fashion University where he taught women how to cut hair and wait for it……. thread eyebrows. Oh man, will that debate rage on now. Understandably, he had quite a few enemies. But it wasn’t a biggie, after all he had the King of Morocco send a guard to protect him. Al Ziryab re-defined shaving and invented new haircuts, since before then all you could choose from was either “Poor Short” or “Rich Long”. He literally shook the Muslim world with his ideas about music and makeup (also the last two entries). Although he was born a slave, he became a celebrity in the Andalus Empire, then a super power.
Al-Ziryab’s work paved the way for the fashion industry. In his honor, we present his picture.
He also invented the modern restaurant. But that’s another story.