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5 Muslim Inventions that Changed the World

3. Degree-Granting Universities

Speaking of universities, that is also an invention made possible by the Muslim world.

Early in Islamic history, mosques doubled as schools. The same people who led prayers would teach groups of students about Islamic sciences such as the Qur’an, fiqh (jurisprudence), and hadith.

As the Muslim world grew, there needed to be formal institutions, known as madrasas, dedicated to the education of students.

The first formal madrasa was al-Karaouine, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri in Fes, Morocco. Her school attracted some of the leading scholars of North Africa as well as the land’s brightest students.

At al-Karaouine, students were taught by teachers for a number in the years in a variety of subjects of secular and religious sciences.

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At the end of the programme, if the teachers deemed their students qualified, they would grant them a certificate known as an ijaza, which recognises that the student understood the material and is now qualified to teach it.

These first degree-granting educational institutes quickly spread throughout the Muslim world. Al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo in 970, and in the 1000s, the Seljuks established dozens of madrasas throughout the Middle East.

The concept of institutes that grant certificates of completion (degrees) spread into Europe through Muslim Spain, where European students would travel to study.

4.Military Marching Bands

Many students who attended high schools and universities in the West are familiar with the marching band. A band made up of a group of a few hundred musicians, marches onto a field during a sporting event to entertain the audience and cheer on the players.

These school marching bands developed from the use of marching military bands during the Gunpowder Age in Europe that were designed to encourage soldiers during battle.

This tradition has its origins in the Ottoman mehter bands of the 1300s, which helped make the Ottoman army one of the most powerful in the world.

As part of the elite Janissary corps of the Ottoman Empire, the metal band’s purpose was to play loud music that would frighten enemies and encourage allies.

Using enormous drums and clashing cymbals, the sounds created by a mehter band could stretch for miles.

During the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans throughout the 14th-16th centuries, mehter bands accompanied the fearsome Ottoman armies, who seemed almost invincible even in the face of huge European alliances.


It’s hard to imagine a world without photography. Billion-dollar companies from Instagram to Canon are based on the idea of capturing light from a scene, creating an image from it, and reproducing that image.

But doing so is impossible without the trailblazing work of the 11th-century Muslim scientist, Ibn al-Haytham, who developed the field of optics and described how the first cameras worked.

5 Muslim Inventions that Changed the World - About Islam

Working in the imperial city of Cairo in the early 1000s, Ibn al-Haytham was one of the greatest scientists of all time. To regulate scientific advancements, he developed the scientific method, the basic process by which all scientific research is conducted.

When he was put under house arrest by the Fatimid ruler al-Hakim, he had the time and ability to study how light works. His research partially focused on how the pinhole camera worked.

Ibn al-Haytham’s discoveries regarding cameras and how to project and capture images led to the modern development of cameras around the same concepts.

Without his research into how light travels through apertures and is projected by them, the modern mechanisms inside everyone’s cameras would not exist.

This article is from our archives.

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