Geography, Astronomy and Mathematics

Ptolemy Author of the magesta, is considered the first teacher of Geography in very early times, and his name was the most famous one made known by the Arabs in Europe many centuries after his birth.

It is wrong to assume that Geography is originally Greek in its theories and hypothesis, because it is attributed to an author whose name is made up of Greek words, Potlemy himself drew much from the Egyptians and the Phoenicians. He was preceded by Greek geographers and travelers who relied on the peoples of Egypt and Babylon in proving the truth of the traditional theories of Geography, which cover amongst other things the Nile, Ethiopia and the seven zones of the world. The seven zones concept is Babylonia. The people of Babylon in ancient times used to talk about the seven planets and the seven days and looked to the number seven as divine characteristic.

Ptolemy was brought up in Alexandria. He drew from the Egyptian heritage information about astronomy! Almanacs travels, and travelers' stories about their trips on land and sea in Paranoiac times. These travels were so extensive among the ancient Greeks that they were reflected in the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer, and in the work of other poets.

As a result of the established relationship between the knowledge of the ancient Egyptians and the Alexandrians the schools of Geography greatly flourished in Alexandria. It had no much in the Roman Empire and Greece. In Alexandria Paulpious, Basedonious, Theovan and Methying became famous. Strabo also proceeded to Alexandria about one hundred years before Ptolemy. Apart from that, there were astronomers who were engaged in geographical researches.

Ptolemy pays tribute to «Marnious Al-Soury's» book which embodies the experience of Phoenicians and Egyptians. He relied much on that book in the division of latitudes and longitudes.

In effect, all historians are unanimously agreed that Europe had not known Ptolemy's geography before it was introduced to it through Arab culture. Geography was imported to the Europeans after the Muslim Geographers had elaborated and added to it, particularly the expeditions of Al Biruni to East Asia.

Ibn Younis Al-Masri invented the pendulum in the 9th century. Later its movement was adjusted and its formation regulated.

We must attribute the invention of the magnetic needle to the Arab and Muslim navigators. Their attribution to Chinese inventors is very doubtful. Similar is their attribution to the Romans and Greeks. There were unhindered exchange between the Chinese and Arabs in the field of navigation, as ships had been plying for a long time between the Arab Hira and Chinese ports. Gustay Lobon the scholar proved in his book about Arab civilization, that the needle was invented by the Arabs. His proofs is valuable if it lacks affirmative evidence, it is not wanting in likelihood.

There were outstanding geographers in the Islamic East, who added to `that branch of science sound conclusions derived from their observation of stars, and what they saw during their expeditions and investigations of history. But it was Andalusia which brought together the best of this information and diffused it through the adjacent European Countries. The Sherif El-Idrisi had the credit of collecting the material of this branch of science, renovating it, and promoting it among the distinguished class in his time. In the 12th century, the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II wanted to complete the geographical information obtained in his age. He found nobody other than Idrisi the Sherif to depend upon to do this task. Idrisi was born in Sabtah and had his tuition in Cordova; his fame spread throughout the civilized Islamic and Christian world. He wrote the book лTrip by a Traveler Eager To Explore The Horizons» The king made him a ball of silver, to stand for the Globe He was requested to mark on this ball all his findings about the Earth. The ball weighed 400 Roman Rotls. No one had preceded Idrisi in discovering the upper sources of the Nile which were then mapped out.

These maps are kept in some European museums, of which one is in the saint Martin Museum, shows the Nile flowing from lakes, to south of the Equator. It is to be noted that Geographers had, since the days of Herodotus who was an authority on history, been at a loss in determining the sources of the Nile and the causes of its flood. One of the maps portraying Columbus' picture of the globe had its contours and concepts taken from the Arabs. He imagined the globe like an oblong pear. One tip rises in India in climate, fruits, crops and water. Columbus' map was inspired by the map of Cardinal Peter Elaili, which was called imago mundi. The cardinal relied on Arab source in drawing the map, and published it at the beginning of the 15th century i.e. 80 years before Columbus set out on his voyage. This is a tribute paid to the Arabs in the discovery of the new world.

The Europeans used to believe, before the appearance and diffusion of Arab books on Geography - that the Earth was flat. That belief was consistent with the church's denial of the roundness and rotation of the Earth. Had that European belief continued to prevail, it would have been impossible for Columbus to think of sailing to the West in order to reach the Asian countries. The Arabs propagated that fact in the important books of Geography they had written. Ibn Kherdazba, Who died in 885 A.C. `wrote «The earth is a round ball, and lies inside the spheres in the same way as the yolk lies inside the egg». Ibn Rasta, who died in 903 wrote, Allah, be He praised, made the spheres as round as the ball, hollow and rotating. The Earth is also as round as the ball and solid, and lies inside the spheres) He gave evidence to this effect. He said, «The evidence of that fact lies in that the sun, the moon and other planets do not rise and set on all beings, all over the Earth at one time. They rise on the Eastern parts before they set on the Western parts. This is evidenced by what happens in the high permanents. When an occurrence takes place, it is seen in different shapes over the different parts of the Earth such as a lunar eclipse) when it is observed in two remote countries one in the East and one in the West. If for instance it is observed in the Eastern country in three hours, I state that it is observed in the Western country in as much less hours as the length of the distance between the two countries is... etc». Al-Massoudi, deceased in 956, wrote, «Allah be He Praised, made the higher sphere namely the Equinoxes circle, circle in type. There is in the first place the Earth which is surrounded by the sphere of the moon and the sphere of the moon is encircled by the sphere of Mercury etc». Al-Massoudi said in his Book «The Golden Beads» As the sun goes down in these isles i.e. the Oceanus Isles - it rises in the furtherest end of China, and that is half the circle of the earth)

Non-Geographers endorsed that fact by philosophic to a question put by Abu-Hussein Ahmad Al-Sahi about the existence of the Earth in Space and the maintenance of bodies fixed to it,» it is necessary that all heavy bodies organic or inorganic tend to and gravitate towards the center of the world». He summed up, ill concluding his treatise, the statements made by predecessors. He said, «Some predecessors made different propositions. followers of Pythagoras stated that the Earth was constantly revolving in a circle. Others said that it was falling downwards. Some others held that the Earth was static».

Thus the credit for spreading the knowledge of the roundness of the earth goes to the Arab books ! That knowledge was the first step that had paved the way for Columbus and his contemporary followers. But for that step, the people of North Europe would have been the first discoverers of the New world, as they were nearest to it, and were as conversant with navigation as the people of the southern coasts.

However, we came across a viewpoint expressed by some linguists and historians, which affirmed that the Arabs were the first people to discover the new world. They endorsed viewpoint by reliable linguistic and historical evidences. One of the most famous advocators of that view is Bishop Anistas the Carmelite who made extensive researches on words and their derivatives and history. In referring to the gulf stream he wrote

«The Arabs had anticipated all other peoples in recognizing the gulf stream and its characteristics. They knew its currency between Mexico and Ireland and vice-versa. They used to sail afloat it from one country to another; they surprised the inhabitants of the English Channel, i.e. the island of Tin and the inhabitants of Ireland. Where they left for Mexico some of them stayed over there; the few others returned home afloat that blessed gulf stream, thanking Allah for safe arrival. They used to stay in the territories known as Mexico». These territories were called by the Arabs after the name of animals. These names still survive until now, though the peoples inhabiting these territories do not understand their meanings. Neither do the Western scientists who adopt them».

Bishop Anistas continues to say, «Alligator is one of these names which is a kind of crocodile. The people do not know the source of this name. They simply attribute it to the place where that animal lives without any additions by them. That it was originally an Egyptian word is undoubted

We wish the evidence of the Arabs' discovery of the new world were stronger. The origin of the crocodile name from that Spanish word (alligator) is known. It is derived from the Spanish-root word «el lagarto» which was miscopied from the Latin word «lacerata», spiny-tailed lizard. The English word «lizard» is derived from the Latin root word, and lizard is the English name of that animal, and both are akin.

However, we do not agree with Bishop Anistas that Columbus was indebted to the references dating back to the 5th century A.D. in his discovery of the new world. This is understood from his treatise; he, «The first man to pay attention to that question was a monk called Brenden, the roving sailor. He was born in 483 A.D., and came of the Royal family of Ireland. In 545 A.M. he prepared himself with some other 14 adventurous monks to realize his long-cherished ambition of exploring the earth. They built a small ship. In 522 A.D. Brenden and his companions landed on the American coast. No doubt Columbus was fully informed of the news of Brenden's trip. He succeeded in convincing King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle to approve of that trip in quest of the new world».

Brenden's story is doubtful because it has no original manuscript before the 11th century A.D. That story can plausibly be derived from an Arabic source. There was an Arabic narrative which related that some passengers landed on an extensively immense whale which they had believed to be an island. The whale moved and was about to drown them. The narrative did not give any description of the New World save the imaginary paradise promised for the devoted and saintly on Earth.

There were stories told by Arab Geographers about some venturers who had plunged into the Atlantic. Some of them had perished and the others returned with strange reports that sounded like fables. But the veracity of those stories was doubtful. AI-Massoudi alluded in his book «Morouj Al-Dahab» to those adventurous people. He said, «Some of them took the risk and endangered their lives by sailing; some perished; some came out safe with all they had seen and witnessed...

Another story by Al-Idrisi in his description of «a Feast for the Eager» (Nozhat Al-Moshtak). He said, «They left Lisbon and after twelve days, reached a billowy sea, badly smelling, full of shark and of dim light. They felt sure all was lost. They set sail southward and went on sailing for twelve days until they arrived at the Island of Cattle. There, they found innumerable cattle, grazing alone without a shepherd or overseer. They landed on the Island; there they found a running spring of water and a wild fig tree, bordering it. They slaughtered some of these cattle but found their meat sour and uneatable).

Al-Adrisi went on to say, «They were arrested and locked in a hours for three days. On the fourth day a man, speaking Arabic, entered the house and asked about their condition and where they had come from.

They told him their story. He promised them good news and told them that he was the interpreter of the King... When the king knew of their story, he laughed and told the interpreter, «tell the group that my father had ordered a number of his slaves to sail across that sea, and that they had been sailing across it for one month until light went out completely. They had to give up since their trip had failed.

Such stories are fabricated and doubtful, particularly when they recount that the adventurers found on the island «fair-complexioned men, with thin lank hair, a tall build-up, and astoundingly beautiful women»

Had those adventurers landed on the new continent, they would have seen there what Columbus saw, and returned with more credible reports than those descriptions. Their consensus adds nothing further to the guess that some Arab explorers had tried to explore the Atlantic but failed to reach its end. We can believe it, even confirm it without referring to these stories.

A stronger evidence of the precedence of the Arabs in exploring the New World is provided by the return of Columbus from America carrying gold mixed with copper in the same way and proportion as that adopted by the people of African Ghana. The language of the Red Indians include some European words, but it is intermixed with Arabic words. These Arabic words were older than the European words, and had been inflected and miss-constructed. However, the evidence of the gold alloy is stronger and more probable, as fixing the time when those Arabic words were merged in the languages of the Red Indians is next to impossible. This is due to the fact that expeditions between African Coasts and American Coasts, had greatly increased after the discovery of the New World. This was noticeable in the prosperous time of the Nakhassa, when the Nakhassa people and slaves intermingled with those who spoke Arabic in Western Africa. It is difficult to determine the histories of words in such languages as those of the Red Indians, which have no inscriptions or records.

It is worth reiterating Al-Biruni's statement that the whole matter relied on reports by reliable sources. The credit of the Arabs, based on the truths of geographic knowledge outweighs all other credit based on surmise.

Geography depends on these foundations : expeditions, investigation and star observation. And in all these fields the Arabs have left an unforgettable and undeniable heritage.

Traveling from the tenth to the sixteenth century was an Islamic art The People of Morocco particularly excelled in that art. They were the example for Europeans in that art. On the famous Muslim Travelers was Abu Obeid-Allah Al-Bakri, born at Murcia. He wrote two books «Ma'ogam Ma Est'agam» (Lexicon of Obscurities) and «Al-Massalek wa Al-Mamalek» (Routes and Kingdoms). He died at the end of the 11th century A.D. Another famous traveler was Al-Idrisi the Sherif, whom we mentioned before, Muhammad Ben Abdel-Rahman was also one of them. He was born in Cordova and wrote a book Nokhbat Al-Mzhan Fi Aga'eb Al-Beldan» (Most Enlightened thoughts about strange countries). He died in the 12th century. Other Arab travelers were ibn Gobeir who was born at Valencia before the mid-l2th century and wrote the story of his expedition which was widely known among Arab readers; and the greatest traveler of the 14th century, Ibn-Battuta, author of the book «Tohfat Al-Nozzar Fi Ghara'ib Al-Amsar) (Best sight-seeings in the strangest territories).

Other Oriental travelers were Al-Massoudi, Ibn Hawkal, Yakout Al-Hamawi, Al-Biruni and many others. But these travelers were not as famous as the Moroccans, and did not leave extensive works as the others had done.

The Muslim traces in Navigation are still extant in some European words which preserve their original Arabic form, for example the words `Tare' of the ship, is originally in 0Arabic «Tar'h»; the word `feloque' is derived from the Arabic word `folok'; the word `calfata' from the Arabic word «Qalfatta»; `Amiral (Admiral) from the Arabic word `Amiral-Bahr'; `arsenal' from the Arabic word «Dar-Essena'a); risk (meaning adventure in gaining) from the Arabic word `risk'; `avala' from the Arabic word `Hawala'; `a'vaare' from the Arabic word `Aware'; and the German word `wissil' from the Arabic word `wassl'; `calibre' from the Arabic word `qaleb'...etc. We find many related words in the languages of the Spanish and Portuguese peoples.

Many engraving have been found on the Coasts of the Baltic Sea and in North Europe which date back to the Middle Ages. Islamic money was found amongst them. This money indicates that there was trade between the Eastern countries and the Northern parts of Europe, and that these latter areas had come within the range of Islamic Geography either by commercial exchanges or by visits for sight-seeing.

However, if the arrival of the Arabs in America before Columbus is not definitively ascertained, it is undoubted that they had gone too far across the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Azores, and explored its Southern most coasts.

As to Geographical knowledge obtained from Astronomy the Arabs have the credit of having measured the circumference of the Earth in the reign of Caliph Al Maamoun; then they adopted Al-Birumi's system in measuring it. Al-Biruni calculated the heights of mountains in minutes and degrees. They rectified latitude and longitudes; they proved the Solar Equinox; they put an ac curate almanac, and perfect astronomical tables. Gustay Lobon said in his book on Arab civilization. The annual calendar, which was rectified during the reign of the Sultan King Shah is more correct than the Gregorian Calegorian Calendar, which was completed by the Europeans 600 years, later. The Gregorian calendar markes a difference-error of 3 days every 10,000 years, whereas in the Arab Calendar there is only a 2-day difference- error. They had known the measurements of the day- line 1,000 year before the Europeans. They discovered the third difference in the trajectory of the moon which had been overlooked by Ptolemy. The Arabs marked locations on maps, and corrected many mistakes made by the Greeks in the degrees of latitudes and longitudes, of which Ptolemy's were in point. The Arabs' mistakes did not exceed minutes whereas those of the Greeks surpassed degrees.

There is no need to go deep into the science of astronomy to evidence the influence of the Arabs on the European nations. The Arabic names of the stars and planets and the orbits terminology still hold in the European astronomical vocabulary. We mention a few words of the many hundreds of this vocabulary лAltarer» «Cursa»(from Korsi-Gaoza) «Caph» «Arnab» «Arkab» from «Arkoub» in Arabic, «Azimuth» «Azha», ««Botein», «Zuben Hakrabi» from (Zabanti Al-Akrab) . «Wezn» , «Vega» from (Al-Nisr A Wagi), «Saros» (from Sahour). (Saif) «Sadr» (from Sadr Al-Dagaga), «Sadalsud» from (Saad Al-Soud), «Rigel» (from Rigl Al-Gabbar), Zaurek, Tauri (Karn Al-Thaur), «Errai» «Deneb» from (Dahab)... and many similar names which retained their original form apart from those which were translated.

The relationship between astronomy and mathematics sums up the share of Arab culture in mathematics in its aggregate. The tiles here may save us the trouble of pointing out the details which will be numerated in this lengthy chapter «Algebra» is an Arabic name and is called by it in all the European languages. The Greeks stopped at the elementary theories elaborated by Diophanstus, the Alexandrian Greek in the third century Gustav Lobon gave a resume' of the Arabs' advance in these branches of science. He said, the Arabs had introduced the tangent in trigonometry; they had solved cubic equations, and made extensive studies on cones, and replaced chords by sines. They also laid down basic theories for the solution of trilineal figures. Some authorities were quoted to have said that the innovations and additions of the Arabs were indeed a scientific revolution that had far-reaching effects.

Easterners are not over standing the fact that they had risen to the top of all branches of mathematics by grace of some Islamic mathematicians. Professor Karl Sachaw, who used to teach Semitic languages at the University of Vienna, said that Boiruni was at the top of all world geniuses.

Professor Laland, the famous French Astronomer of the 13th century, said about Al-Batani that he was one of the twenty greates mathematician in the ancient and modern world.

To throw more light on the rise of mathematics we have to ignore the nonsense talked by some modern Europeans to give credit to the Greeks alone for the initiation of geometry and application of mathematical theories to astronomy and other arts. Some of these Europeans were so fanatic that they pay tribute to Talis for his ability to predict an eclipse and ignore the tangible facts which evidence the priority of Egyptians and Babylonians in the field. Some of them wrote about the history of Greek Philosophy in the past and present, such as John Burnet; other wrote about the history of that philosophy from Talis to Plato, and ignored what Plato himself had written about the rise of mathematics. Plato stated in the Phaedras dialogues that Tout the Egyptian God, had invented arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and writing. Plato blamed his people on not caring as much as the Egyptians for those branches of science, as is mentioned in the seventh chapter of «The Laws» where he said (the free should learn about these questions to the same extent as the Egyptians spend on tuition for a great number of children when they learn writing), the Egyptian children learn gradually addition, subtraction, division and move to the solution of problems on the measurement of lengths, surfaces and cubes. Plato concluded the dialogue in the words of the Athenian who expressed his regret for the prevailing shameful and ridiculous ignorance of other peoples in those studies.

Euclid, who came from tyre, had learnt from the disciples of Plato in Athens. He used to hear them speaking about the Egyptian Sages' fondness of mathematics and its wide scope of studies as a whole. No wonder then that he left for Alexandria, cut a figure in geometry that had been unmatched by the Athenians, who were limited to learning the information accumulated by their country on that Subject, without moving to either Egypt or Mesopotamia.

Talis himself came to Egypt. Heronymus said about him, «he began learning only when he came to Egypt and mixed with priests»

Herodotus imparted to us the story of Talis' prediction of eclipses; it is he who recounted that the Greeks had copied from the Babylonians the measuring instrument for calculating the motion of the sun through ecliptic, and the equinoxes on the basis of the sundial. Some books of history of mathematics allege that the Babylonians had observed eclipses and calculated their recurrence after every 223 lunar rotation, i.e. every 18 years and 11 days. They adopted that calculation from unknown times before any observation was ever ascribed to the Greeks.

It is therefore incongruous that the world be blinded by racial fanaticism and deny facts because science and quest of truth are inseparable. However overstated the contribution of the Greeks to the mathematical heritage may be, it is an unquestionable fact that they had taken from the Orient before the Orient took from them, and that the sons of that Orient handed over that legacy to the Europeans, after they had elaborated and added to it their innovations.