This 28th Rajab will mark 87 years since the destruction of the Caliphate. The Muslim world since then has been faced with an ever-increasing plethora of problems. With the fall of Caliphate, not only did the Muslim world lose its political weight in the international politics, it also lost its supremacy in felids of science and technology. Despite having tried various models for development, the Muslim divided into nation states are unable to compete with the rapid scientific developments in the west.
From the reality of the Muslim world is evident that this decline is not only intellectual but also in terms of scientific inventions, research and development. This grim present reality stands in stark contrast with the glory of the Muslim world in the past. The Muslims united under the caliphate, were the dominant civilization for centuries.
During the era of the Caliphate, the Muslim world led the globe in academic, intellectual and economic advancement (as conceded by The Economist – Millennium issue). Looking back at this spectacular history, one finds a number of achievements which are worth mentioning.
Firstly, is the institute of University. The concept of organized and structured study for the masses at large was developed by the Muslims. In fact the origins of the doctorate dates back to the “Ijazat attadri wa ‘I-ifttd” (license to teach and issue legal opinions). In the Madrasahs which taught Islamic Law across the Islamic Lands. The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is the oldest degree-granting university in the world. Founded in 859 CE it was the first university to issue diplomas.
Secondly, the Muslims excelled in the field of medicine. The institutes of public healthcare were pioneered by Muslims. The first known hospital in Islamic world was built in Damascus in 706 CE by the Umayyad Caliph, Al-Walid.
At this time most Islamic hospitals had doctors that diagnosed and treated all patients, but the Bimaristan was unique in that it had doctors that specialized in certain diseased. Originally, these health centers were specifically for patients with specific afflictions such as pestilence and blindness, and all services were free of charge.
The largest hospital of the middle Ages was built in Cairo, Egypt, by Sultan Qalaun al-Mansur in 1285. This hospital had separate wards for diverse diseases and for convalescents and had laboratories, a dispensary, an out-patient clinic, kitchens, baths, a library and lecture halls.
Thirdly, an important concept introduced in the employment sector was the idea of Pension. In 700 a register for pensions was established by Umar ibn Khattab, which was the first of its kind and the beginning of the pension system. Through the collections of taxes, money was distributed to the poor and sick and those who were well passed the workable age. The impact of this was to stimulate the economy as wealth was widely distributed.
Fourth, the Caliphate’s pursuit of innovation in science is indicated by the invention of a Parachute. In the 9th century, Ibn Firnas invented a primitive version of the parachute, he jumped from the minaret of the Mezquita mosque in Cordoba using a huge wing-like cloak to break his fall – he landed with minor injuries in his maiden test flight.
Current day parachutes were developed from the designs and experiments of the past. Ibn Firnas of Islamic Spain invented, constructed and tested a parachute in the 800’s.
Roger Bacon learned flying from references to Ibn Firnas. The latter’s invention predates Bacon by 500 years and Da Vinci by some 700 years. Ibn Firnas’s initial attempt at a parachute laid the ground for more compact parachutes made from stretched linen over a wooden frame.
Fifth vital contribution from the time of Caliphate was an important machine. Al-Jazari’s work in the 12th century when he invented the crankshaft, and created rotary motion through the use of rods and cylinders led to the advancement of the combustion engine. He was the first to incorporate this into a machine. The combustion engine let to the development of auto-mobiles where the burning of fuel in an engine acts on the pistons causing the movement of the solid parts, eventually moving the automobile.
Historically the reason why Muslims had been the beacon of enriched civilization was that they had lived under the system of Caliphate, which resonated with the ideology of the masses upon which it was implemented.
Today it is imperative for our intellectuals i.e. Journalists, Professors, sincere politicians, and those amongst our establishment i.e. the army – who desire to take Pakistan out of the whirlpool it is sinking in – should contemplate over the reason why our past was so glorious, under the Caliphate.
By: Engr. Sharique Naeem