13 September 2011

Qur'an and Astronomy

Astronomy is called 'Ilmul Hai-a' in Arabic. It is also known as 'Ilmunnujoom' and Ilmul Falak in the Muslims world. The branch of astronomy which studies the direction and the time is known as 'Ilmul Meeqath'. Before the spread of Islam these scientific branches had not been studied in the Arabia like all other ancient societies stars and planets were worshipped by the Arabs. They relied the rising and settings of stars to discover directions which were very useful for them to their nocturnal journey's in the mirage. They could also predict the changes in climate by observing the stars. Beyond these, they were ignorant of the planets and their movements. The advent of Islam in Arabia started a new era of knowledge explosion, mainly the field of Astronomy.
There are two reasons for this (1)The importance given by Qura'n to Astronomy (2)The study of astronomy was inevitable to know the prayer time and to find out the direction of Qibla.

Qura'n as a motivator

The earth and the sky are the creature of God and they came into existence according to his will. This is the Islamic view on creature, Qura'n says (6/72). The universe is moving according to his will and He is controller and the custodian of all in it- He confirms it in Qura'n (7/54). Declaring these facts Qura'n relieved the weak mind of ancient man from pulling the natural phenomenon on the altar of worship. Qura'n made the universe an open book in front of the human beings. Qura'n led the human minds to the wonders of deistical world (21/33, 41/12). Qura'n repeated by urging man to study and ponder over the wonder ful system of universe and to understand the ultimate reality (13/2,3). Man begins to think as he feels the phenomena on the earth and sees the wonders in the sky when his thought is got energized the doors of knowledge will be widely opened in front of them (3/190). This is the model of Quran's thought provocation like this in many places in many words Qura'n has awakened man's power of thinking.

Astronomy and the daily life of Muslims

In the day to day life of Muslims study of astronomy is inevitable. This resulted in the development of this discipline in the Muslim world. The movement of sun and its attitude must be studied to calculate the worship time of five Prayers when Masjids are built the direction of 'Qibla' has to be discovered. The ancient Muslims invented different methods to make their calculation. The people who goes for Hajj had to know the direction of Qibla for their 'Ihram' more over they had know the direction to make their propagation journeys. These facts made astronomy very useful Muslims. So its study became the part of religious study.

Muslims adopted the Hijri calendar, which is based on lunar movements. The religions occasions such as fast and Hajj are performed in tune with this calendar. When this calendar is followed the toughness and easiness of performed this worship in different climates will be affected to any one in any corner of the world. At the same time Muslims followed solar calendar for their agricultural needs. The solar calendar developed by Muslims scientists in Cordova gained great popularity.

Knowledge collection and systemic studies

During the Abbasiyya reign in the second half of 8th century knowledge collection in large scale and the systemic study of them are started in Baghdad. Scientific knowledge followed to Baghdad from Greek, Persian, Syrian and Indian sources. Several books were translated from Greek and Sanskrit in to Arabic. Observatories were made in public and private sections, with in a century Bagdad became the biggest astronomical study centre in the world and scientists began to stay there. In the 11th and 12th centuries Muslims Spain also turned in to an astronomical centre.

The famous book of Ptolemy, 'Megale syntacxed mathematica' had more than one translation in Arabic in third century itself. The translations of Ghunyanu ibn Ishaq and Thabith bn qurrha are well known. The other book of Ptolemy such as 'Tabulae manutes' 'Hypothses planetorum', 'phinispharium' and tetra biblos are also translated into Arabic in this period. Muslims in those times were not ready to use the tables and schedules of Ptolemy as it is. They indulged in long term observations in order to get more clear assumptions some scientists had made 40 years long researches on some complicated problems. Main centers of these researches were Baghdad, Samarqand, Nishapur, Cordova, Damascus and Rayy. The researches of Muslims scientists such as Nazirudheen Thoosi and Kuthubudheen Sheerazi can point out the mistakes in the existing theories of Ptolemy. Essays criticizing the theories of Ptolemy were written in Arabic. In the 13th and 14th centuries studies of astronomy reached its zenith in the Muslims world. In this period several books on astronomy were translated from Arabic to Latin and Hebrew. Books on every branches of astronomy were published. AlFarghani's large volume, kithab 'Herakathi Samaviyya val Javami-ul Ilmu nnujoom' is well known. Abdurahmanu ibn Sufi's ' Suvarul Kavakib' had helped a great deal the later studies in astronomy. In edition to the Muslims scholars, Arab Jews and Christians gave their contributions to the development of Astronomy

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