Muslim Discovery

Baghdad, the fairy city of the Arabian Nights and capital of the famous Harun-ar-Rashid, the greatest emperor of his time, had the distinction of being the foremost centre of art and culture during mediaeval times. Renowned scholars and translators, artists and scientists flocked to this great metropolis from all parts of the world and adorned the learned assemblies of Harun and Mamun, who, besides being celebrated scholars themselves, were the greatest patrons of learning that the world has ever known. The Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom) founded by Mamun-ar-Rashid in Baghdad housed some of the most eminent scholars of the world belonging to different castes and creeds. The spade work done by the scholars of the House of Wisdom provided the foundation by which the stately edifice of Islamic learning was built. The caliphate of Mamun, undoubtedly constitutes the most glorious epoch in saracenic history and has rightly been called the 'Augustan age of Islam'. "The twenty years of his reign" says Ameer Ali, “have left enduring monuments of the intellectual development of the Muslim in all directions of thought. Their achievements were not restricted to any particular branch of science or literature, but ranged over the whole course of the domain of intellect; speculative philosophy and 'belles lettres' were cultivated with as much avidity as the exact sciences".' "We see for the first time" says Oelsner, "perhaps in the history of the world, a religious and despotic government allied to philosophy, preparing and partaking in its triumphs".
Astronomy, in the real sense, started among the Arabs during the early period of the Abbasid Caliphate. It was much influenced by Sid hanta, a work in Sanskrit brought from India to Baghdad and translated into Arabic by Ibn Ibrahim al-Fazari and later on by Abu Musa Khwarizmi. Pahlavi tables (zij) compiled during the Sasanid period and Greek astronomical works translated during this period prepared the ground for Arabian astronomy. Ptolemy's Al-magest went into several translations in Arabic--the best being the one by Hajjaj Ibn Mater (827-28) and another by Humayun Ibn Ishaq, revised by Thabit bin Qurra (d/901).
Khwarizmi has written a valuable treatise on astronomy and has compiled his own Tables (zij) which, after two centuries was revised by Spanish astronomer Majriti (011007) and was translated into Latin by Adelard of Bath. This formed the basis of later astronomical pursuits both in the East and the West and replaced all earlier tables of Greek and Indian astronomers. This table was also adopted in China.
Mashallah and Ahmad bin Muhammad alNahavandi were the earliest Arab astronomers who flourished during the reign of Mansur, the second Abbasid Caliph. Mash Allah was called the Phoenix of his age by Abul Faraj. He is distinguished for writing several valuable treatises on 'Astrolabe' the armillary sphere and the movements of heavenly bodies which have been acclaimed by later scientists. Ahmad compiled from his observations an astronomical table known as Al-Mustamal which registered an advance over earlier notions of the Greeks and Hindus.
It was during the reign of Mamun, that practical steps were taken for the advancement of astronomy and several observatories equipped with the latest instruments were set up at various places in his domain. One of them was the observatory in Jundeshapur, in south-west Persia. Early in the 9th century A.D. the first regular observations (Rasd) with the best available and fairly accurate instruments were made in this observatory. Mamun got a degree of meridian measured in the plain of Sanjar and followed a method which was much superior to that of Greeks. The astronomical observations made during the reign of Mamun regarding the equinoxes, the eclipses, the apparitions of the comets and' other celestial phenomena, have earned an important place in the astronomical annals of mediaeval times. "The size of the earth was calculated", says Ameer Ali "from the measurement of a degree on the shores of the Red Sea--this at a time when Christian Europe was asserting the flatness of the earth".' Attached to his Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom), Mamun erected at Baghdad near the Shamsiyah gate, an astronomical observatory under the directorship of Sind Ibn All, a converted Jew and Yahya Ibn Abi Mansur (830 or 831 A.D.). According to C. A. - Nallino, "Here astronomers made systematic observation of celestial movements and verified with remarkably precise results all the fundamental elements of the Almagest: the obliquity of the ecliptic, the precession of the equinoxes, the length of the solar year, etc." With the aid of these observations the astronomical tables called the Tested Tables or Tables of Mamun were prepared. According to Ibn al-Ibri, Mamun later established another observatory on Mt.