Inventions & Discoveries

Many inventions were made in the medieval Islamic world, especially during the “Islamic Golden Age” (8th to 13th centuries), as well as the late medieval period. Here are a few that have had long lasting influence on our daily lives even today.


The invention of algebra, among other things, is attributed to Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a famous Muslim scholar. Algebra has a plethora of applications and is one of the most important aspects of mathematical expression. Learn more about his important approach to problem solving here…


The principals of photography are based on the work of one of the earliest Muslim scientists, Ibn Al-Haitham (Al-Hazen), who demonstrated how light coming through a pin hole will project an upside-down image.
He called his invention “Qamara” and the name has been used ever since. It was based on previous descriptions of the phenomenon by Aristotle and Chinese texts. Today we refer to this as a “Camera Obscura” and while it does not actually record images as do modern cameras, the basic principals of optics and light discovered and recorded by Ibn Al-Haytham are what allow all cameras to operate.

The First University

It was not only invented by a Muslim, but also by a woman. Founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri in Fes, Morocco, Al-Karaouine was the first known school in which students would receive an “Ijaza” upon completion of their courses. This is similar to the “degree” which modern universities grant, and indicated that the student was now able to teach the subjects learned.
Al Quaraouiyine was founded with an associated madrasa, in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri. The Al-Fihri family had migrated from Kairouan (hence the name of the mosque), Tunisia to Fes in the early 9th century, joining a community of other migrants from Kairouan who had settled in a western district of the city. At that time, the city of Fes was the capital of the Idrisid Dynasty.
The school still exists and is now a state university. It is 1159 year old.

More inventions and innovations

Here is a more complete list of some of the many contributions of Muslims over the centuries. The list is by no means complete, but it provides a glimpse into how influential Islamic culture was, and remains to this day. It should also be noted that many of these innovations were discovered by previous peoples, such as the Greeks. However, in many cases these earlier discoveries were buried in ancient texts. It was Muslims who sought out this knowledge, brought it to light, and took the time to study and elaborate on these lost sciences and inventions.

8th century


The tin-glazing of ceramics was invented by Muslim[citation needed] potters in 8th-century Basra, Iraq.[3] The oldest fragments found to-date were excavated from the palace of Samarra about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.[4]

9th century


Lustre glazes were applied to pottery in Mesopotamia in the 9th century; the technique soon became popular in Persia and Syria. Earlier uses of luster are known.

Frequency analysis in cryptology

the first known recorded explanation of cryptanalysis was given by Al-Kindi (also known as “Alkindus” in Europe), in A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages. This treatise includes the first description of the method of frequency analysis.


In 872, Ahmad ibn Tulun built a hospital in Cairo that provided care to the insane, which included music therapy.

10th century

Vertical-axle windmill

A small wind wheel operating an organ is described as early as the 1st century AD by Hero of Alexandria. The first vertical-axle windmills were eventually built in Sistan, Persia as described by Muslim geographers. These windmills had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. They may have been constructed as early as the time of the second Rashidun caliph Umar (634-644 AD), though some argue that this account may have been a 10th-century amendment. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind grains and draw up water, and used in the grist milling and sugarcane industries. Horizontal axle windmills of the type generally used today, however, were developed in Northwestern Europe in the 1180s.

11th century

Mercuric chloride (formerly corrosive sublimate)

used to disinfect wounds

12th century

Bridge mill

The bridge mill was a unique type of watermill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Córdoba, Spain in the 12th century.

Hybrid trebuchet

The term Al-Ghadban (The Furious One) was applied to the hybrid trebuchet, though the usage of the term was not consistent and may have taken on a broader meaning. The first record of a counterweight trebuchet was in the 12th century from Mardi ibn Ali al-Tarsusi while talking of the conquests of Saladin

13th century


It refers to a type of pottery which was first developed in the Near East, beginning in the late 1st millennium, for which frit was a significant ingredient. A recipe for “fritware” dating to c. 1300 AD written by Abu’l Qasim reports that the ratio of quartz to “frit-glass” to white clay is 10:1:1. This type of pottery has also been referred to as “stonepaste” and “faience” among other names. A 9th-century corpus of “proto-stonepaste” from Baghdad has “relict glass fragments” in its fabric.

Emirate of Granada

14th century

Hispano-Moresque ware

This was a style of Islamic pottery created in Arab Spain, after the Moors had introduced two ceramic techniques to Europe: glazing with an opaque white tin-glaze, and painting in metallic lusters. Hispano-Moresque ware was distinguished from the pottery of Christendom by the Islamic character of its decoration

Ottoman Empire

15th century


Stories exist of coffee originating in Ethiopia, but the earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia. It was in Yemen that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed as they are today. From Mocha, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa, and by the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Turkey. From the Muslim world, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.

Iznik Pottery

Produced in Ottoman Turkey as early as the 15th century AD. It consists of a body, slip, and glaze, where the body and glaze are “quartz-frit.” The “frits” in both cases “are unusual in that they contain lead oxide as well as soda”; the lead oxide would help reduce the thermal expansion coefficient of the ceramic. Microscopic analysis reveals that the material that has been labeled “frit” is “interstitial glass” which serves to connect the quartz particles

16th century

Hookah or Waterpipe

according to Cyril Elgood (PP.41, 110), the physician Irfan Shaikh, at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542–1605) invented the Hookah or waterpipe used most commonly for smoking tobacco.

Hookah or Waterpipe

The marching band and military band both have their origins in the Ottoman military band, performed by the Janissary since the 16th century.

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