A Chronology Turkeys 700-year long venture in science and technology

A chronology on “Science from the East – Techniques from the West: Turkey’s 700-year long venture” is compiled by Professor Dr. Feza Günergun, Department of the History of Science, Istanbul University. People sought knowledge for centuries long and tried to confirm the knowledge they accumulated through observations and experimentation, and eventually decipher the Laws of Nature. This chronology aims to reflect the mobility of knowledge between Central Asia and Western Europe, throughout a timeline starting in the late 13th century, and reflects the Ottomans’ quest for knowledge both in the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. The major objective is to attract lay attention to history of science and promote efforts for the preservation of material (scientific instruments, documents, software, etc.) pertaining to the history of science and technology.

This chronology has been previously published in the catalogue Pursuing Knowledge (ed. F. Günergun, Istanbul 2016) prepared for the exhibition Pursuing Knowledge Scientific Instruments, Manuscripts and Prints from Istanbul University Collections (Istanbul University, 26 September – 26 December 2016) organised by the Department of the History of Science, Istanbul University, on the occasion of the 35th Scientific Instrument Symposium held in Istanbul University on 26-30 September 2016 in collaboration with the Scientific Instrument Commission (SIC) of the International Union  for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IUHPST).

Image copyrights of items from the collections of Istanbul University’s Rare Books Library, Faculty of Science and Geology Museum belong to the Istanbul University. Image copyrights of items from private collections belong to their respective owners.


Turn of the 14th century – The Ottomans establish their principality in Western Anatolia.

1331 – First Ottoman madrasa in Iznik (Nicea) with the sufi scholar Davudü’l-Kayseri as headmaster.

1400 – First Ottoman hospital (darüşşifa ) in Bursa.

1421 – Qādi Zādā al-Rumī, a scholar from Bursa in Western Anatolia, completed in Samarqand his commentary on Shams al-din al-Samarqandi’s (13th c.) Ashkāl al-ta’sīs discussing theorems selected from Euclides’s Elements. Qādi Zādā’s commentary on Sharh Ashkāl al-ta’sīs became very popular in Ottoman medreses and had long lasting effects on the teaching of mathematics in Turkey. It was to be translated into Turkish at the end of the 18th century (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Tarcama-i ashkāl al-ta’sīs (Translation of Ashkāl al-ta’sīs ), late 18th c. (Source)

1465 – Ptolemy’s Geography (2nd c.) was rendered from Greek into Arabic by Georgios Amirutzes at Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s behest.

1465 – Sabuncuoğlu Şerefeddin, a physicians from Amasya, translates the sections on surgery and surgical instruments of Kitab al-tasrif, the encyclopeadic work of the Andalusian physician Abu al-Qāsım Zahrāwī. The Turkish text is titled Cerrahiyetü’l-haniyye (Surgery of the khans).

1471 – Fatih Madrasa is inaugurated in Istanbul. The coming of Ali Qushji from Samarqand to Istanbul.

1472 – Ali Qushji completes his astronomical work al-Fathiyya (The conquest) which will become one of the most revered astronomy book among Ottoman scholars up to the 19th century. A summary in Turkish was made by the chief-instructor of the Imperial School of Engineering by Seyyid Ali Pasha and printed in Istanbul in 1823-24 with the title Mirat-ı âlem (Mirror of the universe).

1492 – The first Hebrew printing press in Istanbul.


1499-1525 – Mirim Çelebi completes his commentary of Ulugh Beg’s Zij and compiles his books on astronomical instruments and mathematics in Persian and Arabic.

1513 – Admiral Piri Reis composes a world map by making use of some 22 maps, including Christopher Colombus’s map.

1515 – The enlarging of the small shipyard in the Golden Horn is completed. The new arsenal with its 300 docks becomes the administrative and technical centre of the Ottoman navy.

1521 – Piri Reis completes his opus magnum Kitab-ı bahriye (The Book of seafaring) as a guidebook to mariners, including over 500 maps depicting the coasts of the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean.

1528 – Piri Reis’s second world map.

1537 – Nasuh al-Matraki completes his geography book Beyan-ı menazil-i sefer-i ırakeyn with miniature illustrations and descriptions of the towns in which the Ottoman army camped during the 1533-36 Persia campaign on the way from Istanbul to Tabriz and back.

1549 – Admiral Seydi Ali Reis renders the astronomy book al-Fathiyye of Ali Qushji into Turkish under the title Hulasatü’l-hey’e (Epitome of astronomy).

1554 – Seydi Ali Reis’s Kitabü’l-muhit (The book of the ocean) a guide for the mariners in the Indian Ocean.

Before 1563 – Seydi Ali Reis, in Mirat-ı kâinat (The mirror of the universe), introduces and details the astronomical instruments and methods used in navigation. (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Mir’ât-ı kâinât (Mirror of the universe), 16th century (Source)

1556 – The opening of the first medical school (Süleymaniye medical medrese) in Istanbul, formalizing medical education given in hospitals.

1567 – The first Armenian printing press established in Istanbul.

1575 – Takiyüddin (Taqi al-Din) starts his observations at the observatory he created in Istanbul to improve Ulug Beg’s Zij compiled in the 15th century in Samarqand. Built with the financial support of Sultan Murad III, the obervatory’s instruments are depicted and described in Alât rasadiyye li zic el-şehinşahiyye (The observational instruments for the astronomical tables of the shah of the shahs, 1649-50) (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Shahinshahnama (Book of the Shah of the Shahs), 1581 (Source)

1580 – The demolishing of the Takiyüddin’s observatory.


1627 – The first Greek printing press established in Istanbul.

1632 – Şemseddin Itaki introduces European anatomical knowledge of 16th century to the Ottoman sphere of learning with his Risale-i teşrih-i ebdan (Treatise on the anatomy of human body).

1648, 1655 – The introduction of European geographical and cartographical knowledge:

Kâtip Çelebi’s Cihannüma (Cosmorama) paves the way.

1655 – Kâtip Çelebi and Ihlasî Mehmed Effendi translate G. Mercator’s Atlas Minor into TurkishThe translation is entitled Levami el-nur fi zulmet-i Atlas Minor (Illuminating the obscurities of Atlas Minor).

1663 – The introduction of the Copernicus’s heliocentric system through the translation of Nathalis Durret’s astronomical tables into Arabic and Turkish. The translator was the Köse Ibrahim Effendi of Szigetvar.

1664 – Salih bin Nasrullah of Aleppo, the personal physician to Sultan Mehmed IV, writes his treatise about the iatrochemical therapies in Arabic: Gayet al-itkan fi tadbir badan al-insan (Perfection in the treatment of human body) (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Gayat al-itkan fi tadbir badan al-insan (Highest perfection in the treatment of human body), 1664 (Source)

1675-85 – Ebu Bakr al-Dimashqi’s translation of Joan Blaeu’s geography book Atlas Maior into Turkish.


1720-21 – Yirmisekiz Mehmet Çelebi, the Ottoman ambassador in France visits the Paris observatory, military institutions and industrial workshops.

1727 – The first press to print Turkish books with Arabic characters is founded by Ibrahim Müteferrika and Mehmed Said Effendi in Istanbul.

1730-54 – The Italian general Raimondo Montecuccoli’s work on military techniques is partly translated into Turkish (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Funun al-harb (War techniques), 18th c. (Source)

1732 – Ibrahim Muteferrika publishes Kâtip Çelebi’s geography book Jihannuma by adding information from of Joan Blau’s Atlas Maior (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Jihân-numâ (Cosmorama), 1732 (Source)

1735 – Early initiatives to re-model the Ottoman army after those of European powers: Mathematics courses are given to the 300 bombardiers in the Üsküdar Barracks under the supervision of Comte de Bonneval. This program was not sustained and the Corps of Bombardiers was reorganised in 1792.

1741-42 – The Ottoman ambassador Mehmed Said Effendi visits in Paris the scientific institutes and the shop of Nicolas Bion, the scientific instrument maker. He orders various scientific instruments including an eclipse calculator.

1748 – Mehmed Said Efendi commissions the mathematician Mehmed Sıdkı Effendi to translate a booklet accounting for the use of the eclipsarium designed by De La Hire.

1761-66 – Avicenna’s Kanun fit’tıbb (The Canon of Medicine), which was highly esteemed by Ottoman physicians, is rendered from Arabic to Turkish by Mustafa Effendi of Tokat.

1767 – Halifezâde Çınarî Ismail Effendi, the timekeeper of the Lâleli Mosque in Istanbul, translates into Turkish Alexis Claude Clairaut’s work Tables de la Lune (1754).

1772 – Halifezâde Çınarî Ismail Effendi, translates Jacques Cassini’s Tables astronomiques (1740) to Turkish. The translation of the logarithmic tables preceeding the astronomical data, provided for the introduction of logarithms into Turkey.

1773 – The dervish-physician Ömer b. Sinan of Iznik (Nicea) compiles Şifa el-Müminin (Health for the believers), introducing iatrochemical therapies to the Turkish readership (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Shifa al-muminin (Health for believers), 1695 (Source)

1773 – A cannon foundry opens in Hasköy on the Golden Horn, under the supervision of Baron François de Tott. European type cannons were cast with European machinery and masters.

1775 – A School of Geometry (Hendesehane) founded on the premises of the arsenal at the Golden Horn, to train officers knowledgeable in mathematics and geography. Supervised by Baron de Tott, this school was transformed into “The Engineering School of the Arsenal” in 1781; and subsequently “The Imperial School of Naval Engineering” in 1806.

Figure: Muhâdarât-ı Feyzi (Feyzi’s lore), 1805 (Source)

1782-88 – French engineers and experts are employed in the Engineering School of the Arsenal, contributing to shipbuilding and further technical education. Engineer Feyzi Effendi’s compendium on the sextant used for measuring altitudes (ON DISPLAY).

1792-94 – Translation of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban’s works on martial arts from

French to Turkish upon the order of Sultan Selim III.

1795-97 – The School of Engineering (Mühendishane) is founded within the Barracks of Bombardiers at Hasköy on the Golden Horn, to train military engineers for the army re-organized by Sultan Selim III. This school will later be named “The Imperial School of Engineering”.


1800 – Astronomical tables of Jacques Cassini replace Ulugh Beg’s Zij in computing calendars in the Ottoman Empire.

1806 – The chief-astrologer/astronomer Hüseyin Hüsnü Effendi translates into Turkish the chapter on calendar computing in Jérôme Lalande’s astronomical tables: Terceme-i Zic-i Laland.

1807 – The Janissary reaction and destruction of the modern army established in 1793 by Sultan Selim III.

1826 – Abolition of the Janissary corps by Sultan Mahmud II.

1827 – The opening of Tıphane-i Amire, a modern military medical school.

1830 – Four young ottomans mentored by Admiral Hüsrev Pasha are sent to Paris to be trained in military sciences.

1834 – Graduates and officers of the Imperial Engineering School sent to Europe with state funding to further their technical education.

1834-1840 – Dervish Effendi (later pasha), a graduate of the Imperial Engineering School, leaves for Europe to study at the École des Mines.

1834-35 – The opening of the Military Academy in the Maçka barracks. A demonstration hall for instruments (Âlat-ı fenniye) is created (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Fenn-i Mesaha-i Arazi ve Harita Ahzi Usulü (Surveying and mapping techniques), 19th c. (Source)

1837 – The construction of the first steam ship (Eser-i hayr) in the Aynalıkavak Arsenal, Golden Horn, under the supervision of the American engineer Foster Rhodes.

1839 – Proclamation of the Reform Edict (Gülhane Hatt-ı Hümayunu) by Sultan Abdülmecid I, calling for the social administrative and political reorganisation of the state.

1839 – Re-organisation of the military medical school by the Austrian physician Carl Ambroise Bernard, at the Galata Seraï as the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane (Imperial Medical School). The instruction is in French.

1839-42 – Dr. Bernard and the botanist Skálák from Vienna created the first botanical garden within the Imperial Medical School.

1842 – The opening of the first military veterinary school.

1844 – The German pharmacologist Wilhelm Noë establishes the first herbarium within the Imperial Medical School.

1844 – Steam engine in use in textile production in the Fez Factory (Feshane).

1847 – The opening of the School for Agriculture (Ziraat Mektebi) to teach cotton cultivation.

1847 – The publication of the first chemistry textbook in Turkish: Derviş Pasha’s Usul-i Kimya (Elements of Chemistry) (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Usul-i kimya (Elements of Chemistry), 1848 (Source)

1849 – The first medical journal in Turkish: Vekayi-i tıbbiye (Medical Clinics).

1855-56 Telegraphic lines put into service.

1856 – Proclamation of the Reform Edict (Islahat Hatt-ı Hümayunu) by Sultan Abdülmecid I authorising equality of all citizens under the law, and granting civil and political rights to all Ottoman subjects regardless of creed and nationality.

1856 – The first Ottoman Imperial Medical Society (Cemiyet-ı Tıbbiye-i Şahane) is founded at the end of the Crimean War by the European physicians of the allied armies in Istanbul and the non-Muslim ottoman physicians.

1857 – The publication of the Gazette médicale d’Orient in Istanbul.

1857 – The arrival of two forest engineers from France. A forest school teaching in French opens. The early graduates are produced in 1861.

1860 – First railway connecting the province of Aydın and the Izmir port.

1861 – The foundation of an Ottoman learned society, the Cemiyet-i İlmiye-i Osmaniye with the initiatives of Münif Paşa. The publication of Mecmua-i Fünun, the first popular science journal in Turkish (1862).

1863-65 – The opening of Darülfünun (Ottoman university). Lectures are given for two years long.

1865 – The first physics textbook in Turkish by Derviş Pasha (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: The first textbook of physics printed in Turkish: Usul-i Hikmet-i Tabiiyye (Method of Physics), 1865 (Source)

1867 – The publication of the first popular Turkish journal in mathematics: Mebahis-i ilmiye.

1867 – The opening of the civilian medical school, Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-yi Mülkiye. Instruction in Turkish.

1868 – The establishment of a meteorological observatory, Rasathane-i Amire, in Istanbul.

1868 – The opening of an industrial vocational high school (Mekteb-i Sanayi) in Istanbul through the initiatives of Mithat Pasha.

1870 – The re-organisation of the Natural History Museum of the Imperial Military School by Dr. Karl Eduard Hammerschmidt (alias Abdullah Bey the Hungarian), professor of zoology and geology (ON DISPLAY).

1876 – The proclamation of the First Constitution.

1876 – A. Gırcikyan translates A. Ganot’s Traité de Physique in Turkish. The 2nd edition (1886) of İlm-i Hikmet-i Tabiiyye is on display.

1884 – The opening of the civilian school of engineering, the Hendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi.

1885/6 – The publication of Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha’s Riyazü’l-muhtar (Muhtar’s garden) in Bulaq, accounting for the traditional Islamic timekeeping instruments (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Riyad al-muhtar (Muhtar’s garden), 1886-87 (Source)

1889 – The opening of the first civilian veterinary school.

1893 – The opening of the Imperial Bacteriology Institute with cooperation with the Pasteur Institute (Paris).

1893 – Dr. Esat Işık Pasha designs his “Ophthalmoscope Essad” for fundus examination of the eye (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: Ophtalmoscope Essad, with lens (c. 1893) (Source)

1897 – First X-Ray examination is made by the military physician Esad Feyzi at Greco-Ottoman War.


1900 – The opening of the Imperial University (Darülfünun-i Şahane)

1903 – The establishment of an x-ray room in the Imperial Medical School (ON DISPLAY).

Figure: X-ray Room, Imperial Medical School, Istanbul (Source)

1908 – The proclamation of the Second Constitution.

1910 – The foundation of the Kandilli Observatory.

1914 – Silahtarağa Power Station, a coal-fired electric generating station opens in Istanbul.

1914-18 – World War I. The coming of German professor and technicians to the University (Darülfünun).

Figure: Méker burner, used at the Chemistry Institute of the Darülfünun’s Faculty of Science (Source)

1917 – The foundation of the institutes of chemistry in the Faculty of Science, Darülfünun under the supervision of German professors (ON DISPLAY).

1919-1922 – Turkish War of Independence.

1923 – The proclamation of the Turkish Republic.

1925 – The establishment of the first station for seed improvement in Eskişehir, aiming to conduct researches to cultivate plants suitable for Turkey’s climatology.

1926 …. – The sending of students to European universities by the Turkish Republic for training in engineering, applied sciences and social sciences. Following the WW2, students were dispatched to American universities. Back to Turkey they were instrumental in the running of newly founded industrial plants and educational institutions, and in the implementation of modern science and technology in Turkey.

1927 – The first radio broadcast.

1928 – Latinization of the Turkish alphabet.

1928 – The foundation of the [Refik Saydam] Hygiene Institute in Ankara.

1933 – The abolishment of the Darülfünun in the process of the Atatürk University Reform and the re-establishment of the Istanbul University. The appointment of German scholars.

1933 – The foundation of the Higher Institute for Agriculture in Ankara and the appointment of German scholars. In 1948, this institute became the Agricultural Faculty of Ankara University.

1933 – The foundation of the Mineral Research and Exploration Institute (MTA) in Ankara.

1935 – The telescope building of Kandilli Observatory in service.

1935 – The creation of a botanical garden in the Faculty of Science of Istanbul University by Alfred Heilbronn and Leo Brauner.

1936 – The opening of the Istanbul University Observatory with the setting of a tri-telescope system.

1939 – Adnan Adıvar publishes La science chez les Turcs ottomans in Paris.

1942– Aydın Sayılı, submits the first PhD Thesis on The Observatory in Islam and its Place in the General History of the Observatory in the postgraduate program in History of Science at the Harvard University established by George Sarton.

1946 – PhD thesis becomes compulsory in universities.

1949 – The setting of a Cockcroft-Walton particle accelerator in the Faculty of Science, Istanbul University.

1952 – The first television broadcast in Turkey by the Istanbul Technical University.

1955 – Turkey signs a cooperation agreement with the USA within the framework of the Atoms for Peace program.

1956 – The foundation of the Atomic Energy Commission affiliated to the Prime Ministry.

1960 – First computers (IBM-650) in Turkey are used by the General Directorate for Highways.

1961 – The first locally designed automobile ‘Devrim’ (Revolution) is produced.

1962 – Turkey’s first research reactor (TR-1) becomes critical at the Çekmece Nuclear Research and Education Center (ÇNAM).

1963 – Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) is founded in Ankara.

1963 – The opening of the Ankara University Observatory.

1963-65 – The construction and opening of the Ege University Observatory.

1974 – The National Seed Bank is created to preserve genetic diversity.

1933 – Access to internet in Middle East Technical University (METU).

1993 – The foundation of the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) in Ankara.

1995 – The opening of the TÜBİTAK National Observatory in Antalya.

2015 – The Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar received the Nobel Price in Chemistry in recognition of his researches on DNA repair mechanisms he has been conducting in the USA since 1971.

Merv: History, Science and Learning

Merv is the city which in medieval times dominated the province of Khurasan in today’s Turkmenistan. 

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Figure 2: Map showing Merv at the heart of trade routes of the Islamic east and central Asia

1. Learning and trade in Merv

Figure 3: Sultan Sanjar mausoleum in Merv, a World Heritage site (Source)

Merv is the city which in medieval times dominated the province of Khurasan in today’s Turkmenistan. Early Islamic geographers recorded a great economy based upon thriving farming and irrigation: a highly organized system of maintenance, a system of irrigation canals and a dam above the city with the supply of water regulated and measured by a metering device.[1]

Under the Abbasids, Merv continued to be the capital of the East. The great prosperity of Merv belongs to the period of 8th to the 13th century.[2] In the latter half of the 10th century, when the geographer Al-Muqaddasi knew Merv, a third part of the suburbs was already in ruins, and the citadel was in no better state; however, in the next century, the citadel gained in size and importance under the Seljuks.[3] By the 11th century, Merv was a great commercial centre of the Oriental type with a bazaar, traversed by two main streets, the centre of the market roofed by a dome, shops for artisans, money changers, goldsmiths, weavers, coppersmiths, and potters. It was an administrative and religious centre, containing mosques, madrasas, palaces, and other buildings.[4] The dome of the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, one such place, was of turquoise blue, and could be seen at a distance of a day’s journey away.[5]

One of Merv trademarks was its textile products, silk produced in abundance, and also a school for its study. The region was also famed for its fine cotton and exports, of raw products and manufactured, sent to different lands.[6] Merv was one of the great emporia of the caravan routes between western and eastern Asia, including to China. This meant that gradually trade and urban activities became the source of wealth rather than agriculture.[7]

Yaqut al-Hamawi, the famous geographer (d. 1229), spent two years studying in the many libraries of Merv which he admired.[8] According to him, there were ten wealthy libraries in the city around 1216-1218, two in the chief mosque and the remainder in the madrasas.[9] Yaqut was in Merv, collecting the materials for his great geographical dictionary, for before the Mongol invasion the libraries of Merv were celebrated.[10] “Verily but for the Mongols I would have stayed and lived and died there”, he writes, “and hardly could I tear myself away”.[11]Among others, he mentions the two libraries of the Friday mosque, namely the Aziziyah with 12,000 or so volumes, and the Kamaliyah.[12] There was also the library of Sharaf al-Mulk, in his madrasa, and that of the great Seljuk vizier, Nizam al-Mulk.[13] Among the older libraries were those founded by the Samanids, and one in the college of the Umaydiyah; also that in the Khatuniyah College and that which had belonged to Majd al-Muluk.[14]

Figure 4: Islamic silver Coins. The upper coin, minted in Merv (Turkmenistan) and found in Latvia, was used in a pendant. The lower pendant imitates the shape and inscriptions of an Islamic coin, and bears the Christian symbols of a cross and dove-like bird. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

2. Scholars of Merv

Figure 5: Exert from the beginning of the edition and translation of Kitab Mizan al-Hikma by Nicholai Khanikoff: “Analysis and Extracts of Kitab Mizan al-Hikma, an Arabic Work on the Water-balance, written by al-Khazini in the Twelfth Century. By the Chevalier N. Khanikoff, Russian Consul-general at Tabriz, Persia.” Journal of the American Oriental Society vol. 6 (1860): pp. 1-128.

Merv produced one of the earliest and greatest scientists of Islam, Ahmad ibn ‘Abdallah al-Marwazi (Marwazi means from Merv) best known as Habash al-Hasib (the calculator), who flourished in Bagdad and died between 864 and 874. He was an astronomer under the Caliphs al-Mamun and al-Muttasim.[15] Habash made observations from 825 to 835 and completed three astronomical tables, the best known being the mumtahin (tested) tables, which may be a collective work of al-Ma’mun’s astronomers, for there was a whole team involved in observation at the court at the time.[16] Apropos of the solar eclipse of 829, Habash gives us the first instance of a determination of time by an altitude (in this case, of the sun); a method which was generally adopted by Muslim astronomers. He seems to have introduced the notion of “shadow,” umbra (versa), equivalent to our tangent, and he compiled a table of such shadows which seems to be the earliest of its kind.[17] One of Habash’s son, called Djafar was also a distinguished astronomer and instrument maker.[18]

A lesser known scholar also from Merv is Al-Saghani, who was a mathematician and astronomer attached to the Buyid observatory in Baghdad.[19] In mathematics, he followed up the work of the Banu Musa, tackling the problem of trisecting the angle, which had preoccupied the ancient Greeks.[20] He was particularly versed in mechanics, and constructed, if he did not invent, the instruments he used for his astronomical observations.[21]

Also coming from Merv is Ibn Ahmad Al-Kharaqi. His name refers probably to the place Kharaq (or Kharak) near Merv and he too was called al-Marwazi. He died in Merv in 1138-1139. He was a mathematician, astronomer and geographer whose works included:

(1) Muntaha al-idrak fi taqsim al-aflak, the highest understanding on the division of spheres, (2) Kitab al-tabsira fi ‘ilm al-hay’a, a shorter astronomical treatise improving on some problems treated in Ibn al-Haytham’s astronomy;

(3) Al-risala al-shamila, the comprehensive treatise, concerning arithmetic; and

(4) Al-risala al- maghribiya (the Magribi treatise). The last two works have not survived.[22]

Al-Kharaqi’s most important work is the Muntaha (the first cited). It is divided into three discourses (maqalas) covering of

(1) the arrangement of spheres (tarkib al-aflak), their movements, etc.;

(2) the shape of the earth, and its subdivision into a part which is inhabited and another which is not, the differences in the ascendents (tali’) and ascensions (matali’) due to geographical positions;

(3) chronology or eras (tawarikh), conjunctions (qiranat), chiefly of Saturn and Jupiter, periods of revolution (adwar)—for example, dawr al-qiran or ‘awd al-qiran (return of the conjunction).[23]

The Tabsira is shorter and covers essentially the same ground; however, it does not contain the elaborate description of the five seas which forms the second chapter of the second part of the Muntaha.[24]

Al-Kharaqi developed the theory according to which the planets are not supported by imaginary circles, but by massive revolving spheres. That theory had been previously expounded by al-Khazin (not to be confounded with al-Khazini), and it found its way into Western Europe through Hebrew and Latin translations of Ibn al-Haytham’s treatise Fi hay’at al-‘alam.[25]

The part of the Muntaha describing the five seas was edited and translated into Latin.[26] There are also details in German by the excellent Wiedemann,[27] on the works of Al-Kharaqi

Another scholar to come from Merv was a historian, his name al-Tamimi al-Sam’ani (that is, of the tribe of Sam’an, a branch of the tribe of Tamim), Taj al-Islam. He was born in Merv in 1113, travelled extensively in Eastern Islam and died in Merv in 1166.[28] He continued the annals of Baghdad begun by al-Khatib (second half of the 11th century). In 1155, he undertook an extensive study of Arabic patronymics (nisba) in eight volumes, which is of great historical geographical interest. Apropos of the names of prominent persons he supplies biographical and topographical explanations, which had been collected by him in the course of his journeys, during which he had met for that very purpose a large number of learned men. His work called Kitab al-ansab is particularly valuable with regard to Persia, Transoxiana, and Central Asia, for which countries it is our principal and often only source of information.[29] The Kitab al-ansab is better known through an abridgment of it, the Lubab, compiled by the renowned historian Ibn al-Athir; or through a further abridgment, the Lubb al-lubab, by al-Suyuti.[30] There is no complete edition of the Ansab, unfortunately, and traces of the work had to be found in Ibn al-Athir and al-Suyuti (second half of the 15th century).[31] There are extracts and details in German on both author and his work by Wüstenfeld.[32]

Figure 6: Extract from Al-Khazini’s geographical table from D.A. King, World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca (Source)

3. Al-Khazini, the Greatest of Merv’s scientists

Figure 7: Exert of the beginning ofKitab Mizan al-Hikma in the manuscript kept at the Russian National Library in St Petersburg, Khanikoff Collection, Codex 117, folio 1 verso

Possibly, the greatest of all scholars to come from Merv was al-Khazini. Abderahman al-Khazini flourished ca. 1115-ca 1130 at Merv.  Of his life very little is known. A slave (and later a freedman) of Byzantine origin, he was bought by a treasurer (khazin) of the Seljuk court at Merv, called Abu’l-Husayn (or Abu’l-Hasan) Ali ibn Muhammad al-Khazin al- Marwazi, who gave him a good scientific education. Al Khazini subsequently became a mathematical practitioner under the patronage of the Seljuk court. He was very much an ascetic, refusing rewards and handed back 1000 Dinars sent to him by the wife of an Emir. He lived on 3 dinars a year.[33]

His accomplishments in astronomy include his description of his construction of a 24-hour water clock designed for astronomical purposes and for his treatise Al-Zij al-Mu’tabar al-Sinjari (The esteemed Sinjaric tables), giving the positions of the stars for the year 1115/16 at the latitude of Merv. He is also credited with a careful determination of the obliquity of the ecliptic (the band of the zodiac through which the sun apparently moves in its yearly course), but, as Samso remarks, he adopts Al Battani’s value of 23°35′ and concludes (against al-Battani and most of the successive Islamic astronomical tradition) that this parameter is a constant.[34]

Al-Khazini is, however, better known for his book Kitab Mizan al-Hikma (The Book of the Balance of Wisdom),[35] completed in 1121. This encyclopaedic treatise has remained a centrepiece of Muslim physics. Kitab Mizan al-Hikma was written for Sultan Sanjar’s treasury by Al-Khazini, and has survived in four manuscripts, of which three are independent.[36] It studies the hydrostatic balance, its construction and uses and the theories of statics and hydrostatics that lie behind it and other topics. It was partly translated and edited by the Russian envoy Khanikoff in the mid-19th century.[37]

It is important to mention that the first of its eight chapters deal with the theories of centres of gravity, specific gravity and the steelyard theory of his predecessors’ including al-Biruni, Al-Razi, ‘Umar al-Khayam, Thabit ibn Qurra, al Isfizari, and the Greek authors Archimedes and Euclid. Al-Khazini most particularly draws attention to the Greeks’ failure to differentiate clearly between force, mass and weight, and shows awareness of the weight of the air, and of its decrease in density with altitude.[38] By looking at his predecessors’ scientific legacy, al-Khazini provides crucial records of their contributions that could have remained unknown or lost.[39]

A significant part of the book is devoted to hydrostatics, most particularly the determination of specific gravities. Al-Khazini goes to extreme length in describing the equipment necessary to obtain accurate results. His scrupulousness in the preparation of his equipment and materials and in carrying out varied applications of his balances make his book one of the best examples “of rigorous attention to scientific accuracy.”[40] His interest is devoted to the determination of the specific gravities of metals, precious stones and alloys with commercial purposes in mind, so as to determine the purity of various substances and to detect fraud. To determine the specific weight of a specimen, its weight has to be known in air and water, and the volume of air and water displaced by the specimen. Hence, most Muslim researchers used water balances in their experiments. Using the same instrument as al-Biruni, Al-Khazini made repeated trials with several metals and gemstones. He also measured the specific gravities of other substances such as salt, amber and clay, noting whether the substance sank or floated on water.

In all, he records the specific gravities of fifty substances that include precious stones, metals and liquids. The accuracy of such measures is impressive and is offered by Hill, together with modern values. Mieli sees the determination of specific weights by al-Biruni and al-Khazini as some of the most outstanding results obtained by the Muslims in experimental physics.[41]

Figure 8: Colourful diagram of Mizan al-Hikma (the balance of wisdom) designed by Al-Isfizari and Al-Khazini and described in detail by Al-Khazini inKitab Mizan al-Hikma (515 H). This image was displayed in 2001 by Sam Fogg (www.samfogg.com) as part of an original manuscript that was being exhibited among its holdings. Since then, this manuscript is referred to among the holdings of the University of Pennsylvania: Lawrence J. Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts,MS LJS 386

4. Al-Khazini’s analysis of concepts of physics

Figure 9: Diagram of the balance of wisdom drawn by H. Bauereiss in his dissertation under the direction of E. Wiedeman: Zur Geschichte des spezifischen Gewichtes im Altertum und Mittelalter. Erlangen, 1914, p. 31.

The strict definition for specific weight is given by al-Khazini:

The magnitude of weight of a small body of any substance is in the same ratio to its volume as the magnitude of weight of a larger body (of the same substance) to its volume.’’[42]

As a student of statics and hydrostatics, Al-Khazini borrowed immensely from al-Biruni and al-Isfizari.[43] Al-Khazini also devotes a large space to the description of various balances by his predecessors, but the focus is on what he calls ‘The Balance of Wisdom’. Al-Khazini’s own balance of wisdom is a unique instrument. Although this balance owes much to Muzaffar b. Ismail al-Isfizari, al-Khazini added refinements which made it into an instrument that could perform the most accurate measurements.[44] Such accuracy is due to the length of the beam, the special method of suspension, the fact that the centre of gravity and the axis of oscillation were very close to each other, and of course to the very precise construction of the whole. With this, al-Khazini stated that he obtained an accuracy of 1 in 60,000. His uses of this balance were for varied purposes, from ordinary weighing to taking specific gravities, examining the composition of alloys, changing dirhams to dinars and many other transactions.[45] In all his processes, he moved the scales about until he obtained equilibrium. Al-Khazini in his descriptions gives particular focus to determining the proportions of two constituents in an alloy. Hall states that Al-Khazini’s hydrostatic balance can leave no doubt that “as a maker of scientific instruments he is the greatest of any time.’’[46]

Al-Khazini also made many observations and propositions in his book which constitute some of the foundations of modern physics. Hence, he states:

For each heavy body of a known weight positioned at a certain distance from the centre of the universe, its gravity depends on the remoteness from the centre of the universe. For that reason, the gravities of bodies relate as their distances from the centre of the universe.’’[47]

Al-Khazini was, thus, the first to propose the hypothesis that the gravities of bodies vary depending on their distances from the centre of the earth; this phenomenon was only discovered in the 18th century (six centuries after al-Khazini) after a certain development in the theory of gravitation.[48]

Al-Khazini also found that there was greater density of water when nearer to the centre of the earth more than a century before Roger Bacon (1220-1294) propounded and proved the same hypothesis.[49]

Figure 10: Line drawing of the balance of wisdom or Al-Mizan al-Jami’ (the universal balance) of al-Khazini as it was drawn by the publishers of Kitab Mizan al-Hikma in Hyderabad in 1358H/1940, p. 130.

5. The Mongols and the End of Merv as a Centre of Learning and Trade

Figure 11: Page from the Persian translation of Kitab Mizan al-Hikma.

The Muslims who were already facing the Crusades (1095-1291), suffered further invasions form the east, which devastated their eastern empire. In 1219-1222, Genghis Khan and his hordes flattened the eastern parts of the Muslim land. In just one year the Mongols seized the most populous, the most beautiful, and the best cultivated part of the earth whose inhabitants excelled in character and urbanism;[50] and inflicted all ills on them. An army under Genghis’ son Jagtai, captured and sacked Otrar, whilst another under Genghis himself, burned Bukhara to the ground, raped thousands of women, and massacred 30,000 men.[51] Samarkand and Balkh surrendered but suffered pillage, and wholesale slaughter; so much so that a century later Ibn Battuta (14th century) described these cities as still largely in ruins.[52] Through Khurasan, the Mongols ravaged every town on their march, placing captives in their vanguard, giving them the choice between fighting their fellow men in front or being cut down from behind.[53] Amidst the toll of destruction was that of al-Jurjaniyah dam south of the Aral Sea, which diverted the River Oxus from its course and deprived the Aral Sea of water, causing it to nearly dry out centuries later.[54]

Merv was captured and was burned to the ground; its libraries were consumed in the conflagration. All the glories of the Merv libraries fell prey to the flames, which followed in the wake of the Mongol sack of this great city.[55] Ibn al-Athir, who lived through the events, says that the invaders set on fire the Tomb of Sultan Sanjar with most of the mosques and other public buildings.[56] The city’s inhabitants were allowed to march out through the gates with their treasures, only to be massacred. The total slaughter cost 1.3 million lives.[57] Ibn al-Athir wrote

For several years, I put off reporting this event (of the Mongol invasion). I found it terrifying and felt revulsion at recounting it and therefore hesitated again and again. Who would find it easy to describe the ruin of Islam and the Muslims? … O would that my mother had never borne me, that I had died before and that I were forgotten! Though so many friends urged me to chronicle these events, I still waited. Eventually I came to see that it was no use not complying. The report comprises the story of a… tremendous disaster such as had never happened before, and which struck all the world, though the Muslims above all. If any one were to say that at no time since the creation of man by the Great God had the world experienced anything like it, he would only be telling the truth. In fact nothing comparable is reported in past chronicles… Those they (the Mongols) massacred, for a single city whose inhabitants were murdered numbered more than all the Israelites together. It may well be that the world from now until its end… will not experience the like of it again, apart perhaps from Gog and Magog. Dadjal will at least spare those who adhere to him, and will only destroy his adversaries. These (the Mongols), however, spared none. They killed women, men and children, ripped open the bodies of the pregnant and slaughtered the unborn. Truly: we belong to God and shall return to Him; only with Him is strength and power.’[58]

When Merv was visited in the 14th century by Ibn Battuta, it was still in great ruin.[59] Mustawli also saw that it was still largely in ruins, and the sands had begun encroaching.[60]  Hafiz Abru adds that the Mongols had broken down all the great dams and dykes, which under the Seljuks had grown in number, and been carefully maintained, in order thus to regulate the irrigation of the oasis; now everything had lapsed into a desert swamp.[61]

However, some Western historians praise the Mongols. Thus, Saunders, tells us:

`The Mongol massacres, genocide, perhaps arose from mixed motives of military advantage and superstitious fears. By massacres they hastened the surrender of other places and speeded the conquest. However merciless their rage for destruction, after a decent interval, they commonly permitted the rebuilding of the cities they had burnt and ruined.’[62]

Rebuilding may have been permitted but many devastated places were still in ruins centuries later. Wiet et al. tell us that Genghis Khan’s

`means were still limited, but he had on his side the moderation and the deliberation of a great leader and, above all, a magnificent army, the exploits of whose horsemen, incomparable bowmen and seasoned warriors take their place in history and legend.’[63]

Wiet and his group also make the point that:

`What legend portrays so exultantly, however, the chronicles reveal as a grievous ordeal for the city-dwellers of Asia. The Mongols, lagging behind the other barbarians of Asia in their development, did not know what to do with the towns. On the principle that only terror is profitable, only the steppe livable and only the way to heaven valuable, they pillaged, destroyed and massacred. The list of their conquests is a litany of disaster: the marvellous cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, Nishapur, Baghdad and countless others were razed to the ground and their inhabitants slain.’[64]

They further argue that:

`The sword, however, fell only on those who offered resistance. Those who welcomed the Mongol as a liberator… escaped the terror.’[65]

First and foremost, their claim is a fallacy, for most places taken by the Mongols offered no resistance whatsoever (see D’Ohsson, for instance). Secondly it is a contradiction to say that only those who fought were slain and then to state that all the inhabitants, including women and children, were slaughtered.

Figure 12-13: Two views of the balance of wisdom as reconstructed by H. Bauereiss and F. Keller (1908-1911), rediscovered by M. Abattouy and Professor Jürgen Renn (director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) in the Deutsches Museum in Munich in 2002 (item invent. Nr. 31116). © Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftgeschichte, 2002. See Mohammed Abattouy,Muslim Heritage in Mechanics and Technology: Outline of a Program for Future Research.


What does Islam say about calling a Muslim “Kafir” (Disbeliever)?.

So many Muslims, so many filthy Shaykhs and scholars, they have no adab and akhlaq! no morals and no manners, being egoistic and ignorant after knowledge and authority were given, they address other Muslims as Mushrik, Kafir Abu Lahab grave worshiper etc!

Allah says about such egoistic Muslims, scholars shaykhs and leaders:
[Quran 25:43] Have you seen the one whose god is his own ego? Will you be his advocate?
[Quran 45:23] Have you noted the one whose god is his ego? Consequently, God sends him astray, despite his knowledge, seals his hearing and his mind, and places a veil on his eyes. Who then can guide him, after such a decision by God? Would you not take heed?

Being misguided after guided , being lost after saved, such is the consequences of calling another Muslim as Kafir/Mushrik/Abu Lahab/Satan/Grave worshiper etc!

Imam Nawawi (R.A) in his 40 Hadith record:
Abu Hurairah narrated that the messenger of Allah said :
“Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbour, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.” related by Bukhari and Muslim

Sahih Muslim Book 32. Hadith Number 6219:
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Don’t nurse grudge and don’t bid him out for raising the price and don’t nurse aversion or enmity and don’t enter into a transaction when the others have entered into that transaction and be as fellow-brothers and servants of Allah. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. The piety is here, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice. It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith: his blood, his wealth and his honour.

Muslim Men regardless of their Knowledge and Position in Islam, abusing other
Muslims with the Words that are related to “Disbeliever (Kafir)”

For Example: Calling a Muslim names like Kafir, Mushrik, Abu Lahab, Dajjal,
Shaitan, you and your family will go to hell, grave worshiper etc
are synonyms words of “Kafir” (Disbeliever)

Prophet (s.a.w) saying that if the attacked is not a kafir, the kufr will be reverted to the attacker! So beware oh Muslims oh Shaykhs oh Scholars!

Holy Prophet(p.b.u.h) said: If a Muslim calls another kafir, 
then if he is a kafir let it be so; otherwise, he [the caller] is himself a kafir.”(Abu Dawud, Book of Sunna)

Abu Zarr reported that the Holy Prophet(p.b.u.h) said: No man accuses another man of being a sinner, or of being a kafir but it reflects back on him if the other is not as he called him.” 
-(Bukhari, Book of Ethics; Book 78, ch. 44)

Prophet (s.a.w) said: “Withhold [your tongues] from those who say
`There is no god but Allah’ — do not call them kafir. Whoever calls a reciter of `There is no god but Allah’ as a kafir, is nearer to being a kafir himself.”
(Tabarani, reported from Ibn Umar)



In Quran: “The woman or man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment”. Quran 24:2 

And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses – lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. And those are the defiantly disobedient”. Quran 24:4 

4:15 “Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women – bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way”. Quran 4:15

In Bible: women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives. (Leviticus 20:13 NAB) 

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT) 

A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
Matthew 5:27-28 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in
his heart.


2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.For what partnership has
righteousness with lawlessness? 
Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Proverbs 11:22 ESV Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Sahih Muslim Book 033, Hadith Number 6422.
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying. Allah fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in. There would be no escape from it. The adultery
of the eye is the lustful look and the adultery of theears is listening to voluptuous (song or talk) and the adultery of the tongue is licentious speech and the adultery of the hand is the lustful grip (embrace)
and the adultery of the feet is to walk (to the place) where he intends to commit adultery and the heart yearns and desires which he may or may not put into effect.