Great Inventions by Muslim Scientists

Islamic inventions and developments are responsible to many of the products we now take for granted. Muslims, especially in the old days have proven themselves to be a people of great ingenuity and innovation. There has been some debate among historians as to whether Muslims were indeed the earliest inventors of all the concepts listed below, but whether they were indeed the first, or just contributed to an on-going development process of these discoveries – their innovation and discoveries are fascinating. Discussed below are some of the most interesting and famous discoveries and innovations, attributed to people of the Islam.


It is an Arab who was said to have been one of the first to discover the invigorating effects of coffee when he found his goats becoming lively after eating coffee berries. One of the first documented records of coffee drinking was that of Sufis who drank the brew in order to keep themselves from sleeping during prayer vigils. By 1645, coffee was introduced in Venice, and by 1650, it has found its way to England, where it spread to other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Ornamental gardens

Gardens were already present in medieval Europe, although they were simply used for the function of cultivating vegetables and herbs. The Arabs invented the idea of gardens as a place of meditation and beauty. Europe saw its first royal pleasure garden in Spain when it was occupied by the Moors in the 11th century. The tulip and the carnation are flowers which had their origins in Muslim gardens.



A thousand years before the Wright brothers a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn’t. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries. In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles’ feathers he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing – concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

Pin-Hole Camera

The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.



The year 634 saw the invention of the windmill. It was initially offered to a caliph in Persia for drawing water for irrigation and grinding corn. The invention of the windmill was an important development that helped produce power in a land where water was scarce and power sources to reach those waters were similarly in short supply. The first windmills were made of six or twelve sails that were covered in palm leaves or fabric. Five hundred years had passed before Europe had its first windmill.

Numerical Numbering

The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi’s book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi’s discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.