List of inventions in the medieval Islamic world

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A number of inventions were made in the medieval Islamic world, a geopolitical region that has at various times extended from Spain and Africa in the west to Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent in the east.[1][page needed] The inventions listed here were developed during the medieval Islamic world, which covers a period from the early Caliphate to the later Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires.[2] In particular, the majority of inventions here date back to the Islamic Golden Age, which is traditionally dated from the 8th to the 13th centuries.[3][4] During this period, artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, islamic law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving earlier Greco-Roman philosophy, inventions and discoveries, then by adding inventions and innovations of their own.[5]

The interiors of the Alhambra in Spain are decorated with arabesque designs.
At 72.5 meters, the Qutab Minar was the tallest minaret until the twentieth century, and remains the tallest brick and stone minaret in the world.

Food production

  • 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.[6]
  • Vertical-axle windmill: A small wind wheel operating an organ is described as early as the 1st century AD by Hero of Alexandria.[7][8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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 gristmilling and sugarcane industries.[11] Horizontal axle windmills of the type generally used today, however, were developed in Northwestern Europe in the 1180s.[7][8]

Medical products


  • Marching band and military band: The marching band and military band both have their origins in the Ottoman military band, performed by the Janissary since the 16th century.[13]
  • 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.[14]


  • Early Torpedoes: Syrian Al-Hassan er-Rammah's manuscript "The Book of Fighting on Horseback and With War Engines"(1280) includes the first known design for a rocket driven torpedo.[15]


  • Guitar: the modern guitar is thought to have developed from the earlier Arabic instrument "Oud." Introduced through medieval Spain, the guitar was initially referred to as guitarra moresca (moorish guitar) in the 12th century.[16][17]
  • Lute: while pre-Islamic Arabs had similar instruments, the Lute is thought to have been invented in the 11th century, and spread from Iraq to other areas under Muslim provinces.[16][18]


Smoking The Hookah
  • 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 AD) invented the Hookah or waterpipe used most commonly for smoking tobacco.[19][20][21][22]


Main article: Islamic pottery
  • Albarello: An albarello is a type of maiolica earthenware jar originally designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs. The development of this type of pharmacy jar had its roots in the Islamic Middle East.
  • Fritware: It refers to a type of pottery which was first developed in the Near East, where production is dated to the late 1st millennium AD through the second millennium AD 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.[23] This type of pottery has also been referred to as "stonepaste" and "faience" among other names.[24] A 9th-century corpus of "proto-stonepaste" from Baghdad has "relict glass fragments" in its fabric.[25]
  • Hispano-Moresque ware: This was a style of Islamic pottery created in Islamic 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.[26]
  • Iznik pottery: Produced in Ottoman Turkey as early as the 15th century AD[27] It consists of a body, slip, and glaze, where the body and glaze are "quartz-frit."[28] 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.[29] Microscopic analysis reveals that the material that has been labeled "frit" is "interstitial glass" which serves to connect the quartz particles.[30]
  • Lusterware: Lustre glazes were applied to pottery in Mesopotamia in the 9th century; the technique soon became popular in Persia and Syria.[31] Earlier uses of lustre are known.
  • Tin-glazing: The tin-glazing of ceramics was invented by Muslim potters in 8th-century Basra, Iraq. The first examples of this technique can be found as blue-painted ware in 8th-century Basra.[32] The oldest fragments found to-date were excavated from the palace of Samarra about fifty miles north of Baghdad.[33]


A cup of coffee
Yemen is thought to be where coffee drinking began
Al-Kindi's 9th-century Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages was the first book on cryptanalysis and frequency analysis.
  • Coffee: 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.[34][35] 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,[36] 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.[37]
  • Cryptanalysis and frequency analysis: In cryptology, the first known recorded explanation of cryptanalysis was given by 9th-century Arabian polymath, 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.[38][39]

See also


  1. Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong:

    "There have been many civilizations in human history, almost all of which were local, in the sense that they were defined by a region and an ethnic group. This applied to all the ancient civilizations of the Middle East—Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Persia; to the great civilizations of Asia—India, China; and to the civilizations of Pre-Columbian America. There are two exceptions: Christianity and Islam. These are two civilizations defined by religion, in which religion is the primary defining force, not, as in India or China, a secondary aspect among others of an essentially regional and ethnically defined civilization. Here, again, another word of explanation is necessary."

  2. Danny Yee. "Islam: The Straight Path, John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press 1998". Danny Yee's Book Reviews. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  3. p. 45, Islamic & European expansion: the forging of a global order, Michael Adas, ed., Temple University Press, 1993, ISBN 1-56639-068-0.
  4. Max Weber & Islam, Toby E. Huff and Wolfgang Schluchter, eds., Transaction Publishers, 1999, ISBN 1-56000-400-2, p. 53
  6. Lucas, Adam (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, Brill Publishers, pp. 62 & 64, ISBN 90-04-14649-0 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Drachmann, A.G. (1961), "Heron's Windmill", Centaurus, 7: 145–151. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dietrich Lohrmann, "Von der östlichen zur westlichen Windmühle", Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, Vol. 77, Issue 1 (1995), pp.1-30 (10f.)
  9. Ahmad Y Hassan, Donald Routledge Hill (1986). Islamic Technology: An illustrated history, p. 54. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42239-6.
  10. Dietrich Lohrmann (1995). "Von der östlichen zur westlichen Windmühle", Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 77 (1), p. 1-30 (8).
  11. Donald Routledge Hill, "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East", Scientific American, May 1991, pp. 64-9 (cf. Donald Routledge Hill, Mechanical Engineering)
  12. Maillard, Adam P. Fraise, Peter A. Lambert, Jean-Yves (2007). Principles and Practice of Disinfection, Preservation and Sterilization. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons. p. 4. ISBN 0470755067. 
  13. Bowles, Edmund A. (2006), "The impact of Turkish military bands on European court festivals in the 17th and 18th centuries", Early Music, Oxford University Press, 34 (4): 533–60, doi:10.1093/em/cal103 
  14. Chevedden, Paul E. (1 January 2000). "The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 54: 71. doi:10.2307/1291833. The traction trebuchet, invented by the Chinese sometime before the fourth century B.C., was partially superseded at the beginning of the eighth century by the hybrid trebuchet. This machine appears to have originated in the realms of Islam under the impetus of the Islamic conquest movements. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Barbera, Henry (1998). "The Military Factor in Social Change: The State As Revolution". pp. 116–118. 
  17. Evans, Tom; Mary Evans (1977). Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock. Paddington Press Ltd. 
  18. Houtsma, M. Th (1993). First Encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936. BRILL. p. 987. 
  19. Razpush, Shahnaz (15 December 2000). "ḠALYĀN". Encyclopedia Iranica. pp. 261–265. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  20. Sivaramakrishnan, V. M. (2001). Tobacco and Areca Nut. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan. pp. 4–5. ISBN 81-250-2013-6. 
  21. Blechynden, Kathleen (1905). Calcutta, Past and Present. Los Angeles: University of California. p. 215. 
  22. Rousselet, Louis (1875). India and Its Native Princes: Travels in Central India and in the Presidencies of Bombay and Bengal. London: Chapman and Hall. p. 290. 
  23. Bernsted, A.K. (2003), "Early Islamic Pottery: Materials and Techniques, London: Archetype Publications Ltd., 25; R.B. Mason and M.S. Tite 1994, The Beginnings of Islamic Stonepaste Technology", Archaeometry, 36 (1): 77, doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.1994.tb00712.x. 
  24. Mason and Tite 1994, 77.
  25. Mason and Tite 1994, 79-80.
  26. Caiger-Smith, 1973, p.65
  27. Tite, M.S. (1989), "Iznik Pottery: An Investigation of the Methods of Production", Archaeometry, 31 (2): 115, doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.1989.tb01008.x. 
  28. Tite 1989, 120.
  29. Tite 1989, 129.
  30. Tite 1989, 120, 123.
  31. Ten thousand years of pottery, Emmanuel Cooper, University of Pennsylvania Press, 4th ed., 2000, ISBN 0-8122-3554-1, pp. 86–88.
  32. Mason, Robert B. (1995), "New Looks at Old Pots: Results of Recent Multidisciplinary Studies of Glazed Ceramics from the Islamic World", Muqarnas: Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture, Brill Academic Publishers, XII: 1, ISBN 90-04-10314-7, doi:10.2307/1523219. 
  33. Caiger-Smith, 1973, p.23
  34. Weinberg, Bennett Alan (2001), The world of caffeine, Routledge, pp. Page 3–4, ISBN 978-0-415-92723-9  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  35. Ireland, Corydon. "Of the bean I sing". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  36. John K. Francis. "Coffea arabica L. RUBIACEAE" (PDF). Factsheet of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  37. Meyers, Hannah (2005-03-07). ""Suave Molecules of Mocha" -- Coffee, Chemistry, and Civilization". Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  38. Broemeling, Lyle D. (1 November 2011). "An Account of Early Statistical Inference in Arab Cryptology". The American Statistician. 65 (4): 255–257. doi:10.1198/tas.2011.10191. 
  39. Al-Kadi, Ibrahim A. (1992). "The origins of cryptology: The Arab contributions". Cryptologia. 16 (2): 97–126. doi:10.1080/0161-119291866801. 

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