Muslim Agricultural Revolution

Muslim Agricultural Revolution

The Islamic Golden Age from the 8th century to the 13th century witnessed a fundamental transformation in agriculture known as the Arab Agricultural Revolution, Medieval Green Revolution, [A. M. Watson (1981), "A Medieval Green Revolution: New Crops and Farming Techniques in the Early Islamic World", in "The Islamic Middle East, 700-1900: Studies in Economic and Social History"] or Muslim Agricultural Revolution.Zohor Idrisi (2005), [ The Muslim Agricultural Revolution and its influence on Europe] , FSTC] The global economy established by Arab and other Muslim traders across the Old World, enabled the diffusion of many crops and farming techniques among different parts of the Islamic world, as well as the adaptation of crops and techniques from and to regions beyond the Islamic world. Crops from Africa such as sorghum, crops from China such as citrus fruits, and numerous crops from India such as mangos, rice, and especially cotton and sugar cane, were distributed throughout Islamic lands, which previously had not grown these crops. Some writers have referred to the diffusion of numerous crops during this period as the Globalization of crops. [ [ The Globalisation of Crops] , FSTC] These introductions, along with an increased mechanization of agriculture (see Industrial growth below), led to major changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, [Andrew M. Watson (1983), "Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World", Cambridge University Press, ISBN 052124711X.] agricultural production and income, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of the labour force, linked industries, cooking, diet and clothing in the Islamic world.Andrew M. Watson (1974), "The Arab Agricultural Revolution and Its Diffusion, 700–1100", "The Journal of Economic History" 34 (1), pp. 8–35.]

Age of discovery

The earliest forms of globalization began emerging during the Islamic Empire and the Islamic Golden Age, when the knowledge, trade and economies from many previously isolated regions and civilizations began integrating due to contacts with Muslim explorers, sailors, scholars, traders, and travelers. Some have called this period the "Pax Islamica" or "Afro-Asiatic age of discovery", in reference to the Muslim Southwest Asian and North African traders and explorers who travelled most of the Old World, and established an early global economy across most of Asia and Africa and much of Europe, with their trade networks extending from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Indian Ocean and China Sea in the east.Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", "The Journal of Economic History" 29 (1), p. 79-96.] This helped establish the Islamic Empire (including the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates) as the world's leading extensive economic power throughout the 7th-13th centuries.John M. Hobson (2004), "The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation", p. 29-30, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521547245.] Several contemporary medieval Arabic reports also suggest that Muslim explorers from al-Andalus and the Maghreb may have travelled in expeditions across the Atlantic Ocean, possibly even to the Americas, between the 9th and 14th centuries. [S. A. H. Ahsani (July 1984). "Muslims in Latin America: a survey", "Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs" 5 (2), p. 454-463.]

Agricultural innovations

Muslims introduced cash cropping and the modern crop rotation system where land was cropped four or more times in a two-year period. Winter crops were followed by summer ones, and in some cases there was in between. In areas where plants of shorter growing season were used, such as spinach and eggplants, the land could be cropped three or more times a year. In parts of Yemen, wheat yielded two harvests a year on the same land, as did rice in Iraq. Muslims developed a scientific approach based on three major elements; sophisticated systems of crop rotation, highly developed irrigation techniques, and the introduction of a large variety of crops which were studied and catalogued according to the season, type of land and amount of water they require. Numerous encyclopaedias on farming and botany were produced, with highly accurate precision and details.Al-Hassani, Woodcock and Saoud (2007), "Muslim heritage in Our World", FSTC publishing, 2nd Edition, pp. 102–23.] The earliest cookbooks on Arab cuisine were also written, such as the "Kitab al-Tabikh" ("The Book of Dishes") of Ibn Sayyiir al-Warraq (10th century) and the "Kitab al-Tabikh" of Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi (1226). [David Waines (1987), "Cereals, Bread and Society: An Essay on the Staff of Life in Medieval Iraq", "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient" 30 (3), pp. 255–85 [276, 278, 282] .]

Advanced agricultural systems

As early as the 9th century, an essentially modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Arab caliphates, replacing the largely export driven Roman model. The great cities of the Near East, North Africa and Moorish Spain were supported by elaborate agricultural systems which included extensive irrigation based on knowledge of hydraulic and hydrostatic principles, some of which were continued from Roman times. In later centuries, Persian Muslims began to function as a conduit, transmitting cultural elements, including advanced agricultural techniques, into Turkic lands and western India. The Muslims introduced what was to become an agricultural revolution based on four key areas:

* Development of a sophisticated system of irrigation using machines such as norias, water mills, water raising machines, dams and reservoirs. With such technology they managed to greatly expand the exploitable land area.
* The adoption of a scientific approach to farming enabled them to improve farming techniques derived from the collection and collation of relevant information throughout the whole of the known world. Farming manuals were produced in every corner of the Muslim world detailing where, when and how to plant and grow various crops. Advanced scientific techniques allowed leaders like Ibn al-Baitar to introduce new crops and breeds and strains of livestock into areas where they were previously unknown.
* Incentives based on a new approach to land ownership and labourers' rights, combining the recognition of private ownership and the rewarding of cultivators with a harvest share commensurate with their efforts. Their counterparts in Europe struggled under a feudal system in which they were almost slaves (serfs) with little hope of improving their lot by hard work.
* The introduction of new crops transforming private farming into a new global industry exported everywhere, including Europe, where farming was mostly restricted to wheat strains obtained much earlier via central Asia. Spain received what she in turn transmitted to the rest of Europe; many agricultural and fruit-growing processes, together with many new plants, fruit and vegetables. These new crops included sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines, and saffron. Others, previously known, were further developed. Muslims also brought to that country lemons, oranges, cotton, almonds, figs and sub-tropical crops such as bananas and sugar cane. Several were later exported from Spanish coastal areas to the Spanish colonies in the New World. Also transmitted via Muslim influence, a silk industry flourished, flax was cultivated and linen exported, and esparto grass, which grew wild in the more arid parts, was collected and turned into various articles.

Economic and social reforms

The Caliphate understood that real incentives were needed to increase productivity and wealth, thus enhancing tax revenues, hence they introduced a social transformation through the changed ownership of land, where any individual of any gender [Maya Shatzmiller, p. 263.] or any ethnic or religious background had the right to buy, sell, mortgage and inherit land for farming or any other purposes. They also introduced the signing of a contract for every major financial transaction concerning agriculture, industry, commerce, and employment. Copies of the contract was usually kept by both parties involved.

The two types of economic systems that prompted agricultural development in the Islamic world were either politically-driven, by the conscious decisions of the central authority to develop under-exploited lands; or market-driven, involving the spread of advice, education, and free seeds, and the introduction of high value crops or animals to areas where they were previously unknown. These led to increased subsistence, a high level of economic security that ensured wealth for all citizens, and a higher quality of life due to the introduction of artichokes, spinach, aubergines, carrots, sugar cane, and various exotic plants; vegetables being available all year round without the need to dry them for winter; citrus and olive plantations becoming a common sight, market gardens and orchards springing up in every Muslim city; intense cropping and the technique of intensive irrigation agriculture with land fertility replacement; a major increase in animal husbandry; higher quality of wool and other clothing materials; and the introduction of selective breeding of animals from different parts of the Old World resulting in improved horse stocks and the best load-carrying camels.

ugar industry

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, sugar production was refined and transformed into a large-scale industry by the Arabs. The Arabs and Berbers diffused sugar throughout the Arab Empire from the 8th century.

Other innovations

Many other agricultural innovations were introduced by Muslim farmers and engineers, such as new forms of land tenure, improvements in irrigation, a variety of sophisticated irrigation methods, [Elias H. Tuma (1987), "Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World: The Diffusion of Crops and Farming Techniques, 700–1100" by Andrew M. Watson", "The Journal of Economic History" 47 (2), pp. 543–4.] the introduction of fertilizers and widespread artificial irrigation systems, the development of gravity-flow irrigation systems from rivers and springs, the first uses of noria and chain pumps for irrigation purposes, the establishment of the sugar cane industry in the Mediterranean and experimentation in sugar cultivation, [J. H. Galloway (1977), "The Mediterranean Sugar Industry", "Geographical Review" 67 (2), pp. 177–94.] numerous advances in industrial milling and water-raising machines (see Industrial growth below), and many other improvements and innovations.

Agricultural sciences

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Muslim scientists laid the foundations of agricultural science, which included significant advances in the fields of agronomy, astronomy, botany, earth science, environmental philosophy, and environmental science. In particular, the experimental scientific method was introduced into the field in the 13th century by the Andalusian-Arab botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati, the teacher of Ibn al-Baitar. Al-Nabati introduced empirical techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and he separated unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations. [Citation
title=The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West
publisher=Cambridge University Press

The earliest known work dedicated to the study of agriculture was Ibn Wahshiyya's "Nabatean Agriculture", which also dealt with the related field of botany and was also an early cookbook. The early Arab lexicographs were the first known works to separate the two disciplines of agriculture and botany, though both were considered part of the medical sciences due to agriculture's primary role being to feed and botany's primary role being to heal. The agricultural sciences were known by the Arabic term "filaha", which had a dual-meaning, to both care for the Earth and to take care of plants. Many of the early Islamic authors on botany were often philologists, due to their role in the translation of ancient scientific texts. [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=813, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52] This was also the case with early Arabic zoology, like with al-Jahiz for example.

Al-Asma'i was the earliest known Arab biologist, botanist and zoologist; his works include the "Book of Distinction", "Book of the Wild Animals", "Book of the Horse", and "Book of the Sheep".


Muslim agriculturists demonstrated advanced agronomic, agrotechnical and economic knowledge in areas such as meteorology, climatology, hydrology, soil occupation, and the economy and management of agricultural enterprises. They also demonstrated agricultural knowledge in areas such as pedology, agricultural ecology, irrigation, preparation of soil, planting, spreading of manure, killing herbs, sowing, cutting trees, grafting, pruning vine, prophylaxis, phytotherapy, the care and improvement of microbiological cultures and plants, and the harvest and storage of crops. [Toufic Fahd (1996), "Botany and agriculture", in Roshdi Rashed, ed., "Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science", Vol. 3, pp. 813–52 [849] . Routledge, London and New York.]

Ibn Wahshiyya's "Nabatean Agriculture" was an early Arabic work on agronomy and agriculture. The following eight chapters of the book are dedicated to water in the context of agriculture: [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=841, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52]

#Research of water and related technical knowledge
#Digging wells and increasing their flow using proven artifices and techniques
#The drilling of wells
#Artifices used to increase water in a well
#Making water rise up a very deep well
#Augmenting the quantity of water in wells and sources
#Modifying and improving the taste of water
#"On the difference in nature and action of the water according to its position" close of far away "with regard to the ecliptic"

The "Nabatean Agriculture" then goes on to discuss a number of other complex issues on agriculture, including the management of an agricultural enterprise and the duties of the owner regarding his enterprise and workers; the official ("wakil") in charge of the management of the enterprise, his obligation towards the farmers, and applying the instructions he receives from his boss; the weather forecasting of atmospheric changes and signs from the planetary astral alterations; signs of rain based on observation of the lunar phases, nature of thunder and lightning, direction of sunrise, behaviour of certain plants and animals, and weather forecasts based on the movement of winds; the recognition of plant tissue cultures which succeed in certain years; a list of work to be done in each month of year; the position of the moon relative to the Earth; the required knowledge of a farmer and the owner of an agricultural enterprise; pollenized air and winds; and formation of winds and vapours. [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=842, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52]

Other agricultural topics discussed in the "Nabatean Agriculture" include the causes of the corruption of plants and of torrential rain; the nature of soils and their different flavours; the manure; how to get rid of bad herbs and how to cut plants which need to be cut; and a number of other agricultural topics. [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=842, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52]

In 12th century al-Andalus, Ibn al-'Awwam al-Ishbili wrote the "Kitab al-Filaha" which synthesized his own agricultural knowledge with that of the "Nabatean Agriculture" and his other Arabic predecessors. This work also described 585 microbiological cultures, 55 of which concern fruit trees. This work was influential in Europe after it was translated into Spanish by Banqueri in Madrid in 1801 and into French by Clement-Mullet in Paris in 1864. [citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=848-9, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52]

Astronomy and meteorology

Another innovation during this period was the application of astronomy to agriculture and botany. As weather forecasting predictions and the measurement of time and the onset of seasons became more precise and reliable, farmers became informed of these advances and often employed them in agriculture. They also benefited from the compilation of calendars with information on when to plant each type of crop, when to graft trees, when and how to fertilize crops, when to harvest, and what to eat and what to avoid at each time of year. These advances made it possible for farmers to plan the growth of each of their crops for specific markets and at specific times of the year.

Parts of al-Dinawari's "Book of Plants" deals with the applications of astronomy and meteorology to agriculture. It describes the astronomical and meteorological character of the sky, the planets and constellations, the sun and moon, the lunar phases indicating seasons and rain, the "anwa" (heavenly bodies of rain), and atmospheric phenomena such as winds, thunder, lightning, snow, floods, valleys, rivers, lakes, wells and other sources of water.


Muslims developed a scientific approach to botany and agriculture based on three major elements; sophisticated systems of crop rotation, highly developed irrigation techniques, and the introduction of a large variety of crops which were studied and catalogued according to the season, type of land and amount of water they require. Numerous encyclopaedias on botany were produced, with highly accurate precision and details.

The 9th century botanist al-Dinawari is considered the founder of Arabic botany. He wrote a botanical encyclopedia entitled "Kitab al-Nabat" ("Book of Plants"), which consisted of six volumes. Only the third and fifth volumes have survived, though the sixth volume has partly been reconstructed based on citations from later works. In the surviving portions of his works, 637 plants are described from the letters "sin" to "ya". He also discusses plant evolution from its birth to its death, describing the phases of plant growth and the production of flowers and fruit.citation|last=Fahd|first=Toufic|contribution=Botany and agriculture|pages=815, in Harv|Morelon|Rashed|1996|pp=813-52]

In the early 13th century, Ibn al-Baitar published the "Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada", which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations and pharmaceutical encyclopedias, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It contains details on at least 1,400 different plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. The "Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada" was also influential in Europe after it was translated into Latin in 1758,Russell McNeil, [ Ibn al-Baitar] , Malaspina University-College.] where it was being used up until the early 19th century.Diane Boulanger (2002), "The Islamic Contribution to Science, Mathematics and Technology", "OISE Papers", in "STSE Education", Vol. 3.]

Earth science

Muslim scientists made a number of contributions to the Earth sciences. Alkindus introduced experimentation into the Earth sciences.Plinio Prioreschi, "Al-Kindi, A Precursor Of The Scientific Revolution", "Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine", 2002 (2): 17-19.]

Parts of al-Dinawari's "Book of Plants" deals with the Earth sciences in the context of agriculture. He considers the Earth, stone and sands, and describes different types of ground, indicating which types are more convenient for plants and the qualities and properties of good ground.

Biruni is considered the father of geodesy for his important contributions to the field,Akbar S. Ahmed (1984). "Al-Beruni: The First Anthropologist", "RAIN" 60, p. 9-10.] [H. Mowlana (2001). "Information in the Arab World", "Cooperation South Journal" 1.] along with his significant contributions to geography and geology.

Among his writings on geology, Biruni wrote the following on the geology of India:

John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson write in the "MacTutor History of Mathematics archive":

In geology, Avicenna hypothesized on two causes of mountains in "The Book of Healing". In cartography, the Piri Reis map drawn by the Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis in 1513, was one of the earliest world maps to include the Americas, and perhaps the first to include Antarctica. His map of the world was considered the most accurate in the 16th century.

Environmental philosophy

Perhaps due to resource scarcity in most Islamic nations, there was an emphasis on limited (and some claim also sustainable) use of natural capital, i.e. producing land. Traditions of haram and hima and early urban planning were expressions of strong social obligations to stay within carrying capacity and to preserve the natural environment as an obligation of khalifa or "stewardship". [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

Muhammad is considered a pioneer of environmentalism for his teachings on environmental preservation. His hadiths on agriculture and environmental philosophy were compiled in the "Book of Agriculture" of the "Sahih Bukhari", which included the following saying: [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129 [119-129] , Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

Several such statements concerning the environment are also found in the Qur'an, such as the following: [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129 [111-119] , Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

Environmental science

The earliest known treatises dealing with environmentalism and environmental science, especially pollution, were Arabic medical treatises written by al-Kindi, Qusta ibn Luqa, al-Razi, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Ibn Jumay, Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, Abd-el-latif, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn al-Nafis. Their works covered a number of subjects related to pollution such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, municipal solid waste mishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. [L. Gari (2002), "Arabic Treatises on Environmental Pollution up to the End of the Thirteenth Century", "Environment and History" 8 (4), pp. 475-488.] Cordoba, al-Andalus also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection. [S. P. Scott (1904), "History of the Moorish Empire in Europe", 3 vols, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London.
F. B. Artz (1980), "The Mind of the Middle Ages", Third edition revised, University of Chicago Press, pp 148-50.
(cf. [ References] , 1001 Inventions)


:"Further information: and Islamic medicine"

In the zoology field of biology, Muslim biologists developed theories on evolution and natural selection which were widely taught in medieval Islamic schools. John William Draper, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, considered the "Mohammedan theory of evolution" to be developed "much farther than we are disposed to do, extending them even to inorganic or mineral things." According to al-Khazini, ideas on evolution were widespread among "common people" in the Islamic world by the 12th century. [John William Draper (1878). "History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science", p. 154-155, 237. ISBN 1603030964.]

The first Muslim biologist to develop a theory on evolution was al-Jahiz (781-869). He wrote on the effects of the environment on the likelihood of an animal to survive, and he first described the struggle for existence and an early form of natural selection. [Conway Zirkle (1941). Natural Selection before the "Origin of Species", "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society" 84 (1), p. 71-123.] [Mehmet Bayrakdar (Third Quarter, 1983). "Al-Jahiz And the Rise of Biological Evolutionism", "The Islamic Quarterly". London.] Al-Jahiz was also the first to discuss food chains, [Frank N. Egerton, "A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 6: Arabic Language Science - Origins and Zoological", "Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America", April 2002: 142-146 [143] ] and was also an early adherent of environmental determinism, arguing that the environment can determine the physical characteristics of the inhabitants of a certain community and that the origins of different human skin colors is the result of the environment. [Lawrence I. Conrad (1982), "Taun and Waba: Conceptions of Plague and Pestilence in Early Islam", "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient" 25 (3), pp. 268-307 [278] .]

Ibn al-Haytham wrote a book in which he argued for evolutionism (although not natural selection), and numerous other Islamic scholars and scientists, such as Ibn Miskawayh, the Brethren of Purity, al-Khazini, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, Nasir al-Din Tusi, and Ibn Khaldun, discussed and developed these ideas. Translated into Latin, these works began to appear in the West after the Renaissance and appear to have had an impact on Western science.

Ibn Miskawayh's "al-Fawz al-Asghar" and the Brethren of Purity's "Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity" ("The Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa") expressed evolutionary ideas on how species evolved from matter, into vapor, and then water, then minerals, then plants, then animals, then apes, and then humans. These works were known in Europe and likely had an influence on Darwinism.Muhammad Hamidullah and Afzal Iqbal (1993), "The Emergence of Islam: Lectures on the Development of Islamic World-view, Intellectual Tradition and Polity", p. 143-144. Islamic Research Institute, Islamabad.]

Capitalist market economy

Capitalism developed much earlier in Islamic regions than in the Occident. Subhi Y. Labib argues the reason for this was the growing trade economy of the Muslim world, and security from Barbarian invasions. The first market economy and earliest forms of merchant capitalism took root between the 8th–12th centuries in the Caliphate, which are referred to as "Islamic capitalism". [Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", "The Journal of Economic History" 29 (1), pp. 79–96 [81, 83, 85, 90, 93, 96] .] A vigorous monetary economy was created on the basis of the expanding levels of circulation of a stable high-value currency (the dinar) and the integration of monetary areas that were previously independent. Innovative new business techniques and forms of business organisation were introduced by economists, merchants and traders during this time. Such innovations included the earliest trading companies, big businesses, contracts, bills of exchange, long-distance international trade, the first forms of partnership ("mufawada") such as limited partnerships ("mudaraba"), and the earliest forms of credit, debt, profit, loss, capital ("al-mal"), capital accumulation ("nama al-mal"), circulating capital, capital expenditure, revenue, cheques, promissory notes, [Robert Sabatino Lopez, Irving Woodworth Raymond, Olivia Remie Constable (2001), "Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World: Illustrative Documents", Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231123574.] trusts and charitable trusts (see "Waqf"), startup companies, [Timur Kuran (2005), "The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law: Origins and Persistence", "American Journal of Comparative Law" 53, pp. 785–834 [798–9] .] savings accounts, transactional accounts, pawning, loaning, exchange rates, bankers, money changers, ledgers, deposits, assignments, the double-entry bookkeeping system, [Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", "The Journal of Economic History" 29 (1), pp. 79–96 [92–3] .] and lawsuits. [Ray Spier (2002), "The history of the peer-review process", "Trends in Biotechnology" 20 (8), p. 357-358 [357] .] Organizational enterprises similar to corporations independent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world, while the agency and aval institutions (see "Hawala") was also introduced. [Said Amir Arjomand (1999), "The Law, Agency, and Policy in Medieval Islamic Society: Development of the Institutions of Learning from the Tenth to the Fifteenth Century", "Comparative Studies in Society and History" 41, pp. 263–93. Cambridge University Press.] [Samir Amin (1978), "The Arab Nation: Some Conclusions and Problems", "MERIP Reports" 68, pp. 3–14 [8, 13] .] Many of these early capitalist concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.Jairus Banaji (2007), "Islam, the Mediterranean and the rise of capitalism", "Journal Historical Materialism" 15 (1), pp. 47–74, Brill Publishers.]

The systems of contract relied upon by merchants was very effective. Merchants would buy and sell on commission, with money loaned to them by wealthy investors, or a joint investment of several merchants, who were often Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Recently, a collection of documents was found in an Egyptian synagogue shedding a very detailed and human light on the life of medieval Middle Eastern merchants. Business partnerships would be made for many commercial ventures, and bonds of kinship enabled trade networks to form over huge distances.


Hundreds of crops were diffused throughout the Islamic world and beyond as a result of the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, some of which include artichokes, bananas, coconut palms, colocasia, cotton, eggplants, hard wheat, lemons, limes, mangos, plantains, rice, sorghum, sour oranges, spinach, sugar cane, and watermelons, [Andrew M. Watson (1974), "The Arab Agricultural Revolution and Its Diffusion, 700–1100", "The Journal of Economic History" 34 (1), pp. 8–35 [9] .] among hundreds of other crops.

Industrial growth

Muslim engineers in the Islamic world were responsible for numerous innovative industrial uses of hydropower, early industrial uses of tidal power, wind power, and fossil fuels such as petroleum, and the earliest large factory complexes ("tiraz" in Arabic). [Maya Shatzmiller, p. 36.] The industrial uses of watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use since at least the 9th century. A variety of industrial mills were first invented in the Islamic world, including fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, shipmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, tide mills, and windmills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.Adam Robert Lucas (2005), "Industrial Milling in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: A Survey of the Evidence for an Industrial Revolution in Medieval Europe", "Technology and Culture" 46 (1), pp. 1–30 [10] .] Muslim engineers also invented crankshafts and water turbines, first employed gears in mills and water-raising machines, and pioneered the use of dams as a source of water power, used to provide additional power to watermills and water-raising machines. Such advances made it possible for many industrial tasks that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be mechanized and driven by machinery instead in the medieval Islamic world. The transfer of these technologies to medieval Europe later laid the foundations for the Industrial Revolution in 18th century Europe.

Many industries were generated due to the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, including the earliest industries for agribusiness, astronomical instruments, ceramics, chemicals, distillation technologies, clocks, glass, mechanical hydropowered and wind powered machinery, matting, mosaics, pulp and paper, perfumery, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, rope-making, shipping, shipbuilding, silk, sugar, textiles, water, weapons, and the mining of minerals such as sulfur, ammonia, lead and iron. The first large factory complexes ("tiraz") were built for many of these industries. Knowledge of these industries were later transmitted to medieval Europe, especially during the Latin translations of the 12th century, as well as before and after. For example, the first glass factories in Europe were founded in the 11th century by Egyptian craftsmen in Greece. [Ahmad Y Hassan, [ Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part 1: Avenues Of Technology Transfer] ] The agricultural and handicraft industries also experienced high levels of growth during this period.

Chemical industries

The chemical industry and petroleum industry were established in the 8th century, when the mineral acids (such as sulfuric acid) were first produced through dry distillation, and when the streets of Baghdad were paved with tar, derived from petroleum through destructive distillation. In the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha. These fields were described by Masudi in the 10th century, and by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those oil wells as hundreds of shiploads. [K. Ajram (1992). "Miracle of Islamic Science", Appendix B. Knowledge House Publishers. ISBN 0911119434.] Petroleum was distilled by al-Razi in the 9th century, producing chemicals such as kerosene in the alembic, which he used to invent kerosene lamps for use in the oil lamp industry. [Zayn Bilkadi (University of California, Berkeley), "The Oil Weapons", "Saudi Aramco World", January–February 1995, pp. 20–7.]

An early industrial use of steam power dates back to the perfumery industry established by Muslim chemists such as Geber, al-Razi, and Avicenna, who pioneered and perfected the extraction of fragrances and essential oils through steam distillation, introduced new raw ingredients, and developed cheap methods for the mass production of perfumery and incenses. Both the raw ingredients and distillation technology significantly influenced Western perfumery. Muslim traders had wide access to a variety of different spices, herbs, and other fragrance materials. In addition to trading them, many of these exotic materials were cultivated by the Muslims such that they could be successfully grown outside of their native climates. Two examples of this include jasmine, which is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, and various citrus fruits native to East Asia. Both of these ingredients are still highly important in modern perfumery.

The first industrial complex for glass and pottery production was built in Ar-Raqqah, Syria, in the 8th century. Extensive experimentation was carried out at the complex, which was two kilometres in length, and a variety of innovative high-purity glass were developed there. [citation|first1=J.|last1=Henderson|first2=S. D.|last2=McLoughlin|first3=D. S.|last3=McPhail|year=2004|title=Radical changes in Islamic glass technology: evidence for conservatism and experimentation with new glass recipes from early and middle Islamic Raqqa, Syria|journal=Archaeometry|volume=46|issue=3|pages=439–68]

Industrial milling

Muslim engineers pioneered two solutions to achieve the maximum output from a water mill. The first solution was to mount them to piers of bridges to take advantage of the increased flow. The second solution was the shipmill, a unique type of water mill powered by water wheels mounted on the sides of ships moored in midstream. This was first employed along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in 10th century Iraq, where large shipmills made of teak and iron could produce 10 tons of flour from corn every day for the granary in Baghdad.Donald Routledge Hill, "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East", "Scientific American", May 1991, pp. 64–9. (cf. Donald Routledge Hill, [ Mechanical Engineering] )] Industrial water mills were also employed in the first large factory complexes built in al-Andalus between the 11th and 13th centuries. Fulling mills, paper mills, steel mills, and other mills, spread from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain by the 12th century. [Adam Robert Lucas (2005), "Industrial Milling in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: A Survey of the Evidence for an Industrial Revolution in Medieval Europe", "Technology and Culture" 46 (1), pp. 1–30 [11] .]

Windmills were first built in Sistan, Afghanistan, from the 7th century. These were vertical axle windmills, which had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. [Ahmad Y Hassan, Donald Routledge Hill (1986). "Islamic Technology: An illustrated history", p. 54. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42239-6.] The first windmill was built by the Rashidun caliph Umar (634–44). [Dietrich Lohrmann (1995). "Von der östlichen zur westlichen Windmühle", "Archiv für Kulturgeschichte" 77 (1), pp. 1–30 (8).] Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and were used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries.Donald Routledge Hill, "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East", "Scientific American", May 1991, pp. 64–9. (cf. Donald Routledge Hill, [ Mechanical Engineering] )]

After paper was introduced into the Islamic world by Chinese prisoners following the Battle of Talas, Muslims made significant improvements to papermaking and built the first paper mills in Baghdad, Iraq, as early as 794. Papermaking was transformed from an art into a major industry as a result. [ [ The Beginning of the Paper Industry] , Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation.] This allowed the manufacturing of paper in the Islamic world to be performed using water power rather than manual labour. The first fulling mills were later invented in the 10th century, followed by the first stamp mills and steel mills in the 11th century. [Adam Robert Lucas (2005), "Industrial Milling in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: A Survey of the Evidence for an Industrial Revolution in Medieval Europe", "Technology and Culture" 46 (1), pp. 1–30 [10–1] .]

The first gristmills were invented by Muslim engineers in the Islamic world, and were used for grinding corn and other seeds to produce meals, and many other industrial uses such as fulling cloth, husking rice, papermaking, pulping sugarcane, and crushing metalic ores before extraction. Gristmills in the Islamic world were often made from both watermills and windmills. In order to adapt water wheels for gristmilling purposes, cams were used for raising and releasing trip hammers to fall on a material. The first water turbine, which had water wheels with curved blades onto which water flow was directed axially, was also first invented in the Islamic world, and was described in a 9th century Arabic text for use in a watermill.

Labour force

The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities. [Maya Shatzmiller, pp. 6–7.] Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.). [Maya Shatzmiller, pp. 350–62.] Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning, dying, and embroidery. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. [Maya Shatzmiller (1997), "Women and Wage Labour in the Medieval Islamic West: Legal Issues in an Economic Context", "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient" 40 (2), pp. 174–206 [175–7] .]

The division of labour was diverse and had been evolving over the centuries. During the 8th–11th centuries, there were on average 63 unique occupations in the primary sector of economic activity (extractive), 697 unique occupations in the secondary sector (manufacturing), and 736 unique occupations in the tertiary sector (service). By the 12th century, the number of unique occupations in the primary sector and secondary sector decreased to 35 and 679 respectively, while the number of unique occupations in the tertiary sector increased to 1,175. These changes in the division of labour reflect the increased mechanization and use of machinery to replace manual labour and the increased standard of living and quality of life of most citizens in the Caliphate. [Maya Shatzmiller, pp. 169–70.]

An economic transition occurred during this period, due to the diversity of the service sector being far greater than any other previous or contemporary society, and the high degree of economic integration between the labour force and the economy. Islamic society also experienced a change in attitude towards manual labour. In previous civilizations such as ancient Greece and in contemporary civilizations such as early medieval Europe, intellectuals saw manual labour in a negative light and looked down on them with contempt. This resulted in technological stagnation as they did not see the need for machinery to replace manual labour. In the Islamic world, however, manual labour was seen in a far more positive light, as intellectuals such as the Brethren of Purity likened them to a participant in the act of creation, while Ibn Khaldun alluded to the benefits of manual labour to the progress of society.Maya Shatzmiller, pp. 400–1.]

Mechanical technology

Noria and chain pump (saqiya) machines became more widespread during the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, when Muslim engineers made a number of improvements to the device.Thomas F. Glick (1977), "Noria Pots in Spain", "Technology and Culture" 18 (4), pp. 644–50.] These include the first uses of noria and chain pumps for irrigation purposes, and the invention of the flywheel mechanism, used to smooth out the delivery of power from a driving device to a driven machine, which was first invented by Ibn Bassal (fl. 1038–75) of al-Andalus, who pioneered the use of the flywheel in the saqiya and noria. [Ahmad Y Hassan, [ Flywheel Effect for a "Saqiya"] .]

In 1206, al-Jazari invented a variety of machines for raising water, which were the most efficient in his time, as well as water wheels with cams on their axle used to operate automata. He invented the crankshaft and connecting rod, and employed them in a crank-connecting rod system for two of these water-raising machines. His invention of the crankshaft is considered the most important single mechanical invention after the wheel, as it transforms continuous rotary motion into a linear reciprocating motion, and is central to modern machinery such as the steam engine and the internal combustion engine. [Ahmad Y Hassan. [ The Crank-Connecting Rod System in a Continuously Rotating Machine] .] Al-Jazari's most sophisticated water-raising machine featured the first suction pipes and suction pump, the first use of the double-action principle, the first Reciprocating suction piston pump, the earliest valve operations, and the use of a water wheel and a system of gears. This invention is important to the development of modern machinery, including the steam engine, modern reciprocating pumps, [Ahmad Y Hassan. [ The Origin of the Suction Pump - Al-Jazari 1206 A.D.] ] internal combustion engine, [Donald Routledge Hill (1998). "Studies in Medieval Islamic Technology" II, pp. 231–2.] artificial heart, [ [ Ancient Discoveries: Machines of the East DVD] , The History Channel.] bicycle, bicycle pump, etc. ["What the Ancients Did for Us", Episode 1, "The Islamic World", BBC & Open University.]

In 1551, after the decline of the golden age, the Egyptian engineer Taqi al-Din described an early practical steam turbine as a for rotating a spit. A similar device appeared later in Europe a century later. [Ahmad Y Hassan (1976). "Taqi al-Din and Arabic Mechanical Engineering", pp. 34–5. Instiute for the History of Arabic Science, University of Aleppo.]

Other technologies

A significant number of inventions and technological advances were made in the Muslim world, as well as adopting and improving technologies centuries before they were used in the West. For example, papermaking was adopted from China many centuries before it was known in the West. [Huff (2003), p. 74] Iron was a vital industry in Muslim lands and was given importance in the Qur'an. [cite quran|57|25|style=ref] [Hobson (2004), p. 130] The knowledge of gunpowder was also transmitted from China to Islamic countries, where Muslim chemists were the first to purify saltpeter to the weapons-grade purity for use in gunpowder, as potassium nitrate must be purified to be used effectively. This purification process was first described by Ibn Bakhtawayh in his "Al-Muqaddimat" in the early 11th century. [Ahmad Y Hassan, [ Potassium Nitrate in Arabic and Latin Sources] ] [Ahmad Y Hassan, [ Gunpowder Composition for Rockets and Cannon in Arabic Military Treatises In Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries] ] Gunpowder weapons were employed by Muslim armies against Christian armies during the Crusades and Byzantine-Ottoman wars. [Phillips (1992), p. 76] Knowledge of chemical processes (alchemy and chemistry) and distillation (alcohol, kerosene and other chemical substances) also spread to Europe from the Muslim world. Numerous contributions were made in laboratory practices such as "refined techniques of distillation, the preparation of medicines, and the production of salts." [Levere (2001), p. 6] Advances were made in irrigation and farming, using technology such as the windmill. Crops such as almonds and citrus fruit were brought to Europe through al-Andalus, and sugar cultivation was gradually adopted by the Europeans. [Mintz (1986), pp. 23–9]

Fielding H. Garrison wrote in the "History of Medicine":

A significant number of other inventions were also produced by medieval Muslim scientists and engineers, including inventors such as Abbas Ibn Firnas, Taqi al-Din, and especially al-Jazari, who is considered the "father of robotics" and "father of modern day engineering". [ [ 1000 Years of Knowledge Rediscovered at Ibn Battuta Mall] , MTE Studios.]

Some of the other inventions and advances during the Muslim Agricultural Revolution include the camera obscura, coffee, hang glider, flight controls, soap bar, shampoo, pure distillation, liquefaction, crystallisation, purification, oxidisation, evaporation, filtration, distilled alcohol, uric acid, nitric acid, alembic, crankshaft, valve, reciprocating suction piston pump, mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, programmable humanoid robot, combination lock, quilting, pointed arch, scalpel, bone saw, forceps, surgical catgut, windmill, inoculation, smallpox vaccine, fountain pen, cryptanalysis, frequency analysis, three-course meal, stained glass and quartz glass, Persian carpet, modern cheque, celestial globe, explosive rockets and incendiary devices, torpedo, and artificial pleasure gardens.Paul Vallely, [ How Islamic Inventors Changed the World] , "The Independent", 11 March 2006.]


There was a significant increase in urbanization during this period, due to numerous scientific advances in fields such as agriculture, hygiene, sanitation, astronomy, medicine and engineering. This also resulted in a rising middle class population. [Avner Greif (1989), "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders", "The Journal of Economic History" 49 (4), pp. 857–82 [862, 874] .]

As urbanization increased, Muslim cities grew unregulated, resulting in narrow winding city streets and neighborhoods separated by different ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations. These qualities proved efficient for transporting goods to and from major commercial centers while preserving the privacy valued by Islamic family life. Suburbs lay just outside the walled city, from wealthy residential communities, to working class semi-slums. City garbage dumps were located far from the city, as were clearly defined cemeteries which were often homes for criminals. A place of prayer was found just near one of the main gates, for religious festivals and public executions. Similarly, Military Training grounds were found near a main gate.

While varying in appearance due to climate and prior local traditions, Islamic cities were almost always dominated by a merchant middle class. Some peoples' loyalty towards their neighborhood was very strong, reflecting ethnicity and religion, while a sense of citizenship was at times uncommon (but not in every case). The extended family provided the foundation for social programs, business deals, and negotiations with authorities. Part of this economic and social unit were often the tenants of a wealthy landlord.

State power normally focused on Dar al Imara, the governor's office in the citadel. These fortresses towered high above the city built on thousands of years of human settlement. The primary function of the city governor was to provide for defence and to maintain legal order. This system would be responsible for a mixture of autocracy and autonomy within the city. Each neighborhood, and many of the large tenement blocks, elected a representative to deal with urban authorities. These neighborhoods were also expected to organize their young men into a militia providing for protection of their own neighborhoods, and as aid to the professional armies defending the city as a whole.

The head of the family was given the position of authority in his household, although a qadi, or judge was able to negotiate and resolve differences in issues of disagreements within families and between them. The two senior representatives of municipal authority were the qadi and the muhtasib, who held the responsibilities of many issues, including quality of water, maintenance of city streets, containing outbreaks of disease, supervising the markets, and a prompt burial of the dead.

Another aspect of Islamic urban life was waqf, a religious charity directly dealing with the qadi and religious leaders. Through donations, the waqf owned many of the public baths and factories, using the revenue to fund education, and to provide irrigation for orchards outside the city. Following expansion, this system was introduced into Eastern Europe by Ottoman Turks.

While religious foundations of all faiths were tax exempt in the Muslim world, civilians paid their taxes to the urban authorities, soldiers to the superior officer, and landowners to the state treasury. Taxes were also levied on an unmarried man until he was wed. Instead of zakat, the mandatory charity required of Muslims, non-Muslims were required to pay the jizya, a discriminatory religious tax, imposed on Christians and Jews. During the Muslim Conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries conquered populations were given the three choices of either converting to Islam, paying the jizya, or dying by the sword.

Animals brought to the city for slaughter were restricted to areas outside the city, as were any other industries seen as unclean. The more valuable a good was, the closer its market was to the center of town. Because of this, booksellers and goldsmiths clustered around the main mosque at the heart of the city.

Civil engineering

Many dams, acequia and qanat water supply systems, and "Tribunal of Waters" irrigation systems, were built during the Islamic Golden Age and are still in use today in the Islamic world and in formerly Islamic regions of Europe such as Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in the Andalusia, Aragon and Valencia provinces of Spain. The Arabic systems of irrigation and water distribution were later adopted in the Canary Islands and Americas due to the Spanish and are still used in places like Texas, Mexico, Peru, and Chile.Ahmad Y Hassan, [ Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part II: Transmission Of Islamic Engineering] ]

Muslim cities also had advanced domestic water systems with sewers, public baths, drinking fountains, piped drinking water supplies, [Fiona MacDonald (2006), "The Plague and Medicine in the Middle Ages", pp. 42–3, Gareth Stevens, ISBN 0836859073.] and widespread private and public toilet and bathing facilities. [Tor Eigeland, "The Tiles of Iberia", "Saudi Aramco World", March-April 1992, pp. 24–31.] By the 10th century, Cordoba had 700 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries, the largest of which had 600,000 books, while as many as 60,000 treatises, poems, polemics and compilations were published each year in al-Andalus. [Dato' Dzulkifli Abd Razak, [ Quest for knowledge] , "New Sunday Times", 3 July 2005.] The library of Cairo had more than 100,000 books, while the library of Tripoli is said to have had as many as three million books. The number of important and original Arabic works on science that have survived is much larger than the combined total of Greek and Latin works on science. [N. M. Swerdlow (1993). "Montucla's Legacy: The History of the Exact Sciences", "Journal of the History of Ideas" 54 (2), pp. 299–328 [320] .]

Islamic cities also had an early public health care service. "The extraordinary provision of public bath-houses, complex sanitary systems of drainage (more extensive even than the famous Roman infrastructures), fresh water supplies, and the large and sophisticated urban hospitals, all contributed to the general health of the population." [citation|title=Medieval Islamic Medicine|first1=Emilie|last-2=Savage-Smith|first2=Peter E.|last2=Pormann|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|year=2007|isbn=1589011600 |url= |accessdate=2008-01-29]



*Donald Routledge Hill, "Islamic Science And Engineering", Edinburgh University Press (1993), ISBN 0-7486-0455-3
*Harvard reference
title=Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science

*George Sarton, "The Incubation of Western Culture in the Middle East", A George C. Keiser Foundation Lecture, March 29, 1950, Washington DC, 1951
*Maya Shatzmiller (1994), "Labour in the Medieval Islamic World", Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004098968
*Watson, Andrew. "Agricultural innovation in the early Islamic world". Cambridge University Press.

ee also

*Inventions in the Muslim world
*Islamic science
*Timeline of science and technology in the Islamic world

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