The Fortunate Slave

The Story of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo “The Fortunate Slave”

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo was born in 1701, Eastern Senegal he was raised in a religious household which led him to memorise the entire Quran at a young age and familiarize himself with the Maliki Madhab (school of thought). Even from a young age, he was revered for his amazing intelligence and incredible memory.

He and his father were slave traders, however, he himself was captured and fell victim to the Atlantic slave trade. When the slavers successfully captured him, they shaved his beard and shipped him off to Annapolis, Maryland in 1731. He was then sold to a family-owned tobacco plantation. Although Diallo experienced tremendous difficulties, he still maintained his daily prayers and Islamic rituals. The family who owned him would humiliate him by mocking him and throwing dirt him when he prayers. This led him to run away from the family, however, he was soon captured and taken to prison.

While he was in prison he met an English lawyer named Thomas Bluett. Bluett was impressed by Diallo’s piety, literacy, intelligence and adherence to faith. Bluett wrote about Diallo in his book ‘Some memoirs of the Life of Job’:

“His memory was extraordinary; for when he was fifteen years old he could say the whole Alcoran [Quran] by heart…”

Diallo wrote a letter to his father who had traveled from Annapolis to England. This letter eventually landed in the hands of James Edward Oglethorpe. James, who just so happened to be the founder of the Georgia colony. Because the letter was written in Arabic, James had the letter translated at Oxford.

James was touched by the struggles presented in this letter. In fact, he felt so touched that he paid money to purchase Diallo’s freedom and bring him to England. Additionally James arranged to have slavery banned in Georgia, however, due to economic pressures in Georgia, the ban was lifted.

When Diallo arrived in England in 1733, he was treated as equals to the white English people. He would talk to them casually (which was uncommon for black people to do so at the time). Black African people were held in low regards in terms of their intelligence seeing them as inferiors to the majority white, so when Diallo would engage in theological debates with Christian priests and Bishops, people were impressed with his intelligence, monotheistic beliefs, and piety.

Before he returned back to his home in Africa in 1734, a portrait was made of Diallo.

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo “The Fortunate Slave”

This portrait by William Hoare is no doubt beautiful. It’s a realistic depiction of light and shadows reflecting off his face make it look very realistic. However, that isn’t the reason why this portrait is so special. If you have a look at portraits or depictions of people from African descent during the 18th century you’ll find some things that may disturb you. They are often depicted in ways that exaggerate their facial features in unnatural ways and are often never the subject of any painting, reduced to the background leaving the white man or woman the center of attention.

If you look closely at this portrait and compare it to William’s other portraits you’ll find that Diallo is illustrated as an equal to the white English people. This portrait is first to depict an African Muslim ex-slave that uses the conventions of British portraiture that were common around this time. This is represented in his posture and frontal direction in his position.

Also, another thing to note is that when Diallo agreed to the portrait, he said he’ll do it as long as he is depicted in his traditional garb. But Diallo did not have access to the garb at the time he simply described what the garb looked like, and so what you see is the artist’s interpretation of Diallo’s description. To complete his look, finally, Diallo had hung this red book around his neck for William to illustrate. This is the book is the one of three Quran’s Diallo had written purely from memory.

What is so amazing about this story is that Diallo wasn’t concerned with beautifying himself for the portrait like any of us today would do when taking a picture, but rather he wanted to represent his culture, religion and himself through this image. He didn’t lose his true identity as an African Muslim over two hard years of slavery.

The life of Mansa Musa

The Extraordinary Life of Mansa Musa, the Wealthy African Muslim King

Before Jeff Bezos (current wealthiest man in the world), before Bill Gates and before Warren Buffett there was Mansa Musa (1280 – 1337).

‘Mansa’ meaning “Sultan” (king) or “emperor” is the title given to Musa Keita, the tenth king of the West African Islamic Mali Empire. He ruled Mali from 1312-1337. In this period the Mali kingdom was said to have the largest produce of gold in the world. This lead to Mansa Musa to be one of the richest people in history. He was known to have been enormously wealthy; reportedly as being inconceivably rich by contemporaries.

A Devout Muslim, he would spend much time fostering the growth of Islam within his empire. He wanted Mali to become the central hub of knowledge for Islam in Africa so he wanted to attract as much attention to the Mali empire as possible. So he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in the likes the world has never seen.

Mansa Musa embarked on a 4000-mile journey to Mecca with a caravan that stretched as far as the eye can see. The number varies across different sources, with some reporting 60,000-strong caravan consisting of attendants, camels, slaves and etc. His caravan men were all wearing expensive brocade and Persian silk.  They each carried with them gold staffs, had there own organised horses and handled bags. His slaves also carried gold with them. Mansa Musa provided all necessities feeding his entire company including the animals. Ibn Khaldun later interviewed one of the emperors travelling companions. The man claimed that the emperor would entertain them with rare foods and confectionery.

Not only would he spend his wealth on his caravan and it’s attendants but he would also give away his gold to any poor person he would meet on his route to Mecca.  It was said that he gave so much gold away and spent so much of his gold in Cairo in particular, the city underwent mass inflation which destabilised the economy and took years to recover. Tales of his wealth spread to Europe. Everywhere he went he would build mosques and universities so much so that It was said that he would build a mosque every Friday.

Mansa Musa
1375, Catalan Atlas depicts the African Muslim King

He finally came back to his home country after a year with scholars and architects to build mosques and universities to spread the knowledge of Islam across his kingdom. He urbanised cities such as Timbuktu and built a legendary mosque called Djinguereber Mosque which still stands till this day. After his 25 years in power, Mansa Musa died in 1337 leaving behind a legacy that was legendary and put Mali on the world map. It also helps to erase any stereotypes that there were no successful African kingdoms and that civilisation stemmed from foreign invaders or traders.

Who was Sultan Abdul Hamid II

Who was Sultan Abdul Hamid II

Sultan Abdul Hamid II was the last great Caliph to have ruled the Muslim world.

Born in 1842, Abdul Hamid ruled the Ottoman Caliphate for 33 years, from 1876 to 1909.

He is renowned for reviving the zeal of the Muslim world at a time the Caliphate was falling to European encroachment and nationalism. By instilling the love of Islam into the hearts of his people, he was able to unify their ranks and repel any potential division.

During his reign he paid off 90% of the Caliphate’s debts and built several universities, libraries and schools.

He also famously renovated Makkah and Madinah and went to great lengths to uphold the sanctity of the two Holy cities. He established hospitals, barracks and infrastructure within them and ensured they were well safeguarded. He also equipped Makkah with a modern water system to protect the precinct from relentless flooding.

In the 1800’s he commenced the construction of the Hijaz railway which ran through Istanbul, Palestine, Syria and ended in Madinah. He also strategically ensured that the rail tracks were incompatible with European trains to protect the Holy Cities from any potential European invasion.

His expertise in both politics and leadership was in fact noted by many of his contemporary rivals. German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II stated that “I have learned the game of politics from Abdulhamid.”

English Admiral Lord John Fisher also described Sultan Abdülhamid as being the “Most skillful and quick thinking diplomat in all of Europe.”

He vehemently resisted European imperialism with an iron fist and fiercely fought to protect Palestinian lands from the hands of corruption. When the founder of the Zionist movement Theodor Herzl offered to give 150 million pounds of gold in exchange for some land in Palestine, Sultan Abdul Hamid II replied:

“I advise Dr. Herzl not to take any further steps in his project. I cannot give away a handful of the soil of this land for it is not my own, it is for all the Islamic Nation that fought for the sake of this land and watered it with their blood. The Jews may keep their millions. If the Islamic Caliphate is one day destroyed then they will be able to take Palestine without a price. But while I am alive, I would rather push a sword into my body than see the land of Palestine cut and given away from the Islamic State. This will not be. I will not start cutting our bodies while we are alive”
(The diary of Theodore Herzli, Vol. 1)

He upheld his firm stance to safeguard Palestine up until his overthrowal by the secular Young Turks in 1909. He fought against their bid to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and was consequently exiled because of this.

“I quit being Caliph because of the oppression and threats by the Young Turks. This group insisted that I approve the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. I rejected this proposition. They finally offered 150 million British gold pieces. I rejected this as well and I told them: ‘I would never agree with you even if you offer not 150 million British gold but all the gold in the entire world. I served the Muslim community for more than 30 years. I did not let my forefathers down. Following my final response, they agreed on my dethronement and sent me to Thessaloniki. I pray to Allah, I did not accept to establish a new state on Palestinian lands on the Ottoman State and the Islamic community.”

After being forced into house arrest, he lived to witness the domain he once ruled suffer tremendously at the hands of European colonialists. They violently devoured the resources of the Muslim world and instilled division into their ranks.

He famously once stated that “Had I been ruling the Ottoman Empire I would have kept the Europeans fighting each other, and Muslims could have continued to live in peace.”

On February 10th, 1918 he woke up for the Fajr drawn prayer and washed himself. He held his wife’s hand, kissed her and supplicated for her. He then proclaimed “Allah! Allah!” in a loud voice and passed away.

He was laid to rest in a mausoleum in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, beside his grandfather Mahmud II and his uncle Abdülaziz.

May Allah have mercy on the great Sultan Abdul Hamid II and grant him the highest ranks of Paradise for his service to the Muslim Ummah.


Ottoman Records and Archives.

Some info sourced from Professor Yakoob Ahmed (Ottoman Historian- Istanbul University)

The Great Women of Islam

The Great Women of Islam

The contributions of women in Islam is indisputable. Some women have had a great role and status in Islam and are, therefore, revered and appreciated in Islamic history.

The Prophet ﷺ said:

“Sufficient for you among the women of mankind are Mariam bint ‘Imran, Khadijah bint Khuwailid, Fatimah bint Muhammad and Asiyah the wife of Fir’awn.”

Al Tirmidhi (Sahih)

The Prophet has also mentioned a fifth woman and that is Aisha, whereby he ﷺ said:

“The superiority of ‘Aishah to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (the most popular signature dish at the time) to other kinds of food.”

Al-Nisai (Hasan)

Here are some of the greatest Muslim women in Islamic history in more detail.So who are these women and why are they so special?

1. Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“The best of its women is Khadijah bint Khuwailid, and the best of its women is Mariam bint ‘Imran (Virgin Mary)”

Al-Tirmidhi (Sahih)

Khadijah was the first wife of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. She was a wealthy merchant and was able to successfully run the business her late father left her. Despite her wealth, she always helped the poor and made sure to support all her family. Khadijah was the biggest advocate of the Prophet ﷺ. She was there for the Prophetﷺ when the revelation came to Him for the first time. She always stood by Himﷺ, despite people going against his message of Islam in the beginning.

Following the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, she went through a great amount of suffering and undertook many sacrifices to support his mission. The Prophet never forgot her great service to himself and the Islamic faith. He would in fact always remind others of her great favor years after her passing.
Aisha says in a narration:

“….The Prophet (ﷺ) used to mention her (Khadija) very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadija. When I sometimes said to him, “(You treat Khadija in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth except Khadija,” he would say, “Khadija was such-and-such, and from her I had children.”

2. Aisha Bint Abu Bakr

Aisha was the wife of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq. She is one of the most renowned Mothers of the believers and is considered one of the greatest scholars of Islam.

Many narrations of the Prophet ﷺ are narrated by Aisha due to her proximity to the Messenger and her great understanding of the Quran and Islam.

The Prophet ﷺ was once asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Who amongst all the people is the dearest to you?”He replied, “Aisha”.
The Companion then asked, “Out of the men?”
He replied: “Her father.”
Sahih Muslim

Many companions would always go to Aisha for consultation in religious matters, her intellect and scholastic abilities are a role model for women. Aisha’s status in Islam breaks the stereotype that only men can be scholars of Islam.

3. Maryam Bint Imran (Virgin Mary)

Maryam, the mother of Jesus, Eesa, is one of the most revered women in Islam. Her story features in detail in the Quran, and she, in fact, has an entire chapter named after her.

The Quran actually sheds light on the story of Maryam prior to her birth, whereby we learn of her mother’s supplication for a righteous child.
“But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ].”
(Quran 3:36)

And surely Maryam lived on to dedicate her life to worshipping Allah. Her immense piety is in fact reiterated in the Quran on multiple occasions.
“So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.”
(Quran 3:37)

“And [the example of] Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.
(Quran 66:12)

Despite all the hardships she faced from people accusing her chastity she remained steadfast and obeyed Allah with unceasing faith.

4. Aasiyah the Pharaoh’s wife

Another woman who is given great stature in Islam is the wife of Pharaoh, Aasiyah. Despite being the wife of one of the greatest tyrants, she still believed in Allah. She chose leave all the wealth and accepted to be tortured by the Pharaoh for believing in Allah.

In the Quran, Allah refers to her as an “example for the believers”. Allah also makes mention of her supplication for a Palace in Paradise near Allah.

“And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.”

(Quran 66:11)

5. Fatimah Bint Muhammad

Fatimah is the daughter of Prophet Muhammadﷺ from his first wife Khadijah. She was known to be the biggest supporter of her father and she accompanied him from the beginning of his journey as a Prophet. She is a role model of faith, humility, purity, sacrifice and patience. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to stand up when she’d come into the room and kiss her forehead.

He ﷺ said:
“Fatimah is a part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry.”

She was nicknamed “Al-Zahra” by the Prophet, which means “The Splendid One”. She also married the cousin of the Prophet, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, and gave birth to four children, Hassan, Hussain, Zainab and Um Kulthum. She lived a life of simplicity and often experienced great hardship and poverty.
The Prophet also informed her on his deathbed that she would be a leader of the women in Paradise.
These were women distinguished by sabr who found the true friendship of Allah through their unfailing steadfastness in the face of grinding sacrifices.

May Allah elevate the ranks of these great women and guide us to follow in their noble footsteps.

Who was Imam Shamil?

Who was Imam Shamil?

Long before Khabib.

Dagestan was home to a fighter far greater and powerful in rank.

His name was Imam Shamil. And he was one of the greatest warriors to emerge from Dagestan in the 1800’s.

He was born in 1797 to an Avar family in the village of Gimri, Dagestan, at a time Russia was expanding into the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Originally named Ali, he was often sick as a child, and was thus renamed “Shamil” in hopes a new found name would grant him health.

As a young boy, he would spend his days gaining Islamic knowledge under the town’s Sheikh. And by the age of 20, he had travelled to Syria and mastered several Islamic sciences.

Upon returning home to Dagestan, he joined the resistance against Russian forces that sought to expand into his country.

However after being injured in the battle of Gimri in 1832, he retreated to the mountains in order to recover.

After recovering in 1834, and also after two of the subsequent Imams were killed in battle, Shamil was appointed as the new Imam and leader of the Dagestani army.

Due to his towering height, strong build and immense Islamic knowledge, he swiftly attained the trust of his people.

He was also able to strategically reorganise and unify the Muslim ranks throughout the Caucasus. The townspeople honoured him greatly and would always rush to accommodate his fighters. He signified a beam of light for Caucasian autonomy and provided hope of long awaited peace.

He was also able to rectify many of the social vices of the time and bring his people closer to Islam.

From 1834 to 1859 he continued to fight defiantly against the Russian forces, despite their advanced military equipment. News of his ability to forestall the gigantic Russian empire’s expansion soon spread across the world.

He was known as a man of bravery, courage and virtue. A man who would never surrender.

In 1859, his resistance however slowly lost grounding due to internal tribal conflicts and he was eventually captured by the Russian army.

He was taken prisoner by Russian forces and placed in a ten year exile under strict supervision in a small city near Moscow.

Ten years later, he was granted permission to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, for the second time in his life. Following his pilgrimage, he visited the city of Madinah and subsequently died there in 1871. He was buried in Al-Baqi cemetery with many of the family and companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

May Allah have mercy on Imam Shamil and may his story serve as a legacy for Muslims around the world.

The Life of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal

The Life of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was born in 164 AH in Baghdad. He studied under the great Imam Shafii as well as one of the two greatest students of Imam Abu Hanifa – Qadhi Abu Yusuf. May Allah be pleased with them all. It was narrated he had memorised 1 million Ahadeeth and was known, not only for Fiqh and Hadith, but also exceptional Adab (manners).

The imam was highly praised by his teacher, Imam Shafii (may Allah be pleased with him) who Imam Ahmad and many others considered to be the mujadid (reviver) of the second Islamic century.

Imam Shafii said, 

“I left Baghdad and I did not leave behind me someone more pious, cautious (regarding doubtful matters), understanding (in fiqh) and knowledgable than Ahmad.”

Imam Shafii said,

“Imam Ahmad is an authority in 8 fields – Hadith, Fiqh, Language, Quran, Faqr (poverty), Zuhd (asceticism), Wara (being cautious) and the Sunnah”.

Despite all of the above this, he is most well remembered and recognised for his standing in Al-Mihna (the trials) where was amongst the only scholars who openly defended the religion against the Caliph at the time.

Al-Mihna (The Trials)

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was in Baghdad during the time of the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun, who reigned from 813-833. Although al-Ma’mun was vital to the establishment of Baghdad as an intellectual center, he was heavily influenced by a group known as the Mu’tazila.

Mu’tazili philosophy championed the role of rationalism in all aspects of life, including theology. Thus, instead of relying on the Quran and Sunnah to understand God, they relied on philosophical techniques first developed by the Ancient Greeks. Chief among their beliefs was that the Quran was a created book, as opposed to the un-created literal word of Allah.

Al-Ma’mun believed in the Mu’tazili line of thought, and sought to impose this new and dangerous belief system on everyone in his empire – including the scholars. While many scholars pretended to subscribe to Mu’tazili ideas in order to avoid persecution, Imam Ahmad refused to compromise his beliefs.

Al-Ma’mun instituted an inquisition known as the Mihna. Any scholars who refused to accept Mu’tazili ideas was severely persecuted and punished. Imam Ahmad, as the most famous scholar of Baghdad, was brought before al-Ma’mun and ordered to abandon his traditional Islamic beliefs about theology.

When he refused, he was tortured and imprisoned. His treatment at the hands of the political authority was extremely severe. People who witnessed the torture commented that even an elephant could not have handled the treatment that Imam Ahmad was subject to. Despite all of this, Imam Ahmad held to traditional Islamic beliefs, and thus served as an inspiration for Muslims throughout the empire.

His trials set the precedent that Muslims do not give up their beliefs regardless what the political authority imposes on them. In the end, Imam Ahmad outlived al-Ma’mun and his successors until the Caliph al-Mutawakkil ascended in 847 and ended the Mihna. Imam Ahmad was again free to teach the people of Baghdad and write.

During this time, he wrote his famous Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, one of the largest available collections of hadith that served as the basis of his school of legal thought, the Hanbali Madhab.

To read more on Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s life go to:

Never before seen photos from the Malê slave revolt

“Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research is a research institute which aims to instill conviction and inspire contribution based on mainstream Islamic texts.”

They asked God to protect and forgive them.

These are never-before-seen documents from the Malê slave revolt in Brazil, 1835.

They document the spiritual struggles of the West African Muslim slaves who fought to regain their independence on the 27th of Ramadan.

The documents reveal a commitment to preserving and embodying their religious knowledge despite the intense oppression.

Though the revolt ultimately failed, it is remembered as one of the most significant slave uprisings in the history of the Americas

Many of these letters between key figures in the uprising include powerful prayers, asking for freedom and forgiveness.


To Read More:

Du’as of the Enslaved: The Malê Slave Rebellion in Bahía, Brazil 


Who was Imam Al Shafii

Who was Imam Al Shafii?

Imam Shafii was born in the Gazza in the year 150 AH, the same year that Imam Abu Hanifa died. He was an offspring of the House of the Prophet ﷺ.

He laid down the foundations of fiqh in his Risala, which he said he revised and re-read eighty times, then said:

“Only the book of Allah ﷻ is perfect and free from error.”

At the age of two, his mother took him to the Hijaz, where he grew up among her Azdi Yemeni relatives. She then moved him to Makkah later on. He was skillful in archery early on in his life, then he took to learning language and poetry until he devoted himself to fiqh, beginning with hadith. His mother could not afford paper so he would write his lessons on any scrap that could find. The Imam memorised the Quran at the age of 7, and Imam Malik’s Muwatta at the age of ten. He received permission to give fatwa at the age of 15.

Imam Shafii went to see Imam Malik in Medina at the age of 13. Imam Shafii said that Imam Malik was his teacher and he also learnt from Muhammad ibn-Hassan (the student of Imam Abu Hanifa). Imam Shafii died in the year 204 AH at the age of 54 in Cairo, Egypt.

Vision and Cameras

Vision, Light and Optics: Discovered by Muslims.

A ninth-century Muslim polymath, known as Al-Kindi was the first person to question the Greek theories of vision. The Greeks believed that rays came out of our eyes (a little like laser technology) and this allowed us to see. However, Al Kindi stated that our visual cone is not made up of discrete rays but rather it is a volume of continuous radiations in three dimensions.

Al Kindi was “one of the twelve giant minds of history1, as stated by the 16th century Italian physician and mathematician Geronimo Cardno. Al Kindi examined vision with and without a mirror. He spoke of how light rays came in a straight line, the effect of distance and angle on sight and about optical illusions.

He wrote two disquisitions on physiological and geometrical optics which were used by other scholars including German physicist Witelo and English scholar Roger Bacon. Al Kindi’s work was so profound that various English scholars and others in the field repeatedly referred to his work.

The questioning of how our vision works was continued by Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, who built on Al-Kindi’s work. Ibn al-Haytham, was a Muslim scientist who revolutionised vision, optics and light. In the tenth century, Ibn al-Haytham eventually found that vision was possible due to the refraction of light rays.

Ibn al-Haytham was born in Basra, Iraq, in 965. The story of how he reformed the understanding of light and vision began when he was summoned by the ruling caliph in Cairo to control the Nile’s unpredictable flood. Upon arriving and assessing the situation, Ibn al-Haytham found that this challenge he had agreed to complete was in fact impossible. The Caliph at the time was brutal and out of fear of the wrath that would occur due to his failure, Ibn al-Haytham pretended he was mad! For his own protection, the Caliph placed him under house arrest and this 10-year imprisonment led to the world-renowned discoveries that modern science still follows.

In his darkened room, Ibn al-Haytham saw light projecting through a pinhole and this helped him realise that light rays that are emitted from objects enter our eyes.

Next, he began experimenting within the room and “camera obscura” and showed how light enters eyes in the shape of a geometric cone of vision. He further experimented with lenses and mirrors.

Figure 1: Ibn al Haytham’s camera obscura in Cairo, Egypt.
This illustration shows how light shines through a small hole in the darkened room, projecting an inverted image on the opposite sheet. He called this “Qamara”, the world’s first Camera Obscura.

These developments were published in the acclaimed Book of Optics which he wrote between 1011 and 1021. This book was translated in many languages, including Latin, influencing the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Roger Bacon and Johannes Kepler. Contemporary society relies on this accurate understanding of light and vision, which was founded by the Muslim scientist Ibn al-Haytham, over a thousand years ago.

Figure 2: The illustration at the front of Al-Haytham’s 1572 Latin edition of Book of Optics

Ibn al-Haytham also realised that his senses were prone to error and thus he began scientific methods of variation, testing, verification and experimentation to ensure that his findings were all accurate. This was unusual at the time as physics was without experiment, much like philosophy. His methods of investigation later became known as the crucial modern scientific method of research.

“He, Ibn al-Haytham, was the greatest Muslim physicist and student of optics of all times. Whether it be in England or far away Persia, all drank from the same fountain. He exerted a great influence on European thought from Bacon to Kepler.”

George Sarton in his History of Science.

Kamal al Din al Farisi, a Muslim persian mathematician built on Ibn al-Haytham’s work. Al Farisi experimented with a glass sphere filled with water, to try to understand and explain the colours of the rainbow. He used this sphere as a model of a raindrop and showed that sunlight bent twice through the droplet.

Figure 3: Notes and sketch by 13th century Kamal al-Din al-Farisi depicting the anatomy of the eye. The text identifies the role of the brain when interpreting the image on the retina of the eye. Based on Al-Haytham’s ideas.

Ibn al-Haytham’s dark chamber which he named “camera obscura” formed the basis of optical devices such as cameras. His distinguished research paved the path for experimental science and the rational perspectives of later scholars.

Unfortunately, Al Haytham’s contributions were disregarded since his death. When his books were translated to Latin, he was not referred to by his real name but rather “Alhazen”. Changing the names of Muslim scholars to one that is more European sounding often occurred during the European Renaissance, with aims of discrediting Muslims and their contributions within the wider world.

A crater on the moon is named Alhazen in honor of Hasan Ibn Al Haytham’s vast contributions on vision and camera developments.

Nevertheless, the brilliant minds of these Muslim scholars inspired many generations and continues to be a source of motivation for others. Indisputably, without their research, especially Ibn Haytham’s discoveries, the modern world of science as we know it today, would not exist.


Figure 1: Illustration from 1001 Inventions, ISBN-10: 1426209347

Figure 2: Book of Optics, Latin edition, front cover.

Figure 3: Kamal al-Din Farisi’s autograph manuscript, Tanqih al-Manazir, Adilnor Collection.

“Ibn al-Haytham.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2012.

Morgan, M. (2007). Lost History. Washington D.C. : National Geographic Society.

Masood, E. (2006). Science and Islam. Icon Books.

Sabra, A. I., trans., The Optics of Ibn al-Haytham. Books I-II-III: On Direct Vision. English Translation and Commentary. 2 vols, Studies of the Warburg Institute, vol. 40, London: The Warburg Institute, University of London, 1989.

Salih, H., Al-Amri, M., and El-Gomati, M., The miracle of light, in A World of Science (UNESCO), A World of science, vol. 3, no. 4, October-December 2005, pp. 2-7.

1S. M. Ghazanfar, Author of Medieval Islamic Economic Thought

The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization by Salim T.S. Al-Hassani

The life of Imam Malik Bin Anas

The life of Imam Malik Bin Anas

Imam Malik Bin Anas, born in the year 93 AH (after Hijra) in the city of Madina. Imam Malik was the founder of the second school of Islamic legal thought, the Maliki school of thought and was the second of the four great Imams of Islam.

Imam Malik was of Yemeni origin. He was described as being very tall and imposing in stature. He had very fair hair. He also had a huge beard and big blue eyes. Imam Malik studied under very acclaimed scholars and teachers, one of them being Imam Abu Hanifa. This explains the many years of peace and mutual respect that existed between the Maliki school and the Hanafi school.

The Imam began studying at the very young age of ten. He was dedicated to learning about Hadiths that he would often wait outside in the hot sun to ask his teacher a question about a Hadith he learned about during class. He also loved Medina and the prophet so much that he refused to ride a camel in the city because he considered it to be disrespectful to lift his body off the ground while the prophet was in the ground.

At the age of 21, he became a Mujtahid. Meaning that he has reached a status where he can look at raw Quran and raw Hadith and give a ruling on a specific issue. One of his most memorable achievements was his role in the gathering of thousands of Hadiths to make the golden chain. These Hadiths are some of the most authentic Hadiths that exist today. His students put these Hadiths in a book called ‘Al Muwatta’.

Although some people thought that Imam Malik got along pretty well with the state officials of Medina, however, this is far from the truth. The Imam endured a trial at the hand of the caliph at the time ‘Abu Ja’far al-Mansur’. This started when a politically motivated question was asked to Imam Malik. The question was if a man was forced to divorce his wife and he divorced her, would the divorce count?

The Imams response was ‘The divorce of the coerced does not take effect’. Due to its political application to the coerced pledged (bay’a) to the caliph then in effect, the Imam was forbidden to say this. A spy then came and asked the Imam the same question to test him and the Imam responded the same.

The governor of Medina (the cousin of the caliph at the time) seized Imam Malik and lashed him until his arms were dislocated and passed out. Imam Malik persisted even after being shaved and put on the back of a camel and kept on saying ‘The divorce of the coerced is null and void!’. When the news reached Ja’far, he released Imam Malik.

Imam Malik was highly respected amongst the scholars. Even the first Imam Abu Hanifa would recommend scholars of Medina to Imam Malik saying: ‘If there is any excellence in them it lies in the fair-haired, blue-eyed youth.’  He remained respected until his death at the age of 90 in the year 179 AH (after Hijra).