Look: Rare manuscripts dating 400 AH on medicine, astronomy, engineering on display at Sharjah's House of Wisdom

Manuscripts written by scholars and thinkers many centuries ago were collated from various parts of the world and are on display at Takwin: Sciences and Creativity

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Angel Tesorero

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Sat 20 Jan 2024, 1:28 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 3:22 PM

A blend of history and innovation. This is what visitors can see at the latest exhibition at Sharjah’s House of Wisdom, highlighting the legacy of Arab and Muslim scholars in the field of science.

Running until March 6, ‘Takwin: Sciences and Creativity’ offers a comprehensive overview of the rich scientific heritage that has shaped modern thinking, particularly in the fields of engineering, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, and zoology.

Manuscripts written by scholars and thinkers many centuries ago were collated from various parts of the world. Their ideas were developed into concepts and used to establish new theories that time that their names become synonymous with their fields of study.

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The treatises of pioneering figures such as Abu Bakr al-Razi and Ibn Sina commanded recognition in medicine and philosophy. While in the field of engineering, the likes of Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Jazari, and Thabit Ibn Qurra, became prominent personalities.

In zoology, Al-Jahiz and Al-Damiri left indelible contributions and their scientific discipline heavily contributed to human knowledge.

Here are some of the manuscripts to observe at the exhibition:

Invention of alidade

An alidade is an equipment telescopic sights used for determination of direction. A rare manuscript titled 'Treatise on the Complete Alidade and Its Use,' authored by Abu Sahl Wayjan ibn Rustam al-Quhi, who passed away in 405 AH (Hijri year), is on display. Abu Sahl was the first to develop the alidade instrument.

'Tahrir Usul Euclid'

Visitors can also view a manuscript titled 'Tahrir Usul Euclid' (Commentary on Euclid's Elements) by Nasir al-Din Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Tusi (died in 672 AH.) This manuscript reflects the tireless efforts of early scholars in transferring and translating the sciences of other civilisations into Arabic. But they were not only translated by Muslim engineering scholars, they also critically analysed, revised, and refined the concepts and theories.

The is also a rare manuscript from the book ‘Sharḥ Ashkal Al Ta’sis’ by Musa bin Muḥammad Qadi Zada, that illustrates various shapes and discusses rhombuses, parallelograms, and trapezoids.

Crescents and irregular perimetres

Arab and Muslim scholars also wrote complete books on areas, volumes, angles, polygons, and the analysis of geometric problems. The relevant exhibits in this field include a manuscript from the book ‘Sharḥ Nukhbat al-Tuffaha fil Ilm al-Misah’ by Abd al-Latif bin Aḥmad al-Dimashqi al-Kutbi. His book provides a detailed explanation of methods for calculating the areas of various complex shapes, including those resembling crescents or irregular perimetres, supported by illustrative drawings.

Also on display are manuscripts on engineering measurement instruments and symmetrical drawing devices, as mentioned by Abu al-Wafa' al-Buzjani in his letters dating back to the 10th century and in his book ‘Al-A’mal al-Handasiyah,’ which documented the use of rulers and alidades.

Islamic wisdom and creativity

The House of Wisdom is hosting ‘Takwin’ in collaboration with King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) in Saudi Arabia, with support from Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, Department of Government Relations, Sharjah Tourism and Commerce Development Authority, and Sharjah Museums Authority.

Entrance is free.

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