Article by Frans X. Cassar
1 Dr. Muhammad Amâra Mustafa Amâra (عمارة دمحم (the Egyptian Islamic thinker (1350 – 1441) – (1931 – 2020) was author, scholar, member of the Islamic Research Centre in Al-Azhar, member of the Senior Scholars Council of Al-Azhar, member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Egypt, and editor-in-chief of Al-Azhar magazine until June 16, 2015.
2 Sharia is the religious law forming part of Islamic tradition derived from the religious precepts of Islam as in the Quran and the Hadith.
3 Abdul Hamid II (ثانی الحميد عبد] ,(21 September 1842 – 10 February 1918] was the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire – the last Sultan to exert effective control over the fracturing state.
4 Mamelukes were slave soldiers members of one of the armies of slaves established during the Abbasid era that later won political control of several Muslim states. Under the Ayyubid sultanate, a Sunni Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, Mameluke generals used their power to establish a dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517.
5 The Mongol invasions and conquests took place during the 13th and 14th centuries, creating history’s largest contiguous empire – The Mongol Empire, which by 1300 covered large parts of Eurasia. Historians regard the Mongol devastation as one of the deadliest episodes in history. In addition, Mongol expeditions may have spread the bubonic plague across much of Eurasia, helping to spark the Black Death of the 14th century.
6 The Umayyad Caliphate (AD 661–750) was the second of the four major Caliphates established after the death of Mohammed. The third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (r. 644–656), was also a member of the Umayyad clan. The family established dynastic, hereditary rule with Muawiya who became the sixth caliph. The region of Syria remained the Umayyads’ main power base thereafter with Damascus as capital. The Umayyads continued the Muslim conquests, incorporating the Transoxianan, Sindh, the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula (Al Andalus) into the Muslim world. The dynasty was eventually overthrown by the Abbasids in 750. Survivors of the dynasty established themselves in Cordoba which, in the form of an emirate and then a Caliphate, became a world centre of science, medicine, philosophy and invention, ushering in the period of the Golden Age in Islam.
7 Harun al-Rashid. [الرشيد هارون) [Born 763/766) became the fifth Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty (r. 786–809) and went on to become its most famous and celebrated leader whose empire extended from modern Morocco to India. Before becoming caliph, he invaded the Byzantine Empire gaining the epithet ‘al-Rashid’, [‘the Orthodox’, ‘the Just’ and ‘the Guided’] and extracted tribute from Empress Irene, who paid it under a peace treaty. When Irene was deposed in 802, her usurper, Nikephoros I, upon coming to the throne, (r. 802–811) rejected her treaty and wrote an irreverent letter to Harun ar-Raschid saying: “From Nikephoros, the Byzantine King of Byzantines, to Ar-Rashid the King of the Arabs: That woman put you, your father and your brother in the place of kings and put herself in the place of a commoner. I put you in a different place and am preparing to invade your lands and attack your cities, unless you repay me what that woman paid you. Farewell!” Harun was so incensed that he wrote the following letter on the back of the Byzantine Emperor’s letter itself: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate, from the servant of Allah, Harun, Commander of the Faithful, to Nikephoros, the Byzantine dog. I have understood your letter and I have your answer. You will hear from me but will see me with your own eyes.” Following this, Harun assembled his army at Raqqa in Northern Syria and on 11 June 806 invaded the Byzantine province of Cappadocia. The Abbasids met no opposition capturing several towns and fortresses. Byzantine losses forced Nikephoros to seek peace terms in which he offered a resumption of tribute payments in exchange for the Abbasids’ withdrawal. In addition to this Harun exacted a humiliating additional personal tax levied on the Emperor, his son and heir as a token of their submission to the Caliph even though almost immediately following Harun’s departure, Nikephoros violated the peace terms by refortifying the sacked frontier forts and stopping tribute payments. However, Harun’s preoccupation with a rebellion in Khurasan and his death three years later prevented a reprisal on a similar scale to 806. The renowned stories in ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ were inspired by Harun and his magnificent court at Baghdad.
8 Abd al-Rahmân I [الداخل الرحمن عبد) [731–788) known historically by the titles al-Dâkhil (‘the Entrant’), Saqr Quraish (‘the Falcon of Quraysh’ and the ‘Falcon of Al Andalus was the founder of the Arab dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries (including the succeeding Caliphate of Cordoba). Abd al-Rahmân was a member of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus and his establishment of a government in Iberia represented a break with the Abbasids, who had overthrown the Umayyads in 750.
9  Al-Fârâbi [872 – 950] [فارابی دمحم بن دمحم نصر ابو [known in the west as Alpharabius] was a renowned early Islamic philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music theorist.  Sa’id ibn Jubayr (665–714) (جبير بن سعيد) was originally from Kufa, in modern-day Iraq. He is held in the highest esteem by scholars of the Shi’a and Sunni Islamic tradition and was considered one of the leading jurists of the time.  Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khawârizmī [خوارزمی موسی بن دمحم]] Latinized as Algorithmi] [c. 780 – c. 850) was a Persian polymath who produced vast influential works in mathematics, astronomy, and geography. Around AD 820 he was appointed as the astronomer and head of the library of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. His treatise on algebra presented the first systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations and he was the first to treat algebra as an independent discipline.  Ibn Battuta [ابطوطة ابن [ full name [الطنجي اللواتي دمحم بن هللا عبد بن دمحم) [1304 – 1369) was a Muslim Berber-Moroccan scholar, jurist and explorer who widely travelled the Old World, largely in the lands of Dar al-Islam, travelling more than any other explorer in pre-modern history, totalling around 117,000 km (72,000 miles), surpassing the Chinese explorer Zheng He [1371- 1433] with about 50,000 km (30,000 miles) and the Venetian Marco Polo [1254 – 1324] with 24,000 km (15,000 miles). Over a period of thirty years, he visited most of the Old World, including Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China and the Iberian Peninsula. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled [الرحلة’ [The Rihla’ [The voyage].  Bin Al-Haytham, full name [الهيثم بن الحسن بن الحسن، علي أبو] [c. 965 – c. 1040) Latinized as Alhazen was a Muslim Arab mathematician, astronomer, and physicist of the Islamic Golden Age. He also wrote on philosophy, theology and medicine. Born in Basra, he spent most of his productive period in the Fatimid capital of Cairo and earned his living authoring various treatises and tutoring members of the nobilities. Sometimes he is given the byname al-Baṣrī after his birthplace, or al-Miṣri (of Egypt). He paved the way for the modern science of physical optics. Known as ‘the father of modern optics’ for his significant contributions to the principles of optics and visual perception in particular mostly for his most influential work is titled Kitâb al-Manâẓir [المناظر كتاب’ [Book of Optics”), written during 1011–1021, which survived in a Latin edition. He was the first to explain that vision occurs when light reflects from an object and then passes to one’s eyes. He was also the first to demonstrate that vision occurs in the brain, rather than in the eyes. Building upon a naturalistic, empirical method pioneered by Aristotle in ancient Greece, Ibn al-Haytham was an early proponent of the concept that a hypothesis must be supported by experiments based on confirmable procedures or mathematical evidence – an early pioneer in the scientific method five centuries before Renaissance scientists.” 6. Ibn al Nafis [ابن النفيس] was a polymath Arab and his area of expertise included medicine, surgery, physiology, anatomy, biology, Islamic studies, jurisprudence, and philosophy. He is known for being the first to describe the pulmonary circulation of the blood. The work of Ibn al Nafis regarding the right-sided (pulmonary) circulation pre-dates the later work (1628) of William Harvey’s De motu cordis. Second-century Greek physician Galen’s theory about the physiology of the circulatory system remained unchallenged until the works of Ibn al-Nafis, for which he has been described as ‘the father of circulatory physiology. As an early anatomist, Ibn al-Nafis also performed several human dissections during the course of his work, making several important discoveries in the fields of physiology and anatomy. He also gave an early insight into the coronary and capillary circulations. He was also appointed as the chief physician at al-Naseri Hospital founded by Sultan Saladin. Medical textbooks written by Ibn al-Nafis are estimated at more than 110 volumes.
10 Al-Mu’tasim – [باهلل المعتصم] [he who seeks refuge in Allah] – was the eighth Abbasid caliph, ruling from 833 until his death in 842.
11 The Byzantine Emperor Theophil seized the opportunity of the Caliph Al-Mu’tasim being busy in his war and chasing the Khurmis, raided the Islamic borders and attacked the city of Zabtara, the closest Islamic outpost to the Byzantine territory which he burned, destroyed, killed its men and enslaved its women and children. Al-Mu’tasim was full of rage at this event, especially since he was proud of this city because it is the birthplace of his mother. Ibn al-Atheer mentions that a Hashemite woman started shouting when she fell into the captivity of the Byzantines. She was held captive, humiliated, dishonoured, laughed at, and was abused. She cried out “Wa Mu’tasimah!” [Oh Mu’tasim]. The Byzantine king laughed and said, “Never will he come unless he was riding a black and white horse”. The word used in Arabic for a black and a white horse is “ablaq” which is equivalent to the Maltese ‘baqri’. A man heard her scream and ran straight for Mu’tasim informing him about that. Vowing to take revenge on the Byzantines and to destroy the city of Amorium, (Ἀμόριον) the birthplace of the Byzantine Emperor’ father. This was the most important city in Asia Minor. It was a city in Phrygia, situated on the Byzantine military road from Constantinople to Cilicia. Al Mu’tasim mobilized an entire army (buying 80,000 black and white horses). He put himself at its command, laid siege and forcefully stormed on the city of Amorium, and captured it. This city in Asia Minor was founded in the Hellenistic period and flourished under the Byzantine Empire but declined after the Arab sacked it in 838.
12 The origin of the graduation gown and cap: tradition differs about the origin. Some say the black gown is due to the priests and monks in the Middle Ages who represented the clergy of the state and who also carried out the task of teaching students. But if we go back in history we find that the flourishing civilization in Andalusia, dating from the 9th until the 17th century, made it the destination of science students from different European countries who went there to receive learning in various branches of knowledge, including philosophy, medicine, engineering, astronomy and others, at the hands of Arab and Muslim professors who illuminated the world with their knowledge. ‘Al-Hakam, Abd-al-Rahman III’s successor, was himself a scholar and patronized learning. He granted munificent bounties to scholars and established twenty-seven free schools in the capital. Under him, the University of Cordova, founded in the principal mosque by Abd-al-Rahman III, rose to a place of pre-eminence among the educational institutions of the world. It preceded both al-Azhar of Cairo and the Nizamiyah of Baghdad and attracted students, Christian and Moslem, not only from Spain but from other parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Al-Hakam enlarged the mosque which housed the university, conducted water to it in lead pipes and decorated it with mosaics brought by Byzantine artists. He invited professors from the east to the university and set aside endowments for their salaries.’ [Philip Hitti; ‘The Arabs a short history p. 131] Muslims established the first university in Europe in the year AH 227 [AD 841] in the city of Salerno, which was an extension of the Arab Islamic universities in the East and then the universities of Toledo, Seville and Granada. European students visited them to achieve knowledge and later return to their countries wearing the Arab gown as a sign that they graduated from Arab universities. This traditional gown remains to be worn by graduates to this day. ‘The Arabic gown has become a sign of scientific prestige to this day, especially in scientific events, such as discussion of university theses and graduation ceremonies in scientific institutes. As for the cap it was used in the fourth and fifth centuries to distinguish philosophers and artists from the common people. This cap was used by Muslim Arabs in Andalusia to place the Quran on top of it signifying the words [all endued with knowledge is one, the All-Knowing] [Suret Yusuf xii: 76]
13 [م ٍم َعِّلي ْ ْو َق ُك ّلِّ ِّذي ِّعل َوفَ ]. Cairo – Masrawy: an Arabic Egyptian news web portal. Former US President Herbert Hoover met King Farouk I, and he came to Cairo as an envoy from US President Harry Truman at the time and as head of the Famine Emergency Committee, asking His Majesty for material aid to some European countries that were on the brink of famine after World War II, April 27, 1946.