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Understanding IslamIntroduction to IslamSome Basic InformationMuslim BeliefsAbout The Qur'aan IAbout The Qur'aan IIHistory of Muhammed (pbuh)History of ProphetsSermons of Muhammed (pbuh)40 AhadithSome Prominent MuslimsThe Holy Qur'aan
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Some Prominent Muslims

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IMAM ABU HANIFA was the son of a Persian merchant, born in 699 A.C. at Kufa, Iraq. He was named Nu'man. He received his early education in the local Madressa where he learnt the Holy Qur’an. Later, he received training in the Hadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet)and in the Fiqh (the religious law of Islam).

He possessed uncommon intelligence and logical mind which was both sharp and brilliant. His memory was so good that he retained the knowledge he received from his teachers with remarkable accuracy.

Imam Abu Hanifa joined his father's business, wherein he showed scrupulous honesty and fairness.

His agent in another country once sold a consignment of silk cloth on his behalf but forgot to point out a slight defect to the customers. When Abu Hanifa learnt this, he was greatly distressed because he had no means of returning the money to the customers; so he immediately ordered the entire proceeds of the sale of the consignment of silk to be distributed to the poor.

Imam Abu Hanifa was keenly interested in education. He established a school at Kufa, which later became a famous College of Theology. Here the great master, Imam Abu Hanifa, lectured on religious subjects.

Fiqh, or Islamic law was systematically studied by his students under his guidance. A number of his devoted and highly intelligent students worked under him for thirty years, and it is their labour which gave us the Hanafi school of law, one of the four Sunni schools of law followed by a large section of the Muslims.

Imam Abu Hanifa was the most liberal of the four Imams. His system is likewise, the most flexible and adaptable. He saw Islamic law as an organic growth in which changes would be necessary from time to time as new conditions and new social tendencies and ideas demanded. He advocated the use of reason based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah in the consideration of religious questions.

In 763 A.C. al-Mansoor, the Abbasid ruler of Baghdad, offered him the post of Chief Qazi of the State, but the Imam declined to accept it and chose to remain independent.

In his reply to al-Mansoor, the Imam excused himself by saying that he did not regard himself fit for the post offered Al-Mansoor, who had his own ideas and reasons for offering the post lost his temper and accused the Imam of lying.

"If I am lying," the Imam said, "then my statement is doubly correct. How can you appoint a liar to the exalted post of a Chief Qazi?"

Incensed by this reply, the ruler had Imam Abu Hanifa arrested and locked in prison. Even there, Imam Abu Hanifa continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.

In 765 A.C. Imam Abu Hanifa died in prison. So great was the number of people who came to pay their respects to this great scholar that his funeral service was performed six times before he was actually buried.




ABU ABDULLAH Malik bin Anas was born in Medina in the year 714 A.C. His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Medina after embracing Islam.

He received his education in Medina, which was the most important seat of Islamic learning, and where lived the immediate descendants of the Companions of the Holy Prophet.

Imam Malik was highly attracted to the study of law, and devoted his entire interest to the study of Fiqh. It is said that he sought out over three hundred Ta-bi-een (those who saw the Companions of the Holy Prophet). From them he acquired the knowledge of the Holy Prophet's sayings, Hadith, (plural Ahadith)- and the Holy Prophet's Deeds, - Sunnah.

Imam Malik studied Fiqh under the guidance of nearly one hundred learned Shaikhs who were residing in the city of the Prophet at the time.

Among Imam Malik's writings is the great work entitled Kitab-al-Muwatta, which is the earliest surviving book of Islamic law and Hadith. It quotes Sayings as well as the practices according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet as observed by Muslims in Medina. Although Imam Malik wrote many treatises dealing with religion and ethics, Kitab-al-Muwatta is acknowledged as the most important among his writings. It is said that Imam Malik had originally recorded ten thousand Ahadith in this book, but in a revised edition the Imam reduced the number to only one hundred and seventy-two.

Imam Malik was famous for his piety and integrity and courageously stood up, and was prepared to suffer, for his convictions. For example, when the governor of Medina demanded and forced people to take the oath of allegiance to Khalifa al-Mansoor, Imam Malik issued a Fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under duress. This resulted in many people finding courage to express their opposition, but the Imam was arrested, found guilty of defiance and publicly flogged.

When al-Mansoor, learnt of this outrage, he apologised to the Imam and dismissed the governor. Sometime later the Khalifa sent him three thousand Dinars for his travelling expenses and invited him to come and reside in Baghdad. Imam Malik refused the offer and indicated that he preferred to continue his residence in Medina where the Holy Prophet was buried.

When the Khalifa Haroun-al-Rasheed visited Medina when he came to perform Hajj, he summoned Imam Malik to visit him and deliver a lecture. The Imam politely refused to go to the ruler but invited him to attend the class of students to whom he delivered regular lectures. The Khalifa, accompanied by his two sons, accepted the invitation and sat among the students to hear the Imam's lecture.

Imam Malik died in the year 796 A.C. at Medina and is buried in the famous al-Baqie cemetery in the city of the Prophet.

Imam Malik's followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school based on his books which came to be known as the Maliki Madhhab. Malikis are mostly found in North and West Africa, - Tunis, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.


3. IMAM SHAFI-EE Scholar


ABU Abdullah Muhammad bin Idris descended from the Hashimi family of the Quaraish tribe to which the Holy Prophet belonged. He was born in Ghazza, Syria in 767 A.C., and became famous as Imam Shafi-ee.

He lost his father early in life and was brought up by his mother in very poor circumstances in the city of Mecca. He spent much time among the Bedouins and acquired a very great knowledge of Arabic poetry.

At the age of twenty, he went to Medina and remained there as a student of Imam Malik till the lather’s death in 796 A.C.

He also came into contact with other learned men from whom he acquired knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Imam Shafi-ee possessed a vey sharp memory and knew the whole of Imam Malik's Muwatta by heart.

In 804 A.C. he visited Syria and from there proceeded to Egypt where he settled. As pupil of Imam Malik he was received with great honour and respect by the Egyptians.

In 810 A.C. he went to Baghdad and there he was surrounded by a large number of students who were eager to acquire knowledge of the faith and practice of Islam from him.

The Shafi-ee school of law emerged from these students who practised and propagated the views and rulings of Imam Shafi-ee through their writings and preachings.

Imam Shafi-ee wrote several books, the most well known of which is called Kitab-al-Umm, which is a collection of writings and lectures of the Imam. A number of his students have also collected his writings, lectures and rulings in the form of books, or quoted him in their books.

Baghdad in Iraq and Cairo in Egypt were the chief centres of Imam Shafiee's activities. It is from these two cities that teachings of the Shafi-ee school spread in the 9th century of the Christian era. During the time of Sultan Salahuddeen (Saladin), the Shafi-ee Madhhab was the most prominent in Egypt, and to this day the Imam of the Al-Azhar Musjid is always a Shafi-ee and the Shafi-ee Madhhab is industriously studied along with that of the other three schools of the Sunnis.

Imam Shafi-ee, according to Sayed Ameer Ali, was "a man of strong and vigorous mind, better aquatinted with the world than Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik... He formed, from the materials furnished by Imam Jafar Sadiq, Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifa, an eclectic school, which found acceptance chiefly among the middle classes". The Shafi-ee Madhab has followers in Northern Africa, partially in Egypt, in Southern Arabia, and the Malayan Peninsula and among the Muslims of Ceylon and the Bombay State in India.

During his life Imam Shafi-ee also suffered from political intrigues. For instance, after studying under Imam Malik in Medina he was sent to fill an office in Yemen, where he was accused of political involvement which resulted in his arrest.

He was taken as prisoner to Haroun al-Rasheed. The Khalifa however found him innocent and the Imam was honourably released. Imam Shafiee died in the year 820 A.C. in Egypt.




AHMED bin Muhammad Hanbal known as ibn Hanbal was born in the city of Baghdad in the year 780 A.C. (164 A.H.). He studied various subjects in his home town and travelled extensively in quest of knowledge.

He was chiefly interested in acquiring knowledge of Ahadith- traditions of the Holy Prophet - and travelled extensively through Iraq, Syria, Arabia and other countries of the Middle East studying religion and collecting traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Returning home from his travels which occupied several years of his early life, he took lessons from Imam Shafiee in the subject of Islamic law (fiqh. He was deeply devoted to the traditional views on religious subjects and opposed innovation of any kind.

The strength of his views was tested when under Khalifa al-Mamun and Khalifa al-Mu’tasim, a kind of 'inquisition court' was created to deal with people - among whom were many acknowledged theologians - who would not for instance profess the doctrine of "the creation of the Qur’an". Imam ibn Hanbal too, suffered as a result when he was arrested and brought in chains before the court. But he patiently submitted to corporal punishment and imprisonment and resolutely refused to deviate from his beliefs.

Under the rule of Khalifa Mutawakkil however, the policy of the government changed and Imam ibn Hanbal's trials came to an end. From then onwards the Imam was accorded honour befitting his greatness and on several occasions he was invited to the court and granted a generous pension.

Imam ibn Hanbal's fame spread far and wide. His learning, piety and unswerving faithfulness to traditions gathered a host of disciples and admirers around him.
He died in Baghdad in the year 855 A.C. (241 A.H.) at the age of 75 years.

Among the works of Imam ibn Hanbal is the great encyclopaedia of Traditions called Musnad, compiled by his son from his lectures and amplified by supplements - containing over twenty eight thousand traditions. His other works include Kitab-us-Salaat, on the Discipline of Prayer and Kitab-us-Sunnah, on the Traditions of the Prophet.

The above books form in the main, the Hanbali school of law, although Imam ibn Hanbal too, did not establish a Fiqh system of his own. His decisions were so highly regarded by his disciples that they began to systematise his legal teachings during his lifetime and his ideas gained recognition by the Sunni sect as one of the four authoritative Madhahb the Hanbali.

In the world of Islam, the Hanbalites to-day represent the smallest group of the four Sunni Madhahb, mostly confined to the Middle East countries. In the 18th century Christian-era, the Hanbali system received a vigorous support from the Wahhabi movement founded by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab (1703-1787 A.C.) who followed the Hanbali school of thought.

The leadership of the Wahhabi movement today is in the hands of the Saudi dynasty who are the autocratic rulers of Hijaz, in the Arabian peninsula.


5. IMAM BUKHARI Collector of Ahadith


IMAM Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Ismaeel was born in 809 A.C. in Bukhara. a town in the eastern part of Turkestan.

His father died while he was still in his infancy and his upbringing was left entirely to his mother, who looked after his health and education very carefully and spared nothing in order to provide him with the best education.

Quite early in life, Imam Bukhari's intellectual qualities became noticeable. He had great piety and an extremely good memory and devotion to learning. It is said that while he was still in his teens he knew by heart seventy thousand Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

In 825 A.C. at the age of 16, he went to Mecca with his mother and enjoyed his stay in the Holy City so much that he decided to prolong his visit in order to benefit from the company of the great Muslim scholars who were always to be found there. At the age of eighteen, he wrote his first book on the subject of the Prophet's Companions and their immediate successors, and later a book on history called "Al-Tarikh-al-Kabir".

Imam Bukhari was very interested in history and the Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet). He sought the company of great scholars in order to learn and discuss the Ahadith of the Holy Prophet. He visited various countries, travelling to Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Basra. Mecca, Medina etc. During his stay in Baghdad, he frequently held discussions with the Imam Ahmed Hanbal (died 855 A.C. ), the founder of the Hanbali school of law.

During all these travels, Imam Bukhari had one aim: to gather as much knowledge as possible and to make the greatest possible collection of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet. He wrote profusely all the time. He once said that, “l have written about 1800 persons, each of whom had a Saying of the Prophet, and I have written only about those who have passed my test of truthfulness."

The Imam possessed one of the most amazing memories, and his contribution to the science of the Ahadith remains unequalled. He wrote several books on Ahadith but in his book: "Al-Jami-al-Sahih': the Imam had recorded all the Sayings of the Prophet which he found to be genuine after thorough examination and scrutiny. He spent sixteen years in research and examined more than sixty thousand Sayings from which he selected some 7,275 Sayings whose genuineness and accuracy he established beyond the slightest doubt. Deducting duplicates, the Imam's collection contain about four thousand distinct Sayings.

Imam Bukhari was extremely charitable in his remarks and opinions about men and scholars. Seldom did he brand the reporter of a false or inaccurate Hadith as a liar or forger, but simply called him "untrustworthy".

His popularity and greatness inspired jealousy in the hearts of reactionary Ulema of his time and he was banished from the land of his birth by the Governor of Bukhara as a result of intrigues against him.

Imam Bukhari died in 869 A.C. at the age of 62 years in a small town near Samarkand, Tadzhikistan which is now in the southern part of U.S.S. of Russia.


6. IMAM AL-GHAZZALI Prolific Writer


REGARDED as one of the greatest Muslim scholars of all times was Abu Hamid Muhammad, famous in the world of learning as al-Ghazzali.

He was born in 1058 A.C. in a village in Khorasan, Iran. He attended the village madressa and as a young man went to the Nizamia Madressa, which was a very famous educational institution in Nishapur. He was a clever and keen student who took interest in all subjects.

His cleverness as a student was commented upon in court circles in Iran and the Grand Vizier took special interest in his progress and encouraged him to devote himself to the pursuit of knowledge.

Al-Ghazzali justified the confidence shown in him by his patron and graduated from the Nizamia Madressa at Nishapur, with distinction.

Later he was appointed as a teacher at the Nizamia College in Baghdad, where he proved very successful in imparting knowledge to the scholars under his care. This valuable gift of sustaining interest of his pupils and passing on his knowledge to them made him so famous that students from all parts of the country flocked to study under him.

Some years later al-Ghazzali left the Nizamia College in order to devote his time and energy in undertaking long journeys in search of truth and knowledge. He travelled far and wide and visited Arabia, Palestine and Syria.

It was in Damascus, Syria, that al-Ghazzali began writing books on religious philosophy which later made him famous throughout the world. He was a prolific writer and he wrote books on a variety of subjects which covered several volumes.
Two of his famous works are entitled:

1. Ahya-ul-Ulaom-ud-Deen - Revival of Religious Sciences.
2. Keemya-e-Sa-adat - Alchemy of Happiness.

Both the above are recognised as important works written on the philosophy of religion of Islam. They have been translated in Urdu and other languages.

Indeed, Imam al-Ghazzali became so great an authority on Islam that he was fondly referred to as the "Hujjat-ul-lslam", Proof of Islam.

He is honoured as a scholar and a saint by learned men all over the world.

Al-Ghazzalli taught his followers to love and serve God, trust in Him and to do good. He enjoined them to realise that man can do nothing without the help of God; but that should not be made an excuse to be lazy and indolent. Man possesses the freedom of choice as far as good and evil actions are concerned, but this freedom does not extend beyond certain limitations.

Imam al-Ghazzali's life was spent in self-sacrificing service of God and his fellowmen. He left behind him a fine example for all men to follow.

He died in 1117 A.C.




Among the most brilliant sons of Islam, the name of a youth in his teens occupies a very high position. Upon the youthful shoulders of this youth fell the responsibility of leading an expeditionary force in a foreign land. His name was Muhammad bin Qasim. His age was seventeen.

In 71 1 A. C. an Arab ship carrying pilgrims from the island of Ceylon was looted off the coast of western India and some pilgrims were made prisoners. To rescue them and to demand reparations from the ruler of Sind who captured the pilgrims, Muhammad bin Qasim was sent by Hujjaj bin Yousuf, the Viceroy of Iraq, on orders of the Khalifa.

Muhammad bin Qasim travelled overland and reached Debal the coastal town of Sind, near Karachi, and presented his demands to Raja Dahir. The Raja resisted the demand and was defeated by the Muslims and his kingdom captured.

Muhammad bin Qasim followed up his initial success with further encounters and penetrated as far as Multan. Within three years, by 714 A.C., the whole of Sind and lower Panjab were brought under Muslim rule.

Muhammad bin Qasim would have added to his conquests but there was a change in the Khilafat and the new Khalifa, who was not favourably disposed towards Hujjaj bin Yousuf, recalled the young conqueror and imprisoned him.

In his conquest of the north-western part of the subcontinent of India, Muhammad bin Qasim did not allow his men to harass the public. His administration made no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. In the conquered territories he reinstated non-Muslim officials to their former positions and some were even appointed as ministers.

"Deal honestly between people and the State. Fix taxes according to the ability of the people to pay," were the permanent instructions he issued to his administrators.

Muhammad bin Qasim was a brave, able and conscientious leader of the Muslim Arabs who discharged his duties with selfless devotion which brought glory to Islam and the Muslims.

It was indeed, a pity that such brilliant and young life should have come to an end in prison in 715 A.C. at the height of his career.

Seldom if ever, history has produced a general so young and yet so able, dignified and disciplined as Muhammad bin Qasim. Still in his teens, he swept like a whirlwind over the whole of Sind and part of Punjab, carrying everything with him.

Indeed, this young man was the pioneer of the Muslim conquest of that part of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, which is known to-day as Pakistan.




Moosa ibn Nusayr, the governor of North Africa was approached by Count Julian of Spain with complaints of cruel treatment by King Roderic. As a result of this the Muslim ruler despatched General Tariq ibn Ziyad with an army of 7,000 soldiers across the Straits to Spain, in 711 A.C.

General Tariq was a seasoned warrior well known for his indomitable courage and bravery. He was also looked upon as a hero by the soldiers who were proud to serve under his leadership.

The narrow stretch of sea separating Spain from the African coast was crossed by Tariq and his men in small boats. They were ready for battle as soon as they landed on the shore.

King Roderic of Spain was both surprised and angry at the daring of the Muslims. Placing himself at the head of a huge army, the king publicly took an oath that he would crush the invaders and throw them into the sea through which they had come.

As Roderic drew nearer to the coast with his formidable army, the Muslim soldiers, began to show uneasiness, for they were on the coast of a strange country and the enemy also heavily outnumbered them.

Tariq at once noticed the uneasiness among his soldiers, but he knew that this was not caused by any feeling of fear, for they were perfectly trained soldiers, and the heroes of many famous battles. They were waiting for his lead to reassure them.

General Tariq acted quickly. Uttering a short prayer to Allah, the General gave orders that will always be remembered in the military history of the world. He ordered that all the boats that brought him and his men across the straits be burnt.

When this was done, he turned to his soldiers and said:

"Brothers in Islam! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and win or die a coward's death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?"

The soldiers gave a mighty cry of "Allahu Akbar" and rushed towards the enemy like a whirlwind driving everything with them.

The Spaniards turned and ran bewildered and defeated leaving the battlefield to the Muslims.

This marked the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Spain in the middle of the 8th century of the Christian era. Muslims ruled the country for hundreds of years so gloriously and well that Moorish Spain became the fountain-head of culture and civilisation for the whole continent of Europe.

General Tariq Ibn Ziyad will ever live in the memory of men for the famous rock on the Spanish mainland still bears his name: Jabal-at-Tarig, (the Mountain of Tariq)- Gibraltar.




RABIAH al-Adawiya, well known in Islamic history as Rabiah Basri was born in 714 A.C. in the city of Basra. Iraq.

She was born in a very poor home and was stolen as a child and sold into slavery by her abductors. Her piety and her sanctity secured her freedom and she retired to a life devoted to prayer and meditation. She gathered around her many disciples and associates who came to seek her advise, or to ask her to pray for them or to listen to her teaching.

Rabiah Basri was devoted completely to asceticism. She cared little for life on earth and its comforts, and preferred seclusion.

She never married. Once a man expressed a desire to marry her. She replied thanking him for his proposal and added that she had no room in her heart for any other love besides Allah's.

Someone asked her why she continued to suffer poverty and did not seek help from her friends, she replied: "I am ashamed to ask for this world's goods from Him to Whom it belongs and how can I seek them from those to whom it does not belong!"

At another time she answered one of her friends: "Does Allah forget the poor because of their poverty or remember the rich because of their richness? Since He knows my state, what have I to remind Him of? What He wills, we should accept".

Many miracles are attributed to her. She became famous for her teachings of love and fellowship of Allah, which she said should be the goal of His lovers. Her mystical words and prayers are expressive of her lofty thoughts, for example:

"0 my Lord, if I worship Thee from fear of Hell, burn me therein, and if I worship Thee in the hope of Paradise, exclude me from it, but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, then withhold not from me Thine Eternal Beauty.''

"O my Lord, the stars are shining and the eyes of men are closed, and kings have shut their doors, and every lover is alone with his beloved and here I am alone with Thee."

Every true lover seeks intimacy with the beloved, she said. In one of her poems she says:

"I have made Thee the Companion of my heart, But my body is present for Those who seek its company, And my body is friendly towards its guests, But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul. "

The mysticism of her teaching is shown in her declaration that she had come from that world and to that world she was going and she ate the bread of this world in sorrow, while doing the work of that world.

In one of her poems she says: "My hope is for union with Thee, for that is the goal of my desire". In another of her verses she declares: "I have ceased to exist and have passed out of self. I have become one with Allah and am altogether His".

Asked how she had attained to the ranks of the saints, Rabiah replied, "By abandoning what did not concern me and by seeking fellowship with Him Who is eternal"

Rabiah Basri is highly esteemed and her teachings quoted by most of the Sufi writers and biographers of the great saints in the history of Islam.

She died in Basra, Iraq in 801 A.C.




HAROUN al-Rasheed, the famous Abbaside Khalifa was born in Baghdad, in the year 760 A.C. He succeeded to the throne of the Khilafat on the death of his father, Khalifa Moosa al-Hadi and became the ruler of the Muslim State in the year 786 A.C.

Haroun was renowned for his enlightened rule and for his wisdom. He was a great patron of the arts, crafts, literature, science and all forms of learning. Every branch of these flourished magnificently during his rule and Baghdad became the fabulous city of material and cultural prosperity. He established and maintained state owned hospitals where members of the public received medical treatment without any cost to themselves.

Haroun al-Rasheed was himself a scholar of repute. He was also a great soldier, brave, courageous and resourceful. The Eastern Roman Empire was subjugated by the Muslims and the Romans had to pay money as tribute in terms of an agreement. The Roman Emperor, Nicephorous refused to honour the agreement by informing the Khalifa that it was degrading for Romans to continue paying the tribute to the Muslims. He threatened war if the Khalifa persisted in his demands.

Haroun al-Rasheed immediately despatched a courier to the Roman court with the message: "I have received your threat. You will see - not read - my reply". Haroun himself led his army to the battlefield and the two armies were locked in a fierce battle at Heraclea. The Romans were defeated and a fresh agreement of peace was signed in terms of which the Romans now had to pay a larger amount each year than was the case in the previous agreement.

Great literary and scientific treasures from many parts of the world were collected by Muslim scholars who were specially sent out in search for them. These were preserved, translated and became part of the Khalifa's magnificent library called Darul-Hikmah (the House of Wisdom). The library was systematically divided into various departments. A renowned scholar and translator named al-Fadl ibn Naubakht, was appointed as the Chief Librarian. A vast number of books in the library were efficiently arranged and catalogued. Book binders were in permanent employment in the library to add beauty and grace to the rare and precious volumes. Among the rare manuscripts preserved in the library were a document written by the Prophet Muhammad's grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, on parchment and the writings of Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Hasan.

The example set by the Khalifa was followed by his ministers, officials and the wealthy people, and we learn that Yahya Barmeki, a minister of Haroun al Rasheed owned a big library which contained a large collection of Persian and Greek manuscripts.

On a visit to Mecca on pilgrimage, his wife Zubaida, drew Haroun al Rasheed's attention to the sufferings of the pilgrims through the lack of water and expressed a desire to do something about it. Haroun al Rasheed went into the matter, and considered the practicability of building an underground canal to transport water to the Holy City. He engaged engineers to undertake the work and at huge cost, fresh water was made to flow to the city of Mecca through an underground canal which is known as the Nehr-e-Zubaida.

A writer's description of the city of Baghdad during the rule of Haroun al-Rasheed will give the reader some idea of the heights of prosperity reached by the capital city of the Muslim Empire: "All provinces of the Empire sent their products by sea or river or along the highways to Baghdad, which had become the centre of the world and the greatest trading port in history. Of this period people said: 'It was one long wedding day and an everlasting feast'. It was so glorious a time that people doubted their good fortune and wondered whether they were dreaming". (Robert Payne in "The Holy Sword").

Haroun al-Rasheed died in the year 809 A.C.


11. ABU BAKR AL-RAZI Experimenter


ABU Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi, was born in 865 A.C. in Iran. He is called al-Razi after the place of his birth, Rayy, near Tehran.

He was a great scholar, who first studied and mastered music and then interested himself in philosophy. It was only at an advanced age that he took up the study of medicine and became one of the most renowned physicians of his time.

Al-Razi was a prolific writer. He wrote many books on medicine, physical science, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. But he is remembered most by the people of the world for his love and interest in medicine and the number of important books he wrote on the subject. H is works were translated in the West and they exercised a remarkable influence on Western scholars, by whom he is remembered to this day by the name of Rhazes.

Al-Razi was first appointed the head of the State hospital in the city of Rayy. Later he was promoted to the post of the Chief Physician of the State Hospital - Bimaristan - at Baghdad, the capital of the Abbaside Khalifahs. Here he won high reputation in both the practice of medicine and surgery.

He was a great investigator in the field of medical research, and his descriptions of the eye, the nose and the heart are considered even to-day as the most complete and authoritative. He was the first to describe smallpox and measles most accurately.

Al-Razi was an original thinker who liked to experiment with new ideas. As the Chief Physician of the State, he was once requested to choose a suitable site for the building of a hospital. Al-Razi went around the city on an inspection tour and had pieces of meat hung in various localities of the city. From these he chose for the hospital site, the spot where the meat showed the least signs of decomposition.

His clinical note-book, which contained detailed notes of experiments which he had made during his lifetime is also regarded as a valuable contribution in the science of healing.

Al-Razi was the author of some two hundred books of outstanding merit. He was the first to write the most accurate essays on contagious diseases. His Kitab al Mansuri, which runs into ten volumes is an Encyclopaedia of Medicine. It was first translated into Latin in the 1480s.

In Al-Hawi, which is al-Razi's chief work in twenty volumes, he has written about every disease known at that period, basing his conclusions upon his own personal observations and long experiences. This work was first translated in Latin in 1542 A.C.

Al-Razi's works continued to remain the source of all chemical knowledge for centuries after his death, - a fine example of a keen original thinker, devoted to the task of alleviating pain and suffering of mankind.

He died in 925 A.C.


12. ABU NASR AL-FARABI Psychologist


ABU NASR Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Farabi was born in the town of Farab in Iran in 870 A.C.

His father was a Turkish nobleman who had formerly been a commanding officer in Turkestan.

Al-Farabi received his early education at Farab and at the age of twenty went to Baghdad, where he acquired higher education and mastered the Arabic language. He studied the logic of Aristotle, and also studied mathematics, astronomy, the natural sciences, chemistry and medicine.

He lived in Baghdad for about forty years, during which he studied and later wrote essays on Philosophy. Towards the latter period of his stay in Baghdad, there was considerable agitation and political and religious unrest in the Muslim world. In less than half a century, there were six new Khalifas. Al-Farabi was a quiet and peaceful man who loved solitude. philosophy and music. He suffered greatly as a result of these troubles, so he left Baghdad and settled in Aleppo, Syria.

Under Emir Sayf-al-Dawla, the city of Aleppo had become the centre of literature and science. The Emir appreciated al-Farabi's worth and tried to win him over by offering him a high salary, but, al-Farabi would only accept sufficient money for his daily needs - four silver dirhem.

Although al-Farabi studied medicine, there is no evidence that he practised medicine. He however wrote a book on the subject of comparison of the human body with the human societies which provide sufficient proof of his medical knowledge.

Al- Farabi's learning covered many fields and he was bold enough even a thousand years ago - to conceive the idea of a single world state. But Al-Farabi was a man of an extremely modest nature. His works began to appear in translations in German, French, Hebrew and Latin towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Al-Farabi was the first person to speak of evolution in psychology. He was the first to recognise the faculty of discerning good and evil by oneself and to preach rational morality. Ibn Sina and al-Razi followed upon this lead and developed philosophical theology. Thus al-Farabi is the founder of a reputed philosophical school of Islam. He did not take any interest in politics and gave up his whole life to science.

Al-Farabi was also a poet and a musician. His poems dealt not only with philosophical subjects but also with the suffering of humanity. His knowledge of music was so great that his book entitled: Kitab-al-Musiga al-Kabir is regarded as the work of undisputed historical value. He was also the inventor of a musical instrument.

Al-Farabi spoke several languages. He used his great gift of intellect in attempting to solve the immense possibility of human intellect, human personality and human systems of knowledge, culture and truth.

He died in Damascus in 950 A.C. at the age of 80 and is buried in the city near the tomb of Amir Muawiya.


13. ALI HUSAIN IBN SINA Medical Doctor


ABU Ali Husain ibn Sina was born in 980 A.C. in Bukhara, in Central Asia. He is known to the western world as AVICENNA. He was perhaps the greatest of that great band of Muslim scholars who in the first few hundred years after the Holy Prophet, raised the reputation of Islamic learning very high.

Ibn Sina was a Persian, the son of a public servant. He spent his early life in Bukhara. A tutor was engaged to instruct him in the Qur’an and Arabic poetry. He learnt very fast and his thirst for knowledge grew more and more.

He studied many subjects such as mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, theology, law and logic. He excelled in any subject he took up.

Later, ibn Sina took up the study of medicine and he soon became famous as a clever doctor. Once the Sultan of Bukhara fell ill, and the royal physicians were not able to find a cure for the illness. The Sultan sent for ibn Sina to attend to him. Soon the ruler was well again. The Sultan was very pleased with the clever young doctor and wanted to reward him. Ibn Sina asked that as a reward he be given the use of the Sultan's library containing a superb collection of the work of the world's greatest scholars. He spent several hours each day in the library studying hundreds of books and adding to his knowledge.

He also spent much of his life travelling in the country studying, lecturing and healing the sick.

As a doctor his theories and methods had a profound effect on the history of medicine, for he wrote an important book called "The Canon of Medicine': which remained the standard text book until the middle of the 17th century. Therein he set out in five parts his knowledge of all branches of medicine. Two parts were devoted to physiology, pathology and hygiene; two to methods of treatment and the last to the preparation of remedies and the author's observations. The most remarkable thing about these parts was the clearness and method with which it was set out. Translations were made of the book into Latin and for centuries all doctors studied Arabic that they might read the works of ibn Sina in the original.

Ibn Sina was the first to discover that water is the carrier of dangerous germs and so responsible for the spread of many diseases. Ibn Sina wrote more than a hundred treatises covering a variety of subjects such as religion, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.

Even greater contribution he made to the study of alchemy, from which was born the science of chemistry. This has had a tremendous effect on the history of world progress. Indeed, ibn Sina may, with justice be called the first chemist in the world.

Ibn Sina's chief work, "The Canon of Medicine" was translated into Latin in 1187 A.C. and soon became the text book for medical education in Europe. In the last thirty years of the fifteenth century this book passed through sixteen editions of which fifteen were in Latin and one in Hebrew. It has also been translated in English.

He died in 1037 A.C. at a comparatively early age of 58.

No one nation can claim the credit or blame for modern scientific advances. Human knowledge is a storehouse in which all nations of the world have contributed their share. And among such great contributors stand the immortal name of Ali Husain ibn Sina, a great medical doctor.




ABU Raihan Muhammad al-Biruni was born in the year 973 A.C. in the Uzbekistan Republic, which is part of the U.S.S.R. today.

Al-Biruni lived at a time when the Muslim Khilafat in Baghdad was on the decline. The authority of the Khalifa was limited to the palace. The great universities, which played an important part in the history and literature of the Arabs a hundred years later had not yet come into existence.

Political changes compelled al-Biruni to leave his native country at the age of 22. He pursued knowledge in its various branches, and learned much of astronomy, mathematics, geography, physics and chemistry. The quotations in his works from Greek writers and philosophers like Homer and Plato prove that he had studied their works.

Al-Biruni wrote a book on the chronology of different nations entitled Atharul Baqiya. In this book al-Biruni intelligently discusses the then debatable theory of the rotation of the earth on its axis and accurately determines the longitudes and latitudes.

Later al-Biruni found himself attached to the court of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazna. It was during his stay there that he came into contact with Indian literature, and he started to learn Sanskrit from some Brahmins who happened to reside in Ghazna.

Round about the year 1020 A.C. al-Biruni visited India. He stayed in the country for several years in Multan, and travelled all over Punjab and Sind collecting material for his books Kitab-ul-Hind and Al Qanoon-al-Masoodi.

In the Kitab-al-Hind, al-Biruni speaks of the unwillingness of the local Brahmins to teach him the language of the Vedas because he was a Muslim.
In spite of this and other handicaps, al-Biruni gives a very authentic account of the language, customs, manners, literature, laws and beliefs of the Hindus. He also describes the geographical and physical conditions of the country.

He was charmed by the philosophy of the Hindus contained in the Bhagvad-Gita and translated several Sanskrit works into Arabic and Arabic works into Sanskrit.

During his stay in India, he succeeded in measuring the circumference of the earth by determining the dip of the horizon from a high mountain.

The results he obtained were spectacular and are the most correct up to modern times.

The well known historian of science, George Sarton says that:

Al-Biruni "was one of the greatest scientists of Islam and all considered, one of the greatest of all times".

Al-Biruni occupies a very prominent place in the history of Arab culture and is the first Muslim to write a systematic account of India of his time.

He died in 1050 A.C. at Ghazna.




SHAIKH Mohy-ud-deen Abdul Qadir Gilani was born in 1,077 A.C. in an Iranian village, Gilan. He descended from Hazrat Hasan, the grand son of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

His parents were well-known for their pious living and for their kindness to others. The early influence of his good, wise and pious mother played a very great part in the life of the Shaikh.

As a young boy, Shaikh Abdul Qadir once travelled with a caravan to a city. A gang of bandits suddenly attacked the travellers and began to rob them of all their valuables.

While doing this, one of the bandits asked the boy if he had any valuables on him.

Shaikh Abdul Qadir pointed without hesitation to a number of gold coins his mother had sewn in his coat for safe keeping.

The bandit was surprised and enquired why the boy admitted possession of the coins when they were concealed so well that they could have escaped detection.

"My mother taught me to be honest and truthful", was the simple reply given by the boy who was destined to become a great saint.

The bandits were so ashamed that they handed back all the valuables to the travellers, and some even publicly resolved never to follow their evil trade.

Shaikh Abdul Qadir acquired higher education at Baghdad, and took up the simple life of a Sufi, spreading knowledge and serving mankind. By his unselfish example the Shaikh taught people to lead pious and good lives and think of others first. He taught men to love one another and help those in need.

The Shaikh had great knowledge of religious subjects and could speak authoritatively on any aspect of the religion of Islam. His wisdom drew men to him from all over the world. Rulers and learned men of his time sought his advice on questions dealing with religious law and practice.

He lived a simple, austere life dedicated to the service of Islam and went from place to place spreading knowledge and teaching the faith and practice of his religion. He was a very fine orator and his inspiring lectures drew huge crowds of people.

Many of the Shaikh's lectures were written down and they are still studied by students of Islamic religion.

The Qadiriya order of mysticism founded by Shaikh Abdul Qadir has branches all over the world wherever Muslims are residing today. Members of this order are required to dedicate their lives in the service of Allah and humanity.

The followers of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani call him Ghaus-i-Azam, meaning the Great Help.

He died in 1166 of the Christian era.


16. UMAR "KHAYYAM" Astronomer


GHIYASUDDEEN Abul Fath Umar "Khayyam" was born in Nishapur, Iran in 1,025 A.C. His pen name "Khayyam” means Tentmaker, but there is no evidence to prove that he or his father were ever actually engaged in that trade.

Umar received an excellent education and he is described as an eminent man of science, who drank deeply from the well of Greek wisdom and wrote books on Astronomy, Mathematics, Metaphysic and Natural Philosophy.

In 1074 A.C. Sultan Malikshah of Iran appointed him to preside over a commission of astronomers which was entrusted with the task of reforming the calendar. The commission, after three years' deliberations suggested reforms which, according to the historian Gibbons, "corrected all errors, either past or future by a computation of time which surpasses the Julian and approaches the accuracy of the Gregorian style".

During the period of political and religious strife which ensued upon the death of Sultan Malikshah in 1092 A.C., Umar Khayyam left his native town. In 1,112 A.C. he was at Balkh where he was reported to have written the famous Rubaiyat in which he uttered the famous prediction: "My grave will be in a spot where the trees will shed their blossoms on me twice a year.”

Although Umar Khayyam is very famous in the countries of the West as a poet whose Rubaiyats have achieved immortality, in his native land, - Iran he is ranked among the famous astronomers, mathematicians and scientists of the day and little or no allusion is made to his poetry. For instance, Nizami Aruzi, a professional poet of the time who lived chiefly in Khorasen at royal courts and where he had opportunities of meeting many noteworthy persons, refers to Khayyam as a man of science and calls him "Hujjat-ul-Haq" - Proof of Truth - and speaks of him with the affectionate reverence due to a master.

Umar Khayyam was a Sufi mystic and the reference he makes to wine in his poems is quite in keeping with the Persian mode of poetic expression which use such terms as drinking deep the Wine of Wisdom and seeking Intoxication which make one oblivious of everything except the Existence of the Beloved, - Allah.

Umar Khayyam's Rubaiyats have been translated by many in various languages. The English version by Edward Fitzgerald, though the most famous in the West, is the least reliable to convey the true thoughts of Umar, for Fitzgerald himself confesses that: "it is an amusement to me to take what liberties I like with these Persians".

In one Ruba-i, Umar says of Allah:

"Though pearls of worship, I ne'er strung for Thee
Nor cleansed my face of sin's foul stain. I see
Hope Thou mayst yet forgive me all because
I never counted ONE as two or three. "

Of man Umar says:

"Man, is not the Creation's last appeal
The light of wisdom's eye? Behold the wheel
Of universal life as 't were a ring
But Man the superscription and the seal!"

Umar Khayyam died in 1,123 A.C. at Nishapur and his dying words were:

"O Allah, I have known Thee to the fullest extent of my power: forgive me, therefore, since my knowledge of Thee is my only means of approaching Thee".


17. ABUL WALID IBN RUSHD Philosopher


ABUL Walid Muhammad ibn Rushd the great Muslim philosopher was born in the year 1126 A.C. at Cordova, the chief centre of learning in Muslim Spain.

He is known in the West as AVERROES.

His family was noted for its learning and culture. Ibn Rushd learned law and medicine and attained such a high standard of proficiency in them that he was appointed the Qazi (Judge) of Seville, Spain, at the age of 43. He also served for a time as the Court Physician to the Ruler of Marrakesh, (Morocco), North Africa. He soon returned however, to his own calling of law and was appointed the Chief Qazi of Cordova, Spain.

At the age of 66, in the year 1192 A.C. he fell into disgrace as a result of the jealousy and opposition of the reactionary Ulema who alleged that he preached heresy in the guise of philosophy. This resulted in his exile to Lucena, a Jewish colony, near Cordova. Later, when religious fanaticism subsided, he was recalled to Morocco by the ruler al-Mansur. There he died in 1198 A.C. at the age of 72.

Ibn Rushd was a very keen observer of nature and natural phenomena. He was a rationalist but not an advocate of free thought and unbelief. He believed and advocated the belief that all philosophy must of necessity agree with religion and that instruction in religion must conform to the standard of intellectual capacity of the pupils, who may be divided into three classes:-

1. Those who believe as a result of preaching;
2. Those whose beliefs are based on reasoning, and
3. Those whose beliefs are based on proofs which rest on a chain of established premises.

Ibn Rushd's work dealt with the creation of the world. He held the view that nature was evolving itself from moment to moment, and this evolution enabled the globe to maintain its existence and its equilibrium. This proves that there is a Creative Power which is perpetually at work in the entire universe.

Ibn Rushd taught that life after death was of more importance to human beings than their temporary earthly existence.

In Europe ibn Rushd is best known as a commentator of Aristotle. His works gained recognition after the fourteenth century and were freely prescribed as text books by the Universities of Paris, Oxford and Prague.

In addition to his books on philosophy, ibn Rushd wrote several books on astronomy and medicine.

Also most of ibn Rushd's writings are preserved in Hebrew translations. He differed vehemently from Imam al-Ghazzali's viewpoint on the subject of rationalism, and even wrote a book Tahafut-al-Tahafah (Incoherence of the Incoherence) in refutation of al-Ghazzali's book against rationalism entitled: Tahaful-al-falasifah (The Refutation of Philosophers).




SULTAN Salahud-deen Ayyubi, better known in the West as SALADIN, established a state comprising the countries of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Western Arabia towards the end of the twelfth century After Christ.

He is regarded in the world as a chivalrous man, who displayed high qualities of generosity and kindliness in the field of battle to friend and foe which were very rare even among the heroes of the time.

The Third Crusade by the Christians took place in his time and those Christians who took part in it could not help but admire and respect the Sultan as an extremely skilful and noble enemy.

Salahud-deen was born in 1138 A.C. Although his early years were spent in obscurity, he showed signs of great promise in his youth and he reached the high office of a Wazier (Minister) in the court of the Fatimid Khalifah in Egypt.

Salahud-deen's energy, determination and resourcefulness soon opened more avenues for progress. In 1175 A.C. when the last of the Fatimid Khalifahs died, Salahud-deen declared his independence, and later the Khalifah at Baghdad confirmed him as the Sultan of Egypt and Arabia. Salahud-deen soon added portions of Syria under his rule and he was looked upon as the most powerful head of a considerable part of the Muslim world.

A number of Christian states were established in Syria by the Crusaders, and from these, Muslim caravans were often attacked and harassed by the Christians. This forced the Sultan to take up arms, as a result of which the whole of Palestine was conquered by him. This brought about a complete unification of Syria and Egypt.

This sparked off the Third Crusade (1189 A.C.) in which the Roman Empire, France and England joined hands to challenge Islam. The struggle continued for three years during which the Christians suffered so many defeats that they were thoroughly disillusioned. They soon realised the futility of their efforts and adopted a policy of reconciliation, and a peace treaty was concluded in 1192 A. C. The Sultan's greatest achievement was to crush the Crusaders and to reconquer Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187 A.C.

The generosity, the magnanimity and the high sense of morality which the Sultan displayed in that hour of his triumph, have been universally applauded by the historians. Says one: "if the taking of Jerusalem were the only fact known about Saladin, it were enough to prove him the most chivalrous and great-hearted conqueror of his own and perhaps of any age." (Saladin by Stanley Lane-Pole).

Sultan Salahud-deen was a just, merciful and chivalrous man who won unstinted praise from even his enemies. There was not a trace of fanaticism in Sultan Salahud-deen. He always treated people of every religious group with equal fairness. He was not only a warrior but a cultured ruler, who patronised great scholars. He found public schools and academies, established free hospitals. His piety, magnanimity and generosity were household words even beyond the borders of his empire.

The citadel of Cairo, which he built as his residence bears testimony to his energy and enterprise in the field of architecture.

He died in Damascus, in the year 1193 A.C.




ABU BAKR Muhammad ibn Ali Muhayyuddeen al-Hatimi al-Andalusi, commonly known as ibn Arabi was born in 1164 A.C. in Murcia, Spain.

His ancestors belonged to the tribe of Hatim Taee, who is the embodiment of generosity in the folklore of the Arabs. Sometimes in the 8th century ibn Arabi's forefathers moved from the Middle East to Spain which was ruled by the Muslims.

Muslim Spain had reached its height in intellectual zeal and material splendour by the 12th century and ibn Arabi found the best of knowledge available to him in the schools, colleges and libraries of Spain. Scholars from the four corners of the earth came to Spain to acquaint themselves with Zoroastrian lore, Hebrew and Christian theology. Greek philosophy, Islamics, Mathematics, Astrology, Logic and every branch of intellectual achievements made available to them by Muslim professors who studied and formulated valuable manuscripts.

Ibn Arabi received his primary school education in the Madressa, learning the Qur’an, Ahadith and the principles of Islamic law. He then attended a college in Seville where he received higher education . He remained in the city for thirty years, and spent his lifetime in the study of various branches of Islamic learning.

He travelled extensively in Spain and Morocco and also visited Arabia, making the pilgrimage of Mecca in 1201 A.C. He stayed for sometime in the Holy City and conducted classes there. He also visited Syria, Iraq and Asia Minor. Wherever he went his saintly life and his impressive record as a learned teacher and thinker earned him great renown. The public heaped gifts upon him which he passed on to the poor.

Ibn Arabi wrote, according to one authority, the staggering number three hundred books covering various subjects such as theology, mysticism, biography, philosophy, commentaries of the Holy Ouran and poetry.

Some of ibn Arabi's works have been translated into English. In the world of mysticism he is known as Al-Shaikh Al-Akbar (the great master). He was an excellant poet. His poems are full of mystical mysteries.

According to ibn Arabi, Allah has given man means by which to differentiate between a life of affirmation and one of escapes. It is due to Allah that man can distinguish between perfection and imperfection, good and evil, harmony and disharmony.

Ibn Arabi maintains that if man were not under the obligation to choose the real rather than its opposite and thus the moral rather than the immoral, there would be no meaning in God's injunction to man to be good. If everything on human level were equally good, there would be no validity in some of the Divine Names which by themselves imply the moral character of the relationship between God and man.

Man must strive for the good, says ibn Arabi. Man must do so, not because such striving denotes virtue or moral soundness, but because it concerns itself with the positive alone. For, only the positive - light, truth, health, - represent reality, existence.

A life of evil is a life of their opposites or absences, and thus of spiritual non-existence.

Ibn Arabi died in 1240 A.C. in Damascus, Syria.


20. SHAIKH "SAADI" Traveller


SHAIKH Muslehuddeen "Saadi " was born in the year 1184 A. 6 in the city of Shiraz, Iran, He belonged to a respectable, cultured family who greatly valued education with the result that "Saadi received the best training possible in literature and religious knowledge.

He was very devoted to religion and was given to the contemplation of religious subjects early in life. He tells a story about himself, of how as a child, he used to pray long hours at night to ask forgiveness from God for the sins of erring humanity. One day his father noticed his long, earnest nightly preoccupation’s in prayer and asked him what he was doing. "is it not better that you think of your own sins first!" asked his father.

Since that lesson, "Saadi" never ceased examining his life in all its facets and contemplating lives of human beings.

He devoted, according to himself, the first forty years of his life to frivolous activities, after which he seriously tackled the task of digesting the education he had received and then to observe life's problems.

"Saadi" was a great traveller and undertook long journeys of adventure to various parts of the world, observing, studying and making notes on people and places and carefully recording his impressions and experiences for future use. He was quite at home in the company of kings and ministers, of saints and literary men, of rich and the poor. He enriched his experiences from all of them.

He visited India where he stayed in a Hindu temple in the city of Delhi, and moved around the country observing the religious and social customs of the people and learning their language to understand them better.

He was an infatigable traveller who was on the move most of the time. He visited Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Abyssinia, North West Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan etc etc. These travels were undertaken unhurriedly and "Saadi" was able to spend long periods at places that took his fancy. He thus spent from a few months to a number of years in various places in the world. In Damascus and Balbek, for instance, "Saadi" stayed long enough to become a well known Khatieb; but tiring of that life, he left to go to Palestine where he began to live the life of a hermit away from inhabited regions. Here, according to him, he was captured by some Franks, who sold him as a slave to the Jews. A citizen of Aleppo took fancy to him and ransomed him for ten dinars, and offered a hundred more to him if he would marry his daughter! "Saadi" readily accepted the offer and married the girl. But she proved to be a very shrewish wife, making his life a misery. "Saadi" divorced her and went wandering again.

He eventually returned to his native Shiraz, and began writing the books which made him famous in the world of Persian literature. His most well known works are two books entitled: GULISTAN .' The Garden of Roses and BUSTAN .. The Garden of Fragrance. These books are written partly in prose and partly in verse, and contain hundreds of stories concerning people and places. They record the adventures and incidents he experienced; the humour, the pathos and the tragedies he observed.

He was a man of the people with strong sympathies for the common man. He recorded stories about people and those who ruled over them in beautiful prose and verse, often drawing a moral lesson from each one of them. Most of his stories are told light-heartedly in the conversational style of a born story-teller, illustrated expertly with delightful flights in poetry.

"Saadi" died in Shiraz, in the year 1291 A.C.




ABDUR Rahman ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis, North Africa in 1332 A.C. He was a Yemeni Arab whose ancestors migrated first to Muslim Spain in the ninth century and settled in Seville, and from there moved to Tunis.

He showed brilliant intelligence and was tutored by his father and other leading savants of the day. At the early age of 20, he was appointed secretary to the Sultan of Tunis.

Moving from patron to patron, ibn Khaldun was alternately showered with honours and involved in contacts that led to imprisonment amidst the exciting feuds of the Muslim rulers. He served the Sultan of Fez, the Sultan of Granada. the Sultan of Egypt and enjoyed the friendship and esteem of the famous Andalusian poet-physician, Lisan-al-Deen, who was to become the Wazir (Prime Minister) of the Sultan of Granada.

Ibn Khaldun once went as the Sultan's ambassador to the court of Pedro of Castile to negotiate a treaty. Pedro was so favourably impressed by him that he offered him an important post in an effort to retain the young genius. Ibn Khaldun refused the offer.

Ibn Khaldun lived in a period embroiled in politics. In 1374 A.C. he withdrew to a castle in Oran, North Africa, for four years. During these years he produced his famous Muqaddima. Then he started work on the History of the Barbers.

On his way to Mecca to make the pilgrimage, he was delayed in Cairo. where the Sultan persuaded him to accept his appointment as a professor at the University of al-Azhar. Later, in 1384 A.C., he occupied the post of the Chief Qadi (Chief Justice) of the Maliki school of Islamic Law.

A great personal tragedy when his entire family was drowned en route from Tunis to Egypt, led him to resign. He left for pilgrimage to Mecca. It was not until 1392 A.C. that he finished his History as well as his Autobiography.

Ibn Khaldun was a historian, but his fame does not rest on his History, erudite and vast as it is, but it rests on his introduction to that History, the Mugaddima. In it he set forth the principles of history as a science, dealing with the social phenomena of man's life. Ibn Khaldun is the founder of sociology, explaining the differences in customs and institutions by physical environments of race, climate and production. He emphasises the psychological changes in human communities and the succession of cultural periods. He deals with the relation of the individual to society and defines the duties of each.

Nearly five hundred years before Darwin. ibn Khaldun wrote: "The wonders of God's creation never cease. How life commenced from mineral, then plant life, then animals, and rose by degrees to new appearances; the last plane of the mineral connecting with the first plane of vegetables... and the higher plants connecting with the lowest form of animal life... The significance of the connections in these states of existence is that the last plane is ready by close adaptability to become the first plane following it. So the animal world broadened, its varieties multiplied, and it terminated in the gradual formation of man, the master of thought and reflection."

Ibn Khaldun died in 1406 A.C. in Egypt living a full life of a great scholar which led him from the Christian court of Pedro the Cruel in the West to the court of Timur in the East, and from dungeons to the highest office of Chief Justice.




ABU ABDULLAH Muhammad ibn Batuta, the famous Muslim traveller, explorer and writer was born in Tangier, North Africa, in 1 394 A.C. He was the son of a poor man and his early life was not an easy one.

He attended a small school in the village of his birth and took deep interest in learning. He was particularly interested in other countries and the customs of different people and how they lived. But being the son of a poor man, ibn Batuta was obliged to work hard for his daily bread.

At the age of 21, he set out on his first journey on Hajj to Mecca. So thrilled was he by the experience that his heart flamed with ambition to travel to more distant countries.

Undertaking just a journey was an extremely difficult and dangerous task in those days when travellers often died of hunger or thirst, or were either killed or robbed by roving packs of bandits.

But in spite of such dangers and difficulties, ibn Batuta travelled far and wide. After performing his second Hajj, he set out on a journey of exploration in the vast expanse of the Arabian Desert. He discovered many places and things of interest.

From there he travelled to Iraq and Iran, and then set out on a journey to the East African Coast. He is believed to have travelled down the African coast to the mouth of the Zambezi River, visiting the various islands on the way including Zanzibar and Pemba.

On his next journey ibn Batuta travelled to Asia through Palestine and Syria and explored the Caucasus mountains. Crossing the Caspian Sea, ibn Batuta made the perilous journey across the mountainous regions of Turkestan and Afghanistan, until he reached India or Hindustan.

Sultan Muhammad Taghluq ruled over India at the time and ibn Batuta has written a very interesting book about life in the Sultan's Court and about the customs of the people of India.

The Sultan liked ibn Batuta so much that he offered him a position of great honour, but ibn Batuta refused the post and set out on a journey of exploration to South India and the island of Ceylon or Sri Lanka. He returned home to Morocco but he had no intention of spending a peaceful old age in safety and comfort.

He undertook the then extremely dangerous journey of exploring the great Sahara Desert and reached the southern coast of West Africa. Here he lived for sometime studying the lives of people belonging to various tribes living in the region. He made careful notes of their conditions, customs and beliefs.

Ibn Batuta wrote several books describing his adventures and the countries and people he saw on his journeys. These books supplied valuable information to people and increased the general knowledge of his time.

Ibn Batuta is famous in the history of Islam as a leading traveller, explorer and writer.

He died in 1377 A.C.


23. IBN ABDUL MAJEED Navigator


SHAHABUDDEEN Ahmed Ibn Abdul Majeed popularly known as ibn Majeed is regarded to be one of the greatest Arab navigators of his time. He was born in Najd, Arabia in about the second quarter of the fifteenth century.

He was born in a seafaring family whose ancestors we reconnected with the navigation of ships, as a result of which ibn Majeed followed in the footsteps of his forefathers and became a "Muallim-al-Bahr” - Navigator of the Seas. He was not only the master navigator in the Red Sea area, but ventured beyond it and acquired an additional title of an able navigator of the Indian Ocean.

Ibn Majeed was the inventor of the first accurate compass used in navigation. When he came in contact with the Portuguese who also were great sea-faring people of the time, he saw that the instruments used by them were in many ways inferior to those used by him. Ibn Majeed showed them his instruments of navigation, the like of which the Portuguese had never seen before.

The efforts of the Europeans to find a sea route to India were successful largely through the help they received from Arab navigators in general and from ibn Majeed in particular, for ibn Majeed was the Arab navigator who guided Vasco da Gama from Malindi on the East Africa n coast to Calicut on the western coast of India. This fact has been proved by the Portuguese and Arab sources. The Arab historian Qutbuddeen, of the 16th century, for instance mentions Ibn Majeed in his records. He says that a band of the "cursed Portuguese" sailed in a southern direction down the Atlantic Ocean which he called the "Sea of Darkness" and turned east passing through "a narrow channel" - Mozambique Channel - in search of a sea route to India. They continued failing in their mission until they met the Arab navigator ibn Majeed who instructed them. They followed the instructions and reached the coast of India. Qutbuddeen describes this as the "most exceptional and terrorising event" because in the years that followed, "Portugal built a fort in Kuwwa (Goal and began plundering and capturing Muslim boats" in frequent acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Ibn Majeed was a learned man who made serious study of the works of Arab navigators and added his own knowledge and practical experiences to the science of navigation. He was also devoted to the study of literature and history. He wrote several books covering a variety of subjects including poetry. Most of his books however, deal with navigational matters recording facts about the seas, the coast, the reefs, the winds, the birds. the land marks, the capes etc., all of which were of great help to seafarers. His nautical guides were considered to be the most accurate in his age.

It seems that he was well acquainted with the African coast and had explored the seas around the southern tip of the African continent, for, although the Arabs carried out active trade with people on the East African coast as far as the present Mozambique regions, the seas beyond that were well known to them.

Books of Arab navigators refer to the meeting place of Indian and the Atlantic Oceans, as situated around the "Bahr-us-Suhayl"- the Sea of Ruin,--which they said was at the end of "Jabal-un-Nadama",- the Mountain of Regret - along the coast of Africa, giving its nautical position as Long.l170 and Lat. 160. This is obviously the present Cape of Good Hope which was formerly named the Cape of Storms by the Portuguese.

Ibn Majeed's name became a legend and it occupies a prominent place in the folklore of seafaring Arabs in the centuries that followed, and it became a custom among them, not to embark on a sea journey without first reciting a Fateha for the soul of ibn Majeed.

The year of his death is not known.




MUHAMMAD Iqbal, the great Muslim poet of the East, was born in the town of Sialkot, Punjab in 1876 A.C. His family migrated from Kashmir. His parents were very devout followers of Islam. Muhammad Iqbal was therefore brought up in a pious atmosphere and was encouraged to appreciate beauty and love truth.

He completed his primary education in Sialkot, where he came under the good influence of Sayed Mir Hassan, a man of great learning. From him Iqbal acquired his love for literature.

At the age of 23, Muhammad Iqbal became professor of history and philosophy at the Government College, Lahore. Later he went to England to study law. He then went to Germany and there wrote a thesis on Persian Metaphysics, for which he received Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree.

Iqbal knew several languages besides Urdu; among these, were Persian, Arabic, English, French and German.

For several years Iqbal practised as a lawyer, but was more inclined to literally pursuits. He wrote several books and devoted more and more time to the writing of poetry. The beauty of his verses made a great impression on people. His poems were divorced from the traditional idea of only singing fantastically exaggerated praise for one's beloved, describing imaginary sufferings of the lover, and the clever use of the musical sounds in words, without any definite aim or objective.

Iqbal followed the poetical trend established by the Urdu poet Hall, and used his poetical gifts with greater effect and success.

He was deeply concerned with the position of Muslims and was eager to release them from the pool of stagnation in which they had fallen in all walks of life. He realised that the Muslims had the ability to carve out a future for themselves as great and glorious as their past. He used all the persuasive powers of his pen, in prose and in verse, in Persian, Urdu and in English to awaken them from their slumber. He urged them to hold firmly to their beliefs and follow the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.

Iqbal also took part in politics and was elected the president of the All India Muslim League. He was the first Muslim leader to advocate the creation of a separate Muslim State - Pakistan - and declared that "Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the only Muslim on whom the Muslims can depend for safe guidance"

Iqbal's published works include "Bang-e-Dara': "Bal-e-Jibreel" in Urdu; "Asrar-e-Khudi': "Ramooz-e-Bekhudi" in Persian; and a very thought provoking book, "Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam " in English.

Iqbal died on 21st April 1938 A.C- before Pakistan came into existence. But he was one of the few great men who was fortunate enough to be honoured all over the world as a poet, philosopher and scholar during his lifetime.




MUHAMMAD ALI JINNAH, the creator of Pakistan, was born at Karachi in 1876 A.C. He acquired his early education in his motherland and proceeded to England to study law. From there, Mr Jinnah returned home as a qualified barrister in the year 1894 A.C.

He was attracted to politics from his youth and received training in this field by his early association in England with Dadabhoy Navroji, a veteran Parsi politician of the time.

Returning home he joined the All-India National Congress in 1900 and in 1913 he was persuaded to join the All-India Muslim League which he did conditionally, reserving the right to abandon the League if his convictions clashed with its principles.

From this moment he worked for unity between the Hindus and the Muslims, which resulted in the Congress-League Pact in 1916 in which the Indian National Congress accepted the principle of separate electorate and reservation of fixed number of seats in the governments for the Muslims. This solution on paper could not become a reality however, and in 1921 , Jinnah was forced to leave the Indian National Congress because he could not reach an agreement with Mr. Gandhi.

Jinnah was a practical politician who fought long and hard for the common interests of the Indian people, but when all these efforts failed he took up the cause of Pakistan. which had gradually assumed the definite objective of the Muslims of the undivided India.

From 1940 onwards, Jinnah continued to fight for the creation of Pakistan which eventually came into being on 14 August 1947.

A grateful community conferred the title of Qaid-i-Azam - the Great Leader - upon him and he became the first Governor-General of a country which came into existence through a political change from fantasy into a solid fact.

"Unity, Faith and Discipline" was the remedy prescribed by Jinnah for the various ills from which the Muslims suffered in the sub-continent of India. He possessed the courage of his convictions and expressed the opinions without fear, come what may. Even his bitterest enemy was forced to pay him tribute that his honesty and integrity were beyond all doubt or question. He never left anyone in doubt as to his opinions and was frank even to excess. He never lost his dignity and poise and remained cool and balanced in mind and behaviour even in the face of open provocation. He was equally unmoved by flattery, praise or abuse.

Famous leaders in world history have built new nations by means of conquests, violence and untold sufferings, but Jinnah's weapon of conquest was his unshakeable sincerity of purpose. He created a new nation by peaceful and honourable means and methods for which he is respected and admired by men of all nations and creeds.

The Qadi-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, died in 1948 in the city of Karachi, a year after he saw the triumph of his cause.