The Religion Of Islam vol.1

  • bookcover

  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1

  • The Branches of Knowledge

    Cultivated by the Arabs Before Islam  

    The chief branches of knowledge the Arabs cultivated before the rise of Islam, were their history and the genealogical descent of families such a knowledge of the stars as to be able to foretell the changes of weather; and the interpretation of dreams. [1]

    They used to pride themselves very much on the nobility of their families and so many disputes arose in respect of this, that it is no way surprising that took great pains in recording the genealogies of their families.

    Their knowledge of the stars was procured through long experience and not from regular study of astronomy.[2] The stars or planets, by which they most usually forecast the weather, were called ‘Al-Anwaa’ or ‘the houses of the moon’. They are 28 in number and divide the Zodiac into as many parts, through one of which the moon passes every night. As some of them set in the morning, other rise opposite to them, which happens every thirteenth night and from their rising and setting, the Arabs by long experience observed, what change happened in the air, and at length came to ascribe to them divine power, saying that their rain came from such or such a star. This expression the Prophet condemned, and he absolutely forbade them to use it in the old sense, unless they meant no more by it then that God has so ordained that, when the moon was in such or such a ‘house’ or at the setting or rising of such a star, it should rain or be windy, or be hot or cold.


    The early Arabs, therefore, seem to have made no further progress in astronomy, although they afterwards cultivated this science so successfully that they were able to observe the influence of stars on the weather, and to give them names; and it was only natural that they should do this, when we consider their pastoral mode of life, spent for the greater part under the open sky.[3] The names they ascribed to the stars, generally were connected with cattle or flocks and they were so nice in distinguishing them, that no language has so many names for stars and heavenly bodies as Arabic, for though they have since borrowed the names of several constellations from the Greeks, yet far greater numbers are of their own finding and much more ancient, particularly those of the more conspicuous stars and those of the lesser constellations which are contained within the greater, and were not observed or named by the Greeks.[4]


    ([1]) Al Shahristani.

    ([2]) Abul Farag.

    ([3]) G. Sale. Prelim. Disc.

    ([4]) Ibid.

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