A blockbuster exhibition that uncovers the sophisticated inventions of Muslim civilisation will open in Malaysia next year. Afia R Fitriati reports.
Here’s a trivia: What do a university and a global positioning system (GPS) have in common?
The answer might surprise you (and will put to shame anyone who thinks that Muslim women are uneducated or undeserving of education): both the first university and the first GPS were founded by Muslimahs.
The first university in the world, Al Qarawiyin, was established in Fes, Morocco by a Muslim woman named Fatima al-Fihri.
Similarly, an intricate device that was the prototype of today’s GPS, called the astrolabe, was invented by another Muslim woman named Miriam al-Ijli al-Astrulabi.
The stories of these two Muslimahs and many other Muslim inventors are part of the 1001 Inventions international show, an award-winning exhibition currently being showcased at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC. Prior to visiting the US capital, the exhibition has drawn millions of visitors in London, Istanbul, New York, Los Angeles, Doha, Dhahran and Abu Dhabi.
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The 1001 inventions exhibition is part of a larger educational project with a similar name created by UK-based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC). The aim of this project, as quoted from its website, is ‘to promote awareness of the scientific and cultural achievements of Muslim civilisation, during the thousand year period from the 7th century onwards, and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world’.
Both the first university and the first GPS were
founded by Muslimahs
Other than the global tour, the initiative also includes the publication of 1001 Inventions books and the production of educational films such as ‘The Library of Secrets’, an award-winning short film starring the famous British actor, Sir Ben Kingsley.
In January 2013, the 1001 Inventions exhibition is scheduled to kick off its three-year tour in Malaysia. ‘We are delighted that our award-winning 1001 Inventions show will be enjoying its Asian Premiere in Malaysia,’ said producer and director of the show, Ahmed Salim, as quoted from the 1001 Inventions website.
Dato’ Dr Zakri Bin Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Malaysian prime minister, had the opportunity to visit the exhibition in New York City and called the show ‘fascinating’: ‘We are all familiar with the stories of 1001 Nights but less so with any that is associated with inventions. Science flourished in the Muslim world in those days because individual creativity was appreciated, and science and innovation were seen by the political leadership as expanding knowledge in the interest of society as a whole. We need to bring back those days of enlightenment which would contribute not only to our own prosperity but also make this world a more peaceful place to live in.’
Interactivity is a key feature of the 1001 Inventions exhibition. Visitors not only will have the opportunity to witness a giant replica of the ‘Elephant Clock’, an iconic invention created by 13th century mathematician-cum-engineer Al Jazari, they will also be able to fly along with Abbas ibn Firnas, a forerunner who flew with a wooden glider in the 9th century, and explore the medical inventions in early Muslim societies as well as other inventions influenced by the Muslim civilisations.
As Sir Ben Kingsley, playing Al Jaziri in ‘Library of Secrets’, says in the movie: ‘Welcome to the Dark Ages, or, as it should be known, the Golden Ages.’
The 1001 Inventions exhibition is now on until February 3, 2013 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC. For more details, visit the 1001 Inventions website.
Watch the video clip here.