The prominent Muslim scientist and polymath, Ibn al-Haytham
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 13th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 430 AH, the prominent Muslim scientist and polymath, Abu Ali Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, known to medieval Europe by his Latinized name of Alhazen, passed away in Cairo, the capital of Fatemid Egypt, at the age of 76. Born in Basra in the Iraqi province of the Iranian Buwayhid (Daylamite) Empire, he made vital contributions to optics, medicine, physics, astronomy, mathematics, visual perception, ophthalmology, philosophy, and various other sciences, and is the inventor of the telescope and the magnifying glass.
He conducted extensive research on light rays, determining the relationship between the angle of light radiation and the angle of its reflection. He wrote insightful commentaries on the works of the ancient Greek philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Euclid. Ibn al-Haytham was active in both Basra and Baghdad and after visiting Islamic Spain he settled in Egypt which was ruled by the Fatemid Ismaili Shi’ite dynasty.
He was said to be a follower of the school of the Ahl al-Bayt, and was associated with the famous academy of al-Azhar, which derives its name from “az-Zahra” (the Radiant), the famous epithet of Hazrat Fatema (SA), the Immaculate Daughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). In Egypt he took up the project of controlling the floods of the Nile. He is said to have written over 200 books and treatises, the most famous of which is “Kitab al-Manazer” on Optics that was extensively used by later European scholars such as Roger Bacon, Johannes Keppler, and Galileo Galilei. Among his works, mention could be made of the “Configuration of the World”, “On the Formation of Eclipse”, “On the Milky Way”, “The Model of the Motions of Each of the Seven Planets”, and “Treatise on the Influence of Melodies on the Souls of Animals”. Among his students were Sorkhab, an Iranian scientist from Semnan and Mubashir ibn Fatek, an Egyptian.