What the Ancients Did for Us: The Islamic World

What the Ancients Did for Us: The Islamic World

2005, History  -   50 Comments
Ratings: 7.14/10 from 65 users.

What the Ancients Did for Us - The Islamic WorldThe rise of Islam is one of the most important events in world history. In the 7th century, Mohammed's intention was to unite the divided Arabs through a new religion. A century after his death, he'd succeeded in producing a medieval superpower. The Arabs and Moors had spread through Spain towards the Pyrenees. Cordoba became renowned as one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in Europe. Moorish cities such as Toledo and Seville were famed for their new culture and universities.

The first What The Ancients Did For Us programme explores the Muslim contribution to the western world - in art, architecture, astronomy, medicine, science, and learning. The early Muslims are credited with inventing distillation and could distil just about anything - from alcohol to perfume. Hygiene is very important in the Muslim world so they invented and manufactured soap - centuries before the West - and hundreds of bathhouses were built throughout Muslim cities.

They understood the fundamentals of light and how we see, and gave us the camera obscura. They invented algebra and worked out the angle of the tilt of the earth. They built the first windmill, pioneered the concept of the crank rod, and designed the first ever torpedo.

Muslim creativity also led to the invention of a unique instrument called the astrolabe – it could find the direction of Mecca, tell the time and, with the help of the stars, navigate you across deserts and oceans. But perhaps most important of all they pursued the cause of knowledge, translating and preserving the works of the ancients and building the world's largest libraries – their 'houses of wisdom'.

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50 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Regan

    This doc negligently overlooked many Islamic scientific innovations, including cutting off women's noses, female genital mutilation, throwing homosexuals off of rooftops and obligatory jihad.

    1. StopChristianzim

      What about your nuns ,mothers, wifes, girl friends,daughters being abused, molested and raped by your reform pastors and priests and neglected by your hidden church state governments , and the old good Christian hitler who caused death of 60 million people by -stating in mienkamp that its his Christian duty!, not mentioning the ethnic cleansing of native indigenous people, forcing them to drink blood and flesh of your deity, and what about justification of racial slavery of Africans because your bible said they are Canaanite to serve you, not mentioning the millions live burning of “witches “who probably among them where your grandmas, so goes on the torturing, imputations, beheading of heretics in the name of the your Pagan father, son and unholy spirit!
      Does it make you feel better Dear Mr Christianazi!

      P S I Do sympathize with you though of you are Church abuse survivor, and don’t tell me the (all religion same excuse) if ashamed of yours that your problem not others, I guess you can take it to clergymen or even parents who think that they are holy, and you only bare and smile

  2. BinPiggyallah

    Sure after the sand box people ripped off the inventions of the Greeks and Romans. Pure bull crap meant to brain wash the historically challenged. What Moohamhead (piece of pork be upon her) did invent was a death cult bent on rape, caravan theft and terrorism. All to please a pagan moon goddess. A stupid video designed to promote feeling good about jihad's call for world domination by forced conversions, enslavement to Dhimmitude or murder.

  3. Simon

    The negatives of what Islam has brought to the world far outweigh the positives.

  4. Rob

    it's strange, how pitiful bunch of losers they've become since

  5. bluetortilla

    Loved this! Delightful and funny. I've watched two wonderful docs in two days: the Dandies in the Congo, and this one on the clever inventions of the Islamic world. Maybe we should stop thinking of the world in terms of dangers and imagine a world full of opportunities instead.

    1. Backtochurchaltarboy

      Well watch this too
      What about your nuns ,mothers, wifes, girl friends,daughters being abused, molested and raped by your reform pastors and priests and neglected by your hidden church state governments , and the old good Christian hitler who caused death of 60 million people by -stating in mienkamp that its his Christian duty!, not mentioning the ethnic cleansing of native indigenous people, forcing them to drink blood and flesh of your deity, and what about justification of racial slavery of Africans because your bible said they are Canaanite to serve you, not mentioning the millions live burning of “witches “who probably among them where your grandmas, so goes on the torturing, imputations, beheading of heretics in the name of the your Pagan father, son and unholy spirit!
      Does it make you feel better Dear Mr Christianazi!

      P S I Do sympathize with you though of you are Church abuse survivor, and don’t tell me the (all religion same excuse) if ashamed of yours that your problem not others, I guess you can take it to clergymen or even parents who think that they are holy, and you only bare and smile

  6. Shrike

    It's amazing to think that at one time, Muslims drank wine, drew pictures of Mohammad, questioned their religion, did real science, and had a functional and prosperous society. You certainly can't tell by looking at the self-righteous, rigid-minded, backwards, murderous bunch they are today.

  7. Tarek

    The number zero 0 as a mathematical concept is Islamic. It was Muslims that first used it in proper scientific calculations. There are people in the world that to this day are systematically trying to erase anthing and everything that has to do with Islamic civilisation as they have only hatred for Islam and Muslims. The alleged indian zero was only a hoax, as the Hindus of India want to make a Hindustan, and for that purpose they want to spin and fake everything into their favour just to give some kind of underpinning to a spurious hindu state that never has been

    1. Sana G

      Meanwhile ancient Indians had the zero and many mathematical treatises. 8th century Islam claims O. Pathetic.

  8. Tarek

    Very nice documentary, well done, makes a change from the fake history we usually see. The Islamic Spanish city of Toledo was burnt down after all its knowledge in the Muslim books had been extracted. The original books were burnt and the information was translated and claimed by others as their own work. The later progress in science was based upon this very information, but the Islamic contribution had been erased from history

  9. Thomas Brown

    did they invent violently stealing land from other people for centuries?

  10. AnonAmos

    "Mohammed's intention was to unite the divided Arabs through a new religion" lol. What? I didn't realize his motivations were so honorable and altruistic.
    All this time I thought he was just a nut who believed god talked to him in a cave and then tried to force everyone around him to bend to his will or die in the name of his deluded beliefs.

    Here he was just trying to unite his people (or at least the ones he didn't kill) through a "new religion". So it was all just a political gimmick? I'm so glad a documentary film maker in the 21st century is able to clear up for me what Mohammed was thinking while he was chopping off peoples hands and feet and marrying children.

    Perhaps you should do a doc on L.Ron Hubbard and how he was really just trying to teach people to use their imaginations.

  11. Paul MacLeod

    If this is going to be a debate on who invented what and who destroyed what, you need to take a look throughout history. As all civilizations have flurished, had amazing advances in technology and were either wiped out by another civilization or their own cuture declined to such a degree that their own history was virtually wiped out or fragmented and only pieces are left or lost completely. It is as the saying goes, "History is written by the victors."
    Though, I do personally think that it is a bit arogant to think our Ancestors were nothing but a bunch of primative barbarians. Odds are they were more knowledgable, resourceful and imaginative than most people today, myself included.

  12. sabir ayaz

    Very informative.. Amazing documentary and an eye opener

    1. MohammedSafwan

      @ Sabir,

      Sweet heart you got me wrong.... That was me being sarcastic about how Islamic world has been thought about....
      Please follow the complete chain of comments before replying in that way...
      Maybe the comment did not completely reflect what i intended...sorry :(

  13. amin

    All these have been done by Persian not by Muslims. As matter of fact muslims destroied most of Persian culture and knowledge. They burned thosands of books and destroyed libraries. All those scientists whom talked about in this documentry were Persian not Arabs. Chemistry,Algebra,and so much more of science have their root in Iran. Iranian(Persian) have been force to becom muslim this is a fact.

    1. draxam

      I am sorry to tell you that you have been lead to believe an inaccurate series of events.

    2. mo123

      Actually Persians are muslim. And it was mostly arabs that did all that

  14. Xainab Khan

    WTF! What is an 'islamic' world..? Islam didn't have anything to do with scientific progress..only superstition and stupidity.. Muhammad thouth shooting stars were missiles that demons shoot at angels and that the sun sets in a murky puddle of mud :P also muslims are supposed to cover their mouths while yawning because Satan would jump down their throat and possess them :P that's Prophetic medicine 101 for you bitches! The title should have been "arab" world or middle eastern.. lying muslim propagandists and white sheeple..

    1. iceechocolate

      d distance btwn u and knowledge is like distance between earth n pluto..u call em midle eastrn or wateva they were muslims,,accept it or reject it,history cant b changed..i can tell for sure that u ve neva bothered to study islam,all u knw is from propagandist websites or some pastors may b,,for ur accute intellect islam is based on quran not sayings of d Prophet,,if they contradict quran prevails,,so study wat quran says about knowledge of science n again for ur accute intellect it is only islam which asks people to study different fields of knowledge including space,biology n every other,,no other religion does that,,,dats y in europe there were french,english n bolshevik revolution which broke the back bone of the church,studying these sciences is called worship in islam daty why early revolutions in science started from islamic world,,they considered it a worship,

    2. 5ir_5hi20

      Okay i try to read around your orthography, so i would welcome you to do so as well. 1. Around the time of 1000 AD there were mostly muslims to populate the middle east. So i agree with you on that point. 2. At that time, in consequence of the black death, most of the european societies have lost huge parts of their knowledge. In Fact the surgery for example was at a worse level of knowledge than in times of the ancient cultures. The muslims and the orthodox church played a major role in recovering this knowledge and they’ve added a big sum of new technologies and new medical achievement to european society. So there you have a point too. But 3. The european revolutions overthrew the monarchies not the religious boundaries. Watching societies evolution, the middle east is going through such a process right now, called arab spring. And more important, there are a lot of religions that ask people to study their surroundings and other peoples philosophies like the taoists for example. To me it’s important to know when to speak and when to listen. – cheers

    3. icee chocolate

      great to see that u agreed with most of my points,,on 1 point u disagreed about the revolutions,,u said that the eng,frnch,n other revolutions overthrew the monarchies not religious boundries,,well thats exactly what they did,,they confined the religion to homes and thats it..religion was seperated from politics bcoz of these revolutions,,arab spring has similarities and dissimilarities with those rev..like they r trying to overthrow the monarchies,,but they r trying to keep religion part of politics,,u see e.g muslim brotherhood won in egypt..this seperation of poltics from religion brought secularism..whether u r supporter of secularism or against it that wud be another debate..n yh we need to probe those revs and todays so called arab spring to see whether they are random or designed to serve some agenda...by the way it was nice talkin to u.peace

  15. Pomusthafa Puthiya

    just watch it

  16. Samia Raana Tambra

    Words 'cunning' and 'sinister' are wrong words to be used in this documentary, instead words 'wisdom', 'good judgment', and 'good power of decision' should have been used. Only a few inventions are talked about in this documentary, justice is not done to the Muslim era on the whole.

  17. Anonymous

    I completely agree, I've been irritated thinking about the same thing lately. I was always in AP history classes and all that back in school, but anything I know about regions and cultures outside North America (99% U.S. history) and Western Europe (99% English history/culture) I've had to research and learn on my own.

    Schools here totally ignore the rest of the world. They teach as if your accomplishments only matter if you are/helped to settle America, with a few dabs of ancient history thrown in from Rome and Greece. Everyone else are referred to as "barbarians" and their accomplishments/history/cultures are ignored entirely.

    --Indeed, exactly why 4/5 of Americans are ignorant to the world around them (Lived here my entire life so I can vouch for that stat 100%, but I'm also not saying that most people in any other country AREN'T just as ignorant about the world as Americans since I haven't lived around them).

  18. MohammedSafwan



    Muslims whether they belong to any times or climes = LOSERS-BARBARIANS-GOAT SMELLING NOMADS-ILLITERATE-WOMEN BEATERS-TERRORIST(Latest) it is outrageous how can they be called scientist or people who developed a civilization.

    All that is muslim world & all that is to some part or most part black world, third world countries, colonial countries excetra = LOSERS

    "truth" - GOOD GUYS

    ONLY SCIENTIST-ONLY SCHOLARS-ONLY PHILOSOPHERS-ONLY TRUE HISTORIANS-ONLY MATHEMATICIANS & all that can be found good in this world = Great Greeks, Great Romans ------------THERE IS NO MISSING LINK ------------------ Christians, Europe, America, whites, blacks only when favored by whites.


    These Muslims, blacks, third world countries, colonial countries just dont get the point that is they are worth nothing. They are born or rather breed to be good & serve the GOOD GUYS.

    If they need freedom = Serve the "Good guys"

    If they need to know goodness = follow the "Good guys"

    If they need to understand the world = follow the "Good guys"

    If they need to know how better they are from Animals = follow the "Good guys"

    If they need to have a religion = follow the "Good guys"


    You need Salvation - Believe them - because only someone's blood & flesh can liberate your soul(in case you have one). Make Clear your efforts, good deeds, kindness, inventions & discoveries(if any) weights to Nothing in the Sight of Your Lord - Only thing that will matter is a holy someone & the flesh & blood of that holy(In case you have one)

    You need Liberation & want to the know "TRUE WORLD/REALITY"(just in case you need to know) = Believe them - because they are the gods of this world, there is no such God whatsoever that you have been conveyed by those prophets of yours, they too were losers & they were "Good Guys" haters...


    1. adam

      This is either great satire or terrible self-delusion. It is impossible to tell . . .

    2. MohammedSafwan

      @ Adam, It was a satire indeed.

  19. ZilverGalacticon


    I have seen this documentary long ago. I only came here to see HOW the commentators have turned it into a political debate about Islam, whether its the root of terrorism, evil and ignorance or the perfect source for the perfect society. Hahaha, remember I didn't say I came here to see IF people have fired the debate, I said HOW. Since I know that a debate surely would take place.

    For the fundamentalists (either side) I am not even going to argue with you... like trying to explain it to a child... here we go: If you believe in an idea to the point where you have made it a cornerstone of your life, you can hardly be convinced otherwise. Let alone that its a mere attempt via a freaking comment section, duh! add to the fact that you are most likely writing your comment to an other person, who has also made the fact a cornerstone, well, the same fact but looking at it the opposite. Such a person will only find facts to support his/hers ideology, not the other way around. I can go on and on about this. Give you examples to support AND attack any belief you name. And I mean any one!

    And to all of you who go "this makes me proud to be a Muslim" think again. Making such a comment doesn't show us how "proud" you are but rather how pathetic. One can not take pride in things he/she didnt participate in. Its no less pathetic than the youth in NewYork who are "proud" to be born there. Give me a break! Oh, and by the way, doesnt Islam teach that we should avoid a trap such as Pride? Next thing you know is that you are better than anybody else... in your own mind at least.

    Lastly I want to share a small thought with You guys. I shouldn't have to mention it since (at least I hope) many people have got it already and made each one a bit wiser. "You will see the truth, and the truth will set you free"
    This is the truth piece guys... Omg I don't even know how to put down such a simple thing. Lets just say that wen we look at inventions, we should look to them in a perspective uniting all humans and history altogether. It makes the evolution of thoughts so much faster when you simply get an invention from somewhere and and just use it, or improve it for your special needs. So should All the civilizations of the world through everything they have, and start inventing things from scratch? "you didn't invent this in your city, you got to rebuild it" Cant you see how retarded that sounds?!
    Our world today, looks the way it is because of history of inventions and discoveries from all over the world. Some inventions where even there to satisfy a horrible need, or to avoid something horrible. Yet we today take for granted.

  20. yusuf

    ambarish, could you plz offer some concrete facts which may prove that the concept of ZERO was invented by the Indians.

    1. MohammedSafwan


      Ambarish is right. Please see the Documentary "Story of Maths"
      It was indeed Indians that invented Zero. I say this because I am Indian, I say this because it is a true fact.
      Apart from the reasoning & evidence that the presenter of the documentaries gives, let me mention: The native languages of India inherently consists of a script that has lot of zeroes in it. For Example: Please Google for: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam. It will be evident.

      As a Muslim we must Remember:

      "Knowledge is not any persons or civilizations personal property that they need to dispute about it"
      And this was the true ideological approach of the then Muslim World that gave them the free thinking to accumulate knowledge from all corners of the world without any biases.
      We too must adopt the same. If some claims that something you did was theirs(unless it does not harm your bread & butter) wholeheartedly give it to them the credit. If we can make a friend with such a small sacrifice, we must surely be the first to grab such opportunity. That s the first step in setting Peace...

    2. Aejaz

      What you say is just theory Mohammed. You are just repeating a same old european theory again and again. Please give solid proof and not documentaries and google search. Also the scriptures you are talking about are relatively recent. Don't be so biased because you are Indian because the zero you see are just visual bias. And no S is not for snake. This is just conjecture but still no valid proof.

  21. ambarish

    @Nita. please check your facts. The zero was invented by the Indians, and so was the numeral system of 0-9. The western world came to know of it through the Arabs and hence the unfairly called system of 'arabic numerals'. You can verify this fact in another documentary on this website, "what the ancients did for us: India'

    1. MohammedSafwan


      You are right Ambarish, India invented Zero. You can see the Documentary "Story of Maths" for more information.
      But the reason why they are called the 'Indo-Arabic Numerals" is because you must see the language of Semetic Middle East, especially Arabic in their language for you it will be evident that the characters that represents numbers are picked from Arabic.
      Also see Documentary "Science & Islam" for more information...

      But if we can bridge any gap (in case there is any) be friends I never mind Proclaiming to the world: INDEED ALL NUMERALS ARE INDIANS, WHAT NUMERALS? EVERYTHING THE WORLD KNOWS AS KNOWLEDGE BELONGS TO INDIA

      Cheers Man!

    2. Aejaz

      There is no historic proof than any numeral, including zero, came from India. Using maths is a pragmatic intent, for instance willing to produce advanced technology (not just handheld tools). What technology came from ancient India ? Come on, Your theory is backed by NO proof except anachronic (and debatable) scriptures.

  22. Nita

    Inventions created BEFORE Islam existed were not created by "the Islamic world." If the Islamics conquered Roman territory AFTER these inventions were developed, then they are not Islamic inventions. I'd be more impressed if this was not so obviously a propaganda set to convince us all how superior Islamic culture is. The Arabs invented the zero. They did not invent windmills, steam power or the Archimedes screw. So give credit where it is due--whether that be to the Greeks, the Romans or the Islamics.

  23. Ryan

    It's amazing how nothing about WORLD history appears in American, British or Canadian textbooks in school. All we hear about is Europe and the west, as if other civilizations didn't exist until the 1800's. It's sad...no wonder so many people are ignorant of the other 4/5 of the world...they have no encouragement to learn anything about Africa, Asia, pre Colombian Americas, Oceania or the Middle East...

  24. Ahmed

    SUbanallah, what a glorious Islamic history, in fact the last scene of the documentary regarding first ever torpedo is incredible, incredible. BE PROUD TO BE A MUSLIM, PLEASE.

  25. ItsCalledHistoryClass

    Jeah right, all hail Allah....not.
    Long before Islam there was the Roman Empire, and after the Empire was split the east roman empire had its Capitol in Konstantinopel, now known as Instambul. Later it was was conquered by Islam, and thats where they got "their" great inventions, from the east roman empire. Even the architecture of Mosques comes from the hagia sophia in Instambul...which actually was a Church before the City was conquered.

    So there goes the hyphosis of the superior Islam invening everything important and making the West what it is today. It's bull, sorry guys, but I'm sure Allah is still great and all. :D

    1. kiraak miabhai

      If you see the documentary all the inventions came before the constantinople was liberated (1453).
      Proud to be a muslim and God is great.

    2. Imad Khan

      Constantinople was Conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet in 1453,and in case if u have noticed almost all the inventions mentioned there were observed long before 1453.
      I admit that inventions are not always solely based,coz inventions are like evolution as they develop bit by bit from the already invented ideas into a more mature and fruitful way,for instance some of these inventions might have been possible due to the contribution of the Sassanian and Byzantines,but no Historian can deny the crucial inventions and massive contributions of The Muslims in art,culture,architectural,science,governance and the establishment of the 'House of Wisdom' in Baghdad,where the influx of valuable knowledge from all around the globe was massive. Even credits of the underlying roots of foundation of The Renaissance goes to the Muslims.

  26. InedibleHulk

    @FaJu Shows on The History and Military Channel are designed more to dazzle and impress the "average Joe sixpack" with how "awesome" and "technically advanced" the US military is. They make them look like big fancy toys instead of lethal weapons, so the uncritical public sees their use in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Iran, soon) as scientific progress and American ingenuity. If they started mentioning the Islamic contribution to this technology, viewers might think about the actual Muslim humans these state-of-the-art targeting systems are really targeting, and undermines the goals of this "technological superiority" justification.

    In simpler terms, always remember who is behind the c*** you see on TV when you watch it.

  27. FaJu

    It's interesting to note how most modern shows about weapons (specifically I have "Weaponology" in mind) completely fail to even breathe a word about the Islamic advances in weapons. I had honestly never known that torpedoes could be traced back to the 12th century. Nor did I know that Saladin was in command of of them...

  28. esma

    oops .. i mean word..

  29. esma

    i dont think muhammed had an intention to unite the divided arabs through a new religion since islam ,unlike judaism based on a race ,is a religion for all(at least in theory) ..not only arabs but also turks, persians and god knows who else r also muslims..
    after arabs , ottomans, descendants of turks ,took the mission of spreading the world..
    anyway time to watch the doc..

  30. Mohamed Latif

    How sad we don't see any of this in our history books.

  31. InedibleHulk

    Makes me want to become an engineer. Or just to get a camel and a still. Either way, I'm inspired!

  32. Syly1212

    Excellent! Alhumdulillah!

  33. MissD

    Nice one!