What the Ancients Did for Us: The Islamic World

What the Ancients Did for Us: The Islamic World

2005, History  -   51 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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6 years ago

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.

6 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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 years ago

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

7 years ago

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

Thomas Brown
9 years ago

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

9 years ago

"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.

Paul MacLeod
11 years ago

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.

sabir ayaz
11 years ago

Very informative.. Amazing documentary and an eye opener

11 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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..

11 years ago

just watch it

11 years ago

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.

12 years ago

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).

12 years ago



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...


12 years ago


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.

12 years ago

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

12 years ago

@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'

12 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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...

13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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

13 years ago

@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.

13 years ago

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...

13 years ago

oops .. i mean word..

13 years ago

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..

Mohamed Latif
13 years ago

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

13 years ago

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

13 years ago

Excellent! Alhumdulillah!

13 years ago

Nice one!