Explore the Museum / Why did Islamic science flourish?

The Introductory cluster introduces visitors to the theme, storyline and take-home message of the Museum. People are able to interact with a three-dimensional fly-through of the Museum. They then can view brief biographies of the most prominent Islamic scientists and inventors.

Also, visitors can learn the twelve reasons why Islamic science and technology flourished during the Golden Age of Islam from 650-1650. An interactive map can be viewed which shows the different ages of the Islamic world. Finally, an interactive Time Line provides a comprehensive overview of the development of Islamic science and technology.

Giant interactive Time Line

The interactive multi-touch table Time Line (situated between the ‘Learning Institutions’ and ‘Astronomy and Navigation’ theaters) provides a comprehensive overview of the development of Islamic science and technology from 650 to 1650, with some recent highlights.

Interactive fly-through

At the entrance door, visitors can view an interactive floor plan of the Museum in the form of a three-dimensional fly-through. This display explains the lay-out of the main clusters and the iconic exhibits in the Museum.

Al-Idrisi floor map

A replica of al-Idrisi’s famous 12th century world map, the most accurate at the time, is embedded in the floor at the entrance to the Museum.

King’s Vision

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s vision for the establishment of KAUST as a new House of Wisdom is portrayed on a large poster on the wall opposite the entrance to the Museum.

The Islamic World

Flipbook combined with a large plasma screen that shows how the Islamic world developed from pre-Islamic times to the present.

The following periods in the development of the Islamic world are portrayed:

  • Before Islam: the Byzantine and Assamid Empires
  • Birth of Islam
  • Islam expands: ca 800 CE
  • Islamic territories in the 9th century but lost by the 15th century
  • Islamic territories in the 9th century and still Islamic by the 15th century
  • Islamic territory gained from the 9th to the 16th centuries
  • Trade routes on land and sea
  • Islamic expansion in Africa by 1800
  • Emergence of independent Islamic states from 1922 onwa

Why did science flourish in Islam?

This large sliding plasma screen display is one of the most important exhibits in the Museum. The display describes the twelve main reasons why Islamic science and technology flourished during the period 650-1650. The screen displays different texts and illustrations to describe each point.

In this exhibit, the following 12 reasons explain why Islamic science has flourished:

  • Positive influence of the Islamic faith and the Islamic way of life on the stable and sustained development of Islamic society
  • First use of Arabic numerals, zero and the decimal point, and the introduction of modern arithmetic
  • Translation and understanding the work of ancient scholars from China, India, Egypt and Greece
  • A wide range of learning institutions that were developed during the Golden Age of Islam. These learning institutions included mosques, madrasahs, teaching hospitals and houses of wisdom to name but a few. They were also combined with the ethic of lifelong learning and passing your knowledge onto future generations
  • Universal use of the Arabic language, at all levels of society, throughout the Islamic world
  • The vast extent of the Islamic world at its peak, from Spain in the west to China and India in the east, southwards into Africa and northwards into eastern Europe
  • Extensive travels undertaken by Muslim people, on their pilgrimages, for trade, exploration and research
  • Strong support of religious and political leaders and rich patrons
  • Development of advanced paper-making skills and the production of books
  • Respect with which scholars were treated in Islamic society
  • Strong ethos of innovation in Islamic culture
  • Development and practice of the scientific method from Jabir ibn Hayyan in the 9th century onwards

Overview screen

A large back-projected screen shows images of the wide variety of contributions that Muslim scholars made to science and technology during the Golden Age of Islam (650-1650).

Meet the Polymaths

A display of open books tells the stories of 14 of the polymaths (scientists skilled in different fields) whose work is portrayed in the Museum. The 15th book describes Ibn al-Haitham’s contribution to the development of the scientific method.