How Islamic Scholar Ismail Al-Jazari Revolutionised Mechanical Engineering

Al Jazari Elephant Clock
Al Jazari Elephant Clock

When it comes to the pursuit and promotion of education, Islam stands out very clearly as a faith that places immense focus on this. Almighty Allah (SWT) in the glorious Quran always encouraged Muslims to utilise reason and pursue knowledge. As a Muslim, you must pursue knowledge, use the same for the benefit of humanity, and the praise of Allah (SWT). This is precisely what a Muslim scholar and polymath, Ismail al-Jazari did.

Born as Badi az-Zaman Abu I-Izz Ibn Ismail Ibn Ar-Razaz Al-Jazari, he was endowed by Allah (SWT) with such impressive mental powers that he emerged as one of the most legendary inventors, mathematicians, artists, artisans and mechanical engineers who have ever walked the face of this planet. Even though his achievements cut across so many spheres of life and areas of discipline, the focus in this piece is going to be on his impact on the area of mechanical engineering and how he revolutionised it.

One of the most important aspects of science and technology today is mechanical engineering. The discussion of how mechanical engineering came to be and how it evolved to the stage it is now, cannot be complete without talking of Ismail Al-Jazari. Born in what was then referred to as Upper Mesopotamia, he is known mainly for writing the book that he aptly titled Kitab Fi Marifat Al-Hiyal Al-Handasiya. This means The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices or the Book in Knowledge of Engineering Tricks.

He came up with this book in 1206 and the book was so descriptive and detailed that it contained one hundred mechanical devices complete with details on how to go about the construction of each of them. However, that was not all as Al-Jazari did a lot more.

It was Al-Jazari who came up with the concept of a camshaft where cams are connected to a shaft and this he used in his other inventions like the water clocks, automata, and water-raising machines. But once again, he was not done, he was also the brain behind an early type of the crankshaft. Today, crankshafts are very important in billions of vehicles all over the world but very few people know that one of the brains behind the crankshaft is an Islamic scholar.

A true genius in mechanical engineering, he also contributed to the development of early kinds of mechanical controls, escapement mechanism (as seen in a rotating wheel), suction pumps, segmental gear and so on. Some of his other impressive inventions include early kinds of water supply system controlled by water and gears.

Al-Jazari transformed mechanical engineering in a manner that is so profound that even the legendary Leonardo da Vinci was influenced by his works on automata. Modern-day experts on robotics also greatly draw inspiration from the works of Al-Jazari. Apart from his outstanding brilliance, he was also very devoted as a Muslim and he dutifully worshipped Almighty Allah (SWT) as the source of all knowledge. May our Creator endow us with immense knowledge and ease all our affairs, aameen.