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Science & Islam: A History Paperback – May 15, 2006

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Science & Islam: A History + Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists + The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization
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Editorial Reviews


'Science and Islam, a fascinating and clearly written book.' -- New Scientist 'And, as this impressive book by Eshan Masood, which 'accompanies a major television series', reveals, this intersection between science and religion also permeated the history of Islam.' -- Geographical Magazine 'This is a delightful and approachable book, packed with surprises and treats and offered by a writer whose passion for the subject does not daunt his objectivity.' -- Wharf 'Refreshingly different ...Masood's [book] emphasis on context, combined with his easy prose, measured self-confident tone, and an effort to inject compelling human drama into the narrative, makes the present book - for the most part - wonderfully captivating.' -- Arif Babul, Observatory Magazine

About the Author

Ehsan Masood is Acting Chief Commissioning Editor at Nature. Formerly Opinion Editor at the New Scientist, he writes for Prospect andOpenDemocracy.Net and is a regular panellist on BBC radio's Home Planet. Ziauddin Sardar is a columnist, author, TV presenter and much more besides. Hislatest books are Balti Britain (Granta, 2008) and, with Merryl WynDavies, Will America Change? (Icon, 2008).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848310811
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848310810
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on February 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The synopsis of the book provided by the "Product Description" is fairly accurate. Therefore, I will only point out that it is difficult nowadays to get an objective, nuanced opinion on Islam, neither flattering nor biased against it (if I were to recommend a way to try and achieve this, I would suggest reading several good books on the matter, including this one among them).

So when I found this book I decide it to give it a chance, in despite of not finding previous comments on it. I was surprised that no one else had made a comment before to this interesting work, which, in my opinion, is an eminently readable survey of science in Islam. So I add my review (I would also suggest to find and read in google Ziauddin Sardar's review of this book; he reviewed it together with "The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization" by Jonathan Lyons).

The book is short, less than 240 pages (plus bibliography), and is divided in the following way: Prologue.//1. The dark age myth. PART I: THE ISLAMIC QUEST. 2. The coming of the Prophet. 3. Building Islam. 4. Baghdad's splendour. 5. The Caliph of science. 6. The flowering of Andalusia. 7. Beyond the Abbasids. PART II: BRANCHES OF LEARNING. 8. The Best Gift from God. 9. Astronomy: the structured heaven. 10. Number: the living universe of Islam. 11. At home in the elements. 12. Ingenious devices. PART III: SECOND THOUGHTS. 13. An endless frontier. 14. One chapter closes, another begins. 15. Science and Islam: lessons from history.//Timeline. Acknowledgments. Bibliography. Index.

I was somehow worried it would be boring.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Khateeb88 on August 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Science and Islam is a great way to get introduced to the contributions of Muslims during their golden age (750-1258). Unfortunately, Western textbooks completely ignore Muslim scientific accomplishments. In reading this book, your understanding of scientific history will be flipped on it's head via facts about Muslim biologists (natural selection 1000 years pre-Darwin), doctors (al-Zahrawi basically invented modern surgery), and mathematics (al-Khawarizmi pioneering liner and quadratic equations).

The only shortcoming of the book is that if you are already moderately informed about this subject, it will simply repeat what you already know. It is fairly short, and has big print (which could be a positive or a negative). It rarely goes into great detail about the people it talks about and leaves you wanting more.

Overall, it is a good introduction to Muslim scientists but if you're looking for something more in-depth, try Michael Hamilton Morgan's "Lost History".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ayman on July 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Ehsan Masood (Twitter) produced a BBC documentary on Islam and science. This book is its companion. It's excellent as a survey introduction to this topic in the history of science. It discusses multiple causes of historical phenomenon and the predominant historiography and its dissenters.

As in any work of history presented to the public, the academic academician, or even the humble ABD history student such as myself, can find weaknesses. But the wider public is not reading and watching our fascinating works, so maybe we can cut people like Ehsan Masood and Henry Louis Gates, Jr (Ali Mazrui's series on African history is better) and Neil deGrasse Tyson a break if they slip up now and again. Hopefully, the public intellectual strives to be like Carl Sagan and not Thomas Friedman, who can no doubt answer all of your questions.

The writing style is simple. The only references are listed as a bibliography at the end of the book.

Most readers will come away from the book thinking that, based on Muslims' past acceptance of the validity of scientific work, especially when it supported religiously-mandated activities such as determining prayer times or healing the sick or approved secular activities such as improving quality of life through applied technology in chemistry and horticulture, and their past tolerance of non-Muslims and non-orthodox Muslims, Muslims can participate in the global scientific enterprise. Their history of coercive pre- and early modern monarchies and colonial administrations has placed some stumbling blocks in their path, primarily mass suspicion of the science class, so to speak, as an arm of the state. The few who want more will simply need to follow up on the clues Dr. Ehsan has left for them to follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William P. Palmer on February 19, 2015
Format: Paperback
Review of Science and Islam: A history by Eshan Masood

CITATION: Masood, E. (2009). Science and Islam: A history. London: Icon Books.

Reviewer: Dr William P. Palmer

This is an excellent little book for the non-expert, which was written by Eshan Masood to accompany a major BBC (British Broadcasting Company) television series. One consequence of this is that it contains no illustrations except a map of the Mediterranean area, presumably to keep the price of the book low and to allow the television screen to provide the illustration. The book consists of fifteen chapters (three parts) with a prologue, timeline and index, etc. and is only 240 pages long. Roughly the first section of the book consists of Islamic history, explaining the main rulers and the shifts in power and empires after the death of Mohammed until the ‘Middle Ages’.

The second section of the book contains a summary of the progress of each of the major sciences over the whole period, with the emphasis being on mathematics and astronomy. As a chemist, I would have liked to see more detail in the chemistry section (Chapter 11), but perhaps that demands a different book. The usual description of Islamic science as a preserver of Greek science that formed a basis for the later European science of the Middle Ages is made, but the original scientific contributions made by a variety of Islamic scientists is also explained. The book carefully keeps to the middle ground emphasizing the positive achievements of all scientists whether Greek, Islamic or European and all are described in a non-partisan way. Similarly religious bias is avoided.

This book is thoroughly recommended.

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