SHAFAQNA -Â From the earliest days of Islam, the importance of timing was never underestimated. The Islamic heritage has left today’s Muslims with an ancient heritage of clocks. Using the most advanced technology of their time, both refining and documenting their endeavours, the modern clock of today evolved fro these masters of arithmetic, astronomy and engineering.
The innovative devices were nothing short of precision engineering, their aesthetic quality was clean and beautiful in design, and the timepieces provided a voice for invoking gratitude to Alah for what we call the common today clock.
Ibn Al-Haytham’s Mechanical Water Clock
Ibn al-Haytham , known in Europe as Alhazen, was born in Basra, Iraq, around the year 965 CE . His scientific career began in Basra, but his career mainly flourished in late 10th and early 11th- centuries .
He created a water clock, which in his description, was a new invention in that it gave hours and minutes, which no other clock gave before his time. He refers to making and manufacturing as well as testing by trial and error, as well as calculations.
Ibn al-Haytham never disclosed why chose to use an inflow clepsydra type instead of the out-flow type which was frequently used by the Greeks. In a geographical sense, It could be that he was in Basra when he described his clock, where Indian technology would have reached. Ibn al-Haytham goes to great length to describe in detail the manufacturing method and materials of each component of the clock. He described the calibration technique and the trials and errors of each run so that the clock can reflect time accurately in the form of hours, half hours, quarter hours and minutes.
Historically, Al-Haytham’s water clock was notable for the first “clock face” denoting hours and minutes. He is also credited with being the first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving. Ibn Haytham invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters.
Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock
Al-Jazari was born in 1136 CE in the region of Jazirat ibn Umar which is current day Cizre in southern Turkey on the border of Syria. Al-Jazari was a brilliant polymath, scholar and inventor of mechanically engineered devices.
He devised the Elephant clock which gives physical form to the concept of multiculturalism. It features an Indian elephant, Chinese dragons, a Greek water mechanism, an Egyptian phoenix, and wooden robots in traditional Arabian attire. The timing mechanism is based on a water-filled bucket hidden inside the elephant. Utilizing the period water clock technology, Al-Jazari’s elephant clock is the first to feature automatons regularly performing actions.
Ridhwan Al-Sa’ati & His Father’s Umayyad Mosque Clock
Ibn Kathir reported that one of the Ummayad Mosque gates was called the Hours Gate, as there were a number of clocks placed at that gate. Those clocks were invented by clockmaker and engineer Mohammed Ibn Ali who was the father of Fakhr Al-Din Ridhwan Al-Saâ€™ati. It was during the reign of Nur al-Din Mahmud bin Zangi in Damascus Syria, that Muhammad al-Sa’ati created his water clock on Bab Jayrun, the eastern entrance gate of the Umayyad Mosque.
Those clocks were used to show each hour passing during the daytime. One of those clocks had sparrows, a snake of copper and a crow. When the clock strikes an hour,in sequence the serpent gets out, the birds twitter, the crow caws and a small copper ball falls down into a cup, therefore people knew that an hour had passed. The device was made six centuries before the construction of London’s Big Ben in1859.
Taqi Al-Din’s Astronomical Clock
Taqi al-Din was born in Cairo and was an astronomer, astrologer, mathematician, watch maker, Islamic philosopher and theologian, engineer, physician, Islamic Judge, botanist, zoologist and an inventor.Â
TaqÄ« al-DÄ«n was an planned to build an astronomical clock that would measure time with great regularity in fulfillment of the wish of the Sultan at the time, a device that Ptolemy couldn’t achieve success in.
Using mathematics, he designed three dials which indicatedÂ hours, degrees and minutes. In his clock, he incorporated the use of several escapements, an alarm, the striking trains that sounded at every hour, the visual relationship between the sun and the moon, the different phases of the moon, the devices that indicated the time for prayers and the dials that showed the first day of the Gregorian months.
This clock was more precise than those previously used, and considered to be one of the most significant inventions in the field of applied astronomy in the 16th century.