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Friday, 2 August 2013

How Muslims Did Not Invent Algebra

Citadel Hill, Amman, Jordan

Continuing on the theme of what Muslims did - or more likely did not do - for the world, there is a widespread misconception that they "invented algebra". Maybe this fallacy is due to the fact that "algebra" is a word of Arabic origin, but historical questions are not solved by etymological answers.

Yes, the English word "algebra" derives from the Arabic. So does "sugar" (from the Arabic "sukkar") but that doesn't mean that Muslims invented sugar.

The word "algebra" stems from the Arabic word "al-jabr", from the name of the treatise Book on Addition and Subtraction after the Method of the Indians written by the 9th-century Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who translated, formalized and commented on ancient Indian and Greek works.

It is even doubtful whether al-Khwārizmī was really a Muslim. The Wikipedia entry on him says:
Regarding al-Khwārizmī's religion, Toomer writes:

"Another epithet given to him by al-Ṭabarī, "al-Majūsī," would seem to indicate that he was an adherent of the old Zoroastrian religion. This would still have been possible at that time for a man of Iranian origin, but the pious preface to al-Khwārizmī's Algebra shows that he was an orthodox Muslim, so al-Ṭabarī's epithet could mean no more than that his forebears, and perhaps he in his youth, had been Zoroastrians."
In all likelihood he was a Zoroastrian who was forced to convert (or die) by Muslim rulers because Persia had been conquered by the Islamic armies and that was what Muslims did (and still do wherever they can). That could easily explain the "pious preface to al-Khwārizmī's Algebra".

Wikipedia also says:
In Renaissance Europe, he [al-Khwārizmī] was considered the original inventor of algebra, although it is now known that his work is based on older Indian or Greek sources.
There is archaeological evidence that the roots of algebra date back to the ancient Babylonians, then developed in Egypt and Greece. The Chinese and even more the Indians also advanced algebra and wrote important works on the subject.

The Alexandrian Greek mathematician Diophantus (3rd century AD), sometimes called "the father of algebra", wrote a series of books, called Arithmetica, dealing with solving algebraic equations. Another Hellenistic mathematician who contributed to the progress of algebra was Hero of Alexandria, as did the Indian Brahmagupta in his book Brahmasphutasiddhanta.

With the Italian Leonardo Pisano (known as Leonardo Fibonacci, as he was the son of Bonacci) in the 13th century, another Italian mathematician, Girolamo Cardano, author in 1545 of the 40-chapter masterpiece Ars magna ("The great art"), and the late-16th-century French mathematician François Viète, we move from the prehistory of algebra to the beginning of the classical discipline of algebra.

Even Bertrand Russell, who in no way is a critic of the Islamic world, writes in the Second Volume of The History of Western Philosophy:
Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought. Men like Avicenna and Averroes are essentially commentators. Speaking generally, the views of the more scientific philosophers come from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy, and among mystics religious philosophy has also an admixture of old Persian beliefs. Writers in Arabic showed some originality in mathematics and in chemistry--in the latter case, as an incidental result of alchemical researches.

Mohammedan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and in many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. Its importance, which must not be underrated, is as a transmitter. Between ancient and modern European civilization, the dark ages intervened. The Mohammedans and the Byzantines, while lacking the intellectual energy required for innovation, preserved the apparatus of civilization--education, books, and learned leisure. Both stimulated the West when it emerged from barbarism--the Mohammedans chiefly in the thirteenth century, the Byzantines chiefly in the fifteenth. In each case the stimulus
produced new thought better than any produced by the transmitters--in the one case scholasticism, in the other the Renaissance (which however had other causes also).
You can see that to say that Muslims invented or pioneered algebra is a gross misrepresentation.

In conclusion, there are various attempts at historical revisionism as far as Islamic contributions to the world are concerned. These attempts are more political propaganda than academic scholarship. After all, taqiyya, lying to the infidels to advance Allah's cause, is permitted, and even prescribed, to Muslims, and jihad does not just consist in violent aggression or terror attacks: it can be gradual, by stealth, through indoctrination and false reassurance.


  1. Anyone ever hear of the Pythagorean Theorem?

    1. Yes, except that it's part of geometry, not algebra.

    2. Pythagoras was an Ionian Greek, not an arab or muslim.

    3. However if we said that al Khwarizmi was a Christian man you wouldn't say nothing about it, but because he was a Muslim man you where so eager to find a reason to say that he didn't invent algebra, you know what, till this day I don't understand why everyone is so against Islam but I will go look into it. Also for your information he was Muslim and he lived in Saudi Arabia that shows how uneducated you are because even famous professors know that he made algebra. Go educate yourself.

    4. No it is not because he is a muslim, why have you got such a siege mentality, exhibited by many muslims? This world is not muslim v non-muslim. All the author is trying to do is come to the truth.

    5. Well said "anonymous"������

    6. Muslims have been killing and pillaging an entire continent ever since the Quran was written and dictated that they do so...Muslims do not want to face this truth. If Muslims had actually been intelligent, and Godly these acts of barbarism and theft would never have occurred. He who wins the war, writes the history books, and that's what they did.

  2. Yes, Tony, I still don't know exactly what ML/NJ meant. I did not think he meant to say that Pythagoras was Muslim.

    1. dear Enza Ferreri,

      Some Peopleare very Ignorant. my point is alot of people hate muslims. I really do not know how you got this valid information as a "misconception". Have you ever heard about the man "Galileo". If you go to his Museum you'll see his book that shows how the world rotates around the sun. Next to that book you'll see the original book of Galileo's book in Arabic. My point is, when Galileo declared and showed his book to the public, he had stated that he had translated the arabic book into his own language. We Muslims knew that the earth rotated around the sun 300 years ago before you guys knew it. but the problem with you guys is that you think that your people invented everything. This is the actual misconception that you people are spreading out. Dear Enza Ferreri, I would recommend this website that shows all the misconceptions that Europeans have spreaded:

    2. What you are referring to is heliocentrism, the theory that the earth revolves around the sun.

      That theory was first formulated by the Greek Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC, so long before Islam even existed.

      Regarding what you say about Galileo declaring that he had translated "his book" (which of his books you are referring to I don't know, but I suppose you probably mean "Il Dialogo sui massimi sistemi") from the Arabic, I seriously question your sources, if you have any, because it sounds more like science fiction than science history.

      If by Galileo's Museum you mean this site:,

      there is nothing there to support your fantastic claims.

    3. Brava Enza! Complimenti.

    4. M. Dogukan Kayhan superficial reasoning kind of makes Enza's point for her.

      This is the end result of centuries of Islamic theocratic inquiry - ignorance and an inability to reason with facts - as they can't exist if they contradict Mohamed.

      It reminds me of "newspeak and doublethink" in Orwell's "1984".

  3. with all honesty and I believe you are a very honest woman, if it was a Christian, Jew or Buddhist or whatever religion for that matter that they had invented algebra, but then you research and find out it was a Muslims who actually invented algebra, would you still do research on the matter & would you be just as fair in your words?

    1. Yes, I think that lying is never a good strategy.

  4. The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi's book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi's discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.

    1. Why don't you carry on and say everything comes from the muslim world? Why do you say "probably" Indian in origin. It WAS indian in origin. Stop being such a fanatical apologetic.

      Funny how the muslims invented everything but in this day and age their nobel prizes to population ratio is the lowest.

    2. Well said and for the above reply Muslims never said that they invented everything , but however al - khawarizmi was just influenced and inspired by Indians, Greeks and other philosophers he (( didn't change their theories)) and made algebra , so why don't you just accept the truth instead of changing it

  5. Indians discovered and invented everything.....1. India invented the Number system. Pingalacharya invented zero. in 200 BC.

    2. Indians discovered the size, shape, rotation and gravity of earth about 1000 years before Kelvin,Galileo,Newton and Copper Nicus. Aryabhatta I was the first to explain spherical shape,size ,diameter,rotaion and correct speed of Earth in 499 AD.

    3. Newtons law of Gravitational force is an ancient Indian discovery. In Siddhanta Siromani ( Bhuvanakosam 6 ) Bhaskaracharya II described about gravity of earth about 400 years before Sir Isaac Newton.

    4. Bhaskaracharya II discovered Differential calculus.

    5. Theory of Continued Fraction was discovered by Bhaskaracharya II.

    6. The place value system, the decimal system was developed in India in 100 BC.

    7. Indians discovered Arithmetic and Geometric progression. Arithmetic progression is explained in Yajurveda.

    8. Govindaswamin discovered Newton Gauss Interpolation formula about 1800 years before Newton.

    9. Vateswaracharya discovered Newton Gauss Backward Interpolation formula about 1000 years before Newton.

    10. Madhavacharya discovered Taylor series of Sine and Cosine function about 250 years before Taylor.

    11. Madhavacharya discovered Newton Power series.

    12. Madhavacharya discovered Gregory Leibnitz series for the Inverse Tangent about 280 years before Gregory.

    13. Madhavacharya discovered Leibnitz power series for pi about 300 years before Leibnitz.

    14. Parameswaracharya discovered Lhuilers formula about 400 years before Lhuiler.

    15. Nilakanta discovered Newtons Infinite Geometric Progression convergent series.

    16. Theorems relating the diameter,volume and circumference of circles discovered by Madhavacharya, Puthumana Somayaji, Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya.

    17. The value of pi was first calculated by Aryabhatta I in 499 AD,ie more than 1350 years before Lindemann

    18. Boudhayana discovered Pythagorus Theorem in 800BC. ie 300 years before Pythagorus.

    19. Algebra, trigonometry and calculus came from India. Quadratic equations were by Sridharacharya in the 11th Century.

    20. While the Greeks were using only upto a maximum value 1000, Indians could go upto 18th power of 10 level during Vedic period.

    21. Infinity was well known for ancient Indians. BhaskaracharyaII in Beejaganitha
    (stanza-20) has given clear explanation with examples for infinity

    22. Positive and Negative numbers and their calculations were explained first by Brahmagupta in his book Brahmasputa Siddhanta.

    23. Sterling formula was discovered by Brahmagupta about 1000 years before Sterling.

    24. Demoviers theorem of positive integral was discovered by Brahmagupta in 628 A.D, i.e around 1000 years before Demovier.

    25. Puthumana Somayaji discovered Demoviers infinite series in 1140 AD,i.e more than 200 years before Demovier.

    26. Maharshi Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted surgeries like cesareans, cataract, fractures and urinary stones. Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India. He was the first person to perform plastic surgery.

    27. When many cultures in the world were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization).

    28. The worlds first University was established in Takshila in 700BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of

    1. That's true the Arabic word for engineering is "Handaseh" which means science only the Hindi people are good at!

    2. Word "Hindi" is out of context, Hindi is a modern language and not even the original language of India. Probably should be "Indian" people.

  6. Didn't ISIL just outlaw mathmatics? I don't care who invented what ! I just want to see people free to use the brains that whatever God you believe in gave them, to advance the human race into a world that can live in peace and happiness.

  7. I think In near future You will be a Muslim.. Inshaallah

  8. UK athiests realize that ISLAM is only religion they cannot criticize...

  9. Ur an idiot muslims did in fact crete Algebra Wikipedia is written by someone so they too are wrong so shut up u are so badly wrong MUSLIMS DID CREATE ALGBRA

    1. "Shut up! Shut up! You are wrong! We are right!" A fairly predictable response from a muslim. Blinkered, ignorant and intolerable of anything or anybody who doesn't agree with you. What a pathetic idiot!

    2. The idiot probably thinks muslims created sugar as well.

    3. If a single Muslim replied in a bad way people say that all Muslims are bad , but did anyone say that Christians are bad because a few Christians killed inoccent muslims the answer is NO isalm teached us to behave in a good manner and if few didn't it doesn't mean that all muslims are idiots

    4. The last I checked, it was muslims beheading 21 Egyptian christians(not to mention the number of beheading and killings done before this cowardly and inhuman act and are continuing to do). All you do is behead, bomb, rape, cheat and steal. Not one of you people even raise your voices in opposition to any of the islamic terrorist groups....Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. I laugh when you people say that islam is a religion of peace, more like a religion of havoc & hypocricy

    5. agreed,agreed,im agreed,we muslims sometimes do manythings about what i am too ashamed to talk about.....

    6. Hey Mr Hillius thanks for calling us idiots.I'll go tell that to my 8 yr old brother shall I?That we are raised to be ashamed of our religions?

  10. ALL RELATED FIELDS OF Math, algebra, triconomateric, decimals and astronomy are invented by Indians before Muslim Invaded India and they translated into Arabic and bring to Europe. Indian numbers increase by multiply by (das=diez=ten) 10,100,1000,10,000,100,000,etc. with decimal sign. Inventor of Chess are Indian, must posses great mathe+algebra+coordinate formulas.

  11. Dear Enza Ferreri
    Your statement of the time of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) having the lack of "intellectual energy required for innovation" is seriously underestimated. What do you call a new religion of Islam? If you look up the word innovation you would get, "Innovation is a new idea, device or process" (quoted from wiki, seeing as you love it so much). Islam is a pack of righteous rulings which show guidance. It gave women rights way before anyone else did.
    Also, it is against Islam to force someone to convert into a Muslim. and even if Al-Khwārizmī was a Muslim or not, why do you think we wrote the books he wrote? Surely he wasn't forced to that as well.
    And who cares if Muslims invented something, so what? It's not going to harm anyone. This post was an petty excuse to throw a hateful comment at Muslims.

    1. I don't think so. I think it is a response to Muslim apologist attempts to rewrite history. How is it hateful to expose a lie?
      Muslims have achieved things, no-one wishes to deny that. Ahmed Zewail won the chemistry nobel prize. Good for him.

      In answer to your points, firstly it is not against Islam to force people to convert.
      Sure, there is a passage in the Koran that says 'there is no compulsion in religion'. However, many scholars believe that this has been abrogated by later verses that command to fight until there is no worship but that of Allah. Other scholars have argued that the passage only applies to Jews and Christians-it being perfectly acceptable to force polytheists and non believers to Islam.

      Whatever we may think is the correct interpretation, the fact is that throughout Islamic history people have been forced to follow Islam. People were often offered a choice between conversion and death. Those enslaved were automatically made Muslim. Other religions were forced to pay ruinous taxes or convert, no non Muslim could marry a Muslim woman.
      Even today the generally agreed punishment for leaving Islam is death.
      'No compulsion', don't make me laugh.

      The reason people rile against misinformation is that Islamic apologists constantly try to lie about what Islam says, and what happened in Islamic history.
      If you compare Islam with any other societal system in terms of human development, scientific research, tolerance, freedom, in fact any measure you choose. You find that it performs very badly.
      Islamic doctrine says that Islam provides the perfect system for the human race though, so Islamists cannot accept the evidence. They are forced to try and rewrite history to make it look better for Islam and deny the achievements of any other society.

      These same Islamists will try and convince everyone that Islam is the best system for the human race and should be universally adopted. They will also fight people to make this happen. All of the evidence says that widespread adoption of Islam would be a disaster of unprecedented scale for the human race.

      The apologist's misguided attempt to increase harmony by subverting truth is dangerous. It condemns people to continued human rights abuses under Islam and it is extremely important that these lies are exposed whenever possible.

      Ti saluto Enza Ferreri

      By the way you have made a straw man fallacy argument in your post.
      The lack of 'intellectual energy required for innovation' was not Enza's statement. It was a quote from Bertrand Russell.
      Further he was referring to Mohammedan civilization, not just the time of the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad did create Islam and the notion of offensive jihad that led to Islam dominating a large part of the world by slaughtering masses of people and forcing the rest to submit. This invention, whilst hardly innovative, was certainly successful in its way.
      It's not very convincing that it was progress though.

      Lastly, Islam did give women some rights and at the time this was quite innovative. (Way before anyone else? You are aware that a number of ancient civilizations had female rulers I suppose). However it also gave women inferior rights to men and since it is supposed to be perfect and unchanging, under Islam this situation would continue forever.

      The rest of the world has already advanced beyond traditional Islamic teachings. It is imperative to prevent Islamists dragging us backwards.
      The notion that sharia in particular is a perfect system for humanity needs to be thoroughly exposed for the lie that it is.
      This is probably even more important for the sake of Muslims than for that of non-Muslims at the present time.

  12. Whether a Muslim invented algebra is a moot point. What is obvious is that Muslim societies have never advanced beyond the point they were at way back then. For Muslims, western societies are attractive and accommodating which is why so many Muslims come here. For people from western societies, Muslim countries are, without exception, brutal hell holes that they would only inhabit under pain of death - and even then it would be a close run thing. Personally, I think I'd choose death.

    1. Well, Muslim countries arent brutal hell holes many Muslims live a peace luxurious life like UAE and Qatar citizens and formula 1 that takes place in many countries one of which is Bahrain a country in the middle of the Arabian gulf

  13. Then good luck to you, for choosing that, but I beliebe you are jealous of Muslims because they are better than you

    1. Oh yes...very jealous. Asses in the air, heads to the ground...public beheadings, amputations, stoning, animal abuse, etc. The pedophile prophet's vision of perfect society.

    2. Projection. You know you're chronic losers. Look what everyone else can do that you never will.

    3. Don't tell us muslims that other religions did things like yourself Mr. Anonymous on 11 January 2015 14:59

  14. The author appears quite stupid. The fact that one can speak and write in a language is not an indication of the ability to reason. She completely fails to connect the role that trade and migrations have on people. As someone mentioned above useful inventions are much sought after and this leads to their proliferation. Roots and origins of inventions, just like people, are never forgotten. In her own case, it comes across that she has Italian connections, and those connections are hard to obliterate. If Arabs invented something, they invented it. PERIOD.

    1. Have you even read the article?
      No-one thinks Arabs invented algebra. The (false) Muslim claim to have invented it is based upon the work of one al-Khwarizmi who was a Persian, not an Arab.

      One of his main works refers in the title to the fact that it is based on the method of the Indians. He also borrowed heavily from the work of previous Greek scholars. There is no way he himself would have claimed to invent algebra. The claim came afterwards when Muslims were looking for scientific achievements to try and show that Islam can lead to human progress.
      Even the word algebra was coined by Europeans (albeit from the Arabic book title) so by the strange logic of 'who named it invented it' I've seen above, then it must have been Europeans.

      Your use of contra position is bizarre. This is used to disprove a proposition (e.g. that Muslims invented algebra). The author has used it correctly in finding a number of problems with this assertion. You can't use it to disprove the falsity of a proposition.

    2. Her starting point is incorrect. She concludes before she even begins. Her article becomes nothing but a tirade. Contra-position can be used BOTH ways, and I am using it to highlight the dangers of blanket statements. Am I, for instance, to say that because ONE ring pronouncing Allah was found in the possession of one Viking woman (an archaeological certainty), then Islam drove the Vikings to their conquests? Only fascists follow that kind of reasoning and the author demonstrates that clearly.

  15. LATEST: The link between the Vikings and Islam:

    Read more:
    Follow us: @EnzaFerreri on Twitter | enza.ferreri on Facebook

  16. Ms Fererri is welcome in my neighborhood at any time.

    The ranting, spewing hostile comment-bots, never.

  17. you are the most racist Person I've ever seen
    now you're talking about Muslims how they have nothing to do with science I don't know maybe next you will be saying that they should be killed to ,I mean I can not believe that there is someone as racist as you ,in the Middle Ages where Europe was a place where darkness and unfairness ruled the Muslim world And the Arabic world was blossoming with new ideas discovering the laws of life and science but unfortunately your racism has blinded you from seeing that

    1. What race is Islam? If I convert from Islam to Christianity what race would I be then? (that is if some deranged 4th century throwback hasn't cut my head off)

  18. Reading full of rubbish here the article plus the comments. The person who invented ALGEBRA was an Arab but followed a religion called Islam. But the author of this article is no writer just opinionated in her views who is causing conflict between everyone that are commenting. You all should be ashamed of yourselves, talking like you're all intellectual but no brain cells between you. Can't believe I wasted on an article which is based on opinion by Enza Ferreri. If only someone would invent a time machine hahahaha

    1. Diophantine equations are algebra. Diophantus considered them 300 years before Muhammad was even born.
      I know Muslims are desperate to find something, anything, that their religion has produced apart from misery. But you'll have to look somewhere else I'm afraid.

  19. History gets twisted in terms of Muslim inventions. I believe Muslims invented everything, and the pagans stolen those.

  20. Al is a word that is only used in Arabic. Gebra is derived from the word gabr, a muslim Arabic name of a.mathmatisian who thought of the concept of algebra but the was perfected by khawarizmy. Fuck off and don't deny the facts with your bullshit hate for Muslims

    1. You need to grow up.
      Nobody is even questioning the origin of the WORD algebra.
      It comes directly from the title of Khwarazmi's book entitled 'Kitab al-Jabr w'al-Muqabala'. al-Jabr means reunion of broken parts.
      Everybody has respect for the work of Khwarazmi.

      To claim he invented algebra is ridiculous though. There are many cases of algebra being used as far back as the time of the Babylonians, and most of Khwarazmi's work was based on earlier Greek and Indian work.

      People like Khwarazmi were persecuted under Islam and their work came to be ignored when the Ghazali school of thought became prominent (that is the school of thought that has dominated Islam since about 1200 AD).
      For today's Islam to try and claim credit for him is crazy. It's like crediting the work of Galileo to the Spanish Inquisition.

  21. Enzi, I totally agree with your statement, "These attempts are more political propaganda than academic scholarship." Truth.

    Without actual facts to prove it, I can only observe the movement which began about 10 yrs ago to populate every country with a massive amount of Muslims, which are softly labeled refugees to deceive many and play upon the compassion of the world. If somehow we could access every European & American political leader's bank and trading accounts, nationally and foreign, I could almost guarantee that we would find huge deposits and be able to link them back to the Muslim-Oil Rich governments that persuades them to go along with their plan. Also, it is no secret that Islam has funded most universities & colleges in both Europe and USA with the intention of controlling and reshaping the worlds view of Muslims. Here are just a few links as proof:
    Liberal, Muslim friendly sources do not deny it, but put their own soft twist to downplay any hidden agenda for the donations.

    So, when I hear people asking the question of, "Why is this happening and why have things changed so drastically over the last 10-15yrs?", I always refer them to investigate the flow of money. As one of your critics so correctly stated, "People become what their government controlled education system teaches them." And this is why they have all been persuaded with the god that they worship, Mammon "$".