Astronomy in the Service of Islam: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Astronomy in the Service of Islam

1st Edition

By David A. King


352 pages

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Hardback: 9780860783572
pub: 1993-11-25
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Based on a wide variety of previously unstudied sources, these articles explain how science was applied to three aspects of Islamic ritual in the Middle Ages: the regulation of the lunar calendar; the organisation of the times of the five daily prayers; and the determination of the sacred direction (qibla) towards the Kaaba in Mecca. Simple procedures of folk astronomy were used by the scholars of religious law who determined popular practice; more complicated mathematical methods were provided by the scientists - and this proved a powerful incentive for the development of scientific analysis and research. Some of these procedures were to have far-reaching consequences. For example, the astronomical alignment of the Kaaba - known to various medieval writers, but long forgotten - led to the adoption of similar alignments for the qibla, and the final articles show how these were calculated, whether from astronomical observation or geographical computation, and their impact on the orientation of religious and secular architecture across the Islamic world. C’est à partir d’une grande diversité de sources inexplorées que ces articles expliquent comment la science avait été appliquée a trois aspects du rituel islamique au Moyen Age: la régulation du calendrier lunaire; l’organisation des heures assignées aux cinq prières quotidiennes; et l’établissement de la direction sacrée (qibla) vers la Kaaba de la Mecque. Des procédés simples d’astronomie populaire étaient utilisés par les érudits en droit religieux qui décidaient de la pratique populaire; des méthodes mathématiques plus complexes étaient offertes par les hommes de science - ce qui, en effet, s’avèra être une motivation puissante dans le développement de l’analyse et de la recherche scientifique. Certains de ces procédés eurent des consequences d’une grande portée par la suite. L’alignement astronomique de la Kaaba - pour ne reprendre qu’un exemple connu

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface: General Survey: Science in the service of religion: the case of Islam; Lunar Crescent Visibility and the Regulation of the Islamic Calendar: Some early Islamic tables for determining lunar crescent visibility; Ibn Yunus on lunar crescent visibility; Lunar crescent visibility predictions in medieval Islamic ephemerides; Astronomical Timekeeping and the Regulation of the Times of Islamic Prayer: Mikat: astronomical timekeeping; Universal solutions in Islamic astronomy; Universal solutions to problems of spherical astronomy from Mamluk Egypt and Syria; Mizwala; The Sacred Direction in Islam: Kibla: sacred direction; Makka: as the centre of the world; Matla’: astronomical rising-points; On the orientation of the Ka’ba; Astronomical alignments in medieval Islamic religious architecture; The earliest Islamic mathematical methods and tables for finding the direction of Mecca; Addenda; Indexes.

About the Author

David A. King is Emeritus Professor of History of Science, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General