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The effects of Al-Khwarizmi’s work in Europe Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 1st, 2019

Historical Background

Al Khwarizmi was the best mathematician in his time and the term algorithm is from his name. He dedicated his life to finding ways to solve equations and problems through ordinary life as shown in his famous book “al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi Hisab al-Jabr w’al-muqabala.” In English, this means “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005). This concept is what later evolved and become Algebra (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005).

Spheres of influence

Al Khwarizmi also wrote a significant text on astronomy, covering calendars, calculating the true location of the sun, moon, and planets (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005).

He was also instrumental in the construction and development of the tables of sine’s and tangents, spherical astronomy, astrological tables, parallax and eclipse calculations, and visibility of the moon (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005). Although his astronomical work borrows greatly from the Indians, and the majority of the principles, which he developed, his tables were from Hindu astronomers, and he had some ideas borrowed from Ptolemy’s work as well (Aftab, 1995).

Al Khwarizmi also had an impact on the geographical sphere with his book “Kitab Surat al- Ard” which is translated as the book of the form of the earth. His geographical works gave the foundation for the development of the world map.

His work spread all around Europe by 1140s when the translator Robert of the chaster translated a number of arithmetical texts from Arabic to Latin. This helped in spreading the popularity of the books all over Europe hence creating the algebra discipline. This was very significant in the development of science in the west.

Latin translation and its impact

Al Khwarizmi’s books were available in Latin translation by the early 12th century (Aftab, 1995). As the Roman numerals had become cumbersome to scholars, the Arabic numerals came in as a relief, as they were better and easier to deal with. This led to their fast popularity getting approval from the universities.

The use of the Arabic numerals however drew rejection from the Christian adherent who remained loyal to the Roman numerals. Luckily, the Italian traders adopted the Arabic numeral system and greatly helped in the use and adoption of the system to the rest of Europe.

Evidently, the Islamic world had a great influence on the European world, a factor that played a huge role in developing the study of science forming the way for the scientific revolution (Aftab, 1995). The Muslims over the years have been very successful in the world of science and their role and impact in Europe was not an exception. In fact, the ancient cities of civilization like Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Cordoba to mention but a few are in Muslim domain.

The Muslims had seen Europe, as an irrelevant region since by then they had no central governance, they had poor infrastructure as well as lack of scientific technology, which as in the Muslim world. Al Khwarizmi being a Muslim provided the way for all this scientific development in Europe and all over the world eventually.

The Arabic mathematical foundation was actually one of the strongest academic foundations all over the world (Fiorina, 2012). However, his newly introduced mathematical system did not receive a warm welcome in the European world.

It took time before the Arabic numeric system got approval in the west. A good example of the challenges faced when trying to introduce this system is a particular law in Italy that prohibited the use of Arabic numerals.

The system was in universities but with time, the business community adopted it and eventually it became the common numeric language used all over Europe. The invention of the zero by Al Khwarizmi and the introduction of the Arabic numeric system transformed the scientific and academic system into the systems we have today.

If it were not for these inventions, the current academic system we enjoy would probably not be in existence and we can only guess what the world would look like.

The relevance of his work is in creation of computers and the creation of encryptions. In his book, he says that after considering what calculating was all about, he realized it was always about numbers (Fiorina, 2012). He also realized in his research that the numbers used in solving calculations are all divisible into smaller units since units formed the numbers.

Number theory

In his theory, he asserts that numbers expressed from one to ten was greater than the preceding by one unit (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005). His astronomical contribution is incredible. He developed the astronomical table of Sind and Hind, which is a calendar and astronomical study (Fiorina, 2012).

Conceivably, his most significant input to arithmetic was his great promotion of the Hindu mathematical structure, which he acknowledged as the influence and good organization required for transforming Islamic and Western arithmetic approaches (Fiorina, 2012).

The Hindu numerals zero and 1 – 9 that are the Hindu-Arabic numerals, the Islamic world approved them almost immediately (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005). Soon after, the conversion of Al-Khwarizmi’s work in Latin by several writers in the 12th century formed the beginning of the acceptance of his mathematical system around Europe.

Al-Khwarizmi’s other imperative input was algebra, an expression following the name of a mathematical manuscript he published in 830 which he called the “Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-Jabr wa’l-muqabala” as noted earlier in this paper.

Al-Khwarizmi sought to go from the precise problems measured by the Indians and Chinese to an additional universal method of assessing problems, by that he formed a theoretical numerical language, which is used all over the earth in the present day.

During this period when the Muslims and Indians were experiencing such scientific developments, Europe was still in the Dark Age as their mathematical and scientific endeavors had already stagnated. Scholars in Europe were mainly going for humanities.

Contribution in scientific development

This had a direct contribution on the scientific development in Europe and brought the entire Europe into a Dark Age. It is on record that from the 4th century all way to the 12th century, Europe’s scientific knowledge was very insignificant because of the inefficient Roman numeral system. Clearly, the works of Al-Khwarizmi in mathematics brought light in the European Dark Age and helped revive the scientific developments.

Blinded by religious alienation, Europe almost rejected the Muslim numeric approach introduced by Al-Khwarizmi. The Catholic institution, which was the strongest institution, managed to influence the Christian followers who were the majority to reject the Arabic numeric system. It was not until the Italians adopted this approach that the system spread all over Europe and with time, the Europeans realized the system was better than the old Roman numeric system.

The trade between Italians and the east directly affected the growth and spread the knowledge in the 12th century. The growing trade and commerce further caused the need for mathematical solutions in the region (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005). Muslims had great impacts on the European region mostly in the academic and scholarly sectors. The idea of colleges came from the Muslim world. History shows that the first college to be set up came from the Muslim world in the late 600s and early 700s (Aftab, 1995).

How the Islam impacted Europe

The earliest colleges in Europe came in the 13th century, which proves that the Islamic world was the first to come up with colleges and study foundations (Aftab, 1995). They had a similar setting as the Islamic institutions, a good example being the graduation, which in the Muslim setting is Sahib and the undergraduate, which in Islam is Mutafaqqhih (Aftab, 1995). The introduction of the number zero was the core and foundation of the scientific revolution in Europe.

Translation of the Arabic numerals into Europe also made mathematical tasks much easier and all of this was possible because of the great mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi. The creation of the algebraic approach was a very significant inventory, which brought tranquility in the human race and their existence. Algebra provides mathematical solutions by describing the relationship between things that vary over time (Syed, 2011).

Algebra and its significance

The significance of algebra is that through it the brain can think in completely new patterns and intellectually coming up with solutions to life’s challenges. The trick is that like a muscle, the more the brain works the better it becomes and algebra causes the brain to think hence making it to work, the brain is a muscle and it becomes even better when it is constantly put to work. The advantages of algebra are varied and instrumental in mental health development. This is actually how Al-Khwarizmi works influenced Europe.

In his life, he made major contributions in the role he played in developing the Arabic number system. This system replaced the clumsy Roman system so fast due to its easy and straightforward expressions. The Roman system used alphabetical letters and this made mathematical calculations very difficult.

Most numbers in the Roman numeric had been just too awkward and this made even the simplest calculation become very hard and the complex once impossible to solve. It was not until he traveled to India that Al-Khwarizmi came across an easier way.

His contribution to arithmetic

Possibly his most imperative assistance to arithmetic was the formation of a decimal-based numeral system as well as the idea of the number zero (Rashed, 1994). This theory came up with the idea of subtracting any number from its self and the result was Sunya the Indian name for zero. In this theory, when one add zero to a number or subtracted from a number, the number remains unchanged as was identified by the Indian mathematician, Brahmasphutasiddhanta, Brahmagupta (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005).

Most of his work in mathematics as this research shows was inclined towards a more practical dimension. The knowledge he accumulated while in India and the new numeric expression he was able to provide solutions for all calculations in a simpler way compared to the Roman numeral expressions.

Nonetheless, the public did not easily approve his new number system due to the use of the number zero as the placeholder (Aftab, 1995). It took a number of centuries before his number system got the approval and used as the accepted number system in Europe.

Al-Khwarizmi, nevertheless, was capable of using mathematics and algebra to simplify the calculating of inheritance through his number system (Syed, 2011). His discovery formed the foundation of calculating inheritance in the Arab world and this method d still in use even today. The bottom line is that the technology industry would not have grown to the heights it has grown today if the Arab mathematician was not actively involved in pursuing mathematical solutions of physical and practical problems.

His contribution goes far beyond the normal solutions in the mathematics field. This theory gave rise to the current technological development and in many other sectors, his invention is fundamental. In the banking and financial sector mathematical and algebra are inevitable.

In fact, algebra is the basics of every field of study today thanks to Al-Khwarizmi. His invention also brought forth a number of debates, which lead to a split between mathematicians. Nonetheless, his work has gained much approval worldwide today and it formed the basis of European development especially in technology. Mathematics had a direct influence on Europe.

Salvaging Europe out of the Dark Age took the introduction of the Arabic number system, which they initially rejected due to religious reasons. The catholic institution had succeeded in convincing the Europeans that they were superior to the Muslims and that their knowledge was not significant to them.

With such a mentality, the west disregarded the mathematicians from the east, Italy, China however embraced the Muslim scholars and accepted their ideas, and consequently they were advancing technologically while Europe was stagnating in the Dark Age.

Adopting the number system

Due to the trade ties between the east and Italy, Europe was able to adopt the Arabic number system developed by Al-Khwarizmi through his many books translated into Latin.

The spread of the system made business much easier and scholars found this new system better to deal with as opposed to the previous Roman numeric system. The negative effects of his work are not as pronounced as his positive impacts.

Nonetheless, the battle between Muslims and Christian supremacy was a major event that arose from his work. The rejection of the Arabic system was a religious statement that brought some discretion between the two religions hence a little bit of tension and paranoia between them.

Islamic input into Science is however, swiftly deciphered, and transferred from Spain to the rest of Europe (Rashed, 1994). Muslims as a whole contributed to science in many variant ways including the pendulum, which is used to measure time (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 2005).

Isaac Newton’s principles are from Islamic knowledge while in the field of Chemistry the Muslims have offered a number of principles as well. The knowledge transferred to Europe by the Muslim played a vital role in the scientific revolution and development in the region (Fiorina, 2012). The European Renaissance could not have taken place were it not for the introduction of new scientific and mathematical theories and one of the instrumental people to have participated in this was Al-Khwarizmi (Ayyubi, 2006).


Aftab, M, (1995). How Islam Influenced Science. The Islamic Herald. 1(1), 1-2.

Ayyubi, N. (2006). Contribution of Al-Khwarizmi to Mathematics and Geography. Web.

Fiorina, C. (2012). Web.

Rashed, R. (1994). . Web.

School of Mathematics and Statistics. (2005). Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi. Web.

Syed, I. (2011). Al-Khwarizmi: The Father of Algebra. Islamic History. Web.

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