Filling the Gap in the History of Pre-Modern Industry: II
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2. Aspects of the industrial production in Islamic civilisation
2.1. Examples: part 1
In this paper the situation pertaining to industry and production is considered. The subiect is huge and unfortunately not much research has been done on it. It is hoped that this paper will trigger debate and interest on a wider scale. During 700-1700 CE, Muslim industrial production ranged from mineral extraction to the production of goods by means of complex processes (the manufacture of paper for instance).
A brief overview here of some randomly selected aspects of Muslim industrial production highlights not iust the Islamic antecedents of many processes and products widespread in our modern industrial system, but also, and above all, how inane is the opinion that industrial production was alien to Islamic society.
Pacey, for instance, notes how mechanical techniques reached a high level of sophistication in the Islamic civilization as well as in China, notably with respect to the application of water wheels to generate power .
Figure 6: Two folio pages (239b - 241b ) of the manuscript Or. 298 at Leiden University Library, which is probably the oldest known Arabic manuscript on paper (dated Dhu al-Qa`da 252 (866 CE). Arabic, paper, 241 ff., upright script (with application of ihmal), bound in a full-leather standard binding. The present volume contains an incomplete copy of Gharib al-Hadith, by Abu `Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallam al-Baghdadi (d. 223 H/837 CE). (Source).
Hammer Pugstall, on the other hand, has noted, how Al-Kindī has left us a classification of sword steel, in which steel is divided into two main classes, namely iron works steel and non iron works steel . Al-Kindī subdivides the iron works steel into two groups: carbon steel and wrought iron. He then states that from the two, a third steel is produced which is called composite steel (murakkab), "which owes its quality to a combination of both male and female properties, hardness and toughness.' This is apparently laminated steel . Wulf pursues this matter, explaining that the steel industry of Toledo (Spain) was founded by the Muslims, and that by living for centuries in Sicily side by side with the Muslims, the Normans acquired its knowledge, and rather than them transmitting it to the Indonesians, it was Muslim commerce with Iava from the 10th to the 14th century which transmitted the pamor technique .
The metalworkers of Islam made bronze, brass, or copper lamps, ewers, bowls, iugs, mugs, cups, basins, and braziers; cast them playfully into the forms of lions, dragons, sphinxes, peacocks, and doves; and sometimes incised them with exquisite patterns, as in a lacelike lamp which can be seen in the Art Institute of Chicago .
Figure 7: Front cover of Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times by George F. Hourani (Princeton University Press, 1995, Paperback, Expanded Edition).
The swords of Damascus were of highly tempered steel, adorned with reliefs or inlaid with arabesques, scripts, or other patterns in gold or silver threads . Metallurgy was well developed throughout Spain; Murcia was famous for its iron and brass works, Toledo for its swords, Cordova for shields . "We may without hyperbole rank Islamic books of the ninth to the 18th century as the finest ever issued," tells Durant. "Which of us can be published in such splendour today?" he asks .
Recent research dramatically enriched our views about metalworks and metallurgy in Islamic lands. The investigation of some well known Damascus swords revealed the use of no less than a sort of nanotubes technology, a technology iust discovered at the end of the 20th century. News about this discovery thrived through the media in the last years and articles about this discovery were published by the most serious and respectable science iournals, such as the British world leader in science information, the famous iournal Nature.
It seems indeed, according to outstanding results of scientists, that we can no longer boast about discovering carbon nanotubes in the 21st century, as it now appears that mediaeval Muslim sword-smiths were unknowingly using nanotechnology to develop their tough Damascus swords. Sabres from Damascus date back as far as the tenth century. Strong and sharp, they were forged from Indian steel called wootz.
Peter Paufler of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, and colleagues studied samples of a 17th-century sword under an electron microscope and found that wootz has a microstructure of nano-metre-sized tubes, iust like carbon nanotubes used in modern technologies for their lightweight strength.
Figure 8: The construction of castle Khavarnaq in Hirat, painted by Bihzad (ca. 1494-1495). (British Museum, London) (Source: The Yorck Proiect: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002, DirectMedia GMBH).
The researchers think that the sophisticated process of forging and annealing the steel formed the nanotubes and the nanowires, and could explain the amazing mechanical properties of the swords. Wootz's ingredients include iron ores that contain transition-metal impurities. It was thought that these impurities helped cementite wires to form, but it was not clear how. Paufler thinks carbon nanotubes could be the missing piece of the puzzle.
At high temperatures, the impurities in the Indian ores could have catalysed the growth of nanotubes from carbon in the burning wood and leaves used to make the wootz. These tubes could then have filled with cementite to produce the wires in the patterned blades .
The steel of Damascus blades had features not found in European steels — a characteristic wavy banding pattern known as damask, extraordinary mechanical properties, and an exceptionally sharp cutting edge. Using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy to examine a sample of Damascus sabre steel from the 17th century, scientists found that it contains carbon nanotubes as well as cementite nanowires. This microstructure may offer insight into the beautiful banding pattern of the ultrahigh-carbon steel created from an ancient recipe that was lost long ago.
Figure 9: The construction of the Masiid-i Iami in Samarkand, attributed to Behzad (ca.1485,). © Iohn Work Garrett, Library, Iohns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. (Source).
Damascus steel, properly made, is one of the finest cutting tool materials. This quality stems from the use of two or more types of steel, each having its own traits and grades of harden ability, toughness, abrasion resistance, etc. Once combined into multiple alternating layers, heat treated and tempered, the final product exhibits a strength, toughness and sharpness that cannot compare with other single steel blades.
Petroleum was an important product in Islamic economic life long before it attained its present global significance. Crude petroleum (nafṭ) was extracted and distilled extensively; it had both military and domestic uses . Crude oil was usually called black nafṭ and the distillate white nafṭ, even though some of the crude oils were colourless in their natural state. We have a number of descriptions of the distillation process in Arabic writings, as in al-Rāzī's Book of Secrets. From this we learn that the crude oil was first mixed with white clay or sal ammoniac into "a dough like a thick soup" and then distilled. The light distillates, i.e. the white nafṭ, were used by him to "soften or loosen" some solid substances, such as certain gems and minerals .
The oilfields at Baku were developed on a commercial scale by the Muslims at an early date; it is reported that in 885 the Caliph al-Mu'tamid granted the revenues of the nafṭ springs to the inhabitants of Draband. There are several accounts of Baku oil as by al-Mas'ūdī, who, after visiting the wells in 915, wrote that "vessels carrying trade sail to Baku which is the oilfield for white nafṭ and other kinds." In the 13th century wells were dug at Baku to get down to the source of the nafṭ; it was at this time that Marco Polo reported that a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time. Other sources record crude oil production in Iraq where there were seepages on the eastern bank of the Tigris along the road to Mosul. Muslim travellers reported that it was produced on a large scale and was exported. Other reports give information on crude oil production at Sinai in Egypt and Khuzistan in Iran .
Besides crude petroleum and its distillates, asphaltes were also abundant. In Iraq, qīr (pitch) and zift (pitch or asphalt) were produced and exported. They became familiar in building construction, especially for baths, and in shipbuilding, while they were also adopted as ingredients in the recipes for many incendiary weapons .
2.1.3. Mining and metallurgy
Mineral deposits contributed to the prosperity of the various provinces. Emeralds were exploited in Upper Egypt, turquoises in Ferghana, rubies in Badakhshan, and various stones, varieties of cornelian and onyx in particular, in the Yemen and Spain. The mines of Spain provided gold, silver, tin, copper, iron, lead, alum, sulphur, and mercury. Rubies were also mined at Baia and Malaga in Spain. The cinnabar mines of Almaden in Spain had a workforce of somewhere near a thousand, some cutting the stone down in the pit, others transporting the wood for smelting, making the vessels for melting and refining the mercury, and manning the furnaces .
Salt was mined at the Hadhramaut, Ispahan, Armenia and North Africa. "Throughout the greater part of Africa," writes Leo the African, "salt is entirely of the mined variety, taken from underground workings like those for marble or gypsum." The polishing of precious stones was done with emery, which was found in Nubia and Ceylon . Egypt and the Sudan both had alum, and certain areas of western Egypt, notably the famous desert of Nitro, had natron, which was used for whitening copper, thread, and linen, and also for curing leather. It was also in demand with dyers, glass-makers and goldsmiths; bakers even mixed it in with their dough and meat-cooks used it as a tenderizer .
The pearl industry thrived in the Arabian Sea, and along the Bahrain coast towards the island of Dahlak. Ibn Baṭṭūṭa offers some details of pearl-diving methods:
"The diver attaches a cord to his waist and dives", he says. "On the bottom, he finds shells embedded in the sand among small stones. He dislodges them with his hand, or a knife brought down with him for the purpose, and collects them in a leather bag slung round his neck. When breath fails, he tugs at the cord, the sign for the man holding it in the boat to pull him up again. Taking off the leather bag, they open up the shells, and cut out with a knife pieces of flesh from inside. On contact with the air these harden and change into pearls, which are then collected, both large and small ." In Spain pearls were fished along the Catalonian coasts; whilst coral was gathered along diverse Andalusi shores . There were coral reefs lying off the coasts, of and near Sicily, and Al-Idrīsī gives an account of coral-gathering:
"Coral is a plant which has grown like trees and subsequently petrified deep in the sea between two very high mountains. It is fished with a many-looped hemp tackle; this is moved from high up in the ship; the threads catch the coral branches as they meet them, and the fishermen then draw up the tackle and pick out from it the very considerable quantity of coral ."
Figure 10: Illustration depicting an Islamic ship from a 13th century manuscript of Maqamat al-Hariri (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Arabe 5847). (Source).
When one deals with mining and metallurgy, it is necessary to allude to chemistry and chemical industry. In its beginnings, Artz explains, chemistry was mixed with superstition and magic, astrology and other branches of occultism and with fraudulent deception. The basic beliefs of the alchemists were the ideas of Aristotle that all matter consists of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water, in various combinations, that gold is the "noblest" and "purest" of all metals, silver is next, that the transmutation of one metal into another is possible by an alteration in the admixture of the elements, and, finally, that base metals may be turned into noble ones by means of a precious substance often called the fifth element or quintessence. Much experimenting followed these theories, and the alchemists believed that they could discover an "elixir of life" that would prolong life .
Muslim scientists, Ibn Sīnā and Ibn Khaldūn, for instance, attacked such beliefs and practices. Ibn Sīnā, for instance, in The Book of Minerals, denounces the artisans who dye metals in order to give them the outside resemblance of silver and gold. He asserts that fabrication of silver and gold from other metals is "practically impossible and unsustainable from a scientific and philosophical point of view ." Ibn Khaldūn, for his part , denounces the counterfeiters who apply on top of silver iewellery a thin layer of gold, and make other manipulations of metals. To Ibn Khaldūn, the Divine wisdom wanted gold and silver to be rare metals to guarantee profits and wealth. Their disproportionate growth would make transactions useless and would "run contrary to such wisdom ."
Together with Al-Rāzī, they rid the science of its folkloric side to give it its modern outlook. Al-Rāzī, as noted above, in his chemical and medical works observes how he made use of oil lamps (naffaṭa) for gently heating chemicals; the fuel for these was either vegetable oils or petroleum . Al-Rāzī also divided substances into animal, vegetable, and mineral. The mineral substances include mercury, gold, silver, pyrites, glass etc.; vegetable substances were mainly used by physicians. More importantly, Al-Rāzī's Book of secrets, according to D. R. Hill, foreshadows a laboratory manual, besides dealing with substances, equipment and processes . In such a laboratory, distillation and sublimation was practiced and much of the chemical apparatus in use up to about 1650 was developed . In fact, Al-Rāzī's laboratory, includes many items still in use today, such as crucible, decensory, cucurbit or retort for distillation (qār) and the head of a still with a delivery tube (ambīq, Latin alembic), and various types of furnace or stove .
Before al-Rāzī, Iābir Ibn Hayyān improved methods for evaporation, filtration, sublimation, distillation, and crystallization, described scientifically the two principal operations of chemistry: calcination and reduction, and knew how to prepare chemical substances like sulphide of mercury, arsenious oxide (arsenic trioxide) and lead carbonate . His emphasis on the value of experimentation was passed on to later scientists. "The first essential," he wrote, "is that you should conduct experiments. For he who does not conduct experiments will never attain to the least degree of mastery. It must be taken as an absolutely rigorous principle that any proposition which is not supported by proofs is nothing more than an assertion which may be true or may be false ."
From the laboratory and experimentation spread the production of many industrial items, pharmaceutical, but also used in other industries such as tanning, dyeing, and paper making.
2.1.5. Industrial production of paper
To show the ground breaking impact the Islamic industry of paper had in the universal history, historians of technology don't hesitate to write:
"The introduction and spread of the paper-making industry in the Near East and Western Mediterranean was one of the main technological achievements of Islamic civilisation. It was a milestone in the history of mankind" .
Paper, originally, was brought by the Muslims from China. From an art, the Muslims developed it into a maior industry. The Muslims employed linen as a substitute to the bark of the mulberry, which the Chinese used. Linen rags were disintegrated, saturated with water, and made to ferment. The boiled rags were then cleared of alkaline residue and much of the dirt, then beaten to a pulp by a trip hammer, an improved method of maceration invented by the Muslims . By 950, water power was used in the fibre pounding process in Baghdad .
Figure 11: Four samples of Moorish Cuenca tiles, Portuguese Azuleio from Portugal, inspired from ancient Islamic designs. Handmade Molded Clay Ceramic tile (140mm x 140mm x 10mm) BT 5671 Spanish Moorish tiles Islamic Moroccan tile. (Source).
In Baghdad many paper mills were built after 793, and from there, the industry spread to various parts of the world. Paper mills which first flourished in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, made their way West. Africa saw its first paper mill built in Egypt around 850. A paper mill was built in Morocco, and from there it reached Spain in 950 . The centre of manufacture was Xativa near Valencia. Paper was first made in Europe by Spanish Moors from the fine flax of Valencia and Murcia. During the Muslim rule, Xativa was the centre of the paper industry in Spain. The adoption of cotton as a material for the production of this article of commerce is said to be due to the practical genius of the artisans of Xativa. At a time when the scribes of Christian Europe were reduced to the necessity of erasing the works of Classical authors to obtain parchment for the preservation of pious homilies and monkish legends, the mills of Xativa were producing great quantities of paper, much of which in texture and finish will compare not unfavourably with that obtained by the most improved process as of modern manufacture . From Spain and Sicily, paper making spread to the Christians of Spain and Italy .
This product was indispensable among people of intellectual tastes like the Hispano-Arabs and demand for it was enormous . By the year 1000, paper was in general use throughout the Islamic world, not only for books, but also as wrapping material and napkins . The paper mills constructed in Damascus were the maior sources of supply to Europe. As production increased, the product became cheaper. more available, and of better quality. Cotton paper, sold as charta Damascena, was previously made in Damascus.
Of course, paper seems so ordinary today, but its use is fundamental to modern civilisation. By making use of the new material, paper, manufacturing it on a large scale, and devising new methods for its production, the Muslims, in the words of Pedersen "accomplished a feat of crucial significance not only to the history of the Islamic book but also to the whole world of books ." The other decisive impact of Muslim manufacture of paper was, obviously, and directly to bring about the invention of printing .
 A. Pacey, Technology in World Civilization, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991, preface, p. 26.
 I. Hammer-Purgstall, "Sur les lames des Orientaux", Iournal Asiatique, III - IV (1854), pp. 66 ff.
 H.E. Wulf, "Notes on Damascene Steel and Pamor", Technology and Culture; vol 6, pp. 627-629; p. 628.
 Ibid, p. 629.
 W. Durant, The Age of Faith, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1950, p. 274.
 Ibid, pp. 274-5.
 Ibid, p. 298.
 Ibid, p. 275. For more details on the Islamic contribution to the industry of iron and steel, see A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 251-260.
 A. A. Levin, D. C. Meyer, M. Reibold, W. Kochmann, N. Pätzke, and P. Paufler, "Microstructure of a genuine Damascus sabre", Cryst. Res. Technol. 40, No. 9, 905 – 916 (2005) [online version: Microstructure of a genuine Damascus sabre]; M. Reibold et al., "Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre", Nature 444, 286 (16 November 2006); Iohn Verhoeven and Alfred Pendray, "The Mystery of the Damascus Sword", Muse, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 35-43, April 1998 [republished online: The Mystery of the Damascus Sword]; I.D. Verhoeven, A.H. Pendray, and W.E. Dauksch, "The Key Role of Impurities in Ancient Damascus Steel Blades", IOM, Iournal of Minerals, Metals, and Materials 50 (9) (1998), pp. 58-64 [for an online version click here]; Pätzke et al., Nanostructured Ancient Damascus Blades (abstract). See also for more information: Damascus Steel & Silver Inlay; [Wikipedia], Damascus steel (retrieved 5 Iuly 2009); Damascene Technique in Metal Working; Damascus steel's lost secret found; Mason Inman, Legendary Swords' Sharpness, Strength From Nanotubes, Study Says, National Geographic News, 16 November 2006.
 D. R. Hill, Islamic Science and Engineering, Edinburgh University Press, 1993, pp. 87-88.
 Ibidem. More details are in A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 145-146.
 G. Wiet et al., History of Mankind, vol. 3: The Great Medieval Civilisations, translated from the French; UNESCO/George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1975, p. 334; W. Durant, The Age of Faith, op. cit., p. 298.
 See A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 233-243, where the two authors quote a profusion of extracts from original manuscripts on the mining and metallurgy industries and techniques in Muslim lands; the ioint article by al-Hassan and Hill, "Mining Technology", which constitutes section 2 of the entry on "Ma'ādin", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edtion, Leiden: E. I. Brill, 1986, vol. 5, pp. 967-973; and Michael G. Morony, "Mining: Sources of Gold and Silver According to al-Hamdānī", in Michael G. Morony, Production and the Exploitation of Resources (Series: The Formation of the Classical Islamic World). Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate Variorum, 2003.
 W. Durant:, The Age of Faith, op. cit., p. 298.
 G.Wiet et al., History, op. cit., p. 334.
 F.B. Artz: The Mind: The Mind of the Middle Ages; Third edition revised. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 165.
 Georges Anawati: "Arabic Alchemy", in Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, 3 vols. Edited by Roshdi Rashed et al.; Routledge, London and New York: 1996, pp. 853-885; p. 877. One has to be careful of Anawati's article, though. Whilst Ibn Sīnā and Ibn Khaldūn never attacked the science of chemistry, iust the crooked versions of it, Anawati, like others, eagerly generalises and accuses them of attacking the science itself. In neither the work of Ibn Khaldūn or of Ibn Sīnā, who was himself a chemist, is there a single instance of an attack on the science itself.
 For greater detail on Ibn Khaldūn's view of alchemy, see: Hamed A. Ead: "Alchemy in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah" at http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam20.html.
 G. Anawati, "Arabic Alchemy", op. cit., p. 881.
 D.R. Hill: Islamic Science, op. cit.; p. 87.
 D.R. Hill, Islamic Science and Engineering, op. cit., p. 83.
 F.B. Artz, The Mind, op. cit., pp. 165-66.
 C.I. Singer et al., History of Technology, 5 vols; Oxford: Clarendon Press; see vol 2 (1956), particularly on pp. 753-777; D.R. Hill, Islamic Science and Engineering, op. cit., p. 83; C. Singer, A Short History of Scientific Ideas to 1900, Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 185.
 F.B. Artz, The Mind, op. cit., pp. 165-66.
 E.I. Holmyard, The Great Chemists, London, 1929.
 A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., p. 190.
 D. Hunter, Papermaking: the History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, London: Pleiades Books, 1943; 2nd edit. 1947, p. 139.
 F. and I. Gies, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages. Harper Perennial, 1995, p. 97; I. Mokyr, The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress, Oxford, 1990, p. 41.
 D. Hunter, Papermaking, op. cit., p. 470.
 S.P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, 3 vols., Philadelphia and London: I.B. Lippincott Company, 1904, vol. 2, p. 387.
 T.K. Derry and T.I. Williams, A Short History of Technology; Oxford Clarendon Press, 1960, p. 232; W. M.Watt, "L'Influence de l'Islam sur l'Europe médiévale", Revue des Etudes Islamiques, vol 40 (1974), p. 36.
 S.P. Scott, History, op. cit., vol 2, p. 387.
 F. and I. Gies, Cathedral, op. cit, p. 97; I. Mokyr, The Lever of Riches, op. cit.,p. 41.
 I. Pedersen, The Arabic Book, op. cit., p. 59.
 T.K. Derry and T.I. Williams, A Short History of Technology, op. cit., p. 231. For more accounts on the growth of the industry of paper in Islam, see: I. Pedersen, The Arabic Book, translated by Geoffrey French; Princeton, NI: Princeton University Press, 1984; M.M. Sibai, Mosque Libraries: An Historical Study, London and New York: Mansell Publishing Limited, 1987, and Ionathan Bloom, Paper Before Print. The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
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by: FSTC Limited, Fri 24 July, 2009