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The Flat Earth Koran

09 of 13 – Medieval Islam

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An interpretation of the Cosmology of
the Koran & a critique of Islamic
Fundamentalism

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Introduction
• No discussion of Islamic Cosmology would be complete without
reference to the Golden Age of Islam (AD750-1250) when Islamic
Civilisation was at its height & leading the World in many fields of
Science.
• Sometimes Muslims try and claim that this achievement was based on
Islam and the Koran thus showing perfect harmony between their
Religion and Science.
• Sometimes they boast how “they” were so advanced while Western
Europe was in the Dark Ages and Christians thought that the Earth was
flat while “they” were accurately measuring its circumference.
• Sometimes we are then told how superior Science and civilisation is
due to a superior Religion – Islam.
• Often we are told that we owe so much to “them”, the superior
Civilisation and that we should acknowledge our inferiority.
• Finally, we are often told that logic dictates our conversion to Islam.
• However, this is just Muslim hype and propaganda.

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Cosmology of the Koran & Hadith

In the previous eight


Presentations in this series
it was suggested that the
Koran and Hadith
assume a Universe
such as the one shown in
the picture on the left.

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Al-Ma'mun Globe AD800’s
This is a modern reconstruction
of a Medieval Islamic Globe
which was said to have been
commissioned by the
Caliph Al-Ma'mun who ruled
between AD813 & AD833

During the Golden Age of Islam


the Islamic World view from a
Flat Earth to a Globe like this.

However, this was nothing to do


with the Koran

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Planetarium by Abbas Ibn Firnas

This is a modern reconstruction


of a Medieval Islamic Planetarium
designed by Abbas Ibn Firnas
(AD810 & AD887)

During the Golden Age of Islam


the Islamic World view from a
Flat Earth to a Globe like this.

But this was nothing to do


with the Koran

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Cosmology of Medieval Islam

However, this is an
image taken from an
11th Century book on
Astronomy by
Al-Buruni.It is
discussing the orbits
of spherical Planets.
Why the huge
difference between
this image & the
Koran?

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Cosmology of Medieval Islam

Islamic Science was not based on the Koran

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Ancient Cosmology in the Middle East
Ancient Egyptian &
Mesopotamian
Cosmology

Ancient peoples in the Middle East


believed that the Universe looked
like this.This view goes back to at
least 3000BC.

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Cosmology of
the Bible
(Similar to Ancient
Egyptian &
Mesopotamian beliefs)

This is how the writers of the


Bible imagined the Universe.

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Legacy of the Ancient Greeks

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Discovery of the Spherical Earth

The Ancient Greek


Philosopher, Pythagoras
(570BC - 490 BC) proposed
that the Earth was a sphere
2500 years ago

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Aristotle and the Spherical Earth

The Ancient Greek


Philosopher, Aristotle
(384 BC – 322 BC)
popularised the idea that
that the Earth was a sphere

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Eratosthenes and the Spherical Earth

The Philosopher, Eratosthenes


(276 BC-194 BC)
worked out a method to
accurately measure the size
of the Earth.

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Crates and the Spherical Earth

Left: Modern interpretation


of an Ancient Greek Globe.

The Philosopher,
Crates of Mallus
(Second Century BC)
is said to have constructed
a Globe to show the
whole World.

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Ptolemy and the
Spherical Earth

Around AD150, the Greek Philosopher Ptolemy summarised the work


of many earlier Greek Scientists.Ptolemy imagined a spherical Earth
fixed in the centre of the Universe with the Sun and Planets moving
around it.
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Ptolemy's Map of the Earth

Ptolemy also produced a Map of the known World.

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Library of Alexandria (c300bc – 48BC)

Left: A Modern
interpretation of the
Ancient Library of
Alexandria, considered
by some as the Worlds
first University.

The Library continued


for a couple of centuries
even after most of it
was burned in 48BC

Many ancient discoveries


made here

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The Christian Spherical Earth

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Cosmology of
the Bible
(Similar to Ancient
Egyptian &
Mesopotamian beliefs)

This is how the writers of the


Bible imagined the Universe.

This was a problem for early


Christianity since it conflicted with
Greek Science
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Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate, like


other educated
Romans almost
certainly knew that
the Earth was a
sphere.

The problem for the


early Christians was
that Jesus and other
Biblical Characters,
including God, did
not know this.

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Saint Augustine of Hippo (AD354 - 430)

Christian Scholars such as


Augustine attempted to reconcile
the Bible with the ideas of
Greek Science such as a
Spherical Earth.

They did this by interpreting the


Bible in a Non-literal way

Although the Greeks and the


Bible disagreed on the shape of
the Earth, both agreed that it
was in the centre of the Universe.

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Views of the Church Fathers

Spherical Earth

Flat
Earth

By AD500 most Christian Scholars had accepted that the Earth was a Sphere.

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Medieval
Christian Cosmos

The Medieval Synthesis of


the Bible and Greek Science
imagined a Universe like this.

God looks down upon a static


spherical Earth in the centre
of the Universe as shown
in Martin Luther's Bible of 1534.

This picture does not fit a literal


Interpretation of the Bible.

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Columbus and the Medieval Flat
Earth Myth

Contrary to popular
belief Medieval Europeans
in the time of Columbus
did not believe that the
World was flat.

This story s a C19th Myth


created by Washington
Irving and perpetuated by
Andrew Dickson White

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Columbus and the Medieval Flat
Earth Myth

Washington Irvine Andrew Dickson White


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No Medieval Flat Earth

This famous picture is


called the
Flammarion woodcut
and it was first
published in1888.

It does not show how


Medieval Europeans
viewed the Universe.

It does show how the


Bible and Koran
describe the Universe.

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The real Christian Cosmos AD300 -
AD1700
This is the image
of the Universe that
Columbus & other
Medieval Europeans
had.

A Spherical Earth
sits fixed in the
centre of the
Universe.
crystalline spheres
holding the various
Heavenly bodies
revolve around it.
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The Islamic Spherical Earth

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Mohammed's successors conquer
Middle East
Left: By AD 750
the Muslims had
conquered a
huge Empire.

This began the


500 years of
the Golden Age
of Islam in which
Science and
Learning
prospered

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Early Muslims translate Greek Science
texts into Arabic.

Beginning around AD750, the


Caliphs who succeeded
Mohammed as leader of Islam
translated and studied Greek
Science before going on to build
upon it.

This is when Muslims found out


about the Earth being a sphere.

This was not discovered in the


Koran

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Mohammed teaching his Disciples

The problem for the early


Muslims was that God
says that the Earth is
Flat in the Koran &
Greek Science contradicts
the Koran.

It appears that in order to


reconcile Greek Science
Mohammed, like Jesus, thought that with the Koran, they
the Earth was Flat, but his successors copied the Christians and
discovered that this was not true. interpreted the Koran in
a non-literal way.

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Al-Ma'mun Globe AD800’s

It was Greek Science, rather than the


Koran that enabled the construction
of globes like this.

Notice how the Americas and Australia


are not on the globe, reflecting the
limitations of Greek Science.

If this globe were based on information


from God, as the Koran is said to be,
then the globe would show the whole
of the Earths surface and not
just what the Greeks knew about.

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Planetarium by Abbas Ibn Firnas

This is a modern reconstruction


of a Medieval Islamic Planetarium
designed by Abbas Ibn Firnas
( AD810 & AD887)

However, this was nothing to do


with the Koran.This wrongly
shows the spherical Earth in a
Geocentric Cosmos like that of
Ptolemy and other Greeks.

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Cosmology of Medieval Islam

This book on
Astronomy by
Al Buruni is based
On Greek Science
And not the Koran.

It assumes a
Spherical Earth but
in a Geocentric
Cosmos just like the
Greeks did.

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Sack of Baghdad AD1258

A devastating blow
was dealt to Islamic
Science in AD1258
when Baghdad was
totally destroyed by
the Mongols.
After this, Islamic
Science continued
but never again
reached such heights
as before the city
was destroyed.

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Another Islamic
Cosmology
Not all Medieval Islamic Cosmologies
were so advanced though.

This picture from the AD1200’s


shows a Flat Earth surrounded by
mountains and held up by various
giant animals and an Angel.

This is by Zakariya Qazwini


(d. 1283 or 1284).

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Conclusion

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Conclusion
1. During the Golden Age of Islam (AD750 – AD1258) Muslims
discovered that the Earth was a sphere.
2. This had nothing to do with the Koran.In fact, it meant interpreting
the Koran in a non-literal manner.
3. Medieval Islamic Science including knowing that the Earth was a
sphere was based upon Greek Science going back to 500BC.
4. Contrary to popular opinion, Medieval Europeans knew that the
Earth was a Sphere.In fact, they knew this before Medieval Islam
did.
5. Not all Muslims accepted the views of Medieval Islamic Science.
6. Medieval Islamic Science does not prove the truth of Islam any
more than Greek Science proves the existence of the Ancient
Greek Gods.
7. Modern Islamic Fundamentalists might benefit from interpreting
the Koran like their Medieval co-religionists.

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