7 Inventions By Muslim Cultures We Still Use Today

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Last Friday, Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Although several federal judges have stayed deportations of valid visa holders already in the United States, the ban remains in effect nationwide. Much of Trump's presidential campaign relied on strengthening American borders — literally, in the case of his oft-spoken-of wall along the Mexican border — but without immigration and trade, technological progress tends to slow to a crawl. In fact, many inventions Americans use every day wouldn't exist without the countries encompassed in the immigration ban.

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was adamant that the 90-day travel ban is "not a ban on Muslims," but critics have pointed out that all seven countries in question (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) are Muslim-majority countries. Each is located in or near the Middle East, an area with a rich history dating back tens of thousands of years. Modern societies owe numerous inventions to Islamic culture, particularly during the Islamic Golden Age, which occurred between the mid-7th and mid-13th centuries. During that time, Muslim culture was at the center of innovations in science, medicine, literature, philosophy, and more. Without these advancements, modern societies would look much different today.

With that in mind, here are seven inventions we still use today from the countries Trump's immigration ban targets.


You might associate coffee with Italy or some other European country, but it's thought to have originated in Ethiopia and made its way to the Arabian Peninsula by the 15th century. The beans were cultivated in modern-day Yemen, and within a century or so, coffee had spread to other parts of the Middle East and later, the rest of the world.


The first known use of mathematics took place in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, but Islamic scholars in the Golden Age took these concepts and ran with them. The term "algebra" itself comes from a seminal study published by Persian mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Musa Al Khwarizmi. The title of that study? "Hisab Al Jabr wal-Muqabalah." Take "Al Jabr" by itself, and you've got "algebra."


Although the most famous Islamic surgeon, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, is well-known for using surgical techniques mirroring many used today, many of his contemporaries in the Middle East were ahead of their time as well. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Syrian physician Ibn al-Quff wrote a specialized surgical manual in the 13th century, and many surgical techniques from the Golden Age were still used in the Ottoman Empire several centuries later.


Around 800 A.D., Arab physician Hunayn Ibn Ishaq wrote several monographs on ophthalmology, including the famed Ten Treatises on the Eye. However, he was one of many physicians making strides in the treatment of eye diseases during the Islamic Golden Age, and it's safe to say their findings influenced medicine for centuries afterward. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this may be because blindness was the primary cause of disability at the time.

Basically, between the advancements in ophthalmology and magnifying lenses back then, anyone who wears glasses can thank the scholars of the Islamic Golden Age for the fact that they're reading this from a reasonable distance right now.

Flying Machines

In the Western world, the Wright brothers (and sister) are the biggest names in aviation history, but Muslim polymath Abbas ibn Firnas is actually thought to be the first man to have achieved flight in the ninth century. Professor Salim al-Hassani told CNN that Firnas designed a "winged apparatus" and managed to stay aloft for a few moments before crashing to the ground and partially breaking his back. (Don't worry — he lived for another 12 years afterward.)

The Lute

The lute is usually associated with medieval European courts, but its origins lie in the Arabian Peninsula as the 'ud. According to the Metropolitan Museum website, this stringed instrument was introduced by the Moors to Europe, where it was eventually modified to become the lute. The lute fell out of favor for several centuries, but it's currently experiencing a resurgence in academic interest.

It's also worth noting that some have linked the Arabic alphabet with the development of the Western musical scale.

The Toothbrush

Although the first bristle toothbrush was invented in China during the Tang dynasty, early forms of the toothbrush date back to Babylonian times. Back then, people used herbal chewing sticks, or "miswak," to clean their teeth, and according to some, the prophet Muhammad later recommended chewing a miswak multiple times a day. Sounds a lot like current dental guidelines, doesn't it?