The First Muslim studying about animals (Zoology)

The first Zoologist is a Muslim

Al-Jahiz is famously known as the father of zoology through the monumental work of Kitab Al-Hayawan. He had already mentioned the evolution of animals long before Darwin triggered the theory of evolution –

His full name was Umar bin Bahr bin Mahboub bin Fazarah Al-Laitsi Al-Kanani. He had the kuniyah Abu Uthman and nicknamed “Al-Jahiz” and “Al-Hadqi” because of his large pair of eyes poking forward. Born in Basra in 159 A.H.

Al-Jahiz grew up in Basra, Iraq. A city founded in early Islamic times as a garrison city. But at the time of his birth Basra became the pre-eminent intellectual center, along with the rival city of Kufa.

People of different opinions determine its origin. One opinion is that he is an Arab from the Kinana tribe, and some say that his ancestors were “Zanji” or Negroes. But Al-Jahiz said of himself that he was a man from Bani Kinana.

Butrus Al-Bustani, a Lebanese-born writer, explores the character and knowledge of this ninth-century scholar:

“Al-Jahiz did not allow the famous knowledge of his time except to study and review it. Philosophy, logic, naturalists, mathematics, history, politics, ethics and physiognomy are all studied. He was witty in literature and language, a narrator of news and poetry, a researcher of animals and plants, a critic of ethics, the world of astronomy, music and singing.

Al-Jahiz was very fond of visiting bookstores, and learning something that was still difficult on his mind. His life was entirely immortalized for manuscript and science. In addition, he also often attends scientific council gatherings, listens to the lectures of scholars in mosques, and travels.

He grew up in a period when the transmission of Greek science to the Arabs was flowing rapidly and the development of Arabic prose literature.

Kitab Al-Hayawan, Wrote the Book of the Animals

He has a famous work called Kitab Al-Hayawan or Book of the Animals. The book builds on the work of Aristotle’s Generation of the Animals, including stories about animals from Quranic verses, hadiths, poems and verses.

Nearly 10 centuries ago, before Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, Al-Jahiz had written al-Hayawan, which contained how animals evolved through natural selection.

The Book of Al-Hayawan is not purely about animal science, nor is it just bestiary, because Al-Jahiz is an essayist and writer who values entertainment for his readers. He managed to incorporate many scientific observations into his work.

The book of al-Hayawan is seven volumes thick. It contains important scientific information and a number of concepts that were not fully developed until the first half of the twentieth century. In the book, Al-Jahiz discusses animal mimicry—noting that certain parasites adapt to their host.

Al-Jahiz wrote at length about the influence of climate and food on humans, as well as plants and animals in different geographical regions. He discusses animal communication, psychology and the intelligence levels of insects and animal species.

11 Animals Mentioned In The Quran

He also gave a detailed description of the social organization of ants, including from his own observations, an overview of how they store grain in their nests so as not to rot during the rainy season.

He even knows that some insects are responsive to light and uses this information to suggest smart ways of cleaning the room from mosquitoes and flies.

He discovered and recognized the influence of environmental factors on animal life; And he also observed the transformation of animal species under a variety of factors.

Furthermore, in some parts of his book, he also explains the concept of natural selection, which is usually associated with Charles Darwin. No doubt if Al-Jahiz was appointed as the first Muslim zoologist.

Al-Jahiz’s concept of natural selection is something new in the history of science. Although Greek philosophers such as Empedocles and Aristotle talked about changes in plants and animals, they never made the first step to developing a comprehensive theory.

To them, change is just a simple concept of change and motion and nothing more.

The End of His Story

Al-Jahiz returned to Basra after spending more than fifty years in Baghdad. He died in Bashrah in 255 A.H. from Hemiplegia. Paralysis that occurs on one side of the body due to damage to one side of the central nerve that regulates muscle work.

Leave a Comment