Life and Contribution of Ibn al-Haytham Seminar in India

Ibn Sina Academy, Aligarh (India) organized “National Seminar on Life and Contribution of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)” during 14-15 October 2015, to commemorate the 1000th Anniversary of the Compilation of Ibn al-Haytham’s remarkable seven Chapters work on optics: Kitâb al-Manâzir in Arabic and as a part of UNESCO’s declaration of ‪International year of Light 2015 (IYL 2015).

Kathleen Longwaters from US presenting her views on Ibn Al Haytham. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

Kathleen Longwaters from US presenting her views on Ibn Al Haytham. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

During the inaugural session, Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor, Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah delivered the presidential address. Former Vice Chancellor NIMS University, Prof. K. C. Singhal and AMU Pro Vice Chancellor, Brigadier Syed Ahmad Ali attended the seminar as the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour, respectively.

While delivering his address, AMU Vice Chancellor, Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah said that the Islamic community has produced great scholars like Ibn al-Haytham but we have to examine work done by today’s Muslims. “Recently in Lucknow, I tried to highlight the need for quality research in Muslim institutions but unfortunately the media quoted me for other things,” He added that there is a downslide in the Muslim community, but AMU has a solution for it. “Just two days ago, an independent research in the United States of America has voted AMU as the second best Indian university,” said AMU Vice Chancellor, Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah (Retd). He pointed out that AMU has done tremendous work in recycling water and the usage of Nano Technology along with other things. He further shared that there is a possible collaboration of Maruti and Mahendra and Mahendra coming up with AMU in the field of ‘solar power automation’. “This collaboration will be another feather in cap for AMU,” he added.

AMU Vice Chancellor also inaugurated an exhibition on the works of Ibn al-Haytham. The Exhibition included Ibn al-Haytham’s related books, journals, postage stamp, first day cover, currency notes, paintings and photographs. In addition, items were included, which were published by the Late Hakim Mohammad Saeed, Karachi, Pakistan, during the International Conference on Abul Hassan Ibn al- Haytham held on 1-10 November 1969.

The AMU Pro Vice Chancellor, Brigadier S Ahmad Ali (Retd.) said that remembering heroes like Ibn al-Haytham from the history of Islamic civilization helps us to do something new and innovative. “Ibn al-Haytham was a polymath and philosopher who is widely considered as one of the most influential scientists of all time. Referred to as the father of experimental physics and modern optics and scientific methodology, he made significant contributions to the principles of optics, astronomy, mathematics, meteorology, visual perception and the scientific method,” He added that Ibn al-Haytham was the earliest theoretical physicist to discover that a hypothesis has the necessity to be experimented through confirmable procedures or mathematical evidence. “With his book on optics, Kitab al-Manazir, Ibn al-Haytham explained certain optical phenomena using mechanical analogies,” He further added that Ibn al-Haytham discovered how light bents and turns and also discovered the depth of the atmosphere. He pointed out that unfortunately only 50 of the 200 books written by Ibn al-Haytham survive today and there is an immediate need of the revival of his works. He also said that it is an irony that Islamic civilization, which has produced such great scholars, stopped thinking after the eighth century. He lamented that no great work takes place when people stop questioning things around them. He concluded his address by saying that the time has come when we should start questioning things again.

Exhibition of Books and other artiefacts related to Ibn Al Haytham. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

Exhibition of Books and other artiefacts related to Ibn Al Haytham. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

While delivering the welcome address, Prof. Syed Zillur Rahman, President, Ibn Sina Academy said that he is proud that this seminar has taken place despite the limited means. Prof. Rahman said that Ibn al-Haytham’s experiments, with special reference to optics and light, proved earlier researches incorrect and presented the correct observations. “The entire world recognizes Ibn al-Haytham’s conclusions and as a result the UNESCO is celebrating 2015 as the year of light (IYL-2015). He also pointed out that the Ibn Sina Academy is dedicated in editing, translating and publishing manuscripts and rare books from time to time and the Academy has been well appreciated in India and the International community.

Prof. K. C. Singhal, Chief Guest pointed out that he only knows a little bit about the works of Ibn al-Haytham. “But I have always been willing to come across new discoveries and inventions. “It is a pity that the modern medicine has replaced traditional medicines like Unani, Ayurvedic, Chinese and others. What we need to ponder on is that lack of research and inventions in traditional medicines is responsible for the decline,” He further urged young scholars and scientists to do innovations in the fields of traditional medicines.

Dr Kathleen Longwaters, ‘Fullbright Scholar’ from USA said that much of modern scientific and medical instrumentation is built on Ibn al-Haytham’s work on optics. “As a Fullbright scholar I am exploring and working on Ibn al-Haytham’s works in a broader cultural context”.

During the seminar, the Ibn Sina Academy also awarded “Ibn Sina Public Health Award” to Dr. Abdul Latif, Department of Ilmul Advia, Faculty of Unani Medicine, AMU for his work on public health. On the other hand, Dr. Asma Kazmi gifted a portrait on Ibn Haytham, which she painted specially for the occasion.

A short documentary on Ibn al-Haytham produced by the Department of Journalism and Mass communication, AMU, was screened during the inaugural session of the two day seminar. The Chairperson, Department of Journalism and Mass communication, Prof. Afrina Rizvi provided expertise in making the film. Similarly a music entitled Rainbow of Light composed by Linda Lamon in honour of IYL 2015 was played.

Bangladeshi Research investigators, Dr. Md Zakiul Hassan, Respiratory Viruses Research Group, Centre for Communicable Diseases, Dhaka and Dr. Shah Mohammad Fahim, Ibn Sina Medical College, Dhaka also attended the seminar. In addition experts like Prof. Zahid Husain Khan, National Focal Point for India for IYL 2015, and Member, International Working Group on Ibn al- Haytham (Paris), Prof. S. M. Razaullah Ansari, Former President of International Commission for Science and Technology in the Islamic World, Anisul Islam, Coordinator Al Haytham Memorial Science Club, Pakherpora, Jammu & Kashmir, Dr. Md. Qutbuddin, Centre of Arabic and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Dr. Ashfaque Ahmad, Research Officer (Unani), National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, Hyderabad, participated and graced the seminar.

Prof. Zahid Hussain Khan receiving memento from Pro Vice Chancellor Syed Ahmad Ali. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

Prof. Zahid Hussain Khan receiving memento from Pro Vice Chancellor Syed Ahmad Ali. Credit: Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

Overall, 46 research scholars presented papers on different aspects of Ibn al-Haytham. Scholars reviewed Ibn al-Haytham’s multidimensional personality spanning his contributions in the field of science, vision, optics, light and Medicine. Meanwhile Congress leaders, Mr. Vivek Bansal (Secretary, All India Congress Committee) and Mrs. Ruhi Zuberi were also present.

National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language and Indian Council of Historical research, New Delhi jointly sponsored the seminar. Dr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, Treasurer, Ibn Sina Academy, delivered the vote of thanks while Dr. Sumbul Rahman of Dept. of Ilmul Advia, conducted the programme.


Hakim_S._Zillur_RahmanHakim Syed Zillur Rahman is the Founder of the Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences.

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