After three decades of research to evidence the contribution of Arabs to mathematics and sciences, recognition of Dr. Rashid’s book “Angles et Grandeur” is a ray of hope for the science and knowledge community.
Dr. Rushdi Rashid has said that his winning of the “Arab Culture in Other Languages” award at the 10th edition of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) is a ray of hope for the science and knowledge community in the Arab world, and demonstrates that in-depth, specialised content on mathematics and sciences is appreciated.
This came on the evening Dr. Rashid was presented the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for his book “Angles et Grandeur” (Angles and Magnitude), published in French and Arabic by Walter De Gruyter, Berlin.
Dr. Rashid says that the book is the culmination of a long process of scientific research extending over three decades, which made him realise the fact that Arabs have made an immense contribution to human civilisation over the years, especially in the areas of mathematics and sciences, which confirms that the civilisation in which we live today is a collective legacy.
The book revisits the history of mathematics and philosophy, focusing on angles and magnitude, particularly the tangential angle and the relationship between the two. The book suggests that when mathematicians fail to find an answer for problems, they resort to philosophy. Dr. Rashid relies on a large number of historical manuscripts that have never been published. The manuscripts which were originally in Arabic and translated into French were used as references by European mathematicians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
‘Angles et Grandeur’
Dr. Rashid notes that the book “Angles et Grandeur” was the result of multiple historical studies which focused on scientific groundwork in the fields of mathematics and sciences, particularly during the period of the Arab scientific renaissance.
The book offers proof and arguments that if the period of Arab sciences and contributions were deleted from the history of science before the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD, historians would face a challenge in understanding the historical chronology of the development of basic research and their stages of implementation, starting from the period of Greek science and ending with sciences developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He opines that a significant gap would exhaust historians, who would try to fill this gap by linking the ancient period with the modern period, or vice versa, while both ways are wrong.
‘Angles et Grandeur’ investigates and sheds light on this particular gap, presenting the manuscripts and providing evidence that shows the contribution of Arab sciences in linking the “ancient and modern” periods. ‘Angles et Grandeur’ has hypothesised the following: There was a fundamental problem in mathematical analysis on “whether the corner is a physical quantity, or magnitude, such as longitude and latitude, or whether it is something else?” There is also what is known as the “contact angle,” which consists of a circle and a tangent circle, and there is a theory on this subject from the Greek era. However, it is a theory that cannot be relied upon because it does not have a solution, except in one case, that is if the concept of quantity is changed.
Dr. Rashid notes that this discussion continued from the fourth century BC until the twentieth century in all mathematics circles around the world, but it was only solved toward the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Historians had documented part of the history, moving from the Greek period to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This is why there was a need to rewrite history. He says: “I discovered, edited, and translated numerous texts to prove that what appeared in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries is available in Arabic, and is better.”
Dr. Rashid adds: “Here, we face another issue: What is the role of the relationship between philosophy and mathematics in problems that do not have a direct mathematical solution? Here, philosophy intervenes to solve and resolve the problem mathematically.”
Dr. Rashid says that one of his main scientific objectives over the decades was to prove that Islamic philosophy is not limited to existential and psychological theories, but also certainly includes philosophical theories on mathematics and sciences, because this book contains texts by philosophers and mathematicians on the same topic as part of Islamic philosophy, which has neither been highlighted or chronicled.”
Dr. Rashid explains that he began to research and compile documents and manuscripts for this book around three decades ago, which were available in various libraries around the world. He visited Lahore in Pakistan as part of his research, and further studied manuscripts in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and a number of Western countries.
Impact on society
Dr. Rashid says that this book will have a social impact because it contributes to enhancing the understanding Islamic and Arab culture and civilisation, both ancient and modern, through learning about the scientific dimension of this civilisation, instead of assuming that Arab civilisation was limited to literary, theological, interpretive, and religious disciplines. “The scientific dimension is very important in order for us to be able to understand our culture,” he said.
“My science project was aimed at showing the scientific dimension of Arab civilisation, not just for historical purposes, but for social reasons too. If science and education are not considered social values in our communities, this makes them a failure, as they will depend on other scientific societies as producers and consumers of science. For science to have a social value, it should play a part in the history of science and philosophy, and contribute to building intellect in the community.”
He explains: “When we say to Arab youths that science is imported and Arabs do not have a share of it, they will lose their self-confidence. However, when we tell them that science is part of Arab civilisation, we, in this case, would be driving youths toward pursuing knowledge and encouraging them to see it as a social value. Otherwise, we will not help build Arab intellect and minds.”
Dr. Rashid says that Arab societies are in great need of establishing professional research institutions, as it is no longer possible to continue to send missions abroad in various fields, because societies will become imbalanced and non-cohesive due to the lack of “scientific traditions.” Creating these “traditions” requires the establishment of research schools that would lay the foundation for a new phase of Arab specialised research, including publications in theoretical and basic disciplines which would contribute to updating the knowledge gained by youths and researchers.
Dr. Rashid says that instead of establishing applied research centres to implement theories, we must seek to discover new theories through basic research. If there is limited access to basic research, applied research will not develop.
Message to Arab youths
Dr. Rashid addressed a message to the youth to work hard and diligently to establish a scientific foundation through continuing research and studies after graduation and obtaining degrees. He also stresses the importance of serving their homeland, as well as seeking and demanding the establishment of institutions involved in basic research.
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