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Chemists in Muslim Spain used crystallization to remove impurities of iron sulfate in the substance that caused dye to stick to cloth. This resulted in much brighter colors.
Muslims were not the first to use the steam distillation process to make perfume
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Dyeing in Fes, Morocco
Chemists in Muslim Spain used crystallization to remove impurities of iron sulfate that were causing muddy colors in dyes. The iron sulfate was removed from the substance that caused the dye to bond to the cloth, not from the dyes.
Al-Mu’izz ibn Badis (1008 -1062) from Tunisia invented “secret” disappearing ink, and invented a process for preparing an ink containing small particles of silver. He wrote about dyes and colored inks.
Al-Kindi (801-873), living in Baghdad, was not the first person to use the steam distillation process to make perfume by concentrating the essential oils of flowers. The same perfume-making process had been used in Pyrgos on Cyprus in 2000 BC and probably in first century Persia.
His amber perfume ingredient was not a synthetic chemical. It was the resin of a plant. Plant resins such as myrrh and frankincense had been used in perfumes in pre-Islamic times.
Al-Kindi was not the first to add musk from a gland of the musk deer to perfume (it had been done in ancient India). He did not manufacture synthetic musk.
Al-Kindi’s “artificial foodstuff” was not safe to eat.
AL-RAZI WAS AN APOSTATE
Al-Razi (854 – 932) [not the same person as the Persian theologian al-Razi] was a murtad (apostate) known mostly for his contributions to medicine.
Al-Razi wrote “The Prophets’ Fraudulent Tricks” and claimed the Quran and Bible are collections of ancient myths. He also wrote “On the Refutation of Revealed Religions” (Arabic نقض الادیان).
As punishment for this heresy, an emir ordered that al-Razi be hit on the head with the book until either the book broke or al-Razi’s head broke.
ALCHEMY OF AL-RAZI
The alchemy works of al-Razi mostly copied from Geber, such as the roasting of ores, and sulfur precipitation.
Al-Razi wrote that metals were composed of sulfur, mercury and salt.
The writings of al-Razi included Geber’s theory about internal and external properties and added the properties flammability, oiliness, and saltiness, but eliminated the mysticism.
The claim is false that al-Razi “made hundreds of discoveries in his chemical laboratory“ which he described in “The Book of the Secret of Secrets“.
Actually, all of the chemicals and substances mentioned by Al-Razi had been known in pre-Islamic times.
Mostly he listed minerals that could be mined (such as salts and alums), metals, a few simple alloys of metals, oxides of metals, animal substances (such as horn, shells, blood and urine) and vegetable substances (such as alcohol, vinegar and herbs used by physicians).
The number of substances he listed that were not in the above categories was quite small, and were known in pre-Islamic times. They were glass, lye (produced by trickling water through wood ashes), ammonia (produced from urine, as the Romans had done ), impure sulfuric acid (produced by roasting alum, which is aluminum sulfate chemically bound to water molecules), limewater (produced by roasting limestone and then adding water), verdigris (the green substance that forms when copper is dipped in vinegar), kerosene (which could be produced by collecting the vapors produced when crude oil was heated), and mordants (to make dye stick to cloth and leather). Al-Razi knew of a process to make objects look like gold, most likely using the pre-Islamic process of dyeing using a mordant.
NEITHER AL-RAZI NOR GEBER KNEW ABOUT NITRIC ACID OR HYDROCHLORIC ACID
Absent from al Razi’s list were nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, which were invented many centuries later by a Christian known as Pseudo-Geber.
Al-Farabi (872 – 950) wrote many commentaries, especially about Aristotle, and wrote about elixirs (substances that could change other metals into gold).
Al-Tamimi (900 – 960) wrote about the religious allegorical meaning of alchemy, and quoted from earlier alchemists.
In the early 11th century, al-Khwarizmi al-Khati (not the same person as the mathematician al-Khwarizmi) was an alchemist who wrote a book about glass-making, metallurgy, and carpentry.
IBN ARFA RA’A
Abul Hasan ibn Musa ibn Arfa Ra’a (1130? – 1197) was an alchemist in Baghdad who repeated what Geber had written. Some Muslim websites mention him.
“De aluminibus” was a 12th century book in Muslim Spain [prior to Pseudo-Geber] that described heating a mixture of solid mercury(II) sulfate and sodium chloride (ordinary table salt) to produce corrosive sublimate (mercuric chloride, HgCl2) as a poisonous gas which later condenses as small crystals.
“De aluminibus” did not have much impact on later [Christian] chemists because when Pseudo-Geber did create corrosive sublimate, he was unaware of “De aluminibus” and used an entirely different process to create the chemical, by heating a mixture of mercury, roasted green vitriol (probably the iron(II) sulfate mineral melanterite), saltpeter and common salt.
Avicenna (Ibn Sina) rejected the theory of 8th century Geber that metals were composed of sulfur and mercury, but rejected the idea that base metals could be transmutated into gold.
Avicenna, who had read the books of Aristotle, borrowed from the claim, in chapter 1 of Aristotle’s book on mineralogy, that one way fossils were formed was “bodies falling into salt evaporation ponds are transformed into salt”. Except, Avicenna omitted the detail that this was in salt evaporation ponds, not mentioning the details of how flesh was replaced with minerals.
Avicenna wrote that earthquakes can release petrifying substances that instantly turn things into fossils.
GREEK SLAVE SCHOLAR OWNED BY A MUSLIM
The early 12th astronomer al-Khazini was an ethnic Greek captured in a Muslim invasion of the Byzantine Empire and sold into slavery and brought to what is now Turkmenistan.
Using the buoyancy (hydrostatics) principle of Archimedes, Th slave al-Khazini very accurately measured the specific gravities of 51 substances, especially gold, silver, gems and substances that might be used in counterfeiting them, but also the specific gravity of several liquids.
MERCURY SULFUR THEORY REJECTED
The Jewish scholar (Baruch ben Malka) Hibat Allah Abu’l-Barakat al-Baghdaadi (1080 – 1164) ridiculed the alchemy doctrine that metals are composed of a mixture of mercury and sulfur.
He later converted from Judaism to Islam.
Al-Jaldaki (? – 1342) was an alchemist who also wrote about magic and astrology. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Jaldaki
The National Institute of Health owns one of the books he wrote, describing it as “This treatise is concerned in large part with the alchemical theory of the ‘balance’, but it also includes an elaborate classification of animals, plants, and minerals. In essence it is a summary of knowledge up to al-Jaldakī’s day, not only in alchemy but also in cosmology, physics, astrology, and numerology”.
The magical alphabetical numerology of assigning numerical values to the letters in Arabic words, and the theory of the number 28 in balance in nature were concepts of Geber repeated by al-Jaldaki.
Muslim Arabs in the 13th century invented a less expensive way to apply enamel, by painting a surface with a mixture of oil and powdered glass, and then baking.
Image cropped from image by Michal Borowski (41646), via Wikimedia Commons.
image credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fez_Tannery.JPG