Ancient Voices: Historical Figures of the Islamic Golden Age


Select one of the characters below and on the back of this handout draw your design for a mask, incorporating into the mask design a few of the symbols and emblems relating to your chosen character.


Name Symbols, Emblems, Identifying Characteristics
Salah Ad-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub A Kurdish Muslim better known in the Western world as Saladin, he became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. During the Crusades he led the Muslim and Arab opposition, winning the respect of many European leaders, including Richard the Lionheart. The sterling reputation he maintained throughout the conflict led Saladin to become a potent symbol of the principles of knightly chivalry.
Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi 12th Century mathematician, astronomer and geographer extraordinaire, he was a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. His work on the Indian numerals introduced the positional decimal system to the Western world. "Algebra" is derived from al-jabr, one of the two operations he used to solve quadratic equations. Algorism and algorithm stem from Algoritmi, the Latin form of his name. His symbols include the mathematical equations for which he is famous.
Abu Muhammad Jabir Ibn Aflah 12th century Muslim mathematician and astronomer from Seville who was widely known by his Latinized name, Geber. His work, Islah al-Magisti, profoundly influenced early Islamic, Jewish and Christian astronomers. Jabir inspired the trigonometry of Nicholas Copernicus, which was widely adopted in 16th century Europe. He invented an observational instrument called the torquetum, a mechanical device to transform between spherical coordinate systems, closely resembling an analogue computer.
Abu Ali Al-Husayn Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Sina Known by his Latin name, Avicenna, he wrote almost 450 treatises on a variety of subjects, including The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many medieval universities. He is regarded as the most famous and influential polymath of the Islamic Golden Age.
Fatima Al-Fihri Nicknamed Oum al Banine, "mother of the kids." With money inherited from her father, a wealthy businessman, she founded the University of Qarawiyyin in 859, the oldest degree-granting university still existing in modern Tunisia.
Nana Asma'u Princess, poet, teacher and daughter of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio. She was an exceptionally prolific writer and leading scholar in Western Africa. Though born in the 18th century, she benefited greatly from the legacy of educational opportunity afforded women during the Islamic Golden Age.

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