The medieval Muslims took a keen interest in the study of astrology: partly because they considered the celestial bodies to be essential, partly because the dwellers of desert-regions often travelled at night, and relied upon knowledge of the constellations
for guidance in their journeys. After the advent of Islam
, the Muslims
needed to determine the time of the prayers, the direction of the Kaaba
, and the correct orientation of the mosque
, all of which helped give a religious impetus to the study of astronomy
and contributed towards the belief that the heavenly bodies were influential upon terrestrial affairs as well as the human condition. The science dealing with such influences was termed astrology
: علم النجوم Ilm an-Nujūm
), a discipline contained within the field of astronomy (more broadly known as علم الفلك Ilm al-Falak
'the science of formation [of the heavens]'). The principles of these studies were rooted in Arabian, Persian
and Indian traditions
and both were developed by the Arabs following their establishment of a magnificent observatory and library of astronomical and astrological texts at Baghdad
in the 8th century.
Throughout the medieval period the practical application of astrology was subject to deep philosophical debate by Muslim religious scholars
and scientists. Astrological prognostications nevertheless required a fair amount of exact scientific expertise and the quest for such knowledge within this era helped to provide the incentive for the study and development of astronomy. Read more...