THE MUSLIM FLYERS
(The Islamic Times, November 1998)
Abul Qasim Ibn Firnas (died 873 C.E/260 A-H)
He lived in Spain during the reign of Amir Muhammad ibn Abdur Rahman and was brought up in the city of Cordoba. He was born in Korah Takrna near Ronda and studied chemistry, physi astronomy. In his experiments he managed to manufacture glass from sand and stone and he devised a chain of rings depicting the motions of stars and planets. He is also credited with inventing a time measuring devise called Al-Maqata.
In recognition of his experiments on the possibility of human flight, a statue has been built in his memory on the way to Baghdad International Airport.
He is famous for constructing a flying machine which was capable of carrying a human being. Having constructed the final version of his glider, to celebrate it’s success, he invited the people of Cordoba to come and witness his flight. People watched from a nearby mountain as he flew some distance but then the glide plummeted to the ground causing him serious injuring which subsequently resulted in his death.
Philip Hitti in his book ‘History of the Arabs’ paid tribute to Ibn Firnas; "Ibn Firnas was the first man in history to make a scientific attempt at flying." Abbas Ibn Firnas is commemerated on a Libian postal stamp.
Many further attempts were made to achieve human flight and in the process many researchers lost their lives during their experiments. Amongst these was Farabi Ismail Johari, a teacher from Nishapur, Turkistan, who launched himself from the minaret of Ulu Mosque, using wings made from wood and rope.