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#08 Mariam Al Astrulabi's Life

Before we dive into today's episode, I'd like to take a moment to share my condolences to the morrocan people. A recent tragedy. On september 8, Marakas, was struck by a devastating earthquake, resulting in the loss of many lives and leaving countless families without homes and loved ones.

My  heart and prayers go out to the people Morroco Casablanca during this challenging time. those who are struggling with the aftermath of this disaster.

My deepest condolences to those who have lost friends and family members. I’ll share links in the podcast description for those who may wish to contribute to relief efforts or donate to organizations. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, can make a difference. As I  transition into our podcast content, I hope that by addressing this tragedy I can encourage those who are able to help in any way they can.

It's no secret that scholars from the 8th to the 15th centuries left an impressive mark on various scientific domains. From medicine to physics and chemistry, their knowledge laid the groundwork for modern science. Al Jazari’s Elephant clock, Ibn al-Haytham contributions to optics, Ibn Khaldun’s founding on sociology, Ibn Rushd’s philosophy… But today, we're setting our sights  the heavens—the realm of astronomy. En specifically the contributions of a woman in this field.

Aristotle's Theory

In 400 BC The Greek philosopher Aristotle created this theory were he imagined the earth on the center of the universe and  all planets are revolvoing around the earth in in uniform motion along the most “perfect” path possible. But Later on in 150 CE. That's approximately 1873 years ago! the astronomer Ptolomy improved this system where he created a mathematical background on aristotles theory. He accurately traced the paths of the planets. He found out that the planets are moving in circular but irregular movements. With his observations from the earth he started making calculations. Ptolemy created a mathematical siysem which is now called Ptolemaic system. Now the human would be able to predict planets behavior. How they were positioned in the past.

But this mathmetical model needed a lot of  improving and refining. Because it was based on the hypothesis that the world is in the center of the universe. Actually till this day there is still no definite answer to the question whether the universe has a center or not.

In 16th  and 17th  century finally the earth was displaced from the center of the universe. I say finally because why do the humans have the audacity to think everything revolves around them. I’m sorry the world doesn’t revolve around you” 😊

Astronomy after the fall of Rome 

After the collapse of Rome  476 AD the field of stronomyd stead still. Because of the conflicts in Europe a lot of knowledge on Astonomy got lost. This is when Muslim polymaths step in the game.

It’s recorded that Islamic astronomers made remarkable explorations in understanding celestial movements, bridging the gap between ancient Greek, Iranian, and Indian knowledge. They didn't just accept the Ptolemaic and Aristotelian models; they exposed their weaknesses, bringing astronomy to a new level. But who were these scholars who reshaped the cosmos? should also think about Ali al-Qushji, Ulugh Bey, Al-Biruni, and Ibn Sina. They were the visionaries who built the bridge to the future of scientific exploration.

Mariam Al Iljiliyya AKA Al Astrulabi

But our spotlight today falls on an exceptional figure—Mariam Al-Ijiliya, known as Mariam al astrulabi a woman of the 10th century, Aleppo, Syria. Her father,was an engineer and manufacturer, he created astrulabes in his atelier. According to some sources Mariams father is the  famous geographer and astronomer, Coshiar Eljili. Together they worked for the famous astronomer Nastulus ( also known as Bastulus. Mariam was able to study his fathers and Nastulus’s research and craftmanship. She could see their and dedication. Now it was time for Mariam to continue her fathers legacy. Her decision had a huge impact on her life but also the centuries after her…

An Astro- what?

Now, what's an astrolabe, you might wonder? It’s a device that uses the positions of astral bodies like the sun and stars to determine your latitude or local time. It's a tool that can even measure celestial events like the wobble of the Earth's axis, eclipses, positions of stars planets and horoscopes

The astrolabe consists of a metal or wooden disk marked with degrees, complete with a movable pointer. Its functions are diverse—from finding the Qibla to determining prayer times. I’ll put some pictures on Instagram. But maybe this time I’ll create a post instead of putting in just on the story.


The thing is the astrolabe was originally invented by the Greeks for measuring latitude, but as the Ptolemaic System needed improvements so did the ancient astulabe as well. Mariam had to create mathematical equations, research, observing for months the heavens, fail and the get back on.

Let’s go back in time and look around in her atelier.

Mariam's atelier was a sanctuary of knowledge and creativity. As the morning sun fall through the a  arched windows the room would be embraced by a warm glow , she would enter her workspace, her mind full with ideas and her heart filled with remembrance of her Creator.

The centrepiece of her atelier was, without a doubt, her astrolabe—a instrument that fused artistry and science.  Surrounding it were shelves full of tools, little unorganized scrolls, and the precious materials she needed for her craft.

Mariam's skilled hands would gently pick up the astrolabe, the cool metal meeting her fingers, and her journey would begin. Her astrolabe was a masterpiece, a testament to her dedication to accuracy.

The room would come alive with the sounds of Mariam's work—subtle clicks and soft murmurs as she carefully made adjustments the astrulabe. With carefully inspection on each delicate component, she makes sure  that everything functioned flawlessly. Each click bringing it closer to perfection.

Imagine the walls of the atelier. It was adorned with charts and diagrams of celestial bodies, drafts and mathematical formulas laying around. Some scribblings on sides of the books. Crumbled papers everywhere from many trial and errors. Her prayer mat in the corner with a candle at the side. Because all she did was work pray sleep.

Her astrolabe wasn't just a beautiful instrument; it was a precise tool used to calculate the positions of stars and planets. It allowed her to determine not only the time but also the direction of Mecca, essential for Islamic prayer.

As Mariam worked, she would occasionally glance out of the window, the distant horizon visible and on the streets children rushing back home before it is getting to dark and the the mums get angry. Day by day, month by month as  the heavens move, she saw  that it mirrored her own pursuit of knowledge and precision. She felt a deep connection to the universe, She knew she was not making  change only in her life  she knew it played a role in bridging the gap between humanity and the stars.

As the daylight disappears at the horizon and the sky darkened enough, Mariam would put the finishing touches on her latest creation. With a sense of accomplishment, she would carefully place it on a red velvet-lined cushion, ready to be presented to those who sought the precision and beauty of her craftsmanship.

Let pull out 3 keypoints.

1- Intention

Dedicated people Like Mariam Al Astrulabi I see the same pattern. Their intentions. They knew how important intentions are. They want their foundings be beneficial for the humanity. From this intention they create a passion from this passion they create ongoing change. Can you imagine having huge role in the ability of helping people get oriented in space and time so muslims can practice their 5 daily prayers. Mariam's astrolabe empowered astronomers to calculate celestial positions and local time, profoundly influencing both astronomy and religion.


2- Hardship does not affect precision

Having just eyes and a brain to make observations and calculations and still being highly precise is not something we can just overlook. Her designs have unmatched mathematical precision. Just because the job is hard the work should not be affected. If you have the right set of skill, go with full commitment. In Turkish there is a beautiful word for this Liyakat. Roughly translated to a merit.

3- Celebration

The nice part of an achievement is the sendeof fulfilment of course. On top of that recognition makes it much better. Fortunately Mariam’s hard work got celebrated and her talents earned her recognition from Sayf Al Dawla, the founder of the Emirate of Aleppo. She worked in the palace atelier and continued creating astrolabes. Still she is remembered in many ways:  She Her achievements are remembered after the discovery of  an asteroid in 1990. The asteroid is named after her. It is called 7060 Al-Ijliyye  in her honor. She inspired the main character of the award winning book called  "Binti.". But were not done. Did you watch Viking: Valhalla from last year? Her Mariam al Asturlabi inspired the development of the character with the same name Mariam. In the series she is a brilliant scientist.

Thanks again for coming to the end of this episode, I loved this episode especially the part were I imagined Mariam’s atelier. It feels reallt nce to go back in felt therapeutic idk.  If you liked this episode or got value from this, you can follow me and turn on the notification on whatever platforms you are lsitenign from. I’m also active on insta so come say salaam to me. In any case salaamaa

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