Great Leaders Through the Ages

Al Jazari : The Inventor of Clocks

Muslims over seven hundred years ago knew it was important to know the time

Born in 12th century in Diyarbakir in South East Turkey, he was a pious Muslim and a highly skilled engineer. He apprenticed to his father and uncles in the workshops and liked to tinker with devices.

His name was Al Jazari. Among his inventions is the lowly crankshaft, water pump for the movement of water that was way ahead of his times and the infamous “Elephant Clock”, which is a complicated set of gravity-driven triggers, gears and water flow to sound the hours. Muslims over seven hundred years ago knew it was important to know the time so it could be utilized well and to know when to pray salah and call adhan in masjids.

Published in 1206, one of his books called The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices contains many diagrams and blueprints. This has been translated into English in 1974.

A model of his clock is now in Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization in Sharjah, UAE.

The sign on the model reads,

“This model is based on the description in Al-Jazari’s book (c 600 AH / 1200 AD). Hidden inside the elephant is a water powered mechanism which causes a driver figurine to move its whip and strike the drum. Moreover, it makes the bird on the top rotate and the two other birds drop metal balls from their beaks in the gaping mouths of the two dragons. The weight causes the latter to decline slowly and ultimately drop the balls in two deep bowls and from there further down. This activity marks the passing of a half hour.”

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