Arabs were the first to show their interest in geography because of their special surroundings. They gave pictorial form to their conception of the universe on the basis of faith.
Their outlook was purely theological. They made outstanding contributions in the fields of mathematical, physical, and regional geography. Their achievements in climatology, oceanography, geo- morphology, linear measurement, determination of cardinal points, limits of habitable world, sprawl of continents and oceans are highly appreciable.
Contribution to Mathematical Geography:
1. Arabs were highly influenced by the Greek ideas about the shape and size of the earth.
2. Earth was considered as the centre of the universe, around which revolved the seven planets.
3. The prime meridian plotted by Ptolemy was used by the Arabs for the calculation of time and longitudes. This meridian used to pass through Fortunate Islands, Abu Mashar.
4. For determination of latitudes, the Arabs made use of the sun’s shadow where it happened to be on the meridian.
5. Al Battam measured the circumference of the earth as 27,000 miles.
Contribution to Climatology:
1. In AD 1921, Al-Balakhi gathered climatic data and information from Arab travellers and prepared the first climatic atlas of the world— Kitab-ul-Ashkal.
2. Al-Masudi described Indian monsoons.
3. Al-Maqdisi divided the world into 14 climatic regions. He presented the idea that the southern hemisphere was the most open ocean and most of the world’s land area was in the northern hemisphere.
4. Ibn-Khaldun, Al-Beruni, Al-Masudi described the influence of climate on vegetation and lifestyle of the people. According to Ibn-Khaldun, people of the warm climate are passionate. He also said that Negros are black because they live in warm climate. People try to build their houses and settlements on the southern slopes near water sources and springs.
Contribution to Geomorphology:
1. Al-Beruni in his Kitab-ul-Hmd opined that the stones became round because they had fallen along torrential mountain streams. He also discovered that alluvial soils became finer in texture farther away from mountains.
2. Avicenna keenly observed the works of agents of denudation and ascertained that
(i) Mountain streams erode the slope;
(ii) The highest peaks occur when the rocks are especially resistant to erosion;
(iii) The mountains are immediately exposed to the process of wearing down as soon as they rise up.
Contribution to Oceanography:
1. The Arabs proved that the tides are caused due to the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon,
2. Al-Masudi observed variation in the colour of the ocean water and attributed it to the variation in the salinity of water and presence of vegetation.