Archive for Muslim Inventions

Development of Sciences under Muslims

Development of Sciences under Muslims         

Mathematics, Medical sciences, Surgery, Medicine, Geography, and Astronomy

Islam strongly urges mankind to study and explore the universe. In the Holy Qu’ran, it is written that:                                                                                                              

We (Allah) will show you (mankind) our signs/patterns in the horizons/universe and in yourselves until you are convinced that the revelation is the truth.” [Qur’an, 14:53]

This invitation to explore the universe made Muslims interested in several sciences, including astronomy, mathematics, chemistry etc. It is then, that the real valuable contribution to several sciences began.


In the field of mathematics, bold experiments were carried out by Muslim mathematicians, under which mathematics flourished greatly and very undoubtly.Algebra was said to be invented by the Greeks, but only because;

It was confined to furnishing amusement for the plays of the goblet”.

This is according to Oelsner. It is actually the Muslims who developed and applied the algebra as we know it in this present age, and we consider Al-Khawarizmi to be the father of algebra, because of his extensive and vital contribution to the subject.

After Al-Khawarizmi the first great mathematician and inventor of algebra, mathematics notably developed under others after him, especially Umar Khayyam.  

 Muslims were the first people to introduce the sine of arc in trigonometrical calculations, and it was the Muslims who invented spherical trigonometry.Muslims also discovered tangent functions and the discovery of zero was a big and invaluable contribution to the field of mathematics. Muslims also made great progress in mathematical geography.Muslims organized numbers into the decimal system, to base ten, and also invented symbols to represent unknown numbers or quantities i.e. x.

The system of Arabic numerals only came to Europe through Al-Khawarizmi’s Latin translations of his work, which came to Europe through Spain.

The word “algorithm” is derived from Al-Khawarizmi’s name. Muslim mathematicians excelled in geometry, and it can be seen in their graphical art.

Al-Biruni (who excelled also in the fields of natural history, geology and mineralogy) was the one who established trigonometry as a distinct branch in mathematics, while other Muslim mathematicians excelled in mathematical theory.

In one way or another, mathematics is involved in nearly all subjects, from art to astrology, from medicine to geology. If it wasn’t for these Muslims, mathematics may never have flourished as it did under the Muslims, and we may never have become as advanced as we are today.

Medical sciences, surgery and medicine

Muslims gave a lasting contribution to the subjects of medical sciences, surgery and medicine. In Islam, the body is a source of appreciation for it was created by God Almighty. How the body functions, how to keep your body clean and how to prevent or cure diseases became an important issue to Muslims. The prophet Muhammad himself urged people to

“Take medicines for your diseases”.

People were reluctant to do this at that time. The prophet also said;

 “God created no illness, but he established for it a cure, except for old age. When the antidote is applied, the patient will recover with the permission of God

This was good motivation for Muslims to develop and explore and also apply empirical laws. Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina (Avioenna), and Abu Ibn al-Haitham (Alhazen) were great scholars of the medieval period, excelling in the subject of medical sciences.Avioenna wrote the most widely studied  medical work of the medieval ages, the Al-Qanun Jil Tib, the book known as “Canon of Medicine”. It was reprinted more than twenty times in the last thirty years of the 15th century. It remained a standard textbook in the west for more than seven hundred years.Alhazen was the world’s greatest authority on optics, as we’ve read before.Ibn Katina was a Moorish Physician who died in 1369AD. He wrote an excellent treatises revealing the contagious characters of the plague, which ravaged Almaria, Spain in 1348-1349AD. Ibn Katina’s works were superior to any other of the age, and his book was edited and translated in Europe in the 15th century AD. Ibn Katina’s book also contained remedies to the plague, which were not known to Greek physicians, before and at the time.

In the field of surgery, Muslims were well ahead of their time. Modern surgical instruments, which you see nowadays, were actually devised by the Muslim surgeon, Al-Zahrawi, in the 10th century. He devised scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many of the two hundred medical instruments that a modern surgeon would recognize today.Al-Zahrawi also made the discovery that catgut-used for internal stitching-dissolves away naturally (a discovery made when his monkey ate his lute strings). He also discovered that catgut can be used to make medicine capsules.                                                           

In the 13th century, Muslim medic Ibn Nafis described the circulation of blood around the human body, three hundred years before William Harvey discovered it.

It was Muslim doctors who invented anesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes, and who also developed hollow needles to suck the cataracts out of eyes, a technique still used today.

Al-Razi was the inventor of “Seton” and the author of Judari wal Hasbak, an authentic book dealing with measles and small pox. 

 Muslims gave much attention to medicine and public health care. The first hospital was built in Baghdad in 706AD. Muslims used camel caravans as mobile hospitals, which moved from place to place. As Islam did not forbid it, Muslims used human cadavers to study the anatomy and physiology of the human body. This was to help students understand how the body functions. This empirical study helped surgery develop very quickly.

Al-Razi (Rhazes) was one of the most famous physicians of the middle ages. He stressed empirical observation, and was unrivaled as a diagnostician. He also wrote treatises on hygiene in hospitals.

Khalaf Abul-Qasim Al-Zahrawi was the famous surgeon of the 11th century, known in Europe for his book Kitab al-Tasrif (Concessio).I

bn Sina was probably the greatest physician until the modern era, and his work is still studied in the east.

Ibn Sina also contributed to pharmacology, with his book Kitab al-Shifa (Book of Healing). He also contributed to public health.

Every major city of the Islamic world had a number of excellent hospitals, some teaching hospitals, some specializing in a particular disease. Some also specialized in mental and emotional diseases. The ottomans were particularly noted for their building of hospitals and the hygiene practiced in them.

Hygiene and medical care still remains a major issue in everyday life, and if it wasn’t for these Muslim medics, doctors and physicians, we may never have reached the standard of health care that is practiced today.        GeographyMuslim scholars paid great attention to geography. Muslims concern to geography originated from their religion, Islam. The Qu’ran encourages people to travel the world, and see God’s signs and patterns.Islam requires at least every Muslim to know the position and direction of the Qiblah, the direction to the Ka’bah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is a holy place for Muslims, and is where Muslims face to pray.Muslims also took long journeys for trading purposes, and to preach Islam, not to mention to do pilgrimage to God in Makkah.The extent of the Muslim empire enabled Muslims to compile geographical data, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Among renowned geographers, Ibn Batuta and Ibn Khaldun stand out, because of their extensive travels and their accounts on their explorations and lengthy expeditions.Al-Idrisi produced a number of accurate maps of the world, including within them continents, trade routes and famous cities.

Al-Muqdishi was the first geographer to compile accurate maps in colour.

The Invention of the mariners compass was a great success, and revolutionized sea borne commerce. Undoubtedly, traces of the needle go back to Ancient China, but credit for putting it to work in the form of a mariners compass goes to the Muslims. It was probably made also for finding the direction of the Qiblah. The mariners compass enabled the Arabs to roam over the stormy seas in search of new lands, and additional markets for their goods.     

The unique shipping instrument, used to raise sunken ships from the sea bed, was invented by Abu Solet Umayya in 1134AD. It was a great help for salvage expeditions of the medieval times.

Muhammad Musa, a great geographer, and the inventor of photography, invented an instrument, with which the earth could be measured.                                                                                 

Because of Muslim navigators and their inventions, it was that Magellan was able to traverse the Cape of Good Hope.

Vasco Da Gama and Christopher Columbus had Muslim navigators aboard their ships, and without their help, they probably wouldn’t    have accomplished what they are famous for. 


 Muslims always had a special interest in astronomy. This was also linked to religion.The moon and sun has vital importance in a Muslims life, and this was the motivation that aroused great Muslim astronomers. By the moon a Muslim determines the beginning and end of the lunar calendar. By the sun a Muslim determines the times for prayer and fasting. Also, by astronomy, a Muslim can determine the correct direction of the Qiblah. The most precise and accurate solar calendar, even superior to the Julian calendar, was devised under the supervision of Umar Khayyam.                                                                    

The Qu’ran also contains references to astronomy.

“The heavens and the earth were ordered rightly, and were made subservient to man, including the sun, the moon, the stars, and day and night. Every heavenly body moves in an orbit assigned to it by God and never digresses, making the universe an orderly cosmos whose life and existence, diminution and expansion, are totally determined by the Creator.” [Qur’an 30:22]

It was these references to learn that inspired Muslims to study the heavens.Muslims integrated earlier works of the Indians, Persians and Greeks. They put these together into another synthesis. 

Ptolemy’s Almagest was translated and studied, then criticized. Many new stars were discovered. In their Arabic names, they are: Algol, Deneb, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran and probably many more.

Ibn Firnas devised a chain of rings depicting the motions of stars and planets.

Astronomical tables were compiled, among them the Toledan tables, which were use byCopernicus, Tycho, Brahe and Kepler. Also compiled was Almanacs, another Arabic term. Other terms from Arabic are zenith, nadir, Albedo, Azimuth.

Muslims invented astronomical instruments, like the quadrant and the astrolabe. This not only led to developments in astronomy, but also in sea navigation, contributing to the European age of exploration.

Muslim astronomers were the first to establish observatories, and were also the first to use them. They were built in major cities of Islam, like Baghdad, Hamadan, Toledo, Maragha, Samarkand, and Istanbul. One was built by Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan in Mugharah, in Persia. Giralda or “The  tower of Seville” was the first observatory built in Europe. It was built for the observation of heavenly bodies, and was built under the supervision of the mathematician Jabit Ibn Afiah. It was later turned unto a belfry, by Christian conquers, who after expelling the Moors, didn’t know how to use it.Muslims invention of the astrolabe-which was an improvement of the Greek invention-was the most important invention until the invention of the telescope, in the 17th century.                                                                                                          

 The astrolabe was used to determine one’s latitude on the earth, using the position of the stars and the sun. This was especially important to travelers.                                                                                                                                                               

 Abul Hasan is said to have discovered and invented the telescope. He described it as a

“Tube, to the extremities of which were attached diopters”.

 Muslims were the first astronomers to challenge the long accepted ideas of Ptolemy and Aristotle, regarding eclipses, planetary orbits and the position of stars.Al-Farghani was one of the most distinguished  astronomers of the House of Wisdom. He wrote the book “Elements of Astronomy”. This book heavily discussed the motion and science of stars. It was translated into Latin in the12th century. The book exerted great influence on European astronomy. Al-Farghani’s big mistake was to support the widely held view that the earth is at the center of the universe, which he discussed in his book. Ptolemy was the first person to describe this wrongly held view, and it was later proved wrong. 

Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi was a Persian astronomer who lived in the 10th century. He described-in 964- the Andromeda galaxy, our closest neighbour. He called it “The Little Cloud”. This was the first record of a star system, outside our galaxy. His book on stars was translated into many languages, and had a great influence also, on European astronomy.            

In Muslim Spain, there were many astronomers, one of which one was Al-Zarqali (from 1029 to 1080). He is known as Arzachel in Europe. He was the most famous astronomer of his age, and made a kind of astrolabe that measured the motion of stars. His work was translated into European languages, and was studied in Europe.In the 9th century, Muslims already knew that the earth was a sphere. The evidence, said Ibn Hazm, was that,

“Is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth”. This was five hundred years before Galileo discovered it.

Also, by the 9th century, Islamic astronomers reckoned that the circumference of the earth was 40,253.4 km, and this measurement was  less than two hundred km out!                                                   


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Muslim Inventions

Muslim Inventions

Soap, Cleanliness, Cosmetics, Shampoo,  Development of Paper, The Fountain Pen, Development of Cloth, Carpets, Garden, Glass,  Development of Chess, Coffee, Sherbet, 3 Course Meal, Pay Cheques, the Windmill, Vaccination,  Pointed Arch and the Crank-Shaft

Soap, Shampoo, Cleanliness and Cosmetics

The medieval times, was known for its lack of cleanliness and hygiene, leading to illnesses and diseases, and one of the Crusaders most striking characteristics were that they didn’t wash.                                                                                                             

Only a few Muslims, as early as the 7th century, had developed a sophisticated and hygienic way of life, and methods to keep themselves clean and away from diseases. In Islam, cleanliness is considered as half of a Muslims relegion. This was motivation for Muslims, also the fact that not keeping clean led to diseases and bad health.                       

The greatest thing done for cleanliness by Muslims, is probably the invention of soap. The credit for this goes to Muslim chemists. Before the invention of soap, people used oils to clean themselves, but all people didn’t have these oils.                                                                  

 Soap was made by mixing oil (usually olive oil) with al-qali (a salt like substance). This was then boiled to achieve the right mix, and left to harden, before used in homes and public baths.                                                                                                               

 Various recipies for soap were written by many Muslim chemists, icluding Al-Razi.  A recetly discovered manuscript dating back to the 13th century, containes the recipie to soap. The instructions are given here.

“Take some sesame oil, a sprinkle of potash, alkali and some lime, mix them all together and boil. When cooked, they are poured into moulds and left to set, leaving hard soap”.                                                                                       

One of the leading cosmetologists of the time, Al-Zahrawi, known to the west as Abulcassis, wrote a medical encyclopedia called Al-Tasrif. It was written in thirty volumes. Inside the 19th volume, there contains a whole chapter devoted to cosmetics. This was the first original contribution to cosmetology.

 Beutification of the body with purfumes etc was there way before Zahrawi, but Zahrawi considered cosmetics to be a branch of medication apart from beutification. Zahrawi’s contribution to the subject include ; under arm deodorants, hair removing sticks. hair care and also hand lotions. For turning blond hair to black, hair dyes are mentioned. Also, the benefts of suntan lotions are mentioned, also describing their ingredients in detail. His translations into Latin of his books were used as main university textbooks in many   European universities.                                                                                                                               

In the betification part of cosmetics, Zahrawi dealt with perfumes, scented aromatics and incense. There are many hadith’s (quotations of the prophet) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), refering to cleanliness, care of hair and other parts of the body. Al-Zahrawi described these all within the limitations of Islam.                                                                

“Adhan”, and oily substance, was used for medication and beautification. Zahrawi dealt with perfumed stocks, rolled up and pressed into special moulds. These were probably the earliest and nearest representations of present day lipsticks and deodorants.                                                                                                                              

The greeks contributed a lot to cosmetics, but that was in the beutification part. It is the hygiene aspects that realy matters and affects us. Islam brought forward the method of cleaning yourself, which is practiced by every muslim, prior to praying five times a day called wudu. It was also the muslims who introduced the quarintine of sick patients, so the illness  of the patient would not spread. This was done due to the discovery and whole idea of germs (also discovered by muslims). So out of all this, it was the muslims who contributed the most to the health part of cosmetics.                                                                                                                                                             

Shampoo,  was introduced to Britain by a Muslim, who opened the Mahmomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on the Brighton Seafront, in 1759. He was appointed the shampooing surgeon for King George IV and William IV.

Paper and the Fountain Pen

Although the first paper to write on was papyrus, made by the Egyptians, then a more advanced type of paper which was discovered and made by the Chinese, the secret of papermaking was discovered by the Muslims after capturing two Chinese papermakers in the battle of Talas in 751CE.

After the secret of papermaking was revealed, a more superior type of paper, with better quailty, was produced by the Muslims, like the paper we know today.

The first paper to be manufactured in Islamic countries was in 794 AD, in Baghdad by Yusuf Bin Omar. Muslims brought the paper to Europe and other countries.

The fountain pen was invented for the Sultan of Egypt in 953. He demanded a pen that wouldn’t leak and stain on his cloths or hands. The pen made for the Sultan, contained a miniature reservoir, as with modern pens, which held the ink and fed the nib, using a combination of gravity and capillary action.

Cloth and Carpets

Muslims, particularly in Spain, were skilled in cloth making. The Muslims cloth was renowned for its durability, and captured most of the big markets of the world. Muslims cloth was seen as the finest.

Thanks to the good quality cloth, combined with the artistic designs and the Muslims advanced weaving patterns, Muslims produced very fine and exquisite carpets and the designs on the carpets were very beautiful. Carpets were usually woven by nunerous home workers, with incredible precision and accuracy, and they were regarded as a part of paradise, by Muslims.

Comparing the Muslims homes and carpets to the Europeans homes of the time, Europeans homes were covered in rushes, that were virtually out of this world. When I mean virtually, I mean really out of this world. Carpets caught on quickly, and heres why. In England, as Erasmus recorded it, the floors were

covered in rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for 20 years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned”. 

Carpets were very renowned and prized by the Europeans and the English, so much that Queen Eleanor, the Castilian bride of King Edward I, brought Andulsian carpets to England, as part of her dowry, in 1255. The Persians were renowned for carpet making, and are still considered the best in the world.

The Garden

Although the garden existed for a long time, it was the Arab Muslims that spread the notion that the garden could be a place of peace, tranquility, beauty and meditation. Flowers that originated from Muslim gardens include the carnation and the tulip. In medieval Europe, gardens were only a place to grow herbs and food.

Mainly after the 8th century onwards, these heavenly gardens spread to India and other Middle Eastern places. The Abbasids created geometrical designs for their flower beds, to provide seclusion from the outside worlds. These magni- ficent garde- ns also           contained fountains and shallow canals. Examples of these gardens still can be found in Islamic Persia, Sicily and India, in the gardens of the Taj Mahal, and in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain.                                           

The first appearance of these beautiful gardens in Europe, after Muslim Spain, was first in Toledo, then in Seville around the 11th century. These gardens were used for the testing of new plants brought from the Middle East, into a new climate. The gardens were also generally for pleasure and meditation. It was only five centuries after that these beautiful gardens were introduced to the rest of Europe, first to the Universities    of Italy. Examples of these beautiful Muslim gardens can now be seen in all of Europe, from the Stibbert garden in Florence to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England.                                                                      

The list of heavenly garden produced by the early Muslims was very, very long. Just to give you a glimpse of what it was like, Nisban (in Mesopotamia) was said to have 40,000 gardens, containing fruit trees and orchards, while an even bigger number resided in Damascus, a number of  110,000. In Venice, gardens and orchards were criss-crossed with mile after mile of canals.                                                                                                           

The Qu’ran repeatedly describes gardens, to be a place of beauty and serenity, contemplation and reflection. Nature, trees, animals are a blessed gift from Allah, and are a sign of his greatness. Gardens have an elevated status, in a Muslims mind for Islam permits anyone to use and change nature according to the ethical ways and limitations of Islam. Thus gardens    were designed to be sympathetic to nature. The garden is seen as a place of wonder and enchantment.                              


It is said that the Greeks made the Garden as a place of beauty and meditation and the evidence is;

In the Odyssey, Book V Homer describes the garden of Calypso:                                                                 

 “And round about the cave there was a wood blossoming, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress. And therein roosted birds long of wing, owls and falcons and chattering sea-crows, which have their business in the waters. And lo, there about the hollow cave trailed a gadding garden vine, all rich with clusters. And fountains four set orderly were running with clear water, hard by one another, turned each to his own course. And all around soft meadows bloomed of violets and parsley, yea, even a deathless god who came thither might wonder at the sight and be glad at heart.”

 “The Odyssey” is a mythalogical story (i.e not real), so there is no evidence that something like this was in real life.


 Aristotle‘s Academia was held in a grove of olive trees, considered to be a sacred space.

This is only talking about a specific grove of olive trees, and there is no mention of beauty and meditation in it.


It was Ibn Firnas, who is credited to have making glass from stone, after experimenting with rock crystal. He constructed his home as a sort of planetarium. In his house, one could see the stars, clouds and also lightning. 


A form of chess was played in India called “Chaturanga”, which consisted of four players. From there, it came to Persia, where it was further developed to only two players. The name given to chess there was “Chatrang”. It is believed that the rules of “Chaturanga” and “Chatrang” were similar. From there, chess became popular in                                                               

Islamic Countries, and from there also developed to “Shatranj”. There is some controversy about chess in Islam, because some people consider it to be “haraam” (Arabic for “forbidden”). There is a “Hadith” (Arabic for narration of the Prophet) saying that :

“He who played chess is like one who dyes his hand with the flesh and blood of a swine (pig).”                                                                                                                               

But in 638 A.D. the Caliph (successor to Muhammad) Omar allowed chess among Muslims. It was banned again about 1000 A.D. in Egypt!In about the 8th century, chess spread into Europe and was a favorite game of King Charlemagne of France .    

Coffee, the Sherbet and the 3 Course Meals 

The first coffee was made by a man named Khalid. The story goes that he was tending sheep, when he noticed that his sheep grew bigger and livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries, and thus the first coffee was made.Beans were exported from Ethiopia to Yemen, and drank by Sufi’s to stay awake all night and pray on special occasions. This was the first record of the drink.It had arrived in Mecca and Turkey in the late 15th century, from where it found its way to Venice, in 1645. Coffee arrived in Britain in 1650, when a coffee house was opened in Lombard Street in London by a Turk, named Pasqua Rosee. The Arabic “qahwa” became the Turkish “kahve”, then the Italian “caffé”, and finally the British “coffee”.                                                             

Muslims developed a variety of juices to make their “sharab” (sherbet). Their sherbet was a soft juice drink of crushed fruit, flowers and herbs. It existed as one of the most famous drinks of all time, winning the hearts of people like Lord Byron. “Sharab” is where the Italians “sorbetto” comes from, where the French “sorbet” comes from, and then finally the English “Sherbet” is derived from. There are a number of names, and is associated with a number of traditions. Sherbet is also now produced in  America all the way to India. Medieval Muslim sources contain recipes for drink syrups that can be kept out of the refrigerator for weeks and even months.

The concept of the three course meal was brought to Cordoba in the 9th Century, from Iraq. The concept included having soup, followed by fish or some meat, then for desert fruit and nuts. It was brought to Cordoba by Ali Ibn Nafi (also known as Ziryab-Blackbird). He also introduced crystal glasses that were invented by a Muslim.

Pay Cheques 

The modern cheque, that we know today in derived from the Arabic word “saqq”. This means a written vow to pay for the goods when they are delivered. This was very good and sophisticated, as it meant that Muslims didn’t have to take money with them across dangerous terrain, avoiding robberies. In the 9th century, Muslim businessman could cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad.

The Windmill 

The Arabian Desert dried up each year, and breakneck tasks had to be preformed in drawing water, and grinding grain, which had to be done by hand. This had to be done in order to survive. A  wind blew steadily in the Arabian Desert, the only power source that the desert could offer. The wind blew for months at a time. A clever Muslim inventor, in 634, built the first windmill, which consisted of six or twelve sails covered in fabric or palm leaves, catching the wind and turning the huge mill stones wheel, which ground the corn. The first windmill was not seen in Europe for another five hundred years.


The west has the wrongly held view that Jenner and Pasteur invented inoculation (protection from viruses). The thing is he didn’t. Vaccination was devised in the Muslim world. Children in Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox and vaccination was brought to Europe from Turkey by the wife of the English ambassador to Istanbul in 1724, exactly seventy two years before Jenner and Pasteur discovered it.
A coin has been minted in honour of the discovery of innoculation in the Muslim World.

 Pointed Arch  

The pointed arch, much stronger than the round one, enabled a much bigger, higher and more complex and grander building to be produced. This can be seen in  on the Europe’s Gothic cathedrals, an invention borrowed from Muslim architecture. Other borrowings from Muslim inventions included ribbed vaulting, rose windows and dome building techniques. Europe‘s castles also copied from the Islamic world’s castles and forts with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended round ones. Henry V’s castle architect was a Muslim.         


The crank-shaft, created by the Muslim genius Al-Jazari, central too many machines of the modern age, translated rotary motion to linear motion. It is also central to the combustion engine. This is one of the most useful and clever mechanical inventions of humankind, and without this invention, many machines could not be created. Al-Jazari originally created the crank-shaft to raise water for irrigation. Al-Jazari also invented the use of valves and a piston, devised some mechanical clocks driven by weights and water, and was the “Father of Mechanics”. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of ingenious Mechanical Inventions verifies  this completely. He also invented the combination lock, among his other fifty inventions.        

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