Human beings are indomitable. They don’t want to stop, even for a moment. This is how they had a dream to touch the sky, to fly there. To accomplish this dream, the Wright brothers, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, invented the first motorized aircraft in 1903. However, they weren’t the first humans to fly in the sky, although most of the people know mere about them. Nonetheless, Abbas ibn Firnas, the first person in history who successfully flew in the sky. He was a polymath expert from Andalusia, Spain during the Umayyad Caliphate in the 9th Century. About Firnas’s flying efforts, Philip K. Hitti, a Lebanese-American professor and famous historian, commented in his book History of the Arabs, ‘Ibn Firnas was the first person to attempt to fly in the sky scientifically.”
Abbas ibn Firnas, his full name is Abu al-Qasim Abbas ibn Firnas ibn Wirdas al-Takurin. Sporadically, he was also known as Armen Firman. Not only was he a polymath, but also an inventor, engineer, astronomer, chemist, physician, and poet, in the meantime. He was born in 810 AD in Spain which was then of the centers of Muslim learning. He created a device that displayed the motion of the planets and stars throughout the Universe. Moreover, Ibn Firnas devised a method for manufacturing colorless glass and created magnifying lenses for reading, which were referred to as reading stones.
The flying incident of Ibn Firnas was found in the writings of Algerian historian Al Maqqani. In addition to, commentary on the flight of his is found in the poems of Mumin ibn Sa’id, the royal poet of Muhammad, the first emir of contemporary Cordoba. Ibn Sa’id writes in a poem about Firnas, “When covered by the vulture’s feathers, it flies faster than the phoenix.” Ibn Firnas’ flying machine, which he invented, was made of feathers and silk. At the age of sixty-five, he jumped into the air with his newly invented aeronautics from Mount Arus in the Rafa region near Cordoba, Spain, using his invention.
A large number of people from Córdoba gathered to witness him fly throughout the sky. “If all goes well after I leave here, I will return here,” Ibn Firnas told them. After a successful test flight, he managed to maintain control of his glider for around 10 minutes longer. However, despite the fact that he was successful in his flight, he made a little mistake.
The historian, Al-Makari, claims to have covered his body with feathers and attached a few wings to his body. After that, he floated in the air. According to the accounts of individuals who observed his flight, he traveled a significant distance through the wings before returning to the place where he had begun his journey. However, he was unable to land successfully, and as a result, he got serious injuries.
Ibn Firnas managed to survive, but he suffered two broken legs as a result. He was seventy years old at the time. He next devotes his attention to determining precisely what went wrong with his flying mechanism. It occurs to him that birds have tails and wings when they come to land. Speed is controlled by the use of integrated functionality. However, he did not use a tail or any other alternative means to slow down his machine’s speed.
Even then, he had a lifespan of approximately 12 years. However, he was no longer able to fly in the air due to his injuries. Because he was unable to recover from his earlier opinion. In the year 96 AD, Ibn Firnas passed away.
Ibn Firnas was of repeated descent from North Africa. His given name, Afernas, is derived from a word that is still frequently used in Morocco and Algeria today to refer to him. This prominent philosopher has been commemorated through the naming of a plethora of landmarks around the world, particularly in Muslim countries, including airports, bridges, mountain summits, parks, roads, and science institutes.In Iraq, he erected a massive sculpture near the Baghdad International Airport. This philosopher is recognized by the name of the bridge that spans the Guadalquivir River in Cordoba, Spain.
Md. Obaidullah is Research Assistant, Centre for Advanced Social Research, Dhaka.