Medical Science and Islam: A brief Analysis in Medicine – Ahanat Zannat
The contributions that the medieval Muslims played in the invention of new drugs and therapeutic agents are great in number as well as in value. The following passages will shed some light on the real contribution of the prominent Muslim scientists and philosophers in the relevant field.
Abu `Ali al-Husayn ibn `Abd Allah Ibn Sina (980-1037)
Ibn Sina is regarded as a father of early modern medicine, particularly for his introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, his discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of contagious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine, evidence-based medicine, clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, efficacy tests, clinical pharmacology, neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome, and the importance of dietetics and the influence of climate and environment on health.
He is also considered the father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics, and regarded as a pioneer of aromatherapy neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome, and the importance of Dietetics and the influence of climate and environment on health. He is also considered the father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics, and regarded as a pioneer of aromatherapy.
The Canon of Medicine (Al-Canon fi al-Tibb)
The Canon of Medicine (in 14 volumes) was a standard medical text in Europe and the Islamic world up until the 19th century. The book is known for its introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, the discovery of contagious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of infectious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine, clinical trials, neuropsychiatry, risk factor analysis, and the idea of a syndrome in the diagnosis of specific diseases, and hypothesized the existence of microorganisms. The Canon of Medicine was the first book dealing with experimental medicine, evidence-based medicine, randomized controlled trials, and efficacy tests, and it laid out some rules and principles for testing the effectiveness of new drugs and medications, which still form the basis of clinical pharmacology and modern clinical trials.
Ali ibn Rabban al Tabari (838–870)
The author of the first major work of Islamic medicine was `Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari, a convert to Islam, who wrote his “Paradise of Wisdom” (Firdaus al-hikmah) in 234 AH/850 AD. In 360 chapters, he summarized the various branches of medicine, devoting the last discourse, which consists of 36 chapters, to a study of Indian medicine. The work, the first large compendium of its kind in Islam, is of particular value in the fields of pathology, pharmacology and diet, and clearly displays the synthetic nature of this new school of medicine, now coming into being.
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi (846–930)
Razi, al-Tabari’s student, was without doubt the greatest clinical and observational physician of Islam, and along with Avicenna, the most influential both in the East and the West. Attracted late in life to medicine, Razi became the director of the hospital in his native city of Rai, and later the director-in-chief of the main hospital at Baghdad. He thus gained much practical experience, which played no small part in making him the greatest clinician of the medieval period. As a chief physician of the Baghdad hospital, Razi formulated the first known description of smallpox. His al-Judari wa al-Hasbah was the first book describing smallpox and measles, and was translated more than a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and its Hippocratic reliance on clinical observation shows Razi’s medical methods. Razi is also known for having discovered “allergic asthma,” and was the first physician ever to write articles on allergy and immunology. Razi was the first to realize that fever is a natural defense mechanism, the body’s way of fighting disease.
Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973-1048)
In the biomedical sciences, al-Biruni’s Kitab al-Saidana fi al-Tibb was an extensive medical and pharmacological encyclopedia which synthesized Islamic medicine with Indian medicine. His medical investigations included one of the earliest descriptions on Siamese twins. The Kitab- al-Saidana was also a materia medica which was celebrated for its in-depth botanical studies of minerals and herbs. It was the earliest to describe the eating of several fungi, including truffles, which are a type of hypogenous fungi.
Ibn al-Baitar (1248)
Ibn al-Baitar was a famous medieval Muslim scientist. He is considered one of the greatest botanists; however, he has also marked excellence in Medicine. His major contributions are Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada and Kitab al-Mughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada.
Al-Kindi was known as a philosopher, scientist, physicist, astrologer, astronomer, cosmologist etc. There are more than 30 treatises attributed to al-Kindi in the field of medicine, in which he was partly influenced by the ideas of Galen, and partly by his own personal experience and other Muslim physicians in his time. Al-Kindi’s most important work in this field is De Gradibus, in which he demonstrates the application of mathematics and quantification to medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacology.In his Treatise on Diseases Caused by Phlegm, he provided the first-hand scientific explanation and treatment for epilepsy.In his Aqrabadhin (Medical Formulary), he describes many pharmaceutical preparations, including simple drugs derived mostly from botanical sources as well as animal and mineral sources.
Ibn Rhshd wrote a medical encyclopedia called Kulliyyat (“Generalities”, i.e. general medicine), known in its Latin translation as Colliget. He also made a compilation of the works of Galen (129-200) and wrote a commentary on The Canon of Medicine (Qanun fi ‘t-tibb) of Ibn Sina (980-1037). In urology, Ibn-Rushd identified the issues of sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction, and was among the first to prescribe medication for the treatment of these problems.
Ibn al-Jazzar (979)
Ibn al-Jazzar is also considered as a Physician. He led an austere life, devoting himself to the study and practice of medicine. Ibn al-Jazzar was a prolific author in the field of medicine; his writings earned him great fame and made him very influential in medieval Western Europe. His “Kitab al-adwiyah al-mufradah” (Treatise on Simple Drugs) was translated into Greek, Latin and Hebrew and was frequently copied. But its Latin translation by Constantine, under the title “Liber de gradibus”, was of special importance, since it was in this version that the text became one of the most popular pharmacopoeias in the Latin West.His Tibb al-fuqara ‘ wa al-masakin (Medicine for the Poor) represents a literary topic which became especially popular during the Middle Ages, when works of this type were written by different authors, as for instance, al-Razi and Peter of Spain.
Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288)
Ibn al-Nafis made remarkable contribution to Medicine. Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb (The Comprehensive Book on Medicine) is a prominent medical encyclopedia which Ibn al-Nafis begun immediately after completing his Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna’s Canon in 1242.Even in its incomplete state, however, The Comprehensive Book on Medicine is one of the largest known medical encyclopedias in history, and was much larger than the more famous The Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina. However, only several volumes of The Comprehensive Book on Medicine have survived.
He also wrote a short book on Medicine titled “Al-Mujaz fi al-Tibb (A Summary of Medicine). In this book, he introduced the use of vinegar, which is still used for ear infections in modern times. His other medical works include the Risalat al-A’ada’a (An Essay on Organs) and Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb (Reference Book for Physicians).
Ibn Zuhr (1091-1161)
Ibn Zuhr performed the first parenteral nutrition of humans with a silver needle, and wrote a book on it entitled The Method of Preparing Medicines and Diet. He also developed the drug therapy and medicinal drugs for the treatment of specific symptoms and diseases like other Muslim scholars. His use of practical experience and careful observation was extensive.
The writer is an MBBS (Final Year) student at Prime Medical College & Hospital, Rangpur.