Welcome to the twelfth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose
Following Ibn Dinawari, numerous physicians acknowledged the medicinal properties of plants and their geographical locations, amongst these where Ibn Juljul and Ibn Baytar.
Ibn Juljul Al-Andalusi was born in Cordoba in 943 AD and studied medicine under a Jewish physician called Hasday ibn Shaprut who was also a vizier to Caliph Abdul Rahman III. Ibn Juljul was the personal doctor of Caliph Hisham II and during his reign, he utilized historical sources from Hippocrates, Galen, Orosius, Dioscorides and Isidore to gain an understanding of herbs and pharmacological aspects of plants. This led him to author several books such as ‘Generations of Physicians and Wise Men’ and even developed a supplement called a maqalah that comprised of 60 constituents from different parts of the world predominantly: Yemen, India, Egypt, Andalucia, Cordova, Ceylan, Cadiz and other areas that were not discovered by Dioscorides. This emphasises how physicians of the past were respected for their discovers and how historical sources can spread knowledge in order to make advancements in our understanding of medicine and develop novel therapeutic approaches.
Later physicians such as Al-Baytar who was born in Malaga utilized Ibn Juljul’s work and other sources to assist and make further progress in medicine with his research and experiments on new medicinal plants he collected. He also authored several books such as ‘Al-Kitab Al-jameei fi Al-Aghdiya wa Al-Adawiyah Al-Mufradah’, ‘The Comprehensive book of foods and simple remedies’. It entails encyclopaedic information on simple drugs and is divided into two section: experiments that determines the medicinal effects and the other section entails physical and chemical properties of the drug, its effectiveness based upon heat/cold and dryness/humility, effect on different parts of the body, dosage, how to utilize, side-effects and what to do to overcome side effects.
Another book he wrote was called Al-Mughni fi al-Adwiyah (the Sufficient) that entails herbal medicine for diseases of the head, ear, fevers and how herbs can be used for cosmetics and counter poisons.
Ultimately, Muslim physicians have made a significant contribution to the knowledge and understanding of plants and how they can be utilized in therapies and as earlier highlighted how record-keeping and communication is key in order for progression to take place.
Johnstone, P. (1999) "Ibn Juljul, Physician and Herbalist", Islamic Culture, 73, pp. 37-43.
Philippe Provençal, A. (2019). Ibn al-Baytâr - The Royal Library. [online] Kb.dk. Available at: http://www.kb.dk/en/nb/samling/os/naeroest/ibnalbaytar.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].
Welcome to the first enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose
Everywhere around the world, there are hospitals that aim to serve and provide care, support and treatment to the public.
Do you know the history behind these buildings?
Muslims in the 8th century developed this idea of building hospitals which were at the time called bimaristan. Bimaristan spread across to other countries leading to the establishment of 30 hospitals that treated those who were unwell regardless of their financial status, religion, gender and other factors. Health professionals such as doctors, nurses, dispensers and midwives to rural areas to assist with birth and access to health.
The hospitals were also a place to study and gain knowledge – there were libraries, lecture rooms and pharmacies. Physicians were good are record-keeping and was able to share knowledge as they travelled. This allows students to read and receive practical training in hospitals.
Today, we will go through the first documented hospital and this was built in Baghdad by the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid in 805. The hospital was divided into two departments: inpatient and outpatient. Today, these departments are also found in hospitals. One of the talented physicians called Jibrail Bakhtishu was elected to be head of the Bimartisan. Instructions were given by the minister at the city to support villages in Iraq. It attracted more bimaristans to be built around the world with the aim of serving all those that came to it.
This was one of the greatest achievements in medicine in Islamic History.
Welcome to the second enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose
One of the most prominent Muslim physicians who made a large impact on medicine through his work is Dr Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyah Al-Razi otherwise known as Rhazes.
He was born in Ray near Tehran in 865 AD and passed away in 925 AH. Besides medicine he had a passion for philosophy and music. He worked in a hospital in Baghdad called ‘Adud al-Dawlah.
His first book was called The Comprehensive Book on Medicine (Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb) otherwise known as the Hawi composed in Arabic and had 23 volumes, each covering various diseases and case studies he dealt with where some advice is acted upon by physicians even today.
`The physician, even though he has his doubts, must always make the patient believe that he will recover, for the state of the body is linked to the state of the mind.'
`If the physician is able to treat with nutrients, not medication, then he has succeeded. If, however, he must use medication, then it should be simple remedies and not compound ones'.
Today this book is found in the National Library of Medicine. It is the third oldest medical manuscript.
It has been reported that the book has been translated into Latin by Faraj ben Salim, a Sicilian-Jewish doctor in 1279.
Other medical books he wrote was Book of Medicine Dedicated to Mansur which he gave to the governor of Ray, Prince Abu Salih Al-Mansur ibn Al-Ishaq which consisted of a number of therapies for small pox, measles, diabetes, headaches, joints, dysentery, toothache and haemorrhoids and other conditions. It was utilized by physicians like Andreas Vesalius and Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the Ambassador to the Turkish Court in Istanbul.
One of the therapeutics for the diseases he included in his work was for gout where a paste comprising of opium, hemlock, mandrake and colchicum. He put a great emphasis of opium especially for treating other diseases of the eyes and gastrointestinal system. Colchicine is still utilized today.
This emphasises the great impact Rhazes had on medicine through the collection of his medical reports and treatments of various diseases, it influenced medicine in other parts of the world that found it beneficial.
Al-Razi (1766) Kitab al-Jadari wa 'l-Hasbah, Italy.
Al-Razi (1976) Al-Hawi, Haydarabad, India.
Ibn Sina (1980) Al-Qanun fit-Tibb 3, p. 197.
Welcome to the third enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose,
The first doctor who identified how blood circulates around the body was Ibn Al-Nafis whom many thought it was William Harvey. He knew of the pulmonary circuit and that the body had blood vessels called capillaries.
His full name was Alladin Abu Al-Hasan Ali ibn Abu Al-Hazam Al-Qarshi near Damascus. He attended Al-Nuri hospital in Damascus for his education and training under Al-Dawkhar and then began to practice at Al-Nasiri Hospital in Cairo and Al-Mansouriya Hospital.
The pulmonary circuit consists of the blood enters the heart through the right atrium exiting the right ventricle where it is re-oxygenated by the lungs and passes through the left atrium and back into the body. Prior to this discovery, it was thought that the blood did not pass through the lungs.
Many researchers agreed that he was a prolific author who had distinguished authority on Medicine, Quran, Sunnah, philosophy, Islamic jurisprudence and the Arabic language. Amongst his books were the following:
Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb à an encyclopaedia that comprised 300 volumes.
Mujaz al-Qanoon à It consisted a number of commentaries on law especially on Hippocrates’.
Kitab Al-Mukhtar fi Aghda-eya à A book on the effects of diet on health.
He also contradicted many of the previous medical findings on the heart and circulatory system such as Avicenna, Galen and Hippocrates
"...The blood from the right chamber of the heart must arrive at the left chamber but there is no direct pathway between them. The thick septum of the heart is not perforated and does not have visible pores as some people thought or invisible pores as Galen thought. The blood from the right chamber must flow through the vena arteriosa (pulmonary artery) to the lungs, spread through its substances, be mingled there with air, pass through the arteria venosa (pulmonary vein) to reach the left chamber of the heart and there form the vital spirit...”
"... Again his (Avicenna's) statement that the blood that is in the right side is to nourish the heart is not true at all, for the nourishment to the heart is from the blood that goes through the vessels that permeate the body of the heart..."
Ibn Taghra Bardi, Shamsul-Deen MH. Al-Nujum al-Zahirah fi Muluk Misr wa-‘l-Qahirah. Dar Al-Kutub Al-Elmeyyah, 1992, vol 7: p. 318.
Al-Maqrizi, AA. In: Att MA, editor. Al-Suluk Lima'rifat Duwal al-Muluk. Beirut: Manshorat Mohammad Ali Baidoon, 1997, vol. 2, p. 209.
Al-Yafeie. Mir'at al-Janan wa-Ibrat al-Yaqzan fi Ma'arifat Hawadith al-Zaman. Al-Warraq Net Online Heritage Library, p. 721.
Haddad, S.E. & Khairallah A.A. A Forgotten Chapter in the Circulation of the Blood. Ann Surg 1936; 104:1-8.
Sarton G. Introduction to the History of Science. Carnegie Institution of Washington. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company; 1927-1931. Reprinted in New York: Robert E. Krieger, 1975, pp. 1099-1101.
Ziedan Y, Abdel-Qader M. "Introduction". In: Ziedan Y, Abdel-Qader M, editors. Ibn al-Nafis, Sharh Fusul Abuqrat. Beirut/Cairo, 1991, pp. 35-65.
Welcome to the fourth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose,
The human eye is a special organ that provides us with the sense of sight to visualize and learn from our surroundings. There are various abnormalities that can occur in the eye such as a cataract. A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye reducing vision.
To treat this condition during the Medieval times, the cataract was removed by the suction method. This was developed by the physician Ammar ibn Ali Al-Mawsili who invented a hollow cataract needle that pushed the lens of the eye through the edge of the cornea; the eye’s outermost layer.
Al-Mawsili wrote a book on treating the diseases of the eye and comprised of surgical instruments who he gave to the the Fatimid ruler al-Hakim (386-411 H).
Today, the removal of the cataract involves removing the lens by making a incision (small cut) and replacing it with a clear plastic version to keep the vision in focus.
Laios, K., Moschos, M. and George, A. (2015) Ammar ibn Ali al-Mawsili and His Innovating Suction Method for the Treatment of Cataracts. Surgical Innovation 23 (4).
Welcome to the fifth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose,
Documentation is a requirement for all disciplines. In healthcare, it ensures there is consistency of high quality and safe delivery of care for the patient. It also allows communication between healthcare professionals to access this information and be aware of the chronology of care the patient receives. In addition, it is a method for accountability for actions as part of a legal procedure for civil litigation and upon the coroner’s inquests. How knowledge was passed from one generation to another, country to country, one professional to another is through documentation.
Al-Kindi otherwise known as AlKindus was the documenter of Islamic medicine. His full name is Abu Yusuf Yaqoob ibn Ishaq Al-Sabbah Al Kindi. He was also a philosopher, mathematician, chemist, physician, astronomer and musician.
He was born in Kuffa in Southern Iraq in 800 C.E and then progressed onto Kuffa and Baghdad for his education. Al-Kindi was present during the reigns of Abbasid Caliphs: Al-Mamoon, Al-Mutassim and Al-Muttawakil. There was respect and trust to the extent Al-Mutassim even allowed Al-Kindi to teach his son Ahmed.
Al-Kindi was influenced by the work of Hippocrates and Galen but also added knowledge from other countries such as Egypt, Persia and India and made contributions to his own discipline. This profound effect led him to writing 22 books on medicinal herbs, inorganic medicine, islamic ethics, mathematics and treatises of Archimede’s work amongst them are the following:
Abboud, T., (2006) Al-Kindi: The Father of Arab Philosophy, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.
Gardner, B., (2010) Euclid's Elements - A 2,500 Year History [online] Available at: https://faculty.etsu.edu/gardnerr/Geometry-History/arabic-translations.htm
Welcome to the sixth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
Ibn Sinna otherwise known as Avicenna had a major impact on medicine through a scientific and educational perspective. He was deeply influenced by Eastern and Western thinkers such as Alpharabius, Aristotle and Razi. He wanted to share what he discovered through writing and his most renowned book is called The Canon of Medicine – a five volume text book that was translated to several languages: English, German and French. It was amongst the influential books in the history of medicine and was utilized by scholars during the 13th and 14th century.
The Canon of Medicine was also part of the medical school programmes where it was utilized for lectures and recommended reading. This emphasises the impact Greco-Arabic medicine had.
The book comprised of the general principles of medicine, physiology, descriptions of how infectious diseases were spread, the effect of the environment and climate on health, the theoretical aspects of psychology and psychiatry, pharmacological standards of how to test for novel therapies. For instance, in clinical trials, he would test the medication on two distinct diseases, the compounds in the drug should be pure to not influence its quality and how the quality of the drug should be directly proportional to the severity of the disease and opposed animal testing where he believed that it will not physiologically work the same despite both were mammals. The viewpoints of animal testing is contradictory to this day and age, where some oppose this method of animal testing to develop novel therapeutics, cosmetics and other chemicals, whereas others do agree.
However, in the 16th century, reformists criticised his work and this grew rejection in the universities. This indicates how over time, research is evolved as new discoveries and inventions are developed in response to increased communication between countries, collaborations and advances in technology.
Moosavi, J. (2009) The Place of Avicenna in the History of Medicine. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology 1 (1) pp.3-8
Wickersheimer, E (1930) Une liste, dressée au XVe siècle, des commentateurs du Ier Livre du Canon d’Avicenna et du livre des Aphorismes d’Hippocrate, Janus 34, pp. 33-37
Welcome to the seventh enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
One of the first experimental models utilized in clinical research was investigating how the stomach functions in a live lion.
This was done by a physician called Ahmad ibn Abi Al-Ash’ath in 959 which is almost 900 years before William Beaumont whom the latter was known as Father of Gastric Physiology.
Al-Ash’ath described the process in his book called Al Quadi wa Al-Muqtadi where he wrote the following:
When food enters the stomach, especially when it is plentiful, the stomach dilates and its layers get stretched...onlookers thought the stomach was rather small, so I proceeded to pour jug after jug in its throat…the inner layer of the distended stomach became as smooth as the external peritoneal layer. I then cut open the stomach and let the water out. The stomach shrank and I could see the pylorus.
There are many similarities in how the lion and human stomach works. In each organism, the stomach comprises of the fundus, body and pylorus (distal area). The proximal area comprises of the fundus and body and consists of a thin wall that is responsible to store large amounts of food. The distal area is where peristaltic contractions take place where food is mixed and propelled before entering the duodenum (small intestine).
However, if one was to consider the whole anatomy and physiology of how the digestive system looks like, there are several differences. The lion does not have a rectum, the large intestine is smaller than humans, digestion is more rapid because they have more digestive juice comprising of enzymes and bile is stored in the liver whereas in the human bile is stored in the gall bladder.
On the contrary, the physiology of the stomach is similar because gastric peristalsis, the process of muscle contraction and wave forces does occur in order to produce chyme; the product comprising of propelled food with gastric fluid.
His book is preserved in the British Museum, Supplement 786.
Haddad, F. (2007). Interventional Physiology on the Stomach of a Live Lion: Ahmad ibn Abi al-Ash'ath (959 AD). Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, 39(1).
Stevens, C. and Hume, I. (1996). Comparative physiology of the vertebrate digestive system. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Welcome to the eighth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
So far, we have discussed the role of Muslim physicians and surgeons in medicine. However, it is also important to educate and inform our readers on the impact muslim women had in medicine.
The first muslim female nurse, surgeon and social worker in Islamic history was Rufaydah bint Saad Al-Aslamiyyah. Her father, Saad Al-Aslamiy was a physician and she was able to increase her medical knowledge and skills through assisting him during his consultations.
She had a kind and devoted nature and took care of the wounded casualties in field hospitals during many battles in which Prophet peace and blessings be upon him participated in such as Battle of Badr that took place on 13th March 624 Hijri.
Moreover, she trained other women to become nurses. Her other roles in healthcare was a social worker where she was able to solve social matters that were linked to various conditions. She also cared for orphans and the disabled.
Therefore, Rufaydah made a profound influence on the duty of care towards patients and is recognised each year by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in collaboration with the University of Bahrain where a student who excelled well in nursing care is awarded by a panel of medical staff members. The prize is called ‘Rufaydah Al-Aslamia Prize in Nursing’.
Jan, R. (1996). Rufaida Al-Asalmiya, the first Muslim nurse. The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 28(3), 267-268.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (2018) RCSI Bahrain announces four new awards during conferring ceremony http://www.rcsi-mub.com/index.jsp?p=100&n=109&a=3840
Welcome to the ninth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
Another medical practitioner that made a difference in medicine was Al-Shifa bint Abdullah Al Qurayshiyah Al-Adawiyah. At the time where many could not read, she challenged herself with grit, perserverance and patience to read and help treat others especially at the time when there was distress caused by Quraysh until Allah permitted them to migrate Makkah to Madinah. Her real name was Layla but she was nicknamed AlShifa- due to her ability ‘to heal’ and skill in medicine and public. Al-Shifa developed a treatment against ant bites that has proven successfully. This led to the approval from the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him who then asked her to train other Muslim women.
She was well respected by the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and the sahaba for her competence, judgement and character.
Welcome to the tenth enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
Women have held a pivotal role in the medical discipline from nurses, midwives, physicians and surgeons. They would visit patients in their homes, give remedies, conduct procedures. Even the Ottoman emperor Suleyman in 1513, had a woman doctor who provided primary medical care outside the harem; a site for women and they were frequently consulted for medical issues. In severe cases, the male practitioners were called.
Women in medicine were respected and in 1635, there was a lawsuit against a physician called Fatma bint Abdallah during the Ottoman times. A patient had a skin condition and she treated him successfully however after several year there was a relapse and the condition reoccurred. In her defence, she said that the patient had symptoms of another disease. The judge accepted her testimony where she did not need to conduct any evidence. This emphasises the perception, reliability and confidence the law had in female physicians at the time.
Women were allowed to perform surgery and there is evidence that between 1385 – 1468, women were able to conduct gynaecological and neurological surgical procedures where one is holding a scalpel to extract a dead foetus. There were customs made were women did not expose their awrah (private areas) to physicians to male physicians and seek female doctors instead in the 17th century.
Overall, both women and men were competent in practicing medical care and make a huge difference in the life of a patient taking in consideration religious and cultural issues especially for personal examinations. Today, the National Health Service gives the patient a choice prior to the appointment whether they wish to see a female or male doctor as long as both genders are present in the surgery and/or department. This emphasises the level of equality between both genders and the patients’ values respected especially when it’s a sensitive manner and they prefer to disclose this.
Bademci, G. (2006). “First Illustrations of Female ‘Neurosurgeons’ in the Fifteenth Century by Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu.” Neurocirugía 17: 162-5, p.164.
Gadelrab, S. S. (2010). “Medical Healers in Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1805.”Medical History (pre-2012) 54: 365-38, p.378.
Murphey, R. (1992). “Ottoman Medicine and Transculturalism from the Sixteenth through the Eighteenth Century.”Bulletin of the History of Medicine 66, no. 3: 376-403, p.389.
Pormann, P.E. (2009). “The Art of Medicine: Female Patients and Practitioners in Medieval Islam.”The Lancet 373: 1598-1599, p.1590.
Welcome to the eleventh enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose
For many years, people around the world have applied herbal medicine as treatment for disease. Previous physicians mentioned in the ‘Medicine through Islamic History’ series were Avicenna, Al-Kindi and Ibn Nafis who practiced herbal medicine. In order for physicians to practice this field, scientific descriptions with terminological precision is required. The World Health Organisation have estimated that approximately 80% of primary healthcare utilize herbal medicine as a strategy for therapeutic intervention.
Herbal medicine is the process of using herbs to support and maintain the patients’ healthy state. It can be divided into homeopathic and allopathy: homeopathy is the treatment of acute and chronic conditions whereas allopathy aims to combat disease by producing opposing effects to the symptoms caused by the disease. There is evidence that key ingredients used in prescription drugs can be found in plants.
The founder of botany is Abu Hanifa Ahmad ibn Dawood Al-Dinawari (828 – 896 CE) who was born in Dinawar which is present day Western Iran. He studied mathematics, astronomy and mechanisms in Kuffa and Basra but had a strong interest in herbal medicine. He experimented with the flora of Arabia using scientific techniques to test, describe and identify medicines. He wrote a book called the ‘Book of Plants’. This philological source comprises of description and benefits of over 600 plants. However, around 400 of these descriptions survived and revived by the German scholar Silberberg who wrote about it in his thesis in 1908.
There are two sections in Al-Dinawari’s book: a specialised glossary of plant names and a monograph on plants entailing information of their purpose and use. He also includes information on the growth and production of fruits and flowers and the different forms of soils. This led to further botanical contributions in understanding the medicinal properties of plants and improving the health of humans and animals alike.
Al-Dinawari, Abu Hanifa: Le Dictionnaire botanique d'Abu hanifa al-Dinawari, compiled according to the citations of later works, edited by M. Hamidullah, Cairo, coll. Institut Francais d'Archéologie Orientale, textes et traductions d'auteurs orientaux, V; 1973.
Amri, C., Tajudin, N., Shahari, R., Azmi, F., Talip, N. and Mohamad. A. (2016) ‘Comparative lead anatomy of selected medicinal plants in Acanthaceae’ The International Medical Journal of Malaysia 17 (2) pp. 229-232
Funnell, R. (2019). 5 Drugs Derived From Plants - The English Garden. [online] The English Garden. Available at: https://www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/plants/5-drugs-derived-from-plants/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].
Lewin, B. (1960) ‘The Third part of Kitab al-Nabat of Abu Hanifa al-Dinawari’, Orientalia Suecena 9, pp: 131-6.
Veeresham, C. (2012). Natural products derived from plants as a source of drugs. Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research, 3(4), p.200.