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Ibn al-Baytar Pioneer of botany


Diaa al-Din Abu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Ahmad al-Malqi, who was nicknamed al-Ashab (herbalist.) and al-Nabati (botanist), but his most famous nickname is Ibn al-Baytar, regarding to  his father, who was a veterinarian.

His upbringing and lineage

 he was born around the year 1197 in Malaga (today's Spain) and died in Damascus in the year 1248, he is described as the greatest vegetarian and pharmacist in Islam, the only one of his time in the knowledge of plants, and the greatest botanist and pharmacist in all of the Middle Ages.

Ibn Al-Bitar grew up in a family of scholars, and his father was - as we mentioned - a veterinarian, and to him his nickname “Ibn Al-Bitar” goes back, which planted within him a love of Curiosity and knowledge, he spent his life traveling on a long journey between the regions to search for medicinal plants, to see them himself, and to verify them. Seville was his first stop.

The opinion of Arab historians in him

The Moroccan researcher Halima Garari, author of the book “Builders of Scientific Thought in Islamic Civilization,” says: “Ibn Al-Bitar is considered the greatest botanist who appeared in the Middle Ages and one of the most productive scientists, he studied plants and their properties in a wide country, and his research had a great impact on the development of this science, he is The first scientist interested in studying the weeds that harm crops and classifying them according to each crop in addition to his interest in plants.

Ibn Al-Bitar was interested in studying marine and terrestrial animals, and mentioned their benefits in treating diseases, and he is thus considered one of the great scholars of zoology, Ibn Al-Bitar was also one of the greatest pharmacists.

Sayed Hassan in the book "Science and Civilization in Islam" says: "Ibn Al-Bitar is the greatest Muslim scientist in the sciences of botany and pharmacology, and his wide reputation overshadowed all pharmacists in the Middle Ages, and without a doubt, he is the greatest pharmacist since the era of Dioscorides until the modern era, " Ibn Al-Bitar was not limited to extracting medicines from medicinal herbs, but rather extracted many of them from animals and minerals.

There are many Muslim botanists, and Ibn al-Bitar was considered the most productive and meticulous in his studies in examining plants in various environments and in different countries, and his valuable observation had the greatest impact on this science.

And his contemporaries say about him that he is the eternal wise and the botanical scientist and the sign of his time in the knowledge of plants, its realization and its choice.

His travels 

He traveled to the countries of Greece and wandered in Morocco, Egypt and the Levant desiring knowledge and collecting weeds and plants there for some of those who are concerned with the science of natural history. Indeed, he took from those scholars whom he met a lot of botanical knowledge, he also examined plants in their environment to verify their characteristics in their habitat and studied them a thorough study.

Ibn al-Bitar was admired of the scholars. He was distinguished by his abundant knowledge and  extensive  know-how, he had a strong memory and was well versed in Greek references, he mentioned them in their language and translated them into Arabic with unparalleled accuracy, he implemented this and that with honesty and freedom of opinion.

His interest in the works of previous scholars

Ibn Al-Bitar was aware of what was contained in the books of the Arab and non-Arab scholars who preceded him, as well as he understood it well, and he did not leave the small or the great except that he applied it practically to plants, he extracted from plants medicines and drugs.

Ibn al-Bitar al-Nabati excelled in the middle of the seventh century AH, so he dealt with translated books, studied them and understood them, then traveled to Greece and to the farthest countries of the Romans, and he met a group interested in this art, and he took from them the knowledge of many plants exactly in their places. 

And he went to the Levant and studied its plants, and he came to Egypt in the service of the first Ayyubid king, and he relied on him for individual medicines and herbs until he made him chief over the herbalists.

After the length of that test, he wrote his book on plants, and he is unique in its chapter, and Europe had relied on it in its renaissance in this field.

Ibn Al-Bitar wrote a book on plants, so he increased the scientific wealth, and he was conciliatory and productive to the greatest extent, he investigated and named them, and the reader knew their benefits and suspect.

Western scholars and physicians recognized his merit, and they said about his books that it is the greatest repertoire that appeared in the science of botany in Arabic. 

His book Compendium on Simple Medicaments and Foods


His enclopedia titled {Compendium on Simple Medicaments and Foods} in Arabic language Kitāb al-Jāmiʿ li-Mufradāt al-Adwiya wa-l-Aghdhiya is one of the most important books written by Ibn Al-Bitar, and he wrote it after long studies in Greece, Spain, Morocco and Asia Minor, he also relied in his research on many books by more than 150 authors from different countries.


His reference to these references was on the basis of accurate criticism, and he described in his book more than 1,500 drugs between plants, animals, and minerals, and 300 of them were new.


Ibn Al-Bitar arranged his book according to the letters of the lexicon so that the reader could read it without hardship or trouble. Ibn Al-Bitar referred to every medicine in which he fell illusory or mistaken for the early or late because they relied on transmission, and he relied on experience and observation.

Thus, Ibn Al-Bitar established a principle to which the free scholar relates, it is not transmitted except after making sure of the integrity of the facts, and it was also based on experimentation and observation.

 

And the culmination of his work in this book was that he used to record the names of medicines and others in all languages, in addition to the origins of the medicine, its benefits, and its experiences, and he recorded everything accurately and controlled in form and dots so that he left no room for any distortion.

This book was translated into Latin, French, and others, and Western scholars relied on it and took a lot from it. 

Thus, Ibn Al-Bitar sets an example for the Arab scholar, the scrutinizer and the critic, who relies on research, training and observation, which made him at the forefront of the scholars of the East.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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