Anesthesiology in Islamic civilization

In its simplest form, anesthesia is known to doctors as anesthesia, which is the condition resulting from the administration of a drug that neutralizes sensation and feeling.

It is diverse in its method, when its effect occurs on a specific part of the body, it is called topical anesthetics, as for general anesthesia, it affects the entire body and is accompanied by loss of consciousness.

As for the term known in Latin as anesthesia, its basis is from the Greek language, and its literal translation is without sensation or loss of sensation.

The importance of anesthesia

Anesthesia, which is necessary for performing surgical operations, is considered a human and medical achievement in all its forms, for centuries, it has not occurred to anyone that scientists could devise a method that makes the sick person lying on the operating bed unconscious, enjoying comfort while cutting open his body and repairing what is damaged inside him, without the slightest feeling of pain, given what modern science has achieved in anesthesia, both humans and doctors suffered when performing surgical operations in the past. 

In ancient Europe, surgeons believed that pain was an essential part of surgery that could not be avoided, in line with everyone’s belief that pain erases the sins committed by a person, the clergy demanded that surgeons be strong and not treat patients with pity or mercy. 

Anesthesia methods were very late and primitive, surgeries were performed on patients without anesthesia, and the surgeon tied the patient so that he could not move. 

 According to the Italian method, the patient was hit on the head with a wooden hammer until he lost consciousness, and then surgery was performed as quickly as possible.

Inhalation anesthesia was not known among them, and it was common at the time among the ancient Romans and Greeks to lose the feeling of pain during surgery by using magic and sorcery methods, or a pain-reducing mixture that was taken orally.

Evidence of the presence of anesthesia among Arabs and Muslims

Muslim doctors knew surgery during the eras of the prosperity of Islamic civilization, and they practiced many of the various surgical interventions that were known at that time, from tonsillectomy and tumor amputation, You will find in their medical sources a concentrated description of some of the technical details involved, they developed tools for ultra-precise surgery, and drew them with Ways to use it as the Andalusian doctor Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis) did. 


This amount of surgical interventions could not have been done without help and caused a lot of pain, and there is evidence that indicates that Muslims were using tranquilizers and pain-relieving compounds before surgery, it was reported from Avicenna that he said" and whoever wants to have a limb cut off shoud be given water to drink from mandragora in a drink.

Among the terms that have become widespread in surgical operations among Muslim doctors is the term “al-murqad,” which means anesthesia, and the anesthetic sponge that was placed on the patient’s mouth to inhale before performing the operation, and it was placed in the patient’s mouth to inhale it, until he lost consciousness, and then the operation was quickly .completed for him before he woke up

Prominent scholars in anesthesiology in Islamic civilization

The science of anesthesiology goes hand in hand with the branch of surgery, it is difficult to perform surgical operations without anesthesia, and there is no need for anesthesia if surgery is not performed.

 Therefore, we find anesthesiologists in the eras of Islamic civilization themselves who perform surgery, and of course in modern times, anesthesiologists specialize in a medical specialty other than the surgical specialty, but they are inseparable, each complements the other.

Contributions of some Arab and Muslim surgeons to anesthesiology

Abo Bakr Rhazes

A philosopher and chemist, one of the imams of the medical industry in the era of Islamic civilization, he is of Persian origin, he was born in Rayy, Iran, around the year 860, he studied mathematics, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, logic, and literature.

He worked as head of the Bimaristan Al-Adadi and wrote many letters about many diseases, the most famous of which were “smallpox and measles,” which was translated into Latin in the year 1565. He was given the title Galen of the Arabs, and he was known in Latin literature as Rhazes. 

His encyclopedic medical book Al-Hawi fi Ilm al-Tadawi (Container in Medication Science), which was translated into Latin and printed for the first time in Brescia in northern Italy in the year 891 AH = 1486 AD, it is the largest book printed immediately after the invention of the printing press, then it was reprinted several times in Venice in the 10th century AH = 16 AD, and the book Al-Hawi was divided into the Latin edition extends into twenty-five volumes, through which he summarizes many of his contributions to the science of anesthesiology.


Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina was born in the year 980 AD in Afshna, near Bukhara, Uzbekistan, he died in 1037 in Hamadan, Iran, he was a multi-talented Persian philosopher and physician, he wrote about astronomy, chemistry, geology, logic, and poetry, in addition to medicine and philosophy, he was named in his time as Sheikh Al-Rais, whose name is known until now in European references, and Westerners called him “the prince of doctors” and “the father of modern medicine” in the Middle Ages.

His medical encyclopedia, "The Canon of Medicine," discussed the use of various narcotics and sedatives in surgical procedures.

  Ibn al-Quff

Ibn al-Qaff is Ayman al-Dawla Abu al-Faraj, the son of the one sheikh, the scholar Muwaffaq al-Din bin Ishaq bin al-Qaff, the Christian physician, the Melkani doctrine, the Damascene, homeland.

Ibn al-Qaff was a master in transmitting dates and news, an expert in Arabic science, and distinguished in the literary arts.

Abu Al-Faraj Ibn Al-Quff was born in 630 AH - 1233 AD during the time of the Ayyubid King Al-Nasir Saladin Daoud, he moved with his father to Sarkhad in Syria, where he was transferred to work in the Diwan Al-Birm, Sarkhad had reached the height of its fame under the rule of Prince Izz al-Din Aybak.

Abu Al-Faraj bin Al-Qaff served in the medical industry in Ajloun Castle and resided there for several years, then returned to Damascus.

He has many medical books, but the most important of them is his book Al-Umda fi Surgery (Mayor in Surgery), it is considered the first book specializing in surgery in Arab, if not global, medical literature, in which it sheds light on the introduction to surgery with anesthesia.


Abu Al-Qasim (Abulcasis) Khalaf bin Abbas Al-Zahrawi Al-Ansari was born in Al-Zahra city, the new Andalusian capital near the city of Cordoba, and he was attributed to it, in the first year of its opening in the year 325 AH / 936 AD.

The French Orientalist Jacques Reisler says about him in his book Arab Civilization:

“The great surgeon Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi explained the science of surgery and invented new methods of surgery, the success of which extended far beyond the borders of Islamic Spain, and people from all parts of the Christian world were going to undergo surgeries in Cordoba.”

 His influential medical text, "Al-Tasrif," detailed various methods for pain management, including inhalation of vapors and topical applications.

His surgical treatise, "Kitab al-Tasrif," described techniques for pain relief, including the use of sponges soaked in opium solution.

The development of anesthesiology in Islamic civilization

While the term "anesthesiology" wasn't used until the 19th century, Islamic physicians employed various narcotics and sedatives to manage pain during surgery and medical procedures for centuries.


Arab and Muslim surgeons in the days of the prosperity of Islamic civilization used many different and diverse methods of anesthesia, some of which they inherited from the heritage of previous civilizations, some of which they developed, and some of which they invented.

At the beginning of the medical renaissance under Islamic civilization, surgeons followed the approach of their predecessors in the field of anesthesia, which was characterized by simplicity, as the prevailing belief among them was that pain was evidence of God Almighty’s satisfaction with the patient, and lack of interest in it became widespread.

The anesthetics they inherited were a type of narcotic plant, single or a combination of two or more plants.

In the beginning, during the era of the Umayyad Caliphate, a type of anesthesia was known as Almarqid, and its meaning in the Arabic language refers to the drug that causes deep sleep.

Almarqid was used by inhalation or rectally and was prepared in the form of a syrup, it contained certain types of plants from the nightshade family, hemp, opium, and mandrake. The last three drugs were also prepared in the form of compresses that were given rectally using a stopper that had to be changed once an hour.

However, the sleeping sponge as inhalation anesthesia remains the most widely used and common among Muslim surgeons because it was more effective on the one hand, and on the other hand it is their brainhild.

Sigrid Hunke mentioned in her book Allah's sun over the West

The science of medicine has achieved great gains and an important discovery, through the use of general anesthesia in surgical operations, and how effective anesthesia of Muslims was, unique and merciful to everything they took, and it is completely different from the intoxicating drinks that the Indians, Greeks and Romans used to force their patients to drink whenever they wanted to relieve their pain, and it is attributed this scientific revelation was given to an Italian doctor once again, while the truth says and history bears witness that the art of using the anesthetic sponge is a purely Islamic art that was not known before, and this anesthetic sponge was placed in a mixture of hashish, .opium, rosemary, and tare

Hunka adds (The Arabs have another great and very important advantage in medical science, and by it we mean the use of (Almarqid) general anesthesia in surgical operations), then she added in another paragraph: (The truth and history bear witness that the art of using the anesthetic sponge is a purely Arab Islamic art that has not been known before.

Ibn Sa'a recommended using an amount of mandrake to provide anesthesia for a period of between 3 and 5 hours, while Ibn al-Quff was interested in presenting a method of surgery that reduces the sensation of pain while reducing the percentage of mandrake so as not to cause the patient more side effects. 

To prevent the emaciation that afflicts the patient due to lack of nutrition, Ibn Zuhr devised a method of self-feeding using a silver or zinc tube connected to a goat’s bladder filled with a nutritional solution that is introduced into the pharynx gently and gradually, to avoid nausea.

Although Morton is credited with being the first to use ether in anesthesia in the state of Massachusetts in America in 1819, we find those who assume that Muslims had access to this substance in anesthesia hundreds of years before him, as this substance consists mainly of treating alcohol which Al-Kindi distilled with acid. The sulfur he extracted Al-Razi named it oil of vitriol to distill and extract a measure of water from it.

The final result was that Muslims were the first to lay the foundations for the synthesis of this vital narcotic substance. It is also possible that they spontaneously discovered the ether root (-O-).

Although the scientist McEwan had discovered the method of orotracheal intubation in 1880, which is a regular procedure performed in all surgical operations performed with inhalation anesthesia, Aviceena referred to its idea hundreds of years before that when he mentioned in his book The Law of Medicine and perhaps inserted a rod made of gold into the throat, or silver or something similar to help with breathing.

Islamic physicians used pulse diagnosis to assess a patient's condition and determine the appropriate level of anesthesia.

Regarding modern means of resuscitation, there is clear historical evidence proving the use of it by Muslim doctors in the first Abbasid era, to the fact that Muslims knew respiratory resuscitation by using bellows as a means of introducing air into the lungs.







































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