Medicine significantly flourished in the shadows of Islamic civilization in practical and theoretical term, practice and study.

This prosperity is due to Islam’s keenness to take care of the health of the body and encourage learning it.

The Messenger Mohamed (may God bless him and grant him peace) said:

O servants of God, seek treatment, God Almighty has not sent down a disease without sending down a cure for it.    

. Imam Al-Shafi’i said, “I do not know of any knowledge, after what is permissible and what is forbidden, that is more noble than medicine.

There was interest in medicine since the beginning of Islam, when the doctor Al-Harith bin Kalada Al-Thaqafi and his son Al-Nadr appeared, who was called the Arab doctor.

He supervised the pilgrimage of many of the Companions of the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace), and enjoyed a great position in the Islamic community at that time.

Interest in medicine continued during the eras of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the states and princes that followed them, and those working in the medical profession gained their respect with the same amount of concern for the health of the general public and individuals of the nation.

What increased the prosperity of medicine was the translation movement that appeared in the Umayyad era and revived in the Abbasid era, medical references from previous civilizations of Greece, Romans, Persians, and Indians were at the forefront of what was translated.

There were unique rules that governed the medical profession within the confines of Islamic civilization that contributed to greater prosperity and interest, which we list as follows:

Comprehensiveness

Comprehensiveness in medicine is derived essentially from comprehensiveness in Islam, which is meant by it, what is meant by it is that this law, its contents and teachings, includes all aspects of life, and all worldly and afterlife affairs of creation.

It is not legislation that is isolated in a narrow corner and is limited to it, and it is responsible for treating it alone, no, but rather it has an integrated system for everything related to man, the universe, and life.

Medicine in Islamic society was influenced by this comprehensiveness, and was concerned with both the body and the soul, because the relationship between what is material and what is moral or psychological, in human life, is a dialectical relationship.

If Greek medicine focused primarily on the physical causes of illness, and Indian medicine directed its main attention to the psychological and mental causes of illness, then Arab medicine paid attention to both aspects together, so that if the doctor failed to uncover the physical causes of the illness, he would turn directly to the psychological aspects.

A number of Arab doctors have written important works on psychiatry.

For example, Al-Razi, who was an expert in psychotherapy, wrote a book entitled “Spiritual Medicine,” in which he complements his book “Al-Mansouri,” in which he deals with diseases of the body, while the first deals with diseases of the soul.

Ibn Abi Usaibah himself speaks, with great admiration, of how the doctor Sinan bin Thabit succeeded in treating one of the most senior princes of the second Abbasid era for a number of psychological and neurological diseases.

Critical approach

Muslim doctors had a great impact in the various arts of medicine, and they were not just a transfer, but rather they confronted the ancient sciences by studying and criticizing them to investigate what was right, and in doing so they followed an organized scientific approach that allowed them to access many new scientific facts and to theories and ideas in which they had a head start, and this is thanks to They used the scientific method that they followed centuries before the West.

In fact, Arab doctors - at the beginning of their renaissance - benefited from what was translated from Greek medicine and others, but they quickly criticized, corrected and transcended them.

In an era when no one dared to criticize the opinions and theories of Greek doctors, such as Hippocrates and Galen, this physician, Al-Razi (d. 926 AD), wrote a book entitled “Doubts on Galen.” he also responded to those who blamed him for his criticism of Galen by saying:

 He who does not dare to criticize is not considered a philosopher, but rather one of the rabble who imitate leaders and do not dare to object to them.

Al-Razi supports this critical position by referring to a famous saying by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, when he said: “Truth and Plato disagreed? We both have friends -  however, the right is more true than Plato.

Ibn Sina (d. 1037 AD) also revealed many contradictions in Galen’s medical opinions in his book “The Law on Medicine.”

As for Ibn al-Nafis (d. 1288 AD), in his book “Explanation of the Anatomy of the Law,” he did not hesitate to criticize Galen’s works in the field of anatomy.

It is important for us to emphasize that if this critical sense indicates anything, it indicates the independence of Arab physicians with their theories and experiences from Greek medicine.

Tolerance

         Islam brought love, tolerance, forgiveness, and good coexistence with all human beings, and established in the souls of its children a number of concepts and foundations in order to consolidate this great creation, to have with it a solid unity of high morals that contributes to the unity of the nation, its elevation, and living in security, peace, love, and harmony.

Tolerance - which is an essential feature of Arab-Islamic society - was wonderfully demonstrated in the field of medicine, as this profession was not limited to a particular religion, race, or gender, but rather was studied and practiced by everyone who lived in the Arab country, regardless of their identity.

Doctors of different religions and nationalities worked in the courts of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs and princes, and they were all respected and appreciated. 

He worked in the Umayyad court in Damascus. For example, Christian doctors such as: Ibn Uthal, who was chosen by Caliph Muawbah bin Abi Sufyan for himself (d. 60 AH / 680 AD), and the doctor Ibn Abjar, who worked in the court of Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz (d. 101 AH / 720 AD).

Doctors of different origins also served in the Abbasid court, most notably Hunayn Ibn Isaac, to whom I devoted a separate topic, and the Nestorian Christian physician Jorgis Ibn Bakhtishu, who was the physician to Caliph Abu Jaafar al-Mansur (d. 158 AH/775 AD), his sons and grandchildren continued to serve the Abbasid house for more than Three centuries. Sabian doctors, such as Thabit ibn Qara, his children and grandchildren, also worked in the Abbasid court.

The Abbasids also brought doctors from India to Baghdad, such as Menka, who practiced medicine and translation from Hindi to Arabic.

Jewish doctors such as Musa ibn Eleazar and his sons and grandchildren, and Christian doctors such as Mansur ibn Sahlan, worked in the Fatimid court in Egypt.

         A number of Christian doctors served in the court of Saladin Al-Ayyubi (d. 589 AH / 1193 AD) - despite his conflict with the Crusaders - such as As'ad bin Al-Mutran and Abu Al-Faraj the Christian, in addition to the famous Jewish doctor Musa bin Maimon.

Religious tolerance was evident in another aspect of Arab medicine, which is that the laws of hospitals, which were established in the Arab country, explicitly stipulated that there should be no discrimination in treatment between a Muslim and a non-Muslim or between an Arab and a non-Arab, that is, their doors were open to treat everyone who lived in the country of the Arab-Islamic community regardless of religion and race.

There is a historical fact that confirms this fact, which is that when the epidemic spread during the days of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir Billah (d. 320 AH / 932 AD), Minister Ali bin Isa ordered the chief physician in Baghdad at the time, Sinan bin Thabit Al-Sabi, to send doctors to treat the rural people in their villages.

The order was implemented immediately, but by chance, this medical team arrived during a tour of the Iraqi countryside in a town called “Swar” whose residents were Jews. The doctors wrote to Sinan asking him for permission to stay with them and treat them. Sinan informed the minister of the matter, assuring him that the laws of hospitals in Baghdad and elsewhere required that both Muslims and non-Muslims be treated there.

The minister issued a written order to Sinan allowing the dhimmis and Muslims in the countryside to be treated equally without discrimination, and ordered him to write to the medical team that is touring the villages to implement this decision.

 Chief physician

The flourishing medical profession among Muslims was subject to a distinct administrative organization that preserved the profession’s status and preserved patients’ rights to treatment. The position of chief physician appeared in the era of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

This position continued for most of the eras of Islamic history, and did not disappear except during the days of the Mamluks, it was based in the capital, Baghdad, and its mission was to supervise doctors and hospitals and take care of everything related to health affairs inside and outside the capital.

this doctoral degrre issued by the university of Karaouiyyine
                

The chief physician was appointed according to tests supervised by the Caliph himself.

The creation of this position was not limited to doctors only, but also to pharmacists, who were subject to the examination in order to prevent the chaos prevailing in the sale of medicines and the resulting blackmail and health damage, beginning in the era of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’mun.

As for the examination of doctors, it began during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir Billah.. before that, the doctor was content to practice the profession by reading some medical books to one of the well-known doctors of his time, so that if he forgot in himself the ability to practice the profession, he began it without restrictions or conditions.

But over time, chaos prevailed in the practice of the profession, and circumstances were such that the Caliph Al-Muqtadir learned of the death of a man due to the mistake of some doctors in Baghdad, so he issued an order to Al-Muhtasib ) An employee who monitors the markets( to prevent all other doctors from practicing the profession until they had undergone an examination by the chief physician at that time, who was Sinan bin Thabit. Whoever succeeds in it, a “patch” is written to him, that is, a certificate that includes the type of diseases that he is entitled to treat.

Hospitals

The emergence of hospitals constituted a wonderful page in the history of Arab medicine, these hospitals were of two types: fixed and portable (mobile).

Regarding fixed hospitals, historians agree that the first hospital built in Islam was during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik (d. 96 AH / 715 AD) in Damascus, and doctors were appointed there and livelihoods were provided for them.

Then hospitals were built in the city and elsewhere in the following eras, perhaps the most famous of them was the “Nuri Hospital,” built by King Nour al-Din Zengi (d. 569 AH/1174 AD) in Damascus.

As for the first hospital built in the Abbasid era, it was built by Caliph Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad, then the hospital construction movement flourished in the Abbasid capital until the number at the beginning of the fourth century AH (tenth century AD) reached about eight hospitals.

As for Egypt, the movement to build hospitals began since the rule of Amr ibn al-Aas, then it increased in the following eras, perhaps the most famous of them is the “Al-Mansouri” Hospital, known as “Qalawun Hospital,” which was built by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Mansur Qalawun (d. 689 AH / 1289).

The most important thing that distinguished hospitals in Arab and Muslim countries is the following:

  • The function of these hospitals was not limited to treating patients, but they were also scientific institutes and medical schools in which doctors and surgeons graduated.

      • These hospitals were run by the most scientifically and ethically qualified doctors. Al-Razi, for example, was chosen to head Al-Rai Hospital, and then he was chosen to head one of the Baghdad hospitals.

      • These hospitals were run by the most scientifically and ethically qualified doctors. Al-Razi, for example, was chosen to head Al-Rai Hospital, and then he was chosen to head one of the Baghdad hospitals.

        Health of prisoners

        At a time when the prisons of other nations were like “cemeteries for the living,” the Arabs were checking on the health of the prisoners and should appoint doctors to visit them every day.

        They carried medicines and drinks to them, and they went around all the prisons, treating the sick and relieving their ailments with the medicines and drinks they needed, and offering them vegetable soup to those who needed them.

        Conclusion

        In light of the above, it becomes clear to us that Arab medicine was ancient, comprehensive, and creative...and constitutes a bright page in the history of Arab and human civilization.

        Not only did the Arabs present to the world their medical discoveries and innovations, but they also restored the Greek heritage in medicine and other sciences to the movement of history when they freed it from the West’s “captivity” in the Middle Ages.

        They Arabized it, explained it, and criticized it...and then the West took it over from them and it gained a new life.

        For all this reason, do we not have the right to remind others:

         The most important foundations of the modern European Renaissance were based on the efforts and creativity of Arab and Muslim scholars?