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The Muslims'Contributions to Medicine

Islam is a religion of mercy and clemency. It calls for curing the sick, relieving their pain, and treating them. It commands the Muslims to search for new medicines and consult a specialized physician when they are ill.

The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said:

 "O slaves of Allaah! Seek medical treatment, for Allaah has not sent a disease without sending a remedy for it." [At-Tirmithi]

  • Prophetic Medicine

The Muslims came to know the Prophetic medicine through the narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, which included the remedy of some diseases. Islam has also established some rules that lead to a healthy society such as urging the Muslims to clean their bodies, foodstuffs, houses, and streets. Islam also clarified the things which are harmful and prohibited them. It urged the Muslims to pay attention to their bodies and health, and has even considered this among the characteristics of faith.

The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said:

 "A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allaah than a weak believer." [Muslim]

Islam also highlighted a system of medication and protection against illnesses which is similar to medical quarantine that was adopted by modern countries to prevent diseases and epidemics. This is mentioned in the narration of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam,

as he said: "If you hear about a plague breaking out in a land, do not enter it and if it appears in a land in which you happen to be, do not leave it."[Al-Bukhaari]

  • Prophetic Medicine

The Muslims attached great attention to medicine and the Muslim caliphs took care of physicians and also built hospitals. The first hospital in the Islamic history was built by the Umayyad caliph, Al-Waleed Ibn `Abdul-Malik in 88 A.H. The Abbasid caliphs also paid close attention to medicine and during the Abbasid Dynasty, the Bakhtiashoo'a family were famous in this field. For one and a half century, they were well-known for this and their successive generations were highly appreciated by the Abbasid caliphs. The rank of physicians was very high in the Muslim society. They became the closest among the people to the caliph or the ruler. Some physicians even became trustworthy ministers and scholars who had a high rank before all other statesmen.

  • The Great Generation of Muslim Physicians

The great generation of Muslim physicians started to appear in the fourth Hijri century.

The first of whom was Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya Ar-Raazi (died in 313 A.H.) who is considered the most renowned Muslim physician. He was an encyclopedic scientist who 

wrote more than 200 books, the most importantof which is "Al-Haawi" (The Comprehensive Book, or Liber continens, as it was known in medieval Europe). This book was published in India.

Ar-Raazi (Latin, Rhazes) developed sutures which he extracted from animals in order to join tissues. He was the first to know about allergies and he distinguished it from epidemic hepatitis. He was the first to use sutures in the treatment of wounds. He drew on his chemical experience in developing some compounds that were used in treatment for the first time, such as mercury salts, lead, and copper especially after he tried these compounds on monkeys. He was also the first to use white lead in ointments and he used mercury ointment as a laxative.

  • Ibn An-Nafees Discovers the Circulatory System

Ibn An-Nafees (died in 687 A.H.) is one of the most famous Muslim physicians of the seventh Hijri century. He was born in Damascus and he became a famous physician in Cairo where he was the manager of the Mansoori Hospital which was, back then, the best hospital in the world. Ibn An-Nafees discovered the minor circulatory system. One of his most famous medical writings was his book "The Comprehensive" which consisted of tens of volumes.

  • Muslim Surgery

Muslim physicians performed surgical operations. They used cauterizing in treating some illnesses and they excised tumors from various parts of the body. They also performed surgery on the nose, ear, throat, mouth, and teeth, etc. In closing wounds or joining tissues, they used sutures made of animal intestines especially cats and they used some anesthetic drugs in order to relieve pain.

  • The Most Famous Muslim Surgeon

Abu Al-Qaasim Az-Zahraawi (died in 428 A.H.) was the author of "At-Tasreef Liman `Ajaza `an At-Ta'leef" or "Clarifications for Non-Writers". This is the book on which Europe relied for several centuries after it was translated into Latin. It is a 30-volume medical encyclopedia and is considered the first encyclopedia on medicine and surgery.

 Az-Zahraawi was the first surgeon to perform surgical operations on blood vessels such as suturing arteries after they had been cut or joining them while they are bleeding. He was also the first surgeon to use silk fibers in closing wounds and gold ligaments in correcting teeth. He was also the first to develop plastic suturing, and he developed many surgical instruments that were not previously known. He drew pictures of these instruments, and gave details of their size and the material used in manufacturing them, such as hooks for excising tonsils and tumors, hot iron rods for cauterizing, and pronged hooks for taking out teeth.

He was also the first surgeon to perform surgical operations such as lithotomy or the removal of gall stones, tonsillectomy, and fissuring the throat to facilitate breathing. He was the first surgeon to deliver a baby into a basin in case the embryo was in an abnormal position. Az-Zahraawi recommended seeking the assistance of female nurses and helpers in performing surgical operations on women because females are kinder and patients would feel more comfortable with them as opposed to men.

  • Ophthalmology

In this field, a number of ophthalmologists became very famous such as Abu Al-Qaasim `Ammaar Ibn `Ali Al-Mawsili.

He was one of the most famousophthalmologists in the world. The Europeans came to know about him through his medical writings; the most important of which was "The Selected on Treating Eye Diseases". He conducted a profound research on cataract operations. He was accredited for developing a hollow needle used in performing the surgical operation of the cataract.

`Ali Ibn `Eesa, who was a contemporary of Abu Al-Qaasim `Ammaar, was the author of "A Guide to Ophthalmologists" which was taught in Europe until the eighteenth century.

Among the most famous ophthalmologists also was Hunayn Ibn Is-haaq, who wrote "The Ten Essays on Eyes". It was a compilation of ten essays which Hunayn wrote throughout thirty years. Hunayn also wrote another book which contained all the required information for the proper treatment of eye diseases. The significance of this book was attributed to the fact that it was the first academic scientific reference on ophthalmology since the time of the ancient Greeks.

  • Muslim Hospitals

In the early Islamic era, the Muslims built hospitals to receive and treat patients. They built hospitals

throughout the various parts of the Muslim world in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and other cities. Such hospitals offered their services free of charge under the supervision of excellent physicians.

The Muslims were the first people to perform a bed checkup in order to diagnose the patient's case. They are accredited for introducing this system to Europe in modern medicine. In the light of such checkups, the disease is diagnosed and the patient is moved to the department specialized in treating that type of illness. The Westerners adopted this system after a total of six centuries. The Muslim physician used to check the temperature of the patient by sensing his palm, measure the pulse using his fingertips, check the liver and the intestines, and look at the urine flask in order to make a laboratory diagnosis.

The patient admitted to the hospital would leave his clothes and personal belongings in the hospital personal deposits and would be given a new garment. Then, a financial aid would be issued to him to support his family while he was in the hospital. Once he was discharged, this aid would be increased so that he would not be forced to work during convalescence.

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