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Islam & Modern Medical Science - Mohammad Arfat Chowdhury

Islam & Modern Medical science - Mohammad Arfat Chowdhury
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Islam & Modern Medical Science - Mohammad Arfat Chowdhury

Islam & Modern Medical Science

A llah is the name I would like to initiate with. At the same time, I humbly send salat (darud) to the the ever-greatest human being of universe Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon him) as well as his (PBUH) all the followers specially the scholars who discovered the modern medical science at the very early time.

Undoubtedly Islam is "A complete code of life". "A complete code" refers to everything including Society, politics, economics, administration, and even ancestral and individual life. We all know that human diseases cannot be separated from his/body. Since Islam has given complete code it must have given the cure for human diseases. Muslim scholars invented this science based on Quran.

The only religion Islam starts with the word -IQRA' read. (Sura Al-Alaq) and focused on learning through reading and writing. The great Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) also made learning compulsory saying-

"Seeking knowledge is mandatory to every Muslim male and female. "

This 'knowledge' includes all kinds of sciences in Islam, including medical sciences.

Anyone can easily have a view on the golden age of Islam that the early scholars and scientists in Islam, did not only master one particular branch of knowledge; they excelled a few branches together and contributed to those fields. They have transformed themselves into living encyclopedias of Islam, who, not only excelled traditional sciences from Qur'an, Sunnah, Fiqh, Usul, theology, religions, but also mastered modern sciences and left indelible marks therein.

The western scholars, however, did not give due prominence to Islamic scientists and philosophers in the development of sciences in general and medicine in particular. They even attempted to ignore the Muslim era of Medical science by saying that no constructive work was done during that period. Out of the three dissimilar periods in the development of medical science, Greek, Islamic and European, the middle one is discarded on the appeal that it was barren of all productivity. The Muslims, to them, at best kept the Greek traditions of learning alive and passed these onto the European world. But this view is unenlightened and prejudiced. The Muslims carried the torch of science and thought, especially medical science, in an age when no other civilizations did. At one time, learning was regarded as heresy, and the Eastern Christian Church persecuted all scientists. They, fleeing from persecution, found no refuge but the Islamic empire, which took them in and acquired from them the scientific heritage of the time. They were given a great deal of veneration and respect by the Muslims, who endeavored to ensure for them a congenial atmosphere in which to work and to develop learning. That was the beginning of a universal cultural revolution which enlightened the ancient world, and which the West later embraced, inheriting from the Muslims their scientific and intellectual achievements.

In Islam, the human body is a home of gratitude, in what way it functions, by what method to keep it fresh and safe, in what manner to prevent diseases from attacking it or remedies those diseases, have been important issues for Muslims.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself insisted people to 

“take medicines for your diseases”, 

as people at that time were reluctant to do so. He (PBUH) also said:

“God created no illness, but established for it a cure, except for old age. When the antidote is applied, the patient will recover with the permission of God.”

This was solid inspiration to boost Muslim scientists to discover, progress, and spread over empirical laws. Ample considerations were specified to medicine and public health precaution. The very first hospital was constructed in Baghdad in 706 AC.

The Muslims also used camel convoys as transportable hospitals, which stimulated from place to place. Ever since the religion did not prohibit it, Muslim scholars used human bodies to study anatomy and physiology and to support their students' realization on how the body works. This pragmatic study allowed surgery to mature very quickly.


In pre-Islamic Arabia, nothing much were known of the contributions of the Jahili Arabs. They lived a nomadic, unsettled life which contributed little, if any, in medicine. According to Islamic heritage, it was Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who acted as a successful physician and prescribed ways of healing to his companions in many ahadith related to him. A significant number of his companions were reported to have treated the patients successfully following the advice and guidance of the Prophet.

It has been claimed that the Prophet used three methods of healing, namely, use of honey, cupping, and cauterization, though he was generally opposed to the use of cauterization unless it “suits the ailment.” Famous Hadith commentator Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani asserts that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, disliked this method due to its causing "pain and menace to a patient" since there was no anesthesia in his time. Also appears to have been the first to suggest the contagious nature of leprosy, manage and sexually transmitted disease; and that there is always a cause and a cure for every disease.

The belief that there is a cure for every disease encouraged early Muslims to engage in biomedical research and seek out a cure for every disease known to them. Many early authors of Islamic medicine, however, were usually clerics rather than physicians, and were known to have advocated the traditional medical practices of the Prophet Muhammad, such as those mentioned in the Qur'an and Sunnah. For instance, therapy did not require a patient to undergo any surgical procedures at the time.

Historically, it is an undeniable fact that Muslims made indelible marks on the pages of history in almost all branches of sciences. Medical science is no exception. Some biased Western scholars tried to neglect this enormous contributions of Muslims by claiming that the Muslims did not do any constructive contribution in that era. Their main contribution lies in translating the Greek sciences into Arabic language. An objective reader can never deny the impact of Greek sciences on Islamic heritage. The Muslim scientists in fact capitalized upon the Greek philosophy and its sciences; but never followed the Greek predecessors blindly, nor were they content with whatever legacy of knowledge was left by Galen, Hippocrates, and so on. They thoroughly checked, examined, and then sorted out what was useful to them, and rejected unhesitantly whatever was considered useless and superfluous. So much did they, in this process, add to it that the existing medical science was changed into an entirely new science.


The contributions that the medieval Muslims played in the invention of new drugs and therapeutic agents are great in number as well as in value. The following passages will shed some light on the real contribution of the prominent Muslim scientists and philosophers in the relevant field.

1. Abu Ali Ibn Sina:

Abu Ali Ibn Sina (980-1037), better recognized to the West as Avicenna, was conceivably the utmost physician until the contemporary epoch. His renowned book, Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb, stayed a typical textbook even in Europe, for over 700 years. Ibn Sina's effort is still considered and assembled upon in the East.

Other substantial offerings were made in pharmacology, such as Ibn Sina's Kitab al-Shifa' (Book of Healing), and in public health. The Ottomans were particularly noted for their building of hospitals and for the high level of hygiene practiced in them. Every single city in the Islamic world had a number of outstanding hospitals and many of them were specialized for particular diseases, including mental and emotional.

Abu Ali Ibn Sina, alone wrote 246 books, together with Kitab-al Shifa (The Book of Healing) containing 20 volumes and Al- Qanun fit Tibb (The Canons of Medicine). The Qanun was the principal guide for medical science in the West from the twelfth to the seventeenth century. Dr. William Osler, who wrote The Evolution of Modern Science, remarks “The Qanun has remained a medical Bible for a longer period than any other work”. Comprising over a million words, it graphed the entire medical facts available from ancient and Muslim sources together with his innovative assistances. Ibn Sina's creative influences involved such developments such as acknowledgment of the communicable nature of phthisis and tuberculosis; spreading of diseases by water and soil and the collaboration between psychology and health.

Also, the book defined over 760 medicines and became the most authentic of its era. Ibn Sina was also the first to describe meningitis and prepared ironic contributions to anatomy, gynecology, and child health This interest in mnedicine went back to the time of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW), who once said that “there is always a cure existed for every disease". With this essence there were hospitals and clinics built all over the Muslim world, the earliest built in 707 by Caliph Walid ibn Abd a-Malik in Damascus. Muslims equipped many developments such as the awareness of flow of blood and separation and the establishment of the first apothecary shops and the earliest school of pharmacy.

2. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi:

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (865-925 AD), identified as Rhazes, was one of the greatest inexhaustible Muslim doctors and perhaps second only to Ibn Sina in his endeavors. He was born at Ray, Iran and became a student of Hunayn ibn Ishaq and later a student of Ali ibn Rabban. He penned over 200 books, including Kitab al-Mansuri,ten volumes on Greek medicine, and al-Hawi, an compendium of medicine in 20 volumes. In al-Hawi, he encompassed every single medical subject's statistics offered from Greek and Arab sources and then added his clarifications based on his understanding and assessments. He categorized substances as vegetable, animal or mineral while other alchemists divided them into “bodies”, “souls” and “spirits”.

Al-Razi was first positioned in control of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, from where he quickly moved to a similar position in Baghdad where he remained the head of its famous Hospital for a long time. He originated a treatment for kidney and bladder stones, and clarified the nature of various infectious diseases. He also accompanied research on smallpox and measles and was the first to announce the usage of alcohol for medical purposes. An exclusive piece to his medical system was that he significantly preferred cure through accurate and controlled nourishment intake. This was pooled with his emphasizing on the impact of psychological aspects on health. He also anticipated therapies first on animals in order to assess their effects and side effects. He was also an expert surgeon and the first to use opium for anesthesia.

3. Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi:

A new physician who soon tracked al-Razi was Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi (963-1013 AD) who is recognized as Albucasis to the West. A renowned surgeon in his time, at the court of Caliph al- Hakam II , students and patients flocked to him from the Muslim world and Europe. He wrote the medical encyclopedia al-Tasrifli man ajaz an-il-talif, which enclosed 30 segments of surgical facts and drawings of 200 surgical tools, maximum of which he designed himself. The Encyclopedia was not only a typical one for physicians, but even five eras later it was being used as the standard textbook on surgery in universities in Europe. He also accomplished many elusive operations such as Cesareans and was also the first to use silk thread for sewing wounds.

4. Al-Idrisi:

Al-Idrisi was born in Cordova, Spain in 1099. His major involvement was in medicinal plants which he labeled in many books, such as Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat. He composed plants and data not described previously and compiled this to the subject of botany. From him a large number of new medicines from plants with their assessments suited to medical doctors. Al-Idrisi also prepared unique assistances to topography, as connected to economics, physical factors and cultural aspects. He penned geographical encyclopedias, the largest called Rawd-Unnas wa Nuzhalat Nafs (Pleasure of Men and Delight of Souls). Al-Idrisi also inscribed on the themes of fauna, zoology and therapeutically features. His work was soon translated into Latin and his books on geography especially stayed famous in the East and West for more than a few spans. 

5. Abu Muhammad Ibn al-Baitar:

Abu Muhammad Ibn al-Baitar was working in the field of botany, also from Spain. He was one of the paramount scientists of Muslim from Spain and one of the chief botanists and pharmacists of the Middle Ages. He travelled on many wandering voyages to gather plants as far as Africa and Asia. He composed Kitab al-Jami al-Adiwaya al-Mufrada, one of the supreme botanical accumulations allocating with medicinal plants in Arabic. The encyclopedia was completed of over 1,400 items, many of which were not known before. The book discussed to the works of 150 authors, mostly Arabic and cited about 20 early Greek scientists. It was translated into Latin and printed as late as 1758.

Ibn al-Baitar's works were categorized by thoughts, investigation and classification and exercised a profound influence on Eastern as well as Western botany and medicine. Even though many of his works were translated and published late in the western languages. Many earlier scientists had deliberated numerous portions of his books and quoted a number of references to it. Medicine is regarded as one of the extensive fields of life sciences to which Muslims had noticeable influences through their prosperous cultivation. These assistances were unprecedentedly comprehensive, divergent, and educative to the amount that the spectator of these everlasting influences may have faith in that medicine had not be present earlier to the advancement of Muslims.

When Islam emerged, Arabs, during the pre-Islamic era, were familiar with this primitive medicine. Prophet Muhammad, (Peace be upon him (SAW)) called for medication. Osama bin Sharik (May Allah be pleased with him) quoted the Prophet as saying:

“Seek medication because Allah has created a medication for each disease except senility"

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was known to strive for medication with honey, dates and natural herbs, among other materials which were known as “Prophetic Medicine”.

However, Muslim scientists did not confine themselves to “Prophetic Medicine”; they understood that life sciences, including medicine, necessitate constant investigation and surveillance. Muslims medical scientists were described by their understanding of specialization. They were, for example, categorized into ophthalmologists identified as (Al-Kahalyin), surgeons, practitioners of the so-called hijama, known as hajjamoun, and gynecologists, among others.

During the Abbasid era, Muslims shined in all divisions of medicine. They amended the mistakes made by their former scientists concerning various concepts. Moreover, they did not restrain themselves to sheer copying and translation; rather, they continued on doing research and remedying the errors of their ancestors. In modern time This journey is continued in many parts of the world.

Mohammad Arfat Chowdhury
(Ex-Student of Jamia)
BCS General Education Cadre.
Lecturer (Bangla), Patiya Govt. College, Ctg.
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