Historical Development of Islamic Medicine
Inspired by Allah's guidance since coming to Earth, Man has arrived at various treatments, according to his intellectual and mental means, throughout the different civilizations.Â This was known as 'Primitive Medicine'.
Ibn-Khaldoun (808 A.H.) once stated that primitive medicine was mostly dependent on defective experiments inherited from the leading figures in communities.Â Yet, such medicine was not based on any physical law.
Prophetic Medicine and Medical Development
Such had been the condition of medicine before Islam arrived.Â The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) urged Muslims to seek remedy, as Allah has created no disease without its treatment, except for one disease, namely senility.
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) used honey, dates, natural herbs and various other things for medical treatment, which is known as the 'Prophetic Medicine'.Â However, Muslims, although they were acquainted with the prophetic medicine, did not stop there.Â They realized in an early stage that secular sciences, including medicine, needed continuous studying and researching into other cultures.Â Muslim physicians knew all about Greek Medicine through the conquered countries.Â The Caliphs used to bring the Roman physicians whose medical works were translated into Arabic by Muslims.
During the era of the Umayyad Caliphate, Muslim physicians were the first to organize specialities; they were ophthalmologists, surgeons, Â Â Â Â Â , gynecologists, etc.Â This era was characterized by the construction of hospitals and by its effective, well-known Islamic physicians such as, Abul-Hakam ad-Damashkiy, a family dominating the medical profession, Tyazuoq who was close to al-Hajaj Ibn-Youssuf al-Thaqafiyy and Ahmad Ibn-Ibrahim who was Yazeed Ibn-Abdul- Malek, the Umayyad caliph's special physician.
Ar-Razi (Rhazes): A pioneer in medicine in the Abbasids' era
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During the Abbasid period, Muslim physicians went beyond copying and translating from other cultures as they excelled in all medical branches and corrected some of their antecedent's theories.Â
As an example, Abu- Bakr ar-Razi (313 A.H.) was the first to invent surgical suturing, to make mercury ointment and to introduce a fully detailed explanation of pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology and eye diseases.Â He pioneered in conducting experimental research in medical sciences.Â He also tried proposed remedies on animals in order to evaluate their effects and side effects.Â He conducted some experiments on animals like monkeys.Â He used to give them a dose of medicine and record its effect.Â If it produced the desired result, he would start applying it on human beings.
Ar-Razi was the first to state that some diseases are hereditary.Â He was also the first to differentiate between arterial and venous bleeding.Â He was the first to describe cataract removal.Â He recommended building hospitals away from areas where organic substances could rapidly grow rotten.Â In addition, he was the first to make the diagnosis of measles and smallpox in his book entitled, 'Measles and Smallpox', in which he introduced the symptoms and the fever accompanying both diseases. Â He also drew a very precise clinical discrimination between them, considering fever a medical symptom that accompanies several diseases, rather than an illness.Â Fever immediately ceases once the illness, causing it, is treated.Â Furthermore, he differentiated between the pulmonary diseases causing respiratory distress and pleurisy.
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Ali Ibn-Isa, the Ophthalmologist:
Early Muslims progressed and reached such great heights in ophthalmology that no one has ever reached before for many centuries.Â Ophthalmology flourished in an unprecedented way .Â Neither the Romans nor the Greeks could compete with the Muslims' achievements.Â It is no wonder that many writers considered ophthalmology an Arab specialty.Â Historians considered Ali Ibn-Isa the greatest ophthalmologist of the Middle Ages ever, and believed that at-Tathkirah (The Reminder) was his best book.
Another great physician who followed al-Razi and Ibn-Isa was Az-Zahrawy.Â He was one of the greatest surgeons of his time, if not the greatest of them all throughout the history of man.Â He invented surgical instruments such as the scalpel and sutures for stitching wounds.Â He also established surgical methods and procedures, such as stopping a hemorrhage by coagulation as well as ligature to stop the flow of a bleeding artery.Â He was also the first to set the basics of the science of surgical endoscopy and used syringes and surgical punctures. He managed to do a lithotripsy for a bladder stone with the use of what resembled a modern endoscope. He was also the first to invent and use the vaginal speculum.
Az-Zahrawy's book, 'At-tasrif l-Man 'ajaza 'an at-Ta'lee'f, which was translated into Latin as (AlTasrif)Â by the Italian scientist, Jerardo, was considered a complete medical encyclopedia of thirty-volumes, each divided into three different parts: medicine, chemistry, and surgery and surgical instruments.Â It was considered a reference for the European founders of surgery.
Medical historians claimed that Az-Zahrawy was the first to devote special attention to surgery and separate surgery from medicine.Â Also, Abul-Qassim az-Zahrawy's surgical research replaced all former inquiries and remained the main reference in surgery for more than five centuries, until the thirteenth century.Â His research included labeled drawing and pictures of more than two hundred surgical tools.Â These had an immense influence on Western surgeons later, especially those who reformed and improved surgery in Europe in the thirteenth century.Â Haller, the great physiologist, said, "All the European surgeons who emerged after the fourteenth century turned to that research to quench their thirst for knowledge." This book was the chief reference for surgery.
Muslims remained the pioneers in surgery up until the 15th Â hijri centuryÂ Â European students came to the Arab countries to learn and return to their countries to apply what they had learned.Â This indicated how essential surgical science was and how important it was to separate it from internal medicine.
The brilliant Islamic figure Ibn-Sina (died 428 A.H.) enriched the history of mankind with his sublime medical discoveries aided by the Help of Allah.Â He discovered many of the ailments which are still widespread, such as Ankylostoma parasite and he called it 'the round worm', preceding the Italian scientist Dobby Bingo by nearly 900 years.
Ibn-Sina was the first to describe meningitis and differentiate between of cerebral origin and that resulting from external (or peripheral) cause..Â He also described stroke that results from excessive blood flow, opposing what had been believed by the ancient Greek physicians.Â He differentiated between the renal colic and intestinal colic.
Another breakthrough by Ibn-Sina is his discovery of the modes of infection of some diseases like measles and smallpox and that their contagious nature is due to tiny living organisms in water and air.Â He once said, "Water contains tiny living organisms, unseen by the naked eye, causing some diseases." This was confirmed later in the eighteenth century by Van Leuthook and other scientists after the microscope has been invented.Â Hence, Ibn-Sina was the first to establish parasitology, which is a very important branch in modern sciences.Â He was the first to differentiate between primary and secondary meningitis and other, similar diseases.Â He also described tonsillectomy, and added his own opinion about some kinds of cancers, like liver and breast cancers and lymph node tumors as well as other tumors.
Ibn-Sina excelled in surgery. He mentioned several methods to stop hemorrhages; whether by ligation, pack insertion, cauterization, chemical cauterization or pressing veins against flesh.Â He also dealt with arrows and how to get them out of wounds, warning surgeons against hurting a vein or a nerve while pointing out that understanding human anatomy is crucial for surgeons.
Ibn-Sina was the first to describe the eye's inner muscles.Â He also said that the optic nerve is the organ that is responsible for vision, not the lens, as it had been believed before.
Ibn-Sina was a skillful surgeon who performed many fine surgical operations such as early-stage-malignant tumor excision.Â Moreover, he performed tracheostomy and laryngotomy and excised pleural abscesses.Â He also treated hemorrhoids by ligature, described urinary fistulas with precision and introduced a treatment for anal fistulas that is still in use.Â He also dealt with kidney stones and explained how to extract them, along with the precautions that must be taken.Â Additionally, he explained the indications and countraindications of using the catheter.
Ibn-Sina had immense experience in treating venerial diseases.Â He described some of the gynecological diseases very precisely, like vaginal obstruction, fibroids and miscarriages.Â He also spoke about diseases that mothers would catch in their postpartum period such as hemorrhage and blood retention which may cause tumors and fevers.Â He also pointed out that puerperal sepsis results from difficult labor or intruterine fetal death; a fact that had not been known before his research. He also dealt with the gender of the fetus and attributed it to the father rather than to the mother; this is a fact which was confirmed later by modern medicine.
In addition to all this, Ibn-Sina had vast knowledge of dentistry.Â He said that the main purpose of treating tooth decay was to clear out the decayed part and analyze the substance which caused it.Â Note that the basic principle in treating the teeth is maintain them through technically preparing the cavity removing the decayed parts from the tooth then refill it with the proper filling to compensate for the lost part of tooth.Â Thus, the tooth would regain its function anew.Â Â
These intelligent Islamic figures are not exceptions.Â On the contrary, the Islamic culture had hundreds of such pioneers, who apprenticed many people for many centuries.Â Their great unprecedented contributions and breakthroughs were acknowledged by enemies as well as friends.Â One of these great examples is Ibnun-Nafees (died 687 A.H) who contradicted Galen's theory of the presense of a foramen between the left and the right ventricles. Ibnun-Nafees corrected this error and as a consequence he discovered the minor circulatory systemÂ Â Â
While studying the blood movement in the human body, he noticed that the blood reaching the left ventricle is mixed with air (oxygenated) and that the blood which has been cooled and has reached the right ventricle has no passage inside the heart and has no way out except to the lungs.Â Thus, he concluded that the blood in the right ventricle after it has been warmed must be carried to the left through the lungs. He rejected and disproved any other passage for the blood and that it moves in one direction not subject to any tide or reflux.
Ibnun- Nafees proved that the blood movement is as follows: It flows from the right ventricle to the lungs where it is oxygenated.Â Then, it flows from the lungs to the left ventricle through the pulmonary artery.Â He further described the pulmonary artery, asserting that it has two impenetrable and very delicate layers.Â He also called it an artery for its pulsing nature. Thus, he presented a very precise description of the minor
(pulmonary) circulatory system.
 A.H = after hijrah of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah in 622 A.D.
 After the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah.
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