Islamic Medicine – History of Medicine

One of these important fields was Islamic medicine, which saw medical practice begin to resemble our modern systems. Certainly, this period of the history of medicine was centuries ahead of Europe, still embedded in the Dark Ages.

Central to Islamic medicine was belief in the Qur’an and Hadiths, which stated that Muslims had a duty to care for the sick and this was often referred to as “Medicine of the Prophet.” According to the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed, he believed that Allah had sent a cure for every ailment and that it was the duty of Muslims to take care of the body and spirit. This certainly falls under the remit of improving the quality of healthcare and ensuring that there is access for all, with many of the Hadiths laying down guidelines for a holistic approach to health.

Initially, in the early days of Islam, there was some debate about whether Islamic physicians should use Greek, Chinese and Indian medical techniques, seen by many as pagan. After intense debate, the Islamic physicians were given free rein to study and adopt any techniques they wished.

Islamic Medicine, Hospitals and Qualifications

The major contribution of the Islamic Age to the history of medicine was the establishment of hospitals, paid for by the charitable donations known as Zakat tax. There is evidence that these hospitals were in existence by the 8th Century and they were soon widespread across the Islamic world, with accounts and inventories providing evidence of at least 30.

These hospitals, as well as providing care to the sick on site, sent physicians and midwives into the poorer, rural areas, and also provided a place for physicians and other staff to study and research. These hospitals varied in role, some aimed at serving the general population, with others providing specific services, such as the care of lepers, the disabled and the infirm.

The system of educating physicians was well structured, usually on a tutorage basis, and the reputation of the individual physicians in certain areas ensured that students would travel from city to city to learn with the best. In addition, the Islamic physicians were meticulous with their recordkeeping, partly as a way to spread and share knowledge, but also to provide notes for peer review in case the physician was accused of malpractice.

The Islamic Physicians and Their Discoveries

Many Islamic physicians made outstanding discoveries in all aspects of medicine during the Islamic Golden Age, building upon the knowledge of Galen and the Greek and adding their own discoveries. The most notable Islamic scholar in the history of medicine was al-Razi.

The Father of Islamic Medicine – Al Razi (rhazes)

Al-Razi In Gerardus Cremonensis 1250
Al Razi Receuil de traite de medecine translated by Gerard de Cremone Second half of 13th century (Public Domain)

Al-Razi, known to the Europeans as Rhazes (may be spelt Rhases, Rasis, Rasi or ar-Razi) (850 – 923), was at the forefront of Islamic research into medicine. A prolific writer, he produced over 200 books about medicine and philosophy,

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