Medicine & Related sciences


 Most works on the history of any science hardly, if ever, devote more than a few pages to the Islamic role, a few paragraphs being the rule. What is written is generally that such Islamic science was copied from the Greeks. The same historians also write that fanatical Islamic Orthodoxy harmed sciences, and persecuted scholars and left a climate of fear that hindered the growth of such sciences. This generalised approach tending at distorting, and belittling Islamic science is strongly present in the history of medicine. The first heading will run through some of its aspects, and then the following headings, with facts, will show how Western history of Islamic medicine, a handful of exceptions aside, is moribund and fundamentally corrupt, at the same time.  


The Generalised Distorted Picture of Islamic Medicine

The first generalised  problem amongst Western historians is a failure to acknowledge Islamic accomplishments, and demeaning, and even suppressing them as much as possible. One goes through most works on the history of medicine, and however large some of them are, the best devote three to four pages to the Islamic period, generally repeating the aberrations found in their predecessors or contemporaries, especially amongst modern historians. Underwood, in his history of medicine and medical practice, in two large volumes, devotes not a single page to Islamic medicine, as if the Muslims never knew of, or wrote on, the subject.[1] Some works deliberately erase any Islamic accomplishment, even when they are supposedly explaining the role of Islamic medicine. Anything published today on Islamic medicine by Western scholars, with one or two exceptions aside (Jacquard, Micheau, for instance), in reality aims at suppressing Islamic accomplishments attributed by older scholars to Muslims, these modern scholars then re-attributing such accomplishments left and right to others, ending up confusing the history of the subject. Nagamia, for instance, notes how:

‘Historians of medicine have erroneously suggested that the science of anatomy during the Islamic era was rudimentary, and did not progress much further than the discoveries already made and described by the Greeks. It was popularly held that Islamic physicians did not challenge the anatomic concepts of the ancients, partly because of the "religious proscription" against dissection, and thus, lacking in their own observations, they relied heavily on the observations of Galen, Aristotle, Paul of Aegina, and other Greek sources. However, after recent discoveries of manuscripts by an Egyptian physician, al-Tahtawi, that had been hitherto un-scrutinised, it would appear that Islamic physicians not only possessed an excellent knowledge of anatomy, but that they added some challenging new concepts that were revolutionary to the understanding of the day of the anatomical concepts laid down by the Greeks. The example that is now well-known is the discovery of the lesser or pulmonary circulation by Ibn al-Nafis (1210-1288), who suggested that there existed a pulmonary capillary bed where the blood was purified before being brought back by the pulmonary artery It ought also to be mentioned that Ibn Masawaih (777-857) had, with the special permission of the Caliph, built a house on the banks of the river Tigris where he dissected apes to learn their anatomy, and extrapolate from those results what information he could that would shed 1ight on human anatomy. Al-Zahrawi (936-1013), in the surgical section of his book al-Tasrif also offers his comment on anatomy.’[2]


If and when historical facts prove a strong Muslim scientific influence in any subject or area, Western historians typically then demean their value as much as they can, such as by stressing their negligible and even negative role. Here, we are back to the sort of instances cited in part one, whereby, according to Western historians, Muslim cities are not cities, hospitals are not hospitals, military victories mere slaughter of enemy patrols, or even of shepherds, and so on and so forth. Thus, with regard to Muslim medicine, and the rise of Salerno, the first medieval university, for instance, Rashdall and his followers, that is the near entirety of Western scholarship, after explaining to us that Muslim universities were not universities (even if Western universities came centuries after the Islamic, adopting their organisation, and rising and thriving on Islamic learning in the 12th century) tells us, quote:

‘So far from the rise of the fame of Salerno having been due to Oriental  influences, it was these influences which brought about its fall. It was the increasing popularity of the Arabic medicine in the 13th century, combined with the growth of medical faculties elsewhere, which destroyed the popularity of the more conservative Civitas Hippocratica.’[3]

Of course, assertions such as these are historically false. First, it was not Muslim learning that destroyed Salerno, to the contrary. Salerno rose to fame not before, but precisely when it received Islamic learning in the person of Constantine the African  who translated Muslim works, i.e from the late 11th century through the 12th century.[4] Salerno was destroyed following the conflicts that took place subsequently and that involved the papacy in its war on the successors of Frederick II. The papacy was keen to destroy all aspects of Islamic influences, direct and indirect, and the conflicts with Fredrick, his legacy, and the destruction of Frederick’s successors, such as slaying his heir, Manfred, and exterminating the Muslims in Sicily  and southern Italy were all carried  out precisely for such a purpose.[5]

Secondly, generally Western historians praise the impact of Salerno, the mother of all Western universities, a role they tell us, acquired thanks to its reviving the Greek legacy.[6] But now, courtesy of Rashdall, the supposed expert on the history of universities, we read that it collapsed because of Islamic influences elsewhere. We are  left confused on the particular role of Salerno, and its impact in the rise of higher learning. 

Thirdly, when we examine the role of Salerno, we find that it rose to prominence precisely following the arrival of Constantine the African  from Tunisia .[7] He reached the south of Italy loaded with a cargo of Islamic medical books from the university of Al-Qayrawan .[8] Constantine translated these books into Latin , and soon after these translations, Salerno rose to prominence in the field of medical studies, and gave birth to all other medical faculties of the Christian West.[9]

Finally, Rashdall is wrong, for any examination of modern medical learning, in all its aspects, as this chapter will amply show, and as any person can check, is based on Islamic learning, a learning that was inherited primarily in the 12th-13th century, and continued for centuries after, and went on to dominate Western learning until the 18th century.



One of the most common ways of demeaning the Islamic contribution to the subject, as with other sciences, is, of course, the usual assertion that Islamic medicine is a mere reproduction of the medical lore of its Greek predecessors, Galen, above all. Every single Western historian, with one or two exceptions, is at great pains to open his/her section on any aspect of Islamic medical sciences by highlighting its Greek nature. Every author insists that Muslim medical sciences derive principally from the translation and adaptation of Greek works; any limited reference or resemblance with something Greek is widened to include the whole science or subject, and not once would a historian praise something Islamic on its own merits. Hence, looking at some instances, taken at random, we read from Dols, for instance:

‘In the ninth century the study of plants was greatly influenced, in both form and content, by the translation of Greek texts, especially Dioscorides' De materia medica, Galen's De simplicibus, the pseudo-Galenic De plantis, and classical agricultural works. The translation process also made available the pseudo-Aristotelian De plantis, a work on the physiology of plants. This last treatise raised philosophical questions about the nature of plants that were pursued by the Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity), Ibn Sina , Ibn Bajja, and others.’[10]

Al-Zahrawi’s surgery, which will be considered in great length further on, is supposed to have been mainly Greek. Hence, Campbell (referring to other Western sources) reminds and insists that:

‘His (Al-Zahrawi’s) surgical tracts, which were translated into Latin  by Gerard of Cremona, are divided into three books, and are founded on Paulus Aegineta.[11] … The second book, which is on general surgery, is largely a transcription from Paulus Aeginata… the third book is on fractures, luxations, obsterics… August Hirsh says that the obstetrics of Al-Zahrawi was based on Paulus Aeginita.’[12]

Campbell concludes:

‘Thus, it will be seen that this important surgical work by Albucasis (Al-Zahrawi) was founded on the surgery and obstetrics of a Paulus Aeginata, and the anatomy (which he obtained through Rhazes) on Galen.’

Back to Dols, again, this time on the hospital institution:

‘The hospital was perhaps the most conspicuous institution of Islamic charity and became signal feature of the major Middle Eastern cities the medieval period. In this matter, as in many others, Islamic society was heir to Hellenistic culture. Christianity had successfully established xenodochia (literally "houses for strangers") in the Byzantine Empire from the early fourth century; subsequently they were created throughout the East and along the Mediterranean  littoral. This was the root from which the civilian hospital system developed.

Though usually the abode of the sick, the xenodochium also aided the poor, wayfarers, and orphans. The early Christians regarded the care of the sick as a special duty; the earliest account of a Christian service outside the pages of the New Testament (ca. 150) shows that it was the custom to take a collection every Sunday for "orphans, widows, those who are in want owing to sickness or any other cause, those who are in prison and strangers who are on journey" (Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. 67).

Similarly motivated, the Muslims established comparable facilities in their newly created empire.’[13]

On the Islamic medical impact, and from the foreword on Whipple’s work on the history of medicine, we read:

Finally, near the end of his life, he (Whipple) was given an opportunity to return to the region he loved so well-this time as a medical historian, in search of the ancient medical schools and hospitals in the Middle East, through which the traditions of Graeco-Roman medicine were passed on to the Arabs and ultimately by them to Europe.’[14]

These and similar statements, asserting that Islamic medicine is a mere reproduction of its Greek counterpart, is generalised amongst Western historians. The rest of the chapter will deal with this kind of fallacy. Most Muslim medical findings and breakthroughs, as well as methods and approach, will be shown to be completely original, and bearing little in common link with the Greek counterpart. This chapter will also show how Muslim medical scholars and practitioners constantly refuted and reformed Greek medicine. More importantly, it ill be shown how the medicine the Muslims passed on to the Christian West was totally different from the medicine bequeathed by Greece.


A much graver assumption relates to an issue that will be largely examined in the final part of this work, a generally held opinion by Western historians that all problems of Islamic science, whatever their nature, including the decline and decadence of science, were caused by the faith of Islam. Here the culprit chosen (there could have been tens more) is Freeland Abbott, who states:

‘Al-Razi  was a ninth century Persian philosopher and physician. He was the first to give accurate clinical accounts of smallpox and measles and he made extensive studies of the human eye. His reputation as a physician was deservedly great during his lifetime but, like many other Muslim scientists, Razi made little impact upon his world. To the Muslim community, deeply influenced by traditionalist thought, his discoveries seemed irrelevant and unnecessary. The community held that the important thing in life was not to improve one’s well being but to get to heaven when one’s earthly life was over. And the road to heaven was chartered as a clear path. That path, preserved and sharply defined by the traditionalists, included prayers and creed but it did not include so living as to avoid measles and smallpox. Razi’s discoveries were nonessentials so far as the purpose of life was concerned, and this being so, they were ignored and even attacked.’[15]

This matter of this obscure and obscurantist faith destroying science will receive ample space in the third part to warrant comment here.



Bringing the previous two elements together (i.e that Islamic medicine is a mere plagiarism of Greek medicine and the Islamic hostility to medical practice) is J. Christoph Burgel (‘Like most other specialists on Arabic and Islamic medicine’).[16] Like most such ‘specialists,’ indeed,  he champions the false and the ridiculous. His argument deserves to be examined in detail. Thus, he says:

‘All these literary forms of medical topics had been cultivated by the Greeks and were taken over by the Arabs, who ‘inherited,’ them by translating hundreds of Greek sources into Arabic. This work was done by a relatively small number of scholars, mainly during the ninth century. It cannot be overestimated as one of the great achievements in the history of the human spirit.

The Arabs took over the Galenic system in its totality and clung to it until the European impact in the 19th century. Their own contributions, e.g Razi’s famous description of small pox and measles, were based on this very system.’[17] 

Burgel briefly comments on Muslim hospitals, before concluding on their standards:

‘We are told that the maniacs were treated in these rooms, but this should not be confounded with the modern standard treatment of mental diseases, as is sometimes done. Recourse to chains and whipping in the treatment of the insane was a normal proceeding of the time.’[18]

‘On the whole,’ he concludes, ‘and with only few exceptions, the contribution of the Arabs and the Islamic Middle Ages to the development of medicine do not reside in sensational discoveries. One of the rare exceptions is a rather correct description of the pulmonary circulation by Ibn Nafis about four centuries before the European discovery of it by William Harvey. Progress was also made in the diagnosis and description of certain diseases. The main achievements of medieval Arabic medicine must, however, be looked for in five fields: systematisation, hospitals, pharmacology, surgery, and ophthalmology.’[19]

These accomplishments were, however, according to Burgel, under Galenic influence.


Just as it rose by adopting Greek science, Islamic medicine is said to have declined because it abandoned its Greek model and turned instead to its faith; a faith which gave rise to forces of obscurity, which destroyed the Greek heritage. Hence, Burgel goes on:

‘The Mongols played their part, destroying hundreds of libraries, and probably dozens of hospitals. They started by destroying the Adudi hospital in Baghdad , which had prospered for more than two and half centuries. But a society incapable of resisting nomadic invaders must have been largely rotten, at least in its leading circles, and the Mongols cannot be charged with having destroyed Islamic civilisation and even science. On the contrary, after having won power, they encouraged and revitalised science and culture on a large scale.’[20]

The main reason for Islamic decline, he insists, was that:

‘Rational thought had several renowned enemies, some of whom could trace their origins to antiquity. I refer to astrology, alchemy, magic-and finally, of Islamic origin, the so-called Prophetic medicine. These four were looked upon as sciences by the great majority , and even most of the scholars. Nevertheless, they were hothouses of irrationalism, the rational disguise making them only the more harmful.’[21]

In the mind of many pious Muslims, he adds

‘Suffering was a religious virtue and disease a sign of holiness. The Prophet was reported to have said: ‘he who dies on a sickbed, dies the death of a martyr and is secure against the inquisition of the tomb.’[22] This conviction was incompatible with the resort to medical cure.’[23]

Burgel then quotes a Hadith  by the Prophet, which exhorts people to treat the sick person, but assert that such Hadith has been amplified by Muslims who want to amplify the scientific side of Islam, explaining that:

‘This latter amplification is a good example of the way that Hadith  developed by being used, and forged!’

He adds:

‘The sentence  (by the Prophet) ‘‘Science is two fold: the science of the bodies and the science of religion.’’ This saying is still quoted by Muslims who want to prove the favourable views of Islam of learning and science.

An affirmative attitude towards the use of medical treatment must not, however, be confounded with a favourable view on rational scientific medicine. On the contrary, prophetic medicine was meant to be the religious counterpart of the suspected Galenic medicine.’[24] 

Then he comments on the Prophet’s saying that the stomach is the source of poor and good health:

‘The basic theory of Bedouin pathology was evidently that all diseases were ultimately caused by a disorder in the stomach, by wrong nutrition or ingestion. Reasonable nutrition was therefore the chief prophylactic against falling ill, and diet the best remedy for sickness. However, the leading role this saying came to play in medical literature might be based on the fact that it was closely related to the central Greek idea of symmetry.’[25]

But, he adds:

‘The enterprise of mixing Galenic with Prophetic medicine did not increase critical thinking: it introduced magic and religious superstition into the rational system of education.’[26]

‘Later, with support from the orthodox and the authors of Prophetic medicine, magical healing developed into gross forms of religious sorcery.’[27]

And, he concludes:

‘This judgment would sound too severe if it had not already been made by a Muslim scholar in the Middle Ages. No doubt many physicians of the rational party were well aware of the dangers of prophetic medicine. But we seldom come across an open criticism, for physicians, especially if they were non Muslims or notoriously rationalists, feared the orthodox reaction if they were to put forward too candid a criticism of this part of the holy tradition. We may be sure, however, that much of the indirect criticism referring to shameful intruders who had stolen into the art and pretended to have knowledge of things in reality they knew nothing about, was directed against those who espoused Prophetic medicine.’[28]



The following outline, in its various headings, will show how ridiculous are the views of Burgel and those of the hordes of others of similar nature. But, briefly, here:

-First beginning with one of the latter points he makes, asserting that when the Prophet talks of the role of diet as a foundation of afflictions/well being, it is as if  the Prophet read Galen, which he never did or even knew about, or cared about; Galen, in fact, was discovered by the Muslims centuries after the Prophet.

-Secondly, earlier, Burgel says that Muslims in the 9th century translated hundreds of Greek works. It was not hundreds but tens of works.

Thirdly, Burgel makes generalised assertions not once providing a foot note, or precise piece of evidence.

Fourthly, with regard to the medicine of the Prophet, the best known Islamic medieval author advocating it is the Syrian Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (b. 1262- d.1350), and who was a jurist by training. Even he, Ibn Qayyim, although preaching ardently Prophetic medicine, insists that reliance on specialised medical knowledge was also necessary, and that a good Muslim should resort to a physician.[29] To pound this point home, he, Ibn Qayyim referred to the Prophet’s saying, that when a disciple asked the Prophet what to do about his illness, the Prophet ordered him to take himself off immediately to a qualified medical doctor.[30]  Prophet Mohamed also clearly said:

‘There is no ailment for which God has not created a cure'[31]

Fifthly, what gives Burgel the authority, without proof, to assert that the Prophet’s sayings which call for the treatment of the sick were forged, or propagandist opinions added later to improve the view of Islam. The fact is, there is no need for people to forge the sayings of the Prophet on medical healing, for his sayings in this field precisely correspond and complement others he made in encouraging and exhorting Muslims to seek knowledge on repeated occasions. For instance, one of his Sayings ‘Hadith ’, quoted by Cumston in his History of Medicine, says:

‘Science is the remedy for the infirmities of ignorance, a comfortable beacon in the night of injustice. The study of the sciences has the value of a fast; the teaching of them has the value of prayer; in a noble heart they inspire the highest feelings and they correct and humanise the perverted.’[32]

The fact also is that the Qur’an, as seen in the first part, and as will be amply shown in the final part, urges and exhorts Muslims to learn and ponder, and privileges those who know over those who do not, as seen already, the Qur’an acts as a direct inspiration for many sciences. Arnaldez and Massignon note how the Qur’an preached knowledge, not necessarily religious laws only, for Islam never made a clear cut distinction between the sacred and profane.[33] Thus, when Ibn Rushd, for instance, wrote that the Qur’an invites men to observe nature and to seek rational knowledge, he expressed the opinion of all Muslim scholars that the earth was given to man for constant and reverent study.[34]  The many Hadiths by the Prophet with regard to sciences, especially those concerning medicine in general, and remedies in particular, were used by Muslim scientists and philosophers to base many of their dicta and actions, Arnaldez and Massignon.[35]

Finally, if Burgel, and the countless others who consider themselves scholars, believe that Muslims, the lettered and the illiterate are stupid enough to follow a faith of obscurity, they are mistaken. They ought to know that as we read in the Qur’an:

‘It is those of his servants who have knowledge who stand in true awe of God’ 35:28.


But, let’s suppose for an instant that Burgel and the countless others holding the same views as his were correct in their assumptions. Let’s suppose Islamic medicine could only thrive because it was inspired by the Greeks. Could they then explain about all the other sciences and manifestations of civilisation, especially those which had no Greek antecedent of any form. How about paper making, libraries, dam construction, irrigation, trade, commerce, banking, etc. They thrived at the same time as medicine, and they had nothing Greek behind them, or in them.  

With regard to the point on the persecution of scholars, history is here a witness: no scientist was ever burnt at the stake in Islam. Scientists, in fact, thrived in their thousands as this work and many others show. Scientists were burnt on the stake, in their countless numbers, together with women, ‘witches,’ dissenting priests, ‘heretics,’ Indians (in the Americas), in the lands which harboured the ancestors of our modern historians.[36]

With regard to sorcery, magic, saints, etc, and again historical evidence is here to prove as Draper puts it that, whilst:

‘The Christian peasant, fever stricken or overtaken by accident, tried to the nearest saint shrine and expected a miracle; the Spanish Moor relied on the prescription or lancet of his physician, or the bandage and knife of his surgeon.'[37]

Fatalism and hostility to science, this author, as a Muslim, never found anywhere in the Qur’an or Hadith  and as a historian, he never found in Islamic history. So where, one asks, is this fatalism and Islamic hostility to science one keeps finding in the writing of these ‘specialists’ on Islam and its civilisation. And if Islam was fatalistic, and was hostile to science, where did all the breakthroughs that follow come from at the time the Islamic ‘theocratic’ state was so powerful?

[1] E. A. Underwood, ed.: Science, Medicine, and History: Essays on the Evolution of Scientific Thought and Medical Practice,  2 vols (Oxford University Press; 1953).

[2] H.F. Nagamia: An Introduction to the History of Islamic Medicine; Islamic Culture (1999); pp. 1-20; at p. 14.

[3] H. Rashdall: The Universities  in Europe in the Middle Ages; new ed by F.M. Powicke and A.B. Emden 3 vols (1936);  vol I; p. 75.

[4] C. Burnett: The Introduction of Arabic Learning  into England; The Panizzi Lectures, 1996 (The British Library, London, 1997), p. 23.

See also: Constantine the African  and ‘Ali ibn al-Magusti: The Pantegni and related texts, ed C. Burnett and D. Jacquard, Leiden, 1994.

J. W. G. Wiet et al: History; op cit; p.205. W. Durant: The Age of Faith, op cit; p. 457.

[5] J.P. Lomax: Frederick II, His Saracens, and the Papacy, in Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam, Edited by J.V. Tolan (Routledge; London, 1996),  pp. 175-97.

C. Waern: Medieval Sicily  (Duckworth and Co; London; 1910).

[6] Such as:

B. Lawn: The Salernitan Questions (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1963).

L.G. Ballester: Introduction: in Practical Medicine from Salerno to the Black Death. Ed L.G. Ballester et al (Cambridge University Press, 1994),  pp. 1-29; pp 23 fwd.

J. D. Breckenridge: The Two Sicilies; in Islam and the Medieval West; S. Ferber Editor; A Loan Exhibition at the University Art Gallery (State University of New York; 1975), pp 39-59. at p. 49.

[7] See: M. Mc Vaugh, ‘Constantine the African ,' Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 3: pp. 393-5.

[8] W. Durant: The Age of Faith; op cit; p. 457

[9] M. Meyerhof: Science and medicine in the Legacy of Islam; 1st ed, op cit, p. 351. 

[10] M.W. Dols: Herbs; Middle Eastern; Dictionary of Middle Ages; op cit; vol 6;  p. 185.

[11] M. Neuburger; History of Medicine; Vol 1; p. 366; J.H. Baas: Outlines of the History of Medicine.; p. 231.

[12] D. Campbell: Arabian Medicine, and its Influence on the Middle Ages (Philo Press; Amsterdam; 1926; reprinted 1974), p. 86.

[13] M.W. Dols: Hospitals  and Poor Relief; Dictionary of Middle Ages; op cit; pp. 290-5; at p. 290.

[14] A. Whipple: The Role of the Nestorians and Muslims in the History of Medicine. Microfilm-xerography by University Microfilms International Ann Arbor (Michigan, U.S.A. 1977), Foreword by C.A. Janeway.

[15] Freeland Abbott: Islam and Pakistan (Ithaca; New York; 1908), pp 25-6.

[16] J. Christoph Burgel: Secular and Religious Features of Medieval Arabic Medicine; in Asian Medical Systems, A Comparative Study; edited by C. Leslie (University of California Press; 1976), pp. 44-62; at p. 44.

[17] Ibid; p. 45.

[18] Ibid; p. 49.

[19] Ibid; p. 52.

[20] Ibid; p. 54.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Cf. the article Shahid in the Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam; (1953).

[23] J. Christoph Burgel: Secular and Religious Features; p. 55.

[24] Ibid; p. 56.

[25] Ibid; p. 57.

[26] Ibid; p. 58.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid; p. 60.

[29] S. Watts: Disease and Medicine in World History (Routledge; 2003), p. 52.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Sahih al-Bukhari (The most trusted piece of Hadith  collection in Islam).

[32] C.G. Cumston: The History of Medicine (London; 1926), p. 186.

[33] R. Arnaldez-L.Massignon: Arabic Science; op cit; p. 386.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] See, for instance:

R. Garaudy: Comment l'Homme devient Humain (Editions J.A, 1978), pp.276-7.

W. Howitt: Colonisation and Christianity (Longman; London), 1838.

J.W. Draper: History of the Conflict Between Religion and Sciences (Henry. S. King & Co; London; 1875).

D E. Stannard: "Genocide in The Americas" in The Nation, October 19, 1992 pp. 430-4.

[37] J.W. Draper:  History, op cit, vol II, p. 40.


De materia medica


Dominant Aspects of Muslim Medicine
Under the Muslims, medicine departed from the narrow focus of its predecessors, a few individuals such as Galen and Hippocrates, to become a universal science, attracting the interest of hundreds, not to say thousands of scholars. The authors of repute alone numbered over 400. The fame of the medical colleges of the Orient spread rapidly throughout the world, and attracted the ambitious of every creed, Christian, Hebrew and Muslim. In the 11th century there were more than six thousand students of medicine in the schools of Baghdad alone, possibly an exaggerated figure, but even if by ten times, it still expresses the mass interest and spread of medical learning and practice in the Islamic world. In the city of Baghdad, in the year 931, a board for the medical practitioners was established by royal decree, and all those who practised medicine had to pass the examination.

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Defining Instances From Islamic Medicine
Islamic medicine, in both its theoretical aspects and practical applications had a highly innovative and original character, which sharply demarked it from its predecessors and contemporaries.
Observation and experimentation played a central role in the Islamic scientific experience, and medicine was no exception. In stark contrast to the medical teachers of Europe, Islamic writers were practising physicians, who spoke from their own experience. ‘He who studies the work of the Ancients gains the experience of their labours as if he had himself lived a thousand years . . . but all that is written in books is worth less than the eye of experience,’ wrote Al-Razi. Only the first part would have appealed to European universities: practical experience was not part of the training for physicians in Europe, who could complete a medical degree without ever having set eyes on a patient. A good instance of how observation demarcated Islamic from Greek medicine is an account by the Baghdadi doctor, Abd Al-Latif (1162-1231), who on a visit to Egypt, examined 200 skeletons, and wrote what follows:

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Impact on the West
Modern medicine is very close to Islamic medicine due to the early transfers of Muslim medicine to the Christian West. Jacquart’s summarises the main translations of Islamic medical works. The pioneer of such translations was Constantine the African (d. ca.1087), from Tunisia initially, who spent his later life in Italy between Salerno and Monte Casino. Constantine took with him medical works of the school of Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia, including those by Ibn al-Jazzar (d.1009) and by earlier doctors of al-Qayrawan

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Pharmacy and Pharmacology
From very early to comparatively late periods of the history of drug-lore, Isaac explains, the preparation, action and uses of drugs were closely associated, often indeed identified, with witchcraft and divination. It is Islam, he pursues, which purged pharmacology of such practices; Islamic pharmaceutical tradition, on the whole, being rational, clean and practical. Isaac notes the saying of the Prophet: ‘li kulli da'in dawa' (for every disease there is a remedy), is a religious explanation: it is left to the physician, through his knowledge and skill, to trace the right drug that God had created.

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According to Elgood, the position of the surgeon in the time of the caliphs was one of honour, and he was not looked down upon by the physicians as was the case in Europe during the Middle Ages. Reflecting the high status of the science, nearly every single Muslim medical writer had a chapter on surgery, covering one aspect of it or another. The primary role of surgery in terminating many cases of ill health was well understood. Al-Madjusi, in his Liber Regius, considered treatment with surgery as of equal importance as treatment with drugs. In the surgical section of his work, he described many surgical conditions and gives sound advice on treatment.

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Whilst travelling in the Near East in the years 1183-5, Ibn Jubayr noted one or more hospitals in every city in the majority of the places he passed through, which prompted him to say that hospitals were one of ‘the finest proofs of the glory of Islam,' (and the madrasas another).
Some twenty or so years before, in 1160, another traveller, Benjamin of Tudela, found no fewer than sixty well organized medical institutions in Baghdad. Earlier, in the Muslim West, it was said that there were 50 hospitals in Cordoba.

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