Medicine and Science

In the Odyssey Homer lauded the efficiency of the Egyptian doctor. Herodotus mentioned many times that they cured a great variety of diseases in which they specialized and excelled. He wrote once that Qorsh had invited an oculist from Egypt, and that Dara had admired and praised them very much. The Greeks know «Amhoteb» father of wisdom in Old Cairo, and used to call him in their own language «Amotycos». They learned from Egyptian Medicine a great number of cures and copied the Egyptian's surgery instruments as they were, with out effecting any change in them.

The Greeks also learned some medicine from the Chaldeans in ancient times, when it was mixture of witchcraft and incantation.

Then the wheel of human culture turned a complete cycle in this profession, which all people need. The Greeks returned to the Egyptians all they had taken from them with their own additions, that took place in the age of the Alexandria School. The Greeks also returned what they had taken from the Chaldeans and the Assyrians by the end of the East Romanian Empire. At that time there was leftover a portion of the heritage of the Monasteries and their priests. It was being taught to the students of science in Greek and Latin, who were mostly theologians

The Persians invoked the help of the Assyrian and Roman doctors, who established the School of Medicine and Hospital called «Jindisabur». All the surrounding peoples depended on this medical school and Hospital for completing their medical studies and learning the methods of medical treatment practiced by other. One of its talented Arab students was Al-Hareth Ren-Kelda who had learnt medicine before Islam, then adopted the Islamic faith.

Medical treatment was practiced by the Arabs many ages before Islam. They followed the Bedouin method of mixing medicine with sooth-saying, and cured diseases in primitive ways. Each tribe had its own fortune-teller, whom they consulted on all occurrences, including sickness and complaints.

A verse was said in this connection «I shall recognize the sagacity of the Fortune-tellers of Yamama and Najd, If they ever cure me».

The fortune-tellers used in their medical treatment, charms, incense and drugs which were often accompanied by incantations and spells. Besides the fortune- tellers, there were specialist doctors who did not practice sooth- saying or hoodwink the patient by uttering names of ginns or idols. They used to treat patients by bleeding, cauterizing, supping, putting them on diets and prescribing some drugs and herbs which used to grow in Arabia or be imported from India and China. The recommendations of these doctors reflect their skill in curing the body. As Al-Hareth Ben-Kelda put it.

(He who wants to live long must observe the following advice, Failing which there is no longevity. Take Lunch early; put on light clothes; and minimize intercourse with women).

Moawia asked him : « what is Medicine, Hareth? Hareth replied, «Hunger, Moawia. Hareth advised not to take a bath after eating and minimizing debts and worries. The doctors had an effective method for treating difficult cases. They used to take the patient to the Caravan routes where he could be seen by persons who had suffered the same disease. Then they would tell him the cure that had healed them.

It seems that the occupation of the Arabs with cattle grazing for a long time alienated them from witchcraft medicine and drew them nearer to medicine based on practical experiments. They watched pregnancy, birth, growth and the relevant stages of life evolution. They fixed the parts of the body, and had an almost correct knowledge of the location and function of its organs. With this knowledge they could nearly specify the disease and its remedy.

When Islam came, it wiped out witchcraft and opened the door wide for physical medicine. Islam tabooed treatment by witchcraft and superstition. It did not replace soothsayers and fortune-tellers with a new class that practiced that line of business in the guise of religion. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be with him) permitted the consultation of doctors though they were non-Muslims. When Saad Ibn Abi Wakas fell sick during his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet sent him back saying «I pray to Allah to restore your health so that you may strike the bad peoples and benefit the good ones». Then he said to Hareth Ben Kelda, «Treat Saad», and Hareth was a non-Muslim. Loqman the Wise was mentioned in the Quran with what means "We conferred on Loqman wisdom so that may thank- Allah. Medical treatment was over and above other though it was not a vocation for religious people".

For this reason Christian doctors multiplied in the Islamic State. Oriental Christian Doctors made many achievements in medicine while the European Church was banning the medical trade on the pretext that illness was a punishment meted out by Allah, which man should not interfere with. Medicine remained banned until the end of the so-called (Age of Faith», viz. at the beginnings of the 12th century A.D., dawn of the Andalusian civilization.

900 doctors were invited to sit for exam. in Baghdad during the reign of Al-Moqttader Bellah; in addition there were the professors, who were authorities in medicine and thus above examination. This points out great care for medicine and hygiene that had no parallel in any other ancient civilization.

The great number of doctors and teachers of medicine imply that medicine was being studied to cater for a whole society and not on individual initiative.

It is possible that at the beginning kings called in famous doctors; it is also possible that some Syrian and Byzantine monks and Savants were devoted to the study of science; yet the capital could not be served by more than one thousand doctors, all at one time, unless they needed to serve an extensive society. The Assyrians and Romans were tied down to their places during the reigns of the Caesars and Chosroes. They used to live among their peoples, relatives, books and possessions and had not moved away. Knowledge did not record such an achievement and living did not rise such a high standard under the banners of the Romans or the Persians. But the new thing to notice is the favorable reaction on society which was brought about by the rise of the new state, founded by Islamic ingenuity and on the tolerance of the tolerance of the new religion.

Industry was not in itself the target of that great movement of development and the wide range of education. Doctors used to add to the science of medicine other branches such as philosophy, engineering, astronomy, and chemistry. They so wrote books on these different branches of science and sought information on them wherever it was.

Some courses were sufficient to quality a student to practices the medical trade in those ages. But science we learnt for science's sake. The students were not satisfied with the books of the ancient Greeks, Persians and Indians. They referred to all information that could enlarge the scope of their research-work. They made equal treatises on books of medicine, engineering, astronomy, etc.

They wrote down all their readings and translations and compiled them in books. The result was the appearance of treatises that comprised Indian formulae besides the Arabian, or Persian or Greek ones. They were deep academic works, not written for making profit.

The under mentioned books were great treatises on Islamic medicine. They were unparalleled in their deep research and academic scope. These treatises were wholly translated into Latin. Consequently that trade was taken up by European doctors from time to time. Until the dawn of modern ages there had been no European scientists who hold a candle to the Arab authors in that branch of science. The Europeans are fond of alleging that they seek science for science's sake and accuse the Easterners of seeking science for money's sake. But this is not the case. The European doctors read Arabic reference books in order to derive there from the greatest benefit in making money. The monks and priests were an exception. They renounced mundane life, and not overtly seek money through practicing med and other trades.

The Book of Law by Ibn-Sina in the 12th century was translated. This book is a thesis on all the findings in medicine reached by the Arabs, Greeks, Indians, Assyrians and Anbath.

The `Magician' book by Al-Razi in 1279 was also translated. It is bigger and wider in range than the Book of Law. This book was completed by the disciples of Al-Razi after his death, because it was a work that could not be undertaken by one individual alone.

All the Books by Ben-Haitham were translated in that age. They were references in optics for all succeeding Europeans.

It has been found from the records of Louvan University that Al-Razi and Ibn-Sina books had been considered by the professors of that university as the only authentic references until the beginning of the 17th century. Further supplies came from Arabian Andalusia. Andalusia supplied Europe with the lengthiest reference book in surgery and the setting of Broken Bones. This book is entitled «Knowledge for Those Who Do not Have It» (Al-Taarif Liman Agaza An Al-Tasrif) by Abu-El- Kassem Khalaf Ben Al-Abbas. It was printed in Latin in the 15th century. Before it was put in print, it existed as loose-leaf lessons that were handed round by those who practiced in the trade to which they had referred in their surgical work, particularly in opening the bladder and extracting stones. The Great Physicist Haller said in the story of Gustav Lobon that books of Abu-Al Kassem were references for all the surgeons after the 14th century. He left a booklet on all the surgical instruments. The booklet showed drawings of these instruments, and explained how they were used.

Hospitals spread throughout the Islamic State after the third century A.H. The Arabs followed a clever system to ensure healthy air and a suitable location for the construction of hospitals, thus doing without the modern scientific methods adopted after the discovery of germs and the system of analysis wherever there was decay, they shunned the place and moved to another place where there were less signs of decay.

The Arabs took up medicine when it was in the course of its long transition between the ancient theories and the modern ones. There was the theory enunciated by Bokrat, viz. the cardinal humors were four blood, phlegm, gall and black bile; that illness was due to the disproportion of those humors, and that remedy thereof was effected by restoring their original proportion. Galen enunciated the theory that humors were four : they were heat, coldness, dryness and moisture. He who was hit by heat was to be remedied by coldness, and he who was hit by moisture was to be remedied by dryness. Thus each case of sickness was treated on these lines. But critics of these theories, particularly Bokrat's theory, multiplied among the students of the Alexandria School. Erasistratus condemned that theory and advised his followers to ignore it, and gave preference to close observation. Their successors wrote prescriptions in the light of information they obtained from the patients they had interviewed, and comparing the latter's cases with other patients. They put on record the symptoms of all cases.

When the Arabs took up medicine that trade was at cross-roads between oblivion into which it was falling and the new theories which were appearing. Science as a whole had not completely developed to devise new theories. They therefore relied on observation and experiment and did not completely depend on theories and invent new ones. They laid out remedies. They did not stick to Galen's theory of curing coldness with heat and vice-versa. Some used to remedy coldness with coldness in some cases, or combine heating, cooling and moistening. Said Ben Bashar, Principal of the First Aid Hospital in Baghdad used to do so. They also remedied by transplanting as could be inferred from their discourses on the functions of animal's organs.

They anticipated the Europeans in describing leprosy, small pox and measles and remedying eye-diseases. They broached the theory of Freud in psychological therapy and its connection with sexual matters. Their approach was made on experimental basis that deserves to be followed in collecting information and writing down observation. It is related that once the mistress of Al-Rashid had stretched out her hand beyond limit. She could not reflex it back to its proper place, and the hand remained stretched out. It was treated by rubbing over an ointment and fats, but that did not avail. Al-Rashid consulted Gabriel Ben Bakhtaishouh who explained as follows «If his highness the Commander of the Faithful will not get angry at me, may I try a trick? Al-Rashid replied, «And what is it?» Gabriel said «The concubine comes over here in the company of some people. Then I shall do with her what I like; please give me a chance and do not attack me». Al-Rashid ordered that the concubine be brought over to Gabriel. when she came, Gabriel strode toward her, lowered his head, and held the tail of her dress as if he wanted to strip her of it. The concubine was greatly upset, flung her hand downward and held back her tail. Then Gabriel told the Caliph of the Faithful, «She healed». Caliph of the Faithful asked him how that happened. Gabriel said, «This concubine is cold in her physical organs during intercourse; she needs light caressing, and generation of heat for a while; the abrupt end of intercourse freezes the remaining beat inside the nerves; it is unfrozen by a similar action. Heat has been evened, the frozen remainder has been unfrozen and now she is fit and sane».

Another story is related about Ibn Sina. He was once called to examine a young man, whose disease was unknown to the doctors. Ibn Sina gave order to bring a fortune-teller from the town. when the fortune-teller came, Ibn Sina held the hand of the young patient in order to feel his pulse and observe his face. Meanwhile, he asked the fortune-teller to enumerate the different quarters of the town. The fortune-teller enumerated them until he came to the name of one quarter. Then, the man's pulse increased. Ibn Sina asked the fortune-teller to enumerate the houses of that quarter, then the fortune-teller mentioned one particular house amongst them, the man's pulse increased more, Ibn Sina asked the fortune-teller about the female inmates of the house. Then he told the man's parents (Marry him to that girl because she is his remedy».

Arab Doctor used to treat mental incapacity in the same way as they treated physical disease Mental incapacity used to be called by the Franks «divine disease or devilish disease» because they believed it was inflicted by spirits or devils.

The Arabs' researches in medicine went hand-in- hand with their researches in chemistry. The Europeans greatly benefited from their researches in that new field and perhaps the benefits they derived from the Arabs' research in alchemy exceeded the information they gained from the Arabs in medicine.

The chemical term (alkali» is originally the Arabic word for silver wash, a most important acid used in chemical experiments, was not defined in any book before that of «Gaber Ben Hayyan». The credit for discovering ammonia, gold wash, potassium, sulphuric acid and other poisons known to the Europeans goes to him. His books «The Seventy» and «Chemical compositions» were translated into Latin at the beginning of the 12th century. His books remained reference authorities for the Europeans until the end of the 17th century, when his book; «Consummation» was translation into French in 1672.

The Books of «Al-Razi» and «Gaber Ben Hayyan» were copied. The Europeans learnt from these books the division of chemical substances into botanical zoological and mineral; and the most accurate sub-divisions of minerals ever known in the middle ages. The European history was not so much effected by Arabs' mineral discoveries as by their discovery of gun-powder which the Europeans used in manufacturing war missiles and weapons.

In physics the Arabs defined the specifies gravity of a great number of substances and precious stones. They reproduced the Greeks' concept of gravity and the cause of weight. It consists in the concept that heavy bodies gravitate towards their original minerals lying in the center of the Earth, and that ethereal bodies gravitate towards their origin in the sky. But Al-Biruni was doubtful of this concept and put a question to Ibn Sina which implied his inclination to the belief that all ethereal bodies gravitate towards the center of the Earth. The question reads as follows : «which of the two propositions is correct : 1) that water and earth converge on the center whereas air and fire diverge from it, 2) All these elements converge on the center, but the heavier precedes the lighter in its convergence».

All those views had paved the way for Newton's discovery of the Law of Gravity and lying down the causes of weightiness on the modern scientific basis.

Al-Biruni has the credit of being the first scientist to study liquids in springs on land and up-hill, and the forces that govern their flow in equilibrium and on heights. The sons of Moussa Ben Shaker, authors of the Book «Tricks» which is considered an original reference in «mechanics» before its last evolution in the machine age, were devoted readers of these research-works in Arabic.

Although the research-works on alchemy before the 18th century were simple, the Arabs' books and treatises were considered the best references in those sciences by Europeans and non-Europeans. They collected the different ancient information on zoology and botany and expanded and added to it. They imported information from India, Chaldea, Greece and Anbath. They relied on observation in their country and outside their country. Dia' El- Din Al-Malqi, known as Ibn-Bitar, is a case in point. He was born at Malqa and toured the Islamic world. He went as far as the farthest end of the Roman Empire in quest of herbs and other plants. The Impeccable Ayoubi appointed him head of Herbalists in the Egyptian State. That post corresponded with actual combined functions of a botanist and pharmacologist. He wrote a book entitled «The singular cures». That book contained the selected information accumulated in his time on that point.

It is mentioned in the book «European Civilization Politically, Socially and Culturally» by the Professors of Philosophy James Westphal Tosson, Franklin Charles Bam and Fan Nostrand that, «Most of the Greek» legacy of science was copied in Arabic in about two centuries Cairo, Baghdad, Qairawan and Carthage became outstanding centers of science and its education, The Greco-Arab culture began to infiltrate into Western Europe by the end of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Its infiltration was not a result of the Crusades invasions. It actually moved from Sicily to Italy; from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain and thence to France Quick-witted people vied with each other in proceeding to Palermo and Toledo, to learn the Arab language and other branches of Arab science. The striking thing about these people was that they were mostly English nationals such as Edillard Of Bath, Daniel Of Murley, Roger of Hertford and Alexander Nickouam. Edillard Of Baths' treatise on physical questions was the first scientific work ever produced by Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Some students stayed many years in Spain they passed the rest of their lifetime in translating the Arabs' scientific books into Latin. Gerard of Crimona, who died in 1187, translated 71 different books of those works at the age of 73. Plato of Tiffoli was next to Gerard in the abundance of production. And in this way Europe had acquired all the Greco-Arab output of science.

Scientific education at the modern universities became established. The pre-eminent scientists in the age of English Friars (1292 1214) was Roger Bacon, and he was not less glorious than Albert the Great. Both of them taught at the University of Paris. The thirteenth century hardly turned its fifties when a collection of those different branches of knowledge was compiled in a big Book by Vincent Of Bovis, which he called «Mirror of Nature» That Book contained all the information that had been collected in that age about Medicine, Cosmology, Astronomy, Geography, the Atmosphere, the Strata of the Earth, Minerals, Animals, Anatomy, etc.

The significance of the effect of these cultural work on Europe is not limited to the enumeration of information collected; to how much information the Arabs had given to or taken from the Europeans. The important thing to notice is that the Europeans had taken over the torchlight of science from the Arabs. With it they dispelled their obscurity and in its light they have made great achievements in modern science. Had not the Arabs carried that torchlight Eastward and Westward, the Europeans would have encountered many great difficulties in rekindling it. And had they succeeded in rekindling it, its light would have hardly lasted for three centuries. Man would not have attained that glorious achievement which has taken tens of conturies of human labor to materialize.