Muslims And Their Contribution To Medical History History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Modern medicine is mostly credited to Western Civilization because it has been widely written about and taken up in loads of books and journals. Also, the Medical Schools and the universities in the West refer a lot to Westerners when they learn and teach about medicine and medical research. However, many of the ‘discoveries’ or findings in medicine should be attributed to Arabs or Muslims, from the Middle Eastern region. When Europe was in the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, before a revival there, the Arab world or the so-called Islamic Empire was actively involved with science and medicine. Later, these discoveries, which formed the basis of western medicine were glossed over and forgotten as if they never existed or that Muslims never played a significant role or contributed nothing. This paper aims to enlighten the readers and highlight the contributions of some Arab and Muslim physicians (Islam Tomorrow; Kaadan).
This essay will highlight different aspects of Muslim medicine. Firstly, it will look at the origins and influences of medicine. Secondly, the foundations of Muslim medicine will be discussed. Next, the translations and manuscript writing of Muslim medical scholars will be described. After that follows important Muslim Scholars. Then a look will be taken at an example of early Muslim hospitals and treatments and then the conclusion follows. After that there is a list of recommendations of how to acknowledge Muslim Contributions to Medicine.
Origins and Influences:
Islamic medicine has its origins and influences in different systems and from different time periods as well as different people and beliefs. One of the main influences can be traced back to its Arab origins, namely of the prophet Muhammad’s time. Then there are also the influences from the Greeks, India and Iranian physicians. Many of the medical basis and foundations of the old Greek and Roman periods, and famous physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen, had a profound influence on Islamic medicine ( Islam Tomorrow; Kaadan).
Foundations of Islamic Medicine:
Many of the origins of Islamic medicine goes back to the prophet Muhammad’s time. Many hadiths about medicine are to his credit. It has been reported that many successful treatments of diseases came about as a result of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) advice (Muslim Contribution). There are three distinct types of medicinal healing attributed to him: honey, Hijama (wet cupping) and cauterization. He was actually against the latter unless it would heal the complaint or disease. The main reason for this was connected to the pain to be endured. Besides physicians such as Hippocrates, Galen and Imhotep, Muhammad was credited with stating that there is always a cause and a cure for every disease. Many Hadiths talk about this: ” There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also created its treatment.” “The one who sent down the disease, sent down the remedy.” “For every disease, Allah has given a cure.”
It was due to the belief that there are many cures for diseases, that Muslims actively engaged themselves in medical research and studies and sought cures for known diseases. Many clerics (Imams) were involved in cure-seeking as they saw it as an extension of their duties in accordance with the Prophet’s teachings and advice (Al Ghazal; Muslim Contribution).
Medical Translations and Report Writing by Muslims:
We find that many Greek and other Roman Empire medical notes and findings were translated by Muslims. Despite this, Muslims did their own writings based on some of these and added their own knowledge, thus building up more reference works in medicine. With this, Muslims could treat more diseases and expand their knowledge. The translated Western works were translated into Arabic and the Muslim knowledge added to that. The end products landed in the Western part of Europe and so they learned more about Greek, other and Muslim medicine (Islam Tomorrow).
Important Muslim Physicians:
Despite the numerous Muslim doctors and physicians who all contributed to medicine, there are some who attained great heights. Following are two such leading figures.
Avicenna (Ibn Sina):
He is often regarded as the father of modern medicine. He was a great thinker and medical scholar in history. He wrote many manuscripts on medicine. One such great work of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) from Persia, was his “The Canon of Medicine” ,which was translated into Latin and then spread through Europe. Avicenna was the one who identified contagious diseases and advocated quarantine to prevent the spread of it (Okerson 2010; Pormann & Savage-Smith 2007).
Ibn Al Nafis (1213- 1288 A.D.)
After Avicenna, he is seen as another great scholar of medicine. Some even equate him with Avicenna, while other say he became and was bigger than Avicenna. He also wrote numerous manuscripts and medical volumes and would have written 300, if he did not die. He critically evaluated earlier medical notes and added his own knowledge and findings. His major contribution was about the blood circulatory system. His earlier knowledge was only re-discovered many years later in modern medicine (Vancouver Island University).
Hospitals and treatment in the Muslim World:
Many Muslim physicians set up places for treatments, which became forerunners for hospitals. Here they cared for the sickly and injured. These hospitals had trained staff in the form of doctors and nursing staff. They had normal wards and sections, to specialist divisions such as areas for insane patients.
A good example of such a hospital was the one in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptians were old medical people in ancient Egypt and knowledge was passed on through the ages. The ideas and examples of this hospital were exported to Europe via the Crusaders who came to this area. Later hospitals were built there based on this model. Unique to this hospital was the fact that it had female nursing staff (Pormann & Savage-Smith 2007).
The contributions of early Islam were very rich, voluminous and immensely varied that it overwhelms this brief descriptive essay. The early Muslims drew a lot on their old Islamic traditions , knowledge and religious beliefs. They were also enlightened by knowledge from other cultures such as Greece, Rome and India. They filtered ideas, did their own research, tested ideas and added new medical knowledge to existing ones. Great physicians and medical scholars came out of the ranks of Muslims and Arab countries, especially the Middle East (Ahmad 1997).
The Muslim discoveries are not the most important, but the methodology and thought and philosophy of the medicines and treatments. Most of these were inspired by the Muslim/Islamic faith and that of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Here the Quaranic faith and truth is of important value. These guidelines led to many cures of diseases and discoveries of new knowledge needed to address unknown ones. The true value of Muslim contributions to that of Modern Medicine need to be recognized so that the greatness of Muslim medical scholarly and knowledge of ancient times can be acknowledged and earn its rightful place in Modern Medical History today (Kadaan; Pormann & Savage-Smith 2007).
Because of the lack of knowledge of mostly some westerners as well as some Muslims in respect of the contribution of Muslims to the medical sciences, the following is recommended:
Students at Primary and High School levels should be exposed to Medical History, with an emphasis on Muslim contributions to the science and knowledge base.
At University level, especially in the Middle East and the West, History courses should also touch on the Muslim’s contribution to dispel any notion that all medical knowledge came from the ancient Greeks.
Hospitals in the Arab (Middle East) world should honor the Muslim contributions by spreading pamphlets with medical history on it, as well as put up some pictures of Muslims such as Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Ibn Al Nafis up on the walls.
Nursing Schools in the Middle East and Medical Schools should go out of their way to acknowledge the old masters and forerunners of Muslim medicine, and take note of their contributions to modern medicine.
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