- Translation of Work from Other Languages
- Knowledge of Anatomy
- Optical Work
- Operation of Cataracts
- Structure of the Eyes
- Cesarean Operation
- Development of Hospitals
- Mobile Hospitals
- Medical Schools
Centuries before the advent of Islam the Arabs had their
medicine in the
of herb and shrubs
which was based on
and on their own experience. Gradually Greek medicine attracted
their attention. Harith
ibn Kaldah was the first to introduce Greek medicine e
Mu'awiya had some Greek and Egyptian books translated into Arabic during
the 'Umayyah period. But the science of medicine flourished during the
time of the Abbasids.
Initially, the Muslims made arrangements for
the translation of Greek, Indian, Persian and Chaldean medical works into Arabic, and thus received
medicine from these nations. Before they accepted
the information they extracted, they conducted research
in various branches in medicine to verify what they gathered
In addition, they made many valuable new
medical theory and practical. By combining their discoveries,
from other sources they evolved an entirely new system of medicine.
The Arabs had a fair knowledge of anatomy as it is
obvious from the names of the internal and external organs of the human and
animal bodies found in the literature of pre-Islamic Arabia. When they became acquainted
with the Greek anatomical descriptions, they made investigations on them, pointed
out many errors in the work of their predecessors, and made many new
discoveries in this field.
In order to verily the Greek anatomical ideas prevailing
at that time, Yuhanna ibn Masawaih made dissections of apes supplied to him by
the order of the 'Abbasi Khaleefah Mu'tasim Billah. After
this verification he composed his work on anatomy. The
works of some
physicians and surgeons, like Tashrili al-Mansuri by Mansur ibn Muhammad,
contain illustrations of human organs, which are not found in the Greek works.
These illustrations also throw light on the Muslims' practical knowledge
In the field of physiology the work of the Muslim
physicians is quite valuable. For instance, Ala al-Din Abu al-Hassan 'Ali
ibn Abi Hazm al Qarshi of Damascus explained the theory of the minor
circulation of blood three centuries before William Harvey, who is
credited with this discovery. Also, al-Qarshi suggested that food is fuel for
the maintenance of the body's heat. Abu al-Faraj 'Ali ibn al-Hussein held that
there are canals in the nerves through which sensations and movement
The contributions of Muslims in the field of
bacteriology are quite revolutionary. According to Browne,
Muslims were fully aware of the theory of germs. Ibn Sina was the first to state
that bodily secretions are contaminated by foul foreign earthly bodies before
getting the infection. Ibn Khatimah of the 14th century CE stated that man is
surrounded by minute bodies which enter the human body and cause disease. His observation
was made from the great plague that effected many parts of the world. Ibn
al-Khatib (1313 - 1375 CE), a Spanish physician, wrote a treatise called On
the Plague. His observation was:
"The existence of contagion is established by
experience, investigation, the evidence of the senses and
trustworthy reports. These facts constitute a sound argument. The
fact of infection becomes clear to the investigator who notices how he who
establishes contact with the afflicted gets the disease, whereas
he who is not in contact remains safe, and how transmission is affected
through garments, vessels and earrings."
Some Muslims also gave new suggestions regarding the
treatment of diseases. Abu ai-Hassan, the physician of'Adud al-Dawlah"
the process of bleeding as a treatment of cerebral hemorrhage which is often
due to blood pressure.
Al-Razi suggested nourishing food for the treatment of general
Muslim physicians were the first to use the stomach tube for the performance of
gastric lavage in the case of gas poisoning. They were fully aware of the
principles of phototherapy centuries before Browne Sequard, who is ascribed to
discovering this method of treatment.
Sa'id ibn Bishr ibn 'Abdus suggested light foods and
cold producing medicines for the treatment ofgeneral paralysis and facial
paralysis. Ibn al-Wafid gave emphasis upon the treatment of diseases through
food control. They discovered the treatment for epidemic jaundice and suggested
a reasonable quantity of opium as a treatment of mania. For epistaxis they
suggested the pouring of cold water on the head.
In the science of surgery there were also many
advancements made by Muslims. They introduced the cauterizing agents in
surgery. They were the first to apply the method of cooling to stop the
hemorrhage, and suture wounds with silken threads.
It cannot go unnoticed that one of the most famous and
eminent figure in Islamic medical field was Ibn Sina. It is
said that for a thousand years he has retained his original renown as one of
the greatest thinkers and medical scholars in history, His most important
medical works are the Qanun (Canon) and a treatise on cardiac drugs.
In the 11th century CE Ibn Zuhr gave a complete
description of the operation of tracheotomy, which was not mentioned by the
Greeks. Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi invented many surgical instruments illustrated
in his book Al- Tasrif. In the same book he described the methods of operations
for various diseases. While describing the operations of the skull and its
parts, the Muslim surgeons made a mention of operations of the uvula and
nasal cavity. They also used methods of tonsillectomy and paracentesis ofthe
The Muslim opticians did valuable and original work in
the treatment of eye diseases and surgery. Many of the surgical
principles formulated by Muslims are still utilized today. The method of
operation of cataracts was first described by them. They knew that cataracts
were due to the incapacity of the eye lens. Ibn al Haytham described the
structure of the eye and gave revolutionary ideas regarding the mechanism of
sight and describing various types of lenses.
The art of midwifery was highly developed by Muslims.
Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi invented the method of cranicolsy for the delivery of
dead fetus and applied it himself. A book entitled AI-Athar al-Baqiyyah in
the University of Edinburgh contains an illustration showing an Arab physician
performing cesarean operation.
During the time of'Umayyah rule, the Muslims developed
the institution Of hospitals. During the time of the 'Abbasi Khaleefah Harun
aI-Rasheed a hospital was built in Baghdad, which was the first in the history
of this city. Many new hospitals were established shortly afterwards. Some of them
had their own gardens in which the medicinal plants were Cultivated. The
large hospitals had medical schools attached to them. Besides such hospital
there were a large number of mobile hospitals in the Muslim world.
The Muslim hospitals served as models for the
hospitals established in different parts of Europe, particularly
in Italy and France during the 14th century CE due to the influence
of the Crusades. The Crusaders were inspired by the magnificent hospitals of the
Seljuq ruler Nur al-Dir, in Damascus and those of the Mamluk Sultan aI-Mansur
Qala'un in Cairo.