I’ve been very interested in physicians who have influenced medicine who weren’t from the ‘traditional’ Western physician background; there have been many pioneering doctors who didn’t study in Greece or Europe! Today, I will explore the influence of Arab Physicians and how their influence led to Europe’s own medical renaissance. Enjoy!

Arab scholars developed techniques like distillation, crystallization and the use of alcohol as an antiseptic which are all still used today [1]. Before the Islamic era, medical care was taken care of my religious institutions like by priests in sanatoriums but Arabian hospitals introduced ideas like having separate wards for men and women, personal and institutional hygiene, having medical records and pharmacies.

A fact that really demonstrates how European doctors have been placed on a pedestal is that in the 13th century, Ibn Al-Nafis described the circulation of blood more than 300 years before William Harvey did. With this knowledge has history been rewritten? Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi, who was a surgeon and a pathologist, wrote the book Tasrif which was translated into Latin and used in European universities in the later medieval ages [1] and described congenital diseases as well surgical catgut sutures. Another physician, Kitab Al- Mansuri published on measles and smallpox and his texts continued to be printed well into the 19th century- this guy was born in 865.

Ibna Sina, known as the ‘prince of physicians’ wrote the ‘Canon of Medicine’ which was the final authority in Europe for centuries [1]. He made many contributions but his greatest was in the philosophy of medicine, developing what is now called holistic medicine- the treatment of the whole person not just the illness but also the mental and social factors involved.

Eventually, the Arabs went into decline due to new powers like the Mongols and their devastation of Arab cities like Bagdad in 1258. Civil conflict and colonisation of Islamic cities by Spain – the last Islamic state in Spain , Granada, was exiled to North Africa in 1492 [1] which stopped the flow of Arabian ideas and technology into the West.

So, why have these contributions been forgotten about? Even though these developments were a long time ago, without their influence, the Western world would look very different today. Do you think these advancements should be put into school curriculums? Tell me in the comments.

On a personal note, I think that if the participation of mostly Muslim states was honoured in today’s society, it would be a conflict of interest for the governments that rely on the media publishing full page articles on terrorist scares and only a tiny paragraph on US air strikes in the Middle East, killing three times the civilians than in the terrors in Britain for example. It would be brilliant for everyone who deserves it to be honoured in modern society but are honest enough to honour our ‘enemies’?

Another thought- was this moment where Arab/ Islamic was separated from the West in a dividing way that lives on today in political conflict that costs lives today?

Sources

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1322233/

If you want to read more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_in_the_medieval_Islamic_world

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