<Home> <Health-an Islamic Perspective> <Islamic Medicine> <The influence of islamic civilization on european civilization during the renaissance period in the field of medicine or its allied subject>












Prof. Dr. A. Mottaleb

The coming of Islam in the sixth century created faith and confidence in its followers and gave them a message of brotherhood and a measure of Democracy. They led great conquest and within the hundred years of the death of Prophet organized a Wonderful Kingdom from the East Coast of Arabian sea to the East Coast of Atlantic & developed a culture and civilization which stood as a marvel of the middle ages when the whole World and Europe was plunged into barbaric ignorance and rift alone held the torch of learning and civilization brightly shining which lighted the World upto 1650. Islam considered the religion of Science to be the Twin sisters and on the fundamental faith the glory of Islamic Science & Medicine flourished.

Among the ancients we do not find much science in Egypt, China and India, and just a bit of it in Greece and it was absent in Rome. The Arabs had the scientific spirit of enquiry and they may be considered to be the father of the Modern Science.

The main achievement of medieval Arabic Medicine and its influence on the European Medicine was in the field of:-

Development of Pharmacology.
Establishment of Surgery.
Establishment of Ophthalmology.
Building of Hospitals.

This can be said that the rise of Islam, one of the wonders of the world brought fundamental changes in faith, Philosophy, Politics, Economics, Arts and above all science and everything that is needed for civilized living for which there is no second example on the Earth. The wisdom of the other people were taken and the man educated in previous traditions when become Muslim fused their formal learning with the Ouranic Philosophy. Their contributions went into the general stream of Islamic thoughts and thus an autonomous Islamic culture and science took shape.

On the basis of this knowledge gained from others they made their own researches and made several important discoveries. These scientific activities took place allover the Islamic Empire but above all toward Baghdad the capital of Islam the eye of Iraq, the seat of empire, the centre of beauty culture and arts. The Arabs were great travelers, Historians and Writers (Al-Beruni, Ibne Batuta, etc.) which contributed in the flow of knowledge in the Islamic World. Supreme confidence and faith in himself the Prophet had which he left as heritage for his followers is evidenced by his invitations to the mighty emperors of Persia, Rome, Constantinapole and China to embress Islam.

Arabic Medicine began with translation from Greek and Syria created by ORIBASIOS AND PAULOS of Aegina. The Arabs took over the Galanic system, corrected it, improved it added new things to it until the European impact on it in the 19th century. When the chief works of Galen & Hippocratics were available in Arabic, the Christian lost their monopoly in Medicine & several Muslims reached such a stature in Medical science they stood for above their oredecessor and become greater than the Greatest -the Greeks.

The attitude of Europe to the Arabs & Islam was a contrast of fear and admiration coupled with acknowledgement of superiority. This was altered with the capture of Toledo in 1085, the conquest of Sicily in 1091 and fall of Jerusalem in Christian Cruseders in 1099. These events along with tread brough the Western Europe in contact with Islamic Civilization in Muslim Spain & in Palestine. There for the first time they realised that the Islamic culture & Science is far more superior that they ever seen before. So started the translation of Arabic science into Latin & on the foundation of which the Europe has developed the Modern science. Not Merely did Islam share with Western Europe many material product and technological discoveries; not merely did it stimulate Europe internationally in the fields of but it provoked Europe in the forming a new image of itself. According to Baron-Carra-de-Bany the writer of legacy of Islam concludes by saying that the Arabs have really achieved great things in science they taught the use of Arabic numerals and thus became famous of arithmetic in everyday life. They made Algebra & exact science and laid the foundation of analytical Geometry plans and spherical Trigonometry, which did not exit among the Greek. In Astronomy they made valuable contribution because they had to know the direction of Makkah. It was in fact in the sphere of Mathematics and Astronomy that the fast advances were made by the Arabs in Islam. They also made a considerable contribution and sea fearing and discovered the telescope and mariners compass. They talked well the art of gracious living in which the small things the shocks and kamizs were introduced by the Muslim thinkers which passed from Islamic World through Constantinapole to Europe. Of the Other Sciences contributed by the Arabs the most important was Al-Camy in the sense of Chemistry.

Jabir-Ibne-Haiyan was the most prominent among the chemists, several names for substances and chemical vessels have come into European languages from Jabir Corpus. The Arabs made a substantial contribution in the field of Botany, Zoology & Mineralogy and the best works were in Botany, Logic and Metaphysis also took a greater strive during the Islamic period. Imam Gazzali (R) and Ibne-Seena, Ibne-bajja, Musa-Ibne-Maymun were the top in logic, Metaphysis and Theology.

The Romans for the first time established Military Hospital for the treatment of soldiers but it took a complete shape during Islamic civilization. Hospitals were for the first time established in Europe in 13th century. The European hospitals were established in the imitation of Hospitals in Baghdad, Cordova and Damascus. There were about 60 hospitals in 1116 A.D. which started during the regime of Caliph Harun-or-Rashid. The Govt. bore all the expenses of treatment and feeding of the poor patients in the hospital. A fabulous hospital was established in Morocco in 13th century, which towered all of them during that time.

The administration of hospitals during Islamic civilization has little difference from the administration of hospital in Modern time. Every hospital had indoors and outdoors and indoor had separate arrangement for male and female patients. There were separate wards for different categories such as fevers, ophthalmia, dysentery and surgical cases.

The teaching in the hospital was similar as it is today; Medical examinations were conducted to the fitness of Medical students to become Physicians was established by Khalifa Moktadir in the year 931. The dresses of physicians were identified during the Abbaside regime and Ibnul Amig recommended a dress of the physician as such that it does not make the poor jealous and the rich does not dislike it. He recommended the use of white cloth by the physician, which is even used today.

Ali Ibne Rabban discussed about Physiology in 9th century. He described that blain, heart and liver are the main organs of human body and he described each in detail. He also thought that stomach, gall bladder, spleen and lungs are also necessary for maintenance of the normal physiology of the body in addition to brain, heart and liver.

Ali Ibne Abbas in 10th century had written his views on the function of the heart and lungs. He described the systole and diastole inspiration and expiration and capillary system.

Ibne-Seena for the first time in Medical history described the theory of bacteria and virus as the cause of the disease. He described the presence of bilirubin, albumin and serum in the blood. He gave a vivid description about ptyalin, Hcl, enzymes in intestines and their role in the process of digestion of food. Nobody for 200 years after him could add anything in addition to his descriptions

Ibnul Khatib in 14th century again postulated that bacteria and virus present in atmosphere are responsible for the cause of certain disease and he cited Plague as an example of this.

The progress of Anatomy during the Islamic periowas slowed down due to religious restriction on dissection of dead body and they followed the science of Galen in this aspect. Yu-Hanna during the regime of Calipha Al-Mansur dissected an ape and wrote a book on Anatomy, which was highly praised by the scientists of his time and scientists after him. Ibne-Seena also wrote a book on Anatomy in Bokhara in 11th century.

In 12th century Abdul Latif wrote a book on Anatomy at an age of 28 and he challenged some information of Galen on Anatomy to be not correct. He described the lower jaw bone is composed of only one single bone instead of two as described by Galen. Subsequently the Arab anatomist described that the skull is composed of 8 pieces of bones, which was described as 7 by Galen. Monsur Fobbe wrote another book on Anatomy on 14th century.

The Muslim scientist of Spain made a break through in the development of surgery. Abul Kasim of Cordova wrote a book on Surgery for the first time in the 10th century. Al-Razi also wrote a book in surgery in which he described Neuro-surgery, Hernia, Tumour and E.N.T. He recommended the use of goats intestine for stitching at the side of operation. Ali Ibne Abbas also wrote a book on surgery. He gave a vivid description on laryngotomy. Ibne Seena also wrote in detail about surgery. Abul Kasim for the first time established surgical treatment on scientific basis. His book was the first illustrated book in surgery.

Muslim physicians for the first time used devices of anaesthesia for operation on the patients. Ibne Seena recommended opium, latuce seed and belladonna for anaesthesia. He described application of cold water for the relief of pain. Alcohol was mixed with Dernel & water to produce annaesthesia.

Egyptian opium, liquorice extract and colchicum, suckrash in equal quantity mixed with water was used to produce sleep. Venesection as surgical treatment was used for the treatment of hypertension, cellulitis & intracranial haemorrhage.

During the 10th century Al- Razi used cautery as a surgical treatment which is still being maintained. He advised operation and cautery for cancer, physiotherapy for paralysis and cautery to stop bleeding and for gangrene. Both Ibne-Seena and Abul Kasim mentioned especially the use of cautery in their books.

Arab physicians used to treat fractures by using an ointment with immobilization and this was used by Abul Mansur in 10th century which he developed into plaster of Paris in 19th century in Europe.

Ibne Seena has given an illustrated description in the treatment of fracture. Al-Razi and Abul Kasim described the treatment of difficult diseases like fracture of pelvis, paraplegia & vertebral dislocation in their book.

Ibne Seena described the difference between tumour and cancer, which has remained unchanged even today. "Al-Razi recommended operation followed by cautery for the treatment of cancer. Abul Kasim is known to have operated the cancer in the chest. The operation by the Arabian physician in the peritoneum has remained unchanged even today. Peptic ulcer and intestinal ulcers were described by Ibne Seena, Al-Razi. Arab scientist in SIRAJ performed colostomy for the first time. Arabian physicians also treated hernia, hydrocele, urinary calculus by operations.

In 2nd century Rufus wrote a book on ophthalmology. In 10th century Ibnul Haisum for the first time proved that we can see the object because light from the object comes to the retina. Ali Abbas abd Ibne Seena wrote books on ophthalmology. They used the term retina and catarract and also described conjunctivitis, corneal ulcer, glaucoma, leucoma and night blindness.

Arab physicians also wrote books on Obstetrics and Gynaecology. First description of Caesarean Section is found in Shahanam written by Firdousi about the birth of Persian Hero Rustam. Al Ahnab Bin Kaies was also born by Caesarean Section. During the Islamic period the female doctors used to treat the Gynaecological diseases under the supervision of male surgeons. Cervical polyps and cervical atresia were treated by Arab Gynaecologist, which was described by Bahaud-Dowla.

There is no description of Obstetric in Greek Medicine. During the Islamic period Moschion Aetius and Paul described about obstetrics. Abul Kasim, Ibne Seena and Al-Jurgani wrote on obstetrics as an special subject.

Women were mostly engaged in obstetrical work. The daughter and grand daughter of Avenzoar during 1091 to 1162 were engaged in this profession. Abul Kasim Al-Zahrawi described about cranioplasty operation, in his book Kitabut Tasrif. He also described the use of forceps. He also described Walcher's position during delivery. Ibne Seena wrote in detail about pregnancy in his Qanoon in which he described about Dystocia. He described different procedure for delivery and advised the use of obstetrical forceps perhaps for the dead foetus. They also described about the induction of labour by use of instruments and medicines.

That the use of fillets and obstetrics forceps was first introduced by Arabs and not by the Europeans has been proved by William Smellie (1697-1763). Arab physicians especially Ibne-Seena described about teeth. He described that every tooth has at least one root, and two roots in the tooth of the lower jaw, and wisdom tooth has three roots. Upper teeth have got three roots ro counteract the action of gravitation. Abul Kasim described about the surgery of teeth. Arabian physician in Cordova suggested to apply false teeth from the bull after extraction of sick teeth. Mesu the junior, treated caries teeth by gold cap. He described the sympathetic pain in the disease of the teeth. They used Alcohol to wash wound and cold with ice to stop bleeding and Thermocautery and hot fomentation.

Ibne Seena used cannula for the examination of the Eye. He described lacrimal fistula and recommended daily dressing, which helped to heal the wound quickly. This lacrimal cannula ultimately lead the discovery of Syringe.


Because Europe was reacting against Islam and belittled the influence of Islam and exaggerated its dependence on its Greek and Roman Heritage. Today the mankind is moving into the era of the one World, therefore time has come for Europe to correct false emphasis and to acknowledge fully their debt to the Arab and Islamic world.


  1. "Science and the Renaissance". An introduction to the study of the
  2. emergency of the sciences the 16th century By WIGHTMAN, w.p.d.

  3. "Contributions of Moslems in science", part-VII, by M. ALI AKBAR.
  4. -do- part-VI.
  5. "Asian Medical System" A comparative study by CHARLES LESLIE.
  6. "The Influence of Islam on Modieval Europe", by W.MONTOGOMERY.
  7. "A syllabus of medical history", by FRED B. ROGERSOM.
  8. "Islamic surveys" by MANFRED ULLMAN.
  9. "Glimpses of world history" by JAWAHARLAL NEHRU.
  10. "History of Medicine" by I.H. HERMANN BAAS, M.D., volume-1.