Book on the Art of Medicine by Ibn Al-Nafis>
COMPREHENSIVE BOOK ON THE ART OF MEDICINE BY IBNAL-NAFIS
Albert Zaki Iskandar,
of medicine do not know the exact date of birth of Ala al-Din Abu'l-Hasan
Ali Ibn Abi'l-Hazm al-Qurashi, known as Ibn al-Nafis.1 His name
'Ibn Abi'l-Hazm' is recorded in many sources. Some historians, however,
claim that they have read 'Ibn Abi'l-Haram'.2 One may find some
justification for their claim: Ibn al-Nafis, like many other authors,
did not place the diacritical points carefully on the letter, as is shown
in his autograph of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine.
The thirty-third volume of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine,
written by Ali Ibn Abi'l haram (sic) al-Qurashi, who is in need of Allah
the exalted; may Allah forgive him..."3.
Treatise on plants: the forty-second volume of the Comprehensive Book
on the Art of Medicine, written by Ali Ibn Abi'I-Haram (sic) al-Qurashi,
who is need of Allah the exalted; may Allah forgive him..." 4.
the above two extracts, Ibn al-Nafis had neglected to place the diacritical
points in each of the following words: kitab, al-sinaa, al-tibbiyya, al-Hazm,
maqala, al-nabat, kitab, al-tibbiyya, taala, and Ibn Abi'l-Hazm."
evidence that his name is Ibn Abi'l-Hazm (with a fatha on the letter ha
and a sukun on the letter zay) is derived from his own handwriting:
He wrote his name with the diacritical points and vowels clearly placed,
in an ijaza which he had recorded t the end of his well-known book Commentary
on Hippocrates 'Book 'Nature of Man'. This ijaza (testimony) runs
eminent Shaykh, physician-philosopher, Shams al-Dawla Abu'l-Fadl Ibn al-Shaykh
Abi'l-Hasan al-Masihi, may Allah grant him eternal happiness, discussed
with me all the contents of this book of mine, which contains my commentary
on the book of the leader Hippocrates, that is his book known as Nature
of Man. This discussion has revealed the clarity of his mind and the straightforwardness
of his thought; may Allah the exalted [help] him to make use [of my book]
and render him useful [to mankind]; and so writes cAli Ibn Abi'l-Hazm
al-Qurashi, a practitioner, who is in need of Allah the exalted. Praise
be to Allah for His graces; may He bless His best Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh
) and his people; twenty-ninth Jumada of the year six hundred and sixty-eight."5
the colophon of Ibn al-Nafis' Commentary on Hippocrates' 'Nature of Man',
in this particular manuscript, the' following note by the copyist reveals
that he had copied directly from Ibn al-Nafis' own autograph
[Transcription of] this book has been completed -from a copy in the author's
own handwriting -may his life be prolonged ala manzilat al-lubuna [sic],
on fourth Rabi of the year six hundred and sixty-eight.
was written as an exhortation to myself: Abu'l-Fadl Ibn Abi'l-Hasan al-Katib,
al-Nafis was a great physician and a prolific author. He was also a famous
jurist. This paper merely presents extracts from his Comprehensive Book
on the Art of Medicine.
al-Nafis studied medicine in Damascus, at the Great Nuri hospital, which
was founded by Prince Nur al-Din Mahmud Ibn Zanki in the sixth century
A.H. / twelfth century A.D. 7 Muhadhdhab al-Din Abd al-Rahim Ibn
Ali al-Dakhwar (d. A.H. 628 / A.D. 1230) was one of Ibn al-Nafis' teachers
in Damascus.8 Another pupil of al-Dakhwar, also in Damascus, was Muwaffaq
al-Din Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn Qasim Ibn Khalifa al-Khazraji, better known
as Ibn Abi Usaybia (d. A.H. 668 / A.O. 1270).9 It has been established
that Abu'l -Faraj Ibn Yacqub Ibn Ishaq Ibn al-Quff Amin al-Oawla al-Karaki
(d. A.H. 685 / A.O. 1286) studied medicine under both of Ibn al-Nafis
10 and Ibn Abi Usaybia 11. It is therefore surprising that Ibn Abi
Usaybia should fail to include a biography of Ibn al-Nafis in his well-known
book: Uyun al-anba fi tabaqat al-atibba . The short account which is to
be found at the end of uyun al-anba , only in one manuscript (at the Zahiriyya
Library, Damascus),12 seems to have been written at a later date, and
in the past tense. This also shows that the writer of Ibn al-Nafis' biography
was not a contemporary of Ibn al-Nafis. It is very likely that a former
owner of this Zahiriyya manuscript had recorded the biography of Ibn al-Nafis
in order to make his own copy more useful. He made a mistake in mentioning
the nisba of Ibn al-Nafis as follows:'... al-Qarashi, with a fatha on
the letter qaf and a fatha on the letter from a village near Damascus...'13
al-Nafis was a private physician to the Mamluk ruler al-Zahir Baybars
al-Bunduqdari (fegnabat A.H. 658 / A.O. 1260-1277), 14 who appointed Ibn
al-Nafis as 'Chief of physicians', and eventually gave him 'authority
on all physicians in Egypt'. This post was not merely honorific but vested
him with full authority to punish practitioners for any slips due to carelessness.
far students of Arabic medicine have not found evidence from manuscripts
that would connect Ibn al-Nafis' name with the Nasiri hospital of Egypt,
which is also called the Old hospital, that was founded in A.H. 577 /
A.D. 1181 by the King al-Nasir Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin, fegnabat
A.H. 564- -589/ A.D. 1169-1193).16 It is worth mentioning that Ibn Abi
Usaybia was an oculist at that hospital during the one year (A.H.634 /
A.D. 1236-1237) he had spent in Egypt. 17 When Ibn al-Nafis retired, due
to old age, he bequeathed his house and private library -which was full
of his own written works -to Dar al-shifa (House of recovery)18, also
called Qalawun hospital or al-Mansuri hospital 19, after the name of its
founder in A.H. 683 / A.O. 1284, the Mamluk al-Mansur Sayf al-Oin Qalawun
al-Alfi (fegnabat A.H. 678-689 / A.O. 1279-1290), 20 I have already published
a list of Ibn al-Nafis' medical writings, and referred to the manuscript-numbers
of some of his books that are extant in different libraries all over the
addition to practising medicine, Ibn al-Nafis lectured on fiqh Jurisprudence)
at al-Masruriyya school, 22 founded by the eunuch Masrur Shams al-khawasi
of the Court of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi .23 Ibn al-Nafis also wrote a book
on the principles of jurisprudence, entitled Shafh al-tanbih, being a
commentary on al-Tanbih fi'l-fiqh of al-Firuzabadi (d. A.H. 476/ A.D.
1083).25 The inclusion of Ibn al-Nafis' name in the Tabaqat al-Shafiiyyin
al-Kubra 26 of al-Subki (d. A.H. 771 / A.D 1370) indicates his eminence
in religious law.
Ibn al-Nafis wrote al-Risala al-Kamiliyya fi'l-Sira al-Nabawiyya, known
by the title Fadil Ibn Natiq, a counterpart to Ibn Tufayl's (d. A.G. 581
/ A.D. 1185) 28 Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. In al-Risala al-Kamiliyya; Ibn al-Nafis
contemplated the creation of a human being within a cave in an uninhabited
island, in a way similar to that of the emergence of a chich from an egg.
The four elements: air, water, earth and fire are acted upon by the four
quaiities: the hot, the cold, the dry and the wet, and result in the spontaneous
generation of man. Ibn al-Nafis' purpose in writing this book is to show
the ability of such an isolated man to discover the sciences and wisdom,
then to know about the prophecies, the noble conduct of the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) and the legal customs.
this paper I give a short reference to Ibn al-Nafis' great discovery of
the pulmonary circulation.29 It is not at all important whether
his great discovery was the result of practising anatomy or using the
method of speculation and the correct method of scientific thinking. What
concerns us, as historians of Arabic Islamic medicine, is that Ibn al-Nafis
had discovered the pulmonary circulation, thus defying the doctrines of
Galen himself. Moreover, this discovery of Ibn al-Nafis took place at
least forty-seven lunar years (forty-six calendar years) before his death.
I have found the pulmonary circulation in a copy of Ibn al-Nafis' Sharh
tashrih al-qanun Ibn Sina (Commentary on anatomy in Ibn Sina's 'Canon'),
in MS Ar. 80 (at the University of California, Los Angeles) 30, dated
25th Jumada 640 / 20th November 1242. I have also provided evidence that
some Arab physicians had accepted Ibn al-Nafis' blood circulation, since
I found it recorded in Sharh al-qanun (Commentary on [Ibn Sina's] 'Canon')
by Sadid al-Din Muhammad Ibn Mascud al-Kazaruni, who completed his commentary
in A.H. 745/ A.D. 1344.31 A few years later, the same pulmonary circulation
was also recorded in Ali Ibn Abdallah Zayn al-Arab al-Misri's Sharh al-qanun
(completed in A.H. 751/ A.D. 1350). 32 As to the accounts of Servetus
(d. A.D. 1553) 33 and Colombo (d. A.D. 1559),:14 these were recorded more
than three centuries later than Ibn al-Nafis' discovery. Historians of
medicine should, in fact, look for a satisfactory answer to the following
question: Did the Latin West have access to Ibn al-Nafis' pulmonary circulation?
It is a well-known fact that Andrea Alpago of Belluno (d. A.D. 1520) had
lived in Syria for about thirty years, during which he had actively collected
and translated Arabic medical heritage. He translated into Latin Ibn al-Nafis'
Sharh al-adwiya al-murakkaba (Commentary on compound drugs), printed in
Venice (1547), which is a part of Ibn al-Nafis' Sharh al-qanun lbn Sina
(Commentary on Ibn Sina's 'Canon'). On folios 24 verso to 30 recto of
Alpago's book, which I mention in the following marginal note, the author
gives some information concerning Galen's doctrines on the heart and the
blood vessels, and adds Ibn al-Nafis' criticism of these doctrines. 35
COMPREHENSIVE BOOK ON THE
ART OF MEDICINE
his book al-Wafi bi'l-Wafayat, Khalili Ibn Aybak al-Safadi writes that
Ibn al-Nafis "is the author of the Comprehensive Book on the Art
of Medicine. According to its index, it consists of three hundred
volumes.. out of which eighty volumes were writeen neatly by him.
These are now (extant), by religious bequest, in the Mansuri hospital
in Cairo." 36 This statement of al-Safadi is also supported
by al-Subki, who writes in his book Tabaqat al-Shafiiyyin al-kubra that
Ibn al-Nafis "wrote on medicine, besides what we have already mentioned,
a book entitled the 'Comprehensive (Book)', said to have consisted of
three hundred volumes had it been finished; out of these eighty volumes
were completed." 37
N.Heer made an interesting study of this book: 38 , and published an article
in which he listed its contents and gave references to some manuscripts
of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine extant in Public libraries.39
In his paper, he mentions MS Z 276 (at the Lane Medical library, Stanford
University, California). All this manuscript is in Ibn al-Nafis' handwriting.
It contains the thirty-third, the forty-second, and the forty-third volumes
of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine. Some folios of this
manuscript are possibly misplaced. It also seems that there are gaps in
the text. (I have transcribed a large section of this manuscript).
In practising medicine, Ibn al-Nafis preferred the Hippocratic method
to the methods of other physicians. He wrote interesting commentaries
on some Hippocratic books,40 but he did not write commentaries on any
of Galen's works. Ibn al-Nafis' discovery of the pulmonary circulation
was by way of criticism of Galen's doctrines.41 In a section devoted to
surgery, in the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine, Ibn al-Nafis
selects some subject-matter from the Hippocratic book, In the Surgery,
42 then he clarifies the selected excerpts through his detailed commentary
al-Nafis believes that for the success of any surgical operation, full
attention should be paid during three stages: In the first stage, which
he calls the 'time of presentation', the surgeon diagnoses the affected
place. It is called the 'time of presentation' because the patient submits
his body to the surgeon, to deal with it in the way he sees right. In
the second stage, which he calls the 'time of operative treatment', the
surgeon repairs the affected organs. The third stage, called the 'time
of preservation', refers to the post-surgical care, a phase during which
the patient should take good care of himself. It is also the duty of the
nurses and servants to watch over the patient during this period, until
he recovers, by the will of God the exalted. For each of these three stages,
Ibn al-Nafis gives a detailed record of the role of each of the surgeon,
the patient, and the nurses. He also gives a detailed description of the
manipulation of surgical instruments, how these should be properly maintained,
and the like. Ibn Sina had some influence on Ibn al-Nafis: this is apparent
from the logical way of presentation of subject-matter in the Comprehensive
Book on the Art of Medicine. Following are: the first five fusul, of the
third ta'lim, of the third kitab, of the first namat, of the second juz
, of the second fann, of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine.
It is edited here, for the first time, from the autograph of Ibn al-Nafis:
Medical Library, Stanford Univeristy, MS Z 276, fols. lb, line 1-fol.
7a, line 11 (see Photographic Plate, no.3)
the name of Allah the merciful, the compassionate; from Him I have succour,
and on Him I rely: The third kitab of the first namat of the second juz
of the second fann of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine.
this book, our purpose is to discuss the kind of treatment that is called
surgery. It consists of three ta'lim. The first ta'lim is concerned with
the general and absolute principles of surgery; the second ta'lim is concerned
with surgical instruments; and the third ta'lim examines the types of
surgical operations, one by one.
first talim, which is concerned with the general principles of surgery,
comprises twenty chapters.
I - On the different stages of surgical operations, and the role of
the patient in each stage.
II - On the role of the physician during the time of presentation',
the 'time of operative treatment', and the 'time of preservation'.
III - On a detailed discussion of the role of the physician during the
'time of presentation
IV - On relating the things to which the physician should pay attention
during the 'time of operative treatment'.
V - On the patient's posture during surgical treatment.
more information, click here