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 The Contribution of Islamic Civilization to Medicine    by Farid Sami Haddad (MD, FACS)

(This paper was presented by Dr. Farid Sami Haddad at an international conference on Islamic Medicine, organised by the International Institute of Islamic Medicine at Orlando, Florida (USA) on March 14-16, 1995. After the conference, Dr Haddad kindly gave me a copy of his paper, which is reproduced here with grateful acknowledgement to him and to the International Institute of Islamic Medicine. Professor A. R. Momin)

The Islamic era started with the hijra of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in 622 AD and, for the topic under discussion, ended in 1492 AD, which coincided with the fall of Granada and also with the voyage of Columbus in search of the New World. The Islamic era under consideration therefore spans 870 years. The most remarkable medical contributions by Muslim scientists and physicians were made between 800 AD and 1400 AD.

Up to 1200 AD, there lived at least 400 famous physicians, who wrote a large number of medical books (at least 4,000 according to my estimation). These books were all written in Arabic. For nine centuries, Arabic replaced Greek as the medium of international communication and became the universal language of science and medicine. During the Islamic era, anyone who aspired to become a physician had to learn the Arabic language because all the physicians (whether Muslims, Christians or Jews) wrote their books in Arabic. For example, the Christian Hunayn ibn Ishaq (Johannitus), the Persian Al-Razi and the Spaniard rabbi Ibn Maymun (Maimonides) wrote in Arabic. Just as young physicians from all parts of the world today flock today to the USA to pursue medical education, young physicians in the Islamic era flocked to Baghdad, Cairo or Damascus in pursuit of medical education and training. Even in the later centuries, anyone aspiring to become a physician had to acquire a certain proficiency in Arabic. We know, for example, that the Belgian Vesalius (1514-1564) and the Englishman William Harvey (1578-1657) had to learn Arabic in order to delve into the treasures of Arabic medicine.

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