Islamic Medicine: Introduction

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member

It gives me great joy to present this book "Islamic Medicine" to the reader. This is a compilation of articles published in the Journal of Islamic Medical Association over the last several years on the art, science and history of Islamic Medicine, to which I have added a few articles of mine.

What prompted me to compile this book was a paragraph I read in the new book on History of Medicine (by Lyons and Pettrollis, published by Abrahams) which starts the chapter on Islamic Medicine as "Arabic Medicine." Many have characterized Muslim contributions as principally of preservation and compilation. As one historian commented, "Certainly they (Muslim Physicians) contributed no original novel ideas to develop Hippocratic thought; but in a period of unrest (the dark ages) they were preservers of knowledge."

While growing up as a young student of science, I was taught in high school to college, all the contributions of western scientists from Newton to Einstein but was never told about contributions of early Muslim scientists in the field of chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, and so on. Similarly in the five year curriculum of medicine that I underwent while studying medicine in a Muslim country, I never had even a single lecture about contributions of Muslims in the science of Medicine.

Thus I compiled these articles in the form of a book, so that it can be used by Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. The chronology of arrangements of these articles is my own as I thought the best. The book deals not only with history, but also with the art of Islamic Medicine. I have extended the book to include articles on how principles of Islam apply to the modern Science including Medical Ethics. I thank the authors and the publishers for making this successful. I am also grateful to Hakim Mohammed Said for his valuable advice and for writing the preface for this book.


Muslims raised the dignity of the medical profession from that of a menial calling to the rank of one of the learned professions. They were the first to introduce systematically in their medical writings small-pox and measles, the treatment of cerebral hemorrhage and apoplexy, allergy, tracheotomy, operation for cataract, paediatrics, anaesthesia and many other specialities on which thousands of books have been written. Islamic medicine has been nurtured by Muslims in the light of the Quranic edicts and Prophetic directions which led the scholars of mysticism and spiritualism to the determination between the Nature and the bodies and between the material and the spiritual worlds.

Among the articles of faith the highest degree of importance has been accorded to belief in Allah, after - life, and the Day of Judgement. These are at the very base of ethical conduct, maintenance of eminence in behaviour in worldly affairs, and civilized deportment. Faith exercises a very deep effect upon the spirit and the body of man. Materialistic attitudes have been dominant on man for centuries with such an intensity that the voice of those who have reached to the core of the matter has been subdued. Disease in fact is the result of the dissociation of the harmony between the body and the spirit, and Faith is the exactitude which is extremely effective in keeping this harmony intact through its belief in Tawhid and unity of thought. Natural healing thus comes through Faith and Tawhid is another distinctive aspect of Islamic medicine as mentioned in the Quran:

'O mankind! there hath come

To you a direction from your Lord

And a healing for the (disease)
In your hearts, - and for those
Who believe, a Guidance
And a Mercy" (X:57)

Say: "In the Bounty of Allah,
And in His Mercy, - in that
Let them rejoice": that is better Than the (wealth) they hoard (X:58)

Medicines are gifts from Nature. These were used by the Prophets themselves and they told others to use them. The Holy Prophet (many benedictions be ever upon him) has said:

" Allah has not created a disease
whose cure He has not prescribed."

The collection of essays by Dr. Shahid Athar on following pages comprises greater part of Islamic Medical Ethics whereas, it also deals with therapeutics, philosophy, spiritual healing and psychology, the articles being contributed by the scholars of international repute. The Muslim researchers an students who are the inhabitants of European and American countries and especially of medical universities and college are becoming more self-conscious about their Islamic perspective, this trend is likely to continue. And if it happens steadily, the works like "Islamic Medicine - collection of Essays" will help understand at large the Islamic medical psychology, the ethics, the concepts regarding sickness, suffering and destiny that exists in the Muslim mind and the world.

The Oath of a Muslim Physician

Praise be to Allah (God), the Teacher, the Unique, Majesty of the heavens, the Exalted, the Glorious, Glory be to Him, the Eternal Being Who created the Universe and all the creatures within, and the only Being Who contained the infinity and the eternity. We serve no other god besides Thee and regard idolatry as an abominable injustice.

Give us the strength to be truthful, honest, modest, merciful and objective.
Give us the fortitude to admit our mistakes, to amend our ways and to forgive the wrongs of others.
Give us the wisdom to comfort and counsel all towards peace and harmony.
Give us the understanding that ours is a profession sacred that deals with your most precious gifts of life and intellect.
Therefore, make us worthy of this favoured station with honor, dignity and piety so that we may devote our lives in serving mankind, poor or rich, literate or illiterate, Muslim or non-Muslim, black or white with patience and tolerance with virtue and reverence, with knowledge and vigilance, with Thy love in our hearts and compassion for Thy servants, Thy most precious creation.
Hereby we take this oath in Thy name, the Creator of all the Heavens and the earth and follow Thy counsel as Thou has revealed to Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
"Whoever killeth a human being, not in liew of another human being nor because of mischief on earth, it is as if he hath killed all mankind. And if he saveth a human life, he hath saved the life of all mankind." (Qur'an V/35)


  • The physician should be amongst those who believe in God, fulfill His rights, are aware of His greatness. obedient to His orders, refraining from his prohibitions, and observing Him in secret and in public.
  • The physician should be endowed with wisdom and graceful admonition. He should be, cheering not dispiriting, smiling and not frowning, loving and not hateful, tolerant and not edgy. He should never succumb to a grudge or fall short of clemency. He should be an instrument of God's justice, forgiveness and not punishment, coverage and not exposure.
  • He should be so tranquil as never to be rash even when he is right.. Chaste of words even when joking.. tame of voice and not noisy or loud, neat and trim and not shabby or unkempt.. conducive of trust and inspiring of respect.. well mannered in his dealings with the poor or rich, modest or great.. in perfect control of his composure.. and never compromising his dignity, however modest and forbearing.
  • The physician should firmly know that 'life' is God's.. awarded only by Him.. and that 'Death' is the conclusion of one life and the beginning of another. Death is a solid truth.. and it is the end of all but God. In his profession the physician is a solidier for "Life" only.. defending and preserving it as best as it can be, to the best of his ability.
  • The Physician should offer the good example by caring for his own health. It is not befitting for his that his "do's" and "don't's" are not observed primarily by himself He should not turn his back on the lessons of medical progress, because he will never convince his patients unless they see the evidence of his won conviction.. God addresses us in the "Quran" by saying, "and make not your own hands throw you into destruction". "The Prophet says" Your body has a right on you".. and the known dictum is "no harm or harming in Islam".
  • The Physician is truthful whenever he speaks, writes or gives testimony. He should be invincible to the dictates of creed, greed. friendship or authority pressurizing him to make a statement or testimony that he knows it false. Testimony is a grave responsibility in Islam. The Prophet once asked his companions. "shall I tell you. about the gravest sins?" When they said yes, he said "claiming partners with God, being undutiful to one's parents.. "and, after a short pause he repeatedly said "and indeed the giving of false talk or false testimony."
  • The Physician should be in possession of a threshold-knowledge of jurisprudence, worship and essentials of Fiqh enabling him to give counsel to patient seeking his guidance about health and bodily conditions with a bearing of the rites of worship. Men and women are subject to symptoms, ailments or biological situations like pregnancy and would wish to know the religious ruling pertaining to prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, family planning, etc.
  • Although 'necessity overrides prohibition' the Muslim Physician-nevertheless-should spare no effort in avoiding the recourse to medicines or ways of therapy be they surgical, medical or behavioral that are prohibited by Islam.
  • The role of Physician is that of a catalyst through whom God, the Creator, works to preserve life and health. He is merely an instrument of God in alleviating people's illness. For being so designated the physician should be grateful and forever seeking God's help. He should be modest, free from arrogance and pride and never fall into boasting or hint at self glorification through speech, writing or direct or subtle advertisement.
  • The Physician should strive to keep abreast Scientific progress and innovation. His zeal or complacency and knowledge or ignorance, directly bear on the health and well- being of his patients. Responsibility for others should limit his freedom to expend his time. As the poor and needy have a recognized right in the money of the capable, so the patients own a share of the Doctor's time spent in study and in following the progress of medicine.
  • The physician should also know that the pursuit of knowledge has a double indication in Islam. Apart from the applied therapeutic aspect, pursuit of knowledge is in itself worship, according to the Qoranic guidance, "And say .. My Lord .. advance me in knowledge" and "Among His worshippers.. the learned fear Him most".. and "God will raise up the ranks of those of you who believed and Thos who have been given knowledge."
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