Why was medieval Islamic medicine important?

The Mansuri Hospital in Cairo, Egypt, was an important teaching hospital in medieval times.

The Mansuri Hospital in Cairo, Egypt, was an important teaching hospital in medieval times.

Medicine was important in the medieval Islamic world. Doctors and scholars wrote extensively on the topic and made significant discoveries about medicine and healing. Learn more in this article.

Source: Medieval Islamic medicine: Influences, thinkers, and anatomy

In medieval times, Islamic thinkers elaborated the theories of the ancient Greeks and made extensive medical discoveries.

There was a wide-ranging interest in health and disease, and Islamic doctors and scholars wrote extensively, developing complex literature on medication, clinical practice, diseases, cures, treatments, and diagnoses.

Often, in these medical texts, they incorporated theories relating to natural science, astrology, alchemy, religion, philosophy, and mathematics.

In the “General Prologue” to the “Canterbury Tales,” contemporary English poet Geoffrey Chaucer referred to the authorities of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya’ al-Razi, a Persian clinician (al-Razi), and Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina, (Avicenna) a renowned physician, among other Islamic polymaths.

In fact, Western doctors first learned of Greek medicine, including the works of Hippocrates and Galen, by reading Arabic translations.

Influences on Islamic medicine

Islamic medicine built upon the legacies of Greek and Roman physicians and scholars, including Galen, Hippocrates, and the Greek scholars of Alexandria and Egypt.

Scholars translated medical literature from Greek and Roman into Arabic and then elaborated upon it, adding their findings, developing new conclusions, and contributing new perspectives.

Islamic scholars expertly gathered data and ordered it so that people could easily understand and reference information through various texts.

They also summarized many Greek and Roman writings, compiling encyclopedias.

Rather than being a subject in its own right, medicine was part of medieval Islamic culture. Centers of learning grew out of famous mosques, and hospitals were often added at the same site. There, medical students could observe and learn from more experienced doctors.

From 661 to 750 C.E., during the Umayyad dynasty, people generally believed that God would provide treatment for every illness. By 900 C.E., many medieval Islamic communities had begun to develop and practice medical systems with scientific elements.

As interest in a scientific view of health grew, doctors searched for causes of illness and possible treatments and cures.

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