Method of Therapy in Islamic Medicine

The patients were treated through a scheme starting with physiotherapy and diet; if this failed, drugs were used, and at last, surgery would be resorted to. The physiotherapy included exercises and water baths. The Arabs had an elaborate system of dieting and were aware of food deficiencies. Proper nutrition was an important item of treatment.

Drugs were divided into two groups: simple and compound drugs. They were aware of the interaction between drugs; thus, they used simple drugs first. If these failed, compound drugs were used which are made from two or more compounds. If these conservative measures failed, surgery was undertaken.

Medical Ethics in Islam

The medical profession was a well respected specialty and its Ieaders kept it this way by laying down proper ethics. Al-Tabari, the chief physician in 970 A.D., described the Islamic code of ethics as follows (Hamamch 1971, Levy 1967):

I. Personal characters of the physician:

The Physician ought to be modest, virtuous, merciful, and un addicted to liquor. He should wear clean clothes, be dignified, and have well- groomed hair and beard. He should not join the ungodly and scaffers, nor sit at their table. He should select his company to be persons of good reputation. He should be careful of what he says and should not hesitate to ask forgiveness if he has made an error. He should be forgiving and never seek revenge. He should be friendly and peacemaker. He should not make jokes or laugh at the improper time or place.

II. His obligation towards patients:

He should avoid predicting whether a patient will live or die, only God (Allah) knows. He ought not loose his temper when his patient keeps asking questions, but should answer gently and compassionately. He should treat alike the rich and the poor, the master and the servant, the powerful and the powerless, the elite and the illiterate. God will reward him if he helps the needy. The physician should not be late for his rounds or his house calls. He should be punctual and reliable.

He should not wrangle about his fees. If the patient is very ill or in an emergency, he should be thankful, no matter how much he is paid. He should not give drugs to a pregnant woman for an abortion unless necessary for the mother's health. If the physician prescribes a drug orally, he should make sure that the patient understands the name correctly, in case he would ask for the wrong drug and get worse instead of better. He should be decent towards women and should not divulge the secrets of his patients.

III. His obligation towards the community:

The physician should speak no evil of reputable men of the community or be critical of any one's religious belief.

IV. His obligations towards his colleagues:

The physician should speak well of his acquaintances and colleagues. He should not honor himself by shaming others. If another physician has been called to treat his patient, the family doctor should not criticize his colleague even if the diagnosis and the recommendations of the latter differ from his own. However, be has the obligation to explain what each point of view may lead to since his duty is to counsel the patient as best as he can. He must warn him that combining different types of therapy may be dangerous because the actions of different drugs may be incompatible and injurious.

V. His obligations towards his assistants:

If his subordinate does wrong, the physician should not rebuke him in front of others, but privately and cordially.

Islamic Physicians

Medicine in Islam passed through three stages:

I. The first stage is the stage of translation of foreign sources into Arabic. It extended mainly during the seventh and eighth centuries. II. The second stage is the stage of excellence and genuine contribution in which the Islamic physicians were the leaders and the source of new chapters to medicine. This stage extended during the ninth through the thirteenth centuries.

III. The third stage is the stage of decline where medicine, as well as other branches of science, became stagnant and deteriorated. The stage started mainly after the thirteenth century.

During the first stage, Syrian and Persian scholars did a marvelous job by translating honestly the ancient literature from Greek and Syriac in Arabic. Thcy translated different branches of science including philosophy astrology, and medicine. The works of Hippocratcs (460-370 BC), Aristototle (384-322 BC), and Galen (131-210 A.D.) were among those translated From Arabic, the classic Greek literature was translated into Latin, then into Greek because most of the original scripts were lost and the only source was the Arabic translation.

If the Arabs did only one thing, namely, preserving the ancient literature and handing it honestly to Europe, that would have been a sufficient contribution in itself. The Moslem rulers encouraged translation, e.g. Khalif Al-Mamun Al-Abbassi paid the translator the weight of his translation in gold (Haddad 1942). Among the eminent physicians who took part in the first stage were Jurjis lbn-Bakhtisliu, his grandson Jibril, Yuhanna Ibn-Masawaya, and Hunain Ibn-Ishak; most of them were Christians, yet they were respected and well treated by the Moslem rulers.

It is said, rightly or wrongly, that the history of a nation is the sum total of the history of a few of its individuals. Ths is particularly true in the history of medicine during the Arab period. In every stage of its development we find men of outstanding repute, the sum total of whose efforts has constituted this magnificent chapter. It is impossible to give an account of all the important physicians of Islwn.

We thus are going to discuss some of those who were known to Medieval Europe and whose books affected its thinking and practice for centuries (Table 1), I chose an internist, Al-Razi (Razes); a surgeon, Al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis); the physician-philosopher of Islam, Ibn-Sina (Avicenna); the philosopher-physician of Islam, Ibn-Rushd (Averroes); a pioneer in physiology, Ibn-Al-Nafis; and a Jewish Arab, Ibn- Maimon (Maimonides).