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The Islamic Golden Age is an era dated from the 7th century to the 13th century when Muslim rulers established one of the largest empires in history. In this period, many contributions were made to scientific subjects like botany, astronomy, and most prominent, medicine. Without these contributions, many aspects of modern medicine wouldn’t be the same (Islamic Golden Age).
One of the most important centers for learning in the Islamic Golden was Baghdad. It was there that the Baghdad House of Wisdom was established. There, scholars would meet daily for discussion and translation. Many manuscripts and books in different scientific subjects were translated there (Al-Awazzi). “While medieval European medicine was still mired in superstitions and the rigid Catholic teachings of the Church, the advent of Islam in the 7th century A.D. gave rise to impressive growth and discoveries in many scientific fields, especially medicine.” Before the 12th century in Europe, there were few new discoveries in medicine.
The Church taught that disease was a punishment from God, so there was little doctors thought they could do (6 Important Islamic Advances in Medieval Medicine). The Quran, however, encouraged patients to seek treatment for diseases. Muslims were also open to using non-Muslim or pre-Islamic treatments and rituals (Taheri). New methods from the Islamic world became known to Europe in the 12th century, and Western medicine eventually moved forward. Ideas from Islamic doctors formed the basis of modern medicine (6 Important Islamic Advances in Medieval Medicine).
The Islamic Golden Age saw many advancements in medicine. A major contribution of this era to medicine was hospitals. These hospitals, as well as providing care to the sick on site, sent physicians and midwives into poor and rural areas, and also provided a place for doctors and others to study and research.
These hospitals varied, some serving the general public, while others provided specific services, such as caring for lepers, or the disabled (Shuttleworth). These hospitals also introduced many things we see in modern hospitals, such as separate wards for men and women, personal and institutional hygiene, medical records, and pharmacies (Majeed).During the Islamic Golden Age, many things were discovered about disease. For example, Muslim doctors were among the first to recognize smallpox and measles as different diseases, as well as diagnose diseases such as diphtheria, rabies, diabetes, etc. They also discovered the circulation of blood and the use of alcohol as an antiseptic.
Other contributions include surgical instruments and the use of corrosive sublimate, arsenic, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, saltpetre, and borax in the treatment of diseases (Ghani).Many modern surgical practices were first developed during the Islamic Golden Age. Ibn Sina, described as the “Father of Early Medicine”, was the first to consider the idea of oral anesthetics.
The method of using a sponge soaked in aromatics and narcotics, called the soporific sponge, was developed by the Arabs during this era, and is considered to be the precursor to modern anesthesiology. Sina’s description of how to surgically treat cancer is still in practice today. Surgeon Abu al-Qasim Khalaf Ibn Abbas al-Zahrawi introduced over 200 surgical tools, described hemophilia for the first time, and talks of the importance of studying anatomy before surgery, all in his book Al Tasrif (Syed).Without the many contributions of Muslim doctors, who knows where medicine would be today. Ideas that were developed in the 1950s could have seemed revolutionary in 2005.
Chemotherapy could have been non-existent. Or, medical teachings could still be rooted in the beliefs of the church. Thanks to Islam’s research in the field of medicine, we have the basis of modern medicine.
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