Published 2002

Hunayn Ibn Ishaq systemized and defined the life sciences and devised practical concepts and procedures for study, experimentation, and practice. He wrote al-Masa’il fi at-tibb, Introduction to Healing Art. As a result of this book, the medicopharmacetical branches of science were further developed.

Hunayn with a Patient

Introduction to Healing Art was the manual used by examiners to approve physicians licensing for practice from the 8th to the 14th century. The book was translated into Latin and was widely used in Europe. Hunayn then wrote Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics) and ten treaties on anatomy, physiology, and treatment of the eye. These treaties became the first systematic and organized Arabic texts on the earliest known anatomical charts.

Anatomy and Discectomy of a Horse

Muslim surgeons were among the first to use narcotic and seductive drugs in operations. Islam teaches that God has provided human beings with a great variety of natural remedies to cure the ills. It is man’s obligation to identify them and to use them with skill and compassion.

Al Majusi (died 994) is considered the first theorist on anatomy and physiology in Arabic medicine. His Liber Regius was the first Islamic work to deal with surgery in detail and he was the first to use the tourniquet to prevent arterial bleeding.

Ibn al-Haytham in his book, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics) draws the diagram of the Eyes and the related nerves in the 11th century.

Al- Zahrawi of Moorish Spain (940-1013) wrote an encyclopedia, at-Tasrif which deals with obstetrics, pediatrics, and midwifery, as well as with general human anatomy. His latest treaties were devoted to surgery, including cautery.

Ibn an-Nafis (1210-1288) gave the most comprehensive description of surgical operations and treatment of bodily injuries ever contained in any Arabic test of its kind. He explained the function of the capillaries, the minute blood passages that connect arteries and veins and the action of cordial valves in the veins and the heart chambers. We are also indebted to him for making the first appeal for uniformity of standards of weights and measures used in medicine, pharmacy, and surgery.

The opening page of one
of Ibn al-Nafis’s medical

Ibn an-Nafis also worked on the correct anatomy of the lungs and was the first person known to record the coronary circulation, the vessels supplying blood to the heart itself. “The nourishment of the heart is from the blood that goes through the vessels that permeate the body of the heart.”

Ibn al-Nafis’s work was based on extensive work and study of anatomy but the significance of his ideas were not really understood even in his own country and was probably unknown by physicians in western countries. Around 300 years after his original writings, some of Ibn al-Nafis’s work was translated into Latin by Andrea Alpago of Belluno in 1547. His important observations then became available in Europe shortly before some European scientists and doctors began to make the same discoveries.

Minor circulation of the blood
according to ibn an-Nafis

A coincidence or not, it was only in the 20th century that his work was brought to light again and people became aware of how early he had reached his conclusions on the workings of the heart and that some “borrowing” of ideas may have occurred.

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