It has been established by modern historical research that the earliest human civilization dates back to about 7,000 years. Egypt and Babylon were the first countries to feel the impact of civilization, which was disseminated through various other countries including Assyria, China, India, Persia and Phoenicia, ultimately reaching Greece where it found the most congenial atmosphere for its adequate development. Romans inherited their knowledge from such eminent Greek intellectuals as Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Pericles, Demosthenes and Sophocles. The downfall of the Roman Empire caused intellectual stagnation and the storm of barbarism which swept over the world presented the greatest threat to cultural progress, which would have been in danger of total extinction, had it not been saved by the timely intervention of the Arabs. "The Arabs" says Humboldt, "were admirably situated to act the part of mediators, and to influence the nations from the Eupharates to the Guadalquivir and Mid-Africa. Their unexampled intellectual activity marks a distinct epoch in the history of the world."'
The golden era of Muslims' achievement in the field of scientific and philosophical research, began in 900 A. D. and lasted for two centuries. The physicians and scientists of the Islamic world having stood on the firm foundation of Greek science began to rely upon their own resources and to develop from within.
Jabir known as the father of Arabic alchemy was a mystic and was known as 'Ceber' in mediaeval Latin literature. He was closely attached to the family of the Barmekides, the ministerial dynasty of the Abbasid Caliphate. He had founded a laboratory at Kufa, whose ruins were discovered 200 years later. Sir Thomas Arnold pays eloquent tribute to this great Muslim scientist when he says, "At the very dawn stands the figure of a Muslim whose shadow lies athwart the science of the middle ages in the orient as in the Occident."
Al-RaziLatin Rhazes 865--925 A.D.) was born at Rayy (Persia) in 865 A. D. "Rhazes" says Max Meyerhof, "was undoubtedly the greatest physician of the Islamic world and one of the great physicians of all time."' In his young age he practised as an alchemist but later he devoted himself exclusively to the development of medical science both in theory and practice. He wrote Kitab Al-Mansuri (called Liber Almartsoris in Latin) a 10 volume treatise dealing with Greek medicine which was published in several editions. According to an European writer, "His erudition was all embracing and his scientific output remarkable, amounting to more than 200 books, half of which are medical.' His outstanding work, Al-Judari-wal-Hasbah a book dealing with smallpox and measles is one of the most authentic books on the subject even to the present day. It was translated into Latin and other European languages and was published more than forty times between 1498 and 1866 A.D. It contains detailed information regarding the treatment of postules. The greatest achievement of Al-Razi in the realm of medical science is his celebrated work Al-Hawi (Latin Continens) the most comprehensive encyclopaedia of medicine ever written by a medical man, which runs into 20 volumes. This book was translated into Latin by the Sicilian Jewish physician, Faraj Ibn Salim, on the order of Charles I, King of Sicily, and named Continens. "Its influence on European medicine was thus very considerable," says Max Meyerhof. Al-Razi has also contributed to gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology and has written valuable treatise on the treatment of some common diseases in the East including stones in the bladder and kidneys. He was also an eminent surgeon and is the inventor of 'Seton' in surgery. He settled in Baghdad where he founded a hospital named Bimaristan. He selected its site by hanging pieces of raw meat in various localities and choosing the spot where they showed least signs of putrefaction.
Ali Ibn Al-Abbas-al-Majusi known in the west as Haly Abbas, who died in 994 A. D., was the author of a celebrated work Kitab-al-Maliki known as Liber Regius in Latin, an excellent and compact encyclopaedia dealing with both the theory and practice of medical science. It is less voluminous than Al-Razi's Hawi and it remained a standard book until it was superseded by the Canon the masterpiece of the great Avicenna. Perhaps Majusi was the first physician to write about the capillary system and to describe accurately the way in which a child is born.
Abu Ali Al-Husain-al-Sina, (980--1037 A.D.) known as Avicenna in the west was one of the greatest intellectuals of the Islamic world who is ranked second only to Aristotle, the greatest mind the world has ever produced. His intellectual achievement as a physician is less remarkable than his achievements as a philosopher and physicist. He had visited the court of Noah the II, the Samanid Ruler of Bokhara who allowed him to use his well equipped library. His gigantic work AlQanun-Fil-Tib known as Canon in Latin is the culmination and masterpiece of Arab systematisation. It is a medical encyclopaedia dealing with 760 drugs, as well as with general medicine, simple drugs, and diseases affecting all parts of the body. It is particularly concerned with Pathology and Pharmacopoeia and was translated into Latin in the 12th century by Gerard of Cremona. The popularity of this excellent book may be gauged by the fact that during the last 30 years of the 15th century it was printed 16 times and in the 16th century 20 times in various European languages. Publications including sections from this work as well as commentaries on it in various languages of both the east and West are innumerable. According to a celebrated western writer, "Probably no medical work ever written has been so much studied ......Hence his influence on European medicine has been overwhelming."' Sir Jadu Nath Sircar, the celebrated Indian Historian pays eloquent tribute to Ibn Sina when he says, "Avicenna was the greatest intellectual giant of the middle ages."" He discovered the spreading of disease through water. Avicenna was responsible for elevating Islamic medicine to its zenith, and his portrait as well as that of AI-Razi still adorns the grand Hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Paris.
Abu-Al-Jarrah-Al-Zahrawi known in Latin as Abul Casis who died in 1013 was a great surgeon who wrote AE-Tasrif containing 30 sections, the last of which deals with surgery. Muslim physicians at that time did not pay any attention to surgery and it was a totally neglected field. Al-Tasrif is fully illustrated with sketches of surgical instruments and it profoundly contributed to the development of surgery both in the East and the West. It was translated into several European languages and the famous French surgeon Guy de Chauliac benefitted from one of its Latin translations. Stanley Lane Poole in his celebrated work The Moors in Spain pays eloquent tribute to the part played by Spanish Muslims in the awakening of the West, when he says, "Every branch of science was seriously studied there, and medicine received more and greater additions by the discoveries of the doctors and surgeons of Andalusia than it had gained during all the centuries that had elapsed since the days of Galen."'
Ali Ibn Isa of Baghdad known in Latin as Jesu Occulist has written an excellent treatise on ophthalmology, a branch of medicine dealing with eye diseases. It was translated into Latin and was considered the authoritative work on eye diseases in Europe till the middle of the 18th century.
Abu Ali al-Hasan (965-1020 A.D.) known as Alhazen in the west is recognised as the greatest authority on optics the world has ever produced. He was born at Basra and later joined the service of a Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, where he was assigned to discover the method of regulating the inundation of the river Nile. He could not achieve this objective, hence he had to remain underground till the death of the Caliph. He has made valuable contributions to the development of physics and medicine, but his outstanding achievement is in the realm of optics. He has corrected the theories of Euclid and Ptolemy on the subject. His Opticae Thesaurus influenced such great writers on optics as Roger Bacon, Leonard da Vinci, John Kepler and all mediaeval western writers, who base their works on the research of Alhazen. The two greatest luminaries of the Islamic world Ibn Sina and Al-Beruni shared and fully endorsed Alhazen's opinion that, 'It is not the ray that leaves the eye and meets the object that gives rise to vision. Rather the form of the perceived object passes into the eye and is transmitted by its transparent body.
Ibn Rushd known as Averroes in the west who died in 1198 in Morocco is the greatest Aristotelian philosopher, He is the author of 16 medical works of which one Kulliyat Fil Tib dealing with general rules of medicine was translated into Latin as Colliget. It was printed several times in Europe. Averroes is one of the most outstanding literary figures that Islamic Spain has produced and he was instrumental in clearing away the darkness of illiteracy that had enveloped Europe.
Ibn Katina, the Moorish physician who died in 1369 A.D. is the author of excellent book on the plague. A severe plague which ravaged Alemaria in Spain in 1348-49 A.D. caused the celebrated physician to write a treatise on the plague which was superior to all earlier works on the subject. This book was edited and translated in Europe in the 15th century A.D. and revealed the contagious character of the plague and its remedies which were not known to Greek physicians.
The study of medicine in Europe began at Salerno (Sicily) where Constantine the African, a disciple of an Arab Physician organised the first medical school. The medical school of Montpellier soon followed suit, which was founded on the pattern of Cordova under the guidance of Jewish doctors. Other schools on the same lines were opened at Pisa and later at Padua (Italy) where Canon of Avicenna and the Surgery of Abul Qasim remained until the 17th century the text books of medical science throughout Europe. Robert Briffault writes, "The Pharmacopoeia created by the Arabs is virtually that which but for the recent- Synthetic and organotherapic--Apic preparations, is in use at the present day; our common drugs, such as nux vomica, Senna, Rknbarb, aconite, gention, myrrh, calomel and structure of our prescriptions, belong to the Arabic medicine.