Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Islamic History: Medical Science and the Emergence of Hospitals (Bīmāristān)

David W. Tschanz (2017, March-April) stated in his article that hospitals in the Islamic era were the root for hospitals in the modern era.

By: Dr Alwi Alatas

KNOWLEDGE Medicine has emerged since the era of ancient civilizations. It continues to evolve with the times. In the era Islamic civilization, Muslim doctors continued and developed the medical tradition even further, including in building hospitals.

Islam emerged in the Arabian Peninsula, in the midst of a society that is still simple and has not developed science. Rasulullah once said on one occasion, “We are an illiterate people (ummatun ummiyyatun); we cannot write nor do we know arithmetic; (the count of) months is this and this (sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30 days).” (al-Bukhārī, 1997, III/88; hadith no. 1913).

His words The above does not mean that science does not have an important position in Islam. However, what is meant is that Muslims are not required to master science in depth to carry out their worship.

In addition, his words describe the Arab society that existed at that time in general, although in fact there were also some of them who were not illiterate and had certain skills in terms of science.

Regarding medicine, the knowledge of the Arabs at that time was still very limited, but they were not completely ignorant of medicine. Even at the time of the Prophet, there was a person from the Bani Thaqif (people of Ta’if), namely al-Hārits ibn Kaladahwho had studied medicine in Persia and had been asked to treat Saᶜd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ who was seriously ill while in Mecca (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiᶜah, tt, 161).

Methods of treatment with a certain diet, among others, by using honey, as well as therapy with cupping or by using fire (hot iron; kay) was known in that era and was advised by the Messenger of Allah , although the latter (with fire) was not liked by the Prophet. (al-Bukhārī, 1997, VII/327-328; hadith no. 5683).

These ways of treatment in the following periods were collected by scholars in the genre of writings about the Prophet’s medicine (ibb al-Nabawī). Those who write this genre are usually scholars.

However, when medical science developed in later times, for example in the 10th and 11th centuries, the genre of ibb al-Nabawī sometimes it also reflects more or less the author’s knowledge of general medical science (Muhammad Fawwaz, 2020, 121).

In the following centuries since the era of the Prophet , science, including medical science, developed rapidly and Islamic civilization took the lead in this field. This development, according to Dr. Muhammad Abdul Jabbar Beg (2010, 30 August), has been inspired by the Qur’an and the hadiths of the Prophet, as well as the legacy of ancient civilizations and the emergence of creative scientists in the Islamic world who develop knowledge further.

In one hadith, for example, the Messenger of Allah said, “There is not a single disease that Allah sends down except that He also sends down its cure.” (al-Bukhārī, 1997, VII/326; hadith no. 5678). This shows that medicine is necessary, and can be, sought in an effort to cure disease, even though believers believe that it is God who provides healing in essence.

Along with the development of medical science, then also developed what we know as hospitals, which will be discussed further below.

The Beginning of the Emergence of Hospitals in the Islamic World

When mentioning the origin of the hospital in the era of the Prophet , usually the writers will mention the treatment for the victims of the Khandaq war in a tent next to the Prophet’s Mosque carried out by Rufaydah al-Aslamiyah (Alotaibi, 2021, 140; Tschanz, 2017, 23 ).

There were also other Muslim women who played this kind of role in several wars. Rubayᶜ bint Muᶜawwidh ibn Afrā’, for example, once said, “We once accompanied a military expedition with the Messenger of Allah , provided water for the people and served them, and brought back the fallen and the wounded to Medina.” (al-Bukhār, 1997, VII/326; hadith no. 5679).

This is a form of non-permanent patient care, where the methods and facilities for treatment are still very simple, far from the picture of the hospital we know today.

In the Umayyad era, precisely in the era of al-Wālid ibn Abd al-Malik (d. 715), it was stated that the caliph provided servants for the disabled and blind, and provided assistance for leprosy sufferers (al-mujadhdhaman) so that they do not have to beg from others (in al-Ṭabarī1964, VI/496).

Some historians understand this as a leprosarium, a special hospital for lepers. However, it is also possible that the lepers at that time were only placed in separate districts to prevent disease transmission and they and their families were given financial assistance by the government (Hamarneh, 1962, 367).

As for the hospital as a permanent health installation to treat patients, it seems that it really only started in the Abbasid era. The name used for this institution is bīmāristāna Persian word consisting of the words bīmār which means “sick” and is given the suffix palace which means “place” (Dunlop, 1986, II/1222); means a place for the sick or a hospital.

The Persian origin of the name hospital in the Islamic world suggests that the hospital in Islamic civilization was a continuation of the existing hospital in Persia. Indeed, Persia had an important center of medical science at Jūndī-Shāpūr in Khuzistan (modern-day Iran), which may have been the place of study for al-Hārits ibn Kaladah. Despite being under the Persian empire, Jūndī-Shāpūr was a center for Christian medicine (Dols, 1987, 367-368).

The importance of Jūndī-Shāpūr’s position led the doctors of the Ibn Bakhtīsh family at the medical institute, Jurjis and later his grandson Jibril, to be invited respectively by al-Manṣūr (d. 775) and Hārūn al-Rashīd (d. 809) to become doctors. palace. It is even said that Hārūn al-Rashīd had asked Jibrīl Ibn Bakhtīshū to build a hospital or bīmāristān in Baghdad (Hamarneh, 1962, 367-368).

Other historical records mention the existence of a hospital built by the vizier of al-Rashd, namely Yaḥyā ibn Khālid of the Barmakid family. Two Indian doctors, Mankah (or Kankah) and Ibn Dahn, worked at the hospital and both were also tasked with translating several Indian medical works into Arabic (Dols, 1987, 382-383).

In contrast to the narrative above, Dols (1987, 371) argues that the origin of Islamic hospitals is not actually from Persia, but from Byzantium, especially through health institutions in the Syrian region which have been part of Islamic territory since the mid-19th century. 7.

In the area there is a health care center for people who are sick, which is known as nosocomeionwhose function sometimes intersects with other social institutions (xenodocheion) who play a role in providing food and accommodation for foreigners/travelers; both are managed by the church.

Perhaps there was Persian and Byzantine – as well as Indian – influence in the emergence of hospitals in the Islamic world. That is a natural thing because science and things related to it always continue from one civilization to the next. This also applies to Islamic civilization.

However, it was in Islamic civilization that hospitals developed to a more complex stage, so David W. Tschanz (2017, March-April) stated in his article that hospitals in the Islamic era were the root for hospitals in the modern era. Features that exist in modern hospitals, including in the administration and treatment systems that are humorouscan also be found in bīmāristān in the Abbasid era.

Since its inception in Baghdad, a number of bīmāristāns have continued to emerge in various other Muslim cities such as Rayy, Damascus, Cairo, Fez, Granada, Makkah and Madinah. About the subsequent development of bīmāristān and some of its characteristics, God willing, will be explained in the next article. Kuala Lumpur.*

The author is a lecturer in history and civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)


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