Ibn Khaldun, medieval medicine and Islam – four articles

Here are four recent articles focusing on Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth-century century social scientist and historian. Written by Mohammadreza Shahidipak, they focus on his views on medicine and the role of Islam in this science. 

Mohammadreza Shahidipak is an Assistant Professor at the Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch. You can learn more about his work on his page.


Medieval Scientific Policy in Medicine, Measuring Realism in Prophet Medicine

Journal of Biomedical Research & Environmental Sciences, Vol. 2:12 (2021)

Abstract: In dark days of Europe, which was a barren science, you saw the world through superstitions of alchemy and methods based on ignorance and speculation. A current of science emerged in medieval world that provided a new definition of science. In modern definition of science, it is knowledge of fixed truths of nature, man and society, which you have acquired with the tools of empirical intellect and by observation and induction, and which have been useful for ensuring the welfare and security of human beings. The background of this scientific current is call to reason, realism and philosophy. The intellect is source of knowledge of world, and the dimensions of the universe are based on principles of philosophy and method of realism. Sarton, leader of historiography of science in Middle Ages, introduced Muslims as leaders of science in middle Ages. A collection of health, food, medicine and theoretical treatments is attributed to Muhammad, which has been published under the title of Prophetic Medicine. Ibn Khaldun criticized medicine of Prophet eight hundred years ago. he writes that Prophet was not a physician and a specialist in worldly affairs, and that use of Prophet’s medicine does not require observance of status of prophethood The hypothesis of the present study is that despite Ibn Khaldun’s criticism, the realism of the Prophet’s medical works shows that Prophet’s medicine needs new reflection and study, and a special type of medicine is based on trust in divine wisdom in creating an intelligent system between disease and medicine in nature. The present study has analyzed and explained realism in Prophet’s medical words about fenugreek and has shown and proved it according to modern medical data. The Prophet issued a general decree regarding fenugreek and said; Hundreds of new laboratory and clinical research in medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, biology show general effectiveness of fenugreek in maintaining human health, livestock, nature and environment, and fenugreek is at heart of biology research, which Proves realism of comprehensive speech of Prophet.

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Ibn Khaldoun’s critique of Prophet’s medical teachings is a model for evaluating alternative medicine

Journal of Clinical Case Reports, Medical Images and Health Sciences, Vol.2:4 (2022)

Abstract: Investigation at the oldest history of medicine shows that there has always been a conflict between dominant and progressive and alternative medicine, especially in the modern era.Seven hundred years ago, Ibn Khaldun cast doubt on one of the most reliable alternative and complementary medicine and destroyed its certainty, and this was in accordance with the Prophet of God’s practice in visiting a physian and his legal and value recommendations to the physian. Among his recommendations to the graduates of Gundishpur (3rd century AD) are regarding patient-physian relations and the legal rights of the patient and the necessity of referring to a more skilled physician. This intersection has reached its peak in the modern era. And today, one of the actions of modern medicine is to check and test alternative and complementary methods.The current study considers Ibn Khaldoun’s paradigm in approaching alternative medicine as a suitable model to explain the ultimate relationship between modern and progressive medicine in every age and alternative medicine. The Prophet’s social behavior with business owners is a good model for considering alternative medicine. Because he met seventeen people from Medina guilds The Prophet has considered the worldly experiences of guilds as the criterion for action in the current affairs of the city, and has emphasized the worldly validity of businesses and has refrained from interfering in them. This tendency towards realism is the practical and theoretical life of the Prophet of Islam rather than the experimental achievements of man in his era.In every period of civilization, realistic medical achievements have clashed with medicine based on the traditions of common people and profit-seeking and opportunistic people. And realism in the life of the Prophet of Islam is always a method that should be considered when choosing alternative medicine. This realism is really a recommendation of constant testing of medical achievements with repeated tests according to nature. Tests that do not contradict with rational generalities and are in accordance with the induced and inferred data of nature.


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Final Period of Islamic Medicine Evolution in Ifriqyah Region

Open Access Journal of Biomedical Science, Vol. 4:5 (2022)

Abstract: There is a unique period of evolution of medical evolution from Aghbids (800-909) to Hafsids dynasty (1229-1574), that is the most sensitive stage of history of medicine in world, end of Middle Ages in empire of Ifriqyah. Medicine in this region was formed from combination of traditional Berber and Arab schools of Qiravan and Andalusian, Iranian and Roman medicine, Ifriqiyah is main way of transferring medical knowledge to Europe and final stage of Islamic medicine, investigated last stage of theoretical and clinical achievements in pharmaceuticals, description and diagnosis of diseases, nutrition science, health and treatment with hot water and air, there are reports of diseases and epidemics, including Frankish disease in Mediterranean in Middle Ages. Four- hundred-year period of Hafsids rule is era of final evolution of Islamic medicine that rule in Ifriqyah, which had scientific, political, and jurisprudential works. Research is rewriting of medical section of book “Islamic culture and civilization in Hafsids era (2003)”, article on history of Tunisian medicine in 2004, abstract of article is indexed in 43rd International Congress of History of Medicine in Italy. Medical knowledge reached its maximum growth in this part of world and capital of Tunisia Hafsids became a center for Islamic medicine and production of its medical works, interpretation of Avicenna’s medical works was a textbook for centuries, and Zaitouneh University became a bridge for transfer of medicine to Salerno Italy. Research showed that Islamic medicine was physical stage of development of medicine from Middle Ages to Renaissance. Finally Islamic medicine after centuries of progress and Reaching peak of evolution, fell down in decadence and research investigated causes of decline of Islamic medicine because medicine became exclusive in meeting sexual needs and lost its balance, and its natural progress was stopped.

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Epidemic in Medieval, The Case, Ibn Khaldun, Theory of Wet Lung Infection

Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research, Vol. 39:5 (2021)

Abstract: An interdisciplinary study of epidemic in Middle Ages has always been a fertile ground for thinking about controlling epidemic in future. Three reasons for mortality in medieval Mediterranean societies have been cited:

a) Epidemics
b) Plot of Hunger
c) Plot of political editions, war.

Epidemic in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that spread to all cities of Mediterranean from Iberian peninsula to Egypt, Cairo, Fez, Tunisia, Valencia, Damascus, Alexandria, Gaza, Aleppo, The Mediterranean epidemic had 1000 to 2000 victims per day in several periods of time, including (1347 to 1350 AD / 747-751 AH). The eighth crusade as a last classic crusade in Tunisia ended by epidemic with death of Louis IX, King of France. And medicine of Islamic societies have taken measures to discover causes of epidemics and ways to deal with, repel and eliminate epidemics and explain duties of citizens an escape or settlement. The concept of contagious disease and natural and metaphysical causes of epidemic and question of nature of spread of disease and its possibility, including legitimacy or illegitimacy of gathering to pray for an epidemic. And how to bury dead of epidemic. Medieval Islamic medicine seemed to be cause of invisible infectious diseases, but it also spoke of metaphysical factors in detail about causes of epidemic. The source of epidemic and its cause is reported by Tunisian Christian-Muslim historian and physician, Constantine from Ifriqyah. He has considered origin of epidemic, western Mediterranean in his time from land of Franks called Frankish disease, and reason for its transmission is said to be infection with smell and due to tattoos. Finally, Ibn Khaldun’s theory of symbol of Islamic medicine about epidemic and in last stage of its development has been expressed Comprehensive theory of medicine and anthropology can be used in different places and times that has used sociological tools in explaining epidemic and has given epidemic nature of sociological and anthropological problems, causes of which are human and society behavior. It is a kind of sociological medical accident.

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We thank Mohammadreza Shahidipak for sending these articles to us. 

Top Image: Bust of Ibn Khaldoun in the entrance of the Casbah of Bejaia, Algeria. Photo by Reda Kerbush / Wikimedia Commons