Comparison of Medicine and Science in the Islamic World and the West





Comparison of Medicine and Science in the Islamic World and the West


Civilization refers to a collective urban culture whose elements facilitate developments in all subsections in a specific geographical region. One such set of developmental aspects relate to Islamic civilization, which commenced in the medieval period with the main intent of using principles of Islamism to advance different subdivisions. The chief beneficiaries of these advancements were in the Middle East region and other zones of the larger Asian continent.  Owing to the success of these activities in the attainment of the development-based objectives, western countries adopted most of these strategies and improved them in order to benefit from the portrayed authenticity. The subsections of medicine and science illustrate the impact of Islamic civilization in different regions of the world. Medicine and science in the context of the Islamic culture was more advanced than that in the western countries.

Medieval Europe adopted numerous elements embedded in Islamic civilization especially between the 11th and 13th centuries. Numerous transmission routes were useful in this adaptation. The chief regions of transmitting this Islamic information to western zones such as medieval Europe included Sicily and Toledo in Spain. For instance, in Sicily, the advancement of the Arab-Norman culture was evident following the Islamic invasion in 965(Savage-Smith 27). Moreover, the sophistication of the Islamic culture with reference to such facets as science and medicine was obvious in the 11th and 12th centuries when a significant number of Christian researchers visited Muslim regions to acquire knowledge on these matters and utilize it in their native lands. This included renowned scholars such as Leonardo Fibonacci, Constantine the African, and Adelard of Bath (Savage-Smith 28). Such facts prove the advancement of the Islamic science and medicine as compared to similar activities in the West.    

The scientific facet is one of the core elements that confirm the advancements of the Islamic culture in comparison to those of the West. This includes subdivisions such as geology, trigonometry, chemistry, and algebra. The development of these components led to their transmission to the West especially in Medieval Europe. For instance, Persian al-Khwarizmi introduced the technique of algorism as a key method in arithmetic in the 9th century. Later, Leonardo Fibonacci introduced this method in Europe. European scholars such as Gerard of Cremona contributed to the growth of science in the West by using the detailed texts that were initially in the Arabic and later translated into various languages. Some of these manuscripts entailed the works of Arzachel, Thabit ibn Qurra, and Abu al-Qasim (Cox, Campbell, and Fulford 112).

Similarly, components of the scientific divisions of mathematics and astronomy initially advanced in the Islamic world before their transmission to the culture of medieval Europe. To begin with, several scholars in these scientific subsections translated Al-Khwarizmi’s documentations, an aspect that led to the development of the broad mathematics discipline in Europe (Parker 92). In addition, spherical and plane trigonometry emerged from the works of Islamic writers. Furthermore, most of the terminologies used in mathematics and astrology disciplines are Arabic, a feature that confirms the advancement of Islamic sciences and medicine prior to the developments conducted in the West. For example, the term ‘algorithm’ is from the Latin word ‘algorismi’ initiated by Al-Khwarizmi. Similarly, Fibonacci completed the European version of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system by studying various Arabic books regarding this subject (Cox, Campbell, and Fulford 113). The translation and transmission of these works from the Islamic culture proves the advancement of their scientific components in comparison to the developments in Europe with reference to this subject.

The Islamic culture also comprised of an advanced framework of medicine. This included the theoretical and practical aspects.  The main reason why doctors from the Islamic countries were more skilled as compared to their equals in the western countries was the practicability of Islamic medicine and its reliance on experimentations and observations. As a guide to the daily undertakings of its adherents, Islamism was clear on the principles regarding medicine and sanitation. This is accordance with the guidelines offered by the Quran regarding this issue. Muslims used most of the prophet’s sayings regarding health to develop the entire field of medicine since unity and the well-being of the adherents of this religion is at the core of their proceedings (Osman 49). The adopted sanitation and dietary habits formed the basis of Islamic contributions to the West with respect to medicine.

The advancement of the Islamic medicine subsection was due to the integration of these scientific facets in different systems within the daily life of a typical Muslim in this ancient period. For example, in the modern world, Muhammad al-Razi is the ‘Father of Pediatrics’. In addition to compiling a large medical encyclopedia, this physician analyzed his findings by comparing them to those of the medical culture in Greece. Furthermore, he offered remedies to children ailing from different diseases and added these results to his compilation. He also joined other experts in this filed to spread this knowledge in mosques, schools, and hospitals. These physicians facilitated the developments in Opthalmology by discovering new remedies and making the first scientific differentiation between smallpox and measles (Osman 49). Subsequently, physicians from western countries translated these documents into Latin and used them to enhance their researches until the 19th century. 

In addition, scholars from the West were responsible for translating Avicenna’s book into Latin in 1025. The Canon of Medicine became a popular medical document in all regions of Europe until the initiation of the modernization period (Nasr and Michaud 40). Similarly, Abu al-Qasim’s works on surgery became a key document in European medical schools for several centuries. This is because these books had detailed descriptions on the required equipments and procedures in conducting such sensitive operations. His works also comprised of techniques useful in differentiating certain common ailments such as smallpox and measles.

In conclusion, Islamic contributions to the West are proof of the features borrowed from other cultures and transformed in order to create inventive ideas. The Islamic medicine and science enhanced numerous researches in western countries. This is because the scholars in the Islamic world used some of their religious principles to advance their skills. The Islamic religion emphasized on the well-being of all its adherents. For this reason, physicians and experts in other scientific disciplines aimed at developing these fields for the benefit of the general population. Most of the works used in European schools, and other research platforms in the West used concepts translated from Arabic documents into Latin. For instance, Islamic writers and researchers initially documented various documents on such scientific fields as algorithm, algebra, and trigonometry. Similarly, renowned physicians within the Islamic world contributed to the development of this discipline in these regions as well as those in the West. Based on these facts, it is obvious that Islamic medicine and science was more advanced that those in the West.   

Works Cited:

Cox, John L, Alastair V. Campbell, and K W. M. Fulford. Medicine of the Person: Faith, Science, and Values in Health Care Provision. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2007. Print.

Nasr, Seyyed H, and Roland Michaud. Islamic Science: An Illustrated Study. S.l.: World of Islam Festival Pub. Co, 2006. Print.

Osman, Bakar. The History and Philosophy of Islamic Science. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2009. Print.

Parker, Steve. Medicine. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2000. Print.

Savage-Smith, Emilie. “Islamic Science and Medicine.” Information Sources in the History of Science and Medicine / Editors Pietro Corsi, Paul Weindling. (n.d.). Print.

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