The Scholars of Seville - Medicine
This short article is taken from the full article which is available here as a PDF file
Medical sciences equally thrived in Seville, and one family, the Ibn Zuhr dominated the subject. The ancestor of the Spanish line was named Zuhr, hence the patronymic Ibn Zuhr. The first prominent member of the family was a jurist, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Marwan, who died at Talavera in 1030-1031, at the age of 86. His son, Abu Marwan 'Abd al-Malik, was a great physician, especially famous as a skilful diagnostician, who practiced in Al-Qairawan, Cairo, and finally returning to Spain, settled in Denia where he died in 1077-1078. This Abu Marwan had a son, Abu Al- 'Ala, who is the subject of the present note.
Abu Al- 'Ala' studied at Cordova at the school of Abu Al-Aina, a doctor who came from the Orient to Spain. He was even more successful as a physician than his father. He was attached to the court of al-Mutamid, the last 'Abbadid king of Seville (ruled from 1068 to 1091), and after the-conquest of Seville by the Berber Murabitin (Almoravides) in 1091, he became wazir to the Yusuf ibn Tashfin (who ruled until 1106). His usual name, Al-wazir Abu Al- 'Ala' Zuhr, was corrupted by early Latin translators into Alguazir Albuleizor (and variants). He died in Cordova in 1130-1131, and was buried in Seville. His main title to fame is the fact of being Ibn Zuhr's father, but he deserves to be remembered for his own activity. He wrote a number of medical books: Kitab al-khawas, Book of (medical) properties; Kitab al-adwiya-l-mufrada, Book of simple drugs; Kitab al-'idah, Book of explanation; Kitab hall shukuk al-Razi 'ala kutub Jalinus, Solution of al-Razi's doubts with regard to Galen's works (which proves if needs be that the Muslims were very critical of Greek science); Mujarrabat, Experimental facts (Medical observations); Maqala fil-radd ala Abu 'A1i ibn Sina fi mawadi' min kitabihi fi-l-adwiya-l-mufrada, Discourse of refutation of a few points in Ibn Sina's book on simple drugs; Maqala fi basthi lirisala Ya'qub itn Ishaq al-Kindi fi tarkib al-adwiya, Discourse wherein is explained al-Kindi's letter on the composition of drugs; Kitab al-nukat al-tibbiya, Main principles of medicine. The last named is almost certainly identical with another work of his, the Tadhkira, or Reminder, which he wrote for his son 'Abd al-Malik (Avenzoar) when the latter was travelling in Morocco. It is a practical guide containing special references to climatic and pathological conditions in Marrakech; complementary information on various medical subjects; and also deontological advice. This treatise has sometimes been ascribed, wrongly, to the son.
The best known and most renowned physician of the Muslim Spanish period was Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar). He was born between 1091 and 1094 in Seville, the most illustrious member of the famous Ibn-Zuhr family that produced six generations of physicians in direct descent. His full name was Abu Marwan 'Abd al-Malik ibn Abi-l-'Ala' Zuhr, etc. (see his father's name, above). He was often called Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr, hence the Latin form Abhomeron Avenzoar, or Avenzoar. He was born in Seville about 1091-1094, and died in the same city in 1161-1162. Ibn Zuhr was not a Jew. This is sufficiently obvious, and need not be stated but for the fact that some good scholars, beginning with Casiri (Bibliotheca arabico-hispana, 1760), have maintained erroneously the opposite view.
Among the many distinguished physicians of the Muslim West, he was by far the greatest; he was also the most famous physician of his time, not only among Muslims, but also in Christendom. He served under the Almoravids, and after them the Almohads (Muwahhid, Unitarians). He became wazir (minister) and physician to 'Abd al-Mu'min (ruled 1130-1163), a ruler well known for his great intelligence, his genius for organization, and his large support to culture and science, and who took Ibn Zuhr at his service. For many years he was the court physician and vizier to ' Abd-al-Mu'min, founder of the Muwahhid dynasty, and unlike so many of the physicians of that period in Spain, he confined his activities to the field of medicine.Colin has written one of the best, if possibly the best outline of Ibn Zuhr, on his life and work, and which is available in French.
Ibn Zuhr was formed at the school of his father, and became an eminent practioner, with great medical experience, never relying on the Ancients (Greek) legacy, but instead, submitting everything to experimentation. He wrote six medical texts, of which three are still to be found in a few of the libraries, like the British Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale. The three extant works, in chronological order, are as follows:
(1)Kitab al-iqtisad fi islah al-anfus wal-ajsad, Book concerning the reformation of souls and bodies, completed in 1121-1122, for the Almoravid prince Ibrahim ibn Yusuf ibn Tashfin—the son of the Yusuf, to whom Abu Al- 'Ala' Zuhr had been the wazir. It is a summary of therapeutics and hygiene, composed for the benefit of lay readers. It remained apparently incomplete; it contains fifteen iqtisad; it is probable that the author meant to write a second volume; there would then have been thirty iqtisad. As the title indicates, it treats of souls as well as bodies; the beginning of it is a summary of psychology.
(2) Kitab al-taysir fi-l-mudawat wal-tadbir, Book of simplification concerning therapeutics and diet. This is Ibn Zuhr's most important work. It was written at the request of Ibn Rushd, who was a great friend and admirer (though not a disciple); it would seem that they both meant the Taysir to be the counterpart of the Kulllyat (of Ibn Rushd), the latter dealing with the generalities of medicine, the former with more special topics. If that be true, the task was certainly very well distributed between them, Ibn Rushd being primarily a philosopher, while the older man, Ibn Zuhr, was first of all a clinician or practitioner. The Taysir contains an elaborate study of pathological conditions and relevant therapeutics, the whole being followed by an antidotary or formulary called Jami' (meaning Collector—collected recipes), which is sometimes mentioned as a separate work. The Taysir deals with specific medical conditions, among them are pericarditis, pharangeal paralysis, inflammation of the middle ear, and recommended tracheotomy for laryngeal obstruction. Ibn Zuhr realized the nocuousness of the air coming from marshes; he was a great advocate of venesection; he examined human ossements.
by: FSTC Limited
, Mon 15 August, 2005