Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi

Father of Arab Medicine



"The Arab Galen"

"He's a miracle of Arabic science, using the word miracle as a symbol of our inability to explain achievements which were almost incredible…unparalleled in the history of the world."

George Sarton

"His writings on smallpox and measles show originality and accuracy, and his essay on infectious diseases was the first scientific treatise on the subject." – The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (May 1970)

"Medicine was sporadic until he combined it" – People in his age

These were the least things to be said about the great, and one of his and all times, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (Father of Arab Medicine)

Razi was a versatile Persian physician, philosopher, and scholar who made fundamental and enduring contributions to the fields of medicine, alchemy, and philosophy, recorded in over 184 books and articles in various fields of science. He was well versed in Greek medical knowledge and added substantially to it from his own observations.He was unquestionably one of the greatest thinkers of the Islamic World, and had an enormous influence on European science and medicine.
Al-Razi was a pure rationalist, extremely confident of the power of reason; he was widely regarded by his contemporaries and biographers as liberal and free from any kind of prejudice, very bold and daring in expressing his ideas without a qualm. He believed in man, progress and in "God the Wise".

-Abu Bakr Al-Razi treating a child-
He traveled to many lands and rendered service to several princes and rulers especially in Baghdad where he had his lab. As a teacher of Medicine he attracted a great amount of students of all disciplines and was said to be compassionate, kind, upright, and devoted to the service of his patients, whether rich or poor.

When questioned on the subject of 'envy', Razi answers:
" It results from an accumulation of stinginess and avarice in the soul, being one of the diseases that cause serious harm to the soul. "

At the age of thirty, he stopped his study of alchemy because its experiments caused an eye-disease, obliging him to search for physicians and medicine to cure it. al-Biruni, Baihaqi and others, say this was the reason why he began his medical studies. He was very studious working day and night. His teacher was 'Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari, a physician and philosopher born in Merv . Al-Razi studied medicine and probably also philosophy with ibn Rabban al-Tabari. Therefore his interest in spiritual philosophy can be traced to this master, whose father was a Rabbinist versed in the Scriptures. According to Prof. Hamed Abdel-reheem Ead, Professor of Chemistry at the Faculty of Science, University of Cairo: "Al-Razi took up the study of medicine after his first visit to Baghdad, when he was at least 30 years old, under the well-known physician Ali ibn Sahl (a Jewish convert to Islam, belonging to the famous medical school of Tabaristan or Hyrcania). He showed such a skill in the subject that he quickly surpassed his master, and wrote no fewer than a hundred medical books. He also composed 33 treatises on natural science (not including alchemy), mathematics and astronomy (...)."

Al-Razi was a very generous man, with a humane behavior towards his patients, and very charitable to the poor. He used to give them full treatment without charging any fee, nor demanding any other payment. When he was not occupied with pupils or patients he was always writing and studying. It was even said that he started losing his eyesight because of his reading too much, and because of testing chemicals in the lab.This fact might have been the cause for the gradual weakening of his sight which finally resulted in him becoming blind in both eyes.
As chief physician of the Baghdad hospital, Razi formulated the first known description of smallpox:
"Smallpox appears when blood 'boils' and is infected, resulting in vapours being expelled. Thus juvenile blood (which looks like wet extracts appearing on the skin) is being transformed into richer blood, having the color of mature wine. At this stage, smallpox shows up essentially as 'bubbles found in wine' - (as blisters) - ... this disease can also occur at other times - (meaning: not only during childhood) -. The best thing to do during this first stage is to keep away from it, otherwise this disease might turn into an epidemic."
This diagnosis is acknowledged by the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911), which states: "The most trustworthy statements as to the early existence of the disease are found in an account by the 9th-century Persian physician Rhazes, by whom its symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoral or fermentation theory, and directions given for its treatment."

Razi's book:” al-Judari and al-Hasbah”, was the first book describing smallpox, and was translated more than a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and its hippocratic reliance on clinical observation shows Razi's medical methods.
Some of his medical books were in great demand and had a great reputation, also his scientific theories went to Europe. Many of his books have been translated into European languages, and adopted by universities in Europe, where they remained the first reference in medicine until the 17th century, such as his book " Fraction in therapeutics", which was translated into Latin. These books remained the basic references for studying medicine in Europe until the seventeenth century.
Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariya al-Razi was called "The unchallenged chief physician of the Muslims," "The Arab Galen," and "The most brilliant genius of the Middle Ages." This image shows a stained glass window in the Princeton University Chapel commemorating the contributions of Al-Razi to the science of medicine for the whole world.

On a professional level, Razi introduced many practical, progressive, medical and psychological ideas. He attacked charlatans and fake doctors who roamed the cities and countryside selling their nostrums and 'cures'. At the same time, he warned that even highly educated doctors did not have the answers to all medical problems and could not cure all sicknesses or heal every disease, which was humanly speaking impossible. To become more useful in their services and truer to their calling, Razi advised practitioners to keep up with advanced knowledge by continually studying medical books and exposing themselves to new information. He made a distinction between curable and incurable diseases. Pertaining to the latter, he commented that in the case of advanced cases of cancer and leprosy the physician should not be blamed when he could not cure them. To add a humorous note, Razi felt great pity for physicians who took care of the well being of princes, nobility, and women, because they did not obey the doctor's orders to restrict their diet or get medical treatment, thus making being their physician very difficult.

The modern-day Razi Institute in Tehran, and Razi University in Kermanshah were named after him, and 'Razi Day' ('Pharmacy Day') is commemorated in Iran every August 27.

Some of Al-Razi's achievements:

1. His most important accomplishment being the discovery of alcohol.
2. Al-Razi was the first physician to diagnose and treat smallpox, measles, and the first one to distinguish the difference between them
3. Gave a detailed description of the diseases of children and women, childbirth and reproductive diseases, ophthalmology and its diseases
4. He was a pioneer of empirical research in the medical sciences, has himself done some experiments on animals like monkeys, where he gave them medicines, noted the impact, and if it was successful, he treated people with them.
5. He took care of the psychological aspects of the patient, raised his morale and tried to remove his fears through the use of the known psychological techniques until cured, he said that: "The doctor should purport the patient with health and give him hope, even if he was not sure, for the body's mood is appurtenant with the self (soul) ethics.
6. He's considered as the promethean of sutures known as Al-Kassab
7. Al-Razi also was known in the field of clinical medicine, where he had a broad horizon in this area, as he differentiated clearly between smallpox and measles, and was the first to describe these two diseases accurately and distinctively using correct remedies
8. He wrote more than 100 books

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