The View of Christianity on Illnesses in the Middle Age

In the Middle Age, Christianity attached importance to love and treatment of illnesses. It regarded spirit as superior to the body and reckoned the humiliation of the body as “a sign of sainthood”. Therefore, Christianity neglected hygiene, cleanliness and medical treatment. They tried to treat illnesses with “the touch of saints”.   Due to this state, which was the result of extreme mysticism, mentally ill people were thrown into fire because of the claim that “they have the devil inside their body”.

Islamic Roots of Modern Psychiatric Treatment

After the Antique period, there were four doctors that were regarded as the masters of the doctors in Europe in the Middle Age: They were Ibn Isa (Jesu Haly), Razi (Ar-Razi), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes), who were doctors and philosophers raised in the Islamic world. These people contributed a lot to the emergence of the Western medicine and the books they wrote were used as reference books for many years.

Razi (841–926)

Zakariyya al-Razi was a doctor that marked an era. He wrote 237 books. Half of these books are related to medicine. Razi is famous with his view that a hospital should be established in the place where meat goes off the latest. He defended experimental medicine and attached importance to observation. He defended that only tested plants should be used as medicine not random plants. He is the first person that performed consultation of doctors. He wrote a book on smallpox and measles. He also defined the concept “diagnose”. His twenty-five volume encyclopedia called “al-Hawi” is his best known work.

Avicenna (980–1037)

Islamic medicine boomed again with Avicenna. Avicenna is to Muslim Turks as Goethe is to Germans, Da Vinci is to Italians and Aristotle to Greeks. He recorded all of the available medical knowledge in his books called al-Qanun (Law) and ash-Shifa (Healing). He introduced the concepts infection, hygiene and quarantine to the West. His books were taught as basic books for five hundred years. There are no other medicine books that were taught as long as his books in history. Dante mentions Razi and Avicenna after Hippocrates and Galenos in his books.

The State of Islam in the Middle Age

Beginning from the seventh century, Islam started to spread to the places outside the Arabian Peninsula. In the following three centuries, the language of the Quran became dominant in the vast region from the south of France to India. Many cultures melted in the pot of Islam in that period. After the Greek Academy of Plato closed in 529, Hippocrates’ tradition of medicine and the studies of Galenos were abandoned. This tradition, which ceased, was looked after by Sassanid. Then, Islamic scholars and administrators revived all of this accumulation.

During the Abbasid period, Harun Rashid (786-809) and his son Ma’mun (813-833) established a center called “Bayt-ul Hikma”, consisting of a library, academy and translation office. The translators were given as much gold as the weight of the books they translated. The medical knowledge of Byzantine, Iran, India and China was collected there.

In that period, the first hospital and pharmacy was established with the name “Bimaristan” in 805 by Harun Rashid. The first hospital in Europe was set up by Andalusia Umayyad. The belief “there is cure for all illnesses except death” encouraged medicine in the Islamic world. Thanks to it, many herbal drugs and medicine were produced. Islamic scholars adopted the hypothesis of Galenos consisting of “earth, air, fire and water” as medical philosophy and explained characters of people with this knowledge. They also defined hormonal imbalance based on them.

The developments that were achieved in the period of Seljukis in Anatolia could not be continued in the Ottoman period. Ottoman doctors could not continue the spirit of experiment and development formed by Razi and Avicenna in diagnosis and treatment and became contented with the existing heritage. The “madrasa understanding”, which despised the medicine and science of the West became distinct in the 18th century. With the period of Ottoman Reforms, schools elevated exact sciences. However, the competition of madrasas and schools instead of helping each other prevented the modernization of Ottomans. The Ottoman scholars ignored the thesis that religious sciences and positive sciences did not contradict but they complemented each other.

The View of Islam on Psychiatric Illnesses

The approach of Islam toward mentally ill people was to treat them well but not to entrust money and goods to them. In the Middle Age, mentally ill people were treated through the flesh of prey and sound of water, something that the other cultures did not allow. Edirne Museum of Faculty of Medicine is a nice example of it. That Europe became a place that developed today’s modern and successful treatments originates from the fact that they managed to revive the spirit of progress again. The article also notes how google beat apple to a steaming music service with the launch of google play music all access

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