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Silk Road notes 8: healing

The Silk Road series closes with a brief mention of another distortion of the historical record: the alleged debt Western society owes to Islam for the development of modern medicine and dentistry.

Silk Road exhibit sign

MASTER OF MEDICINE

One of the greatest minds in early medicine was Muhammad ibn Zakariya al Razi (AD 865-925). It is said that Al Razi chose the most sanitary location for a Baghdad hospital by hanging meat in different neighborhoods to see where it took longest to rot… A firm believer in logic and close observation, Al-Razi wrote some 200 books, from a pamphlet on toothaches to a medical handbook that was used in Europe for hundreds of years.

What are the facts?

The Rod of Asclepius came from the Greeks. But the Silk Road exhibit would suggest modern medicine really began with Muslims.
The Star of Life, featuring the Rod of Asclepius, the true symbol of medicine. Photo: US Department of Transportation
  1. The history of Arabic science is that their scientists were among the Jews who were forced to convert to Islam. Arabs had no scientific traditions as they rampaged into the Near East, Egypt, and Libya in 694. The Jews had long been established in North Africa – eight Berber tribes converted to Judaism, and under their heroic Queen Kahena, liberated Libya. The Arab troops of 60,000 prevailed; 50,000 Jews and Berbers were massacred, and descendants of the converted (not descendants of the illiterate invaders) became “Arabic” philosophers and scientists.
  2. A great physician, Isaac Israeli of Kairouan, was an Egyptian Jew who had immigrated to West Africa, bringing his science with him. Known to Europe as Isaac the Jew, his surviving works include logic, On Definitions, and Aristotelian physics, On the Elements. His work on Pharmacology, De Gradibus Simplicum (translated into Latin) became the standard for medical history.
  3. It was from Isaac Israeli that the greatest of “Arab” scientists, Avicenna (980-1037), drew inspiration. He was regarded as Arabic because he wrote in Arabic. Known as the Aristotle of the East, he became a vizier in Persia, but he was born near Bokhara, then heavily populated by Jews, and was probably of Jewish origin. Avicenna’s work reached Europe through translations by Jewish scholars in Spain, Italy, and Provence. The great physician Maimonides was an admirer of Avicenna, and recommended that Jews study his works in The Guide to the Perplexed.
  4. Avenzoar was a Moslem scientist of Jewish origin, “thus included among the great Jewish physicians of history.” His great work, Taysir, was one of the most widely read medical treatises of the century, not least because it was translated early on into Hebrew, “the language of the author’s ancestors.” Johannes of Capua, a converted Jew, in collaboration with another physician from Padua, translated it into Latin in 1280. The great work of Avicenna, the Colliget (General Rules of Health), was also translated at Padua into Latin by the Jew Bonacosa. The book became a standard medical treatise and it continued to be published after the printing press was invented several centuries later…and there were others. Physicians who attended the lords and kings of Islam and Christendom were largely Jews, a convincing indication of the major role that Jews continued to play in the science of medicine.

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  1. The first known mention of tooth decay and toothache was on a Sumerian clay tablet, dated around 5000 BC, now referred to as the “Legend of the worm.” Recovered from the Euphrates valley, it was written in cuneiform. The belief that tooth decay and dental pain are caused by “tooth worm” is found in ancient India, Egypt, Japan, and China, and persisted until the Age of Enlightenment.
  2. The word antisepsis comes from the Greek words “anti” (against) and “sepsis” (decay). Antiseptics prevent infection and other changes in living tissue by destroying or slowing the growth of germs (microorganisms that cause disease). The nature and use of antiseptics were not fully understood until the discovery of bacteria.
  3. Physicians and healers have been aware of the anti-infective and anti-spoilage properties of certain substances since ancient times. Egyptian embalmers (those who preserved and prepared bodies for burial) used resins (an organic substance taken from plants and trees), naphtha (a liquid hydrocarbon often used as a solvent or diluting agent), and liquid pitch, along with vegetable oils and spices. The effectiveness of this mixture is shown in the fine state of preservation of Egyptian mummies. Persian laws instructed people to store drinking water in bright copper vessels. The ancient Greeks and Romans recognized the antiseptic properties of wine, oil, and vinegar for dressing wounds, dating back to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC).
  4. Ancient China is responsible for contributing much to the modern world, including many innovations to dentistry, and methods of treating tooth diseases. Treating toothaches with arsenic, AD 1000, and developing silver amalgam for fillings. They were advanced in the observation of the oral cavity, specifically to mastication and deglutition, systemic diseases and their connection to oral manifestations, such as early detection of measles. Other studies included tooth extraction, abscesses, tumor removal and repair due to trauma, early repair of cleft palates, lip and other congenital defects and the instruments required to perform such tasks.

Editor’s Note

The Cleveland Museum’s Silk Road exhibit is not alone in distorting the record of the development of modern medicine and dentistry. Your editor can attest directly that medical schools, as far back as 1980, repeated the myth about Arab record keeping somehow “saving” medical technology from the forgetfulness of the Dark Ages.

Earlier Silk Road Notes articles:

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Author of “Confronting the Deception,” Tabitha Korol began her political career after 9/11, with letters to the editor and essays, developing a readership and earning two writing awards along the way. Her work appeared on Academia.edu, Christian Action Network, Conservative News and Views, Dr. Rich Swier, iPatriot, Liberty News & Views, LobbyistsforCitizens.com; Published Reporter, Renew America, Ted Belman, The Noisy Room, Trevor Loudon’s New Zeal, Virginia Christian Alliance, WebCommentary, and others.

evidence, history, islam


Tabitha Korol

Author of “Confronting the Deception,” Tabitha Korol began her political career after 9/11, with letters to the editor and essays, developing a readership and earning two writing awards along the way. Her work appeared on Academia.edu, Christian Action Network, Conservative News and Views, Dr. Rich Swier, iPatriot, Liberty News & Views, LobbyistsforCitizens.com; Published Reporter, Renew America, Ted Belman, The Noisy Room, Trevor Loudon’s New Zeal, Virginia Christian Alliance, WebCommentary, and others.

Comments (2)

  • Donald R. Laster, Jr

    This is the nature of Islam – lie and deceit. Much of what is called Arabic came from India. Islam has never contributed anything except death to the world. Real history is more interesting. Charlemagne, whose grandfather Charles Martel stopped and reversed the invasion of Islam into Europe through Spain, created monasteries and schools that preserved knowledge, despite in some cases those in control of the Catholic Church. It is important to learn the real history not the fake history of the deceivers.

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