Ibn Sina, 10th century ‘prince of physicians’ whom we still follow

Uzbekistan: Ibn Sina, the physician of 10th century, managed the plague during that time with the same regime that WHO is instructing us to follow today.

Fear is worst reaction to anything

When consulted on how to control the plague, ibn Sina first advised the people not to panic as fear is the worst reaction to anything. He also claimed that the disease spreads through “small agents” present in hair, hands, air etc. and hence instructed everyone not to gather in large numbers. Most importantly he had instructed the closure of Masjids along with the market places and said that people can pray at homes. He also advised the people to clean their coins with vinegar. All these precautions that we are presently following for the Covid-19 pandemic were followed during the plagues more than 1000 years ago, on the instructions ibn Sina.

Though famous during his time, Ibn Sina is still one of the most admired figures in the history of medicine. The Europeans regard him as the “prince and chief of physicians” and “the second teacher after Aristotle.”

Background of Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah ibn Sina

His full name was Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah ibn Sina; in Europe he is known as Avicenna which is a tarnished version of ibn Sina. Ibn Sina belonged to the Islamic Golden Age which lasted from 8th century to 14th century. This period marked the zenith of Muslim culture, economics and sciences which made a tremendous breakthrough. Several historic inventions and significant contributions were made during this time, in numerous fields.

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He was born in 980 A.D. in Afshona, Uzbekistan. Ibn Sina had memorized the Qur’an at the age of ten and was proficient in Arabic language. He had studied Islamic law and jurisprudence, philosophy, logic and natural sciences. At the age of thirteen, he started studying the medical sciences, by the age of eighteen, he had become a well-established physician. He acquired his medicinal studies and philosophical education from the university of Baghdad. He had written about 450 books of which only 240 have survived because he did not have the habit of preserving them.

Wrote books

Besides medicine, he wrote books on astronomy, alchemy, geography, geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics and poetry.

The most acclaimed book he wrote on medicine was ‘Al Qanun fi al Tibb’ which later became famous by the name ‘Canon of Medicine’ in Europe. It is the most influential medical book ever written by a Muslim physician. The Canon of Medicine remained a medical authority for centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic world and was used as a standard medical textbook throughout the 18th century in Europe. Unani medicine, a form of traditional medicine practiced in India also regards the book as an important text for its studies.

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Ibn Sina’s book was translated to Latin in the 12th century by Gerard of Cremona. From the 12th to the 17th century, it became the textbook for medical education in Europe. It is stated that in the last 30 years of the 15th century, the book, Canon of Medicine, passed through 15 Latin editions and one Hebrew edition. The Canon is divided in five volumes which include a section for medical therapeutics, with 760 drugs.

In his book, Ibn Sina correctly documented the anatomy of the eye along with description of ophthalmic conditions such as cataracts. He claimed the tuberculosis to be contagious. He described the symptoms of diabetes, and gave descriptions for the types of facial paralysis. He described several psychiatric disorders including the so-called disorder of love, which he considered as an obsessive disorder resembling severe depression. All these important conclusions which are considered significant even today, were given by ibn Sina centuries ago.

He wrote several books on philosophy among which the most significant was “Kitab al Shifa” (The Book of Healing). It was a philosophical encyclopedia that brought Aristotelian and Platonian philosophical traditions together with Islamic theology. He had divided the field of knowledge into two; theoretical knowledge (physics, metaphysics and mathematics) and practical knowledge (ethics, economics and politics).

Astronomical observations

Ibn Sina invented an instrument for observing the coordinates of a star. He made several astronomical observations and stated that the stars were self-luminous. In mathematics, he explained the arithmetical concept and application of the “casting out of nines”. He also contributed to poetry, religion and music.

Ibn Sina died in 1037 AD at the age of 57, when a slave poisoned him with opium. He was buried in the city of Hamadan, Iran.

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