Al-Razi, Medieval, Islam, Medicine, History


Dr. Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin


Introduction: The Golden Age of the Islamic Empire was a time of great scientific advancements. Due to the support of the Abbasid Caliphate, centers of learning such as the Baghdad House of Wisdom produced translations of Greek medical texts which formed the basis of medicine in Medieval Islam. This led the Islamic Empire to produce some of the greatest physicians of all time including al-Razi. Analysis: The treatments used by al-Razi in his thirty-three case studies from al-Hawi are all theoretically effective through the lens of humoral medicine. Additionally, many of al-Razi’s treatments are backed by research into the phytochemical components of the plants that he used, suggesting they could be used in herbal medicine. Comparison to Contemporaries: The translations of Greek medical texts to Arabic by Hunayn ibn Ishaq created the basis of knowledge for both al-Razi and his Jewish contemporary Israeli. This explains why al-Razi’s treatment in case XI closely mimics Ishaq’s treatment in Ten Treatises on the Eye. It also suggests that the similarities between al-Razi’s and Israeli’s writings on uroscopy are due to their utilization of the same translations of Greek texts with slight variation based on their own experiences. Comparison to Modern Medicine: Al-razi’s treatments share very little commonalities with modern treatments for the same diseases because al-Razi practiced humoral medicine and modern medicine is based in science. Modern medicine also has advancements in pharmaceuticals and surgical techniques not available to al-Razi. Conclusion: Al-Razi demonstrated great clinical skill in his cases as most of his treatments may be valid in terms of humoral medicine and herbal medicine, but not in modern medicine. Additionally, al-Razi’s treatments were similar to other renowned physicians of his time due to similar source materials. Al-Razi should be known as one of the greatest and most influential physicians of all time.