It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data

It was a few days ago that an eminent Indian author and journalist tweeted about Ibn Sina of being the first to have come up with the idea of quarantine in the past. Not only here but the name of Ali ibn Sina is nowadays reverberating across the whole subcontinent purely in the spirit of rating and recalling a physician who was more clued up on the quarantine techniques preventing pandemics. However, sooner than expected, the True Indology, true to its ideology of (hate for all and love for one) came up with an opposition in a rather hell-bent manner. The challenge thrown down was chronically coronic. Despite a retweeted video showing two Europeans vehemently praising Ibn Sina, the True Indology still chose to falsify it, for those being not specific about proposition of quarantine by Ibn Sina.  The simple answer is that the video was meant for a general understanding about Ibn Sina, made some time back in the past and not in the current context of corona. The pleasure of criticizing takes away from us the sense of being moved by some otherwise very fine things. As for instance, one supporting tweet for TrueIndology asserts that saliva to his understanding is impure but the Muslims think it to be pure as they share spoons for food.  Before taking to Twitter, the fellow supporter should have taken a lesson on elementary sciences to know the content of human saliva. It is an extracellular fluid secreted by salivary glands in the mouth and consists of 99.5⁠% water only. The rest 0.5 % include all important like electrolytes, mucus, white blood cells, epithelial cells, enzymes (such as amylase and lipase) and antimicrobial agents protecting teeth from bacterial decay.  One wonders why saliva was chosen for impurity when Urine would have been a fitting example, especially that of the cows and cattle. Chemically, 5 % of urine comprises a diverse collection of waste products, including nitrogen, potassium, and calcium—and too much of these can cause problems.  Therefore, any claims on purity and pollution should meet the standards; mind you, international not national. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

“More than 1700 years before Ibn Sina was born, more than 1200 years before the Islamic Prophet was born Sushruta talked about physical Isolation”, is the argument that follows next. Being the earliest proponents of something does not make them the lasting proprietors of the same, because every theory has newer versions which are always refined, better and consistent with the changes. Mere assertion can be a simple idea with a serious flaw. It is the level of proof and the quality of scientific description together with the cross checks and verifications that define the scopus index of a theory.

While historians are uncertain about the origins of sanitary isolation, with records found in the Old Testament and in the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (PBUH), they do agree that quarantine, as it is known today, would not have been developed without the work of the Muslim polymath Ibn Sina (980-1037), popularly known as Avicenna in the west.  Ibn Sina is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, philosophers, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, and the father of early modern medicine. His gigantic medical encyclopedia al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine) also found in the United States National Library of Medicine, MS A 53, comprises of upwards of a million words. It has been used as the standard medical textbook up until the seventeenth century and is still widely considered a valuable resource for the study of medicine. In this masterpiece, he states that “Body secretions of a host organism (e.g., human being) are contaminated by tainted foreign organisms that are not visible by naked eye before the infection” and goes  further to hypothesize that microbial diseases (e.g. tuberculosis) could be contagious and that those who are infected should be quarantined. He came up with the method of isolating people for 40 days and called it al-Arba’iniya (“the forty”).  His works in medicine were later confirmed by the Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek.  What separates Ibn Sina from many of his peer scholars of the Islamic Golden Age is that his work is well respected both in the Muslim world and in the West. “The Canon of Medicine” was translated into Latin in Spain in the 12th century. Since then, the publication has dominated the sphere of western medicine. The University of Bologna, the oldest European university, was the first to adopt Ibn Sina’s Canon as the base of its medical education, in the 13th century. Between the 13th and the 17th centuries, Ibn Sina’s medical encyclopedia was the foundation of medical educational programs at some of the oldest European universities, including the University of Leuven in Belgium, the University of Montpellier in France, and the University of Krakow in Poland.   God wants us all to live in abundance, glorifying his love and our love for others through geniuses like Ibn Sina.

Dr. Qudsia Gani is faculty (Physics ) at Cluster University Srinagar