Science legend of Islamic Renaissance

His legacy towards medical science has been recognized by the West and it is pertinent to mention that the University of Paris has acknowledged the contribution of Avicenna by displaying his portrait in the main hall of the Faculty of Medicine.
File Photo
File Photo

Recently, Google Doodle commemorated the contribution of Science legend, Ibn Sina by depicting his image through art work. It is amazing to see Google giving space to science legends irrespective of their affiliations to a particular section of society. But the question arises, who was Ibn Sina and why he was so famous in the western world.

Ibn Sina is considered one of the greatest thinkers of the Islamic Golden Era. The great Persian philosopher was a physician, polymath and a scientist. The literally works of Ibn Sina touched new heights. Commonly known as Avicenna in western literature, Ibn Sina is credited to have documented more than 400 books on multiple aspects which illustrated his literally elegance and scholastic excellence. The great scholar of the Islamic Golden Era was so popular in Europe that his medical encyclopaedia became reference medical text book across Europe upto 17th century. Avicenna hugely contributed towards philosophy of science, earth sciences, logic, physics, psychology, astronomy, chemistry and even in the field of poetry. The God gifted scholar shaped the way for the Muslim world to introduce science to the rest of the world. An important feature of Ibn Sina's philosophy is that he integrated Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy with Islamic theology which is considered as the maiden attempt by any scholar from 10th to 18th century. In his article, Goodman (British Author) held the similar views that he made a reconciliatory attempt in order to integrate two opposite narratives ('scriptural idea of creation' with 'meta physics of necessity'). Andrew Flew, a renowned British philosopher considers him a great Arabic writer, while as William Osler (Canadian Physician) recognizes him as a revered author with maximum number of famous medical books. Some of the major contributions of this revered philosopher towards medical science are given below:

Legacy to Medical Science:

Avicenna was the first philosopher who brought changes in medical knowledge through his philosophical and inquisitive ideas. The famed philosopher is considered as a revered scientist in medicine as per researchers of science history. He gave the ideas as well as a remedy for many diseases. He once said, "There are no incurable diseases — only the lack of will. There are no worthless herbs — only the lack of knowledge". His legacy towards medical science has been recognized by the West and it is pertinent to mention that the University of Paris has acknowledged the contribution of Avicenna by displaying his portrait in the main hall of the Faculty of Medicine.

In recent years different researchers have assessed the contribution of Ibn-Sina and correlated it with the modern medicine. For example, it has been found that the great Persian scientist introduced advanced drug therapy which is in accordance with the modern medical knowledge. The medicinal therapy of kidney calculi by different herbal, animal and mineral products is mentioned din the Canon of Medicine. According to Dr. Faridi.(Professor at University of Medicinal Sciences, Shiraz), the revival of Ibn Sina's ideas in medicine could help scientists to reduce cost of therapies that are at times beyond the capacity of layman. 

The two key books which were considered as reference or standard encyclopedia upto 17th century are: Qanun fil-Tibb" (Canon on Medicine) and Al Kitab Al Shifa" (The Book of Healing). Other important books which were written by this revered philosopher include: "Kitab Al Najat" (Book of Salvation), "Al Mantiq" and "Al Isharat wal-Tanbihat" (Remarks and Admonitions). But the main highlight among these contributions was "Qanun fil-Tibb' which was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona and became the most influential medical book in West. 

Some of the scientific ideas of Ibn Sina were ahead of his time. He was the first scientist to recognize that many contagious diseases spread by water and soil, which later on were proved by Louis Pasteur. He further related and correlated emotional aspects to human health. The renowned physician gave the first description of meningitis, and further described how nerves are involved in the muscle pain. In fact his contribution in anatomy, gynaecology and paediatrics were so advanced that there was hardly any alternative to his medical philosophy in next 600 years. 

The revered physician has greatly contributed towards the importance of pulse-taking technique. Pulse has been an important health parameter thought out the history of medicine and has been used as a benchmark for differentiating healthy person from the diseased. Pulse has been referred as 'the messenger that never fails' and is still integral part modern diagnostics. According to Ibn Sina, feeling and interpreting pulse rate were a great skill. He stated that every beat of pulse has two pauses and two movements which has been described in details in the book "The Canon".  

Apart from his contribution towards the formulation of various pharmacological methods, Ibn Sina is credited with the discovery of 760 drugs which become most authentic medicines of the era. He is also known for the publication of the book named 'al-adwiyat al-Qalbia' which was later on translated into English with name "Avicenna's Tract on Cardiac Drugs and Essays on Arab Cardiotherapy.". The selection of drug for a specific ailment has been always herculean task for medical practitioners, but the way Ibn Sina  has meticulously selected specific drugs for specific health conditions is quite amazing.

Another important aspect of Ibn Sena's medical therapy was the importance of natural therapy. He advocated physical movement important for good health. As per Dr. Ibn Sina "Movement can replace many drugs, but no drug can ever replace movement". This corresponds very well with the modern physical therapists who also emphasize that staying active is key for the good health.

In conclusion, the accomplishments of Ibn Sina in the field of science are numerous that cannot be summed up in a single write up and it needs full-fledged research to unravel all the achievements of the celebrated philosopher-scientist. There is general consensus among western scholars that Ibn Sina is one of the leading physician, philosopher, thinker, psychiatrist and poet. There is a need to revive the medical therapy advocated by Ibn Sina as it is simple and without side effects. It is also important for newly established varsities to introduce new areas in order to highlight the contribution of great philosophers and its relevance for the common good of society.

Dr. Ummer Rashid Zargar is SERB-DST Fast Track Fellow, Department of Zoology, CUK, Sonwar Campus

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