Hello Friends Let’s leave this modern world aside and let’s visit the 10th century… In the city of Rayy, near Tehran in Iran … Where a man used to live, for whom the pain of a small kid, the agony of a grown up, or some ailment of some elderly person … were a source of great worry. It is said that people from far off places would visit him for their treatment. He would not only treat them for their sickness but also find the cause and devise a way to cure them. We are talking about the legendary Physician, Al-chemist and Philosopher …
Muhammad Bin Zikarya Abu Bakr Al-Razi. Known even to this day in west by his Latin name, Rhazes. He is also known by the titles of ‘Physician Philosopher’ and ‘Galen of Arab’. The stature of his contributions in the field of medicine can be understood by this famous saying … ‘Hippocartes laid the foundations of medicine and Galen nurtured it … But it was still scattered until Al-Razi organized it … And Ibne Sina took to its glory ‘. Early Education As reflected by his name, Al-Razi belonged to the magnificent ancient city of Rayy, where he was born in 865 AD.
Al-Razi | Great Philosopher, Physician, Psychologist
The historical significance of Rayy lies in the fact that it was one of the important cities lying on the ancient Silk Road. Beside being a part of the trade route, Rayy has a history that goes back to almost 3000 years. It had always been a politically significant city, until it was destroyed by the Mongols in the 12th century. The remains of Rayy can still be found in the south west of Tehran. Al-Razi got his earlier education in Rayy. Here he learned subjects like Philosophy, Logic, Medicine, Mathematics, Alchemy and Music through the translation of ancient Greek scholars. His search for knowledge made him travel a lot.
This way he learned a lot about people of different regions, their culture, language and books. Looking at his interests and inclination, we can say that Al-Razi was basically a student who wanted to keep learning through out his life. He believed that one should get such a deep understanding of any subject so that … one can eventually add to the contributions of great masters of the subject. His love of research always kept him excited. It made him doubt everything until he finished his impartial research about the topic. It was due to this skepticism that he was known to be the greatest free thinker among other Muslim scholars.
Music Al-Razi was fond of music when he was young and used to play lute. But his fondness was not limited to playing or listening to music. Rather he fully understood the mathematical roots of music and was an expert in music theory. Although, music was being used as a cure for psychological disorders, even before Al-Razi … he presented his own research on effects of music on human mind. In his book, Al-Masuri, Al-Razi mentioned that the Amir of Rayy, Mansur bin Nooh was suffering from Melancholia, and it would keep him sad, lonely and distracted. In order to treat him, Al-Razi suggested him to listen to music.
He went on to mention that much like hunting, fishing and playing sports give the human mind a sense of relaxing, the same can be felt through music as well. But it must be kept within check, like every other entertainment. Alchemy Although Al-Razi is mainly known for his work in Medicine and Philosophy, but before mastering these fields … he was an expert Alchemist. Some historians rank him as the greatest Alchemist after Jabir Bin Hayyan. However, some historians do rank him even above Jabir
because … he was matchless in presenting his observations and experiments in empirical and logical manner. And these are in fact the prominent elements that we can see in his research. The subject of chemistry didn’t exist in his time the way it exists today. Chemistry came into being from an older discipline, Alchemy, in which there were two main goals … 1. To find a way to prolong human life, that is to make Elixir of Life. 2. To convert ordinary metals such as copper into gold, using Philosopher’s Stone.
It is quite possible that Al-Razi also had the same goals … but during his pursuits he invented many procedures, apparatus and principles. He was the first one to give a technique to separate kerosene oil from petroleum. So it won’t be unfair if we say that Al-Razi contributed in the foundations of modern day petroleum based transport. Because Al-Razi presented the initial form of what we called ‘fractional distillation’ today. He introduced procedures like distillation, crystallization and calcination in his book, ‘The Secret of Secrets’. He also classified different elements and compounds on the basis of their source or origin.
In simple words, he grouped different element and compounds on the basis of how they were obtained from plants, animals or minerals. It was the very first attempt at such classification. You can say that Al-Razi was one of the founders of the modern day Periodic Table. Al-Razi is also known to have discovered two of the most important chemicals, namely, Sulfuric Acid and Ethanol. Medicine Al-Razi was greatly inspired by the great Greek philosopher. In the domain of medicine, he seems to be inspired by Galen.
Yet he had a uniqueness about his work that made him different from everyone. Al-Razi believed in Evidence based Learning. A research backed by observations, experiments and proof. We can see this behavior in his research in medical science. There’s a rather famous incident from his life to support this claim. The Abbasid Caliph, Al-Muktafi, gave him the task of setting up a hospital in Baghdad.
In order to find a suitable place for the hospital, Al-Razi did an interesting experiment. He took different lumps of meat and hung them at different locations in the city. A few days later, he examined all those lumps of meat. He then selected the location where the lump of meat was in the best condition with least amount of decay. We all know that Doctors have to take an oath that they will take care of their patients, to the best of their skills, following a strict ethical code. This oath was originally started by Hippocrates in 300 BC.
Al-Razi was the first one to introduce this oath in the Muslim world with some addition as well. He emphasized that it is the duty imposed on every doctor by Allah Almighty to serve the humanity. Besides, it is also his duty to keep himself completely up to date with the advancements in medical field. The principles introduced by Al-Razi in the field of medicine have become standards today. Such as keeping a complete documentation of patient’s condition, maintaining a report of the on going treatment, experimenting with different techniques of treatment the use of control group … and setting up strict standards for cleanliness and hygiene.
Al-Razi returned to Rayy from Baghdad after Al-Muktafi died, where he got busy with teaching and administrative affairs in addition to his duties as a physician. Books and Research Al-Razi wrote more than 200 books, most of them being about medicine. His two most famous books that were taught in Europe for centuries were … Kitab al Hawi and Kitab al Mansuri fi Tib. Liber Continens is the name of the Latin translation of Kitab al Hawi, done in 1279. It stayed the best medical book in the world for many centuries.
The most interesting thing about this book are the records and case histories of patients .. These records are very helpful in terms of finding out the ailment, its causes, its treatment and the right approach for that treatment. Kitab al Mansuri is a detailed analysis of medical science and it was dedicated to the Amir Mansur of Rayy. One of Al-Razi’s interesting books is called … ‘The Book for Those who don’t have a Physician’. It was written for poor people and travelers in particular and everyone else in general who does not have the facility to see a doctor. The book was aimed at enabling the less fortunate to help them take care of themselves.
In his book ‘Cure in An Hour’, Al-Razi discussed ailments that he claimed could be cured in one hour. These ailments include headache, tooth ache, ear ache, cough, allergy and muscle pain. For the first time in history, the difference between Chickenpox and Smallpox was clarified and the cure was given by Al-Razi. It is pertinent to mention that Chickenpox in those times were as deadly as Covid in our times. Anyone who suffered from this disease was destined to a painful death. But even before the patient actually died, he would have to suffer the social boycott and hatred of people around him.
Al-Razi took it very seriously, made a vaccine for this disease and hence became the first physician to have ever used a vaccine. He wrote the first book ever on Pediatrics that deals with diseases related to children and their treatment. For that reason he was called ‘Father of Pediatrics’. The medical issues addressed by Al-Razi included kidney stones, intestinal problems, pain in legs and feet … tooth ache, paralysis, heart diseases and problems associated with liver and ears. Besides, he did excellent work on neurology and neuro-anatomy. He also contributed by inventing many surgical tools.
Al-Razi was also a pioneer in the treatment of psychological problems. He had dedicated a separate department for psychological treatment at his hospital in Baghdad. Here the patients were treated with really good care. Even after a patient was discharged, he was given some money to take care of his immediate needs. This is the first ever example of Psychiatric After Care in the world. Philosophy Al-Razi was a great proponent of Logical and Critical Thinking. And he was never the one to be scared of voicing his opinion.
For that reason he was often at the receiving end of criticism from his contemporary scholars. As a manifestation of his impartiality and intellectual honesty, Al-Razi wrote a book about the great Greek philosopher and physician Galen, called ‘Doubts on Galen’. In the book, he criticized, disagreed and pointed out problems in works of Galen. He showed us that even the great masters of a field can be questioned. And it is okay to principally disagree with their work. And this way, blind following can be avoided.
In his own words, he says, “It pains me a lot to disagree and criticize the works of Galen, because I have quenched my thirst from the sea of his knowledge. In fact, he is my great teacher and I’m just one of his students. But his stature doesn’t demand that his short coming or mistakes may not be corrected. And if he were alive, he would have congratulated me, because in my heat, I know, that the main aim of Galen was the search for truth. ” At the age of 60, Al-Razi died in Rayy in 925 AD.
He left a great intellectual heritage behind him. George Sarton, the great historian and the biggest expert of Scientific History, called Al-Razi the greatest phsycian of Islam and middle ages. Today many hospitals, research institutes and education centers in countries like Pakistan and Iran are named after Al-Razi. Many countries have issued postage stamps after his name. In 2009, a monument was installed in the United Nations at Vienna, called ‘The Persian Philosophers Pavilion’. It has the statues of 4 of the greatest Muslim philosophers and scientists.
These four include Al-Razi along with Ibne Sina, Al-Biruni and Omar Khayyam. In 1970, the World Health Organization stated in a bulletin that Al-Razi’s work on chickenpox and smallpox was unique and close to reality. And that his paper on infectious diseases was the first ever on this topic in the world. On 26th August 2012, on the 1147th birthday of Al-Razi, Google published his Doodle to commemorate his contributions. Friends, it is rather difficult to discuss everything that Al-Razi did in the fields of Chemistry, Philosophy and Medicine in such a short artical.
Hopefully, we’ll be successful in lighting the fire to find out more, within you. Thanks for reading the artical .