Al-Razi: A Great Muslim Scholar

Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (full name: أبو بکر محمد بن زکریاء الرازي, Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin Zakariyyāʾ al-Rāzī) was a Persian physician, philosopher and alchemist who lived during the Islamic Golden Age. He was born in the year 865 AD (251 Hegira), often known as Al-Razi or by his Latin name Rhazes. He also published on logic, astronomy, and language. Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar) is regarded as one of the most significant individuals in the history of medicine.

Al-Razi was a thorough thinker who made important and lasting contributions to many domains, which he documented in more than 200 publications. He is most known for the numerous medical advancements he saw and discovered. He was an early proponent of experimental medicine, a successful physician, and the head doctor of the Ray and Baghdad hospitals. He was known to be sympathetic and devoted to the care of his patients, whether they were wealthy or impoverished, and as a teacher of medicine, he attracted pupils from all backgrounds and areas of interest. Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar) was the first to make a clinical distinction between measles and smallpox and to recommend appropriate therapy for the former.

Through translation, Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar) medical writings and theories spread among mediaeval European practitioners and had a significant impact on Latin West medical education. His book Al-Mansuri contains several volumes, including “On Surgery” and “A General Book on Therapy,” which are now taught in medical schools in the West. Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar) is regarded by Edward Granville Browne as “perhaps the greatest and most original of all the Muslim doctors, and one of the most prolific writers.” He has also been called the father of paediatrics, a pioneer in obstetrics, and an ophthalmology expert. Notably, he was the first human doctor to understand how light affects the pupil of the eye. (Amr and Tbakhi, 2007)

Contribution to Medicine

Psychology and psychotherapy

 

One of the first truly great medical minds in history was Al-Razi. He’s revered as the founding figure of psychology and psychotherapy.(Phipps, 2015)

Smallpox vs. measles

 

According to Al-Razi Smallpox appears when blood “boils” and gets infected, releasing vapours as a result. Richer blood, which has the appearance of mature wine, is created by changing juvenile blood, which resembles moist extracts on the skin. This stage of smallpox looks like “bubbles found in wine” (blisters), but the illness can also occur at other stages (meaning: not only during childhood). Avoiding it at this time is the best option since otherwise this ailment could spread like wildfire.(al-Rāzī and Age)

Smallpox is said to have been “originally shown” by Al Razi. He was the first to identify smallpox as distinct from measles while acting as the Chief Physician in Baghdad. A treatise on the subject “Kitab al Judari wa al Hasbah,”, was written by him. Latin was used to translate this work more than a dozen times. Despite this, it’s interesting to note that until recently, European doctors continued to mix up these two disorders.(Amr and Tbakhi, 2007)

Meningitis

 

To determine if bloodletting could be beneficial, Al-Razi compared the outcomes of meningitis patients treated with it to those of patients treated without it.(Evans et al., 2010)

Pharmacy

 

Al Razi promoted the use of honey as a straightforward drug and as one of the crucial components in prepared medicines. Mercurial ointments were one of his contributions to pharmacology. He created tools like mortars and pestles, flasks, spatulas, beakers, and glass vessels that are used in apothecaries (pharmacies)..(Amr and Tbakhi, 2007)

Ethics of medicine

Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar) contributed numerous useful, forward-thinking concepts to the fields of medicine and psychology. He battled con artists and imposters who prowled the countryside and cities peddling their nostrums and “cures.” At the same time, he issued a warning, stating that it was impossible for even highly trained doctors to know the solutions to all medical issues or be able to heal every condition. Al-Razi counseled practitioners to continuously read the medical literature and be exposed to new material in order to maintain advanced knowledge and be more effective in their services and truer to their calling.He distinguished between ailments that are treatable and those that are not. Regarding the latter, he said that the doctor shouldn’t be held accountable when he is unable to treat patients with leprosy or cancer that are in grave stages. Humorously, al-Razi found it extremely difficult to be a doctor for princes, aristocrats, and women since they disobeyed the doctor’s recommendations to restrict their diet or seek medical attention, making it extremely impossible for the doctor to practice.

He also wrote the following on medical ethics:

The goal of the doctor is to do good, even to their adversaries, and even more so to their friends. My profession bans us from harming our relatives because it was established for the benefit and welfare of humanity, and God has given doctors an oath not to create horrifying cures (al-Rāzī and Age) He produced over 224 books on various topics. His most significant publication is the medical encyclopedia Al-Hawi fi al-Tibb, often known as Liber Continens in Europe. His writings on alchemy, philosophy, and medicine have had a significant impact on human civilization, particularly in Europe. According to some authors, he was the finest Arabic-Islamic physician and one of the most well-known people ever.

Al Razi was a brilliant medical practitioner and writer, and Richter-thorough Bernburg’s bio-bibliographical examination of his writings had a significant impact on future generations by illuminating his textual scholarship and clinical findings.His most significant books were:

  • Kitab Al-Hawi (Liber Continens), a collection of his books on Greek and Roman medicine, his clinical observations, case studies, and therapeutic strategies are included in Kitab Al-Hawi (Liber Continens). It is commonly believed that his students put together this book after his passing. Faraj Ibn Salim, a scholar serving at the Court of the King of Sicily, translated it from Arabic to Latin in 1279. The largest and heaviest book produced before 1501 is the first Latin version of the “Continens,” which was published in Brescia, Italy, in 1486. In the Middle Ages, this book was regarded as the most important work on medicine.The case reports and biographies in this book are largely responsible for Al Razi’s reputation as one of the best Muslim doctors.
  • Kitab Al Mansuri Fi al-Tibb (Liber Medicinalis ad Almansorem),around the year 903, he penned the condensed manual of medical science known as Kitab Al Mansuri Fi al-Tibb (Liber Medicinalis ad Almansorem) for the ruler of Al Rayy, Abu Salih Al-Mansur Ibn Ishaq.
  • Kitab Man la Yahduruhu Al-Tabib, the impoverished, the traveler, and the average citizen might consult or refer to Kitab Man la Yahduruhu Al-Tabib (Book of Who is Not Attended by a Physician or A Medical Advisor for the General Public) for treatment of common maladies when a doctor wasn’t available.
  • Kitab Būr’ al-Sā’ah (Cure in an Hour),Al-Razi wrote a brief essay titled Kitab Būr’ al-Sā’ah (Cure in an Hour) about diseases that he asserts can be treated in an hour. They include a headache, a toothache, an earache, colic, itching, numbness in the extremities, loss of feeling, and sore muscles.
  • Kitab al-Tibb ar-Ruhani (Book of Spiritual Medicine).
  • Kitab al-Judari wa al-Hasbah (The Booklet of Measles and Smallpox).
  • Kitab al-Murshid (The Guide)The concise overview of fundamental medical concepts in Kitab al-Murshid (The Guide) was written to intention of teaching pupils.
  • Al Shakook ala Jalinoos, (The Doubt on Galen) The four distinct “humours” (liquid substances, including blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and dark bile), whose balance was believed to be the key to health and a natural body temperature, were among the doctrines of Galen that he attacked in this work. He said that his clinical observations and Galen’s descriptions did not line up.
  • Al Syrah al-Falsafiah (The Philosophical Approach).
  • Kitab Sirr Al-Asrar (Book of Secret of Secrets)deals with alchemy.(Amr and Tbakhi, 2007)

The Transmutation of Metals

 

Ibn an-Nadim’s book ‘’The Philosopher’s Stone’’ (Lapis Philosophorum in Latin), published half a century after Al-passing, Razi testifies to his interest in alchemy and his firm belief that it was possible to change baser metals into silver and gold. Al-Razi is credited by Nadim with writing a total of fourteen books, including seven that he wrote in response to al-denial Kindi’s of the legitimacy of alchemy. Al-Kindi was a philosopher and an opponent of alchemy, and the Abbasid Caliph Ma’mun, the builder of Baghdad, had appointed him to “the House of Wisdom” in that city. He lived from 801 to 873 CE. Al-Razi’s two most well-known alchemical works, which essentially replaced his earlier ones, are Sirr al-Asrar (also known as سر الاسرار “The Secret of Secrets”) and al-Asrar (also known as الاسرار “The Secrets”), which integrates much of the prior work.

Apparently al-Razi’s contemporaries thought he had discovered the key to turning copper and iron into gold. In Mohammad Zakaria Razi, the biographer Khosro Moetazed claims that a specific General Simjur addressed al-Razi in public and questioned him about the true motivation for his readiness to treat patients without payment. According to those in attendance Al-Razi appeared hesitant to respond, but after casting a sidelong glance at the general, he spoke:

“I understand alchemy and I have been working on the characteristic properties of metals for an extended time. However, it still has not turned out to be evident to me, how one can transmute gold from copper. Despite the research from the ancient scientists done over the past centuries, there has been no answer. I very much doubt if it is possible…”

Major Works on Alchemy

 

In a vocabulary that is nearly entirely free of mysticism and ambiguity, Al-Razi’s publications offer the first systematic classification of thoroughly observed and proven facts about chemical substances, processes, and equipment.

 

  • The Secret(Al-Asrar)

Abu Muhammad ibn Yunis al-Bukhari, a Muslim mathematician, philosopher, and natural scientist, made the request for this work from al-Razi’s close friend, colleague, and former student.

 

  • Secret of Secrets(Sirr al-Asrar)

Al-Razi’s most well-known novel is this one. Here, he pays methodical attention to fundamental chemical processes crucial to the development of pharmacy.

 

Al-Razi divides the topic of “matter” into three divisions in Sirr al-Asrar, much as he did in Al-Asrar, his earlier book.

  1. Information on the medical properties of substances originating from plants, animals, and minerals as well as descriptions of the best kinds for therapeutic purposes.
  2. Expertise in instruments and equipment used by apothecaries or alchemists and of interest to them.
  3. Understanding of seven alchemical processes and techniques, including the calcination of minerals (gold, silver, copper, lead, and iron), salts, glass, talc, shells, and wax, as well as the sublimation and condensation of mercury, sulphur precipitation, and arsenic.

Additional explanations of several other transmutation techniques and uses are provided in this final category:

  • The use of solvent vehicles and the addition of mixture.
  • The amount of fire used, “bodies and stones,” (al-ajsad and al-ahjar), and whether or not they can transform into corporeal objects like metals and salts (al-amlah).
  • Utilizing a liquid mordant to swiftly and permanently dye less valuable metals in order to sell them for a higher profit.
  • Al-Razi provides methods and procedures for coloring a silver object to simulate gold (gold leafing) and the reverse technique for removing its color back to silver, which is similar to the commentary on the amalgam text from the 8th century attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan.
  • Alum, calcium salts, iron, copper, and tutty are examples of additional metals that can be gilded or silvered. It also describes how colors can stay for years without fading or altering.

1. Mercury, sal ammoniac, sulfur, and arsenic sulfide (orpiment and realgar) are the “four spirits” (al-arwah).
2. There are seven bodies (al-ajsad): tin, black lead (plumbago), zinc (kharsind), iron, copper, gold, and copper.
3. The “thirteen stones” (al-ahjar) are the following: marcasite (marqashita), malachite, talcum, lapis lazuli, gypsum, azurite, haematite (iron oxide), mica, asbestos, and glass (then identified as made of sand and alkali of which the transparent crystal damascene is said to be the best).
4.Seven vitriols (al-zajat): alum (al-shabb), white (qalqadis), black, red (suri), and yellow (qulqutar), as well as green (qalqand). These vitriols are impure sulphates of iron, copper, and other metals.
5.Natron and impure sodium borate are among the seven borates.
6. Eleven salts (al-amlah): these include rock, sea, and rock salts as well as brine, common salt, ashes, naphtha, living lime, and lime. Then he goes on to explain and describe each of these chemicals individually, including their best hues and shapes as well as the characteristics of various adulterations

There are two classes in this:

  1. Tools like the blacksmith’s hearth, bellows, the crucible, thongs (tongue or ladle), macerator, stirring rod, cutter, grinder (pestle), file, shears, descensory, and semi-cylindrical iron mould are used to dissolve and melt metals.
  2. The retort, alembic, shallow iron pan, potters kiln and blowers, large oven, cylindrical stove, glass cups, flasks, phials, beakers, glass funnel, the crucible, aludel, heating lamps, mortar, cauldron, hair-cloth, sand- and water-bath, sieve, flat stone mortar, and chafing-dish are examples of the tools used to carry out the transmutation process.

Metaphysics

 

The “five eternals” idea, according to which the world is created by an interaction between God and four other eternal principles (soul, matter, time, and location), is the source of Al-Razi’s metaphysical concept.

According to some stories, Al-Razi’s believed that his five principles followed a logical order: time and location is neither active nor passive; God and the soul are active and alive; matter is passive and non-living. However, it doesn’t appear that the scheme’s ability to meet every logical possibility is what drives it. Instead, Al-Razi’s makes a case for each of the five principles individually. Al-Razi(A Great Muslim Scholar)The universe’s excellent design serves as evidence for God’s existence; the other four propositions are more debatable. He disagreed with both the falasifa and the mutakallimun because he supported a pre-Socratic kind of body atomism. Even though Plato and the medical literature, particularly Galen, had an impact on him, he rejected taqlid and so expressed disagreement with some of their viewpoints. Doubts About Galen, the title of one of his writings, makes this clear. (Adamson, 2021, al-Rāzī and Age)

Views on Religion

 

Al-Razi is credited with making a variety of contradicting works and claims regarding religion. According to numerous accounts, al-Razi believed that revealed religion and prophecy were unnecessary and illogical. Al-Razi challenges prophecy on the following grounds:

  1. Reason can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. We can know God and have the finest lives if we use reason alone. Why then are prophets needed?
  2. Since all men are intelligent at birth, there is no reason for favoring some men to lead all men; rather, distinctions are due to development and education rather than disparities in natural tendencies.
  3. Prophets disagree with each other. Why is there a contradiction if they claim to speak for the same God?

Al-Razi produced two “heretical volumes,” Fī al-Nubuwwāt (On Prophecies) and Fi hiyal al-Mutanabbin(On the Tricks of False Prophets), according to al-Bibliography Biruni’s of al-Razi (Risāla fī Fihrist Kutub al-Rāzī) . Both the first and the second, in Biruni’s words, “were said to be against religions” and “were claimed to be challenging the necessity of the prophets.” Biruni did, nonetheless, include some of al-Razi’s religious writings in his list of works on the “divine sciences,” such as Fi anna li a-Insan Khaliqan Mutqinan Hakiman (That Man Has a Wise and Perfect Creator) and Fi Wujub Da’wat al-Nabi ‘Ala Man Nakara bi al-Nubuwwat (Obligation to Propagate the Teachings of the Prophet). None of his religious writings are still complete to this day.

Al-Razi became seen as a freethinker by some because of his purported rejection of prophecy and adoption of reason as the main pathway to discovering the truth. Al-Razi, according to Sarah Stroumsa, was a freethinker who disapproved of all revealed religions. On the basis of more recent evidence, Peter Adamson contends that al-Razi did not reject revealed religion but rather was an adherent of Islam. According to him, It is important to note that Stroumsa’s work was completed before Rashed found this evidence in Fakhr al-Din, therefore she was not able to think about how the Proofs might be reconciled with the new knowledge. This chapter’s objective will be to achieve that. I should be honest and admit that Rashed’s narrative has convinced me, and I do not think Razi was staging a broader attack on religion or prophesy as Abtim would have us believe.(al-Rāzī and Age) 

Al-Razi’s Masters and Opponents

 

Al-Razi studied medicine under ‘Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari, as we’ve already mentioned. According to Ibn al-Nadim, al-Balkhi was his teacher while he studied philosophy. Ibn al-Nadim claimed that this al-Balkhi had travelled widely and was well-versed in philosophy and ancient sciences. Some claim that al-Razi even claimed authorship of a few of al-philosophical Balkhi’s works. About this al-Balkhi, we don’t even know his whole name.

 

Contrarily, Al-opponents Razi’s are better known. These were among them:

 

  1. Al-Razi’s contemporaries included Abu al-Qasim al-Balkhi, leader of the Mu’tazilah of Baghdad (d. 319/931), who wrote numerous critiques of al-works, Razi’s particularly his ‘Ilm al-Ilahi. He and controversy often occurred at the same moment.
  2. Shuhaid ibn al-Husain al-Balkhi, with whom al-Razi engaged in a number of disagreements, including one centred on the notion of pleasure. 23 His Tafdil Ladhdhat al-Nafs, from which Abu Sulaiman al-Mantiqi al-Sijistani quotes in Siwan al-Hikmah, explains his idea of pleasure. Al-Balkhi passed away prior to 329/940.
  3. Abu Hatim al-Razi, one of the finest Isma’ili missionaries and the most significant of all his foes (died in 322/933-934). In his A’lam al-Nubuwwah, he repeated disagreements with al-Razi. Al-Razi’s perspectives on prophets and religion have been preserved for us by this work.
  4. Ibn al-Tammar, who according to Kraus could possibly be Abu Bakr Husain al-Tammar. He was a doctor, and according to Abu Hatim al-Razi in A’lam al-Nubuwwah, they got into several arguments. 28 Al-al-Tibb Razi’s al-Ruhani was challenged by Ibn al-Tammar, and al-Razi responded. 29 Al-Razi really produced two refutations: (a) a refutation of al-refutation Tammar’s of Misma’i’s position on substance; and (b) a denial of al-assertion Tammar’s regarding the atmosphere of underground settlements.
  5. Those whose names appear in al-Razi’s book titles include: (a) Al-Hasan ibn Mubarik al-Ummi, to whom Al-Razi addressed two epistles; (b) Jarir the physician who had a theory regarding the consumption of black mulberry after watermelon; and (c) al-Misma’i, a Mutakallim who had written against the materialists and against whom Al-Razi published a treatise; (d) Al-Kayyal, a Mutakallim, whose thesis of the Imam al-Razi published a book against; (e) Mansur ibn Talhah, whose work on “Being” al-Razi addressed; and (f) Muhammad ibn al-Laith al-Rasa’ili, whose literature against alchemists al-Razi responded to.
  6. Al-senior Razi’s contemporary Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhsi, who passed away in 286/899. Al-Razi challenged him over the issue of bitterness;37 In addition, Ya’qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, who had written against alchemists, was challenged by Al-Razi.
  7. We should include many more people—especially the Mu’tazilah and various Mutakallimin—whom al-Razi opposed in addition to all those who are recognized by name.(Siddiqi and Ja)

Legacy

 

  • In honour of him, Razi University and Razi Institute now stand in Kermanshah and Karaj, respectively. Iran celebrates “Razi Day” (also known as “Pharmacy Day”) on the 27th of August.
  • The United Nations Office in Vienna received a “Scholars Pavilion” or Chartagi from Iran in June 2009; it is presently located in the Vienna International Center’s main Memorial Plaza.
  • Al-Razi, Avicenna, Abu Rayhan Biruni, and Omar Khayyam have statues in the pavilion.
  • He was referred regarded as “the finest physician of Islam and the Medieval Ages” by George Sarton.

His “writings on smallpox and measles exhibit originality and correctness, and his essay on infectious illnesses was the first scientific treatise on the subject,” according to The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (May 1970).(al-Rāzī and Age)

  • Al-Razi didn’t have a formal philosophical system, but given his age, he must be considered the most active and liberal thinker in Islam, if not in all of human intellectual history.
  • He was a staunch rationalist who had unwavering faith in the ability of reason, was prejudice-free, and showed great courage in expressing his opinions.
  • He had no religious beliefs at all, but he did believe in man, progress, and God the Wise.

ADAMSON, P. 2021. Abu Bakr al-Razi.

AL-RĀZĪ, A. B. & AGE, E. I. G. Abu Bakr al-Razi.

AMR, S. S. & TBAKHI, A. 2007. Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Al Razi (Rhazes): Philosopher, Physician and Alchemist. Annals of Saudi medicine, 27, 305-307.

EVANS, I., THORNTON, H., CHALMERS, I. & GLASZIOU, P. 2010. Testing treatments: better research for better healthcare.

PHIPPS, C. 2015. No Wonder You Wonder!: Great Inventions and Scientific Mysteries, Springer.

SIDDIQI, B. H. & JA, K. N. A.-D. A. A History of Muslim Philosophy Volume 1, Book 3.

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