Intended for healthcare professionals


How Islam changed medicine

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1486
  1. Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care (
  1. Department of Primary Care and Social Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, London W6 8RP

    Arab physicians and scholars laid the basis for medical practice in Europe

    Islamic civilisation once extended from India in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Buildings in Andalusia such as the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba, and the Giralda in Seville are reminders of the architectural imprint this civilisation left on western Europe. Less well remembered, however, is the impact of Islamic civilisation on Western science, technology, and medicine between the years 800 and 1450.1 As was argued this month at the Royal Institution, today's Western world might look very different without the legacy of Muslim scholars in Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, and elsewhere.2

    As Islam spread out of the Arabian Peninsula into Syria, Egypt, and Iran it met long established civilisations and centres of learning. Arab scholars translated philosophical and scientific works from …

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