Avicenna: The Muslim Scholar Who Changed Medicine

Avicenna. Author unknown.

Knowledge is one of the most cardinal points in Islam. It is your duty as a Muslim to seek knowledge and use it for the sake of humanity, Allah (SWT) and Islam. For Muslims who are wondering how they can get this done, Avicenna remains a shining example. Born c. 980 in what is now the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, Abu Ali Sina (now better known as Ibn Sina or Avicenna) was a polymath (multidimensional genius) whose light shone bright as one of the most important physicians of the Islamic Golden Age.

Correctly described as the father of early medicine, Avicenna contributed to different fields of knowledge. However, his influence on medicine and how revolutionized it is what will be the focus of this piece. Out of the 450 books that he wrote, 40 were dedicated to medicine. Of all his books on medicine, the one titled ‘The Canon of Medicine’ remains the most well-known all over the globe.

The Canon of Medicine is a voluminous encyclopedia of medicine in a series of five books which he finished in 1025. The book discusses concepts and principles of medicine all over the Islamic world. At that time, the medical knowledge among Muslims was also influenced by older traditions and practices from ancient Chinese, Persian, Greco-Roman and Indian empires.

The book was so solid and influential that it remained an authority in the medical world for hundreds of years. As a matter of fact, it established the standards for the practice of medicine in the Middle Ages Europe and across the Islamic world. Hence, it was no surprise that The Canon of Medicine became the approved medical textbook in the 18th century all over Europe. The works of this Muslim scholar of the 10th and 11th centuries formed the foundation of what is now modern medicine.

As he was dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, he was also steadfast in his Islam. In fact, in his autobiography, it was stated clearly that he was already a hafiz (memorizer of the entire Holy Quran) by the time he was 10. He also studied fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Ismail al-Zahid, a well-respected scholar. Avicenna never forgot that Allah (SWT) is the source of all knowledge so whenever he ran into some intellectual problems, he would turn to his Creator. He is known for leaving his library, doing the needed ablutions, going to the mosque and praying all night until he got the solutions to his intellectual queries.

Avicenna had the habit of thanking Allah (SWT) for everything. At a time when he was able to buy the work of Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (better known as Al-Farabi) for a very pocket-friendly price, he quickly returned to thank Allah (SWT) and even gave alms to the needy. Al-Farabi was one of the most illustrious early Islamic scholars and intellectual giants.

By the time he was 16, Avicenna had not just learned all there was to know about theories of medicine, he has also discovered very innovative methods of treatment on his own. Avicenna was so gifted and talented that by the age of 16, he was already a qualified physician. By treating his patients with kindness and often for free, Avicenna exuded all features of a true Muslim. May Allah (SWT) bestow more Avicennas on our generation, aameen.