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  • Date :
  • 3/10/2005

Al-RAZI (Rhazes)

(ca.250/854-313/925 or 323/935)

(born in Rayy, Iran, ca. 864; died in Baghdad, Iraq, 930 AD)

"Rhazes was the greatest physician of Islam and the Medieval Ages." – George Sarton

Al-RAZI, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Zakariyya', known to the Latins as Rhazeswas a versatile Persian philosopher (hakim), who made fundamental and lasting contributions to the fields of medicine, chemistry (alchemy) and philosophy.
Before becoming a physician, Razi was interested in music; he was well versed in musical theory and is said to have been an exceptional performer. After serving for some time as the head of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, Razi moved to Baghdad where he was put in charge of its famous Muqtadari Hospital, and gathered the bulk of his clinical observations.
Razi suffered failing eyesight for several years, and though he eventually lost all vision he continued to provide medical consultations and often even lectured. The exact nature of his ocular disease is uncertain, though it is said that he refused to be operated on because his caregivers could not answer his questions concerning the anatomy of the eye.
Razi was a student of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq.
He is credited with, among other things, the discovery of sulfuric acid, the "work horse" of modern chemistry and chemical engineering; and also of alcohol and its use in medicine.
His name is commemorated in the Razi Institute near Tehran.
 According to historian Ibn an-Nadim, Razi distinguished himself as the best physician of his time who had fully absorbed Greek medical learning. He traveled in many lands and rendered service to many princes and rulers. As a medical educator, he attracted many students of all levels.

The author of some two hundred books, al-Razi claims in his apologia, the Sira al-falsafiyya, or 'Philosophical Way of Life', that his has been a life of moderation, excessive only in his devotion to learning; he associated with princes never as a man at arms or an officer of state but always, and only, as a physician and a friend. He was constantly writing. In one year, he urges, he wrote over twenty thousand pages, 'in a hand like an amulet maker's.' Others remark on his generosity and compassion, seeing that the poor among his patients were properly fed and given adequate nursing care. Arriving patients first saw an outer circle of disciples, and then an inner circle, if these could not aid them, leave al-Razi himself to treat the hardest cases. His medical research was similarly methodical, as revealed in his notebooks.

PhilosophyOn existence:Razi believed that the competent physician must also be a philosopher well versed in the fundamental questions regarding existence.
Metaphysics:His ideas on metaphysics were also based on the works of the great Greeks. It is quite evident that most of his thoughts derived from Islam, this is demonstrated clearly in his writing ofThe Metaphysics.

Contributions to medicine
Smallpox vs. measles:
The most trustworthy statements as to the early existence of the disease are found in an account by the 9th-century Iranian physician Rhazes, by whom its symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoral or fermentation theory, and directions given for its treatment"( Encyclopaedia Britannica). Written by Razi, the al-Judari wa al-Hasbah was the first book on smallpox, and was translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Razi was also the first to distinguish between smallpox and measles.
Allergies and fever:Razi is known to have discovered allergic asthma, and was the first person to have ever written an article on allergy and immunology.
Rhazes contributed to the early practice of pharmacy by compiling texts, but also in various other ways. Examples are the introduction of mercurial ointments, and the development of apparatus like mortars, flasks, spatulas and phials, as used in pharmacies until the early twentieth century.

Al-Razi's alchemy, like his medical thinking, struggles within the cocoon of hylomorphism. It dismisses the idea of potions and dispenses with an appeal to magic, if magic means reliance on symbols as causes. But al-Razi does not reject the idea that there are wonders in the sense of unexplained phenomena in nature. His alchemical stockroom, accordingly, is enriched with the products of Persian mining and manufacture, and the Chinese discovery, sal ammoniac. Still reliant on the idea of dominant forms or essences and
thus on the Neoplatonic conception of causality as inherently intellectual rather than mechanical, al-Razi's alchemy nonetheless brings to the fore such empiric qualities as salinity and inflammability-the latter ascribed to 'oiliness' and 'sulphuriousness'. Such properties are not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth and air schematism, as al-óhazali and other later comers, primed by thoughts like al-Razi's, were quick to note.
Razi's interest in alchemy and his strong belief in the possibility of transmutation of lesser metals to silver and gold was attested half a century after his death by Ibn an-Nadim's book (The Philosophers Stone). Nadim attributed a series of twelve books to ar-Razi, then seven more, including his refutation to al-Kindi's denial of the validity of alchemy. Last come Razi's two best-known alchemical texts, which largely superseded his earlier ones: al-Asrar("The Secrets"), and Sirr al-Asrar ("The Secret of Secrets"), which incorporates much of the previous work.
Razi developed several chemical instruments that remain in use to this day. Rhazes is known to have perfected methods of distillation and extraction. This work led to his discovery of sulfuric acid (from the dry distillation of vitriol) and alcohol.

His Works(1)

Razi was a prolific writer, writing 184 books and articles in several fields of science.Al-Biruni lists some eighty philosophical titles in his al-Razi bibliography, and al-Nadim lists dozens of his works on logic, cosmology, theology, mathematics and alchemy.

Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb

(The Comprehensive Book on Medicine)The final page of the copy of theHawi by al-Razi, with the colophon in which the unnamed scribe gives the date he completed the copy as Friday, the 19th of Dhu al-Qa`dah in the year 487 (= 30 November 1094). It is the oldest volume in NLM and the third oldest Arabic medical manuscript known to be preserved today, NLM MS A17, p. 463.

His voluminous working files of readings and personal observations which were assembled posthumously by his students and circulated under the name Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb.It included knowledge gathered from other books as well as original observations on diseases and therapies, based on his own clinical experience. It is significant since it contains a celebrated monograph on smallpox, the earliest one known. It was translated into Latin in 1279 by Faraj ben Salim, a physician of Sicilian-Jewish origin employed by Charles of Anjou, and from then on had considerable influence in Europe.
The Book of Medicine for Mansur (Kitab al-Mansuri fi al-tibb):
This medical handbook , translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century, was dedicated to Mansur b. Ishaq, the Samanid governor of Rayy; his Mulukior Regius, to 'Ali b. Wahsudhan of Tabaristan.
A medical advisor for the general public (Man la Yahduruhu Tabib):Razi was possibly the first Islamic doctor to deliberately write a home medical manual (remedial) directed at the general public. He dedicated it to the poor, the traveler, and the ordinary citizen who could consult it for treatment of common ailments when a doctor was not available.
oubts About Galen (Shukuk 'ala alinusor) :Here al-Razi rejects claims of Galen's, from the alleged superiority of the Greek language to many of his cosmological and medical views.
Rhazes's independent mind is strikingly revealed in this book.
n Introduction to Medical Science (Isbateh Elmeh Pezeshki)
The Classification of Diseases
Book on Medical Discussion (with Jarir Tabib)
Book on Medical Discussion II (with Abu Feiz)
Spring and Disease
Misconceptions of a Doctors Capabilities
The Social Role of Doctors
Dar Hey'ateh Ghalb (About Heart Ache)
Food For Patients
The Book of Surgical Instruments
The Book on Oil
Fruits Before and After Lunch
The Secret (Al-Asrar):
This book was written in response to a request from Razi's close friend, colleague, and former student, Abu Mohammed b. Yunis of Bukhara, a Muslim mathematician, philosopher, and a natural scientist of good stature.
Secret of Secrets (Sirr Al-asrar)
on philosophy:The Small Book on Theism ;Response to Abu'al'Qasem Braw ;
The Greater Book on Theism ;Modern Philosophy ;The Philosophical Approach (Al Syrat al Falsafiah);The Metaphysics

Further reading
Works by al-Razi: A.J. Arberry (tr.), The Spiritual Physick of Rhazes, London 1950
W.A. Greenhill (tr.), A treatise on the smallpox and measles, London 1847
P. de Koning (tr.), Traite sur le calcul dans les reins et dans la vessie, Leiden 1896
P. Kraus (ed.), Abi Mohammadi Filii Zachariae Raghensis(Razis) opera philosophica fragmentaque quae supersunt, Cairo 1939, Pars prior(all that was published), repr. Beirut 1973
M. Meyerhof, Thirty-three clinical observations by Rhazes[from theHawi], in Isis, xxiii (1935),
321-56, see also Aziz Pasha's synopses and discussions of the Hawi, in Bulletin of the Department of the History of Medicine, Osmania Medical College, Haydarabad, i (1963), 163-87, ii (1964),23-32, iii (1965), 220-5, etc.
J. Ruska (tr.), Al-Razi's Buch Geheimnis der Geheimnisse, Berlin 1937
M. Vazquez (ed. and tr.), Libro de la introduccion al arte de la medicina, Salamanca 1979.
2. Studies and sources: M. Azeez Pasha, Biographies of Unani[Greek] physicians found inAl-Hawi of Rhazes, in Bulletin of the Indian Institute of the History of Medicine, vii (1977), 38-40
Biruni, Risala fi Fihrist kutub M. b. Zakariyya' al-Razi, ed. P. Kraus, Paris 1936, ed. with Persian tr. M. Mohaghegh, Tehran 1984-5, partial German tr. Ruska in Isis, v (1922), 26-50
M. Fakhry, A tenth-century Arabic interpretation of Plato's Cosmology, in Journal of the History of Philosophy, vi (1968), 15-22
D. Gutas, Notes and texts from Cairo mss. I. Addenda to P. Kraus' edition of Abu Bakr al-Razi'sTibb al-Ruhani, in Arabica, xxiv (1977), 91-3
G. Hofmeister, Rasis' Traumlehre, in Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, li (1969), 137-59
Ibn al-qifti, Ta'ri¦h al-Hukama', ed. Lippert, 271-7
Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba', ed. Müller, i, 309-21
M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Er-Razi philosophe, d'apres des ouvrages recents, in RHR, cxxiv (1941), 142-90
L.E. Goodman, The Epicurean ethic of M. b. Zakariya' ar-Razi, in SI, xxxiv (1971), 5-26
idem, Razi's myth of the fall of the soul: its function in his philosophy, in G. Hourani (ed.), Essays on Islamic philosophy and science, Albany 1975, 25-40
idem, Razi's psychology, in Philosophical Forum, iv (1972), 26-48
G. Heym, Al-Razi and alchemy, in Ambix, i (1938), 184-91
A.Z. Iskandar, The medical bibliography of al-Razi, in G. Hourani (ed.), op. cit., 41-6
Maimonides, Guide to the perplexed, ed. Munk, iii, 18
M. Mohaghegh, Notes on the'Spiritual Physick' of al-Razi, in SI, xxvi (1967), 5-22
idem, Razi'sKitab al-'Ilm al-Ilahi and the five eternals, in Abr-Nahrain, xiii (1973), 16-23
Nadim, Fihrist, ed. Flügel, 299-302, 358, tr. Bayard Dodge, New York 1970, 82, 377, 435, 599, 701-9
J.R. Partington, The chemistry of Razi, in Ambix, i (1938), 192-6
S. Pines, Razi, critique de Galien, in Actes du Septieme Congres International d'Histoire des Sciences, Jerusalem 1953  480-7
idem, art. al-Razi, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography
Abu Hatim al-Razi, A'lam al-nubuwwa, ed. Salah al-Sawy, with an English introd. S.H. Nasr,
Tehran 1977, extracts tr. F. Brion, in Bulletin de Philosophie Medievale, xxviii (1986), 134-62
F. Rosenthal, Ar-Razi on the hidden illness, in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, lii (1978), 45-60
Ruska, Al-Razi als Chemiker, in Zeitschrift für Chemie(1922), 719-22
idem, in Isl., xxii (1935), 281-319, xxv (1939), 1-34, 191-3
idem, Al-Biruniqals Quelle für das Leben und die Schriften al-Razi's, in Isis, v (1923), 26-50
H. Said, Razi and treatment through nutritive correction, in Hamdard Islamicus, xix (1976), 113-20
Sezgin, GAS, iii, 274-94, iv, 275-82, v, 282, vi, 187-8, vii, 160, 271-2
O. Timkin, A medieval translation of Rhazes' Clinical observations, in Bulletin of the History of Medicine,xii (1942), 102-17.


1- Razi's notable books and articles on medicine (in English) include:
The Book for the Elite (Mofid al Khavas);The Book of Experiences ;The Cause of the Death of Most Animals because of Poisonous Winds ;The Physicians' Experiments ;The Person Who Has No Access to Physicians ;The Big Pharmacology ;The Small Pharmacology ;Gout ;The Doubt on Galen (Al Shokook ala Jalinoos);Kidney and Bladder StonesTaken from:
Encyclopedia of Islam from:http://www.muslimphilosophy.com








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