- Ibn al-Nafis
Infobox_Muslim scholars | notability = Muslim scholar| era =
Islamic Golden Age| color = #cef2e0 |
| image_caption = Ibn al-Nafis|
| name = Ala al-Din Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Abi-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi | title= Ibn al-Nafis | birth = 1213 CE | death =
17 December 1288CE
Dhu al-Qi'dah687 AH | Ethnicity = Arab
Syriaand Egypt| Maddhab = Shafi`i
Sunni Islam, Nafisian physiology | main_interests = Medicine, Anatomy, Pathology, Physiology, Surgery, Ophthalmology, Islamic Studies, Fiqh, Sharia, Qur'an, Science of Hadith, Kalam, Philosophy, Astronomy, Cosmology, Eschatology, Futurology, Geography, Geology, Grammar, Linguistics, History, Literature, Logic, Psychology, Science, Science Fiction, Sociology | notable idea = Father of circulatory physiology. Founder of Nafisian systems of anatomy, physiology, psychologyand pulsology which replaced Avicennian and Galenic doctrines. Discovered circulatory system, pulmonary circulation, coronary circulation, capillarycirculation, metabolism, etc. Discredited Avicennian and Galenic theories on humorism, pulse, bones, muscles, intestines, sensory organs, bilious canals, esophagus, stomach, etc. Wrote the first science fiction novel, which was also the first theologicalnovel and one of the first philosophical novels. Introduced a more logical classification for the science of hadith.
works = "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon, The Comprehensive Book on Medicine, Theologus Autodidactus, A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith, Commentary on Compound Drugs, The Polished Book on Experimental Ophthalmology, The Choice of Foodstuffs, Synopsis of Medicine, An Essay on Organs, Reference Book for Physicians, The Summary of Law, Road to Eloquence, The Segments, The Little Papers"
Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen, Muhammad, al-Shafi`i, Hunayn ibn Ishaq, al-Kindi, al-Razi, Abulcasis, Avicenna, al-Ghazali, Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Tufail| influenced = Abu Hayyan Al Gharnati, Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī, Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Umarī, al-Safadī, al-Dhahabi, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Khaldun, Andrea Alpago, Michael Servetus, Realdo Colombo, William Harvey| Ala al-Din Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Abi-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi ( Arabic: علاء الدين أبو الحسن عليّ بن أبي حزم القرشي الدمشقي ) (born 1213 CE - died 1288 CE / 687 AH), commonly known as Ibn al-Nafis ( Arabic: ابن النفيس ), was an Arab Muslim polymath—a physician, anatomist, physiologist, surgeon, ophthalmologist, Hafiz, Hadith scholar, Shafi`ijurist and lawyer, Sunni theologian, Islamic philosopher, logician, novelist, psychologist, sociologist, scientist, science fictionwriter, astronomer, cosmologist, futurist, geologist, grammarian, linguist and historian—who was born in Damascus, Syria, and worked in Cairo, Egypt.
Ibn al-Nafis is most famous for being the first physician to describe the
pulmonary circulation, [S. A. Al-Dabbagh (1978). "Ibn Al-Nafis and the pulmonary circulation", " The Lancet" 1: 1148.] and the capillaryand coronary circulations, which form the basis of the circulatory system, for which he is considered the father of circulatory physiology [Chairman's Reflections (2004), "Traditional Medicine Among Gulf Arabs, Part II: Blood-letting", "Heart Views" 5 (2): 74-85  .] and "the greatest physiologistof the Middle Ages." [ George Sarton( cf.Dr. Paul Ghalioungui (1982), "The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation", "Symposium on Ibn al-Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait)
cf.[http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/drpaul.html The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World")] He was also an early proponent of experimental medicine, postmortem autopsy, and human dissection, [Ingrid Hehmeyer and Aliya Khan (2007), "Islam's forgotten contributions to medical science", "Canadian Medical Association Journal" 176 (10): 1467-1468  .] [ [http://encyclopedia.farlex.com/Islamic+medicine Islamic medicine] , " Hutchinson Encyclopedia".] first described the concept of metabolism, and developed his own new Nafisian [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=245] systems of anatomy, physiology, psychologyand pulsology to replace the Avicennian and Galenic doctrines, while discrediting many of their erroneous theories on the four humours, pulsation, [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=3 & 6] bones, muscles, intestines, sensory organs, bilious canals, esophagus, stomach, and the anatomyof almost every other part of the human body. Ibn al-Nafis also drew diagrams to illustrate different body parts in his new physiological system. [Dr Ibrahim Shaikh (2001), [http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=209 Who Discovered Pulmonary Circulation, Ibn Al-Nafis or Harvey?] , FSTC.]
Besides his medical contributions, he wrote works on the
Islamic religious disciplines, notably "A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith", which introduces a more rational and logical classification for the science of hadith. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=67-77] He also wrote works on fictional Arabic literature, notably the Arabic theological novel "Theologus Autodidactus", a novelwhich features a feral child, desert island, early science fictionelements, and a coming of ageplot, through which he expressed many of his religious, philosophical and scientific themes on a wide variety of subjects. Both of these works were mainly an attempt by Ibn al-Nafis at reconciling reasonwith revelation, both by highlighting the rationalityof Islamic beliefs and by promoting the use of reason in the science of hadith. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=42, 60, 67-77]
He was born in 1213 in
Damascus, Syria. He attended the Medical College Hospital ( Bimaristanal-Noori) in Damascus. Besides medicine, Ibn al-Nafis was also learned in many other subjects, including Arabic literature, Fiqh(jurisprudence), Kalam(theology) and early Islamic philosophy. He became an expert on the Shafi`ischool of jurisprudence and an expert physician.
In 1236, Ibn al-Nafis moved to
Cairo, Egypt. He worked at the Al-Nassri Hospital, and subsequently at the Al-Mansouri Hospital, where he became the "Chief of Physicians". In 1242, by which time he was about 29 years old, he published his most famous work, the "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon", which contained many new anatomical discoveries, most importantly the pulmonary and coronary circulations. Soon afterwards, he begun work on "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine", for which he had already published 43 volumes by 641 AH (1243-1244 CE), by which time he was about 31 years old. Over the next several decades, he would write down notes for 300 volumes, though he was only able to publish 80 volumes before he died.Harv|Iskandar|1974|pp=602-603] Nevertheless, even in its incomplete state, "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" was the largest encyclopediaup until that time, and still remains one of the largest medical encyclopedias to date.
Ibn al-Nafis grew up in a time of political turmoil in Syria and Egypt, during the
Crusadesand Mongol invasions. After the sack of Baghdad in 1258, Syria was soon temporarily occupied by the Mongol Empirein 1259, who were then subsequently repelled by the Egyptian Sultan Baibarsat the Battle of Ain Jalutin 1260. Like other traditionalist Muslims in his time, Ibn al-Nafis believed that these invasions may have been a divine punishment from God against Muslims deviating from the Sunnah.Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=49 & 59] The sack of Baghdad in 1258, which saw the loss and destruction of many important books, was followed by intense scientific activity across Damascus and Cairo, as many Muslim scholars, especially Ibn al-Nafis, wrote huge encyclopedias in an attempt to preserve the scientific legacy of the Islamic world. [Harv|Abdel-Halim|2008|pp=15-6]
Between 1260-1277, he became the personal physician of Sultan Baibars. Ibn al-Nafis died on
17 December 1288CE (11 Dhu al-Qi'dah687 AH), and posthumously donated his house, library and clinic to the Mansuriya Hospital.
Ibn al-Nafis was an orthodox Sunni Muslim and a scholar of the
Shafi`ischool of Fiqh(Islamic jurisprudence) and Sharia(Islamic law). He wrote a number of works on philosophy, and was particularly interested in reconciling reasonwith revelationand blurring the line between the two. Unlike some of his contemporaries and predecessors, he made no distinction between philosophy and theology. Ibn al-Nafis adhered to the teachings of the Qur'anand accepted the authority of the hadiths, but required each hadith to be rationally acceptable. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=41]
Ibn al-Nafis, who grew up in a time of political turmoil during the
Crusadesand Mongol invasions, commented on these conflicts and, like other traditionalist Muslims in his time, believed that these invasions may have been a divine punishment from God against Muslims deviating from the Sunnah. As a result, the falsafa, some of whom held ideas incompatible with the Sunnah, became targets of criticism from a number of traditionalist Muslims. On the other hand, Ibn al-Nafis, who was a traditionalist himself, made an attempt at reconciling reasonwith revelationin some of his works to show that there is harmony between religion and philosophy. Being a traditionalist, Ibn al-Nafis also disliked the misuse of wineas self-medication, while citing both medical and religious reasons against it, arguing that "I will not meet God, the Most High, with any wine in me." His image as a God-fearing and Sunnah-abiding religious scholar, an intelligent rational philosopher, and an accomplished medical physician, had a positive impression on both traditionalists and rationalists alike. The fact that Ibn al-Nafis' student was Abu Hayyan Al Gharnati, a famous Imamand Hafiz at the time, also appealed to traditionalists such as al-Dhahabi. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=65-6]
The "Sharh al-Adwiya al-Murakkaba" ("Commentary on Compound Drugs") was a commentary on the last part of
Avicenna's " The Canon of Medicine" concerning pharmacopoeia, which was written by Ibn al-Nafis sometime before he wrote his "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon" in 1242. The "Commentary on compound drugs", however, did contain criticisms of Galen's doctrines on the heart and the blood vessels and dealt with the circulatory systemto some extent. This work was later translated into Latinby Andrea Alpago of Belluno(d. 1520), who had lived in Syria for about 30 years before returning to Italywith a collection of medical Arabic books. A printed version of his translation was available in Venicefrom 1547. [C. D. O'Malley (1957), "A Latin translation of Ibn Nafis (1547) related to the problem of the circulation of the blood", "Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences" 12 (2), pp. 248-249.
cf.Dr. Albert Zaki Iskandar (1982), "Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine", "Symposium on Ibn al Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait)
cf.Dr. Albert Zaki Iskandar, [http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/iskandar.html Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World")]
Ibn al-Nafis' work on the
pulse, where he criticized the Avicennian and Galenic theories and corrected them, was also translated into Latin by Andrea Alpago sometime before 1522 in printed in Venice in 1547.
It is known that Ibn al-Nafis' "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon", which first described the pulmonary and coronary circulations, was also available in Venice as an Arabic manuscript, [Stephen Mason (2003), "Religious Reform and the Pulmonary Transit of the Blood", "History of Science" 41, p.459-471 [465.] and it is believed that it may have also been translated into Latin by Andrea Alpago. Along with Latin translations of his "Commentary on compound drugs" and his work on the pulse, it may have had an influence on the descriptions of pulmonary circulation given by
Michael Servetus(d. 1553), Realdo Colombo(d. 1559) and William Harvey(1578-1657). [ [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/mon4.html Anatomy and Physiology] , Islamic Medical Manuscripts, United States National Library of Medicine.] Servetus was himself a nontrinitarianwho is said to have been interested in Islamand familiar with the Qur'an.citation|first=Susan|last=Ritchie|year=2004|title=The Islamic Ottoman Influence on the Development of Religious Toleration in Reformation Transylvania|volume=3|pages=59–70|url=http://www.zaytuna.org/seasonsjournal/seasons3/59-70%20Transylvania.pdf |accessdate=2008-02-04]
Edward D. Coppola wrote: [Edward D. Coppola (1957), "The Discovery of the Pulmonary Circulation", "Bullet. Hist. Mid." 31, pp. 44-77 [67, 70-71, 74] .]
Joseph Schachtwrote: [ Joseph Schacht(1957), "Ibn Al-Nafis, Servetus and Colombo", "Al-Andalus" 22, pp. 319-336  .]
During and after his lifetime, Ibn al-Nafis' 80-volume medical
encyclopedia, "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine", had eventually replaced " The Canon of Medicine" of Avicenna(Ibn Sina) as a medical authority in the medieval Islamic world. Muslim biographers, historians and reviewers from the 13th century onwards considered Ibn al-Nafis the greatest physician in history, with some referring to him as "the second Ibn Sina" and others considering him even greater than all his predecessors. Al-Dhahabi(d. 1348) and al-Isnawī (d. 1370) considered him "unsurpassed in medicine during his lifetime and unparalleled in his preparation of medicinal treatments and medical inferences", while the biographers Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (d. 1370) and Ibn Qadi Shuhba wrote: [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=58 & 61-62]
A number of later Arabic commentaries on "The Canon of Medicine", including ones by Sadid al-Din Muhammad ibn Mas'ud al-Kazaruni in 1344 and Ali ibn Abdallah Zayn al-Arab al-Misri in 1350, understood and repeated Ibn al-Nafis' descriptions of the pulmonary circulation, suggesting that knowledge of his discovery was fairly widespread among Muslim physicians in the Islamic world.
Shortly after his "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon" was re-discovered in modern times,
George Sarton, the "father of the history of science", wrote the following on the significance of Ibn al-Nafis' discovery of pulmonary circulation to the history of medicine:
"Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon"
In 1924, an
Egyptian physician, Dr. Muhyo Al-Deen Altawi, discovered a manuscript from 1242, titled "Sharh Tashrih al-Qanun Ibn Sina" ("Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon"), in the Prussian State Library in Berlinwhile studying the history of Arab Medicine at the medical faculty of Albert Ludwig's University in Germany. This script is considered one of the best scientific books in which Ibn al-Nafis covers in detail the topics of anatomy, pathologyand physiology. The work was a critical commentary on Avicenna's " The Canon of Medicine", containing numerous corrections and original observations by Ibn al-Nafis. In this work, his experimental approach to physiology is evident as he writes:
prefaceis divided into five topics: [citation|first=Emilie|last=Savage-Smith|title=Attitudes Toward Dissection in Medieval Islam|journal=Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences|year=1995|volume=50|issue=1|publisher= Oxford University Press|pages=67–110  |doi=10.1093/jhmas/50.1.67|pmid=7876530]
#"On the differentiation of animals with regard to bodily parts"
#"On the benefits of the science of anatomy/dissection"
#"On enumerations of the uses of the parts"
#"On the principles through which the science concerned with the uses of the parts is derived by the method of anatomy/dissection"
#"On what is anatomy/dissection ("tashrih") and its tools"
Ibn al-Nafis writes the following on the fifth topic regarding
autopsyand dissection: [citation|first=Emilie|last=Savage-Smith|title=Attitudes Toward Dissection in Medieval Islam|journal=Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences|year=1995|volume=50|issue=1|publisher= Oxford University Press|pages=67–110 [101–2] |doi=10.1093/jhmas/50.1.67|pmid=7876530]
The theory that was accepted, prior to Ibn al-Nafis, was replaced by
Galenin the 2nd century and improved by Avicennain the 11th century. Galen had theorized that the blood reaching the right side of the heartwent through invisible pores in the cardiac septum, to the left side of the heart, where it mixed with airto create spirit, and was then distributed to the body. According to Galen's views, the venous system was quite separate from the arterialsystem, except when they came in contact through the unseen pores.
Ibn al-Nafis rejected the Galenic-Avicennian doctrine and presented the earliest descriptions of
pulmonary circulationand coronary circulation, which form the basis of the circulatory system. He extended this with the first correct description of the pulseand a precursor to the capillarycirculation.
Dr. Paul Ghalioungui summarizes the fundamental changes Ibn al-Nafis made to the incorrect Galenic-Avicennian theory that led to his discovery of the circulatory system as follows:Dr. Paul Ghalioungui (1982), "The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation", "Symposium on Ibn al-Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait (
cf.[http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/drpaul.html The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World")]
#"Denying the existence of any pores through the
#"The flow of
bloodfrom the right ventricleto the lungs where its lighter parts filter into the pulmonary veinto mix with air."
#"The notion that blood, or spirit from the mixture of blood and air, passes from the lung to the
left ventricle, and not in the opposite direction."
#"The assertion that there are only two ventricles, not three as stated by
#"The statement that the ventricle takes its nourishment from blood flowing in the vessels that run in its substance (i.e. the coronary vessels) and not, as Avicenna maintained, from blood deposited in the right ventricle."
#"A premonition of the
capillarycirculation in his assertion that the pulmonary vein receives what comes out of the pulmonary artery, this being the reason for the existence of perceptible passages between the two."
Based on his anatomical knowledge, Ibn al-Nafis stated that:
"...the blood from the right chamber of the heart must arrive at the left chamber but there is no direct pathway between them. The thick septum of the heart is not perforated and does not have visible pores as some people thought or invisible pores as Galen thought. The blood from the right chamber must flow through the vena arteriosa (
pulmonary artery) to the lungs, spread through its substances, be mingled there with air, pass through the arteria venosa ( pulmonary vein) to reach the left chamber of the heart and there form the vital spirit..."
Elsewhere in his book, he said:...
"The heart has only two ventricles ...and between these two there is absolutely no opening. Also dissection gives this lie to what they said, as the septum between these two cavities is much thicker than elsewhere. The benefit of this blood (that is in the right cavity) is to go up to the lungs, mix with what is in the lungs of air, then pass through the arteria venosa to the left cavity of the two cavities of the heart..."
In describing the anatomy of the
lungs, Ibn al-Nafis stated:
"The lungs are composed of parts, one of which is the
bronchi; the second, the branches of the arteria venosa; and the third, the branches of the vena arteriosa, all of them connected by loose porous flesh."
He then added:
"... the need of the lungs for the vena arteriosa is to transport to it the blood that has been thinned and warmed in the heart, so that what seeps through the pores of the branches of this vessel into the
alveoliof the lungs may mix with what there is of air therein and combine with it, the resultant composite becoming fit to be spirit, when this mixing takes place in the left cavity of the heart. The mixture is carried to the left cavity by the arteria venosa."
Ibn al-Nafis' next most important discovery is
coronary circulation, the second phase of the circulatory system.Matthijs Oudkerk (2004), "Coronary Radiology", "Preface", Springer Science+Business Media, ISBN 3540436405.] He was the first to realize that the nutritionof the heartis extracted from the small blood vessels passing through its wall. He wrote:Husain F. Nagamia (2003), "Ibn al-Nafīs: A Biographical Sketch of the Discoverer of Pulmonary and Coronary Circulation", "Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine" 1: 22–28.]
Ibn al-Nafis discovered a precursor to the "
capillarycirculation in his assertion that the pulmonary vein receives what comes out of the pulmonary artery, this being the reason for the existence of perceptible passages between the two." Capillary circulation was not known in Europe for several centuries until Marcello Malpighiin 1661.
Ibn al-Nafis rejected the incorrect Galenic theory on the
pulseand instead proposed his own accurate theory of pulsation. Galen believed that "every part of an artery pulsates simultaneously" and that the motion of the pulse was due to natural motions (the arteries expanding and contracting naturally) as opposed to foced motions (the heart causing the arteries to either expand or contract). Ibn al-Nafis rejected this view after discovering that pulsation is a result of both natural and forced motions, and that the "forced motion must be the contraction of the arteries caused by the expansion of the heart, and the natural motion must be the expansion of the arteries." He notes that the "arteries and the heart do not expand and contract at the same time, but rather the one contracts while the other expands" and vice versa. He also recognized that the purpose of the pulse is to help disperse the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Ibn al-Nafis briefly summarizes his new theory of pulsation: [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=224-8]
He writes several advantages to this theory, such as the following: [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=229]
Other anatomical and physiological discoveries
While the most important discoveries in the "Sharh Tashrih al-Qanun Ibn Sina" ("Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon") were the pulmonary and coronary circulations, this work also contains many other discoveries and discredits many erroneous theories advocated in "
The Canon of Medicine" by Avicenna(Ibn Sina) and Galen. Besides the examples given in this article, the "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon" contains numerous other discoveries, criticisms and corrections on the anatomy and physiology of almost every part of the human body, including the bones, muscles, intestines, sensory organs, bilious canals, esophagus, stomach, etc.Dr. Sulaiman Oataya (1982), "Ibn ul Nafis has dissected the human body", "Symposium on Ibn al-Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait ( cf.[http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/index.html Ibn ul-Nafis has Dissected the Human Body] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World").]
Ibn al-Nafis quotes another error made by Galen, who believed that "
bloodreaches the brainitself at the section called forebrain through the duramater which divides the vault longitudinally into two equal halves at the sagittal suture." Ibn al-Nafis criticized this theory and corrected it as follows:
Another example concerns an incorrect theory on the anatomy of the bilious canals that was supported by Galen and Avicenna, and later repeated by
Leonardo da Vinciand even Vesaliusduring the early modern period. Ibn al-Nafis was the only physician in pre-modern times to prove this theory wrong:
Another correction he made concerned the incorrect Galenic and Avicennian theories of
bones being present beneath the human heart. Ibn al-Nafis proved them both wrong through his own observations and wrote the following criticism on their theories:
Ibn al-Nafis made the following correction concerning human
muscles, where he also briefly refers to his then forthcoming encyclopedia "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine":
Ibn al-Nafis corrects another theory on the
nerves stated by Avicenna, who believed that the glossopharyngeal nerve, vagus nerveand accessory nervearise from the nerve ganglionand that they are attached to the sigmoid and facial nerves through membranous fasciaso that these five nerves look like one nerve emerging as three branches from the back foramen lacerum. While examining this theory, Ibn al-Nafis performed the earliest known dissection on the human brain, after he wrote the following criticism on this theory:
Another example was Galen's incorrect theory on the
optic nerve, in which he stated that the optic nerve "which comes from the right side of the brain goes to the right eye, and the nerve which comes from the left side goes to the left eye." Ibn al-Nafis also proved this theory wrong and stated:
Embryology and Generation
Ibn al-Nafis criticized previous Aristotelian, Galenic and Avicennian explanations of
embryologyand proceeds to develop his own theories on embryology and generation. He believed that when a male and female semenmix, and when they create a mixed matterthat has an appropriate temperament to receive an animal or human soul, Godissues a soul to this matter, which then develops into an embryothat grows and generates organs. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=147-8] He further writes:
quote|"Galen believes that each of the two semen has in it the active faculty to fashion and the passive faculty to be fashioned, however the active faculty is stronger in the male semen while the passive in the female semen. The investigators amongst the "falasifa" believe that the male semen only has the active faculty, while the femaleonly has the passive faculty. ... As for our opinion on this, and God knows best, neither of the two semen has in it an active faculty to fashion." [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=236]
He then shows that once the male semen and female semen are brought together in the womb, the female semen quenches the hot fire of the male semen through its own cool and wet nature. Once the two semen are mixed, he says: [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=237]
quote|"They modify one another’s temperament and [the mixture] obtains a temperament that is prepared for theemanation of the soul from their Supreme Creator."
Philosophy and Psychology
The commentary also dealt with the
early Islamic philosophyand Muslim psychologyrelated to Islamic medicine. Ibn al-Nafis developed his own theories on hylomorphicpsychology and philosophy, mostly on a theological basis. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=239-40]
In particular, he made a distinction between the
souland the spirit, and he developed his own theory on the soul. He also crtiticized the ideas of Avicenna and Aristotleon the soul originating from the heart. Ibn al-Nafis rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul "is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs." He further criticized Aristotle's idea that every unique soul requires the existence of a unique source, in this case the heart. Ibn al-Nafis concluded that "the soul is related primarily neither to the spirit nor to any organ, but rather to the entire matter whose temperament is prepared to receive that soul" and he defined the soul as nothing other than "what a human indicates by saying ‘I’." [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=209-10]
He also identified the "psychic faculties" with
cognition, sensation, imagination, and animal locomotion, [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=172] and disproved Aristotle's notion that these come from the heart rather than the brain. After Ibn al-Nafis discovered that the brain and nerves are cooler than the heart and arteries, he argued that the psychic faculties come from the brain on this basis. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=215] He further wrote that it is the brain which controls sensation, movement and cognition. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=216]
"The Comprehensive Book on Medicine"
The most voluminous of his books is "Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb" ("The Comprehensive Book on Medicine"), a medical encyclopedia which Ibn al-Nafis begun immediately after he completed his "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon" in 1242.Albert Z. Iskandar, "Ibn al-Nafis", in Helaine Selin (1997), "Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures",
Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 0792340663.] He had already published 43 volumes by 641 AH (1243-1244 CE). Over the next several decades, he would wrote down notes for 300 volumes, though he was only able to publish 80 volumes before he died in 1288. Even in its incomplete state, however, "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" is one of the largest known medical encyclopedias in history, and was much larger than the more famous " The Canon of Medicine" by Avicenna. However, only several volumes of "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" have survived. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=61]
To date, 28 volumes of "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" have been found, which are currently in the process of being edited and published in a series by Y. Ziedan, who has published two volumes so far. Only several of the volumes dedicated to
surgeryand urologyhave been researched to date.Harv|Abdel-Halim|2008|p=15]
Three surviving manuscripts on
surgery, comprising volumes 33, 42 and 43 of "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine", have been found in Damascusand at the Lane Medical Library of Stanford University. One of the three surviving manuscripts (MS Z 276) of "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" is divided into three "talim". The first "talim" is twenty chapters in length and deals with the "general and absolute principles of surgery", the second "talim" deals with surgical instruments, and the third examines every type of surgical operation known to him. Only the first five chapters of the first "talim" has been translated into English and their contents are listed as follows:Dr. Albert Zaki Iskandar (1982), "Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine", "Symposium on Ibn al Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait ( cf.[http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/iskandar.html Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World")]
# "On the different stages of surgical operations, and the role of the patient in each stage"
# "On the role of the physician during the time of presentation, the time of operative treatment, and the time of preservation"
# "On a detailed discussion of the role of the physician during the time of presentation"
# "On relating the things to which the physician should pay attention during the time of operative treatment"
# "On the patient's posture during surgical treatment"
Ibn al-Nafis states that in order for a surgical operation to be successful, full attention needs to be given to three stages of the operation. The first stage is the pre-operation period which he calls the "time of presentation" when the surgeon carries out a
diagnosison the affected area of the patient's body. The second stage is the actual operation which he calls the "time of operative treatment" when the surgeon repairs the affected organs of the patient. The third stage is the post-operation period which he calls the "time of preservation" when the patient needs to take care of himself and be taken care of by nurses and doctors until he recovers "by the will of God". For each stage, he gives detailed descriptions on the roles of the surgeon, patient and nurse, and the manipulation and maintenance of the surgical instruments being used. "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" was also the earliest book dealing with the decubitusof a patient.Harv|Iskandar|1974|p=603]
Sections of the book also dealt with
urology, including the issues of sexual dysfunctionand erectile dysfunction. Ibn al-Nafis was one of the first to prescribe clinically tested drugs as medicationfor the treatment of these problems. His treatments were mainly oral drugs, though a few patients were also treated through topicalor transurethral means. [A. Al Dayela and N. al-Zuhair (2006), "Single drug therapy in the treatment of male sexual/erectile dysfunction in Islamic medicine", "Urology" 68 (1), p. 253-254.]
"A Summary of Medicine"
Ibn al-Nafis' "Al-Mujaz fi al-Tibb" ("A Summary of Medicine") was a 500-page book on medicine.
The contents of the book were listed as follows:
Section I: General Principles
Subsection 1: Of the theory of medicine
#Symptoms and signs
Subsection 2: Of the practice of medicine
#The science of maintaining
#The science of treating
Section II: Medicaments & Diet
Subsection 1: Simple drugs
drugs alphabetically listed
Subsection 2: Compound drugs
#On the rules for
#Some examples of compound drugs
Section III: Diseases of organs and systems
:Diseases of organs, starting from the brain downwards, describing the causes, diagnosis and treatment.
Section IV: Diseases not specific for a particular organ
Swellings, ulcers, leprosy, and the plagueand how to avoid it
Fractures, contusions, dislocations, falls and abrasions
skin, hairand figure ( body weight)
poisons and their avoidance
Parts of the book dealt with
otolaryngology, and one chapter in particular first described the ear infections otitis mediaand otitis externa. He described the latter as an "outer ear canal infection" where the "ear was painful and tender, slightly swollen and producing a smelly coloured discharge" and with a "degree of hearing impairment." It was here that he introduced the concept of dividing a condition into an early acute stage and a later chronic stage, which remains similar to modern classifications of ear diseases. In some of the preparations and remedies he described for their treatment, he introduced the use of vinegar, which is still used for ear infections in modern times.cite web|author=Mohamed Hussein Benamer|title=Ibn Al-Nafis and Vinegar|date=17 June, 2005|url=http://www.muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=520|accessdate=2008-02-08]
"Al-Risalah al-Kamiliyyah fil Siera al-Nabawiyyah" ("The Treatise of Kamil on the Prophet's Biography"), also known as "Risālat Fād il ibn Nātiq" ("The Book of Fādil ibn Nātiq"), was the first theological
novel, Muhsin Mahdi(1974), "The Theologus Autodidactus of Ibn at-Nafis" by Max Meyerhof, Joseph Schacht", "Journal of the American Oriental Society" 94 (2), p. 232-234.] written by Ibn al-Nafis and later translated in the West as "Theologus Autodidactus". This work is one of the first Arabic novels, the first science fictionnovel, and the earliest example of a desert islandstory and coming of agestory.Dr. Abu Shadi Al-Roubi (1982), "Ibn Al-Nafis as a philosopher", "Symposium on Ibn al-Nafis", Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait ( cf.[http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/drroubi.html Ibn al-Nafis As a Philosopher] , "Encyclopedia of Islamic World" [http://web.archive.org/web/20080206072116/http://www.islamset.com/isc/nafis/drroubi.html] )] This novel was written sometime between 1268 and 1277 CE. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=207]
The plot of this novel was the earliest example of a
desert islandstory, a coming of agestory, and a science fictionstory. The protagonistof the story is Kamil, an autodidactic adolescent feral childwho is spontaneously generated in a caveand living in seclusion on a deserted island. He eventually comes in contact with the outside world after the arrival of castaways who get shipwrecked and stranded on the island, [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=109 & 150] and later take him back to the civilized world with them. The plotgradually develops into a coming-of-age story and then becomes the earliest example of a science fiction novel when it eventually reaches its climax with a catastrophic doomsday apocalypse.
Ibn al-Nafis uses the plot to express many of his own religious, philosophical and scientific themes on a wide variety of subjects, including
biology, cosmology, empiricism, epistemology, experimentation, futurology, geology, Islamic eschatology, natural philosophy, the philosophy of historyand sociology, the philosophy of religion, physiology, psychology, and teleology. Ibn al-Nafis was thus an early pioneer of the philosophical novel. Through the story of Kamil, Ibn al-Nafis attempted to establish that the human mindis capable of deducing the natural, philosophical and religious truths of the universe through reasoningand logical thinking. The "truths" presented in the story include the necessity of God's existence, the life and teachings of the prophets of Islam, and an analysis of the past, present, and future, including the origins of the Homo Sapien species and a general prediction of the future on the basis of historicismand historical determinism. The final two chapters of the story resemble a science fiction plot, where the end of the world, doomsday, resurrection and afterlife are predicted and scientifically explained using his own empirical knowledge of biology, astronomy, cosmology and geology. One of the main purposes behind "Theologus Autodidactus" was to explain Islamic religious teachings in terms of science and philosophy through the use of a fictional narrative, hence this was an attempt at reconciling reason with revelation and blurring the line between the two.
Ibn al-Nafis described the book as a defense of "the system of Islam and the Muslims' doctrines on the missions of Prophets, the religious laws, the resurrection of the body, and the transitoriness of the world." He presents rational arguments for bodily
resurrectionand the immortalityof the human soul, using both demonstrative reasoningand material from the hadith corpus to prove his case. The novel also includes references to his new physiology and his theories of pulmonary circulationand pulsation, which he uses to justify bodily resurrection. Some have thus argued that it was his attempts at attempting to prove bodily resurrection that led him to his discovery of the pulmonary circulation. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=232-3] Later Islamic scholars viewed this work as a response to Avicenna's metaphysical claim that bodily resurrection cannot be proven through reason, a view that was earlier criticized by al-Ghazali.Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=42 & 60]
The plot of "Theologus Autodidactus" was intended to be a response to
Ibn Tufail(Abubacer), who wrote the first fictional Arabic novel " Hayy ibn Yaqdhan" ("Philosophus Autodidactus") which was itself a response to al-Ghazali's " The Incoherence of the Philosophers". Ibn al-Nafis thus wrote the narrative of "Theologus Autodidactus" as a rebuttal of Abubacer's arguments in "Philosophus Autodidactus". Both of these narratives had protagonists (Hayy in "Philosophus Autodidactus" and Kamil in "Theologus Autodidactus") who were autodidactic individuals spontaneously generated in a cave and living in seclusion on a desert island, both being the earliest examples of a desert island story. However, while Hayy lives alone with animals on a desert island for the rest of the story in "Philosophus Autodidactus", the story of Kamil extends beyond the desert island setting in "Theologus Autodidactus", developing into a coming-of-age plot and eventually becoming the first example of a science fiction novel. The purpose behind this changing story structure in "Theologus Autodidactus" was to refute Abubacer's argument that autodidacticismcan lead to the same religious truths as revelation, whereas Ibn al-Nafis believed that religious truths can only be attained through revelation, which is represented through Kamil's interactions with other humans. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=95-102]
"Theologus Autodidactus" also contains some passages that are of significance to
medicine, particularly physiologyand biology, such as the following statement:
This is seen as the first example of the concept of
metabolism, which is comprised of catabolism, where living matter is broken down into simple substances, and anabolism, where foodbuilds up into living matter.
"Theologus Autodidactus" also criticizes the idea of
winebeing used as self-medication, an idea believed by Ancient Greek physicians as well as some unorthodox Muslim physicians in his time, despite the Islamic prohibition of alcohol. The novel further argues that the consumption of alcohol, along with the prevalence of homosexualityamong a small minority of Muslims at the time, were the cause of the Mongol invasionsinto Islamic lands as a divine punishment. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=152]
The novel also contains a reference to the pulmonary circulation which Ibn al-Nafis had previously described in his "Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon", which is briefly described by the character Kamil when he observes the heart: [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=233-4]
Another passage has a reference to Ibn al-Nafis' theory of pulsation: [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=234]
quote|"Its left ventricle is filled with spirit, and this ventricle contracts, thereby sendingthis spirit in the arteries to the organs. Then it expands, and this spirit returns to it."
Ibn al-Nafis makes use of his new systems of anatomy, physiology and psychology which he had developed in his previous works in order to defend his views on bodily resurrection in "Theologus Autodidactus". This may have been one of the reasons that initially motivated his discovery of the pulmonary circulation. [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=233-9]
"A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith"
Ibn al-Nafis wrote "Al-Mukhtasar fi Ilm Usoulil Hadith" ("A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith"), a treatise on the
science of hadith. The work is notable for its use of ijtihad(reason) in the evaluation of a hadith(narration or report) and its isnad(chain of transmission), unlike other contemporary hadith scholars, notably Ibn al-Salāh, who relied on traditional methods of classifying a hadith and its isnad. Ibn al-Nafis, on the other hand, sought to demonstrate the use of rationalityand logic to classify the hadiths and to find whether there are any contradictions within them. Later traditionalists, however, disagreed with the use of reason in the science of hadith, including the hadith scholar al-Dhahabiand the polymath Ibn Khaldun, who argued that "there is no place for the intellectin them, save that the intellect may be used in connection with them to relate problems of detail with basic principles." [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=67-72]
While traditional hadith scholars identified hadiths into three categories;
sahih(sound), hasan (fair) and da'if(weak); Ibn al-Nafis instead classified them into four logical categories: decidedly true ("maclūm al-sidq"), probably true ("yuz annu bihi'l-sidq"), probably false ("yuz annu bihi'l-kadhb") and decidedly false ("maclūm al-kadhb"). He used reasonand logic to judge the veracity or falsity of a report: [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=72-3]
According to traditional hadith scholars of his time, all
sahihhadiths, especially those reported in the canonical Sahih Bukhariand Sahih Muslim hadith collections, should instantly be classified as definitely true on the basis of a reliable isnad(chain of transmission). Ibn al-Nafis disagreed and instead classified most of those same sahih hadiths as "probably true" instead of "decidedly true", as he denied the absolute and unconditional validity of the sahih hadiths that was becoming the norm during his time. He argues thad, while a report emanating from Muhammad is always "decidedly true", most hadiths do not reach them directly from Muhamamd and so they can only be classified as "probably true" or "probably false" based on their isnad. He states that the only hadiths that are "decidedly true" are the multiply transmitted mutawatir(consecutive) hadiths. Since most sahih hadiths do not meet the criteria of mutawatir, he rejects the absolute soundness of the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim collections, placing a strong emphasis on mutawatir hadiths: [Harv|Fancy|2006|pp=73-4]
This was a view that was held by a majority of
ulema(legal scholars) in his time, but this view was not shared by traditional hadith scholars in his time who did not differentiate between hadiths that were "sahih" and "mutawatir". Ibn al-Nafis further classified the da'if (weak) hadiths as "probably false", and the only hadiths he classified as "decidedly false" were the ones where there was a known liar among the chain of transmission, the ones contradicting a "definitely true" hadith, and the ones dealing with anthropomorphism: [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=74-6]
With his emphasis on reason throughout the text, he wished to highlight the importance of "ilm al-dirāya" (content analysis) which was practiced by the early hadith scholars but was absent from the hadith scholarship of his time who put far more emphasis on isnad instead. He disagreed with their definition of a sahih hadith as a hadith from the canonical sahih collections, but instead he defined a sahih hadith as a "decidedly true" hadith that is "free from being challenged on account of its transmitters ["rijālihi"] , its content ["matnihi"] and its meaning ["macnāhi"] , while having a continuous chain of transmitters" and without any anthropomorphic content. [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=77]
So far, the titles of at least 37 of his works are known, which add up to at least more than a hundred volumes in total, though only a fraction of his works have survived (or yet to be discovered) and even fewer have been
printed(or translated). [Harv|Fancy|2006|p=205]
"The Choice of Foodstuffs"
Another famous book, embodying a number of original contributions, was on the effects of
dieton health, entitled "Kitab al-Mukhtar fi al-Aghdhiya" ("The Choice of Foodstuffs"). His approach to healthplaced a greater emphasis on diet, nutrition, and controlling the foodconsumed by a patient, rather than the prescriptions of drugs.
"The Polished Book on Experimental Ophthalmology"
Ibn al-Nafis wrote a large textbook on ophthalmology called "The Polished Book on Experimental Ophthalmology" in which he made a number of original contributions to the field. The book is divided into two sections: "On the Theory of Ophthalmology" and "Simple and Compounded Ophthalmic Drugs".
Ibn al-Nafis discovered that the
musclebehind the eyeball does not support the ophthalmic nerve, that they do not get in contact with it, and that the optic nerves transectbut do not get in touch with each other. He also discovered many new treatments for glaucomaand the weakness of vision in one eye when the other eye is affected by disease.Mohamad S. M. Takrouri (King Khalid University Hospital Riyadh), [http://www.angelfire.com/md/Takrouri/Ibn_alNafis.htm Medical aspects of Ala al-Din Abu'l-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi'l-Haram al-Qurashi (Ibn al-Nafis)'s contributions to science] ]
The most famous known work of Ibn al-Nafis is his 20-volume commentary on
Avicenna's " The Canon of Medicine", in which Ibn al-Nafis "elucidated the scientific problems, pointed out the logical conclusions, and explained the medical difficulties" in the text according to the biographers Umarī and al-Safadī. The most famous part of his commentary is the "Sharh Tashrih al-Qanun Ibn Sina" ("Commentary on Anatomy in Avicenna's Canon"), in which Ibn al-Nafis made his discovery of pulmonary circulation[Harv|Fancy|2006|p=62] and coronary circulation. The other four surviving volumes of the commentary are called "A Commentary on Generalities, A Commentary on Materia Medica and Compound Drugs, A Commentary on Head-to-Toe Diseases", and "A Commentary on Diseases Which Are Not Specific to Certain Organs". In the first of these volumes, "A Commentary on Generalities", he repeats his account of the pulmonary circulation.
He also wrote the "Kitab al-Mujiz" or "Mujiz al-Qanun" ("Epitome of the Kitab al-Qanun"), another work based on the "Canon", but rather than a commentary, this was an edited version of the original "Canon" for medical students. The sections on anatomy and physiology, however, were removed from the text due to the inaccuracy of those segments, and he also did not include his own commentaries in this work, hence it has no mention of his descriptions on the pulmonary or coronary circulations. This work was popular in the Islamic world and was translated into several other languages, including Turkish and
Hebrew, and several commentaries were written on his edited version of the "Canon".Harv|Iskandar|1974|p=604]
He also wrote a number of commentaries on the topic of medicine. His commentaries include one on
Hippocrates' book, and several volumes on Ibn Sina's "Qanun Fil Tibb" ("The Canon of Medicine"). Additionally, he wrote a commentary on Hunayn ibn Ishaq's book. In his commentaries on Avicenna and his commentary on Hippocrates, entitled "Sharh Fusul Buqrat" ("Commentary on Hippocrates' Aphorisms"), he wrote an introductory note on them, making obvious his rebellious nature against established authorities, as he states:
Other medical writings
His other medical works include the "Risalat al-A'ada'a" ("An Essay on Organs") and "Al-Shamel fi al-Tibb" ("Reference Book for Physicians").
Ibn al-Nafis wrote a treatise on
environmental science, which covered a number of subjects related to pollution, such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, municipal solid wastemishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. [L. Gari (2002), "Arabic Treatises on Environmental Pollution up to the End of the Thirteenth Century", "Environment and History" 8 (4), pp. 475-488.]
Fiqh jurisprudence and Sharia law
Ibn al-Nafis wrote several books dealing with
Fiqhjurisprudence and Sharialaw, including the "Theologus Autodidactus" and a commentary on Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi's "Al-Tanbeeh" ("Exhortation").
One of his most famous books on
lawis "Mujaz al-Qanun" ("The Summary of Law"). He also wrote a number of other commentaries on the topic of law.
Ibn al-Nafis wrote two books on Arabic linguistics. One was his original work, "Tareeq al-Fasaha" ("Road to Eloquence"), while the other was a commentary on the linguist Said bin al-Hassan al-Rab'i al-
Baghdadi's "Al-Fusous" ("The Segments").
Ibn al-Nafis wrote two books on
logic in Islamic philosophy. One of these works deals with Avicennian logic as a commentary of Avicenna's "Al-Isharat" ("The Signs") and "Al-Hidayah" ("The Guidance"). His other work on logic, "Al-Wurayqat" ("The Little Papers"), deals with Aristotelian logic as a commentary on Aristotle's " Organon" and "Rhetoric".
His "Theologus Autodidactus" and "A Short Account of the Methodology of Hadith" also deal with the use of logic in
early Islamic philosophy, Ibn al-Nafis wrote commentaries on Avicennian philosophy, specifically Avicenna's "Hidaya f'il-Hikma" and the "Kitab al-Isharat wa al-Tanbihat" ("Book of Directives and Remarks") in " The Book of Healing", though neither of these commentaries have survived. [citation|first=Max|last=Meyerhof|contribution=Ibn al-Nafis|editor1-first1=M. Th.|editor1-last=van Donzel|editor1-first=E.|year=1993|title=E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936|pages=94–95  |publisher= Brill Publishers|isbn=9004082654|oclc=15549162]
title=Contributions of Ibn Al-Nafis to the progress of medicine and urology: A study and translations from his medical works
journal=Saudi Medical Journal
title=Significance of the demonstration of the Harveyan circulation by experimental tests
first=Nahyan A. G.
title=Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)
journal=Electronic Theses and Dissertations
University of Notre Dame
Dictionary of Scientific Biography
Early Islamic philosophy
List of Arab scientists and scholars
Medical Encyclopedia of Islam and Iran"
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