24. The science of medicine. 721
Medicine is a craft that studies the human body in its illness and health. The physician attempts to preserve health and to cure illness with the help of medicines and diets, but first he ascertains the illness(es) peculiar to each limb of the body, and the reasons causing them. He also ascertains the medicines existing for each illness. Physicians deduce the (effectiveness of) medicines from their composition and powers. They deduce (the stage of) an illness from signs indicating whether the illness is ripe and will accept the medicine or not. (These signs show themselves) in the color (of the patient), the excretions, and the pulse. The physicians in this imitate the power of nature, which is the controlling element in both health and illness. They imitate nature and help it a little, as the nature of the matter (underlying the illness), the season (of the year), and the age (of the patient) may require in each particular case. The science dealing with all these things is called medicine.
Certain limbs are occasionally discussed as individual subjects and are considered to (form the subjects of) special sciences. This is the case, for instance, with the eye, the diseases of the eye, and the collyria (used in the treatment of eye diseases).
(Scholars) have also added to this discipline the (study of the) uses of the parts of the body, that is, the useful purpose for which each limb of the animal body was created. This is not a medical subject, but it has been made into an annex and subdivision of medicine. Galen has written an important and very useful work on this discipline. 722
Galen is the leading ancient authority on medicine. His works have been translated (into Arabic). He is said to have been a contemporary of Jesus and to have died in Sicily on his wanderings while in voluntary exile. 723 His works on medicine are classics which have been models for all later physicians.
There have been leading physicians in Islam of surpassing skill, such as, for instance, ar-Razi, 724 al-Majusi, 725 and Avicenna. There have also been many Spanish physicians. Most famous among them was Ibn Zuhr. 726
In contemporary Muslim cities, the (craft of medicine) seems to have deteriorated, because the civilization (population) has decreased and shrunk. (Medicine) is a craft required only by sedentary culture and luxury, as we shall explain later on. 727
Civilized Bedouins have a kind of medicine which is mainly based upon individual experience. They inherit its use from the shaykhs and old women of the tribe. Some of it may occasionally be correct. However, (that kind of medicine) is not based upon any natural norm or upon any conformity (of the treatment) to the temper of the humors. Much of this sort of medicine existed among the Arabs. They had well-known physicians, such as al-Harith b. Kaladah 728 and others.
The medicine mentioned in religious tradition 729 is of the (Bedouin) type. It is in no way part of the divine revelation. (Such medical matters) were merely (part of) Arab custom and happened to be mentioned in connection with the circumstances of the Prophet, like other things that were customary in his generation. They were not mentioned in order to imply that that particular way of practicing (medicine) is stipulated by the religious law. Muhammad was sent to teach us the religious law. He was not sent to teach us medicine or any other ordinary matter. In connection with the story of the fecundation of the palms, he said: "You know more about your worldly affairs (than I)." 730
None of the statements concerning medicine that occur in sound traditions should be considered to (have the force of) law. There is nothing to indicate that this is the case. The only thing is that if that type of medicine is used for the sake of a divine blessing and 731 in true religious faith, it may be very useful. However, that would have nothing to do with humoral medicine but be the result of true faith. This happened in the case of the person who had a stomach-ache and was treated with honey, 732 and similar stories.
God guides to that which is correct.