The Arabs and the Establishment of Hospitals


From the early ages to this day, medicine has experienced a huge development; each civilization has made its own contribution to the development of medicine and health care practices. Arab scientists, who were once widely known for their excellence in all fields of science, significantly improved medical care. With their mastery in chemistry, biology, and dissection, Muslim physicians proved their abilities in all the fields of medicine.

The Arab interest for medicine and health has also originated from their religious beliefs; Islam pays great attention to healthcare. Ablution, bathing, using siwak, and seeking medical treatments by naturally-produced drugs or Medieval practice of surgery, were thus common behaviors practiced by Muslims.

As a result of their progress in medicine, Arab scientists were the first to establish hospitals to carry out their medical practices. Formerly, healthcare was provided by monks in monasteries or public steam baths—aka hammam—where barbers performed bloodletting and cupping for clients. Arabs innovated in the designs and functions of hospitals, where healthcare was provided by educated physicians and nurses.

Hospitals were named bimaristan or marsitan—place for sick people in Persian. The first documented hospital in the Arab region was established in the 9th century in Baghdad, Iraq, during the reign of Caliph Harun Al-Rashid; one-hundred years later, around five more bimaristans were built in Baghdad. The most famous hospital was established in 982; it had 25 doctors, including oculists, surgeons, and bonesetters.

The first hospital in Egypt was established by Ahmad ibn Tulun and dates back to 872; it was famous for providing care for insane people. In the 12th century, Saladin established the Nasiri Hospital in Cairo; and in 1284, the Mansuri Hospital was established; throughout the 15th century, it remained the most important medical center in Cairo.

Other hospitals were built all over the Islamic territories, such as Al-Qayrawan Hospital in Tunisia, which dates back to the 9th century. Some hospitals were built in Iran; one of them was headed by Al-Razi. In Andalusia, the earliest hospital was built in 1397, in Granada.

It is impossible to deny the Arab influence in medicine, in addition to their contribution to hospital establishment. Arab physicians’ works and discoveries were the basis for European medical care providers; their books remained references to medical students for years. Physicians and surgeons of today are still practicing and teaching some techniques that belong to Arab scientists.


About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2024 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina