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Christian and muslim views on black death

Ignorant of even the rudiments of science, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, and sanitation, they knew nothing of the workings of that prince of medieval scientific devices, the astrolabe, which captured the movements of the three-dimensional universe on its bronze faceplate; as a result, they could not even date their most important religious holiday, Easter, nor accurately tell the time of day. Celestial phenomena—shooting stars, ball lightning, an eclipse of the sun—terrified them.

Their forebears had long since lost the ability to read Greek, thus breaking off intellectual relations with the learning of antiquity.

Education had all but collapsed, save for a handful of cathedral schools clinging to innovations introduced three hundred years earlier under Charlemagne. Their most noble knights boasted of bathing no more than four times a year; their diet consisted largely of monotonous rations of gruel and whatever else they could forage en route; medical care frequently involved exorcism or the amputation of afflicted limbs.

When the Black Death struck Europe in the mid-fourteenth century, it unleashed social chaos. With no real notion of contagion or hygiene, one-third of the population died without knowing why. The mass casualties induced a frenzy of violence, typified by the burning of Jews suspected of having induced the disease through witchcraft. The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, by Rembrandt, 1632. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. And so I left, having learned about their medicine things I had never known before.

Christian and muslim views on black death existence was shrouded in allegorical meaning, while natural phenomena were seen—if they were seen at all—in the context of moralizing tales.

  • Christians placed wax cloth over their windows, filled their houses with flowers, avoided sleeping on their back, and breathed in latrine vapors;
  • Yet only one European treatise gives a concrete remedy against the astrological causes of plague; the customary recommendations were flight and prayer8 The most commonly held opinion about the ultimate cause of the plague pandemic was religious:

Disease was viewed as divine punishment for the sins of man, rather than as a condition to be addressed or ameliorated through human intervention. The few tentative efforts to adopt the technological novelties starting to trickle in slowly from the Arab world, among them the water clock that Caliph Harun al-Rashid sent as a gift to Charlemagne in 801, were either dismissed as curiosities or condemned as Black Magic. As far as medieval Christians were concerned, God was the sole determinant force in their daily lives; there was no reason, then, to explore the nature of things—and thus, no science.

In marked contrast, the Muslims put a premium on cleanliness and dietary regime. The ritual cleansing of the body precedes each of the five daily prayers, a requirement that sparked the development of sophisticated public-water projects and ingenious engineering techniques. Religious law proscribed a number of unhealthy practices, including the consumption of alcohol, while a large collection of sayings and practices ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, later collated as the tibb al-Nabi, or The Medicine of the Prophet, provided a general blueprint for healthy living and abstemious behavior.

By the christian and muslim views on black death the First Crusade arrived in the Near East in 1096, Usama ibn Munqidh and his fellow Muslims were heirs to an Islamic civilization, built up first by the Umayyad Dynasty and then by the Abbasids in the centuries after the death of the Prophet in 632. The second Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur, relied on the advice of his royal astrologers when he began work on his new capital, Baghdad, on July 30, 762.

By then, the lands under the formal dominion of the Abbasids stretched from the Atlantic to what is now Afghanistan. Over the course of 150 years, the Arabs translated all available Greek books of science and philosophy, and Arabic supplanted Greek as the language of intellectual inquiry. Materials in the royal Persian archives together with Sanskrit manuscripts, and the Greek traditions, were assimilated and then enhanced to create a remarkable body of knowledge that can rightfully be called Arab Science.

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Much of this work was carried out in Baghdad at the Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom, which eventually comprised a library and an academy of scholars from across the empire.

Higher education became increasingly organized from the early-ninth century, and major Muslim cities routinely featured some type of university. Another prominent Muslim educational institution was the teaching hospital, the first built in Damascus in 707.

Others were subsequently established in the great Muslim cities of Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordoba. A system of medical education evolved that integrated study in the mosque with practice in the hospital. Students were required to follow a basic course of instruction: Completion of medical training required a dissertation and concluded with a diploma that permitted the new physician to practice. This close affiliation of mosque and hospital is of fundamental importance to Islamic medicine and to the Islamic scientific tradition in general.

The Arab philosophers devoted enormous attention to the classification of the sciences, locating both speculative and practical science within the broader spectrum of wisdom. Among the most important of these works in both East and West was that of the tenth-century thinker al-Farabi, translated into Latin as De Scientiis and widely read for centuries.

Early Islamic Medicine

The physician should look upon the patient as a besieged city and try to rescue him with every means that art and science place at his command. The latter, a Jew who wrote his philosophical works in Arabic, served as personal doctor to Saladin, the chivalrous twelfth-century rival of Richard the Lionheart.

The genius of the medieval Arabs lay in their extraordinary receptivity to new ideas, that is, in their ability to fit the discoveries of foreign cultures into their own practical, intellectual, and religious demands.

Muslim doctors subscribed to the Hippocratic Oath, and the traditions of their art stressed that the true physician, like the true philosopher, must be pious and upright.

Changes in diet and regimen were the preferred path to restored health, and Muslim physicians were skilled observers and diagnosticians who relied heavily on listening to the pulse or analyzing the color of urine. They were the first to have diagnosed smallpox, measles, and hemophilia. Pharmacology and even advanced surgical techniques, many to treat eye ailments, were also developed in the event that less invasive techniques proved inadequate.

The task of synthesizing the various systems of thought into a grand theory of medicine was the work of Avicenna, the Persian polymath known among the Muslims as Ibn Sina. The result is his monumental Canon of Medicine, written in the eleventh century and comprising five sections: Given its long history as the standard medical-school textbook, it is fitting that Avicenna specifically addresses those students who may struggle to master its theoretical elements. The task of the hakim is to discern this proper balance, taking into account such factors as age, gender, season of the year, and then to help the body reattain it through therapies as varied as massage, movement and exercise, changes to diet and patterns of rest, and the use of medicinal herbs and other drugs.

  • It was described as the end of the world when people died by the hundreds each day Doc;
  • The entire inhabited world changed;
  • The flagellants were also intimately associated with the second major feature of the European reaction to the pandemic;
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  • Likewise, the seven cervical vertebrae found in man correlate to the seven visible planets of the medieval world;
  • In India, traditional Islamic medicine receives considerable backing from the public-health authorities as an alternative to more costly, Western-style biomedicine.

In this system, Aries was associated with the head, continuing down the body and around the signs of the zodiac until Pisces corresponded to the feet. Likewise, the seven cervical vertebrae found in man correlate to the seven visible planets of the medieval world: Avicenna also stressed the important role of psychology in restoring a healthy balance to the body. He wrote widely on the interior life of man, on the workings of the human eye, and on the notion of the soul and on metaphysics in general—works that exercised profound influence on medieval Christian thought.

His comprehensive writings on such topics were first rendered into Latin in then-Muslim Spain no later than 1166, but, as with other translations of major Arabic texts, it took considerable time before their full impact was felt. More than one hundred extant Latin manuscripts of his philosophical treatises were copied after 1250. For the ancient Greeks, dating back first to Empedocles and then to Platothe eye sent forth rays of light that illuminate the objects we see.

This view had taken firm root in medieval Europe until the full arrival of Arab science in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Canon of Medicine also kept many of these same notions alive for centuries in European universities.

The rise of biomedicine in the West has left us with few traces of the Islamic tradition. However, it remains a living art in Pakistan, Egypt, other Muslim countries, and India where practitioners are still known as hakims.

  • Students were required to follow a basic course of instruction;
  • Their most noble knights boasted of bathing no more than four times a year; their diet consisted largely of monotonous rations of gruel and whatever else they could forage en route; medical care frequently involved exorcism or the amputation of afflicted limbs.

In India, traditional Islamic medicine receives considerable backing from the public-health authorities as an alternative to more costly, Western-style biomedicine. Our broader technical language—from azimuth to zenith, from algebra to zero—the popularization of common foodstuffs—apricots, artichokes, hard wheat—and our trade and nautical lexicon—monsoon, admiral, tariff, duane—have all been enriched beyond measure by Arab and Muslim culture.

Without this, Western civilization would be literally unthinkable.

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Yet, this debt seems destined to go unrecognized and unrepaid. Following in the footsteps of the Renaissance humanists who wrote the Arabs out of our intellectual histories, we prefer instead to trace our cultural bloodlines to an idealized Classical Age rooted in Greece and Rome.

[The black death in Christian and Muslim Occident, 1347-1353].

Such a view may prove comforting at times of crisis, but it represents both bad history and bad science. How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization. For twenty years he worked as an editor and foreign correspondent for Reuters, living and working throughout the Islamic world, including Turkey, Iran, and Indonesia.