Sunday, August 21, 2011

Islamic Medcine During Abbasid Caliphate

Khilafah al-'Alam al-Islami

The Abbasid Caliphate

Abbasid Caliphate (Baghdad)

The Abbasid Khilafah

751: Battle of Talas: Arabs learn papermaking from Chinese prisoners of war Tang Dynasty Chronology
752 CE, 134 A.H Beginning of Abbasid Khilafah.
750-850: The Four orthodox schools of law are established
755 CE, 137 A.H Revolt of Abdullah bin Ali. Murder of Abu Muslim.
756, 138 A.H Abdul Rahman founds the Umayyad state in Spain.
763 CE, 145 A.H Foundation of Baghdad. Defeat of the Abbasids in Spain.

765: A school of medicine is established in Baghdad.
767 CE, 150 A.H Khariji state set up by Ibn Madrar at Sijilmasa.
767: Death of Abu Hanifa who founded the Hanafite School of Law.
786 CE, 169 A.H Haroon Rashid becomes Khalifah.
792 CE, 175 A.H Invasion of South France.

795: Death of Anas ibn Malik who founded the Malikite School of Law.
800 CE, 184 A.H Scientific method is developed. Algebra is invented by Al-Khawarizmi.
805 CE, 189 A.H Campaigns against the Byzantines. Capture of the islands of Rhodes and Cypress.

809 CE, 193 A.H Death of Haroon Ar-Rashid. Accession of Amin.
814 CE, 198 A.H Civil war between Amin and Mamun. Amin killed and Mamun becomes the Khalifah. Bayt-ul-Hikmat is founded in his time.
820: Death of Shafi'i who founded the Shafi'ite School of Law.
855: Death of Ahmad ibn Hanbal who founded the Hanbalite School of Law.900 CE, 287 A.H Pendulum developed by Yunus Al-Masri.

850-875: The Tradition is formalized.
870: Death of Bukhari who edited one of the important compendia of Tradition.
875: Death of Muslim who edited one of the important compendia of Tradition.
976 CE, 365 A.H Muhammad bin Ahmad introduces the number Zero.
1000 CE, 390 A.H Al-Haytham discovers that white light consists of various rays of colored light. The building of the Great Mosque of Cordoba is completed.

1005 CE, 395 A.H Mahmood Ghaznavi captures Multan and Ghur.
1010: Firdawsi completes his Epic of Kings, the great epic poem of Persia.
1055-1250: Expansion of Islam under the Seljuks and Christian responses.
1055: Seljuk Turks establish a protectorate in Baghdad.

1055 CE, 447 A.H Baghdad is conquered by the Seljuk Turks. Abbasid-Seljuk rule starts, which lasts until 1258 when Mongols destroy Baghdad.
1071: Battle of Manzikert. Seljuks defeat the Byzantines and establish control over Asia Minor.
1085 CE, 477 A.H Christians get Toledo (in Spain).
1091 CE, 484 A.H Normans capture Sicily, ending Muslim rule there.
1095 CE, 488 A.H The first crusade takes place.
1096-1099: First CrusadeThe Crusading Era Chronology
1099 CE, 492 A.H Crusaders capture Jerusalem. They mercilessly slaughter everyone inside its walls.

1099: Crusaders take Jerusalem.
1100 CE, 493 A.H Muslims introduce negative numbers.
1144 CE, 538 A.H Imam-ud Din captures Edessa from Christians. Second crusade takes place.
1147-1149: Second Crusade

1187: Saladin captures Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

1187 CE, 583 A.H Salahuddin captures Jerusalem from Christians in the most peaceful way possible. Third crusade takes place in which Christians only get Acre after months of bloodshed.
1189-1192: Third Crusade
1194 CE, 590 A.H Muslims occupy Delhi, India.

1236 CE, 633 A.H Christians conquer Cordoba (in Spain).
1258 CE, 656 A.H Mongols sack Baghdad. Thousands of people killed and great libraries burned. Fall of Baghdad. End of Abbasid rule.

The Abbassids

The 'Abassid caliphate (758-1258) was founded on two disaffected Islamic populations: non-Arabic Muslims and Shi'ites. For the most part, the Islamic impetus to the Abassid revolution lay in the secularism of the Umayyad caliphs. The Umayyads had always been outsiders—as a wealthy clan in Mecca, they had opposed Muhammad—and the secularism and sometime degeneracy that accompanied their caliphate delegitimized their rule for many devout Muslims.

The Abbasids took their name from al-'Abbas, a paternal uncle of Muhammad and early supporter of the Prophet. Their close kinship to Muhammad and the position of al-'Abbas as a Companion of the Prophet served them well in gaining support. As early as 718 AD, during the reign of Umar II, Muhammad ibn 'Ali, a great-grandson of al-'Abbas, began to proselytize in Persia to rally support for returning the caliphate to the family of the Prophet, the Hashimites.

What made the 'Abbasid seizure of the caliphate unique was the heavy reliance on client Muslims, or mawali. The mawali were foreigners who had converted to Islam; because, however, they were foreigners they could not be incorporated into the kinship-based society of Arabs. They had to be voluntarily included into the protection of a clan, that is, they had to become "clients" of the clan (which is what the word mawali means). For the most part, they were second-class citizens even though they were Muslims.

The overwhelming majority of foreigners who rallied to the Hashimiyya cause were Iranian. Historians have argued that the 'Abbasid caliphate represented a shift in Islam from Semitic to Iranian culture; other historians argue that there really no such shift. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

When the 'Abbasids took power, the center of Islamic culture shifted from the Semitic world in Arabia and Syria to the Iranian or Persian world in Iraq. By shifting the capital from Damascus to Baghdad, the 'Abassids brought about a dynamic fusion of Persian and Semitic culture.

The dynasty was started when Abu'l-'Abbass assumed the caliphate from 750-754 AD / 132-136 AH. Both he and his successor, Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (754-775 / 136-158), ruthlessly consolidated power and began a series of administrative moves that would characterize Islamic government for the next several centuries.

As with Umayyads, they separated themselves from the general Islamic populace, but they surrounded themselves with foreigners rather than Arabs, particularly in the military. This bred bitter resentment, particularly among Arabs, such as the Khorosanian Arabs, that had helped them rise to power.

The Umayyads

The Umayyads, however, did not take being removed from power lying down. In 756, the Umayyads established a rival empire in Spain, though they did not set up a rival caliphate until 929. They were aided in their seizing of power by Kharjite North Africans and, in particular, Berbers, who had been instrumental in the conquest of Spain earlier.

The Umayyad caliphate flourished in Spain for the next three centuries and the Islamic culture that grew on this fertile soil, the Moorish culture, was dramatically different from the Iranian-Semitic culture that grew up around the 'Abbasid Caliphate.

The Early Years

The 'Abassids only came to power with the help of diverse and disaffected populations; even though they consolidated power fairly ruthlessly in the beginning, their control over the world of Islam unravelled quickly. The first threat came with the establishment of Umayyad rule in Spain which, because of its distance, obviated any military reconquest of the area. Soon after, rival Islamic states were set up by Berber Kharjites in North Africa in 801.

The Shi'ites were a particular thorn in 'Abassid rule; the 'Abassids had come to power by using both Shi'ite help and rhetoric. The Shi'ites, however, were not a single, unitary group, and the 'Abassids abandoned their ties to the Shi'a beliefs. Efforts were made to make peace with moderate Shi'ites, but these soon broke down. An uprising in Mecca in 786 led to a massacre of Shi'ite 'Alids—the survivors, however, fled to the western region of Africa, or the Maghreb, and established a new and independent kingdom, the Idrisid kingdom.

By the beginning of the ninth century, the caliph's control over the Islamic world was beginning to crumble. It was into this increasingly bleak picture that al-Mamun suddenly appeared.


Abd Allah, or al-Ma'mun, had not been named as a successor to the caliphate—this instead fell to his brother, Muhammad, called al-Amin. The brothers soon fell out, however, and al-Mamun seized the caliphate in 813. As with his predecessors, he tried to incorporate Shi'ites into the Islamic government, but his entire reign was spent in quelling disturbances among Shi'ites and anit-Shi'ites. He seems to have just held the line in the disintegration of the 'Abbasid caliphate. There are, however, two great innovations that irrevocably changed the course of Islamic history.

The first was a military revolution begun by his brother, al-Mu'tasim. The constant revolutions and the deep division in Islamic society convinced al-Ma'mun that he needed a military force whose only loyalty was to him. So his brother, who would later become caliph (833-842 / 218-27), assembled a military force of slaves, called Mamluks.

Many of the Mamluks were Turkish, who were famous for the horsemanship. But the Mamluk military also consisted of Slavs and some Berbers. By the middle of al-Wathiq's reign, the Mamluk army had completely displaced the Arabian and Persian army under the caliph. This army, and al-Mu'tasim's abandonment of Baghdad for Samarra, caused bitter resentment among Muslims and would irreperably sever the protective bond between the Islamic sovereign and the Islamic people.

It also introduced a new ethnic group in the Islamic world, the Mamluks, who would eventually play a powerful role in the drama of power and decline in medieval Islam.

More importantly, al-Ma'mun energetically patronized Greek, Sanskrit and Arabic learning and so altered the cultural and intellectual face of Islam. He adopted a radical theological position, called Mu'tazilism, which was regarded as somewhat heretical by more orthodox Muslims.
Nevertheless, Mu'tazilism had as one of its fundamental beliefs the idea that Muslims should obey a single ruler. In order to facilitate the spread of Mu'tazilite teaching, al-Ma'mun established a university, the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikma ).

It was here that Hellenistic and Indian works made their way into Islamic culture through a series of translations. Islam incorporated into its culture and belief the philosophical method of inquiry of the Hellenist world—it is for this reason that philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle were passed on to succeeding generations.

This incorporation led to a new Islamic intellectual practice, faylasafa, or philosophy, based on principles of rational inquiry and to some extent empiricism.


After the caliphate of al-Mu'tasim and that of his son, al-Wathiq (842-47 / 227-32), the centralized power of the caliphate declined centrifugally. By 945, the area around Iraq fell to a dynasty of amirs , the Buyid dynasty. The 'Abbasids remained as caliphs until 1030, but they were only figureheads.

Islamic history entered a new phase. The history of early Islam is a history of the spread of a single cultural force throughout the Iranian, Semitic, North African, and to a lesser extent, the Hellenistic and European worlds. That single cultural force was religious, social, linguistic, and political and was based almost entirely on Arabic culture and world view.

In the earliest years, there is a remarkable consolidation in the regions where Islam spreads—there is by and large an acceptance of a central authority, a government structure, a religion, a language, and a cultural chauvinism. During the latter years of the Umayyad caliphate, that cultural and political unity began to break down.

The 'Abbasids, in adopting Iranian culture in part and in distancing themselves from their Semitic origins (for instance, by instituting Mamluk armies), further accelerated the cultural divisions in the world of Islam. After only two hundred years in power, the unified cultural and political world of Islam broke down into a myriad independent cultural and political units.

And thus began the medieval period in Islam, a period of cultural and political disunity and decentralization. This was not, however, a bad thing; Islamic culture, split into several different groups that were often divided along ethnic lines, expanded the cultural and intellectual richness of the religion.

By the end of the medieval period, even the fiction of a cultural or political unity of Islam had been completely destroyed. The historical process, then, of medieval Islam was primarily about cultural and political decentralization—modern Islam would be the history of powerful cultural centers in this divided world.

Accomplishments of the Abbassids

The Abbasid Khilafah lasted from 750-1258 CE. Khalifah Abu Jafar Al-Mansur, the second Abbasid Khalifah, moved the capital of the Islamic Empire from Damascus in Syria to Baghdad in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was the richest province in the empire in tax and agricultural productions. Baghdad was between the Tigris and Euphrates River so it became the center of trade, learning, and government.


Baghdad's economy relied on taxes, and wealth generated by trade and manufacturing. The empire was rich in gold, silver, copper, and iron and used them in trade. Farmers grew dates, rice, and other grains. In addition, the Abbasids introduced new breeds of livestock.

They also spread cotton. Traders from Scandinavia to Africa came to Baghdad for the products of its industries too. Leather goods, textiles, paper, metalwork, and perfumes were sold in the city. The Abbasids developed something very similar to the banking system.
They did not have bank buildings but business people invested in long distance trade and goods were bought on credit. They also had a postal system. Muslim rule unified the eastern world. They introduced a uniform coinage system that made commerce easier. The Abbasids treated non-Muslims well. In their time, there were 11000 Christian churches, and hundreds of synagogues and fire temples.


The great wealth made the Abbasids able to support learning and arts. Muslims believed long before Columbus's time that the earth was round. They invented algebra. They wrote the first accurate descriptions of measles and smallpox. They had clean hospitals.

They built the Bayt-al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) in which scholars from different lands came and studied. It served as a museum, library, translation office, school, and meeting center. Books about mathematics, meteorology, optics, mechanics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine, etc. were translated into Arabic from Hebrew, Greek, Persian, Syriac, and other languages.

Al-Razi, Ibn Sina, Al-Biruni, and Al-Khwarizmi were some of the famous scholars of that time. Muslims collected writings of the schools of Alexandria and the best philosophical works of ancient Greek. There were special departments under qualified professors for promotion and prosecution of special branches of study. Astronomical observations were made in Mamun's reign.

Among these equinoxes, eclipses, the apparitions of comets and other celestial bodies was most important. The size of the earth was calculated from the measurement of a degree on the shores of the Red Sea. At this time, Europe was asserting the flatness of the earth. Abul Hassan invented the telescope.
The telescope was improved and used in the observatories of Maragha and Cairo with great success. The first observatory of Islam was made in Mamun's reign at Shamassia on the plains of Tadmur. Afterwards several more were created

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