Jewish medical doctors in medieval Islam – guide evaluation

2021-06-10 07:56:40

 Jewish medical doctors in medieval Islam 

An progressive work penetrates fascinating interactions to disclose new shade


This new publication has been a few years within the making and marks the completion of a monumental research of Jewish medical practitioners and the cures they used within the medieval Islamic world. The writer is Professor of Land of Israel Research at Haifa College and is a foremost authority on drugs within the Cairo Geniza. He has examined hundreds of paperwork overlaying many centuries that have been retrieved greater than a century in the past from the Geniza (doc repository) of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue. Lev’s Geniza scholarship and his in depth data of ethno-pharmacology have already given rise to the magisterial Sensible Materia Medica of the Medieval Jap Mediterranean Based on the Cairo Genizah, co-authored with Zohar Amar.

Utilizing Geniza data and fragments together with extant medieval Muslim Arabic sources Lev has been in a position to current info on the lives of greater than 600 Jewish physicians and pharmacists within the Islamic world of the Center Ages. He employs the strategy of “prosopography,” a research that identifies and relates a bunch of individuals or characters inside a specific historic context, to create “a collective biography.” This reveals how these practitioners functioned as they cared for Jewish, Christian and Muslim sufferers within the Islamic world, which stretched from Morocco and Andalusia to Iraq and Iran. Jewish physicians and pharmacists had primarily good relations with Christian and Muslim colleagues, and medical college students of the three faiths discovered collectively within the jap Muslim lands, usually in hospitals and at different instances inside household networks. 

Jews have been drawn to the medical occupation. Medication carried status and supplied alternative the place different scholarly choices have been closed to them. These physicians have been literate in Arabic and Hebrew and had entry to medical libraries. Even throughout instances of restrictions on Jewish medical doctors, Muslim rulers and the general public nonetheless consulted them. This work introduced Jewish physicians near the middle of energy and a few Jewish courtroom physicians have been killed in courtroom intrigues.

One biography constructed on each Geniza and Arabic sources is that of the twelfth century Abu al-Asha’ir Hibat-Allah b. Zayn Ibn Jumay al-Isra’ili (Nethanel b. Samuel), who practiced drugs in Cairo and was the doctor of the legendary Saladin. Primarily Arabic sources present primary info of names and locations, colleagues and college students although typically extra particulars, equivalent to medical salaries and libraries, are included. The Jewish sources from the Cairo Geniza have details about their households and the context of their lives and work. Some biography entries are extra detailed whereas others include solely minimal info. Some physicians have been a part of medical dynasties and 49 household timber have been created and displayed within the guide. Many examples could be quoted. We all know of Maafuz al-Tabib, a doctor in Egypt, solely from a point out in a doc from 1185, reporting that his granddaughter was getting married. Kamal b. Musa was a sixteenth century ophthalmologist in Jerusalem the place he was a dayan (Jewish non secular choose). 

He had a clinic in a rented retailer within the Suq al-Attarin and, as “Head of the Physicians” of Jerusalem, he acquired his wage from the general public treasury. 

Some physicians have a extra detailed biography. Masarjawayh was an Aramaic Jewish doctor from Basra, Iraq within the seventh and eighth centuries. He was the doctor of the Umayyad caliph Umar b. Abd al-Aziz and was an early translator of texts from Syriac into Arabic. He wrote books on meals and medicines, which the writer describes. Meir b. Isaac Aldabi was born in Toledo round 1310. After settling in Jerusalem in 1348, he authored Shevilei Emunah (Paths of Religion) aiming to point out that Plato and Aristotle derived the necessities of their data from Jewish sources. The guide additionally has sections coping with many scientific subjects in addition to anatomy and human physiology. Isaac Israeli (Ishaq b. Sulayman al-Isra’ili) (c. 832-932) was born in Egypt and was a neoplatonist thinker and doctor. In Qayrawan, in fashionable Tunisia, he served as a courtroom doctor and wrote influential books on fevers and urine. These have been studied for a lot of centuries within the medical faculties of Christian Europe. 

The physicians additionally embody well-known figures like Moses Maimonides (Musa b. Abd Allah al-Isra’ili al-Qurtubi,  1138-1204), who stays a serious determine in Jewish non secular regulation, philosophy and drugs. Born in Cordoba in 1138, he settled in Fez through the Almohadic interval in Spain, reaching Fostat (previous Cairo) in 1166. He was the main Jewish non secular determine in Egypt with authority stretching past the nation, whereas serving as courtroom doctor throughout Ayyubic rule. Maimonides wrote 10 works on medical subjects, together with treatises on bronchial asthma, hemorrhoids, poisons and books of his medical aphorisms and commentaries on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates. 

By combining the experiences of a whole bunch of medical doctors the writer has been in a position to attract many conclusions that would not have been finished from the person tales. This huge work is recommended for its complete protection of the subject and for shedding gentle on a world that has disappeared however has left clues in historical manuscripts and fragments which Lev continues to scour.



By Efraim Lev

Edinburgh College Press

513 pages; £95.00

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