Medical Text


Presented here is a fragment of an unidentified medical text. The surviving portion of the work commences midway through a discussion of plant-based or vegetarian nutrients, and subsequently presents a discussion of the nutritional values of meat. Subsequent sections treat a variety of medicinal draughts, before commencing rather abruptly on conditions affecting the male and female reproductive organs. In a series of shifts, the text then discusses niqris (gout), ʻirq al-nisa (sciatica), al-fasd (venesection), and a host of other medical conditions and procedures. The text terminates amidst the treatment of scorpion stings. The medicine described in this work is largely based on the pharmaceutical uses of plants and other materials, as well as on the nutritional value of various foods. The nature of the work as outside the main Galenic/Avicennan body of Islamic medicine is evident in the choice of topics and their somewhat haphazard arrangement in loosely connected chapters and sections―an arrangement that suggests that the work should be considered as belonging to the genre of al-Ṭibb al-nabawi (Prophetic medicine). On the first leaf, a scrawling annotation with the spurious title Kutub li-daqyānūs wa jālinūs wa baʻḍ al- ḥukamaʼ al-ʻiẓām (The books of Decius and Galen and a number of other renowned scientists), hinting at the antiquity of the work, is clearly a later addition. Among the authorities listed in the work is “the author of al-Ghunya. That reference is probably to al-Ghunya li ṭālibī ṭarīqat al-haqq (The sufficient [work] for the seekers of the path of truth) by ʻAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani (circa 1078‒1166), the founder of the Qadiriyya Sufi order. Also listed is the “author of al-Marsūm,” perhaps intended as the author of Marsūm khaṭṭ al-muṣḥaf (The prescribed order in the writing of the Qurʼan), i.e., Ismaʻil ibn Zafir al-ʻUqayli (1159‒1236). Both al-Jilani and al-ʻUqayli are known primarily for their religious writings rather than any medical or scientific works. A third author listed, identified as the “author of al-Tadhkira,” was, however, likely a bona fide medical authority. In this case the author in question appears to be Da’ud ibn ’Umar al-Antaki (died 1599). Al-Antaki’s well-known work al-Tadhkira li ūlā al-albāb (Memento for the wise) was a text that included an extended list of medicinal simples derived from vegetal sources. If this identification is correct, the present work could not have been written before the second half of the 16th century.

Last updated: August 15, 2017