The Savior from Demise: A Book on Withstanding the Harms of Deadly Poisons


The study of poisons and their remedies has played an important role in the Islamic medical tradition since the first century of the Hijra, and mention of the treatment of poisoning is already found in the hadith. The major Arabic medical encyclopedias—al-Rāzī's Kitāb Al-Manṣūrī and Al-Ḥāwī fī al-Ṭibb and Avicenna's Canon—included chapters on poisons in the early tenth and early 11th centuries. Famous authors such as Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (circa 721–815) and Moses Maimonides (the Jewish philosopher, theologian, and physician whose medical works were written mainly in Arabic) some 400 years later devoted monographs to this subject. The present manuscript preserves a beautifully adorned copy of the book on poisons written by Ḥusayn Ibn al-Mubārak (died after 1372) in the first half of the 14th century. The treatise is divided into three large sections, each opened by a richly gilded decorative page and by an extremely detailed rubricated table of contents. The first table of contents begins at folio 3 verso following an extensive preface and three introductory remarks. Ibn al-Mubārak's work is a true comprehensive manual dealing with all the possible causes of poisoning. It covers the various kinds of poisonous food—including toxins derived from dairy products, oils, fruits, vegetables, and poisonous waters and flowers—as well as poisonous mineral substances. It also describes in detail the different animals with a bite or sting that can be deadly or harmful and the possible antidotes to their poisons.

Last updated: August 29, 2017