Ibn Rushd “Averroes” and Medicine

By Marwan S. Abualrub

Ibn Rushd, Abul Walid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad, also known as Averroes (b. Cordoba, Spain 1126; d. Marrakech, Morocco, 10 December 1198)

Ibn Rushd was working in the fields of astronomy, philosophy, medicine, mathematics … etc. But his work in medicine was original. Among his teachers in medicine were Ali Abu Ja’far Ibn Harun Al-Tarragani and Abu Marwan Ibn Jurrayul. Ibn Rushd’s contributions to medicine can be seen at least in the following 13 parts: 

(1) Kitab al-Kulliyyat (“The Book of Generalities”)

Al-Kulliyyat was the major work of Ibn Rushd in medicine and it was the most famous book he published. Colliget, the Latin translation of Al-Kulliyyat, was made in Padua in 1255 by a Jew, Bonacosa, and the first edition was printed in Venice in 1482, followed by many other editions. Al-Kulliyyat book is subdivided into seven books, and those books contain complete lessons in the making of medicine.

The seven books of Al-Kulliyyat are:

1. Tashrih al-a’da (“Anatomy of Organs”)

2. Al-Sihha (“Health”)

3. Al-Marad (“Sickness”)

4. Al-Alamat (“Symptoms”)

5. Al-Adwiya wa’l aghdhiya (“Drugs and Foods”)

6. Hifz al-sihha (“Hygiene”)

7. Shifa al-amrad (“Therapy”)

Al-Kulliyyat book was of great importance in Europe for a long time.

Mr. Alfred Al-Bostani, the professor of Arabic Literature in the Moroccan Studies

Institute in Taiwan, wrote the introduction of Al-Kulliyyat and put the scientific contents.

The introduction and the scientific contents were translated to Spanish language by

Cristobal Perez Vera.

The title of the book in Spanish is: Publicaciones del lnstituto General Franco para

la lnvestigacion Hispano-arabe. Seccion primera: Manuscritos Arabes. QUITAB EL CULIAT (Libro de Las generalidades) por Abu EI Ualid Mohamed Ben Ahmed Ben Roxd, El Maliki EI Cortobi (Averroes), 1939, Artes Graficas Bosca, Larache (Marruecos).

(2) Al-Qawl fi aalat al-tanaffus (“The Saying about Respiratory Tools”)

One of the chapters of Kitab Al-sihha (“The Book of Health”) in Al-Kulliyyat book is Al-Qawl fi aalat al-tanaffus. [Averroes “contra Galenum”. Das Kapital „Von der Atmung“ in Colliget des Averroes als ein Zeugnis mittelalterlicher Kritik an Galen, eingeleitet, arabisch herausgegeben und übersetzt von J. Christoph Bürgel, Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen I. Philologisch – Historische Klasse, Jahrgang 1967 No.9, pp. 2263-340].

This chapter of Al-Kulliyyat’s book was published by Professor Christoph Bürgel “The Swedish” on the basis of three books:

1. Bibli. Nac. (Madrid) 132 – Gg 154, fol Iga

2. Colleccion del Sacro Monte (GraIiada) No. I

3. Gottingen al. g6.

The first part of the three books begins with: wa-aalat al-tanaffus hiya al-higab, wa-r-ri’a wa-qasabatiha, wa-l-hungurah, wa-l-luhah, i.e. The respiratory tools are the diaphragm, the lung and its trachea, the pharynx, and the larynx.

(3) Sharh urjuzat Ibn Sina (“The Explanation of Ibn Sina’s Poem”)

Ibn Rushd wrote a commentary to explain Ibn Sina’s urjuza fi-t-tibb (“Poem on

Medicine”). Ibn Sina’s Urjuza fi-t-tibb is very famous. It consists of 1326 poetry lines and it starts like: al-tibbu hifzu sihhatin buro maradin . .. or in Latin Canticum de medicina. ..

That is, the medicine is to protect the health from disease. .. Sharh urjuzat Ibn Sina starts with: Amma baad, hamdi-llahi bihayati-n-nafsi wa-sihhati-l-agsami … .

That is, after thanking Allah in the self survival and the bodies’ health…

There are two more copies of Sharh Urjuzat Ibn Sina in Oxford, Paris, Algeria, Holland, Germany, Britain, … etc. Ibn Rushd commentary, Sharh urjuzat Ibn Sina, was translated into Hebrew prose by Moses ben Tibbon in 1260; a translation into Hebrew verse was completed at Beziers (France) in 1261 by Solomon ben Ayyub ben Joseph of Granada. Further, a Latin translation of the same work was made by Armenguad, son of Blaise, in 1280 or 1284, and a printed edition was published at Venice in 1484.

(4) Maqala fi-t-tiryaq (“Treatise on Theriac”, Tractatus de theriaca)

There are two copies of this Maqala (“Treatise”) in Escurial. A Latin translation of

Ibn Rushd’s Maqala fi-t-tiryaq was made by Andrea Alpago. There is also a translation in Hebrew. Ibn Abi Usaibi’a mentioned the title of the following letter which is perhaps, the letter mentioned by the Latin translation in al-Kulliyyat book: Colliget, VII, 2- “in epistola Theriace et veneni reprobavi quam ad Glauconem transmisi” (ed. de 1560, ap. Comin. de Trid,. Vol. IX, f. 120 V, ligne 13 a.f.) (Bouyges, Notes. p. 36, No. 64).

Simonet, Glosario, p. CXLVIII, Note 4 L. Leclerc, Histoire de la medecine . .. t. 2,

p. 108. Al-Bidaya (“The beginning”): fa-qala’l-hakim Muhammad ben Rushd … Amma baad, hamdi-llahi fa-innahu sa’alani man wagibat alayya ta’atihi an uthbita lahu ala tariq al-burhan al-tibbi ma qalahu-l-atibba’ fi-l-mawadi’ al-lati yustamalu fiha al-tiryaq . . . .

That is, The wise man Muhammad Ibn Rushd said. .. After thanking Allah, the person whom I had to treat with this method asked me to prove to him why I should choose this method using the medical proof of physicians in cases in which Tiryaq had been applied as way of treatment… 

(5) Gumla min-al-adwiya al-mufrada (“A Set of Single Drugs”)

Tradu. Hebr Vatican 357; Steinschneider, ZDMG, t. 47, p. 343; Steinschneider, Heb. Uehers. .. p. 676.

(6) Maqala fi hummiyyat al-afan (“Treatise on the Infectious Fevers”)

In the Escurial book number 884/5, there is a letter for Ibn Rushd without a specific

title. In that letter he talks about al-Hummiyyat “The Fevers”, and Ibn Abi Usaibi’a

mentions two letters specialize in al-Hummiyyat:

1 – Maqala fi hummiyyat al-afan.

2 – Masa’il fi nawa’ib al-humma (“Questions in the Fever Attacks”).

The beginning of Ibn Rushd’s letter is: Qal … Qad yagib an yu’taqad anna zaman

al-nawba huwa fi al-harara al-ghariziyya fi guz’ al-khalt al-fai’l li-l-humma … . 

That is, he says. .. it might be an obligation to believe that the time length of the attack is the result of the bazal (or instinctive) temperature in the part of the mixture which causes the fever. …

Al-Nihaya (“The End”) of the letter is:

Wa-amma al-humma al-da’ima fa-hiya athnano ufonateha fi mawadi’ al-hudum al-thalatha.

That is, and the chronic fever is the concentration of its infection in the three digestive locations.

(7) Kalam fi ikhtisar al-‘ilal wa al-amrad li-galinos (“On Summarizing

the Diseases and Symptoms by Galen”)

De morborum et symptomatum differentiis et causis.

It is in Escurial, MS 884 p. 42-58 and it consists of 6 essays.

(8) Maqala fi asnaf al-mizag (“Treatise on the Kinds of Temperament”)

Renan thinks (Renan, Averroes, p. 78) that this Maqala is the one that Ibn Abi

Usaibi’a mentions under the name of: Talkhis Kitab al-mizag (“Summary of the book of Temperaments”), and it is different from the Treatise of Galen which is called De temperamento.

The beginning of Talkhis Kitab al-mizaj is:

Qala al-Qadi, al-Imam, . . ., Abu’l-Walid Ibn Rushd … al-Gharadu fi hadha-l-qawl an yufhasu an adadi asnafi l-mizagati fi nawin min anwa’i l-agsami l-mutashabihati’l- agsa’…

That is, The Judge, The Iman, … etc., Abu’l-Walid Ibn Rushd .., says:

The purpose of this saying is to find out how many different kinds of temperaments are to be found in one type of body with similar parts (Escurial 884/4, Derenbourg p. 95).

In the Escurial book number 881, Derenbourg p. 91-92, there exists a set of three

letters written in the same hand writing summarizing some of Galen’s books and most likely these letters were written by Ibn Rushd.

(9) Talkhis ustuqussat Galinos (“Summary of Galen’s Elements”)

This is a summary of the book De elementis secundum Hippocratem. The


Qala annahu lamma kana-l-ustuquss huwa alladhi yursam bi-annahu asghar al-agza’ al-mawguda fi’l shai’ … qultu amma’l qariba minha fa-kama qala wa-amma al-bai’da fa-min haqq-al-sinaa’h an ta’khudhaha mustaqillah min al-i’lm al-tabi’i.

That is, he said that if the element was interpreted as the smallest part existing in the thing. .. I said that, as for the closest among them, they are as he said, as for the far ones, craft may take them independently from natural science.

(10) Talkhis Kitab al-mizaj li-Galinos (“Summary of the Book of Temperaments

by Galen”) 

The name of the book is: De temperamentis. The summary contains three

essays. Ibn Rush finished publishing this summary in April/May 1192, and he wrote it to his sons Abul Qasim and Abu Muhammad.

(11) Talkhis Kitab al-quwa al-tabi’iyya li-Galinos (“Summary of the Book of 

Natural Faculties by Galen”)

The name of the book is: De facultatibus naturalibus Libri III. (Escurial, Mss 881-

Derenbourg p. 92 (22 pages) and 884/2 Derenbourg p. 95 (35 pages)).

The beginning: Qala annahu lamma kana hahuna fi’lan khassani bi-l-hayawan wa huma al-hiss wa’l-haraka al-iradiyya fi’l makan wa fi’lan mushtarakan li-n-nabat wa’l-Hayawan 

. .. . That is, he said that since there are two activities characteristic of animals: the senses and the voluntary movement in place, and there are two activities characteristic of both plants and animals…

(12) Talkhis Kitab al-hummiyyat (“The Summary of the Book of Fevers”)

This book is Galen’s book and its title is: De differentiis febrium. The beginning does not exist in the book, and in the whole book there is “He said” and then “I say” and the beginning of “He said” starts as follows:

wa gami’ al-awramu tuwallidu l-hummiyyat Idha wasalat hararatuha ila’l-qalb kama

taqaddam. …

That is, all of the tumours generate the fevers if its temperature reach to the heart as

said before. . . .

The summary ended on Wednesday, February 11, 1193.

(13) Fi hifz al-sihha (“On Hygiene”)

In the same book that exists in the Escurial number 884-7, there is a book by Ibn

Rushd without a specific title, he talks in it about hygiene. Renan (in Averroes … p. 76) thought that this book is the sixth book of al-Kulliyyat. Derenbourg compared both books and he found out that Renan’s thought was wrong.

The beginning is:

Adama llahu izzakum, … etc. hifzu-s-sihhati yakunu amrain ahaduhuma al-inayatu li-gawdati l-hadm wa-l-thaniya al-inayatu bi-stifraghi fudul al-hadm . .. .

That is, may Allah keep you strong, … etc. Hygiene means doing two things: one of them is taking care of good digestion and the second is taking care of desiccating the wastes of digestion…

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