Muhammad bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi.. the Andalusian doctor who invented the first medical glasses and performed the cataract operation

The Islamic civilization derived its empirical sciences and knowledge from its own inheritance as well as through interaction with the legacy of other civilizations. And after him, between the sciences of India and the Byzantine state, and the legacy of the remaining ancient civilizations in Persia, Iraq, the Levant, and Egypt, where prestigious schools flourished, such as the Jundishapur School of Medicine in Iran, the schools of Damascus, and the Alexandria School in Egypt, all of which contributed to the industry of a medical renaissance. huge in the Islamic state.

And if Al-Harith bin Kalda Al-Thaqafi, Al-Nadr bin Al-Harith bin Kalda, and Atheer bin Amr Al-Sukouti emerged in the Prophet’s and Rashidi eras, medicine began to flourish in a more specialized way since the Umayyad era, and some members of the ruling Umayyad family will begin to study and absorb this specialization, such as Khalid bin Yazid bin Muawiyah Ibn Al-Khalifa Yazid, the grandson of the Umayyad caliph Muawiya I ibn Abi Sufyan, and others who settled in Damascus by virtue of it being the capital of the Islamic state at that time, such as al-Hakam al-Dimashqi, Ibn al-Hakam al-Dimashqi, Ibn Athal and others. With this scientific and cultural leap, the expansion of the area of ​​​​the Umayyad state, and the increase in the number of patients, Caliph Al-Walid bin Abd al-Malik bin Marwan decided, before the end of the first century of migration, to establish a specialized Bimaristan (hospital) with various departments in Damascus, including a section for people with leprosy, and ordered not to They mix with people so as not to spread infection and disease [1].

The House of Wisdom was not limited to translation and transmission only, but it was proven that Al-Ma’mun established scientific teams specialized in many of these scientific fields. (communication Web-sites)

Egypt also knew during that period some “hospitals”, such as Bimaristan, Alley of Lanterns, the most famous alleys of the city of Fustat, the first Islamic capital, and Alexandria also knew similar hospitals, but the major revolution that took place in the field of medicine and in experimental sciences in general was with the advent of the Abbasids and their openness to the civilizations of India And the Persians and the Byzantines in a broader way than those who preceded them, and their work on translating the scientific heritage of those nations since the era of Abu Jaafar al-Mansur and Harun al-Rashid and then its institutionalization at the hands of al-Ma’mun through the “House of Wisdom” and its scientific departments that specialized in astronomy, medicine, mathematics, engineering, etc., and the House of Wisdom institution was not limited to Translation and transmission only. Rather, it was proven that Al-Ma’mun set up scientific teams specialized in many of these scientific fields, and it added a big leap, as we dealt with before with the family of Musa bin Shaker.

The effects of this scientific revolution in the field of medicine were felt in many huge achievements at the level of authorship and experimentation, and at the level of therapeutic examinations, as well as in the expansion of the departments of bimaristans that spread across the length and breadth of countries, and in the large number of doctors and even medical families such as members of the Bakhtishu’ family such as Georgios, Bakhtishu’, Gabriel and Obaid God, a tragic family, his sons John and Michael, al-Kindi, Thabit bin Qurra, his children and grandchildren, the most famous Abbasid doctor al-Razi, then Ibn Sina, and those who came after them were among the most prominent physicians in the history of Islamic civilization in this era, and each of them contributed in the various medical fields that we referred to [2].

Advances in Islamic Ophthalmology

And if the medical and scientific revolution took place in Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, it quickly spread to the Maghreb of the Islamic world, and it enjoyed a great share of progress in Andalusia, in which names shone that still bear an imprint even in modern medicine to this day, such as Al-Zahrawi, the inventor of surgical tools, and Ibn Zahr al-Ayadi, Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd al-Hafid, Ibn Khalsun, al-Qarbaliani, and others.

Ahmed bin Younes, “the first Arab doctor to perform a water removal operation on the eye to treat cataract disease or “cataract” as it is known today, using a hollow needle. (Communication sites)

The field of medicine flourished in Andalusia since the era of the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd al-Rahman al-Dakhil during the second century of immigration. The medical doctor, we find that one of the first to address this was Abd al-Malik bin Habib al-Sulami al-Ilbiri, who wrote a book in which he collected news about ancient Arab medicine. He also dealt with Islam’s vision of this profession through Quranic verses and hadiths of the Prophet, and revealed what was new in his time in the field of medicine, treatment and types of medicines. Foods, moods, and natures, and this book, which was written a thousand and two hundred years ago, was able to find a copy of it by the investigator and former Moroccan minister, Muhammad al-Arabi al-Khattabi, and titled it “Arab Medicine.” He also selected the most important chapters from it and worked to verify and publish it. [3].

The Islamic civilization also knew scientific specialization in the departments of surgery, childbirth, orthopedics (al-Mujbar) and eyes (al-Kahala), and this last section was among the general medicine departments dealt with by al-Kindi, al-Razi, Ibn Sina and al-Zahrawi. Ahmed and Omar bin Yunus Al-Harrani, the two doctors close to the Umayyad caliph Al-Mustansir Billah in Andalusia, and Ahmed bin Yunus was “the first Arab doctor to perform the operation to remove water on the eye to treat cataract disease or” cataract “as it is known today, using a hollow needle. While he went Some say that Ibn Zuhr was the first to use this needle, the truth is that Ibn Zuhr came 150 years after Ahmed bin Yunus, and it is likely that he took it from him, but it is unfortunate that “the drawing of this instrument did not reach us, and it is truly an unparalleled precedent.” “[4].

Also in this medical specialty appeared the famous ophthalmologist Ammar bin Ali al-Mawsili and his book “The Selected in the Treatment of Eye Diseases”, and Ali bin Isa the author of the book “Tadkirat al-Kahhalin”, and the most famous physician Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, the author of the most famous theory in the science of optics and lenses and their types, and he is one of the most Muslim opticians who influenced Western civilization.

Ibn Aslam Al-Ghafiqi and his book Al-Murshed

Muhammad bin Qasoum bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi Al-Andalusi was interested in developing an accurate scientific method to study and deal with all diseases that occur to the eye, and to detail the symptoms that preserve it. (Shutterstock)

Among these great scholars in the field of ophthalmology in research, treatment, authorship, and specialization, we will find Muhammad bin Qasoum bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi Al-Andalusi, who lived in the last half of the sixth century AH and the first part of the seventh century AH, and we, unfortunately, do not have detailed information about his life in Andalusia, except for fragments. We found it in his book “The Guide in Kohl” that does not heal the yield, in which it appears that he is from a village called Ghafiq that was close to Cordoba, and perhaps Al-Ghafiqi was a descendant of the most famous governor of Andalusia and the conqueror of large sections of southern and central France Abd al-Rahman Al-Ghafiqi, the martyr of the Battle of the Martyrs’ Court.

The German ophthalmologist and orientalist, Max Meyerhof, was the first to take an interest in the modern era in the heritage of Muhammad bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi and his most important author, “The Guide in Medicine of the Eye” or “The Guide in Kohl”. In Madrid, but the most comprehensive study of this book, investigation and publication, was conducted by the doctor and ophthalmologist Hassan Ali Hassan, who completed the entire book “Al-Murshid” to obtain a doctorate from Spain. [5].

It is noticeable in Al-Ghafiqi’s book, Al-Murshid, that it divides medicine into two aspects. Theoretical and practical, or “science and action”, then science is divided into several sections, which are knowledge of natural things such as mood, humors, organs, faculties and spirits, and knowledge of unnatural things such as air, food, drink, movement, stillness, sleep and wakefulness, and knowledge of things outside nature such as diseases and their causes and symptoms. As for work, Al-Ghafiqi divides it into two parts. Preserving the health of the healthy, then this great heading descends on the eye in terms of first preserving its health from the start, then preserving the health of eyes that have begun to deviate from health, then preserving the health of weak eyes such as the eyes of children and the elderly. It also deals with eye diseases and their treatment, which was done through food and medicine, or surgical intervention[6].

(communication Web-sites)

The truth is that the book Al-Murshed by Ibn Aslam Al-Ghafiqi Al-Qurtubi was one of the scientific revolutions in Andalusia in particular and the Islamic medical heritage in general. When I looked at this medical industry, I mean medicine of the eye, I did not find in it a comprehensive book for all that is needed in terms of knowledge and practice. very short”[7].

Eye diseases and their treatments as mentioned by Al-Ghafiqi

Al-Ghafiqi was interested in developing an accurate scientific method to study and deal with all diseases that occur to the eye, and to detail the symptoms that preserve it. Starting by talking about the sections of the eye, then their characteristics, then what strengthens them from nature or what treats them of medicines, bandages and ointments, then finally the surgeries. For sight: “The most useful colors for the eye from the colors of clothes and other things are the color cyan (dark blue), the color black, the color green, and the color violet.” As for the colors that are harmful to the eyesight, they are: “The bright color, the bright color, the white color, the red color, and the yellow color, these colors disperse communication and scatter the light of sight.”[8].

Among the diseases that Al-Ghafiqi studied were headaches, migraines, eyelid diseases, and tumors of all kinds. Rather, he dealt with the causes of blackness under the eyes (dark circles) and the bandages that treat them, which are medicines extracted from single plants or compound plants that are ground and then kneaded and placed in the site of the disease. Bandages that benefit from accidental blackness under the eye” and what was caused by a blow that left the violet color under the eye; He suggests some treatments, he says: “Crush the cactus with honey and prepare it for smearing on the traces… Another like it: Garlic is taken and burned and kneaded with honey and smeared under the eye, God willing, for it removes the violet color.”[9]Today, we know through the latest medical studies about the great benefits of garlic as a natural antidote against many diseases and infections.

Al-Ghafiqi also devoted long and important talks about conjunctivitis and conjunctivitis and their treatment. Conjunctivitis, or what is known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball, and its causes are often bacterial, viral, or allergic. Al-Ghafiqi describes that conjunctivitis has occasional causes of The heat of the sun, dust, steam, fats, or internal causes (often viral or bacterial), so the treatment depends on knowing the causes of the disease. Analgesics such as egg whites, milk, and saliva of quince seeds; and because the eye is a sensitive organ that is quick to pain, you should not struggle with it in starting medications, but rather you must know the active cause of conjunctivitis.” Then he deals with the treatments according to the types of conjunctivitis that he dealt with at the beginning of this chapter.[10].

(communication Web-sites)

The book also dealt with the treatment of children’s squint in smart and innovative ways, and it acknowledges that children’s squint disappears with time if the correct methods are followed in its treatment. He says: “The squint of boys at birth is relieved by putting the burqa on the face so that their eyesight is straight. The squint is caused by the expansion of the motor muscle For the eyeball, and it is also treated with a lamp that is placed in front of them and makes its light on one side. And we understand from this that the natural squint, its treatment, as Al-Ghafiqi mentions, is to attract the attention of the eye socket for as long as possible towards the side that is to be treated and to persevere in these therapeutic exercises.

But what if the squint was a disease that occurred later on growing up? Al-Ghafiqi believes in this case that “it is exposed to heat and dryness, and it often affects the head with a disease such as headache, dizziness, and an excruciating headache. olive leaf[11].

Al-Ghafiqi’s medical genius did not stop at this point, as many researchers specializing in his medical heritage revealed that he was able to perform cataract or cataract operations, and the researcher confirms Nabil Darwish That Al-Ghafiqi was the first to invent medical glasses, contrary to the famous narration attributed to Roger Bacon, and Al-Ghafiqi was half a century earlier than Bacon, and the evidence for that, as Darwish says, is from the Spanish language itself. “, and few people associate them, according to his description.

Al-Ghafiqi not only wrote the book “Al-Murshid” on ophthalmology, but he also wrote another missing book on pharmacology and drugs called “Single Medicines”. Through the book itself, it becomes clear to us the extent of the great experience that Al-Ghafiqi had with single and combined medicines. There is no doubt that this missing book He was not only specialized in ophthalmic medicine, but also in other treatments for diseases and other medicines.

These are some of the contributions of Muhammad bin Qasoum bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi, a physician and pharmacist in the field of Kahala, known as ophthalmology. There is no doubt that the presence of this man in Andalusia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD contributed to the translation of his works and the acquaintance of Europeans with them. Because of this huge contribution, Spain made sure to perpetuate his memory by placing a statue to remember him in his city, Cordoba.



  • [1] Ahmed Issa Bey: Bimaristans in Islam, p. 205.
  • [2] Kamal Al-Samarrai: History of Arab Medicine, Medicine in the Abbasid Era.
  • [3] Muhammad al-Arabi al-Khattabi: Medicine and Physicians in Islamic Andalusia 1/11.
  • [4] Al-Ghafiqi’s Guide to Ophthalmology, foreword by the investigator, Doctor Hassan Ali Hassan, p. 29.
  • [5] Al-Ghafiqi: The Guide to Ophthalmology, the investigator’s introduction.
  • [6] Jamal Bami: Muhammad bin Aslam Al-Ghafiqi.
  • [7] Al-Ghafiqi: Al-Murshid, p. 45, 46.
  • [8] Al-Ghafiqi: Al-Murshid p. 253.
  • [9] Al-Murshid, p. 302.
  • [10] Al-Murshid, pp. 382, ​​383.
  • [11] Al-Ghafiqi: Al-Murshid, p. 457.

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