“For every disease there is a cure” forms the ethos driving medical researchers today to treat debilitating conditions like cancer.

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These were also the words of Prophet Muhammad whose commitment to healthcare was revolutionary at a time when Europe struggled with the notion.

Basic personal hygiene was incorporated into the daily life of a Muslim – performing ablution five times a day interlinked spirituality with good health. The many actions and sayings of Muhammad concerning health were meticulously recorded by his companions and form a compendium of knowledge known as Prophetic medicine. It contains a rich variety of treatments for all sorts of common ailments from headache and diarrhoea to wounds and abscesses. Muhammad also placed particular emphasis on dental hygiene and popularised the use of miswak – a twig from the Salvadora persica tree softened at one end to form a brush. Tooth sticks were introduced to Europe centuries later, with the first toothbrush created in 18th century Britain.

Muhammad’s example inspired future Muslim physicians to trigger a revolution in medical knowledge. This would eventually pave the way for the advent of conventional medicine that we take for granted today. The most famous Muslim physician was Ibn Sina (commonly known as Avicenna, 980-1036) whose greatest medical work was the Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Law of Medicine). This encyclopaedia of medical knowledge was translated into Latin in the twelfth century and was used in Europe as an authoritative textbook until well into the eighteenth century.

Hundreds of years before the NHS, a free healthcare service was offered in the world’s first public hospitals in Muslim lands. Patients from all religions and races were treated, and staff often comprised of Jews and Christians alongside Muslims. Medical students today are marked on bedside manner, yet the idea of medical ethics was coined by Ishaq bin Ali Rahawi who wrote the Adab al-Tabib (Conduct of a Physician) in the ninth century.

Muhammad’s concern for the health and wellbeing of a community forged a legacy of medical research, learning and pioneering institutions. Today Muslims continue to make a valuable contribution in the medical field.

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