Hospitals In Islamic Civilization
By Noor Fadhilah Binti Ramadzan
One of the amazing features of Islamic civilization was taking care of both, spiritual needs and bodily needs of the society. According to Islam, health and body are a gift and trust from Allah, so we have to take care of our body and health. The Islamic government, on the other hand, is responsible for well-being of entire society. As a result, governments were interested in providing healthcare for citizens, especially for poor and needy by establishing health institutions, called Bimaristan.
The word Bimaristan is from Persian origin, Bimar means ‘disease’ and ‘stan’ means ‘place.’
The first hospital in Islamic history was established during the period of an Ummayad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (705-715 AD) and was specialized in treating leprosy. The physician appointed to this hospital were granted large properties and salaries. Those undergoing treatment had orders to stay at the hospitals permanently and were granted stipends.
In Islamic history, there were two types of hospitals: mobile dispensaries and permanent buildings.
The Caliphs and the rulers made sure that health care will reach all people of the caliphate by using mobile hospitals. The mobile hospitals moved from village to village where there were no permanents hospitals. Later, these mobile hospitals became larger with different types of care. During the time of Sultan Muhammad al-Saljuki, for example, 40 camels were carrying the equipment of one mobile hospital.
Permanent hospitals were built in every town and city and were open for public for 14 hours a day. It had several departments dealing with different diseases.
In outpatient department, patients were carefully examined and will be given the prescribed medicines. But those who had the serious conditions and required a regular attention and supervision, were admitted to hospitals.
Special measures were taken at hospitals to prevent infection. Patients used to hand up their clothes on entering the hospital and take new clothes for free in order to prevent infection through the clothes they were wearing when they caught the disease.
After that, each patient enters a special ward according to his illness, and he is not allowed to enter the other wards to prevent infection too.
The patient admitted to the hospital would leave his clothes and personal belongings in the hospital and would be given a new garment. They also received free food in hospitals.
Then, a financial aid would be issued to him to support his family while he was in the hospital. Once he was discharged, this aid would be increased so that he would not be forced to work during recovery.
Accordingly, hospitals were instrumental in keeping the Muslim ummah healthy and they were reachable everywhere, open for all, man or woman, rich or poor, Muslim or non-Muslim, efficient and free of change.
- Salim T S Al-Hassani, Woodcock, E & Rabah Saoud. (2007). 1001 Inventions : Muslim Heritage in Our World (2nd ). Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC), UK.
- Mustafa Siba’I (2011). Islamic Civilization. (2nd), Introduction to History and Civilization (189-196). IIUM Gombak: Department of History and Civilization, KIRK&HS.
In Picture: building of Bimaristan Arghun in Aleppo, Syria, which was established in 1354 by Arghun al-Kamili.