Part 26

The Science of Physics

January 15, 2022

This investigates bodies from the point of view of the motion and stationariness which attach to them. It studies the heavenly and the elementary bodies (substances), as well as the human beings, the animals, the plants, and the minerals created from them. It also studies the springs and earthquakes that come into being in the earth, as well as the clouds, vapors, thunder, lightning, and storms that are in the atmosphere, and other things. It further studies the beginning of motion in bodies - that is, the soul in the different forms in which it appears in human beings, animals, and plants.

The books of Aristotle on the subject are available to scholars. They were translated together with the other books on the philosophical sciences in the days of al-Ma’mun. Scholars wrote books along the same lines and followed them up with explanation and comment. 715 The most comprehensive work written on the subject is Avicenna’s Kitab ashShifa’. In it, Avicenna treats all the seven philosophical sciences, as we have mentioned before. 716 Avicenna later on abridged the Kitab ash-Shifa’ in the Kitab an-Najah and the Kitab al-Isharat. In a way, he opposed Aristotle on most (physical) problems and expressed his own opinion on them. Averroes, on the other hand, abridged the books of Aristotle and commented on them, but followed him and did not oppose him. Scholars have written many works on the subject, 717 but these are the works that are famous at this time and to which attention is paid when one (studies) the craft (of physics).

The people of the East are concerned with Avicenna’s Kitab al-Isharat. The imam Ibn al-Khatib wrote a good commentary on it. The same was done by al- Amid! 718 Another commentary on the work was written by Nasir-ad-din at-Tusi, 719 who is known as Khawajah (Khoja), an ‘Iraqi scholar. He investigated many of the problems (of the Isharat) and compared what the imam (Ibn al-Khatib) had to say about them. He went beyond (Ibn al-Khatib’s) studies and investigations.

24. The science of medicine

Medicine is a craft that studies the human body in its illness and health.

The physician attempts to preserve health and to cure illness with the help of medicines and diets, but first he ascertains the illness(es) peculiar to each limb of the body, and the reasons causing them. He also ascertains the medicines existing for each illness.

Physicians deduce the (effectiveness of) medicines from their composition and powers. They deduce (the stage of) an illness from signs indicating whether the illness is ripe and will accept the medicine or not. (These signs show themselves) in the color (of the patient), the excretions, and the pulse. The physicians in this imitate the power of nature, which is the controlling element in both health and illness.

They imitate nature and help it a little, as the nature of the matter (underlying the illness), the season (of the year), and the age (of the patient) may require in each particular case. The science dealing with all these things is called medicine.

Certain limbs are occasionally discussed as individual subjects and are considered to (form the subjects of) special sciences. This is the case, for instance, with the eye, the diseases of the eye, and the collyria (used in the treatment of eye diseases).

(Scholars) have also added to this discipline the (study of the) uses of the parts of the body, that is, the useful purpose for which each limb of the animal body was created. This is not a medical subject, but it has been made into an annex and subdivision of medicine. Galen has written an important and very useful work on this discipline. 722

Galen is the leading ancient authority on medicine. His works have been translated (into Arabic). He is said to have been a contemporary of Jesus and to have died in Sicily on his wanderings while in voluntary exile. 723 His works on medicine are classics which have been models for all later physicians.

There have been leading physicians in Islam of surpassing skill, such as, for instance, ar-Razi, 72 4 al-Majusi, 725 and Avicenna. There have also been many Spanish physicians. Most famous among them was Ibn Zuhr. 726

In contemporary Muslim cities, the (craft of medicine) seems to have deteriorated, because the civilization (population) has decreased and shrunk. (Medicine) is a craft required only by sedentary culture and luxury, as we shall explain later on. 727

Civilized Bedouins have a kind of medicine which is mainly based upon individual experience. They inherit its use from the shaykhs and old women of the tribe. Some of it may occasionally be correct. However, (that kind of medicine) is not based upon any natural norm or upon any conformity (of the treatment) to the temper of the humors. Much of this sort of medicine existed among the Arabs. They had well-known physicians, such as al-Harith b. Kaladah 728 and others.

The medicine mentioned in religious tradition 729 is of the (Bedouin) type. It is in no way part of the divine revelation. (Such medical matters) were merely (part of) Arab custom and happened to be mentioned in connection with the circumstances of the Prophet, like other things that were customary in hisgeneration. They were not mentioned in order to imply that that particular way of practicing (medicine) is stipulated by the religious law.

Muhammad was sent to teach us the religious law. He was not sent to teach us medicine or any other ordinary matter. In connection with the story of the fecundation of the palms, he said= “You know more about your worldly affairs (than I).” 730

None of the statements concerning medicine that occur in sound traditions should be considered to (have the force of) law. There is nothing to indicate that this is the case. The only thing is that if that type of medicine is used for the sake of a divine blessing and 731 in true religious faith, it may be very useful. However, that would have nothing to do with humoral medicine but be the result of true faith. This happened in the case of the person who had a stomach-ache and was treated with honey, 732 and similar stories.

25. The science of agriculture

This craft is a branch of physics. It concerns the study of the cultivation and growth of plants through irrigation, proper treatment, improvement of the soil, 734 (observance of) the suitable season, and the care for them by applying these things in a way that will benefit them and help them to grow. The ancients were very much concerned with agriculture.

Their study of agriculture was general. They considered the plants both from the point of view of planting and cultivation and from the point of view of their properties, their spirituality, and the relationship of (their spirituality) to the spiritualities of the stars and the great (heavenly) bodies, which is something (also) used in sorcery.

Thus, they were very much concerned with the subject.

One of the Greek works, the Kitab al-Falahah anNabatiyah, 735 was translated. It is ascribed to Nabataean scholars. It contains much information of the type (mentioned). The Muslims who studied the contents of the work (noticed that it belonged to) sorcery, which is barred (by the religious law) and the study of which is forbidden. Therefore, they restricted themselves to the part of the book dealing with plants from the point of view of their planting and treatment and the things connected with that. They completely banished all discussion of the other part of the book. Ibn al-‘Awwam 736 abridged the Kitab al-Falahah an-Nabatiyah in this sense. The other part of it remained neglected. Some of the main problems of (that other part) were transmitted by Maslamah in his magical works. We shall mention that in connection with the discussion of sorcery, if God, He is exalted, wills. 737

There are many books on agriculture by recent scholars. They do not go beyond discussion of the planting and treatment of plants, their preservation from things that might harm them or affect their growth, and all the things connected with that. (These works) are available.