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Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi

Rhazes-Treating a Patient (unknown)

Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known as Al-Razi, as Ar-Razi, as Ibn Zakaria (Zakariya) or (in Latin) as Rhazes and Rasis, (864*-930 AD) was an Iranian* polymath who contributed much to the fields of medicine and chemistry. He was also significant in the field of philosophy.

  1. Although scholars mostly agree on the year of Razi's death, Razi's year of birth is not precisely known: some scholars such as William H. Brock give 850 while the historian/pharmacist Charles LaWall dates his birth as early as 841.
  2. Although it is widely believed that Razi was an Arab, this is a misconception. He spoke Persian, he was born and died in Iran, and lived in the Persian Empire. (Note that many other Persian figures have mistakenly been regarded as Arabs, such as Avicenna, Biruni, Khwarazmi/Al-Khwarizmi and many others, although they were not Arabs.)
  3. Rhazes was a student of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, not Jabir Ibn Hayyan.

He discovered alcohol, the use of alcohol in medicine, and he also discovered Sulfuric acid. He was born in Rayy (Rages) (actually, in Persian language "Razi" means from the city of Ray), an ancient city located near Tehran, Iran, and pursued a great amount of his research there. (Note that Avicenna also lived in Ray for a period of time.) Many also claim that he was the first to say that the world is round. Razi was the chief physician at the Baghdad hospital where he formulated the first known description of smallpox:

"Smallpox appears when the blood boils and infected so that extra vapors may be driven out to turn childhood blood, which looks like wet extracts, into youth blood, which looks like ripe wine. Essentially, smallpox is like the bubbles found in wine at this time .... this disease might also be present apart from such times. The best thing to do at such times is to avoid it , that is , when the disease is seen to become epidemic."

Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911: "The most trustworthy statements as to the early existence of the disease are found in an account by the 9th-century Arabian physician Rhazes, by whom its symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoral or fermentation theory, and directions given for its treatment."


"It is mentioned in the writings of Rhazes and others of the Arabian physicians in the 10th century. For long, however, it was held to be a variety of small-pox."

Rhazes was the first to distinguish the difference amongst these two common diseaeses.

Razi is known to have discovered allergic asthma, and was the first person to have ever written an article on allergy and immunology. In the "Sense of Smell" he explains the occurrence of rhinitis[?] when smelling a rose in the spring (An Article on the Reason Why Abou Zayd Balkhi Suffers from Rhinitis When Smelling Roses in Spring.) In the article, written on the subject centuries before others, Razi talks of seasonal rhinitis, which is the same as allergic asthma or hay fever. Razi was also the first to realize that fever was a natural defense mechanism, the body's way of fighting disease.

"In addition to the compilation of texts, Rhazes contributed to the early practice of pharmacy[?] in various other ways. For example, he is said to have introduced mercurial ointments into the Western world. Also, Rhazes developed apparatus used in apothecaries up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as mortars and pestles, flasks, spatulas, beakers, phials, and glass vessels. Later investigators, like the great physician Avicenna, would carry Rhazes' work forward in developing simple and composite drugs." Michael A. Flannery

His greatest work is the Continens Liber or al-Hawi, The Comprehensive Book, which terminated his practice of medicine. The massive book thoroughly offended a Muslim priest whom Razi had apparently contradicted somewhere in its pages. The priest ordered that Razi be beaten over the head with the manuscript until one of them broke. Razi's head broke while the manuscript remained intact. The result was permanent blindness for Rhazes and the end of his medical career. Rhazes suffered failing eyesight for several years, and though he eventually lost all vision he continued to provide medical consultations and often even lectured. The exact nature of his ocular disease is uncertain, though it is said that he refused to be operated on because his caregivers could not answer his questions concerning the anatomy of the eye.

His most famous book which has gained a lot of recognition in the west is Secret of Secrets in which he gives systematic attention to basic chemical operations important to the history of pharmacy.

He is considered one of the greatest if not the greatest alchemist of all time and his work remained in use for over 10 centuries. Razi wrote 184 books and articles, in several fields of science.

His books and articles are named by Ibn Abi Asi`boed. His book The Large Comprehensive which is also known as The Embody is credited as a most important medical encyclopedia. He has considerations and criticism on the Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato, and expresses innovative and projecting views on divinity and metaphysics.

Pharmacy Day/Razi Commemoration Day - The 27th of August

Table of contents

The Life of Razi

Most notably, Razi was chief physician at the Baghdad Hospital where he observed clinical cases. Before becoming a physician Razi was interested in music, he was well versed in the musical theory and is said to have been an exceptional performer.

Few of His Many Books on Medicine

(Names may differ)

  • The Embody (Large Comprehensive) (al-Hawi, Jame'e Bozorg Maaroof be Hawi) Also called: The Virtuous Life, The Continent, Continens Liber, al-Hawi al-Kabir
  • An Introduction to Medical Science (Isbateh Elmeh Pezeshki)
  • Dar Amadi bar Elmeh Pezeshki
  • Rade Manaategha 'tibb jahez
  • Rade Naghzotibbeh Nashi
  • The Experimentaion of Medical Science and its Application
  • Guidance
  • Kenash
  • The Classification of Diseases
  • Royal Medicine
  • For One Without a Doctor
  • The Book of Simple Medicine
  • The Great Book of Krabadin
  • The Little Book of Krabadin
  • The Book of Taj (Crown)
  • The Book of Disasters
  • Food and its Harmfulness
  • The Book of Smallpox and Measles (A Treatise of Small Pox and Measles)
  • Ketab dar Padid Amadaneh Sangrizeh (Stones in the Kidney and Bladder)
  • Ketabeh Dardeh Roodeha
  • Ketab dar Dard Paay va Dardeh Peyvandhayyeh Andam
  • Ketab dar Falej
  • The Book of Tooth Aches
  • Dar Hey'ateh Kabed
  • Dar Hey'ateh Ghalb (About Heart Ache)
  • About the Nature of Doctors
  • About the Earwhole
  • Dar Rag Zadan
  • Seydeh neh/sidneh
  • Ketabeh Ibdal
  • Food For Patients
  • Soodhayeh Serkangabin
  • Darmanhayeh Abneh
  • The Book of Surgical Instruments
  • The Book on Oil
  • Fruits Before and After Lunch
  • Book on Medical Discussion (with Jarir Tabib)
  • Book on Medical Discussion II (with Abu Feiz)
  • About the Menstrual Cycle
  • Ghi Kardan
  • Snow and Medicine
  • Snow and Thirst
  • The Foot
  • Fatal Diseases
  • About Poisoning
  • Hunger
  • Soil in Medicine
  • The Thirst of Fish
  • Sleep Sweating
  • Warmth in Clothing
  • Spring and Disease
  • Misconceptions of a Doctors Capabilities
  • The Social Role of Doctors

Razi's notable books and articles on medicine include (in English include): The Book for the Elite (Mofid al Khavas), The Book of Experiences, The Cause of the Death of Most Animals because of Poisonous Winds, The Physicians' Experiments, The Person Who Has No Access to Physicians, The Big Pharmacology, The Small Pharmacology, Gout, The Doubt on Galen (Al Shakook ala Jalinoos), Kidney and Bladder Stones

Famous Excerpt from "The Sense of Smelling"

The Ilness of Abou Zeid:
Shahid ibn al Hossein al Balkhi wrote a letter to Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Razi and asked about the cause of the illness of Abou Zeid Ahmad ibn Sahl Balkhi al Ketab.

Razi wrote in reply:

"When I read your description of Abu Zayd's illness, I realized what the cause is and why it gets worse in spring, especially when smelling roses. Therefore, I shall tell you what you need to know to prevent the illness. The patient ought to take note of the following points: He should avoid the surfeit of everything. He should also avoid sleeping on a full stomach, especially after drinking cold water. He should avoid soporific medicines in the form of liquid. He should stay away from closed places, basements, and damp houses where the air is stuffy and dank. He should cover his head, especially when he has washed his body, eaten, and drunk water. He should avoid talking too much, yelling, fastening his neck button tightly, putting big pillows under his head, and pouring too much cold water on his head. He should avoid growing his hair long, oiling his hair with contractive oils, and dying his hair with henna, or other contractive dyes; also, he had better avoid combing his hair too often. He should avoid smelling things that give off a great deal of vapors, like red rose and sweet basil (shahsparm) as these two are so beautiful and tempting ; moreover, on a full stomach, he should avoid smelling soporific substances that make the head heavy, like mandrake (loffah), storax (al niaih), and saffron, and flatulent substances like broad beans, fish, chicken, onions, porreau (korath), garlic, ginger (jergir), and wine. He should try to make his head light by observing the following things: he ought to lose weight early in spring. In this way, he will sweat and get rid of the moisture that was developed in winter because of overeating, overdrinking, and sleeping for long hours in houses that have stuffy air. These vapors go toward the head and make it heavy ; thus, it is also harmful for the patient to sleep on the back. The patient should inhale substances that make one sneeze in order to get the mucus gathered in the head to go the nose ,and this ought to be repeated several times. It also good to breathe the vapors of hot water containing matricaria, menta sativa, pennyroyal, and worm seed. Also, before sleeping, the patient had better take substances that prevent secretion from pouring down into the chest since secretion pours into the chest when one is asleep, especially when one sleeps on the back for a long time. If such substances pour into the chest, the patient's voice will get hoarse; he will start coughing, become short of breath, and get a fever. And if the secretion is too much, it should be dissolved and brought out by dissolving medicine like hyssop. Hyssopus officinal is (zufa) so that the chest would become soft and clear, and the severity of coughing would not disturb the lungs. It must also stop new secretion from pouring down, help to get ride of substances that go up, and dissolve what had poured down into the nasal cavity. This should be done by massaging the head and keeping it warm when the stomach is empty. And if it is feared that the excess of the substances might hurt the throat muscles, the patient's head ought to be shaved and anointed with mustard. Warm substances like nigella seed (shoniz), onions, and mustard must be inhaled to cause sneezing and force out the nasal secretion. Substances that strengthen the throat should be gargled with rosewater. The mouth and throat ought to be washed with cold water, and water should be drunk frequently in order to prevent mucus from getting in the lungs. The patient should avoid drugs like liquid opium (sharab al khashkhash) or any other medicine obtained from opium, and frankincense (kondor), tragacanth (kethira), gum (samgh), mucilage of pear seed, saliva of quince seeds (loab safarjal), cotton seeds (bazraghotoon), purslane juice (baghlato al hamagha), and black nightshade (enabo al thalab). Of course, if the coughing is very severe, medicines like morphine, henbane, frankincense, and Armenian slime must be used. And for moistening substances poured into the chest, Ghyrouti medicine taken from wallflower oil (khiry oil) and matricaria oil must be used. Then a warm cloth mus be put on head and chest, and the patient should stay in a house where cold air cannot get in, and be kept warm with hot water or hot bath. To dissolve mucus, one must increase physical activities and at the same time take dissolvent medicines such as barley-water (mao al shayir), sugared water, honey, extract of boiled figs and raisins (asl as sous), maidenhair (pare-siawashan), and the lily of the valley root. Moreover, the patient should continually gargle with hot water. If the illness gets worse, medicines must be taken that are extracted from fenugreek (faenugraecum: hollbah), True horehound or bugle weed (farasion), urtica, termite (arasa), pepper, mustard, etc. Patients who suffer severely from this disease- that is, whose nasal cavities are blocked and feel itchy, sneeze a lot and have running noses- must walk in a hot bath, perspire, and try venesection in addition to taking the afore-mentioned medicine. Some have been treated by a cut in the vessel between their eye and ear and vessels in their forehead. Since these vessels are in contact with the bones, they do not overflow with blood, and the face gets warm and red because of blood circulation. For those people whose faces are red and warm and their vessels get a little filled with blood, cutting the ear and bleeding is more useful. They can also eat food, which make the blood thick and cold, such as vinegar, lentil, sour grapes, and rhubarb (rybas). Sometimes the patient's forehead should be massaged continually with vinegar and rose extract. I rubbed ice on the head of a man who had taken wine and was drunk; at first, he screamed, but then he totally calmed down. He felt terribly cold, and this cold feeling penetrated the depth of his head. At night, he felt a little cold and then got well. I followed the same procedure for similar patients, but it did not work. Of course, severe diarrhea, walking, and fasting turned out effective in the case of these patients. The illness in worse in people whose neck vessels are big and suffer when they smell flowers. For these people, smelling musk, Costus albus (ghost), myrrh (mor) is useful, and they should massage the inside of their noses with lily of the valley (soussan) and bon-oil tree: Moringa pterigosperma (al ban). This is the end of the article. May God send greeting to him and to his family and companions."

Razi always used a natural approach when treating ill patients.

The Virtuous Life

With writing the Hawi, Razi proved himself to be the greatest doctor of the Middle Ages. The Large Embody is an extensive medical treatise written in nine volumes. It is significant since it contains a celebrated monograph on smallpox, its first ever descripion.

It was not a formal medical encyclopaedia, but was assembled from Razi's working files of readings and personal observations. It was translated into Latin in 1279 under the title Continens by Faraj ben Salim[?], a physician of Sicilian-Jewish origin employed by Charles of Anjou to translate medical works, from then on it had considerable importance in Europe.

The Hawi is essentially large private notebook into which Razi placed extracts from earlier authors regarding diseases and therapies, but it was mostly based on his own interpretations and clinical cases from experience.

The Transmutaion of Metals

Razi's interest in alchemy and his strong belief in the possibility of transmutation of lesser metals to silver and gold was confirmed half a century after his death by Ibn an-Nadim[?] (The Philosophers Stone). He attributed a series of twelve books to ar-Razi, then seven more, including his refutation to al-Kindi's denial of the validity of alchemy, and finally, ar-Razi's two best-known alchemical texts: al-Asrar and Sirr al-Asrar (the secrets, and secret of secrets). These two works were not only among ar-Razi's last publications on alchemy, but they superseded his earlier ones as the final representation of his alchemical teachings. The latter text incorporates much of the former (al-Asrar).

It has been told that one night in the midst of delivering a speech General Simjur confronted Razi and questioned:

Oh conversant one whose ken is vast; bravery is what you lack. In Rayy I had heard that you are capable of transmuting metals and that from iron and copper you bring about gold. I had heard that this is the reason for which you do not charge your patients. Is it true?

It appeared to those present that Razi was reluctant to answer; he looked obliquely at the general and replied:

I understand alchemy and I have been working on the characteristic properties of metals for an extended time. However, it still has not turned out to be evident to me, how one can transmute gold from copper. Despite the research from the furthermost scientists that have undergone in the past centuries, there has been no reply. I very much doubt if it is possible...

(From: "Mohammad Zakaria Razi" by Khosro Moetazed, Translated by: Alireza Hashemi)

While conducting these alchemical experiments Rhazes developed many modern laboratory instruments that still remain in use today. Rhazes is known to have experimented more precisely by methods of distillation and extraction[?]. Therefore, a survey of the Sirr al-Asrar will hopefully throw some light on Razi's rational approach and technical procedures, which represent the highest expression of alchemical knowledge during this period. Of course the greatest of his contributions was his development of mineral acids and alcohol. Alchemists of the time had always thought of ways of transforming people into more perfect human beings and their alchemical desires helped them learn the use of medicine.

Rhazes discovered sulfuric acid and influenced other Islamic alchemists of the time such as Geber[?] to work on mineral acids.

Of His Many Books on Alchemy (mostly in Persian)

  • Modkhele Taalimi
  • Elaleh Ma'aaden
  • Isbaate Sanaa'at
  • Ketabeh Sang
  • Ketabe Tadbir
  • Ketabe Aksir
  • Ketabe Sharafe Sanaa'at
  • Ketabe Tartib, Ketabe Rahat, The Simple Book
  • Ketabe Tadabir
  • Ketabe Shavahed
  • Ketabe Azmayeshe Zar va Sim, Experimentation on Gold
  • Ketabe Serre Hakimaan
  • Ketabe Serr, The Book of Secrets
  • Ketabe Serre Serr, The Secret of Secrets
  • The First Book on Experiments
  • The Second Book on Experiments
  • Resaale'ei Be Faan
  • Arezooyeh Arezookhah
  • A letter to Vazir Ghasem ben Abidellah
  • Ketabe Tabvib


The book was written in response to a request from Razi's close friend, colleague, and former student, Abu Mohammed b. Yunis[?] of Bukhara, a Muslim mathematician, philosopher, and a natural scientist of good stature In Sirr al-Asrar, Razi divides his subject matter into three categories as he did in his book al-Asrar.

  1. Knowledge and identification of drugs from plant, animal, and mineral origins and the choicest type of each for utilization in treatment.
  2. Knowledge of equipment and tools used, which are of interest to both the alchemist and the apothecary.
  3. Knowledge of the seven alchemical procedures and techniques such as sublimation and condensation of mercury, precipitation of sulphur and arsenic calcination of minerals (gold, silver, copper, lead, and iron), salts, glass, talc, shells, and waxing.

This last category contains, in addition, a description of other methods and piratical [?] applications used in transmutation: the admixture and uses of solvent vehicles, the amount of heat (fire) used, 'bodies and stones' that can or cannot be transformed into corporal substances of metals at Id salts, and the liquid mordant that quickly and permanently colors lesser metals for better sales and profits.

Similar to the discussion on the third/ninth-century text on amalgams ascribed to Jabir, Razi describes methods and procedures or coloring (gold leafing) a silver object to imitate gold. Also described is the reverse technique for removing the color and returning it to silver. Gilding and silvering of other metals (alum, calcium salts, iron, copper, and tutty) are also described, as well as how colors will stay for years without tarnishing or changing. The procedures involved no deceptive motive, but rather technical and economic deliberations. This is evident from the author's quotation of market prices and the technical triumph of artisan, craftsman, or alchemist in declaring the results of their efforts so that 'it will look exactly like gold! There was, however, another similar motive involved, namely, to manufacture something to resemble gold for easy sale to help a good friend who happen to be in need of quick money. It could be due to this trend in Razi's alchemical technique for silvering and gilding of metal that many Muslim biographers concluded that he was first a jeweler before he turned to alchemy.

Of interest in the text is Razi's classification of minerals into six divisions, giving his discussion a modern chemical connotation:

  1. Four spirits: mercury, sal ammoniac, sulphur, and arsenic.
  2. Seven bodies; silver, gold, copper, iron, black lead (plumbago), zinc, and tin.
  3. Thirteen stones including marcasite[?], magnesia[?], malachite[?], tutty[?], talcum[?], lapis lazuli, gypsum, and glass (then identified as as made of sand and alkali of which the transparent crystal Damascene[?] is considered the best).
  4. Seven vitriols including alum, and white, black, red, and yellow vitriols[?] (the impure sulphates of iron, copper, etc.).
  5. Seven borates including the tinkar[?], natron, and impure sodium borate.
  6. Eleven salts including brine, common (table) salt, ashes, naphtha, live lime, and urine, rock, and sea salts. Then he separately defines and describes each of these
substances and their choicest kinds and colors and possible adulterations.

Concerning the tools and equipment of the alchemist, Razi classifies them into two kinds:

  1. Utensils used for the dissolving and melting of bodies such as the furnace, bellows, crucible, holder (tongue or ladle), macerator, pot, stirring rod, cutter, and grinder.
  2. Utensils used to carry out the operation of transmutation, such as the retort, alembic, receiver, other parts of the distilling apparatus, oven (stove), cups, bottles, jars, pans, and blowers.

Ibn an-Nadim also identifies briefly the five areas in which Razi distinguished himself:

  1. Razi was recognized as the best physician of his time who had fully absorbed Greek medical learning.
  2. He traveled in many lands. His repeated visits to Baghdad and his services to many princes and rulers are known from many sources.
  3. He was a medical educator who attracted many students, both beginners and advanced.
  4. He was compassionate, kind, upright, and devoted to the service of his patients whether rich or poor.
  5. He was a prolific reader and writer and authored many books, the titles of which were cited by Ibn an-Nadim and other Muslim biobibliographers of physicians and philosophers.

Written by Razi, the "al-Judari wa al-Hasbah" was the first book on smallpox, and was translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and its Hippocratic reliance on clinical observation show Razi's medical methods:

"The eruption of the smallpox is preceeded by a continued fever, pain in the back, itching in the nose and terrors in the sleep. These are the more peculiar symptoms of its approach, especially a pain in the back with fever; then also a pricking which the patient feels all over his body; a fullness of the face, which at times comes and goes; an inflamed color, and vehement redness in both cheeks; a redness of both the eyes, heaviness of the whole body; great uneasiness, the symptoms of which are stretching and yawning; a pain in the throat and chest, with slight difficulty in breathing and cough; a dryness of the breath, thick spittle and hoarseness of the voice; pain and heaviness of the head; inquietude, nausea and anxiety; (with this difference that the inquietude, nausea and anxiety are more frequent in the measles than in the smallpox; while on the other hand, the pain in the back is more peculiar to the smallpox than to the measles;) heat of the whole body; an inflamed colon, and shining redness, especially an intense redness of the gums."

Doubts About Galen

Rhazes's independent mind is strikingly revealed in his Shukuk 'ala "alinusor 'Doubts about Galen'.

"In the manner of numerous Greek thinkers, including Socrates and Aristotle, Rhazes rejected the mind-body dichotomy and pioneered the concept of mental health and self-esteem as essential to a patient's welfare. This "sound mind, healthy body" connection prompted him to frequently communicate with his patients on a friendly level, encouraging them to heed his advice as a path to their recovery and bolstering their fortitude and determination to resist the illness and swiftly convalesce." -- G. Stolyarov II

In 'Doubts about Galen' Razi rejects claims of Galen's, from the alleged superiority of the Greek language to many of his cosmological and medical views. He places medicine within philosophy, inferring that sound practice demands independent thinking. His own clinical records, he reports, do not confirm Galen's descriptions of the course of a fever. And in some cases he finds that his clinical experience exceeds Galen's. He rejects the notion, central to the theory of humours, that the body is warmed or cooled only by warmer or cooler bodies; for a warm drink may heat the body to a degree much hotter than its own. Thus the drink must trigger a response rather than simply communicating its own warmth or coldness. This line of criticism has the potential, in time, to bring down the whole theory of humours and the scheme of the four elements, on which it was grounded. Razi's alchemy, like his medical thinking, struggles within the cocoon of hylomorphism. It dismisses the idea of potions and dispenses with an appeal to magic, if magic means reliance on symbols as causes.

But Razi does not reject the idea that there are wonders in the sense of unexplained phenomena in nature. His alchemical stockroom, accordingly, is enriched with the products of Persian mining and manufacture, and the Chinese discovery, sal ammoniac. Still reliant on the idea of dominant forms or essences and thus on the Neoplatonic conception of causality as inherently intellectual rather than mechanical, Razi's alchemy nonetheless brings to the fore such empiric qualities as salinity and inflammability-the latter ascribed to 'oiliness' and 'sulphurousness'. Such properties are not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth and air schematism, as al-óhazali and other later comers, primed by thoughts like Razi's, were quick to note.

"Galen's core blunder had been the so-called theory of humors, which suggested that the body was possessed by four separate liquid substances whose balance was the key to health and normal temperature, and that the sole means of upsetting such a system was to introduce a liquid of a varying temperature into the organism, after which the resulting instability would bring about an increase or decrease in bodily heat identical to the temperature of the particular fluid. Rhazes, however, had experimentally proved that, in the words of I. E. Goodman, "a warm drink may heat the body to a degree much hotter than its own. Thus the drink must trigger a response rather than simply communicating its warmth and coldness." This was the first step toward a comprehensive refutation of the entire theory of humors, which had been founded on the simplistic four elements scheme upheld by numerous ancients. Here Rhazes’ experiments in the field of alchemy served to furnish observations of such qualities within objects as "oiliness" and "sulphurousness", or inflammability and salinity, which were "not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth, and air schematism." Rhazes opened the door to a far more complex and realistic conception of elemental makeup through a challenge posed to a set of blundering and empirically unwarranted speculations." -- G. Stolyarov II

Many accused him of ignorance, since he criticized Galen's work greatly. However, Razi repeatedly expressed praises and gratitude to Galen for his commendable contributions and labors, saying:

"I prayed to God to direct and lead me to the truth in writing this book. It grieves me to oppose and criticize the man Galen from whose sea of knowledge I have drawn much. Indeed, he is the master and I am the servant (disciple). But all this reverence and appreciation will and should not prevent me from doubting, as I did, what is erroneous among his theories. I imagine and feel deep in my heart that Galen has chosen me to undertake this task, and if he was alive, he would have congratulated me on what I am doing. I say this because Galen's aim was to seek and find the truth and to bring light out of darkness. Indeed I wish he was alive to read what I have published."

Thereafter, Razi, with a view to vindicate Galen's greatness and to justify his criticism of him, lists four reasons why great men make errors more than others:

  1. Because of negligence, as a result of too much self confidence.
  2. Because of unmindfulness (indifference) which often leads to errors.
  3. Because of enticements to follow one's own fancy or impetuosity in imagining that what he does or says is right.
  4. Crystallization of ancient knowledge in view of the dynamic nature of science so that present day knowledge must of necessity surpass that of previous generations. This is because of the continuous discoveries of new data and new truths. Razi believed, and rightly so, that contemporary scientists and scholars, because of accumulated knowledge at their disposal. are, by far, better equipped, more knowledgeable, and competent than the ancients. Indeed, what Razi did in attempting to overthrow blind reverence and the unchallenged authority of ancient sages was, by itself, a great step in the right direction. This impetus encouraged and stimulated research and advances in the arts, 'technology, and the sciences. It unshackled the human spirit for greater and more fasting achievements.

On the professional level, Razi introduced many useful, progressive, medical and psychological ideas. He also attacked charlatans[?] and fake doctors who roamed the cities and the countryside selling their nostrums[?] and 'cures'. At the same time, he warned that even highly educated doctors did not have the answers for all medical problems and could not cure all sicknesses or heal every disease. Humanly speaking, this is an impossibility. Nonetheless, to be more useful in their services and truer to their calling, Razi exhorted practitioners to keep up with advanced knowledge by Continually studying medical books and expose themselves to new information. He further classified diseases into three categories: those which are curable; those that can be cured; and those which are incurable. On the latter, he cited advanced cases of cancer and leprosy which if not cured, the doctor should not take blame. Then, on the humorous side, Razi pitied physicians caring for the well being of princes, nobility, and women, for they did not obey doctor's orders for restricted diet and medical treatment, thus making most difficult the task of their doctor.

This writer is inclined to believe that Razi was the first in Islam to deliberately write a book - home medical (remedial[?]) advisor - entitled Man la Yahduruhu Tab for the general public. He dedicated it to the poor, the traveler, and the ordinary citizen who could consult it for treatment of common ailments when a doctor was not available. This book, of course, is of special interest to the history of pharmacy since books on the same theme continued to appear and has found acceptance by readers to the present century. In its 36 chapters, Razi described diets and drugs that can be found practically every where in apothecary shops, the market place, in well-equipped kitchens, and in military camps. Thus, any intelligent mature person can follow its instructions and prepare the right recipes for good results.

Some of the illnesses treated are headaches, colds, coughing, melancholy, and diseases of the eye, ear, and stomach. In a feverish headache, for example, he prescribed, 'two parts of the duhn (oily extract) of rose, to be mixed with part of vinegar, in which a piece of linen cloth is dipped and compressed on the forehead'. For a laxative, he recommended 'seven drams of dried violet flowers with twenty pears, macerated and mixed well, then strained. To the filtrate, twenty drams of sugar is added for a draft'. In cases of melancholy, he invariably recommended prescriptions including either poppies or their juices (opium) or clover dodder (Curcuma epithymum Muss.) or both. For an eye remedy, he recommended myrrh, saffron, and frankincense, two drams each to be mixed with one dram of yellow arsenic and made into tablets. When used each tablet was to be dissolved in a sufficient quantity of coriander water and used as eye drops.

Although he has been regarded to as Razi in the current text, his actual Latin name was Rhazes. He has also been called Al-Razi, Ar-Razi or even Rasis.


Razi believed that the competent physician must also be a philosopher well versed in the fundemental questions regarding existence:

"He proclaimed the absolutism of Euclidean space and mechanical time as the commonsense basis for the world in which men lived, but resolved the dilemma of existent infinities by synthesizing this outlook with the atomic theory of Democritus, which recognized that matter existed in the form of indivisible and fathomable quanta. The continuity of space, however, holds due to the existence of void[?], or a region lacking matter... This is remarkably close to the systems yielded by the discoveries of such later European scientists as John Dalton and Max Planck, as well as the observational and theoretical works of modern astronomer Halton Arp and Objectivist philosopher Michael Miller[?]. Progress, in the view of all these men, is not to be obstructed by a jumble of haphazard and contradictory relativistic assertions which result in metaphysical hodge-podge instead of a sturdy intellectual base. Even in regard to the task of the philosopher, Rhazes considered it to be progressing beyond the level of one’s teachers, expanding the accuracy and scope of one's doctrine, and individually elevating oneself onto a higher intellectual plane." G. Stolyarov II

Rhazes is known to be the most free-thinking of Islamic philosophers, since he was well-trained in the Greek sciences. He was also well versed in the musical theory, as were many other Islamic scientists of the time, although his approach in chemistry was naturalistic.

Of His Many Books on Philosophy

(names may differ)

  • The Small Book on Theism
  • Response to Abu'al'Qasem Braw
  • The Greater Book on Theism
  • Modern Philosophy
  • Dar Roshan Sakhtane Eshtebaah
  • Dar Enteghaade Mo'tazlian
  • Delsoozi Bar Motekaleman
  • Meydaneh Kherad
  • Khasel
  • Resaaleyeh Rahnamayeh Fehrest
  • Ghasideyeh Ilaahi
  • Dar Alet Afarineshe Darandegan
  • Shakkook
  • Naghseh Ketabe Tadbir
  • Naghsnamehyeh Ferforius
  • Do name be Hasanebne Moharebe Ghomi

Notable Books (in English): Spiritual Medicine, The Philosophical Approach (Al Syrat al Falsafiah), and The Metaphysics

The Philosophical Approach (excerpt):

"in Short , so far while I am writing the present book, I have written around 200 books an articles on different aspects of science philosophy, theology, and hekmat (wisdom)... I was never at the service of any king as a military man or a man of office, and if I ever did have a conversation with a king, it never went beyond my medical responsibility and advice... those who have seen me know that I have never gone to excess in eating, drinking, and doing blamed things, as for my interest in science, people know well and have witnessed how I have devoted all my life to science since my youth... and my patience and persistence in the pursuit of science have been to such extent that about only one special matter I have written 20,000 pages in small letters, and I spent fifteen years of my life -day and night- writing the big collection entitled Al Havi, and during this time, I lost my eyesight, my hand got paralyzed, and thus, now I am deprived of reading and writing as a result. Nonetheless, I never gave up, but kept on reading and writing with the help of others instead. Practically speaking , I can make concessions to my enemies and admit my shortcomings, but I wonder what they would say scientifically. If they find my approach defective, they can put forward their views and make their points clear so that I may study them. If I found their views right, I would admit it, and if I found them wrong, I could discuss the matter and prove my case. However, if this is not the case , and if they merely disagree with my approach and my way of life, I hope they would make use of my knowledge and not interfere with my attitude."

"In his book "Philosophical Biography", he defended his personal biography and the philosopher's life and he laid out a framework based on the idea that there is life after death containing happiness or misery. Thus, rather than being self-indulgent, man should seek knowledge, utilise his intellect and apply justice. According to Al-Razi, "This is what our merciful Creator wanted to whom we pray for reward and whose punishment we fear." In brief, man should be kind, gentle and just. Al-Razi believed that there is a close relationship between spiritual integrity and physical health... Al-Razi does not forget to try to make the soul avoid distress due to death. He states that this psychological symptom cannot be avoided completely without the individual being convinced that, after death, the soul will lead a better life. This subject needs a detailed study of doctrines and religions. He focuses on the opinion of those who think that the soul perishes if the body perishes. As a result, fear of death has no basis in the mind. Death, undoubtedly, is inevitable. So, the person who continuously thinks about death is distressed and time after time will feel as if he is dying whenever he thinks about it. Therefore, he should forget it in order to avoid upsetting himself. Thinking about his destiny after death, the benevolent and good man who performs the ordinances of the Islamic Shari`ah should not fear because he is promised comfort and permanent bliss in the Hereafter. As for the one who doubts the Shari`ah, he can only contemplate. If he spares no effort in this, he will not deviate from the right way. If he deviates, Allah will excuse him and forgive his sins because he is not requested to do something that he cannot bear." -Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Hadi Abu Reidah


His ideas on metaphysics were also based on the works of the great Greeks: "The metaphysical doctrine of al-Razi, insofar as it can be reconstructed, derives from his concept of the five eternal principles[?]. God, for him, does not 'create' the world from nothing but rather arranges a universe out of pre-existing principles. His account of the soul features a mythic origin of the world in which God out of pity fashions a physical playground for the soul in response to its own desires; the soul, once fallen into the new realm God has made for it, requires God's further gift of intellect in order to find its way once more to salvation and freedom. In this scheme, intellect does not appear as a separate principle but is rather a later grace of God to the soul; the soul becomes intelligent, possessed of reason and therefore able to discern the relative value of the other four principles. Whereas the five principles are eternal, intellect as such is apparently not. Such a doctrine of intellect is sharply at odds with that of all of Razi's philosophical contemporaries, who are in general either adherents of some form of Neoplatonism or of Aristotelianism. The remaining three principles, space, matter and time, serve as the non-animate components of the natural world. Space is defined by the relationship between the individual particles of matter, or atoms, and the void that surrounds them. The greater the density of material atoms, the heavier and more solid the resulting object; conversely, the larger the portion of void, the lighter and less solid. Time and matter have both an absolute, unqualified form and a limited form. Thus there is an absolute matter - pure extent - that does not depend in any way on place, just as there is a time, in this sense, that is not defined or limited by motion. The absolute time of al-Razi is, like matter, infinite; it thus transcends the time which Aristotle confined to the measurement of motion. Razi, in the cases of both time and matter, knew well how he differed from Aristotle and also fully accepted and intended the consequences inherent in his anti-Peripatetic positions." Paul E. Walker

Although it is quite evident that most of his thoughts derived from Islam, this is demonstrated clearly in his writing of "The Metaphysics.

References and further reading

Walker, P. (1992) 'The Political Implications of al-Razi's Philosophy', in C. Butterworth (ed.) The Political Aspects of Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 61-94.

Motazed, K. 'Mohammad Zakaria Razi'

Quotes from Rhazes

"Let your first thought be to strengthen the natural vitality."

"Truth in medicine is an unattainable goal, and the art as described in books is far beneath the knowledge of an experienced and thoughtful physician."

Asked if a philosopher can follow a prophetically revealed religion, al-Razi openly retorts:

"How can anyone think philosophically while committed to those old wives' tales, founded on contradictions, obdurate ignorance, and dogmatism?"

"gentility of character, and nicety and purity of mind, are found in those who are capable of thinking deeply about abstruse matters and scientific minutiae."

"Man should hasten to protect himself from love before succumbing and wean his soul from it if he falls."

"The self-admirer, generally, should not glorify himself nor be so conceited that he elevates himself above his counterparts. Neither should he belittle himself to the extent that he becomes inferior to his counterparts or to those who are inferior both to him and to his counterparts in the sight of others. If he follows this advice, he will be free of self-admiration and feelings of inferiority, and people would call him the one who truly knows himself."

When asked of envy, Razi retorts: "It results from the gathering of niggardliness and avarice in the soul." "one of the diseases that cause grave harm to the soul."

Quotes on Rhazes

"Rhazes was the greatest physician of Islam and the Medieval Ages." -- George Sarton

"Rhazes remained up to the 17th century the undisputable authority of medicine." -- The Islamic Encyclopaedia

"His writings on smallpox and measles show originality and accuracy, and his essay on infectious diseases was the first scientific treatise on the subject." -- The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (May 1970)

"In today's world we tend to see scientific advance as the product of great movements, massive grant-funded projects, and larger-than-life socio-economic forces. It is easy to forget, therefore, that many contributions stemmed from the individual efforts of scholars like Rhazes. Indeed, pharmacy can trace much of its historical foundations to the singular achievements of this ninth-century Persian scholar." -- Michael E. Flannery

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