Interest in science and its history in the Arab world witnessed a major decline after the Arab civilization stopped producing sciences, that civilization that produced Al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Al-Bitar, Al-Idrisi, Ibn Rushd, Al-Razi, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Al-Nafis, and others.
Among the topics that have remained far from the interest of Arab researchers and historians, diseases and epidemics; However, the House of Wisdom in Tunis or the Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Literature and Arts, which has consistently enriched the Arab scientific library with research and investigations into important literature in sciences of all kinds from mathematics to agriculture, issued an investigation some time ago on 3 Andalusian letters on what was known as the sweeping plague (1348-749 AH ), Carried out by the researcher Mohamed Hassan, who believes that this event was a decisive event in the history of Andalusia and Morocco.
The book or the three letters
The book represents an in-depth study and investigation of 3 manuscript books, which are “convincing the questioner about the fatal disease” by Ibn al-Khatib (poet, jurist, philosopher, physician, and politician and Andalusian who died 776 AH) and “Collecting the purpose of the intent in detailing the incoming disease” by Ibn Khatmeh al-Marini (Andalusian poet and doctor died 770 AH) And “advice” by Andalusian doctor Abi Abdullah Al-Shakouri. These are 3 treatises on medicine that the investigator has pursued through various manuscripts in Spain, Tunisia and Morocco.
The investigator says, “When I had the opportunity to work in the library of the El Escorial in Spain, I asked for a copy of the manuscript, which contained the 3 Andalusian letters about the epidemic, and I did not hesitate for long after to make a comparison between it and the Tunisian version, which included the text of Ibn Khatima, amputated, then the public and royal library looked up.” In Rabat, Morocco, to view a large number of manuscripts and make a comparison with a third copy of Ibn Khatima.
The researcher ends his book with indexes of Qur’anic verses, hadiths of the Prophet, names of flags, places, countries, human groups, historical events, books, poetic verses, indexes of medicines, medical terms and diseases.
The plague, its types and consequences
The investigator proceeds with a quote by Ibn Khaldun in his book Introduction, in which he talks about the plague and its impact on urbanization, economy and demography. This is what descended to the east and west in the middle of this eighth hundred of the sweeping plague, which biased nations, went with the people of the generation, folded many of the advantages of urbanization and erased them, and came For states at the time of their aging, and reaching the end of their range, so they diminished their shadows, lost their limits, weakened their authority, and led to the fading and decay of their conditions, and the urbanization of the earth was diminished by the eradication of human beings. The inhabitant, as if I were in the East, has descended into it like what was descended in Morocco; but it is according to its proportion and the extent of its development …
Then the researcher turns to introducing the Andalusian doctors and the authors of the three letters: Ibn al-Khatib, Ibn Khatimah, and al-Shaquri.
The investigator stops at the picture of the plague in the intermediate historical compilations in the name, where Ibn Khaldun calls it the sweeping plague, while others call it the plague or the epidemic and the dead.
The investigating researcher also differentiates between the types of plague: The first is a contractual one, and it is “the most widespread, and Al-Razi described it as a hot lump in the groin and armpits, and it kills in 4 days.” The second is pulmonary, which is rare, and Ibn Khaldun mentioned it, “If the corruption of the air occurs, disease occurs in the lung, and these plagues and their diseases are specific to the lung.”
The researcher mentions that the jurists differed in looking at the epidemic, some of them called for quarantine, and based on the following hadith: “If you hear about it on a land, do not advance on it, and if it falls on a land while you are on it, then do not flee from it.”
Some went to complacency and surrender, so people resorted to patience, as society considered “the epidemic as a mercy and death as a testimony,” as Al-Suyuti mentioned in his book “What the conscious narrated in the news of the plague,” and in this the author wonders, “Did the jurists consider the epidemic a divine punishment, a disaster, an ordeal, and an inevitable fate Or did they call for resisting him and confronting him? “
Here again the differences between the jurists about confronting him with the search for a cure and steadfastness, between the one who called to flee from him, and the motive to endure the supplication. But most of them called for a quarantine, so that Ibn Sina, author of the book “Al-Qanoon,” organized a jarjooza on the topic, saying:
Be hastened to be if the plague … is where the air spoils
The researcher provides an introduction to the Arab interest in plagues and plagues since ancient times, as they worked to transfer the books of Hippocrates and Galen in medicine into Arabic through Syriacs, Nabateans and Indians.
He stops at Hunayn ibn Ishaq, who translated Galen’s explanation of Hippocrates’s book on the epidemic, and the translation movement followed the Arab’s contributions to medicine, the development of his sciences, and the spread of medical specialties. His explanation of the book of Hippocrates on epidemics to differentiate between incoming disease, which is caused by corrupt air quality, and death, which is caused by corruption of the air core.
The researcher returns to the three Andalusian doctors, and believes that they have indicated that the infection occurs as a result of the leakage of small organs into the body, and they have proceeded to the necessity of quarantine and to allocate hospitals (practitioners) to treat the injured. “
In his study, the researcher also talks about the history of the epidemic as he lives in a recurring periodic state that he called the epidemiological role, which the average lives every 10 or 15 years. However, these epidemic attacks vary in strength, so historians have differentiated between what they called a catastrophic epidemic, which goes to many people such as half and one third. A light epidemic of limited prevalence.
The researcher reports the news that historians reported about the epidemic, which struck the countries of the Maghreb, where a thousand people were dying from Tunisia every day, and this is considered simple in front of what the plague used to do in the East, as it killed between 10 and 20 thousand per day in Cairo, for example, “until it reached in Two months 900 thousand. “
The impact of this plague was not only devastating to lives. Rather, it was a scourge on the economy, so the devastation wore on, he says, “Urbanization struck the people and the economy. The houses were deserted, and several villages disappeared, especially in the coastal countries. The matter was not limited to villages, but the urban landscape was more located in cities, as the Makhzen buildings in Tunis were neglected.” Some neighborhoods have turned into ruins. “
With the death of many craftsmen, many professions and industries were reduced within the cities, and farmers were neglected, which explains – says the investigator – the association of the plague with hunger, as the price increased in the year 749 AH, and the investigator mentioned that the plague did not differentiate between a scientist and my mother and the poor and the rich, it destroyed many notables And scholars.
History and medicine in the three letters
The sweeping plague that afflicted Andalusia and Morocco in the year 749 AH made the Andalusian elite of scientists try to confront it by registering and searching for scientific solutions to it. These three letters were to the chief doctors, who indicated “the consensus about treatment with medicine,” and with reservations about its ability to spread through infection, They talked about the causes of the disease, which is the leakage of organic materials into the body. They also stopped at the infection, its concept, the forms of sanitary isolation, and disposing of the infected clothes.
The three doctors, according to their different sources, are united from Ibn Battuta’s trip, which Ibn al-Khatib adopted, to the Christian merchants, whose news Ibn Khatmah relied that the plague came from China and the “countries of error,” and it passed through the countries of the Turks, the Levant and Iraq, and reached the country of Crimea and Constantinople.
It means the country of error, the country of the Mongols, who established an empire (East Turkestan) that was invaded by the Mongols under the leadership of “Genghis Khan”, while it is mentioned that Europe was pointing the finger of accusation at Abyssinia and the Upper Nile, considering it the starting point of the Black Plague.
And the doctors unanimously agreed that the book was that Almeria was the endemic city, and from there the epidemic began to spread that claimed three quarters of the population.
Regarding its non-metaphysical reasons, which had a Byzantine origin, the Byzantines considered it a divine punishment, but the three Andalusian doctors linked its appearance to the corruption of air, water and food, which leads to turbidity and poisoning of the body, and this would also destroy the animal and plant.
As a result of this, according to scholars, the wind is an aid to its spread, which Al-Maqrizi confirms, saying, “Then the wind carried a stink in the country, so it did not pass over a country and did not leave it, nor a land except for an hour of smelling a person or an animal who died for his time and hour.”
Ibn al-Khatib considers it a disease that “is called a substance that is transmitted through the air, and it passes through the veins, which spoils the blood, and manifests itself in two aspects: fever, hemoptysis and abscess that appears in some of his body.”
When the doctors agreed that the plague was a mobile epidemic crawling over the coastal cities, moving from one country to another, Ibn al-Khatib cited 3 examples of those who were immune to infection: Zahid Bessala closed his home on himself, and the prisoners in the Dar Al Sanaa in Seville, and Al-A’arab in Africa.
Thus, it confirms the role of transmission and mixing in the spread of disease through infection. Those who survived are those who live in natural reserves, either isolated, such as the Bedouins, or artificially, such as prisons, or individual chosen ones, such as the ascetic. This is what prompted the fanatics to expiate him and consider the plague as a divine test and a scandal from the jinn.
The researcher believes that Ibn al-Khatib’s message was decisive in all who refer the epidemic to metaphysical and metaphysical reasons, compared to Ibn Khatmeh, who remained hesitant in his determination of the causes of the epidemic between air corruption and its association with planets and their cycles.
Symptoms of plague and infection
The researcher was interested in investigating the blog about the symptoms of the plague, and he returned to Ibn Sina’s law when he linked the flight of animals such as mice and the death of fish to the emergence of the plague, and it seems that Ibn Sina took that from Galen, the researcher says that Ibn al-Khatib and his colleagues have not yet reached the relationship of mice to the plague. But they paid attention to other symptoms such as tumors that appear under the armpits and at the level of the ears and thighs, and that is why they called it an external plague, while pneumonic plague shows its symptoms in hemoptysis and the exacerbation of infection when the patient nears death, and the two Arab doctors have reached to distinguish the plague from other epidemic pimples.
With regard to infection, Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn Khatimah did not differ in “acknowledging the issue of infection that is through mixing and contact with contact.”
The infection occurs in both types of the epidemic: the infection is transmitted in pneumonic plague through “the patients’ rotting fumes coming out with their breath, ”Ibn al-Khatib says. As for the“ external ”plague, the infection is transmitted through“ the use of their clothes and brushes in which they flipped during the time of their illness, ”and as a result the researcher says. Most of the people of the market of creation died in Al-Mariah, because they bought the dead clothes and mattresses. “
After the researcher elaborates on the analysis of the textual references and facts adopted by the three physicians, he moves to the more complex topic, which is prevention and treatment, in which he disagreed between the rational scientific approach and the metaphysical solution.
The medical and scientific approach of Andalusian doctors is to confront the plague, and not flee from it, and the preacher went to choose food and fix the air with perfume and winds, and to avoid the signs of corruption from the sick or dead, his clothes, his utensils and his machine, or the residence of his place or the neighborhood of the house, which broke out in his family.
As for Ibn Khatimah, he did not believe much in the feasibility of treatment, and he called for caution and caution, to stay away as much as possible, and the person’s attempt to gain immunity by fixing the air by smelling the cold winds, flowers, perfumes, and smoking with sandal and oud.
This is what Al-Shakouri agrees with, as the principle is that which affects the air from corruption, and he used to recommend not to travel and move around, and he called for moderation in eating, and he advised eating crops and avoiding drinking wine, milk and spoiled water, alluding to several Andalusian foods in circulation. Such as gheeshish, barley, talbeenah, and al-Hasso, made from bread and flour, and he advised the use of Armenian clay to heal wounds and boils, something that Galen and Ibn Sina recommended.
Ibn Khatimah advised to sleep during a siesta in the summer, and to avoid cold places in the north, and he advised phlebotomy and cupping once a month, and also advised recreation through the delights and joys, and the extension of the breath as part of a psychological treatment to strengthen immunity.
When the disease occurred, an antidote was advised, which is a diet consisting of apple drinks, lemon juice, rose water, and light foods that stimulate the body, although surviving the plague is difficult if possible for a person.
This is what made doctors, with the exception of Ibn al-Khatib, turn once again towards metaphysical solutions.
At the end of his research, the researcher investigator confirms that Ibn Khatmeh’s letter was a pioneer in dealing with the subject in a scientific way without denying the religious interpretation. However, Ibn al-Khatib was satisfied with scientific analysis in a controversial method for Maliki jurists, which led them to expiate and kill him. As for Al-Shaqouri, his message was satisfied with the medical aspect without Turning to religious matters.
Nevertheless, these doctors provided a great service to human medicine at that stage, “the researcher says – still surprising us today.” After that, the investigating researcher reports the complete letters, along with some copies of the original manuscripts.