We discuss in this article the impact of epidemics on Arabs and the West. Europe had never known anything about epidemics; Ibn Sina, Abu Baker Al Razi, Ibn Al-Khatibi, and the like had introduced medicine to Europe. As a result, they have learned from Arab scientists both epidemiology and a number of strategies to fight and prevent epidemics.

The ancient epidemics swept the lives of people in India, China, and Greek, and the like. However, these diseases have been transmitted to tribes in Africa. This is because of trade, immigration, the coercive transportation of slaves, and military invasion.

Quarantine in the eyes of Historians: A strategy against epidemics

In Sheldon Watts’s Epidemics and History: Disease, power, and imperialism, he views that epidemics in the Middle Ages attacked China, Egypt, and India in the same manner as they did in Europe and the West. The difference lies in the way in which the epidemic propagated.

Watts further argues that European societies had developed institutional strategies to fight against micro-organisms and epidemics. After the 1347-pandemic crisis, many procedures had been applied in the hope of preventing the propagation of the epidemic. In 1450, Northen Italian cities had applied the five procedures of quarantine. These procedures include hurrying infected corpses in a special hole with quicklime. Then, they get rid of such corpses and isolate infected people in hospitals.

Impact of epidemics and  Arab medicine

The Arab Muslim world had known the procedures of quarantine; however, Watts did not mention in his book the establishment of quarantine-based hospitals in the Arab world. The American historian does talk about the Arab contribution to epidemiology under the chapter, “Invention of Disease Resistance”. For him, Abu Baker Al Razi who died in 925, showed in his book AL-Hawi an extensive explanation of methods of recovering from leprosy.

Before applying quarantine in Europe and the West, Damascus had known the imposition of health isolation. Afterward, the sixth caliph Alwalid Ben Aabd Almalik had built the first hospital for health emergencies in Bimarstan in Damascus. He ordered not to be in contact with patients in quarantine; he devoted a monthly salary for nurses, doctors as well as patients inflicted by leprosy.

The impact of epidemics of Arab medicine on Europe

Watts, in his book impact of Epidemics and History: Disease, power, and imperialism, confirms the influence of Ibn Sina, Avicenna so to speak, on European medicine, especially in strategies against epidemics. Ibn Sina has discussed in his book Canon of Medicine fever in detail. Moreover, Al Razi has a book where he takes about different types of contiguous diseases such as smallpox and leprosy.

Al Razi had established a hospital with aid of Haron Al Rashid. In his hospital, Al Razi subsumed his patients into two randomized groups so as not for the virus to spread. This isolation is what we call now quarantine to which Europe clings strongly. Therefore, Muslims had known how to deal with epidemics from antiquity.

Andalus used to comprise a number of doctors such as Abu Al Qasim Zahrwai, Marwan Ben Zahr, and Ibn Al-Khatib. The latter was a historian and a doctor. Ibn Al-Khatib saysAccording to observation, experiment, deduction, and news, the pandemic is contagious. Furthermore, it is clear for any scientist who studied epidemiology that whoever has contact with inflicted patients perishes and dies. Those who are not in touch with him keep healthy and safe. For example, eardrops, when dropped on the ground, can cause the inhabitants to be inflected and perish. The contagious disease can be transmitted from one house to another, neighbors and, visitors until it becomes a pandemic. Also, countries, cross-seas and borders, can be inflected by this infection.


Arab Muslim medicine had largely influenced Europe and the west in terms of strategies used against epidemics such as leprosy, smallpox, yellow fever, and the like. In an article, we have mentioned why epidemics do not propagate in the Arab world a lot.

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