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Islamic Roots of Modern Pharmacology

Around the 8th century, one man took it upon himself to dig deeper into this amazing world of chemistry. A long forgotten historical figure, Khaled Ibn Yazeed came from the house of the Umayyad Caliphate. It was very unusual for a man in his social and economical stature to adopt such an unrecognized profession. However, his decision was a turning point in the history of chemistry.

Ibn Yazeed started his journey by translating Greek and Roman references in the field. He studied chemical reactions and started his pioneering experimentations in synthesizing drugs and remedies.

Just as the Greeks and Romans had acquired their learning from ancient Egyptian and Sumerian breakthroughs, Ibn Yazeed set the foundation upon which chemistry and pharmacy could be studied which was later built upon by his successor Jabir Ibn Hayyan.

By the beginning of the 9th century, pharmacy was already a well established, independent profession with well regulated rules and laws.

In fact, pharmacists were knowledgeable about drug use, compounding, preparation, and dispensing. At that time, pharmacists mastered dosage adjustment, drug interaction, and prevention of drug adulteration.

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Interestingly, Muslim physicians have further developed the field of pharmacy. Being the most knowledgeable about body ailments and diseases, physicians were the most suited to develop and prescribe the cure.

Famous physicians like Al-Razi, Ibn Sina and Al-Kindi, contributed much in the advancement of this field of science. Furthermore, they combined their knowledge about medicine with herbal remedies, chemistry, and philosophy to develop an amazing body of work describing disease diagnosis, description of appropriate remedies, and the required dosages.

Islamic Roots of Modern Pharmacology - About IslamAl-Biruni’s book, ‘The Book of Pharmacology,’ Al-Zahrawy’s 30 volumes ‘Al-Tasrif’ (Dispensing), Al-Razi’s ‘Al-Hawi’ (The Comprehensive Book on Medicine), ‘The Secret in Chemistry’, Al-Mansur Muwaffaq’s ‘The Foundations of the True Properties of Remedies’ and Ibn al-Wafid’s work ‘The Book of Simple Drugs,’ were some of many outstanding references in pharmacology at the time.

As a result, upon the work of these great Muslim scientists, the modern Western World has founded its pharmaceutical knowledge.

The most important aspect of Muslims’ development to the pharmaceutical profession, though, was their honoring of the Islamic teachings.

They believed in the Hadeeth that states, “God created the disease and the cure, and made a cure for every ailment; so seek healing but do not seek treatment with haram (unlawful means.)” (Abu-Dawood and al-Bayhaqi).

Consequently, Muslim pharmacists and physicians didn’t delve into any unlawful treatments or quackery. They based their knowledge and studies on scientific experimentations and practical experiences. Additionally, they honored the whole human being, body and soul, and sincerely and ethically pursued their mission in easing people’s pain and relieving their sufferings.

Physicians, like Al-Razi, advocated resorting to diet and herbs for treatment before referring to chemical drugs. His one-of-a-kind book, ‘Tibb Al-Fuqara’a’ (Medicine of the Poor), described ways of treating diseases using affordable foods and herbs rather than expensive preparations and formulations.

While delving into this great history, I can’t help but feel awed by such wisdom, knowledge and honor. And, I can’t also help but wonder when the achievements of modern-day Muslims will match that great era of human advancement.

We first published this article in 2009 and we currently republished it for its importance.


As-Sergany, R.. Khaled Ibn Yazeed. Retrieved from: 2008.

As-Sergany, R.. العلم وبناء الأمم [Science and the building of nations]. Egypt: Iqraa. 2007.

Al-Hassani, S. (Editor). 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World. UK: Foundation for Science Technology and civilization. 2006.

National Library of Medicine. Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts: Prophetic medicine. April 5, 1998. Retrieved June 6, 2007.

About Amira Ayad
Amira Ayad is a natural health consultant and a holistic nutritionist. She holds a Master Degree in Pharmaceutics; and a PhD in natural health. She is a Board Certified Holistic Health practitioner by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) and a Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner by the International organization of Nutrition Consultants (IONC). She published 2 books: Healing Body & Soul, in 2008; and, The True Secret, in 2011. Amira teaches Biochemistry & Body Metabolism at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada.