Who is the most beloved to you?

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You will become the most proficient in using the various skills in dealing with others when you treat everyone in such a way that he thinks of himself as the most beloved of all people to yourself. For instance, you should treat your mother so grandly that she begins to think you have never treated anyone in such a fine manner.

You can say the same about the way you should deal with your father, your wife, your children, and your colleagues. In fact, you can say the same about someone you meet only once, such as a shopkeeper, or a petrol station attendant. You could get all these people to agree that you are the most beloved of all to them, if only you can make them feel that they are the most be -loved of all to you!

The Prophet was an expert in this. Whoever reads about the life of the Prophet will find that he would deal with everyone in an excellent manner. Whoever he met, he would be very welcoming and cheerful, such that the person would think that he was the most beloved of all to him, and therefore, the Prophet would also become the most be -loved of all to that person.

The shrewdest of the Arabs were four, and ‘Amr bin al-‘Aas was deemed one of them due to his wisdom, sharpness and intelligence. When ‘Amr embraced Islam, he was the leader amongst his people, and whenever he met the Prophet , he would al -ways find him very warm and cheerful.When ever he entered a gathering where the Prophet   was sitting, he would be warmly welcomed. When the Prophet would call him, he would use the names that were most beloved to him.

By experiencing such excellent treatment, he felt certain that he was the most beloved of all to the Messenger of Allah. One day, he decided to confirm his feelings,so he approached the Prophet  and sat next to him.

He said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, who is the most beloved to you?’

He said, “A’ishah.”

‘Amr said, “No. I mean, from the men, O Messenger of Allah.

I do not mean from amongst your family.”

He said, “Her father.”

‘Amr said, “And then?”

He said, “Umar bin al-Khattab.”

‘Amr said, “And then?”

The Prophet then began to mention a number of people saying, “So-and-so and so-and-so…” in accordance with how early they had embraced Islam and the sacrifices they had made.‘Amr then said, “I then remained silent, fearing that he may rank me last!”

Notice how the Prophet managed to capture ‘Amr’s heart by exercising his outstanding skills. In fact, the Prophet would rank people according to their worth. Sometimes, he would even leave what he was doing to tend to other’s needs, just to make them feel that they were loved and held in high regard.

When the Prophet’s influence extended after his conquests and Islam had spread far and wide, the Prophet began sending preachers to various tribes to call them to Islam. Sometimes he even had to send armies. ‘Adi bin Hatim al-Ta’i was a king and the son of a king. When the Prophet sent an army to the Tai’ tribe, ‘Adi ran away from the battle and took refuge in Syria.

When the Muslim army reached Tai’ they found it easy to defeat them as they had neither a king nor an organized army. The Muslims would always treat people kindly in wars and respect their emotions, even during battle. The purpose of the battle was to prevent the plots of ‘Adi’s people against the Muslims and to dis-play to them the Muslims’ strength. The Muslims captured some people from ‘Adi’s tribe, amongst whom was ‘Adi’s sister. They took the captives to the Prophet in Madinah and informed him about ‘Adi’s escape to Syria. The Prophet was surprised, thinking how could he have run away from the true religion? How could he have left his people behind?

However, there was no way for the Muslims to contact ‘Adi. ‘Adi himself did not enjoy his stay in Syria and was compelled to come back to the Arab lands. He then could not but help go to Madinah to meet with the Prophet and make peace with him, or to create some sort of understanding. (It is also claimed that his sister went to Syria to bring him back to the Arabs).

‘Adi said whilst relating his story, “None from the Arabs dis -liked the Messenger of Allah as much as I did. I was a Christian and a king amongst my people. When I heard about the Messenger of Allah, I despised him and left my people to go to Caesar of Rome. But I disliked staying there, too. So I thought that if I went to this man and he turned out to be a liar, then he wouldn’t be able to harm me, and if he was truthful, then I would know. So I decided to go to him…”

“When I arrived in Madinah, the people began to say, ‘This is ‘Adi bin Hatim! This is ‘Adi bin Hatim!’ I continued to walk until I reached the Messenger of Allah who said to me: ‘‘Adi bin Hatim?’I said: ‘Adi bin Hatim’.” The Prophet  became overjoyed by his arrival and welcomed him, even though ‘Adi had previously fought against the Muslims, ran away from the battle, despised Islam and sought refuge amongst the Christians. Despite all of that the Prophet met him with a smile and took him by his hand to his house. As ‘Adi walked alongside the Prophet , he considered him to be completely equal to himself, since Muhammad was the ruler of Madinah and its outskirts while  ‘Adi was the ruler over the Ta’i mountains and its outskirts. Muhammad was a follower of a heavenly religion – Islam, just as ‘Adi was a follower of a heavenly religion – Christianity. Muhammad had a revealed scripture – the Qur’an, just as ‘Adi had a revealed scripture – the Gospel. ‘Adi thought that there was no difference between the two except in terms of power and military might.

While they were on their way, three things happened. As they were walking, a woman came and began to shout in themiddle of their path, “O Messenger of Allah! I need your help!”

The Prophet left ‘Adi’s hand and went to the woman to listen to what she had to say. ‘Adi bin Hatim who had witnessed many kings and leaders as he watched this happen, began to compare this with what he knew of the actions of kings and ministers. He thought for a while, until it occurred to him that these manner -isms were not that of kings, but rather of the Prophets!

When the woman’s need was fulfilled,the Prophet came back to ‘Adi and they both continued to walk, and as they did, a man came to the Prophet. What did he say? Did he say, “O Messenger of Allah! I have surplus wealth and am looking to give some to a poor person?” Did he say, “I harvested my crops and I have some extra fruit. What shall I do with it?” If only he were to have asked such questions so that ‘Adi would have felt that the Muslims had wealth.

Instead, the man said, “O Messenger of Allah! I complain to you about hunger and poverty.” The man was unable to find any thing with which to abate his and his children’s hunger, whilst the Muslims around him could barely get by, and hence, were unable to help him.

‘Adi was listening as the man asked the Prophet his question. The Prophet then responded to him, after which he left.

When they continued to walk, there came another man who said, “O Messenger of Allah! I complain to you about highway robbers!” Meaning, “O Messenger of Allah! We have numerous enemies surrounding us and therefore cannot safely leave the walls of our city due to the disbelievers and thieves.” The Prophet  responded to him with a few words and continued. ‘Adi began to think about what he had seen. He himself was honored by his people, and he didn’t have any enemies waiting to attack him.

Why then were so many people accepting this religion whilst they were weak and poor?

They both reached the Prophet’s house and entered. Inside there was only one couch available so the Prophet gave it to ‘Adi in his honor, saying, “Take this to sit on.” ‘Adi gave it back to him and said, “Rather, you should sit on it.” The Prophet said, “Rather, you should sit on it.” ‘Adi then did as he was told.

Then the Prophet began to break down all the barriers that existed between ‘Adi and Islam. He said, “O ‘Adi, accept Islam and you will be safe.”

‘Adi said, “I already have a religion.”

The Prophet said, “I know more about your religion than you do.”

He said, “You know more about my religion than I do?”

The Prophet said, “Yes! Are you not from the Rukusiyya?”

Rukusiyya was a sub-sect within Christianity with elements of Zoarastianism. It was become of his skills of persuasion that the Prophet did not ask, “Are you a Christian?” Rather, he circumvented this fact and mentioned something more particular, i.e. the sub-sect of Christianity which he belonged to.

This is just as if you were to meet someone in a European country who said to you, “Why don’t you become a Christian?”

And you were to say to him, “I already have a religion.”

And he didn’t reply with, “Are you a Muslim?” or even, “Are you a Sunni?” But rather, with, “Are you a Shafi’ or a Hanbali?”

You would then realize that he knows much about your religion.This is exactly what the Prophet did with ‘Adi by asking, “Are you not from the Rakusiyya?”

“Indeed, I am,” replied ‘Adi.

The Prophet said, “When you go to war, do you not share one quarter of your people’s gains?’

He said, ‘Yes, I do.”

The Prophet said, “This is not allowed in your religion.”

“Adi admitted in embarrassment, ‘Yes.”

The Prophet said, “I know what is preventing you from accepting Islam. You think that the only people to follow this man (i.e., himself) are the oppressed people who have no strength: the Arabs have discarded them. O ‘Adi! Have you heard of al-Hira (a city in ‘Iraq)?”

‘Adi said, “I haven’t seen it but I have heard of it.”

The Prophet said, “I swear by the One who has my soul in His Hand, Allah will complete this affair, until a woman travels from al-Hira to make Tawaf around the Ka’bah, without fearing anyone.” Meaning: Islam will one day become so strong that a woman would be able to travel from al-Hira to Makkah without a male guardian and without any need for protection. She would pass by hundreds of tribes and no one would dare to harm her or take her wealth. This is because the Muslims will become so strong that no one would dare to trouble a Muslim from fear of other Muslims rushing to his or her help.

When ‘Adi heard this, he began to picture this in his mind a woman leaving ‘Iraq and reaching Makkah, i.e. approaching from the north of the peninsula, and passing by the Ta’i mountains where his people reside.

‘Adi became amazed and said to himself, “What will the bandits do who terrorize us and the rest of our cities?!”

The Prophet said, “You will seize the treasures of Kisra bin Hurmuz.”

He said, “The treasures of Ibn Hurmuz?”

Yes, “Kisra bin Hurmuz, and you will spend it all in the path of Allah. If you live long, you would see a man offering a handful of gold or silver to others but none will accept it.” Meaning: wealth will be so plentiful that a rich man will look for someone to accept his charity but will not be able to find a poor person to give it to.

The Prophet then admonished ‘Adi and reminded him of the Hereafter. He said, “One of you shall meet Allah on the Last Day without anyone to translate the dialogue between you and Allah. He will look to his right and not see anything except Hell.

He will then look to his left and not see anything except Hell.”

‘Adi remained silent and began to think. The Prophet abruptly said, “O ‘Adi! What is preventing you from saying: There is none worthy of worship but Allah? Do you know of a god greater than Him?”

‘Adi said, “In that case, I am a monotheist Muslim; I bear wit -ness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Servant and the Messenger of Allah!”

The Prophet’s face became overjoyed.

‘Adi bin Hatim later said, “I have seen a woman riding a camel travelling from Al-Hira till it made Tawaf around Ka‘bah fearing none but Allâh, I have also been one of those who opened the treasures of Kisra bin Hurmuz. I swear by the One who has my soul in His Hand, the third prophecy will also be fulfilled,since Allah’s Messenger has said so!” (Muslim and Ahmad)

Contemplate the way the Prophet  dealt with ‘Adi, how he welcomed him, something which ‘Adi no doubt felt. Think how all of his fine manners contributed to ‘Adi accepting Islam.If we were to practice these skills with people, we would also successfully capture their hearts.

A thought…

With gentleness and interpersonal skills, we can achieve our objectives.

Source : Enjoy Your Life, Dr. Muhammad Abd Al Rahman Al Arifi

India Muslims Save Sacred Hindu River

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CAIRO – Indian Muslim scholars are extending their hands to save a river sacred to the Hindus from pollution, which has been a cause of harm to millions of residents.

“The failure of various projects to make Ganges pollution-free following rampant corruption proves that only the involvement of common people of the country can save the river,” Mukti Sangram Acharya Pramod Krishnan, convener of Ganges River, told Press Trust of India.

“And the support of Muslims in this task is equally important.”

Muslim scholars have thrown their weight behind a campaign to save the sacred Ganges River from pollution.

Terming the drive to clean the river as a “holy campaign”, Maulana Saeedur Rehman, principal of Center of Islamic studies, said Ganges, though it is associated with Hindus, is not any less important for Muslims.

His position is also supported by Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Firangimahli said Ganges is a national river and that both Muslims and Hindus live on its banks and earn livelihood through it.

The religious leader appealed to all Muslims to contribute to render the river free of pollution, calling on the central government to create a new ministry for conservation of rivers.

Ganges is a trans-boundary 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river of India and Bangladesh.

The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs.

The river is worshiped by the Hindus as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism.

The Ganges was ranked among the five most polluted rivers of the world in 2007, with its pollution threatening not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.

Muslim Endeavor

Muslims and Hindus will work together to devise a plan on clearing the river.

“Soon we will sit together and formulate a joint work plan and also visit the areas on the banks of the river to create public awareness,” Krishnan, the convener of the river, said.

Krishnan blamed the bridges built by the government for the pollution of the sacred river.

Citing National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), he said oxygen and other vital contents in the Ganges are getting destroyed gradually because of the seven bridges on the river.

“If the river is made free of bridges it would become pollution free,” Krishnan said.

Muslims account for 160 million of India’s 1.1 billion people, the world’s third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.

The Muslim endeavor comes against strained relations between Hindus and Muslims in the country.

Deep-seated tensions between India’s Muslims and Hindus flared when Hindu mobs demolished the 16th century Babri mosque in 1992.

More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing ethnic violence between Hindus and Muslims over the mosque demolition.

In 2002, hundreds of Muslims were hacked and burned to death in communal violence that broke after a fire accidentally flared up at a train.

A Day in Ramadan in East London Mosque

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Watching the video, Ramadan in London are similar with Malaysia culture.

This video depicts a typical day in Ramadan at the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre (footage from August 2011). Many thousands come to pray at the mosque and centre, with numbers topping 250,000 last Ramadan.

Conservative Islam Draws Rich Pakistanis

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Signs show that growing numbers of wealthier and educated Pakistani women adopt more conservative strands of Islam

CAIRO – In a major religious shift in the south Asian Muslim country, a new trend of conservatism is appearing among wealthy and educated Muslim women in Pakistan.

“Recently there are a lot of young women coming to a very traditional Islam,” Maha Jehangir, a 30-year-old consultant told The Guardian.

“There is a deep desire for learning.”

Though there are no statistics, signs show that growing numbers of wealthier and educated women adopt more conservative strands of Islam.

For instance, in the information technology division of the Bank of Punjab’s headquarters, almost all employees wear hijab.

“I was the first,” said Shumaila, 28, who works in the information technology division.

A year ago, no one was donning the Muslim headscarf in the same office.

“I started reading the Qur’an properly and praying five times a day. No one made me wear the hijab. That would be impossible,” said Shumaila.

“I showed the way to the other girls at work.”

This is not only applied to working women.

Growing number of women are also joining conservative religious groups, such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

“Our women’s wing is doing very well,” said Syed Munawar Hassan, the leader of JI in Pakistan.

He said that women made up an increasing proportion of the organization’s 6 million members and 30,000 organizers.

“They are some of our best organizers.”

Traditionally recruiting among the lower middle class, JI has grown in recent years among the elite in Pakistan by rapid urbanization and economic growth.


Some cite the public anger over Pakistan’s role in the US-led war on terror as a main reason behind the growing conservatism among Pakistani women.

“People who grew up within the war on terror are asking, what does it mean to be a Nato ally? Is India our worst enemy?” Jehangir, who lives in a large house in one of the most exclusive parts of Islamabad, said.

“We are bombarded by all this information and there is a deep need for answers,” she said, adding that many found the answers in conservative strands of religious practice.

“That leads to religious inquiry.”

Others attribute the growing conservatism to Pakistani women who bring their experience in the Gulf countries to their homeland.

“Everything we learn comes from the Qur’an. Maths, computers, banking,” said Amna, a 21-year-old business student whose father was a manager for a major firm in Saudi Arabia.

Amna, who wears a Saudi-style full veil, said it was wrong to think that women who were richer or more educated would inevitably be more secular.

“The Qur’an contains everything,” she said.

Along with JI and Al-Huda organization, interest was also growing for more tolerant varieties of Islamic organizations among the wealthy women in Pakistan.

The al-Mawrid institute is attracting more and more “educated ladies, doctors, professors, housewives who do not know about Islam”, says Kaukab Shehzad, a 43-year-old teacher.

“We read the Qur’an in detail but we discuss other religions too.”

Feed A Family This Ramadan

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Normally, we donate to our nearest mosque to feed our neighbor. Our feast is very luxury, with plenty of dishes, top dates, fruit juice, etcs.


Let donate our money to a people who are really needed – who do not have a rice to cook. –  Palestine.

For others country, please check you local campaign. Other countries who require a help such, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Somalia, etc. – Let spread a word.

Whoever feeds a fasting person will have a reward like that of the fasting person, without any reduction in his reward. (At Tirmidzi)

Feed Campaign

Islam, Lim and I

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He is a close childhood friend – Lim Wei Choon. We go way back from the time when we were in our formative years until we graduated from secondary school. However, as fate would have it, we parted ways soon after completing our SPM. I advanced to Form 6 while Lim pursued his studies in the United States. Despite being separated by circumstance, it is impossible to leave behind tons of memories shared as we grew into our teens.

Traveling down memory lane, Lim would visit our family house every ‘Eidul-Fitri’ without fail, especially not to miss out on savoring his favorite ‘Dodol’ made by my late father. At times, he would even partake keenly in ceremonial events held at our house. As much as I enjoyed Lim’s affable visits, for a legitimate reason however, I was not quite as reciprocal. With a few exceptions of birthdays and ‘Chinese New Year’ celebrations, my fear of Lim’s family pet dog, unfortunately, had dissuaded me from being a frequent patron at his home.

Nonetheless, at school, we were points of reference for each other, particularly on our subjects of expertise. Lim – Mathematics. Me – Bahasa Malaysia. Together, we sailed through many adventures; fishing, swimming in cascade, skipping out school just to watch a ‘break-dance’ competition, among others. Bonds were gradually formed, intertwined between the innocence and curiosity of our young minds. A warm reminiscence, that skin color and religious differences was never a barrier to our friendship.


Twenty years passed. I got to know from his sister, while pursuing his career abroad, that Lim had eventually acquired a ‘Green Card’ and became a permanent resident in the United Sates. Apart from the geographical distance, lack of technological means had also played a role in making regular communication between us, that more difficult. Back in those days, internet, e-mails or mobile phones were unheard of and we were not really into writing letters between male friends. Initially, there were occasional postcards as a way of keeping tabs, but as time elapsed, we had since lost contact entirely.

The shocking news was brought about by Lim’s sister one morning, at a local wet market, who found me by sheer accident on an otherwise mundane day. She told me Lim’s returning back to Malaysia. To my absolute astonishment, I was also notified that his name is no longer Lim Wei Choon, but has been ‘Ahmad Zulfakar Lim Abdullah’ ever since 5 years ago. SubhanAllah! Praise and Glory to Allah – What unexpected happiness to find out that my long lost childhood friend had embraced Islam. I was beyond thrilled and simply could not wait to meet him up again, more so now that he is one of the ‘brothers’.

The much anticipated day finally arrived. There was a small celebration at his family house to commemorate his home-coming. It was already evening when I turned up and guests had quietly dissipated.

“Assalamu’alaikum…” His first sentence rolled out of his lips.

There was an unspoken air of difference about him. He looked different. He looked somewhat mellowed and… serene. Assured by the facts and no sooner had I replied his salaam, tears were streaming down our cheeks and we were hugging as though we were lovers who have been too long apart.

“They’ve been friends for a very long time, these two. Way back since they were just little boys.” Lim’s mother interjected, in an attempt to convincingly explain our poignant reunion and emotional display among the remaining guests. I supposed I was too overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for Lim’s submission to Islam… that the tears were a natural physiological expression of what mere words could not possibly describe.

Still reeling from raw emotions, Lim ushered me to a nearby swing in the courtyard of his home so we could hold a more private conversation. The distance and the miles were irrelevant, so did the time Lim spent away from home – his strong command of the Malay language is an obvious testament of that.

“Talha, am I not your best friend?”

“Sure, why do you even need to ask?”

“If you truly meant that, why did you let me suffer?”

“I do not understand. Suffer? What do you mean, Lim?”

“Why don’t you ponder for a moment? We’ve known each other for ages. Your home is just like my second home. But has it ever come across your mind to educate me about the beauty of Islam? Why that I had to be thousands of miles away… in order to discover it? Why not here, in Malaysia – an Islamic country? Don’t you find it ironic, that I became a Muslim at the hands of a former Christian minister?”

I was stunned and rendered speechless. Lim completely caught me off-guard. For a moment of apprehensive silence, he continued.

“If you are truly my best friend, why do you intend only to treat me well in this temporary world? Don’t you even care where I would end up in the hereafter? You actually have the heart to watch your friend suffer in hell?”

“You know, if I have not found Islam and I died in vain, I’d hold every Malay Muslims in our neighborhood accountable. For not reaching out when you are all the forefront ambassadors in spreading the message of Islam. Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. You can see around us the effects of inaction, especially to those who are close to you.”

“Do you realize how privileged and blessed you are to be born in a Muslim family? Do you comprehend that Islam is meant for all humankind – not just a religion for an elite few? As Muslims, you are here to present the real, true, good Islam. The Qur’an asks us to join together in this mutual teaching, outreaching to other people who are not born Muslims, like I was.”

With an impassive gaze, my head hunched down, out of pure shame.

An important matter for Muslims to realize is that da’wah is an obligation upon them, as successors of the Prophet of Islam (SAW) righteous message. But from what I observed, the Malay community is seriously lacking in the spirit of ‘jihad’ and the drive to call out people to Islam. How will Allah’s help arrive when the community does not help in Allah’s cause?

I’m not trying to be self-conceited but I feel a deep sense of regret. We have to fittingly express gratitude for the blessings of Islam and Iman as calling people to Allah also means completing our own worship, the reason for which we are created. It is one of the noblest acts that entail a high reward. And further, it is not befitting to call the non-muslims as ‘kufr’ because ‘kufr’ means disobey; unless if you have first fulfilled your responsibilities with knowledge, seriousness and wisdom, but still, they turn away from your call.

I am profoundly mortified with everything that Lim had said to me. It was the cold, hard truth – a reality that had not crossed my mind as I got busy only trying to improve myself. I got blurred in my ultimate vision as one of Allah’s caliphs. Now it brightly dawned on me that calling to the message of Islam is not a choice, but an obligation. If you strive to serve Allah’s religion, Allah, in turn, will help you in this world and in the hereafter. In other words, Allah is the helper of those who work for the cause of Him. He multiplies His rewards in return for His slave’s little efforts.

Later that evening, my spirit renewed. I am committed to be a da’iyaa. Lim, a recent Muslim for only 5 years, had converted more than 20 non-believers including his own brother. Why am I, a Muslim of 40 years (am I really?) has not presented the truth about Islam to even a single non-believer?

May Allah forgive me for I have limited capacity to fully appreciate the extent of His blessings on one who is born into faith and Islam.

*This article is an English translation of ‘Aku, Lim dan Islam’. Original article by taalidi@arjunasetia. Translated by NurJeehan.

The Canon of Medicine

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Al Hussein ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina (also known by the Latinized version of his name, Avicenna, 980–1037 AD; 370–428 AH) was a Muslim Persian polymath and the foremost physician and philosopher of his time. In his Introduction to the History of Science, the eminent historian of science George Sarton (1884–1956) characterized Ibn Sina as “one of the most famous exponents of Muslim universalism and an eminent figure in Islamic learning,” noting that “for a thousand years he has retained his original renown as one of the greatest thinkers and medical scholars in history.” Ibn Sina’s Al-Qānūn fī al-țibb (The canon of medicine) is his best known work. Summarizing the medical knowledge of the time and comprising five volumes, it is considered one of the great classics in the history of medicine. It was regarded as a medical authority as late as the early 19th century. According to Sarton, The Canon of Medicine contains “some of the most illuminating thoughts pertaining to distinction of mediastinitis from pleurisy; contagious nature of phthisis; distribution of diseases by water and soil; careful description of skin troubles; of sexual diseases and perversions; [and] of nervous ailments.”

In his Al Hammadi Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, John Urquhart (2006), professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at the University of California at San Francisco, contrasted Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine (c. 1012) with Osler’s Principles and Practice of Medicine (Osler 1892). Urquhart asked himself which of the two books he would want if he was marooned and in need of a guide for practical medicine. He opted for Ibn Sina’s Canon because the book presents an integrated view of surgery and medicine. Ibn Sina tells his readers, for example, how to judge the margin of healthy tissue to remove with an amputation1. In contrast, Osler shunned intervention in his Principles and Practice of Medicine. The enduring respect in the 21st century for a book written a millennium earlier is testimony to Ibn Sina’s achievement.

Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in Europe) was born about 980 CE (370 H), near Bukhara, where his family moved soon after his birth (Mahdi et al. 1987). Bukhara had been for centuries the glory of the Persian Empire, but the empire was falling apart into smaller kingdoms under the pressure of Arab invasions. This was one of the reasons that Ibn Sina had to move several times during his life. Despite this, he managed to write several outstanding books, which went on to influence the concepts and principles of scholars for centuries.

Ibn Sina’s studies began in Bukhara under the guidance of several well-known scholars of the time, for example, Abu Abd Allah al-Natili. He studied logic, philosophy, metaphysics, and natural sciences, and gradually developed an interest in medicine. His knowledge soon began to exceed that of his teachers. Ibn Sina began writing his major medical composition, Kitab al-Qanun fi al-tibb (Canon of Medicine) in Jorjan (also written as Gorgan), at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, and continued its composition in Rayy, an important medieval city south of modern Tehran, where two other great medical writers in Arabic, al-Razi and Ibn Hindu, were born (Tibi 2005; Nasser and Tibi 2006). The Canon was completed in Hamadan even further southwest, where Ibn Sina died in 1037 CE (428 H). Ibn Sina had intended to include his clinical casenotes in the book, but the paper on which they were written was lost before he was able to do so (Pormann and Savage-Smith 2006, p 117-118).

The most celebrated medical book prior to the publication of Ibn Sina’s Canon was the Complete Book of the Medical Art (Kitab Kamil al-sina`ah al-tibbiyyah) composed about 983 by Ali ibn al-Abbas al-Majusi. Although the Syrian physician Ibn al-Ibri (known as Bar Hebraeus), who died in 1286, judged this book to include more practical clinical advice than the Canon, he records that publication of the latter soon eclipsed memory of the former (Elgood 1951, p 195). Indeed, Ibn Sina’s Canon remained the most popular medical textbook in the world over the subsequent six centuries (Siraisi 1987).

Ibn Sina divided his Canon of Medicine into five books (Savage-Smith 1996). The first book – the only one to have been translated into English (Gruner 1930; Shah 1966) – concerns basic medical and physiological principles as well as anatomy, regimen, and general therapeutic procedures. The second book is on medical substances, arranged alphabetically, following an essay on their general properties. The third book concerns the diagnosis and treatment of diseases specific to one part of the body, while the fourth covers conditions not specific to one bodily part, such as poisonous bites and obesity. The final, fifth, book is a formulary of compound remedies.

The images of Ibn Sina’s text shown in The James Lind Library are taken from an edition of his book published in Rome in 1593, part of the historic collection of the Sibbald Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. This version of the book was based on a Florentine manuscript, and it is the first medical work to have been printed in Arabic. One of us (AT) translated the passages quoted from the Arabic text.

Medicine is a science from which one learns the conditions of the human body with regard to health and the absence of health, the aim being to protect health when it exists and restore it when absent.

Then, after that famous opening sentence, Ibn Sina continues:

Someone might say to us that medicine is divided into theoretical and practical parts and that, by calling it a science, we have considered it as being all theoretical. To this we respond by saying that some arts and philosophy have theoretical and practical parts, and medicine, too, has its theoretical and practical parts. The division into theoretical and practical parts differs from case to case, but we need not discuss these divisions in disciplines other than medicine. If it is said that some parts of medicine are theoretical and other parts are practical, this does not mean that one part teaches medicine and the other puts it into practice – as many researchers in this subject believe. One should be aware that the intention is something else: it is that both parts of medicine are science, but one part is the science dealing with the principles of medicine, and the other with how to put those principles into practice.

Ibn Sina begins the second book (on simple drugs, or materia medica) with a discussion on the nature and quality of drugs (they were each assigned a pair of qualities, cold or warm, dry or moist), and the way that mixing them influences their effectiveness. The second chapter (maqalah) of Book 2 is “On knowledge of the potency of drugs through experimentation (tajribah).”

You can tell the potency of drugs in two ways, by analogy (qiyas) and by experiment (tajribah). We say experimenting leads to knowledge of the potency of a medicine with certainty after taking into consideration certain conditions.

Ibn Sina then specifies seven rules that need to be taken into account:

1. The drug must be free from any acquired quality: this can occur if the drug is exposed to temporary heat or cold, if there is a change in the essence of the drug, or if the drug is in close proximity to another substance. Water, although cold by nature, will give warmth as long as it is heated; euphorbium, although hot by nature, will have a cold effect when cold; almond, although naturally neutral, will have a strong effect of heat if it turns rancid; and fish, although cold, is a strong source of heat if salt is added to it.

2. The experiment must be done on a single, not a composite, condition. In the latter case, if the condition consists of two opposite diseases and the drug is tried and found beneficial in both, we cannot infer the real cause of the cure. Example: if we treat a patient suffering from phlegmatic fever with agaric and the fever abates, this does not mean that because it was useful for a hot illness agaric possesses the property of coldness. It is possible that the drug was effective because it dissolved the phlegm or removed it; when the [phlegm] disappeared the fever disappeared. This action represents both the direct and the accidental benefit of the drug. The direct benefit relates to the [phlegm], and the indirect refers to the fever.

Ibn Sina makes clear here that he realizes that if a patient suffering from more than one disease recovers after receiving a drug, one cannot infer that the treatment was the reason for the recovery. A treatment should be tested in a controlled environment to reduce confounding factors, in this case, by excluding patients with complex, multiple illnesses.

In the third rule, Ibn Sina stresses that a drug can affect the disease itself directly, and thus cure it, but that it can also have a secondary, accidental effect, and that it would then cure a symptom only, without removing the cause of the problem.

3.The drug must be tested on two contrary conditions. If it is effective on both, we cannot judge which condition benefited directly from the drug. It is possible that the drug acted directly against one disease, and acted against the symptom of the other. Scammony, if used to treat a cold disease, would no doubt have a warming effect and bring benefit. If we try it on a hot disease, such as diurnal fever, it would also have a beneficial effect because it gets rid of yellow bile. In these cases, an experiment would be of no help in deciding whether [the drug] is hot or cold, unless we could know that it acted directly on one disease and acted on a symptom of the other.

4. The potency of the drug should be equal to the strength of the disease. If some of the drugs are inadequate with regard to heat when compared to the coldness of an illness, they will not be able to effect a cure. Sometimes during their application against coldness, their function for producing warmth is weakened. So it is best to experiment first using the weakest [dosage] and then increase it gradually until you know the potency of the drug, leaving no room for doubt.

5. One should consider the time needed for the drug to take effect. If the drug has an immediate effect, this shows that it has acted against the disease itself. If its initial effect is contrary to what comes later, or if there is no initial effect at first and the effect shows up later, this leads to uncertainty and confusion. Actions in such cases could be accidental: their effect is hidden at first and later comes into the open. The confusion and uncertainty relate to the potency of the drug.

6. The effect of the drug should be the same in all cases or, at least, in most. If that is not the case, the effect is then accidental, because things that occur naturally are always or mostly consistent.

7. Experiments should be carried out on the human body. If the experiment is carried out on the bodies of [other animals] it is possible that it might fail for two reasons: the medicine might be hot compared to the human body and be cold compared to the lion’s body or the horse’s body…The second reason is that the quality of the medicine might mean that it would affect the human body differently from the animal body…

…These are the rules that must be observed in finding out the potency of medicines through experimentation. Take note!

However closely one may identify modern notions about testing drugs in each of Ibn Sina’s seven points, his seventh point remains very relevant. One of the few systematic comparisons of drug studies done in animals and humans showed substantial discordance, which the authors of the study attributed either to bias or to the failure of animal models to mimic clinical disease adequately (Perel et al. 2007; Bracken 2008).

This James Lind Library commentary has been republished in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2009;102:78-80.