Autobiographical Except from Burzuyah, an Eminent Persian Physician

Science as it developed under Muslim rule was far more humane than the science we know today. Here is an autobiographical except from an eminent Persian physician—Burzuyah—who although originally of the Parsi faith, influenced through his association with the great medical research centre at Jundishapur, Muslim doctors by practicing his healing profession in strict conformity with Islamic ethical ideals:

My father belonged to the soldier class; my mother was the daughter of a family of distinguished priests. One of the favours that God gave to me was that I was the favourite child and that I received a better education than my brothers. My parents sent me when I was seven years old to an elementary school. As soon as I could read and write well, I returned to my parents. Then I decided to study Science. The first brach of Science that attracted me was Medicine. It interested me so much because I knew how excellent it was. The more I learnt, of it, the more I liked it and the more eagerly I studied it.

As soon as I had reached such a degree of proficiency in medicine that I could think of diagnosing and treating patients, I began to deliberate within myself, for I observed that there were four things to which men aspire. Which of these ought I to aim at—money, prosperity, fame, or a heavenly reward? What decided my choice was the observation that all intelligent, educated people praise medicine and that no religion condemns it. I also used to read in the medical books at Jundisapur that the best doctor is the one who sacrifices his personal gain for the welfare of his patients and seeks only a reward from God in the Hereafter. So I was determined to follow this lead and to aim at no earthly gain lest I be like a merchant who sells for a valueless bauble a ruby by which he might have gained all the riches of the world.

I also read in the medical works of the ancients that if a physician aspires to gain through his profession a reward in the Hereafter, he will not lose his share in this world’s goods. Thus he resembles a sower who carefully scatters his barley grain in his field and for whom there springs up together with his harvest of barley, all sorts of useful herbs.

So with the hope of reward in the Hereafter, I set out to treat the sick. I exerted myself in the treatment of patients whom I expected to cure. And no less did I strive in those cases where I could not hope to effect a cure. In such cases, I tried at least to make their sufferings more bearable. Whenever I could, I used to attend to my cases in person. When this was not possible, I would write out for them the necessary prescriptions and give them medicines. From no one do I ever demand any fee or other reward. And none of my fellow physician did I envy who equaled me in skill or surpassed me in fame or fortune if he were lax in his standards of honesty in word or deed.

(Science and Civilization in Islam, Syed Hossein Nasr, New American Library, New York, 1968, p. 189-190; as quoted in Islam and Western Society, M. Jameelah, 1982, p. 185-186)

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