Final Period of Islamic Medicine Evolution in Ifriqyah Region


There is a unique period of evolution of medical evolution from Aghbids (800-909) to Hafsids dynasty (1229-1574), that is the most sensitive stage of history of medicine in world, end of Middle Ages in empire of ifriquyah. Medicine in this region was formed from combination of traditional Berber and Arab schools of Qiravan and Andalusian, Iranian and Roman medicine, Ifriqiyah is main way of transferring medical knowledge to Europe and final stage of Islamic medicine, investigated last stage of theoretical and clinical achievements in pharmaceuticals, description and diagnosis of diseases, nutrition science, health and treatment with hot water and air, there are reports of diseases and epidemics, including Frankish disease in Mediterranean in Middle Ages. Fourhundred- year period of Hafsids rule is era of final evolution of Islamic medicine that rule in Ifriqyah, which had scientific, political, and jurisprudential works. Research is rewriting of medical section of book “Islamic culture and civilization in Hafsids era (2003)”, article on history of Tunisian medicine in 2004, abstract of article is indexed in 43rd International Congress of History of Medicine in Italy. Medical knowledge reached its maximum growth in this part of world and capital of Tunisia Hafsids became a center for Islamic medicine and production of its medical works, interpretation of Avicenna’s medical works was a textbook for centuries, and Zaitouneh University became a bridge for transfer of medicine to Salerno Italy. Research showed that Islamic medicine was physical stage of development of medicine from Middle Ages to Renaissance. Finally Islamic medicine after centuries of progress and Reaching peak of evolution, fell down in decadence and research investigated causes of decline of Islamic medicine because medicine became exclusive in meeting sexual needs and lost its balance, and its natural progress was stopped.


Medicine; Hafsiads; Averroes; Ifriqyah


Empire of Ifriqyah Traditional Cradle of Medicine of Nations

So far, not much research has been done on Ifriqyah because its name has been removed from modern geographical map and today it is a part of North Africa. Various studies in political and social history of this area are still ongoing. But phenomenon the effect of civilization is less important. And there is no independent research on evolutionary phenomenon of Ifriqyah medical knowledge. Ifrikiyah is a land between border of Egypt in Barqa and eastern Algeria. Which has seen many medical schools from ancient period to Islamic period. Path of these schools is evolutionary and finally it is under reign of Hafsids government. Article has examined the most important statement of medicine in history of Africa to show this evolutionary process in its last stage. This research is about a specific part of world that is not on map today and has been involved in construction of knowledge in past. It is new research in medical behavior of this region. In geographical region of Ifriqyaha, unique content of Islamic medicine has continued to occur. And medicine is dominated by humanities, religion, philosophy and law. Reading this article is not just a review of historical reports. Rather, it is discovered of a civilization event that gradually took shape in form of medicine and philosophy and reached its final evolution. In this research, most important evolutionary effects of the medical phenomenon in Islamic civilization have been explained [1].

The Iranian Roots of Hafsids Medicine - Iranian Medical School of Kairwan

The first African medical school was established in Kairouan by Iranian physisian. One of contemporary researchers said that Ifriqyah medicine is Arabic and secular, but his statement is incorrect because. In 150 AH/ about 750AD, for first time, one of physician of Jundi Shapur, Iranian University, named Yuhanna ibn Masawaih, (777-857 AD) introduced Islamic medicine to traditional capital of Ifriqyah, Qairwan. Therefore, it seems that the characteristics that he has expressed about the Qairvan medical school are not based on historical facts; Qairwan medicine was neither secular nor Arabic, because the characteristics recorded in the history of Qairwan medicine show that Qairwan medicine was largely “Iranian” with a “religious” color, and these characteristics are among the distinctive features of Ifriqyah medicine in Hafsids period. The main characteristic of Ifriqyah medicine, is influence of Iranian medicine especially Qairvan medical school, and its Iranian color. The beginning of Iran’s influence was from establishment of Bait al-Hikma (house of knowledge) in Qairvan, which worked as a translation center for medical books with transfer of Baghdad Medical School (Gundeshapur Medical School 3rd-century AD) to Qairvan, Iran’s medical heritage found its way to Africa. For first time, Yohanna Ibn Masuyeh, an Iranian physician from Gundeshapur University, who was the carrier of Iranian tradition of medicine, entered Qiravan in year 150 AH, together with Mohlabi, general of Abbasid government. This medical school maintained its influence until Hafsids period. The best proof of this is works that physician of Ifriqyah Hafsids created based on main books of Iranian medicine, based on books of Avicenna and Razes. During the Hafsids period, works of Avecenia and their medical ideas and secrets were summarized, explained and taught in Tunisia, including Avecenia’s medicine book Al-qanun, as well as al-Mansouri Raze’s book on medicine. And a large medical encyclopedia was compiled that specified Iranian origin of medical terms. Among them, Ibn Andras, a special physician in Hafsids court, described and summarized Avecenia’s works and translated spice section of Avecenia’s Alqanun into poetry [2].

Jewish and Religious Color of African Medicine

Medicine in Ifryqyah grew in a religious atmosphere and was never without a religious background. Continuation of the Jewish medical school in Tunisia during the Hafsids era and its effect on the transfer of medical knowledge to Europe. But did the Islamic- Jewish medical tradition of the 4th and 5th centuries of Hijri still exist in the Hafsids period or not? This question was raised by any orientalist. they considered this possibility unlikely at the same time, Jewish physician were still prominent in the high medical circles during the Hafsids period. It shows the presence of Jewish medicine in the period of its development in the Hafsids era [3].

The Combination of Islamic Jurisprudence, Sharia Law, Philosophy with Medicine, Jurist Physician

One of the characteristics of Tunisian medicine that can be considered as a single hand was its fusion with one of the branches of theoretical sciences. physicians among the great jurists, philosophers, historians, writers and poets emerged in Ifriqyah and the combination of literature, philosophy and medicine had traditional roots in Ifriqyah. One of the phenomena of the African school of medicine, which had a long tradition and evolved during the Hafsids period. Doubting the personality of physicians whose personality background was always shaped by Islamic laws, morals, education and philosophy. Ishaq Ibn Imran (AD 903-9) was an iranian physician working in Kairouan, Ishaq Ibn Imran, an African physician, has been mentioned as the founder of this method (combination of medicine and philosophy) in Ifriqyah. Ibn Jajar’s characteristic in relation to the physician of his time was to mix medicine with philosophy; He acted in the manner of philosopher physician, such as Razes and Avecenia. Ibn Andras, the special physician of Mostanser Hafsi, also acted in the manner of Avecenia and Razes. He was a physician and philosopher. (inHafsids period) we see a type of Sharia medicine in ifriqyah, which will be discussed later. Brunschwick, referring to this issue, writes: In the Hafsids period, there are collection of skilled and famous physician in the city of Bejaieh, Tunis and Constantine, All of whom. They were Muslims and there is no Jew among them. The characteristic of these physicians was their knowledge in Sharia, jurisprudence and medicine. The presence of great jurists in the field of medicine caused a connection between the principles of Sharia and medicine, and a type of Sharia medicine emerged in Tunisia. Some researchers have considered this as a clear phenomenon in the history of Islamic medicine. This tradition was continued in the Hafsids period [4].

The Evolution of Nutrition Science in The Hafsids Period

Paying attention to food and its properties in the mirror of prophetic hadiths was one of the important issues that attracted the attention of Ifryqyah physicians of the Hafsids era, and they compiled numerous books on the description and interpretation of prophetic medicine, including the Prophet’s hadith about the stomach. (Who said: Stomach is the root of all diseases and all health) were examined in detail [5].

Common Diseases in Ifriqyah During Hafsids Period, Epidemic as Acholera

There are many reports from contemporary physicians of Hafsids and after that school of Ifriqyah and historians of medicine about common diseases in Ifryqyah are proof of the evolution of Islamic medicine in Hafsids. These reports have mentioned the causes of diseases, including the causes of epidemics. Its social causes and medical causes are in the works of Hafsids period, two reports are mentioned in this article.Among the most important reports are related to the epidemic [6].

Epidemic in Mediterranean

Cholera and plague were among the most common diseases throughout the Middle Ages that caused the most damage in the Mediterranean countries. The plague started in Egypt in medieval years and covered the entire Islamic West. Al-Aswad), covered entire Mediterranean and Europe. the biggest wave of this disease, called Black Plague, covered the entire Mediterranean and Europe. The large number of people and their mass movement, which traveled east and west under pretext of Hajj and trade, was the cause of widespread outbreak of cholera and plague in Tunisia which was located at junction of the Hajj and East-West trade routes, After issue of nutrition and its negative effects on spread of disease, mixing, density of garbage and lack of means to maintain public health were among main causes of the spread of diseases in Ifryqyah [7].

Sociological Report of Ibn Khaldun

Using Ibn Khaldun’s point of view, who believed that “villages are better than medieval cities in terms of negative factors”, he concluded that cholera and plague occur in Berber countries once every ten or fifteen years. It killed a lot of people [8].

Ways of Fighting Epidemic

Many historians have mentioned these widespread diseases only by name of “plague”. At that time, doctors did not have medicine for that infectious disease, however, African doctors had taken measures to fight plague and cholera; They believed that the only way to deal with plague was to use Armenian mud. In that situation, Tunisian physicians presented various works on cholera and plague [9].

Investigating Causes of Epidemic

The outbreak of cholera caused traditional African sources to raise extensive discussions about causes of cholera. In these sources, three views are proposed about the origin of cholera disease:

a) The medical point of view, which believes that cholera is caused by bad air and a kind of stomach disease. This common disease (cholera) is called typhoid fever, swamp fever (swamp fever, malaria) and They also mentioned typhoid fever. One of the reasons for the defeat of Louis IX in the 8th Crusade was the outbreak of typhoid in his army. Louis was one of its first victims. According to Wazir Siraj, many people from Louis’s army died due to the outbreak of cholera.
b) The cause of cholera is the intersection of stars
c) The supernatural view that sees cholera as God’s revenge on the servants of sin


There is a historical report from the 10th century that a contemporary historian of the late Hafsids government visited the cities of Ifrqayah and it is very important in terms of medicine. Leon Ifrqyah mentioned common diseases in Africa and mentioned some of them:

a) epilepsy which was usually seen in the heads of children and adult women.
b) Headache that most people had.
c) Dental diseases caused by drinking cold water after hot food.
d) Stomach diseases that most people suffered from and mistakenly thought it was heart disease.
e) Diarrhea and severe stomach pains that many people suffered from, and this was also due to the cold water they drank.
f) Al-Nisa (Buzlum) and Al-Raqb were seen abundantly between them because they sat on the ground without wearing pants and their bodies were placed naked on the ground.
g) Gout was not common among them, and some of their chiefs who were used to drinking wine, chicken feed, and boring and boring food got gout.
h) Excessive eating of olives and walnuts and harsh foods caused incurable scabies.
i) Sitting on the ground in winter caused people with a demotic temperament to have a painful and sharp cough. Sometimes people could not understand what he was saying due to the severity of his cough during Friday prayer sermons (when the preacher was at the height of his speech).
j) Da Al-Afaranj (Al-Zahri); This terrible disease has deadly pains and malignant wounds and wounds, and few people survive it. This disease was brought to Africa from Balad Farang and had no context in Africa, nor was it common in the valley of the Atlas Mountains (76) or among the Arabs of Numidia. The beginning of this disease is when Ferdinand, the King of Spain, expelled the Jews from his country and they brought Da Al-Afranj with them to Berber land. The origin of this disease was the sexual relationship with the women of this group of Jews. This disease gradually spread over ten years in Africa. So, that no family is spared from it. In the beginning, people with this disease were considered among leprosy sufferers and were taken out of the city to live with leprosy patients, and the number of these patients increased every day. In Tunisia, Italy, Egypt and the Levant, this disease, which was known as the plague, caused a large number of people to die.

a. A group of people were suffering from al-Janb.
b. Hernia: Most people suffered from this disease; Their testicles swelled and created a strange sight. They thought that gum and salty cheese are the cure for this disease.
c. Epilepsy and nervous diseases were common among African children, and most of the women suffering from them, out of ignorance, considered it caused by exorcism.
d. Lung and throat cancer was one of the diseases that Leon mentioned an example of as a result of drinking win.
e. One of the famous diseases of Hafsids period was “ thirst”. In Hafsids sources, the death of several Hafsids sultans is mentioned as a result of it.


The heroism of the Hafsids physician in development of health reached point where court of kings of that time accepted Hera. The Tunisian doctor wrote a book for Bayezid II, the Ottoman Sultan. He was invited to the Ottoman sultan’s court to practice medicine. The special attention of Tunisian doctors to the issue of “hygiene” made this title one of the characteristics of Tunisian medicine. Dozens of books on hygiene and providing health advice to prevent disease among individuals and the community were compiled. Hafsi’s period was accompanied by widespread diseases, such as cholera and plague in Africa, with several large massacres (once every fifteen or twenty years). These killings were the most important motivation for Tunisian physician to conduct research on hygiene. They intended to encourage people to observe public health and prevent the occurrence of diseases by addressing “hygiene”.

The recommendations of health sources, Outlines of hygiene books in the era of its evolution in the Hafsian period were as follows:

a) Natural and light sports were among the most important subjects of hygiene books, which emphasized the role of sports in maintaining and ensuring health and warding off diseases
b) Life in the open air
c) Self-restraint, morality and mental health
d) Food and water and normal and normal sleep
e) Suitable housing in terms of light and type of construction materials used in it; Among other things, it was recommended to whiten the walls with clean plaster
f) Recommendations about country houses
g) Permanent food control by government authorities
h) Establishment of bathrooms in public places and... spiritual medicine


A remarkable account of the evolution of medicine in the Hafsids period is in clinical medicine and the use of practical experiences, among others, has considered the medical practice of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ajlan, a Tunisian doctor, who diagnosed diseases through urine, as a rare phenomenon in the field of medicine [10].


Nutrition science and food properties; In the era of Hafsi, the properties and effects of foods and their natural elements and properties were of indescribable importance, and theoretical studies were carried out in this field. Several physicians of the Hafsids period compiled a book on nutrition for the kings of this regime [11].


In addition to this remarkable progress of medicine in the Hafsi period, the prevalence of traditional medicine in folk circles, as well as demagoguery and demagoguery, were still one of the problems and causes of the stagnation of Tunisian medicine. Spiritual medicine (herbal medicine) was common among the people. This traditional medicine had wide dimensions and included various types of treatment, such as treatment with plants, cutting, ki [=burning], surgery and so on. Been A group of people boldly allowed themselves any kind of treatment. This type of medicine, which is similar to magic, became widespread in Africa and became a social problem in the early decades of Hafsi’s rule. To deal with this situation, Ibn al-Manasif, a Tunisian jurist, issued a fatwa stating that only those who have received permission to practice medicine from the Council of Medical Scholars have the right to practice medicine [12].


During the Hafsids period, Tunisia was treasure of Islamic medical heritage; A collection of medical books from the schools of Qiravan, Baghdad, Andalusia and other parts of the Maghreb was provided in the capital of the Hafsi government. mentioned that the abundance of manuscripts of Tunisian medicine in the libraries of the world is the reason for this. Considering the scientific position of Tunisia and its position as a link between Europe and Africa and the East of the Islamic world, Christian Europe made a great effort to transfer the legacy of Muslim medicine. Afriqiyah (in Hafsi’s era) was still the bridge for the transfer of Islamic medicine to Christian Europe.In the early 13th century, medical writings were gradually translated into Latin and gradually transferred to Europe. There is a collection of Tunisian medical books in the library of Rance in northern France, which dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries and has been translated into Latin. Hasan Ibn Wazan (Leon Afrika) made valuable translations into Latin. In 931 AH, he wrote a medical dictionary describing and translating Arabic words into Latin and Hebrew. This book was among the works that were transferred to Europe [13].


Hafsids era is era of evolution of pharmacology, and evolution of Islamic pharmacology happened in the land of Ifriqyah, which was rich in terms of herbal medicine. Other achievements of Tunisian medicine are medicinal plants and attention to the medicinal value of food. Tunisian doctors have been interpreted as “Sayadale doctors”. One of the important steps in the progress of medicine in Africa during the Hafsi period was extensive quantitative and qualitative research that was conducted in the field of knowledge of medicinal plants and their use in the treatment of diseases. The existence of tens of copi es of Tunisian writings about medicinal plants, which exist in some libraries of the world, indicates this. The tradition of the Afrika pharmacy. Ibn Jazar (d: 369 AH) is the founder of this knowledge in Ifriqiyah. In the originality of Sidliyyah Ibn Jajar’s work, it is enough that he never left Ifriqiyah and spent his whole life researching Afriqiyah plants based on the pharmacological sources he had. Ibn Jazar’s works in the Hafsids period were the foundations of the scholars’ work and the bridge for the transfer of Islamic pharmacy to the Christian West. Constantine the African (d: 1087 AD), a Tunisian scholar who lived in Italy, translated it into Latin and made his way to Italy. Constantine treated Tunisian immigrants in Salerno, Italy. He learned Latin there. The translation of his works from the 10th to the 16th century influenced all Italian circles. Due to its geographical location, Afriqyeh had a lush and lush nature suitable for the growth of all kinds of medicinal plants. The special attention of Tunisians to Sideleh has deep traditional roots. These roots can be seen in the research of Hafsi era. In his long journey to find some rare species of medicinal plants, Ibn Bitar Maleqi (d. 646 AH) found five rare plants on the coast of Africa, which are more noteworthy than the plants he found in other places. The natural situation of Africa led to a large amount of medicinal botanical work and caused herbal pharmacology to emerge as an independent field of medicine in Africa. Ibn Jazar (d: 369 AH) is the founder of this knowledge in Ifriqiyah. In the originality of Ibn Jajar’s work, it is enough that he never left Ifriqyah and spent his whole life researching the plants of Africa based on the pharmacological sources he had. Ibn Jajar’s works in the Hafsi period were the foundations of the scholars’ work and the bridge for the transfer of Islamic pharmacy to the Christian West. The contemporary scholars of the Hafsis, such as Ahmed bin Yusuf Tifashi Abu Abd Allah bin Ahmad al-Tamimi. Sharif Idrisi and Ibn Bitar also created their works about Sadiliyah based on the works of Ibn Jazar Qairani, and Tunis, was the bridge for transfer of the tradition of pharmacology of the Kairouan school to Europe. The transfer of Muslim pharmacy knowledge to Europe for the first time provided the basis for a huge scientific upsurge of Europeans in the field of medicine and pharmacology [14].


The insolent and full-time tendency to be a sex doctor is one of the realities of Arab medicine in its last evolutionary period during the Hafsian era, so that sex medicine reached the peak of development and glory during their period. Behavior of Some as evidence and texts show, medical science became a tool of the rich and powerful. which they used to meet their material goals. The achievements of Tunisian medicine during the Hafsids period are the works that were prepared about the power of blood and sexual diseases; Leon Afrika mentions a kind of drug that is useful for strengthening sexual powers, which was obtained by Tunisian doctors. Leon writes: Tunisian people usually use some drugs, such as hashish, which is very expensive, eating an ounce of this drug is exhilarating and strangely increases sexual power and intercourse power. It also increases appetite up to 3 times. During his trip to Constantine, Leon reported the use of hashish at a high price in this city, the Turks brought hashish with them to Constantine. All Detailed African medical books had a complete description of sexual enhancement. Exaggeration of this issue caused the writing of medical books outside the real path of medicine. In this regard, books were also written about sexual stimulation. In these books, the woman and her beauty, sensual pleasures, etc. were intended, and the medical aspect was not important. In these books, obscene and disgusting sayings are mentioned in the cover of medicine literature, and it has good information about women and marriage issues. Perhaps this trend is the main reason for the stoppage of Islamic Arabic medicine in its last stages of development [15].


The study of Arabic Islamic medicine in one of its regions in the last stage of evolution showed that a kind of independent alternative medicine has worked and can work, and it is a kind of paradigm in the approach to medicine. This approach is able to stand and evolve in its own framework, but its damage is the radical approach to sexual medicine during the Hafsids period, which caused it to stop. This opinion is also prevalent in other parts of Islamic and Arab Islamic Iranian medicine. Medicine in Africa has been formed in the atmosphere of Abrahamic religions and the literature of these three religions governs the character and behavior of their physicians in the Mediterranean atmosphere and is not secular.


A kind of alternative medicine has been experienced in a part of the world where many aspects of their experiences are still unknown, such as aerial treatment, which was only accessible in the special Mediterranean air of Tunisia. And this is a good capital for the medical community, especially alternative medicine, to discover useful things from this capital.


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Article Type

Mini Review

Publication history

Received Date: August 26, 2022
Published: October 20, 2022

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Mohammadreza Shahidipak, Department of humanity, Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch, Iran


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How to cite this article

Mohammadreza S. Final Period of Islamic Medicine Evolution in Ifriqyah Region. 2022- 4(5) OAJBS.ID.000503.

Author Info

Mohammadreza Shahidipak*

Department of humanity, Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch, Iran