Obstetrics in Islamic Medicine: An Historical Perspective


  • Hossam E Fadel Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA




Islamic medicine, Cesarean Section, Obstetrics, History of Medicine


Muslims should be credited with establisbing obstetrics as a separate branch of medicine. The care of tbe pregnant women, especially during labor and delivery, has been identified as a separate entity. Al-Razi, in his famous book, al-Hawi, devotes a significant part to obstetrics. He recognizes the dangerous effects of malpresentation. He describes several abnormalities of labor including abnormalities of the delivery of the placenta. He prescribes various medicinal plants and pbarmacological recipes for their treatment, including intra-uterine instillation of such medicines. Al-Zahrawi describes in great detail the different malpresentations, how to recogtlize them, and the procedures to affect delivery in these situations to include internal podalic version. He recognizes that in some of these cases delivery could not be affected the "natural way" and would sacrifice the fetus to save the mother. He describes several "fetal destructive" operations including craniotomy, cleidotomy, and evisceration. He also recognized fetal abnormalities as a cause of dystocia, e.g., hydrocephalus, hydrothorax, and ascites, and he describes the procedures to affect delivery under these circumstances. AJ-Zahrawi devises, describes, and illustrates several instruments that were used to affect delivery in the different cases of dystocia.

It also seems that the early Muslim physicians were familiar with the operation of cesarean section, but it was performed only when the mother had died (or was determined to have no chance of survival) and there was a chance to rescue a live-term fetus. This is important to realize in light of a statement by an English historian (Young 1944), "Mohammedanism absolutely forhids cesarean sections and direct that any child so born must be slain forthwith, as it is the offspring of the devil." This type of statement, which defies any rational thinker or truth seeker, puts a great responsibility on us to look into our history and expose the facts and discredit these myths and misinformation.


Author Biography

Hossam E Fadel, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA

Clinical professor, Ob/GYN Medical College of Georgia




History of Medicine