The Life and Works of Abu Bakr RaziJune 26, 2021
In the history of Islamic thought, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Zekeriyya er-Razi was born in the city of Rey, near Tehran, in 865. What is known about the life of Razi, whom the Westerners call Rhazes, is limited to the fact that he was interested in literature and music in his youth (Ibn Cülcül, 1955: 77; İbn Hallikan, 1978: V, 158) and earned his living by making jewellery.
He started to be interested in chemistry because of his profession as a jeweler, and the steam and gases that emerged during his experiments caused his eyes to get sick (Beyhaki, 1351: 8), this discomfort that continued throughout his life led him to medicine (Bîrûnî, 1366: 4). After Hippocrates and Galen (Câlînûs), who are important figures in the history of medicine, his important contributions to the science of medicine earned Razi the title of “Galen of the Arabs”.
Physician-philosopher Razi expresses his passion for science and his determination and pace to work as follows: “As a result of my patient work in this field, I wrote more than twenty thousand pages in a year with the “contradiction line” (in draft). I worked day and night on al-Câmi’u’l-kebir for fifteen years. As a result, my eyes became weak enough to prevent me from reading and writing, and my hand was trembling. Even in this state, I did not give up on [science], I continue my studies as much as I can by having someone else read it and have it written down.” (Razi, 2003: 81-82)
We do not have enough information about which teachers Razi received knowledge from. His physician Ali b. Although it is stated in the sources that Rabben et-Taberi was a student, four years before Razi was born, Ali b. The fact that Rabben is dead shows the falsity of this information. Ibn al-Nedim, a traveling philosopher and Belhi, whom Razi mentions as his teacher but does not give enough information about his identity, must be Abu Zayd al-Belhi, who went to Baghdad and joined the lecture circle of the philosopher Kindi. As a matter of fact, he wrote an article with the title “The reason why Abu Zeyd el-Belhî has a cold is the rose he smelled in the spring” after Belhî, who was fifteen years older than him, had a cold (Câbirî, 2001: 310; Kaya, 2007: 479).
He expresses his passion for science and knowledge in his autobiography titled Life as a Philosopher (es-Sîretü’l-philsefiyye): In fact, if there is a book I have not read or a scientist I have not met – even if it is possible for me to suffer a great loss, I cannot help but read that book and get to know that scholar. As a result of my patient work in this field, I wrote more than twenty thousand pages in a year (in draft form) with the “contradiction” line.” (Razi, 2003: 81-82)
Abu Bakr Razi, who went on long journeys for his education, was appointed as the chief physician of the hospital here on his return to Rey, due to his rich medical knowledge on Greek, Indian, Iranian and Islamic medicine, which he acquired in various scientific and cultural centers, including the Khorasan region. When he was still in his thirties, he won the chief physician’s exam in Baghdad, where many physicians attended upon the invitation of Caliph Müktefi-Billah, with the first place (Ibn Abu Usaybia, 1965:. 414; Kemâl es-Sâmerrâî, 1984: I, 501). he was examined first by the assistants and then by the chief assistants, but he was involved in the situation if needed; In addition, he created a hospital order in which every stage of the process from the patient’s application to the end of the treatment is recorded in the observation books. One of his important contributions to the history of medicine is that he used chemistry in the service of medicine for the first time. Razi, who carried out his experiments on monkeys, strongly opposed the use of patients as subjects. Râzî, who gave works on all the sciences of his age, especially medicine and philosophy, not only did many of his works in the field of chemistry and medicine have been translated into Latin, but some of them were published in the 19th century. More than forty editions were published until the 19th century (Bedevi, 1990: 50; Kaya, 2003: 69-70).
Razi, who did not hesitate to settle accounts and argue with many scholars, thinkers and theologians, both living in the Ancient and Hellenistic periods and his contemporaries, gave examples of courage and free thought while defending himself against the criticisms he was exposed to as well as the criticisms he put forward. While responding to those who accuse him of pretending to be a philosopher, he says: “Let us remind you right away that – with God’s help – we have never done anything unworthy of the name of a philosopher. Because lacking in both fields of philosophy, such as science and practice, that is, not knowing what needs to be known and not doing what needs to be done for a philosopher means deserving of being dismissed from philosophy. Praise be to Allah, by His grace and guidance, we are far from such faults. … In short, by the time I wrote this article, I had written nearly two hundred works on various disciplines of philosophy, such as physics and metaphysics. … Now,