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Mental Hospitals in Ancient Arab Civilizations

In the early part of the Ommyyad Is rule there were founded several asylums to cope with the mentally ill or deranged. The Arabs used to consider imbeciles and idiots as destitute persons for whose case the state should be responsible. In his “social medicine” Rene Sand attested: The Muslims hold the mentally ill in respect, recommend tolerance in the handling of them and reserve them compartments for treatment in their hospitals. By and by they had asylums built to house them. In the deed pertaining to the Waqf (endowment) by which the royalties were tied to al-Nouri hospital in Aleppo, we read the following:

Each lunatic shall have two servants to take off their clothes every morning and bathe them with cold water. Then, they shall dress them in spotlessly dean clothes and help them to perform al-Salat (prayer) ritual.

They shall have him listen to recitations from the Quaran by a good reader. Then they shall take him out, and in the open air should be allowed to listen to beautiful voices and musical tunes. ” This was the case in the Islamic East while lunatics in Europe were kept shackled with chains and fetters in asylums and prohibited from admission to hospitals. Their residence was lowly, their food meagre and bodies naked. They often died of negligence and severity of lashings.

Mental asylums occupied a special suite in general hospitals where the major doctors could visit patients and attend to them [1].


1              Istanbouli, M.: ‘The history of Arabic medicine based on the work of Ibn Abi Usabe’ah 1203-270’, Loughborough University of Technology, 1981

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