At one time Mohammedan Science and Medicine was far more advanced then that of the West.   In fact their state of learning was so far advanced that quite literally, if you were ill and wanted to receive the best health care possible, your best bet was to travel to the Middle East for treatment.

Arabian Medicine 800-AD - 1527:
Whole books and numerous articles have been written on the subject; --- Many of which can be found on the internet. Here by way of introduction and for the sake of brevity, is a very short time line.
  • 400 AD:   With the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages begin and the West goes to hell in a Han-basked.

  • 400 - 650 AD   While the West was going down the tubes, the Byzantine Empire in the Eastern or Greek part of old Roman Empire, kept chucking along. Thus, Greek-o-Roman medicine, while not advancing very much, at least was kept alive.

  • 630 AD   A massive plague (probably Bubonic plague)strikes the Byzantine Empire at about this time, killing a whole lot of people and greatly weakening it. [1a]

  • 650 AD   Islam is created at about this time.

  • 650 - 800 AD   Due in large part to the Byzantine disease (a.k.a. massive government corruption, ineptitude etc.), the Mohammedans are almost welcomed as liberators, and soon conquer much of what used to be the Byzantine Empire.

  • 850 AD   Arabic soon becomes the dominant language in many parts of the Mohammedan Empire. -   Arab (a.k.a. Islamic) scholars begin to translate many of the Greco-Roman medical textbooks into Arabic.   In addition, they also begin to translate and incorporate the medical sciences of India and the Far East.   In time, taking the best knowledge from other cultures and adding improvements of their own, they create what is now acknowledged as being the best understanding of medicine known at the time.

  • 980-1037 AD   AVICENNA - writes the “Canon of Medicine,” which for its day was probably the advanced scientific medical textbook available.   Although written in Arabic, it would one day be translated into European languages and comes into wide use in Western Universities.   This work was so advanced that it would continue to be used by Western Universities until well into the 17th Century.   The Canon of Medicine, makes various references to cannabis.

  • 1100   It was during the 12th Century that many of the major Arabic language medical books begin to be translated into Latin and other Western Languages.   Their knowledge at this time was recognized as being superior to anything that West.

  • 1250   The fail of Baghdad (burnt actually), many of the great medical books are destroyed.

  • 1450   The Gutenberg Press makes mass production of Medical books possible.

  • 1527   Paracelsus (the bad boy of Western Medicine), throws a copy of Avicenna’s “Canon of Medicine” into a bonfire, thus bringing to an ignominious END the era of Mohammedan Medicine [1b]. By this time it had now become obvious to most that Western Medicine was superior.





Al Razi


Legends of Mohammedan Medicine
It would be all but impossible to list every major Mohammedan physician, chemist and book writer who so greatly influenced western medicine.   Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, few of these early Mohammedan medical textbooks have ever been translated into English (Latin yes, English no), thus setting roadblocks to what we can present about them.   However, be that as it may, we can still present a small sampling, [all Cannabis related] which the reader may find of interest.

Note, however, that some of the given information is (technically speaking) wrong, but that is to be expected in the medical world of experimentation.   Also notice that for the most part, these texts merely follow what Galen and others before them had already written.   Thus, while some medical progress did take place such areas as surgical skills, diagnosis, basic hygiene etc., little was actually added with regards to the uses of Medical Cannabis.   However, as will be shown, the same can be said of the West until the 19th Century when Dr. O’Shaughnessy brought back his findings on Cannabis from India.


AVICENNA (980-1037 AD)
The Prince of Physicians

Abu Ali Sina, (known as Avicenna in the West) wrote on numerous subjects, everything from philosophy to law, but his most famous book (easily) was, "Al-Qanun fi-l-tibb" (The Canon of Medicine)”.   A work that once translated, would be used by Western Medical Universities until the 17th century.   And while true, he was greatly influenced by Galen (and his theories of humours), making some of his work, out and out laughable by today’s standards, still for his day, he was light-years ahead of his time.

If one simply ignores those parts of the Canon dealing with humours etc., one quickly begins to see why he was called, “The Prince of Physicians”.   He not only repeated what Galen, and Dioscorides had written before him, but also made extensive additions.   Some obviously of his own creation, but he also seems to have extensively studied herbal medicine from numerous (other than western) cultures such as Arabian, Indian and Persian etc.


On the subject of Medical Cannabis, Avicenna devoted whole sections of his Canon on Medicine directly to Cannabis.   According to the American University of Beirut’s website: . . . [MORE]



Ok, Ok, so Moses Maimonides was of the Jewish faith --- Big Deal!   By culture, era and tradition, he is viewed by history as being interwoven with the Golden-Age of Mohammedan Medicine and Science.   However, what's that old expression; “Defeat is an orphan, yet Victory has many fathers,” thus quite a few groups today also claim his legacy. [MORE]


Al-Kindi (801 - 873 AD)

According to one website, his full name was actually; “Abu-Yusuf Ya`qoub ibn `Ishaq ibn al-Sabbah ibn `Omran ibn Isma`il al-Kindi.”   Which makes it easy to understand why his simply known to most as, "Al-Kindi".

And according to yet another website:
“There are more than thirty treatises attributed to al-Kindi in the field of medicine, in which he was chiefly influenced by the ideas of Galen.   His most important work in this field is probably De Gradibus, in which he demonstrates the application of mathematics to medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacology.   For example, he developed a mathematical scale to quantify the strength of drug and a system, based the phases of the moon, that would allow a doctor to determine in advance the most critical days of a patient's illness.”
Cannabis was most assuredly included in his medical works, according to a translation of his book: [MORE]


The Man Without a Postage Stamp

It is no accident that unlike all-so-many others, this museum has not been able to locate a postage stamps of Ibn Wahshtya. [The guy on the left if probably not him] His real name was (something like) Abii Bakr M. b. 'Ali b. Wahshiya al-Nabafi, and although a devote Mohammedan, he seemed to hate the Arabs and saw them as some sort of inferior race.   [Which is probable why he doesn’t have a postage stamp now]   He himself was a Nabatean (whatever that is).

Anyway, Ibn Wahshtya (9th Century) is best remembered today for this book, “The Book On Poisons.” Parts of which (relating to Medical Cannabis) are reproduced below, as translated by: [MORE]


Al Razi (860-940 AD)

It would be all but impossible to list every major Mohammedan physician, chemist and book writer who would eventually have an influence on how Western medicine viewed Medical Cannabis.   Additionally, for reasons unknown, few of these early Mohammedan medical textbooks have ever been translated into English (Latin yes, English no), thus putting roadblocks as to what we can present about them.

Al Razi, also known in the west as “Al Rhazes,” serves as a good example of this problem.   Examine the following quotation:
“Another physician, the Persian born Al-Rhazes, counseled against over-prescribing cannabis” --- Gabriel G. Nahas, Bull. N.Y. Acad. of Med. Dec 1982 p.814

Mohammedan Medicine
What led to its rise?   What led to its decline?
[An editorial Opinion]

At one time Mohammedan Science and Medicine was far in advanced to that of the West.   Their state of learning was so far advanced that quite literally, if you were ill and wanted to receive the best possible health care available, your best bet was to travel to the Middle East for treatment.

This brings up two questions, that have been asked over and over again.   How was it possible for Mohammedan Medicine to have reached such an advanced state of knowledge?   And once achieved, how and why did they stagnate and then go backwards?

In the author’s personal opinion, five factors made it all possible, and at a later time, those same five factors were responsible for its destruction.
Let’s look at them, one by one, but first before going any further one must bring up the obvious question; --- Of what importance is this to us?   Why should the average Antique Cannabis collector care, one way or the other, about the subject?

As human beings it matters a lot.   On the very face of it, had the Mohammedans not gathered, translated and expanded on the various medical sciences from their surrounding cultures, the West would have had to have started from scratch at the end of the dark ages.   However, just think of where we would be today had Mohammedan science not stagnated and stopped altogether.   Maybe we would even have had a cure for cancer or something like that.

But assuming you’re more of a base person; --- Hey what does this have to do with the price of Cannabis antiques today?   And in truth, the answer is maybe nothing. No known brand or trade name medicines are known to have come down to us from this age.   And while numerous apothecary shops came into being during this age, there are no known apothecary jars that were specifically devoted to Cannabis.
    WARNING:   With reference to the section in this book on “Fakes,” just remember that the same guy that’s going to sell you an apothecary jar from this era, is probably the same guy who was selling, ‘Wood from the Cross,’ to his last customer.
Still, if only to avoid buying a lot of fake antiques, it is important for the Antique Collector to have a fairly good understanding of the subject.

Al Capone

Recently the author (courtesy of the San Jose Police Department) spent a few nights in jail.   At my trial a S.J.P.D. officer (Andrew Layne by name) lied his teeth off (aka perjury) and unfortunately the judge sided with him.   Now leaving all the details aside (but do note that I do have physical evidence that he lied), let's look at how our local justice system works. [5]
    [step 1] - SJPD: - Tried to log a complaint against the officer, but was told by the desk Sgt., that because it involved a police officer, I had to go through their Internal Affairs unit.

    [step 2] - Internal Affairs: - We are so sorry, but you see our Chief of Police has instated an official police policy that due to the large number of unconformable complaints, we no longer accept certain types of complaints.   And because your original incident involved a traffic situation, we are not authorized to investigate the matter.   And no, we can’t even log the accusation down.   To which I replied, "But I can prove that the Officer lied."   We are sorry sir, but our policy is firm. -- Why don’t you go through the Independent Police Arbiters Office.

    [step 3] - San Jose PD Independent Police Arbiters Office: - "We are sorry, but you see we are not authorized to investigate any situation.   We're only empowered to look over the SJPD Internal Affairs files and make our comments on them.   To which I replied that my problem was that they weren't going to keep any such files and that there was no way of even filing a compliant.   Ugh!

    [step 4] - County office of the District Attorney: - As the crime of perjury was committed in a court house, why don’t you go to the Sheriff's office.   That’s their department.

    [step 5] - Sheriffs office: - Try contacting the local Sheriff's Sergeant at the Courthouse.

    [step 6] - Court house sergeant: - "HELL NO, I don’t feel like filling out a crime complaint form."   [hangs up phone very angrily]

    [step 7] - Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs: - No, It’s a San Jose Police matter, go through them.   We won’t do anything.

    [step 8] - San Jose City Council meeting: - Dead silence.

    [step 9] - FBI crime statistics Unit: - They at least politely accepted my written complaint.   Some probability factor (maybe 10%) that it won’t end up in the trash can.
Humm!   With no way for a citizen to even log any kind of formal complaint against a San Jose Police Officer, it looks like Mr. Layne is going to have a long and happy life there.   However, the above (while unjust) must be taken into its proper perspective.   As a curator of this kind of museum, I have heard of numerous horror stories; ---cops planting drugs on people, making up crime stories, shaking down medical Cannabis patients etc., etc.

NOW, take this sort of situation, multiply it by a factor of (let us say) ten, and you will have the situation that existed within the 7th Century Byzantine Empire.   In fact the situation was so bad, that to this day, massive corruption is still known as the Byzantine disease.   Given this sort of political situation, one can easily see how even an invasion from Mars would have been welcomed.   And in fact (at least at first), the invaders did indeed clean up the place.

Unfortunately, (as can be seen from the state of the world today), things didn’t stay that way for long.   A good example is Iraq, where as someone else put it, “American law prevents the Americans from paying bribes, and without bribes you can forget about doing any kind of business in that area.” [6]   And while it’s hard to say exactly when the change came about (it probably happened area by area), I would say that it followed the rise and fall of Mohammedan medicine.


Some time ago, I was amazed to hear a teacher of Western History start his lecture by asking the following question:
“Why should we study the history of an insignificant peninsula, located out in the middle of no-where?”
I was amazed, because this was the first time that anyone had ever brought out the obvious.   That what was to one day become the West, was indeed located (geographically speaking), out in the middle of no-where.   While the Mohammedan Empire on the other hand, was very literally, in the center of everything.   This (at least at first) gave them an incredible advantage over the West.   Recalling what Daniel Boorstin once quoted a little old lady who lived in Boston and didn’t travel very much as saying:
“Why would I want to travel?   I’m already there.”
And the same was true of the Mohammedans.   Much of what was to become Arabic Medicine, was NOT native to the area, but was actually acquired (mistakes and all) from Greco-Roman textbooks, as well as Indian, Chinese etc.   Additionally, geography gave them a unique advantage over the West, in that they could obtain Indian and other Eastern medicines (such as Cannabis) that were not readably available to Western doctors.

Unfortunately, geography would also spell their doom -- they were literally out in the middle of a highway, and with obvious results.   After a whole lot of tries from crusaders, Persians, and just about everyone else near the place, in 1258 the Mongols finally succeeded in burning down Baghdad and every medical textbook in the place.

And while thankfully, there were back up copies, still this is seen as the high point of their medical advances.   After this they would be more interested in military matters as oppose to scientific advancements.   To quote a website:
“What remained of the Islamic culture was only a shadow of what had preceded it.”
All religions have some forms of dogma, but what occurs when the high priest states that the sacred cow was born on mountain A, while all archeological evidence points instead to mountain B?   Obviously the answer lies in how much power the high priest has (as oppose to the archeologists), and in exactly how much belief there is in the power of the sacred cow, etc.   But leaving that aside for now, look at Mohammedan dogma and apply it to a real world situation --- Say like the Black Death.
Allah is pure and likes purity.   He is clean and likes cleanliness. Therefore, cleanliness of body and mind is stressed by the Koran (4:43, 5:7)

"If you hear about plague in a land, don't go to it, but if you were in that land, don't run away." -- Hadith (Sayings of Mohammad and his Companions).
Now let’s be honest with ourselves, in the event of an infectious plague outbreak (say something like the Black Death) where would you want to be?   In a Mohammedan place or somewhere in Europe that at the time was (figuratively speaking) going thought a thousand years without a bath?

In addition, unlike many of the Faith healing ONLY religions, this one had a different attitude toward medicine.
"Servants of Allah, seek treatment, for Allah didn't send down an illness that Allah didn't send down treatment for it" ---The Hadith
It doesn’t take me long to figure out which dogma I would want to be with.   But unfortunately it was this same dogma, or actually the interpretation there of, that would led to stagnation.   Maybe a few examples are in order:
  • Autonomy Textbooks: - Both Christians as well as Mohammedans originally had social norms preventing autopsies and/or dissections on human bodies.   But the Christians gradually modified their dogma to allow for medical needs.   The Mohammedans until modern times didn’t and even intensified their dogmas to prevent any pictorials of the human body, which meant their medical books on autonomy and physiology weren’t all that good.
  • Alcohol: -- Although not actually referenced in the Koran, alcohol for a Mohammedan is a no, no.   Great, but alcohol was still listed as a medical agent by numerous pharmacopeias until the early part of the 20th Century and used extensively for its medical properties.   Even during the height of prohibition in the 1920's, exceptions were made for medical needs.   Not so with the Mohammedan faith.
Medical Alcohol

The list can go on and on, but I think one gets the picture.   What worked well during the time of Mohammed didn’t work out so well a few hundred years later and stagnated the whole place.

Yes, Yes, I know.   In today’s world, the words fascist and Islam have become synonymous.   Just do an internet search under the term, “Islam-o-fascist” and see what pops up.   However, this does NOT change history.   At one time the Mohammedan peoples were one of the most tolerant groups around.   People throughout the world fled to Islamic lands to escape political and (believe it or not) religious persecution.   Think of them as the Holland of the Middle Ages.   This factor of and by itself led to a massive brain drain in their direction.   In fact, many of their best physicians were Jews who found tolerance among them.

However, for whatever reason (as we can see in today’s world) their tolerance didn’t last forever.

Anslinger and Benito

“Power Tends to Corrupt”
“Absolute Power Tends to Corrupt Absolutely”
----- Lord Action

Perhaps the greatest problem faced by Mohammedan science (to this very day) is the fact that governmental power or decision making is in the hands of so few.

As a westerner, I myself was shocked to find out just how much power Islamic Priests have in their societies.   In many states they not only give the sermons in church, but they actually act as law makers, judges, prosecutors, juries and in some cases even act as executioners; ---Literally having control over life or death decisions, with few if any checks and balances.

But worst of all, they even have control over what the God says, or is supposed to have said. Let me explain by example:
First many Mohammedans cannot read or write, but just for the sake of argument, let's pretend that they can.   If one of them wanted to read the Koran (the Muslim Bible), the chances are good that she couldn’t.   Why?   Because (believe it or not) the Koran has never been translated into many present-day Mohammedan languages.   This in turn means that if you want to study the Koran, you have to learn Arabic, BUT MOST Arabic speakers can’t read the Koran either.   WHY?   Because it is written in “OLD ARABIC,” which few native Arabic speakers today seem to be able to understand. TRANSLATION; What IS and what is NOT ISLAMIC is dictated to by a small group (or oligarchy) of Islamic scholars, which (in some nation states) leaves no room for AND, IF, or BUTs.   You do as they say and that’s it.

Given that level of power (with so few checks and balances), no wonder the place began to stagnate and then fall apart, both politically and intellectually.

Islam and Rape

This newspaper story gives a good example of this kind of power.   Note that Arabia has NO FIX or written LAW.   It’s all up to the interpretation of the Islamic Priests to determine what is lawful or not lawful.   And boy if that doesn’t lead to corruption and abuse of governmental power, I don’t know what will.

BUT THIS WAS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE, at least not at first.   And given the level of the Byzantine disease (aka corruption) that was so rampant at the time, the Mohammedans must assuredly have almost been welcomed as liberators.   In fact most evidence that I have seen, shows that, at least at first, their laws were just and fair.   They in effect created a peaceful environment that propagated economic as well as scientific growth.   Note, that it was Mohammedan governments that originally ordered the translation of foreign language medical texts into Arabic; thus spurring technological growth.

It would not be until (around 850-AD), about 200 years after the death of Mohammed, that the first of the now notorious Shari[2] or religious laws would come into existence.   Soon good governance would be replaced by (ah) pretty much what we see today.

“If the people of this religion are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with this question.   They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries.   This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed.”
--- Quote attributed to Al Razi 864-930 A.D

QUESTION -- When exactly did Western Medicine surpass Mohammedan Medicine?
Israeli author Bernard Lewis, states [3] that the great malaise (what he calls it) that now affects the whole of the Middle East began in 1683 after a Mohammedan military defeat.   However, I feel that the decline had actually started long before that, and possibly as early as 1250 after the fall of Baghdad.   As proof, note that dates of the great Mohammedan medical writers (for the most part ALL are pre-1250), and than note that almost no NEW inventions, or medical uses would come out of that area there-after.

According to one website:
    Arabian Medicine in the Middle Ages
    “To a large extent, the success of the Arabian medicine can be credited their endorsement of Greek and Roman medicine at a time when this knowledge was lost to the West.   The works of Hippocrates and Galen in particular formed the backbone of Arabian medicine in the Middle ages, . . . "
    "The Muslims scientists are also credited for the introduction of inhalational anaesthesia by using the then called "Anesthetic sponge" or "Sleeping sponge". . . . It was quite different from the drinks the Indians, Romans and Greeks were forcing their patients to have for relief of pain. . . . The sponge used to be dipped and left in a mixture prepared from cannabis, opium, hyoscyamus [etc.,]". [4]
    “. . when the Mongols destroyed Baghdad in 1258, the [Mohammedan] empire lay in ruins.   What remained of the Islamic culture was only a shadow of what had preceded it.   The philosophical and medical teachings of the Arabian world were, however, transmitted to the West where they deeply influenced the way medicine was taught.”

Pre-800 AD - The First Apothecary Stores:
In terms of the subject matter of this book, maybe the greatest accomplishment of Mohammedan medicines Golden-Age was the creation of pharmacists.   To the best of our knowledge, it was in Baghdad where the first separation between the Physician and the (apothecary) drug dealer, took place.   Thus it can be stated that Medical Cannabis has been legally sold in pharmacies and other drug stores since the 9th Century.

What looks like an Apothecary Store in Baghdad

According to the Parke-Davis, History of Pharmacy Collection:
    “The Arabs separated the arts of apothecary and physician, establishing in Baghdad late in the eighth century the first privately owned drug stores. They preserved much of the Greco-Roman wisdom, added to it, developing with the aid of their natural resources syrups, confections, conserves, distilled waters and alcoholic liquids. . . . When the Moslems swept across Africa, Spain and southern France, they carried with them a new pattern of Pharmacy which Western Europe soon assimilated.”
And this was well over four centuries before the first (none Muslim) European apothecary shops came into being. And YES medical Cannabis was being sold in those pharmacies.

For better or for worse, we will always be indebted to the Arabic world.   To this very day, numerous Arabic medical words such as:
  • Alcohol
  • Alchemy
  • zero
  • elixir
    Are still in use to this very day.   In the words of one website:
    “Everyone seems to agree that the historical importance of Arabian medicine lies primarily in its role as a vehicle for the preservation of Greek knowledge. Arabic scholarship gave the Latin West a taste for Greek culture at a time when intellectual Europe was in a state of degradation.”
    Let us all be thankful that they were there.

    [1a]- The book "Justinian's Flea" by William Rosen is a good source of information.
    [1b]- This was on St. John’s Day, June 24, 1527; he was also suppose to have thrown a book by Galen’s into the fire at the same time.
    [2] - While questions as to when the Koran was supposedly written vary from seven to two-hundred years after their prophets death, no one questions that both the Hadith, the Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) as well as Shari Law (which define what is and is not Islamic) were not written down until 200 years later. However, for our purposes, ALL of them had an effect on their perceptions of Medicine.
    [3] - What went wrong? a book by Bernard Lewis
    [4]- Information seems to come from - “Anesthesia In Islamic Medicine And Its Influence On Western Civilization” Prof. Dr. M. Taha Jasser Syria
    [5]- Incidents not necessarily in chronological order -- Officer Andrew Layne Badge #2507 -- [Step 1]- San Jose Police Officer K. McMillin Badge #3409 [Step 2]- San Jose Internal Affairs Officer Compana [last one talked to, but I’ve talked to just about everyone in the Internal Affairs Office] [Step 5]- Santa Clara County Sheriffs Officer Sutherland Badge 1591 [Step 6]- Santa Clara County Sheriffs Sgt. Porrea, badge 1592 [Step 7]- Santa Clara county Sheriffs (Internal Affairs Officer) Leonardini Badge 1613
    [6]- Forgot exactly who said that, but it has been said by numerous persons.


    Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed. If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum. All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.

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