Divine Doctors: The Construction of the Image of Three Greek Physicians in Islamic Biographical Dictionaries of Physicians

Keren Abbou Hershkovits, Zohar Shani Hadromi-Allouche

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This paper examines the way authors of three medieval Islamic biographical dictionaries portrayed the lives, behavior and characteristics of three key figures of Greco-Roman medicine, Asclepius, Hippocrates and Galen. Particular attention was given to the vocabulary and phrasing used in the biographies, and associations with other literary genres or figures. An analysis of these biographies demonstrates a significant resemblance between the portrayal of these Greco-Roman physicians and the lives of prophetic figures in Islam, and especially that of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition, these biographies align with features attributed to pious Muslims. This study demonstrates that Muslim biographers constructed these biographies as part of a general tendency to associate medicine with Islam, and the origins of medical knowledge with
prophetic wisdom. This study mantains that the connotations and use of this particular terminology allows for a positive view of the science of medicine in these Islamic compositions in which they were included.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-63
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • Islam
  • medicine
  • Galen
  • Greek
  • Aesclepious
  • Hippocrates
  • biographical literature
  • prophecy
  • Greco-Roman medicine

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