Medicine for Muslims? Islamic Theologians, Non-Muslim Physicians and the Medical Culture of the Mamluk Near East

The present paper is an attempt to define the ways in which the process of radicalization of Islam influenced the medical culture of Egypt and Syria under the Mamluks. Both the transformation of medical culture and the impact of this transformation on medical theory and practice are discussed, above all, in the context of the inter-faith antagonism. The work is in progress, so some of the interpretations are of preliminary character and require further investigation. As an area of research, the microcosm of non-Muslim physicians living and working in the Mamluk state is rather capacious and non-uniform. As such, it can be approached from a number of perspectives. On the most obvious level, the subject belongs, on the one hand, to the social history of medicine; on the other, it forms a part of the history of inter-communal and inter-faith antagonisms. The present study aims at investigating the area where medical culture and inter-communal conflict overlapped. This area constitutes in fact a rather complex puzzle in which the issues of sickness and health were interwoven with ideology, politics, and propaganda based both on the “time-honored tradition” of blaming the doctor and the fear of (and animosity towards) the religious Other. In other words, this is interdisciplinary research, focused on the social aspects of medicine, inter-communal antagonism, and the interaction between them. Approaching such a complex subject matter from just one of the possible perspectives would mean depriving it of its rich and multifaceted context. In order to make the study comprehensive, I have decided to apply a mode of inquiry which is sometimes used by historians of the Alltag, and which allows the scholar to combine many different instruments, including those that are typical for fields such as anthropology, sociology, or social psychology. This mode also makes it possible to make comparisons with other cultures.
Lewicka Paulina B., Medicine for Muslims? Islamic Theologians, Non-Muslim Physicians and the Medical Culture of the Mamluk Near East, ASK Working Paper 03, Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, Bonn 2012