Kitad Shifa' al-asqam al-'arida fi l-ahir wa-l-batin min al-ajsam (Livre de la guerison des maladies externes et internes affectant les corps) shaykh sayyid Ahmad b. 'Umar al-Raqqadi al-Kunti.

AuthorMillan, Cristina Alvarez
PositionBook review

Kitab Shifa al-asqam al-arida fi wa-l-batin min al-ajsam (Livre de la guerison des maladies externes et internes affectant les corps) li-l shaykh sayyid Ahmad b. Umar al-Raqqadi al-Kunti. Edited by FLOREAL SANAGUSTIN. VECMAS. 3 vols. Lyons: ENS EDITIONS, 20.11. Pp. v + 167 (Arabic); v + 147 (Arabic): iv + 133 (Arabic).

Medieval Islamic medicine still garners authority in the collective memory with its legacy of great medical developments and discoveries. An assessment of the role played by the Islamic medical tradition in the systematization and transmission of Greco-Roman scientific lore has been crucial to the understanding of the advance of Western medicine, yet its subsequent--post-fifteenth-century--development in the Islamic world has received virtually no attention. Furthermore, thousands of Arabic medical manuscripts remain unexamined. In fact, few medical works written between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries are known, nor is it known how Islamic medical knowledge and literature outside the central Muslim region evolved. Hence, the work under review should be welcomed and appreciated by historians of medicine as well as by specialists in Arabic and Islamic studies, particularly now that relevant collections of Arabic manuscripts in Africa are in imminent danger of being destroyed as a consequence of political conflict.

Under the auspices of a praiseworthy project aimed at the edition and diffusion of sub-Saharan Arabic manuscripts (VECMAS), a well-known scholar has provided the academic community with the edition of a seventeenth-century Islamic medical treatise that likely reflects the path followed by Islamic medicine in islamicized West African areas. The work by Ahmad al-Raqqadi al-Kunti (d. 1096/1684), a Sufi leader and prosperous merchant known in the sources as Sidi Ahmad al-Khalifa, is one of general therapeutics. The manuscript of nearly 600 folios was catalogued not under medicine but under the heading of occult sciences (i1m al-asrar). It is preserved in the Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu (present-day Mali), where the author died; his offspring are still eminent there today. Published in three volumes--each accompanied by a short, but informative introduction (in French) by the editor, Floral Sanagustin--this work "seems representative of Islamic medical knowledge at a time when the original discourse, embedded in philosophical rationality and logical thinking, gave way to a kind of empiricism based on...

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