taken from: www.xanga.com/kr156
Similarities Between Medicine and the Darse-Nizami, Part I
As the kr Magical Mystery Tour comes to a sad end and once again I return to the purgatory known as medical school, I’ve been reflecting on my brief introduction—if one can even call it that—to higher studies in the sacred sciences that I’ve had over the past nine months. One thing that I found to be quite interesting is that in the system of classical Islamic education, there are many divisions and specialties amongst the various branches of knowledge. And perhaps this is true of all fields of higher education, whether they are religious or secular, but since I come from a laughable background in medicine as well, I began to notice the similarities between modern medical education and the traditional curriculum of the sacred sciences, known as the Darse Nizami. The Darse Nizami is the model followed by most traditional schools throughout the Muslim world, particularly in the subcontinent, to train students to becoming functional scholars and equipping them with enough tools to develop further mastery on their own. In a way then, it’s quite similar to modern medical education, which educates one with enough tools and principles to become a functional physician so that one can then specialize in a particular field. Each course is rigorous, taught by experts, and demands a high level of discipline from the student. And while there are notable differences (such as medical school only being four years whereas the traditional madrasa system tends to be seven to eight years), I think overall there are many similarities in the curriculum. What follows is a personal analysis of said similarities. This by no means is meant to be a completely accurate comparison of these two fields of knowledge, but I thought this might be an interesting read for anyone who might be interested.
The modern system of medical education can be essentially broken down into two phases: the first two years, which consist primarily of classroom instruction and lecture with small amounts of practical experience in the hospital; and the second two years, which consists primarily of 6 core rotations in the third year, followed by optional rotations during the fourth year. Finally, a student graduates as a physician and then chooses to specialize in a particular specialty of his/her choice.
a. the first two years: The subjects of the first two years can essentially be broken down into seven main categories – Anatomy, Biochemistry, Behavioral Sciences, Microbiology/Immunology, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Physiology.
b. the third year: There are 6 core rotations during the third year: Internal Medicine, Surgery, Family Practice, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN), and Psychiatry.
c. the fourth year: this is basically a slack off year wherein one does all the rotations that one is interested in, applies to residency programs, plays a lot of video games, etc.
d. residency: the newly-graduated physician then becomes a slave for 3-5 years as he/she struggles away at a specialty, working some 80 hours a week, and getting paid less than a garbage man (and has to pay off a boatload of loans that amount to a mortgage, basically, but I digress…)
The Darse Nizami curriculum is much longer (7-8 years) and consists of more books (80-100). The main areas of study aren’t that many, but a student ends up reading several books in the same subject in increasing levels of difficulty and detail. The main subjects are: Arabic Syntax/Grammar (Sarf/Nahw), Arabic Rhetoric (Balaghah), Hadith, Jurisprudence (Fiqh), Logic (Mantiq), Principles of Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh), Qur’anic Exegisis (Tafsir), and Theology (`Aqidah). I’ve left out some others such as Tajweed and Sirah for the sake of brevity.
With the overview complete, what follows is a closer personal analysis of the similarities between these disciplines.
Anatomy = Arabic. This is because in both fields, a strong foundational mastery of these two branches of knowledge is essential to understanding everything else. No matter what field of medicine a doctor goes into, he must have a command over anatomy, otherwise he’ll look like a buffoon; the same thing goes for a scholar. Thus every physician has to start by reading texts like Essential Clinical Anatomy, Gray’s Anatomy, etc. while every prospective student of knowledge has to start with classical texts of Arabic verb conjugation and syntax, such as Wafiyah, the Ajrumiyyah, Sibawahy’s Kitab, etc. This initial study is then followed up by hands-on study: the medical student dissects cadavers, memorizes muscle/blood/nerve charts, and has to develop a sound mental picture of the human body. Similarly, one has to mindlessly memorize charts of verb conjugations, rules of grammatical contruction, and practice speaking/reading as well. And just as anatomy itself is composed of many branches, so too is Arabic:
a. Gross Anatomy = Sarf/Nahw. The similarities in this were alluded to before, but another similarity is how study in each of these is a seemingly never ending task. In other words, one can do a few books in each of these branches and develop a working knowledge of how to “get by”: medical students may memorize High Yield or First Aid (yours truly is guilty of this) whereas their counterparts may just memorize Wafiyah. However, the depth of these branches is limitless: there are many more advanced anatomy texts for the medical student, while texts such as Sharh Mi’at `Amil, Hidayat al-Nahw, and Kafiyah of Ibn Hajib await the student of sacred knowledge. If one really wants to know what one is going to study in both of these fields, advanced study of these kinds of texts is necessary. It’s interesting that in modern medicine, gross anatomy is taught very quickly (we did it in like 6 months or something), whereas in modern madrasas, Arabic too is taught very quickly—both modern curriculums seek to develop a working knowledge instead of a true mastery. In the past, both medical schools and madrasas spent a considerable amount of time on anatomy and Arabic—something along the lines of 1.5 years and 3-4 years, respectively.
b. Histology = Grammatical Analysis (Tarkib). Histology is the detailed and microscopic study of human tissue and cells. It’s often boring (and is taught terribly at UIC, if I might add…) and complicated and one sees no point to it. But it’s a necessary evil to understand since it helps to prepare one for pathology: studying normal tissue helps one to identify and understand what is diseased tissue. If it is taught well, histology becomes an art in and of itself. Tarkib is grammatical analysis of Arabic sentences using a text like Sharh Mi’at `Amil to understand and account for every word in a sentence (and also to account for the omitted verbs/subjects of a sentence, as the Qur’an and Hadith have a tendency to omit such words and it’s up to the reader to deduce them). Thus, it’s often dry and complicated at times, but if you have a genius as a teacher, such as Mawlana Aziz, it becomes a sacred art in and of itself. A sound understanding of tarkib is necessary to understand higher sciences such as Tafsir and Hadith.
c. Embryology = Arabic Vocab. Embryology is the study of the development of the child from the time of conception until delivery. While it really isn’t an absolutely vital branch of medicine, it’s a very beautiful branch of medicine, since almost everything one learns in this subject can be appreciated and is an iman-booster, especially when one considers the Islamic implications of such knowledge. Developing one’s Arabic vocabulary too isn’t vital (since you can always look words up in a dictionary), but it helps one to appreciate the beauty of the complexity of the Arabic language, especially when one sees how different words that contain the same letters in different order are related and give new layers of meanings. Hence books such as Qisas al-Nabiyyeen are used to develop the student's Arabic vocabulary. Both of these disciplines, then, are also an art form, since being able to see such beauty requires the student to be interested in deeper understanding in these sciences.
d. Neuroanatomy = Eloquence (Balaghah) Neuroanatomy takes gross anatomy one step further by focusing on the most complicated aspect of the human body, the human nervous system, especially the brain. It’s a fascinating field, and while it too isn’t vital to master, it helps one to appreciate other aspects of medicine and the human body as a whole. Most students (again, like me, regrettably) get around this class by browsing through First Aid, High Yield, or Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple. The true devotees, for example those who go into neurology or neurosurgery, develop a thorough mastery of this field and literally fall in love with the beauty of the human brain. Similarly, the madrasa curriculum includes studies in classical Arabic eloquence through books like the Diwan al-Mutanabbi, al-Balaghat al-Wadih, the Maqamat of Hariri, Saba` Mu`allaqat (the seven poems that were suspended on the walls of the Ka`bah during the days of Ignorance), etc. These are meant to help the prospective scholar better understand and appreciate the Qur’an and Hadith from an aesthetic perspective. Again, one can kind of breeze through this in modern times, but classically, mastery in this field was a must for any scholar, especially if he wished to write or speak. In classical Islamic communities, scholars were almost forced, out of necessity, to write eloquently and intricately…otherwise no one would take their work seriously. Hence linguistic geniuses like al-Hariri and Imam al-Ghazali were created. In modern times, this field has been explored and mastered only by a few geniuses who were devotees to this field, most notably the late great scholar, Mawlana Syed Abu’l Hasan Nadwi (rahimahullah).