Abu Zayd al-Balkhi

Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl Balkhi was a Persian Muslim polymath: a geographer, physician and scientist. Born in 850 CE in Shamistiyan, in the province of Balkh, Khorasan, he was a disciple of al-Kindi, he was the founder the "Balkhī school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. Of the many books ascribed to him in the al-Fihrist by Ibn al-Nadim, one can note the excellency of mathematics, his Figures of the Climates consisted chiefly of geographical maps. He wrote the medical and psychological work, Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus. A modern scholar describes the bulk of his works as "more than sixty books and manuscripts, meticulously researching disciplines as varied in scope as geography, theology, philosophy, literature, Arabic grammar, astronomy, biography, sociology as well as others." His Figures of the Regions consisted chiefly of geographical maps. It led to him founding the "Balkhī school" of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad; the geographers of this school wrote extensively of the peoples and customs of areas in the Muslim world, with little interest in the non-Muslim realms.

In Islamic psychology, the concepts of mental health and "mental hygiene" were introduced by Abu Zayd al-Balkhi, who related it to spiritual health. In his Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus, he was the first to discuss diseases related to both the body and the soul, he used the term al-Tibb al-Ruhani to describe spiritual and psychological health, the term Tibb al-Qalb to describe mental medicine. He criticized many medical doctors in his time for placing too much emphasis on physical illnesses and neglecting the psychological or mental illnesses of patients, argued that "since man’s construction is from both his soul and his body, human existence cannot be healthy without the ishtibak of soul and body." He further argued that "if the body gets sick, the nafs loses much of its cognitive and comprehensive ability and fails to enjoy the desirous aspects of life" and that "if the nafs gets sick, the body may find no joy in life and may develop a physical illness." Al-Balkhi traced back his ideas on mental health to verses of the Qur'an and hadiths attributed to Muhammad, such as: "In their hearts is a disease."

"Truly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh, when it is corrupt the body is corrupt, when it is sound the body is sound. It is the qalb." "Verily Allah does not consider your appearances or your wealth in but He considers your hearts and your deeds." Abu Zayd al-Balkhi was the first to differentiate between neurosis and psychosis, the first to classify neurotic disorders and pioneer cognitive therapy in order to treat each of these classified disorders. He classified neurosis into four emotional disorders: fear and anxiety and aggression, sadness and depression, obsession, he further classified three types of depression: normal depression or sadness, endogenous depression originating from within the body, reactive clinical depression originating from outside the body. He wrote that a healthy individual should always keep healthy thoughts and feelings in his mind in the case of unexpected emotional outbursts in the same way drugs and First Aid medicine are kept nearby for unexpected physical emergencies.

He stated that a balance between the mind and body is required for good health and that an imbalance between the two can cause sickness. Al-Balkhi introduced the concept of reciprocal inhibition, re-introduced over a thousand years by Joseph Wolpe in 1969; the Muslim physician Abu Zayd al-Balkhi was a pioneer of psychotherapy and psychosomatic medicine. He recognized that the body and the soul can be healthy or sick, or "balanced or imbalanced", that mental illness can have both psychological and/or physiological causes, he wrote that imbalance of the body can result in fever and other physical illnesses, while imbalance of the soul can result in anger, anxiety and other mental symptoms. He recognized two types of depression: one caused by known reasons such as loss or failure, which can be treated psychologically through both external methods and internal methods, he wrote comparisons between physical disorders with mental disorders, showed how psychosomatic disorders can be caused by certain interactions between them.

List of Muslim scientists Islamic science Islamic mathematics Islamic medicine M. J. de Goeje: "Die Istakhri-Balkhi Frage". H. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber. Abu Zayd Balkhi's biography by W. M. Watt in Iranica

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