Ishāq ibn ʻAlī al-Ruhāwī (Arabic: إسحاق بن علي الرهاوي) was a 9th-century Arab physician and the author of the first medical ethics book in Islamic medicine.[1]

His Ethics of the Physician contains the first documented description of a peer review process, where the notes of a practising Islamic physician were reviewed by peers and the physician could face a lawsuit from a maltreated patient if the reviews were negative.[2]

Al-Ruhawi was probably from Al-Ruha, modern-day Şanlıurfa in Turkey, close to the border with Syria, which is often simply known as Urfa.[3] He was born a Christian, possibly in the Nestorian offshoot, and may have still been Christian when he composed his works, despite the very strong influence of Islam on them.[3][4] However, based on an analysis of his writings, a modern historian has challenged this notion, claiming that only a Muslim could have produced such texts.[5]


Al-Ruhawi's most celebrated work is Adab al-Tabib ("Practical Ethics of the Physician" or "Practical Medical Deontology"), the earliest surviving Arabic work on medical ethics. Al-Ruhawi regarded physicians as "guardians of souls and bodies". The work was based on Hippocrates and Galen and consisted of twenty chapters on various topics related to medical ethics.[3]

He also wrote the following books:[5]

He compiled two works based on Galen.[3]


  1. Prioreschi, Plinio (2001). A History of Medicine: Byzantine and Islamic medicine (1st ed.). Omaha, NE: Horatius Press. p. 394. ISBN 1-888456-04-3.
  2. Spier, Ray (August 2002), "The History of the Peer-Review Process", Trends in Biotechnology, 20 (8): 357–358, doi:10.1016/S0167-7799(02)01985-6, ISSN 0167-7799, PMID 12127284.
    Al Kawi, M. Zuheir (1997), "History of Medical Records and Peer Review" (PDF), Annals of Saudi Medicine, 17 (3): 277–278, PMID 17369721.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Levey, Martin (1967). "Medical Ethics of Medieval Islam with Special Reference to Al-Ruhāwī's "Practical Ethics of the Physician"". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. New Series. American Philosophical Society. 57 (3): 1–100. ISSN 0065-9746. JSTOR 1006137.
  4. Al-Ghazal, Sharif (2004). Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine. 3: 12–13.
  5. 1 2 Aksoy, Sahin (2004). "The Religious Tradition of Ishaq ibn Ali Al-Ruhawi : The Author of the First Medical Ethics Book in Islamic Medicine" (PDF). Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine. 3 (5): 9–11.

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