Redefining “Madness” as Mental Illness in Medieval Islamic Societies

Heather M. Hoyt (Arizona State University)

People labeled “mad” have been marginalized for centuries, often as the result of fear and lack of knowledge about mental illness. The belief that madness was caused by demonic possession was widespread in Medieval Christian Europe. That belief was also prevalent in Medieval Islamic societies. However, this perspective was challenged by scientific knowledge and applications by Medieval Islamic medical practitioners. This presentation will address how Hellenistic and Islamic influences (re)shaped medical and social perspectives of causes and treatments for mental illness. Examples from the Quran, hadith, and texts by Islamic physicians will illustrate how scientific and religious thought affected perceptions of mental illness during the Medieval Islamic period.

Part of 04-14 Peripheral Plagues: Localizing Illness in Medieval and Early Modern Texts, Friday, October 14, 8:30 am–10:00 am