Islam emphasised the concept of personal hygeine 1400 years ago. For hundreds of years, while Muslims enjoyed cleanliness and good health, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world wallowed in filth and disease.
600 years after Islam, Europe suffered plagues and sickness on a vast scale while Baghdad, capital of the Muslim world, had more than 1,000 certified doctors and 27,000 public baths. In China sanitation was primitive, clean water scarce and lice and vermin were everywhere.
The Muslim Arabs established public baths. Their successors, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, invented Turkish baths copied from Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Arab examples combined with the Islamic emphasis on cleanliness. Every city had a bath with hot and cold water, fountains and exclusive hours for women. There were 4,536 private baths and 300 public ones in 17th-century Istanbul, Turkey. Turkish baths were introduced to UK in 1857, Australia in 1859 and USA in 1863 revolutionising hygeine. Turkish baths were the fore-runners of the modern sauna as well.
It’s not surprising that Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who established the fundamentals of modern nursing in the West, chose Turkey’s Selimiye Barracks in Istanbul in 1854 to initiate it. She went with 38 nurses to help the wounded when UK and France fought the Crimean War with Turkey against Russia. She benefitted from the advanced medicine of the Muslims as well as their superb hygeine and returned to England to set up the first nurse’s college there.