Nestorian, Melkite and Jacobite doctors, though curiously few Copts. They were to all appearances extremely well integrated into Muslim society.65 It was current practice for Christian physicians to have Muslim pupils and vice versa. Successful individual careers are easy to trace through biographical dictionaries, but they should not obscure the fact that the field of medicine, just like administration, was highly competitive. By practising an expertise that enjoyed social approval Christians - now that they were a minority - sought to preserve a privileged position in societies which were more likely to force them from the centres of power and positions of influence. From time to time there was Muslim criticism of Christian doctors, which should be seen as an attempt to deprive dhimmis of this means of access to power. At the end of the eleventh century, for example, al-Ghazalî encouraged his readers to study medicine, which to his way of thinking Muslims had rather neglected. He found it deplorable that in many small towns and cities Muslims were at the mercy of foreign practitioners, by whom he meant Christians or Jews.66

The role of monasteries

The central role of monasticism and of monasteries in the religious and intellectual life of eastern Christianities is well known. Monasteries were particularly numerous in Egypt, in Palestine, around Antioch, in the TTuir 'Abdîn massif in Upper Mesopotamia, and around Hîra in southern Iraq. After the Arab conquest of the seventh century these monasteries still retained their importance and dynamism. Their sphere of influence was not solely limited to the Christian communities. Witness to this is a particular genre of Arabic literature known as Kitab al-diyârât, or Book of monasteries. Well known for the illustrations done at the end of the tenth century by al-Shabushtî,67 these were anthologies of poems, written on the occasion of visits made to Christian monasteries by Muslim poets. They were an eloquent witness both to the attractions exercised by the monasteries on Christian and Muslim alike

65 See A.-M. Eddé, 'Les médecins dans la societe syrienne du VIIe/XIIIe siècle', Annales Islamologiques 29 (1995), 91-109. F. Micheau, 'Les medecins orientaux au service des princes latins', in Occident et Proche-Orient: contacts scientifiques au temps des croisades. Actes du Colloque de Louvain-la-Neuve, 24 et 25 mars 1997, ed. I. Draelants, A. Tihon and B. van den Abeele (Louvain: Brepols, 2000), 95-115.

66 See H. Lazarus-Yafeh, Studies in al-Ghazzali (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975), 444-5.

67 H. Kilpatrick, 'Monasteries through Muslim eyes: the Diyarat Books', in Christians at the heart of Islamic life: church life and scholarship in Abbasid Iraq, ed. D. Thomas [The History of Christian-Muslim Relations 1] (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003), 19-37; G. Troupeau, 'Les couvents chrétiens dans la littérature arabe', Nouvelle Revue du Caire 1 (1975), 265-79 [= G. Troupeau, Études sur le christianisme arabe au Moyen Age, xx].

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