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[Ar-Razi's (864 - 930 CE) treatise on the cause and treatment of passive homosexual desire Risalah fi l-Ubnah, was translated by Franz Rosenthal and published in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine 52 (1978): 45-60.]

Muhammad b. Zakariya' ar-Razi says:

As we have stated in the beginning of more than one of our books, (scholars) later in time must investigate what early (scholars) have neglected and postponed or scattered (in different places) or expressed obscurely. They will thus mention what they had neglected, bring together what they had kept separate, comment upon what they had expressed summarily, and explain what they had kept obscure.

Something the early (scholars) have neglected is the discussion of ubnah and its cause and treatment. Till now, I have not found this discussed exhaustively by anyone. Indeed, I have not found it mentioned by nearly anyone of them except for one man who wrote a book on this subject which he entitled "The Hidden Illness," but he indicated in it neither specific cause or satisfactory reason nor medication or useful treatment.

Now, I am going to speak about it succinctly and to the extent I consider sufficient, if God wills. Thus, we say: We must seize and exploit here a premise that has been previously established in another book (of ours). That is, femininity or masculinity occurs only in accordance with the prevalence of one of the two sperms over the other in quantity and quality, until one of them becomes the one that transforms (mahil) and the other the one that is transformed (mustahil).


If the sperm of the man is the one that transforms, the newborn child will be male, and if the sperm of the woman is the one that is prevalent, the newborn child will be female. We have explained the correctness of this proposition in another book (of ours). The Ancients have also much discussed it.

If the matter is as we have described it, it may happen in some cases that the sperm of the man is very forceful and strong in transforming the sperm of the female. Accordingly, it is necessary that the child born from such a sperm will be very strongly masculine -- I mean, the properties of masculinity in him will be strongly and obviously masculine, such as limbs hard, dry, and large, much hair, a strong pulse and breath, prominent (zuhur) joints, thick bones and similar properties peculiar to persons of a hot and dry temper, such as courage, quickness of speech and anger, and the like. If it happens in some cases also that it is the sperm of the female that possesses very great force and prevalence, then the newborn child will have the properties that are peculiar to females, which are the extreme opposites of what we have mentioned. Mostly it happens that one of the two sperms undergoes transformations between these (extremes). Then, the newborn child, whether male or female, is not masculine in the extreme and not feminine in the extreme.

If the matter with regard to this subject as is we have described it, it is possible that in some cases it happens that a male child's masculinity or a female child's femininity is extremely weak. We therefore find masculine women, as we find feminine men. Among masculine women, it may go so far that they have little menses or none at all, and occasionally, they will grow beards. I have seen beards and faint moustaches on certain females. Once I saw a Kurdish woman with a luxurious beard who had been brought to al-Mu'tadid as a curiosity. This is not the only thing that may occur. Rather, when the two sperms are equivalent and the one has little superiority over the other, hermaphrodites (khinath) will occur, and a child may even be born with both penis and vulva. We have learned stories in this connection containing things that are marvelous, hideous, and noteworthy in connection with this chapter. We have omitted to mention them because we consider them absurd. For instance, a certain surgeon is reported to have found a uterus in some male animals, and many people tell of a woman who gave birth to children and then afterwards, a male organ appeared on her (body). This story and others like it have come to us from many directions. For the purpose we have before us, we do not need (to ascertain) the correctness of this (particular) story. Rather, we can be satisfed with what has been mentioned before, namely, that not every male is masculine in the extreme and not every female is feminine in the extreme and that there exist masculine women and feminine men.

For, after the ideas which we have just mentioned have been perceived, the cause of ubnah is easy to understand. That is, when it happens by chance that the male newborn child is feminine because of the weak degree of prevalence of the sperm of the male over the sperm of the female, even if it is prevalent in general, the consequence is that the male organ, the testicles, and the sperm ducts and vessels do not fully tend outward and do not hang down low and are not big and strong, but the contrary is the case. I mean, they tend upward, are mostly also small, withdraw inward into the cavity of the belly, and are drawn toward the hypogastric and pubic regions because of their weak masculinity, since the organs of reproduction in the female are placed inside the belly and conditioned to tend in that direction, while in males, they are outside the belly and are by nature disposed to tend in that direction. Such disposition has the effect that the tickling and the motion that results from the sperm stirring it up by its quantity and quality are in the region of the rectum behind and not in the direction of the hypogastric and pubic regions, because the sperm vessels and testicles tend by nature in that direction. Therefore, someone affected by ubnah is rarely found to have large testicles that hang down, but the contrary is the case. Mostly he will have small and wrinkled testicles, drawn toward above and entering the groin (urbiyatan). The hanging down of the testicles and the thickness and width the skin of the testicles are an unfailing indication of the absence of ubnah. It is also mostly accompanied by bigness of the penis, as is ubnah by its smallness.

If it happens by chance that the male newborn child is feminine and those parts of the body are placed in that manner, he is affected by something like the motion of tickling in the region of the rectum when the sperm is plentiful and sharp just as masculine persons have that in the pubic region when the sperm is plentiful and sharp. If someone whose natural disposition is such is aided by his passion because of delicateness or some chance happenings that happen to him, so that something that touches and moves that place of his gets near it, he finds, on account of it, a pleasure similar to that found by someone who scratches his ear or nose by putting a finger into it and moving it around and scratching it, because that removes the prickling humor (khilt) and scatters it and also resolves these(?), which quiets the stirring and tickling. And if he aids the pleasure and is inclined to it, this sensation ('arid) gains in strength, and the limit of it is reached, corresponding to the strength of the tickling and stirring of the sperm in that man and corresponding to his degree of effeminacy (khanath) and his love of femininity and his inclination to pleasure. This is the active cause of this disease.

We have described this disease as briefly and succinctly as we are able to do. Now, we shall mention what we consider useful and satisfactory with respect to its treatment. Thus, we say:

If the ubnah is prolonged, the person affected by it cannot be cured, in particular, if he is obviously feminine and effeminate (ta'nith-takhnith) and loves very much to be like a woman. If it is in its beginning stages and the person affected by it is not obviously effeminate and not strongly inclined to pleasure but rather ashamed (of it) and would like to be free from it, it is possible for him to be treated.

The best treatment consists of frequently massaging penis and testicles and drawing them downward. Maids and slaves with nice faces and much practice (mufritat) in this matter should be put in charge of the patient, in order to rub and massage that place and apply themselves to it and kiss it and fondle it. This should be done as much as possible. At other times, his treatment should consist of the application to the pubic region, penis, and testicles of ben oil to which borax, euphorbia, and musk are added. At times, some asafetida may be added to the oil. The penis is massaged with it, and drops of it are put into the urethra. When this treatment is applied, he should sit in hot water, and the penis and testicles are massaged while he is in the bath tub. Once each week, fluid pitch is employed. For it is the strongest treatment, which draws the blood and the hot vapor into this direction. If erection approaches (?), while the testicles hang down, the penis extends and grows big, and desire increases, it is a sign of the effectiveness of the treatment. He must apply the entire treatment faithfully. Nothing whatever should be omitted. When he feels well (fi awqat al-ittisa' lahu), the patient must not give up any part of it, the first being, as we have described, the maids, then the application of (various) oils, and then the fluid pitch. In addition, we should undertake treatment (tadbir) of the lower back. For as there is need for the blood and the spirit to be drawn to this region (the genitals), thus the region of the lower spine and the rectum must be cooled. This is to be done by his lying on his back on the ground that is sprinkled (with water) or by his placing on his lower back rags likewise wetted with ice water. He should guard against lying down on the back upon something hot. He should wear a wide belt for long period. He should receive an enema of rose oil into which vinegar as been boiled till the vinegar (with the rose oil) can be poured, and also with rose water with a little vinegar. In general, if he is able to have his lower back always cold and the pubic and hypogastric regions always hot, he should do it, for it is the most appropriate thing to do.

It is clear that there is nothing more harmful for someone affected by this disease than having passive intercourse, as there is nothing more useful for him than practicing active intercourse or attempting to practice such intercourse as much as possible.

This then is the sum and substance of the treatment of ubnah according to the straightforward norm and method.

I am going to mention also (other) ways of treating it. One of them consists of giving the patient many times an enema of strong intoxicating liquor (ash-sharab al-muskir). More than one person has been cured by one or two enemas. Other things that lighten (?) and weaken this are lying on the back upon the ground and wearing as a belt a large sheet of black lead, also, receiving an enema of the boiled seed of the chaste-tree and lying on the back upon its leaves.

This is advice (isharah) for someone who confided his secret to me. I decided that he would benefit from it, and he did so greatly. When that man ate and repaired to his bed, this disease bothered him. So one day I advised him to cut off a piece of ice to serve as a suppository and carry it (in his anus). He slept in this manner satisfied and was able to dispense with what he had been forced to do most days. He was almost close to being cured, and he would have been if he had exercised strong control over himself.

The treatments mentioned by me are right for young men and affluent people (mutraf). In connection with others, your aim in treating them should be to make them lose weight and diminish the blood. Thus they should be ordered to fast, to give up drinking wine, to use vinegar for seasoning, to keep the lower back as cold as possible, and (to take) drugs known as effective for diminishing the sperm, especially those that are cold, such as the drug derived from the roots of waterlilies, roses, camphor, and tabasheer, as this is a drug that diminishes and jells the sperm. We have mentioned its composition in more than one place in our books. They should also stick to foods such as qaris ("meat or fish eaten with bread"), masus ("a dish made of boiled meats, especially young pigeons, fowls, or other birds, dressed in vinegar and stuffed with condiments"), hulam (?) ("veal served with the skin; kind of animal jelly"), hisrimiyah ("soup made or flavored with unripe grapes or dates, or with the juice thereof"), with gourds and lentils, drink constantly oxymel, do much sweating in the bath, place the feet in cold water, keep away from parties where there are amusement, winedrinking, and singing, and occupy themselves with pious devotions and the true kinds of knowledge that take hold of the hearts and engage the souls strongly, such as geometry and logic, and more than that, with that divine knowledge (metaphysics). For the concern with it and the immersion in it weaken all desires.

Having reached this place, I would like to mention the prescription for the compound that diminishes the sperm, so that the person who studies this essay (maqalah) has no need to search for it in my other books and in the books of the Ancients. This is one of the prescriptions:

Take ten dirhams of the dried roots of waterlilies, five dirhams of ground red roses, two and a half dirhams of white sandalwood, and five danaqs of camphor. These are ten drafts.

Another prescription which is useful when the roots of waterlilies cannot be found: Ten dirhams of ground roses, five dirhams of white tabasheer, two and half dirhams of white sandalwood, and five danaqs of camphor. These are ten drafts.

Another prescription for those who dislike camphor: Take five dirhams of ground roses, ten dirhams of fleawort seed that is not crushed, three dirham each of lettuce seed, endive seed, and origanum (?) seed, and two and a half dirhams of dry coriander, (each) draft three dirhams of the whole, with half an ounce of vinegar.

Another prescription, good for those of a cold and wet nature and for those who are advanced in age: Take ten dirhams of chaste-tree seed, five dirhams of river mint dried, and two and a half dirhams of dried rue leaves, (each) draft three dirhams of it, with an ounce of vinegar. Those who are sensitive to vinegar should drink it with cold water or rose water.

I have discussed this matter sufficiently. We apologize for having discussed it. We have been forced to do so because our predecessors did in no way discuss it sufficiently.

To the Giver of the intellect be praise without end as He deserves and merits. His prayers and blessings be upon His Prophet, Muhammad, and his family.