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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
He also wrote the following books:
- A compilation of first four books of Alexandrian Canons
- Introduction to Dialectics for Beginners
- On Examination of Physicians
- Prioreschi, Plinio (2001). A History of Medicine: Byzantine and Islamic medicine (1st ed.). Omaha, NE: Horatius Press. p. 394. ISBN 1-888456-04-3.
- 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", Annals of Saudi Medicine 17 (3): 277–278, PMID 17369721.
- 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.
- Al-Ghazal, Sharif (2004). Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine 3: 12–13.
- Aksoy, Sahin (2004). "The Religious Tradition of Ishaq ibn Ali Al-Ruhawi : The Author of the First Medical Ethics Book in Islamic Medicine". Journal of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine 3 (5): 9–11.