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Ibn Abi Usaibia, History of Physicians (1971) pp.196-530


On the Classes of Alexandrian Physicians and their Contemporaries, Christian and Other

Al-Mukhtar ibn al-Hasan says: "There were seven Alexandrians who collected and wrote commentaries on the Sixteen Books of Galen: Stephanus, Cassius, Theodosius, Achilles Tatius [?], Anchillus [?], Palladius and Yahyā the Grammarian. All were Christians.

The author comments: Those Alexandrians restricted themselves to studying the Sixteen Books at the Medical Academy of Alexandria. At first, they perused the full original text, agreeing on which portion was to be read and expounded each day, but later they made compendia and abstracts in order to facilitate their study and comprehension. Each wrote a commentary on the Sixteen, the best, in my opinion, being that of Cassius, who showed great learning and a fine grasp.

Of the Alexandrians mentioned, Yahyā the Grammarian lived to witness the rise of Islam. Muhammad ibn Ishāq al-Nadīm the Baghdādī says in his book "al-Fihrist": Yahyā was a disciple of Sawary [?]. At the beginning of his career, he was bishop of one of the Egyptian churches which adhered to the Jacobite denomination of the Christian faith. Later he repudiated the Christi an belief in the Trinity, whereupon the bishops convened in order to take him to task; however, he gained the upper hand. The more they attempted to persuade him with kind words to abandon his conviction and cease to profess it, the more he insisted on his point of view and refused to revert to his former faith. So they excommunicated him. [p.197] When `Amr ibn al-`As conquered Egypt, Yahyā called on him and was warmly received and shown great respect.

I quote the following report from the "Annotations" of Shaikh Abū Sulaymān Muhammad ibn Tāhir ibn Bahrām al-Sijistānī: "Yahyā the Grammarian lived in the days of `Amr ibn al-`As, to whom he paid a visit. He was an Alexandrian Christian. His teacher was Ammonius, who had been the disciple of Proclus. Yahyā reports that he himself met Proclus when the latter was a very old man and no longer of sound mind owing to senility."

`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says in his "Virtues of the Physicians": "Yahyā the Grammarian had a thorough knowledge of grammar, logic and philosophy, but he also wrote commentaries on numerous medical writings. He was regarded as a philosopher, being one of the outstanding scholars of that science in his time. He acquired his proficiency as follows: at first he was a boatman carrying passengers on his ferry. He thirsted for knowledge, and when he was ferrying people from the Academy and the science teacher on Alexandria Island who were discussing subjects they had just been studying, he listened enthusiastically. When he had gained some insight into the science, he began to consider his own condition and said to himself: 'I have passed the age of forty without training myself in anything. Knowing nothing but a boatman's trade, how can I master any of the sciences?' While thus immersed in thought, he suddenly observed an ant which was attempting to drag date-stone uphill. Whenever it had made some progress, it slipped back again, but it never gave up and each time reached further up. This went on all day and he continued to watch it, until it had brought the date-stone to its destination. Seeing this, Yahyā concluded: 'If this weak animal has achieved its purpose by exerting himself, I should be much better equipped to reach my goal by strenuous effort. He immediately went and sold his boat and joined the Academy. Studying grammar, lexicology and logic, he made excellent progress, and as he [p.198] had begun by studying grammar, he was surnamed accordingly and became renowned in this field. He wrote numerous books, commentaries, etc.

In a Christian chronicle I have read that Yahyā attended the Fourth Council, held in the city of Chalcedon: six hundred and thirty bishops are said to have taken part, including Eutychius,1 i. e., Yahyā the Grammarian. Eutychius in Arabic is Abū Sa`id [father of the happy one]. Being a competent physician, Eutychius, after being excommunicated by the bishops, was not exiled like the rest of those expelled from the Church; since his medical skill was needed, he was allowed to reside in Constantinople, where he remained until the death of Emperor Marcian.

Yahyā the Grammarian had another, Greek cognomen, Philoponos, which means "the hardworking one" [there is more confusion here; cf. Sarton I, 421]. He was one of seven savants who made abstracts of the Sixteen Books and other works in Alexandria. In addition, he wrote many original works on medicine and other subjects.

Emperor Marcian was succeeded by Emperor Anastasius [!]. Two years after being excommunicated. Eutychius was summoned to the new emperor, who was seriously ill. He treated him and when the emperor had recovered, the latter said to him: "You may ask of me anything you wish." Eutychius replied: "What I ask of you, O my lord, is this. The Bishop of Darsiyah has become a great enemy of mine, slandered me and instigated Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to convene on my account a synod which excommunicated me unjustly, out of pure spite. It is now my wish, O my lord, that you convene another synod to reconsider my case." "I shall do so," said the King, "If God, the Most High, wills it."

The King then sent word to Dioscurus, ecclesiastical head of Alexandria, and Joannes, Patriarch of Antioch, summoning them to appear before him. But only Dioscurus appeared, accompanied by thirteen bishops. The King ordered Dioscurus to take up Eutychius' case and to free him absolutely from the ban. He said to him: "If you do [p.199] this, I shall treat you with every kindness and bestow great favors on you, but if you refuse, you shall die a horrible death." Dioscurus, preferring the King's favor to being killed, arranged a meeting in which he, the thirteen bishops and the other members of his retinue took part. They considered Eutychius' case favorably and raised the ban. The Bishop of Darsiyah and his adherents thereupon left Constantinople. The dissension he had sown in the ranks of the Church was the reason that Dioscurus so conspicuously supported Eutychius. Eutychius, i.e., Yahyā, died still opposing the Melekite faith; he remained a Jacobite up to the end.

Yahyā the Grammarian wrote the following works:

1) A commentary on Aristotle's "Categories."

2) A commentary on Aristotle's "Prior Analytics," which, however, does not cover the work fully.

3) A commentary on Aristotles's "Posterior Analytics."

4) A commentary on Aristotle's "Topics."

5) A commentary on Aristotle's "Physics."

6) A commentary on Aristotle's "De Generatione et Corruptione."

7) A commentary on Aristotle's "Mayal" [?].

8) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Differences."

9) A commentary on Galen's "Smaller Art."

10) A commentary on Galen's "Lesser Book of the Pulse."

11) A commentary on Galen's "To Glaucon."

12) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Elements."

13) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Temperaments."

14) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Natural Forces."

15) A commentary on Galen's "Lesser Book of Anatomy."

16) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Causes and Symptoms."

17) A commentary on Galen's "Diagnostics of Internal Diseases."

18) A commentary on Galen's "Greater Book of the Pulse."

19) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Fevers." [p.200]

20) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Crisis."

21) A commentary on Galen's "Book of the Days of Crisis."

22) A commentary on Galen's "Stratagem of Healing."

23) A commentary on Galen's "Regimen of the Healthy."

24) A commentary on Galen's "Uses of the Parts of Animals."

25) An abstract of Galen's "Book of Theriac."

26) An abstract of Galen's "On Phlebotomy."

27) "The Refutation of Proclus," in 18 discourses.

28) A book on the proposition that the force of every finite body is finite

29) "The Refutation of Aristotle," in discourses.

30) "A Discourse in Refutation of Nestorius."

31) A book refuting the opinions of the agnostics, in 2 discourses.

32) Another tract, refuting the opinions of a different school of thought.

33) A treatise on the pulse.

34) A refutation of the "Eighteen Problems" of Proclus the Successor, the Neoplatonist.

35) A commentary on Porphyry's "Isagoge."

Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ridwān, in his book "Useful Advice on Teaching Medicine," says that the reason the Alexandrians, in teaching medicine, restricted themselves to the Sixteen Books, to the exclusion of all Galen's other writings, was as follows: If the student who delved into them was talented, ambitious and conscientious, the amazing medical wisdom displayed in them would induce him to read all the other books by Galen he could lay his hands on.

The Alexandrians made use of the Sixteen Books in seven stages:

At the first stage they used them as an introduction to the art of medicine, maintaining that whoever completed that stage was in a position to start practicing medicine as a beginner. If the student had enough leisure and felt inclined to continue, he could study the remaining books as well; if not, he would certainly be well aware of the benefit to be derived from them in the treatment of diseases. [p.201] 2

Four books were set for the first stage: a) "The Book of Differences in one discourse. It contains the rules of treatment according to both the empirical and the deductive method; for everything pertaining to the arts is derived either from experience or from deductive reasoning, and whenever both methods yield the same results, truth is found, while where the results are at variance, a choice has to be made: the adherents of the deductive method will follow the rules established thereby, while upholders of the empirical method will proceed from their own experience, b) "The Smaller Art," in one discourse. This contains a brief account of all the items of the medical craft, as to both their theoretical and practical aspects, c) "The Smaller Book of the Pulse," also in one discourse, giving all the information needed by the student to what may be learnt from the beating of the pulse in the context of various diseases, d) A book entitled "To Glaucon," in two discourses, dealing with therapeutical procedures.

As a practitioner concerned with the fundamental aspects of medicine must be familiar with the effects of medicinal foods and drugs, and as he must himself perform some surgical operations, he is compelled to acquaint himself with these topics by studying the books mentioned by Galen at the end of "The Smaller Art" or receive the necessary training by instruction and observation. The four books assigned to the first stage are thus an adequate basis, while the trained physician can use them for reference.

The second stage also has four books set for it: a) "The Book of Elements," in one discourse. From this we learn that the human body and all the substances needed for its upkeep are liable to rapid change. This is true, for example, of the elements of the body, that is the symmetrical parts, viz. , the bones, sinews, arteries, veins and membranes, and also the flesh, fat and the like. The elements of these parts are the humors, i.e., the blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. The elements of these humors, again, are fire, air, water and earth, for [p.202] all existing things were originally composed of these four, and dissolve into them again. These elements are liable to change. The book is a good primer for anyone wishing to improve his medical knowledge, b) "The Book of Temperaments," in three discourses. It indicates the different kinds of temperament, the makeup of each, and the symptoms by which a particular one can be recognized, c) "The Book of Natural Forces," also in three discourses. It indicates the forces governing bodily functions and their outward manifestations, d) "The Smaller Book of Anatomy," in five discourses, written by Galen separately and combined into one book by the Alexandrians. It indicates the symmetrical parts of the body, their number, and the prerequisites for their functioning.

All the books assigned to the second stage contain information about the physiology of the body, that is, all that pertains to its functioning. The scholastically minded man who reads them will surely wish to go on to study all that pertains to the constitution of the body. "The Book of Temperaments," for example, will whet his appetite for Galen's treatises on "Obesity," "The Ideal Stature," "The Disadvantage of an Unstable Temperament" and for his "Book of Simple Drugs," etc. As to the "Book of Natural Forces," it will prompt him to read Galen's books on sperm, on the opinions of Hippocrates and Plato, on the uses of the parts of animals and all his other writings on forces, spirits and functions.

The third stage comprises only one book, in six discourses, namely the "Book of Causes and Symptoms." Galen wrote the different discourses separately, but the Alexandrians combined them into one. It gives information on different diseases and discusses their etiology and manifestations This is a very useful work based on the deductive method, an extremely important principle. He who thoroughly acquaints himself with it will have covered all aspects of medicine.

Two books are set for the fourth stage: a) The "Diagnostics of Internal Diseases," in six discourses, giving definitions of each of the diseases affecting the internal organs. Since these diseases are not visible or otherwise accessible to perception by the senses, their presence has to [p.203] be inferred from specific indications. When these are manifested, one can be sure that the particular organ has become affected with a certain disease. For example, pleurisy is a hot swelling of the membrane covering the ribs. Its specific indications are impeded respiration, prickling pains, a high temperature and a cough. If all these occur together, they indicate that the membrane over the ribs has become thus affected.

Galen did not write any book on the diagnostics of the diseases of the external organs, since these are patent, and the student merely has to observe them under professional guidance, b) "The Greater Book of the Pulse," in four parts, each comprising four discourses. The first part indicates the various kinds of pulse beat and the relevant details. The second part deals with the method of determining each kind. The third part describes the causes of them, while the fourth part enumerates the benefits of each kind. This is a very important subject with regard to the ascertainment of diseases and the determination of their strength and its relationship to the strength of the body.

The fifth stage involves the study of three books: a) The "Book of Fevers," in two discourses. This elucidates the nature of the different kinds of fever and the method of diagnosing each of them, b) The "Book of Crisis," in three discourses, dealing with the different stages of diseases, so that the patient can be given suitable treatment at each stage. The book also gives prognostic information about the diseases whether they will be cured or not, how they will develop and what the consequences are likely to be. c) The "Book of the Days of Crisis," also in three discourses. It contains information on the time pattern of crises and elucidates on its causes and symptoms.

The sixth stage covers only one book, namely "The Stratagem of Healing," in fourteen chapters. This gives rules for treating each disease according to the deductive method. Whoever studies this book is also bound to read the "Book of Simple Drugs" and Galen's treatises on [p.204] compound drugs, i.e., the "Katagenos," the "Mayamir," the "Book of Electuaries," etc.

The seventh stage is also represented by one book, the "Regimen of the Healthy," in six discourses. This work explains how everyone car preserve his health. It naturally leads to the study of the "Book of Foods, the treatise on "Good and Bad Chyme," and the books on the "Application of Laxatives" and the "Rules of Bodily Exercise" (as an example we may mention Galen's comments on playing with a little ball).

Thus, the Sixteen Books, on which the Alexandrians drew exclusively in teaching medicine, give the student a taste for all Galen's other books, which are the quintessence of medical teaching. For example, his book on the olfactory organ is supplementary to the curriculum of the second stage, and as is his book on respiratory diseases. His books "On Wrong Breathing," "On the Importance of Correct Breathing," "On the Function of the Pulse Beat," "On the Movement of the Chest and Lungs," "On the Voice," "On Substitutional Movements," "On the Cycles of Fevers," and "On the Periods of Diseases," together with other writings, including treatises and epistles, are all supplementary to one or more of the seven stages and must of necessity be studied. What the Alexandrians did was a clever move to induce the student to delve more deeply into the subject, to arouse his desire and ambition to study Galen's other works as well.

Abū al-Faraj ibn Hindū, in his book "The Key to Medicine," says: "Those are the books which the Alexandrians selected from Galen's writings and of which they prepared abstracts, claiming that the latter would obviate the need for studying the full original texts with their numerous appendixes and fine details." Abū al-Khair ibn al-Khammār, the teacher of Abū al-Faraj ibn Hindū, remarks: "In my opinion, the Alexandrians made an imperfect choice, for they omitted the material on food, air and drugs. Their arrangement, too, is faulty, for Galen started with anatomy and then proceeded to the faculties and functions and from these to the elements." Against this, Abū al-Faraj says: "I [p.205] maintain that the Alexandrians confined themselves to the Sixteen Books not because they thought they were sufficient and comprised all medical knowledge, but because they require a tutor and commentator, the student being unable to understand their hidden meanings without oral discussion, an exchange of views, enquiries and debates. As to the books mentioned by our teacher Abū al-Khair ibn al-Khammār, a physician must know them in addition to those I have enumerated, but he can understand them without any help, merely by means of the knowledge gained from the Sixteen Books, which are the guide to all the others. And if you should ask why the Alexandrians arranged those books as they did, I would say that they fixed the order of some of them according to their intrinsic merits. The 'Book of Differences,' for example, deserves first place because it is calculated, on the one hand, to free the student from doubts aroused by the empiricists and by the methodists and their tricks, and on the other, to give him a thorough understanding of the views of the deductionists and induce him to follow them. The same applies to the 'Smaller Art since it contains the basic principles of the medical art, it was only proper to place it immediately after the 'Book of Differences' and so make it an introduction to medicine. Some books were arranged in accordance with their relationship to others, as was the case with the 'Smaller Book of the Pulse'; it was placed next to the 'Smaller Art' because the latter, too, mentions the pulse — in connection with the temperament of the heart. It was seemly to place it before 'To Glaucon' because the latter treats of fevers, and the pulse is that which first indicates the presence of fever. The arrangement which, according to my teacher Abū al-Khair was recommended by Galen is most certainly the scientific one. Every student, when studying any science, should proceed from the more obvious to the more abstruse and from the last to the first. Anatomy is the science of the body and its parts, which, of the whole human constitutions, are first visible to us, though being last as regards the [p.206] process of nature; for nature first takes the elements and mixes them, whereby the humors are produced, and then creates the faculties and parts. Indeed, our procedure in teaching should be the opposite of that followed by nature in creation. However, we dispense with this requirement and content ourselves with the curriculum laid down by the Alexandrians; for knowledge accrues by either method, and to violate the rules which were unanimously agreed upon by those savants would be foolish."

The Alexandrians wrote many of other compendia, of the philosophical sciences and of medicine, based mostly on Galen's books and his commentaries on the works of Hippocrates.

Among the physicians of note, Christian and other, who were contemporaries or near-contemporaries of those Alexandrians, the following may be mentioned:

1) Sham`un [Simon] the monk, known as Tibawayhi.

2) Ahrun [Aaron] the Priest, author of a pandect in Syriac, which was translated into Arabic by Masarjawaihi, in thirty discourses, to which Masarjawayhi added two.

3) Yahanna ibn Sarabiyun [Serapion]. All his works were written in Syriac. His father, Sarabiyun, a native of Bajarma, was also a physician and his two sons, Yuhanna and Da'ud, likewise became physicians of great merit. Yuhanna wrote a "Larger Pandect," in twelve discourses, and a "Smaller Pandect," which became better known, in seven discourses. The latter work was translated in 318/930 by al-Hadithi al-Katib for the physician Abū al-Hasan ibn Nafis; al-Hadithi's translation is better styled than that of Abū al-Hasan ibn al-Bahlul al-Awani al-Taberhani. This work was also translated by Abū al-Dishr Matta.

4) Pratilus. 

5) Sandhashar [?].

6) Al-Kahlaman [?].

7) Abū Juraij the Monk. [p.207]

8) Auras [?].

9) Bunius [?] of Beirut.

10) Siorhena [?].

11) Flagosus [?].

12) "Isa ibn Qustantīn, with the cognomen Abū Musa, on outstanding physician. He wrote a "Book of Simple Drugs" and a "Book of Hemorrhoids, their Causes and Treatment."

13) Sergius of Ra`s al-`Ayn. He is said to have been the first to translate Greek works into Syriac. A man of learning, he also wrote many original works on medicine and philosophy.

14) Atnus [?] of Amid [=Diyar Bekr], the author of a pandect.

15) Gregorius, who also wrote a pandect.

Most of the works of the above-named are extant. Al-Razī quotes them extensively in his comprehensive pandect known as "al-Hawī" [Continens]. [p.208]


On the Classes of Physicians, Arab and Other, who Lived at the Dawn of Islam

Al-Hārith ibn Kalada of the tribe of Thaqīf, a native of al-Tā`if, traveled extensively and studied medicine in Persia, where he also practiced and became familiar with diseases and remedies. In addition, he played the lute, which he learnt in Persia and Yemen. He lived in the days of the Prophet of God, may Allāh bless him and give him peace, of Abū Bakr, `Umar, `Uthmān, Alī and Mu`āwiya, may Allāh look upon them kindly. Mu`āwiya asked him: "What is medicine, O Hārith?" and he replied: "Abstinence, meaning going hungry." This was reported by Ibn Juljul. [There follows a lexicological discussion of the word used in al-Hārith's reply. ] Tradition has it that when `Umar asked al-Hārith ibn Kalada: "What is a remedy?", he replied: "Abstinence," meaning a diet.

Ibn Juljul continues: He was physician to the Arabs. It is reported that when Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās fell ill in Mecca, the Prophet of God, may Allāh bless him and give him peace, visited him and advised summoning al-Harīth ibn Kalada to his bedside because he was a medical practitioner. Al-Harīth came and, after inspecting him, said: "His condition is not serious. Give him a soup in which some date-paste and fenugreek have been boiled." After drinking the soup he recovered.

He is said to have performed many successful cures and to have been familiar with the therapeutic procedures usually adopted by the ancient Arabs. His eloquence on medical and other subjects is celebrated, the following being an example. On arriving at the court of the Persian king [p.209] Anūshirwān, he was admitted to his presence and, standing erect before the king, was asked by him: "Who are you?" — "I am al-Hārith ibn Kalada of Thaqīf." — "What is your profession?" — "Medicine." — Are you a Beduin Arab?" — "Yes, I am, and of purest Arab stock, from a tribe that lives in the heart of Arabia." — "What need do the ignorant, stupid, ill-fed Arabs have of a physician?" — "O King, if this description of them is correct, they are all the more in need of someone to remedy their ignorance, compensate their deficiencies and teach them the proper diet. A person with a well-developed mind knows what to do himself; he discerns what is wrong with him and preserves his health by taking good care of himself. " — "How do they respond to your advice? For if they were sensible, they would not have become known as frivolous." —"By soothing an infant, you can induce it to obey, and by charming a serpent you can tame it. " — Al-Hārith continued: "O King, reason is a gift of God, the Most High, which He metes out among His servants as He distributes sustenance. Everyone receives his portion, this one more, that one less. Some men are rich and some poor, some are ignorant and some learned, some are wavering and some resolute. So it has been ordained by the Almighty and All-knowing. The King, greatly impressed by his words, went on to ask: "Which of their qualities do you commend and which of their habits and natural propensities do you admire?" — "My King, they have generous souls and brave hearts, pure speech and eloquent tongues, a genuine genealogy and noble forebears. Their words, winging from their mouths like arrows from the archer's bow, are milder than the spring air and flow more readily than the water of a fountainhead. They feed even strangers in times of drought and cut off heads in times of war. They will never be subdued; their proteges will not be molested, nor will their womenfolk be defiled or those whom they honor disgraced. They will not concede superiority to any man except a hero-king who is not equaled by either a common man or another king." On hearing al-Hārith's well-considered words, the king seated himself, a gracious expression on his face, and said to his [p.210] entourage: I see that he speaks most highly of his people and that he is right in what he says. His is the demeanor of a sensible man, whom long experience has made wise." He then bade him be seated and asked:

"How far does your medical knowledge go?" — "As far as you might require." — "And what is the essence of medical lore?" — "Restraint."—"What do you mean by restraint?" — "Keeping one's lips sealed and using the hands gently." — "You are right. And what causes the worst illness?" — "Taking different foods one after another ruins all creatures, even the lion in the forest." — "You are right. And what sparks off diseases?" — "Overeating; if food remains in the bowels, it kills, and if it dissolves, it causes illness." — "You are right, and your opinion of cupping ?" — "It should be done when the moon is on the wane, on a fine day with no clouds and when the patient has a good disposition, when his blood flows calmly because of joy experienced and anxiety kept at bay." — "And hot baths?" — "Do not take a hot bath on a full stomach. Nor should you cohabit with your wife when drunk or get up naked in the night or sit down to a meal when angry. Relax and you will attain peace of mind. If you eat in moderation, you will have a more wholesome sleep." — "And remedies?" — "Do not take any medicines as long as you are in good health; but if an illness attacks you, resort to what is likely to check it before it has fully developed. The human body is comparable to the earth; if you cultivate it, it will flourish, but if you neglect it, it will become waste." — "And what are your views on wine?" — "The most highly spiced is the most delicious, the weakest the most wholesome, and the sweetest the most coveted. Never drink it unmixed, lest it lead to a headache or various diseases." — "What is the best kind of meat?" — "Kid's meat and salted dried meat are the ruin of him who eats them. Also avoid the meat of camels and cattle." — "And what do you think of fruit?" — "You may eat it when it is ripening and in season, but abstain from it after it is past its prime. The best fruits are pomegranates and citrons; the best aromatic plants are roses and violets; and the best vegetables are endives and lettuce." — "What have you to say about drinking water?" — "Water is the [p.211] life of the body, the substance that maintains it. It is beneficial when drunk in moderation. Drinking it straight after sleep is harmful. The greatest of rivers is that which is cold and crystal clear, which has not mixed with water from forests or hills. It flows along plains, running over pebbles and boulders. "What does it taste like?" — "It has no specific taste, but it springs from life. " — "What color is it?" — "Its color cannot be defined visually, since it takes on the color of its container." — "Tell me, what is the principal part of the human body " — "It is where water is imbibed, namely, the head." — "What is the shining element found in the eyes?" —"It consists of three substances: the white is fat, the black water and the pupil [?], spirit." — "Of how many substances is the human body composed?" — "Four: the black bile, which is cold and dry, the yellow bile, which is hot and dry, the blood, which is hot and moist, and the phlegm, which is cold and moist." — "Why does it not consist of a single substance?" — "If it had been created from only one substance, it would neither eat nor drink, nor would it fall ill and die." — "And why does it not consist of two substances?" — "That would be impossible, for two would be opposites, mutually antagonistic." — "And three substances? — "The presence of two harmonizing with each other and a third disagreeing with them would be bad. Four achieve the right balance and are the proper number." — "Give me concise definitions of 'hot' and 'cold'." — "All that is sweet is hot and all that is sour cold; all pungent things are hot and all bitter things intermediate, being both hot and cold." — "What is the best thing for the yellow bile to be treated with?" — "Anything cold and soft." —"And for the black bile?" — "Anything hot and soft." — "And for the Phlegm?" — "Anything hot and dry." — "And for the blood?" — "Extracting it when present in excessive quantities, and extinguishing its fire with cold and dry substances when it becomes too hot." — "And for wind?" — "Mild clysters and hot, soft ointments." — "So you recommend clysters?" — "Yes, I have read in one of the books of the wise that clysters cleanse the bowels and purge them of diseases. It is astounding, therefore, that those who [p.212] apply clysters still become decrepit or are unable to have offspring. It is the utmost degree of stupidity to eat what one knows to be harmful and to prefer satisfying one's desire to the welfare of the body." — "What is a regimen?" — "Moderation in every respect. Eating immoderately for example, obstructs breathing and blocks up the respiratory tract." —"And what have you to say in regard to women and sexual intercourse?" — "Frequent cohabitation is bad. Avoid in particular intercourse with an aging woman, for she is like a worn-out skin, sapping your strength and bringing sickness to your body. Her water is deadly poison and her breath speedy death. She will take everything from you and give you nothing. A young woman's water, on the contrary, is sweet and pure, her embrace is delightful and exciting; her mouth is cool, her saliva sweet and her breath fragrant. Her vagina is narrow, and she will add strength to your strength, vigor to your vigor." — "What kind of woman draws the heart most and is most pleasant to behold?" — "It is — if you can find such a one —a woman of tall and imposing stature, with a broad forehead, a retroussé nose, black eyes, red lips, pale soft cheeks, a generous torso, a graceful neck, eyebrows grown together, swelling breasts, a narrow waist and dainty feet, white skin, thick, curly hair and a fresh and mild complexion, one whom you would fancy, in the dark, to be the shining moon; when laughing, she shows teeth white as camomile and a mouth red as purple; she is like an egg lovingly protected in the nest, softer than fresh butter, sweeter than honey, more exquisite than Paradise and Eternal Life. Her fragrance is more delighful than that of jasmin and roses; you will enjoy her company and delight to be alone with her." These words caused the king to laugh so heartily that his shoulders twitched. But he went on to ask: "What is the best time for sexual intercourse?" — "The latter part of the night, when the belly is emptier, the breath more even, the heart more eager and the womb warmer. If you choose to enjoy her in the daytime, your eye will feast upon the beauty of her face, your mouth will gather the fruits of her grace, your ear will capture her pleasant strains, and all your limbs [p.213] will feel relaxed through her presence." — "How wonderful a Beduin you are! You have been favored with knowledge and endowed with intelligence and understanding." The King then presented al-Hārith with fine gifts and ordered his words to be put down in writing."

Al-Wāthik bi-Allah, in his book "The Garden," writes: "Al-Hārith ibn Kalada once passed by some people who were sitting in the sun and said to them: 'You should seek shade, for the sun fades the garments, makes breathing heavy, bleaches the color and activates latent diseases.'"

Here are some of al-Hārith's sayings: "Gluttony is the abode of sickness and a diet is the first and foremost remedy. Treat your whole body only with what it is accustomed to. " According to one report, this is a saying of `Abd al-Malik ibn Abjar, whereas some attribute it to the Prophet of God — may Allah bless him and give him peace — and quote the first words as follows: The stomach is the abode of sickness. "Stomach" fits the context better than "gluttony." The following saying is transmitted in the name of the Emir of the Faithful, Alī ibn Abī Tālīb, may he find grace with Allāh: He who wishes to survive, even though he knows it cannot be for ever, shall chose the best food, eat only when hungry, drink only when thirsty, drink only a little water, lie down after the midday meal, take a walk after supper and never go to sleep without having evacuated. Taking a hot bath on a full stomach is extremely unhealthy. One hot bath in summer is better than ten in winter. Eating dried meat at night tends to destroy the body, and intercourse with old women shortens life. — Some of these sayings have also been transmitted in the name of al-Hārith ibn Kalada. — The tradition goes on: If a man enjoys sexual intercourse and there are no women at hand, he should take his supper late and his noon meal early. [In general] he should indulge in little intercourse [lexicological explanations follow of two words occurring in the foregoing]. The same tradition, as handed down through different channels, has a variant reading: he should take his supper early — this is more correct. [p.214]

Abū `Awāna, on the authority of `Abd al-Malik ibn `Umayr, transmits the following saying of al-Hārith ibn Kalada: He who wishes to survive, though it cannot be for ever, should take his noon meal and supper early; he should indulge in little sexual intercourse."

Harb ibn Muhammad, on the authority of his father, reports: "Al-Hārith ibn Kalada said that four things ruin the body: sexual intercourse after overeating, a hot bath on a full stomach, eating dried meat and cohabiting with an old woman."

Dā'ud ibn Rashīd, on the authority of `Amr ibn `Auf, relates that when al-Hārith ibn Kalada was dying, people gathered round him and said: "Give us some advice that we may follow after your death." Al-Hārith replied: Marry only young women; never eat other than ripe fruit; do not resort to medical treatment as long as your body can bear the disease; make use of kaolin every month, for it dissolves the phlegm, destroys the bile and promotes the growth of tissue. After the midday meal you should lie down, and after supper walk forty paces."

Another of al-Hārith's sayings: "Avoid the use of remedies as long as possible; take them only when it is absolutely necessary, for whatever their benefit, the harm they do is as great."

Sulaymān ibn Juljul says: "I have it on the authority of al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn, who in turn had it from Sa`īd ibn al-'Ummawī, the latter relating it in the name of his paternal uncle, Muhammad ibn Sa`īd, who had it from `Abd al-Malik ibn `Umayr, that there were two brothers of the Banū Kinna, a subtribe of Thaqīf, who loved eath other dearly — indeed, greater affection than shown by those two had never been seen. When the elder once went on a journey, he left his wife in the care of the younger, and the latter, looking at her one day, inadvertently, fell in love with her and became ill in consequence. When his brother returned, he summoned several physicians who, however, could not diagnose his ailment. At last he brought al-Hārith ibn Kalada, who said: [p.215] 'I see two veiled eyes, but I do not know what this means. So I shall make an experiment. Give him some wine to drink.' When the wine had taken effect, the patient recited:

Alight with me at the [deserted] tents
On the mountainside, that I may visit them,
[And look for] a gazelle I have not seen today,
In the habitations of Banū Kinna,
With oval-shaped cheeks . . .
And a melodious ring to her voice.

Whereupon the people said: 'You are the best physician among the Arabs.' He ordered more wine to be administered, and under its effect the patient recited:

O my companions,
A cloud has come up from the sea, full of water.
She is not my daughter-in-law,
But she claims that I am her father-in-law.

Whereupon his brother divorced his wife and said: 'Marry her, O my brother.' But the other replied: 'By God, I shall never wed her.' And he died true to his word.'"

Al-Hārith ibn Kalada's writings include a "Dialogue on Medical Matters" between him and King Anūshirwān.


Al-Nadr, the son of al-Hārith ibn Kalada, of Thaqīf, was the son of a maternal aunt of the Prophet of God, may Allāh bless him and give him peace. Like his father, al-Nadr also traveled in many countries, meeting men of learning in Mecca and elsewhere and associating with Jewish scholars and Christian priests. After intensive studies, he was familiar with much of the ancient sciences, having mastered the philosophical disciplines and other fields of knowledge. His father taught him medicine [p.216] (as far as his knowledge went) and other sciences. Being of the tribe of Thaqīf, al-Nadr concurred with Abū Sufyān in his enmity against the Prophet, may Allāh bless him and give him peace. This was in keeping with the saying of the Messenger of God: "Quraish and the 'Helpers' are allies, and the clans of Ummayya and Thaqīf are allies."

Al-Nadr was indeed a dangerous enemy of the Prophet. He spread many rumors about him, designed to tarnish his reputation with the people of Mecca and invalidate his claim to be a prophet. This wretched soul did not realize that prophethood is the greatest distinction, that spiritual happiness is supreme, that divine providence is paramount and that nothing decreed by God can be changed. He believed that through his own learning and wisdom he was in a position to oppose prophecy; but how great is the distance between the earth and the Pleiades, between the foot of a mountain and its summit, and the difference between an unhappy and a happy person! Very much to the point is a statement I have found in Plato's "Book of Laws": Neither a wise man with his wisdom nor a scholar with his knowledge can emulate a prophet and his prophecies.

Marius, king of the Greeks, whose name and might are mentioned by Homer, who also points out the attainments of the Greeks under his rule, was constantly plagued by subversive schemes and other handships. In his plight he resorted to the philosophers of his time. These, after pondering on all the circumstances of his case, said to him: "On studying your condition, we have found nothing coming from you that might explain the calamities to which you have been subjected. A philosopher can only detect extravagances and irregularities as far as the individual is concerned; what is beyond that does not lie in the domain of philosophy and can only be ascertained through prophecy." They therefore, advised him to seek out the prophet of his time in order to combine their own knowledge with the information to be obtained from him. They pointed out that the prophet did not live in any of the major [p.217] centers but in an outlying region of the desert, among the poorest people When he asked them what qualities the messengers sent to him should possess and how they would find him, they replied: "Choose your messengers from among those who have a gentle disposition, who are truthful and prefer to admit a wrong rather than persist in it. Between men of such description and the prophet there is a link that will help them to find him. Approach them and enquire about him at his birthplace and ask about his way of life. You will find him chary of luxury, desirous of the truth, a seeker of solitudes, ignorant of craftiness — not favored by kings. They describe him as an eccentric who has rebelled against the customs of his rank. You would discern fear in him and think him inattentive. If he spoke about something, you would think he knew its origins without knowing how to reach out to it; if he was asked about his behavior, he would say that everything that comes to his mind or issues from his mouth comes to him while he is fully awake or at the moment between sleep and wakefulness and is not of his design. If asked a question, you would think he was receiving the answer from someone else, without giving it any thought, but like someone capable of thinking and of reaching a conclusion. If they found him, they would encounter, in addition to what they heard about him, wonders that are the work of his hand and tongue."

He gathered seven men and added to them the best philosopher he could find, and departed in search for him. They found him at a place about five days' journey from Marinus, at a village whose inhabitants had deserted it and gone to live close to Marinus because of the comfort and benefit that they derived from being in his proximity. Only a few ascetics who disdained profit, some old men and the chronically sick who had ceased to care about anything remained there. He was among them in a disorderly house. Around the house there was a group of people who were anxious to be near him and who because of that did not care for the fortunes which others earned. The villagers welcomed [p.218] them and asked them the reason for their visit to their ramshackle village which did not have anything to attract men like themselves. They answered thus: "We want to meet this man and share his bountifulness with you." They asked them if he were free and were told: "he has nothing to keep him from meeting you."

They came to him and found him hidden among a group of people who had turned their eyes askance in awe of his presence. When the seven saw him, they were stricken with the same awe and were overpowered. But the philosopher retained his self-control and his wits and strove all the while to fathom his mystery. They greeted him and he returned the greeting feebly, like one who is sleepy and confused. His somnolence increased to the point that his head covering seemed about to become loose. When those around him realized the state he was in, they turned their eyes from him and stood up as if in prayer. He said: "O messengers of the sinner who possessed part of my world. He sought its good by sending it worldly gifts and thus corrupted it by what he bestowed upon it. In so doing he was like someone who has been placed in charge of part of a fruitful and flourishing orchard and has given it more than its share of water, thinking that this would be good for it. But in the same measure that he gave more water he obtained less in his fruit and weakened the fragrance of his flowers. Thus he caused his trees and plants gradually to dry up. When the seven heard this, they could not control themselves any more and they rose like worshippers with the others."

The philosopher said: "I remained seated and apart from the group in order to examine this phenomenon and fathom its marvels. Then he addressed me loudly: 'O you, who hold yourself in such esteem, whose greatest achievement has been to journey, in your mind, between particular sensibilia and general intelligibilia, thereby acquiring certain knowledge which has enabled you to recognize the nature of sensations and similar things. You fancied you could thus penetrate [p.219] to the mainspring of all cause and effect, but you will not reach me in this way, unless by him whom I have set up between me and my creatures as a guide-post to my will. Now concentrate upon searching for him, and when you have found him, intimate to him all that is beyond your knowledge; for I have endowed him with something of my grace, by which I have marked him off from everyone else, so that all those who sincerely seek truth can consult him.'

"He then fell silent, looking even more impressive than before, and the people about him reverted to their former state. I went out, but came back in the evening to hear him address his companions and the seven envoys. He invoked some of the sayings of the ascetics and prohibited them from giving in to the flesh. When he had finished, I said: I heard what you said this morning, and I now ask you to add to it for me. Said he: 'What you heard was communicated to my tongue. I only transmitted it. If there is anymore, you will hear it later.'

"I stayed there for three days, trying to persuade the seven men to return to their respective countries, but they refused. On the fourth day I entered his quarters and had hardly sat down when he was carried away in the same fashion as during our first visit. Then he said: 'O envoy of the sinner, who are delaying your return to him! Go back to your city, but you will find your master there, for I have replaced him with one who will rectify the ways of the people he governs.' I left his quarters and returned to my city, where I found my master dead and his country ruled by a mature man of Marius' family, who redressed all grievances and saved the people's souls from the veils of effeminacy and idleness that enveloped them."

When the Muslims fought the polytheists of Quraysh on the Day of Badr, the polytheists were led by Abū Sufyān, and their number was between nine hundred and a thousand, while the Muslims were only three hundred and thirteen. But Allāh supported Islam and gave victory to his Prophet, blessed be his name. The polytheists were routed. The leading [p.220] men of Quraysh were killed, and many of the pagans were taken prisoner; some of these were redeemed and some were killed by order of the prophet, blessed be his name. Among the captives were `Uqba ibn Abū Mu`ayt and al-Nadr ibn al-Hārith ibn Kalada, who were both put to death by the Prophet on his return from Badr.

Shams al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Hasān, the scribe of Baghdad, the son of al-Karīm, told me the following story, which he received via the following chain of tradition: Abū Ghālib Muhammad ibn al-Mubarak ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ma'mun; Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn Mahmawaih al-Shafi`i al-Yazdi; Abū Sa`ad Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Jabbār ibn Ahmad ibn Abū al-Qasīm, the moneychanger of Baghdad; Abū Ghālib Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Sahil ibn Bashran, the grammarian of Wasīt; Abū al-Husayn Alī ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahīm ibn Dinar, the scribe; Abū al-Faraj Alī ibn al-Husayn ibn Muhammad, the scribe of Isfahān; Muhammad ibn Qarir al-Tabari; Ibn Hunayn ibn Muhammad, the scribe of Isfahān; Muhammad ibn Qarir al-Tabari; Ibn Humayd; Maslamah ibn Muhammad ibn Ishāq; `Asim ibn `Umar ibn Qatadah; Yazid ibn Ruman.

The Prophet, blessed be his name, killed `Uqba ibn Mu`ayt on the Day of Badr, in cold blood, by ordering `Āsim ibn Thābit ibn Abū al-'Aflah, one of the Ansar [the Muslims of Medina], to decapitate him. He then returned from Badr and, on arriving at al-Safra, killed al-Nadr ibn al-Harith ibn Kalada, of Thaqīf, a descendant of `Abd al-Dar, by ordering Alī ibn Abū Talib, may God give him peace, to cut off his head. Qutaila, the daughter of al-Hārīth, composed a lament for him. [The text of the lament follows.]

Abū al-Faraj al-Isfahāni relates: "We are informed that the Prophet, blessed be his name, said: 'Had I heard this lament before killing him, I should not have done it.' " This lament is believed to be the noblest, the most restrained and the most forbearing ever composed by a bereaved woman. [p.221]

It seems that Muhammad delayed the execution of al-Nadr ibn al-Hārith until his arrival at al-Safra in order to reconsider the matter; however, having decided his death to be the right solution, he executed the order.

Another version [of the seventeenth hemistich of that lament] says: "Al-Nadr was your closest kinsman among those you killed," which proves that he was a close relative of the Prophet, may God have mercy upon him. The Battle of Badr took place in the second year of the Hijra. Badr is a place-name connected with water. Al-Sha`bi says that Badr was a well owned by a man of that name. The Day of Badr is named after that place. Al-Safra is seventeen miles from Badr and three nights' journey from Medina.


Ibn Abū Ramitha al-Tamimi, a contemporary of the Prophet, blessed be his name, was a physician and an expert surgeon. Nu`aim reports the following, the chain of tradition leading back, via Ibn Abū `Uyaina, Ibn Abjar, Zyad and Laqīt, to Abū Ramitha himself, who said: ''One day I visited the Prophet, blessed be his name, and saw the seal [mark of the prophecy] between his shoulders, so I said: I am a physician, let me treat this, and he answered: 'You may be clever with your hands, but the physician is Allāh.'" Sulaymān ibn Hasan says: "The Prophet knew that he was clever with his hands, but not very knowledgeable, which is evident from the words 'The physician is Allāh.'"


`Abd al-Malik ibn Abjar al-Kīnānī was a learned and skillful physician. He lived at first in Alexandria, where he was placed in charge of teaching after the Alexandrian physicians had left. This was in the days when the country was ruled by Christian kings. When the Muslims conquered Egypt and took possession of Alexandria, Ibn Abjar was converted to Islam by the Emir `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Azīz, the future Caliph, and attached himself to him. When `Umar became Caliph in the month of Safar 99/August 717, the center of instruction was transferred to Antioch [p.222] and Harrān, whence its influence spread to other Muslim countries. `Umar ibn `Abd al-Azīz would consult Ibn Abjar and rely upon him in all matters relating to medical science and practice.

Al-A`mash reports the following saying of Ibn Abjar: "Put the drug aside as long as your body can bear the illness." And the Prophet, blessed be he, said on this subject: "Bear your illness for as long as it will bear with you."

Sufyān reports another saying of Ibn Abjar: "The stomach is the body's reservoir, and the blood vessels empty into it; whatever enters it in wholesome condition comes out the same; whatever enters it spoilt comes out diseased."


Ibn 'Uthāl was an illustrious physician, a renowned member of the profession in Damascus, a Christian by faith. When Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyān conquered Damascus, he chose him as his personal physician and treated him generously; he visited him frequently and the two maintained close ties, conversing day and night. Ibn 'Uthāl was an expert in both simple and compound drugs; he knew their powers and which of them were poisonous. This was why Mu`āwiya associated with him so closely; for many an important Muslim personality died from poison during his reign.

In this connection, the following story is told by Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karim, the scribe of Baghdad, who received it via the following chain of tradition [the same as with Shams al-Dīn, back to Abū al-Faraj All ibn al-Husayn al-Isfahani, inclusive]. The last-mentioned says, in his "Great Book of Songs," that he was told this story by his uncle, who had received it by the following chain: Ahmad ibn al-Hārith, the silk merchant; al-Madā'ini; a shaikh of the people of al-Hijāz; Zaid ibn Rāfi`, the companion of al-Muhājir ibn Khālid ibn al-Walīd; Abū Dhi'b; Abū Suhail. The last-mentioned reports that Mu`awiya, wishing to name Yazīd his successor, said to the people [p.223] of Syria: "Verily, the Emir of the Faithful is growing old, his skin has withered and his bones have grown soft; his term is approaching, so he desires to designate your future Caliph. Whom would you like?" They answered: "`Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid ibn al-Walīd. Mu`āwiya fell silent, concealing what was in his heart. Then he smuggled the Christian physician 'Uthāl into Abd al-Rahman with some poison; the latter took it and died.

His nephew Khālid ibn al-Muhājir ibn Khālid ibn al-Walīd heard the news in Mecca. He had been very ill-disposed toward his uncle because his father, al-Muhājir had supported Alī, God bless him, at Siffin, where `Abd al-Rahman ibn Khālid had been on Mu`awiya's side. At the time of `Abd al-Rahman's murder, Khālid met `Urwa ibn al-Zubair, who said to him: "O Khālid, are you letting Ibn `Uthāl destroy your uncle in Damascus while you stay in Mecca, dragging your flopping mantle, stalking about haughtily?" Thus nettled, Khālil called for his man Nāfi`, informed him of the matter and said: "Ibn 'Uthāl must be killed." Nāfi` was a strong, brave man. The two set out together and in due course reached Damascus.

Ibn `Uthāl would spend his evenings with Mu`āwiya; Khālid would wait for him in the mosque, seated against a column and his servant against another until he came out. Said Khālid to Nāfi`: "Be careful not to attack him, I shall strike him myself. You are to cover me from behind. If you should see anything suspicious behind me, you will deal with it. When Ibn Uthāl passed by him, Khalid attacked and killed him, but the people, who were with the victim, turned against Khālid; Nāfi` shouted at them until they drew back. Khālid and Nāfi` then left the place, followed by the crowd. When the people caught up with them, they fought them until they were routed. The two then fled down a narrow alley and escaped.

On hearing the news, Mu`āwiya said: "The murderer is undoubtedly Khālid ibn al-Muhājir — comb the street he entered." The search was carried out, and Khālid was brought before the Caliph. Mu`āwiya [p.224] exclaimed: "May God never come to your aid, my visitor'. You killed my physician." "I killed him who was commanded," replied Khālid, "but he who commanded him is still alive." "May the divine curse fall upon you," cried Mu`āwiya, "by Allāh, if he had only professed the Muslim creed once, I would have killed you for what you did. Was Nāfi` with you?" "No," said Khālid. "But he was," insisted Mu`āwiya; "I swear by Allāh he was there, for you would not have dared to do it without him." He ordered a search for Nāfi`, who was found, brought in and given one hundred strokes of the whip. As for Khālid, Mu`āwiya inflicted nothing worse than imprisonment on him. He made the Banu Makhzūm pay 12,000 dirhams blood-money for Ibn 'Uthāl, of which he put 6,000 in the public treasury and took the rest for himself. This remained the custom with regard to blood-money for non-Muslim servants until the days of `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, who abolished the payment of the half that went to the Caliph himself and reconfirmed the payment to the treasury.

After his arrest by Mu`āwiya, Khālid ibn al-Muhājir composed the following verses in prison [...].

On hearing these verses, Mu`awiya set Khālid free. Back in Mecca, Khālid again met `Urwa ibn al-Zubair, to whom he said: "I killed Ibn 'Uthāl, but is it not true that Ibn Jormūz goes about in al-Basrah as if innocent of al-Zubair's death? Go and kill him if you are capable of vengeance." `Urwa thereupon protested of his father's murder to Abū Bakr ibn `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Hārith ibn Hishām. The latter made him swear to renounce his pursuit, and `Urwa obeyed him.

Al-Zubair ibn al-`Awwam was with `Ā'isha on the Day of the Camel, when he was killed by Ibn Jormūz; this is what Khālid ibn al-Muhājir was referred to when he spoke to `Urwa ibn al-Zubair about his father's murder by Ibn Jormūz, in order to disgrace him. This is borne out by the fact that `Ātika, daughter of Zaid ibn `Amru ibn Nufail, al-Zubair's wife, composed the following lament on his murder by Ibn Jormūz [...]. [p.225]

Abū `Ubaid al-Qasim ibn Sallam, of Baghdad, in his "Book of Proverbs," says that Mu`āwiya ibn Abū Sufyan suspected the people to be in support of `Abd al-Rahman ibn Khālid ibn al-Walīd; he therefore expressed his displeasure with him, and the physician had him take a drink of honey containing poison, which burnt his entrails. Mu`āwiya thereupon said: "There is nothing better than what rids you of the people you hate." Similarly, when Mu`āwiya heard that al-Ashtar had died from taking a poisoned honey-drink, he said: "God certainly has fighting forces, and one such force is honey."

I have copied the following story from the Chronicle of Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn `Umar al-Waqidi: In the year 38/657, Alī ibn Abī Tālib God bless him, sent al-Ashtar to Egypt as governor after the murder of Muhammad ibn Abū Bakr. When Mu`āwiya heard of his departure, he secretly sent to the headman of al-`Arish, saying: "If you kill al-Ashtar, you may keep the land-tax of your village for twenty years." The headman spoke ingratiatingly to al-Ashtar and, asking what was his favorite drink, was told that it was honey. Said the headman: "I have some honey from Barqa." He poisoned the honey and brought it to al-Ashtar, who drank it and died. On hearing the news, Mu`āwiya said: "The hands and the mouth have strange powers."

In the Chronicle of al-Tabari we read that al-Hasan ibn Alī died of poison during the reign of Mu`āwiya. Mu`āwiya was cunning. He smuggled the potion to Ja`da, the wife of al-Hasan, may Allāh have mercy upon him, saying: "If you kill al-Hasan, I shall marry you to [my son] Yazīd." After al-Hasan's death, this woman sent to Mu`āwiya, demanding the fulfillment of his promise, but he said: "I wish to spare Yazīd." The poet Kuththair composed the following verses as a eulogy of al-Hasan [...].

`Uwāna ibn al-Hakam adds: "Before the death of al-Hasan ibn Alī, Mu`awiya wrote to Marwān ibn al-Hakam, governor of Medina, saying: 'Send me messengers with news of al-Hasan ibn Alī. Shortly afterwards, [p.226] Marwān announced al-Hasan's death. Ibn `Abbas, when visiting Mu`āwiya, would sit with him on his throne. [The day he received the news of al-Hasan's death], Mu`āwiya gave a public audience. All the people took their seats, and when Ibn `Abbas arrived, Mu`āwiya did not even give him time for greetings, but blurted out: 'O Ibn `Abbās, have you heard the news of the death of Hasan ibn Alī?' — 'No.' — 'We have received word of his death.' Ibn `Abbās said: 'His death, O Mu`āwiya, will not add to your years, while his memory will not be buried with you. We were once afflicted with a greater loss, that of his grandfather Muhammad, blessed be his name, but God forgave us and did not damn us after his death.' Mu`āwiya said: 'Sit down, O Ibn `Abbās.' Ibn `Abbās: 'This is not a day for sitting down.' Mu`āwiya showed his joy at the death of al-Hasan, may God bless him. On that occasion, Qutham ibn `Abbas recited the following verses [....]."


Abū al-Hakam was a Christian physician, noted for his familiarity with different kinds of treatments and drugs, and celebrated for his good deeds and fine qualities. Mu`āwiya would consult him on everything relating to the composition of the drugs which he needed for various purposes. Abū al-Hakam was blessed with a long life, spanning over more that a hundred years.

Abū Ja`far Ahmad ibn Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhim tells the following story, which reached him by the following chain of tradition; his father, `Isā ibn Hakam, the medical man of Damascus; `Isā's father; `Isā's grandfather, who said: "During the reign of Mu`āwiya ibn Abū Sufyān, his son Yazīd was once in charge of the caravan from Mecca. The Caliph sent me with him as his physician." "I [said `Isā] accompanied `Abd al-Samad ibn Alī ibn `Abd Allāh ibn al-`Abbas to Mecca as his physician. `Abd al-Samad's rank in the line of descent was the same as Yazīd's,but the interval between their deaths was over 100 years."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim adds: "`Isā ibn Hakam told me what he had heard from his father, whose own father had told him that he [Abū al-Hakam] [p.227] had forbidden the Caliph `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān to drink water during the illness from which he subsequently died. He had warned the Caliph that if he drank water before his illness had run its course he would surely die. The Caliph had abstained from water for two days and part of the third when his son al-Walīd came in and asked about his condition. The physician was present, and so were the Caliph's daughters. When `Abd al-Malik discerned in his son's face an expression of joy at his impending death, he said: "There is one who comes for news and is longing for our end; there are others who wait for news and their tears are flowing." He pronounced the first hemistich turning to al-Walīd and then the second turning to his daughters. After that he called for water, drank it and died on the spot.


Hakam the Damascene equaled his father both in medical theory and application and in personal qualities. He lived in Damascus and also reached a very great age. Abū Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhim says: "`Isā ibn al-Hakam told me that his father had died when `Abd Allāh ibn Tāhir was in Damascus in 210/825. `Abd Allāh asked what age his father had reached, and he replied: 'He was a hundred and five years old, with neither a weakening of his intellect nor a diminution of his knowledge.' Said `Abd Allāh: 'So Hakam lived during half of the Muslim era.'"

Yūsuf adds the following story, which he had also heard from `Isā: "I was riding with my father, Hakam, through the city of Damascus, when we passed a cupper's shop surrounded by many people. One of these, recognizing us, cried: 'Make room, for this is the physician Hakam with his son `Isā.' When the people moved aside, a man was revealed on whose basilic vein the cupper had just operated. The opening being large, the basilic vein being close to the artery, and the cupper not having isolated the vein properly, the artery had been damaged, and the cupper was unable to stop the hemorrhage. We tried to staunch it with rags, spider-web and soft hair, but to no avail. [p.228]

"My father then asked me whether I knew some other expedient, and I said that I did not. He thereupon asked for a pistachio, cracked it and threw away the nut. He took one half of the shell and placed it on the wound; they he tore the selvage of a coarse linen garment and tied the shell onto the wound very tightly, so tightly in fact that the man started to cry out for help. After tying it, he tightened it even more and ordered the man to be taken to the River Barada. He then put the man's arm in the water and, after making arrangements on the river bank, had him sleep there. He ordered some soft-boiled egg-yolks to be brought to him and left him under the supervision of one of his disciples. He told the patient that he was not to pull his arm out of the water except during prayer-time. If there was any fear of his dying of cold, he might pull his arm out for a moment and then immerse it again. All this continued until nightfall.

"My father then ordered him to be taken home and forbade him to uncover the wound or untie the bandage for five days. The man obeyed, but on the third day, when my father visited him, he found his upper arm and forearm to be enormously swollen, so he loosened the bandage a little and said to the man: 'This swelling is better than death.' On the fifth day, after he had removed the bandage, we found the shell attached to his flesh, and my father said: 'This shell saved your life, but if you pull it off before it detaches itself and falls off naturally, you will surely die.'"

`Isā concludes: "The shell fell off on the seventh day, and in its place there was a clot of dried blood the shape of a nut. My father forbade the man to touch or scratch around it or scrape off any of the dry blood. The clot fell off little by little, until after more than forty days, the scar appeared and the man was completely cured."


`Isā ibn Hakam of Damascus, known as the Messiah [Masīh], author of the Great Pharmacopoeia named after him. Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim heard [p.229] the following story from `Isā ibn Hakam himself: Al-Jadid, the [slave] mother of al Rashīd's son, was suffering from colic. She sent for `Isā and the two astrologers al-Abakh and al-Tabari, and then asked `Isā's opinion concerning her treatment. `Isā reports: "I told her that the condition of her entrails was grave, and that if she did not counteract it immediately with an enema, her life was in danger. She turned to  al-Abakh and al-Tabarī, saying: Choose the time for my treatment for me.' Said al-Abakh: 'Your illness is not of a kind whose treatment may be postponed to a time recommended by the astrologers. My advice is that you start treatment without any astrological preliminaries; `Isā ibn Hakam agrees with me in this.' She turned again to me, and I confirmed al-Abakh's pronouncement. Al-Tabari, asked for his opinion, said: Tonight the moon is with Saturn, tomorrow it will be with Jupiter. I advise you to postpone treatment until the conjunction of the moon with Jupiter.' Al-Abakh protested: 'I fear that by the time the moon is with Jupiter the illness will have reached a stage where there is no more call for treatment.' Al-Jadid died before the moon reached Jupiter. When it did, al-Abakh said to Muhammad's mother: 'This is the time chosen by al-Tabari for the treatment. Now where is the patient?' This remark made her still angrier, and she bore a grudge against him right up to her death."

Yūsuf also tells the following story: "I visited `Isā at his house in Damascus in 222/839-40. I was suffering from severe rheumatism at the time. He gave me nourishing food and ice-water to drink. I disapproved, pointing out that such a diet was harmful in the case of rheumatic fever. He advanced arguments derived from meteorology, saying: 'I know my country's climate better than you do; things that are harmful in Iraq are beneficial in Damascus.' I ate everything he offered me, and when I left Damascus he accompanied me to a place known as al-Rahib [the Monk), where we parted. There he said, 'I have prepared this food for you to take with you; it is different from what you have [p.230] eaten until now. I forbid you to drink cold water and to eat such food as you ate at my house.' I reproached him for having given me such food, but he said: 'An intelligent person does not apply the rules of medicine strictly to a guest who is staying at his home.'"

Here is another story told by Yūsuf: "One day, I was strolling in Damascus with `Isā, when he happened to mention the onion. He cursed its evil effects and enumerated its drawbacks. Now, `Isa and Salmawayhi ibn Bayān followed the ways of the ascetics; they did not approve of aphrodisiacs, saying that they ruined the body and degraded the soul. I did not dare to argue with him as to whether the onion was an aphrodisiac but merely said: 'During my recent trip — by which I meant, between Samara and Damascus — I observed one of its advantages.' When he inquired what, I said: 'I tasted the water at a desert station and found it salty, but when I had eaten a raw onion and then tasted the water again, it seemed less salty.'

"`Isā, who hardly ever laughed, smiled at my story, then appeared perturbed by it and said: 'It grieves me to find a person like you falling into such an error. You discovered the ugliest feature of the onion and believe it to be a merit. Is it not true that, when a derangement befalls the brain, the faculties are affected to the point that the senses of smell, taste, hearing and sight are impaired?' I confirmed this, and he continued: 'Indeed, an inherent tendency of the onion is to induce a derangement of the brain, and so the cause of your insensitivity to the saltiness of the water was the derangement inflicted upon your brain by the onion.'

"`Isā accompanied me to al-Rāhib and said — these were the last words spoken between us — : 'My father died at the age of a hundred and five years without his face having changed or withered. This was due to certain rules he followed which I will now transmit to you, by way of provisions for your journey, and which you should adopt. They are: Eat no dried and salted meat; on leaving your bath never wash your hands and feet with any but the coldest water you can find. Observe these rules, they will be to your advantage. [p.231]

Yūsuf concludes: "I remembered his advice. Only a few times a year — or even less frequently — did I munch a small piece of dried and salted meat."

`Isā wrote the following books:

"The Pharmacopoeis."

"The Usefulness of Animals."


Tayādūq was a distinguished physician, the originator of some well-known sayings and expressions relating to the art of medicine. He lived to a great age and was famous under the first Caliphs of the Banū `Umayya. He also attached himself to al-Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf al-Thaqafī, governor on behalf of `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān, and served him as his physician. Al-Hijjāj had complete confidence in his treatment, and as a result, Tayādūq received ample benefices and great honors.

The exhortations addressed by Tayādūq to al-Hajjāj include the following:

Marry a young woman only.

Eat the meat of young animals only.

Take drugs only when you are ill.

Eat fruit only when it is ripe.

Chew your food well.

If you eat during the day, you may sleep afterwards, but if you eat at night, do not lie down to sleep before you have walked at least fifty steps.

One of those who heard Tayādūq discourse challenged him, saying: "If what you assert is true, why is it that Hippocrates, Galen and others died —that not one of them is alive now?" Said the physician: "You are arguing, my son, when you ought to be studying. Those men tried to control their bodies by what was in their power, but what was not in their power was the stronger — I mean death and external factors such as heat and cold, falling down and drowning, injury, mental anguish, and the like. [p.232]

Tayādūq also gave al-Hajjāj the following recommendations:

Never eat unless you are hungry.

Never force yourself to have sexual intercourse.

Do not retain your urine.

Take advantage of your bath before it takes advantage of you [i. e., do not remain too long in the bath?].

Again to al-Hajjāj: Four things ruin life and may even destroy it:

Taking a bath on a full stomach.

Having sexual intercourse after a meal.

Eating dried and salted meat,

Drinking cold water on an empty stomach.

Having intercourse with an old woman is hardly less injurious than any of the aforementioned.

When al-Hajjāj was once plagued with a headache, he sent for Tayādūq, who came and told him to wash his feet in hot water and then oil them. A eunuch in attendance remarked: "By Allāh, I have never seen a physician less proficient in his art. The Emir is complaining of a headache, and you prescribe a treatment for the feet." The physician remarked: "You yourself provide clear proof of the correctness of my prescription." "How so?" inquired the eunuch. Said Tayāduq: "When your testicles were removed, your beard disappeared as well." Al-Hajjāj and all those present burst out laughing.

On another occasion, al-Hajjāj complained to Tayādūq of a weakness of the stomach and difficulties in digestion. The physician said: "Have some pistachios with red outer shells brought to you, crack them and eat their kernels; this will strengthen your stomach." In the evening, al-Hajjāj sent word to all his favorite wives that his physician had prescribed pistachios for him. Thereupon each of them brought him a plate of pistachio kernels. He ate his fill and, as a result, succumbed to an attack of diarrhea that almost cost him his life. He complained to Tayādūq, saying: "You prescribed something most injurious. The [p.233] other replied: "What I told you was to order pistachios in their outer shells and crack them one after the other, chewing the shell, for it contains an aromatic and astringent element, which is a cure for the stomach. You did otherwise." But he cured him of his illness.

Among the stories about Tayādūq and al-Hajjāj, the following is well known. One day, while the physician was visiting him, al-Hajjāj said: "Is there no cure for the habit of eating clay lozenges? "Yes," replied the physician, "the resolution of a man of your caliber, O Emir!", and al-Hajjāj threw away the clay lozenge he was holding and never put one in his mouth from then on.

It is reported that a certain king, seeing Tayādūq grow hoary and old, feared that he might die without leaving a successor, for he was the best physician in the country at the time, both in knowledge and in practice. He said to Tāyadūq: "Prescribe rules for me by which I may govern my body, and I will follow them all my life; for I fear death may carry you off, and I shall not be able to find your equal." Tayādūq replied: "O my King, with the help of God, I will give you ten rules to your advantage. If you are wise enough to abide by them, you will remain in good health for the rest of your days. Here is my decalogue:

1. Do not eat while your stomach still contains food eaten previously.

2. Do not eat what you cannot chew, for your stomach will not be able to digest it.

3. Do not drink water for at least two hours after every meal, for the cause of illness is indigestion, and the cause of indigestion is water on top of food.

4. Take a bath every two days, for the bath will remove from your system what drugs cannot reach.

5. Increase the amount of blood in your body, for this will safeguard your life.

6. Take a vomitive and a purgative every season. [p.234]

7. Do not retain your urine, even when you are out riding.

8. Ease nature before going to sleep.

9. Do not overindulge in sexual intercourse, for this quenches the fire of life, which burns at different intensities in different people.

10. Do not have intercourse with an old woman, for this leads to sudden death.

When the king had heard all this, he ordered his scribe to carve it in pure gold and place the inscription in a case of gold and precious stones. He read it every day and acted in accordance with it, with the result that he was never taken ill during the rest of his life — until death, which nobody can escape, carried him away.

According to Ibrahim ibn al-Qāsim, the scribe, al-Hajjāj one day said to his son Muhammad:

"My son, you know that the physician Tayādūq, by way of his last will and testament, prescribed a regime for me and that I followed his instructions with nothing but good results. When that man was about to die, I visited him and he said: 'Continue to follow the instructions I have given you.' Indeed, I have never forgotten them, and I want you to remember them always. Never take a medicine unless you need it; never eat when your stomach still contains food eaten previously; after eating, walk fifty steps; if you have eaten too much, sleep on your left side; never eat overripe fruit; never eat the meat of any but young animals; do not marry an old woman; use toothpicks;, never eat meat after meat, for meat on top of meat kills the lions in the desert.

Ibrāhīm ibn al-Qāsim, the scribe, in his "History of al-Hajjāj" tells the following story: "When al-Hajjāj had sentenced Sa`id ibn Jūbair, God have mercy upon his soul, one of the best of the Followers [i.e., of the generation after the Prophet] to death, they had long conversations, after which al-Hajjāj ordered him to be killed in his presence. Blood poured forth, which surprised and terrified al-Hajjāj, so that he asked his physician Tayādūq about it. Tayādūq replied: "The reason is that [p.235] his soul was still united with his body. He did not fear death, nor was he afraid of what you would do to him. The others you killed had their souls already separated from their bodies, and therefore there was not much blood.'"

Tayādūq lived to a very great age, and died in Wāsit around the year 90/708. His books are:

1) "The Great Compendium," dedicated to his son.

2) "The Permutation of Drugs and the Ways of Pulverizing, Infusing and Spreading Them."

3) "The Explanation of the Names of Some Drugs."


Zainab, a woman physician of the Banū Awd, was very skillful in the practice of medicine, being especially experienced in the therapeutics of ophthalmic diseases and injuries. She was famed among the Arabs. Abū al-Faraj al-Isfahānī, in his "Great Book of Songs," tells a story which he received via the following chain of tradition: Muhammad ibn Khalaf, the satrap; Hammād ibn Ishāq; his father; Qunnasa; his father; his grandfather, who said: "I visited a woman of the Banū Awd, asking her to cure me of an ophthalmia. She put collyrium in my eye and then said: 'Lie down for a while, so that the drug may circulate.' I did so, and then recited the poet's words, 'Am I to meet death before visiting the physician of the Banū Awd, Zainab, who lives to far away?' She laughed and said: 'Do you know who is meant by this poem?' I said I did not, so she told me: 'By Allāh, it is I; I am the Zainab of whom the poet speaks, the woman physician of the Banū Awd. Do you know at least who the poet is?' I admitted my ignorance and she said: 'It is your uncle, Abū Simāk, of Asad.'" [p.236]


On the Classes of Syrian Physicians Who Lived in the Early Days of the Abbas id Dynasty

We shall begin by discussing Jūrjis, his son Bakhtīshū` and those of the latter's sons who distinguished themselves, and then we shall speak of the other noteworthy physicians of the era.


Jūrjis ibn Jibrāīl was an experienced medical man who was adept with different methods of treatment. He served al-Mansūr as physician and was his favorite, attaining a high rank and receiving considerable emoluments. He translated many Greek books into Arabic for him. Pethion the dragoman tells of the first occasion on which Abū Ja`far al-Mansūr sent for Jūrjis. It was in the year 148/765, when he was afflicted with a stomach disorder, had no appetite, and felt only worse with everything the doctors gave him. He ordered al-Rabī` to assemble the doctors for consultation, and when they were all present, he asked: "Do you know of an experienced physician in any city?" They replied: "There is no one today like Jūrjis, chief physician in Jundaysābūr. He is an experienced medical man and the author of excellent books." Al-Mansūr immediately sent for him.

When the envoy appeared before the governor of the city, Jūrjis was brought in, and the envoy proposed that he leave with him at once. But Jūrjis said: "I must first fulfill my duties here, so you will have to wait for me a few days, and then I will come with you The envoy replied: "Either you leave with me tomorrow voluntarily or I shall force you to [p.237] come." When Jūrjis stood his ground, he was arrested at the envoy's order. As soon as this became known, all the city notables assembled with the metropolitan and urged Jūrjis to go. The latter agreed only after placing his son Bakhtīshū` in charge of the hospital and all his affairs. He meant to take his disciples Ibrahim and Sarjis with him. But his son said: "Do not leave `Isā ibn Shahlā here, for he insults the inmates of the hospital." Jūrjis thereupon left Sarjis behind and took `Isā with him to the City of Peace [Baghdad]. On bidding him farewell, Bakhtīshū` said: "Why do you not take me with you?" Jūrjis replied: "Be not impatient, my son. You are destined to serve kings and attain the highest rank."

When Jūrjis had reached the capital, al-Mansūr ordered him to be brought to the palace. When he was brought in, he saluted the Caliph in both Persian and Arabic, and al-Mansūr was astonished at his elegant appearance and speech. He had him sit in front of him and asked him different questions, which the physician answered calmly. The Caliph then said: "Surely I find in you what I have sought," and he told him all about his illness and how it had begun. Jūrjis said: "I will treat you according to your wishes." The Caliph immediately ordered an honorary robe to be given him, and commanded al-Rabī` to lodge him in a well-appointed apartment and bestow upon him the honors befitting the most distinguished. On the following day Jūrjis visited the Caliph, examined pulse and urine and prescribed a light diet. He went on to apply very gentle treatment, until the Caliph eventually recovered. The Caliph was very pleased with him and ordered that he be given whatever he might wish.

After a while, the Caliph said to al-Rabī`: "I notice that this man's countenance has changed. Could it be that you have refused him his accustomed drink?" Al-Rabī` replied: "We do not permit him to bring any wine into this palace." The Caliph scolded al-Rabī` and said: "You yourself shall provide him with all the wine he desires." Al-Rabī` went to Qutrabbul and brought Jūrjis the best wine he could find there. [p.238]

Two years later, the Caliph said to Jūrjis: "Send somebody to bring your son to us, for we have heard that he is as good a physician as you are." Jūrjis replied: "The city of Jundaysābūr needs him; if he leaves, the hospital there will be ruined. All the inhabitants consult him when they are sick. But I have here with me some disciples whom I have instructed so thoroughly that they are my equals." The Caliph ordered them to be brought before him on the morrow so that he might examine them. On the following day, Jūrjis took `Isā ibn Shahlā with him and presented him to the Caliph, who questioned him on several subjects, and found him keen-witted and skilled in the art of medicine. The Caliph then turned to Jurjis, saying: "How well, indeed, you have instructed this disciple! "

Pethion adds that in the year 151/768, Jūrjis visited the Caliph on Christmas Day, and the Caliph said: "What shall I eat today?" "Whatever you like," said Jurjis, and started to walk away. When he reached the door, the Caliph called him back and said: "Who waits upon you here?" "My disciples," replied Jūrjis. "I understand you have no wife," said the Caliph. "I have an old and ailing wife," answered the physician, "who cannot come and join me here." He then left the Caliph's presence and went to church. The Caliph meanwhile ordered his eunuch Sālim to select three attractive Greek slave girls and take them to Jūrjis with three thousand dirhams.  When Jūrjis returned to his lodgings, `Isā ibn Shahlā told him what had happened. He showed the slaves to his master, who disapproved of the matter and said: "O Devil's disciple, why did you bring these into my apartment? Go and return them to their owner." He rode with `Isā to the Caliph's palace and gave the slaves back to the eunuch. When al-Mansūr heard of this, he called Jūrjis and asked: "Why did you return the slaves?" Said Jūrjis: "They cannot stay in the same house with me, for we Christians do not marry more than one woman; as long as she is alive, we must not marry another." This attitude pleased the Caliph, who immediately ordered that Jūrjis be given access to his favorite and legitimate wives and become their physician. His fame and position rose even higher. [p.239]

In the year 152/769, according to Pethion, Jūrjis became afflicted with a serious illness. The Caliph sent every day to inquire after him. When his condition worsened, the Caliph ordered him to be taken on a stretcher to the public reception hall, where he visited him on foot. He asked him how he was feeling, whereupon Jurjis wept bitterly and said: "O Commander of the Faithful, may God prolong your life! If you would only allow me to return to my hometown to see my wife and son and, when I die, be buried with my forefathers." The Caliph exclaimed: "O Jūrjis, believe in Allāh and become a Muslim, and then I shall guarantee you Paradise." Jūrjis answered: "I will die believing in the faith of my forefathers, and I wish to be where they are, be it Paradise or the Inferno." The Caliph smiled at these words and said: "I have felt truly well from the time you came here to this very day. I have been rid of all the maladies that used to plague me." Said Jūrjis: "I will leave `Isā, whom I have trained myself, here to serve you." The Caliph ordered that Jūrjis be allowed to return to his own town and that he be paid ten thousand dinars. He sent one of his servants with him and told the man: "If he dies on the way, take him to his hometown so that he may be buried there, as he wishes." But Jūrjis arrived at his city still alive.

`Isā ibn Shahlā became the Caliph's physician after him. He harassed the metropolitans and bishops and seized their property. Once he wrote to the Metropolitan of Misibis demanding some very valuable items which belonged to the church. He warned him not to be slow in complying: "Do you not know," he pointed out, "that the Caliph's life is in my hands? I can make him ill and cure him at will." On reading this letter, the Metropolitan decided to revenge himself. He went to al-Rabī`, read the letter to him and explained its contents. Al-Rabī` took the letter to the Caliph and informed him of the whole affair. The Caliph ordered `Isā ibn Shahlā to be expelled, after confiscation of all his property.

The Caliph then said to al-Rabī`: "Look for Jūrjis; if he is still alive, send somebody to bring him here; if he is dead, send for his [p.240] son." Al-Rabī` wrote to the Governor of Jundaysābūr and was informed that just recently Jūrjis had fallen from a roof and become greatly disabled. When the governor had spoken to him of leaving, he had said: "I shall send the Caliph an expert physician, who will serve him until I recover and am able to go to him." He sent his disciple Ibrahim, whom the governor provided with a letter addressed to al-Rabī`, explaining Jūrjis' condition. When Ibrahim reached al-Rabī`, the latter took him to the Caliph, who conversed with him on different subjects. He found the disciple to be intelligent and eloquent, and so he honored him and made him his favorite. He gave him an honorary robe and a sum of money and appointed him his exclusive physician, in which capacity he continued until al-Mansūr's death.

Jūrjis wrote the celebrated "Medical Compendium," which was translated from Syriac into Arabic by Hunayn ibn Ishāq.


Bakhtīshū` ibn Jūrjis. Bakhtīshū` means in Syriac "the servant of Christ."

Bakhtīshū` was his father's equal in both theoretical and practical medicine. He served Hārūn al-Rashīd and distinguished himself during his reign. Pethion reports that when [the Caliph] Mūsā al-Hādī fell ill he sent to Jundaysābūr to fetch Bakhtīshū`, but died before his arrival. The story goes that he assembled all his medical attendants, including Abū Quraysh `Isā, `Abd Allāh al-Tayfūrī and Dā'ud ibn Serapion, and said to them: "You accept my money and my gifts, but in an emergency you fail me." Said Abū Quraysah: "We are doing all we can, but Allāh alone grants good health." This remark angered the Caliph, so al-Rabī` said: "We have heard of an expert physician who lives in Nahr Sarsar and whose name is `Abdīshū` ibn Nasr." The Caliph ordered that physician to be brought to him and his own doctors to be decapitated. However, al-Rabī` did not execute them, suspecting the order to be a consequence of insanity brought on by disease — he had nothing to fear from the Caliph. Then he sent to Sarsar for the physician. [p.241]

When `Abdīshū` was brought to Mūsā, the Caliph asked him: "Have you seen my urine?" The physician replied: "Yes, indeed, O Emir of the Faithful. I shall prepare a medicine for you which you will take, and after nine hours you will be cured and saved." He went out and said to the medical men: "Do not worry, for this very day you will be back in your homes." Al-Hādī ordered the physician to be paid ten thousand dirhams with which to buy the medicine, but `Abdīshū` took the money and sent it to his own house. He brought some drugs, gathered all the doctors near the Caliph and said to them: "Grind hard, so that he hears it and calms down; at the end of the day, you will be free." Every hour the Caliph called the physician and asked him for the medicine, and he answered: "It is coming, you can hear the sound of the grinding," and the Caliph would be silent. Nine hours later, the Caliph died, and the medical men were released. This happened in the year 170/786.

Pethion adds that in 171/787, Hārūn al-Rashīd, who was suffering from a bout of headache, said to Yahyā ibn Khālid: "The medical men here are of no use at all." Said Yahyā: "O Emir of the Faithful, Abū Quraysh was the physician of your father and your mother." "Still, he is no good," insisted the Caliph. "I honor him because of his established reputation, but you must find me a competent physician." Yahyā said: "When your brother Mūsā was ill, your father had a physician named Bakhtīshū` brought from Jundaysābūr." "Why did he let him go?" demanded the Caliph. "When he saw that `Isā Abū Quraysh and your mother did not like him, he permitted him to go back to his own city." Said the Caliph: "Send a courier to fetch him if he is still alive." A short while later, Bakhtīshū` the Great, the son of Jūrjis, arrived. He came to Hārūn al-Rashīd and saluted him in Arabic and Persian. The Caliph smiled and said to Yahyā ibn Khālid: "You are a logician, philosophize with him, so that I may hear him talk." Said Yahyā: "We had better call the medical men." They were summoned — Abū Quraysh Isā, `Abd Allāh al-Tayfūrī, Dā'ud ibn Serapion  and Sarjis. [p.242]

When they saw Bakhtīshū`, Abū Quraysh exclaimed: "O Emir of Faithful, there is none among us who can converse with this man, for he epitomizes philosophy. He and his father and the entire family are all philosophers." Al-Rashīd then ordered one of his servants to bring Bakhtīshū` the urine of a riding animal, in order to test him. When this had been done, the physician exclaimed: O Emir of the Faithful, this is not human urine." Said Abū Quraysh: "You are wrong, this is the urine of the Caliph's favorite wife." Said Bakhtīshū: "Let me tell you, O honourable Shaikh, that no human being ever produced this; if what you say is true, then perhaps that favorite has become a beast." The Caliph then asked him: "How did you know it is not human urine?" The physician replied: "It has not the consistency, the color nor the smell of human urine." The Caliph asked: "Under whom did you study?" — "Under my father, Jūrjis." The medical men said: "His father's name was indeed Jūrjis, and there was no one like him in his time. Ja`far al-Mansūr used to honor him greatly." The Caliph then turned to Bakhtīshū` and said: "What do you advise feeding to whoever passed this urine?" — "Good barley." The Caliph laughed heartily and ordered Bakhtīshū` to be given a beautiful and precious robe and a large sum of money. Then he said: "Bakhtīshū` is to be my chief physician and to be obeyed by all the others."

Bakhtīshū` ibn Jūrjis wrote the following books:

1) "An Abridged Medical Compendium"

2) A memorial work composed for his son Jibrā'īl.


Jibra'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` ibn Jūrjīs, a man of great renown, was an excellent physician and a noble soul. Fate smiled on him — he was the favorite of the caliphs, who accorded him a high position and great distinctions, in addition to large benefices, such as no physician had ever been granted before. [p.243]

In the year 175/791-2, according to Pethion the Dragoman, Ja`far ibn Yahyā ibn Khālid ibn Barmak was taken ill, and al-Rashīd asked Bakhtīshu` to attend him. A few days later, Ja`far said to the physician: "I would like you to choose an expert physician for me, whom I will honor and favor." Bakhtīshū replied: "My son Jibrā'īl is even better than I; he has not his equal among all the physicians." Ja`far ordered him to bring his son to him. The latter came and cured Ja`far in three days, up to complete recovery. Ja`far loved him as he loved himself, would not spend a single hour without him, and would eat and drink in his company.

During those days one of the favorite women of al-Rashīd stretched and raised her hand, which remained stretched without her being able to move it. The physicians treated her with ointments and unguents, but all to no avail. Al-Rashīd then said to Ja`far ibn Yahyā: "This girl is still sick!" The other replied: "I have an expert physician, who is the son of Bakhtrshū`. Let us call him and ask him about this sickness, for maybe he has the means to cure it." The Caliph ordered him to be brought in, and when he arrived he asked him: "What is your name?" —"Jibrā'īl." — "What do you know about medicine?" — "I can cool what is hot and warm what is cold, humidify what is dry and dry what is moist — all that is unnatural." The Caliph laughed, saying: "Indeed this is what the art of medicine is all about." He explained the girl's condition, and Jibrā'īl said: "If you promise not to be angry with me, O Emir of the Faithful, I will tell you the means I know of curing her." — "What is it?" — "Let the girl be brought here, in the presence of the people gathered, so that I can do as I wish, but have patience with me, and do not be in a hurry to get angry!

The Caliph had the girl brought in. When Jibrā'īl saw her, he ran to her, bent his head and took hold of the edge of her garment, as if he was going to uncover her. The girl was stupefied and, thanks to her shame and emotion she recalled the use of her limbs and threw her [p.244] hands down to catch the edge of her robe. Jibrāīl then said; "O Emir of the Faithful, she is cured!" The Caliph ordered the girl to stretch her hands, the right and then the left, which she did, and the Caliph and the entire audience were astonished. Al-Rashīd immediately ordered that Jibrā'īl be given five hundred thousand dirhams. He came to love him dearly, and made him his chief physician. When Jibrā'īl was asked about the cause of that sickness, he answered: "During sexual intercourse this woman had a soft mixture pouring into her members, resulting from all the excitement and the expansion of heat; now, as the excitement caused by the sexual act stops suddenly, the rest of this mixture froze inside all her nerves, and nothing could dissolve it but movement again. I tried to cause her heat to spread, and so the rest of the mixture dissolved."

Pethion also reports that Jibrā'īl's position became stronger and stronger, to the point where al-Rashīd addressed his entourage, saying: "Let anyone who needs anything from me talk to Jibrā'īl about it, for I do everything he asks me," The commanders used to consult him in all their affairs, and his standing was ever enhanced. From the day he entered al-Rashīd's service until fifteen years later, the Caliph was never sick, and the physician was held highly in his esteem. Having arrived at Tūd, al-Rashīd was finally stricken with his fatal malady. When it became worse, he asked Jibrā'īl: "Why do you not cure me?" The physician answered: "I have always forbidden you to eat different foods at once, and I have been saying to you for a long time to ease up on your sexual relations — and you did not listen to me. Now I am asking you to return to your city, for it agrees better with your temperament, and you again refuse. This illness is grave, let us hope that God will grant you recovery." The Caliph ordered Jibrā'īl to be arrested.

The caliph was told that in Persia there was a bishop who had some knowledge of medicine, so he sent somebody to bring him over. When the bishop arrived and saw the Caliph, he said: "Whoever has been treating you does not know anything about medicine." These words added to the [p.245] estrangement of Jibrā'īl, but al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī`, who loved Jibrā'īl, saw that this bishop was a liar who wanted to assure the debit of his merchandise, and he realized the huge difference between him and Jibrā'īl. The bishop treated al-Rashīd, while his illness went from bad to worse; however, he would say to him, "You are close to recovery," and add, "All this is the result of Jibrā'īl's error." Then al-Rashīd ordered Jibrā'īl to be killed but al-Fadl ibn al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī` would not obey him for he now despaired of the Caliph's life, and so had Jibrā'īl saved. A few days later, al-Rashīd died. During these very days al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī` himself was attacked by a severe stomachache, to the point where all the doctors lost hope for his life. Jibrā'īl applied the gentlest and most expert treatment. This cured him, and al-Fadl's love and admiration for the physician increased.

Pethion continues that when Muhammad al-Amīn became Caliph, Jibrā'īl presented himself to him, and was received with the warmest welcome, honored and given great sums of money, even more than he had received from al-Rashīd. Al-Amīn would eat and drink only with his permission.  When al-Amīn fell from power, and his brother al-Ma'mūn took the reins of government, the former wrote to his lieutenant in the capital, al-Hasan ibn Sahl, telling him to arrest Jibrā'īl, for after the death of his father al-Rashīd, this physician did not attach himself to al-Ma'mūn's court, but went to his brother al-`Amīn.

Al-Hassan ibn Sahl arrested Jibrā'īl, but in 202/817-8 he was afflicted with a very grave illness, which no doctor was able to cure. He then released Jibrā'īl from prison so that he could treat him, and indeed he was cured in a few days. Al-Hasan secretly handed the physician enormous sums of money and wrote to al-Ma'mūn, informing him of his illness and of how he had recovered thanks to Jibrā'īl's treatment. He asked the Caliph what to do with him, and al-Ma'mūn replied that he might be pardoned.

When al-Ma'mūn entered the capital in 205/820, he ordered Jibrā'īl to stay in his house and not to serve at court. He asked that the medical man Mikhā'īl, Jibrā'īl's nephew, be brought to him and gave him the post of court physician, honoring him greatly to spite Jibrā'īl. In the year 210/825-6, al-Ma'mūn fell gravely ill. The best physician tended to him, [p.246] but in vain. The Caliph said to Mikhā'īl. "The treatment you give me only adds to my sufferings. Go call the physicians and consult them on my case." His brother, Abū `Isā, said to the Caliph, "O Emir of the Faithful, let us bring Jibrā'īl, for he is acquainted with our tempers from childhood." The Caliph ignored him, while the other brother, Abū Ishāq, brought in Yāhannā ibn Māsawayhi. Mikhā'īl, the Caliph's physician, flew into a jealous rage and cursed Yūhanna. At last, when the Caliph became so weak that he could not even take his medicines, he was reminded again of Jibrā'īl and ordered him to be summoned.

Jibrā'īl changed his whole treatment. The very next day he felt better, and by the third day he started to recuperate. Al-Ma'mūn was delighted, and in a few more days he recovered completely. Jubra'īl put him on a strict diet, to which he adhered. His brother Abū `Isā, who was sitting and drinking with the Caliph, said to him, "How is it possible not to honor this man, who had no equal?" Al-Ma'mūn then ordered him to be paid a million dirhams and a thousand measures of wheat, and that everything which had been confiscated from him be restored, both movable and fixed property. When the Caliph addressed Jibrā'īl, he would surname him Abū `Isā Jibrā'īl, and he honored him even more than his father had. The physician rose so high in rank that everyone who was put in charge of a governmental task did not go about his job before offering homage to Jibrā'īl, who was like the Caliph's father; on the other hand, Mikhā'īl, Jibrā'īl's nephew, was demoted and debased.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells the following story, "One summer I visited Jibrā'īl in his house in the hippodrome. He was seated at a table, on which there were pigeon chicks, feathered about the legs, prepared a la cardinage [boiled and then roasted] with pepper, Jibrā'īl was eating them and invited me to join him, but I refused, saying: 'How can I eat that at this season of the year, while I am just an adolescent?' Jibrā'īl asked: 'What is your diet?' — 'Abstention from harmful food.' — 'You are wrong that is not a diet.' Then he added, 'I have never known anyone, be he an [p.247] important personage or one of the simple folk, who could abstain from a certain food all through life unless he hated it and his body could not tolerate it; for a person abstains from a certain food for a period of his life, and then he is forced to eat it, either for lack of a substitute, for various reasons, or because he has to please a sick man or a friend who asks him to eat it. Sometimes it is just an appetite which overcomes him. Now, when he has eaten it, after having abstained for a long time, his nature does not accept it, or rather rejects it, and it may lead to a serious illness or even death. The best thing for the body is to give it practice in receiving harmful food until it gets used to it. One has to eat a little of it every day, of one kind only, being careful not to mix two different kinds of this type of food in one day, and if one has partaken of it one day, there is no need to eat it again the following day. For the body, once accustomed to this type of food, will not reject it when forced to accept larger quantities. Indeed, we see that purgative medicines that have been taken habitually for a long time have a very slight or no effect. Take the Andalusians — when one of them wants to evacuate, he takes three dirhams' weight of scammony in order to loosen his bowels, whereas in our own country half a dirham's weight would have the same effect. This is so because bodies get used to drugs to the point where they prevent their effect. Now bodies are even more adaptable to food, even if it is harmful." Yūsuf adds: "I told Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl this story, and he asked me to dictate it to him, so he wrote it down in my name."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim also tells the following story, as it was told to him by Sulaymān, the eunuch from Khurasan, al-Rashīd's servant, who said; "I was standing one day serving al-Rashīd his meal, while we were in al-Hīrah, when suddenly `Awn al-`Ibādī the jeweler came in, carrying a large plate that contained an extremely fat fish: this he placed in front of the Caliph, together with a stuffing especially prepared for it. Al-Rashīd wanted to taste it, but Jibrā'īl would not let him, and made a sign to the host to put it aside for him, a sign which did not escape al-Rashīd. At the end of the [p.248] meal al-Rashīd washed his hands, and the physician went out. The Caliph ordered me to follow him secretly, watch all his actions, and inform him of them, which I did. I suspected, however, that Jibrā'īl was aware of this because of the precautions I saw him taking. He went to a part of `Awn's house and ordered the food. When it was brought up, with the fish, he called for three silver cups, put a piece of the fish in one of them, and poured some wine of Tiranābādh, without water, saying: 'This is Jibrā'īl's portion.' In the second cup he put another piece of the fish, poured ice-water on it and said: 'This is the portion of the Emir of the Faithful, if he would not mix the fish with other foods.' In the third cup he put a piece of the fish, together with pieces of meat of various kinds, a roast, sweetmeats, cold cuts, chicken and vegetables. He poured ice-water over all this and said: 'This is the food of the Emir of the Faithful, if he would like to mix the fish with other food.' Then he brought the three cups to the host, saying: 'Keep them until the Emir of the Faithful wakes up from his nap.'

Sulaymān the eunuch continues: "After that Jibrā'īl turned his attention to the fish and ate of it until he burst. Whenever he was thirsty he called for a cup of undiluted wine and drank it; then he fell asleep. When al-Rashīd woke up he called me and asked for news about Jibrā'īl's affair, whether he had eaten from the fish or not. I told him the whole story, and he ordered the three cups to be brought to him. He found the contents of the one with the undiluted wine all crumbled to nothing; the one with the ice-water had doubled its contents, and the mixed cup had become very foul-smelling. Al-Rashīd ordered me to pay Jibrā'īl five thousand dinars, saying: Who can blame me for loving this person, who watches my diet so carefully?', I brought him the money myself."

Ishāq ibn `Alī from Edessa, in his book "The Education of the Physician " tells the story which he got from `Isā ibn Māsah who had it from Yūhannā ibn Māsawāyhi. Al-Rashīd once said to Jibrā'īl during a pilgrimage to Mecca: "O Jibra'īl, do you realize the place you occupy in my eyes?" The physician replied: "O master, how can I ignore it?" — [p.249] "I've prayed for you, by Allāh, during our stay and have made a great many vows in your favor." The Caliph then turned to his family and said: "Does anyone disapprove of what I have just said to him?" They answered: "O our master, Jibrā'īl is a non-Muslim" [a tributary subject]. The Caliph replied: "Yes, but my health and strength depend on him, and the well-being of the Muslims depends on me, so that their well-being depends on Jibrā'īl's terms of stay and favor." They conceded this, saying: "You are right, O Emir of the Faithful."

I have copied the following from one of the chronicles. Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` the physician had said: "I bought property worth 700,000 dirhams, paying a part of the price, while I had difficulty in raising the rest. I visited Yahyā ibn Khālid, who was with his children. He noticed that I was in a pensive mood and said to me: "I can see you are preoccupied with something, what is it?" Said I, I have bought a property worth 700,000, paid part of the price, but the rest I could not afford. He ordered an inkstand and wrote down, Jibrā'īl should be paid 700, 000 dirhams. He passed the paper to each of his children, who added twice 300,000 dirhams. I exclaimed, May I be your ransom! I have already paid most of the sum, and the rest is only a small amount He insisted, saying, 'Spend it in a way that you will enjoy. I went then to the Caliph's palace, who, having seen me, asked: 'What is the cause of your delay? — O Emir of the Faithful, I have been to your father and brothers, who behaved toward me in such and such a way, all because of my service to you. The Caliph asked: 'Then what ought I to do for you? He ordered his horse and rode to Yahyā, to whom he said: O my father, Jibrā'īl has just informed me of all that has happened What is my position now among your children? Said Yahyā, 'O Emir of the Faithful, order any sum you please, to be taken to him. So he gave me 500,000 dirhams."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim, the astrologer known as Ibn al-Dāyah reports that Umm-Ja`far, the daughter of Abū al-Fadl, had a hall in the castle [p.250] of `Isā ibn `Alī, where she lived, in which she assembled only astrologers and physicians. She would never complain about an illness to a physician without having all the men of the two above-mentioned professions come and wait in that hall until she entered. She used to sit in one of two places -either near the window overlooking the big shop, which is situated opposite that window and the main door of the house, or near the small entrance opposite the castle's mosque. The astrologers and physicians would sit outside the place she chose. She then described whatever she was suffering from, and the physicians held council among themselves until they reached a unanimous decision as to the nature of the illness and its treatment. If there was a difference of opinion, the astrologers would intervene and defend the view that seemed right to them. The patient would then ask the astrologers to choose a suitable time for the treatment. If they agreed unanimously, there was nothing more to be said, but if not, the physicians would examine the different views and pronounce the one that seemed the most logical to them.

Once Umm Ja`far fell ill just when she had decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, which indeed was to be her last. The physicians agreed on the necessity of cupping her thighs. The astrologers chose a day for the treatment, which coincided with the month of Ramadan [the month of fasting], so that it was impossible to do the cupping except very late in the evening. The astrologers who used to be summoned included al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Tamimi from Tūs, known as al-Abahh; `Ūmar ibn al-Farkhān al-Tabarī and the Jew Shw'ayb.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim continues: "When al-Abahh was ill or when something prevented him from presenting himself at the castle of Umm Ja`far, I would go there in his stead: so I went that time, when the date of the cupping was chosen. I met there a son of Dā'ud ibn Serapion, who was an adolescent and seemed not more than twenty years old, and yet Ūmm Ja`far had ordered him to be present among the physicians, so that he might acquire knowledge from the discussions. She had asked all the [p.251] attendant physicians to instruct and treat him well, considering the place his father had occupied among her servants.

I encountered him arguing with an ascetic physician from al-'Ahwāz who had arrived at her palace that day to be consulted on the question whether or not a man who wakens at night should drink water. Said Ibn Dā'ud: 'Allāh did not create a more stupid being than the one who drinks water when awakening from sleep!' Jibrā'īl arrived at the gates of the palace just when the young man had uttered these words, so he entered the hall exclaiming: 'By Allāh, even more stupid is the one who suffers a fire burning in his liver, and does not put it out!' He then came in and asked: 'Who is the author of those words I have just heard?' He was told Ibn Dā'ud. He reproached this man, saying: 'Your father held a high position in this profession, and you say such things?' The young man answered: 'Would that God were to elevate you to the same rank! You are the one who permits the drinking of water after waking up at night? Jibrā'īl replied: 'As for a person who is hot-tempered, or has a dry stomach, or one who has eaten salty food for supper — I permit it to him, but those who have humid stomachs or salty phlegm are forbidden to do it, for in abstaining from drinking there is a cure to the humidity of their stomach, while a part of their salty phlegm absorbs and destroys the other part."

All present kept silent at that, except I, who said to Jibrā'īl: "O Abū `Isā, there is still one thing to consider.' — 'What is that?' —'The man who feels thirsty has to know as much about medicine as you do, in order to distinguish the cause of his thirst, whether it is bitterness or salty phlegm.' Jibrā'īl answered, laughing: 'When you get thirsty during the night, put your feet out of the blanket and wait for a while. If your thirst continues, its cause is a hot temper or a food that requires water after it, so go and drink. If your thirst diminishes a little, abstain from drinking water, for it is necessarily caused by salty phlegm.'"

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm adds that Jibrā'īl was once asked by Abū Ishāq Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdī concerning the malady called wirshikīn. He [p.252] answered: "This is a name formed by the Persians from the two words fracture and belly. Belly in correct Persian is wir, vulgarly bir; fracture is called ishkin, and when you put the two words together, you get wirshikin, that is to say, that kind of special malady which is caused by the fracture of the stomach; it usually does not stay with a person for a long time. Once the sufferer has recovered, however, one cannot be sure that it will not recur within a year, unless he has suffered a serious hemorrhage during his illness or within the year following, rejected by nature through the nose or the lower parts. When this happens, recovery is complete." Abū Ishāq exclaimed, as one astonished: "A whole year! Jibrā'īl replied: "Yes, may Allāh hold me as your ransom! There is another disease which people consider too lightly, which is scarlet fever. I am never sure it will not recur for a whole year, unless the person afflicted by it suffers afterwards either an evacuation so strong as to almost kill him or a great abcess. If one of these occurs, I am sure of complete recovery."

Yūsuf tells also that Jibrā'īl once visited Abū Ishāq while he was recovering from an illness. Jibrā'īl had already permitted him to eat dry meat but when he sat down, he noticed that the patient was served moistened groats' meal. He ordered it to be removed, and when I asked him for the reason he said: "I have never permitted a Caliph who had a fever for even one day to eat groats for a whole year." Abū Ishāq asked: "What kind of groats do you mean, the kind prepared with sour milk or the kind without?" Jibrā'īl replied: "The kind without sour milk I prohibit for a whole year. According to the rules of medicine, it is not advisable to permit even groats prepared with sour milk, unless three years have passed."

Maymūn ibn Hārūn tells the following story, which he received from Sa`īd ibn Ishāq the Christian, who heard it from Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` who said: "I was staying with al-Rashīd in al-Raggah. His two sons [p.253] al-Ma'mūn and Muhammad al-Amīn were also there. Al-Rashīd was a corpulent man, who ate and drank a great deal. One day, having eaten several kinds of food, he went for a siesta and lost consciousness. He was brought out, but his swoon grew deeper, until there was no doubt that he was going to die. I was called and came over. I felt his artery and found his pulse inaudible. A few days previously he had complained of plethora and agitation in his blood. I said to the bystanders: He will die if you do not cup him immediately. Al-Ma'mūn consented to this, and the cupper was brought in. I made the Caliph sit. After the glasses were fixed and started to suck, I saw the place redden, and this gave me great satisfaction for I knew he was still alive. I ordered the cupper to cut, which he did, and the blood rushed out. I prayed and gave thanks to God. The more the Caliph's blood poured out the more he moved his head and assumed a livelier expression, until eventually he spoke up, saying: 'Where am I?' We consoled him, fed him white chicken breast and gave him wine to drink, all the while letting him smell good odors and applying perfumes to his nostrils, until his strength returned. He ordered his people to come in, and God restored his health.

"A few days later, the Caliph summoned the chief of his guards and asked him how much his yearly income was. The man informed him that it was 300,000 dirhams. The Caliph asked his Chief of Police the same question and was informed that he earned 500,000 yearly. Having asked his chamberlain about his pay, he got the answer: 'One million dirhams'. Al-Rashīd then said to me: 'I did not do you justice, for these people, who guard me from human beings, get the salaries they have just quoted. You, who guard me from disease and infirmity, receive only what you have told me?' And he ordered to be allotted an income of one million dirhams. I said: "O my master, I do not need this allowance. Give me the money to buy some property. This granted, I bought property worth a million dirhams, so that all my property is mine in full right of possession, not only usufructuary." [p.254]

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells in the name of Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī that Jibrā'īl took refuge with the latter while the mob pillaged his house during the Caliphate of Muhammad al-Amīn. Abū Ishāq lodged him in his palace and guarded him from those who wanted to kill him. Abū Ishāq said: "I saw that Jibrā'īl was in such anguish and sorrow for the riches he had lost, plunged in so profound a despair, that I could not understand how he could be so attached to his property. Then when the Mubayyidah [the Whites] rose in revolt and the `Alides had the upper hand in al-Basrah and al-Ahwāz, Jibrā'īl came up to me as happy as if he had just won 100,000 dinars. I remarked: I see that Abū `Isa is quite happy. He replied, 'By Allāh, I am happy. I am happiness itself!" When I asked him the reason for all this joy, he answered: 'The `Alides took over my lands and lit the fire signals on them.' I exclaimed: 'What an astonishing attitude you take! When the mob pillaged a part of your property you went out of your mind with sorrow, as we well know. Now the `Alides have taken over all your property, and you show this happiness!' Jibrā'īl explained thus: 'My affliction for the crimes of the mob sprang from the fact that I was assaulted in my fortress and was despoiled of my honor; those who were supposed to defend me gave me away. The `Alides' conduct did not affect me at all, for it is quite impossible for a man of my standing to live with the same favor under two different governments. If the `Alides had not done what they did to my property, they would have had to order the protection of the intendants and agents in all my farms and fields, knowing nevertheless my complete devotion to my masters, whose favors God has granted me to enjoy. They could have said — Jibrā'īl was favoring us during the reign of his masters, spending his money on us and informing us of the news — but then if this had become known to the Sultan, he would have killed me. As a consequence, I am happy that my property is seized, while I am safe and sound and do not fall prey to the fate these ignorant boors had intended for me, and which they realized in respect of my property.'" [p.255]

Yūsuf reports in the name of the eunuch Farakh, known as Abū Khurāsān, the client and agent of Sālih ibn al-Rashīd, who said: "My master Sālih ibn al-Rashīd was the governor of Basrah, His repres-sentative there was Abū al-Rāzī. When Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` built his house in the hippodrome, he asked my master for a gift of five hundred teak trees. Since one teak tree cost thirteen dinars, my master found the request inordinate, and said to the physician: 'As for five hundred —no! but I will write to Ibn al-Rāzī to provide you with two hundred trees." Jibrā'īl answered: 'If that is the case, I have no need of them." Farakh continues: "I said to my master, I suspect that Jibra'īl is contriving something hateful against you. He replied: 'Jibrā'īl is the easiest man for me to deal with, for I never take any of his drugs or get any treatment from him.' After that, my master asked for a visit to the Caliph al-Ma'mūn [his brother]. When he finally sat face to face with the latter, Jibrā'īl said to the Caliph: 'Your countenance seems altered to me.' He went up to him and felt his pulse, and then said: 'The Emir of the Faithful must take a drink of sagapenum and suspend all nourishment until after we know what is the matter.' Al-Ma'mūn obeyed the orders of the physician, who came to feel his pulse every now and then, not saying a word, until his servants brought a single loaf of bread with some food prepared from pumpkin, green peas and the like. The physician said to the Caliph: 'I do not wish the Emir of the Faithful to eat any meat today. It is better for him to partake of this food.' The Caliph ate and fell asleep: the moment he woke up from his nap the physician said: 'O Emir of the Faithful, the smell of wine increases the heat. My advice is to retire.' Al-Ma'mūn did so, and all my master's expenses were wasted: thereupon, he said to me, 'O Abū Khurasan, the difference between two hundred and five hundred teak trees, and a futile visit paid to the Caliph are two things that are not to be compared!'"

Yūsuf also tells an anecdote in the name of Jūrjis ibn Mikhā'īl, who got it from Jibrā'īl himself. Jibrā'īl was his maternal uncle, and had a [p.256] a high respect for him because of his great knowledge. Yūsuf affirms that there was nobody in that family after Jibrā'īl who was more learned than he, in spite of his great amour propre and his foolishness. This Jūrjis reports that Jibrā'īl told him that once, on the 1st of Muharram 187/802, he had blamed al-Rashīd for eating too little. He could not find anything in his urine or pulse which indicated any illness that could account for his abstention from food. He said to al-Rashīd: "O Emir of the Faithful, ycur body is healthy and free of all sickness, thank God. I do not understand why you deprive yourself of food." Jibrā'īl continues — After I had insisted for a long time on this point, the Caliph answered me: "I find Madinat al-Salām [Baghdad] an unhealthy place, but I would not like to venture far from it these days. Do you know a salubrious place in the neighborhood?" I replied — 'Al-Hīrah, O Emir of the Faithful.' He then said: "We have stayed in al-Hīrah several times already and were a burden on `Awn al- `Ibādī during our sojourn in his palace. Besides, it is still far.'' I suggested —"O Emir of the Faithful, al-Anbār is a good place, even in judging by appearances, and its air is even purer than al-Hīrah's." We went there but al-Rashīd's appetite did not pick up at all; on the contrary, he ate less and fasted every Thursday, two days and one night before he killed Ja`far.

Ja`far, who was also fasting, brought the Caliph's supper, but al-Rashīd hardly ate a thing. Ja`far asked: "O Emir of the Faithful, I wish you would eat a little more." Al-Rashīd replied: "I could have eaten more if I wished, but I like to pass the night on a light stomach, so that I get up in the morning with a good appetite and breakfast with my wives. " Early Friday morning, the Caliph went riding to take the fresh air, and Ja`far ibn Yahyā accompanied him. I saw the Caliph put his hand into Ja`far's sleeve until he touched his body; he embraced him hugged him, and kissed him between the eyes. They went on riding for more than a thousand feet, the Caliph's hand still in Ja`far's. When they returned to the palace, the Caliph said: "By my life, you go and enjoy yourself today, as I will be [p.257] occupied with my family." Then he turned to me, saying: "Jibra'īl, I will breakfast with my wives, so you go with my brother and share his happiness." I went with Ja`far, who ordered the food, and we ate breakfast Then he commanded Abū Zakkār the singer to come in, and nobody else was present there but us. I saw the servants come up to him one after the other, telling him things secretly. When they went away, he breathed deeply, and said: "O Abū Isā, woe to you! The Emir of the Faithful has not yet eaten anything. By Allāh, I fear that he is suffering from a sickness which prevents him from eating." Whenever Ja`far wanted to drink a cup of wine, he ordered Abū Zakkār to sing the following verses [- - - - -].

Abū Zakkār sang the melody to him, and Ja`far did not ask any more of him. We continued thus until the last evening prayer was over, whereupon Abū Hāshim Masrūr the senior and his lieutenant Harthamah ibn A`yan entered with a large troop of soldiers. The lieutenant Harthamah seized Ja`far's hand in his and said to him: "Stand up, O impious! Jibrā'īl adds —I was not addressed at all, and no order was issued against me, so I went immediately to my lodgings, not understanding what was going on. I was hardly there half an hour when the Caliph's messenger came and ordered me to go to him. When I arrived I saw Ja`far's head in a basin before him. The Caliph said to me: "O Jibrā'īl, did you not ask me the reason for my abstention from food?" I replied "O Emir of the Faithful, I certainly did! Said al-Rashīd: "Thinking about what you see here was driving me into that state, but today, Jibrā'īl, I have the appetite of a she-camel. Bring forth my food, so that you may witness an astonishing increase of my former intake, for I have been eating a little at a time, lest the food overload my stomach and make me sick." The Caliph then ordered his food to be brought in, and he ate copiously that same night.

Yūsuf tells the following story, having heard it from Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī. Owing to a medicine he had taken, the latter did not attend, on a certain evening, the council of the Caliph Muhammad al-Amīn during his caliphate. Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` visited him early the next morning, [p.258] delivered the Caliph's greetings to him, and asked about his health since taking the drug. Jibrā'īl then drew nearer and said to him: "The Caliph is going to send Alī ibn Isā ibn Mahān to Khurāsān in order to fetter al-Ma'mūn in a silver chain and give him up to him." Jibrā'īl, on his part, had vowed to renounce Christianity in the event that al-Mamūn did not overcome Muhammad, kill him and usurp his empire. Ibrāhīm said to Jibrā'īl: "Woe to you! Why did you make this vow — how could you?" He replied: "Because this obsessed Caliph became drunk last night and called for Abū `Ismah the Shi`ite, the head of his guard. He made him take off his black garment and dressed him in my clothes, my [non-muslim] waist belt, and my cap. He then clothed me in his robes and black garments, his sword and belt, and made me sit in the place of the chief guard until dawn, while Abū `Ismah was put in my place. The Caliph said to each of us: 'I have invested you with your companion's post, and I said to myself — Allāh is surely altering his favor toward this ruler, for he himself reverses the favor he holds. He confers his guard on a Christian, while Christianity is the humblest of religions, for in the credo of no other religion than mine is it said: 'Submit to all your enemy's hateful schemes, for instance, obey the one who forces you contemptuously. If you have walked for a mile, add another mile to it. If you are slapped on the cheek, turn the other cheek in order to be slapped again. I thought that his faculties were diminishing and that when he introduces this Abū `Ismah into his council as his medical man, as the one who is supposed to guard his life, to govern the interests of his body, to serve his constitution — this man, who has no notion of any of this — then he is a lost man, who is going to die soon. " Ibrahīm concluded: "The Caliph's fate was exactly what Jibrā'īl had foretold.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim heard the following from Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` himself, who was telling Abū Ishāq Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdī that he was visiting al-Abbās ibn Muhammad when a poet entered his house to praise him. Jubrā'īl listened to him patiently until he arrived at this verse: [p.259]

If it was said to al-`Abbās, 'O son of Muhammad!'
Say 'No,' and you will be immortal,' but he would not say it. 3

Said Jibrā'īl: "When I heard this verse, I could not keep quiet, for I knew al-`Abbās to be the most avaricious of his contemporaries, so I said to the poet — Sir, I suspect you have used substitution, for you meant to say 'yes' but instead said 'no.' Al-`Abbās smiled and said to me: 'Go away, may Allāh disfigure your countenance!' Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah adds that the above-mentioned poet was Rabī`ah al-Rāqqī.

In the same sitting, adds Yūsuf, Jibrā'īl told Abū Ishāq that he once visited al-`Abbās on the morrow of the Christian Easter while his head was still reeling from the excess of wine he had drunk the previous night. All that happened before Jibrā'īl entered al-Rashīd's service. Jibrā'īl asked al `Abbās; "How is the Emir this morning? May God glorify him!" Al-`Abbās replied: "I feel just as you would like me to." Said Jībrā'īl: "By Allāh, the Emir is not this morning what I would wish him to be, neither what Allāh would desire, nor what the Devil would want." Al-`Abbās was angry at his words and said: "What kind of talk is this? May Allāh render you ugly!" Jibrā'īl replied: "I will prove it,' and the Caliph burst out — "Do so now. If not, refine your manners and do not come to see me again!" Jibrā'īl said: "What I would have liked you to be is the Emir of the Faithful. Now, are you?" Al- `Abbās replied in the negative, and Jibrā'īl continued: "The thing that Allāh desires in his creatures is that they obey him in what he has ordered them to do and not do. Are you, O Emir, obeying him?" The Emir admitted his fault, and asked for Allāh's pardon. Jibrā'īl concluded: "What the Devil looks for is that the servants of God will cease to believe in Him and deny His omnipotence. Is that what you are doing, O Emir?" Al- `Abbās replied: "No, but do not repeat this kind of talk after today."

Pethion the dragoman reports that when al-Ma'mūn decided to attack the Byzant in the year 213/828, Jibrā'īl fell gravely ill. When al-Ma'mūn [p.260] saw his infirmity, he asked him to send his son Bakhtīshu` with him to Asia Minor, which he did. Bakhtīshu` was equal to his father in knowledge, intelligence and nobility of character. When al-Ma'mūn conversed with him and heard his fine responses, he was very pleased with him, honored him exceedingly, raised his rank, and took him on his expedition to Byzantium. After al-Ma'mūn had departed, Jibrā'īl's illness progressed until finally he died. He had written a will, making al-Ma'mūn his executor, which he handed to Mīkhā'īl, his nephew. His obsequies were carried out in a manner unparalleled for his peers, in consideration of the merit he had gained in his noble deeds and benevolence. He was buried in al-Madā'in, in the monastery of St. Serjius. When his son Bakhtīshū` returned from Byzantium, he gathered some monks at that monastery and furnished them with all their needs.

Pethion says that the members of the family of Jūrjis and his descendants were the finest people of their time, for God endowed them with nobility, generosity, piety, benevolence, and dignity. They gave alms, visited the poor and wretched sick, supported the oppressed and the unfortunate — all this in a manner defying description.

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah adds that Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` served al-Rashīd for a period of twenty-three years, from the moment he first became attached to him up to his death. In the treasury of Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` a scroll was found written by the scribe of Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` senior, with corrections inserted in the hand of Jibrā'īl himself, containing a list of all his revenues during his service to al-Rashīd. He mentions there that his total monthly earnings were ten thousand dirhams in silver, this being one hundred and twenty thousand per year, and a grand total of two million six hundred and sixty thousand. His living allowance per month was five thousand dirhams, that is sixty thousand dirhams per year, and one million three hundred and eighty thousand dirhams during the twenty-three years. He also received precious robes, the equivalent of fifty [p.261] thousand dirhams, which in twenty-three years accumulated to the value of of one million one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams. Enumeration of the robes in detail:

1) Twenty pieces of gold brocade cloth from Tirāz.

2) Twenty pieces of fine cloth from Tirāz, known as Mul`ham.

3) Ten pieces of silk called al-Mansūrī.

4) Ten pieces of silk of great worth.

5) Ten robes of imprinted silk from Yemen.

6) Three robes of imprinted silk from Nisibis.

7) Three Persian mantles.

8) Three satin robes, with a lining of the following furs; sable, fox, ermine, weasel, minever.

In addition, each year at the beginning of the Christian feast, Jibrā'īl was paid fifty thousand dirhams in silver, which in twenty-three years accumulated to one million one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams. Every year, on Palm Sunday, he received robes of imprinted silk, brocade, Mulham and the like, the equivalent of ten thousand dirhams, which came to two hundred and thirty thousand dirhams in twenty-three years. Every year, on the day of al-Fitr [the end of the long Muslim fast] he was given fifty thousand dirhams in silver, or one million one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams in twenty-three years, and robes worth ten thousand dirhams, as it is told, which is two hundred and thirty thousand in twenty-three years.

For the treatment of al-Rashīd he was paid in two installments per year, each consisting of fifty thousand dirhams in silver. One hundred thousand per year makes two million three hundred thousand dirhams, in the twenty-three years. For the composition of drugs he was also paid twice a year, each time fifty thousand dirhams, which is one hundred thousand dirhams per year, and two million three hundred thousand in twenty-three years. [p.262]

According to what he himself wrote, Jibrā'īl received from al-Rashīd's entourage four hundred thousand dirhams in robes, perfumes and beasts of burden. In twenty-three years this source of income amounted to nine million two hundred thousand dirhams. In detail, these personages and their gifts are as follows:

1) `Isā ibn Ja`far, fifty thousand dirhams.

2) Zubaydah the mother of Ja`far, fifty thousand dirhams.

3) Al-`Abbāsa, fifty thousand dirhams.

4) Ibrāhīm ibn `Uthmān, thirty thousand dirhams.

5) Al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī, fifty thousand dirhams.

6) Fātimah the mother of Muhammad, seventy thousand dirhams.

7) Garments, perfumes, beasts of burden, one hundred thousand dirhams.

The annual revenue of his lands in Jundysābūr, al-Sūs, al-Basrah and al-Sawād, taxes deducted, was eight hundred thousand dirhams in silver, which in twenty-three years gave him eighteen million four hundred thousand dirhams.

From the Barmakides he received a yearly payment of two million four hundred thousand dirhams in silver. In detail:

1) Yahyā ibn Khālid, six hundred thousand dirhams.

2) Ja`far ibn Yahyā the Vizir, one million two hundred thousand dirhams.

3) Al-Fadl ibn Yahyā, six hundred thousand dirhams.

This amounted to thirty-one million two hundred thousand dirhams, in a period of thirteen years.

All this is concerned with the period during which he served al-Rashīd —that is to say, twenty-three years — and with his service to the Barmakides, which lasted thirteen years. Not included are the considerable gifts which he received and which are not mentioned in that register. They consist of a total of eighty-eight million eight hundred thousand dirhams in silver, which is made up of the following three sums: eighty-five million, three million and four hundred thousand dirhams. [p.263]

Note: according to the register, the breakdown of his expenses from all these revenues and from the gifts which were not mentioned is as follows: the equivalent of nine hundred thousand dinars in goods or gold, and ninety million six hundred thousand dirhams in paper money. In detail:

1) What he spent for his own consumption: approximately two million two hundred thousand dirhams per year, altogether over the thirteen-year period, twenty-seven million six hundred thousand dirhams.

2) The cost of houses, gardens, pleasure places, slaves, beasts of burden and of riding, seventy million dirhams.

3) The cost of tools, wages, artisans, and the like, eight million dirhams.

4) The cost of lands which he bought for his relatives, twelve million dirhams.

5) The price of diamonds and other objects found in his treasury, estimated at five hundred thousand dinars or fifty million dirhams.

6) Expenses on piety, gifts, alms, and benevolence; his losses in sureties he paid to the confiscators; all these amounted to three million dirhams during the above-mentioned period.

7) Losses caused by people who received deposits from him and then denied them, also three million dirhams.

When Jibrā'īl was on the point of death, he wrote a will and gave it to al-Ma`mun, in which he made him the guardian of his son Bakhtīshū`. He ordered nine hundred thousand dinars to be given to his son, and the Caliph did not leave out any part of it.

It is Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` who is referred to in the following verses by Abū Nuwwās:

I spoke to my brother Abū `Isā and Jibrā'īl, who is an intelligent man, saying:
I like wine"; and he answered: "Much of it spells death!"
I said: "So give me the right measure," and he replied decisively:  [p.264]
"I've found four basic tempers in man, so it is four for four, one liter for each nature."

Abū al-Faraj Alī ibn al-Husayn al-Isfahānī, in his abridged "Book of Songs," quotes these verses:

O you there, say to the one who is neither a Muslim nor an Arab,
To Jibrā'īl Abū `Isā, the brother of the low and base people:
"Is there anything in your Medical Art, O Jibrā'īl, which can cure those who are sick?
For a girl has captivated my soul, without a fault or a crime on my part."

Said Abū al-Faraj: "This poetry was composed by al-Ma`mūn and meant for Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` the physician. The melody was composed by Mutayyim and is of the genre called Khafīf Ramal.

The sayings of Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` include the following—

Four things, he said, ruin a man's life:

1) Eating food on top of yet undigested food.

2) Drinking on an empty stomach.

3) Marrying an old woman.

4) Enjoying oneself in the bath.

Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` is the author of the following works:

1) An epistle to al-Ma'mūn concerning food and drink.

2) "Book of Introduction to Logic."

3) "Book on Sexual Intercourse."

4) "Abridged Treatise on Medicine. "

5) Pandects.

6) "Book on Perfumery," dedicated to `Abd Allāh al-Ma'mūn.


Bakhtīshū ibn Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhthīshū` was a Syrian physician of noble character who achieved high standing and acquired great wealth, to a [p.265] degree unattained by his contemporaries. He used to advise al-Mutawakkil, in all things concerned with clothing and furnishings. Hunayn ibn Ishāq translated many of Galen's books for him into Syrian and Arabic.

Pethion the dragoman reports that when al-Wathiq became Caliph, Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Malik al-Zayyāt and ibn Abū Dā'ūd became hostile to Bakhtīshū` because of his merit and piety, noble-heartedness and perfect manliness. They used to foster al-Wathiq's hatred toward him whenever they were left alone with the Caliph, until al-Wathiq became angry with him, confiscated his property and lands, took a fat portion of his money and exiled him to Jundeysābūr in 230/844-5. When the Caliph was afflicted with dropsy and his condition became grave, he sent somebody to fetch Bakhtīshū`, but died before his arrival. During the reign of al-Mutawakkil Bakhtīshūc regained his former status and acquired immense power; he also became extremely rich and a great nobleman, until he vied with the caliphs in appearance, dress, perfumes, bedding, banquets, entertainment and lavishness to such an extent that al-Mutawakkil eventually became jealous and arrested him.

I have copied the following from one of the chronicles. Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl indeed enjoyed the greatest favor of al-Mutawakkil, but he overstepped the bounds and so suffered disgrace. His property was confiscated and he was sent to Baghdād. Then al-Mutawakkil was afflicted with colic so he recalled Bakhtīshū` and apologized. Once cured, he was pleased with him, favored him again and restored all that had been taken from him. However, Bakhtīshū` was to suffer another catastrophe, when he was disgraced completely, all his property was confiscated, and he was sent to al-Basrah. The events were as follows: `Abd Allāh wrote to al-Muntasir Abū al-Abbās al-Husaynī the vicious and they decided to assassinate al-Mutawakkil and to make al-Munta`sir caliph. Bakhtīshū` said to the vizier: "How could you write to al-Muntasir al-Husaynī knowing his wickedness?" `Abd Allāh suspected that Bakhtīshū` had understood there was a conspiracy, informed the Vizier of Bakhtīshū`'s words, and said: "You know how closely Bakhtīshū` is attached to him. [p.266] I fear he will annul our conspiracy. Now what are we to do?" They went to al-Muntasin and said to him: ''When the Caliph becomes drunk, burn your robes and stain them with blood, then enter his place; when he asks you about it, tell him — 'Bakhtīshū` has stirred up a quarrel between me and my brother, until one of us almost killed the other. I was saying that the Emir of the Faithful would disapprove of it, while he was urging us to go on. So let us exile him — This way we will be exonerated of the whole affair before the Caliph asks about him." Al-Muntasir did all this, and Bakhtīshū` was disgraced. They killed al-Mutawakkil, but when al-Musta`īn became Caliph, he recalled the physician to his service and treated him with great kindness.

When Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Wathiq, known as al-Muhtadī, became Caliph, he followed al-Mutawakkil's way of familiarity with the physicians, giving them preference and high power. Bakhtīshū` enjoyed a special position in the eyes of al-Muhtadī bi-Allāh and so was able to pour out the misfortunes he had suffered during the reign of al-Mutawakkil. Al-Muhtadī ordered that he be admitted to all the treasuries and be given back without further consultation or delay, anything he recognized as his own. Bakhtīshū` recovered all that was formerly his, and the Caliph completed the redress of his grievances, protecting him dearly afterwards. Once Bakhtīshū received a letter from a friend in Baghdad, telling him that Sulaymān ibn `Aly Allāh ibn Tāhir opposed him because of his high rank. After the evening prayer Bakhtīshū` showed this letter to al-Mutadī, who ordered Sulaymān ibn Wahb to be brought to him immediately. Upon his entry, the Caliph ordered him to write in his name to Sulaymān ibn `Abd Allāh, disapproving of his attitude toward the agent of Bakhtīshū` and demanding that he testify to his recognition of the physician's position. He sent the letter to Baghdād on the spot, with one of his most faithful servants. At the end of his service, Bakhtīshū` said to al-Muhtadī: "O Emir of the Faithful, I have never fallen ill or taken a medicine for forty years now, but the astrologers have decided that I will die this year. I am not grieved at dying, but at having to leave you." Al-Muktadī [p.267] talked to him kindly and said: "The astrologers are rarely right." When Bakhtīshū` did die, the Caliph was the last to leave his side.

Ibrāhīm ibn Alī al-Husrī in his book "The Light of Unique Places and Things" tells that Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī and Bakhtīshū` the physician argued in the presence of Ahmad ibn Abū Dā'ud at a meeting of wise men which took place in an estate in the region of al-Sawād. Ibrāhīm had lent Bakhtīshū` money at a high interest, and now he addressed him in harsh language, which put Ahmad ibn Dā'ud in a temper. He said: "O Ibrahīm, when you discuss something at a meeting of the wise men and in our presence, your purpose must be straight, your behavior restrained, your spirit tranquil, your words just. You should lend to the Caliph's assemblies their rightful good order, dignity, obedience and appropriate direction, for this is more worthy of a man of your lineage and position. Do not act rashly, for many a hastiness result in great evil. May Allāh prevent you from slips of the tongue and idle words and deeds, may He fulfill his benevolence in your respect, as he did in respect of your grand-fathers, for your Master is the one who knows best and the omniscient judge." Replied Ibrahim: "You have, may God grant you success, commanded silence and induced piety. I will never repeat anything which would impair the power I owe to you, or ruin my favor in your eyes and cause me to exceed my duty and apologize. Here I am apologizing to you because of this fit of passion, as one who admits his sin and repents of his crime; for passion is still trying to get the better of me, but men like you will set me right by their forbearance. This is the way of Allāh with you, and yours with us. He is sufficient for us and blessed be his Prophet. I withdraw my claim to this estate in Bakhtīshū`'s favor. Would that this will constitute the price of my fault so that no money will be spent on exhortation. Allāh is the source of all succour."

Abū Muhammad Badr ibn Abū al-Asbagh the scribe tells us the following story in the name of his grandfather, who said: "I visited Bakhtīshū` on a very hot day and found him sitting in a place covered with several sheets [p.268] of brocade, with a black cloth between each pair of embroidered sheets In the middle there was a dome covered with a gold and silver embroidered cloth, which showed gum wood dyed with rose water, camphor and sandal-wood. The physician was clad in a heavy Sa`īdī upper garment from Yemen and a silk robe. I was astounded at his apparel, but when I drew nearer to him in the dome, I started to shiver from intense cold. He laughed, ordered that I be brought an upper garment and a silk robe and then told his servant to uncover the sides of the dome. When they were uncovered, lo! There were doors opening off the dome, leading to areas filled with snow; there were servants blowing that snow and a great cold came forth, which had reached me. He then ordered his food. A most beautiful table was brought in, laden with exquisite things, lastly, roasted chickens were brought in, extremely well done. The cook came in and shook them all, and they fell apart. The physician said: "These chickens were raised on almonds and grain and pomegranate juice."

I revisited him one very cold day during the midst of winter and found him dressed in a padded garment and a cover. He was sitting in a cabin inside his palace, which was situated in a most beautiful garden. The cabin was covered with sable furs and had in it and on it sheets of dyed silk, felts from the Maghrib and leather hides from Yemen. In front of him was a gilded silver fire-pot alight, and a servant dressed in very refined brocade was burning Indian-wood in it. When I entered the cabin, I felt the heat to be very strong. He laughed and ordered a brocade tunic for me, then uncovered the sides of the cabin, and lo! There were rooms with iron windows beyond wooden openings and in them fire-pots containing tamarisk-charcoal. There were servants blowing this charcoal with bellows like those of the hammersmiths. He then ordered his food to be brought in, and it came as usual, all choice and clean. Some chickens were brought in also, white to the extreme, which I found unpalatable, for I was afraid they were raw. But the cook came in and shook them, and they fell apart. When I asked, the physician told me they were fed on peeled nuts and given sour milk to drink. [p.269]

Bakhtīshu` ibn Jibra'īl was offering frankincense in a pan, while he had another pan containing the charcoal. He used roots of citron, willow, and vine, sprinkled with rose water, mixed with musk, camphor, Egyptian-willow water and old wine. He used to say: "I do not like to offer frank-incense without charcoal, but the regular charcoal spoils it. They say — this is the way Jibrā'īl does it."

Abū Muhammad Badr ibn Abū al-Asbagh tells the following story in the name of his father, who heard it from `Abd-Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Jarrah, who was told by his father that one day al-Mutawakkil said to Bakhtīshū` "Invite me!" Replied the physician: "I hear and obey." The Caliph said: "I want it to be tomorrow," and the physician answered —"Certainly and with honor." It was summer and very hot. Bakhtīshū` said to his men and companions: "Everything is in order, except that we do not have enough brocaded cloth." He called his agents and ordered them to buy all the brocade they could find in Samarra. They did so and also brought all the upholsterers and artisans they could lay their hands on. He covered his whole palace with the cloth — courtyards and stores, halls and rooms and resting places, so that the Caliph would not pass by a place that was not covered with brocade. He then noticed the odors it gave off, which vanish only after a period of use, and ordered that all the watermelons which could be found in the city of Samarra be purchased. He summoned all his servants and domestics and made them sit and rub the cloth with these watermelons all that night, until all trace of the odors had completely disappeared. After that he told his upholsterers to hand all this cloth in the above-mentioned places, and this was done. He then ordered his cooks to prepare five thousand plates, each one to have a portion of semolina-bread and a handful of thin bread, the weight of the whole being twenty ratl; then some roast lamb and cold kid cooked in olive oil, then two stuffed fowls, two chicks, two slices of meat cooked in vinegar, three different vegetables and plenty of sweetmeats. [p.270]

When al-Mutawakkil arrived and saw the amount and quality of the brocaded cloth, he asked, "What made its odor disappear?" Bakhtīshū` told him the story of the watermelons, which astonished him greatly. The Caliph with his cousins and al-Fath ibn Khāqān sat at one table, while the princes and chamberlains were seated on two huge tablecloths which had never been seen in the possession of his [the physician's] equals.

The plates were distributed among the servants, domestics, managers, riders, upholsterers, salt-dealers and the rest of the household; everyone was given a plate, and Bakhtīshū` explained: "Thus I am guarded against their accusations, for were they fed at common tables, I would not have felt safe from one being satisfied and the other getting angry; from one saying he is full, and the other not having enough. Now when everyone is given his plate — it will suffice." Al-Mutawakkil found the food magnificent, and afterward, when he desired to sleep, he said to Bakhtīshū`: "I would like you to let me sleep in a bright place with no flies." He thought to disturb him by this, but Bakhtīshū` had previously ordered tubs of honey to be put on the roofs, in order to attract the flies, and in fact there was not even a single fly in the lower parts of the palace. The physician admitted the Caliph to a large square room, whose ceiling was all covered with openings to give light. It was hung entirely with brocaded cloth, which showed under it gum-wood dyed with rose water, sandal and camphor wood. When the Caliph lay down to sleep, he suddenly smelled the most exquisite odors; he could not understand what they were, for he did not see in that room any perfumes, fruits or flowers, neither did he find any fragrant herbs behind the cloth nor any place where they could be put. He was greatly astonished and ordered al-Fath ibn Khāqān to trace the source of these smells. Al-Fath went searching and found around the room, from the outside and all its sides and corners, fine chinks filled with sweet-smelling herbs, crammed with all kinds of aromatic plants, fruits, perfumes and scents; among these were mandrake, the skins of watermelons filled with wild thyme, sweet basil from Yemen, prepared with [p.271] rose water, yellow saffron perfume, camphor, old wine, saffron and curcuma. Al-Fath observed the servants who were put in charge of these herbs. Each one had a censer with the compound perfume, which he burnt and incensed. The room had a belt of ceruse from the inside, perforated with tiny, imperceptible holes, through which the wonderful fragrances filtered into the room. When al-Fath returned and described to the Caliph all he had seen, the latter was wonder-struck.

Al-Mutawakkil became jealous of Bakhtīshū` because of his benevolence and perfect manners which he had witnessed. He left the physician's house before the end of that day, pretending to find fault in something during his stay. Indeed he disgraced him a few days later and confiscated innumerable sums of money from him. Among his accoutrement there were found four thousand pairs of trousers made of expensive silk and banded with Armenian silk. Al-Husayn ibn Mukhlid came and sealed his treasuries, carrying the very best to the Caliph's palace and selling a great deal of the rest. Still there were firewood, charcoal, wines and spices left, and these were bought by Husayn ibn Mukhlid for six thousand dinars. It was said that he first bought in the total sum of eight thousand dinars, but Hamdūn became jealous of him and complained to al-Mutawakkil. He spent on what was left six thousand dinars, then was granted all the rest, and bought it in more than double its worth. All this happened in 244/858.

Pethion reports that during the reign of al-Mutawakkil, al-Mu`tazz bi-Allāh was attacked by a fever, but nevertheless he abstained from taking any drugs or food, which distressed al-Mutawakkil gravely. Bakhtīshū` came to see him while the medical men were attending him, and found that he was still persisting in his abstention. The physician jested and conversed with him. Al-Mu`tazz then put his hand into the sleeve of Bakhtīshū`'s robe, which was made of heavy brocaded silk from Yemen, and exclaimed: "How beautiful this robe is! " Said Bakhtīshū`: "O my master, by Allāh, there is none so fine, and the price I paid for it is a thousand dinars. Now if you eat [p.272] just two apples for me you can take this robe!" He called for apples, and the prince ate two. The physician continued: "This robe, my master, needs a garment to go with it. I have one which is its match. Now drink this oxymel medicine for me and it is yours." The prince took the oxymel drink, which did away with the repulsion of his nature, and he felt better. He took the robe and garment and was cured. Al-Mutawakkil remained forever indebted to Bakhtīshū` for this deed.

Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit reports that once, during a very hot season, al-Mutawakkil desired to have mustard with his food, but his doctor forbade it because of its harmful effect on his sharp temper and hot liver. Bakhtīshū` said: "I will give it to you — if it harms you, let it be on my head." Al-Mutawakkil having agreed, the physician ordered a pumpkin brought. He covered it with clay, left it in the oven, and then extracted its liquids. He ordered the mustard to be peeled and ground together with the pumpkin liquids, explaining: "The mustard is in the fourth degree of heat, while the pumpkin is in the fourth degree of humidity, so they must balance each other. Eat as much as you desire!" The Caliph spent the night without feeling any adverse effect and woke up the same. He ordered three hundred thousand dirhams and thirty sheets of different kinds of cloth to be given to the physician.

Ishāq ibn Alī from Edessa tells the following story in the name of `Isā ibn Masah who said: "I was visiting Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl who had fallen ill, when the Emir of the Faithful al-Mutawakkil ordered al-Mu`tazz to go and see him. Al-Mu`tazz being then the crown prince, he came with Muhammad ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Tāhir and Wasīf the Turk. Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad, known as ibn al-Mudabbir, told me that al-Mutawakkil had given his vizier an oral command to write down the following: 'The lands of Bakhtīshū` are like our own lands and property, for his standing is in relation to us as our spirit is to our body." Said `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl ibn `Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtīshū`: 'The above is proof of the status of Bakhtīshū` in the eyes of al-Mutawakkil and of his favor.'" [p.273]

Our source continues: "One of our shaikhs adds in this respect that one day Bakhtīshū` visited al-Mutawakkil, who was sitting on a seat in the middle of the private quarters. Bakhtīshū` sat beside him, as he was wont to do. He was dressed in a woolen shift with Byzantine embroidery, the edge of which was split a little. Al-Mutawakkil started to converse with him while playing with the split, until he reached the waist band of his trousers. The conversation continued to the point where al-Mutawakkil asked Bakhtīshū`: 'How do you know when a disturbed person needs to be restrained and guided?' The physician retorted: 'When he reaches, in the split of his physician's shift, the waistband of the trousers — then we restrain him.' Al-Mutawakkil laughed until he flung himself flat on his back at once and ordered the physician magnificent rewards and money in abundance."

Abū al-Rīhān al-Bīrunī in his book "Throngs of Jewels" narrates that al-Mutawakkil was once sitting to accept the gifts of New Year's Day. He was offered every precious rare garment, every glorious beauty, until his physician Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl, with whom the Caliph was on very intimate terms, came in. The Caliph said to him "What is your opinion of this day?" Bakhtīshū` replied, "People like me, who have no resources, drag the beggars' dry bread; please receive what I have." He then drew from his sleeve an ebony case, ornamented with gold, opened it on a green silk cloth, and uncovered a huge spoon, inlaid with jewels shining like stars. He put it in front of al-Mutawakkil, who found it to surpass all the other gifts. He asked: "Where did you get it?" The physician replied: "From noble people," and he told the Caliph that his father had received from the mother of Ja`far, Zubaydah three hundred thousand dinars in three payments against three complaints she had made of her illness and which he had cured. In the first case she had complained of a disturbance in her throat which almost made her choke. He advised her to draw blood and to use cold compresses, then to eat a special mixture [of flour and water] which he described. It was prepared in a large patine bowl of a [p.274] curious shape, in which this spoon was placed. His father signaled to Bakhtīshū` to take it, which he did, and wrapped it in his mantle; but the servant snatched it away from him. She said to the father: "Treat him gently, but order him to return it." Jibrā'īl suggested paying her ten thousand dinars for it, but she refused, so he said, "O my mistress, my son has never stolen anything, do not put him to shame on the first call, lest his heart will break." She laughed and gave him the spoon.

When he was asked about the two other cases Bakhtīshū` said: "She had complained also of foul breath, about which she was informed by one of her intimates, adding that this was worse than death for her. My father made her fast until evening, then forcibly fed her a macerated salt fish and had her drink the sediment of wine made of inferior dates. She felt sick and vomited. He repeated this treatment for three days and then told her: 'Exhale in the face of whoever had informed you of it, and ask this person if indeed it has gone.' The third case was when she seemed on the point of death, because of a heavy gasping that was audible even outside the room. My father ordered the servants to carry some basins up to the roof of the courtyard, arrange them around the edge and fill them with water. He placed a servant behind each basin, so that when he clapped his hands they would push them all to the middle of the house. When it was done, a terrific din was raised which terrified her. She was so ashamed that the gasping went away."

Abū `Alī al-Qiyānī tells the following story in the name of his father, who said: "I visited Bakhtīshū` one summer day and sat down. He raised his eyes to his servant and said: 'Bring!' The servant brought a cup containing about half a ratl of old wine, with something black on the end of a golden toothpick. He chewed it, then drank the wine and fell silent for a while. I watched his face burning like fire. Afterwards he called for trays filled with the most luscious mountain plums, which he started cutting and eating until he had finished and assuaged the burning, his face returning to its usual state. I asked him for the story, and he [p.275] answered me thus: 'I had a strong desire for the plums but was afraid they would harm me, so I used an antidote and the wine in order to pierce the stones and improve the grinding.'

Abū `Alī al-Qiyānī adds, again in the name of his father, who heard it by Muhammad ibn Dā'ud ibn al-Jarrāh. "Bakhtīshū` the physician was a close friend of my father's. We used to have a drinking friend who was very corpulent and ate a great deal. Whenever he met the physician, he asked him to prescribe a medicine for him. He annoyed him until Bakhtīshu` prescribed for him a medicine containing colocynth pulp and scammony. He then told my father: 'The root of the whole affair is that he should eat lightly, and in addition strictly restrain himself from mixing his food.' This man was eating in our house on the day of his treatment. He limited himself to a bowl of three ratls of meat with three ratls of bread, but when he had finished them, he asked for more. He was denied it and my father kept him in the house to the end of the day. He had previously ordered the man's wife not to leave any palatable food anywhere in the house. When my father saw that the man had to leave, he let him go. Upon arriving at his house, he asked his wife for food, and did not find any, but she had overlooked a pot of breadcrumbs on the shelf, which he found and ate many ratls of. When he rose in the morning he took the medicine which filled him, but since it entered a full stomach, it did not have any effect. When the day was bright he said: 'Bakhtīshū` is no good, and devoured ten ratls of sliced meat, with ten ratls of bread, then drank a jar of cold water. After an hour, the medicine had to find a way out, either from above or from below, but it could not find any outlet. His belly swelled and his breathing became heavy until he was about to die. His wife cried out and called my father for help. He brought a camel and carried the man to Bakhtīshū`. All this happened on a very sultry day, and Bakhtīshū` was hot and bothered, standing outside his house. He asked about the man's condition and was informed of the whole story. Bakhtīshū` had more than two hundred birds in his house — cuckoos, hoopoes, white birds and the like. They had a large drinking pool full [p.276] of water, which was now heated by the sun, and the birds had left their droppings in it. The physician called for coarse salt and ordered it to be thrown into the pool and dissolved in the water. He then ordered a funnel and made the man drink it all, while he was still unconscious. He told us to stay away from him, and indeed he evacuated abundantly from the upper and lower parts. He became so weak that it was necessary to sustain him with perfume and francolin dung. But, after several days, to our great astonishment, he recovered. Having asked Bakhtīshū` about his case, he told me: 'I was thinking his case over and realized that if we should use a medicine he would be dead by the time it was all prepared and administered. Now, we treat people afflicted by severe colic with pigeon dung and salt. The birds' drinking pool, heated in the sun and full of dung, was exactly what he needed, and this was the fastest way it could be administered. So I treated him thus, and by the grace of God it worked.

I have copied from a certain book the following facts. Bakhtīshū` used to prescribe enema when the moon was in conjunction with a comet and thereby cured colic on the spot. He used to prescribe the drinking of a medicine when the moon was facing Venus and thus cured the patient the same day.

He died on Sunday the 21st of `Safar 256/January 870, leaving his son `Ubayd Allāh and three daughters to the mercy of the viziers and ministers, who confiscated their property and took away their money until they were separated and dispersed.

His sayings include: It is bad to drink on an empty stomach, but it is even worse to eat on a full stomach. It is better to eat a little of what is harmful than to over indulge in what is good.

One of his books is "Bloodletting," in the form of questions and answers.


Jibrā'īl ibn `Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtīshū` was a distinguished scholar and an expert in the medical craft, skilled in its practice and versed in its knowledge. He is a celebrated author of works on medicine. All his [p.277] forefathers were physicians, each of them unique in his time, the paragon of his generation.

I have copied the following from the book of `Ubayd Allāh, the person mentioned above in the stories about his father Jibrā'īl. He reports: "My grandfather `Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtīshu` was a provincial governor. When al-Muqtadir, may God have mercy upon him, became Caliph, he wrote to him inviting him to come to his court. He had stayed with the Caliph for a short while when he died, leaving my father Jibrā'īl and his sister, both very young. On the night of his death, al-Muqtadir sent eighty servants who took away everything that could be found — livestock, furniture and ustensils. After his burial, his wife, who was the daughter of one of the noblest governors, known as al-Harsūn, went into hiding, and her father was arrested. The Caliph demanded from him the belongings of Bakhtīshū's daughter which were deposited with him and took from him large sums of money; the man eventually died as a result of this confiscation. His daughter took her young son Jibrā'īl and his sister and went with them to `Ukbarā', fleeing from the Sultan. She later married a physician, entrusting her son to an uncle of her husband's in Daqūqā'. After a while she died; the man took everything she had possessed and threw her child out. Jibrā'īl went to Baghdad almost destitute and directed himself to a physician known as Turmara, with whom he lodged and studied. This man was one of al-Muqtadīr's physicians and favorites He also trained under Yūsuf al-Wāsiti the physician, residing in the hospital. He used to visit his maternal uncles who lived in the Christian quarter. They treated him ill, censuring him for his dedication to science and medicine, and making fun of him, saying: 'This one wants to be like his grandfather Bakhtīshū`, and is not satisfied to be like his uncles. But he paid no attention to their words.

"It so happened that an envoy from Kirmān came to Mu`izz al-Dawlah bringing him a piebald ass, a person seven spans tall, and a person two spans tall. He reached the Farakh Castle from the East, close to the shop [p.278] where my father Jibrā'īl used to sit. This envoy would sit with him frequently and hold long and amiable conversations. One day he called Jibrā'īl to consult him about a phlebotomy. The latter operated on him and then treated him for the two subsequent days. As a reward the envoy sent him a black china pot containing bandages, a brass basin and a kettle. Later he called him saying: 'Visit such and such people and see what may be good for them.' The envoy had a beloved maid servant who was afflicted with a chronic hemorrhage, which no doctor in the whole of Fāris, Kirmān and Iraq had been known to cure. Having examined her, my father arranged a course of treatment and concocted an electuary which he had her drink. Before forty days had passed, she was cured and her body wholesome, a cause of great rejoicing to the envoy. After a while, the latter called my father and gave him a thousand dirhams, a purple shift, a costly garment and a silk turban. He told him to ask his patient for his fee, and the girl gave him a thousand dirhams and two sheets each of all kinds of cloth, and she had him be carried on a mule in a litter, with a black slave following him. Thus he achieved a higher standing than any of his uncles before him. When people saw him, they would run to welcome him warmly. He would answer: 'You are honoring the clothes, not me!'

"When this envoy went away, the fame of his deeds spread throughout Fāris and Kirmān. This was in fact the reason for his going to Shirā'. When he arrived there, his story reached `Adud al-Dawlah, who first rose to power in his province of Shīrāz. He called my father, who came with an admirably written epistle on the optic nerve. `Adud al-Dawlah favored him, and gave him slaves and maids errants, as the others had. Later, Kawkīn, the husband of `Adud al-Dawlah's maternal aunt, who was the governor of the province of Jūrqab, fell ill. He called for a physician, and `Adud al-Dawlah sent Jibrā'īl to him. When he arrived, Kawkīn treated him nobly. He suffered from arthritis, gout and an upset metabolism. Jibrā'īl composed for him a medicine made of ground apple sweets. All this happened in 357/968. The patient was visibly relieved: [p.279] as a consequence he showered donations upon him and returned him with honor to Shīrāz. Later, when `Adud al-Dawlah entered Baghdad, Jibrā'īl was among his court. He renovated the hospital there and received two [weekly] salaries — three hundred dirhams as the ruler's physician and three hundred dirhams as the hospital physician, besides his allowance. He was on duty two days and two nights per week.

"It so happened that al-Sāhib ibn-`Abbād, may Allāh have mercy upon him, became afflicted with a severe stomach upset. He wrote to `Adud al-Dawlah asking for a physician. As his deeds and actions were known for their merit, `Adud al-Dawlah ordered that all the physicians from Baghdād and elsewhere be assembled for consultation as to whom he should send to al-Sāhib. Whereupon they all advised him to send Jībrā'īl — because they wished to be rid of him, being envious of his achievements — saying: 'There is nobody worthy of meeting such a person [as al-Sāhib] but Abū `Isā Jibrā'īl, for he is a philosopher, eloquent of speech — and a scholar of the Persian language." `Adud al-Dawlah agreed, ordered a large sum of money for his journey, a beautiful litter and beasts of burden, and then sent him off. When Jibrā'īl arrived at al-Ray, al-Sāhib welcomed him kindly and lodged him in a place lively with diversions, with agreeable furnishings, a cook, secretary, manager, porter, etc. After a week, he called him one day, after having gathered representatives of all the different branches of the sciences. He had appointed a man from al-Ray, who had studied a little medicine, to lead the discussion. This man questioned Jibrā'īl on things connected with the pulse, to which he himself knew the answers. Jibrā'īl started explaining, went beyond the bounds of the questions, and disclosed the causes of such illnesses as were known to none of that group. He set witty riddles and solved them, until everybody present was struck with admiration. Al-Sāhib honored him with a precious robe and asked him to compose for him a collection dealing exclusively with illnesses that afflict the body [p.280] from the head to the feet. Jibrā'īl complied with this, brought the book to the governor, who raised his rank and gave him a sum to the tune of one thousand dinars. Jibrā'īl always used to say: 'I have composed two hundred sheets of paper and received for them a thousand dinars.' This story reached `Adud al-Dawlah who was astonished and mightily impressed.

"When he returned from al-Ray, Jibrā'īl entered Baghdād magnificently dressed, and was accorded servants, domestics, and slaves. `Adud al-Dawlah befriended him and gave him everything he desired to delight him. I was told by a confidential source that when he arrived, the physicians came to greet his safe return. Abū al-Husayn ibn Kashkarāyā, the disciple of Sinān, said to him: 'O Abū `Isā, we have sown, and you reap; we desired your disgrace, and you only increased your favor.' Jibrā'īl laughed at his words and said: 'Things are not in our hands, for they have a ruler and a master.' He stayed in Baghdād for three years. Then Khusrū-Shāh ibn Mubādir, the ruler of Dailam, fell ill. His condition steadily deteriorated, his body became emaciated, and his terror increased. He had twelve physicians from al-Ray and elsewhere, but the more they treated him, the worse his malady got. He sent to al-Sāhib asking for a physician. The latter replied: 'I do not know anyone suitable except Abū `Isā Jibrā'īl.' The sick man asked al-Sāhib to write to the physician because of the friendship that was between them. Indeed he wrote to `Adud al-Dawlah asking him to send him, saying that his condition was so aggravated that it would not stand any delay. Al-Sāhib sent his physician with honor. When he arrived, Jibrā'īl said to the ruler 'I will not treat you unless you send away all the physicians around you.' He dismissed them with honor, and my father stayed with him. The man then asked him to write a treatise on his illness, in which he would expound its nature and the treatment he would recommend. My father wrote such a treatise, which he prefaced thus; on the sickness of the brain, in connection with the stomach's entrance; and on the partition between the digestive organs and the respiratory organs, known as the diaphragm. [p.281]

"Having returned to al-Sāhib, he was asked about the best element in the body, and answered; 'That is the blood.' He was then asked by al-Sāhib to write a treatise demonstrating this and wrote a very scholarly one, giving the arguments in proof of it. During this period he was already hastening in the composition of his "Great Collection."

"When he returned to Baghdad he found `Adud al-Dawlah dead. He stayed in that city for some years, dedicating himself solely to his writings. He completed his "Great Collection," which he named "al-Kāfī," after the nickname of al-Sāhib ibn Abbād, in honor of their friendship; one copy was placed in the library of Baghdad. He wrote a book on the agreement between the prophets and the philosophers which stands unique in the theological writings for the number of quotations it contains with mention of their sources. He concentrated on the philosophical sayings in all their shades of meaning, owing to their vagueness and scarcity, and presented few of the religious sayings, because of their clarity and frequency. At the same time he was writing a treatise on the refutation of the Jews, in which he assembled different points, some examples of the prophets' sayings, certain evidence as to the truth of the coming of Christ and his existence, in which he refuted the waiting for the Messiah, and also sayings as to the validity of the sacrament in bread and wine. He composed many other small treatises, including one dealing with why the wine was made sacrament, while in its origin, it was prohibited, and another dealing with the origins of license and prohibition.

"Once he traveled to Jerusalem, fasted there for a whole day, and then returned to Damascus. His fame reached al-`Azīz, may Allāh have mercy on him, who sent a very fine letter to him from his court. My father apologized saying that he had duties in Baghdad. Once they were accomplished, he would return to the court on purpose to gain the advantages of his intention. However, when he returned to Baghdād he stayed there, declining to go to Egypt. After that, the ruler of the Daylam sent for him to return. Having arrived at al-Ray, he placed a copy of his "Great Collection" there. [p.282]

`Ubayd Allāh continues: "I have heard that the hospital in al-Ray works according to it, and that my father is known among the physicians there, when Abū `Isā, the author of the collection, is mentioned. He stayed with the ruler of the Daylam for a period of three years, but then left him in anger. The story goes that the ruler swore to him on divorce that whenever he would choose to depart, he would not prevent him from doing so and would not try to bring him back. He came to Baghdād and stayed there for a while and then was called to Mosul, to Hisām al-Dawlah to treat his illness. Then something wonderful happened to him which he used to tell again and again. One of al-Hisām's girls fell sick, and he wanted to examine her urine. When a maidservant came with it, my father looked at it, turned to Hisām al-Dawlah and said: 'This woman is going to die.' The ruler was greatly disturbed. The girl saw his anxiety, screamed, tore off her clothes and fled. He called her back immediately and said to her: 'This woman has done something I do not know about.' She swore that she had not failed his orders. He said: 'Maybe you have dyed her with henna.' She affirmed this, and he became angry and swore at her. He then said to Hisām al-Dawlah, "Rejoice, for in three days she will be cured.' It happened as he had foretold, and the ruler was greatly astonished. He would summon him again and again and never lost his admiration for him.

"When Jibrā'īl returned to Baghdād, al-`Amīd became very attached to him. He never left his side and lodged him in the Vizier's palace, all because of the illness he suffered. The physician was highly favored by him. Afterwards, the Emir Mumahhid al-Dawlah sent for him and made a fuss of him until he went to Mayāfāriqīn. Having arrived, he honored him in the fashion known to all those who had seen him. One of the nicest things that happened to him there was the following. In the first year of his stay he gave the Emir a purgative drug to drink, saying: You must take this medicine at dawn.' The Emir took it deliberately at the beginning [p.283] of the night. When it was morning the physician rode to the Emir's palace, entered his room and took his pulse. When he asked him about the drug, the Emir answered in order to test him: 'It did not affect me at all.' Jibrā'īl said: 'The pulse shows the efficacy of the medicine the Emir has taken, and it is more trustworthy.' The Emir laughed and asked: 'What is your opinion of it?' He replied: 'It will cause the Emir twenty-five evacuations, and if it were somebody else — more or less than that.' The Emir said: 'Until now it has induced twenty-three evacuations.' The physician said: 'Indeed, it will complete its work as I have said.' He fixed his treatment and went away angry. He ordered his horse saddled and prepared for his departure. When the news reached Mumahhid al-Dawlah he sent to him asking why he was going away. My father replied: 'A man such as I should not be tested, for I am too famous to be experimented with.' This pleased the Emir, who sent him a mule bearing a large sum of money.

"During this period, the ruler of the Daylam sent him kind letters asking him to visit him again. My father wrote to Mumahhid al-Dawlah about it, but he forbade him to go and so he remained in his service for three years. He died on Friday, the 8th of Rajab 396/1006 at the age of eighty-five. He was buried in a place of prayer outside Mayāfāriqīn. Jibrā'īl ibn `Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtīshū` wrote the following books:

1) "The Great Collection," known as "al-Kāfī," in five volumes, dedicated to al-Sāhib ibn `Abbād, in the form of questions and answers.

2) "The Small Collection," also composed in honor of al-Sāhib ibn `Abbād.

3) An epistle on the optic nerve.

4) A treatise on the sickness of the brain in connection with the stomach's entrance, and the partition between the digestive organs and the respiratory organs, known as the diaphragm, dedicated to Khusrū-Shāh ibn Mubādir, ruler of the Daylam.

5) A treatise affirming that the best element in the body is the blood, dedicated to al-Sāhib ibn `Abbād. [p.284]

6) A book on the agreement of the prophets and the philosophers.

7) A treatise on the refutation of the Jews.

8) A treatise on wine, how it became a sacrament when in its origin it was forbidden.


`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl, i.e., Abū Sa`īd `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl `Ubayd Allāh ibn Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` ibn Jūrjis ibn Jibrā'īl. He was a distinguished physician, celebrated for his expert techniques. He had a thorough knowledge of the fundamentals and different branches and was one of the foremost in his profession, a noble master. He had a profound acquaintance with the Christian religion and schools, and a deep understanding of the medical art, on which he wrote many books. He lived in Mayāfāriqīn, being the contemporary of Ibn Butlān, who was his intimate friend. `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl died a little after 450/1058. Among his books are the following:

1) A treatise on the different types of milk, composed for one of his friends in 447/1055.

2) A book on the virtues of physicians, in which he mentions some of their memorable actions, written in 423/1032.

3) "Book of the Medical Garden," dedicated to the scholar Abū al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Alī.

4) A book on the way to remember the multiplication of generations, written in 441/1049.

5) An epistle to the Scholar Abū Tāhir ibn `Abd al-Bāqī, known as Ibn Qutramayn, being an answer to his question concerning the need for purification [circumcision?].

6) An epistle proving the need for mental turmoil.

7) A book about unusual aspects of medicine, expounded in the science of the ancients.

8) A memorandum to the settled person and provisions for the traveler.

9) A special book on the science of attributes. [p.285]

10) A book on the nature of animals, their attributes and the advantages of their members, composed in honor of the Emir Nasīr al-Dawlah.


Khasīb was a Christian from al-Basrah. He was a distinguished physician, an excellent therapeutist. Muhammad ibn Salām al-Jumahī reports that when al-Hakam ibn Muhammad ibn Qanbar al-Māzinī the poet fell ill in al-Basrah, Khasib was brought to treat him. He said this about the physician: "I said to my people when they brought Khasib to me: 'By Allāh, there is no wealth equal to my physician; indeed, the one who has what I have will understand my case.'"

Muhammad ibn Salām reports also that the physician Khasīb was a virtuous Christian. He gave Muhammad ibn Abū al-`Abbās al-Saffāh a medicine to drink, and the Caliph became sick from it. He was then in Basrah so he was carried to Baghdād and died there, in the beginning of 150/767. Khasīb was accused and held in custody until the Caliph died. When Khasīb fell sick, he examined his urine to know the cause of his illness. Being a learned man, he said: "Galen said that one who is afflicted with this illness will not live when his urine becomes so. " He was told: "Maybe Galen was wrong," and he replied: "I was never more in need of his error than now." However, he did die.


`Isā, known as Abū Quraysh. Ishāq ibn `Alī from Edessa in his book "The Education of the Physician" tells the following in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah, who heard it from Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi. Abū Quraysh was a chemist and a religious and pious man. He used to sit in a place near the gate of the Caliph's palace.

One day al-Khayzurān, the concubine of al-Mahdī, sent her urine to the physician via her maid. The maid came out of the palace and showed it to Abū Quraysh. The latter pronounced: "This urine is from a woman who is pregnant with a male child." The maid returned with the good news, and her mistress said: "Go back and have him tell you more. Upon her [p.286] return, he said "What I have told you is true, but you owe me something for the good news." — "How much do you want for it?" "A cup of sweetmeats and an old robe." The maid said: "If what you say were true, you would already have gathered in for yourself all the goods and wealth of this world," and went away. Forty days later, al-Khayzurān felt her condition, sent the physician a bag of ten thousand dirhams, but kept it a secret from al-Mahdī. When her term was up she gave birth to Mūsā, Hārūn al-Rashīd's brother. Then she told her story to al-Mahdī, saying: "There is a physician outside the gate who already knew it nine months ago." When the news reached Jūrjis ibn Jibrā'īl, he exclaimed: "A liar and a cheat! " Al Khaizurān became angry and ordered a hundred trays of sweetmeats sent to the physician, with a hundred robes, on a horse with its saddle and bridle.

A little while later, the concubine conceived the child's brother, Hārūn al-Rashīd. Jūrjis said to al-Mahdī: "You should now test that physician for yourself." The Caliph sent him her urine; he examined it and said: "This urine is that of my daughter, the mother of Mūsā. She is carrying another boy." The message was carried back to al-Mahdī, and he marked the date. In due course, al-Khayzurān gave birth to Hārūn al-Rashīd. Al-Mahdī sent for Abū Quraysh and made him stay with him, showering him with precious robes and bags of dirhams and dinars, until they turned his head. The Caliph used to send Hārūn and Mūsā to his rooms, and nicknamed him Abū Quraysh, that is to say, the father of the Arabs. He told Jūrjis: "This time I have put him to the test myself." Abū Quraysh became equal to Jūrjis ibn Jibrā'īl and even surpassed him in rank. Then al-Mahdī died, and Hārūn al-Rashīd became Caliph. Jūrjis also died, and his son became second to Abū Quraysh in the Caliph's service. When Abū Quraysh died, he left 22,000 dinars and abundant riches.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells the following story in the name of al-`Abbās ibn Alī ibn al-Mahdī, who said: "Al-Rashīd buit a major mosque in the garden of Mūsā al-Hādī and ordered his brothers and family to gather there every [p.287] Friday for him to lead them in prayer. My father Alī ibn al-Mahdī attended that mosque one very hot day, prayed and went back to his house in Yahyā market, but the heat gave him such a headache that he was almost blinded from it. He called all the physicians of Baghdād, the last to be summoned being `Isā Abū Quraysh, who arrived when they were assembled for a consultation and said: 'This group will still be arguing when this man loses his sight.' He called for violet oil, rose water, wine vinegar and ice. He put a little of the oil — about the weight of two dirhams — in a mixing bowl, poured a little of the vinegar and water into it, and then crushed a little of the ice. He then shook the bowl until the contents were mixed thoroughly. He ordered a handful of the mixture to be applied to my father's head and waited until it was absorbed and then added another handful. He repeated this treatment three or four times, until the headache went away and he was cured."

Yūsuf adds: "Shaklah, the mother of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, told me the following. When she was with al-Mahdī at the station of al-Rabdhah on the way to Mecca, he addressed her in a loud voice and in a strange language, which she did not like. She drew near to him, while he was lying stretched out on his back, and he ordered her to sit down. Having obeyed him, he leapt up and embraced her as a man greeting his friend. He then pressed her to his breast and lost consciousness. Everybody tried to free her neck from his hands, but failed. The physicians came and decided unanimously that he was afflicted with hemiplegia. `Isā Abū Quraysh said: `Al-Mahdī ibn al-Mansūr ibn Muhammad ibn Alī ibn `Abd Allāh ibn al-`Abbās afflicted with hemiplegia?! — No, by Allāh, none of these men or their descendants will ever be stricken by this disease unless they sow their seed in Christian Byzantine and Slav girls and their like — then this might befall them.' He ordered a cupper and administered a phlebotomy to him. By Allāh, with the first drawing he moved his hands; at the second he started talking, and before the operation was over he [p.288] regained consciousness. After that he ate, called the mother of `Asmā, the daughter of al-Mahdī, and lay with her, whereupon she conceived `Asmā."

Yūsuf continues: "When Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī suffered an aggravation of the illness which was to cause his death, his jaw became loose and his tongue thickened so that it was hard for him to talk. When he spoke, his listeners found him to be half-paralyzed. He called me at the time of the evening prayer on Tuesday the 24th of Ramadan 224/July 839 and asked me — 'Do you not wonder at the occurrence of this illness in my case, when none of my father's descendants were assailed by it except Ismā`īl ibn Mūsā the Emir of the Faithful and Muhammad ibn Sālih the Unfortunate. But the reason that it befell Muhammad was certainly that his mother was a Byzantine Christian, as was his paternal gradmother. Ismā'īl's mother was also Byzantine, but my mother was not. So why, do you think, should I have contracted this disease?' I understood that he had learnt from his mother what `Isā Abū Quraysh had said concerning al-Mahdī and his descendants, namely that none of them would be afflicted by hemiplegia unless they sow their seed in Byzantine Christians. I knew he was hoping that his sickness was indeed hemiplegia and not a fatal one, so I said: I do not know why you have become afflicted with this illness, but the woman who gave birth to you came from Danbāwend, a place that is colder than the whole of Byzantium." He seemed to be reassured by these words. He believed me and expressed his happiness at what he had heard. He died at dawn, on Friday the 21st of Ramadan."

Yūsuf also reports, in the name of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, that `Isā ibn Ja`far ibn al-Mansūr was so heavy that his life seemed to be in danger. Al-Rashīd was sick with worry and he forbade him all the delights of food and drink. He ordered all the medical men to try and cure him, but none of them knew of any means, this only adding to al-Rashīd's anger. `Isā, known as Abū Quraysh, went to al-Rashīd secretly and said: "O Emir of the Faithful, your brother `Isā ibn Ja`far was endowed with a healthy [p.289] stomach and a body which is most receptive to food. Everything happens to him the way he would have liked it to happen, and whenever he desires anything he gets even more than what he wished for. He has been spared the death of his beloved ones, loss of wealth, even injustice to his government and its management. Now, as long as the nature and the condition of men are not disturbed, their bodies behave in different ways. Sometimes they are afflicted with diseases; sometimes they are healthy sometimes they can have dreams of abhorred or beloved things; on some occasions they become filled with terror, on others they are overflowing with joy. There is no reason for a corpulent man to perish until his bones are too weak to carry him, until his mind becomes deranged and the power of his brain and liver is rendered worthless. When this happens, life is lost. As for your brother, if you can contain your anger at him, do not show any alteration in you dealings with him, and do not cause him heartbreak by taking his money or something dear and sacred to him — there is no reason to expect his fatness to increase and endanger his life. If you want him to live, treat him thus, and if not — you will have no brother!"

Al-Rashīd replied: "Indeed I know that what you say is true, but I cannot help changing my attitude toward him and getting angry with him about one thing or another. If you have a means of curing him, use it and if he does lose weight, I shall reward you with ten thousand dinars, and will procure the same amount for you from him." `Isā answered: "I have a means, but I am afraid that `Isā will hasten to kill me. So let the Emir of the Faithful send one of his respectable servants with me, accompanied by a troup who will defend me in case he tries to kill me." This granted, Abū Quraysh went to `Isā and took his pulse. He then informed him that he would have to check his pulse for three days, before he would be able to prescribe any treatment. `Isā ordered him to go away and return to him, which he did. He went back on the second and third day, completed his check of the pulse, and said to him: "My advice is good, it does not [p.290] precipitate things nor delay them. My opinion is that the Emir should agree to wait. If nothing happens during a period of forty days I will administer a treatment that will not require more than three days for him to be cured of his sickness, and his body will improve its condition." Upon hearing this, `Isā jumped up from his seat.

`Isā's heart became terror-stricken, with the result that he abstained from overindulgence in food and could not sleep. Before forty days had passed, his waist decreased by five measures. All these days `Isā Abū Quraysh hid from al-Rashīd, fearing lest the latter inform `Isā ibn Ja`far of the physician's plan to raise anxiety in his heart, and so defeat the purpose. On the night of the fortieth day Abū Quraysh went to al-Rashīd and told him that he had no doubt but that `Isā's body had diminished in bulk. He asked the Caliph to call him to the palace or to ride to see him. Al-Rashīd rode to him and entered his place with `Isā the physician. `Isā his brother said to him: "O Emir of the Faithful, let me kill this unbeliever, for he would have killed me." He brought his girdle and fastened it on his waist, saying: "O Emir of the Faithful, by Allāh, this enemy has decreased my body by five measures through the fear he raised in my heart." Al-Rashīd blessed and thanked God and then said to him: "O my brother, I have fooled you with Abū `Isā" — Al-Rashīd used to call him frequently by this name — "by the Grace of God, your life is saved, what an excellent trick he played on you! I have already granted him ten thousand dinars, so give him the same yourself." This was done, and the physician returned to his house with the money. `Isā ibn Ja`far never became fat again to the end of his life.

Yūsuf tells another story in the name of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī. The latter became afflicted with a grave illness while he was staying with al-Rashīd in al-Raqqah. Al-Rashīd ordered him to be taken to his mother in Baghdād. Bakhtīshū` the grandfather of Bakhtīshū` who was our contemporary took charge of his treatment and did not leave his bedside. [p.291]

Afterward al-Rashīd returned to Baghdad with `Isā Abū Quraysh and mentioned that the physician had come back to visit him. Abū Quraysh saw that the malady had destroyed his flesh and melted away his fatness to the point that he despaired of his life. The worst part of his sickness was his high fever. Abū Ishāq adds: "`Isā told me — I swear by the truth of al-Mahdī that I shall surely cure you by tomorrow with such a treatment that you will be well before I depart from your place.' He called the steward and said to him: 'Search the whole of Baghdād for three fat chickens. Slaughter them immediately and hang them with their feathers

until I give you further orders early tomorrow morning.' He came to me at dawn with three fragrant watermelons which he had kept on ice the whole of the previous night. Entering, he called for a knife and cut out a piece of one of them, saying: 'Eat this piece.' I told him that Bakhtīshū` had forbidden me the smell of watermelon, to which he replied — 'This is why your illness has persisted; eat, there is no harm in it!' 'I ate the piece with pleasure. He ordered me to continue eating, until I had finished two of the watermelons and did not have an appetite for them any more. He cut a piece of the third and said: 'All you have eaten till now was for pleasure, now eat this piece for your health.' I ate it unwillingly, and then he cut another piece and signalled the servants to bring in the food tray. He said to me: 'Eat this piece as well!' I had hardly finished a third of it when my insides churned and I was overcome by retching. I vomited about four times the amount I had eaten of the watermelons, all yellow, bitter stuff. After vomiting I lost consciousness and fell into a sweat-sodden sleep. I slept until after the noon prayer and woke up half fainting from hunger, whereas I had had no appetite for a long period before. I called for some food, and he brought me the three chickens prepared as a stew with vinegar, very well cooked and extremely tasty. I ate till I was replete and slept again till late in the evening. When I woke up I could not detect a trace of that illness. I recovered completely and have never had a relapse since." [p.292]


Al-Lajlāj. Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells the following in the name of `Ismā`īl ibn Abū Sahl ibn Nawbakht, who heard it from his father. "When al-Mansūr went on the pilgrimage to Mecca during which he died, Abū Sahl accompanied al-Lajlāj, the Caliph's physician. When the Caliph fell asleep, they would meet and drink together until once, when Ibn al-Lajlāj was in his cups, he asked my father how long he thought the Caliph might live. Abū Sahl was shocked, He stopped drinking and promised himself never to keep al-Lajlāj company. Indeed he stayed away for three days, but then they made peace again. When they were sitting drinking, Ibn al-Lajlāj said to my father Abū Sahl: 'I have asked you for information about certain things and you acted avariciously and deserted me. Now I will not be avaricious with my knowledge toward you. Hear this: al-Mansūr is a person with a hot temper, whose body is becoming drier and drier with the years. His head was shaved in al-Hīrah, and his barber put boiled perfume on his scalp. Now he continues to use the perfume in the country of Hijāz and does not listen when I tell him to abandon it. I do not suppose he will reach Fayd before his brain becomes so desiccated that neither I nor any other physician will have any means to moisten it. He will fall sick before reaching Fayd — if indeed he will get there — and die before arriving at Mecca.'" `Isma`īl adds, "My father had told me that, by Allāh, al-Mansūr did fall sick before reaching Fayd, and he arrived at Mecca a dead man. He was buried in Bi'r Maymūn."

Yūsuf continues: "I told this story to Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī who liked it and asked me the full name of Abū Sahl ibn Nawbakht. I admitted my ignorance, and he said: 'The story about his name is even nicer than the story you have told me in his son's name — learn it from me! Well, Abū Sahl ibn Nawbakht told me that when he was getting tired of serving al-Mansūr, he was ordered by the Caliph to bring his son to take his place. He entered and approached the Caliph, who asked him his name. The answer came — Khaskhashā Dhimāh Taymādāh Mādhariyād Khosro Bahemshādh. The Caliph asked 'All this is your name?' — 'Yes.' He [p.293] smiled and said: 'Your father did not help us at all. You can choose between these two alternatives — either I limit all you have mentioned to Taymādh, or I give you a nickname that will serve you as a name, Abū Sahl.' The son was pleased with the nickname, and it became established, while his real name was forgotten."

This story is affirmed by `Ismā`īl ibn Abū Sahl, who said: "Abū Ishāq is right — my father told me the same."


`Abd Allāh al-Tayfūrī was an intelligent man and a good conversationalist in spite of the heavy southern accent that flavored his speech, for he was born in a village of Kaskar. He was one of the most favored by al-Hādī. Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhim reports in the name of al-Tayfūrī himself that he was the physician of Tayfur, who claimed to be al-Khaizurān's brother, but most people say that he was her freedman.

Al-Tayfūrī continues: "When al-Mansūr sent al-Mahdī to al-Ray, to fight against Sunqār, al-Khayzurān conceived Mūsā by al-Mahdī. Tayfūr was with her, and he had taken me with him. Al-Khayzurān did not know she was pregnant. `Isā, known as Abū Quraysh, was a chemist in the camp. When al-Khayzurān noticed the signs of her condition she sent her urine with an old woman, one of her household, and told her to present the urine to all the physicians in al-Mahdī's camp and to all those who carry out this examination. We were staying then in Hamadhān. The old woman obeyed the order, and on her way she passed `Isā's tent. She saw a group of servants from the camp standing there, presenting phials of urine to him. She did not want to pass by without his examining the urine. Having looked at it, he said to her: 'This is the urine of a woman who is pregnant with a male child.' The old woman went back and informed al-Khayzurān of his words. She bowed down and, thanking God, freed some of her slaves, went to al-Mahdī and told him the news. He was even happier about it than she was, ordered `Isā to be brought in, [p.294] and asked him to affirm the old woman's words. The physician said: 'The thing is exactly as you have described it.' Al-Mahdī and al-Khayzurān gave him a great deal of money and asked him to stay in their service. He left his tent and all his belongings and chemical equipment."

Al-Tayfūrī continues: "Tayfūr wanted to be useful to me, so he sent to al-Khayzurān, saying: 'My physician is an expert in the art of medicine. Send your urine to him in order that he may examine it.' The next day she sent her urine to me, while he told me to affirm `Isā's words. My opinion was that the urine indeed showed that she was pregnant, but as to the distinction between boy and girl — that I could not say. He did his uutmost to persuade me to it, but I did not obey him, guarding myself from falling into an impudent lie. He informed her of my words, for which she rewarded me with a thousand dirhams, and asked me to stay in her service. Having arrived at al-Ray she gave birth to al-Hādī, while al-Mahdī had verified by all kinds of tests that Abū Quraysh was impotent. The Caliph was very pleased with this fact and raised his position above that of all the other eunuchs. This was a circumstance that turned to my benefit, as I was attached to the Emir of the Faithful Mūsā, and was called his physician as long as he was nursing and weaned. Al-Khayzurān then gave birth to Hārūn al-Rashīd, also in al-Ray. It seemed that his birth was a bad omen for al-Hādī, as all or most of the favor turned toward his brother. My honor was also diminished by it, and my privileges of intimacy in the palace were reduced. This state of affairs continued until Musā grew up and matured, whereupon I rose in status again for he honored me. He showed preference to me more than his mother did.

"God gave victory to al-Mahdī, and he killed Sunkār and his followers —Shahriyār Abū Mihrawayhi and Khālid, Biskhanz Abū al-Harith ibn Biskhanz and al-Rab`īn — and arrested their descendants. Among the prisoners were Mihrawayh, Khālid, and their relative Shāhik, who was one of Shahriyār's household and the mother of al-Sindī ibn Shahīk. [p.295] There was also al-Harith ibn Biskhanz, all of them allies [Mawālī] from al-Ray. Then al-Hādī reached the age of reason and al-Mahdī became Caliph. As a consequence my power was increased as the Crown Prince's physician. After that al-Hādī purchased al-`Azīz's bondwoman, who became dearer to him than the skin between his eyes. She was the mother of Ja`far, `Abd Allāh, Ismā`īl, Ishāq, `Isā known as al-Jurjānī, Mūsā the blind, and two daughters, the mother of `Isā, the wife of al-Ma'mūn, and the mother of Muhammad and `Ubayd Allāh. Mūsā al-Hādī let me adopt all his descendants and informed their mother that he considered himself blessed by me. She granted me more favors than I had wished for from al-Hādī himself. Al-Hādī then arranged for the investiture of his son Ja`far ibn Mūsā. He called me the day before the general oath of fidelity was administered to him, gave me an honorary robe, had me carried on one of his horses, with its saddle and bridle, and ordered a hundred thousand [dirhams] to be carried to my house. He said to me: 'Do not leave the palace. Stay there today, tonight, and most of tomorrow, until I get your son Ja`far nominated, then you can go to your house as the noblest of men, as you have undertaken to foster a caliph's son who became Crown Prince and then Caliph. You have also fostered his son, until he became Crown Prince.' He informed al-`Azīz's bondwoman of it, and she treated me with the same honor as al-Hādī did, sent precious robes to my house, but did not make me ride a horse. I stayed in the palace in `Isābādh until dawn the next day, when I received the above-mentioned honors. Al-Hādī then sat in state, with all the Banū Hashim present there. I got from them an oath to invest Ja`far and depose al-Rashīd. Then came the lineage of Zā'idah, Yazīd ibn Muzīd being the first to depose al-Rashīd and invest Ja`far instead, then Shurāhīl ibn Ma`n ibn Zā'dah and his people. After them came Sa`īd ibn Sulam ibn Qutaybah ibn Muslim and the line of Mālik, `Abd Allāh being the first of them to give the oath. Then came the Followers and the rest of the Arab shaikhs, then the commanders, whose majority had given the oath before noon that day. [p.296]

"Among those commanders was Harthamah ibn A`yan, nicknamed 'the Ominous,' whom al-Mansūr had put in charge of five hundred. He did not advance after his nomination, and even after most of his companions had died he did not get the post of any of them. Nonetheless he was brought in and ordered to give his oath. Harthamah asked: 'O Emir of the Faithful, for whom should I give the oath of investiture?' — `Ja`far, the son of the Emir of the Faithful.' He said: 'My right hand is busy giving the oath to the Emir of the Faithful, while my left is busy giving it to Hārūn, which hand should I use?' The Caliph replied: 'You should depose Hārūn and invest Ja`far!' — 'O Emir of the Faithful, I am a person most needful of your advice and the counsel of the Imāms who belong to your lineage, the family of the Prophet. By Allāh, were I to be burned for telling you the truth, it would not have prevented me from doing so. As for this oath, O Emir of the Faithful, it is rather a matter of faith. I have already given my oath to Harūn for what you ask me now to give to Ja`far. The way you deposed Harūn today you may depose Ja`far tomorrow, and the same with all those who gave their oath to Hārūn and then betrayed him.'

"This statement aroused Mūsā's anger, and he ordered him to be stabbed in the neck. A group of Mawālī and commanders rushed to injure him, but al-Hādī stalled them and repeated his order concerning the oath. He said: "O Emir of the Faithful, I say now what I said before.' Al-Hādī scolded him, saying: 'Go with God's curse, neither you nor your companions will swear an oath for a thousand years.' He ordered him to be expelled from the palace in `Isābādh and his command annulled, adding: 'Let him be. He may go wherever he likes — may God never accompany or safeguard him.' The Caliph remained silant and downcast for about half an hour, issuing neither an order nor a prohibition; then he raised his head and said to his servant Yandūn: 'Go get the rebel!' Yandūn replied — 'I will get him, but what shall I do with him?' — 'Return with him to the Emir of the Faithful.' Yandūn caught up with him between the gate of Khurāsān and the gate of Burdān, near the place known as [p.297] Bāb al-Naqb [the gate of the tunnel], when he was heading for his place on Nahr al-Mahdī, and returned with him. At his entrance, the Caliph said to him: 'O you flatulent, the family of the Prophet had already invested the Emir of the Faithful, including his grandfather's uncle, his father's uncle, both his uncles, his brothers and the rest of his blood relatives. The most important personages among the Arabs had given their oath of fidelity, as did the Mawālī and the commanders, and you dare withhold your approval?' Harthamah replied: 'O Emir of the Faithful, what need is there of the flatulent's oath, after all those noble people you have mentioned have given it to you? Nevertheless, the fact remains, as I have said, one cannot depose Harūn today and stay faithful to Ja`far tomorrow.'"

Al-Tayfūrī continues: "Al-Hādi" turned to those present in his assembly and said: 'Shame on you! By Allāh, Harthamah spoke the truth innocently, and you have committed treason.' Having said this, al-Hādī ordered fifty thousand dirhams to be given to Harthamah and assigned to him the land where he was overtaken by Yandūn, and which was thenceforth called Harthamah's encampment for that reason. All the people left in great excitement, being at once furious at what had happened and full of apprehension as to what might befall them in case something happened to the Caliph, because of their haste to depose al-Rashīd on the one hand and his failure with Ja`far on the other. They had hoped that their master would become Caliph and that they themselves would profit by his appointment, but now they came to fear for their master's life, and for themselves death, suffering, and poverty.

Mūsā al-Hādī went to see al-`Azīz's bondwoman, who said to him: Emir of the Faithful, I do not suppose there is anybody who has seen and heard what we have seen and heard, for we got up in the morning full of hope for this young man, and we go to sleep with the direst fears for him. He replied: 'What you say is true, and I will add just one thing to it.' — [p.298] 'What is that, O Emir of the Faithful?' — 'I had ordered Harthamah brought back so as to break his neck, but when he appeared before me something intervened between us. I was forced to favor him, assign him a piece of land, and I am going to do more — raise his rank, and praise his name.' She started to cry, and he said to her: 'I wish that Allāh will grant you happiness!' She suspected that he was going to poison al-Rashīd, as did all those who were around her, but he was not given the chance, for a few days later he died, and Hārūn al-Rashīd became Caliph. By Allāh, he treated Ja`far most kindly, saw to his welfare and gave him his daughter Umm Muhammad in marriage."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm reports the following in the name of Abū Muslim, who heard the story from Hamīd al-Tā'ī, known as al-Tūsī. Hamīd was not from Tūs. His home town is registered as Merw. Tāhir the governor of Būshanj was also from Merw. Similarly, Musā ibn Abū al-`Abbās al-Shāshr was not from al-Shāsh, but lived in Herāh. Muhammad ibn Abū al-Fadl al-Tūsī was called thus although he came from Nisā. The reason for calling these people, as well as other public figures, after places from which they did not originate is that some of them had their lands in those prices, and others served a long time as governors of certain places, after which they were later named.

Abū Muslim said: "Hamīd's father, Abū Ghānim, was afflicted with a serious illness, for which he was treated by the physician al-Tayfūrī. This Abū Ghānim had a very quick temper, which caused him to insult his friends and do things they did not like. Once I was standing to serve him, while a young man in Qubādir Zābrrūn, when al-Tayfūrī came to visit him. He felt his pulse and examined his urine, then whispered something in his ear which I did not catch. The sick man screamed at him: 'You lie, you sucker of your mother's clitoris!' Al-Tayfūrī replied: 'May Allāh bite his mother's so and so, if we lie!' I said to myself, by Allāh, al-Tayfūrī has gone out of his mind! Said Abū Ghānim: "O son [p.299] of the impious! You have done it, woe to you! How dare you say this to me?' The physician replied: 'By Allāh, I have never suffered a harsh word addressed to me even by my master al-Hādī, He used to offend me, but I would answer him in the same coin. Now how do you expect me to tolerate your insults, you being merely a dog?' I could have sworn that I saw Hamīd's father laughing and crying, some of his wrinkles showing laughter, others appearing to denote sorrow. Then he asked: 'Can you swear by Allāh that you really gave back the Emir of the Faithful al-Hādī the same insults he hurled at you?" and al-Tayfūrī replied; 'Yes, by Allāh.' — 'I would ask you in the name of God to insult Hamīd whenever you feel like it and swear at him to your heart's content whenever he explodes at you.' He then wept, lamenting al-Hādī."

Yūsuf continues: "l asked al-Tayfūrī to affirm Abū Muslim's story, and he wept so profusely at the mention of Hamīd's name and the agitation it aroused in him that I was afraid for his life. He then exclaimed: 'By Allāh, I have never met a man besides al-Hādī who was of a warmer spirit, of a nobler character, neither a better friend nor a more equitable person than Hamīd; only he was a commander of an army and behaved as his office required him to, but when he was with his companions he acted more as one devoted to them than as one who did them favors.'"

Yūsuf adds: "A1-Tayfūrī told me that he was once with Hamīd al-Tūsī in the castle of Ibn Hubayrah during the period when our master was conquering Baghdād and its surroundings. A group of people from the federation of Tā'ī came to him, led by a chief whom they had chosen to honor and obey. Hamīd granted him a visit in a public audience which he assembled in order to show his esteem. He then addressed the chief, saying: 'What has brought you here, cousin?' The chief replied: 'I have come to recommend my auxiliaries to you, if you are going to fight that pretender, who claims as his due what he does not deserve! (meaning our master). Hamīd said: 'I do not accept any assistance, except from those on whose bravery and [p.300] steadfastness I can rely, and who can suffer for my sake hardships that ai too difficult for most people. You must undergo an ordeal. If you pass the test I accept you, but if you fail I will send you back to your people.' Said the Tā'ī — 'So try me however you like.' Hamīd took out a club from under his prayer rug and ordered him to stretch his arm out. He did so, and Hamīd carried the club to his shoulder and then swung it at the man's arm. When it came near him, he drew his arm back. Hamīd became angry and told him: 'You have returned my hand.' The Tā'ī propitiated him and asked for a repetition of the trial. Hamīd ordered him again to stretch his arm out, and when he swung the club at him, he reacted just as before, withdrawing his arm so that Hamīd could not hit him. Hamīd then ordered him to be arrested and took his horse and those of his companions. He sent them out on foot from his encampment, as people who had suffered a misfortune.'

Al Tayfūrī adds: "I blamed him for the deed, but he laughed and said: 'I have indeed permitted you to laugh and mock at me, even to offend my honor when I say something you do not like concerning medicine in your presence, but as for the commanding of armies, this is something you have no part in, so do not ever disapprove of a divergence of our opinion in this respect.' He went on, 'I belong to Yaman, while the Prophet, blessed be his name, was a man of Mudar, as the Caliphate is in the hands of the people of Mudar. Now, the same way as I love my people, the caliphs love theirs. When sometimes I show an inclination toward my people and turn away from those who are more closely bound to the Caliphate than I, I have no doubt they would still lean toward it when circumstances call. I have with me many chiefs of the tribes of Nizār; when I give preference to my people, I cause disheartment among those people from Nizār whom I have already tried and found courageous. I do not know, maybe all those who come to me from my people are not worth one of these Nizār people; so I try to win the confidence of those who are [p.301] with me, and send away those of my people who have come to warn others, not out of happiness. For when they go away warning, none will come any more, but when they go away rejoicing, we get those for whom all our money will not be enough.' I knew then that he had found the right path, and would never commit an error in all his undertakings."


Zakariya al-Tayfūrī. Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm reports the following story in Zakariyā's name: "I was once with al-Afshīn in his camp, while he was fighting Bābak. He ordered that all the merchants who were staying in his camp were to be registered and that a census be taken of their shops and the profession of each of them. When the announcer arrived at the place where the chemists were, he said to me: 'O Zakariyā, register these chemists for me. Follow whomever you meet and put him to the test so that we will know who are the true and sincere ones, with real integrity. I said — may Allāh glorify the Emir! It is told that Yūsuf Laqwah the chemist was an intimate companion of al-Ma'mun and served him. One day the Caliph said to him: 'Woe to you, O Yūsuf! There is no substance at all to chemistry! ' Yūsuf replied: 'Indeed, O Emir of the Faithful, but those who practice chemistry have harmed the profession.' Al-Ma'mūn asked: 'How is that?' and Yūsuf replied: 'O Emir of the Faithful, it is a fact that a chemist will always have everything he is asked for, whether he really has it or not. He would hand over something he has in his shop and say that this is what is needed. Now, if the Emir of the Faithful wishes, let him choose an unknown name and send a group of people to the different chemists to try and buy it. We shall then see what happens. Al-Ma'mūn said: 'I have already chosen a name — it is Saqatīthā, which is the name of an estate not far from Baghdād.' Al-Ma'mūn sent several envoys to ask the chemists for Saqatfthā. The chemists all said they had it, took the price from the envoys and gave them some object from their shop. They returned to al-Ma'mūn with various objects — seeds, a piece of stone, hair, etc. Al-Ma'mūn was highly delighted with Yūsuf Laqwah's [p.302] scheme, and assigned him an estate on the river known as the Bitch. This estate now belongs to his heirs, who live off it. If the Emir would like me to try these chemists the same way as al-Ma'mūn — I am willing!"

Al-Afshīn called for one of the census registers and picked out about twenty names, which he sent to the chemists with his envoys, asking for the drugs called by those names. Some of the chemists said they did not know them, but some pretended that they did, took the dirhams from the envoys and gave them certain items from their shops. Al-Afshīn ordered all the chemists to be brought to him. When they arrived, he wrote out certificates for those who denied knowledge of those names and allowed them to practice in his camp. The others he expelled. The announcer declared their expulsion and the license to kill any of them who would be found in the camp. Al-Afshīn also wrote to the Caliph al-Mu`tasim, asking him to send to his camp chemists of integrity and good reputation, and also physicians. Al-Mu`tasim granted him this and sent him what he had requested.


Isrā'il ibn Zakariyā al-Tayfūri was the physician of al-Fath ibn Khāqān. He was extremely proficient in the medical craft and held in high esteem by Caliphs and kings, who treated him nobly. He served al-Fath ibn Khāqān as his private physician, and acquired from him abundant allowances and considerable favors. Al-Mutawakkil used to consult him frequently and rely upon him, and the physician's position in his court was secure. In this respect Ishāq ibn `Alī from Edessa tells in his book "The Education of the Physician" that Isrā'il ibn Zakariyā ibn al-Tayfūrī was once angered to discover that the Emir of the Faithful al-Mutawakkil was cupped without his permission. Al-Mutawakkil ransomed his anger with three thousand dinars and an estate that gave him fifty thousand dirhams annually, which the Caliph registered for him.

It is reported in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah that he witnessed one day that al-Mutawakkil came to visit his physician when the latter fainted; the [p.303] Caliph put his hand under his head as a pillow, and said to his vizier, "O `Abd Allāh, my life depends on his; if he dies, so will I! " When later the physician became ill, the Caliph sent his chamberlain Sa`īd ibn Sālih and his scribe Musā ibn `Abd al-Malik to visit him.

I have copied from one of the chronicles that al-Fath ibn Khaqān was very fond of Isrā'īl ibn al-Tayfūrī and presented him to al-Mutawakkil. He did not rest until al-Mutawakkil befriended him, assigned him a rank equal to that of Bakhtīshu` and increased his power. When he rode to al-Mutawakkil's palace, this retinue was like those of the emirs and the highest commanders, and lictors ran before him with rods. Al-Mutawakkil gave him an estate in Samarra and ordered Saqlāb and ibn al-Khaybarī to ride with him all around the city until he found the place he would choose. They rode together and he chose fifty thousand measures of land which they marked off, and he was given three hundred thousand dirhams to spend on it.


Yazīd ibn Zayd ibn Yā'hahā ibn Abū Khālid was celebrated both as a good theoretician and an expert practitioner. He served al-Ma'mūn as a physician and then Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, who made him his favorite, endowed him with great wealth and esteemed him highly. He was also called Yazīd Būr. Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm reports, in the name of Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, that Tumāmah al-`Absī al-Qa`qā`ī, otherwise known as Abū `Uthmān ibn Thumāmah, the powerful governor, became afflicted with chronic diarrhea when he was already very old. Abū Ishāq continues: "I was asked by al-Rashīd concerning his illness and how it afflicted him. I answered that I did not understand the case, which made him angry. He said: `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān wanted to become related by marriage to a stranger from the East. Indeed, the man's sister has given birth to two caliphs — al-Walīd and Sulaymān, the sons of `Abd al-Malik. Your father also wanted to become related to him, and married his sister. I your brother wanted to do the same, and married his daughter; moreover, he [p.304] was the companion of your grandfather, father, sister and brother. After all that, do you not consider it your duty to help him?' He ordered me to go and visit him, which I did, taking with me my physician Yazīd. When I got there, I found a man who seemed to be breathing his last breath and could not see any point in trying to save him. My physician Yazīd called for the sick man's physician, asked him the patient's condition, and was informed that he was evacuating a hundred times a day and night. Yazīd started questioning the other physician about every drug, every powder and enema, but at the mention of each, the physician told him that he had already tried and failed. Yazīd remained silent for about an hour and then raised his head and said: 'There is one thing left; if it is administered to him, I hope he will get better, if it fails — there is no cure for him.' I noticed that Thumāmah's spirits were raised by Yazīd's words, and he asked: 'I beg you, what is it?' — 'A potion of stomakhiqon.' — 'I would like to see and smell it. ' Yazīd took out of his sleeve a kerchief containing drugs and the stomakhiqon. Thumāmah ordered it to be untied, then snatched the medicine and swallowed it all. By Allāh, the moment it went down I heard him utter such sounds that I had no doubt that he would die before I reached the door. I stood up with my physician, overwhelmed with grief. I said to my servant, who was carrying the Astrolabe for me when I was traveling: 'Stay in his house and keep me informed of his condition.' He stayed behind; his letter reached us after dusk, relating that he had evacuated fifty times between sunrise and the afternoon. I said: 'By Allāh, Thumāmah is lost.' The servant's second letter arrived after sunset, telling us that the sick man had discharged twenty times between afternoon and sunset. The servant himself joined us in the morning, informing us that Thumāmah had evacuated only three times between sunset and midnight and that from midnight until dawn was all restful. Having said the morning prayer, I rode to him and found him sleeping, whereas previously he had been unable to sleep. He woke up, and I asked him how he was feeling. He told me that because of a constant pain he had suffered in his [p.305] body, he had not had a good night's sleep or a rest for more than forty days until he took that potion. Once it had had its effect, his pain went. He also told me that he had not had any appetite all that time, but now he could not even see me owing to the ravenous hunger he felt. He asked permission to eat, and Yazīd let him have a dish of fat feathered chicks, and then a zīrbajah.

"I went back to al-Rashīd and told him Thumānah's story. He summoned the physician and exclaimed: 'Woe unto you! How dare you make him drink the seeds of stomakhiqon?' Yazīd replied: 'O Emir of the Faithful, this person had a rotten element in his body, which ruined every drug or food he would take. All those spoilt drugs and food became material for further disease, and the sickness was thus constantly aggravated. I knew there was no means to cure it except a strong drug which could overcome and drive out that rotten element. Now, the most powerful drug that could be used was the stomakhiqon potion. I said so, not daring to state positively that he would be cured. I merely said that there was one thing left and that if that failed, there was no cure for him. I put it that way because I saw that he has weakened by his illness and most of his resistance had already gone. On the one hand, I was not sure he would die if he did drink it, and was still hoping to save him, and on the other, I was sure that he would die if he did not drink it.' Al-Rashīd was pleased with this answer and gave him ten thousand dirhams. He then called Thumāmah and said to him: 'In taking that drug you undertook a momentous thing, especially since the physician did not explain to you that you would definitely be cured by it.' Thumāmah replied: 'O Emir of the Faithful, I had already despaired of my life when I heard the physician say that if I took the drug he hoped it would benefit me, I chose to be optimistic, even for a moment, rather than to give up all hope, and so I drank it down. All that happened was by the infinite grace of God.'"

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah adds: "This story corresponds to one which is told of the Prophet, may Allāh have mercy upon him. Once one of the tribesmen [p.306] came up to him and said: "O Apostle of Allāh, my brother has been overcome by diarrhea. We tried to treat him, but did not have any success." Said the Prophet, blessed be his name: 'Feed him date-honey.' He went and did so, but the diarrhea only increased, so he came back and said: "O Apostle of Allāh, since we fed him the honey his diarrhea has increased.' Said the Prophet: 'Feed him more honey!' The man did, and his diarrhea became even worse. He complained to the Prophet, blessed be his name, who said: 'Give him more of the honey!" He gave him more honey on the third day, and the diarrhea diminished and then stopped altegether. He informed the Prophet of it, and he said: 'Allāh was right, and your brother's stomach was wrong!' The Prophet, blessed be his name, said this because he knew that when a patient's stomach is affected by rough viscous moistures, it becomes glossed over and all the constipating drugs do not have any effect on it, while the moistures stay put and the food slips down, so that the diarrhea becomes chronic. When honey is administered, it expels the moistures and lets them down, increasing the bowel movements at first, until all those moistures are driven out completely, then the diarrhea stops and the patient is cured. When he said 'Allāh is right' he meant the knowledge He had given his Prophet; when he said 'your brother's stomach was wrong' he was referring to the initial increase in the diarrhea, which was not a real disease, so that his stomach was lying in this respect.


`Abdūs ibn Zayd. Abū Alī al-Qabbānī tells in his father's name that al-Qāsim ibn `Ubayd Allāh became very sick one July. He was afflicted with a serious colic, and `Abdūs ibn Zayd was treating him exclusively. He made him drink a potion prepared from various roots. When it boiled he threw in the root of celery, fennel, castor oil and a small dose of laxative. After the patient had drunk the potion, his pains ceased, he evacuated twice, and got up feeling better. On the morrow `Abdūs gave him a barley drink, and the patient was most satisfied. [p.307]

Abū Alī al-Qabbānī continues: "My brother Ishāq ibn Alī also fell ill. His temper was overcome by fever and his body was weakened by emaciation, until he rejected everything he ate. `Abdūs ibn Zayd made him drink the same roots as a laxative plus castor oil. He administered this to him for fourteen days during the month of June. The patient was cured and his stomach thenceforth functioned normally.

`Abdūs said: "Around the same time next year you will be stricken with a high fever. If you are destined to live, I have cured you — if Allāh so grants it. If you are going to die, the mark of your recovery will show in a year's time. If on the seventh day your nature is set free, you are cured; but at the same time your stomach will get so hollow that if you were to throw a stone into it, it would be grounded." After a year had passed, `Abdūs himself fell ill and on the same day my brother was afflicted with a high fever, as had been predicted. `Abdūs continued to ask about my brother's condition and to show an interest in him, until he was told that his nature had been set free, and he knew that he was saved. `Abdūs died on the following day. He wrote a book entitled "The Memorandum of Medicine.


Sahl al-Kawsaj, the father of Sābur ibn Sahl, the author of the famous "Pharmacopoeia" was from the people of al-Ahwāz. He grew a long beard, but was ironically nicknamed al-Kawsaj [sparse-bearded]. He was a learned physician, but did not equal his son in knowledge. He spoke with a pronounced Khuzist accent. He used to jest a great deal, and his sport overcame his dignity. When he was in the company of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi, Jūrjis ibn Bakhtīshū`, `Isā ibn Hakam, `Isā ibn `Abū Khālid, Zakaryā ibn al-Tayfūrī, Ya`qūb the dean of the hospital, al-Hasan ibn Quraysh, `Isā al-Muslim, Sahl ibn Jubayr and other physicians of the same rank — he fell short of them in expression, but not in treatment. They all feared his quick and cutting tongue, for he had an answer to everyone. He was attached to Sallām al-Abrash, who was inseparable [p.308] from Harthamah ibn A`yan during his siege of Baghdād. Sahl became so attached to Harthamah ibn A`yan that he never left his side day or night; indeed his sharp wit made him good company.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm reports some of Sahl's jokes. In the year 209/824 he pretended to be sick and called witnesses to testify to his will. He wrote a letter in which he affirmed the names of his children. First he put Jūrjis ibn Mīkhā'īl, the son of Miriam the daughter of Bakhtīshu` and the sister of Jibrā'īl; the second was Yuhannā ibn Māsawayhi the third, fourth and fifth being accordingly Sābūr, Yūhannā and Khadhahwayhi his own famous sons. He mentioned that he had fornicated with the mothers of Jūrjis and Yūhannā ibn Masawayhi and was the progenitor of their sons.

Yūsuf reports another anecdote. I visited him in the home of A`yan ibn Harthamah, who was afflicted with a chronic quartan fever. Sahl had an argument with Jūrjis concerning this disease, during which he informed Jurjis of what he had stated in his will. Jūrjis turned vehemently to those who were on his right and left, and his fury sent him into a state of extreme confusion. Sahl exclaimed: "I swear by the Redeemer, he has fallen! Read him the verse of the Khaih!" by which he meant to say: "I swear by the Redeemer that he has fallen [from epilepsy], read to him the [Qur'ānic] Verse of the Chair."

Also in this connection, Yūsuf adds that on Palm Sunday Sahl went out to the convent of the Catholicos and the places which the Christians used to visit on that day. He saw Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi and found that he looked more dignified than himself, rode a better mule and his servants were the best of men. He became jealous of him because of all this apparent wealth, so he went to the commander of the garrison in that area and said to him: "My son finds me unsociable and is given to self-admiration. His confidence in himself and his wealth might lead him to abjure my parenthood. If you seize him and give him twenty painful scourges, I shall reward you with twenty dinars." He brought the money out and left it with a friend of this man. He hid in a corner until Yūhannā arrived. [p.309]

Sahl pointed him out to the commander of the garrison, saying: "This is my son who rejects and scorns me. Yūhanna denied that he was his son, but the man did not utter a word. He laid him down and gave him twenty exceedingly painful scourges.


Sābūr ibn Sahi was attached to the hospital of Jundaysābūr. He distinguished himself in the knowledge of simple drugs, their powers and mode of preparation. He served al-Mutawakkil and the caliphs who succeeded him, and died during the reign of al-Muhtadī bi-Allāh, on Monday, the 20th of Dhū al-Hijjah 255/November 869.

His works are the following:

1) The famous "Large Pharmacopoeia"in seventeen chapters, according to which the hospital and the pharmacies were guided, especially before the Pharmacopoeia written by Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh made its appearance.

2) The "Book of Aliments," their advantages and disadvantages.

3) The "Book of Refutation" of Hunayn ibn Ishāq's book on the difference between food and purgatives.

4) A treatise on sleep and wakefulness.

5) "On the Permutation of Drugs."


Isrā'īl ibn Sahl was a proficient physician, a good practitioner, expert in the preparation of drugs, author of a well written and famous theriac.


Mūsā ibn Isrā'īl from Kūfah, physician to Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī. Said Yūsuf ibn Ibrahīm: "In comparison with the leading physicians of his day, this Mūsā was not very advanced in the art of medicine, but he held his own among them due to several talents with which he was endowed, such as his eloquence, knowledge of astrology and history and his familiarity with poetry. As I was told, he was born in 129/746-7 and died in 222/837. Abū Ishāq liked him for these qualities and because he was such good [p.310] company; the two were as intimate as drinking companions of kings. As a young man, Mūsā served `Isā ibn Mūsā ibn Muhammad, the crown prince."

Yūsuf reports, in the name of Mūsā ibn Isrā'īl himself, who said: `Isā ibn Mūsā had a Jewish physician called Furāt ibn Shahāthā, whom the master Tayādhūq preferred to all his other pupils. He reached a very great age, as is evident from the fact that he had served al-Hajjaj ibn Yūsuf in his youth, `Isā used to consult this physician about all his ailments When al-Mansūr put `Isā in charge of fighting Muhammad ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Hasan the `Alide and gave him command of his capital, `Isā asked al-Furāt for his opinion on this. The physician replied: 'I say that this is a command of hatred between you and your people to the Day of Resurrection. My advice is that you move your family out of al-Kūfah to any other city you like; for al-Kūfah belongs to the party of your adversaries. If you are defeated, there is no chance of escape for any of your kin who remain there; if you become victorious over your enemies, this will only add to their hatred toward you, so that even if you save your own life, your descendants will be doomed after your death." `Isā replied: 'Woe unto you! The Emir of the Faithful is not leaving al-Kūfah — how can I take my family out when they are staying with him?' Al-Furāt said: 'The decisive factor in favor of your leaving must be this: if you win this war, the Caliph will stay in al-Kūfah, if you lose it, al-Kūfah will no longer be his capital, as he will flee and leave even his family behind him, not to speak of yours.' `Isā tried to transfer his family from al-Kūfah, but al-Mansūr did not allow him. After Allāh had given the victory to `Isā, who returned to al-Kūfah and killed Ibrahīm ibn `Abd Allāh, al-Mansūr moved to Baghdad. `Isā's physician advised him to hasten and join the Caliph in his newly established city. `Isā asked the Caliph permission to do so, but the latter refused, saying that there was no question of it, as he had already planned `Isā's nomination as governor of al-Kūfah. `Isā informed the physician of this, and al-Furāt said: 'Your being the governor of al-Kūfah means the abolishment [p.311] of your position as Crown Prince. For if he had planned to give you complete authority he would have made you governor of Khurāsān, the province dominated by your party, but the fact that he placed you in al-Kūfah, with his enemies and yours, after you had killed Muhammad ibn `Abd Allāh, proves, by Allāh, that he only wanted your death and the destruction of your descendants. It seems impossible for him to allot Khurāsān to you, after he has treated you thus, so ask him for the governorship of al-Jazīratayn (North Mesopotamia] or Syria. Then set out for either of the two governorships and settle there.' `Isā was surprised — 'You forbid me the governorship of al-Kūfah, whose people belong to the party of Banū Hāshim, and advise me to take on the governorship of Syria or al-Jazīratayn, while its people belong to the party of Banū Umayyah!' The physician replied: 'Although the people of al-Kūfah pretend to side with Banū-Hāshim and you and your family do not, their true loyalty is to Banū Abū Tālib. You have killed one of them, a fact that has made these people hate you and consider themselves free to turn against you. Now the affiliation of the people of al-Jazīratayn and of Syria is not of a religious nature. It stems rather from the preference they were shown by Banu Umayyah. If, when you become their governor, you show them friendship and treat them well, they will go over onto your side. Proof of my opinion is the fact that they have fought on the side of `Abd Allāh ibn Alī, notwithstanding their blood shed by him, because he had friendly connections with them and promised them his favors. Why, they are more inclined toward you, as you have not inflicted any harm upon them.'

"In consequence, `Isā asked to be freed from the governorship of al-Kūfah and be alloted another one instead. Al-Mansūr informed him that al-Kūfah was the seat of the Caliphate and that it was impossible to let it be without the Caliph or the Crown Prince. But he promised `Isā that he could stay one year in Baghdād and the other in al-Kūfah so that when he [al-Mansūr] went to al-Kūfah, `Isā could go to Baghdad and stay there. [p.312]

"When the people of Khurāsān demanded the investiture of al-Mahdī as Caliph, he asked his physician: 'O Furāt, what do you think, for I am called upon to resign in favor of Muhammad, the Caliph's son.' Furāt replied: 'But you will reject what I think you have to obey and put up with, now and in the future.' `Isā wanted to know what he meant by the future, and he said: 'If Muhammad the Caliph's son were to ask you to retire and give up the Caliphate for one of his sons, in the event of his passing away, then you have no choice, as you cannot oppose the people in anything they want you to do.'

'The physician died during the reign of al-Mansūr. When al-Mahdī called `Isā to resign as Crown Prince and give up the Caliphate for al-Mādī, `Isā ibn Mūsā exclaimed: 'O Furāt, may God curse you! How knowing and well-reasoned was your opinion when you were asked for it, as if you were a witness to this very day!'"

Mūsā ibn Isrā'īl concludes: "When I saw what Abū al-Sarāyā did to the dwellings of the `Abbāsides, I repeated the words of `Isā ibn Mūsā."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm explains: This was when while in Egypt, he heard about what the Tālibyūn and the people of al-Kūfah did to the `Abbāsides and about the murder of `Abd Allāh ibn Muhammad ibn Dā'ud, exactly as `Isā ibn Mūsā and Mūsā the physician had said.

Yūsuf tells another story in the name of Mūsā ibn `Isrā'īl the physician, who said: "Once `Isā ibn Mūsā complained to his physician Furāt about the drowsiness which used to overcome him while he was with his evening companions. If he ate supper with them, his stomach would get heavy so that he would fall asleep and miss the nightly conversation, and then get up with a sluggishness which would interfere with his breakfast. If, on the other hand, he did not eat supper with them, he would be overwhelmed by an incredible appetite. Said the physician: 'You have just complained to me about the same trouble al-Hajjaj reported to my master Tayādhūq, for which he prescribed something with good intentions but disastrous results.' To `Isā's request for details, he answered: 'He prescribed the [p.313] eating of pistachios, and so al-Hajjaj mentioned this to his women. Every one of them sent him a silver dish filled with pistachios which she had peeled for him. Thus he sat with his night-time companions and swallowed those pistachios with gusto until he was stricken with such indigestion that he almost died. When Tayādhūq was informed of this, he said to al-Hajjaj: 'What I told you was to play with the pistachios, meaning the nuts in the shell, so that you yourself would crack them one after the other and suck their shells, which are good for the stomachs of old fellows like you and beneficial to the liver when the taste of them reaches it. Then you would go on eating the nut of the pistachio and trying to get another one peeled, but you would not complete this act before nature would hurry to digest the previous nut. Indeed considering the way you went about it, it is a wonder that something worse than your present condition did not befall you!' Furāt finished saying: 'If you eat the pistachios, O Emir, the way my master had prescribed them, you will no doubt benefit by them.'"

Mūsā concludes by saying that `Isā ibn Mūsā stuck to eating pistachios for more than twenty years and blessed his physician.


Māsarjawayhi, the physician of al-Basrah. He was the one who translated Ahrun's work from Syriac to Arabic. He was a Syrian of the Jewish school, and was the person to whom Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyā al-Rāzī refers when he writes in his book al-Hāwī — 'said the Jew.'

Sulaymān ibn Hassān, known as Ibn Juljul said: Māsarjawayhi lived in the days of Banū Umayyah. During the reign of the Marwānyan dynasty he started to translate into Arabic the book by Ahrun ibn A`yun, which was found by `Umar ibn `Abd al-Azīz — may Allāh bless his name! — in the book archives. He ordered it to be transferred to his oratory, and then consulted God about its publishing among the Muslims, so that they could profit by it. After forty days had passed he published it and spread it among the people. Sulaymān ibn Hassan said that Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn  [p.314] `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Azīz told him this story in the mosque of al-Tirmidhī in the year 359/969-970.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells the following story in the name of Ayyūb ibn al-Hakam from al-Basrah known as al-Kisrawī, the friend of Muhammad ibn Tāhir ibn al-Husayn, who was a man of culture and manliness, thoroughly versed in history. Ayyūb recounted as follows: Nuwās, al-Hasan ibn Hānī, desired a maid belonging to a woman of Thaqīf who dwelled in a place called Hikmān, in the region of al-Basrah. Her name was Junān. The two persons known as Abū `Uthmān and Abū Umayyah from the tribe of Thaqīf, were relatives of the maid's mistress. This Abū Nuwās used to go out of al-Basrah every day and seek out somebody coming from the direction of Hikmān, in order to ask him about Jumān. One day I accompanied him on his outing. The first to approach us was Māsarjawayhi the physician, whom Abū Nuwās turned to as follows: 'How did you leave Abū Umayyah?' Māsarjawayhi replied: 'Junān is feeling well, as you would like her to.' Abū Nuwās then composed some verses on his love for Junān....."

Yūsuf was told by Ayyūb ibn al-Hakam that he was once sitting with Māsarjawayhi while the latter was examining urine samples. There came a man from al-Khuz, who said: "I am afflicted with a malady which has no equal." When asked to describe it, he said: "When I get up in the morning, my vision is blurred and my stomach feels as if it were full of dogs licking it. This condition continues until I eat something. When I have eaten it is appeased completely until the middle of the day. Then the same symptoms recur, until I eat again and the uneasiness subsides till the time of the evening prayer, when it returns. I have found no remedy for it, except repeated consumption of food." Said Māsarjawayhi: "May God curse this illness! Indeed he made a bad choice when he inflicted it upon somebody as vulgar as you are. I wish this malady might be transferred to me and my sons, in which case I would compensate you for it with half my possessions." The man said he did not understand him, so the [p.315] physician explained: "This is perfect health, which you do not deserve. I wish to God it might be taken away from you and granted to somebody who is more worthy of it than you are."

Yūsuf was also told by Ayyūb ibn al-Hakam al-Kisrawī that he once complained to Māsarjawayhi of constipation. The physician asked him what kinds of wine he drank. Ayyūb informed him that he was accustomed to wine made from garden dates with a liberal amount of hypericum added. The physician ordered that every summer's day, on an empty stomach, he eat a small cucumber of the type known in al-Basrah as al-Kharibī. When the cucumber was brought, he described it as being as thin as a finger and as long as the space between thumb and forefinger. He used to eat five, six or seven of them, until his bowels became too loose, and he complained accordingly to Māsarjawayhi.

The physician did not talk to him before giving him an enema full of fat, gum, marshmallow and Persian rice; then he said: "You almost killed yourself with overeating of the cucumbers on an empty stomach, for you must know that it is swollen with bile, which removes the liquids that line the intestines and protect them from becoming scratched or getting dysentery."

Māsarjawayhi wrote the following books:

1) "A Collection."

2) "A Book of Nourishment."

3) "A Book on Ophthalmology."


Salmawayhi ibn Bunān, the physician of al-Mu`tasim. When Abū Ishāq Muhammad al-Mu`tasim bi-Allāh became Caliph, in the year 218/833, he chose Salmawayhi the physician to be his private doctor, and treated him most nobly. One can find in the state registers the decrees of al-Mu`tasim in judicial and other matters, all in Salmawayhi's handwriting, as well as all the orders to the princes and commanders in matters of government and attendance of the Caliph's court. [p.316]

The Caliph put Salmawayhi's brother, Ibrāhīm ibn Bunān, in charge of  the treasuries in his cities, his seal being together with that of the Caliph's. There was nobody equal in rank to Salmawayhi and his brother Ibrāhīm. Salmawayhi ibn Bunān was a Christian, very firm in his belief, benevolent of good conduct, exceedingly wise and with good common sense.

Ishāq ibn Alī from Edessa writes in his book "The Education of the Physician," in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah, who got the story from Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi, who heard it from al-Mu`tasim himself, who said: "My physician Salmawayhi is greater in my eyes than the chief judge, as the latter decides about my money, while the former decides about my person, and my life is dearer to me than my money and possessions." When the physician Salmawayhi fell ill, al-Mu`tasim ordered his son to go and visit him, which he did. The Caliph then said: "I know for certain that I will not live after his death, for he has taken care of my life and kept my body in working order." Indeed he did not survive him by a full year.

Ishāq ibn Hunayn tells in the name of his father that Salmawayhi had the best knowledge of medicine in his generation and al-Mu`tasim used to call him "my Father." When Salmawayhi fell ill, al-Mu`tasin visited him and said, weeping: "Would you advise me what will be good for me after you have gone?" Salmawayhi replied: "You are very dear to me, my master, but you must turn to that bore Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi. When you complain of anything to him, and he prescribes different things for it, take the least complicated." When Salmawayhi died, al-Mu`tasim fasted all that day, then ordered that the bier brought into the palace, and prayers said over it with candles and frankincense, the perfect Christian way of burial. This was done, while the Caliph looked on, showing his great regard for him and his grief at his passing.

Al-Mu`tasim had a strong digestion, and twice a year Salmawayhi used to administer a phlebotomy to him, followed by a laxative potion. Sometimes he would put him on a diet. But Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi tried to give him a treatment he was not used to, and administered the 1axative [p.317] before the phlebotomy, saying: "I am afraid his bile would burn in him." When the Caliph drank the medicine his blood heated up and his body became feverish. He became so thin as to be emaciated, and he died several months after the death of Salmawayhi, in Rabi` al-Awwal in the year 227/842.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm tells that al-Mu`tasim once said to Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, when he was a caliph and first returned from Byzantium: "O my uncle, your health has been disturbed since the beginning of the civil war, for at its start you had suffered like the rest of the people, but then you were singled out for the destruction of your estates and the dissolution of their boundaries because you hid away for seven years from the last caliph lest something bad should happen to him and he had indeed enough. Then al-Ma'mun turned against you, and the results of his disfavor surpassed all the evil done to you before, which added to your grief. Now, I have pondered on your condition and have decided that you must send me word about yourself every day. Regarding what must be done in order to improve your situation, I think nothing could be accomplished unless I appoint one of my special servants to take care of your wants. My choice has fallen on two of my servants, each of them close to me in work and play, even more, in my sleep and bath. They are Masrūr Samānah and Salmawayhi ibn Bunān. You can choose whichever you prefer and charge him with your needs." Abū Ishaq's choice fell on Salmawayhi so the Emir of the Faithful called this man in and ordered him to carry his uncle's messages to him at all times.

Yūsuf continues: "Abū Ishāq acquainted me with Salmawayhi just before the Caliph left Baghdād forever, although he did not know it. He meant to go somewhere, and the people had already prepared the strings with the deacons to adorn the horses' saddles. It was on Wednesday the 17th of Dhū al-Qa`dah in the year 220/835. The horses were brought out: he called for the swift ones and rode them, while we did not doubt for a moment that he would return one day. He then ordered the servants and [p.318] officers to follow him, but none of his family went except al-`Abbās ibn al-Ma'mūn and `Abd al-Wahhāb ibn Alī. The Caliph left al-Wāthiq behind in Baghdād to conduct the prayers on the Day of Sacrifice in the year 220/835, then decided to go to al-Qātūl, and set out. Abū Ishāq sent me to arrange his affairs in the Caliph's gate, so I went there. The Caliph continued to travel in al-Qātūl and its capital, in Dīr Banū al-Saqar [known in al-Mu`tasim's and al-Wāthiq's time as al-Itākhiyyah and in al-Mutawakkil's time as al-Muhammadiyyah], then turned to Samārra and pitched his camp there. Here he remained.

"One day I was in the gate of al-Mu`tasim's camp, when Salmawayhi ibn Bunān came out and informed me that the Emir of the Faithful had ordered him to go into town to find Siwārtikīn al-Farghānī and then help his physician to cure him from his illness as he [Salmawayhi] saw fit. He made me swear to him that I would not leave him until we came back from town, and so I went with him. He told me thus: 'This morning, Nasr ibn Mansūr ibn Bassām, who was an emir, was telling me that he had accompanied al-Mu`tasim bi-Allāh to this town, meaning Samārra. Al-Mu`tasim, the Emir of the Faithful, addressed him as follows: 'O Nasr, have you ever heard of anything more wonderful than the story of the man who built an edifice in this town and dwelt therein? Would that I knew what makes this place so extraordinary. Is it the ruggedness of its soil, or the amenities, the numerous streams, or the strong heat when the sun beats on the stones? An inhabitant of this town must feel compelled to live here, or he simply has poor judgment.' Nasr told Salmawayhi that he had said to himself — 'By Allāh, I am afraid the Emir of the Faithful would like to dwell in this place.' While Salmawayhi was thus telling me about Nasr, he looked eastward, and his eye lit upon more than a thousand people laying the foundations of a bridge at the site of the bridge now known as al-Masib. Said Salmawayhi: 'It seems that Nasr ibn Mansūr's suspicions have already come true.' This happened in Rajab, in the year 221/836. [p.319]

"In the same year, daring the summer in the month of Ramadān, al-Mu`tasim fasted, then breakfasted publicly on the day of Fitr [the end of the fast of Ramadān] and on the Saturday he underwent a phlebotomy in al-Qātūl. It was the last day of the Christian Lent. In the morning of that day, Salmawayhi ibn Bunān came to the Caliph and asked his permission to go to al-Qādisiyyah to spend the rest of the day and the night in its church, then to receive the Holy Communion there on Sunday and return to al-Qātūl before breakfast that same day. The Caliph granted him permission, gave him many robes and bestowed upon him musk and many other perfumes. He set out grieved and overwhelmed, and insisted that I accompany him to al-Qādisiyyah, which I did. When we used to travel together, he had the habit of stopping on the way, either to examine some scholarly subject or to sport with some learned witticism, but he did neither this time. Instead he plunged into deep thought, his right hand moving and his lips murmuring something which he would not tell me about. It then occurred to me that he had noticed something hostile in the Caliph's attitude toward him, even though this was negated by his having given him permission to go to al-Qādisiyyah, and by the robes and perfumes he had bestowed upon him. When I asked him the subject of his searching thoughts, he said: 'I have heard you relate a saying of one of the Persian kings concerning the mind, and that it is necessary for a man to have his mind above everything else. Now tell it to me again, and inform me of the name of that king.' I replied: 'It was Anushirwān who said — if the mind is not the strongest element in a man, whatever is strongest in him will ruin him.' Salmawayhi exclaimed: "May Allāh curse him, how well did he speak!' He added: 'Our prince al-Wāthiq remembers everything that is read to him. Now there are many books read to him, more than his mind can absorb, and I am afraid that something dreadful has already happened to him. I beseech Allāh to avert the evils from him.' He wept, and I asked him for the reason: he replied: "I warned the Emir of the Faithful not to drink anything yesterday evening, so that he would get up pure for the phlebotomy [p.320] this morning. But he sat with the prince Harūn and Ibn Abū Dā'ud and `Abd al-Wahhāb to have conversation with them. Hārūn burst out declaiming the testament of Ardashīr ibn Bābak. He read all of it rapidly and clearly right to the end. I was afraid lest he would arouse his father's envy for his good memory, for he was not endowed with the same; lest his father would follow what Ardashīr ibn Bābak had specified in his testament, namely not to give the oath of loyalty to the Crown Prince; lest what Aradashīr had mentioned in that respect would happen to him, namely the people's inclination toward the Crown Prince in accordance with his position; lest what Ardashīr had said would come true, i.e., that the people would brood with rancor toward the Crown Prince for his father's deeds, when it became known that he was to reign after his father. By Allāh, I know that the least he will get in this field would aggravate him, and also that he will never have the oath of loyalty. This is the reason for my sorrow.' "All Salmawayhi's fears were realized." Said Yūsuf: "Abū Ishaq Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī found al-Mu`tasim to be too slow and to act rudely in certain instances, so he wrote to him and told me to read the letter for him to judge it. If he found it appropriate and ready for delivery I should send it, if not, I should return it to Abū Ishāq. I read it to Salmawayhi, who said to me: 'Tell him this— You have gotten your share from al-Ma'mun and al-Mu`tasim, may Allāh glorify the living and have mercy upon the dead, for which you have to thank your God rather than to complain of them to me because they were harsh toward you. For you bear a name that none of them ever acquired, so you must excel in their praise, even if your fate is kind to you, until you reach safety from all evil. You should not wonder at the Caliph's being harsh from time to time, when one of your enemies slanders you for your deeds, so that he shows anger for a couple of days. Afterwards he is going to have mercy upon you, remembering your close family relationship, and settle your affairs the way you would have liked. You also have one disadvantage which you must be beware of, namely that you sit in the Caliph's assemblies with a group of people from his family and commanders and notable servants, where he is naturally considered by them as the greatest and most satisfactory of men; therefore, you must not [p.321] pronounce one word without it being clear that you are on his side. Now, if you resembled ibn Abā Dā'ud or one of the scribes, this matter would have been easier for him, for there is a difference between what a person of that class, who is the Caliph's servant, means to him, and what you, a member of his family, a person of maturity and dignity, represents to him. Of course he is obliged to the person of mature years and dignity, for this is worthy of a caliph. My opinion is that you should not send this letter and indeed feign ignorance of it, may Allāh give you strength, until the Caliph shows favor toward you again. Then when you read it, he will be wary of committing the things you disapprove of, and avoid any accusation or delay.'"

Yūsuf concludes: "I did not send the letter but took it to Abū Ishāq. With him I found Sīmā from Damascus, carrying al-Mu`tasim's address with a message expressing his yearning to see my master, and ordering him to ride to him. When I informed him of my conversation with Salmawayhi, he rode off. He took up the oculist's suggestion, and since then he never disapproved of anything coming from the Caliph, until death separated the two of them.

Yūsuf reports: "Once Salmawayhi and I were talking about Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi. I was elaborate in my description of him, mentioning my knowledge of his vast learning. Said Salmawayhi, 'Yūhannā is a misfortune which befalls the one who takes him as his physician and relies on his treatment, on his good memory of what he reads in books, his nice explanation of what he finds in them of evil things.' He then added: 'The first thing in medicine is to know the measure of the illness, and to cure it with the appropriate treatment; Yūhannā, however, is the most ignorant of all God's creatures as to the right measure of both illness and treatment. When he tends a person afflicted with fever, he gives him cooling medicines and food that induces cold and everything that might do away with his temperature, thus subjecting the patient's stomach and body to a cold that needs treatment in its turn, by medicines and foods which [p.322] induce heat. He treats this new condition the way he did the first, with exaggeration, in order to do away with the cold, so that the sufferer falls ill from the excessive heat. This way his master is always sick, either from heat or from cold. But bodies become worn out by this kind of regime, while the aim of people who call for a doctor is to preserve their health when they are well, and to help them when they fall sick. Yūhannā, because of his ignorance of the right measure of sickness and treatment, is not fulfilling either of these tasks, and one who does not fulfill them is not a physician at all.'"

Yūsuf also tells us: "Ibrahim ibn Bunān, Salmawayhi's brother, became mortally ill with indigestion because of the quantity of plums he had eaten. Salmawayhi made him a laxative composed mostly of scammony, and gave him too large a dose for somebody in that condition: nevertheless, the indigestion stopped when the laxative finished its action. I said to him: I suspect that you have followed the method of Yazīd Būr in his treatment of Thumāmah al-`Absi in this laxative you gave your brother. He replied: 'I did not use any method in this case, only my reason, just as he had used his, and the result of my reasoning was the same as his.'"

Yūsuf adds: "One day I was visiting Salmawayhi, and we were reminiscing about the days of the civil war in Baghdād during the reign of Muhammad al-Amin. He said: 'Allāh was good to us in those days in giving us the neighborhood of Bishr and Bashīr, the sons of al-Sumaida, with whom we had complete protection.' Later he said: 'Would you like to ride to Bashīr and visit him, for yesterday I despaired of him but hear he has finally recovered. I agreed to go with him, and we rode there. When we arrived at the gate, there came toward us Būlus ibn Hanūn the physician, now the physician of the people of Palestine, who was on his way out from Bashir. Salmawayhi asked him how the sick man was, and he answered him with a Syriac word meaning bad. Said Salmawayhi, 'Did you not tell me yesterday that he had recovered?' Būlus replied: 'Yes indeed, but in the evening he ate a kid's brain and the diarrhea returned.' Salmawayhi pulled the reins of his beast and said: 'Let us go together, [p.323] for Bashīr is no more of this world.' I asked him why he conjectured so, and he replied: Bashīr is a man who is prone to colic, and that is why his trouble started in his belly, with an upset stomach. He was living with this stomach trouble until his liver became badly affected by it, the brain he ate will stay in his stomach and make everything that is in it stick together, so that neither food nor soothing medicines will be able to penetrate.' So we went away, neither Salmawayhi nor I visiting him. He died that same day."

Yūsuf continues: "After the death of Abū Ishāq I became the companion of Abū Dulaf, who, before I became acquainted with him, had suffered from stomach disorders for a full fifteen months. Abū Dulaf's home was an assembly place for physicians, for he had a group of them eating at his table, among whom were Yūsuf ibn Salibā, Sulaymān ibn Dā'ud ibn Bābān, Yūsuf the Short from al-Basrah, whose lineage I cannot remember, Būlus ibn Hanūn, the physician of Palestine and his son-in-law, one of al-Lajlāj's sons, and al-Hasan ibn Sālih ibn Bahlah from India. There was a group of people who were not supported by him and who also came to his assembly. Usually these numbered about twenty. Once they were discussing the nature of his illness. One of them wanted to give him theriac, the other was going to treat him with medicines containing aniseed, such as mithridatum and others, while all of them were agreed upon one point, that his cure must be by way of a diet, and by making him vomit every few days, for whenever he brought up he felt much better for about three days. I spent ten months with him, during which I cannot remember myself busy even for one single day with the kind of work I used to do. I only got messages from him urging me to go and listen in to the physician's debates about his condition. Then al-Mu`tasim ordered Haydar ibn Kāwis to entrust Abū Dulaf with the government of Qazwīn, Zinjān, and their regions. He also ordered Ibrāhīm ibn al-Buhturī to entrust him with the land tax of that region, and Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Malik to give him its estates. So Abū Dulaf put his son Ma`n ibn al-Qāsim in charge of the [p.324] police, while he entrusted me with the land taxes and estates, and then ordered us to set out. I went to Salmawayhi to consult him and depart. He said to me: 'It is bad that you are leaving town when there is a person who has been suffering from a loose stomach for twenty-five months, for all those who will be around him have no connection with you. These people are mountaineers from Isfahān, most of them beggars, so that if you interrogate one of them about your master, and something happens to him, you are in a place where you cannot be safe from evil, for you will be in a strange country, a prisoner in the hands of people who have no affinity to you. But on the other hand, your refusal to the man after you had promised him to go is an ugly deed. So ask him to delay your departure for seven days. During these days supervise his food and drink so that nothing will enter his body without your knowing for sure its exact weight. You should also appoint somebody to take the weight of everything that he excretes during that week, both feces and urine, and inform you of it day by day. At the end of the week come to me with the weight of all the food and drinks that entered his body and all that came out.' I followed his instructions to the letter and supervised everything until I was absolutely sure; I found his excretions to be almost double what he had ingested and when I informed Salmawayhi of it, he said: 'If his excreta were the same weight as his intake, it would indicate his fast-approaching death. Now what do you think of his present condition, when his excreta are almost double his intake? There is no ambiguity in this case, for death has already carried him off.' Only a few days passed after that talk before Abū Dulaf died."

Abū `Alī al-Qabbāni tells the following in the name of his father, who said: "There was a close friendship between my grandfather al-Husayn ibn `Abd Allāh and Salmawayhi the physician. He told me that one day he entered the latter's home and found him just coming out of the bath, wrapped in clothes and the sweat pouring down his forehead. A servant brought a small table, on which there was a roasted chicken, something [p.325] green in an earthenware bowl, three special thin breads and vinegar in a saucer. He ate all this and then called for something to drink; a quantity of about two dirhams was brought and he poured and drank it. He then washed his hands and started to change his clothes and perfumes. When he had finished, he spoke to me and I replied: Before I answer you, teach me what you have done. He replied: 'I have been suffering from phthisis for thirty years, and during all that time I have never eaten anything but what you have seen, namely a roasted chicken, boiled endives fried in olive oil, and this quantity of bread. When I come out of a hot bath I have to counteract the heat quickly, so that it does not stick to my body and take away its humidity, so I occupy it with the food, so that it will stick to that. Finally I am free to do whatever I like.'"


Ibrāhīm ibn Fazārūn was the physician of Ghassān ibn `Ibād and the Shaikh of Banū Fazārūn, the scribes.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm has the following story. "Once Ibrāhīm ibn Fazārūn went with Ghassān ibn `Ibād to al-Sind. He told me that Ghassān ibn `Ibād had stayed in al-Sind from New Year's Day to the autumn festival. He had a longing all that time for a piece of cold meat but could not get it. When asked for the reason, Ibrāhīm replied; 'We used to fry it, but it would spoil before it had cooled off and he had to throw it away.' Ibrahim ibn Fazārūn told me that he had not had a taste for any meat in the county of al-Sind except peacock's meat, which, however, surpassed all meat he had ever eaten. Ibrāhrm ibn `Isā ibn al-Mansūr, known as ibn Nuzayhah, affirmed Ibrahim ibn Fazārūn's opinion of the peacock's meat."

Yūsuf heard from Ibrāhim ibn Fazārūn that Ghassān ibn `Ibād was informed about a fish found in the river known as Mahrān, in the land of al-Sind. This fish resembles kid in taste. It is picked out, and then its head is plastered with mud and the same is done to the rest of the body except for places where the skin is removed. Then all the unplastered parts are put on burning coals while somebody holds the fish. When the parts put [p.326] on the coals are thoroughly cooked, they are eaten or thrown away, while the rest of the fish is thrown back into the water, as long as the spinal column remains intact. Then fish comes to life again and the meat grows back on its bones. So Ghassān ordered a pool dug in his house and filled with water in order to test this story. Said Ibrahim: "Every day the people brought us some of these fish, and we cooked it according to the story mentioned above. In some of them we broke the spinal column and in some we left it intact. We found that the fish with the broken spine died, while the ones that were left whole lived on, grew new flesh, and their skin reverted to its former state, only before it was like black kid's skin, whereas the later skin, which grew on the fish that were stripped and roasted and then returned to the water, was different, tending rather to whiteness."

Yūsuf adds that he had asked Ibrāhim ibn Fazārūn about those who say that the river Mahrān is the Nile. Ibrāhīm answered: "I saw this river Mahrān flowing into the Salt Sea, but the scholars of al-Hind and al-Sind informed me that the source of both the Mahrān and the Nile is the same great spring; only the river Mahrān passes through the lands of al-Sind until it empties into the Salt Sea, while the other river flows through the land of al-Hind and all the country of the Sūdān, then it goes into Nubia and the rest of it flows through Egypt until it empties into the Mediterranean. Yūsuf concludes: "Anbasah. ibn Ishāq al-Dabbī affirmed Ibrāhīm's story about the spring which is the source of the rivers Mahrān and Nile, and he used to tell us the story of the fish very often."


Ayyūb known as al-Abrash [the spotted]. He had a knowledge of medicine and a bent for translation, rendering several Greek works into Syriac and Arabic. His translations are mediocre, but his later attempts, performed in his old age, are more successful. [p.327]


Ibrāhīm ibn Ayyūb al-Abrash. Ishaq ibn Alī from Edessa, in his book "The Education of the Physician," writes in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah, who said: "I witnessed Ibrāhīm ibn Ayyūb al-Abrash treating Ismā'īl the brother of al-Ma`tazz until he was cured. His mother Qubīhah asked al-Mutawakkil to reward him. The Caliph answered: 'Why do you not reward him? Do you have anything to give him? Then I shall give him the same.' Ibrāhīm was nearby. Qubīhah then ordered a bag of [ten thousand] dirhams to be brought to Ibrāhīm, and al-Mutawakkil ordered the same. She ordered another bag, and he followed suit. They continued to bring bags until there were sixteen of them and Qubīhah hinted to her maid to stop. Said al-Mutawakkil: 'By Allāh, even if you continued until morning, I would have done the same.' The bags were then carried to Ibrāhīm's house."

Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit said: "When the Caliphate passed to al-Mu`tazz bi-Allāh, Ibrāhīm ibn al-Abrash became the most honored physician in his eyes because of the favor he held with his mother Qubīhah; all his wishes were granted. Abū `Abd Allāh al-Mu`tazz bi-Allāh was deposed in Samarra and seized by Salih ibn Wasīf on Monday the 27th of Rajab in the year 255/869. He was imprisoned for five days and then executed on Friday afternoon, the 28th of Sha`bān of the same year, when he was twenty-three years old.


Jibrā'īl al-Ma'mūn's oculist. Said Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm: "Al-Ma'mūn found Jibrā'īl very gentle when treating his eyes. In fact, he used to say that he had never felt a lighter hand than his. He would send him ivory collyrium needles, collyrium cases and glass vessels. This Jibrā'īl was the first to see him every day after he had finished his morning prayer. He washed his limbs and anointed his eyes with collyrium, both then and after the Caliph had awakened from his midday rest. His salary used to be one thousand dirhams a month, until his position eventually deteriorated. When I asked Jibrā'īl why this was so, [p.328] he told me as follows: Al-Husayn the servant fell ill, and his brother Yāsir could not treat him, for he was busy with his practice. Yāsir then came to the Stone Gate where al-Ma'mūn was staying, just when Jibrā'īl, who had cooled the Caliph's limbs and anointed his eyes, was going out. To Yāsir's question as to al-Ma'mūn's doings he replied that the Caliph was dozing. Yāsir seized the opportunity of the Caliph's nap and went to tend his brother. Al-Ma'mūn woke up before Yāsir came back from Husayn. When he finally arrived he asked the reason for his delay. Yāsir answered: 'I was informed that the Emir of the Faithful was asleep, so I went to tend Husayn." Al-Ma'mūn asked him: 'Who informed you that I was asleep?' — 'Jibrā'īl the oculist.' Jibrā'īl continued: 'Al-Ma'mūn called me and said: 'O Jibrā'īl, have I taken you as an oculist or as an agent for my affairs? Give me my collyrium cases and money back, and get out of my palace!' I mentioned my services, and he said: 'For the sake of his dignity, let him be confined to 150 dirhams a month, and not to be allowed to see me any more.' Indeed, he did not visit al-Ma'mūn from that day and until his death."


Masawayhi Abū Yūhannā. Pethion the dragoman reports that Masawayhi was employed in grinding the medicines in the hospital of Jundaysābūr when he could not read even one letter in any language; but he knew the maladies and their cures, and became an expert distinguisher of drugs. Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` took him in his favor, so that when Māsawayhi desired a maid belonging to Dā'ud ibn Serapion, Jibrā'īl would bring her for eight hundred dirhams and gave her to Māsawayhi. She gave birth to his sons Yūhannā and Mikhā'īl.

Ishaq ibn Alī from Edessa, in his book "The Education of the Physician" tells in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah that Māsawayhi Abū Yūhannā was a student in the hospital of Jundaysābūr for thirty years. When he heard of Jibrā'īl's position in al-Rashīd's court, he said: "This Abū `Isā has become unmindful, and we here in the hospital shall not overlook it." When Jibrā'īl, who was in charge of the hospital, heard about this, he gave orders for him [p.329] to be dismissed and his salary stopped. Māsawayhi remained unemployed until he went to Baghdād to apologize and humble himself before Jibrā'īl. He stayed at his door for a long time, but Jibrā'īl would not let him in. When he came out riding, Māsawayhi called to him and asked for money, but the other would not say a word.

When his situation became desperate, Māsawayhi went to the Christian quarter on the east side and said to the priest: "Give me refuge in the church for if I go to my town something may happen to me, as Abū `Isā would not forgive me or even talk to me." The priest replied: "You have been at the hospital for thirty years. Can you not practice medicine at all" — "By Allāh, yes! I can practice medicine, anoint the eyes, treat wounds." The priest gave him a case of drugs and sat him in the Holy Gate, near the castle of al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī`, al-Rashid's Vizier. He stayed there and started earning little by little until things got better. Then a servant of al-Fadl ibn al-Rabī` contracted an eye disease. Jibrā'īl sent him oculists who treated him in all manner of ways, but did not succeed. The pain grew stronger until he could not sleep. When his insomnia and anguish became unbearable, he went out of the palace, overcome by grief and exhaustion. Seeing Māsawayhi, he said to him: "Shaikh, what are you doing here? If you know your business, cure me; if not, get away from here!" Māsawayhi replied: "O my Master, indeed I practice medicine, and practice it well." The servant ordered him to come in with him and treat him, which he did. He turned his eyelids and anointed him with collyrium, poured water on his head and injected a drug into his nose, until finally the servant fell into a relaxed sleep. When he woke up, he sent Māsawayhi a vessel containing white bread, a kid, a chicken, sweets, and many dinars and dirhams, saying: "This food you will receive every day and this money will be your monthly salary. Māsawayhi wept with joy, but the messenger thought his master had underestimated him and said: "Do not be grieved, for he will add to this and be benevolent to you." Māsawayhi replied: "O my master, I am [p.330] satisfied with this much, if he continues with it!" The messenger returned and informed the servant of what had taken place, which astounded him greatly. He was eventually cured by Māsawayhi.

A few days later, al-Fadl himself became stricken with an eye disease. Jibrā'īl sent him oculists who treated him but to no avail. So during the night his servant brought Māsawayhi to him, and he continued to treat his eye until the third part of the night was gone, then gave him a laxative, and the patient felt better. When Jibrā'īl came, al-Fadl said to him: "O Abū `Isā, there is a person here named Māsawayhi, most skillful and learned in ophthalmology." Jibrā'īl asked who this was, maybe the one who was sitting at the gate, and al-Fadl affirmed his suspicion. Said Jibrā'īl: "This man was a peasant but was not good enough even for tilling the land; now he suddenly becomes a physician out of the blue! If you want, call him in while I am present." Jibrā'īl imagined that he would come in and serve him humbly, but when Māsawayhi was called in by al-Fadl, he entered with greetings and sat down opposite Jibrā'īl. Said the latter: "O Māsawayhi have you turned physician?" The other replied: "No, I am still a physician, for I have worked at the hospital for thirty years. How can you speak to me like that?" Jibrā'īl rushed out of the room, overcome with shame.

Al-Fadl granted Māsawayhi a monthly salary of six hundred dirhams, fodder for two beasts, and five servants. He ordered him to move his family from Jundaysābūr and covered all his expenses. So Māsawayhi moved his family, including Yūhannā, who was then but a youth.

Shortly afterwards, al-Rashīd had trouble with his eyes. Al-Fadl said to him: "O Emir of the .Faithful, my physician Māsawayhi is a most clever oculist." He told him his story, what had happened to his servant and to himself, and al-Rashīd ordered that Māsawayhi be brought to him, which was done. Al-Rashīd asked: "Do you know anything about medicine apart from ophthalmology?" — "Yes, O Emir of the Faithful, how could I not, since I have been treating the sick in the hospital for thirty [p.331] years." He drew closer and examined the Caliph's eyes and said: "You must undergo a phlebotomy immediately." He cupped him on the thighs and put drops in his eyes, and al-Rashīd was cured in two days. He granted him two thousand dirhams a month and living expenses of twenty thousand dirhams a year, in addition to fodder, etc. Māsawayhi moved into the palace, and the Caliph employed his services together with those of Jibrā'īl and the rest of his'physicians. He became equal to Jibrā'īl, for during these days he used to come and go with him, but Jibrā'īl got a higher salary — ten thousand dirhams a month plus living expenses of one hundred thousand dirhams a year, in addition to a constant flow of gifts and landed estates.

Later on, Bānu, al-Rashīd's sister, fell ill. Jibra'īl was treating her in all manner of ways but did not succeed. A1-Rashīd was grieved and said one day: "Māsawayhi has mentioned that he cured the sick in the hospital, that he knows how to treat the different natures and diagnose their defects. Perhaps he knows a cure for her." He called Jibrā'īl and Māsawayhi, and the latter asked the former to tell him all about her condition and the diet he had given her, to that very day. Jibrā'īl described all the ways he had been treating her but Māsawayhi stopped him, saying: "The diet is good and the treatment correct, but I still need to examine her." Al-Rashīd ordered him brought to her. He entered and meditated, then took her pulse, all in the presence of al-Rashīd. When they went out, Māsawayhi said to al-Rashīd: "O Emir of the Faithful, may you live a good long life! This woman will die the day after tomorrow, between three o'clock and midnight." Jibrā'īl exclaimed: "This is a lie, O Emir of the Faithful. She is going to be cured and live." Al-Rashīd ordered that Māsawayhi be imprisoned in one of the rooms of his palace, saying: "Indeed I shall test his words, but I am warning him, for now I find evil in the old man's knowledge." When the time predicted by Māsawayhi came, the woman died. After burying her, al-Rashīd immediately summoned Māsawayhi and conversed with him. He was [p.332] astonished by his talk although he spoke Persian, for he was an expert practitioner, with a great deal of experience. So he made him an equal to Jibrā'īl also in salary, dwelling, fodder, and rank, and took care of his son Yūhannā, lavishing money on him until he became very famous.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm says: "I visited Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshu` in al-Alath, in the year 215/830. In that year he accompanied al-Ma'mūn up to the women's quarters. I found Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi with him, discussing his illness, while Jibrā'īl approved of Yūhannā's ardent attention, obedience, and good character. Jibrā'īl announced that he was going to intercalate the year, asking me to consider this matter and inform him of what the calculations indicated. When I started to examine this, Yūhannā stood up. After he had gone out from the place, Jibrā'īl addressed me as follows: 'You have no need to consider the intercalation, for I remember very well what you and the others said concerning it. My aim in raising the matter was to drive Yūhannā out, so that I could ask you about something I have heard said in his name. As he has left, I am going to ask you — by the truth of Allāh, have you ever heard Yūhannā say that he knows more about medicine than Galen himself?' I swore to him that I had never heard him pretend this. We did not finish our conversation before I saw the fire signals going down to Baghdād. Al-Ma'mūn went back the same day, Thursday, and arrived at Baghdād on the Saturday morning. Everybody entered the city except Abū al-`Abbās ibn al-Rashīd, who stayed in the place known as al-Qalā'ayn, on the west side of Baghdād, opposite the house of al-Fadl ibn Yahyā in the Sunny Gate, a part of which became during al-Mu`tasim's caliphate the property of Abū al-`Abbās ibn al Rashīd. A group of people and myself who lived in the vicinity of al-Burdān's bridge and al-Mahdī's canal, and who wanted to go to Abū al-`Abbās, could not undertake the long and difficult trek to the bridge and from there to al-Qalā'ayn, so we went to the castle of al-Fadl ibn Ya`hyā and stopped opposite Abū al-`Abbās' dwellings, while the ferries were accompanying and taking us across. I met Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi at Abū al-`Abbās [p.333] three days after al-Ma'mūn's arrival at Baghdād, on board a ferry. He asked me about my promise to Jibrā'īl, and I informed him that I had not seen him since our meeting in al-Alath, adding: You were slandered in his presence. He asked: 'What was the matter?' I replied: he was told that you had claimed to know more than Galen himself. He exclaimed: 'May God's curse fall on him, who slandered me thus. By Allāh, the carrier of this information is neither right nor just.' His words freed my heart of anxiety, and I told him that I was going to refute the information Jibrā'īl had received. He then said to me: 'Do so, I beseech you, and repeat to him what I say, which is what I said before, and after his opinion.' I asked him for his message, and he said: 'What I said was merely this — Were Hippocrates and Galen alive to hear my lesson in medicine and my qualifications, they would have asked God to render all their senses — sight, smell, taste, and touch — into the auditory sense, so that they would add it to their hearing and be able to listen to my wisdom and knowledge. My request to you is that,by Allāh, you should not carry this message to him in my name.' In consequence I asked him to be freed of this duty, but he would not agree to it.

"I took the message to Jibrā'īl, who had risen that morning recovered from his illness; he became full of anger and irritation, to the point that I was afraid he would suffer a relapse. He started swearing at himself, saying: 'This is the reward of the one who has practiced his profession in the wrong way. This is the reward of the one who has behaved vilely and introduced into this noble profession people who are not worthy of it. Do you know the story of Yūhannā and his father?' I admitted my ignorance, and he related it as follows: 'Al-Rashīd ordered me to take charge of a hospital, so I called for Dahashtak, the head of Jundaysābūr's hospital, in order to appoint him my representative in that other hospital, but he refused, saying that the sultan was not giving him a regular salary, on account of which he was working in the hospital of Jundaysābūr with his nephew Mīkhā'īl. Batimanius the Catholicos implored me to leave him and [p.334] his nephew, so I let them go, but Dahashtak said — As you have freed me, I will give you a valuable present which will be of great help to you in that hospital. This present is a youth, who used to grind the medicines in our place. He has no known father or relatives. He has worked in the hospital for forty years and whereas he is approaching his fifties or is even past them, he cannot read a single letter in any language. However he knows every single drug and its use, and is the most skillful person on earth in applying them to the different maladies, choosing the best and rejecting the wrong ones. I will give him to you as a gift; attach him to any one of your pupils, then put your pupil in charge of the hospital and your affairs will be accomplished better than if you had put me in charge of it. — I told him that I would accept his present, so he went back to his city and sent the man to me. He was brought in, clad in monk's garb. When I unveiled him, I found him to be the way he had been described to me. When I asked his name, he said it was Māsawayhi, I was then in the service of al-Rashīd, while Dā'ud ibn Serapion was serving Umm Ja`far. Māsawayhi's house was closer to that of Dā'ud ibn Serapion than to mine. Now Dā'ud was sportive and idle, and Māsawayhi had the weakness of lowly people, so the latter was pleased with every vanity of the former. After a very short while Māsawayhi abandoned his garb, and came to me clad in a white robe. When I asked him for the reason, he said he had fallen in love with a maiden who belonged to Dā'ud ibn Serapion, a Slavonic slave named Risālah, whom he asked me to buy for him. I bought her for eight hundred dirhams and gave her as a gift to him. She gave birth to Yūhannā and his brother. I then showed regard to Māsawayhi for buying him Risālah and the children he got from her, by considering his sons as my own kin and by taking care to raise them above the sons of the noblest and most learned of the medical profession. When Yūhannā was still a youth, I assigned to him this noble rank, to be in charge of the hospital and the head of my pupils. Finally, my reward for all this is his grand claim, which cannot be heard by anyone without [p.335] his cursing its author, who boasted about himself and let his tongue loose like that! For the same reason as what happened to this boor, the Persians used to forbid any man to abandon the profession of his forefathers, and thus mostly prevent such things. Allāh is our succor."


Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi, was a sagacious and virtuous physician, skillful, eloquent, the author of famous works, honored and favored by caliphs and kings. Ishāq ibn Alī from Edessa, in his book "The Education of the Physician" wrote in the name of `Isā ibn Māsah the Physician, saying: 'Abū Zakariyā ibn Māsawayhi told me that his profession had brought him a million dirhams, and he lived three more years after saying that. Al-Wāthiq was passionately attached to him, and Yūhannā used to drink with him. Once the cupbearer gave him a drink which was neither pure nor sweet as he was used to, for this was the habit of cupbearers when they were dissatisfied with their remuneration. After Yūhannā had drunk the first cup he said: 'O Emir of the Faithful, regarding tastes I am somewhat of a connoisseur and an expert, but I cannot identify this drink with any of the tastes I know.' The Caliph inquired about the cupbearers, and exclaimed: 'How dare they give my physicians, in my own council, a drink like this?" In compensation he ordered one hundred thousand dirhams to be given to Yūhannā at once. He called the chief steward Samānah and bade him take the money to Yūhannā immediately. In the evening he asked Samānah if the money had already been handed over. The answer being in the negative, he doubled the sum. After the evening prayer he inquired about it again, and was told that the money was not yet sent out. He called Samānah and ordered him to send three hundred thousand dirhams. Samānah called the treasurer and said: 'Send out Yūhannā's money this minute lest there remain nothing in the treasury.' So the money was dispatched at once."

Sulaymān ibn Hassān tells that Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi was a Christian Syriac. Al-Rashīd invested him with the task of translating the ancient [p.336] books which he had found in al-Anqarah, `Amūriyyah and the other Byzantine cities captured by the Muslims. Yūhannā served Hārun, al-Amīn and al-Ma'mūn as physician, and continued in his post until the reign of al-Mutawakkil. The Banū-Hāshim kings did not take any food without his presence. He was always around them in the winter, with vessels full of grains beneficial to the digestion, cooked and warmed and radiating great heat, and in the summer with cooling drinks and grain.

Ibn al-Nadīm the scribe from Baghdād tells that Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi was physician to al-Ma'mūn, al-Mu`tasim, al-Wāthiq and al-Mutawakkil.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm relates that the council of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi was the most popular one he had seen in Baghdād, more so than any council of any other physician, theologian or philosopher, for the representatives of all the different branches of culture met there. Yūhannā was endowed with a strong sense of humor, which was indeed the reason for the large gatherings. His impatience and keen wit surpassed even those of Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū`, his sharpness expressing itself in funny sayings, especially when he would examine the urine phials, at which times his council was the most enjoyable. Once he, Ibn Hamdūn Ibn `Abd al-Samad ibn `Alī, known as Abū al `Irtarid, and Ishāq ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Ismā`īl, known as Bīd al-Baghl [the owner of the white mule], took upon themselves to memorize his anecdotes. The students who studied logic with him declared the same intention, also the two medical pupils he had, who studied the books of Galen.

Yūsuf remembers one anecdote from his examination of the urinals: A woman came in and said: "Such and such a woman, and another, and yet another, send you their regards." He answered: "I am better acquainted with the names of the people in Constantinople and `Amūriyyah than with those you have just mentioned. Show me your urine, so that I can examine it!"

Yūsuf adds another anecdote: A man came up to him and complained that the cure for his illness was phlebotomy and showed it to him, saying: [p.337] "I am not used to this bleeding." Yūhannā replied: "I do not think anybody is used to it when he is in his mother's womb, and the same with you. You were not used to your illness before you got it. Now that this has happened to you, you have to choose between being patient with the malady nature has afflicted you with, or getting used to the bleeding in order to recover from it."

Yūsuf adds another one: A man came up and complained about a scab

that was hurting him. Yūhannā advised him to cup the median vein of his right arm, but he said he had already done so. Then cup the median vein of your left' — 'I have already done that also' — 'Drink a concoction' — 'I already did' — 'Take a stomach medicine' — 'I did that too.' — 'Drink cheese water for a week and churned cow's milk for two weeks' — 'I have done even that.' Then the physician said: 'You have mentioned everything that the physicians might prescribe as something you have already done. There is one thing left, which neither Hippocrates nor Galen mentioned but which we have seen used a great deal by way of experience, so use it and I hope it will work, and you will recover, if God so wishes. Buy two lots of cards and cut them into small pieces. Write on each piece of paper: 'May God have mercy on the afflicted and bring health to him who prays.' Scatter half of them in the eastern mosque of Baghdād and the other half in the western one and distribute them among the seats on Friday. I hope Allāh will answer your prayer, as human treatment has not benefited you."

Yūsuf also recalls that once when he was present, the priest of the church where Yūhannā used to receive Communion came up and complained of indigestion. Yūhannā advised the use of Khūzistān grains, but he said he had already tried them. — 'Use cumin' — 'I have eaten ratls of it.' — 'Take Miqdādhīkon' — 'I have drunk a jar of it.' — 'Morosia' — 'I have used tons of it.' Yuhannā got angry and exclaimed, 'If you want to get better, convert to Islam, for Islam is good for the stomach!" [p.338]

Yūsuf continues: "Yūhannā became afflicted with a malady which was so grave that his family lost all hope for him. Now, the Christian habit with those for whom all hope is lost is to gather a group of monks, priests and deacons to read around him. This was done for Yūhannā, but he recovered while the monks were reading. He shouted at them: 'O sons of adultery, what are you doing in my house?!' They answered: 'We were praying to our God to have mercy on you and cure you.' Said Yūhannā: 'The perfume of the rose is better than the prayers of all Christendom from the day it was established to the Day of Resurrection. Get out of my house!' And they went out.

"Once during the winter a merchant complained to Yuhannā in my presence of his scabs. The physician said: 'The season is not right for curing your illness. The treatment comes during the spring, when you must not eat anything stale, no fresh or salted fish, small or big, no hot greens and vegetables and no milk products.' Said the man: 'These are things that I cannot bear abstaining from.' Yūhannā exclaimed: 'If this is so, go on eating them and scratching your belly, for if the Messiah came for you alone, you would not have benefited from his gospel, according to your own description of your evil soul.'

"The Christians blamed Yūhannā for taking maidens, saying: 'Although you are a deacon, you have transgressed our faith. Either stick to our ways, restrict yourself to one woman, and remain one of our deacons, or give up your office and take any maiden you desire.' He replied: 'Indeed, we were told in our scripture not to take more than one woman or one robe, but who was it that made the Catholicos, who bites his mother's clitoris, more worthy to take twenty robes than the wretched Yūhannā to take four maidens? Go tell your Catholicos to fulfill his religious duties, so that we shall fulfill them also, for if he breaks them, we shall do the same.'

"Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl used to joke a great deal with Yuhannā. One day when we were in Abū Ishāq's council, in al-Mu`tasim's camp in Ctesiphon in the year 220/835, he said to Yūhannā: 'You, O Abū Zakariyā, [p.339] my brother through my father.' Said Yūhannā to Abū Ishāq: 'O Emir, be my witness to his saying this, for by Allāh, I will surely take half his father's inheritance.' Said Bakhtīshū`: 'The offspring of fornication cannot inherit or bequeath, and Islam has dictated the stoning of the adulterer.' To this Yūhannā found no answer."

Yūsuf also tells that al-Tayfūrī lived in the Christian Quarter in the eastern part of Baghdād, and that his house was next to that of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi. Al-Tayfūrī had a son called Daniel who was a good student of medicine, but then became a monk. He arrived at Baghdād after hearing of his father's illness or something of the sort. Yūhannā had a peacock which used to perch on the wall between his house and al-Tayfūrī's. Daniel reached Baghdād during the night in the month of August, when the nights are sultry and hazy. The peacock felt very hot and screamed. He roused Daniel, who was clad in a monk's woolen garb, and the youth tried to drive him off several times, but did not succeed. So he raised his iron bar, hit the peacock on the head and killed it. The news did not reach Yūhannā until he went out and came back to find his peacock dead at the door of his house. He started swearing retaliation at the killer, when Daniel came out and said: 'Do not curse the killer, for I am the one who killed it, and I owe you several peacocks in its stead.' Said Yūhannā: 'By my honor! I am not astonished at a monk who has prominence and devotion,' But he said it in rather a gross fashion. Daniel replied: 'In the same way I am not astonished at a deacon who has several women, and whose chief woman's name is Qarātīs. This is a Byzantine name, not Arabic, by which the Christians understand a "horned woman," and a woman is not "horned" unless she commits adultery.' Yūhannā was ashamed and entered his house beaten."

Another story by Yūsuf tells that Ahmad ibn Hārūn al-Sharābī told him in Egypt that, during the Caliphate of al-Wāthiq, al-Mutawakkil had recalled that Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi once accompanied al-Wāthiq to a bench he had on the Tigris. Al-Wāthiq had a fishing rod with a hook which he cast into [p.340] the Tigris but did not come up with a catch. He turned to Yūhannā who was on his right, and said: "O inauspicious man, get away from my right side." Yūhannā replied: "O Emir of the Faithful, do not talk like that about the station of Yūhannā ibn Māssawayhi from Khuzistān, whose mother was Risālah the Slave, bought for eight hundred dirhams. This man was raised by good fortune to be the fellow drinker of caliphs, their night discourser, and close companion. This man was overwhelmed with the riches of this world, which he obtained beyond all his dreams. The owner of this great fortune cannot be inauspicious. But if the Emir of the Faithful wishes, I can tell him who is really an inauspicious person." Al-Wāthiq asked to be told, and Yūhannā said: "This is the man who is the descendant of four caliphs, who received the Caliphate from God, but left it with its palaces and gardens to sit on a common twenty-foot bench in the middle of the Tigris, unprotected from the storm which might drown him, and to resemble the poorest and worst in the world, namely the fisherman." Al-Mutawakkil then noticed that this speech was effective, although al-Wāthiq remained in his place.

Yūsuf reports, again in the name of Ahmad ibn Hārūn, that on the same day and on the same bench, al-Wāthiq said to Yūhannā: "O Yūhannā, does not this irregularity not astonish you?" Yūhannā asked: "What irregularity? and al-Wāthiq replied: "The fisherman waits for about an hour and catches fish to the value of about one dinar, and I sit here from morning to night and do not catch fish even for one dirham." Said Yūhannā: "O Emir of the Faithful, your reasoning is faulty, for Allāh gives the fisherman his living through the fish, for this is the food for their families; the Emir of the Faithful, however, lives off his Caliphate, and is not in need of any fish. Were his living dependant on fishing, the fish would come to him the way it comes to the fisherman."

Yūsuf reports in the name of Ibrāhīm ibn Alī, the physician of Ahmad ibn Tulūn, that he was once waiting in Yūhannā's antechamber for his [p.341] return from the Sultan's palace. It was at the time when `Isā ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Nūh ibn Abū Nūh, the scribe of al-Fath ibn Khāqān, became a Muslim. When he came back, I stood up with a group of monks. He shouted at us: "Get out from my house, you sons of fornication! Go and convert to Islam, for the Messiah has just been converted to Islam by al-Mutawakkil."

Said Yūsuf: "Jurjah ibn Zakariyā, a chief from Nubia, arrived at Samarra in Ramadan of the'year 221/836 and brought al-Mu`tasim many gifts, among which there was a she-ape. I was visiting Yūhannā on the s econd day of Shawwāl of the same year and blaming him for delaying his presence at the court at that time, when I saw that Salmawayhi, Bakhtīshū` and al-Juraysh the physicians were already there. While we were talking, there came one of the special Turkish slaves with one of those apes sent by the King of Nubia, the biggest I have ever seen, and said to Yūhannā: 'The Emir of the Faithful orders you to mate this ape with your Hamāhim.' Now, Yūhannā had a she-ape named Hamāhim without which he could not bear to be for a moment. He fell silent, grieved by this measage, and then said to the youth: 'Tell the Caliph that I have adopted this ape for a different reason than that which he has in mind. My plan is to dissect it and write a book about the dissection like the one Galen wrote, and dedicate it to the Emir of the Faithful. This ape has a rarity in its body, for its arteries, veins and nerves are quite small, and I would not like to sacrifice its specialty by diluting its nature with something so huge that it will become big and rough. If the Caliph takes this ape away, let him know that I shall write him a book which would have no equal in the whole Islamic world.' The ape was taken away, and Yūhannā wrote a very fine book, which won the approval of his enemies and friends alike."

It is told in the name of Yūsuf that Yūhannā once visited Muhammad ibn Abū Ayyūb ibn al-Rashīd, who was afflicted with a triple fever which appeared every other day. Yūhannā examined his urine and took his pulse, and then asked him about his condition in the evening, night and morning, [p.342] until he got the whole story from him. Said Yūhannā: "This fever of yours is one of the simplest, as long as you do not eat noxious foods. Its utmost duration is seven attacks, and the severest is the fourth. If the patient eats noxious food however, it can alter the basic character of the malady, prolong it, and even cause death." Ibn Abū Ayyūb said: "Stay with me and supervise my diet according to your opinion. I promise never to disobey." Yūhannā ordered him to confine himself to the inside of bread soaked three times in hot water, this to be eaten when his appetite was weak. When his appetite became stronger he could eat the embellishments, peas, pumpkin, all-heal, cucumbers, and the like, but he should refrain from indulging in cravings. Said Muhammad: "You have told me what I should eat, now tell me what I should not eat." Yūhannā answered: "The first thing I forbid you to eat is Yūhannā ibn Māsawāyhi, then the mule of the Catholicos, for he is essential to the Christian folk, then do not eat the two wasps, which are the two ships on the eastern side of the bridge, and without which the bridge is of no use." He got up angry and shouting at Yūsuf, because he had been the reason for his going to see Muhammad ibn Abū Ayyūb.

Yūsuf accompanied Yūhannā on another visit, which he paid to Muhammad ibn Sulaymān ibn al-Hādī, known as ibn Mashghūf. He had been ill for a long time, and Abū al `Abbās ibn al-Rashīd beseeched Yūhannā to go and see him. This Muhammad ibn Sulaymān used to sprinkle his conversation with unbelievably foolish details. When the visit took place at last, the patient asked Yūhannā for his advice concerning the food which he should eat. Yūhannā said: "I was going to advise you to eat as usual, for I believe you are a man who prefers his health and well-being. However, if I knew for sure that you prefer to be sick, I would find it impossible to give you any advice at all." Said ibn Mashghūf: "O boor, what man hates his health and prefers to be sick?" Yūhannā answered: "You, the proof being the fact that in this world health resembles the truth, while sickness is like a lie. You spend most of your time telling lies, and your lies lie at the roots of your sickness. How can you recover from a prolonged [p.343] illness, while you yourself nurture it most of the time with lies that aggravate. Stick to the truth for three days, and I shall renounce my Savior if you do not recover before these three days are over."

Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm continues: "Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi had a son called Māsawayhi. His mother was the daughter of al-Tayfurī, the grandfather of Isrā'īl, the physician of al-Fath ibn Khāgān. This Māsawayhi resembled his father completely in looks, way of speaking, and jests, only he was foolish and did not understand anything at once, although he would forget it in no time at all. Yūhannā used to show him love as a precaution against the tongues of al-Tayfūrī and his children, but he in fact hated him more bitterly than he hated the smooth-scented beard, with which his son dishonored him, saying that he had put it between his mother's thighs."

Yūsuf recalls that in the beginning of 217/832, Sālih ibn Shaykh ibn `Umayrah ibn Hayyān ibn Sarraqah al-Asadī was tormented by an illness which almost caused his death. Yūsuf himself came to see him and found him somewhat recovered. They had a conversation in which the following story was related: `Umayrah the grandfather lost a brother who did not leave any children, and was very grieved by this tragedy. After a while, the maid of the deceased showed signs of pregnancy, and this alleviated his sorrow a little. He took her into his home and put her above his own family. She gave birth to a girl, whom he adopted and preferred to his own sons and daughters. When she grew up, he wanted to find a match for her, but he sent every prospective husband away to bring proof of his origins and good character.

One of those who asked to marry her was a cousin of Khālid ibn Safwān ibn al-Ahtam from the tribe of Tamim, whose lineage and appearance were well known to Umayrah, so he said: "My son, as to your lineage, there is no need to inquire about it, for you are a good match for my daughter in this respect, but I cannot agree to the marriage without knowing the character of a prospective husband for my daughter. If you like, please stay with me [p.344] in my house for a year, during which time I shall discover your traits, as I have discovered the origins and traits of others. Your stay will be welcomed and well attended to, but if you are dissatisfied, you can go back to your people. I have already arranged all your belongings to be made ready and carried with you to wherever you go."

Sālih ibn Shaykh said: I have heard from my father that my grandfather could not sleep a single night without being plagued by conflicting opinions about the character of that man. He would once conclude that the youth was the best possible, then would decide that he was the most hideous object, and was thus forced to contradict himself until he had to discard all his resolutions and abandon the whole project, for although he was pleased with his virtues, he was weighed down with his vices. He then wrote to Khālid as follows: ". . . Now to the matter. A certain person came up to us to betroth your niece such and such, the daughter of such and such. If his character is as good as his lineage, and if he has the will and the money, the marriage pact is valid. I shall follow your opinion as to what should be done about your cousin and niece, and I shall carry out your sound advice, with the help of God." Khālid wrote back: "I have understood your letter. Indeed this cousin's father was both the best and worst of my family at the same time; he was good to his enemies and very bountiful, but on the other hand he was a debaucher and extremely ugly. His mother was the most beautiful and chaste woman, but she had a bad character, and was as stingy and stupid as could be. This cousin of mine inherited the vices of both his parents and none of their virtues. If you would still want to marry him to your niece, very well, in spite of what I have told you, but if you do not, I hope Allāh will find a match for our niece." Said Sālih: "When my grandfather read this letter, he ordered the man to be fed, then put him on a dromedary camel and appointed somebody to drive him out of al-Kūfah."

Yūsuf continues: "I liked this story and memorized it. When I left Sālih ibn Shaykh, I went to the house of Hārūn ibn Sulaymān ibn al-Mansūr. I [p.345] went in with greetings, and met Yūhannā Māsawayhi there. Hārūn asked after my health and doings, so I told him I had been visiting Sālih ibn Shaykh. He said: 'He is a mine of good stories — do you remember any of them?' I chose the above story and told it to him. Said Yūhannā: 'May he be damned, if the similarity between this story and that of my son and myself is not closer than the similarity which exists between my son and myself. I am cursed with a long face, a high skull, a wide forehead and blue eyes, but I am endowed with wisdom and a memory which retains everything which enters my ears, while al-Tayfūrī's daughter was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen or heard of, but on the other hand she was a dumb fool, did not know what she was talking about and did not understand what she was told. Now, this son of ours inherited all our faults without any of our virtues. If it were not for the exceeding good will of the Sultan and his interference in things which are not his business, I would have dissected this son alive, the way Galen did to the ape and to people. By this dissection I should know the reasons for his stupidity; I should free the people from the danger of producing it and benefit them by describing in my book the composition of his body, the courses of his arteries, veins and nerves — only the Sultan prevents me from doing it. I wish Abū al-Husayn Yūsuf would tell this story to al-Tayfūrī and his children and disseminate hatred and strife between us, so that we could laugh about it.' Which he did."

"Māsawayhi ibn Yūhannā fell ill several days later, when a messenger came from al-Mu`tasim, who was staying in Damascus with al-Ma'mūn, telling Yūhannā to present himself there. Yūhannā found that his son required phlebotomy, but al-Tayfūrī and his sons Zakariyā and Daniel opposed his view. Yūhannā administered the bloodletting and went to Syria on the second day, but his son died on the third. Al-Tayfūrī and his sons swore during the funeral that Yūhannā had killed him intentionally, their proof being what I had told them of his speech in the home of Hārūn ibn Sulaymān." [p.346]

The author has copied the following from the "Book of Gifts and Rarities" by Abū Bakr and Abū `Uthmān, the two khālids, written in the name of Abū Yahyā, that al-Mutawakkil asked all his friends and fellow-drinkers to give him presents on the day of his phlebotomy, and each of them vied with the others. Al-Fath ibn Khāqān gave him a maiden who had no equal in beauty, elegance or wholesomeness. She came with a golden cup, the essence of beauty, a unique crystal jar filled with an indescribable drink, and a piece of paper upon which was written the following poem [the rhythm is al-Wāfir]: When the Imām recovers from an illness and attains peace and health, there is no cure for him unless he drinks this potion from this cup, which the sender hastened to him, for this is good after a medicine.' Al-Mutawakkil found this present pleasing and beautiful, and Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi, who was present there, said: "Emir of the Faithful, by Allāh, al-Fath is a better physician than I, do not fail to do what he had advised you."

Other witticisms of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi are told by Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah: Al-Mutawakkil `Alā Allāh said to him once: "I have sold my house in Qasrayn." Yūhannā replied: "Delay your breakfast, O Emir of the Faithful." Al-Mutawakkil meant to say: "My supper had a bad effect on me," for this was his usual slip of the tongue, so Yūhannā answered him already with the treatment. Ibn Hamdūn, the Caliph's fellow-drinker, reproved Yūhannā in al-Mutawakkil's presence, to which he replied: "I wish your ignorance was replaced by a few brains." Yūhannā then swore about a hundred black beetles, saying that each one of them was wiser than Aristotle.

I have found the following in the Book of Jarrāb al-Dawlah, who said: Ibn Māsawayhi the physician visited al-Mutawakkil once, and the Caliph ordered one of his servants to bring somebody's urine in a phial and show it to Yūhannā. When it was brought he examined it and said: "There is no doubt that this is a mule's urine." The Caliph asked how he knew this, to which he answered: "Call for the one who gave this urine so that you can [p.347] find out whether I am right or wrong." Al-Mutawakkil ordered the slave to be brought in. When he appeared, ibn Māsawayhi asked him: "What did you eat yesterday?" "Barley bread and fresh water." Said ibn Māsawayhi: "By Allāh, the food my donkeys had today! "

I have copied from a manuscript by al-Mukhtār ibn al-Hasan ibn Butlān that Abū `Uthmān al-Jahiz and Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi had met, as far as he could remember, at the table of the Vizier Ismā`īl ibn Bulbul. Among the dishes there was fish, followed by meat cooked in sour milk, and Yūhannā avoided mixing them. Said Abū `Uthmān, "O Shaikh, either the fish is of the same nature as the milk, or it is opposed to it; if they are opposed to each other, they are canceled mutually; if they are of the same nature, we may assume that we are eating one of them and continue until we are sated." Said Yūhannā: "By Allāh, I am no philosopher, but eat, O Abū `Uthmān, and see what happens tomorrow." Abū `Uthman ate as an argument on his behalf, but during the night he was half paralyzed. Said Yūhannā: "By Allāh, this is the consequence of an invalid syllogism. Abū `Uthmān was led astray by his belief that fish and milk are of the same nature. However, even if we had agreed with him that it was so, their mixture must have had a power that neither of them possessed."

The Shaikh Ahmad ibn Alī ibn Thābit the preacher from Baghdād tells in the name of al-Husayn ibn Fahm that Muhammad ibn Salām al-Jumahī, the author of "The Classes of Poets," came to Baghdād in the year 222/837 and was afflicted with a serious illness. Everyone came to see him and the best physicians were sent to examine him. Among them was ibn Māsawayhi. After the latter had felt his pulse and examined him generally, he said: "I do not find illness so much as profound grief." The patient exclaimed: "By Allāh, I have spent eighty-two years in this world, but man is neglectful until he is awakened by some cause. Now if I could only once stand in `Arafāt and visit Muhammad's tomb, may Allāh bless his name, and fulfill some of my vows, this grief would be eased." Said Ibn Māsawayhi: [p.348] "Do not be grieved, for in your pulse I felt an inborn heat and strength that would give you ten more years to live, if Allāh cures you of this illness." Al-Husayn ibn Fahm concludes: "His words concurred with fate, and al-Jumahī lived for ten more years."

Al-Sūlī in his "Book of Silver" tells that al-Ma'mun once went to al-Badandūn, a river in the province of Tarsūs, with his brother al-Mu`tasim. They wandered about and then put their feet to cool in the river, whose water was very cold, soft and pure. Al-Ma'mūn said to al-Mu`tasim: "I would like now to eat some of Iraq's dates and then drink this water with them." He thereupon heard the sound of the metal and bells of the post-horses ringing, and a shout came: "This is Yazīd ibn Muqbil, the courier of Irāq." He brought out a silver dish with fresh ripe dates, to the astonishment of the two, whose wish was fulfilled. They ate the dates and drank the water and then got up to go. Al-Ma'mūn bid farewell and took a nap, and later got up with a fever. After he had been cupped, a swelling appeared on his knee: he had had this before, and his physician used to treat it until it was ripe, when it would open and get well. Said al-Mu`tasim to the physician, who was ibn Māsawayhi: "I do not understand our situation. You are a unique member of your profession, and this swelling is chronic with the Caliph. Can you not do away with it, or treat it properly by cutting it off so that it does not return? By Allāh, if this illness recurs, I shall break your neck." Ibn Māsawayhi was insulted by this talk and went away. Later he recounted the matter to somebody in whom he had confidence, and this man said to him: "Do you know what al-Mu`tasim's aim is?" — "No" — "He ordered you to kill him, so that the swelling would not come back. How could it be otherwise, when he knows that a physician cannot prevent a malady from recurring? He said that, meaning you should not let him live." In consequence of this, ibn Māsawayhi pretended to be ill, and sent one of his pupils to treat the swelling and visit al-Ma'mūn in his stead. This pupil came back every day [p.349] and informed him of al-Ma'mūn's condition, and what was new. He ordered the student to open the swelling, but the latter exclaimed: "May God protect you! This swelling has not yet become red or even reached the state of a wound." Ibn Māsawayhi insisted that he open it as he had said, without reconsulting him, which he did, and al-Ma'mūn died, may God have mercy upon him.

Ibn Abū `Usaybī`ah concludes: Ibn Māsawayhi did this because he was a man without manliness and had neither faith nor belief. He was not a Muslim, but did not have any respect even for his own religion, as is revealed in the above-mentioned stories of Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm. Now, no sensible man should approach and no resolute person rely upon a man who has no faith to cling to. Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi died in Samarra on Monday, the 25th of Jumādā II, 243/October 857, during the reign of Mutawakkil. Some of his sayings are as follows. When asked what is purely good without any evil, he answered: "Drinking a little from a pure drink." When asked what is purely evil without any good, he answered: "Having intercourse with an old woman." He also said: "Eating apples resurrects the body. " Finally — "Eat the food fresh, and drink the wine old."

His books are:

1) "The Demonstration," in thirty chapters.

2) "The Evidence."

3) "The Wholesome and Perfect Book."

4) "Fevers," illustrated.

5) "Food."

6) "Drink."

7) "A Handbook of Prescriptions and Treatments."

8) "Phlebotomy and Cupping."

9) A book about elephantiasis, the first of its kind.

10) "The Substances."

11) "The Preponderance."

12) "The Preparation of Laxatives and their Administration, with the Details of Every Drug and its Benefits." [p.350]

13) "The Avoidance of Harmful Foods."

14) "A Book about Important Things that Others did not Mention."

15) "The Whole Secret."

16) "The Hot Bath, its Benefits and Disadvantages."

17) "Poisons and their Treatment."

18) "The Brocade."

19) "The Seasons."

20) "Cooked Food."

21) "Headache, its Causes, Kinds and all its Treatments; Vertigo, the Causes of All its Manifestations and All its Cures, a Book Dedicated

to `Abd Allāh ibn Tāhir."

22) "Vertigo and Blood Circulation."

23) A book explaining why physicians have avoided treating pregnant women during certain months of their pregnancy.

24) "The Test of the Physician."

25) "The Art of Ophthalmology."

26) "Diseases of the Eye."

27) "Taking the Pulse."

28) "Voice and Hoarseness."

29) "Barley Water."

30) "Black Bile."

31) "How to Treat Infertile Women and Make them Conceive."

32) "The Embryo."

33) "The Rules of the Healthy."

34) "Toothpicks and Tooth Powder."

35) "The Stomach."

36) "Colic."

37) "Rare Medical Phenomena."

38) "Anatomy."

39) "The Administration of Laxatives According to Seasons and Humors, How to Give Them, to Whom and When; How to Strengthen the Drug when it is too Weak and How to Avoid Exaggeration in its Use." [p.351]

40) "The Composition of Man, his Members, the Number of his Major and Minor Bones, Joints, Arteries; How to Know the Causes of Pain: A Book Dedicated to al-Ma'mūn."

41) "Substitutes, Chapters Written on the request of Hunayn ibn Ishaq."

42) "Melancholy and its Causes, Symptoms and Cures."

43) "A Compendium of Medicine, as It Is Known to the Persian and Christian Physicians."

44) "How to be Healthy."


Mikhā'īl ibn Māsawayhi, al-Ma'mūn's physician, the brother of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi. Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm, the servant of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, said: "This physician was never agreeable in his talk and never proved anything he said. He did not follow the other physicians in anything unless it had been established for at least two hundred years. He did not use Oxymel and preserved rose unless it was preserved in honey. Nor did he use rose water unless it was extracted from a rose which had been boiled in hot water, but never made with sugar. On the whole he did not use anything which the ancients did not know. Once I asked him for his opinion on bananas, and he answered: 'I have found no mention of them in the books of the ancients; this being the situation, I would not eat them, nor recommend them to others.' Al-Ma'mun admired him and preferred him to Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū`, to the point where he used to call him by his nickname more than by his name, and did not take any drug unless Mikhā'īl had composed and recommended it. I have witnessed all the physicians in Baghdād respecting him with an honor they did not show to anyone else.

"In the middle of Shawwāl 220/835, he visited the house of Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī, with a group of notable physicians. Shaklah was sick at the time, and al-Mu`tasim sent the physicians to examine her and inform him of her condition. They had seen her the day before, examined her urine and taken her pulse, then repeated it the next day and decided unanimously [p.352] that she had already recovered and there was no need to worry about her. It occurred to me that all or most of them had desired to please Abū lshaq by saying such things about her health, and so when they went out, I followed them and asked each one for his opinion about her condition. All of them repeated what they had said to Abū Ishaq, except Salmawayhi ibn Bunān, who said that she was worse that day than on the previous one, and Mīkhā'īl, who said: 'Yesterday there appeared a tumor near her heart which we could not find today. Do you think this tumor sank into the ground or flew into the sky? Go and prepare the funeral for this woman, for she will not spend this night among the living.' Shaklah died during the last evening prayer, about ten hours after Mikhā'īl had expressed this opinion."

Yūsuf tells in the name of Mīkhā'īl ibn Masawayhi himself that when al-Ma'mūn came to Baghdād he used to drink in the company of Tāhir ibn al-Husayn. One day, when they had the wine of Qutrabalī in front of them, al-Ma'mūn said to Tāhir; "O Abū al-Tayyib, have you ever had such a drink?" — "Yes" — "The same in color, taste and smell?" —. "Yes" — "Where?" — "In Bushanj" — Bring us some of it." Tahir wrote to his agent and the wine was sent. Now, a message reached al-Ma'mūn from al-Nahrawān that Tāhir had received a gift from Būshanj. He kept it in mind and expected Tāhir to bring the wine, but he did not. Several days later, al-Ma'mūn said to him: "O Abū al-Tayyib, did the wine not arrive in that parcel?" He answered, "I beg the Emir of the Faithful, by Allāh's protection, do not put me to shame and disgrace." — "Why?" — "Because the drink I mentioned to you was one I drank while I was a beggar in a little village. Now Allāh has given me possession of more than I wished for, and when this wine arrived, I found it to be a shameful disgrace." — "But bring some of it anyway." It was brought over, and the Caliph ordered it to be put in the cellar and 'al-Tāhir' to be written upon it, in order to make fun of him for its extreme inferiority. It lay there for two years, until al-Ma'mūn had to vomit, and was advised to provoke this by taking a bad wine. [p.353] People said there was no worse wine in the whole of Irāq than that labeled 'al-Tāhirī', so it was taken out and found to be like the wine of Qutrabalī or even better, for the climate of Irāq had improved it, as it improves everything which grows and is pressed there.


`Isa ibn Māsah was one of the notable physicians of his generation, a distinguished master of this art. His therapeutics were remarkable. His books are:

1) "The Powers of Different Foods."

2) "A Book for Those who Cannot Contact the Doctor."

3) "Questions Related to Reproduction and Multiplication."

4) "The Book of Visions," in which he explains the reason for avoiding the treatment of pregnant women, etc.

5) "The Rising of Stars mentioned by Hippocrates."

6) "Phlebotomy and Cupping."

7) An epistle on the use of hot baths.


HUNAYN IBN ISHAQ (Johannitius)

Abū Zayd Hunayn ibn Ishāq al-`Abādī; al-`Abādī is the nomen relativum of `Abād, the name of a conglomerate of Arab tribes in al-Hīrah which adhere to the Christian faith. [Then follow two lines of poetry to confirm the use of the appellation in question.]

Hunayn ibn Ishāq was an elegant and effective speaker, quick-witted, and a poet. He stayed for a time in al-Basrah, where his Arabic teacher was al-Khalīl ibn Ahmad. Later he moved to Baghdād and took up medicine.

Yūsuf ibn Ibrahim reports the following about Hunayn ibn Ishāq's first endeavor to study medicine. The study-circle of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhī [p.354] was the one most attended by those desirous of studying medicine. Educated men of every description used to assemble there. I was able to observe Hunayn ibn Ishāq when he was studying, under the guidance of Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhr, the book "De Sectis. . . ," which bears the title "Haireseis" in both Greek and Syriac. On those occasions Hunayn would ask many questions and thus make himself obnoxious to Yūhannā. Still another fact prevented Hunayn from winning his teacher's heart. He was the son of a jeweller and hailed from al-Hīrah, and the people of Jundaysābūr were averse to the people of al-Hīrah; moreover the physicians among them were strongly opposed to sons of merchants being admitted to their profession. One day Hunayn put a question to Yūhannā related to a passage he was studying with him and which he desired to understand. Flying into a rage, Yūhannā exclaimed: "What business have the people of al-Hīrah to study medicine? Go to one of them, a relative of yours, and ask him for fifty dirhams. With one of these buy some small baskets and with three of them arsenic. Spend the rest on Kūfic and Qādisiyyah coins, put the coins in the baskets, and spread the arsenic over them. Then sit by the wayside and cry — Excellent coins for alms and expenditure! Selling those coins will be much more profitable to you than this profession."

He then ordered him to be driven from his house. Hunayn left, weeping bitterly. Two years went by during which I did not see him again.

The Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd had a Byzantine slave girl named Khirshā whom he held in high esteem and who served him as a keeper of the store-house. She had a sister — or niece — who occasionally brought al-Rashīd a garment or one of the other things Khirshā had in her care. One day al-Rashīd missed her, and when he asked where she was, Khirshā informed him that she had married her to a relative. Al-Rashīd reproached her angrily, saying: "How dare you give in marriage, without my permission, a relative whom you ought first to have bought from me, since she is my property?" He then ordered Sallām al-'Abrash to find out who had [p.355] married her and to punish the man. After making inquiries, Sallām discovered the husband, seized him and, without a word to him, had him castrated. His castration took place when the maid was already pregnant by him. She gave birth at the time that al-Rashīd set out for Tūs. When al-Rashīd died shortly afterwards, Khirshā adopted the boy, raised him in the Greek way of life and instructed him in reading Greek books. He mastered this language to such perfection that he became the greatest authority on it. He was Ishāq, known as ibn al-Khassī [the son of the castrate]. We used to meet quite frequently at assemblies of men of culture, and so he had a claim to my friendship [?]. When he once fell ill, I paid him a visit. While in his house, I suddenly observed a person with luxuriant hair, part of which hid his face from my sight. Pacing back and forth, he was reciting Greek poems by Homer, king of the Greek poets, and his voice resembled that of Hunayn, whom I had not seen for more than two years. I said to Ishāq ibn al-Khassr: "This is Hunayn." He denied it, but his denial was more like an admission. So I addressed Hunayn, and he answered me, saying: "ibn Māsawayhr said that it is impossible for an `Abādī to learn medicine." Hunayn told me that he had agreed to study medicine until he had mastered the Greek language to such perfection that no odne in his time could compete with him. "Except this friend of mine, no one knew of my presence, and if I had known that you would recognize me, I would have hidden from your sight. Since my efforts at concealing my identity have been of no avail with you, I beg you not to give me away."

Thus, I spent more than three years — I think it was even four — without seeing him. Then, one day, I visited Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` — it was after his return from al-Ma'mūn's camp, a short time before his death — and found with him Hunayn, who had translated for him parts of one of Galen's anatomical works (according to the division made by some Greek writers). Jibrā'īl spoke to him respectfully, addressing him as Rabbān Hunayn, in other words, teacher. This surprised me, [p.356] and Jibrā'īl, noticing my amazement, said: 'Do not think that the respect I pay to this youngster is exaggerated; for, by Allāh, if he is granted long life, he will outshine Sergius and all the other translators." (This Sergius mentioned by Jibrā'īl was from Ra's al-`Ayn; he was the first to translate Greek scientific material into Syriac.) At this juncture, Hunayn left, but I continued to stay with Jibrā'īl for quite a long time. On leaving, I found Hunayn waiting for me at the entrance. He greeted me and said: "On a previous occasion, I asked you to keep my doings secret. Now I ask you to make them known and also to disclose what you have heard from Abū `Isā and his opinion of me." I replied: "I shall show Yūhannā by divulging the praise lavished on you by Abū `Isā." Thereupon, producing from his sleeve a copy of the translation he had done for Jibrā'īl, he said: "Yūhannā's shame will come to a climax if you hand him this copy without revealing the identity of the translator; thereafter, when you realize that he is greatly impressed by it, you may inform him that it is my work."

I did so the very same day, even before returning home. After reading the chapters which the Greeks call al-Fā`ilāt, Yūhannā was greatly impressed and said to me: "Do you think that anyone in our time is inspired by Christ?" I replied: "Christ has inspired no one either in our time or in any other. He himself is a man who was inspired." "Leave me alone with such talk," — he retorted. "This translation could never have been done without the assistance of the Holy Ghost." I then said to him: "This translation is by Hunayn ibn Ishāq, whom you expelled from your house and advised to sell coins." He declared that what I had said was sheer nonsense, but in the end he believed me and asked me to try my best to bring about a reconciliation.

When I had succeeded in doing so, he overwhelmed Hunayn with kindness and honored him greatly. Up to the time I left Irāq in 225/840 he always showed him the greatest consideration. [p.357]

The author says: From that time on Hunayn attached himself closely to Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi and studied medicine under him. He translated many books for him, especially some of Galen's works, into Syriac or Arabic. Of all his contemporaries, he was best acquainted with the Greek, Syriac and Persian languages; besides, he constantly endeavored to acquire an expert knowledge of Arabic, so that eventually he became an authority in this field.

Al-Ma'mūn once had a dream in which, according to his account, he saw an old man of magnificant appearance sitting on a pulpit preaching. The old man declared that he was Aristotle, and at this point al-Ma'mūn awoke inquired about Aristotle and being told that he was a Greek savant, he summoned Hunayn ibn Ishāq who was the best translator he knew of, and asked him to translate the works of the Greek philosophers into Arabic. As remuneration, he showered money and presents on him.

The following is quoted from a manuscript of al-Hasan ibn al-`Abbās, known as al-Sanādīqī: Abū Sulaymān reports: "I have it from Yahyā ibn `Adī that al-Ma'mūn once said: I dreamt that a man was sitting on a chair in the assembly-room in which I usually sit. Being much impressed by his awe-inspiring appearance, I asked about him and was told that he was Aristotle. So I said to myself: I shall ask him a question, and I asked : What is good? 'What reason holds to be good,' he replied. And what else? 'What religion holds to be good.' And what else? 'What the general public holds to be good.' And what else? 'There is nothing else.'"

This dream was one of the decisive circumstances leading to the translation of books. Al-Ma'mūn maintained a correspondence with the king of Byzantium after vanquishing him. In one of his letters he asked his permission to take his choice of any of the manuscripts on the ancient sciences preserved in the country of Byzantium: After some hesitation, the king gave his consent. Al-Ma'mun thereupon despatched a delegation consisting of al-Hajjāj ibn Matar ibn al-Bitrī, Salmā, the administrator of Bayt al-Hikmah, and others, who chose suitable manuscripts from [p.358] among those they came across. When they had delivered the manuscripts to al-Ma'mūn, he ordered them to translate them, and they did so. One report has it that Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi was among those who went to Byzantium. Al-Ma'mūn also invited Hunayn ibn Ishāq, who was still young then, and asked him to translate as many of the Greek philosophical works as he could into Arabic and to correct the translations of the others. Hunayn responded to the call.

It is reported that al-Ma'mūn gave Hunayn an amount of gold exactly equal in weight to the books he translated into Arabic. Abū Sulaymān al-Mantiqī relates that the Banū Shākir, namely Muhammad, Ahmad and al-Hasan, paid about five hundred dinars a month to a group of translators, including Hunayn ibn Ishāq, Hubaysh ibn al-Hasan, Thābit ibn Qurrah and others, in consideration of their services.

Hunayn ibn Ishāq himself says that he traveled to many countries, including the remotest parts of Asia Minor, in search of the books which he intended to translate.

Muhammad ibn Ishāq al-Nadīm, in his book "al-Fihrist" [The Index], says: "I heard Ishāq ibn Shahrām report at a public gathering that there was in Asia Minor an ancient sanctuary with an iron two-leaved gate of unheard-of dimensions. In ancient times — said Ishāq — the Greeks, worshiping stars and idols, held that sanctuary in high esteem and used it for prayer. I once asked the king of Byzantium to open it for me, but he refused on the grounds that it had been locked since the time that the people of Byzantium embraced Christianity. But I never ceased to entreat him, both in writing and verbally when at his court, so that he eventually gave orders to open it. It was a structure composed of various kinds of marble and huge rocks, furnished with inscriptions and drawings in an abundance and beauty such as I had neither seen nor heard of before. That sanctuary contained so many ancient books that a goodly number of camels would have been needed to carry them (indeed, Ishāq put the number at as many as one thousand camels). Some of the books were dilapidated, others were [p.359] well preserved and some were worm-eaten. In that sanctuary I also saw many interesting sacrificial implements of gold and other materials. When I left, the gate was locked again, and the king subsequently reminded me several times of the favor he had granted me. This happened in the reign of Sayf al-Dawlah ibn Hamdān.'

"Ishaq ibn Shahrām also stated that the sanctuary was three days' journey from Constantinople. Its immediate vicinity was inhabited by Sabians and Chaldeans, whom the Byzantines allowed to profess their religions, exacting a poll-tax from them."

The author says: Hunayn had a scribe named al-Azraq, in whose handwriting I have seen a number of books by Galen and others, some of them bearing annotations in Greek in Hunayn's hand and the emblem of al-Ma'mūn.

`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl Bakhtīshū`, in his "Virtues of Physicians," says: "When Hunayn had acquired a solid professional standing and became a renowned physician, his fame reached the Caliph, who invited him to his court, presented him with fine feudal estates and granted him a handsome monthly allowance.

"Though the Caliph had heard of his great learning, he never took a medicine he prescribed in reliance on his word alone, without first gaining a second opinion. To remove all suspicion he had against him — he feared that the king of Byzantium might be using him to carry out evil designs — he decided to put him to a test. He had him come one day, presented him with a robe of honor and handed him a writ entitling him to a fief the annual revenue of which was 50,000 dirhams. After Hunayn had expressed his thanks and they had been talking for a while, the Caliph said: 'I want you to prescribe a medicine to destroy an enemy whose death I find desirable. Since it is impossible to do this publicly, I want it to be done in secret.' Hunayn replied: 'O Emir of the Faithful, I know only beneficial medicines, and it never occurred to me that the Emir of the Faithful might ask me for any other type. If he desires that I go and learn, I shall do so.' — 'This would take too long,' replied the Caliph, and he [p.360] tried to bring him round by promises and threats; but Hunayn added nothing to what he had already said. At last, the Caliph ordered him to be imprisoned in a citadel and placed under the supervision of a guard, who was to report on his condition every day at an appointed time. Hunayn stayed in prison for one year, spending all his time translating, annotating and writing, unperturbed by his predicament. When the year had passed, the Caliph summoned him into his presence. He had prepared money to entice him and also a sword, a piece of leather used for executions and other instruments of torture. When Hunayn appeared, he said to him: 'What I told you before must be done without fail. If you agree, this money will be yours, and I promise to give you much more. But if you refuse, you will die a most abominable death.' Hunayn replied: 'I have already told the Emir of the Faithful that I am only acquainted with what is beneficial and know of nothing else.' — 'So I shall have to kill you.' — 'I have a God who will avenge me when the time comes, at the Great Muster. If the Emir of the Faithful chooses to harm himself, let him do so!' Thereupon the Caliph smiled and said: 'O Hunayn, lift your spirits and trust me. What I did was designed to test you, because I have to be on my guard against the intrigues of kings. Since you are dear to me, I wanted to be sure of you and be able to benefit from your services in full confidence.' Hunayn kissed the ground and thanked the Caliph, who went on to say: 'O Hunayn, what induced you to refuse my request even though you must have believed that I was firmly resolved to carry out either my promise or my threat?' — 'Two reasons, O Emir of the Faithful.' 'And what were they?' 'Religion and the Art.' — 'How so?' — 'Religion enjoins us to be good and kind even to our enemies, let alone to our friends and brethren, and whoever does not act accordingly is banished and excommunicated. As to the Art, it forbids us to harm our fellowmen; it is. designed to benefit them, and its use is limited to promoting their welfare. In addition, God has imposed upon the physician a strict obligation, confirmed by solemn oaths, not to administer any deadly drug or anything harmful. Since I felt I could not disobey those [p.361] two laws, I had to expose myself to the danger of death, convinced that God would not forsake him who sacrifices his life in obeying his commandments, and that he would not fail to reward me.' — 'Those are indeed sublime laws,' said the Caliph and ordered him to be given a robe of honor and money. When Hunayn left, he was the most respected of men.'

The author says: Hunayn had two sons, Dā'ud and Ishāq, for whom he wrote medical textbooks for both the initial and more advanced stages. He also translated for them a number of works by Galen. As to Dā'ud, I have not found that he earned a reputation for himself as a physician, nor does there exist any work of his attesting to his excellence and knowledge, only one pandect has been preserved. Ishāq, on the other hand, became very famous as a medical expert. He also wrote many books and translated a great number of Greek works into Arabic. Yet his main interest was the translation of philosophical works, such as those of Aristotle. His father Hunayn, on the contrary, had a predilection for translating medical books, especially those of Galen. In fact, the great majority of works by Galen that are available are either translations by Hunayn or his revisions of translations executed by others. The renderings of other translators, such as Istāth, and Ibn Bax, al-Bitrīq and Abū Sa`īd `Uthmān al-Dimashqī [from Damascus], are much less valued and sought after than the translations and revisions of Hunayn. The reason is that Hunayn had an elegant and effective style and was acquainted with the teachings of Galen. I have come across some of the Sixteen Books as translated from Greek into Syriac by Sergius the Physician and from Syriac into Arabic by Musā ibn Khālid the Interpreter, and when I read them and paid attention to their language I realized the striking difference between them and Hunayn's translation. They and the latter are as far apart as the stutterer and the fluent speaker, the earth and the Pleiades.

Hunayn was also skilled in ophthalmology, and his works on this subject are renowned. [p.362]

I have it on the authority of Shibāb al-Dīn `Abd al-Hakk, the Sicilian grammarian, that Hunayn ibn Ishāq (with Sībawayhī and others) studied Arabic under al-Khalīl ibn Ahmad. This report is plausible because the two were contemporaries, both living at the time of al-Ma'mūn. Moreover Hunayn's writings and translations show elegance of style and a mastery of the Arabic language, which enabled him even to write books on it.

Sulaymān ibn Hassan [Ibn Juljul] reports that Hunayn went from Baghdād to Fāris, where al-Khalīl ibn Ahmad, the grammarian, was domiciled.

He attached himself to him until he had acquired an excellent knowledge of the language of the Arabs. It was he who introduced "Kitāb al-`Ayn' [al-Khalīl's dictionary] in Baghdād. Later, he was chosen for translation work and became highly respected in this field. He was employed by al-Mutawakkil Allāh, who placed at his disposal experienced scribes who were also skilled in translation, e.g. Stephan ibn Basil and Mūsā ibn Khālid the interpreter. They translated and Hunayn revised their work.

Ibn Juljul goes on to say: Hunayn served al-Mutawakkil `ala Allāh as physician and enjoyed great prestige during his reign. He wore a girdle [as a sign that he was a Christian]. He had acquired his knowledge of the Greek language in Alexandria. Being an excellent translator, he elucidated the works of Hippocrates and Galen, rendered them with the utmost conciseness, cleared up the obscurities and resolved the difficult points. He also wrote works of his own, which are useful, and masterfully composed.

With regard to the Galen's books, he followed the method employed by the Alexandrians, i.e., reshaping them in the form of questions and answers, and in this he achieved perfection.

Hunayn ibn Ishāq relates that all the books he possessed were lost, down to the last one. He mentions this in his treatise entitled "A Catalogue of Galen's Works."

Abū Alī al Qubbānī says: "Every day, on returning from his ride, Hunayn entered his bathroom and poured water on himself. Thereafter [p.363] he wrapped himself in a velvet cloth and drank a ratl of wine kept ready for him from a silver vessel, and ate some cake soaked in it. He then lay down to sweat thoroughly. Sometimes he even fell asleep. On rising, he perfumed himself with incense and took his meal, which consisted of a big fat chick, and a loaf of bread weighing 200 dirhams. He first sipped his broth, then ate the chick and bread and lay down to sleep. On waking, he drank four ratls of oil wine, which was his only beverage throughout his life. When he had an appetite for fresh fruit, he chose Syrian apples, pomegranates or quinces."

Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhsī, in his book "Entertainment and Sports," says that Hunayn the physician related as follows: "One night, during the reign of al-Mutawakkil, some messengers from the caliphal palace called on me saying: 'The Caliph wants you to appear before him.' After them, a whole delegation arrived and finally Zarāfah, who got me out of bed and led me, running, right into the Caliph's presence. He introduced me saying: 'O my lord, this is Hunayn.' Whereupon the Caliph said: 'Give Zarāfah what I promised him.' He was given 30,000 dirhams. The Caliph then turned to me saying: 'I am hungry. What do you recommend for the evening meal?' I told him, and when he had finished eating, I inquired the reason of his calling me. A singer, I was told, had sung a song in the Caliph's presence, and he had wanted to know who the composer was. When informed that it was Hunayn ibn Balū` al-`Abādī, he ordered Zarāfah to summon me. Zarāfah said that he did not know me. Whereupon the Caliph said: 'I insist on seeing him, and if you produce him you will receive 30,000 dirhams.' So he brought me, but al-Mutawakkil had meanwhile forgotten the reason, since the wine he had imbibed had affected his memory. When I appeared before him, he was feeling hungry. I advised him to stop drinking wine, to have supper and to lie down to sleep. And so he did."

The author says: Hunayn was born in 194/809-10 and died in the reign of al-Mu`tamid `ala Allāh on Tuesday, the 1st of Qānūn al-Awwal [p.364] 1188, of the Seleucid era, corresponding to the 24th of Safar 264/Nov. 877. He thus lived 70 years. According to one report, he died of a malignant wound.

Sulaymān ibn Hassān, known as Ibn Juljul, says that Hunayn ibn Ishāq died suddenly from mental distress in the reign of al-Mutawakkil. He had this from the vizier of al-Hakam al-Mustansir bi-Allāh, who reported as follows: "When we were once in the company of al-Mustansir, the latter, in the course of conversation, said: 'Do you know how Hunayn ibn Ishāq died?' We said: No, O Emir of the Faithful. — 'Al-Mutawakkil `ala Allāh once went out suffering from the effects of intoxication, and sat down in a place exposed to the sun. With him were al-Tayfurī, the Christian physician, and Hunayn ibn Ishāq. Al-Tayfurī, the Christian physician, and Hunayn ibn Ishāq. Al-Tayfūrī said: 'O Emir of the Faithful, the sun is injurious to intoxication. The Caliph thereupon asked Hunayn: 'What do you think? — 'O Emir of the Faithful,' said Hunayn, 'it is not.' When the two started an argument in his presence, he asked them to offer proof for either claim. Hunayn said: 'O Emir of the Faithful, intoxication is the condition of the intoxicated, and the sun is not injurious to intoxication but to the intoxicated.' Whereupon al-Mutawakkil exclaimed: 'Verily, he is so clever in grasping the sense of words and defining their exact shades of meaning that he surpasses all his fellows.' Al-Tayfūrī kept silent, not knowing what to say. Next day, Hunayn produced from his sleeve a book containing a picture of the Crucified Messiah surrounded by a group of people. Said al-Tayfūrr: 'O Hunayn, are these the men who crucified the Messiah?' Receiving an affirmative reply, he said: 'Spit on them.' Hunayn refused, and when asked why, he said: 'They are not really the men who crucified the Messiah, but only their images.' This answer infuriated al-Tayfūrī. He complained to al-Mutawakkil, asking his consent to Hunayn's being tried before a Christian court. Al-Mutawakkil sent for the Catholicos and the bishops who were asked to give their verdict. They agreed that Hunayn should be cursed. So [p.365] Hunayn was cursed seventy times in the presence of a gathering of Christians, and his girdle was cut. Al-Mutawakkil now gave orders that no medicine prepared by Hunayn should be given to him in the future unless its preparation had been supervised by al-Tayfūrī. Hunayn went home and died that very night. It is said that he died from vexation and grief."

The author says: This is the account of Ibn Juljul, and a similar story is related by Ahmad ibn Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm in his treatise on requital. The truth is that Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl, who hated Hunayn ibn Ishāq and envied him his knowledge, his rank, talent for translation and his high position, denigrated him with al-Mutawakkil. He succeeded in so instigating the Caliph against him that the latter had him imprisoned. But God, the Most High, caused him to be set free, and Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl's intrigues came to light. Hunayn again won the favor of the Caliph, who now preferred him to Bakhtīshū` and all the other physicians. Henceforth his position with al-Mutawakkil never changed, until, at last, he was stricken by the illness which brought about his death. This was in the year 264/877.

The truth about what is reported of Hunayn in this connection became apparent to me from a missive by Hunayn himself in which he relates the trials and hardships he had to suffer at the hands of famous physicians who were wicked men and hostile toward him.

These are Hunayn's words: "Through my enemies and persecutors and those unmindful of my benefactions, who denied my rights and wronged me, I suffered so many afflictions, hardships and injuries that I was neither able to sleep nor to attend to my duties. Their motive was sheer envy of the knowledge and exalted position with which God, the Mighty and most High, had favored me. Most of them were my kinsmen. These were foremost in causing me trouble and tribulations, and next came those whom I had taught, befriended and supported and to whom accorded preference over most of the other medical students in town. I had taught [p.366] them to understand the science of the great Galen, and they rewarded me with evil deeds, in accordance with their natural disposition. They went so far in spreading the most abominable rumors about me — while concealing my merits — that I fell into disrepute and was looked upon with suspicion. I came to be observed so closely that a check was kept on every word I uttered, and very often my words were misrepresented and I was accused of saying what I had never intended to say. In this way, they sowed hatred of me in the hearts of not only the members of other religious communities but of my coreligionists as well. And whenever I heard about this, I praised God anew and gained fresh strength to endure my plight. Indeed, things went so far that for some time I was so distressed and enfeebled that my hand touched no gold or silver coin nor a book or even a sheet of paper to read from. At last, the Almighty, cast the eye of mercy upon me, restored His grace and renewed to me His favor which I had been wont to enjoy. The immediate cause of my reinstatement was a man who had been one of my sworn enemies. This bears out Galen's remark that the best of men may sometimes benefit by their worst enemies. Upon my life, that man was the best of enemies.

"I will now give a fuller account of what happened to me. I say: How should I not hate when I am envied by so many and defamed so often in the presence of high-ranking persons, when large sums were spent to have me killed, when those who disparaged me were respected and those who honor me reviled? And all this without my having harmed any of my adversaries. The only reason was that they saw that I bettered them in knowledge and skill, translated important scientific works from languages they had neither mastered nor even had the slightest inkling of and turned out work unsurpassed as to elegance and clarity of language, free from faults and slips, of inclination to a specific sect, obscurities and solecisms, meeting the standards set by the Arab masters of style, who are authorities on everything pertaining to grammar and. lexicology. They could find no fault with my work, every concept and meaning being [p.367] rendered by the most suitable and most easily intelligible expression. Every reader, even if not a physician and quite ignorant of the methods of philosophy, and whether a Christian or an adherent of another religion, was bound to recognize the merit of my work. Therefore, people spent huge sums on my translations and preferred them to those of all my predecessors. I may also rightly say that all other men of learning, whatever was their religion, loved and respected me. They received with thanks what I had to offer and rewarded me with favors to the best of their ability. But those Christian physicians, most of whom had been taught by me and had grown up under my care, sought to shed my blood, although they needed me sorely. Sometimes they said: 'Who is this Hunayn? He translates books merely in order to gain a fee, just as artisans get paid for their work. We see no difference between him and them. An armorer makes a sword for a knight for so many dinars, and Hunayn takes one hundred dinars monthly for his pains. He is a mere servant who prepares our tools but does not know how to employ them, just as the armorer, though an expert in the manufacture of swords, is not skilled in handling them; and just as the armorer cannot aspire to knightship, so should that translator refrain from discoursing on medical matters since he has no thorough knowledge of the causes of diseases or of the diseases themselves. His aim in trying to emulate us is to be called Hunayn the Physician and not Hunayn the Translator. The best thing for him to do would be to stick to his profession and abstain from meddling with ours. It would be very profitable for him to leave off feeling the pulse, inspecting phials of urine and prescribing drugs, for in that case we would supply him with money and oblige him as far as we could.' They also said: 'When Hunayn calls at the same people, high or low, the people always ridicule him after he has left.' Whenever I heard such talk, I was very much distressed and, in my vexation and anger, thought of killing myself. I could not cope with them, for a single person is unable to overcome a whole group who make a concerted effort to oppose him. But I controlled my anger, knowing that [p.368] it was their envy that prompted them to act as they did, even though they must have realized that what they were doing was ugly. Envy has existed among men since time immemorial. Whoever professes a religion knows that the first envious person on earth was Cain; he slew Abel when God rejected his offering, in favor of his brother's. It is thus not surprising that I should have been one of those who suffered from this age-old envy. A proverb has it that an envious person is sufficiently punished by his very envy and another says an envious person kills himself rather than the person he envies. The ancient Arabs often mentioned envy in their poetry. Here are some lines devoted to this subject:

If they envy me, I do not blame them;
Many persons of merit have been envied before me.
Both of us, I and they, are left with what we had.
Most people die from anger at their fate.
I constantly dwell in their breasts:
I neither rise higher nor descend lower.

"There are other similar poems, but they would require too much space.

"The behavior of those people was all the more astounding as most of them, when attacked by severe illness, had recourse to me in order to obtain exact diagnoses and prescriptions of medicines and regimens. The success of my treatment is proved by the fact that they turned to me not merely once and not even a few times. And precisely those who came to me and took my advice were the ones who hate and defame me most. I took an action against them except to refer judgment between me and them to the Lord of the Universe. My inaction was due to the fact that they were not one or two or three but fifty-six, most of them my co-religionists who needed me whereas I had no need of them. Moreover, in addition to their number, they were privileged to serve the caliphs and were thus state dignitaries. So I was doubly handicapped, first, because I stood above, and secondly, because the people who would have assisted me depended [p.369] upon the source [of power]. I.e., the Caliph, who backed my enemies. Despite all that, I never complained to anyone about my condition, however bad it might be, and even praised my enemies at public meetings and in the presence of dignitaries. When it was mentioned to me that they defamed and disparaged me at these meetings, I pretended not to believe what I was told. On the contrary, I said: We are one single entity, united by a common religion, place of residence and profession. I therefore cannot believe that such people would say anything bad about anyone, let alone me. On hearing of such utterances, they would say: 'He is afraid, and therefore resigns himself to disgrace.' And the more they would defame me, the more I would praise them.

"I will now tell about the last pit they dug for me, saying no more of what I had to suffer from them previously, especially from the Banū Mūsā, the Galenists and the Hippocratists, who were the first to slander me. Here is the story of my latest trial, which took place quite recently: Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl the physician devised a stratagem by which he achieved his purpose of harming me. He procured an icon representing St. Mary with Our Lord Jesus on her lap, surrounded by angels. This icon was of excellent workmanship and had cost him a large sum of money. When he presented it to the Emir of the Faithful, al-Mutawakkil, taking it from the hands of the servant who had carried it and placing it in front of the Caliph, the latter admired it greatly. Bakhtīshū` then kissed it several times in the Caliph's presence, whereupon al-Mutawakkil asked him: 'Why do you kiss it?' 'O my Lord.' said Bakhtīshū`, 'if I did not kiss the image of the Lady of all mankind, whom should I kiss?' — 'Do all Christians do so?' — 'Yes, O Emir of the Faithful, and with even greater ardor. Being in your presence I have restrained myself. But even though the whole of our Christian community revere St. Mary, I know a man in your service, who enjoys your favor and receives monthly payments from you, who is a Christian, but who despises her and spits at her. He is a heretic and an unbeliever, who professes neither monotheism nor any [p.370]  other religion. Hiding under the cloak of Christianity, he does not believe in God at all, and considers the prophets as liars.' — 'Who is the man whom you describe thus?' — 'It is Hunayn ibn Ishāq.' — 'I shall make an example of him. I shall put him into a dungeon forever and order that he be tortured.' — 'I would ask you, O my Lord, Emir of the Faithful, to put off summoning him until some time after I have left.' The Caliph agreed, and Bakhtīshū` left the palace and came to me. He said: 'O Abū Zayd, may God give you strength, be it known to you that the Emir of the Faithful has been given an icon which arouses his admiration — I think it is a Syrian painting. If we leave it with him and praise it in his presence, he will never cease ridiculing us on its account, saying: Here is your Lord depicted with his mother. The Caliph said to me: Look at this picture, how beautiful it is! What do you say about it?' I replied: A picture like this is to be found in bath-houses, churches and other places adorned with paintings. We care nothing for it and pay no attention to it.' — 'So it is of no particular value to you ' — 'No.' — If you mean what you say, spit on it.' So I spat on it and left, while he laughed and yelled. I did it only to induce him to throw the icon away, lest he begin to ridicule and revile us on its account, his mockery would be particularly obnoxious if anyone should become angry at it [?]. It is fitting, therefore, that if you are summoned and asked the same questions as I was, you react exactly as I did. I shall call on those of our colleagues who have access to the Caliph and request them to act in the same way.' I accepted his advice, not realizing that he was fooling me. He had hardly been gone an hour when a messenger from the Caliph arrived and took me to the palace. On being admitted to the Caliph's presence, I saw the icon in front of him. He said: O Hunayn, look at this picture, how fine, how wonderful it is.' — 'By God, it is as the Emir of the Faithful says.' —'What do you have to say about it? ' 'A picture like this is often to be found in bath-houses, churches and other places adorned with paintings.' — 'Is it not the image of your Lord and His mother?' — 'It would be a [p.371] sacrilege, O Emir of the Faithful, to say that an image of God, the Most High, exists or that He can be represented in a painting. This is merely a picture like those found wherever pictures are.' — 'So it is neither beneficial nor harmful?' — 'No, Emir of the Faithful.' — 'If so spit on it! ' So I spat on it, and he immediately ordered me to be arrested. He then sent for Theodosius the Catholicos. The latter, on seeing the icon on the ground in front of the Caliph, threw himself upon it even before saluting him, embraced it, and kissed it again and again weeping all the time. The servants approached to restrain him, but the Caliph ordered them to leave him alone. After kissing the icon for a long moment in the position described, the Catholicos took it in his hands, stood up, and addressed the Emir of the Faithful with a lengthy speech. The Caliph bade him sit down and the Catholicos sat down with the icon on his lap. Al-Mutawakkil then reproached him: 'What kind of behavior is this ? You take something which is lying in front of me and keep it on your lap without asking my permission?' — 'Yes, O Emir of the Faithful,' replied the Catholicos, 'I am better entitled to what was lying in front of you, even though the Emir of the Faithful, may God prolong his life, has a better right to everything else. My religion forbids me to leave the image of Our Lady lying on the ground, in a place which does not befit its dignity. It should be kept in a place where it is duly honored, illuminated by lamps burning the finest oil, which will never go out, and constantly perfumed with the most fragrant incense.' — 'Leave it, then, on your lap for the time being, said the Caliph, and the Catholicos continued: 'I pray my Lord, the Emir of the Faithful, that he grant me the icon as a gift and bestow upon me a fief yielding a yearly revenue of one hundred thousand dinars, so as to enable me to give the icon its due rights; after that the Emir of the Faithful may ask me whatever he likes about the matter for which he had me summoned. 'I give the icon to you,' replied the Caliph, 'but now I want you to tell me what, in your opinion, [p.372] should be the punishment of a man who spat on it.' 'If he is a Muslim,' said the Catholicos, 'he should not be punished since he does not know its value. He should merely be enlightened on this point and severely rebuked for his action, so that he may never repeat it. If he is a Christian, but an ignorant person, lacking understanding and knowledge, he should be publicly rebuked and warned of the punishment for great sins, so as to make him repent. Generally only an ignorant person, who has no proper appreciation of religion, will commit such an offence. But if he who spat upon the icon is an educated person, he may be said to have actually spat upon Mary, the mother of our Lord, and on our Lord Christ.' — 'How then, would you punish a person who has done so?' asked the Caliph. 'As to myself, having no authority to punish him with rod or stick and having no prison at my disposal, I would excommunicate him, ban him from entering church and receiving Communion and prevent the other Christians from associating and speaking with him. I would harass him so as to make him an outcast, until he repents, changes his ways and gives part of his property to the poor, fasting and praying all the while. In doing so, we would be following the saying of our Scriptures: If you do not pardon sinners, your sins will not be forgiven.' The Caliph then bade the Catholicos take the icon, permitting him to do with it as he pleased. He also gave him a purse of money with instructions to spend it for the requirements of the icon. When Theodosius had left, the Caliph remained wondering for a while about him and his love and veneration for his holy one. After expressing his amazement, he gave orders to fetch me, and when I appeared, he had a whip and some ropes brought, whereupon at his command. I was stripped and bound and administered one hundred strokes. Thereafter he had me imprisoned, with instructions to ill-treat me. He also sent men to take all my belongings, traveling kit, household effects, books and other things, and raze my house to the ground. I was imprisoned in his palace for six months in the most lamentable conditions, an object of pity for all who saw me. Every few days the Caliph sent men [p.373] to beat and torture me. This went on until, on the fifth day of the fourth month of my imprisonment, the Emir of the Faithful fell gravely ill Confined to his bed and unable to move, he was already despaired of and he himself did not expect to live. Nevertheless my enemies, the physicians, stayed with him day and night, not leaving him for even an hour. While treating him and administering medicines, they kept talking about me, saying: 'If our lord, the Emir of the Faithful, were to deliver us from that heretic and unbeliever, he would be delivering the whole world from him, and religion would be freed of a grievous infliction. After persistent urging and much slander on their part, the Caliph said: 'What would you like me to do with him?' — 'You should deliver the world from him,' they replied. On the other hand, whenever one of my friends inquired about my condition or sought to intercede on my behalf, Bakhtīshū` would way: 'O Emir of the Faithful, this man is his disciple and holds the same belief as he.' Thus those who supported me were few and those who incited against me many; and so I despaired of my life.

"Worn down by these incessant appeals, the Caliph at last said: 'I shall kill him tomorrow and thus deliver you from him. At this they all rejoiced, and presently left, well satisfied with what they had achieved. A servant thus came to me and told me what had occurred that night. Greatly worried and terrified as to what would happen to me the next day — not because of any crime I had committed, but owing to intrigues and through following the advice of one bent on destroying me — I prayed to God, the Mighty and Most High, to show me His mercy as He had done so many times before, saying: O my God, You know my innocence and You alone are able to help me. I thus immersed myself in thought until sleep overwhelmed me. Then, all of a sudden, I felt myself being shaken and heard a voice calling to me, 'Stand up, thank God and praise Him, for He has saved you from your enemies, causing the Emir of the Faithful to recover through your intervention. So be of good cheer. I woke up frightened but said to [p.374] myself: What comes to mind so often in waking should not be dismissed when seen in a dream. So I thanked and praised God until dawn, when a servant arrived and entered my room. Since it was not his normal hour, I said to myself: This is a fateful moment. There is coming to pass what was announced yesterday. The time has arrived for my enemies to gloat over my misfortune. And I implored God's help. But hardly had the servant sat down when a slave of the Caliph entered, accompanied by a barber who said to me: 'Come here, O blessed one, that some of your hair may be removed.' I approached him and he cut my hair; then he led me to the bathroom and ordered me to be washed and cleansed and perfumed — all at the bidding of my lord, the Emir of the Faithful. When I left the bathroom, splendid garments were put on me and I was led to the barber's cabinet. There I had to wait until all the physicians appeared before the Emir of the Faithful and each of them took his seat. Then the Caliph called for me, saying: 'Bring Hunayn!' Those present did not doubt that I was called in order to be killed. When I was brought before the Caliph, he looked at me and bade me approach. Then he told me to sit down before him and said: 'I have forgiven you your sin in deference to him who has interceded on your behalf. Now thank God for your life, feel my pulse and advise me what to do, for my illness has lasted too long. I felt his pulse and advised him — since he complained of constipation, and his appearance suggested such a prescription to eat Shanbar cucumbers with the seeds extracted and taranjabīn. Thereupon the physicians, my enemies, exclaimed: 'For heaven's sake, O Emir of the Faithful, do not take this medicine, for it has a disastrous effect.' But the Caliph bade them keep silent and said: 'I have been told to take whatever he prescribes for me.' He gave orders for the medicine to be prepared and when it was ready took it immediately. Then, turning to me, he said: 'O Hunayn, absolve me of all I did to you, for your intercessor is powerful.' My lord, I replied, the Emir of the Faithful is exempt from guilt, since he has granted me my life. Addressing [p.375] those present, the Caliph then said: 'Know that when you left last night, having my promise that I would kill Hunayn this morning, I was troubled by violent pains until midnight. Then, I fell asleep and dreamt that I was confined in some narrow space while you, the physicians, my servants and the rest of my retinue kept at some distance from me. I called to you, saying: Woe unto you! Why do you stare at me wherever I am? Is this the way to behave toward a person like me? But you kept silent, not answering my call. Then, suddently, a powerful mysterious light illuminated the place, so that I became terrified. I saw a man with a beautiful face who was just arriving, followed by another dressed in handsome clothes. He said: 'Peace be upon you.' After I had returned his greeting, he asked: 'Do you know me?' I admitted that I did not, and he said: 'I am Christ.' Frightened and upset, I asked: Who is your companion? — 'He is Hunayn ibn Ishāq.' — Forgive me for being unable to get up and welcome you, I begged, and he said: 'Pardon Hunayn and forgive his sin, for God has already forgiven it, and follow his advice, because if you do you will recover from your illness.' When I woke up, I was greatly distressed about the hardships Hunayn was enduring at my hand. Having reflected upon the might of him who had interceded on his behalf, I feel that it is now my duty to do justice to him. So go away, and he alone shall attend me, as I was told. And each of you shall send me ten thousand dirhams to make amends for having sought his life. This fine is due from all who were present at yesterday's meeting, when his death was demanded, while those who were absent are exempt. If anyone fails to send the money, I shall cut off his head. Turning to me, the Caliph then said: 'Sit down and attend to your duty.' The others left and each of them sent ten thousand dirhams. When all the money had been collected, the Caliph ordered the same amount to be added from his treasury and the sum total, which exceeded two hundred thousand dirhams, to be given to me. [p.376]

"When the day came to an end, the medicine had already caused the Caliph to go to stool three times. Feeling much better, his complaints relived, he said to me: 'Rejoice at your good fortune, O Hunayn! You will enjoy a respected position with me, and your standing will be much higher than it was ever before. I shall compensate you many times over for all you have lost make your enemies dependent upon you and place you high above all the other members of your profession. Thereafter he gave orders to fit up three of his apartments, the like of which I had never inhabited in all my life nor seen occupied by any of my colleagues. They were equipped with everything I needed: vessels, furniture, utensils, books and so on, and the Caliph presented them to me in due form in the presence of witnesses; for they were extremely sumptuous, being worth thousands of dinars, and the Caliph, out of his great love and kindness for me, wanted them to be my property and that of my offspring, with no one being able to claim title to them. When everything had been carried out as aforesaid and the rooms had been hung with curtains of every description, and nothing was left for me to do but move in, the Caliph gave orders to hand over to me a large sum of money and present me with five of his finest private mules and their carriages. He also gave me three Greek servants, granted me a monthly salary of fifteen thousand dirhams and compensated me for the income lost during my confinement, which was considerable. In addition, courtiers, women of the caliphal household and other members of the Caliph's family and retinue sent me countless presents — money, robes of honor and riding equipment. I was now in a position to earn inside the palace the same income as I had previously earned outside. I also became chief of all the physicians, both my adherents and the others. So I could be perfectly happy. All this had come to pass through the agency of malicious enemies; as Galen says: The best of men sometimes benefit by their worst enemies. I swear by my life, Galen had to undergo severe trials, but they did not affect him as much as mine did me. [p.377] Often, someone would call on me in the morning to have me intercede on his behalf with the Caliph or ask me about some disease, which had assailed one of my enemies, at whose hands I had to suffer so much, as I have already informed you. Nevertheless, by the one whom I worship and who is the prime cause, I always endeavored to fulfill their wishes and be their faithful friend, and I never repaid them for what they had done to me, not a single one of them. After hearing what was said about me in public, and especially in the presence of my lord, the Emir of the Faithful, people kept wondering why I was so anxious to be at their service. I even made it a habit to translate books for them without getting any compensation or reward, and to comply with all their wishes, though previously I had been accustomed, whenever I translated a book for anyone, to take from him its weight in dirhams."

The author says: I have seen many of those books and acquired a great number of them. They were written in Kufic script by al-Azraq, Hunayn's scribe. The characters were large, the writing thick and the lines widely spread. Each of the leaves, having the thickness of those commonly manufactured at that time, was like three or four leaves [such as we are now accustomed to]. In this way, Hunayn meant to swell the volume of the books and increase their weight because they fetched him their weight in dirhams. He thus employed that paper on purpose, and there can be no doubt that owing to its thickness it has remained all these years.

Hunayn continues: "I have related all this in order to show that tribulations may visit both the clever and the stupid, the strong and the weak, the young as well as the old. Since, without any doubt, they may visit all these categories of people, a sensible person should not despair of being delivered from his plight by the grace of God. On the contrary, he should steadfastly trust in his Creator and venerate and glorify Him. Praise be to God for granting me new life, making me prevail over the [p.378] enemies who wronged me, and placing me in a position surpassing them in honor and prosperity!"

The foregoing is a literal rendering of Hunayn ibn Ishāq's account.

Here is one of Hunayn's sayings: "Night is the day of the learned man."

Hunayn ibn Ishāq is the author of the following books:

1. "The Book of Questions," a kind of introduction to medicine, containing statements and short summaries which are to be considered the first principles of the art. Not all of this book is Hunayn's work; it was completed by his pupil al-'A`sam Hubaysh. This is why Ibn Abī Sādiq says in his commentary on it that Hunayn made a draft of this book on rough paper and edited only part of it during his life. After his death, Hubaysh ibn al-Hasan, his nephew and pupil, edited the remainder and wrote additions of his own, which he appended to the material of Hunayn's draft. The full title of the book is, therefore, 'Hunayn's Questions with the Additions of Hubaysh al-'A`sam." The copies of the book contain a note to the effect that the additions extend from the mention of the four periods of diseases to the end of the book, whereas ibn Abī Sādiq asserts that they begin with the discourse on theriac. For this assertion, he relies on the statement which says that in addition, Hunayn ibn Ishāq wrote two treatises in which he expounded on Galen's sayings on theriac; if the words were Hunayn's, they would have read: "In addition, I wrote two treatises," etc. It is reported that Hunayn began to write this book in the reign of al-Mutawakkil, after the latter had appointed him chief physician of Baghdad.

2) "The Ten Treatises on the Eye." The copies of this book differ greatly from one another, and the treatises do not all follow the same pattern, some presenting the subject briefly and concisely, while the others are diffuse, containing more than the subject requires. The reason is that each treatise was written separately, not with the idea of harmonizing it with the rest. In the last treatise Hunayn says: For [p.379] more than thirty years I have written separate treatises on the eye, with different objects in view and at the request of different people." He further says: "Hubaysh asked me to collect those treatises for him, the number of which at the time was nine, unite them in one book and add a treatise on the compound prepared by the Ancients and mentioned in their books on eye diseases."

Here is a survey of the contents of the treatises. I) The first treatise discusses the nature and structure of the eye. II) The second treatise examines the nature and uses of the brain. Ill) The third treatise studies the optic nerve, sight and how vision comes about. IV) The fourth treatise gives a general account of all that is indispensable for the preser vation and restoration of health and various kinds of treatment. V) The fifth treatise discusses the causes of the accidents to which the eye is prone. VI) The sixth treatise deals with the symptoms of eye diseases. VII) The seventh treatise discusses the properties of remedies in general. VIII) The eighth treatise discusses the remedies applicable to the eye in particular. IX) The ninth treatise discusses the medicinal treatment of eye diseases. X) The tenth treatise discusses the compound drugs suitable for eye diseases.

I have found another, eleventh, treatise by Hunayn appended to this book, in which he discusses the operative treatment of eye diseases.

3) "A Book on the Eye," in the form of questions and answers, consisting of three treatises. He wrote it for his sons, Dā'ud and Ishāq. It comprises 209 questions.

4) 'An Epitome of Galen's Sixteen Books," in the form of questions and answers, likewise written for his sons. In fact, most of his books containing questions and answers are devoted to that purpose [i.e., the instruction of his sons].

5) "The Book of Theriac," consisting of two treatises.

6) "An Epitome of Galen's Book on Simple Drugs," in eleven chapters. [p.380]  He condensed it in Syriac and translated the first part, comprising five chapters, into Arabic for Alī ibn Yahyā.

7) A treatise enumerating those of Galen's books which have been translated and some of those which have not been translated. He dedicated this to Alī ibn Yahyā the astronomer.

8) A treatise listing books not mentioned by Galen in the catalogue of his works. He describes all those of Galen's writings whose authenticity is not to be doubted, stating that Galen must have written them after preparing the index.

9) A treatise in which he apologizes to Galen for what he said n the seventh chapter of his book 'The Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato.'

10) "The Main Points of Galen's 'Treatise on Obesity,'" in the form of questions and answers.

11) A summary of Galen's book on leanness, in the form of questions and answers.

12) A summary of Galen's book demonstrating that a competent physician must be a philosopher, in the form of questions and answers.

13) A summary of Galen's book on the authentic works of Hippocrates and those wrongly attributed to him.

14) A summary of Galen's book on how to encourage the study of medicine, in the form of questions and answers.

15) A summary of Galen's "Book on the Sperm," in the form of questions and answers.

16) Selections from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Aphorisms," in the form of questions and answers, comprising seven chapters. He wrote this work in Syriac and translated only the first four chapters into Arabic; the remaining three chapters were translated by `Isā ibn Sahrabakht.

17) Selections from Galen's commentary on the "Book of Prognostics," in the form of questions and answers.

18) Selections from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' book on [p.381] regimen in acute diseases, in the form of questions and answers

19) Selections from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' book on wounds in the head, in the form of questions and answers.

20) Selections from the seventeen extant chapters of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of Epidemics," in the form of questions and answers.

21) Selections from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Qātitorion," in the form of questions and answers.

22) Selections from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of Airs, Waters, Places, " in the form of questions and answers.

23) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of Airs, Waters, Places," incomplete.

24) A commentary on Hipprocrates' "Book of Nutrition."

25) Selections from the third chapter of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of the Nature of Man."

26) Selections from Hippocrates' "Book on Children Born in the Seventh Month."

27) Excerpts from "The Book of Epidemics."

28) Excerpts from the "Book of Airs, Waters, Places" and from those parts of the "Aphorisms" which deal with air and localities (according to Galen's commentary).

29) A treatise on the regimen of convalescents, written for Abū Ja`far Muhammad ibn Mūsā.

30) A missive on the globules of perfume of aloe-wood.

31) A missive to al-Tayfūrī on the globules of perfume of roses.

32) A book written for al-Mu`tamid on a question raised by the latter regarding the difference between foodstuffs and purgative drugs, in three chapters.

33) "The Book of the Power of Foodstuffs," in three chapters.

34) A book on how to understand religion.

35) Questions with regard to urination, selected from Hippocrates' "Book of Epidemics." [p.382]

36) A treatise on the formation of the chick. In it he explains that the chick originates from the white of the egg, while the yolk is its nourishment.

37) Questions selected from the "Four Books of Logic."

38) A treatise on symptomatology, describing symptoms of various diseases.

39) A book on the pulse.

40) A book on fevers.

41) A book on urination, excerpted from the writings of Hippocrates and Galen.

42) A book on afflictions of the stomach and their treatment, in two chapters.

43) A book on the conditions of the members of the body.

44) A treatise on the sap of vegetables.

45) A book on dehydration.

46) A book on the preservation of the teeth and gums.

47) A book on eight months' children, in the form of questions and answer written for al-Mutawakkil's concubine.

48) A book on the examination of physicians.

49) A book on the natural qualities of foods and on regimens.

50) A book on the names of simple drugs, in alphabetical order.

51) A book on questions of Arabic.

52) A book on the names of the members of the body, in the sequence fixed by Galen.

53) A book on the structure of the eye.

54) A treatise on ebb-tide and flood-tide.

55) A book on the action of the sun and moon.

56) A book on the regimen of melancholics.

57) A book on the diet of the healthy.

58) A book on milk.

59) A book on the regimen persons affected with dropsy. [p.383]

60) A book on the secrets of compound remedies.

61) A book on the secrets of the philosophers regarding sexual potency.

62) Abstracts from the "Book of Heaven and Earth" [De Coelo et Mundi].

63) A book on logic.

64) A book on grammar.

65) A treatise on the constitution of man and on why his helplessness at birth is only his benefit and a sign of God's grace.

66) A book on what should be studied before the works of Plato.

67) A treatise on striking fire with two stones.

68) "The Book of Useful Hints."

69) A treatise on hot baths.

70) A treatise on the duration of life.

71) A treatise on tickling.

72) A treatise on the obstruction of breath [asthma].

73) A book on the diversity of taste.

74) A book on the anatomy of the alimentary organs, in three chapters.

75) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Book on Flatulence."

76) A commentary on Rufus' "Book on the Preservation of Health."

77) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Concealed Drugs," in which he explains what Galen said about each separate drug.

78) An epistle on why predestination is proof of the oneness of God.

79) A missive to Salmawayhi ibn Bunān in connection with the latter's request for a translation of Galen's treatise on habits.

80) A book on the rules of inflexion, according to the method of the Greeks, in two chapters.

81) A treatise on why seawater is saline.

82) A treatise on colors.

83) "The Book of Categories," according to the doctrine of Themistius, in one discourse.

84) A treatise on the formation of stones [in the bladder?].

85) A treatise on the choice of cauterizing agents. [p.384]

86) A book on the water of baths, in the form of questions and answers.

87) "The Book of Unique Reports about the Philosophers and Savants and the Habits of the Ancient Teachers."

88) A pandect extracted from the book of Paulus.

89) A treatise on the categories of eye diseases.

90) "The Book of the Choice of Remedies for Eye Diseases.

91) A treatise on epilepsy.

92) "The Book of Agriculture."

93) A treatise on Synthesis, setting forth doctrines on which Hippocrates and Galen agreed.

94) A treatise regarding the preservation of health and similar topics.

95) A discourse on meteorology.

96) A treatise on the rainbow.

97) A book on world history, treating of the Creation, the Prophets, kings and nations, and the caliphs and rulers in Islamic times. It begins with Adam and the generations following him, mentions the kings of Israel, Greece and Byzantium and discusses the rise of Islam and the rulers of the Ummayad and `Abbāsid [Banū Hāshim] dynasties down to the author's own time, namely the reign of al-Mutawakkil `alā Allāh.

98) The solution of some of the doubts entertained by Gassius the Alexandrian with regard to Galen's "Book of Aching Limbs."

99) A missive on the trials and tribulations experienced by the author.

100) A letter to Alī ibn Yahyā in reply to the latter's epistle calling upon him to embrace Islam.

101) Extracts from the first three chapters of Hippocrates' "Books of Epidemics," in the form of questions and answers.

102) A treatise on the formation of the embryo, compiled from sayings of Galen and Hippocrates.

103) Extracts from the ancient Greek commentaries on Aristotle's book "De Caelo et Mundi."  [p.385]

104) Preliminary questions regarding Porphyry's "Introduction," which should be studied before Porphyry's book itself.

105) A commentary on Aristotle's "Book of Physiognomy."

106) "The Book on the Elimination of the Harmful Effects of Food."

107) "The Book of Cosmetics."

108) "The Book of the Properties of Stones."

109) "The Book of Veterinary Medicine."

110) "The Book on the Preservation of the Teeth."

111) "On the Understanding of the Real Nature of Religions."


Ishāq ibn Hunayn. He is Abū Ya`qūb Ishāq ibn Hunayn ibn Ishāq al-`Abādī. In the art of translation and the knowledge of languages and their eloquent use he emulated his father, but his translations of medical books are very few , compared with the great number of Aristotle's philosophical works and the commentaries thereon which he translated into Arabic. Ishāq served the same caliphs and dignitaries as his father. He was especially devoted to al-Qāsim ibn `Ubayd Allāh, whose intimate friend and favorite he became, so that al-Qāsim even entrusted his secrets to him.

Some interesting stories about Ishaq and a number of poems by him have been transmitted. He himself relates: "Once a man complained to me about an intestinal disturbance. Giving him an electuary, I told him to take it at dawn and inform to me about its effect in the evening. At the appointed time, his servant brought me the following message: 'O my lord, I took the remedy and — may I never be without you — had ten evacuations, part of the stool being red and slimy like spittle, and part of it green — like beetroot among green herbs. I subsequently felt a piercing pain in my head and giddiness in my navel. Please rebuke nature for this in the way you see fit.' Much amazed, I said to myself: A fool should be answered according to his folly; so I wrote to him as follows: Having understood your message, I shall now approach nature as you request. After meeting it, I shall let you know the result. Peace be upon you." [p.386]

Toward the end of his life, Ishāq was stricken with palsy. He died of this disease in Baghdād, in the reign of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh, in the month of Rabī` II, of the year 296/December 910.

Here is one of his sayings: "A little wine is the friend of the spirit; much wine is the foe of the body."

From among his poems, I quote the following:

I am the son of those with whom medicine was deposited
And who were marked out by it in childhood, adolescence and manhood.

From an autographed copy of ibn Butlān's epistle "The Physicians' Call," I quote the following: When al-Qāsin ibn `Ubayd Allāh, the vizier of al-Mu`tadid bi-Allāh, heard that his friend Abū Ya`qūb Ishāq had taken a purgative, he felt an urge to make fun of him and sent him these lines:

Let me know how you felt in the evening
And how your condition was.
And how many times the she-camel carried you
To the solitary place.

And here is Ishāq ibn Hunayn's reply:

I felt well and was happy,
Being relaxed both in body and mind.
As to the trip, the she-camel
And the solitary sitting-place,
My veneration for you made me forget them,
O goal of my hopes.

Ishāq ibn Hunayn wrote the following works:

1) "The Book of Simple Drugs."

2) A book on the origin of the medical art, mentioning several scholars and physicians.  [p.387]

4) "The Book of the Drugs Which Are Found Everywhere."

5) "On the Preparation of Purgative Drugs."

6) "An Epitome of Euclid's Book."

7) "The Book of Categories."

8) "Isagoge, being the Introduction to the Art of Logic."

9) "A Corrected Version of the Abstracts Made by the Alexandrians of Galen's Commentary on Hippocrates' 'Aphorisms.'"

10) "On the Pulse," dividing the pulse into various types.

11) A Treatise on What is Beneficial to Health and Memory and Prevents Forgetfulness," written for `Abd Allāh ibn Sham`ūn.

12) "On Simple Drugs."

13) An abridged version of "The Art of Treatment with the Iron."

14) "The Habits of the Philosophers and Interesting Reports about Them.

15) "A Treatise on Monotheism."


Hubaysh al-'A`sam. Hubaysh ibn al-Hasan al-Dimashqī was a nephew of Hunayn ibn Ishāq, from whom he learnt the medical art. He emulated Hunayn in both his method of translation and his speech and behavior, but failed to come up to his standard.

Hunayn ibn Ishāq, who mentions him several times in his writings, says about him: "Hubaysh is clever and has a great natural power of comprehension, but he does not exert himself in accordance with his abilities. He is negligent, though endowed with extraordinary intelligence.

Hubaysh completed Hunayn's "Book of Questions on Medicine," which was written for students and intended as an introduction to this art. He himself wrote the following works:

1) An amplified version of the "Book of Purgative Drugs."

2) "The Book of Simple Drugs."

3) "The Book of Foods."

4) A book on dropsy.

5) A treatise on the pulse, dividing the pulse into various types. [p.388]

Yūhannā ibn Bakhtīshū` was a distinguished physician and an expert in the Greek and Syriac languages.(he translated many books from Greek into Syriac. ) As a physician, he was in the service of al-Muwaffaq bi-Allāh Talhah ibn Ja`far al-Mutawakkil, who followed his advice very frequently and called him "the one who dispels my cares."

Ibrāhīm ibn al-`Abbās ibn Tūmār al-Hāshimī relates: "Whenever al-Muwaffaq sat down to carouse, a golden plate, a golden washbowl, a crystal goblet and a crystal jug were placed in front of him. When Yūhannā ibn Bakhtīshū` took his seat at his right side, the same vessels were set before him, and the same for Ghālib the physician, while the rest of those present were given anointed plates, glass bottles and oranges. On one occasion, I heard Yūhannā complain to al-Muwaffaq about certain happenings connected with his domains; al-Muwaffaq immediately ordered Sā`id to settle the matter, by correspondence, in a way to suit Yūhannā. Shortly afterward, Yūhannā again appeared before the Caliph and, after extolling al-Muwaffaq's many favors and kindness, he informed him that Sā`id had spoilt things by writing letters to the administrators which practically nullified his title to his domains. Al-Muwaffaq, after telling Yūhannā how he felt about this, bade him return to his abode and then summoned Sā`id. When the latter appeared, the Caliph said to him: 'You know that there is no one in this world whom I can trust, and who dispels my cares when I pour out my heart to him, except Yūhannā. But you persistently spoil my life by diverting his mind from attending to my service. May Allāh punish you for it. Sā`id repeatedly swore his innocence, going so far as to take off his sword and girdle. But the Caliph said: 'Go to Yūhannā's house immediately with Rāshid, and spare no effort to satisfy all his demands. Give him every assurance and ask him to confirm in writing that you have done all he wanted. Then send this confirmation to me by Rāshid:

"Sā`id set out on his errand, and I was one of those who accompanied him. When we arrived at Yūhannā's residence, he was sitting on some [p.389] Sāmāni mats in his pavilion. At Sā`īd's approach, he stood up and greeted him, Rāshid and me. When we were all seated, Sā`id opened the conversation by assuring Yūhannā of his innocence. What good is it to me,' exclaimed Yūhannā, if you disclaim in writing what you affirm orally? Sā`id repeated his assurance and then asked for a cloth, spread this on his lap, took paper and pen and proceeded to write and draw charts until he had accomplished what Yūhannā wanted. He thereupon requested his written acknowledgment, took my testimony and that of the others present and sent the documents with Rāshid to al-Muwaffaq bi-Allāh. From then on Yūhannā never needed to apply to the Caliph in any of his affairs."

Yūhannā ibn Bakhtīshū` wrote a book on what a physician ought to know of astrology.


Bakhtīshū` ibn Yūhannā was proficient in the art of medicine, enjoyed great prestige with the caliphs and others and was employed in the personal service of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh. The latter bestowed many favors upon him and presented him with rural estates. Later Bakhtīshū` entered the service of al-Rādī bi-Allāh, who honored him greatly and granted him the same privileges as he had enjoyed in the reign of his father, al-Muqtadir.

Bakhtīshū` ibn Yūhannā died in Baghdād, on Wednesday, the 26th of Dhū al-Hijjah 329/941.


`Isā ibn Alī was an eminent physician who also concerned himself with philosophy and wrote books in this field. He studied medicine under Hunayn ibn Ishāq and was one of his outstanding pupils. He was in the service of Ahmad, the son of al-Mutawakkil, and the future Caliph al-Mu`tamid `ala Allāh. When the latter acceded to the caliphate, he showed much kindness to `Isā, who had formerly been his physician, [p.390] and honored him greatly; on several occasions, he presented him with beasts of burden and robes of honor.

`Isā ibn Alī wrote a book on the benefits to be derived from the parts of animals and another on poisons in two chapters.


`Isā ibn Yahyā ibn Ibrāhīm was another of Hunayn ibn Ishāq's pupils. He studied medicine under him.


Al-Hallajī was known by the name of Yahyā ibn Abū Hakīm. He was one of the physicians of al-Mu`tadid, for whom he wrote his book "On the Treatment of Lean Persons Affected with Yellow Bile."


Ibn Sahārbakht, whose first name was `Isā, was a native of Jundaysābūr He wrote a book entitled "On the Virtues of Simple Drugs."


Ibn Māhān, known as Yaqūb al-Sirāfī, wrote a medical work entitled "The Book of Travel and the Sedentary Life."


Al-Sāhir, whose first name was Yūsuf, was known as Yūsuf the Priest. Well-versed in medicine, he gained renown in the reign of al-Muktafī. `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says that he was affected with cancer in the front of the head, which prevented him from sleeping, and was therefore nicknamed al-Sāhir [the sleepless one]. `Ubayd Allāh goes on to say that al-Sāhir wrote a pandect in which he mentions remedies for certain diseases. Some passages suggest that he was indeed suffering from that malady.

It was by his pandect that al-Sāhir became known, and indeed, it was always connected with his name. It contains the discoveries and experiences of a lifetime. He divided it into two parts. The first part, comprising twenty chapters, is arranged according to the position the parts of the body, from the head to the feet; the second part, consisting of six chapters, follows a different arrangement.  [p.391] 4


On the Classes of Physicians Who Translated Medical and Other Books from Greek into Arabic, with an Indication of Those for Whom They Were Translated

1. Gorgias. He was one of the first who translated medical books into Arabic. He did so at the invitation of al-Mansūr, who showed him great kindness. The circumstances of his life have already been mentioned.

2. Hunayn ibn Ishāq. He was well versed in Arabic, Syriac, Greek and Persian, both their ordinary vocabularies and their rare and difficult phraseologies. His translations are the acme of perfection.

3. Ishāq ibn Hunayn. He was an expert in the languages as his father, whose skill he matched in his translations, which were beautifully and lucidly phrased; but Hunayn was more productive both as a writer and as a translator. Ishāq and his father have been mentioned above.

4. Hubaysh al-A`sam, a nephew and pupil of Hunayn ibn Ishāq. He was an excellent translator, on a par with Hunayn and Ishāq. He too, has been mentioned.

5. `Isā ibn Yahyā ibn Ibrāhīm. Another pupil of Hunayn ibn Ishāq, who praised his learning, admired his translations and employed him for such work. He also wrote original works.

6. Qosţā ibn Lūqā al-Ba`lbakkī. He was a translator, an expert in languages and an authority on the philosophical and other sciences. His personal history will be dealt with later, if God wills.  [p.392] 

7. Ayyūb, known as al-Abrash. He did a few translations of mediocre quality. But what he produced toward the end of his life is comparable to the work of Hunayn.

8. Māsarīs. He translated from Syriac into Arabic, but his fame is based on his medical work. He wrote a book "On the Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Food," and another "On the Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Simple Drugs."

9. `Isā ibn Māsarjīs. He matched his father in talent. He wrote a "Book of Colors," and a "Book of Smells and Tastes."

10. Shahdī al-Karkhī, a native of al-Karakh. He was an indifferent translator.

11. Ibn Shahdī al-Karkhī. He was a translator much like his father. However, even though he surpassed the latter later on in life, he still remained mediocre. He translated from Syriac into Arabic, His translations include one of Hippocrates' "Book of the Embryo."

12. Al-Hajjāj ibn Matar. He translated for al-Ma'mūn. His translation of Euclid's "Book of Elements" was later revised by Thābit ibn Qurrāh al-Harrānī.

13. Ibn Nā`imah. His full name is `Abd al-Masih ibn `Abd Allāh al-Himsī al-Na`imī. He was a mediocre translator, but showed some signs of talent.

14. Zurrābā ibn Manhūh al-Nā`imī al-Himsī. He was a translator of inferior rank, not attaining the standard of his predecessors.

15. Hilāl ibn Abī Hilāl al-Himsī. He was an exact translator, but lacked lucidity and fluency.

16. Pethion the Dragoman. I have found his translations full of solecisms; he had no theoretical knowledge of the Arabic language. [p.393]

17. Abū Nasr ibn Nārī ibn Ayyūb. He did but a few translations, which are not appreciated as highly as those of other translators.

18. Basīl al-Mutrāh [the Bishop]. He almost matched the standard of Hunayn ibn Ishāq, but the latter's mode of expression is more correct and refined.

19. Mūsā ibn Khālid the Interpreter. I have come across a great number of works translated by him, such as the Sixteen Books of Galen, but he did not, by a long stretch, reach the standard of Hunayn.

20. Istafān (Stephan) ibn Basīl. He rendered many works, and his translations are nearly perfect.

21. Istāth. He was a mediocre translator.

22. Hayrūn ibn Rābitah. He did not make a name for himself as a translator.

23. Todros al-Sankal. I have seen his translations of some philosophical works; they are of a fair standard.

24. Serjyus al-Ra'sī, a native of Ra's al-`Ayn. He translated many books, but was an indifferent translator. Hunayn would revise his translations, and those that he corrected are excellent while the others are not of good quality.

25. Ayyūb al-Rahāwī [of Edessa]. He is not identical with the above-mentioned Ayyūb al-Abrash. He was a good translator and an expert linguist; however, his Syriac was better than his Arabic.

26. Yūsuf the Translator. He is Abū Ya`qūb ibn `Isā, the physician and translator, with the cognomen al-Nā`is. He was a pupil of `Isā ibn Sahrbakht and he hailed from Khūzistān. His language is faulty and his translations are not very good. [p.394]

27. Ibrāhīm ibn al-Salt. A mediocre translator, on a par with Serjyus al-Ra'sī.

28. Thābit the Translator. He, too, was only average, but better than Ibrāhīm ibn al-Salt. His few translations include Galen's "Book of Chymes."

29. Aba Yūsuf the Scribe. His translations are mediocre. He rendered some of Hippocrates' works.

30. Yūhanna ibn Bakhtīshū`. He translated many books into Syriac, whereas no Arabic translation by him is known.

31. Al-Bitrīq. He lived in the reign of al-Mansūr, who commissioned him to translate several ancient books. He was a prolific and competent translator, but did not attain the standard of Hunayn ibn Ishāq. I have seen a great number of books by Hippocrates and Galen in translations by him.

32. Yahyā ibn al-Bitrīq. He belonged to al-Hasan ibn Sahl's court. He had no thorough knowledge of either Arabic or Greek, but, being a Latin [!], knew the current Roman language and its script, which consists of connected signs, unlike the ancient Greek script with its unconnected letters.

33. Qaydā al-Rahāwī. Hunayn enlisted his help whenever he had much work on his hands and time was short. Later he revised his translations.

34. Mansūr ibn Bānās. As a translator he was on a par with Qaydā al-Rahāwī. He knew Syriac better than Arabic.

35. `Abd Yashū ibn Bihrīz, Metropolitan of Mosul. He was a friend of Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū` and translated for him.

36. Abū `Uthmān Sa`īd ibn Ya`qūb al-Dimashqī. He was an excellent translator and a close associate of Alī ibn `Isā. [p.395]

37. Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Baks. A renowned physician who translated many books into Arabic. His renderings are most satisfactory.

38. Abū al-Hasan `Alī, the son of Ibrāhīm ibn Baks. He, too, was a renowned physician, and as a translator he matched his father.

The following may be mentioned of those who, in addition to the caliphs, was the employers of the aforesaid translators:

1. Shīrshū` ibn Qutrub, of Jundaysābūr. He patronized translators and plied them with gifts. He tried to obtain books from them by offering them as much money as he could afford. He was more interested in Syriac than in Arabic. He was of Khūzistāni origin.

2. Muhammad ibn Mūsā the Astrologer. He was one of the sons of Mūsā ibn Shākir the Arithmetician who won fame by their erudition and their writings on the mathematical sciences. Muhammad was a faithful patron of Hunayn ibn Ishāq, who translated for him a great number of medical works.

3. Alī ibn Yahyā, known as ibn Munajjim [the son of the astrologer], He was one of al-Ma'mūn's secretaries and his drinking fellow, a man of learning who showed an interest in medicine. Many medical books were translated for him.

4. Theodorus the Bishop. He was bishop of the Baghdād suburb of al-Karkh. Eager to acquire books, he courted the translators and in fact assembled a great library. Some Christian physicians wrote for him valuable works which they dedicated to him.

5. Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn `Abd al-Malik. Several medical books were translated for him. Himself a scholar, he epitomized books, distinguishing between their valuable and worthless parts. [p.396]

6. `Isā ibn Yūnus the Secretary and Arithmetician, one of the savants of Irāq. He was greatly interested in the acquisition of ancient books, especially on the Greek sciences.

7. Alī, known as al-Fayyum after the city of which he was governor. Translators received allowances from him and so made a living through his generosity.

8. 'Ahmad ibn Muhammad, known as ibn al-Mudabbir the Secretary. Translators received money and favors from him in abundance.

9. Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Mūsā the Secretary. He was very keen on having Greek books translated into Arabic and patronized men of science and learning, especially translators.

10. `Abd Allāh ibn Ishāq. He, too, was very eager to have works translated and to acquire books.

11. Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Malik al-Zayyāt. The salaries he paid to translators and copyists amounted to nearly two thousand dinars a month. Several translations were dedicated to him. He, too, had Greek books translated. Some of the greatest physicians worked for him as translators, such as Yūhannā ibn Masawayhī, Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshī`, Bakhtīshū` ibn Jibrā'īl ibn Bakhtīshū`, Dā'ud ibn Serapion, Salmawayhi ibn Bunnān, al-Yasa`, Isra'īl ibn Zakariyā ibn al-Tayfūrī and Hubaysh ibn al-Hasan. [p.397]


On the Classes of Physicians of Iraq, al-Jazirah and Diyar Bekr


Ya`qub ibn Ishāq al-Kindī, the Philosopher of the Arabs, was a descendant of Arab kings. His full name is Abū Yūsuf Ya`qīb ibn Ishāq ibn al-Sabbāh ibn `Imrān ibn Ismā`īl ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash`ath ibn Qays ibn Ma`dīkarib ibn Mu`āwiyah ibn Jabalah ibn `Adī ibn Rabī`ah ibn Mu`āwiyah the Elder ibn al-Harith the Younger ibn Mu`āwiyah ibn al-Harith the Elder ibn Mu`āwiyah ibn Thawr ibn Marta` ibn Kindah ibn `Ufayr ibn `Adī ibn al-Harith ibn Murrah ibn Udud ibn Zayd ibn Yashjub ibn `Urayb ibn Zayd ibn Kahlān ibn Sabā ibn Yashjub ibn Ya`rīb ibn Qahtān. His father, Ishāq ibn al-Sabbāh, was prefect of al-Kūfah during the reigns of al-Mahdī and al-Rashīd. Al-Ash`ath ibn Qays was a Companion of the Prophet, may Allāh bless him and give him peace. He had previously been king of all Kindah and so had his father Qays ibn Ma`dīkarib, a mighty ruler. Al-A`shā of the Banū Qays ibn Tha`labah praised the latter in his four long odes which begin, respectively, as follows: 1) Upon my life, how long will this last? 2) Sumayyah's camels departed in the morning. 3) Have you decided to go to the family of Laylā? 4) Will the beautiful woman depart or remain? Qays's father, Ma`dikarib ibn Mu`āwiyah, was king of the tribe of al-Harith the Younger ibn Mu`āwiyah in Hadramawt, and his father, Mu`awiyah ibn Jabalah, had ruled over the same tribe. Mu`āwiyah ibn al-Harith the Elder, his father al-Hārith the Elder and the latter's father, Thawr, had been kings of Ma`add in al-Mashgar, al-Yamāmah and al-Bahrayn. [p.398]

Ya`qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī stood high in the favor of al-Ma`mūn, al-Mu`tasim and the latter's son Ahmad. He was the author of excellent books and of numerous epistles on all the sciences.

Sulaymān ibn Hasan says: "Ya`qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī was a Basrawi of noble descent. His grandfather served the Abbasid caliphs as a provincial governor. Ya`qūb at first lived in Basrah, where he had his domains, and later moved to Baghdād, where he received his education. He was well-versed in medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, logic, musical composition, geometry, numerology and astrology. He was the only philosopher in Islamic times who followed the Aristotelian method in his writings. He wrote many books on various sciences. In the service of kings he bore himself with dignity. He translated many philosophical works, elucidating problematic points, condensing lengthy portions and facilitating the understanding of abstruse passages."

Abū Ma`shar says in his book "Talks with Shādhān": "The skillfull translators in Islam were four: Hunayn ibn Ishāq, Ya`qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī, Thābit ibn Qūrrāh al-Harrānī and `Umar ibn al-Farkhān al-Tabarī."

Ibn al-Nadim al-Baghdādī the Scribe, known as ibn Abī Ya`qūb, says in his book "Al-Fihrist": "Abū Ma`shar, namely Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Balkhī, who at first, while living in the western part of Baghdād, near Khurāsān Gate, was a scholar of the Hadīth, hated al-Kindī, incited the populace against him and discredited him because of his preoccupation with the sciences of the philosophers. Al-Kindī therefore brought him into contact with a man who was well-versed in arithmetic and geometry, and Abū Ma`shar devoted himself to the subject, though without much success. He then took up astrology, which was one of the sciences that al-Kindī engaged in, and thus was diverted from harming al-Kindī. It is reported that he studied astrology at the age of forty-seven. He became proficient and made accurate forecasts. Al-Musta`īn had him flogged when something he had foretold came about. He would therefore say: 'I was punished for being right.' [p.399]

"He was born in Wāsit on Wednesday, the 28th of Ramadan, in the year . . . [lacuna in all MSS.]. He lived more than a hundred years."

Abū Ja`far Ahmad ibn Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm, in his book "Husn al-`Uqbā," relates: "Abū Kāmil Shujā` ibn Aslam the Arithmetician told me as follows: In the reign of al-Mutawakkil, Muhammad and Ahmad, the sons of Mūsā ibn Shākir, intrigued against everyone reputed to be advanced in knowledge. They called Sind [?] ibn `Alī to Baghdād, but kept him away from al-Mutawakkil and so contrived to enrage the Caliph against al-Kindī that he had him flogged. They then sent their men to al-Kindī's house, took away all his books and consigned them to a special place in a storeroom subsequently known as al-Kindīyyah. That they were able to achieve this was due to al-Mutawakkil's extravagant passion for mechanical devices. Al-Mutawakkil commissioned them to dig the Ja`farī Canal, and they, in turn, entrusted the execution of the work to Ahmad ibn Kathīr al-Fargānī, who had built the new Nilometer in Egypt. But the latter's theoretical knowledge was greater than his practical skill with the result that he never performed anything satisfactorily. Moreover, he erred in fixing the starting point of the canal, placing it lower than the remainder, so that the water, overflowing the intake section, did not enter the actual bed of the canal. Muhammad and Ahmad, the sons of Mūsā, tried hard to justify themselves for the consequences, and al-Mutawakkil was inclined to acquit them, but al-Fargām put the blame on them. So al-Mutawwakil urgently summoned Sind ibn Alī from Baghdād. When Muhammad and Ahmad heard of this, they were sure that they were lost. Al-Mutawakkil called Sind before him and said to him: 'Those two soundrels, who never tired of slandering you before me, have wasted large sums of money on that canal. Go, therefore, and inspect it and let me know what is wrong with it. I have sworn that if things are as I have been told, I shall hang them on its banks. This took place in the presence of Muhammad and Ahmad, who, when Sind left, went with him. Muhammad then said [p.400] to him: 'O Abū al-Tayyib, the power of a generous man wipes out his wrath. You are our last resort for saving our lives, which are our lives, which are our most precious possession. We do not deny having wronged you, but confession nullifies any outrage committed. So save us in whatever way you see fit.' 'By Allāh,' replied Sind, `you surely know that enmity exists between me and al-Kindī, but justice is always the foremost aim I pursue. Was it fair on your part to take al-Kindī's books? By Allāh, I shall not give you any advice before you return them to him.' Muhammad ibn Mūsā thereupon gave orders to restore the books and to ask for a receipt written by al-Kindī himself. On seeing the writing in which al-Kindī acknowledged having received all his books, Sind said: 'I am now obliged to you for returning the books, and I am also obliged to tell you something you have neglected to consider. The fault of the canal will remain hidden for four months, throughout the time the Tigris rises, and the astrologers unanimously agreed that the Emir of the Faithful will not live so long. In order to save you I shall inform him immediately that you have made no mistake. If the astrologers are right, all three of us will escape punishment, but if they are wrong, and the Caliph survives until the Tigris falls, he will destroy us together.' Muhammad and Ahmad thanked him for these heart-warning words. Sind then went to the Caliph and said: 'The two made no mistake.' Since the Tigris was rising, the water flowed into the canal and the defect remained undiscovered. Two months later, al-Mutawakkil was murdered, and so Muhammad and Ahmad were saved, after having lived in dread of what might happen to them."

Qādī Abū al-Qāsim Sā`id ibn Ahmad ibn Sā`id, in his book "The Classes of Nations," says in respect to al-Kindī's writings: "They include books on the science of logic which have a wide circulation, but are of little didactic value because they lack the analytic element that is indispensable [p.401] for distinguishing truth from untruth in any sphere of research. It was the art of synthesis that Ya`qūb intended to discuss in those books, but they can be utilized only by those having some preliminary knowledge of the subject because the fundamentals of any topic of study can be acquired only by the art of analytics. I do not know what induced Ya`qub to omit this essential art, whether ignorance of its importance or a miserly reluctance to divulge it to the public. Whatever it was, his exposition is defective. In addition, al-Kindī wrote a great number of epistles on various sciences, in which he set forth fallacious doctrines and mistaken opinions."

The author says: Qādī Sā`id's remarks about al-Kindī are grossly unfair. Such talk will neither detract from al-Kindī's scholarship nor prevent people from studying his books and deriving benefit from them.

Ibn al-Nadīm al-Baghdādī the scribe says in his book "Al-Fihrist": "Among al-Kindī's pupils and copyists were Hasnawayhī, Naftawayhī, Salmawayhī and another with a similar name. Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib, too, was his pupil and Abū Ma`shar likewise profited by his teaching. Abū Muhammad `Abd Allāh ibn Qutaybah Farā'id al-Durr, in his book notes: "It is reported that he recited the following lines to al-Kindī:

In four of mine four of yours have lodged themselves,
And I do not know which of them aroused my grief.
Is it your face before my gaze or the taste of you in my mouth
Or your words in my ear or the love for you in my heart?

Whereupon al-Kindī exclaimed: ''By Allāh, he has distributed them in a truly philosophical fashion."

The author says: Al-Kindī gives the following exhortation. A physician should fear God and not perform risky experiments, for there is no substitute for the most precious thing [namely, human life].

Here are some more of his sayings: "Just as a physician would like to be told that he was the cause of a patient's recovery, he should take care lest he be told that he was the cause of a patient's death." [p.402]

"A clever person admits that beyond his knowledge there is further knowledge, and he is always willing to learn; a fool believes that he has reached the limit of knowledge and he is therefore despised by people."

The following advice to his son Abū al-`Abbās is quoted from ibn Bukhtawayhī's "Kitāb al-Muqaddimāt": O my son, a father is a master, a brother a pitfall, a paternal uncle an infliction, a maternal uncle a curse, a son a vexation and relatives scorpions. Saying "no" averts calamity while saying "yes" ruins happiness. Listening to music is like acute pleurisy for a person who does so comes to be so filled with ecstasy that he squanders his fortune and becomes poor, miserable and sick, and eventually dies. The dinar is feverish; if you do not attend to it, it will die. The dirham is a prisoner; if you take it out, it will flee. Men are scoffers [?], so take theirs and keep yours. Do not listen to him who swears false, for perjury destroys habitations.

The author says: If these words are indeed part of al-Kindī's "Testament," ibn al-Nadīm was right in saying that he was stingy.

As to al-Kindī's poetry, the following lines are quoted by Shaikh Abū Ahmad al-Hasan ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Sa`id al-`Askarī the Lexicologist in his book "Sayings and Proverbs," on the authority of Ahmad ibn Ja`far, who heard them recited by Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhsī, who in turn, heard them from al-Kindī himself . . . . .

Ya`qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī was the author of the following works:

1) "The Book of Basic Philosophy," on the topics preceding naturalia and monotheism.

2) "The Intermediate Stage of Philosophy, Logical and Impossible Problems and What Corresponds to Naturalia."

3) An epistle on why philosophy can only be acquired with the help of the science of mathematics.

4) "The Book of Encouragement of the Study of Philosophy."

5) An epistle on the number of Aristotle's books, on which of them are [p.403] indispensable for the acquisition of the science of philosophy, their sequence, and the purposes of the author in composing them.

6) A book on the purposes pursued by Aristotle in his "Categories."

7) The "Greater Epistle" on his scientific method.

8) "The Book of the Divisions of Human Knowledge."

9) "The Book of the Nature and Divisions of Science."

10) A book demonstrating that the actions of the Creator are all perfectly just.

11) A book on the infinite and in what respect it may be called thus.

12) An epistle explaining why the universe cannot be infinite and why this notion is purely hypothetical.

13) A book on the primeval causes and effects in nature.

14) A book on the terms of recollections of thought.

15) A book on questions he was asked concerning the utility of mathematics.

16) A book examining the proposition that natural agents always behave in the same way by virtue of their innate qualities.

17) An epistle on avoiding rashness in a sphere of the arts.

18) An epistle on writing letters to caliphs and viziers.

19) An epistle on the division of the "Qānūn."

20) An epistle on the nature of the intellect.

21) An epistle on the perfect first agent and the imperfect one who exists only metaphorically.

22) An epistle to al-Mu'mūn on cause and effect.

23) A summary of Porphyry's "Isagoge."

24) A number of questions on logic and other subjects and definitions of philosophy.

25) A comprehensive introduction to logic.

26) An abridged introduction to logic.

27) An epistle on the ten categories.

28) An epistle explaining Ptolemy's statement at the beginning of his "Almagest" regarding a saying of Aristotles' in the "Analytics."

29) An epistle on how to guard against the deceit of the Sophists. [p.404]

30) A short and concise epistle on logical demonstration.

31) An epistle on the five names which attach all categories.

32) An epistle on physics.

33) An epistle on the manufacture of a machine to take out the firstborn.

34) An epistle, being an introduction to arithmetic, in five chapters.

35) An epistle to Ahmad, the son of al-Mu`tasim, on the use of Indian calculus, in four chapters.

36) An epistle explaining the numbers mentioned by Plato in his "Politics.

37) An epistle on combining numbers.

38) An epistle on monotheism from the point of view of numbers.

39) An epistle on elucidating the abstruse.

40) An epistle on augury and fortune-telling, based on numbers.

41) An epistle on . . . [unintelligible].

4 2) An epistle on the additional quantity.

43) An epistle on relations of time.

44) An epistle on numerical contrivances and the art of concealing them.

45) An epistle demonstrating that the universe and everything in it are spherical.

46) An epistle proving that there is nothing, from the primary elements to the final composite body, that is not spherical.

47) An epistle demonstrating that the sphere is the most important of solid figures and that the circle is more important than all the other two dimensional forms.

48) An epistle on spherical forms.

49) An epistle on how to fix a course on a sphere.

50) An epistle demonstrating that the surface of the sea is spherical.

51) An epistle on how to make spherical forms flat.

52) An epistle on calculating the surface of a sphere.

53) An epistle on how to make and use a sextant.

54) "The Great Epistle on Musical Composition [?]."  [p.405]

55) An epistle on the sequence of tunes indicating the nature of celestial bodies and on similarities in musical composition.

56) An epistle, being an introduction to the art of music.

57) An epistle on rhythm.

58) An epistle on the value of poetry.

59) An epistle giving information on music.

60) A compendium of music: on the composition of tunes and the playing of the lute, written for Ahmad, the son of al-Mu`tasim.

61) An epistle on the movements of a certain musical form.

62) An epistle demonstrating that observation of the new moon cannot be exact and that statements to this effect are merely approximate.

63) An epistle on questions he was asked with regard to the state of the planets.

64) An epistle in answer to questions put to him by Abū Ma`sar on the natures of stars.

65) An epistle on the two seasons [?].

66) An epistle on the relationship between any locality and a particular sign of the zodiac or a specific planet.

67) An epistle explaining, in answer to a question, certain discrepancies in horoscopes he had cast.

68) An epistle on the difference between the lifetime of men in antiquity, according to tradition, and that in his day.

69) An epistle on the correct establishment of the (eliptical) circles of the moon and other stars [?].

70) An epistle explaining why the planets always return to their former place.

71) An epistle making it clear that the variability of divine beings is not due to primordial qualities [?].

72) An epistle on why planets, when on the horizon, seem to be moving quickly, whereas they appear to slow down as they rise higher. [p.406]

73) An epistle on sunrays.

74) An epistle on the difference between the course of the stars and the rays.

75) An epistle on the origin of constellations.

76) An epistle entitled "Good and ill Fortune," with reference to celestial bodies.

77) An epistle on the power attributed to heavenly bodies foreboding rain.

78) An epistle on the causes of atmospheric phenomena.

79) An epistle on why certain localities hardly have any rain.

80) An epistle to his pupil Zurnub on the secrets of the stars and the study of their principles.

81) An epistle on why haloes appear around the sun the moon, the planets and the "shining lights,"

82) An epistle expressing his regret that he will die before reaching the natural age, which is 120 years.

83) A discourse on burning coal.

84) An epistle on the stars.

85) An epistle on the purposes of Euclid's works.

86) An epistle on the correction of Euclid's works.

87) An epistle on the diversity of visual perceptions.

88) An epistle on drawing the diagonal.

89) An epistle on calculating the arc of a circle.

90) An epistle on calculating the arc of a mine-sided figure.

91) An epistle on calculating the surface of a vault.

92) An epistle on the division of a triangle and a rectangle and how to make it.

93) An epistle on how to draw a circle of an area equal to the surface of a given cylinder.

94) An epistle on the rising and setting of the planets, based on geometry,

95) An epistle on how to divide a circle into three [equal] parts.

96) An epistle on the correction of the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of Euclid's book. [p.407]

97) An epistle on geometrical proofs of the calculations of heavenly spheres.

98) An epistle on the rectification of Apsikleus's statements regarding the rise of heavenly bodies.

99) An epistle on the variability of images in mirrors.

100)  An epistle on the making of astrolabes, based on geometry.

101)  An epistle on the determination, by geometrical means, of the meridian and the qibla [direction in which to turn during prayer].

102)  An epistle on constructing the shape of sundials.

103)  An epistle explaining why, in making clocks, a flat metal sheet placed at right angles with the horizontal plane is preferable.

104)  An epistle on making hemispherical clocks, based on geometry.

105)  An epistle on good oemns.

106) "Problems of Surveying Rivers, etc.

107) An epistle on temporal relations.

108) A discourse on numbers.

109)  A discourse on burning glasses.

110)  An epistle on the impossibility of surveying the remotest sphere which directs the other spheres.

111) An epistle demonstrating that the nature of the sphere is different from that of the four elements, and that it constitutes a fifth nature.

112) An epistle on the external aspects of the sphere.

113) An epistle on the outer universe.

114) An epistle demonstrating that the remotest body prostrates itself before the Creator.

115) An epistle in refutation of the Manichaeans (?) as to the ten questions concerning the subjects of the sphere.

116) An epistle on forms.

117) A n epistle demonstrating that the universe cannot be infinite.

118) An epistle on spherical phenomena. [p.408]

119) An epistle demonstrating that the final composite body is not susceptible to change.

[Several pages indicating more works follow but the titles are obscure.]


Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhsī, by his full name Abū al-`Abbās Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Marwān al-Sarakhsī. He belonged to al-Kindī's school and studied under him both by reading scientific books and by way of oral tuition. He was a versatile scholar, familiar with both the ancient and the Arab sciences, a man of great knowledge and outstanding talent, eloquent, and

an excellent writer. In grammar and poetry he was unique. He was a charming companion — clever, witty and vivacious. He studied the Hadīth and transmitted several sayings of the Prophet, e.g., [there follows the chain of tradition]: "if men are content with men and women with women they had better die." [There follows another chain of tradition]: "The people who will suffer the direct punishment on the Day of Resurrection are those who have cursed a prophet, the companion of a prophet or a Muslim leader."

In the days of al-Mu`tadid, Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib was appointed Muhtasib [overseer of the markets] of Baghdād. Initially al-Mu`tadid's teacher, he later became his drinking-fellow and intimate friend. Al-Mu`tadid entrusted him with his secrets and would consult him on affairs of state. However, his learning was greater than his discretion, and his intimacy with al-Mu`tadid led to his being executed at the latter's orders. Al-Mu`tadid once confided a secret to him concerning al-Qāsim ibn `Ubayd Allāh and Badr, al-Mu`tadid's servant, but he divulged it because of a certain trick al-Qāsim had played on him. So al-Mu`tadid handed him over to them, and they confiscated all his property and threw him in a dungeon. When al-Mu`tadid was away to conquer Amid and fight Ahmad ibn `Isā ibn Shaykh, a group of Khārijites and others escaped from the dungeon, but were seized by Mu'nis al-Fahl, who was Commander of Police and the Caliph's vicegerent for home affairs. Ahmad stayed behind, hoping to be saved [p.409] thereby. But his remaining was actually the cause of his death. To give vent to his anger, Al-Mu`tadid ordered al-Qāsim to draw up a list of those who were to be executed. Al-Qāsim did so, and al-Mu`tadid authorized the list by his signature. Thereafter, al-Qāsim added Ahmad's name to the list and he was executed. Later, when al-Mu`tadid asked about him, al-Qāsim informed him that he had been put to death. He showed the Caliph the list, and the latter took no exception to it. So Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib perished in the year . . . . . [no date is mentioned in any of the MSS] after attaining to a most exalted position. He was arrested by al-Mu`tadid in the year 283/896 and executed in the month of Muharram of the year 286/899.

Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhsī wrote the following works:

1) An abridgment of Porphyry's "Isagoge."

2) An abridgment of the "Book of Categories."

3) An abridgement of the papyri of Minos.

4) An abridgment of the "Prior Analytics."

5) An abridgment of the "Posterior Analytics."

6) "The Book of the Soul."

7) "The Greater Book of Imposture and the Art of Reckoning."

8) "The Smaller Book of Imposture and the Art of Reckoning."

9') "The Recreation of the Soul," which was not published under his name

10) "The Book of Entertainment and the Means of Achieving it, and the Recreation of the Absent-Minded Thinker," on singing and singers, carousing and conviviality — various sports and witticisms; he dedicated this to the Caliph and says in it that he composed it at the age of sixty-one.

11) "The Smaller Book of Politics."

12) An introduction to astrology.

13) "The Greater Book of Music,"in two chapters, the like of which had never been written before.

14) "The Smaller Book of Music."  [p.410]

15) "The Book of Highways and Kingdoms."

16) "The Book of Arithmetic," on numbers and algebra.

17) An introduction to the medical art, in which he censures Hunayn ibn Ishāq.

18) "The Book of Questions."

19) "The Merits of Baghdād and Historical Reports about the City."

20) "The Book of Cooked Food," written for al-Mu`tadid and arranged according to months and days.

21) "The Provisions of the Traveler and the Service of Kings. "

22) A chapter of the book "Etiquette of Kings."

23) An introduction to the art of music.

24) "The Book of Table Companions and Conviviality."

25) An epistle in reply to questions put to him by Thābit ibn Qurrāh.

26) A discourse on leprosy, freckles and sunspots.

27) An epistle on the mystics and oddities of their beliefs.

28) "The Advantage of Mountains."

29) A missive describing the doctrines of the Sabians.

30) A book demonstrating that newly created things, at the stage of creation, neither move nor are motionless.

31) A book on the nature of sleep and dreams.

32) A book on the intellect.

33) A book on the oneness of God, the Most High.

34) A book on the exhortations of Pythagoras.

35) A book on Socrates' terminology.

36) A book on love.

37) A book on the cold during the 'Days of the Old Woman' [seven days in the latter part of winter].

38) A book on the formation of fog.

39) A book on good omens.

40) A book on higher chess.

41) A book on the behavior of the soul, written for al-Mu`tadid.  [p.411]

42) A book on the difference between Arabic grammar and logic.

43) A book entitled "Al-Istīfā'," demonstrating that the principles of philosophy are built upon each other.

44) A book on atmospheric phenomena.

45) "The Book of the Refutation of Galen Regarding the First Place."

4 6) An epistle to Ibn Thawwābah.

47) An epistle on dyes to blacken the hair and others.

4 8) A book demonstrating that a particle is divisible and infinitum.

49) A book on the nature of the soul.

50) "The Human Mode of Life."

51) A book to one of his colleagues on the first general laws of dialection according to Aristotle.

52) An abridgment of Aristotle's "Sophistics."

53) "The Book of Songstresses."


Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Qurrah al-Harrānī was a member of the Sabian community residing in Harrān. The Sabians claim descent from Sāb, who is identical with Tāt, the son of the prophet Idrīs, peace be upon him. The said Thābit is Thābit Qurrah ibn Marwān ibn Thābit ibn Karāyā ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Karāyā ibn Marīnus ibn Salāyūnus. He was at first a money-changer in Harrān, but later, Muhammad ibn Mūsā, when on his way back from Asia Minor, made him his associate after remarking on his refined speech. According to another report, he studied under Muhammad ibn Mūsā, taking his lessons at the latter's house, and since he made excellent progress, Muhammad felt bound to introduce him to al-Mu`tadid, who made him one of his astrologers. This was the first time that a Sabian attained high office in Baghdād at the court of the caliphs. In Thābit ibn Qurrah's time he had no equal in medicine or in any philosophical discipline. His writings are renowned. Many of his relatives and descendants emulated his expert knowledge and skilfull application of the sciences. [p.412]

In Baghdād he carried out remarkable observations of the sun. He recorded them in a book, which contains his views as to the solar year, the sun at its apogee, the length of the solar year and the measuring and modes of deviation of the sun's movement. In addition, he was adept at translating into Arabic, displaying an elegant style. He also had an excellent knowledge of Syriac and other languages.

Thābit ibn Sinān, Thābit ibn Qurrah's grandson, relates that when al-Muwaffaq became angry with his son, Abū al-`Abbās al-Mu`tadid bi-Allāh, he confined him in the house of Ismā`īl ibn Bulbul and placed him under the supervision of Ahmad the Chamberlain. Ismā`īl ibn Bulbul requested Thābit ibn Qurrah to visit and comfort Abū al-`Abbās. Abū al-`Abbās, indeed, had `Abd Allāh ibn Aslam staying with him, but he enjoyed Thābit ibn Qurrah's company very much. The latter came to the prison three times a day, conversed with Abū al-`Abbās, cheered him up and instructed him in the personal history of the philosophers, geometry, astrology and other topics. Abū al-`Abbās thus grew fond of Thābit and remembered his kindness. Upon his release, he asked Badr, his servant: "Do you know O Badr, who, next to you, was most helpful to me?" "Who, O my lord?" asked Badr. "Thābit ibn Qurrah," replied Abū al-`Abbas.

On taking over the caliphate, Abū al-`Abbās assigned valuable domains to Thābit and often had him sit in front of him, in the presence of high and low, while both Badr the Emir and the Vizier stood.

Abū Ishāq al-Sābī' the Secretary reports that Thābit was once walking hand in hand with al-Mu`tadid in the Firdaws, a pleasure-garden, in the caliphal palace. While they were thus walking side by side, al-Mu`tadid suddenly wrested his hand from Thābit's, which startled the latter, since al-Mu`tadid was a person greatly to be feared. But al-Mu`tadid said: "O Abū al-Hasan" — in private he called him by his kunyah [a by-name], whereas in public he would address him by his [p.413] first name — "you were negligent. I leaned upon your hand, placing mine in it, and this was not as it should have been. Men of learning should have the upper hand."

The following is quoted from the "Book of Smiles" of Qādī Abū al-`Abbās Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Jurjānī: Here is something I have on the authority of Abū al-Hasan Hilāl ibn al-Muhsin ibn Ibrāhīm, who had it from his grandfather Abū Ishāq al-Sābi', who had it from his paternal uncle Abū al-Hasan ibn Mūsā al-Nawbakhtī as follows: "I once asked Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Qurrah, while we were with certain people, a question which he declined to answer in their presence. I was a youngster at that time, and since he did not deign to answer me, I recited the following lines by way of insinuation:

Why is it that Laylā does not appear at my bedside at night
And no bird is flying from here hither.
Alas, strange birds fly as they fly in my night,
But no one is hiding them thither.

The next day, I met him on the road and went with him, and he gave me a satisfactory answer to my question saying: 'You have roused the birds, O Abū Muhammad.' I felt ashamed and apologized to him saying: By Allāh, O my lord, I did not mean you with those lines."

An example of Thābit ibn Qurrah's amazing therapeutics is the following story by Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Sinān, who relates: "A member of an earlier generation of my family reports that my grandfather, Thābit ibn Qurrāh, when on his way one day to the caliphal palace, heard some loud wailing and asked: 'Is the butcher who used to be in this shop dead?' 'Yes, O our lord, yesterday all of a sudden,' said the people, who were greatly surprised at his question. But Thābit said: 'He has not died. Let us go to him.' So they went to his house and Thābit bade the women stop slapping their faces and crying and prepare Muzawwatah [food without meat]. Then he motioned to one of his servants to beat the butcher [p.414] on the heel with a stick, while he himself placed his hand on his pulse. The servant beat the butcher's heel until Thābit ordered him to stop. Thereafter Thābit called for a drinking-bowl, took some medicine from a pouch which he kept in his sleeve and mixed it in the bowl with a little water. He then opened the butcher's mouth, poured in the medicine and made him swallow it. Thereupon cries and shouts resounded in the house and street to the effect that the physician had revived a dead man. Thābit ordered the door to be closed and securely locked, and when the butcher opened his eyes he gave him the Muzawwarah to eat and made him sit up. After he had stayed with him for a while, messengers from the Caliph arrived to fetch him, and when he left with them there was a tremendous commotion. Hordes of people swarmed round him until he entered the palace. When he appeared before the Caliph, the latter asked: 'O Thābit, what is this resurrection we hear about?' 'O my lord,' said Thābit, 'when I once passed by that butcher's place, I saw him cut a liver to pieces, pour salt on it and eat it. At first, I was merely disgusted by his action, but later I realized that he would eventually have a stroke. So I started watching him and, knowing what would happen, I prepared a medicine for apoplexy which I carried with me every day. Today, on passing by and hearing cries, I asked whether the butcher had died, and on being told that he had collapsed suddenly yesterday, I knew that he had had a stroke. I entered his house and, noticing that his pulse had failed, had him struck on the heel until his pulse started beating again. When I administered the medicine he opened his eyes, and I then gave him the Muzawwarah. Tonight he will eat bread with francolin, and tomorrow he will be able to go out."

The author notes: Thābit ibn Qurrah was born in Harrān on Thursday, the 21st of Safar of the year 211/826, and died in the year 288/901 at the age of seventy-seven.

Thābit ibn Sināh ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah says: Abū Ahmad Yahyā ibn Alī ibn Yahyā ibn al-Munajjim al-Nādim and my grandfather, Abū [p.415] al-Hasan Thābit ibn Qurrah, were close friends, and when my grandfather died in 288/901, Abū Ahmad eulogized him in a long poem, beginning as follows:

Truly, everyone but God is mortal.
He who has gone may be expected to return.
Whereas he who has died is lost.

[The poem describes Thābit's virtues, the lamentations following his death. ]

One of Thābit ibn Qurrah's pupils was `Isā ibn 'Usayd the Christian, whom he greatly assisted and preferred to the others. `Isā translated from Syriac into Arabic under Thābit's supervision and published a book, which has been preserved, entitled "Thābit's Answers to `Isā ibn 'Usayd's Questions."

"Nothing is more harmful to an old man than to have a cook and a beautiful slave girl, for he will eat too much and make himself sick and overindulge in sexual intercourse and wear himself out."

To eat little gives repose to the body, to refrain from sin gives repose to the soul, to worry little gives repose to the heart, and to talk little gives repose to the tongue."

Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Qurrah wrote the following works:

1) "On the Genesis of Mountains."

2) "Medical Questions."

3) "On the Pulse."

4) "Arthralgia and Gout."

5) "An Epitome of the Peri Hermeneias."

6) "An Epitome of the Prior Analytics."

7) "An Abstract of Logic."

8) "Unique Things of Tupiqa" [?].

9) "Why Seawater is Salty."

10) An Abridgment of the "Book of Metaphysics." [p.416]

11) "Questions Designed to Stimulate Interest in the Sciences."

12) "On the Errors of the Sophists."

13) "On the Gradation of the Sciences."

14) "A Refutation of Those who Claim that the Soul Is a Mixture of the Liquids [Biles]. "

15) An epitome of Galen's "Book of Simple Drugs."

16) An epitome of Galen's "Book of the Black Bile."

17) An epitome of Galen's "Book on the Harmfulness of Changes of Temperament."

18) An epitome of Galen's "Book of Acute Diseases."

19) An epitome of Galen's "Book of Plurality."

20) An epitome of Galen's "Anatomy of the Womb."

21) An epitome of Galen's Book "On Children Born in the Seventh Month.

22) A epitome of Galen's Sayings in his Book on the Merits of the Medical Art.

23) "Kinds of Diseases."

24) "On How to Facilitate the Study of the Almagest."

25) "introduction to the Almagest."

26) A large book to facilitate the study of the Almagest; not completed, the best of his books in this field.

27) A book on the intervals between the movements of two opposite arteries, in two chapters. He wrote this book in Syriac because he intended it to be a refutation of al-Kindī. One of his pupils, `Isa ibn 'Usayd the Christian, translated it into Arabic, and Thābit corrected the Arabic version. Some people say that the translator was Hubaysh ibn al-Hasan al-A`sam, but this is incorrect. After Thābit's death, Abū Ahmad al-Husayn ibn Ishāq ibn Ibrāhīm, known as ibn Kurnayb, wrote a refutation of the book without, however, proferring any sound arguments. After composing this book, Thābit submitted it to Ishāq ibn Hunayn, who greatly admired it and added some remarks of his own at the end, praising and congratulating the author. [p.417]

28) An epitome of Galen's "Book of Phlebotomy."

29) An epitome of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of Airs, Waters, Places."

30) A book on arthralgia and gout, in one chapter.

31) A book on the use of the globe.

32) A book on renal and vesical calculi.

33) "On Whiteness Appearing upon the Body."

34) "On the Way a Physician Should Question His Patient."

35) "On the Harmfulness of Changes of Temperament."

36) "On Regimens in Acute Diseases. "

37) An epistle on smallpox and measles.

38) An abridgment of Galen's "Smaller Book of the Pulse."

39) "On Conic Sections" [?].

40) "On Music."

41) An epistle to `Alī ibn Yahyā the Astrologer on certain matters of music which he had been requested to determine.

42) An epistle to one of his colleagues in reply to questions on

43) A book on perpendicular lines.

44) Another treatise on the same subject.

45) "On the Right-Angled Triangle."

46) "On Affinities between Numbers."

47) "On Intersected Geometrical Forms."

48) "On the Movement of the Globe."

49) A pandect entitled "The Treasure-House," written for his son, Sinān ibn Thābit.

50) His answer to a missive addressed to him by Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib

51) "On the Free Use of Analogy."

52) "On the Composition and Nature of Spheres, their Number, the Number of their Movements and the Movements of the Planets in Them and the Number and Paths of their Courses." [p.418]

53) "On the Beings of the Inhabited World."

54) A book on Qarasatyūn [?].

55) An epistle on the beliefs and rites of the Sabians.

56) "On the Division of the Earth."

57) "On Astronomy."

58) "On Ethics."

59) "On Euclid's Premises."

60) "On Euclid's Geometrical Figures."

61) "On the Figures in the Almagest."

62) "On Solving Geometrical Problems."

63) "The Observation of the New Moon from the South."

64) "The Observation of the New Moon According to Fixed Lists."

65) An epistle on the solar year.

66) An epistle on the proof attributed to Socrates.

67) "On the Slow, Quick or Average-Speed Motion of the Sphere Encompassing the Signs of the Zodiac, according to its Position in Relation to the Outer Sphere."

68) "A reply to a Question Regarding the Hippocratics and their Number."

69) A treatise on constructing a solid figure with fourteen faces, inscribed within a given sphere.

70) A treatise on yellowness appearing upon the body, the number of kinds and the causes and treatment thereof.

71) A treatise on pains in the joints.

72) A treatise describing the formation of the embryo.

73) "On How to Set up a Tester." [?].

74) "On Dews."

75) "On the Description of the Disk of the Sun."

76) "On the Regimen of the Healthy."

77) "On the Trial of Astrologers." [p.419]

78) "The Commentary of the Four."

79) An epistle on determining the propitious time for impregnation.

80) An epitome of Galen's "Greater Book of the Pulse."

81) "A Book for the Educated, on the Merits of the Medical Art, the Classification of Those Practicing It, the Fortification of Those of Them Who Lack Strength of Character and the Claim that the Medical Art is the Most Illustrious of Arts," written for the Vizier Abū al-Qāsim `Ubayd Allāh ibn Sulaymān.

82) An epistle on how to acquire a knowledge of Geometry.

83) Mention of atmospheric phenomena and conditions of the air, as observed by the Banū Musā and Thābit ibn Qurrah.

84) An abridgment of Galen's "Book on the Powers of Foodstuffs," in three chapters.

85) "`Isā ibn 'Usayd's questions to Thābit ibn Qurrah and Thābit's Answers."

86) "The Book of Vision and Perception, on the Science of the Eye, Its Diseases and their Treatment."

87) "An Introduction to Euclid's Book," an extremely valuable work.

88) "An Introduction to Logic."

89) An Abridgment of Galen's "Stratagem of Healing."

90) A commentary on physics; he died before completing it.

91) "On the Quadrilateral and its Diagonal."

92) "On What Can Be Observed in the Moon of the Phenomena and Signs of its Eclipse."

93) "On the Cause of the Solar and Lunar Eclipse"; he died before completing it, after composing the greater part.

94) A book for his son Sinan on the urge to study medicine and philosophy.

95) Answers to two letters addressed to him by Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn Shākir on the subject of time.

96) "On the Measurement of Plane and Other Figures."

97) On the fact that weights suspended separately on one pillar have exactly the same effect as if they had been combined into one and hung together on all the pillars together. [p.420]

98) "On the Nature and Influence of the Planets."

99) A short treatise on the fundamentals of ethics.

100) "On Sundials."

101) "Clarification of the Manner in Which, According to Ptolemy, His Predecessors Had Determined the Periodic Courses of the Moon."

102) "Description of Equilibrium and its Opposite, and the Conditions Thereof."

103) An epitome of Nicomachus' "Book of Arithmetic" in two chapters.

104) "Sketches of Mechanical Contrivances."

105) An epitome of the First of Ptolemy's "Four Treatises."

106) His answer to questions addressed to him by Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhtī.

107) "On Conic Sections."

108) "On the Measurement of the Area of Geometrical Figures."

109) "On the Sequence in Which Sciences Should be Studied."

110) An abridgment of Galen's "Book on the Days of Crisis," in three chapters.

111) An abridgment of Galen's "Book of Elements."

112) "On the Forms of Lines caused by the Shadows Cast by the Nilometer" [of the Tigris].

113) A treatise on geometry, written for Ismā`īl ibn Bulbul.

114) An epitome of Galen's "Book on Purgatives."

115) An epitome of Galen's "Book on Aching Limbs."

116) "On Metrics."

117) "On Thaon's Omissions with Regard to the Calculation of the Eclipse of the Sun and the Moon."

118) A treatise on the calculation of solar and lunar eclipse.

119) "A Book on the Soul."

120) The extant parts of his "Book on the Soul."

121) A treatise on the study of the soul. [p.421]

122) "How to Acquire Learning."

123) "On the Regular Proportions."

124) A treatise on striking fire by means of two stones.

125) A book on the use of the tester, entitled "What Thābit Added to Hubaysh's Statements on the Tester."

126) "On the Measurement of Intersected Lines."

127) "On the Flute. "

128) Several books on astronomical observations, in Arabic and Syriac.

129) "On the Anatomy of a Certain Bird" [presumably the ibis].

130) "On the Categories into Which Drugs Are Divided"; in Syriac.

131) "On the Kinds of Weights Used for Drugs"; in Syriac.

132) "On Syriac Spelling and Syntax."

133) A treatise on verifying algebraic propositions by geometrical means.

134) A correction of the first chapter of Appolonius' book on intersecting geometrical proportions. This book consists of two chapters, the first of which has been well corrected, interpreted and explained by Thābit, while the second, which was not corrected by him, is unintelligible.

135) A short work on astrology.

136) A short work on geometry.

137) Answers to questions addressed to him by al-Mu`tadid.

138) "A Discourse on Politics."

139) An answer given by him as to why there is a difference between the astronomical tables of Ptolemy and the tester.

140) Answers to various questions addressed to him by Sind ibn Alī.

141) A missive on the education of difficult passages in Plato's "Republic."

142) An abridgment of "The Categories."

The following are extant works written by Thābit ibn Qurrah al-Harrānī in Syriac on subjects connected with his religion.

143) An epistle on rites, religious duties and customs. [p.422]

144) An epistle on shrouding and burying the dead.

145) An epistle on the Greed of the Sabīans.

146) An epistle on ritual purity and impurity.

147) An epistle on why men employ ambiguities in their speech.

148) An epistle on which animals are fit for sacrifice and which are

149) An epistle on the times of worship.

150) An epistle on the sequence in which prayers are to be recited.

151) "Supplicatory Prayers to God, the Almighty and Most High." .


Abū Sa`īd Sinan ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah emulated his father in the knowledge and application of sciences and the practice of medicine. His special field was astronomy. He was in the service of both al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh and al-Qāhir and also served as physician to al-Rādī bi-Allāh.

Ibn al-Nādim al-Baghdādī the scribe says in his book "Al-Fihrist": "Al-Qāhir bi-Allāh wanted Sināh ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah to embrace Islam, but he refused. Later, however, he became a Muslim but, being afraid of al-Qādir, he went to Khorāsān. He subsequently returned to Baghdād and died there as a Muslim. He died of diarrhea on the eve of Friday, the 1st of Dhū al-Qa`dah, 331/943." Thābit ibn Sinān says in his "History." "I remember that the Vizier Alī ibn `Isā ibn al-Jarrāh once sent a message to my father, Sinān ibn Thābit. It was at the time when `Alī ibn `Isā was in charge of government offices in the reign of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh, during the vizierate of Hāmid ibn al-`Abbās. That year saw a great many cases of sickness. My father was then in charge of hospitals in Baghdād and other places. Alī ibn `Isā's message read as follows: 'May God prolong your life, I have been pondering on the situation of those in prison and on the fact that owing to their number and uncomfortable accommodation, they will inevitably become affected with disease. They cannot look after themselves and consult doctors about their condition. It is fitting therefore, that you assign special physicians to them who should visit them every day, carrying drugs and medicines. The should [p.423] make the rounds of all the prisons in order to attend the sick inmates and cure their diseases. An order should also be issued that those who are in need of muzawwarāt [a certain diet?] should be given it.' My father acted accordingly all his life.

"In another message `Alī ibn `Isā said: 'I have been thinking about the situation of the inhabitants of al-Sawād, and about the fact that there are sick people among them who lack medical attention, since there are no physicians available there. You should, therefore — may God prolong your life — issue an order that physicians with a store of drugs and medicines be detailed to tour al-Sawād, staying in every place as long as necessary and then moving on.'

"My father complied, and his colleagues proceeded as far as Sūrā, most of whose inhabitants were Jews. My father then wrote to Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn `Isā, informing him that he had received a letter from his colleagues in Sawad, who reported the numerous cases of sickness. They also mentioned that most of the inhabitants of the region near the King's Canal were Jews and asked permission to stay with them and attend attend them. My father, ignorant of Alī ibn `Isā's views on the matter, was at loss what to tell them. So he asked Alī ibn `Isā for instructions, stating, however, that according to the regulations for hospitals, both Muslims and protected subjects [Christians, Jews and others] were to be treated in them. Alī issued him the following order: 'May God honor you, I have understood the meaning of your message. We are agreed that non-Muslims are just as entitled to medical treatment as beasts; but just as the treatment of men should always take priority over that of beasts, so should that of Muslims over that of non-Muslims. Therefore, if any medical supplies are left over that the Muslims do not need, they may be assigned to the class of people next in order Proceed accordingly — may God honor you — and direct your colleagues to do likewise. Also, advise them to tour all the villages and other places where infectious diseases and maladies generally are prevalent.  [p.424]

If they find no protection, have them wait until the roads have been repaired and they can safely travel. In this way, if God. the Most High, wills, they will need no special camels."

Thābit ibn Sinān goes on to say: "The expenses of the hospital of Badr al-Mu`tadidī in al-Muharram were covered by the revenue of a religious endowment established by Sajāh, the mother of al-Mutawakkil `ala Allāh. The endowment was administered by Abū al-Saqar Wahb ibn Muhammad al-Kaludhānī. Part of its revenue belonged to the Banū Hāshim [i.e., the caliphal family], and the remainder was set aside for the hospital. But Abū al-Saqar, while readily paying out the share of the caliphal family, deferred, and even withheld, payment of the part intended for the hospital. My father therefore wrote to Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn `Isā, complaining of this state of affairs and indicating that it caused the patients great harm, as they were short of coal, food, clothing and other necessities. Alī ibn `Isā thereupon wrote the following message to Abū al-Saqar on the verso of Sinān's letter: 'You will see what Sinān ibn Thābit has to say. It is a serious charge, since decisions on this matter lie with you exclusively. You are responsible for your deeds, and I do not think that you are free of blame; besides you have attributed to me a statement regarding the caliphal family which I never made. Whether there is much money or little, it should always be impartially divided between the caliphal family and the hospital — nay, the latter should be given preference because of the plight of those resorting to it and the good purpose which the money serves. Let me know, therefore — may God honor you — why so little money, with so much delay, has been forthcoming for the hospital all these months, and especially during this extremely hard winter. Do everything to pay out what is due, and see that the physically and mentally sick inmates are kept warm with blankets, clothing and fuel, supplied with food and given constant treatment and care. Inform me of the steps you have taken and [p.425] submit a report to me showing that you have done your duty. You should take the greatest care of the hospital, if Allāh, the Most High, wills."

Thābit ibn Sinān continues: "On the first day of Muharram in the year 306/918, my father, Sinān ibn Thābit, inaugurated the Hospital of the Lady, which he had erected in the market of Yahyā, on the banks of the Tigris. He sat in the hospital, assigning the physicians their duties and receiving patients. Monthly expenditures amounted to 600 dinars.

"In the same year my father advised al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh to establish a hospital to be named after him. Al-Muqtadir agreed, and my father erected the hospital near Syria Gate, naming it the Muqtadirī Hospital. He himself bore the cost of its maintenance, which was 200 dinars per months.

"In the year 319/931 al-Muqtadir was informed that a physician had given a man of the common people wrong treatment and thereby caused his his death. Al-Muqtadir thereupon ordered Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Bathā to prevent all physicians from practicing until they had been examined by my father, and been furnished with a certificate in his own hand stating which fields of medicine they were qualified to practice. This order was carried out. The number of physicians involved in both parts of Baghdād, was more than 860, not including those who, because of their well-known proficiency, were exempted from the examination and those in the service of the ruler.

"When al-Rādī bi-Allāh died, the Emir Abū al-Husayn, wishing to consult my father, requested him to come and see him in Wāsit; in the lifetime of al-Rādī bi-Allāh he would not have expected my father, who was closely attached to the service of the Caliph, to respond to such a call. My father went to him and was very kindly received and presented with gifts. The Emir said to him: 'I want you to take care of my physical well-being and of something even more important to me, namely my morals, for I have faith in your intelligence, learning, piety and [p.426] devotion. I am greatly distressed by the fact that anger often drives me to actions such as flogging and executions, which I regret when my wrath has subsided. I therefore request you to watch me, and if you detect any defect in my behavior, do not hesitate to tell me so and advise me how to rid myself of it." My father replied: 'I have heard the Emir's order and shall obey it. The Emir will at once hear some general rules from me as to how to deal with the failings he is concerned about, while details will follow as the occasion arises. Remember, O Emir, that you occupy a position in which no man can gain the upper hand of you, that you are free to do whatever you please at any time you choose. No one can prevent or hinder you from doing so. Whatever you want you can achieve at any time. Nothing you desire will ever be withheld from you. Bear in mind, therefore, that anger intoxicates a man much more powerfully than wine. A man drunk with wine is apt to do what he will neither understand nor even remember when he is sober again and will regret and be ashamed of when reminded of it, and the same applies, only more so, to a man drunk with anger. So, whenever you feel anger rising in you, then, before its effect becomes too heady and you are no longer master of yourself, make it a rule to defer punishment to the following day, since you may be sure that what you were about to do can be done just as well on the morrow. A proverb says that a wise man is not afraid to miss an opportunity. If you behave in this way, the fit of anger will pass during the night. It will subside of itself and you will sober up. It is said that a man's judgment is soundest when he has the night behind him and the day before him. When recovering from your intoxication, reflect upon the matter which aroused your anger. Keep in mind that there is a God who is to be feared, whose wrath must not be kindled; do not vent your anger by a wrongful act. For it is said: A man cannot calm his rage by sinning against God. Remember that God has power over you, that you depend on His mercy and guidance in time of stress, that when you are unable to protect yourself from harm or extricate yourself from an [p.427] untoward situation, no creature can help you and no one, except God, the Almighty and Most High, can save you from your plight. Remember that human beings are apt to err, and so are you. even though nobody dares tell you so outright; and just as you would like God to forgive you, so other people hope for your clemency and forgiveness. Imagine what a troubled night the evil-doer passes who expects the severest punishment at your hands, and how great his joy must be when, by your pardon, his fear is swept away. Great credit will accrue to you by being merciful. Remember the word of Allāh, the Most High: Let them pardon and overlook; do ye not like that Allāh should forgive you; Allāh is forgiving, compassionate [Qur'ān, XXIV, 22]. So if the matter which arouses your anger is of the kind that warrants forbearance, and if a reprimand and a warning not to repeat the offence seem sufficient, do not exceed that limit, but forgive and pardon; this will be better for you and bring you nearer to God, the Most High. Allāh, praise be to him, says: That they should make some remission is nearer to piety [Qur'ān, II, 237]. Neither the evildoer nor anyone else will think that you were too weak to mete out punishment or that you lacked power to do so. But if the crime is so serious as to exclude forgiveness, mete out punishment commensurate with the crime, and no more otherwise you will be a wrongdoer and your prestige will suffer. Compliance with this rule will be hard for you only the first, second and third times. Thereafter it will become a habit as ingrained as a natural disposition.' The Emir appreciated this advice and promised to behave accordingly. His morals improved steadily while my father pointed out to him, one by one, those of his qualities and actions of which he disapproved and showed him the way to eliminate them. In the course of time, the Emir's character became milder, and on many occasions he refrained from killing or inflicting severe punishment, as he had previously done on the spur of the moment. He approved of and carried out my father's exhortations to maintain justice and do away with injustice and oppression. Moreover, my father [p.428] explained to him that justice was much more profitable to the ruler than tyranny, as it leads to happiness in this world and the next. The fruits of oppression, though perhaps abundant and quickly gained, soon rot and perish and there is no blessing in them. They cause needless misery and eventually lead to the destruction of this world and the loss of the world to come. The fruits of justice, on the other hand, multiply and last forever; they bring blessings and prosperity in this world, a promise of the world to come and a blessed memory for eternity.

"The Emir well understood the soundness of those admonitions and from then on acted accordingly. At the time of the famine, he established a guest-house in Wāsit, and in Baghdād he erected a hospital where the poor were attended and on which he spent large sums of money. He cared for his subjects' well-being, treated them kindly and justly, bestowed many favors upon them and saw to it that whatever needed doing was done. But this happy state of affairs was not to last, for the Emir was soon murdered. God has his own purposes."

Abū Sa`īd Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah wrote the following works, as set forth in a list drawn up by Abū Alī al-Muhsin ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Hilāl al-Sābi'ī in his own hand:

1) An epistle on the history of Syrian kings.

2) An epistle on reaching maturity.

3) An epistle on Canopus [?].

4) A missive to Bahkam [?].

5) A missive to Ibn Rā'iq.

6) A missive to Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn `Isā, may Allāh have mercy upon him.

7) Epistles entitled "Al-Sultāniyyāt" and "Al-Ikhwāniyyāt.'

8) A biography consisting of several parts, known as "Kitāb al-Nājī," dedicated to `Adūd al-Dawlah [also called Tāj al-Millah] mentioning his outstanding qualities and those of the Dailamites, and presenting their genealogy, origins and ancestors. [p.429]

9) An epistle on the stars.

10) An epistle describing the religion of the Sabians.

11) An epistle, addressed to Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Hilāl and another man on the distribution of the days of the week among the seven planets.

12) An epistle on the difference between an epistle-writer and a poet.

13) An epistle on the personal history of his parents' grandfathers and forefathers.

14) A translation of the Laws of Hermes and the prayers of the Sabians into Arabic.

15) A revised version of the "Principles of Geometry," supplemented with many of his own additions.

16) A treatise, which he submitted to King `Adūd al-Dawlah on geometrical figures consisting of straight lines and inscribed in a circle; on these he based a great number of geometrical problems.

17) A stylistically revised version of all the books of Abū Sahl al-Kūhī", prepared at the request of Abū Sahl himself.

18) A revised version of part of Archimedes' "Book of Triangles," as translated from Syriac into Arabic by Yūsuf al-Qiss.


Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah was an eminent physician, equal to his father in medical skill. In the "History" in which he deals with the events of his time, from the reign of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh to that of al-Mutī` li-Allāh, he reports that he and his father were together in the service of al-Rādī bi-Allāh. In a later passage, he says that he served as physician to al-Muttaqī, the son of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh, to al-Mustafī bi-Allāh and to al-Mutī` li-Allāh. "In the year 313/925," he says, "I was appointed by the Vizier al-Khāqānī to head the hospital which ibn al-Furāt had established in al-Mufaddal Road." In the same book he relates as follows: "When in the year 324/936, Abū Alī ibn Muqlah, was handed over by al-Rādī bi-Allāh to the Vizier [p.430] Abū Alī `Abd al-Rahmān ibn `Isā, the latter had him taken to his house on Thursday, the 26th of Jumādā II, and beaten with clubs, and a promissory note for one million dinars was extorted from him. The man in charge of all this on behalf of the Vizier was Bannān the Elder, from the tribe of al-hajr. Later, ibn Muqlah was handed over to Abū al-`Abbās al-Husaynī and placed in the charge of Makard and Bannān the Elder. Al-Husaynī appointed Abū al-Qāsim `Ubayd Allāh ibn `Abd Allāh al-Iskāfī, known as Abū Nu`rah, to debate with him and al-Dustuwānī. Ibn Muqlah suffered dreadful hardship at his hands, beatings and torture. I myself once had the opportunity of witnessing his condition when Abū al-`Abbās al-Husaynī asked me to go and examine him for some ailment he had complained of. Al-Husaynī said: 'If he needs bleeding, have it done in your presence.' On entering his room I found him stretched out on a shabby mat with a dirty pillow under his head and wearing nothing but a pair of trousers. His whole body, from head to toe, was the color of eggplant, without a single clear spot. I noticed that he was suffering from severe respiratory obstruction because al-Dustuwānī had bound his chest. When I informed al-Husaynī that ibn Muqlah was in urgent need of bloodletting, he replied: "But he will be exposed to great strain during torture; so what are we going to do with him?' I do not know, I said, only that if he is not bled he will die, and if he is bled and subsequently exposed to hardship he will waste away. Al-Husaynī then said to Abū al-Qāsim ibn Abū Mu`rah al-Iskāfī: 'Go to him and say: If you think that after bleeding you will be spared, you are mistaken. You may be bled, but remember that the torture cannot be dispensed with.' Turning to me, al-Husaynī said: 'I want you to enter Ibn Muqlah's room with Abū al-Qāsim.' I asked to be excused, but al-Husaynī turned down my request. So I entered with al-Qāsim, who delivered the message in my presence. 'If that is so,' said Ibn Muqlah, 'I do not wish to be bled. I am in God's hands.' When we returned to al-Husaynī and conveyed [p.431] Ibn Muqlah's answer to him, he asked me: 'What do you think should be done?' In my opinion, I replied he should be bled and then given some respite. 'Let it be so,' said al-Husaynī. Thus I went back to Ibn Muqlah and he was bled in my presence. As he was spared torture that day, he felt some relief, but expecting trouble the next day, he was seized with terror and became quite distracted. For some reason, however, al-Husaynī was forced to go into hiding that day, and so Ibn Muqlah remained unmolested, no one being there to torture him. Moreover, he was saved persecution by the fact that he was no longer asked to pay, and so his spirits lifted. Ibn Farrāyah came, and gave him guarantee to all that Ibn Muqlah had to pay and took him, after he had already paid al-Husaynī more than fifty thousand dinars. He produced witnesses testifying that he had sold all his estates and those of his sons and relatives to the Sultan."

Elsewhere in his book, Thābit ibn Sinān reports: "When Ibn Muqlah's hand had been cut off, al-Rādī bi-Allāh sent for me, at the end of that day, and asked me to go and attend him. I found him in a cabin in the tree-court, behind a locked door. A servant opened the door, and on entering I found Ibn Muqlah sitting on the base of one of the pillars. His color matched that of the lead on which he was sitting. He was utterly exhausted and suffered violent pain in his forearm. I noticed that a canvas pavilion had been specially erected for him upon which were two arches of the same stuff containing an oratory with Tabaristan pillows. Round the oratory were many plates with fine fruits. On seeing me, he burst into tears and complained about his fate and his pain. I observed that his forearm was greatly swollen and that a piece of coarse cloth was fastened to the stump with a thread of hemp. I spoke to him gently and tried to calm him. Loosening the thread and removing the cloth, I found the wound covered with cattle-dung. I ordered the dung to be shaken off, and when this had been done, the lower part of the forearm, above the wound, was seen to be tied with [p.432] hemper thread, which, owing to the strong swelling, bit deep into the flesh. The forearm had already begun to turn black. I told him that the thread had to be removed and that, instead of dung, camphor should be put on. The arm should be treated with sandalwood, oil, rose water and camphor. 'O my lord,' he said, 'do as you think fit.' But the servant who had come in with me said: 'I must first obtain permission from my master.' He went to ask permission, and returned with a large container full of camphor, saying: 'My master permits you to do whatever you find fit and orders you to treat him gently, take the utmost care of him and stay with him until Allāh restores his health.' So I untied the thread, emptied the container over the wound and rubbed it in the forearm. He thereupon livened up, felt relief and his pain subsided. When I asked him whether, he had eaten, he replied: 'How could I swallow anything?' I ordered some food to be brought, but when it was served, he declined to eat. Speaking gently to him, I fed him bit by bit with my hand until he had eaten about twenty dirhams of bread and the same quantity of chicken. He then swore that he was unable to swallow anymore. After he had drunk some cold water, which freshened him up, I left him, the door was relocked, and he remained alone. The next day he was given a black slave who was locked up with him. For quite a long time I visited him frequently. When his left leg became affected with gout, I bled him. But the pain he suffered from the amputation of his right hand and the gout in his left leg was so great that he could not sleep at night. Eventually, however, he recovered. Whenever I visited him, he would first inquire after his son, Abū al-Husayn, and when I told him he was well he would calm down completely. He then bemoaned his lost hand, saying: 'A hand with which I served caliphs, with which I copied the Qur'ān twice, has been cut off like the hands of robbers. Do you remember telling me that this was the last affliction, that relief was near at hand?' Certainly, I said, and he continued: 'You see what has happened to me.' After this, nothing more will befall you, I said — [p.433] from now on, you should be confident of being left in peace. What has been done to you should not have been done to a man of your standing. This is the height of adversity, after which there can be only an abatement. 'Don't be so optimistic,' he retorted, 'for tribulations in various forms have always been dogging me, and in the end will lead to my ruin, just as hectic fever clings to the limbs of the body and never leaves the victim until it brings about his death.' He then recited, sententiously, the following lines:

Whenever some part of you has died, fear for the safety of some other part,
For the parts of the whole are closely related.

"It came to pass as he said. When Bahkam was approaching Baghdād, Ibn Muqlah was transferred to another, more concealed place, whence no news of him reached the outside world, and I was debarred from seeing him. Later, his tongue was cut out. After a long stay in prison, he contracted pleurisy, and he had no one to attend him. I heard that he even had to draw his own water, pulling the rope with his left hand and holding it in his mouth. He continued in wretched misery until his death."

The said Thābit ibn Sinān was the maternal uncle of the skillful writer Hilāl ibn al-Muhsin ibn Ibrāhīm al-Sābi.

Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah wrote a "Book of History," in which he described the events of his time, viz from the year 295/907 until his death. I have seen an autograph copy of this work which testifies to the author's erudition. Thābit ibn Sinān died in the year 363/973.


Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah was extremely well-versed in the philosophical sciences and an eminent expert in the medical art. He was an outstanding personality, an excellent writer [p.434] and endowed with great sagacity. He was born in the year 296/908 and died in Baghdād on Sunday, in the middle of Muharram, 335/946. The cause of death was a tumor of the liver.


Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm Zahrūn al-Harrānī was a renowned physician. He possessed a comprehensive knowledge of medicine and great practical skill, and was also known for his gentleness with his patients. He died in Baghdād on the night of Thursday, the 19th of Safar, 309/921.


Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī, i.e., Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Zahrūn al-Harrānī, was an eminent physician, equipped with vast knowledge and thorough scientific training. He was a successful and knowledgeable therapeutist. However, he was stingy with his knowledge and would not impart it to others.

The following is quoted from an autograph copy of Ibn Butlān's treatise on "The Reason That Expert Physicians Now Employ Cold Medicines in Most of the Diseases Which in Ancient Times Were Treated with Hot Medicines": "The Vizier Abū Tāhir ibn Baqīyyah had an attack of apoplexy in his shore house near Baghdād Bridge. When the Emir `Izz al-Dawlah Bakhtiyār appeared, all the physicians were agreed that Abū Tāhir was already dead. Then Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī, whom I accompanied that day, came forward and said: 'O Emir, if he is dead, no harm will be done by bleeding him. Will you, therefore, permit me to do so?' 'I will, O Abū al-Hasan,' replied the Emir. When Abū al-Hasan performed the venesection, a little blood trickled out, and the trickle steadily increased until the blood actually flowed. Thereupon the Vizier woke up. When I was alone with Abū al-Hasan, I asked him to explain the matter. Accustomed to giving terse answers, he replied: 'The Vizier usually voids a large quantity of blood from his stomach in spring. This spring, the blood was retained, and when I bled him, his system was freed from that obstruction.'" [p.435]

`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says: "When `Adūd al-Dawlah, may Allāh have mercy upon him, entered Baghdād. the first physicians he met were Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī, then an old man. and Sinān, who was younger. The two, distinguished men of learning, attended the sick together. They also visited the palace of the Sultan and was his praise. When they first came to see `Adūd al-Dawlah, he inquired about them, and when told that they were physicians, he said: 'I am healthy and do not need them.' So they left, rather crestfallen, and when they reached the hallway, Sinān said to `Abū al-Hasan: 'Was it right for us to present ourselves to this lion, so that he was able to devour us, although we are the most prominent physicians in Baghdād?' 'What is to be done?' asked Abū al-Hasan. 'Let us go back to him,' replied Sinān, 'and I shall tell him what I have to say and we shall see what the answer will be.' 'Go ahead,' agreed Abū al-Hasan. They asked to be readmitted, and on entering, Sinān said: 'May Allāh prolong the life of our lord, the King. The object of our art is more the preservation of health than the treatment of disease, and the King is in greater need of it than anyone else.' 'You are right,' said `Adud al-Dawlah. He thereupon granted them a good salary, and they started taking turns of duty with him along with the other physicians."

`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibra'īl further reports: "Many curious stories are told of the two, one of which concerns the roaster of liver. It reads as follows: At al-Azaj Gate was a man who roasted livers. Whenever the two passed by him, he blessed and thanked them and remained standing until they were gone. One day, on passing by, they did not see him, and surmised that he was busy elsewhere. On the following day, they inquired about him and were told that he was dead. Quite upset, they said to each other: 'We are so much obliged to him that we should go and see him.' They went to his house and saw him, and, still looking at him, consulted with each other about bleeding him. They requested his family to postpone the interment for an hour so that they might be able to study his condition. [p.436] The family agreed and a bloodletter was brought who made a large venesection, causing impure blood to come out. The more blood that poured forth, the more the man felt relieved, until he was able to speak. The two physicians then administered some suitable medicine and went away. On the third day, he left his house and went to his shop.

"Questioned about their amazing performance, the two physicians said: 'Whenever that man roasted liver he ate some, but all the while his body was full of impure blood, a fact of which he was not aware. The blood was so plentiful that it overflowed from the veins into the arteries, thereby inundating and quenching the bodily heat, just as too much oil does to the wick of a lamp. When he was bled, the blood diminished and the organism was relieved of its heavy burden, whereupon the heat spread again and the body returned to normal. Such overfilling may also be cause by phlegm. Its several causes are mentioned in the book "On the Prohibition of Interment until Twenty-four Hours after Death," whose author is the learned Galen."

`Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl further reports: "One of the best stories I have heard about Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī is the following: Once he came to see the venerable Sherif Muhammad ibn `Umar, may Allāh have mercy upon him. As he was suffering from severe obstruction, Abū al-Hasan felt his pulse and prescribed a cure. When the Sherif asked whether he should undergo venesection, Abū al-Hasan replied: 'No, I would not advise it, though it would bring considerable relief.' He then left and Abū Mūsā, known as Baqqah the Physician, came to see the Sherif. After examining his pulse and urine, he advised bloodletting. 'Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī has just been here,' said the Sherif, 'and when I asked him about bloodletting, he advised against it.' Baqqah merely said: 'Abū al-Hasan knows best, and went away. Later a physician of inferior caliber appeared who said: 'My lord should be bled, for he would feel relieved immediately. He was so [p.437] insistent that the Sherif eventually agreed. After the bleeding he felt greatly relieved and fell into a quiet sleep. He awoke in the morning, feeling healthy. At the end of the day. Abū al-Hasan came to see him and, finding him comfortable and relaxed, said: 'You have been bled.' But the Sherif replied: 'How could I have done what you advised me not to do?' 'This relief can only be the result of bloodletting,' insisted Abū al-Hasan, whereupon the Sherif said:' 'If you know this, why did you not bleed me?' 'Since my lord has been bled, exclaimed Abū al-Hasan, 'he should be prepared for seventy fits of quartan fever. Even if Hippocrates and Galen were to attend him, he would not be spared one single attack.' 'He then called for an inkstand and a scroll of paper, wrote down the regimen for seventy fits and handed it to the Sherif saying: 'This is your prescription. When everything is over, I shall return.' Thereupon he left. Hardly had a few days passed when the fever set in and continued for as long as Abū al-Hasan had predicted. The Sherif followed the prescription exactly until he recovered."

Here is another story about Abū al-Hasan, also told by `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl: "The Great Chamberlain had a slave whom he loved dearly. Once the Chamberlain organized a great banquet, to which he invited the most distinguished personalities in the country. During the preparations, the slave contracted an intense fever, which was very upsetting, for the Chamberlain. He sent for Abū al-Hasan al-Harrām and said to him: 'O Abū al-Hasan, I want the slave to assist me tomorrow morning. Do all you can, and I shall reward you in accordance with what you will have accomplished.' Abū al-Hasan replied: 'O Chamberlain, if you let the slave rest throughout the days of his illness, he will survive; if not, I shall by staying with him all the time, be able to make him well enough to serve you tomorrow, but in the latter case, he will have an attack of intense fever next year, on the very same day, and whatever physician then attends him, his treatment will be of no avail. He will die, either [p.438] in the first crisis or in the second. Consider, therefore, which course seems preferable to you.' 'I want him to serve me tomorrow morning, and by next year his condition may have improved;' replied the Chamberlain, assuming that Abū al-Hasan's warning need not be taken seriously. So Abū al-Hasan stayed with the slave, who, in the morning, recuperated and started to work. The Chamberlain presented Abū al-Hasan with a precious robe of honor and a large sum of money and honored him greatly. The following year, on the same day on which the slave had become feverish, the fever recurred; it lasted seven days and then the slave died. The Chamberlain and some others now greatly admired Abū al-Hasan's prognosis. They highly respected him for what they considered miraculous insight."

Hilāl ibn al-Muhsin ibn Ibrāhīm al-Sābi'i, the Scribe relates: "I have it on the authority of Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn al-Nawbakhtī that the Sherif Abū al-Hasan Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn Yahyā said that he once wished to buy an intelligent slave-girl, from the Banū Khākān for 11,000 dirhams. He said to Abū al-Musayyab Fahd ibn Sulaymān, who acted as middleman: 'I want you to ask Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī to see her and give his opinion about her.' Abū al-Musayyab went to Abū al-Hasan and invited him to ride with him to the house of her owners. They found her to be indisposed, and after Abū al-Hasan had felt her pulse and examined her urine, he covertly said to Abū al-Musayyab: 'If she ate sumach or green fruits and cucumbers yesterday, buy her; if not, leave her alone. On inquiring about her meal the previous night, they were told that she had eaten some of the items mentioned by Abū al-Hasan, and so Abū al-Musayyab bought her. We were much impressed, and so was everyone who heard the story."

Al-Muhsin ibn Ibrāhīm says: "The sons of Abū Ja`far ibn al-Qāsim ibn `Ubayd Allāh accused our uncle, Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī, of killing their father. When I asked my father, Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Hilāl, about the matter, he replied: `Abū Ja`far was an enemy of my uncle Abū [p.439] al-Hasan and was determined to kill him because of certain occurrences for which he held him responsible. He had him seized and imprisoned. But it so happened that Abū Ja`far contracted an illness — which was to cause his death — and was advised to consult Abū al-Hasan, who was in his — Abū Ja`far's — prison. But Abū Ja`far said: 'I cannot rely on him, because he knows that my opinion of him is very unfavorable.' He thus took another physician.

"A friend subsequently visited Abū al-Hasan and described to him the treatment Abū Ja`far was receiving. Thereupon Abū al-Hasan, who trusted the man, said: 'If he goes on in this way, he will undoubtedly perish and I shall soon be safe. I should therefore like you to prevent him from consulting me by applauding his decision to forgo my assistance.' Abū Ja`far's condition worsened, and he died ten days after being arrested by al-Qāhir bi-Allāh."

Al-Muhsin further reports: "I was once suddenly affected with an intense fever. When our uncle Abū al-Hasan came, he felt my pulse for a while and then stood up without a word.' My father asked him: 'What do you think, uncle, about this fever?', and he replied in an undertone: 'Do not ask me that before fifty days have elapsed.' 'And, by Allāh, the fever left me on the fifty-third day.'"

Abū Alī ibn Makanjā the Christian, a scribe, relates: "When, in the year 364/974, `Adud al-Dawlah came to Baghdād, Abū Mansūr Nasr ibn Hārūn, who came with him, sent for me and sought information from me concerning the physicians in the city. I thereupon went to `Abd Yashū` the Catholicos and asked him about them. He replied: 'There are quite a number here who cannot be relied upon. One who is held in high esteem is Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī. He is an intelligent man, and no one equals him in his art. . . Abū al-Hasan is my friend, and I shall send him for duty . . . and advise him to stay on the job.' The Catholicos then urged Abū al-Hasan to go and see Abū Mansūr Nasr ibn Hārūn, which he did. [p.440]  Abū Mansūr requested him to present himself at the residence of `Adud al-Dawlah, examine him and consider ways of curing him. Abū al-Hasan readily agreed but on condition that he was informed about `Adud al-Dawlah's customary diet and about his secret habits. Abū Mansūr contacted `Adud al-Dawlāh regarding this stipulation, and when Abū al-Hasan came, he was given all the information he had asked for. For several days he visited `Adud al-Dawlah regularly, but then he stopped. When he met the Catholicos, the latter rebuked him for his conduct and told him that he had fallen into disgrace. Whereupon Abū al-Hasan said: 'My attendance is of no use, and I do not think it proper to continue. The King has excellent, clever and learned physicians, who are so well acquainted with his nature and therapeutical requirements that he has no need of any others.' But the Catholicos pressed him hard, asking the reason for the behavior he was trying to justify in this way. At last Abū al-Hasan said: 'If the King stays in Iraq for a year, he will become mentally deranged, and I would not like it to happen under my hands, while I am taking care of him as his physician. If you report this statement in my name, I shall deny it and swear by God and my faith that I did not say so. You know well what will be the consequences.' So the Catholicos kept their conversation secret. When `Adud al-Dawlah came to Iraq for the second time, Abū al-Hasan's prediction came true."

Abū al-Hasan al-Harrānī died in Baghdād on the 11th of Dhū al-Qa`dah, A. H. 365/976. He was born in al-Raqqah on the night of Thursday, the 28th of Dhū al-Qa`dah, 283/January 897. He wrote:

1) "Corrections of Some Chapters of Yūhannā ibn Serapion's "Kunnāsh."

2) Answers to questions which had been put to him.


Ibn Wasīf al-Sabi' [the Sabian] was a physician well-versed in the treatment of eye diseases. No one in his time had a greater knowledge of that discipline or practiced it with greater zeal. Sulaymān ibn Hassān says that Ahmad ibn Yūnus related to him as follows: "I was with Ahmad ibn Wasīf al-Sābi' when seven patients were waiting to have [p.441] their eyes operated upon. One of them was a man from Khurāsān whom Ibn Wasīf had sit in front of him. Looking at his eyes, he perceived a cataract ripe for operation. When he informed the patient accordingly, the latter asked him to go ahead, offering a fee of eighty dirhams and swearing that he had no more in his possession. Since the man had sworn, Ibn Wasīf agreed, but then he drew him close, placed his hand on his upper arm and found a small belt containing dinars. When Ibn Wasīf asked what it meant, the Khurāsām changed color, and Ibn Wasīf said: 'You swore by God and committed perjury. Do you now expect your eyesight to be restored? By Allāh, I shall never treat you because you have tried to cheat your Lord.' Although the man begged him to perform the operation, Ibn Wasīf refused. He returned the eighty dirhams to him and dismissed him." (Ibn Juljul, p. 81 ff. )


Ghālib the Physician gained renown by serving al-Mu‘tadid bi-Allāh. At first he was employed by al-Muwaffaq Talhah the son of al-Mutawakkil, whom he served from the beginning of al-Mutawakkil's reign and whose favor he enjoyed. All al-Mutawakkil's sons were suckled with the milk of Ghālib's sons [i.e., by Ghālib's wife or wives], and Ghālib, therefore, became their confidant. When al-Muwaffaq rose to power, he bestowed feudal estates upon Ghālib, gave him presents and thus made him rich. Ghālib was like a father to him; he kept company with al-Muwaffaq and fed him with his own hand. Once he cured him of a wound caused by an arrow that had pierced him in the chest. When he was restored to health. al-Muwaffaq gave him a large sum of money, a feudal estate and a robe of honor, and said to his courtiers: "He who wants to honor me shall honor Ghālib by giving him presents." Whereupon Masrūr sent him 10,000 dinars and one hundred robes, and the other courtiers did likewise. In this way he became very rich.

When Sā‘īd and ‘Abdūn were arrested, a number of Christian slaves belonging to the latter were also seized. Those who embraced Islam [p.442] were given freedom and means of subsistence, but the others were handed over to Ghālib. The number of male-servants bound together was seventy and more. When a messenger of the Chamberlain brought them, Ghālib exclaimed: "What shall I do with them?" He immediately rode to al-Muwaffaq and said: "Those slaves will eat up both the revenue of my estate and my personal income." Whereupon al-Muwaffaq burst into laughter and ordered Ismā‘īl to allot more lands of the Harsiyyāt to Ghālib. These lands were very valuable, yielding an income of 7,000 dinars. Ghālib was given them at a reduced fee of only 50,000 dirhams per annum.

After al-Muwaffaq Talhah's death, Ghālib entered the service of al-Muwaffaq's son, al-Mu‘tadid bi-Allāh Abū al-‘Abbās Ahmad, with whom he gained a secure position and during whose reign he acquired great prestige. Al-Mu‘tadid had a very high opinion of him and placed absolute trust in his medical skill.

Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit says: "Ghālib the Physician died in Amid while with al-Mu‘tadid bi-Allāh, who had held him in high esteem, liked his company very much and preferred him to all other physicians. Sa‘īd, Ghālib's son, was also staying in Amid with al-Mu‘tadid. The news of Ghālib's death reached al-Mu‘tadid before Sa‘īd. When Sa‘īd came to see him, al-Mu‘tadid immediately offered his condolences, saying: "O Sa‘īd, may your life be prolonged after what has befallen you." Whereupon Sa‘īd, deeply distressed, left for home, while al-Mu‘tadid, with Khafīf al-Samarqandī, Bannān al-Rassāsī and Sirkhāb al-Kuswah — his principal courtiers — followed him. They stayed with him a long time. When the news spread, all the state dignitaries called on Sa‘īd ibn Ghālib to offer their condolences upon the death of his father: the Vizier al-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh and Mu'nis, the Court-Marshal, as well as those inferior to them in rank, namely ūstadhs, emirs, military commanders and holy men of every description. At noon al-Mu‘tadid sent him a plate with various kinds of food, with the [p.443] request not to go away before he, together with Daniel, Mu'nis' secretary, and Sa‘dūn, Yānis's secretary had eaten that food; they were his hrothers-in-law, namely, the husbands of his sisters.  Sa‘īd did as requested, and al-Mu‘tadid visited him every day to distract him and entertain him with his conversation. He supplied him with dishes of food for seven days and also conferred on him the privileges his father had enjoyed, that is a monthly salary and a teaching assignment, and vested him with the fiefs and rural estates that had been held by his father. His tenure, and that of his son after him, continued until the end of their lives.


Abū ‘Uthmān Sa‘īd ibn Ghālib was a learned physician and excellent therapeutist, well-known for his competence, He served al-Mu‘tadid bi-Allāh, gaining his respect and obtaining many favors from him. He died in Baghdād on Sunday, the 23rd of Jumādā II, 307/920.


‘Abdūs was a famous physician of Baghdād, an excellent therapeutist and a good practitioner. He knew a great number of compound drugs, and many admirable medical observations and amazing cures have been reported of him.

It is reported by Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī in his "Annals": The following story is attributed to two physicians, Dā'ud ibn Daylam and ‘Abdūs: "When al-Mu‘tadid's illness worsened — it was dropsy and a corruption of the temper occasioned by various factors —and he feared for his life, we were summoned to attend him together with all the other physicians, and he said: 'Do you not hold that if the disease is known its remedy is known too, and that if the patient is given that remedy he will recover?' Yes, indeed, we replied, and he continued: 'Now, do you know my disease and how to cure it or do you not?' We do, was our answer. 'Why is it, then, that though you are treating me I do not recover?' he exclaimed. Fearing that he was going to do us harm we became quite dejected, but ‘Abdus said: 'O Emir of the [p.444] Faithful, we uphold our view as to this matter, but there is a difficulty. We do not know the exact number of the parts of the disease, so that could counter it with the corresponding parts of the remedy. In this respect, we proceed by conjecture, beginning with what appears most likely to succeed and observing the results, until with God's help, we hit upon the right treatment. Whereupon the Caliph gave us respite. We withdrew and, after consultation, decided to put him a sweat bath. After heating the bath, we put him in and he began to sweat, whereby, since the disease moved to the inner part of his body, he experienced relief. Later, the disease reached his heart and he died within a few days, and so we were saved from the danger which had threatened us. Al-Mu‘tadid died on the night of Tuesday, the 22nd of Rabī‘ II, 289/902."

‘Abdūs was the author of a "Notebook of Medicine."


Sā‘id ibn Bishr ibn ‘Abdūs, whose by-name was Abū Mansūr, was at the beginning of his career a bloodletter at the Baghdād Hospital. Later, he practiced medicine and distinguished himself so highly that he became one of the foremost representatives of the profession. The following is quoted from an autograph copy of al-Mukhtār ibn Hasan ibn Butlān's treatise "On the Reason That Skillful Physicians Now Treat with Cold Remedies Most of the Diseases; such as Hemiplegia, Facial Paralysis, Flabbiness [?] and Others — Which in Olden Times Were Treated with Hot Remedies, and So Contravene the Rules Laid Down by the Ancients": "The first to discuss this method and make it known in Baghdād was Shaikh Abū Mansūr Sā‘id ibn Bishr the Physician, may Allāh have mercy upon him. He applied it to his patients and abandoned all other methods, making use of phlebotomy and cooling and moistening techniques; he forbade his patients to take solid food. His therapeutics became renowned. In the course of time, after being a bloodletter at the hospital, he advanced so far that he became the supreme authority and rulers consulted him on their health [p.445] problems. At the hospital he abolished the use of hot electuaries and sharp medicines and in their place introduced barley water and the juice of other grains for the regimen of the sick. He performed miracle cures, example of which is the following, reported to me in Mayāfāriqīn by the Chief Abū Yahyā, son of the Vizier Abū al-Qāsim al-Maghribī. Abū Yahyā said: 'Once in al-Anbār, the Vizier was affected with a severe colic, by reason of which he stayed in a hot bath and had several clysters and liquid medicines without, however, experiencing any improvement. We therefore sent a messenger to Sā‘id, and when the latter appeared and saw the Vizier in that condition — his tongue withered from thirst, from drinking hot water and from intoxication, his body aglow from staying in the hot bath so long and having hot electuaries and sharp clysters all the time, he sent for a jar of ice water and handed it to the Vizier. The latter at first refused to drink, but later, induced both by a craving and the wish not to disregard the physician's advice, he drank and livened up immediately. Sā‘id then summoned a bloodletter, who extracted a large quantity of blood. In addition, Sā‘id gave the patient some juice made from seeds and sakarjabīn to drink, transferred him from the bath to a canvass mat and said to him: 'The Vizier, may Allāh keep him in permanent health, will sleep and sweat after the venesection. On waking, he will go to stool several times, and Allāh will have graciously restored his health. He then told the servants to leave in order that the Vizier might sleep. The Vizier, feeling better after the bleeding, went to bed and slept for five hours. Then he awoke and called for the room-servant. The latter had been instructed by Sā‘id that if the Vizier got up crying he was to tell him to lie down again so that the sweating might not be interrupted. When the servant came out of the Vizier's room he said: 'I found his clothes looking as if they had been dyed with saffron. He had one evacuation and then fell asleep again." By the end of the day, the Vizier had gone to stool several times. Thereafter, Sā‘id gave him [p.446] muzawwarah to eat and, for three days, barley juice to drink, whereupon he was completely cured."

The Vizier would say: "Blessed is he who dwells in Baghdād in a shore-house, whose physician is Abū Mansūr, whose secretary is Abū Alī ibn Mūsilāyā and whom God grants his wishes.".

I have also read in ibn Butlān's hand that Sā‘id the Physician treated al-Ajall al-Murtadā, may Allāh look upon him with favor, for a scorpion sting by anointing the spot with camphor, whereupon the pain subsided immediately.

The following is quoted from an autograph copy of Abū Sā‘id al-Hasan ibn Ahman ibn Alī's book "The Precipice of the Noblemen [as occasioned by] the Errors of Physicians": "The Vizier Alī ibn Bulbul, who resided in Baghdād, had a nephew, the son of his sister, who suffered a bleeding apoplexy [?]. All the physicians in the city were at a loss to diagnose his condition. Sā‘id ibn Bishr was also present, but kept silent until all the other physicians had expressed the opinion that the patient would die. As there seemed to be no hope for his survival, the Vizier gave orders to make preparations for the funeral, and the people assembled to perform the mourning rites; the women slapped their faces and raised their voices in lamentation. Sā‘id ibn Bishr, however, did not budge from the Vizier's side, until the latter asked him: 'Is there anything you want?' 'Yes, my lord,' replied Sā‘id, 'and with your permission I will reveal it.' Tell me what is on your mind,' said the Vizier, and Sā‘id said: 'This is a bleeding apoplexy. No harm will be done, therefore, by making one incision. Then we shall observe the result. If it is favorable, we shall have achieved our aim; if not, no harm will have been done.' Pleased with this suggestion, the Vizier ordered the women to be removed, and Sā‘id brought whatever ointments, warm compresses and vapors and inhalation material were needed, made the necessary preparations, bandaged the patient's upper arm and seated him on the lap of one of those present. He then introduced the scalpel, after explaining what [p.447] was to be done, as dictated by patient's condition, and some blood poured forth. The good news quickly spread in the house. Sā‘id continued to extract blood, and when he had extracted three hundred dirhams, the patient opened his eyes, but was still unable to speak. Sā‘id then bandaged the other arm, gave the patient some suitable stuff to inhale and performed a second venesection, extracting the same quantity of blood or even more. The patient was now able to speak. He was given the food and drink he needed, and he recovered. On the fourth day, he rode to the Great Mosque and from there to the Caliphal Chancellery, where he blessed Sā‘id and handed him a large sum of dirhams and dinars. In this way Sā‘id ibn Bishr became a wealthy man. The Caliph and Vizier both treated him with reverence and praised him, and he became the foremost physician of all his time.

The author says: In Sā‘id ibn Bishr's treatise on "Hypochondria" I have found the following account of horrors he witnessed and fears he experienced: "I endured hardships beyond description, occasioned by the harassing conditions of the time, the need to toil for the bare necessities of life, the fear seizing me and the precautions to be taken, upon a change of ruler, the vexations ensuing therefrom, such as having to wander from place to place and losing my books or having them stolen from me, and other sore afflictions from which I could hope to be saved only with the help of God, hallowed be His name." So he said, although, in his time, only Muslim rulers succeeded one another and the people did not need to fear for their lives, being safe from murder and captivity. Had he witnessed what we have witnessed, namely the deeds of the Tartars, who destroyed the worshippers of God, devastated countries and, on entering a town, had no other thought than to kill all the male inhabitants, capture the children and women, loot the property and demolish fortifications and houses, he would surely have minimized what he experienced and taken little account of what he witnessed. There is no calamity which cannot be surpassed by another [p.448] one, and no occurrence which is not to be followed by a more grave one. Praise be to Allāh for safety and health!

Sā‘īd ibn Bishr wrote a treatise on hypochondria, dedicated to one of his brothers.


Daylam was a renowned physician in Baghdād. He was in the service of al-Hasan ibn Mukhlid, the Vizier of al-Mu‘tamid, and visited him regularly. I have read in a history book that al-Mu‘tamid ‘Alā' Allāh, whose personal name was Ahmad, the son of al-Mutawakkil, once desired to undergo venesection and said to al-Hasan ibn Mukhlid: "Make me a list of all the physicians in our service so that I may give instructions to reward each of them according to his merits." On writing down the names al-Hasan included the name of Daylam, who was in his own service, and the Caliph confirmed the rewards by putting his signature under the names. Daylam relates: "I was sitting in my house when a messenger arrived from the treasury, carrying a bag with one thousand dinars in it. He handed it to me and departed, and I was left not knowing why the money had been given to me. Without delay, I rode to al-Hasan ibn Mukhlid, who was then Vizier, and informed him of the occurrence. He said: 'The Emir of the Faithful, after being bled, told me to draw up a list of the physicians in order that he might reward them, and I put down your name together with the others, and so you received one thousand dinars. '"


Dā'ud ibn Daylam was a distinguished Baghdādi physician, an excellent therapeutist. He served al-Mu‘tadid bi-Allāh and became his confidant. Because of the great confidence he placed in Ibn Daylam, the Caliph had the orders he issued written by him. Ibn Daylam also regularly attended al-Mu‘tadid's womenfolk. The Caliph treated him very kindly and bestowed many favors on him.

Dā'ud ibn Daylam died in Baghdād on Saturday, the 5th of Muharam, 329/940. [p.449]


Abū ‘Uthmān Sa‘īd ibn Ya‘qūb al-Dimashqī was one of the most famous physicians in Baghdād. He translated many medical and other books into Arabic. He was an intimate friend of Alī ibn 'Isā.

Thābit ibn Sinān the Physician says: In the year 302/914 the Vizier Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn ‘Isā, established a hospital in al-Harbiyyah and maintained it with his own  money. He appointed Abū ‘Uthmān Sa‘īd ibn Ya‘qūb to run it and the other hospitals in Baghdad, and those in Mecca and Medina."

Here is one of Abū ‘Uthmān Sa‘id ibn Ya'qūb al-Dimashqī's sayings: "Perseverance is one of the faculties of the mind; it will always assist the intellectual faculty."

Abū ‘Uthmān al-Dimashqī wrote:

1) Problems assembled from Galen's "Book of Ethics."

2) A treatise on the pulse, in the form of tables; it is an epitome of Galen's "Smaller Book of the Pulse."


Muhammad ibn al-Khalīl al Raqqī, i. e., Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Khalil al-Raqqī, was an outstanding representative of the medical art, well-versed in theory and practice, an excellent teacher and a good therapeutist. He was, as far as I know, the first commentator on Hunayn ibn Ishāq's "Problems of Medicine." He wrote his commentary in the year 330/941.

‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says: "It is reported that he wrote commentaries only when drunk, and in this he was an exception. However, I knew a poet who, whenever he intended to compose a verse, would get hold of some wine and drink it, and then sit down to write. The reason is that the brain always tends to be cold, and if heated by the vapor of wine, it bestirs itself and gathers strength for action."


Quwayrī, whose personal name was Ibrāhīm and whose by-name was Abū Ishāq, was an eminent scholar of the philosophical sciences and an [p.450] authority on logic. He was a commentator. One of his pupils was Abū Bishr Mattā ibn Yūnān. Little notice has been taken of his books and they have fallen into disuse, because his style is obscure and confused.

Quwayrī wrote the following:

1) A commentary on Aristotle's "Categories," the form of tables.

2) "Peri Hermineias," in the form of tables.

3) "The Book of Prior Analytics," (tables).

4) "The Book of Posterior Analytics," (tables).


Ibn Kurnayb, i. e., Abū Ahmad al-Husayn ibn Abī al-Husayn Ishāq ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Zayd, the scribe, known as Ibn Kurnayb. He was an illustrious theologian of the school of natural philosophers, a man of great merit and erudition, well-versed in the ancient natural sciences.

He wrote the following:

1) A refutation of Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Qurrah's view that between two equal movements, there are not necessarily two pauses.

2) A treatise on species and genera, a work of a popular nature.

3) "On How to Know the Altitude [of the Sun], the Number of Hours of the Day Passed at Any Time."


Abū Yahyā al-Marwazī was a famous physician and distinguished philosopher in Baghdād. Abū Bishr Mattā ibn Yūnān studied under him. Abū Yahyā was a man of great erudition; however, he was a Syrian, and all his books on logic and other subjects are written in Syriac.


Abū Bishr Mattā ibn Yūnān was a native of Dayr Qunā. He was educated at the college of St. Makmarius [?] and studied under Quwayrī, Rūfīl, Binyāmīn, Yahyā al-Marwazī and Abū Ahmad ibn Kurnayb. He translated from Syriac into Arabic and was the foremost authority of his time on logic. He was a Christian. He died in Baghdād on Saturday, the 11th of Ramadān, 328/940. [p.451]

Mattā wrote the following:

1) A treatise being a prolegomenon to the "Book of Analytics."

2) A book on hypothetical analogies.

3) A commentary on Porphyry's "Isagoge."


Abū Zakariyyā Yahyā ibn ‘Adī Hamid ibn Zakariyyā, the logician was a great authority on logic and the other philosophical sciences. He studied under Abū Bishr Mattā, Abū Nasr al-Farabi and several other teachers. He was unique, the prodigy of his age. He was a Jacobite Christian. An excellent translator, he rendered works from Syriac into Arabic. In addition, he copied many books, some of which I have seen in his handwriting.

Muhammad ibn Ishāq al-Nadīm al-Baghdādī says in his book "Al-Fihrist": "Yahyā ibn ‘Adī once said to me in the Street of the Booksellers, after I had rebuked him for his copying zeal: 'What are you so upset about? My perseverance? I made two copies of al-Tabarī's Qur'ānic Commentary with my own hand and sent them to many Governors [?], and I have also copied innumerable books on theology. Upon my life, if I write one hundred leaves in a day and a night, it is little.'"

The Emir Abū al-Wafā' al-Mubashshir ibn Fātik says: "My teacher Abū al-Husayn, known as Ibn al-Āmidī, told me that he had heard Abū Alī Ishāq ibn Zur‘ah say that when he was dying while in the Church of St. Thomas, Abū Zakariyyā Yahyā ibn ‘Adī asked me to see that these two verses were inscribed upon his tomb:

Many dead have come to life again through knowledge.
And many living have died through ignorance and incompetence.
Therefore acquire knowledge, so that you may win eternity,
Mindful that a file of ignorance is worth nothing.  [p.452]

Yahyā ibn ‘Adī wrote the following:

1) A missive in refutation of arguments advanced by the Master [Ibn Sīnā], and in defense of the opinion that actions are created by God, but acquired by man.5

2) A commentary on Aristotle's "Topics."

3) A treatise on the four examinations [?].

4) A treatise on the education of the soul.

5) A treatise on the essence, the quality and the goal of logic

6) A treatise on the five problems of octagonal forms [?]

7) On the good and bad of sexual intercourse and the right way to practice it, according to the Sherif Abū Tālib Nāsir ibn Ismā'īl, the friend of the ruler residing in Constantinople.


Abū Alī ibn Zur‘ah, i.e., Abū Alī ‘Isā ibn Ishāq ibn Zur‘ah ibn Markus ibn Zur‘ah ibn Yūhannā, was one of the foremost scholars in the science of logic and the other philosophical sciences and an excellent translator. He was born in Baghdād in Dhū al-Hijjah, 371/982 and grew up there. He was very friendly with Yahyā ibn ‘Adī.

The following is quoted from an autograph copy of al-Mukhtār ibn al-Hasan ibn Butlān's treatise "On the Reason That Skillful Physicians Now Treat with Cold Remedies Most of the Diseases — such as Hemiplegia, Facial Paralysis, Flabbiness [?] and Others — Which in Olden Times Were Treated with Hot Remedies, and So Contravene the Rules Laid Down by the Ancients": "The first who began to treat the sick in these new methods was Abū Mansūr Sā‘id ibn Bishr the Physician, may Allāh have mercy upon him. I heard him say: 'I first thought of applying the opposite treatment when our teacher, Abū Alī ibn Zur'ah, may Allāh have mercy upon him was stricken with hemiplegia. He was a man of slender build, quick-witted, talkative, sociable and always busy teaching, [p.453] translating or writing. His favorite dishes were cold ones or fried foods, salted fish and any cold platter prepared with mustard. Toward the end of his life, he very much wanted to write a treatise on the immortality of the soul, and for that purpose spent one year wrapt in thought and keeping late hours. Another of his preoccupations was trading with Asia Minor, but in this field he had some rivals among the Syrian merchants who, on several occasions, slandered him to the ruler; as a result, his property was confiscated and several mishaps befell him. Thus, his innate hot temper, malnutrition, the strain of writing books, the annoyance caused by rivals and the need to curry favor with rulers combined to make him suffer. He consequently became afflicted with an acute disease and mental disorder, climaxing in hemiplegia, just as other patients eventually become affected with tumors and other morbid features. As he was highly revered for his knowledge, the greatest medical authorities, such as Ibn Baks, Ibn Kashkarāyā, the pupil of Sinān, Ibn Kazūrā, and al-Harrānī, assembled to treat him according to instructions laid down in the pandects. I thereupon said to myself (being unable to contradict them openly, since they were much older): By God, they are making a mistake, for it is hemiplegia following an acute disease in a person of hot temper. When the other physicians became loath to treat him, I prescribed a moist cure, whereupon he felt some relief and actually began to recover. But some time later, in the year 448/1056, owing to excessive application of hot and dry medicines, he died of a hardening caused in the hind part of the brain by a bilious humour."

Abū Alī ibn Zur‘ah wrote the following:

1) An abridgment of Aristotle's book "On the Inhabited Part of the World."

2) "The Purposes of Aristotle's Books on Logic."

3) A treatise on the topics of the "Isagoge." [p.454]

4) A treatise on the topics of part of the third chapter of the "Book of Heaven."

5) A treatise on the intellect.

6) An epistle on why the planets shine although, like the spheres carrying them, they are of one substance and thus simple bodies.

7) An epistle written in the year 387/997 for one of his closest friends.

The author says: "This epistle contains some passages in which Ibn Zur‘ah refutes the Jews, and I have seen an epistle by Bishr ibn Bīshā, known as Ibn ‘Ināyā the Israelite, in refutation of ‘Isā ibn Ishāq ibn Zur‘ah's epistle."


Mūsā ibn Sayyār, i. e., Abū Māhir Mūsā ibn Yūsuf ibn Sayyār, was a physician renowned for his skill and his thorough acquaintance with the medical science. He wrote:

1) A treatise on venesection.

2) A supplement to Ishāq ibn Hunayn's "Pandect."


Alī ibn al-‘Abbās al-Majūsī, a native of Ahwāz, was an excellent physician. He is the author of the well-known book "al-Malikī, " which he wrote for the ruler ‘Adud al-Dawlah Fanākhosraw ibn Rukn al-Dawlah Abū Alī Hasan ibn Buwayhi al-Daylamī. This valuable work deals with various practical and theoretical aspects of medicine.

Alī ibn al-‘Abbās al-Majūsī studied medicine under Abū Māhir Mūsā ibn Sayyār. He wrote "al-Malikī on Medicine, in twenty chapters.


‘Isā, the physician of al-Qāhir. Al-Qāhir bi-Allāh, i.e., Abū Mansūr Muhammad, the son of al-Mu‘tadid, relied on the skill of ‘Isā, his Physician, and made him his confident. ‘Isā died in Baghdād in the year 358/968-9. Two years before his death he became blind.

Thābit ibn Sinān says in his History: "‘Isā told me that he was born in the middle of Jumādā I of the year 271/December 884. [p.455]


Daniel the Physician. ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says: "Daniel the Physician was of square build, with ill-shaped limbs. He was a mediocre scholar, but a clever therapeutist, though careless and disorderly. Mu‘izz al-Dawlah, who had taken him into his personal service once asked him when he reported for duty: 'Do you not maintain that quinces, when eaten before a meal, cause constipation, and when eaten after a meal, have a purging effect?' — 'Yes, indeed,' replied Daniel, whereupon Mu‘izz al-Dawlah said: 'As for myself, when I eat them after a meal, they make me costive.' When Daniel answered: 'This is not a normal reaction,' Mu‘izz al-Dawlāh punched him in the chest and said: 'Get up and learn how to behave in the service of rulers, then you may come back.' Daniel left, spitting blood. In this condition, he lived on for a short time but then died. This is one instance of a fatal error committed by a savant. Similar cases are known. Some weak stomachs, unable to expel their contents, are strengthened by quinces and, if nature reacts favorably, are enabled to drive out the chyme. On the other hand, I have known a man who, whenever he wished to vomit, drank sweetened drinks or sakanjabīn prepared from quince, and was then able to vomit as much as he desired. Again, my father Jibrā'īl reports that the Emir Abū Mansūr Muhadhdhab al-Dawlāh — may Allāh have mercy upon him — loosened his bowels by drinking quince juice. The causes of such phenomena are well known. Daniel merely committed an error and paid for it with his life."


Ishāq ibn Shalītā was a Baghdādi physician whose competence was such that he was taken into the service of al-Mutī‘ li-Allāh. He remained in the Caliph's personal service until he died, which occurred while al-Muti‘ was still alive. His place was taken by Abū al-Husayn ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Dahlī. Ishāq attended al-Mutī‘ together with Thābit ibn Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah al-Harranī al-Sabi'ī.  [p.456]

Abū al-Husayn ‘Umar ibn al-Dahlī was physician to al-Mutī‘ li-Allāh, with whom he had a well-established confidential position.

‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl  says. I have been told by a person I trust that the Caliph never refused Abū al-Husayn any request. When al-Mutī‘ li-Allāh dismissed his scribe, Abū Muhammad al-Salhī, Abū al-Husayn ibn al-Dahlī interceded on behalf of Abū Sa‘īd Wahb ibn Ibrāhīm, so that he was appointed to the office. He remained for a time in that position. Later, Abū al-Husayn patronized Abū Bishr al-Baqarī's brother-in-law, and he was appointed to that office. Abū Sa‘īd Wahb was still living when al-Tā'i‘ succeeded to the caliphate. He was arrested then and stayed in prison until Bakhtiyār and ‘Adud al-Dawlah entered Baghdād and the Caliph fled. Then, when the gates of all the prisons were broken down, he escaped.


Fannūn the Physician was an eminent member of the profession. He was in the personal service of Bakhtiyār, who held him in high esteem and honored him greatly.

‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says: "This is one of the stories reported of the two. Once, when Bakhtiyār's eye became inflamed, he said to Fannūn: "By Allāh, O Abū Nasr, you will not budge from my side until you have cured my eye, and I want it to be better in a day.' He was most insistent about it. Later I heard Abū Nasr say that he replied as follows: 'If you want your eye to be cured in a day, instruct the stewards and servants that on that particular day they will have to follow my orders and not yours. I shall take your place, and if anyone disobeys me, I shall have him killed. Bakhtiyār agreed, and Abū Nasr sent for a washtub full of candy sugar mixed with honey, into which he plunged Bakhtiyār's hands. He then started to treat his eye with a brilliantly white eye-powder and other remedies suitable for such inflammations. Bakhtiyār screamed for his servants, but none responded to his call. Abū Nasr continued to treat him in this manner until, at the end of the day, he recovered." [p.457]

Abū Nasr served as an envoy between Bakhtiyār and the Caliph, and whenever a robe of honor was to be bestowed it was he who conducted the ceremony. He himself was granted many such robes.


Ibn Kashkarāyā. Abū al-Husayn ibn Kashkarāyā was a competent physician, renowned for his thorough acquaintance with medical theory and his therapeutic skill. After he had been in the service of the Emir Sayf al Dawlah ibn Hamdān, ‘Adud al-Dawlah employed him at the Baghdād hospital which he had just established and which bore his name. In this position, he rose to even greater importance.

Abū al-Husayn ibn Kashkarāyā was a valuable talker and liked to embarass his colleagues by assailing them with questions. He had a brother who was a monk and who had invented a clyster effective against growths [?] and sharp substances, wherefore he became known as Master of the Clyster.

Abū al-Husayn ibn Kashkarāyā studied medicine under Sinān ibn Thābit ibn Qurrah and was one of his foremost disciples. He wrote:

1) A pandect known as "al-Hāwī" [the Gathering].

2) A pandect named after the person for whom it was written.


Abū Ya‘qūb al-Ahwāzī was a praiseworthy member of the medical profession, which he practiced commendably. He was on the staff of ‘Adud al-Dawlah's hospital in Baghdād.

Abū Ya‘qūb al-Ahwāzī" wrote a treatise "On the Fact that Sakanjabīn is hotter than Theriac."


Nazīf the Roman Priest was an expert linguist, who translated from Greek into Arabic. He was regarded as a great medical authority. ‘Adud al-Dawlah employed him at his hospiral in Baghdād. He charged him with a policy of breaking bad news but still Nazīf gained the affection of any patient he treated. For example, the following is reported: ‘Adud al-Dawlah once sent Nazīf to a military commander to treat [p.458] him for some illness. When Nazīf left him, the commander called his confidant and sent him to ‘Adūd al-Dawlah's chamberlain in order to enquire about the sovereign's intentions with regard to him. "If the sovereign has changed his mind about me" — he said — "let the chamberlain obtain his permission for my resignation and departure." For he was much perturbed. When the chamberlain asked the reason for the visit, the servant replied: "I merely know that Nazīf the Physician came to the commander and said: 'O my lord, the sovereign ordered me to pay you a medical visit.' The chamberlain then went and reported the matter to ‘Adud al-Dawlah, who burst into laughter and told him to inform the commander that he was still well disposed toward him. He had dispatched the physician because he had been worrying about him. The commander received some precious robes of honor, which restored his peace of mind, removed the suspicions he had been harboring, and endeared him always to Nazīf.

Abū Sa‘īd al-Yamāmī was famous for his great learning. He had complete mastery of medical theory and practice and was also a fine writer. He wrote:

1) A commentary on Hunayn's "Questions."

2) A treatise on "The Examination of Physicians and How to Distinguish their Different Categories."


Abū al-Faraj ibn Abī Sa‘īd al-Yamāmi was a first-rate medical expert and a distinguished scholar in the philosophical sciences. He met the Grand Master Ibn Sīnā, and the two discussed many problems of medicine and other sciences.

Abū al-Faraj ibn Abī Sa‘īd al-Yamāmī wrote an epistle on a medical problem he had discussed with Ibn Sinā. [p.459]


Abū al-Faraj Yahyā ibn Sa‘īd ibn Yahyā was a famous physician — an outstanding practitioner.

The following is copied from an autograph of Ibn Butlān's treatise "On the Reason that Skillful Physicians . . . . " Ibn Butlan says: "The following story was told to me in Antioch by the Shaikh Abū al-Faraj Yahyā ibn Sa‘īd ibn Yahyā the Physician, who is a luminary of science, a paragon of piety and virtue and the author of important works. He said: 'Once there came a slave of the Byzantine Emperor, a young man with an evil, hot temperament and an induration in the spleen. His nature was unbalanced owing to an excess of yellow bile, his urine was predominantly reddish and he was always thirsty. A physician gave him a purgative, then bled him and administered an emetic, whereupon his condition deteriorated. A Byzantine physician put him in a hot bath, smeared his entire body first with lime and then with bee's honey and placed a hot compress on his stomach; whereupon his temperament became even more fiery, his thirst further increased, his appetite went completely, and he was presently striken with right-sided hemiplegia. After drinking a great quantity of barley juice, he recovered from the paralysis within forty days. Later he suffered from constipation, and when clystered went to stool repeatedly, emitting thick dark blood which could not be staunched. He could neither eat nor sleep and, on the sixtieth day, he died."


Abū al-Farāj ibn al-Tayyib, i.e., the philosopher, imām and scholar Abū al-Faraj Abd Allāh ibn al-Tayyib, was secretary to the Catholicos and a prominent member of the Christian community of Baghdād. He taught medicine and treated the patients at the ‘Adudī Hospital. I have come across a copy of his commentary on Galen's "To Glaucon," which had been read under his guidance and which bore a note in his own hand to the effect that the reading had taken place at the ‘Adudī Hospital on Thursday, the 11th of Ramadan 406/1016. [p.460]

Abū al-Faraj was famous for his medical knowledge. He was an eminent personality, held in great esteem, a man of vast learning, a prolific writer and an expert in philosophy, to which he applied himself with zeal. He wrote commentaries on many of Aristotle's philosophical works and of Hippocrates' and Galen's books on medicine. He possessed enormous talent for composition; most of his extant works were dictated by him.

He was a contemporary of the Grand Master Ibn Sīnā, who greatly appreciated his medical pronouncements, but found fault with him as regards philosophy. This is borne out by the following statement found in his treatise criticizing Abū al-Faraj: There have come into our hands some books on medicine by Shaikh Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Tayyib which we have found sound and satisfactory, in contrast to his writings on logic, physics and allied disciplines.

Shaikh Muwaffaq al-Dīn Ya‘qūb ibn Ishāq ibn al-Quff the Christian told me that two men from Persia had once come to Baghdād to meet and study under Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Tayyib. Upon their arrival in Baghdād, they asked where Abū al-Faraj lived and were told that he was at the moment in church. They went there and stepped inside. On that occasion, Abū al-Faraj was wearing a woolen garment and his head was uncovered. Holding by some chains a censer containing burning frankincense, he walked round the church, spreading the fragrant fumes. When the two men were told that this was the Shaikh, they watched him intently, talking to each other in Persian. Keeping their gaze fixed upon him, they wondered why one of the most eminent sages, whose fame as a philosopher and physician had spread to the remotest parts of the country, appeared in such attire and behaved in such a manner. Abū al-Faraj perceived their amazement, and when prayer-time came to an end and the people left the church, he also went out, put on his customary clothes, mounted his mule — which had been led forth to him — and rode away surrounded by his servants. The two Persians [p.461] followed him to his house and informed him that they had come from Persia to join the ranks of his pupils. He invited them to attend his study circle, where they heard his lecture and the lessons prepared by his disciples. He then asked them whether they had ever made the pilgrimage [to Mecca] and when they said they had not, he deferred admitting them to regular study until the time of the pilgrimage, which was close at hand. When the pilgrimage was proclaimed, he said to them: "If you wish to study under me, make the pilgrimage, and if, God willing, you return safe and sound, you will find me ready to be your teacher. They accepted his advice and set out on their pilgrimage, and when the caravan returned, they immediately went to see him, bald-headed and emaciated from the heat of the sun and the long journey. He questioned them about the rituals they had performed during the pilgrimage, and after they had described them asked: "When you saw the Gimār [the pillar of stones in Mīhā], were you naked except for a loose garment holding in your hands stones which, running fast, you threw away?" On receiving an affirmative reply, he said: "This is as it should be. Everything pertaining to religion is a matter of tradition, and not of rationalism." It had been his intention — to wit, by saying so and, in fact, advising them to undertake the pilgrimage — to make them understand that the attire in which they saw him and the conduct at which they were amazed were determined by religious precepts, which have to be learnt from the respective authorities and which in all religious communities are taken for granted and followed without question.

Thereafter the two Persians studied under him and made so much progress that they came to rank among his star pupils.

Abū al-Khattāb Muhammad, the son of Muhammad Abū Tālib, says in his medical work "The Comprehensive Treatise": "Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Tayyib studied under ibn al-Khammār and left as his disciples Abū al-Fadl Kutayfāt, Ibn Athardī, ‘Abdān, Ibn Masūsā and [p.462] Ibn al-‘Ulayq. Among his contemporaries were the physicians Sā‘id ibn ‘Abdūs, ibn Tuffāh, Hasan the Physician, the Banū Sinān, al-Nā'ilī —under whom Ibn Sīnā and Abū Sa‘īd al-Fadl ibn ‘Isā al-Yamamī studied; he himself told me that he had as his pupils Ibn Sfnā and ‘Isā ibn ‘Alī ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Hilāl the scribe; I think that he was nicknamed Baks and ‘Alī ibn ‘Isā the eye-doctor, Abū al-Husayn al-Basrī, Rajā' the Physician, a native of Hurasāh, and Zahrun."

Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Tayyib wrote the following books:

1) A commentary on Aristotle's "Categories."

2) A commentary on Aristotle's Peri Hermineias.

3) A commentary on Aristotle's "Prior Analytics."

4) A commentary on Aristotle's "Posterior Analytics."

5) A commentary on Aristotle's "Topics."

6) A commentary on Aristotle's "Sophistics."

7) A commentary on Aristotle's "Rhetoric."

8) A commentary on Aristotle's "Poetics."

9) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Epidemics."

10) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Aphorisms."

11) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Human Nature."

12) A commentary on Hippocrates' "Book of Humors."

13) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Sects."

14) A commentary on Galen's "Smaller Art."

15) A commentary of Galen's "Smaller Book of the Pulse."

16) A commentary of Galen's "To Glaucon."

17) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Elements."

18) A commantary on Galen's "Book of Temperaments."

19) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Natural Faculties."

20) A commentary on Galen's "Smaller Book of Anatomy."

21) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Causes and Affections."

22) A commentary on Galen's "Book on the Discernment of Internal Diseases." [p.463]

23) A commentary on Galen's "Greater Book of the Pulse."

24) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Fevers."

25) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Crisis."

26) A commentary on Galen's "Book of the Days of Crisis."

27) A commentary on Galen's "Strategem of Healing."

28) A commentary on Galen's "Regimen of the Healthy."

29) A work on the main points of Galen's "Sixteen Books," being an abridgment of the Epitome.

30) A commentary on the essential topics of Hunayn's "Problems"; he dictated this in the year 405/1014-15.

31) "The Main Points and Essential Topics of Medicine and Philosophy."

32) A commentary on Porphyry's "Isagoge."

33) A treatise on the natural faculties.

34) A treatise on why a medicament exists for the extraction of each humor, while no medicament exists for extracting blood.

35) "Notes on the Eye."

36) A treatise on dreams and on how to distinguish between true and false dreams by means of philosophy.

37) A treatise on a clairvoyant who gives information about things lost, and on how to prove — through religion, medicine and philosophy — that this is possible.

38) A treatise on drugs.

39) A treatise dictated in reply to a question regarding the refutation of the assumption that there are particles which are not capable of further division. This question had been put to him by Zāfir ibn Jābir al-Sukkarī, in whose handwriting I have found the following remark on a copy of that treatise: "This pamphlet, in the handwriting of our lord, the illustrious master, Abū Nasr Muhammad ibn Alī ibn Barzaj, the disciple of the Shaikh Abū al-Faraj, was dictated to him in Baghdād by Abū al-Faraj, may Allāh prolong his life, and overthrow his enemies. Its composition was prompted by [p.464] Zāfir ibn Jābir ibn Mansūr al-Sukkarī, the physician, and it follows the authentic pattern [?].

40) A commentary on Galen's "Uses of the Parts of Animals."

41) A short treatise on love.

42) A commentary on the Gospel.


Ibn Butlān, i.e., Abū al-Hasan al-Mukhtār ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Abdūn ibn Sa‘dun ibn Butlān, a Christian of Baghdād, was a disciple of Abū al-Faraj ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Tayyib, under whom he studied a great number of philosophical and other works assiduously. He also associated himself with the physician Abū al-Hasan Thābit ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Zahrūn al-Harrānī, who taught him a great deal about medicine and its practical application.

Ibn Butlān was a contemporary of Alī ibn Ridwān, the Egyptian physician. The two maintained a most extraordinary correspondence; whenever one of them wrote a book or conceived a new idea, the other refuted him and declared his views to be foolish. I have seen some of the missives in which they thus attack each other.

In the year 439/1047 Ibn Butlān traveled from Baghdād to Egypt to Alī ibn Ridwān. When he reached Aleppo, he stopped for a time and was kindly treated and greatly honored by Mu‘izz al-Dawlah Thammāl ibn Sālih. On the first of Jumādā II, 441/1049 he arrived in Fustāt, where he stayed for three years. This was in the reign of the Egyptian Caliph al-Mustansir bi-Allāh. On that occasion, Ibn Butlān and Ibn Ridwān held discussions which are not without interest. A large number of them are to be found in a book which Ibn Butlān compiled after his meetings with Ibn Ridwān and after his departure from Egypt. Ibn Ridwān wrote a refutation of that book.

Ibn Butlān was the better stylist of the two, wittier and more at home in literature and related subjects. This is borne out by his statements in the missive entitled "The Call of the Physician." Ibn Ridwān was better acquainted with medicine and more learned in the philosophical [p.465] sciences and related disciplines. He was dark skinned and of unprepossessing appearance. In a treatise on his subject, he attacked those blaming him for his unattractiveness and as' he claimed, proved that a learned physician need not have a handsome face. Most of Ibn Butlān's attacks against ‘Alī ibn Ridwān deals with this and similar topics; thus, in "The Call of the Physician," he remarks as follows:

When his face to the midwives appeared,
They withdrew in the deepest of gloom,
Saying softly, so as not to be heard:
"Would that he had been left in the womb."

Ibn Butlān nicknamed him Crocodile of the Genii.

From Egypt Ibn Butlān traveled to Constantinople, where he stayed for one year, during which time there were many cases of plague. The following description of that epidemic is copied from a manuscript in his own hand. He says: "The most widely known outbreak of the plague in our time was the one in the year 446/1054, when Sirius appeared in the Gemini. In the autumn of that year, fourteen thousand dead were buried in St. Luke's Church after all the cemeteries of Constantinople had been filled. In midsummer 447/1055, when the Nile did not rise as usual, most of the inhabitants of Fustāt and Damascus died, and so did all outsiders, except those whom it pleased Allāh to spare. The plague spread to Irāq, where it destroyed most of the population, and the country was thereupon laid waste by invasions of hostile armies. This situation continued until 454/1062. In most countries people became affected with ulcers caused by black bile and with swellings of the spleen; the sequence of the attacks of fever changed and the usual order of crises was upset, so that the science of prognostics had to follow a different line."

Ibn Butlān goes on to say: "Since the Sirius star appeared in the year 445/1053 in the sign of the Gemini, which is the ascendant of Egypt, the plague in Fustāt was caused by the Nile's failure to rise. So Ptolemy's [p.466] prediction — Woe to the people of Egypt when one of the meteors causing melting establishes itself in the Gemini — came true. And when Saturn entered the sign of the Scorpion, the devastation of Iraq, Mosul and al-Jazirah became complete, habitations in Bakr, Rabī‘ah, Mudar, Fāris, Kirmān, the Maghrib, Yemen, Fustāt and Syria became deserted, the position of the kings of the earth became precarious and wars, death and plagues abounded. Ptolemy's statement that if Saturn and Mars came into conjunction in the sign of the Scorpion the world would be wrecked had thus come true."

The following statement by Ibn Butlān about the great disaster befalling science owing to the decease of men of learning in his time is also copied from his own hand. He says: "The loss suffered by mankind within a few decades through the death of al-Ajall al-Murtadā, Shaikh Abū al-Hassan al-Basrī, the jurisconsult Abū al-Hasan al-Qudūrī, the great judge al-Māwardī and Ibn al-Tayyib al-Tabarī was without precedent. At the same time the death occurred of scholars of the ancient sciences — Abū Alī ibn al-Haytham, Abū Sa‘īd al-Yamāmī, Abū Alī ibn al-Samh, Sā‘īd the physician and Abū al-Faraj ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Tayyib — and distinguished men of letters and epistle-writers — Alī ibn ‘Isā al-Rab‘i, Abū al-Fath al-Naysabūrī, Mihyār the poet, Abū al-‘Alā' ibn Nazik, Abū Alī ibn Musilāya, the Chief Abū al-Hasan al-Sābi' and Abū al-‘Ala' al-Ma‘arrī. With the passing of these men, the lamps of knowledge were extinguished and the human intellect was left benighted."

The author says: Ibn Butlān composed many poems and epigrams, some of which he inserted in his epistle entitled "The Call of the Physician" and in other works. He died without ever having taken a wife and without leaving offspring. This is why he says in one of his poems:

When I die, no one will bewail my sleep,
Except my position and my books — if they could weep.  [p.467]

Ibn Butlān wrote the following works:

1) "The Pandect of Monasteries and Monks."

2) "The Purchase of Slaves and Making of Them Mamelukes and Slave Girls.'

3) "The Regulation of Health."

4) A treatise on taking purgatives.

5)  A treatise on how food enters the body, how it is digested, how the wastes are expelled and how purgatives should be compounded and administered.

6) A treatise addressed to Alī ibn Ridwān, which he composed in the year 441/1049-50, on his arrival in Fustāt, in answer to what ‘Alī had written to him.

7) A treatise "On the Reasons that Skillful Physicians Now Treat with Cold Remedies Most of the Diseases — Such as Hemiplegia, Facial Paralysis, Flabbiness [?] and Others — Which in Olden Times Were Treated with Hot Remedies and so Contravene the Rules Laid down by the Ancients." Ibn Butlān wrote this treatise in Antioch in the year 455/1063 after he had been designated to establish a hospital in Antioch.

8) A treatise opposing by logical reasoning, the view of those who maintain that the chick is hotter [?] than the hen; he wrote it in Cairo in the year 441/1049-50.

9) An introduction to medicine.

10) "The Call of the Physician," dedicated to the Emir Nasīr al-Dawlah Abū Nasr Ahmad ibn Marwān. At the end he says, so I have found in an autograph copy: "I, the author, Yūwānis the Physician, known as al-Mukhtār ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Abdūn, finished copying it, in the monastery of the Benevolent Emperor Constantine on the outskirts of Constantinople at the end of September in the year 1365." This corresponds to the year 450 of the Islamic Era.

11) "The Failure of Physicians." [p.468]

12) "The Call of the Priest."

13) A treatise on the treatment of a boy who suffered from stones.


Al-Fadl ibn Jarīr al-Takrītī (of Takrīt) was very well-versed in the sciences, an eminent expert in the medical art and an excellent therapeutist. He served as physician to the Emir Nasīr al-Dawlah ibn Marwān. He wrote a treatise on the names of diseases and their derivations, which he dedicated to one of his colleagues, Yūhannā ibn ‘Abd al-Masīh.


Abū Nasr Yahyā ibn Jarīr al-Takrītī equaled his brother in science and medicine. He was still living in the year 472/1079-80. His works include:

1) "The Book of Experiments," on astrology.

2) A book on sexual potency and the benefits and harmful effects of sexual intercourse.

3) An epistle addressed to Kāfī al-Kufāt Abū Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Jahīr on the benefits of physical exercise and the way to practice it.


Ibn Dīnār lived in Mayāfāriqīn in the days of the Emir Nasīr al-Dawlah ibn Marwān. He was an eminent medical man, an excellent therapeutist and an expert in compounding medicines. I have come across a work by him on compound drugs, the material for which was well chosen, excellently arranged and commendably written. He compounded a sharāb that has become known as Sharab Dīnārī. It is widely used and famous among physicians. In the work just mentioned he states that it was he who compounded that drug.

Ibn Dinār wrote a "Book of Compound Drugs." [p.469]

Ibrāhīm ibn Baks was a skillful physician who also translated prolificly into Arabic. When he became blind, he continued to practice medicine as far as his condition allowed. When ‘Adud al-Dawlah had established the hospital named ofter him, Ibrāhīm taught medicine there. ‘Adūd al-Dawlah paid him an allowance which covered all his needs.

Ibrāhīm ibn Baks' works include:

1) A pandect.

2) "The Book of Compound Drugs," appended to the pandect.

3) A treatise on the fact that limpid water is colder than the sap of barley.

4) A treatise on smallpox.


Alī ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Baks was an outstanding celebrated physician and, moreover, a talented translator. He rendered many books into Arabic.


Qostā ibn Lūqa al-Ba‘lbakkī. Sulaymān ibn Hassan says of this man: "He was a Christian, a distinguished and skillful physician, a philosopher and astrologer, furthermore, well-versed in geometry and arithmetic. He lived in the reign of al-Muqtadir bi-Allāh."

Ibn al-Nadīm al-Baghdādī the copyist says: "Qostā distinguished himself in many sciences, such as medicine, philosophy, geometry, arithmetic and music. No one found fault with him. He also possessed a thorough knowledge of Greek and had an excellent style in Arabic. He died in Armenia while staying with one of the rulers of that country. From there, he wrote an answer to Abū ‘Isā ibn al-Munajjim's missive on the prophecy of Muhammad, may Allāh bless him and give him peace, and it was there that he composed his historical work "The Fruitful Garden."

Of Greek origin, Qostā translated many Greek works into Arabic; he had an excellent knowledge of Greek, Syriac and Arabic. He also revised many translations done by others. Numerous epistles and books, on medicine and other subjects, issued from his pen in admirable style. [p.470]

‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā'īl says: "Qostā was called to Armenia by Sanhārīb and remained there. Abū al-Ghitrit the Patriarch, a man of knowledge and excellence, was in that country and for him Qostā composed many worthy books on various sciences whose contents were both impeccable and concise. Qostā died and was buried in Armenia.

His grave, over which a cupola was built, was accorded the same honors as the tombs of kings and religious leaders. Qostā ibn Luqā's books include:

1) "On Gouty Pains."

2) "On Smells and their Causes."

3) An epistle to Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Mukhlid, on the circumstances and conditions of sexual potency, in the form of questions and answers.

4) "On Infection," dedicated to the Patriarch, a vassal of the Emir of the Faithful.

5) A comprehensive book, being an introduction to the art of medicine, written for Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad, known as Ibn al-Mudabbir.

6) On Wine and its Imbibing at Banquets.

7) "On the Elements."

8) "On Waking," written for Abū al-Ghitrīt the Patriarch, a vassal of the Emir of the Faithful.

9) "On Thirst," also written for Abū al-Ghitrīt.

10) "On Vigor and Debility."

11) "On Foods," according to the general rules, written for the Chief Patriarch Abū Ghānim al-‘Abbās ibn Sinbāt.

12) "On the Pulse, Fevers and the Various Kinds of Crises."

13) "On the Cause of Sudden Death." dedicated to Abū al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Ahmad, the secretary of the Chief Patriarch.

14) "On Numbness, its Forms, Causes, Conditions and Treatments," written for the Chief Qādī Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Muhammad. [p.471]

15) "On the Days of Crisis in Acute Diseases."

16) "On the Four Humors and their Common Features."

17) An abridgment of "The Book of the Liver, its Constitution and the Diseases Liable to Affect It."

18) An epistle on the fan and the causes of wind.

19) "On the Order in Which Medical Books Should be Studied," written for Abū al-Ghitrīt the Patriarch.

20) "On the Care of the Body during the Pilgrimage," written for Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Mukhlid.

21) "On Counteracting the Effects of Poisons."

22) "An Introduction to Geometry," in the form of questions and answers, written for Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Yahyā, a vassal of the Emir of the Faithful.

23) "The Conduct of the Philosophers."

24) "On the Difference between Speaking and Dumb Creatures."

25) "On the Growth of Hair."

26) "On the Difference between the Soul and the Spirit." 26a) "On Speaking Creatures."

27) "On the Particle Which Is Not Susceptible of Further Division."

28) "On the Movement of the Artery."

29) "On Sleep and Dreams."

30) "On the Principal Organ of the Body."

31) "On the Phlegm."

32) "On Blood."

33) "On Yellow Bile."

34) "On Black Bile."

35) "On the Sphere and the Cylinder."

36) "On Astronomy and the Composition of the Spheres.

37) "On Algebraic Equations."

38) A paraphrase of Diophantus, on algebra.

39) "On the Use of the Astronomical Globe."

40) "On the Use of the Instrument for Adding and Obtaining Conclusions." [p.472]

41) "On Small Quantities of Food" [?].

42) "On Burning Glasses."

43) "On Weights and Measures."

44) "The Book of Politics," in three chapters.

45) "On the Reason That Canvas Is Dark and That It Changes when Spattered."

46) "The Book of Money-balancing."

47) "On Drawing Diagnostic Conclusions from the Inspection of Various Kinds of Urine."

48) "An Introduction to Logic."

49) A commentary on the doctrines of the Greeks.

50) An epistle on dyeing hair, etc.

51) "On Doubts with Regard to Euclid's Book."

52) "The Book of Bloodletting," in 91 chapters, written for Abū ‘Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad, known as Ibn al-Mudabbir.

53) "An Introduction to the Science of Astronomy."

54) "On Hot Baths."

55) "The Fruitful Garden." on history.

56) An epistle on arithmetical problems derived from the third chapter of Euclid's book.

57) A Commentary on three-and-a-half chapters of Diophantus' book on numerical problems.

58) "On the terminology of "Books on Logic," being an introduction to the "Isagoge."

59) "On Vapor."

60) An epistle addressed to Abū ‘Alī ibn Bannān ibn al-Harith, vassal of the Emir of the Faithful, on questions he had put to him as to why men differ in character, conduct, desires and predilections.

61) "Problems of General Definitions," according to the views of the philosophers. [p.473]


Abū Alī Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Miskawayhi was an eminent authority on the philosophical sciences. He was also an expert in the medical art, of which he understood both the theoretical foundations and the practical application. His works include:

1) "The Book of Beverages."

2) "The Book of Cooked Food."

3) "The Refinement of Morals."


Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath. Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath was endowed with sound judgment and a love of doing good. Always earnest and serious, he studied theology diligently. During his long life, he had a great number of pupils. He was an authority on the philosophical sciences and wrote many works in this field which testify to his extensive knowledge. I have seen an autograph copy of his book on theology, which is extremely good, may Allāh, the Most High, have mercy upon him.

He delved deeply into Galen's books and wrote commentaries on many of them. He divided each of the "Sixteen Books" into parts, chapters and paragraphs in such a manner as had never been done before. This has proved of great help to users of Galen's books, for it facilitates locating what is wanted, furnishes references to any topic which is desired to be studied and gives information about the contents and purposes of any portion. He divided many of the works of Aristotle and others in the same way. Each of his writings, whether on medicine or other subjects, is complete in itself and unrivaled for quality.

The following is quoted from the book of ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā’īl ibn Bakhtīshū‘, who says:"I have been told that Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath, may God have mercy upon him, did not profess medicine right from the start of his career, but was a provincial governor whose property was confiscated. A native of Fārrs, he fled from his home town and came to Mosul naked and hungry. It happened that Nāsir al-Dawlah had a child suffering from high blood pressure [?]. The [p.474] more the physicians treated him, the graver became his illness. Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath gained access to the child, and telling his mother that he was going to treat him, drew her attention to a mistake the physicians had made. The mother placed confidence in him, and he treated the child, who eventually recovered. Ahmad was rewarded and shown great kindness. He stayed in Mosul all the rest of his life, teaching a number of pupils, of whom Abū al-Fallāh was closest to him and the one he valued highest; he was a distinguished medical man."

The author says: Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath, may Allāh have mercy upon him, died in the sixties of the 4th century A. H. (971-975). He had several children, of whom one, Muhammad, as far as I have been able to ascertain, gained renown as a physician.

Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath's works include:

1) "The Book of Simple Drugs," in three parts. He wrote it at the request of some of his pupils. Here is what he says at the beginning: "Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Baladī asked me to write this book, a request which had previously been made by Muhammad ibn Thawwāb. I have therefore used a language consistent with their professional attainments, and I dedicate the book to them. I started writing it in the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal of the year 353/964, when they had already finished their medical studies and entered the ranks of fully qualified physicians, drawing inferences and conclusions and making discoveries. I also dedicate this book to my other pupils who have reached the same stage and to those who take my books as their guide For only he who has passed the bounds of study and reached the stage of scrutiny will be able to read this book with profit, acquire the knowledge it embodies, grasp its merely implied content and draw further conclusions from what is stated. I address myself to a wide public, not to people of special talent, who, by virtue of their subtle minds, are able to comprehend even more difficult things. They acquire knowledge with little effort and much faster than others."  [p.475]

2) "The Book of Animals."

3) "On Theology" in two parts. He finished writing it in Dhū al-Qa‘dah A. H. 355/October 966.

4) "On Smallpox, Measles and [?]," in two parts.

5) "On Sirsam [a cerebral disease] and Pleurisy and their Treatment," in three parts. He composed this for his pupil Muhammad ibn Thawwāb al-Mawsilī, to whom he dictated it and who stated as the date of dictation and writing the month of Rajab of the year 355/ June 966.

6) "On Colic, its Forms and Treatment and Remedies for it," in two parts.

7) "On Leprosy and Vitiligo alba and their Treatment," in two parts.

8) "On Epilepsy."

9) Another book on the same subject.

10) "On Dropsy."

11) On the Clearance [?] of Blood," in two parts.

12) "On Melancholy."

13) "On the Composition of Remedies."

14) "A Treatise on Sleeping and Waking," written upon the request of Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn Zayd ibn Faddālah al-Baladī, conveyed by ‘Azūr ibn al-Tayyib al-Baladī the Jew.

15) "On Food and Nutrition, in two parts, he completed it in Qal‘at Barqa in Armenia in the month of Safar, 348/April 959.

16) "The Diseases of the Stomach and their Treatment.

17) A commentary on Galen's "Book of Difference," in two parts, completed in Rajab of the year 342/November 953.

18) A Commentary on Galen's "Book of Fevers."


Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Thawwāb ibn Muhammad, known as Ibn al-Thallāj, a native of Mosul, was a master of the medical art, well-versed in both its theory and practice. His teacher was [p.476]  Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath. Ibn al-Tallaj was greatly attached to him and was a brilliant pupil. He copied a great number of books.


Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Baladī Abū al-Abbās Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yahyā, of the city of Balad, was an expert physician and excellent therapeutist. He was one of the outstanding pupils of Ahmad ibn Abū al-Ash‘ath, with whom he was closely associated for many years.

Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Baladī's works include "The Regimen of Pregnant Women and of Infants and Children, the Preservation of their Health and the Treatment of the Diseases to Which They Are Liable"; he wrote this for Abū al-Faraj Ya‘qūb ibn Yūsuf, known as Ibn Killis, the vizier of al-‘Azīz bi-Allāh in Egypt.


Ibn Qawsayn was a competent physician, very well known in his time. He resided in Mosul. A Jew, he embraced Islam and wrote a treatise "In Refutation of the Jews.


Alī ibn ‘Isā, alias ‘Isā ibn Alī, was famous for his skill in ophthalmology. His pronouncements have been taken as directive in matters of eye diseases and their treatment. His "Notebook for Oculists," in three parts, is indispensable for anyone concerned with ophthalmology, and in fact some use it to the exclusion of any other work on the subject. Alī ibn ‘Isā's statements on the practical side of ophthalmology are more remarkable than those concerned with its scientific aspect. He died in the year 4 . . . .


Ibn al-Shibl al-Baghdādī. Abū Alī al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Yūsuf ibn Shibl was born and bred in Baghdād. He was a sage and a philosopher, an eminent theologian, a brilliant man of letters and an excellent poet. He died in Baghdād in the year 474/1081.  [p.477]

Here is one of the finest specimens of his philosophical poetry, evidence of his thorough familiarity with the philosophical sciences and with theological mysteries. Some people wrongly attribute the poem to Ibn Sīnā. [There follow a long eulogy for his brother Ahmad and several other, shorter pieces of poetry on various subjects.]


Ibn Bukhtuwayhi. Abū al-Husayn ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Isā ibn Bukhtuwayhi. a native of Wāsit, was a physician and a preacher, and a man of great learning. His sayings on medical matters suggest familiarity with the writings of the ancients, which, indeed, he had studied and absorbed. His father was also a physician.

His works include:

1) "The Book of Premises," known as "The Treasure of Physicians," which he wrote for his son in the year 420/1029.

2) "The Book of Devotion to God," on medicine.

3) "The Straight Road to the Art of Bloodletting."


Sā‘id ibn al-Hasan. Abū al-‘Alā' Sā‘īd ibn al-Hasan was an outstanding talented and industrious member of the medical profession. He lived in the city of al-Rahbah. His works include "The Attraction of Medicine," which he wrote in al-Rahbat in the month of Rajab of the year 464/March 1072.


Zāhid al-‘Ulamā'. Abū Sa‘īd Mansūr ibn ‘Isā Zāhid al-‘Ulamā' was a Nestorian Christian. His brother was the Metropolitan of Nasībīn, famous for his learning. Zāhid al-‘Ulamā' was a physician to Nasīr al-Dawlah ibn Marwān, for whom Ibn Butlān wrote "The Call of the Physician." Nasīr al-Dawlah held Zāhid al-‘Ulamā' in high esteem, had confidence in his skill and treated him most graciously. Zāhid al-‘Ulamā' established the hospital in Mayāfāriqīn. [p.478]

I have it on the authority of Shaikh Sadīd al-Dīn ibn Raqīqah the Physician that the occasion for establishing this hospital arose as follows: When Nasīr al-Dawlah ibn Marwān was once staying in that city, his daughter was taken ill. Since he loved her dearly, he made a vow that if she were to recover, he would donate her weight in dirhams to charity. After Zāhid al-‘Ulamā' had cured her, he advised Nasīr al-Dawlah to assign the money he had intended to give to charity, for the establishment of a hospital, thus benefiting the public, fulfilling a religious duty and greatly enhancing his prestige. Thereupon Nasīr al-Dawlah entrusted him with the founding of the hospital and spent large sums of money on it. He also endowed it with real estate, designed to ensure its maintenance, and equipped it lavishly with instruments and other necessities. It could not have been better provided for.

Zāhid al-‘Ulamā's works include:

1) "The Book of Hospitals."

2) A book of aphorisms, questions and answers, in two parts; the first part contains questions and answers which al-Hasan ibn Sahl had recorded from notes, pamphlets, scrolls and other material found in the author's library, and the second part aphorisms and questions, together with the answers he gave during scientific sessions, which were regularly held at the al-Fāriqī Hospital.

3) "On Dreams and Visions."

4) "On What Students of Medicine Ought to Learn First."

5) "On Eye Diseases and Their Treatment."


Abū Nasr Muhammad ibn Yūsuf al-Muqbilī was an outstanding member of the medical profession. He wrote:

1) A treatise on drugs.

2) An epitome of Hunayn ibn Ishāq's "Book of Problems."  [p.479]  


Al-Nīlī. Abū Sahl Sa‘īd ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Nīlī was famous for his learning, an expert in the medical art and a versatile man of letters excelling in both prose and poetry. [There follows a specimen of his poetry, consisting of four distichs].

His works include:

1) An abridgment of Hunayn's "Book of Questions."

2) An epitome of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "Aphorisms," with the addition of some passages from al-Razī's commentary.


Al-Rahāwī. Ishāq ibn ‘Alī al-Rahāwī [from Edessa] was a distinguished physician, well-versed in the teachings of Galen. Excellent medical achievements are reported of him.

His books include:

1) "The Conduct of the Physician."

2) A pandect, known as "Mayamir," compiled from Galen's ten discourses, on the composition of remedies according to the diseases of the different parts of the body, from head to toe.

3) Excerpts from the four books of Galen which the Alexandrians placed first in the classification of his works, namely the "Book of Difference," the "Smaller Art," the "Smaller Book of the Pulse" and "To Glaucon." He rewrote these excerpts in the form of aphorisms, which he arranged alphabetically.


Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh. Abū al-Hasan Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn al-Husayn was a distinguished physician and was also renowned for his proficiency in the philosophical sciences. Living in the reign of al-Muqtadī bi-Amr Allāh, he served as physician to that caliph and also to his son, al-Mustazhir bi-Allāh.

Abū al-Khattāb Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū Tālib says in his "Comprehensive Book of Medicine": "Medicine, in our age, has reached its apogee in Abū al-Hasan Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn al-Husayn. He was [p.480] born on the night of Saturday, the 23rd of Jumādā II, 436/January 1045. His teachers were Aba al-‘Alā ibn al-Tilmīdh, Abū al-Fadl Kutayfāt and ‘Abdān the Scribe. He wrote a large number of books on medicine, logic, philosophy and other subjects. He died at the age of 56 on the night of Sunday, the 6th of Rabī‘ I, 495/30 December 1101, leaving a number of pupils who are still alive."

I have it on the authority of the sage Rashīd al-Dīn Abū Sa‘īd ibn Ya‘qub the Christian that Abū al-Hasan Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh was in charge of treating the sick at the ‘Adudr Hospital. One day, when in the lunatic ward in order to inspect and treat the inmates, a woman approached him and asked his advice concerning the treatment of her son. When he replied: "You should urge him to take cooling and moistening foods," one of the inmates of the lunatic ward mocked him, saying: "You had better give that prescription to one of your pupils, who has had some experience of medicine and knows some of its rules. As to this woman, what does she know about cooling and moistening things? You should have recommended her something specific that she might readily use. " When the man went on to say: "But I do not blame you for that utterance, since you have done something even more astonishing," Sa‘īd asked him what he meant, and he said: "You wrote a short work entitled "The Self-Sufficient," on medicine. Later you wrote another easy book on medicine, much fatter than the first, and called it "The Satisfaction of Modest Needs." You should have made the opposite choice of titles." Sa‘īd, readily and publicly admitting this, exclaimed: "By Allāh, if I were in a position to exchange the titles, I would. But both books have already found wide circulation, and each of them has become known by the name I gave it." The author says: Abū al-Hasan Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh was still alive in the year 489/1096, for I have found a note written by him and bearing that date on a copy of his book "The Nizāmī Epitome," which Abū al-Barakat had studied under him. [p.481]

Sa‘īd ibn Hibat Allāh's works include:

1) "The Self-Sufficient," on medicine, written for al-Muqtadī bi-Amr Allāh.

2) A treatise on the properties of compound drugs referred to in "The Self-Sufficient."

3) "The Satisfactory Book," on medicine.

4) "The Nizāmī Epitome."

5) "The Constitution of the Human Body."

6) "On Jaundice."

7) A treatise on general and distinctive definitions.

8) A treatise on the definition and enumeration of vocal sounds.

9) Answers to medical questions addressed to him.


Ibn Jazlah, i. e., Yahyā ibn ‘Isā ibn Alī ibn Jazlah, lived in the reign of al-Muqtadī bi-Amr Allāh, to whom he dedicated many of his books. A pupil of Abū al-Hasan Sa`īd ibn Hibat Allāh, he was famous for his medical knowledge and skill.

In addition, Ibn Jazlah was interested in literature. He also wrote a particular type of script, which (by reason of its calligraphic excellence) was named after him. I have seen a number of books in his handwriting, both of his own composition and of others, bearing witness to his outstanding qualities and erudition. He was a Christian but later embraced Islam and wrote a missive to Elias the Priest in refutation of the Christians.

Ibn Jazlah's works include:

1) "Almanach of the Body," written for al-Muqtadī bi-Amr Allāh.

2) "The Proper Explanation of What a Man Should Make Use Of," also writen for al-Muqtadī bi-Amr Allāh.

3) "A Guide to Concise Expression and to the Laws of Medicine Applying to the Regimen of the Healthy and the Preservation of the Body" this is an epitome of the "Almanach of the Body."

4) An epistle in praise of medicine, demonstrating that it is in keeping with religious law and refuting those defaming it. [p.482]

5) A missive he wrote Elias the Priest, in 466/1073-4, after having embraced Islam.


Abū al Khattāb, i.e., Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū Talib, lived in Baghdād. He studied medicine under Abū al-Hasan Sa`īd ibn Hibat Allāh and distinguished himself in both theory and practice. On a copy of one of his works, which he used to teach from, I have seen a note in his own hand that was full of solecisms, which showed that he had a total disregard for the study of Arabic grammar. That note was dated the 9th of Ramadān, 500/May 1007.

Abū al-Khattāb wrote "The Comprehensive Book of Medicine," arranged in the form of questions and answers on both theoretical and practical topics. It comprises 63 chapters.


Ibn al-Wāsitī was court physician to al-Mustazhir bi-Allāh, in whose service he occupied a high rank.

When Abū Sa`īd ibn al-Mu`awwaj was appointed head of the Diwan, he acquired a domain worth three thousand dinars. He paid two thousand down and requested a year's delay for the remainder, until the proceeds came in. But when the amount fell due, the grain and fruit crops failed, and the property did not yield a revenue sufficient to pay the debt. His chamberlain and intimate friend, Muzaffar ibn al-Dawātī, advised him to see the physician Ibn al-Wāsitī at his house and ask him to intercede with the Caliph al-Mustazhir bi-Allāh for another year's delay. Abū Sa`īd closed his office and told his staff to go home. When they had gone, he set out for Ibn Wāsiti's house, accompanied by Muzaffar ibn al-Dawātī. Upon his arrival, he asked to be admitted, but ibn al-Wāsitī himself came out, kissed his hand and said: "Allāh, Allāh, O my lord! Who is Ibn al-Wāsitī that my lord betakes himself to his house? " When they had gone inside, he seated himself in fron of Abū Sa`īd, and the latter instructed Muzaffar to dismiss all the other people from the room and [p.483] to return alone. When the others were in the corridor, he told the chamberlain to lock the door and then requested him to inform the physician of the reason for their visit. The chamberlain said: "My master has come to tell you that he had to acquire a domain worth three thousand dinars, two thousand of which has been paid, while the rest is still outstanding. He asked the Caliph for a delay until harvest time, but he has reaped no profit from his property this year. The Diwān had to carry out the orders and pressed him hard so that he has pawned his private books for 500 dinars. He now requests you to ask the Caliph, with regard to the amount still due, for another year's reprieve, until harvest time." "At your orders," replied ibn al-Wāsitī. I shall do my best to serve you and shall say what is necessary." Thereupon Ibn al-Mu`awwaj departed. On the following day, when about to leave his office, he sent his staff home as usual and said to Muzaffar: "Let us call on Ibn al-Wāsitī. If he has already spoken to the Caliph, we shall hear the answer; if not, our visit will be by way of a reminder." So he went to Ibn al-Wāsitī's house and asked to be admitted. Al-Wāsitī came out to the door, kissed his hand as on the previous day and blessed him. When they had gone inside, and sat down, he handed Ibn al-Mu`awwaj a writ of the Caliph acknowledging receipt of 500 dinars and said: "Here are the books which my lord has pawned. Please accept them from his servant, who has redeemed them with his money." Ibn al-Mu`awwaj thanked him, took the books and went away. When he had crossed the corridor, Ibn al-Wāsitī called Muzaffar the Chamberlain and presented him with a cloth containing a long, fine outer garment and an undershirt of Antioch fabric, a raiment of Damiette fabric with a silken waistband and a purse containing fifty dinars, saying: "I wish my lord to do me the favor of wearing these clothes, so that I may see him in them. The fifty dinars are for paying for hot baths [?]. The chamberlain himself was presented with a large outer garment of `Atābī fabric and twenty [p.484] dinars, while his father [?] was given a garment of the same kind and five dinars and his groom two dinars. Ibn al-Wāsitī then said: "I beg my lord to honor his servant by accepting this." The chamberlain and his retinue returned to Ibn al-Mu`awwnj and told him what had happened Ibn al-Mu`awwaj accepted the present.


Abū Tahir ibn al-Barkhashī. Muwaffaq al-Dīn Abū Tāhir Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-`Abbās Ibn al-Barkhashī, was a native of Wāsit. He was an eminent medical scholar and an accomplished man of letters. What I have seen of his works, in his own handwriting, points to a serious mind and to broad scholarship.

I have it on the authority of Shams al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karīm al-Baghdādī that Ahmad ibn Badr al-Wāsitī related to him the following: Once, in Wasīt, the physician Abū Tāhir Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Bakhashī treated a patient afflicted with some kind of dropsy. The illness dragged on for a long time, and no treatment was of any avail. At last, the doctor neglecting all dietary rules, allowed his patient to partake of any food he pleased. Whereupon he freely ate whatever he came across. One day, a man selling locusts boiled in salt-water passed by him, and he, succumbing to a craving, bought some, and ate them, and in consequence suffered a severe attack of diarrhea. The physician, on seeing him in this condition, gave up in despair and stayed away from him. Some days later the diarrhea stopped, the patient's condition took a turn for the better and he gradually was restored to complete health. When the physician learnt of his recovery, he called on him and asked him what he had taken that had made him well. "I do not know," replied the man, "except that after eating boiled locusts, I began to get better." The physician pondered on this a long moment and then said: "It was not the locusts." He asked the patient about the locust-seller, and he replied: "I do not know where he is to be found, but I should recognize him if I saw him." So the doctor sought out all the [p.485] locust-sellers and presented them to the patient one by one, until the latter identified his man. The doctor then asked this one: "Do you remember where you caught the locusts that this man subsequently ate?" Receiving an affirmative reply, he continued: "Let us go there." So the two of them went to that place and there found a herb on which locusts were feeding. The doctor took some of this herb, later used it for treating dropsy and thereby cured quite a number of people. This story is well known in Wāsit.

The author says: This is a story which has been told before. The herb on which the locusts were feeding is the māzaryūn [a herb used also for cosmetics]. It is mentioned by Qādī al-Tanūkhī in his book "Relief after Affliction."

Abū Tāhir ibn al-Barkhashī was still living in Wāsit in the year 560/1164-5. He was a gifted man of letters, adept in both prose and poetry. [There follow several specimens of his poetry].


Ibn Safiyyah. Abū Ghalīb ibn Safiyyah was a Christian. One of the Iraqis reports that Abū al-Muzaffar Yūsuf al-Mustanjid bi-Allāh was a severe, circumspect and ruthless caliph. He had as his vizier Abū al-Muzaffar Yahyā ibn Hubayrah, superseded by Sharaf al-Dīn ibn al-Baladī, who continued in the same policy. There were a number of influential emirs in the realm, headed by Qutb al-Dīn Qāymāz, an Armenian, who had attained a powerful position and high rank. Having made himself virtual master of the country, he ruled at will and spared none of his opponents. He induced the highest state dignitaries to marry his daughters. There was strife between him and the Vizier.

One day, the Caliph was taken ill. His physician was Ibn Safiyyah Abū Ghālib the Christian. The Vizier Ibn al-Baladī had repeatedly warned the Caliph of the encroachments of Qutb al Dīn and the Emirs supporting him, and the physician, who knew some of the goings-on [p.486] at court and wished to curry favor with Qutb al-Dīn, had informed the latter accordingly. This state of affairs persisted for some time.

When the Caliph fell ill, he resolved to have Qutb al-Dīn and his group arrested. On learning this, Ibn Safiyyah went to Qutb al-Dīn and, after transmitting the news, said to him: "Since the Vizier has behaved in such a way, deal him a blow before he deals one to you." From then on, Qutb al-Dīn racked his brains for a means to elude the Vizier's intrigues.

The Caliph's illness became aggravated, and his mind was distracted from the plan hatched with the Vizier of having the emirs arrested. Qutb al-Dīn, on the other hand, became firmly resolved to kill the Caliph and after him the Vizier. His plan matured when he arranged with Ibn Safiyyah that the latter should prescribe a hot bath for the Caliph. When the physician appeared before the ruler and advised him to take a hot bath, the Caliph, feeling weak, declined. Whereupon Qutb al-Dīn, accompanied by some members of his group, entered and said: "O my lord, the doctor has advised you to take a hot bath." And when the Caliph replied: "We have decided to postpone it," they put him against his will into a bath which had been heated for three days and nights. They kept the door of the bathroom closed behind him until he eventually died. Feigning deep sorrow, they betook themselves to the Caliph's son, Abū Muhammad al-Hasan, made him Caliph in accordance with their whim and sword allegiance to him.

The new ruler assumed the cognomen al-Mustadi' bi-Amr Allāh. He always bore rancour to the emirs for what they had done. His vizier was `Adud al-Dīn Abū al-Faraj ibn Ra'īs al-Ru'asā'. Ibn Safiyyah the Physician held the same position at court as before. The Caliph assisted by the Vizier, exercised sole control of state affairs, to the exclusion of Qutb al-Dīn Qamāz, and ibn Safiyyah, transmitted to Qutb al-Dīn whatever news he could come by. As he was physician in orderly, he had free access to the palace. One night, the Caliph [p.487] summoned him and said: "O physician, there is someone around the sight of whom I hate and whom I want removed in a delicate, manner." "Let us administer a strong and effective draught to him," said the physician, which will rid you of him as you desire." He went away, prepared a potion as described and brought it to the Caliph at night. The Caliph opened the vessel, looked at the liquid and then said: "O physician, swallow this drink in order that we may try out its efficacy!" The physician balked, exclaiming: "Allāh, Allāh, my lord, have mercy upon me!" But the Caliph said: "A physician who oversteps his bounds is bound to be caught in his own trap. Nothing can save you from this except the sword." So the physician swallowed the drink which he had mixed himself, thus escaping from one kind of death to another. After leaving the caliphal palace, he wrote to the Emir Qutb al-Dīn, informing him of the position, adding — it will be your turn next. Then he died.

Qutb al-Dīn resolved to make an attempt on the Caliph's life, but Allāh, praise be to him, made his scheme recoil upon himself. His possessions were plundered; to save his life, he fled from Baghdād to Syria, to the King al-Nāsir Salāh al-Dīn who, however, did not grant him asylum. So he made his way back through the desert to Mosul. On the way he fell ill, and on reaching Mosul he died.

The author says: A contrary story was told to me, on the authority of an old man, by Shams al-Dīn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Karīm al-Baghdādī: The Sultan Muhammad ibn Mahmūd Khwarizmshāh besieged Baghdād in the year 5. . . . While encamped with his army on the outskirts of the city, he was taken ill, and so was the Caliph al-Muqtafī Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad, the son of al-Mustazhir, in Baghdād. The Sultan sent for the Chief Physician Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh, and the latter was dispatched to the camp. Thus he attended the Sultan outside Baghdād and the Caliph inside the city. Once, the Sultan's vizier said to him: "O Chief, I have just seen the Sultan and described to him your attainments, [p.488] refined manners and skill, whereupon he gave orders to pay you 10,000 dinars." "O my lord," replied the physician, "I have been offered 12,000 in Baghdād. Will the Sultan permit me to accept it? I am a medical man who never infringes his professional duties. I know nothing but barley juice, dilution [?] and violet and nenuphar. I am ignorant of everything else."

The vizier, of course, had suggested during their conversation that he murder the Caliph. But Allāh, praise be to him, ordained the recovery of both the Caliph and the Sultan, and they concluded peace, as the Caliph had suggested. This was due to the insight, piety and integrity of the Chief Amīn al-Dawlah, who would say: "It does not befit a physician to meddle with the affairs of kings, and as mentioned before — he should use nothing but barley juice, dilution [?] and sharāb; otherwise, he will come to ruin." And he would quote these lines:

By making wings grow on ants,
God speeds them toward perdition.
Every human being has his limits set,
And transgressing it means his ruin.

Amīn Al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh. Muwaffaq al-Mulk Amīn al-Dawlah Abū al-Hasan Hibat Allāh ibn Abī al-`Alā' Sā`id ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Tilmīdh was unequaled in his time in medical theory and practice. This is borne out by his well-known writings and his marginal notes to the writings of others, as well as by the testimony of a great number of people whom I have met and who knew him. He acted as Chief Physician at `Adudī Hospital in Baghdād until his death. In his early days he went to Persia, where he was employed at court for many years. He was an excellent calligrapher, whose type of script came to be called after him. I have seen many manuscripts written by him which were unsurpassed for beauty and exactness. He was perfect in Syriac and Persian and [p.489] possessed a thorough knowledge of Arabic. His poetry is elegant and full of well-conceived ideas, but most of it — what is available — consists of pieces of two of three lines; as to long odes, I have found only a few. He also concerned himself with epistle-writing, leaving numerous fine examples. I have seen a large volume of letters from him. Most of the members of his family were scribes. His father, Abū al-`Ala' Sā`id, was an eminent physician.

Both Amīn al-Dawlah and Awhad al-Zamān Abū al-Barakāt were in the service of al-Mustadī' bi-'Amr Allāh. Abū al-Barakāt was more learned than Ibn al-Tilmīdh in the philosophical sciences, on which he wrote excellent works. His book "Al-Mu`tabar" would alone suffice to establish his fame. Ibn al-Tilmīdh, on the other hand, had a better understanding of medicine, and it was on this that his fame was based.

The two were enemies, but Ibn al-Tilmīdh was the more intelligent and had the better character. The following incident will serve to illustrate this: Awhad al-Zamān once wrote a note accusing Ibn al-Tilmīdh of certain crimes which could hardly be attributed to such a man. Awhad al-Zamān procured a servant, for a consideration, to drop the note secretly in a place where the Caliph used to pass by, an indication of his base meanness. When the Caliph found the note, he at first attached great importance to it, and intended to punish Amīn al-Dawlah severely. But later he reconsidered the matter and his advisers suggested that he investigate closely from which of the courtiers the charges against Amīn al-Dawlah originated. As a result, it was found that Awhad al-Zamān had written the note in order to harm Ibn al-Tilmīdh. The Caliph, infuriated at this discovery, granted Ibn al-Tilmīdh the right to dispose freely of Awhad al-Zamān's life, property and books. But Amīn al-Dawlah was so kind and generous that he refused to harm him in any way. So Awhad al-Zamān was merely banished from the Caliph's presence and lost much of his prestige.  [p.490]

Here is a very original piece of poetry by Amīn al-Dawlah on Awhad al-Zamān:

I have a friend, a Jew, whose stupidity
Reveals itself out of his mouth.
He goes astray, worse than a dog.
As if he were still in the desert. 6

Another poet composed the following lines on Amīn al-Dawlah and Awhad al-Zamān:

Abū al-Hasan the Physician and his rival,
Abū al-Barakāt, are at opposite poles:
The former, through his modesty, as the zenith,
The latter, through his arrogance, at the nadir.

The following passage on Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh is quoted from an autograph of Shaikh Muwaffaq al-Dīn `Abd al-Latif ibn Yūsuf al-Baghadī, who says: "Amīn al-Dawlah was a sociable, noble-minded man, generous and virtuous. He was renowned for his medical successes and accurate prognoses. There was once brought to him on a stretcher a woman whose relatives did not know whether she was alive or dead. It was winter time. Amīn al-Dawlah ordered her to be undressed, and then poured over her, in one go, a large quantity of cooled water. Thereafter he ordered her to be transferred to a heated room, which had been fumigated with aloes and frankincense, and to be wrapped for a time in furs. As a result, she sneezed, moved, sat up and marched off home with her folk."

Muwaffaq al-Dīn also says: "Once a man enfeebled by loss of blood came to see him. He would sweat blood in summer. Amīn al-Dawlah asked his fifty pupils about that illness, but none of them knew it. He advised the patient to eat barley bread and roasted eggplant, and after he had done so for three days he recovered. [p.491]

Asked by his colleagues for an explanation, Amīn al-Dawlah said: "The patient's blood had become thin and his vessels wide, and those foods thicken the blood and narrow the vessels."

Muwaffaq al-Dīn further reports: "His goodness is illustrated by the following: The back of his house was near Nizāmiyyah College, and whenever a lawyer fell ill he took him to his house and tended him. When he was well again, he gave him two dinars and sent him home."

Muwaffaq al-Dīn also relates the following story, which is obviously exaggerated: "Amīn al-Dawlah accepted no remuneration save from a caliph or a sultan. Once a king in a distant country who was suffering from a chronic disease was told that no one could help him except Ibn al-Tilmīdh but that he would never go to anyone. 'Then I shall go to him,' said the King. Upon his arrival, Amīn al-Dawlah assigned special quarters to him and his servants and provided hirn with all his needs. The King stayed for a time, until he recovered, and then returned to his country. He sent Amīn al-Dawlah through some merchant, four thousand dinars, four couches covered with `Atābī fabric, four slaves and four female horses. But Amīn al-Dawlah refused to accept them, saying: 'I have sworn not to accept anything from anybody.' When the merchant replied: 'But these are very valuable gifts,' Amīn al-Dawlah said: 'Since I have taken an oath, I shall make no exception.' The merchant stayed for one month, during which he approached Amīn al-Dawlah several times, but the latter only became more emphatic in his refusal. At his departure the merchant said: 'I am leaving now, and since I am not going to return to my master I shall make use of the money, whereas you, since no one knows that you refused it, will be beholden to its donor without profiting by it.' To which Amīn al-Dawlah replied: 'Do I not myself know that I did not accept it? I shall feel honored by this, whether people know it or not.'

The following was related to me by the sage, Muhadhdhab al-Dīn `Abd al-Rahīm ibn Alī, who said that he had it on the authority of the [p.492] Shaikh Muwaffaq al-Dīn As`ad ibn Eliās ibn al-Mutrān, who had it from his father, who in turn had it from Ismā`īl ibn Rashīd,who had it from Abū al-Faraj ibn Tōmā and Abū al-Faraj al-Masīhī, who said: "Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh and we were once sitting together — we in front of him — when a woman, accompanied by a little boy, asked to be admitted. She was shown in and he, on seeing the boy, immediately said: 'Your son is suffering from painful urination, he voids sand.' She confirmed this, and he continued: 'Such and such a remedy should be used.' When the woman had left, we asked him what symptoms had caused him to diagnose that complaint and whether, where the liver or spleen was affected, the color was any indication. He replied: 'When the boy came in, I saw him playing with his penis and scratching it, and I also observed that his fingertips were rugged and dry. I understood that the scratching was due to sand and that, while he was playing with his penis, this stinging substance, which induces irritation, may have come into contact with his fingertips, which in consequence become dry and rugged. So I formed my judgment, which proved to be correct.'"

Here is a unique instance of Amīn al-Dawlah's wit and talent for innuendo: One day, when he was already old, he visited al-Mustadi' bi-'Amr Allāh. Trying to stand up, he had to support himself at the knees. Whereupon the Caliph said to him: "You have grown old, O Amīn al-Dawlah." "Yes, indeed, O Emir of the Faithful," replied Amīn al-Dawlah,"and my bottles [Qawārīr] are broken." The Caliph pondered on this statement, knowing that he would not have made it without meaning something specific. He made injuries and was told that the Imam al-Mustanjid bi-Allāh had presented Amīn al-Dawlah with a domain called Qawārīr, which has remained in his possession for some time— however, three years before the Vizier had laid his hands on it. The Caliph greatly marvelled at Amīn al-Dawlah's [p.493] generosity in neither reporting the matter to him nor taking any steps to recover his property. He gave orders that the domain be restored to Amīn al-Dawlah and that no encroachments be made on any part of his possessions.

Here is another story about him: The Caliph had appointed him Chief Physician of Baghdād, and when all the other physicians assembled before him in order that he might examine the medical qualification of each, there was among them an old man of stately appearance and dignified bearing. Amīn al-Dawlah treated him with deference. The man possessed certain therapeutical experience but merely a semblance of medical science. When his turn came, Amīn al-Dawlah asked him: "Why is it that the Shaikh did not participate in the examination with the others, so that I might ascertain his proficiency?" "O my lord," replied the old man, "there was nothing that came up for discussion that I did not know. Indeed I know much more." "With whom did you study medicine?" went on Amīn al-Dawlah. "O my lord," retorted the Shaikh," when a man has reached my age, it is fitting to ask him nothing but how many pupils he has had and who was the most distinguished of them. As to those under whom I studied, they died long ago." "O Shaikh," said Amīn al-Dawlah," this examination is a well-established custom, and answering the questions will do you no harm. Nevertheless, I am not going to insist unduly. Tell me now, what books on medicine have you read?" It was Amīn al-Dawlah's intention to verify his medical background. "By Allāh!" — exclaimed the Shaikh — "I am being questioned like a boy, having to state what I have read. O my lord, a man such as myself should be asked what he has written on medicine, how many books and treatises he has composed. Yet, I have no choice but to inform you about my person." He rose, walked up to Amīn al-Dawlah, sat down at his side and said to him, confidently: "O my lord, I have grown old in this art [p.494] without having any knowledge of it but common therapeutical practices. All my life I have made a living out of it, and I have a family to support. I therefore entreat you to back me up and not to disgrace me in front of these people." "I will, replied Amīn al-Dawlah," on condition that you dare not treat a patient with something you are not familiar with and that you never prescribe bloodletting or a purgative except in cases of commonly occurring diseases." "This is exactly my practice. All my life I have never prescribed anything but oxymel and julep." Whereupon Amīn al-Dawlah said to him in a loud voice, so that those present could hear it: "Excuse me, O Shaikh, for I did not know you. Now that I do, you may go on practicing your occupation and no one will interfere with you." Thereafter he turned to the others to continue the examination, and addressed one of them with the preliminary question: "With whom did you study medicine?" "O my lord," said the man, "I am a pupil of the shaikh whom you have just come to know; it was under him that I studied the art." Amīn al-Dawlah, realizing what the man intended to convey, smiled and began to examine him.

Amīn al-Dawlah had a number of friends and acquaintances, who frequently called on him. One day, three of them appeared: an astrologer, a geometer and a man of letters. When they asked for Amīn al-Dawlah, the latter's servant, Qunbur, informed them that his master was not at home and would not return for some time. They went away, but came back later and when they asked for Amīn al-Dawlah, the servant repeated what he had said before. These three men had a taste for poetry, and so the astrologer wrote on the wall near the entrance:

At the house of the luckiest of men we were afflicted with the servant — a deceiver

After him the geometer wrote:

By the short it becomes long; and the long one shortens it. [p.495]

Finally, the man of letters, who was an impudent person, wrote as follows:

What would you say about the lark [Qunbur]?
They rolled down its head.

Whereupon they left. When Amīn al-Dawlah returned, Qunbar told him: "O my lord, three men asked to see you, and not finding you they wrote something on the wall." When Amīn al-Dawlah had read it, he said to those with him: "The first line seems to be by the astrologer so-and-so, the second by the geometer so-and-so and the third by my friend so-and-so, for each line points to something its author is particularly interested in. It was exactly as Amīn al-Dawlah had surmised.

Amīn al-Dawlah's house in Baghdād was in the Perfume Market, next to the gate near the exit gate of the caliphal palace, on the road going down to the Tigris.

Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh said: One day, when I had been pondering the rites, I heard in a dream a voice which said to me:

I am floating on your sea, and I do not see
In it a death [?] for what I am looking for.
I see nothing in it but a wave
Which drives me on and to another one.

The following account is from Sa`d al-Dīn Abū Sa`īd ibn Abū al-Dahl al-Baghdādī al-`Awwad a lutist, who was then a very old man. He said: "I have seen and met Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh. He was an old man of medium size, with an ample beard; his disposition was sweet and and his wit keen. He loved music and musicians. The late Sadid al-Dīn Mahmūd ibn `Amr, may God bless him, had told me in the name of the Imām Fakhr al-Dīn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Salām al-Māridīnī, who was a close friend of Amīn al-Dawlah and stayed with him for a while, that the latter was a distinguished scholar of Arabic and had a popular council, [p.496] where he taught medicine to many. Two grammarians used to attend always, receiving from him great consideration and many favors. Whenever he found one of his students mistaken in reading, or speaking incorrectly, he would make him listen to one of those grammarians read and then order him to repeat the particular passage.

Amīn al-Dawlāh had a son who had no head for medicine and was far from coming up to his father in other fields as well. Amīn al-Dawlah wrote the following poem about him:

I complain to God about a harsh fellow:
Whom my soul yearns to help, but he treats her wrong.
We are like the Sun and the Moon together,
The Sun gives him its light, and he eclipses it.

Amīn al-Dawlah further reprehended his son in the following verse:

Time is the most precious thing you can keep,
But I see you squander it so easily.

The Shaikh and Imam Radī al-Dīn, the physician from Rahbah, may God bless him, told me that he had met the son of Amīn al-Dawlah in Baghdād. They conversed, and inter alia he said that there was in the sky, in the southern direction, a tunnel, whence came the vapors and the winds. He uttered many other such things, which proved that he had not an iota of true knowledge nor a sound mind.

The Shaikh and physician al-Sanī al-Ba`lbakkī named three Christian physicians who once left Damascus to go to Baghdād. After having settled there, they heard of Amīn al-Dawlah's son and said to each other: "His father's reputation is so great that it is to our benefit to go and greet him, serve him and so get acquainted with him before returning to Syria." They went to his house, entered and greeted him, declaring themselves to be Christians and their aim the honor of visiting him. [p.497] He welcomed them and bade them be seated. Afterward they told al-Sanī that right away they had detected his stupidity and feeble mind, for among the things he had said to them was the following. He had heard that Syria was a nice country and Damascus a fine city, so he had decided to see them, and indeed was working on a project connected with science and geometry which might render his journey completely effortless. To their question as to why this should be so, he answered: "Do you not know that Syria is lower than the district of Baghdad and lies at its feet? This fact is mentioned in the science of astronomy in connection with the relative height of places." They said: "Yes, master," and he continued: "I am going to use wooden carts, with big camels, above which will be nailed straight planks on which I shall put all my necessities. When I release the carts, the camels will race down the slope until we reach Damascus in the easiest possible way," They were astonished at his foolishness and ignorance, but he added: "By Allāh, do not go before being my guests and eating at my table!" He called for a servant who brought in a splendid table on which he spread a precious white cloth of unsurpassed beauty like the Baghdadi nasafī. Then a vessel was brought with vinegar and choice endives which he put around it, saying: "In the name of God, eat!" They ate just a little for it was contrary to their habit. He then raised his hands and said: "O slave, bring the basin!" and a silver basin was brought, with a large piece of soap from Raqqāh. He poured water on the soap, washing his hands and making a lather, then spread it over his mouth, face and beard, so that only his eyes showed, while his entire face was white with the soap. He looked at the three guests, and one of them could not control his laughter, to the point that he had to leave the room. He asked what was the matter with him, so the other two said that he was a boor and that was his habit, to which he replied: "Had he stayed with me, we would have cured him of it." They were astonished, took their leave of him, and went away, praying to God to cure him of his ignorance.  [p.498]

One of the people of Irāq told that once a son of one of Amīn al-Dawlah's friends had died. This son had been a man of culture and learning, but Amīn al-Dawlah did not go to console the father. After ward, when they met, the man reproved Amīn al-Dawlah for not having offered his condolences upon his son's death, after all the friendship that had been between them. To which Amīn al-Dawlah replied: "Do not hold it against me — by Allāh, I am more worthy of consolation than you, when a son like yours passes away and one like mine stays alive."

I have found the following included in one of Amīn al-Dawlah's letters to his son, whose name was Radī al Dawlah Abū Nasr: "Turn your mind away from those trifles to achieve something worthy by which you might distinguish yourself. Abandon your evil ways, and follow those to which I have directed you repeatedly. Take advantage of good luck, be aware of its value, and keep thanking Allāh the Most High for it. Master a precious part of a science which you are sure you have understood thoroughly, not merely read and recited, and then all your other achievements will follow; this way you will stay its master, for if you try to reach it any other way, you will either attain nothing at all, or you will not be able to rely upon anything after you have found it, or be sure of its staying with you. I beseech Allāh that you may be satisfied only with something worthy of your kind to aspire to, because of lofty ambition, strong character and disinterestedness. Among my repeated pieces of advice to you, I say that it is not so important that you avoid saying anything that is not polite in its meaning and expression and would be perplexing for others to hear; rather, you must devote most of your attention and thought to listening to things that might profit you, not divert you and entertain silly and ignorant people, may Allāh keep you from their company. For the matter is as Plato put it: 'Virtues are bitter to attain and sweet to show; vices are sweet to attain but bitter to get rid of'; Aristotle added: [p.499] Vices are not sweet to attain with a person of lofty mind, for the picture of their ugliness hurts him and spoils the pleasure others get from them. In the same way, a person of lofty character can judge for himself what he should follow or abstain from; and for a person with a sound mind, his common sense is sufficient for him to discern good from bad.' You therefore must not be satisfied, God forbid, merely with what you know is proper for people of your rank, for most lustful thoughts originate with pious people's resolutions. You must aspire to a state in which you will be able to obey your own judgment; if you attain this, you will have peace of mind and will see your soul rise day by day to a higher rung in the ladder of happiness."

Amīn al-Dawlah's death occurred in Baghdād on the 28th of Rabī` I 560/12 February 1165 when he was ninety-four years old. He died as a Christian and left great wealth, and property and books which had no equal in quality. His son inherited all this. But later he was strangled in the antechamber of his house in the first watch of the night and his money was stolen. The books were carried off on the backs of twelve camels to the house of al-Majd ibn al-Sāhib.

Amīn al-Dawlah's son converted to Islam before his death. It was said that he died an old man of over eighty.

I have found the following poem in a letter written by the Noble Chief al-Kāmil ibn al-Sharīf al-Jalīl to Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh, praising him. [The poem follows. ]

Al-Sharif Abū Ya`lā Muhammad ibn al-Hibāriyyah al `Abbāsī said in a poem praising the honorable Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh: [. . . ]

Abū Ismā`īl al-Tughrā'ī wrote to Amīn al-Dawlah:

O, my master and one whose friendship is to me
Like the soul which gives life to the body;
I ask your help for a backache, but can a back
Which supports itself on you give pain? [p.500]

Muhammad ibn Jakīnā was afflicted with an illness on an occasion when he was visited by Amīn al-Dawlah. Later he composed some verses, warmly praising the physician. One Baghdādī poet went once to Amīn al-Dawlah to ask his advice about his condition. The physician prescribed what was appropriate for his particular illness: and then gave him a bag of dinars, saying: "This is good as an almond plate." The man took it and recovered. After a long time he wrote to him: "I came to complain about my illness, in need of help and relief, saying — "if he can purify and cure me, this is a physician of honey."

Sadīd al-Dīn ibn Raqīqah told me. some of Amīn al-Dawlah's sayings which he got from Fakhr al-Dīn al-Māridīnī, who related that Amīn al-Dawlah used to say: "Be prepared to have a thorough knowledge of a wide range of maladies, for from that your glory will derive." He also used to say: "Whenever you find a thorn in someone's flesh with half of it showing, do not promise to pull it out, for probably it had been broken." And: "The wise man must choose his clothes so that the simple folk will not envy him and the higher strata will not scorn him."

From his poetry the following was declaimed to me by Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Abū Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Khadar from al-Halabī, who heard it from his father, who in turn got it from Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh himself: . . . , cited from the same source and through the same chain of transmission are poems about love; the Vizier al-Darkazīnī; Shaikh al-Jalil al-Arāhī; a riddle about fish; poems on the soul and its link with knowledge, truth, and happiness; on humiliation, nobility, virtues and vices; several short verses on various subjects; a few more brief poems, then riddles about clouds, scales; riddles about black-headed and white-bodied sheep, about the needle, the shadow; poems concerning the straw mat the perfume-censer, the drinking basin, and others; some satires; an elegy; another elegy devoted to the Emir Sayf al-Dawlah, Sadaqah ibn Mansūr ibn Dābīs al-Asadī, after he had been killed . . . , a poem [p.501] of greetings for an honorary robe; a poem written to Amīn al-Dawlah by the chief Abū al-Qāsim Alī ibn al-Aflah the scribe whom he had cured from an illness, and the physician's reply; an inscription to "The Book of Lectures to Those in Need," which he presented to the Vizier Ibn Sadaqah; an answer to Abū al-Qāsim ibn al-Fadl, who had admonished Amīn al-Dawlah, to which the latter replied by presenting him with an honorary all-black gown, saying: "I like your wearing black and lecturing while dragging the hem of your gown, but I do not like your counting my vices"; a poem being part of a letter which he wrote to the Vizier Sa`d al-Malik Nasīr al-Dīn; a poem included in a letter answering one received from Jamal al-Ru'asā' Abū al-Fath Hibat Allāh ibn al-Fadl ibn Sā`id; a poem included in a letter to him from Jamal al-Malik Abū al-Qāsim Alī ibn Aflah, and Amīn al-Dawlah's reply in verse; a poem included in a letter to al `Azīz Abū Nasr ibn Muhammad ibn Hāmid Mustawfī al-Mamālik; a letter in verse to Ibn al-Aflah; a poem being an extract from his letter to Muwaffaq al-Dīn Abū Tāhir al-Husayn ibn Muhammad, when he passed through Sāwā [?] passed and entered a library built by the latter.

Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh wrote the following books:

1) A pharmacopoeia in twenty chapters, which is his best known and most used book.

2) A summary of the Pharmacopoeia, called the "hospitalic," in thirteen chapters.

3) The Aminiyya treatise about drugs used in hospitals.

4) A selection of al-Rāzī's "al-Hawī."

5) A selection of Miskawayhi's book on liquid medicines.

6) A summary of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' Book of Members."

7) A summary of Galen's commentary on Hippocrates' "introduction to Knowledge."

8) Supplements to the collection made by the Alexandrians from Galen's "The Road to Health."

9) A commentary on Hunayn ibn Ishaq's "Problems,' in the form of notes.  [p.502]

10) A commentary on prophetical traditions connected with medicine.

11) A pandect.

12) Marginal notes to Ibn Sīnā's "Qānūn."

13) Marginal notes to al-Masīhi's "Book of the Hundred."

14) Notes to "The Book of Behavior," dedicated to `Alī ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Athardī al-Baghdādī.

15) A treatise on phlebotomy.

16) "The Book of Opinions and Correspondence."

17) Notes extracted from al-Masīhī's "Book of the Hundred."

18) A selection from Galen's "Permutation of Drugs."


Abū al-Faraj Yahyā ibn al-Tilmīdh. The illustrious physician Mu`tamad al-Malik Abū al-Faraj Yahyā ibn Sā`id ibn Yahyā ibn al-Tilmīdh was devoted to the philosophical sciences, had a profound knowledge of medicine and achieved the highest rank in the literary field. In fact, Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmādh had a whole group of relatives who were all distinguished men of letters and virtue. I have found the handwriting of Mu`tamad al-Malik Yahyā ibn al-Tilmīdh to prove his virtue, dignity and nobility. He was one of the celebrated medical masters and had many disciples. The honorable Abū al-`Alā Muhammad ibn al-Hibāriyyah al-Abbāsī wrote a poem in praise of the physician Abū al-Faraj. He had visited Abū al-Faraj in Isfahan, where he gained great wealth from the princes and notables . . . . I have copied the following example of Abū al-Faraj's poetry from the book "The Decoration of the Generation" by Alī ibn Yūsuf ibn Abū al-Ma'ālī Sa`d ibn `Alī al-Huzayrī, who found it written in Abū al-Faraj's own hand, being a riddle about the needle . . . Thus Alī ibn Yūsuf found another poem written in the hand of Abū āl-Faraj about a new house, built by Sayf al-Dawlah Sadaqah, which was destroyed by fire the day it was finished . . . . He also [p.503] wrote a riddle about the bow . . . . . . . .

[Three more short poems follow, then one satire about a poor singer.]


Awhad al-Zamān Abū al-Barakāt Hibat Allāh ibn Alī ibn Malkā al-Baladī was born in a small town and moved to Baghdād. He was a Jew, but later converted to Islam. He served al-Mustanjid bi-Allāh and distinguished himself. He was wholly devoted to the sciences and had a profound knowledge of them, but the pillar on which all his learning was based was medicine. Abū al-Hasan Sa`īd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn al-Husayn was a distinguished teacher of medicine and had many pupils, who used to take turns every day in studying under his direction. However, he never taught any Jews. Now Abū al-Barakāt desired to meet him and study with him; he used all possible means in order to approach him, but all to no avail. He used to serve the master's porter and sit in the Shaikh's antechamber in order to hear the lessons and the ensuing discussions. Everything he heard he endeavored to understand and retain. After a period of about a year, a problem arose there in the Shaikh's presence. The class discussed it and, not finding any solution, kept searching for one. When Abū al-Barakāt realized this, he entered and humbled himself in front of the Shaikh, saying: O my master, with your permission I shall speak on this problem." The Shaikh replied: "Speak, if you have anything to say." He answered the question with Galen's words, adding: "O my master, this question arose on such and such a day, of such a month, in such a year, and has stayed in my mind ever since." The Shaikh was astonished by his intelligence and memory, and asked where he was studying. Abū al-Barakāt told him, and he said: "We cannot refuse knowledge to one in his situation." From then on he became more and more closely attached to him until he became one of his preferred students.

Among the anecdotes told about Awhad al-Zamān there is this one about his method of treatment. A man in Baghdād was once afflicted [p.504] with the malady of melancholia, in consequence of which he had the notion that there was a jar on his head perpetually. Whenever he walked he used to avoid places with low ceilings, move gently and not let anyone get close to him, lest the jar incline or fall off his head. He remained in this grave situation for a while,  and all the physicians who treated him failed to produce any beneficial effect. In the end he came to Awhad al-Zamān, who decided that there was no other way left by which the man could be cured except by the power of the imagination. He told his household to fetch the man when he would be at home. He then ordered one of his servants thus: when the sick man came in and started talking to him, he would make a predetermined sign to that servant and the latter would quickly take a swipe with a big plank above the man's head, at a distance from him, as if breaking the jar he pretended to have on his head. The physician ordered another servant to place a jar on top of the roof, and when he saw the first servant hitting above the patient's head, he would quickly throw his jar down. When Awhad al-Zamān was home, the man came in. The physician started to chat with him, dismissing his story of the jar. He then motioned discreetly to his servant without the patient's being aware of it. The servant came and said, "By Allāh, I have no other way but to break this jar in order to relieve you of it." The servant swung the plank and struck at the air about an arm's length above his head. At that moment the other servant cast down the jar from the roof. It made a tremendous crash and broke into fragments. When the sick man realized what had been done to him and saw the broken jar, he cried out in grief, being sure that this was his jar. This hallucination had such an effect on him that he recovered from his illness. This is an important part of treatment, as had been discovered by several ancient physicians such as Galen and others, who had also cured patients using the power of the imagination. I have discussed it at length in other books. [p.505]

The Shaikh Muhadhdhab al-Dīn al-Rahīm ibn Alī told me the following story which he received via  the following chain of transmission: Muwaffaq al-Dīn As`ad ibn Ilyas ibn al-Mutrān; al-Awhad ibn al-Taqī his father; `Abd al-Wadūd the physician; Abū al-Fadl, the disciple of Abū al-Barakāt known as Awhad al-Zamān, who said: "We were serving Awhad al-Zamān in the Sultan's camp when one day a person came up to him with whitlow, only the swelling was small and pus oozed from it. When Awhad al-Zamān saw this man, he hurriedly took the phalanx of his finger and amputated it. We said: O master, that was an extreme measure; you could have adopted the same treatment as others in such a case, and leave his finger on. Thus we reproved him, but he did not utter a word. That day passed, and on the morrow another man came up with the very same complaint. He nodded to us to treat him, saying: 'Do what you think is right in his case.' So we treated him the way whitlow is usually treated, but the affected area spread, the nail was lost, and in the end the first phalanx was destroyed. There was no drug that we neglected to administer to him, no treatment, no ointment and no laxative, but still the whitlow grew and covered the finger most rapidly, until we had to amputate it, then we understood that 'above all knowledge there is the Omniscient.' This malady spread that year, and a group of physicians neglected to amputate, with the result that some patients lost their hands, some even their lives."

I have copied from the manuscript of Shaikh Muwaffaq al-Dīn `Abd al-Latīf al-Baghdādī among the things he brought in the name of the astronomer Ibn al-Dahhān, who said: "Shaikh Abū al-Barakāt became blind when he was old, and used to dictate his book, "The Considered Opinion" to Jamal al-Dīn ibn Fadlan, Ibn al-Dahhān the astronomer, Yūsuf the father of Shaikh Muwaffaq al-Dīn `Abd al-Latīf and al-Muhadhdhab ibn al-Naqqāsh."

It was said that the reason for Awhad al-Zamān's conversion to Islam was that one day he visited the Caliph, and all who were present [p.506] there stood up for him except the Chief Justice, who did not think he should rise with the others, for the guest was a tributary. Said the physician: "O Emir of the Faithful, if the reason for the Chief Justice's behavior is the fact that I am not of the same faith as he is, let me convert to Islam in front of my master, in order not to give him the chance of underestimating me for it." And he became a Muslim.

Shaikh Sa`d al-Dīn Abū Sa`īd ibn Abū al-Sahl al-`Awwād al-Baghdādī, who was originally Jewish, told me that he used to live in the Jewish quarter of Baghdād, close to Awhad al-Zamān's house. He did not know him well, but when the was young he used to frequent his home. He reports that Awhad al-Zamān had three daughters, but no male heir, and lived around eighty years.

The judge Najm al-Dīn `Umar ibn Muhammad, known as Ibn al-Kuraydī, told me that there was enmity between Awhad al-Zamān and Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh. After his conversion to Islam, Awhad al-Zamān used to shun the Jews and curse and slander them vehemently. One day, the matter of the Jews was mentioned in the council of one of the high notables which was attended by a group including Amīn al-Dawlah. Awhad al-Zamān said: " May God curse the Jews!" and Amīn al-Dawlah retorted: "Yes indeed, and their sons too! " Hearing this, Awhad al-Zamān fell silent, knowing that this remark was directed at him.

Badr al-Dīn Abū al-`Izz Yūsuf ibn Makkī reported to me in the name of Muhadhdhab al-Dīn ibn Hubal the following example of Awhad al-Zamān's sayings: "The desires are the renumeration used by the souls which inhabit this natural world in order to forget the suffering they endure and the weary burden they carry; thus to give in to them in this respect is to sin while to ignore them is to be wise."

Awhad al-Zamān wrote the following books:

1) "The Considered Opinion," which is his best and most famous book on philosophy. [p.507]

2) "Treatise on the Reason for the Stars' Appearance at Night and Their Hiding during the Day," dedicated to the Sultan al-Mu`azzam Ghiyāth Dīn Abū Shajā` Muhammad ibn Malik Shah.

3) "Summary of Anatomy," which he concisely abridged from Galen's works.

4) "Pharmacopoeia," consisting of three treatises.

5) A treatise on the drug which he compounded and named Bursha`thā, in which he summarizes its features and explains its use.

6) A treatise on another unguent which he made up and called "life insurance."

7) An epistle on the mind and its nature.


Al-Badr` al-Asturlābī [the miracle of the astrolabe]. The miracle of his generation, Abū al-Qāsim Hibat Allāh ibn al-Husayn ibn Ahmad al-Baghdādī, was a distinguished scholar and a noble man of letters, a learned physician and prolific philosopher. His main fields were philosophy, theology and mathematics and he was well-versed in astronomy and astrology. He was a friend of Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh; it was said that they met in Isfahān in 510/1116. Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Khadar al-Halabī from Aleppo told me that he was unique among his generation in his knowledge of the astrolabe, its use and fabrication. Thus is derived the name by which he is known.

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah continues: The father of this Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Abū Nasr was from Tabaristan, and was known as al-Burhān the astronomer. He, for his part, was the miracle of his generation in astronomy, and many wonderful stories are told about him, some of which I have mentioned in the book "The Successful Astronomers." He met al-Badī` al—Asturlābī and accompanied him for a while.

Al-Badī` al-Asturlābī composed beautiful, meaningful poetry. The following is an example of it, which I received from Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Abū Nasr, [p.508] who got it from his father, who in turn heard it from the man himself: . . . .

[A few short poems are cited through the same chain of transmission then one being an answer to a poem written to him by al-Qaysarānī, of which the source can remember only a part; a few love poems to young men and women, and a satire.]

He said satirically about a cupper:

Woe to the cupper whose knife is pointed, as if he were going to war;
He cups to no end, achieving nothing but blood pouring from a wound;
Were he to pass in the street, the one in the neighboring house would die.
Take him when enemies surround you, for he alone would spare you distress.

[A poem about snow in Irāq; one about the empty drinking basin.; Badī` al-Astu'lābī wrote the following books:

1) A summary of the Diwān of Abū `Abd Allāh al-Husayn ibn al-Hajjāj.

2) An astronomical table which he called "al-Mu`arrab al-Mahmud"; dedicated to the Sultan Mahmud Abū al-Qāsim ibn Muhammad.


Abū al-Qāsim Hibat Allāh ibn al-Fadl was born and bred in Baghdād. He devoted himself to medicine and was considered one of the best physicians. He was also an oculist, but poetry got the better of him. He was a witty man with a sharp tongue and wrote a diwan of poetry. There was hatred and mutual recrimination between him and the Emir Abū al-Fawāris, Sa`d ibn Muhammad ibn al-Sayfī the poet, known as Haysa Baysa. They used to make peace at times, but then return to their former relationship. Haysa Baysa was nicknamed thus because once the army in Baghdād decided to join the Seljukide Sultan, during [p.509] the days of al-Muqtafī bi-Amri Allāh; this threw the people into great turmoil, and he exclaimed: 'Do I ever see the people in a state of Haysa Baysa ? The one who stuck this name to him was our Abū al-Qāsin Hibat Allāh ibn al-Fadl. In his conversation and correspondence al-Haysa Baysa always used affected eloquence and strange expressions.

In this connection I was told by one of the people of Irāq that al-Haysa Baysa was once recovering from an illness in which he was treated by Abū al-Qāsim. The physician prescribed that he eat pheasants, so his servant went and bought one. On his way back he passed the gate of an emir's house where young Turkish slaves were playing. One of them snatched the pheasant from the servant and ran away. The servant came and told his story. Said al-Haysa Baysa: "Bring me paper and ink." These were brought, and he wrote: "Although he stole a broken miserable pheasant, which was stopped by hunger in the middle of its flight in the air and was circling on the ground, when the camel's feet are worn out — it is necessary to hurry and help it. Why, this matter is touching your honor! Goodbye! " He then said to his servant: "Take it and have a good trip, bringing it to the Emir." He went and gave it to his steward. The Emir called his scribe and gave him the note. The scribe read it and considered the way he could transmit its meaning. Said the Emir: "What is it" and the scribe replied: "The content of it is that one of your slaves took a pheasant from his servant." The Emir ordered him to go and buy a cage full of pheasants and send it to him: — which was done.

Our master the physician Muhadhdhab al-Dīn `Abd al-Rahīm ibn `Alī, may God bless him, told me that once in Baghdad the poet al-Haysa Baysa wrote a note to Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh as follows, asking him for an eye-medicine: "I hereby inform you, O devout physician, learned doctor, precious and experienced, by whom the world is sustained and the wild beasts driven out, that I am suffering, [p.510] feeling in the pupil of my eye a tear which is not like the sting of the scorpion, neither like the prick of a needle, nor like the bite of a snake, but rather like a burning coal; so I am going from dusk to dawn without distinguishing between day and night, without knowing the difference between a cold and a rainy day; nay, sometimes I tremble painfully, at other times I become eaten up with worry, now I shrink and now I stretch, sighing repeatedly, my soul intending to raise my voice in a neigh, calling out my disturbance and tumult, each day of the week — Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — I cannot walk astray nor cower, neither can I get angry nor follow, so hurry and send me the eye-medicine that will benefit my illness and quench my thirst." When Amīn al-Dawlah read this note, he jumped up immediately, took a handful of eye-medicine and told one of his friends: "Bring it to him without delay to save us from another of his notes!"

Al-Haysa Baysa sent al-Muqtafī bi-Amri Allāh seven remarks, [in rhymed prose], asking him for a male-partridge . . . .

Abū al-Qāsim ibn al-Fadl died in the year 558/1163.

Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Abū Nasr declaimed to me the following example of Abū al-Qāsim's poetry, which he got from Badī` al-Dīn Abū al-Fath Mansūr ibn Abū al-Qāsim ibn `Abd Allāh ibn `Abd al-Dā'im al-Wāsitī known as Ibn Sawād al-`Ayn, who heard it from Abū al-Qāsim Hibat Allāh himself [at the end of which he says]:

Al-Haysa Baysa is brandishing his spear
While I am shining as the camp physician;
That one does not fear killing and maiming;
While I am hoping to administer health;
I draw blood with my lancet, while his sword in its sheath
Cannot hurt even the nail of the little finger;
His companions in battle are good health
And the swiftness of my treatment.  [p.511]

The same source recited to me, in the name of al-Badi` Abū al-Fath al-Wāsitī; a poem by our physician, praising Sadīd al-Dawlah Abn `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Anbārī, the scribe of the seal-in Baghdād.

[Two short poems with a play on words, cited by the same source; then by the same chain of transmission, a poem about al-Haysa Baysa, who beheaded with his sword a stray bitch which had barked at him; this is followed by short satires about al-Badr` al-Asturlābī and Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh; a poem praising the drug known as Bursha`thā, when it was composed by Awhad al-Zamān.]

"You composed the Bursha`thā when I was suffering;
Since then I have never suffered any disorder;
If the dead had not been resurrected after the coming of Jesus,
You would have revived then with Bursha`thā!"

[A few more short poems on various subjects.]

Abū al-Qāsim Iīibat Allāh wrote the following books:

1) "Medical Notes."

2) "Questions and Answers in Medicine."

3) "An Anthology of Poetry."


Al-`Antarī. Abū al-Mu'ayyid Muhammad ibn al-Majalī ibn al-Sā'igh al-Jazarī was a famous physician and celebrated scholar. He was a good practitioner with a fine treatment, benevolent, a distinguished philosopher and man of letters. He wrote a great deal of poetry on wisdom and other subjects. The physician Sadīd al-Dīn Mahmud ibn `Umar, may God bless him told me that al-`Antarī started by writing down the Hadith traditions about `Antar al-`Absī, and thus became known by this nickname.

Among his sayings about wisdom are the following:

"O my son, study the sciences, even if you achieve thereby merely what can save you from enslaving yourself to anything, good or bad." [p.512]

"O my son, rational philosophy shows you that people are led by the misfortune of ignorance either to sin or to righteousness."

"The ignorant man is a slave, who can break his bonds only through knowledge."

"Wisdom is the lamp of the soul; when it is lacking, the soul becomes blind and is not able to see the truth."

"The ignorant man is like a drunkard, who can rise only with the help of knowledge."

Philosophy is nourishment and beauty for the soul, while money is the same for the body, when a man has both of them, his obstacles are cleared away, his perfection is complete, and his mind is at peace."

"Wisdom is the remedy for eternal death."

"A man without knowledge is like a body without a soul."

"Wisdom is the nobility of those who have no ancient genealogy.'

"Culture is better to have than noble lineage, worthier than personal merit, safer than money and more conducive to fame than generosity.

"He who desires his name to be celebrated shall double his effort in his studies."

"A poor scholar is nobler than a wealthy ignoramus."

"Lack of knowledge is the greatest barrenness."

"The ignorant man seeks riches, while the scholar seeks perfection."

"Sorrow is the heart's night, while joy is its day; drinking poison is easier than following the desires."

The following are samples of the poetry of Abū al-Mu'ayyid Muhammad, known as al-Antari, which I received from the physician Sadīd al-Dīn ibn Raqīqah who heard them from al-`Antarī's son, Mu'ayyid al-Dīn:

O my son, remember my vow and fulfill it,
For the whole of medicine is embraced in my words:
Above all, when treating a patient,
Preserve his strength for the coming days;
By similitude you can sustain existing health
And by contrast cure all illnesses; [p.513]
Spare your sexual intercourse as much as you can.
For the essence of life flows into the womb;
Arrange your meal to be once a day;
And beware of eating again before having digested;
Do not neglect a slight illness;
For it is like fire, which can kindle a flame;
If any outward change occurs in you,
Endeavor to return to the old pattern;
Do not neglect vomiting, but avoid anything chemical,
Which is the reason for nausea;
Temperature is nature's aid, a helper
To cure all illness and pain;
Do not drink right after eating
Nor eat after prolonged drinking;
Vomiting and waking up are both remedies
Which are good in themselves and not with any other means;
Take drugs whenever your nature is troubled
By nightmares or simply many dreams;
When your nature is pure inside,
The cure for the skin is the hot bath;
Beware of sticking to one food only,
For thus you lead your nature by the reins to sickness;
On the contrary, keep on mixing, for if you do not,
Your nature will dose its virtue accordingly;
Medicine is yours when you have mastered
The solution and constitution of the body's nature;
The art of managing the humors is worthy,
And can cure the sick, together with the imagination. [p.514]

This poem is also ascribed to the Grand Master Ibn Sīnā and to al-Mukhtār ibn al-Hasan ibn Butlān, but the truth is that it was written by Muhammad ibn al-Majalī, for I have cited it in the name of Sadīd al-Dīn, who heard it from Mu'ayyid al-Dīn, who got it from his father. I have also found that al-`Antarī mentioned this poem in his book "The Gathered Light. . . " saying it was his.

[A long selection of philosophical and other poems follows.] Al-`Antari said: "When I was in al-Rahbah, Bishr ibn `Abd Allāh the scribe sent me a tray of apples, of which I had never seen the like in odor or taste. Previously he had asked me for an allegory about apples, and I had asked him to send me some for inspiration. He fulfilled my request, and I wrote him the following. . . .

[Poems about the drink Naranj; about a sour pomegranate; about young men swimming in the Tigris; about a young man in the hot bath; a poem written to a friend and various other people; a poem sent with a servant to the vizier of al-Jazfrah, who called for him on a rainy night; after the vizier had sent him the horse and cover he had asked for, he wrote to one of the scribes; a poem satirizing `Alī ibn Mushir the poet; one about a woman; a poem about the virtue of the religious law; a poem written when he had abandoned wine-drinking and praising poetry.]

Al-`Antari wrote the following books:

1) "The Gathered Light from the Gardens of Night-Companions and the Sayings of Distinguished Scholars of the Pleasant Life in the World"; he divided this book according to the four seasons and contained in it verses and pleasant anecdotes from numerous authors, himself included, clarifying the importance of al-Guman's book for both physics and metaphysics.

2) "Pharmacopoeia," a substantial work summarizing the field of compound drugs; it is well written.

3) An epistle from the Yemenite Sirius to the Syrian Proeyon, written [p.515] to the grammarian `Arafah in Damascus, as an answer to an epistle received from him in Damascus.

4) An epistle on the movement of the world, in which he greets a vizier who was called to serve in another country, this being Hujjat al-Dīn Marwān, who was made vizier by Atabek Zanji ibn Aq Sunqur.

5) An epistle on the difference between fate and time, disbelief and faith.

6) An epistle on natural and metaphysical desire.


Abū al-Ghanā'im Hibat Allāh ibn Alī ibn al-Husayn ibn Athardā. He was from Baghdād, and an outstanding philosopher and a distinguished medical man, famous for his excellence both in theory and practice. His books are "Medical and Philosophical Notes" and "Treatise on the Pleasure of Sleep, Whatever Be the Time It Is Taken," dedicated to Abū Nasr al-Tikrītī, physician to the Emir Ibn Marwān.


Alī ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Athardā. Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Hibat Allāh ibn `Alī ibn Athardā from Baghdād was a prominent physician, celebrated for his advanced knowledge and therapeutics. He was also a fine writer; he wrote a commentary on the book "The Call of the Physician," dedicated to Abū al-`Alā Mahfūz ibn al-Masīhī the physician.


Sa`īd ibn Athardā. Abū al-Ghanā'im Sa`īd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Athardā was among the famous physicians of Baghdād. He was in charge of the `Adudī hospital and an influential personage during the reign of al-Muqtafī bi-Amri Allāh.


Abū `Alī al-Hasan ibn Alī ibn Athardā was another distinguished Baghdādi physician, a good practitioner and a kindly man.


Jamal al-Dīn Alī ibn Athardā, i. e., Jamal al-Dīn Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Abū al-Ghanā'im Sa`īd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Alī ibn Athardā, was an [p.516] advanced medical scholar, and an excellent practitioner. Himām al-Dīn al-`Abdī the poet once borrowed from him Hunayn's "Book of Problems" and then wrote some verses, praising him and saying that his choice of this book was his idea of a joke; this was in the year 580/1184. He praised our physician in another poem ....


Fakhr al-Dīn al-Maridīnī. The Imam Fakhr al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Salām ibn `Abd al-Rahmān ibn `Abd al-Sātir al-Ansārī was unique among his generation in the philosophical sciences. He was wise, virtuous, well-versed in medicine(which he also attempted to practice), just, pure of heart, benevolent and a profound scholar of the Arabic language. He was born in Māridīn, but his forefathers came from Jerusalem. His father was a judge.

When Najm al-Dīn al-Ghāzi ibn Urtuq conquered Jerusalem, he sent his grandfather `Abd al-Rahmān to Māridīn, where he settled with his children. Fakhr al-Dīn's master in philosophy was Najm al-Dīn ibn al-Salāh, i. e., Najm al-Dīn Abū al-Futuh Ahmad ibn al-Surā,

a Persian from Hamadhān, who was invited to Māridīn by Hisām al-Dīn Tumurtāsh ibn al-Ghāzī ibn Urtuq. This Ibn al-Salāh was a distinguished philosopher, with a profound knowledge of all the details and mysteries of his subject. He wrote many philosophical works, and lived his last years in Damascus, where he died, may God have mercy upon him, in the year . . . .  and was buried in the tombs of the Sufis near the river Banyās, just outside Damascus.

Fakhr al-Dīn studied medicine under Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh.

The physician Sadīd al-Dīn Mahmud ibn `Umar, known as Ibn Raqīqah, told me that Fakhr al-Dīn studied Ibn Sīnā's "Qānūn" under Ibn al-Tilmīdh, with whom he discussed it and achieved much in his corrections and editing. At the same time, Ibn al-Tilmīdh was studying logic with him, for which he read the middle summary of al-Jurjānī by Ibn Sīnā. Fakhr al-Dīn stayed in the town of Hīnā for many years, in the service of Najm al-Dīn ibn Urtuq. Sadīd al-Dīn met Fakhr al-Dīn here and studied [p.517] medicine under him, accompanying him assiduously for a long while during his comings and goings. He told me that with Fakhr al-Dīn he reached Damascus in the year 587/1191, and here he taught medicine. He had a general study group, and among those who attended it and stayed with him the whole time he was in Damascus was the Shaikh Muhadhadhab al-Dīn `Abd al-Rahīm Alī. Under Fakhr al-Dīn's guidance he studied part of Ibn Sīnā's "Qānūn" and the two corrected it together. Our physician stayed in Damascus to the end of Sha`bān 589/1193, after which he left to go to his hometown. When he decided to go, Shaikh Muhadhdhab al-Dīn came and asked him whether it were possible for him to stay in Damascus so that he could finish the study of the "Qānūn," for which he would pay his agent three hundred Nāsiriyyah dirhams per month. Fakhr al-Dīn declined, saying: "Science is never to be sold; whoever follows me, him I shall teach wherever I may be." But Muhadhdhab al-Dīn could not go with him. When Fakhr al-Dīn reached Aleppo on his way home from Damascus, al-Malik al-Zāhir Ghāzī ibn al-Malik al-Nāsir Salāh al-Dīn sent for him. The physician astonished this ruler by his conversation, and the latter was so impressed that he asked him to stay with him, but he declined apologetically. Al-Malik al-Zāhir would not accept his refusal, and loaded him with great wealth and favor, so that he stayed in his service for about two years, enjoying high prestige; he then continued to Māridīn.

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah adds: Fakhr al-Dīn al-Māridīnī died, may God have mercy upon him, on Saturday the 21st of Dhū al-Hijjah 594/1198, in Āmid, when he was eighty-two years old. He placed all his books in Māridīn, in the mosque erected by Hisām al-Dīn ibn Urtuq, himself a virtuous, learned philosopher. This ruler also housed many philosophical works in his mosque but Fakhr al-Dīn's books were the best, being his own copies, studied by him under his masters and corrected in the best possible way, for he knew them to perfection. [p.518]

Sadīd al-Dīn, who attended Fakhr al-Dīn on his deathbed, told me that up to the very end the dying man did not cease for a moment to praise God the Almighty. The last words he was heard to utter were: "O God, I have believed in you and in your ambassador the just, may he rest in peace, may God avert the punishment of the old man."

Fakhr al-Dīn's books are: a commentary on the poem by the Grand Master Ibn Sīnā, beginning with the words "I have descended to you from the highest level," composed in an answer to a request on the part of the Emir `Izz al-Dīn Abū al-Qāsim al-Khadar ibn Abū Ghālib Nasr al-Azdi al-Himsī; an epistle putting to shame someone who accused him of an inclination to a bashful school.


Abū Nasr ibn al-Masīhī. Abū Nasr Sa`īd ibn Abū al-Khayr ibn `Isā ibn al-Masīhī was a prominent physician and notable teacher. Shams al-Dīn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karīm al-Baghdādī told me the following: The Caliph al-Nāsir bi-Dīn Allāh fell gravely ill in the year 598/1201-2. The illness was fierce, and he developed a huge stone in the bladder; his pain grew intolerable and his sickness dragged on. His physician was Abū al-Khayr, a fine old man, who had served the Caliph for a long time (he was an expert physician and when he died he was close to a hundred years of age). However, the illness continued, and the Caliph became weary of the treatments. It was suggested that the bladder be lanced in order for the stone to be removed, and so the physician asked for a highly skilled surgeon. A man called Ibn `Ukkāshah, an inhabitant of al-Karkh in the west section of Baghdād was mentioned. He was brought in to examine the affected organ and then was ordered to lance it. Thereupon he said: "I must consult the master-physician on this matter." The Caliph asked: "Whom do you know of in Baghdād who is an expert in this profession?" — "O my master, my professor and chief is Abū Nasr ibn al-Masīhī, there is none in the whole of the country to equal him." The Caliph ordered him to go and summon him. When [p.519] the physician came, he humbled himself and kissed the ground. The Caliph asked him to be seated, and he sat for a while without saying anything. The Caliph also kept silent until the other's fear subsided and he could feel him relaxing; then he said: "O Abū Nasr, imagine yourself entering a hospital and encountering a patient who had come from one of the villages; I want you to approach my treatment in this case in the same fashion as you would have approached him." The physician replied: "I am at your service, only first I must get that old physician in, to inform me of the beginnings of this malady, its developments and turning-points, of how it has been treated since its occurrence until now." Shaikh Abū al-Khayr came in and started to describe the beginning of the illness, its changing states and his treatment from first to last. Said Abū Nasr: "The treatment was good and the remedies applied correct." The Caliph exclaimed: "This Shaikh has erred, I must crucify him!" Abū Nasr got up, kissed the ground, and said: "O master, in the name of God's favor, unto you and in the name of your blessed forefathers, do not treat physicians thus! As for this person, he has not erred in his treatment, it is only bad luck that the illness has not been cured." — "He is pardoned, but he is never to see me again!" The old doctor went away, and Abū Nasr started his treatment. He gave him drugs and anointed the place with emollients, saying: "If it is possible, we will do it gently, so that this stone will come out preferably without lancing; if it does not, we will not despair." He continued in this fashion for two days, and during the night of the third the stone came out. It was said to weigh seven mithqals [about 10.5 dirhams] or five, and that was bigger than the largest olive stone. The Caliph recovered to the extent that he was even able to go to the hot bath. He ordered Abū Nasr to be admitted to the treasury and to carry out as much gold as he could, which he did. Later he was given honorary robes and dinars from the Caliph's mother and his sons the princes Muhammad and Alī, also from his vizier Nasīr al-Dīn Abū al-Hasan ibn Mahdī al- `Alawī al-Rāzī and the other notables of the realm. [p.520] As for the Caliph's mother, his sons, the vizier and the cup-bearer Najjāh — each of them gave him a thousand dinars, as did the notables and the rest, according to their situation.

Shams al-Dīn continues; "I was told that he received twenty thousand dinars in cash, and a generous number of robes and garments. He stayed in the Caliph's Service and gained a large allowance, high rank and standing; thus he remained powerful until the death of al-Nāsir."

A physician told me that Ibn `Ukkāshah the surgeon was warned to give a quarter of his earnings as alms at Tuesday's market-sale, so he brought two hundred and fifty dinars there. As for Abū al-Khayr, he enjoyed great prestige before going out of service. He also reaped great favors and gifts, including the library of the illustrious Amīn al-Dawlah ibn al-Tilmīdh; for several times al-Nāsir had fallen sick and recovered under his care, for which he received abundant remuneration. Shaikh Abū al-Khayr died during the reign of al-Nāsir, who was told that his physician had died, leaving great wealth and a son as an heir to it. The Caliph said: "Let his son not be hindered in his inheritance, for what has gone from us cannot be returned."

Abū Nasr ibn al-Masīhī wrote the following: "The Extemporized Book," on medicine, in the form of questions and answers, and "A Selection of Extemporizations."


Abū al-Faraj. 7 "Sā`id ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Tomā was a Christian from Baghdād, a famous physician and distinguished teacher. Shams al-Dīn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karīm al-Baghdādī told me that he was physician to Najm al-Dawlah Abū al-Yaman Najjāh the cup-bearer, who raised him to be his vizier and secretary. He then entered al-Nāsir's staff of attendant physicians. Later he [p.521] became his sole favorite and the Caliph gave him several fields of responsibility, to that he was in control over a number of offices and clerics. He was murdered in the year 620/1223, the reason being that he had gathered a group of soldiers who were receiving their salaries from him and conveyed to them a treacherous message, so two of them ambushed him at night and knifed him. His property confiscated, the Caliph ordered that all his money be taken to the treasury and his robes and property left to his son and heir. One of the people of Baghdād told me that eight hundred and thirteen thousand dinars in cash were carried from his house to the treasury, and the rest, in furniture and real estate, amounting to about one million dinars, was left to his son.

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah continues: I have found in a book by a friend of Jamal al-Dīn ibn al-Qiftī the following story about the above-mentioned Sā`id ibn Tōmā: He was a learned physician, a good therapeutist, a most reliable diagnostician and altogether a skillfull practitioner. He was held in great esteem and trust, and during the reign of al-Nāsir enjoyed wide prestige until he equaled the rank of a vizier. He was in charge of the salaries of the bodyguard, which were, kept under his discretion. He was also sent on confidential missions to the viziers and could gain audience with the Caliph at any time. He was a good arbitrator of imposing stature, by whose mediation necessary tasks were carried out and manifest evils nipped in the bud. Fate had smiled on him for a long time, and he was always seen to be grateful and happy.

During his last years, the Imam al-Nāsir suffered from poor eyesight and lack of concentration most of the time, for sorrows had accumulated in his heart. When he could no longer see to all the cases and matters of state, he brought in a Baghdadi woman, known as Sitt Nasīm, whose handwriting was similar to his and made her sit near him and write all the answers and orders, in which task she was helped by a servant called Taj al-Dīn Rashīq. When his condition grew worse, the woman [p.522] started writing answers on her own initiative; sometimes she was right and sometimes she was wrong, and Rashīq followed suit. Once it happened that the Vizier al-Qummī, known as al-Mu'ayyid, wrote a memorandum to the Caliph. Her answer came back uncouth and confused, which astonished and angered the Vizier. He called for the physician Sā`id ibn Tōmā and confided in him the whole matter, asking for details of the situation. Our physician informed him of the Caliph's state of blindness and confusion most of the time and of the fact that the woman and the servant were attending to everything. The Vizier promptly abandoned most of his duties. The servant, and the woman discovered this immediately, for they had their own aims with regard to helping the people and intended to find the opportunity to fulfill them. They suspected the physician to have disclosed the situation, so Rashīq conspired with two soldiers serving the Caliph to ambush and kill the physician. There were known as the sons of Qamar al-Dawlah and served in the forces of al-Wāsit. One of them was on active service, and the other unemployed. They ambushed the physician one night, when he was coming to the Vizier's house. On his way from there to the Caliph's palace they followed him to the dark gate of the field path, attacked him with their knives and killed him. The physician had with him a lamp and a servant, but when his master dropped to the ground in the heat of the struggle, the servant fled to the gate of al-Hirās' ruin, while the assassins followed him. A man noticed them and cried — Hold them! but they turned on him and killed him, wounding also the lamp-bearer who was with the physician. Abū al-Faraj was carried dead to his house and was buried there the same night. Troops were sent immediately to guard his house, as well as the Vizier's, because of the deposits which he kept for the favorite royal women and household. The assassins were sought and identified, then ordered seized.

Ibrāhīm ibn Jumayl was in charge of the arrest and inquiry. He [p.523] brought them into his house, and on the morrow they were taken out to the execution place, their bellies were ripped open and they were crucified at the gate of the altar, opposite the gate of the road, where the physician had been attacked and killed. The murder took place on Thursday, the 18th of Jumādā I, 620/1223.


Abū al-Husayn, i.e., Sā`id ibn Hibat Allāh ibn al-Mu'ammal, was a Christian who was born in al-Huzayrah and settled in Baghdād. He was also called Mārī, a church-name given by the Christians, who name their children at birth and also at baptism, when they give them the names of pious men in their history. This Abū al-Husayn was a distinguished physician, and served in the Imāmiyyah Nāsiriyyah Christian `Azfzah house, enjoying many good conditions, so that he earned great wealth, and was held in unviolated dignity and reverence.

He studied literature under Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn `Abd al-Rahīm al-`Assār, Alī Abū Muhammad `Abd Allāh ibn Ahmad ibn al-Khashshāb the grammarian, the illustrious writer Ibn Hiyyā and others. He also had a perfect knowledge of logic, philosophy and the various sciences. As a man he was arrogant, hot-tempered, vain and rude, with a tendency to extreme nastiness. He was forever correcting the philosophical books in his own hand and behaving as he pleased in professional and personal relationships. He died on the 20th of Dhu al-Hijjah, 591/1195 in Baghdād and was buried in the Christian cemetery there.


Ibn al-Māristāniyyah, i.e., Abū Bakr `Ubayd Allāh ibn Abū al-Faraj Alī ibn Nasr ibn Hamzah, known as Ibn al-Māristāniyyah. Shams al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karīm al-Baghdādī the scribe informed me that Ibn al-Māristāniyyah was an eminent medical scholar and practitioner who was also well-versed in the Hadith. A man of prominence and culture, he wrote discourses which he used to present to our master Abū al-Baqā' `Abd Allāh ibn [p.524] al-Husayn al-`Akbarī, who appreciated their style. Ibn al-Māristāniyyah was an inspector at the `Adudi hospital, but then he was seized and imprisoned for two years. After he was released, he wrote a history of Baghdād entitled "The Greater Anthology of Islam," which he nearly but not quite finished. In Safar of the year 599/1202 he was called by the council of state to go to Tiflis and was given a black robe and a mantle. He went there, handed over the message, and then started back to Baghdād; but he died on the way, in a place called Garchband, on the night of Dhū al-Hijjah 599/ 1203, and was buried there.


Ibn Sudayr. Abū al-Hasan `Alī ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd Allāh from al-Madā'in was known as Ibn Sudayr (Sudayr was a nickname given to his father. He was a good physician and also a poet of a mild and jovial character. He died suddenly in al-Madā'in in the last ten days of Ramadan 606/March 1210. The following is an example of his poetry, quoted in a book by al-Hāfiz Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Sa`īd ibn Yahyā ibn al-Dabīthī al-Wāsitī:

O my savior from men whose meanness is so great
That it sickens my treatment and humbles my medicine;
When one of them falls ill — this is my health.
But if his life is saved — I almost lose mine;
I can cure them, but not from meanness
For this is asking too much even from the best physician.


Muhadhdhab al-Dīn ibn Hubal. Abū al-Hassan Alī ibn Ahmad ibn Alī ibn Hubal al-Baghdādī, also known as al-Khalātī, was unequaled in his day as a physician and philosopher, distinguished in the literary branches, poetry and rhetorics, and expert in the knowledge of the Qur'ān. He was born in Baghdād, in the gate of al-Azaj on the Thamal road on the 23rd of Dhū al-Qa`dah 515/1121, and grew up in that city. He studied literature and medicine with Abū al-Qāsim Ismā`īl ibn Ahmad ibn al-Samarkandī and then went to Mosul, where he settled up to the time of his death.  [p.525]

`Afif al-Dīn al-Hasan Alī ibn `Admān the grammarian from Mosul told me that Shaikh Muhadhdhab al-Dīn ibn Hubal from Baghdad stayed in Mosul and then in Khalāt, with Shah Irman the ruler of Khalāt for a while. He received from him a great deal of money, which before leaving Khalāt he sent to Mosul, to Mujāhid al-Dīn Qaymāz al-Zīnī, and deposited it with him. The sum was about one hundred and thirty thousand dinars. Ibn Hubal then went to Māridīn, and stayed with Badr al-Dīn Lu'lu' and al-Nizām, until they were killed by Nāsir al-Dīn ibn Urtuq, the ruler of Māridīn. Badr al-Dīn Lu'lu' was married to Nāsir al-Dīn's mother when he was seventy-five years of age. Muhadhdhab al-Dīn became blind from a cataract that was the result of a blow. He then went to Mosul, where he was afflicted with palsy. He stayed in his house, which was situated in the street of Abū Nujayh, and used to sit on a throne, where he received all those who studied medicine and other sciences under him. He also studied the Hadith, and in this connection the author was told by the physician Badr al-Dīn Abū al-`Izz Yūsuf ibn Abū Muhammad ibn al-Makkī from Damascus, known as Ibn al-Sinjārī, in the name of Muhadhadhab al-Dīn Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Abū al-`Abbās Ahamd ibn Hubal al-Baghdādī, known as al-Khalātī, the following hadīth by the chain of transmission given below: Shaikh al-Hāfiz Abū al-Qāsim Ismā`īl ibn Ahmad ibn `Umar ibn al-Ash`ath al-Samarkandī: Abū Muhammad `Abd al-`Azīz ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Kinānī; Abū Muhammad `Abd al-Rahmān ibn `Uthmān ibn Abū Nasr; Abū al-Qāsim Tamām ibn Muhammad al-Rāzī; the judge Abū Nasr Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Harūn al-Ghassānī known as Ibn al-Jundī; Abū al-Qāsim `Abd al-Rahmān ibn al-Husayn ibn Alī ibn Abū al `Aqab; Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahmān ibn `Ubayd Allāh ibn Yahyā al-Qattānī; Abū al-Qāsim Alī ibn Ya`qūb ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Abū al-`Aqab; Abū Zar`ah `Abd al-Rahmān ibn `Amr ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Sifwān al-Basrī; Alī ibn `Iyāsh- Shu`ayb ibn Abū Hamzah; Nāfi Ibn `Umar; the last [p.526] said: "The Prophet, may God give him peace and rest, had said: 'The best chief horseman [will stay] to the Day of Resurrection.'" Muhadhdhab al-Dīn studied medicine under Awhad al-Zamān.

In the beginning he met `Abd Allāh ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Khaskshāb the grammarian and studied with him a little grammar. He also frequented the Nizāmiyyah university and studied law, only later becoming famous as a physician. In this field he reached higher than any of his contemporaries. He died, may God have mercy upon him, in Mosul, on a Wednesday night, the 13th of Muharram, 610/1213, and was buried just outside that town, in the Bab al-Maydān [Gate of the Plain], in the cemetary of al-Mu`āfī ibn `Imrām, next to al-Qurtubi.

[There follow examples of his poetry.]

His books are: "Selection in Medicine," a celebrated work, containing both theory and practice; "The Jamālī Medicine," dedicated to Jamāl al-Dīn Muhammad, the vizier known as al-Jawwād. He wrote the "Selection" in 560/1164-5 in Mosul.


Shams al-Dīn ibn Hubal. Shams al-Dīn Abū al-`Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhadhdhab al-Dīn was born on Friday the 20th of Jumādā II, 548/1153 at daybreak. He practiced medicine and was distinguished as a man of letters and of politics. He traveled to Asia Minor, where the ruler al-Malik al-Ghālib Kaykāwas ibn Kaykhosrō honored him greatly. After staying with him a short while he died there, may God have mercy upon him, and was carried back to Mosul, where he was buried, He had two sons, who were among the highest notables; they are still living in Mosul.

Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yunas. Kamāl al-Dīn Abū `Imrān Mūsā ibn Yūnas ibn Muhammad ibn Man`ah was unique in his generation and the miracle of his age, the model for scholars and head of physicians. [p.527] He knew philosophy profoundly and was prominent in the other sciences, a great name in religious law and jurisprudence. At the University of Mosul he taught all the sciences — from philosophy to medicine and catechism, etc. — and he also wrote excellent works. He stayed in Mosul to his death, may God bless him.

The judge Najm al-Dīn `Umar ibn Muhammad ibn al-Kuraydī told me the following story: When the "Book of Instruction" by al-`Umaydī arrived at Mosul, it was brought to Shaikh Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas. This book contains a selection of problems in polemics, and is called by the Persians "Gist", i.e., "The Cunning." After leafing through it, he exclaimed; "What a fine science! The author did not restrain himself!" The book remained with him for two days, by which time he had grasped all its meanings accurately and taught them to the sages. He explained the things which nobody else had ever mentioned. It was said that Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas learned the science of natural magic from that book.

The same source told me in the name of the judge Jalāl al-Dīn al-Baghdādī, the disciple of Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas, who was staying with him in the university, that once a messenger came to al-Malik al-Rahīm Badr al-Dīn Lu'u' the ruler of Mosul from al-Anbarar the Emperor of the Franks, who was learned in the sciences, carrying some questions in astrology and other disciplines. Badr al-Dīn wanted Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas to answer them, and sent to him informing him of it, saying; "Adorn yourself in fine attire and arrange an imposing council in honor of that messenger." All this because he knew Ibn Yūnas to wear simple clothes carelessly and to have no knowledge of worldly affairs.

Jalāl al-Dīn continues: "He consented while I was with him. It was then said to him: 'The messenger of the Franks has come and is now nearing the university, and so he sent some sages to meet him. When he arrived we looked at the place and found there the most [p.528] magnificent Byzantine carpets, a group of Turkish slaves around him, servants and beautiful ornaments. The messenger having entered, the Shaikh welcomed him and wrote down the answers to all of those questions. When the messenger had left, all the splendor we had seen was whisked away. I asked the Shaikh: 'O my master, how wonderful was that magnificent array that we have just seen! He answered smilingly 'O Baghdadī, this is science.'"

Jalāl al-Dīn adds: "Kamāl al-Dīn once needed something from Badr al-Dīn Lu'lu', so he rode out early in the morning to meet him and ask for it. Now, Badr al-Dīn's habit was to ride very swift horses and mules. That morning he was given a horse to ride, but it would not hasten its gallop. He dismounted and tried another one, but it would not even take a step. He remained bewildered until the Shaikh arrived with his request. It was granted, and the ruler said: 'It seems that the horses decided not to run until you had come.' Kamāl al-Dīn replied: 'O my master, this is the Shaikh's skill,' and went back. Badr al-Dīn then rode on and the soldiers followed."

Najm al-Dīn Hamzah ibn `Abid al-Sarkhadī told me that Najm al-Dīn al-Qamarāwī and Sharaf al-Dīn al-Matānī, Qamarā and Matān being villages in the region of Sarkhad, were both scholars in the philosophical and religious sciences, distinguished and celebrated. They had traveled around seeking knowledge, and on arrival in Mosul went to Shaikh Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas, who was then giving a lesson at the University. They greeted and sat with the sages. When questions of jurisprudence arose, they discussed them and the principles of the law, until their superiority over the majority of the crowd became evident. The Shaikh honored them and drew them closer. At the end of the day they asked him to show them one of his books which he had written on philosophy and which contained enigmas. He refused, saying: "I do not know anybody who could solve them and, besides, I am niggardly of this book." They said: "We are strangers, who came [p.529] to see you in order to benefit by your lesson and the understanding of that book. We are staying the night with you at the university and we do not ask to read it more than tonight. Tomorrow you will take it back master." They pleaded with him until he consented and gave the book to them. They sat up the whole night in one of the university's quarters, dictating, to each other until they finished copying it, collating and examining it over and over. But they could not work out the solution to the end. The sun was already rising when they hit upon a part of the solution to the last part of it, and little by little it became clear until they solved the entire enigma and defined it properly. When they went to return the book to the Shaikh he was giving a lesson and so they sat down and said: "O our master, we asked for your big book. which contains the insoluble enigma; as for this book, we have known its meanings for a long time, and the enigma contained in it was solved by us long ago. If you like, we shall tell it." "Speak, so that we may hear! " Al-Najm al-Qamarāwā spoke first and the other followed him, both reciting all the book's meanings from beginning to end, and the solution of the enigma in fine clear language. The Shaikh was astonished and asked: "Where are you from?" — "Syria." — "From which place?" — "The Hawran." He then said: "Undoubtedly, one of you is al-Najm al-Qamarāwā and the other al-Sharaf al-Matānī." -"Yes! " The Shaikh rose and received them as his guests, honoring them reverently. They studied under him for a while and then traveled on.

Ibn Abū Usaybi`ah concludes: My uncle Rashīd al-Dīn ibn Khalīfah decided to travel to Mosul in his early youth, in order to meet Shaikh Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas and study under him because of what he had heard of his knowledge and virtue, which were without equal. He prepared for the journey, but when his mother (my grandmother) heard of it, she cried and begged him not to leave her. He loved her and could not oppose her, and so he canceled the trip. [p.530]

Kamāl al-Dīn ibn Yūnas had children in Mosul, who were experts in jurisprudence and other sciences. They were among the head-professors and the best writers. The following are examples of his poetry [in light meter, and boudle rhythm] . . . . 

He wrote the following books:

1) "The Solution of Problems and Clarification of Difficulties," concerning commentary on the Qur´ān.

2) A commentary on the "Book of Instruction" in jurisprudence, in two volumes.

3) "The Detailed Phrases of the Law."

4) "On Religious Principles."

5) "The Sources of Logic."

6) "The Philosophical Enigma."

7) "The Royal Secrets of the Stars."  [p.531]


The asterisked notes appear in the typescript at the foot of the page.

1. ^ * [But the author means Eutyches!]

2. ^  Note to the online edition: the pages of typescript are numbered in pencil, but the pages numbered 201 and 202 swapped place before the numbers were written.  I have changed the page numbers to be consecutive.

3. ^ * [Original incomprehensible here. ]

4. ^ Note to the online edition: at this point the manuscript is out of order again, and I have corrected the numbering.  The page with the pencil number 391 should be numbered 393, the page numbered 392 should be numbered 391, and the page numbered 393 should be numbered 392.

5. ^ * An attempt at a compromise between two theological doctrines, that of free will and that of predestination.

6. ^ * [An allusion to the Children of Israel's forty years' wandering in the wilderness.]

7. ^ * Editor's marginal note: this is the author's error, for this person is Sā`id ibn Yahyā ibn Hibat Allāh ibn Tomā, and, indeed, Sā`id Hibat Allāh is mentioned further. [Note to the online edition: this is a manuscript footnote, presumably from Müller].

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2011. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts