Khawaja Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Hasan Tūsī
(born 18 February 1201 in Ṭūs
– died on 26 June 1274 in al-Kāżimiyyah
district of metropolitan Baghdad
), better known as Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī
: نصیر الدین طوسی
; or simply Tusi
in the West), was a Persian polymath
and prolific writer: an architect
and Marja Taqleed
He was of the Ismaili
-, and subsequently Twelver Shī‘ah Islamic
The Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun
(1332–1406) considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian
Nasir al-Din Tusi was born in the city of Tus
in medieval Khorasan
(in north-eastern Iran
) in the year 1201 and began his studies at an early age. In Hamadan and Tus he studied the Qur’an
jurisprudence, logic, philosophy, mathematics, medicine and astronomy.
He was apparently born into a Shī‘ah family and lost his father at a young age. Fulfilling the wish of his father, the young Muhammad took learning and scholarship very seriously and travelled far and wide to attend the lectures of renowned scholars and acquire the knowledge which guides people to the happiness of the next world. At a young age he moved to Nishapur
to study philosophy under Farid al-Din Damad and mathematics under Muhammad Hasib
He met also Farid al-Din ‘Attar
, the legendary Sufi
master who was later killed by Mongol invaders and attended the lectures of Qutb al-Din al-Misri
he studied mathematics and astronomy with Kamal al-Din Yunus
(d. 639/1242). Later on he corresponded with Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi
, the son-in-law of Ibn al-‘Arabi
, and it seems that mysticism, as propagated by Sufi
masters of his time, was not appealing to his mind and once the occasion was suitable, he composed his own manual of philosophical Sufism in the form of a small booklet entitled Awsaf al-Ashraf
“The Attributes of the Illustrious”.
As the armies of Genghis Khan
swept his homeland, he was captured by the Ismailis
and made his most important contributions in science during this time when he was moving from one stronghold to another. He finally joined Hulagu Khan
‘s ranks, after the invasion of the Alamut
castle by the Mongol
Kitāb al-Shakl al-qattāʴ Book on the complete quadrilateral. A five volume summary of trigonometry.
Akhlaq-i-Nasri – A work on ethics.
al-Risalah al-Asturlabiyah – A Treatise on astrolabe.
) – A major astronomical treatise, completed in 1272.
sharh al-isharat (Commentary on Avicenna’s Isharat)
Awsaf al-Ashraf a short mystical-ethical work in Persian
Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād (Summation of Belief) – A commentary on Shia doctrines.
During his stay in Nishapur, Tusi established a reputation as an exceptional scholar. “Tusi’s prose writing, which number over 150 works, represent one of the largest collections by a single Islamic author. Writing in both Arabic
, Nasir al-Din Tusi dealt with both religious (“Islamic”) topics and non-religious or secular subjects (“the ancient sciences”).
His works include the definitive Arabic versions of the works of Euclid
, and Theodosius of Bithynia
Based on the observations in this for the time being most advanced observatory, Tusi made very accurate tables of planetary movements
as depicted in his book Zij-i ilkhani
). This book contains astronomical tables for calculating the positions of the planets and the names of the stars. His model for the planetary system is believed to be the most advanced of his time, and was used extensively until the development of the heliocentric model in the time of Nicolaus Copernicus
. Between Ptolemy
, he is considered by many to be one of the most eminent astronomers of his time.
Ṭūsī criticized Ptolemy’s use of observational evidence to show that the Earth was at rest, noting that such proofs were not decisive. Although it doesn’t mean that he was a supporter of mobility of the earth, as he and his 16th-century commentator al-Bīrjandī
, maintained that the earth’s immobility could be demonstrated, but only by physical principles found in natural philosophy.
Tusi’s criticisms of Ptolemy were similar to the arguments later used by Copernicus in 1543 to defend the Earth’s rotation.
About the real essence of the Milky Way, Ṭūsī in his Tadhkira
writes: “The Milky Way, i.e. the galaxy, is made up of a very large number of small, tightly-clustered stars, which, on account of their concentration and smallness, seem to be cloudy patches. because of this, it was likend to milk in color.” 
Three centuries later the proof of the Milky Way consisting of many stars came in 1610 when Galileo Galilei
used a telescope
to study the Milky Way and discovered that it is really composed of a huge number of faint stars.
In his Akhlaq-i-Nasri
, Tusi put forward a basic theory for the evolution of species. He begins his theory of evolution with the universe
once consisting of equal and similar elements
. According to Tusi, internal contradictions began appearing, and as a result, some substances began developing faster and differently from other substances. He then explains how the elements evolved into minerals
, then plants
, then animals
, and then humans
. Tusi then goes on to explain how hereditary
variability was an important factor for biological evolution of living things
that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.”
Tusi discusses how organisms are able to adapt
to their environments:
“Look at the world of animals and birds. They have all that is necessary for defense, protection and daily life, including strengths, courage and appropriate tools [organs] […] Some of these organs are real weapons, […] For example, horns-spear, teeth and claws-knife and needle, feet and hoofs-cudgel. The thorns and needles of some animals are similar to arrows. […] Animals that have no other means of defense (as the gazelle and fox) protect themselves with the help of flight and cunning. […] Some of them, for example, bees, ants and some bird species, have united in communities in order to protect themselves and help each other.”
“Animals are higher than plants, because they are able to move consciously, go after food, find and eat useful things. […] There are many differences between the animal and plant species, […] First of all, the animal kingdom
is more complicated. Besides, reason
is the most beneficial feature of animals. Owing to reason, they can learn new things and adopt new, non-inherent abilities. For example, the trained horse or hunting falcon is at a higher point of development in the animal world. The first steps of human perfection begin from here.”
Tusi then explains how humans evolved from advanced animals:
“Such humans [probably anthropoid apes
] live in the Western Sudan
and other distant corners of the world. They are close to animals by their habits, deeds and behavior. […] The human has features that distinguish him from other creatures, but he has other features that unite him with the animal world, vegetable kingdom or even with the inanimate bodies. […] Before [the creation of humans], all differences between organisms were of the natural origin. The next step will be associated with spiritual perfection, will, observation and knowledge. […] All these facts prove that the human being is placed on the middle step of the evolutionary stairway. According to his inherent nature, the human is related to the lower beings, and only with the help of his will can he reach the higher development level.”
Chemistry and Physics
“A body of matter cannot disappear completely. It only changes its form, condition, composition, colour and other properties and turns into a different complex or elementary matter.”.