Ebn Meskavayh

Abu ‘Ali Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Ibn Miskawayh  also known as Ibn Miskawayh (932–1030) or Ebn Meskavayh, was a Persian[1] chancery official of the Buwayhid era, and philosopher and historian from Rey, Iran. As a neo-platonist, his influence on Islamic philosophy is primarily in the area of ethics. He was the author of the first major Islamic work on philosophical ethics, entitled Tahdhib al-akhlaq (تهذيب الأخلاق: Refinement of Morals), focusing on practical ethics, conduct, and refinement of character. He separated personal ethics from the public realm, and contrasted the liberating nature of reason with the deception and temptation of nature.


Ebn Meskavayh was a prominent figure in the intellectual and cultural life of his time.[1] Miskawayh may have been a Mazdaean convert to Islam, but it seems more likely that it was one of his ancestors who converted[1][2] He was fluent enough in Middle Persian to have translated some pre-Islamic texts in that language into Arabic.[citation needed] He worked as a secretary and librarian for a sequence of viziers, including Adud al-Dawla. Some contemporary sources associated him with the Brethren of Purity, claiming that some of his writings were used in the compilation of the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity.[3]


Ibn Miskawayh was one of the first to clearly describe a version of the idea of evolution. Muhammad Hamidullah describes the evolutionary ideas found in Ibn Miskawayh’s al-Fawz al-Asghar as follows:
“[These books] state that God first created matter and invested it with energy for development. Matter, therefore, adopted the form of vapour which assumed the shape of water in due time. The next stage of development was mineral life. Different kinds of stones developed in course of time. Their highest form being mirjan (coral). It is a stone which has in it branches like those of a tree. After mineral life evolves vegetation. The evolution of vegetation culminates with a tree which bears the qualities of an animal. This is the date-palm. It has male and female genders. It does not wither if all its branches are chopped but it dies when the head is cut off. The date-palm is therefore considered the highest among the trees and resembles the lowest among animals. Then is born the lowest of animals. It evolves into an ape. This is not the statement of Darwin. This is what Ibn Maskawayh states and this is precisely what is written in the Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa. The Muslim thinkers state that ape then evolved into a lower kind of a barbarian man. He then became a superior human being. Man becomes a saint, a prophet. He evolves into a higher stage and becomes an angel. The one higher to angels is indeed none but God. Everything begins from Him and everything returns to Him.”[1][citation needed]
Arabic manuscripts of the al-Fawz al-Asghar were available in European universities by the 19th century. This work is believed to have been studied by Charles Darwin, who was a student of Arabic, and it is thought to have had an influence on his inception of Darwinism.[1][citation needed]In his Tajarib al-umam (Experiences of Nations) he was one of the first major Muslim historians to write a chronicle of contemporary events as an eyewitness. As a Buwayhid bureaucrat, he worked under the vizier al-Muhallabi and had access to the internal happenings of the court. The chronicle is a universal history from the beginning of Islam, but it cuts off near the end of the reign of Adud al-Dawla.
His major work in the field of philosophy is his Tahḏib al-aḵlāq wa-taṭhir al-aʿrāq. The book is meant to provide students of philosophy and ethics an exposition of the main elements of philosophy.
Ketāb al-ḥekma al-ḵāleda (Book of Eternal Wisdom) is an Arabic translation of a Persian work called Jāvidān ḵerad (“Eternal Wisdom”).[1] One manuscript of which bears the title Ketāb ādāb al-ʿArab wa’l-Fors (lit. “Book of Literatures of the Arabs and Persians”).[1]
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Jābir ibn Hayyān

Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān  , fl.c.721–c.815)[4] was a prominent Persian or Arab polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geographer, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician. Born and educated in Tus, he later traveled to Kufa. Jābir is held to have been the first practical alchemist.[5]As early as the 10th century, the identity and exact corpus of works of Jābir was in dispute in Islamic circles.[6] His name was Latinized as “Geber” in the Christian West and in 13th-century Europe an anonymous writer, usually referred to as Pseudo-Geber, produced alchemical and metallurgical writings under the pen-name Geber

Early references

In 988 Ibn al-Nadim compiled the Kitab al-Fihrist which mentions Jabir as a spiritual follower and as a companion to Jafar as-Sadiq . In another reference al-Nadim reports that a group of philosophers claimed Jabir was one of their own members. Another group, reported by al-Nadim, says only The Large Book of Mercy is genuine and that the rest are pseudographical. Their assertions are rejected by al-Nadim.[8] Joining al-Nadim in asserting a real Jabir; Ibn-Wahshiyya (“Jaber ibn Hayyn al-Sufi …book on poison is a great work..”) Rejecting a real Jabir; (the philosopher c.970) Abu Sulayman al-Mantiqi claims the real author is one al-Hasan ibn al-Nakad al-Mawili. 14th century critic of Arabic literature, Jamal al-Din ibn Nubata al-Misri declares all the writings attributed to Jabir doubtful.[9]

Life and background

Jabir was a Natural Philosopher who lived mostly in the 8th century; he was born in Tus, Khorasan, in Iran (Persia),[4] then ruled by the Umayyad Caliphate. Jabir in the classical sources has been entitled differently as al-Azdi al-Barigi or al-Kufi or al-Tusi or al-Sufi.[10] There is a difference of opinion[10] as to whether he was a Persian from Khorasan who later went to Kufa or whether he was, as some have suggested, of Syrian origin and later lived in Persia and Iraq.[10] His ethnic background is not clear,[10] but most sources reference him as a Persian.[3] In some sources, he is reported to have been the son of Hayyan al-Azdi, a pharmacist of the Arabian Azd tribe who emigrated from Yemen to Kufa (in present-day Iraq) during the Umayyad Caliphate.[11][12] while Henry Corbin believes Geber seems to have been a client of the ‘Azd tribe.[13]
 Jābir became an alchemist at the court of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, for whom he wrote the Kitab al-Zuhra (“The Book of Venus”, on “the noble art of alchemy”).[citation needed] Hayyan had supported the Abbasid revolt against the Umayyads, and was sent by them to the province of Khorasan (present day Afghanistan and Iran) to gather support for their cause. He was eventually caught by the Umayyads and executed. His family fled to Yemen,[11][14] where Jābir grew up and studied the Quran, mathematics and other subjects.[11] Jābir’s father’s profession may have contributed greatly to his interest in alchemy. After the Abbasids took power, Jābir went back to Kufa. He began his career practicing medicine, under the patronage of a Vizir (from the noble Persian family Barmakids) of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. His connections to the Barmakid cost him dearly in the end. When that family fell from grace in 803, Jābir was placed under house arrest in Kufa, where he remained until his death. It has been asserted that Jābir was a student of the sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq and Harbi al-Himyari,[6][15] however other scholars have questioned this theory.[16]

The Jabirian corpus

In total, nearly 3,000 treatises and articles are credited to Jabir ibn Hayyan.[17] Following the pioneering work of Paul Kraus, who demonstrated that a corpus of some several hundred works ascribed to Jābir were probably a medley from different hands,[9][18] mostly dating to the late 9th and early 10th centuries, many scholars believe that many of these works consist of commentaries and additions by his followers,[citation needed] particularly of an Ismaili persuasion.[19]The scope of the corpus is vast: cosmology, music, medicine, magic, biology, chemical technology, geometry, grammar, metaphysics, logic, artificial generation of living beings, along with astrological predictions, and symbolic Imâmî myths.[9]
  • The 112 Books dedicated to the Barmakids, viziers of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. This group includes the Arabic version of the Emerald Tablet, an ancient work that proved a recurring foundation of and source for alchemical operations. In the Middle Ages it was translated into Latin (Tabula Smaragdina) and widely diffused among European alchemists.
  • The Seventy Books, most of which were translated into Latin during the Middle Ages. This group includes the Kitab al-Zuhra (“Book of Venus”) and the Kitab Al-Ahjar (“Book of Stones”).
  • The Ten Books on Rectification, containing descriptions of alchemists such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
  • The Books on Balance; this group includes his most famous ‘Theory of the balance in Nature’.
Jābir states in his Book of Stones (4:12) that “The purpose is to baffle and lead into error everyone except those whom God loves and provides for”. His works seem to have been deliberately written in highly esoteric code (see steganography), so that only those who had been initiated into his alchemical school could understand them. It is therefore difficult at best for the modern reader to discern which aspects of Jābir’s work are to be read as symbols (and what those symbols mean), and what is to be taken literally. Because his works rarely made overt sense, the term gibberish is believed to have originally referred to his writings (Hauck, p. 19).


Jābir’s interest in alchemy was inspired by his teacher Ja’far as-Sadiq. When he used to talk about alchemy, he would say “my master Ja’far as-Sadiq taught me about calcium, evaporation, distillation and crystallization and everything I learned in alchemy was from my master Ja’far as-Sadiq.” Imam Jafar was famed for his depth and breadth of knowledge. In addition to his knowledge of Islamic sciences, Imam Jafar was well educated in natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, anatomy, chemistry (alchemy), and other subjects. The foremost Islamic alchemist Jabir bin Hayyan was his most prominent student. Other famous students of his were Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik Ibn Anas, the founders of two Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and Wasil ibn Ata, the founder of the Mutazilite school of Islamic thought. Imam Jafar was known for his liberal views on learning, and was keen to debate with scholars of different faiths and of different beliefs. Imam Abu Hanifa is quoted by many souces as having said “My knowledge extends to only two years. The two I spent with Imam Jafar Sadiq”, some Islamic scholars have gone so far as to call Imam Jafar Saddiq as the root of most of Islamic jurisprudence, having a massive influence on Hanafi, Maliki and Shia schools of thought extending well into mainstream Hanbali and Shafi’i thought. Imam Jafar also attained a surpassing knowledge in astronomy and in the science of medicine. it is said that he wrote more than five hundred books on health care which were compiled and annotated by another great scholar and scientist of Islam, Jabir bin Hayyan Jābir professes to draw his inspiration from earlier writers, legendary and historic, on the subject.[20]
In his writings, Jābir pays tribute to Egyptian and Greek alchemists Zosimos, Democritus, Hermes Trismegistus, Agathodaimon, but also Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Pythagoras, and Socrates as well as the commentators Alexander of Aphrodisias Simplicius, Porphyry and others.[9] A huge pseudo-epigraphic literature of alchemical books was composed in Arabic, among which the names of Persian authors also appear like Jāmāsb, Ostanes, Mani, testifying that alchemy-like operations on metals and other substances were also practiced in Persia. The great number of Persian technical names (zaybaq = mercury, nošāder = sal-ammoniac) also corroborates the idea of an important Iranian root of medieval alchemy.[21] Ibn al-Nadim reports a dialogue between Aristotle and Ostanes, the Persian alchemist of Achaemenid era, which is in Jabirian corpus under the title of Kitab Musahhaha Aristutalis.[22] Ruska had suggested that the Sasanian medical schools played an important role in the spread of interest in alchemy.[21] He emphasizes the long history of alchemy, “whose origin is Arius … the first man who applied the first experiment on the [philosopher’s] stone… and he declares that man possesses the ability to imitate the workings of Nature” (Nasr, Seyyed Hussein, Science and Civilization of Islam).


Jābir’s alchemical investigations ostensibly revolved around the ultimate goal of takwin — the artificial creation of life. The Book of Stones includes several recipes for creating creatures such as scorpions, snakes, and even humans in a laboratory environment, which are subject to the control of their creator. What Jābir meant by these recipes is unknown. Jābir’s alchemical investigations were theoretically grounded in an elaborate numerology related to Pythagorean and Neoplatonic systems. The nature and properties of elements was defined through numeric values assigned the Arabic consonants present in their name, ultimately culminating in the number 17.
By Jabirs’ time Aristotelian physics, had become Neoplatonic. Each Aristotelian element was composed of these qualities: fire was both hot and dry, earth, cold and dry, water cold and moist, and air, hot and moist. This came from the elementary qualities which are theoretical in nature plus substance. In metals two of these qualities were interior and two were exterior. For example, lead was cold and dry and gold was hot and moist. Thus, Jābir theorized, by rearranging the qualities of one metal, a different metal would result. Like Zosimos, Jabir believed this would require a catalyst, an al-iksir, the elusive elixir that would make this transformation possible — which in European alchemy became known as the philosopher’s stone.[9]
According to Jabir’s mercury-sulfur theory, metals differ from each in so far as they contain different proportions of the sulfur and mercury. These are not the elements that we know by those names, but certain principles to which those elements are the closest approximation in nature.[23] Based on Aristotle’s “exhalation” theory the dry and moist exhalations become sulfur and mercury (sometimes called “sophic” or “philosophic” mercury and sulfur). The sulfur-mercury theory is first recorded in a 7th-century work Secret of Creation credited (falsely) to Balinus (Apollonius of Tyana). This view becomes widespread.[24] In the Book of Explanation Jabir says
the metals are all, in essence, composed of mercury combined and coagulated with sulphur [that has risen to it in earthy, smoke-like vapors]. They differ from one another only because of the difference of their accidental qualities, and this difference is due to the difference of their sulphur, which again is caused by a variation in the soils and in their positions with respect to
the heat of the sun
Holmyard says that Jabir proves by experiment that these are not ordinary sulfur and mercury.[11]
The seeds of the modern classification of elements into metals and non-metals could be seen in his chemical nomenclature. He proposed three categories:[25]
The origins of the idea of chemical equivalents might be traced back to Jabir, in whose time it was recognized that “a certain quantity of acid is necessary in order to neutralize a given amount of base.”[26][verification needed] Jābir also made important contributions to medicine, astronomy/astrology, and other sciences. Only a few of his books have been edited and published, and fewer still are available in translation..[7]
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Abu Zayd al-Balkhi

Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl Balkhi   was a Persian Muslim polymath: a geographer, mathematician, physician, psychologist and scientist. Born in 850 CE in Shamistiyan, in the Persian province of Balkh, Khorasan (in modern day Afghanistan), he was a disciple of al-Kindi. He was also the founder the “Balkhī school” of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad


Of the many books ascribed to him in the al-Fihrist by Ibn al-Nadim, one can note the excellency of mathematics; on certitude in astrology. His Figures of the Climates (Suwar al-aqalim) consisted chiefly of geographical maps. He also wrote the medical and psychological work, Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus (Sustenance for Body and Soul).

Figures of the Regions

His Figures of the Regions (Suwar al-aqalim) consisted chiefly of geographical maps. It led to him founding the “Balkhī school” of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. The geographers of this school also wrote extensively of the peoples, products, and customs of areas in the Muslim world, with little interest in the non-Muslim realms.[1]

Sustenance for Body and Soul

Mental health and mental illness

In Islamic psychology and neuroscience, the concepts of mental health and “mental hygiene” were introduced by Abu Zayd al-Balkhi, who often related it to spiritual health. In his Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus (Sustenance for Body and Soul), he was the first to successfully discuss diseases related to both the body and the soul. He used the term al-Tibb al-Ruhani to describe spiritual and psychological health, and the term Tibb al-Qalb to describe mental medicine. He criticized many medical doctors in his time for placing too much emphasis on physical illnesses and neglecting the psychological or mental illnesses of patients, and argued that “since man’s construction is from both his soul and his body, therefore, human existence cannot be healthy without the ishtibak [interweaving or entangling] of soul and body.” He further argued that “if the body gets sick, the nafs [psyche] loses much of its cognitive and comprehensive ability and fails to enjoy the desirous aspects of life” and that “if the nafs gets sick, the body may also find no joy in life and may eventually develop a physical illness.” Al-Balkhi traced back his ideas on mental health to verses of the Qur’an and hadiths attributed to Muhammad, such as:[2]
“In their hearts is a disease.”
Qur’an 2:10
“Truly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh, and when it is corrupt the body is corrupt, and when it is sound the body is sound. Truly, it is the qalb [heart].”
Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman
“Verily Allah does not consider your appearances or your wealth in (appraising you) but He considers your hearts and your deeds.”

Cognitive and medical psychology and cognitive therapy

Abu Zayd al-Balkhi was the first known cognitive psychologist and medical psychologist, the first to differentiate between neurosis and psychosis, and the first to classify neurotic disorders and pioneer cognitive therapy in order to treat each of these classified disorders. He classified neurosis into four emotional disorders: fear and anxiety, anger and aggression, sadness and depression, and obsession. He further classified three types of depression: normal depression or sadness (huzn), endogenous depression originating from within the body, and reactive clinical depression originating from outside the body. He also wrote that a healthy individual should always keep healthy thoughts and feelings in his mind in the case of unexpected emotional outbursts in the same way drugs and First Aid medicine are kept nearby for unexpected physical emergencies. He stated that a balance between the mind and body is required for good health and that an imbalance between the two can cause sickness. Al-Balkhi also introduced the concept of reciprocal inhibition (al-ilaj bi al-did), which was re-introduced over a thousand years later by Joseph Wolpe in 1969.[3]

Psychophysiology and psychosomatic medicine

The Muslim physician Abu Zayd al-Balkhi was a pioneer of psychotherapy, psychophysiology and psychosomatic medicine. He recognized that the body and the soul can be healthy or sick, or “balanced or imbalanced”, and that mental illness can have both psychological and/or physiological causes. He wrote that imbalance of the body can result in fever, headaches and other physical illnesses, while imbalance of the soul can result in anger, anxiety, sadness and other mental symptoms. He recognized two types of depression: one caused by known reasons such as loss or failure, which can be treated psychologically through both external methods (such as persuasive talking, preaching and advising) and internal methods (such as the “development of inner thoughts and cognitions which help the person get rid of his depressive condition”); and the other caused by unknown reasons such as a “sudden affliction of sorrow and distress, which persists all the time, preventing the afflicted person from any physical activity or from showing any happiness or enjoying any of the pleasures” which may be caused by physiological reasons (such as impurity of the blood) and can be treated through physical medicine.[2] He also wrote comparisons between physical disorders with mental disorders, and showed how psychosomatic disorders can be caused by certain interactions between them.[3.[1]
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Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari

Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari   (c. 838 – c. 870 CE; also given as 810–855[1] and 783–858)[2] was a Persian Muslim hakim, Islamic scholar, physician and psychologist [1] of Zoroastrian[3][4] descent, who produced one of the first encyclopedia of medicine. He was a pioneer of pediatrics and the field of child development.[5][verification needed] His stature, however, was eclipsed by his more famous pupil, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (“Rhazes”).
Ali came from a well-known Syriac family of Merv but moved to Tabaristan (hence al-Tabari – “from Tabaristan”) but became an Islamic convert under the Abbassid caliph Al-Mu’tasim (833–842), who took him into the service of the court, in which he continued under Al-Mutawakkil (847–861). His father Sahl ibn Bishr was a state official, highly educated and well respected member of the Syriac community.[2] Ali ibn Sahl was fluent in Syriac and Greek, the two sources for the medical tradition of antiquity, and versed in fine calligraphy.

His works

  1. His Firdous al-Hikmah (“Paradise of Wisdom”), which he wrote in Arabic called also Al-Kunnash was a system of medicine in seven parts. He also translated it into Syriac, to give it wider usefulness.[citation needed] The information in Firdous al-Hikmah has never entered common circulation in the West because it was not edited until the 20th century, when Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui assembled an edition using the five surviving partial manuscripts. There is still no English translation.
  2. Tuhfat al-Muluk (“The King’s Present”)
  3. a work on the proper use of food, drink, and medicines.
  4. Hafzh al-Sihhah (“The Proper Care of Health”), following Greek and Indian authorities.
  5. Kitab al-Ruqa (“Book of Magic or Amulets”)
  6. Kitab fi al-hijamah (“Treatise on Cupping”)
  7. Kitab fi Tartib al-‘Ardhiyah (“Treatise on the Preparation of Food”)

Firdous al-Hikmah

Firdous al-Hikmah was one of the oldest encyclopedia of medicine, Based on Syriac translations of Greek sources (Hippocrates, Galen Dioscorides, and others).[1] It is divided into 7 sections and 30 parts, with 360 chapters in total. The appendix contains a review of Indian medicine based on Persian and Arabic translations of Indian medical works.[1] It deals with pediatrics and child development in depth, as well as psychology and psychotherapy.[citation needed] Unlike earlier physicians, however, al-Tabari emphasized strong ties between psychology and medicine, and the need of psychotherapy and counseling in the therapeutic treatment of patients.[citation needed] He wrote that patients frequently feel sick due to delusions or imagination, and that these can be treated through “wise counselling” by smart and witty physicians who could win the rapport and confidence of their patients, leading to a positive therapeutic outcome.[5][verification needed]


On the Quran he said: “When I was a Christian I used to say, as did an uncle of mine who was one of the learned and eloquent men, that eloquence is not one of the signs of prophethood because it is common to all the peoples; but when I discarded (blind) imitation and (old) customs and gave up adhering to (mere) habit and training and reflected upon the meanings of the Qur’an I came to know that what the followers of the Qur’an claimed for it was true. The fact is that I have not found any book, be it by an Arab or a Persian, an Indian or a Greek, right from the beginning of the world up to now, which contains at the same time praises of God, belief in the prophets and apostles, exhortations to good, everlasting deeds, command to do good and prohibition against doing evil, inspiration to the desire of paradise and to avoidance of hell-fire as this Qur’an does. So when a person brings to us a book of such qualities, which inspires such reverence and sweetness in the hearts and which has achieved such an overlasting success and he is (at the same time) an illiterate person who did never learnt the art of writing or rhetoric, that book is without any doubt one of the signs of his Prophethood.”[6][7]
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Muhammad ibn Hasan Tūsī

Khawaja Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Hasan Tūsī  (born 18 February 1201 in Ṭūs, Khorasan – died on 26 June 1274 in al-Kāżimiyyah district of metropolitan Baghdad), better known as Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī (Persian: نصیر الدین طوسی‎; or simply Tusi in the West), was a Persian[1][2][3][4] polymath and prolific writer: an architect, astronomer, biologist, chemist, mathematician, philosopher, physician, physicist, scientist, theologian and Marja Taqleed.[citation needed] He was of the Ismaili-, and subsequently Twelver Shī‘ah Islamic belief.[5] The Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian scholars


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, Hadith, Shi’a jurisprudence, logic, philosophy, mathematics, medicine and astronomy.[7]
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.[8] 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.
In Mosul 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 forces.


Kitāb al-Shakl al-qattāʴ Book on the complete quadrilateral. A five volume summary of trigonometry.
  • Al-Tadhkirah fi’ilm al-hay’ah – A memoir on the science of astronomy. Many commentaries were written about this work called Sharh al-Tadhkirah (A Commentary on al-Tadhkirah) – Commentaries were written by Abd al-Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Birjandi and by Nazzam Nishapuri.
  • Akhlaq-i-Nasri – A work on ethics.
  • al-Risalah al-Asturlabiyah – A Treatise on astrolabe.
  • Zij-i ilkhani (Ilkhanic Tables) – 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 and Persian, Nasir al-Din Tusi dealt with both religious (“Islamic”) topics and non-religious or secular subjects (“the ancient sciences”).[9] His works include the definitive Arabic versions of the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Ptolemy, Autolycus, and Theodosius of Bithynia.[9]


Tusi convinced Hulegu Khan to construct an observatory for establishing accurate astronomical tables for better astrological predictions. Beginning in 1259, the Rasad Khaneh observatory was constructed in Azarbaijan, west of Maragheh, the capital of the Ilkhanate Empire.
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 (Ilkhanic Tables). 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 and Copernicus, he is considered by many to be one of the most eminent astronomers of his time.
For his planetary models, he invented a geometrical technique called a Tusi-couple, which generates linear motion from the sum of two circular motions. He used this technique to replace Ptolemy‘s problematic equant[10] for many planets, but was unable to find a solution to Mercury, which was solved later by Ibn al-Shatir as well as Ali Qushji.[11] The Tusi couple was later employed in Ibn al-Shatir‘s geocentric model and Nicolaus Copernicusheliocentric Copernican model.[12] He also calculated the value for the annual precession of the equinoxes and contributed to the construction and usage of some astronomical instruments including the astrolabe.
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.[13] Tusi’s criticisms of Ptolemy were similar to the arguments later used by Copernicus in 1543 to defend the Earth’s rotation.[14]
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.” [15] 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.[16]


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:[17]
“The organisms 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:[17]
“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.”
Tusi recognized three types of living things: plants, animals, and humans. He wrote:[17]
“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:[17]
“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

In chemistry and physics, Tusi stated a version of the law of conservation of mass. He wrote that a body of matter is able to change, but is not able to disappear:[17]
“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.”.[6]
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Anvari (1126–1189), full name Awhad ad-Din ‘Ali ibn Mohammad Khavarani or Awhad ad-Din ‘Ali ibn Mahmud (Persian: اوحد الدین علی ابن محد انوری‎) was a Persian poet. He was born in Abivard of (now in Turkmenistan) and died in Khurasanian Balkh, now in Afghanistan,[1] and studied science and literature at the collegiate institute in Toon (now Ferdows, Iran), becoming a famous astronomer as well as a poet. Anvari’s poems were collected in a Deewan, and contains panegyrics, eulogies, satire, and others. His elegy “Tears of Khorasan”, translated into English in 1789, is considered to be one of the most beautiful poems in Persian literature. The Cambridge History of Iran calls Anvari “one of the greatest figures in Persian literature”. Despite their beauty, his poems often required much help with interpretation, as they were often complex and difficult to understand. Anvari’s panegyric in honour of the Seljuk sultan Sultan Sanjar (1117–1157), ruler of Khorasan, won him royal favour, and allowed him to go on to enjoy the patronage of two of Sanjar’s successors. However, when his prophecy of disasters in October 1185 failed, he fell out of favour with the kingship, and was forced into a life of scholarly service, eventually taking his own life in 1189.


Anwari was born in the Khawaran district (Balkh) of Khorasan early in the 12th century.[2] He enjoyed the special favour of the Sultan Sanjar, whom he attended in all his warlike expeditions. On one occasion, when the sultan was besieging the fortress of Hazarasp, a fierce poetical conflict was maintained between Anwari and his rival Rashidi, who was within the beleaguered castle, by means of verses fastened to arrows. His literary powers are considerable, as shown in his famous lament over the ruin caused by the Ghuzz tribesmen in Khurasan,[2] and his exercises in irony and ridicule make pungent reading.[2] He was adept in astrology[2] and considered himself to be superior to his contemporaries in logic, music, theology, mathematics and all other intellectual pursuits.[2] It appears that his patrons after Sultan Sanjar failed to value his services as highly as he did himself; at any rate he considered their rewards inadequate.[2]

Either that fact or jealousy of his rivals caused him to renounce the writing of eulogies and of ghazals, although it is difficult to decide at what point in his career this took place. His satires doubtless created him enemies. His declining fortunes led to persistent complaint against capricious Fate. In style and language he is sometimes obscure, so that Dawlatshah declares that he needs a commentary.[2] That obscurity, and a change in literary taste, may be one reason for his comparative neglect.[2]Anwari died at Balkh towards the end of the 12th century. The Diwan, or collection of his poems, consists of a series of long poems, and a number of simpler lyrics. His longest piece, The Tears of Khorassan, was translated into English verse by Captain Kirkpatrick.

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Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī

Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī[n 1] (born 4/5 September 973 in Kath, Khwarezm,[3] died 13 December 1048 in Ghazni) known as Alberonius in Latin and Al-Biruni in English,[4] was a Persian[5]Khwarezmian[6][7] Muslim scholar and polymath from the Khwarezm region. Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist.[7] He was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac.
He spent a large part of his life in Ghazni in modern-day Afghanistan, capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty which was based in what is now central-eastern Afghanistan. In 1017 he traveled to the Indian subcontinent and became the most important interpreter of Indian science to the Islamic world. He is given the titles the “founder of Indology” and the “first anthropologist”.[8] He was an impartial writer on custom and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh (“The Master”) for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.[7] He also made contributions to Earth sciences, and is regarded as the “father of geodesy” for his important contributions to that field, along with his significant contributions to geography. He was born in the outer district of Kath, the capital of the Afrighid dynasty of Khwarezm (or Chorasmia).[9] The word Biruni means “from the outer-district” in Persian, and so this became his nisba: “al-Bīrūnī” = “the Birunian”.[9] His first twenty-five years were spent in Khwarezm where he studied fiqh, theology, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, medics and other sciences.[9]
The Iranian Khwarezmian language, which was the language of Biruni,[10][11] survived for several centuries after Islam until the Turkification of the region, and so must some at least of the culture and lore of ancient Khwarezm, for it is hard to see the commanding figure of Biruni, a repository of so much knowledge, appearing in a cultural vacuum.[12]He was sympathetic to the Afrighids, who were overthrown by the rival dynasty of Ma’munids in 995. Leaving his homeland, he left for Bukhara, then under the Samanid ruler Mansur II the son of Nuh. There he also corresponded with Avicenna[13] and there are extant exchanges of views between these two scholars. In 998, he went to the court of the Ziyarid amir of Tabaristan, Shams al-Mo’ali Abol-hasan Ghaboos ibn Wushmgir. There he wrote his first important work, al-Athar al-Baqqiya ‘an al-Qorun al-Khaliyya (literally: “The remaining traces of past centuries” and translated as “Chronology of ancient nations” or “Vestiges of the Past”) on historical and scientific chronology, probably around 1000 A.D., though he later made some amendments to the book.
Accepting the definite demise of the Afrighids at the hands of the Ma’munids, he made peace with the latter who then ruled Khwarezm. Their court at Gorganj (also in Khwarezm) was gaining fame for its gathering of brilliant scientists. In 1017, Mahmud of Ghazni took Rey. Most scholars, including al-Biruni, were taken to Ghazna, the capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty.[1] Biruni was made court astrologer[14] and accompanied Mahmud on his invasions into India, living there for a few years. Biruni became acquainted with all things related to India. He may even have learned some Sanskrit.[15] During this time he wrote the Kitab ta’rikh al-Hind, finishing it around 1030.[16]
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