Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Unrivaled Legacy of Ibn Sina (Avicenna)
By Kourosh Ziabari
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 8, 2010
Historically, Iran has been a land of prominent, influential
figures in science, letters, arts and literature whose impact on the
global civilization will remain in place forever.
Throughout its ancient history, Iran has introduced numerous people to
the world who have been among the most impressive, notable and valuable
figures in their own field of expertise.
Although the European
nations usually boast of being the foremost pioneers and harbingers in
various fields of science and arts, they know well that they owe to the
Persians the achievement of many peaks and breakthroughs which they
introduce as being theirs. Persians have been traditionally skilful and
dexterous in different branches of astronomy, mathematics, physics,
medicine, psychiatry, architecture, philosophy, theology and literature
and the unparalleled names of Ferdowsi, Rumi, Razi (Rhazes), Rudaki,
Biruni, Al-Farabi, Al-Khawrizmi and Avicenna attest to the fact that Iran
has been perpetually a land of science, knowledge and conscience in which
cleverness grows and talent develops.
Although we are customarily
grappling with our daily concerns and rarely find the opportunity to study
about the figures who have shaped our civilization and our knowledge of
the external world, it's vitally necessary to have a basic acquaintance
with these great men and know the reasons why they did become eternal and
everlasting in the annals of history.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is one
out of hundreds of Iranian Muslim intellectuals whose contributions to
science and literature has made him an unforgettable name in the memory of
the world and there are millions of people around the globe who admire and
respect him for what he achieved and what he was.
(Avicenna) was an 11th century Persian Muslim polymath, physician,
philosopher and scientist, born in the ancient Iranian province of Bukhara
in 980. He has written more than 450 books on various subjects,
particularly in physics, medicine and philosophy.
considered himself a student whose knowledge is incomplete and imperfect.
In a famous distich, he described himself this way:
My knowledge reached to the point that / I can know that I know nothing
Ibn Sina's (Avicenna's) exceptional talents emerged since his early childhood
and by the age of ten he was proficient in memorizing and reciting the
Holy Quran. In his adolescence years, he studied Islamic jurisprudence,
philosophy and natural sciences. He started studying medicine when he was
17 and described the field as "not difficult" to study. By the age of 18,
he had become a prominent physician and the Samanid ruler Nuh ibn Mansur,
in gratitude to his services, invited him to attend the royal library
where the young Avicenna could access to a number of rare and unique
books. Avicenna set out to write his first book by the age of 21.
After the death of his father, Avicenna left Bukhara and went to Khiva and
then to Gorgan at the southern coastline of Caspian Sea. He was attracted
by the prominence of Gorgan's ruler as a science-loving emperor; however,
his arrival in Gorgan coincided with the overthrow and killing of King
Qabus. He consequently went to Ray near the modern Tehran and carried out
a set of concentrated researches on medicine. Following the blockade of
Ray city, he set out to Hamedan and treated Amir Shamsud-Dawla's colic. He
was then appointed as the Hamedan's Prime Minister by Amir. While serving
as the Prime Minister, he wrote the "Book of Healing". Following the
demise of Shamsud-Dawla, a number of vicious soldiers planned a conspiracy
against Avicenna and compelled Amir's successor to imprison him. He spent
4 months in prison where he compiled the mystic treatise of "Hayy ibn
Following his release, Avicenna spent a few times in
seclusion and isolation. Consequently, he went to Isfahan along with his
brother and one of his students where they were warmly welcomed by the
regional ruler, Ala al-Daula. Avicenna spent 14 tranquil years in Isfahan
and this gave him the opportunity to complete his unfinished books. He
advised Ala al-Dula in scientific and literary matters and accompanied him
in war campaigns. In 1037 and while he was en route to Hamedan
accompanying the king, he got sick and passed away in 58.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is the first Iranian philosopher who has compiled organized
and structured books on philosophy and medicine. He was influenced by
Prophet Muhammad, Plotinus, al-Kindi, Al-Farabi and Biruni. His enormous
book the "Canon of Medicine" was used as a textbook in the universities of
Montpellier and Louvain by 1650s.
Avicenna was astoundingly
versatile in his skills and abilities. He was an astronomer, chemist,
geologist, Quran memorizer (Hafiz), Islamic psychologist, theologian,
logician, paleontologist, physicist, poet and mathematician.
Arab scholar and researcher Soheil Muhsin Afnan who has written on the
works and life of Avicenna extensively describes him as "the most
provocative figure in the history of thought in the East."
profoundness and authoritativeness of Avicenna's works, Afnan writes:
"with a wideness of range, a vigor of thought, and a unity of conception
unequalled among the phiosophists, his thoughts extended far beyond the
Eastern lands, giving rise to the most complete philosophical system that
the Islamic world was to have."
Ibn Sina's (Avicenna's) "Danish-naama-i-Alai"
is the first Persian-written dissertation on philosophy. It's consisted of
five main categories: logic, natural sciences, astronomy, music and
theology. In this treatise, he has proposed new Persian equivalents for
the Arabic philosophical terms.
Many scientific organizations
around the world are named after Avicenna. A lunar crater lying on the far
side of the Moon, just beyond the western limb on the northern rim of the
Lorentz basin is named in honor of Avicenna.
(Avicenna's) Canon of
Medicine is actually his most well-known book. The book starts with a
definition of the science of medicine. Then, he goes on to say that the
human's health cannot be restored unless the causes of both health and
illness are found out.
He consequently gives a definition of the
material cause which is the physical body, the primary constituents of the
human body which are elements and the humors which are the vital essences
of the body including the sanguineous humor, the phlegm humor, the bilious
humor and the atrabilious humor. Subsequently, he describes the
variability of the humors, the temperaments, the psychic faculties, the
vital force, the organs, the efficient causes, the formal causes, the
vital faculties and the final causes.
(Avicenna's) works have
influenced a number of Western scholars and researchers and it's widely
believed that his works, specially his Cannon of Medicine, are until now
the most remarkable works ever written by an Eastern scientist.
Writing about Avicenna should not be limited to a single article which
cannot surpass more than a few hundred words. It demands thousands of
pages to explain the realities of Avicenna, his works, his dexterities and
his innovations; however, it may suffice for a rudimentary introduction
that Avicenna was a man who seems to remain unrivaled at least throughout
the 21st century.
- Kourosh Ziabari is an
Iranian freelance journalist.