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Abu Ali Sina-e-Balkhi
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Posted 17 November 2005 - 12:13 PM
Ibn Sina e Balkhi (Avicenna of Balkh)
His full name was Shaykh Al-Ra'ees Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina Balkhi (الشيخ الرئيس ابو علی حسين بن عبدالله بن سينا بلخي). He was a Khorasanian of ancient Khorasan (Afghanistan), and born in the city of Balkh (ancient Bactria) in the year 980 A.D. Avicenna of Balkh is regarded as the most famous and influential philosopher-scientist of his time. He is particulary known for his contributions in the field of Aristotelian philosophy and medicine.
He spent his childhood in the city of Balkh and received his basic education from his father. He was tremendously benefitted from the company of the outstanding masters who were gathering in his father's house for meeting and intellectual discourse. He was a precocious child with an exceptional memory that helped him throughout his life. By the age ten he had already memorized the whole Qur'an and were well versed in Arabic. Noting his outstanding abilities and desire to learn, his father brought him to the city of Bukhara. It was the time of great Samanids and Bukhara was one of the important centers of cultural activities. He studied under the guidance of many teachers and continued for a few years in his own self education. His access to the rich royal library of Samanids proved very helpful in his education. This access to the royal library was awarded to him because of successful treatment of Samanid prince Nuh ibn Mansur. By the time he reached age twenty-one he had already become an accomplished physician and had mastered all the knowledge of his time.
During this time Avicenna's way of life was greatly changed that lasted to the end of his life. His father died and Bukhara the capital of Samanids was captured by Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazna and a period of instability began. However, he had a few short periods of tranquility in this great time of hardship and turmoil. His the power of his intellect and concentration was such that he continued his intellectual works with remarkable consistency and continuity and was not influenced by the outward disturbances.
He wandered in different cities of Greater Khorasan and made his livelihoods as a physician. But due to lack of sufficient economic and social support he left for the court of Hamadan (a city in today's Iran). In Hamadan, he became a physician at the court of Shams- ad-Dawlah a prince of Buiyd and enjoyed the favor of the ruler to a great extend. He was not only a physician but was also involved in administrative works as a Vizier. During the day he was busy with his physician and administrative duties but during the night kept busy writing his works and continued discussions with his students. When Shams ad-Dawlah, the ruler of Hamadan, died in 1022 A.D. Avicenna faced a period of hardship which included imprisonment. Even in prison he never stop writing. His great physical strength enabled him to carry out a program that would have been unimaginable for a person of a feebler constitution. He spent the last fourteen years of his life in a relative peace in a city called Isfahan (in Iran) at the court of Ala ad-Dawlah. Avicenna was highly respected by him and his court.
He completed his two major works and wrote most of his 200 treaties in Isfahan (a city in today's Iran). Those two famous works are The Book of Healing (Kitab-e-Shafa) and the Canon of Medicine (al-Qanun fi at-tibb). The Book of Healing is probably the largest work of its kind written by one person. This book treats logic, the natural sciences including psychology, the quadrivium (geometry, astronomy, arithmetic and music) and metaphysics. His thought in this work was influenced by Aristotle, other Greek influencess and Neoplatonism. His system was based on the conception of God as a necessary existent, that is in God alone, what he is and existence that he is, coincide. There is a gradual multiplication of beings through a timeless emanation from God as a result of his self-knowledge. He classified the entire fields of knowledge into: theoretical knowledge: physics, mathematics, and metaphysics; and practical knowledge: ethics, economics and politics.
His other book, The Canon of Medicine, is the most famous single book in the West as well as East. It is an immense systematic encyclopedia based on his own experience and on achievement of Greek physicians of the Roman era. This book was translated and remained supreme in the West for six centuries. This book is rich with his own original contributions which includes the recognitions of the contagious nature of diseases such as phthisis and tuberculosis. He asserted that diseases can be spread by the means of water, air and soil. The Canon, besides listing 760 kinds of drug, describes pharmacological methods and became the most authentic materia medica of the time. He described meningitis and made rich contributions to anatomy, gynecology and child health.
His Kitab al-isharat wa at-tanbihat (Book of Directives and Remarks) describes the mystic's spiritual journey from the beginnings of faith to the final stage of direct and uninterrupted vision of God. He also wrote a book Lisan al-'arab (The Arabic Language). It was rather a response to an authority on Arabic philology who criticized him that he was not well versed in Arabic. Avicenna spent three years studying the Arabic Language and composed this book which remained in rough draft until his death.
Avicenna contributed to many field of knowledge including mathematics, physics, music. He described the "casting out of nines" and its application to the verification of square and cubes. He made many astronomical observation and devised an instrument similar to vernier for increasing the precision of measurement readings. In physics, he studied the different forms of energy, heat, light and concepts such as force, vacuum and infinity. He asserted an interconnection between time and motion and also investigated on specific gravity. In the field of music, he improved on Farabi's work and was far ahead of knowledge prevailing else-where on the subject. In the field of chemistry he did not believe in the possibility of chemical transmutation which was prevailing at the time. He believed the metals differed in a fundamental sense.
- Afnan, Soheil M. Avicenna: His Life and Works. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1958.
- Arberry, Arthur J. Avicenna on Theology. London: John Murray, 1951.
- Avicenna. The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition. Translated by William E. Gohlman. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974.
- Brown, H. V. B. "Avicenna and the Christian Philosophers in Baghdad." In Islamic Philosophy and the Classical Tradition: Essays to Richard Walzer, edited by S. M. Stern, Albert Hourani, and Vivian Brown. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973.
- Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy. Vol. 2. Westminister, Md.: Newman Press, 1955.
- Goichon, Amelie M. The Philosophy of Avicenna and Its Influence of Medieval Europe. Translated by M. S. Khan. Delhi: Motil al Banarsidass, 1969.
- Maurer, Armand A. Medieval Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1962. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1982.
- Morain, Lloyd L. "Avicenna: Asian Humanist Forerunner." The Humanist 41 (March/April, 1981): 27-34.
- "Ibn Sina." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1997.
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