Friday, 14 October 2011

Medieval Muslim Figure: Ibnu Sina

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Complex D, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Saudi Arabia

Let us learn about a Muslim figure who was active in educational field. His name is Abu Ali al-Hussein bin Abdullah bin Sina. His name is spelt as Avicenna in Latin and in Arabic we just call him Ibnu Sina. He is originated from Persian empire and ethnically a Tajik. 

Urmm, I know many sites had already talk about this but I am just recapturing them again for my personal reference especially about this figure sect where people are so allergic to each others' sect for example Shi'a Muslim but we never realize that we are proud of a Shi'a Muslim. If we really wanted to ban them, we should also never talk about their figures, right? Why I talk like this? I saw this figure information is displayed in certain Sunni public mosque and his school is not mentioned to everyone : )

I must also give credit to Isma'ili Shi'a Muslims because Ibnu Sina is from their school and actually many of translations of books were made by them either in Persian empire or in Egypt. Many Isma'ili Shi'ites from Yemen and India, those remnants of Fatimite dynasty until today are actually active in propagating Islam regardless sub-schools and they are active in establishing educational institutes since 10th C which is earlier than Iranian conversion into Twelver Shi'a Ali from Sunnah of Shafi'ie school under Safavid dynasty.


Ibnu Sina was born in the year of 370 H (980 C) near Kharmaitan, Bukhara. His education began in Bukhara where he learned languages, art and literature. Although he learned all sorts of subjects including philosophy, he is more prominent in medical field either as a doctor or as a teacher who taught the knowledge of medicine.

Young Time Education

He first received informal Quranic and literature education. When he was five years old, he began to learn. At 10 years old, he had succeeded in memorizing the whole Quran. He had also mastering other religious studies subjects such as exegesis, jurisprudence, comparative religion and the root of religion, tasawwuf, and others since he was 10 years old.

He was first taught by his father friend, Abu Abdullah Natili and also by his dad. Among other knowledge and skills that he learned are philosophy, medical, geometry, astronomy, musical, theology, politics, physics, chemistry, literature, and cosmology.  

He becomes a royal doctor after he succeeded in curing the disease of prince Nub bin Nas as-Samani. Many other doctors failed to cure the prince and he was 18 at that time. His specialty at his time had made him being recognized as Sheikh ar-Rais which means the main teacher. 

During his life time, he was also known in other territories as well. His book al-Qanun fi al-Tibb was published in Rome around 1593 before being translated into English and known as Precepts of Medicine. In the time span less than 100 years, his book was translated into 15 languages. In 17th C, his book had already been reference textbook in universities and learning institutions in Italy and France. Those books were still in usage until 19th C and printed several times for medical students' reference. 

Ibnu Sina had also write a book which is called as Remedies for the Heart and it consists of poems related to medical. He elaborates about 760 diseases and explaining how to cure them in the book. There are other writings made by Ibnu Sina which also covers other areas as well such as metaphysical, musical, astronomy, philology, poetry, and religion.

He is not only mastering few subjects of knowledge and sciences but had made achievements through new findings. He had also hold the position of third teacher in logic and he had made hundreds of pamphlets which consist creative literature.


He was a famous philosopher. In this field, he wrote a book titled an-Najah which talks about philosophical matters. His philosophical thinking has much being influenced by the school of al-Farabi who brought alive Aristotelian thinking. Due to that, his medical view was also influenced by Greek's basic philosophy and medical theories especially those proposed by Hippocrates.  

Greek medical theory is based of elements which are called as humors. They are blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. According to this theory, an individual health is related to the mixture of these four elements. These four elements must be balanced as to make sure that health could be maintained.

Each person has different formula in health maintenance. Although this theory was founded as not accurate but it has become a basic stepping stone for researchers to find the factors of human disease. Ibnu Sina had filthered Greek's Cosmogonist Theories and Islamicized it. He also holds the thought that human body consists of four elements which are earth, water, fire, and wind. These four elements give effects such as moist, cold, hot, or dry according to other elements in the universe. He has this thought that, human have natural antibody to combat diseases. Other than four elements in a body, a person also needs strong antibody to maintain health and curing process.

In mathematics and logics, Ibnu Sina has this opinion that it could also lead a person to know his Creator. This opinion is also proposed by Greek philosopher such as Pythagoras in order to explain about certain creation. For Pythagoras, a mass also consists of numbers and numbers has their own power in the universe. This understanding is condemned by honorable Imam al-Ghazali may Allah be Merciful to him, as deviating from the basic creed and it is more damaging than the doctrine of Jews and Christians.

In reality, Ibnu Sina never reject the Power of the God. In his book, an-Najah, he mentioned that the Creator is the Wajib al-Wujud and He is the True One. He is of no form (in human mind) and could never be divided even in concept. According to Ibnu Sina, everything in existence or mumkin al-wujud is derived from the Wajib al-Wujud who has no beginning. However, it is not necessary that everything in existence comes from the Wajib al-Wujud because He is also Willing not to the Will. There is of no obstacle for He to derive everything which is in existence due to He is Perfect over all and the Highest above all. Ibnu Sina philosophy and concept regarding theology was written in the chapter called Himah Ilahiyyah in the subject of "Regarding the Mind Arrangement and Heavens' Self and Higher Mass."

This is a bit high, be careful dear brethren. Don't dwell in this kind of speech or burdening our mind with non-necessary thoughts. It is very dangerous toward the Creed especially for lay persons. This kind of thought and speech had also created controversy as what had been mentioned as the trial to debate the Essence of the God. Honorable Imam al-Ghazali in his book Tahafat al-Falasifah (No Continuation in Philosophers' Thought) discussing the thoughts of Ibnu Sina and al-Farabi. Among the disagreement brought before everyone by the honorable Imam al-Ghazali is the denial of the believe that earth is eternal by Ibnu Sina and about Ibnu Sina and al-Farabi thoughts regarding the resurrection of of human mass with happiness of paradise and torture of hell.

No matter what he has in his thought or proposed, Ibnu Sina had already contributing toward the development of education for others no matter Muslims or non-Muslims. He is a person who was responsible in introducing philosophical thoughts and logical science such as medical and mathematics for both Muslims and non-Muslims in medieval era.     

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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