Abū Alī al-Husain ibn Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā (Persian ابن سينا, Arabic أبو علي الحسين بن عبد الله ابن سينا, DMG Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusain ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā; born shortly before 980 near Bukhara in Khorasan; died in June 1037 in Hamadan), Ibn Sina for short, and, presumably via a Hebrew intermediate like Aven Zina: S. 135 Latinized Avicenna, was a Persian physician, natural scientist, Aristotelian-Neuplatonic philosopher, poet, Sunni Hanafite-trained jurist or Faqīh, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist and music theorist, and politician. He wrote works in Arabic and Persian.

Avicenna is one of the most famous personalities of his time, exchanged philosophical ideas with the famous scholar al-Bīrūnī, was considered a medical-philosophical authority until well into the 16th century, and in particular had a significant influence on the history and development of medicine. Some of his philosophical elaborations were received by later mystics of Sufism.:p. 130 f. Among his most important works are the Book of Recovery (Kitāb aš-šifā”) and the five-volume Canon of Medicine (Qānūn fī aṭ-ṭibb), which, summarizing mainly Greco-Roman medicine, was one of the leading medical textbooks for over five centuries.

Youth and education

We learn about Avicenna”s life mainly from the information in his biography written by his student Abu Ubaid Abd al-Wahid al-Juzjani, the first part of which, according to him, was written by Avicenna himself,:p. 10 although it is unclear when he might have dictated the account of his youthful years to his student who accompanied him for 25 years. Avicenna”s father was an Ismaili from the city of Balch in Khorasan (today in northern Afghanistan), the epistles of the “Loud Brothers” (a secret society of scholars close to the Ismailis, which also dealt with alchemy):pp. 24 f., 35, 89, 104, and 133 reading, tax collector who settled in the village of Afshāna near Bukhara in the Persian Samanid Empire, held a high administrative position in the civil service there:p. 12, and married Abū Alī”s mother Setāra. Abū Alī and then his brother Alī:pp. 18 and 36 were born in Afshāna, after which the family moved (probably around 986) to the capital Bukhara.

Since his native language was Persian, Avicenna first learned Arabic, the lingua franca of the time. He was then assigned two teachers to teach him the Koran and literature. By the age of ten, he had mastered the Quran and had studied many works of fine:p, p. 18 literature, earning the admiration of those around him. From a learned greengrocer he learned Indian arithmetic (later he invented an improved method of finger arithmetic:p, p. 98). Avicenna was introduced to law by the Hanafite jurist Ismail, called “the ascetic.” He then received instruction from the itinerant philosopher Abū ”Abdallāh an-Nātilī, who had published, among other things, an edit of Pedanios Dioscorides” collection of medicines De Materia medica. At an-Nātilī, Avicenna dealt with the works Eisagoge (an introduction to Aristotle”s writings on logic) by Porphyrios, Elements by Euclid, and Almagest by the astronomer Ptolemy. After an-Nātilī left for Gurganj (now Kunja-Urgentsch), the capital of Khorezm, northwest of Bukhara, Avicenna spent the next few years deepening his self-taught studies in jurisprudence (Sharia), philosophy, and logic, and continued his study of the works of Euclid and the Almagest. He also studied medicine, turning more intensively to it at the age of 17 and studying both its theory and practice. In addition, he received instruction from al-Qumri), the personal physician of the Samanid al-Mansur ibn Nuh. At the age of about 18, he is said to have successfully cured a Samanid governor of a serious illness.:p. 12 He described the art of healing as “not difficult.” Avicenna continued to delve into metaphysical problems, especially the works of Aristotle, though it was writings by Abu Nasr al-Farabi (On the Intentions of the Book of Metaphysics, probably acquired cheaply by Avicenna, andor The Book of Letters, a more detailed writing) that helped him to understand metaphysics. In case of ambiguities in the field of logic (for example, in the search for the middle term in the syllogism), he is said to have prayed in the mosque and asked for inspiration; in case of fatigue or weakness during his studies, a cup of wine (permitted according to the rules of the Hanafite school) allegedly helped him.:pp. 20-26 and 72

The wandering years

Since he had already established a reputation as a scholar and healer, around 996 the Samanid emir Nuh ibn Mansur (Nūḥ ibn Manṣūr) (976-997), the father of Abd al-Malik II, who ruled Bukhara, took him into his service as one of his attending physicians. The latter then also entrusted him with administrative duties.:p. 12 Avicenna was also allowed to use the royal library with its rare and unique books, of which he had read those of the most important (Greek) authorities until he was 18 years old. Emir of Bukhara was now Ibn Nuh (Abu l-Harith Mansur (II) ibn Nuh), who ruled from 997 to 999. At the age of 21, Avicenna wrote his first book of his own, called The Collection or Book on the Soul in the form of a compendium, which he wrote at the suggestion or commission of Abu l-Hasan al-”Arudi, who lived in his neighborhood, and which was said to contain all sciences except mathematics. Also at the request of a neighbor who instructed Avicenna in Hanafi law, Abū Bakr al-Baraqī (d. 986), the nearly 20-volume Book of Yield and Profit and the Book of Righteousness and Sin are said to have been written. From al-Baraqī, Avicenna wrote poems ab.:pp. 26-28, 41, and 68 f.

Avicenna”s father died in 1002, at which time Avicenna also became involved in government affairs in Bukhara:p. 28 He had probably already left Bukhara when the city fell to the Turkish Karakhanids (led by Abu”l-Hasan Nasr ibn Ali Arslan Ilek) in 999 and his newly installed employer (the emir Abd al-Malik II) had fallen into captivity.

In his flight through the Karakum Desert, Avicenna is said to have been accompanied by the Christian physician Abū Sahl ʿĪsā ibn Yahyā al-Masihi al-Jurjānī, according to the storyteller Nizamī-i Arūzī-i Samarqandī:p. 31 After wandering again through various cities of Khorasan (Nisā, Abiward, Tūs, and Samanqān), he came by way of Ğāğarm (Jājarm, English transliterated Jajarm, in northern Khorasan):S, pp. 29 f. and 164 1012 or 1013 to Gorgan (Arabic Ǧurǧān) on the southern edge of the Caspian Sea, where he wrote many of his most important works.

He was attracted by the fame of the local ruler Qabus ibn Voschmgir (or Qābūs ibn Wušmagīr, also known as Wuschmagir for short) (reigned 977978-981 and 997998-10121013), who was considered a patron of literature and science and with whom al-Biruni had also stayed, who, from about 998 on, was engaged in a correspondence dealing with Aristotle (On the Heavens and Physics Lecture) with Avicenna (and his student Maʿṣūmī or al-Maʿṣūmī, who was seconded to him by letter and was murdered by Mahmud”s troops during the occupation of Rey in 1029). :S, pp. 32 and 43-59 and 127 and 165 However, the prince from the Ziyarid dynasty had been pinned down in a fortress shortly before Avicenna”s arrival by insurgents in the winter of 10121013, where he met his death. In Gorgan, Avicenna lectured in logic and astronomy, wrote part of the Qānūn, and, after a stay in Dihistan, met his friend and student al-Juzjani in Gorgan, now ruled until 1029 by Falak al-Maali Manuchehr ibn Qabus. In Gorgan he lived in a house bought for him by a private patron. To this he dedicated the philosophical book The Exit and the Homecoming and the book of the entire astronomical observations.:pp. 29, 32 and 121 f. In 1014 (or 1013) he applied for a position at the court of Rey with a letter of recommendation issued in Gorgan.:p. 13

From 1014 to 1015, Avicenna stayed in Rey as a physician:p. 33 and was in the service of the still minor ruler from the Shiite Buyid dynasty, Madsch ad-Daula (997-1029), and his reigning widowed mother:p. 13 There he treated the small prince suffering from “melancholy.” Avicenna founded a medical practice as – as he called himself – mutaṭabbib (in the 11th century as much as “practicing physician”):p. 33 f. and wrote 30 short works. When Rey was besieged by ad-Daula”s brother, Shams ad-Daula (ruled 997-1021), in 1015, Avicenna was forced to leave Rey, and he went to Hamadan via Qazwin:pp. 13 f.

In 1015, Avicenna became personal physician and medical advisor to Shams ad-Daula, now ruling as emir of Hamadan, whose colic he treated for forty days, after which he was appointed nadīm (a post that translates as “carouser”) in gratitude. Avicenna, after accompanying the ruler on a war campaign that went unsatisfactorily and the government was subsequently reshuffled, eventually even rose to become his vizier. A mutiny by soldiers led to his deposition and arrest, with Shams ad-Daula refusing a demanded execution of Avicenna.:p. 33 f. However, when the emir once again suffered from colic, Avicenna is said to have been called in for treatment and, after a successful cure, was released and reinstated to his old office.

His life in those days was exhausting: during the day he was busy with services for the emir, while he spent much of the nights lecturing and dictating notes for his books. Students gathered at his house to hear excerpts recited by al-Juzjani from Avicenna”s major works, the Kitāb ash-Shifā and the Qanun, followed by the master”s explanations. This was then followed by a symposium, a wine banquet at which singers also appeared.:p. 35

After the death of Shams ad-Daula (1021) following a war campaign aborted due to the emir”s illness:p. 35 Avicenna lived in the house of a spice-merchant, from where he offered his services in a letter to the founder of the dynasty, arch-enemy of Hamadan, and Kakuyid emir ʿAlā ad-Daula Muḥammad of Isfahan, who had ruled since about 1008, while he had declined a renewed position offered to him as vizier or nadīm at the Hamadan court, now under one of Shams” sons (Avicenna”s successor as vizier was the philosophical enemy Tāj al-Mulk).:p. 14 After al-Mulk learned of Avicenna”s secret correspondence with the emir of Isfahan, Avicenna”s safe house was denounced, he came under suspicion of treason, and was imprisoned by Hamadan”s new ruler in the nearby fortress of Fardajān. While imprisoned in the fortress, Avicenna composed several writings, including the allegorical mystical tale of Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān (annotated and explained by Avicenna”s disciple Abu Mansur ibn Zaila) with parallels to Dante”s Divine Comedy (The Tale found, especially in Abraham ibn Ezra”s adaptation as Chaj ben Mekitz, “The Living One, the Son of the Waking One,” also found its way into Hebrew literature and has been available in European print since 1889). Four months later, when ʿAlā ad-Daula marched against Hamadan (after ad-Daula had evacuated the city again, Avicenna left the fortress with the vizier al-Mulk, who was now once again favorable to him, continued his work on the Book of Recovery in private quarters, and wrote his treatise on heart medicines.

Avicenna in Isfahan, Death in Hamadan

Avicenna, his friend and biographer al-Juzjani, his brother, and two slaves accompanying them left Hamadan, disguised as wandering dervishes, and headed for Isfahan. During the journey, Avicenna wrote a treatise On Fate and Predestination. In Isfahan in 1024, ʿAlā ad-Daula Muhammad welcomed Avicenna to the Kakuyid court. Avicenna became personal physician and again nadīm in the service of the Kakuyid, who was regarded as a free spirit who defied religious laws and whom he also advised on scientific and literary matters. To him he dedicated a summary of philosophy (instead of in the Arabic language of science) in the Persian vernacular.:pp. 36-38 He called this concise encyclopedia Dāneschnāme-ye ”Alā”ī (“The Book of Knowledge for ʿAlā ad-Daula”), or Dāniš-nāmeh for short. In addition, he accompanied the man who had become his friend on grueling war campaigns. In addition, his powers were probably influenced by his sex life. In Isfahan he completed his canon:p. 38 f. Friends advised him to take it easy and lead a moderate, less unsteady life, but this did not correspond to Avicenna”s character: “I would rather have a short life in abundance than a meager long life” he replied. While participating in a campaign against Masud I of Ghazni, Avicenna fell ill in 1034 (three years before his death):p. 14 from an intestinal ailment that was becoming protracted and associated with painful colic. died, exhausted from the effects of his intestinal ailment at the age of 57, probably from dysentery or intestinal cancer, a few days after another campaign with ʿAlā ad-Daula (against Hamadan). Allegedly, his end was hastened by the excessive administration of a drug (a mithridatic with an overdose of opium) by one of his students.

Avicenna was buried at the city wall of Hamadan in a small tomb, which was first renovated in 1877. The Canadian physician and medical historian William Osler had made a special effort to restore the monument. From 1951 to 1953, a new mausoleum with a 64-meter-high tower was completed in the center of the city, where Avicenna”s remains were transferred.:pp. 40-42 Uzbek anthropologists reconstructed Avicenna”s head in the form of a bust based on two photographs of his skull.

The main focus of Avicenna”s literary work are texts on philosophy and medicine.:p. 17Of 456 titles, 258 (as of 1999) are extant.:p. 127 It is claimed that Avicenna completed 21 major and 24 minor works in philosophy, medicine, theology, geometry, astronomy, and other fields. Other authors attribute 99 books to Avicenna: 16 on medicine, 68 on theology and metaphysics, 11 on astronomy, and 4 on drama. Most of them were written in Arabic; but he also wrote in his native Persian a large selection of philosophical doctrines, called Dāneschnāme-ye ”Alā”ī, and a short treatise on the pulse dedicated to ʿAlā ad-Daula Muḥammad of Isfahan,:p. 117.

The different information on this is related to the transmission of texts under his name that began shortly after Avicenna”s death, which contain the core of his work but come from authors of different origins. The original list of works in his biography contained about 40 titles, the number of which increased to over 200 with the development of the corpus of texts handed down under his name:pp. 15 f.

A paper dealing with the grammar of Arabic entitled The Language of the Arabs remained a draft.:p. 18

Two different narratives have come down to us under the title Salaman and Absal and Avicenna”s Name. One of them was supposedly translated from Greek by Hunain ibn Ishāq, and the title that became famous was later used for his epic of the same name by Jāmi. Avicenna also composed an allegorical tale entitled The Birds. Also various poems:pp. 80-82 and 85-88

About 100 years after Avicenna”s death, his writings found their way into Western reception via Latin translations. Avicenna was demonstrably used for medical teaching in Europe from the 14th century, after Pope Clement V instructed the University of Montpellier to use writings by Galen and Avicenna, among others. The first printed translations were produced at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries.:pp. 21-27 (From Central Asia to Paris – the Reception of Avicenna”s Work).

Canon of medicine

The Canon of Medicine, Arabic القانون في الطب, DMG al-qānūn fī ”ṭ-ṭibb, is one of Avicenna”s most famous works, from which his epithet al-Qānūni is derived. Described by Schipperges as a summa medicinae and a summary and systematization of the state of medical knowledge at the time:pp. 17 and 19-27 work is divided into five books:

Each book (Arabic كتاب, DMG kitāb) is further subdivided into sections called funūn (Arabic plural of فنّ, DMG fann ”art”), and each fann consists of teachings (Arabic تعليم, DMG ta”līm ”doctrine”, Latin doctrinae). Each of these doctrines is divided into sums (Arabic جُمَل, DMG ğumal, singular of جملة, DMG ǧumla, Latin summae) and these consist of chapters (Arabic فصول, DMG fuṣūl, singular of فصل, DMG faṣl)

In the book on the general principles of medicine, Avicenna, whose morphology and physiology are based primarily on Galen, states that these are subject to the humoral pathology:p. 110 f. and force potential of the organism, which is to be understood as the physiological basis for the development and symptoms of diseases. Both in the canon and in other of his medical works, Avicenna also shows approaches to psychosomatics:pp. 120-123.

The Canon of Medicine, which systematically summarizes medicine, describes, for example, that tuberculosis is contagious and that diseases can be transmitted by water and soil. He gives a scientific diagnosis of ankylostomiasis (hookworm infestation) and describes the conditions of the occurrence of intestinal worms. In addition, he treated dracunculosis, a parasitosis also found in the Bukhara area with infestation by the medina worm.:pp. 111-113 and 155 The canon discusses the importance of dietary measures, the influence of climate and environment on health, and the surgical use of perorally supplied anesthetics. Avicenna advises surgeons to treat cancer in its earliest stages and to ensure that all diseased tissue has been removed. For the first time, he describes urinary fistula, which can occur when the urinary bladder is injured during childbirth. Furthermore, the anatomy of the eye is properly described, and various eye diseases (such as cataract) are described. Symptoms of infectious and sexually transmitted diseases are also mentioned, as well as those of diabetes mellitus. In the case of life-threatening obstruction of the respiratory tract, Avicenna recommends tracheotomy. The heart is conceived as a pump, but Avicenna”s ideas on heart anatomy and physiology were based on Aristotle rather than on Galen, who was more advanced in this respect, and were still based on ancient ideas of an “irrigation” of the body and not yet on a blood circulation or (as postulated by Galen) directed movements of the blood outside the heart.:p. 118 f. Also the surgical treatment of rectal fistulas, the reduction of dislocated joints and the obstetric child development in abnormal birth positions are described by Avicenna.

The Materia Medica (“Medical Material”) of the Qānūn contains 760 medicines with information on their use and effectiveness. Avicenna was the first to establish rules on how to test a new medicine before administering it to patients.

Avicenna noted the close relationship between feelings and the physical condition, dealt with the positive physical and psychological effects of music on patients in the spirit of Greek humoral pathology, and also established relationships of human temperaments (whose nature is based on the quantitative ratio of bodily humors as well as that in their transformation:p. 121) to the different modal tonal systems and traditional melodies that are still found today in the dastgahha of Persian and maqamat of Arabic music. Among the many mental disorders he describes in the Qānūn is love sickness. As stated in the popular anecdotal Four Treatises of the Niẓāmī ʿArūḍī (c. 11001160), Avicenna had diagnosed the illness of a young relative of the ruler of Gorgan who was bedridden and whose ailment puzzled the local physicians. Avicenna noticed a fluttering in the youngster”s pulse when he mentioned the address and name of his beloved. The great physician had a simple remedy: the sick man should be united with his beloved. However, the ruler Qabus, who had summoned the doctor from Khorezm, was no longer alive when Avicenna arrived in Gorgan. The core of this story is an older wandering anecdote about the physician Erasistratos, who treats the prince Antiochos.:p. 122

Avicenna, who assumed that for the procreation of a child an orgasm is necessary also with the woman, expresses itself in the canon of the medicine also to associated methods. Own, partly polemic against Galen formulated considerations to the procreation doctrine and embryology are likewise found in his work.:p. 119 f.

Before 1180, Guido of Arezzo the Younger wrote a purgatory treatise called Liber mitis, which initiated the medical reception of Avicenna. Also in the 12th century (before 1187), the canon was translated into Latin by Gerhard of Cremona in Toledo. The work, of which 15-30 Latin editions existed throughout the Occident in 1470, was considered an important textbook of medicine until the 17th century. In 1491 a Hebrew version was printed in Naples, and in 1593 it was one of the first Persian works to be printed in Arabic in Rome. In the second half of the 16th century, probably also as a result of the confrontation with the Turks, in favor of the teachings of Galen, Avicenna”s (“Arabic”) medicine declined in the curricula, except for smaller universities such as the one in Frankfurt an der Oder, where preference was still given to Avicenna in 1588:p. 156 In 1650, the canon was used for the last time at the universities of Louvain and Montpellier.

At the University of Vienna, Pius Nikolaus von Garelli (Dr. med. et phil. of the University of Bologna), in order to be admitted to the medical faculty, still had to hold a solemn “repetition” on February 18, 1696, on a section of the Canon of Avicenna, followed by an argumentation of the reasons in favor or against the theses contained therein.

Liber Primus Naturalium: Natural Causes of Diseases and Deformities

In his work Liber Primus Naturalium, Avicenna addressed the question of whether events such as diseases or deformities are chance occurrences and whether they have natural causes. He analyzed this using polydactyly as an example. His finding was that if an event is rare, it has a natural cause regardless, even if such a cause seems unnatural. Diseases or deformities are seen by Avicenna on the example of polydactyly under a new sign: They are not supernatural or accidental phenomena. The realization that such phenomena are natural is a fundamental step towards a consistently naturalistic view of medical phenomena.

Other medical works

In addition to the Canon and the Liber Primus Naturalium, there are 14 other medical works by Avicenna, eight of which are written in verse. They contain, among other things, the 25 signs of the recognition of diseases, hygienic rules, proven remedies, and anatomical notes. Among his prose works, the treatise on heart medicines De medicinis cordialibus (Medicines for the Heart), written from about 1023 onward, which was published together with the canon retranslated and supplemented by Andrea Alpago of Belluno (1450-15211522), a physician working at the Venetian embassy in Damascus, in 1521 and in a complete edition by his nephew Paolo Alpago in 1527,:p. 26 received special attention. Arnald of Villanova also edited the medicines for the heart:pp. 37, 118, 152 and 155.

In a teaching poem he gives the recommendation for moderation: “Beware of being drunk all the time. And if it so happens, then once a month.”:p. 24 (quoted) The teaching poem on medicine (Urğūza fi”ṭ-ṭibb), designed for students of medicine to facilitate the learning of theory and practice, consists of 1326 verses and deals with the medical practice to be carried out with the knife, with medicines and dietary measures. With these simple verses, he concisely summarized the whole medicine. Each verse (رجز, raǧaz) consists of a double line. The dissemination of Avicenna”s doctrinal poem is shown, on the one hand, in the commentary by Averroes in Andalusia and, on the other hand, in its publication as an appendix entitled Cantica Avicennae to Latin editions of the Canon of Medicine:pp. 116 and 118.

Furthermore, Avicenna poetically reworked the epitaph (the 5th century pseudohippocratic, so-called ivory capsule, Latin Capsula eburnea, from the alleged tomb of Hippocrates) – also as a raǧaz poem. It is about 25 symptom combinations, formulated similarly to the Hippocratic aphorisms, stored in a “box of ivory”, predicting imminent death.

To the sultan Masud of Ghazna (al-Masʿūd), who sacked Isfahan in 1034, Avicenna had dedicated a tract on sexual potency in the 1030s, which is still extant but (1999) not yet edited:pp. 39 and 117.

Avicenna was also concerned with natural sciences. Following the inclinations or instructions of ʿAlā ad-Daula Muhammad (his patron in Isfahan from 1024), he wrote about results of his observation of the heavenly bodies and added ancient astronomical tables to them:p. 98 f. In astronomy, according to his student al-Juzjani, he worked on Ptolemy”s stellar model and suggested that Venus was closer to the Earth than the Sun. He criticized the astrology of his time, among other things, because its usefulness could not be proved empirically or by calculations:p. 99 f. and it was incompatible with Islamic theology. Avicenna quoted some passages from the Koran to support this judgment religiously.

For the daughter of Qabus (see above) he is said to have developed a new method of determining longitude. He also developed a sighting device similar to the later Jacob”s staff.:pp. 32, 106 f. and 157

He described the steam distillation for the production of oils or oily extracts. On the other hand, he was opposed to alchemy:p. 104 f. Thus, he did not believe in a philosopher”s stone. Alchemically produced gold, as he wrote in his Kitab ash-Shifa, was only an imitation, and he denied the equality of natural and artificial substances. It was often appended to Aristotle”s Meteorologica in early translations, as the editors considered it Aristotelian, and exerted considerable influence on alchemical literature as a counterpoint to which to justify oneself. Some of the alchemical writings later attributed to him are later subversions (such as De anima in arte alkemia), but influenced Roger Bacon, for example.

In geology, he gave two causes for the formation of mountains: “Either they are formed by the upheaval of layers of earth, as happens in severe earthquakes, or they are the result of water that sought new paths and washed out valleys where softer layers of rock can be found This, however, must take a long time, during which the mountains themselves could become smaller.”

Avicenna was also active in physics in many ways; for example, he used thermometers to measure the temperature in his experiments and established a theory about motion. In it, he dealt with the force and orbital inclination of a projectile and showed that a projectile travels forever in a vacuum. In optics, he argued that the speed of light was finite and gave a description of the rainbow (following Avicenna, Dietrich von Freiberg developed his theory of the double rainbow:p. 148).

Avicenna was extensively engaged in philosophical questions, both metaphysics and logic and ethics. Already in Bukhara, as a result of his study of Aristotle, he composed his first philosophical writings:S, p. 17 His commentaries on works of Aristotle contained constructive criticism of his views and created conditions for a new discussion of Aristotle. Avicenna”s philosophical teachings continue to be regarded as relevant by both Western and Muslim scholars.


Avicenna wrote his earliest works in Bukhara under the influence of al-Farabi. The first, a Compendium on the Soul (Arabic مقالة فى النفس, DMG Maqāla fī”n-nafs), is a short treatise dedicated to his emir or Samanid rulers who died in 997, in which he explored Neoplatonic thought. The second is Philosophy for the Prosodist (Arabic الحكمة العروضية, DMG al-Ḥikma al-”arūḍiyya), in which he deals with the metaphysics of Aristotle.

Avicenna”s work was influenced both by Hellenistic thinkers such as Aristotle and Claudius Ptolemy and by Arabic-speaking Muslim intellectual and natural scientists such as al-Farabi and al-Biruni. However, the work, especially Avicenna”s metaphysics, did not meet with undivided approval everywhere in the Islamic world, and it was also repeatedly persecuted as heretical, as philosopher Ernst Bloch writes: “Avicenna”s philosophical encyclopedia was burned in 1150 on the orders of the Caliph of Baghdad; even later, every available copy was destroyed, and only fragments of the original text exist.” In the 12th century, a Latin (partial) translation of the work, namely the Natural History (Assepha or Sufficientia or Liber sufficientiae, German: Das Genügende) by Abraham ibn Daud and Dominicus Gundisalvi, was also produced at the Toledo School of Translation. The parts of the book left by Gundisalvi were translated by Adelard of Bath.:p. 145 In 1215, the reading of the metaphysical part of the book was forbidden by a decree of Robert of Courson in Paris.:p, p. 5 and 21

Avicenna”s second work was the Book of Knowledge for ”Alā” ad-Daula (Persian دانشنامهٔ علائى, DMG Dānešnāme-ye ”Alā”ī, with full name also Ala ad-Daula Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Rustam Dushmanziyar), in which he offers his Kakuyid patron in Isfahan a summary of his philosophy based on the Book of Healing. Part of this work appeared in Pavia in 1490.

A smaller Arabic encyclopedia compared to the Book of Recovery is his Kitāb an-Najāt (“Book of Salvation”), which is divided into the subjects of logic, physics, and metaphysics. Avicenna”s disciple, biographer and editor al-Juzjani, who was himself engaged in astronomy and mathematics, contributed parts corresponding to his interest to the Book of Salvation in imitation of the Book of Recovery.:pp. 95 and 127

His last major work is his writing The Eastern Philosophy, also called The Easterns (Arabic الحكمة المشرقية, DMG al-Ḥikma al-mašriqiyya), which he wrote in the late 1020s. The writing is similar in content to the Book of Healing, but went beyond the views of the ordinary Aristotelian school of peripatetics; similar to the Book of Balanced Judgment, it differed in thought from Aristotle and the Greek and Arab commentators:pp. 39 and 89. It included a survey of logic, a treatise on metaphysics, and remarks on physics and ethics. The work is largely lost, preserved is its introduction and fragmentary the section on logic.:pp. 89-94 (The departure to the “East”).

Avicenna also composed the short Book of Advice and Reminders or Hints and Exhortations (Arabic كتاب الاشارات و التنبيهات, DMG Kitāb al-išārāt wa”t-tanbīhāt), a significant work that presents his thinking on a variety of logical and metaphysical topics.:pp. 93 f.

Among his political and economic writings is the treatise On the Management (of the Private Household), which deals, among other things, with the education of boys and justifies the subordination of the wife and the necessity of keeping slaves.:pp. 107 f.


Early Islamic philosophy, which still closely followed the Qur”an, distinguished more clearly than Aristotle between essence and existence. Avicenna developed a comprehensive metaphysical description of the world by combining Neoplatonic thought with Aristotelian teachings. He understood the relationship between substance and form in such a way that the possibilities of the forms (essentiae) are already contained in the substance (materia). God was necessary in itself, all other being necessary through other. “God is the only being in which essence (Wesen) and existence (Dasein) cannot be separated and which is therefore necessary in itself.” All other being, he said, is conditionally necessary and can be divided into the eternal and the transient. God created the world by his mental activity. The intellect of the human being has the task to enlighten the human being.

Avicenna on Aristotle:

On the question of ideas or general concepts, Avicenna advanced the thesis, based on Plato, that these were already to be found ante rem (i.e., before the creation of the world) in the mind of God, in re effectively in nature, and post rem also in human knowledge. With this distinction between ante rem, in re, and post rem, Avicenna became of great importance to the Western universal controversy. Avicenna denied God”s interest in single events as well as a creation of the world in time. Relying on the Qur”an, he also rejected the idea of a pre-natal existence of the human soul, but introduced with philosophical arguments the immortality of the human soul, conceived as a substance independent of the body. This interpretation was already criticized by his orthodox opponents during his lifetime, because according to this view an infinite amount of human souls would have to accumulate.

Of Avicenna”s disciples, the Azerbaijani Zoroastrian Bahmanyār ibn Marzubān (died 1066) showed particular interest in the metaphysics and the doctrine of the soul. Avendauth, who translated one of Avicenna”s writings on the soul, also based his philosophy on Avicenna:pp. 128 and 143 f.

Three Latin versions of the Metaphysics were printed in Venice in 1493, 1495, and 1546.


Already in Avicenna”s autobiography, noted by al-Juzjani, a Small Compendium of Logic is mentioned, which found its way into the first volume of Avicenna”s Book of Recovery:p. 15 In his main philosophical work, Book of Recovery, logic occupies more than a third of the volume (an adaptation of this part of the work was undertaken by the astronomer Nağmaddīn ʿAlī ʿUmar al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī, who died in the last quarter of the thirteenth century):pp. 96 f. and 134.

Avicenna devoted himself to logic in both Islamic philosophy and medicine with great devotion and even developed his own logical system, which is also called “Avicennian logic”. Thus, Avicenna was probably one of the first who dared to criticize Aristotle and to write treatises independent of him and approaching Stoic theorems. The School of Baghdad received particular criticism from him for basing itself too much on Aristotle. A fundamental role in Avicenna”s logic may have been played by Galen”s philosophical work On Proof:p. 96 f.

Avicenna studied the theories of definition and classification, as well as the quantification of predicates and categorical logical statements. The syllogisms, especially the logical conclusions consisting of two premises and one conclusion (example: All men are mortal. Socrates is a human being. Therefore Socrates is mortal.), he added modifying forms such as “always”, “most of the time” or “sometimes”. On the question of induction or deduction, Avicenna was in a sense divided. While in philosophy he relied on deduction, i.e., deduced from a generally valid proposition to special forms (e.g., All men are mortal – therefore Socrates is also mortal), in medicine he was one of the first to use the method of induction.

Avicenna had spent much of his education in Bukhara on the Koran and the Islamic religion. It is said that he had mastered the Qur”an by the age of 10. He was a devout Faqī until his death and also took seriously the Islamic five times daily prayer. He wrote five treatises on various suras, which are generally full of respect. Only his philosophical activities sometimes brought him into conflict with Islamic orthodoxy: based on Aristotle”s doctrine of the soul, he further differentiated the three soul faculties and subordinated them to the world soul. In doing so, he contradicted central tenets of the faith, which earned him the enmity of Sunni theologians. Like the Christian scholastics after him, Avicenna tried to combine Greek philosophy with his religion, reason with faith. Thus, he used philosophical doctrines to provide scientific underpinnings for Islamic beliefs. In his writing On the Affirmation of Prophethood, he does not address all the issues of the Islamic doctrine of prophets:pp. 76-78 Although he conceived both religion and philosophy as two necessary parts of the whole truth, he argued that the Islamic prophets should have more importance than the ancient philosophers.A central problem of his theology is theodicy, the question of the existence of evil in the world originally created by a benevolent and omnipotent God. Since God is eternal, but man has only a limited lifetime, man”s moral responsibility is a great responsibility in which lies his dignity.

The canon was translated into Latin around the middle of the 12th century by Gerhard of Cremona in Toledo. By translating the name affix and originally honorific title corresponding to his governmental function, aš-šaiḫ ar-raʾīs (also rajīs and al-raïs), (“supreme sheikh,” “his eminence, the minister,” “the venerable,” “the exalted,” “the prince”) with princeps (“prince”) and in the explicit of the canon with rex (“king”), Gerhard contributed to the legend, especially in Italy since the 14th century, that Avicenna was a “prince of Córdoba”. He contributed to the legend, especially widespread in Italy since the 14th century, that Avicenna was a “prince of Córdoba” or of Seville. Therefore, Avicenna often appears in pictorial representations with crown and scepter and was also often depicted in the Islamic world as a “princely master” (Turkish Scheikü”r-Reis). In the Occident, he was also referred to in Latin as princeps medicorum.

In the early 14th century, Armengaud Blasius translated an Avicenna medical verse manual into Latin prose in Montpellier. Blasius” uncle, Arnald of Villanova (lecturer at the University of Montpellier and papal personal physician) translated Avicenna”s psychiatric treatise De viribus cordis in 1306.:p. 24

Somewhat earlier still:p. 21 than Gerhard”s canon translation, a translation of the Kitāb asch-Shifā dedicated to Archbishop John of Toledo (1151-1166) was produced in the Toledo school of translators, first translated from Arabic into Spanish by the Jewish philosopher Abraham ibn Daud or Avendauth (Avendarith israelita philosophus) and then from Spanish into Latin by Dominicus Gundisalvi. From this translation, especially the sixth book on the soul, under the title Liber sextus naturalium, has had a lasting influence on the philosophical debates of scholasticism since the second half of the 13th century. An independent translation, especially of the eighth book on animals, was made by Michael Scotus in Italy in the period after 1220 and dedicated to Frederick II: an imperially authorized copy made in Melfi is dated in the colophon on August 9, 1232.

Avicenna”s compendium Dāneschnāme-ye ʿAlā”ī, though not directly translated into Latin, became indirectly influential for the Latin tradition, thanks to its use by al-Ghazālī as a model for his writing Maqāṣid al-falāsifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers, 1094), in which the latter followed his attack on the teachings of Avicenna, al-Farābī, and other “philosophers” (Tahāfut al-falāsifa, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, 1095, lat. Destructio philosophorum) was preceded by an exposition of basic concepts of logic, metaphysics, theology, and physics from the teachings of these philosophers. Maqāṣid al-falāsifa was translated into Latin as early as the first half of the 12th century in Toledo, probably by Dominicus Gundisalvi, and then circulated in one of the manuscripts under the title Liber Algazelis de summa theoricae philosophiae. Latin readers were unaware of its dependence on Avicenna”s Dāneschnāme-ye ʿAlā”ī, but considered the book to be an exposition of al-Ghazālī”s genuine teachings, which then led to the latter being held in special esteem even by those authors who sympathized with the line of tradition he opposed.

Incorrectly attributed to Avicenna was a Platonizing writing of the 12th century, distributed under the title Liber Avicennae in primis et secundis substantiis et de fluxu entis or also De intelligentiis, which draws among others from Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita, Augustine and Avicenna and in any case originates from a Christian Latin author, probably Dominicus Gundisalvi. Avicenna was also credited with a Liber de causis primis et secundis, which is a successor to the pseudo-Aristotelian Liber de causis and was also written in Toledo in the 12th century.

In Latin scholasticism, Avicenna became the most respected representative – after Averroes – of Islamic philosophy and mediator of Aristotelian philosophy and natural history. His works were received not only at the artisan faculties and by theologians such as Thomas Aquinas (for example in De ente et essentia, German: Über das Sein und das Wesen):p. 147 and John Duns Scotus, but from the late 13th century also and especially at the medical faculties, and there then under both medical and philosophical questions, with Montpellier in France and Bologna in Italy playing a particularly key role. In Montpellier, the canon was part of the compulsory medical curriculum from 1309 (and until 1557). In Bologna, the reception was largely initiated by Taddeo Alderotti († 1295), professor since 1260, whose student Dino del Garbo continued the approaches in Bologna, Siena, Padua, and Florence. Dino”s pupil Gentile da Foligno, in turn, who worked mainly in Siena and Perugia, wrote the first nearly complete Latin commentary of the canon, a teaching work that then had a great impact until the 16th century. Some humanist-oriented scholars of the 15th and 16th centuries (such as Lorenzo Lorenzano) pursued the intention of displacing Avicenna”s teachings, such as those of the “Arabist Galen,” from their dominant position in the universities.

New Latin translations of the canon and other writings of Avicenna, some of them untranslated until then, were made by Andrea Alpago († 1521 or 1522) from Belluno. Alpago worked for about thirty years as a physician at the Venetian legation in Damascus, where he studied Arabic manuscripts of the works of Avicenna and Averroes and their Arabic commentators. His treatment of the Canon, which first appeared in print in 1527, was produced as a critical revision and glossing of the established translation by Gerhard of Cremona. It has been printed in more than 30 reprints and new editions since the first edition. The Canon remained one of the main works of medical science until the 17th century.


Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), who already had Avicenna speak in the Banquet, in his (from Avicenna”s above-mentioned work Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān or the Hebrew version Chaj ben Mekitz not independent:pp. 138 and 149) Divine Comedy (Inferno 4:143) Avicenna, together with his two Muslim co-religionists Averroes and Saladin, to the “noble castle” (nobile castello) in the limbo of hell, where otherwise only persons of pre-Christian pagan antiquity, especially philosophers and poets of the Greek and Roman worlds, are located: there he shares with them the fate of having escaped eternal damnation through a virtuous conduct of life, since otherwise he would have to be punished in one of the deeper circles of hell proper, but at the same time, for lack of participation in the sacrament of baptism, of being excluded from redemption into Paradiso and therefore having to suffer a state without punishment, but in eternal remoteness from God. The fact that he and his two brothers in faith, unlike their pagan fellow-sufferers of pre-Christian times, already knew the Christian doctrine and could have decided to be baptized, that their persistence in a different faith was consequently based on their own choice, and that they are nevertheless not condemned to punishment in a lower circle of hell with their other brothers in faith, expresses the special esteem in which Dante held them.

Busts, statues and portraits

Fantasy portraits of Avicenna can be found, among other places, in the hall of the medical faculty of the Sorbonne, on the Tajik 20-somoni banknote, and in Milan Cathedral in a stained glass window donated by Milan in 1479, as well as in Vienna.

There are also statues of Avicenna in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and at his birthplace in Afshana near Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan.

Uzbek anthropologists had reconstructed Avicenna”s head in the form of a bust based on two photographs of his skull (see above).


As early as the 12th century, Niẓāmī ʿArūḍī, a Persian poet from Samarkand, glorified Avicenna”s medical skills in anecdotal stories. Legendary tales entwine in folk literature around the famous physician, who was also believed to have magical powers, and contents of Avicenna”s canon are even mentioned in the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights (such as the 134th and the 449th Nights, which contain the tale of Slave Tawaddud). In a Turkish folk novel, wondrous adventures experienced by Avicenna with an alleged twin brother Abu l-Ḥāriṯ are described.:pp. 122-125 In the English Canterbury Tales of the 14th century, “Avicenna” is also mentioned. Century, “Avicen” is as much a part of the standard literature for physicians as the “Galien.”:p. 152 The Tatar educator and writer Kajum Nasyri (1824-1904) transmitted in Russian translation a folk Turkish tale about Avicenna. Avicenna is also received in modern fiction. For example, in Noah Gordon”s bestseller The Medicus, the novel”s protagonist studies medicine with Avicenna. In the historical novel The Road to Isfahan by Gilbert Sinoué, Avicenna is the main character; his entire life is described.

Avicenna Study Center

Since the beginning of the winter semester 201415 , the Avicenna-Studienwerk has been supporting Muslim students with a state scholarship. This makes it the 13th scholarship program for gifted students in Germany and the fourth of its kind, alongside the Catholic Cusanuswerk, the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst and the Jewish Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk.

Avicenna Prize

In 2005, the Avicenna Award Association was founded in Germany by individuals from academia, politics and society under the initiative of Yaşar Bilgin, Chairman of the Turkish-German Health Foundation. The award was intended to honor initiatives by individuals or institutions for intercultural understanding. In 2009, the prize was awarded for the first time to the UN initiative Alliance of Civilizations (AoC). In 2012, it went to the Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and was awarded in Frankfurt”s Paulskirche.

Dedication names

Carl von Linné named the genus Avicennia from the Acanthaceae plant family in his honor. Avicenna Bay in Antarctica also bears his name.

The lunar crater Avicenna and the outer main belt asteroid (2755) Avicenna are also named after Avicenna.

Latin (Renaissance)

Latin (modern)







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