Rym Aoudia sheds light on the life and accomplishments of a pioneer in early research and medicine
The great Muslim physician and philosopher Abu Ali al-Hussain ibn Abdullah ibn Sina (980-1037 C.E) is known as Avicenna in the West, which is the Europeanized Hebrew translation of his name (Aven Sina). He was born in a village near Bukhara, now Uzbekistan. His native language was Persian, and his father had him very carefully educated. He was an intelligent child, and by the age of ten, he had memorized the Noble Quran and was highly knowledgeable in the Arabic language. For six years, he had dedicated his time to the study of Muslim jurisprudence, philosophy, natural science, logic, geometry, and advanced mathematics. He also focused greatly on the study of medicine, and by the age of seventeen, he became a well-known physician and came to be known as the, “doctor of doctors”.
Being a famous physician, Ibn Sina had the opportunity to cure many important people. As a seventeen year old, he cured Nooh ibn Mansoor, the King of Bukhara, of an illness that puzzled many renowned physicians. In return, he was allowed to make use of the king’s distinctive library. He also treated Shams al-Dawlah, the king of Hamadan, from a severe colic.
With his father’s death, Ibn Sina had to support himself and therefore traveled to Jurjaniyah and offered his services to the Khawarzmian dynasty. Meanwhile, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna demanded Ibn Sina’s attendance in his own court. Ibn Sina decided to escape instead, and went to Gurgan (Turkmenistan) and then to Jurjan (Iran). Afterwards, he journeyed to Ray (Iran) and began his service with Prince Shams al-Dawlah.
In Ray, Ibn Sina achieved a position as a vizier. This position displeased the military and made Ibn Sina go into exile once again. When Shams al-Dawlah became sick, he called on Ibn Sina to cure him. After curing the Prince, he held his position again as a vizier. Later on he served Prince Ala al-Dawla in Iran. Fifteen years after serving him, Ibn Sina decided to journey back to Hamadan (Iran). Ibn Sina died in this journey, and is now buried in Hamadan
Despite the positions held in royal courts, Ibn Sina continued seeking knowledge and writing books. His major contribution to medical science was his famous book “al-Qanun fil al-Tib”, known as the Canon of Medicine in the West. The book is an immense encyclopedia of medicine extending over a million words. “al-Qanun fil al-Tib” consists of five books. For seven centuries, the Canon served as a vital source in medical teaching and practice.
Another great work is “Kitab al-Shifa”, the Book of Healing, which is a philosophical encyclopedia. The book consists of 20 volumes, and it is the longest treatise on philosophy ever written by a single man. He also had other philosophical works, such as, “al-Najat” and “Isharat”.
Not only was Ibn Sina an eminent physician and philosopher, he was also a great poet and was politically active. He wrote books on mathematics, astronomy, psychology, geology, and logic. With all these accomplishments, Ibn Sina had to work hard and was known to greatly exhaust himself. He was therefore advised to lead a moderate life. Yet, he simply replied, “I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one with length.”
Even though he died at the early age of fifty seven, he left behind many momentous books. Some sources attribute more than a hundred books to Ibn Sina, while others attribute more than two hundred. Nevertheless, Ibn Sina provided the world with knowledge that served many generations, and which is appreciated even today.