ALI IBN RABBAN AL-TABARI
(838 - 870 C.E.)

by
Dr. A. Zahoor

Al-Tabari was the teacher of the distinguished physician Zakariya al-Razi (Rhazes). Ali Ibn Rabban Al-Tabari was born in 838 C.E. He was also known as Abu al-Hasan. Al-Tabari is most famous for his world-renowned medical treatise 'Firdous al-Hikmat.' Besides the medical science, he was also an accomplished Philosopher, Mathematician and Astronomer. He died in 870 C.E.

Ali Ibn Rabban’s parents belonged to the city of Marv (Tabristan). His father Sahl belonged to a respectable family and his compatriots called him as ‘Rattan’ a high title of respect meaning ‘my leader.’ His father was a very successful and accomplished physician and was known for his work in the art of calligraphy. He was well learned in Astronomy, Philosophy, Mathematics and Literature. His father wrote a scholarly commentary on Batlemus's book Al-Mijasti, expounding some of the finer points that were not understood well by previous translators.

Ali Al-Tabari received education in Medical sciences and calligraphy from his father Sahl. He attained competence in these fields at an early age. In addition, he also mastered Syriac and Greek languages.

Al-Tabari’s world-renowned seven-volume treatise Firdous al-Hikmat is the first Medical encyclopedia that incorporates several branches of medical science. This work was translated and published for the first time in the twentieth century. Prior to this publication, only five of his original manuscripts were found in libraries of the West. Dr. M.Z. Siddiqui has recently edited all volumes of Firdous al-Hikmat. In the Preface, Dr. Siddiqui has provided very useful information regarding this encyclopedia and Al-Tabari. Where necessary, he has added explanatory notes to facilitate understanding of this work. Firdous al-Hikmat was published later also in the Western Europe. The seven volumes contain the following:

Volume One: Kulliyat-e-Tibb. This volume discusses contemporary knowledge of medical science.

Volume Two: Elucidation of the organs of the human body, rules for keeping good health, and comprehensive account of certain muscular diseases.

Volume Three: Discussion and prescription of diet for good health and prevention of diseases.

Volume Four: Discussion of all diseases from head to toe. This volume is most valuable of the seven volumes. It is the largest volume and is nearly half the size of the encyclopedia. Volume four is divided into twelve sections:

1. General causes relating to eruption of diseases;
2. Diseases of the head and the brain;
3. Diseases relating to the eye, nose, ear, mouth and the teeth;
4. Muscular diseases (paralysis and spasm);
5. Diseases of the regions of the chest, throat and the lungs;
6. Diseases of the abdomen;
7. Diseases of the liver;
8. Diseases of gallbladder and spleen;
9. Intestinal diseases;
10. Different kinds of fever;
11. Miscellaneous diseases - includes a brief explanation of organs of the body;
12. Examination of pulse and urine;

Volume Five: Flavor, taste and color.

Volume Six: Drugs and Poison.

Volume Seven: Miscellaneous topics on health care. It includes a discussion of climate and astronomy, and a brief review of Indian medicine.

Al-Tabari wrote Firdous al-Hikmat in Arabic and also translated it into Syriac. He wrote two more works, Deen-e-Doulat and Hifz al-Shehhat. The Oxford University library has the latter manuscript.

A Short List of References

Copyright © 1992, 1997 Dr. A. Zahoor
All Rights Reserved

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