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Ibn Sina

Life History

  • His full name is Abu Ali Al Husein bin Abdullah Ibn Sina.
  • Ibn Sina is often known by his Latin name of Avicenna.
  • He was born in 980 AD in Afshanah near Bukhara in Central Asia.
  • By the time Ibn Sina was born, Nuh ibn Mansur was the Sultan of Bukhara.
  • Ibn Sina’s father was the governor of a village in one of Nuh ibn Mansur’s empire.
  • He was educated by his father, whose home was a meeting place for the learned in the area.
  • Ibn Sina was an intelligent and remarkable child, with a sharp memory.
  • By the age of ten, he had memorised the Qur'an and many Arabic poems.
  • He began to study medicine the age of thirteen and had mastered the subject by the age of sixteen.
  • Majority of the Muslim scholars at the time referred to him as Al Sheikhul Rais.
  • He then began treating patients.
  • At the age of seventeen, he treated Nuh bin Mansoor, from a serious kidney problem.
  • The Sultan then asked him to say any gift he would have wished to be given.
  • Ibn Sina chose to make use of the Royal Library which was well equipped with the best collection of reference materials.

Educational background

  • Ibn Sina studied various branches of knowledge from different tutors.
  • He studied Mathematics, Logic, Engineering and Astronomy from a great scholar called Annatily Abu Abdullah.
  • Later on, Ibn Sina got inclined to Philosophy and started reading the Philosophies of the Greek.
  • Key among them was Aristotle’s book, ‘Beyond nature’.
  • He used the commentary written by Al-Farabi to explain the Philosophical ideas in this book.
  • Ibn Sina studied medicine and became a very successful and popular medical practitioner.
  • He was one of the most famous and influential scientists in the history of medicine.
  • In his quest for knowledge, Ibn Sina was a very dedicated student and would ask for Allah (SWT’s) guidance whenever in difficulty.
  • After his father died, Ibn Sina’s life changed completely.
  • He began wandering round different towns of Khurasan, working as a physician and administrator by day while every evening he gathered students round him for philosophical and scientific discussions.
  • He served as a jurist in Gurganj, was in Khwarazm, then a teacher in Gurgan and next an administrator in Rayy.
  • After this period of wandering, ibn Sina went to Hamadan in west-central Iran where he settled for a while becoming a court physician.
  • The ruling prince, Shams ad-Dawlah, twice appointed him vizier (Minister).
  • However, Politics was not easy at that time and Ibn Sina was forced into hiding for a while by his political opponents.
  • Ibn Sina decided to write to Abu Ja'far, who was in charge of Isfahan, offering his services.
  • When the new Amir of Hamadan, heard of this, he started looking for Ibn Sina from his hiding place.
  • He was captured and locked up in a fortress.
  • After being released, Ibn Sina decided to leave Hamadan in 1022 CE upon the death of the Buyid prince whom he was serving.
  • He travelled to Isfahan.
  • Here he entered the court of the local prince and spent the last years of his life in comparative peace.
  • At Isfahan he completed his major works begun at Hamadan and also wrote many other works on philosophy, medicine and the Arabic language
  • The remaining years of Ibn Sina’s life were spent in the service of Abu Ja'far 'Ala Addaula, whom he accompanied as a physician and adviser.
  • During military campaigns ibn Sina was expected to accompany his patron and many of his works were composed on such campaigns.
  • It was on one such military campaign that he took ill with a severe colic and, despite attempting to apply his medical skills to himself he died in June 1037 CE.

Contributions to Medicine

  • He wrote several articles on Medicine. His most famous book is Qanun Fi Al-Tibb (the Canon of Medicine).
  • He was a Medical practitioner and teacher at Asfahan.
  • He advised other doctors who consulted him on various matters in the field of Medicine.
  • He prescribed over 800 drugs to cure different diseases including Meningitis.
  • He was a psychologist and explained the close interaction between Psychology and health.
  • He recognised the nature of most of the contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and discovered that some were transmitted by water and soil.
  • He studied the human anatomy, gynaecology and child health and made great contributions on the subjects.
  • His books and articles on Medicine were used as reference materials in the European Universities.
  • Ibn Sina’s Qanun Fi Tib (The ranon of Medicine) The Canon of Medicine is an immense encyclopaedia of medicine. As the most celebrated book in medicine at the time, it presented a summary of all the medical knowledge. He used a systematic approach, formal perfection as well as its intrinsic value in his writing. It contains a complete section about kidney calculi. His book prescribes 65 herbal, 8 animal, and 4 mineral drugs for dissolving, expelling, and preventing kidney calculi.

Contributions to philosophy

  • He wrote over one hundred different books on Philosophy. For example; Al–Shifaa (the Philosophical encyclopaedia).
  • He explained different religious concepts in light to reason.
  • He advocated for logic to be taught as an introduction to all other fields of study like Science and Philosophy.
  • He discussed reason and reality, claiming that God is pure intellect and that knowledge consists of the mind grasping the intelligible.
  • He defined the human beings mind as a perfection of the body.
  • He defined Metaphysics under the following sub sections: knowledge and its origin, experimentation, matter and cause and cause and its effects.

Contributions to Science

  • He made a detailed study on phenomena like force, motion, light, heat and vacuum.
  • He researched and approved the theory that objects are seen by rays coming from them towards the eyes.
  • He observed that if light from a luminous source is objected by some sort of particles, then its speed becomes finite.
  • He wrote a treatise (article) on minerals which is still used to date in geology.
  • He asserted that scientific differences in Chemistry cannot be changed by artificial means.
  • He invented an instrument for observing the coordinates of a star. The instrument had two legs pivoted at one end; the lower leg rotated about a horizontal protractor, thus showing the azimuth, while the upper leg marked with a scale and having observing sights, was raised in the plane vertical to the lower leg to give the star's altitude.
  • He made astronomical observations. He made several correct deductions from his observations. For example he observed Venus as a spot against the surface of the Sun and correctly deduced that Venus must be closer to the Earth than the Sun.
  • He propounded an interconnection between time and motion, and also made investigations on specific gravity and used an air thermometer.

His views on theology

  • Ibn Sina was a Suffi who believed in Mystic life.
  • He affirmed that Allah (SWT) is the ultimate source of knowledge.
  • Man has no free will and is controlled by the will of Qadar.
  • He held a strong belief that all the qualities of the head and the heart can be developed by the help of Allah (SWT).
  • He felt that Allah (SWT’s) attributes include beauty, perfection and goodness.
  • He believed that every human being possesses will power, self consciousness and man can distinguish between the good and the evil.
  • He asserted that a Prophet is not only a person who receives messages from Allah (SWT) but also attains a certain degree of knowledge so as to civilise and culture the people.

His works

  • Ibn Sina wrote about 450 works on various subjects.
  • Out of all these, about 240 books have survived; 150 on philosophy while 40 are devoted to medicine.
  • Apart from medicine and philosophy, the two disciplines he contributed most, he also wrote on geology, psychology, astronomy, mathematics, and logic.
  • Among his most famous works include the following:
    • Mi'yar al-'aqul–defines simple machines and combinations of them which involve rollers, levers, windlasses, pulleys, and many others.
    • Kitab al-Shifa' (The Book of Healing).
    • Qanun Fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine.)
    • The book of sum and substance.
    • Encyclopaedia of philosophical sciences and
    • Articles on the pulse.

Ibn Khaldun

Life history

  • His full name is Abu Zaid Abdulrahman bin Muhammad Ibn Khaldun.
  • He was born in on 27th May, 1332 CE in Tunis, Tunisia.
  • His ancestors were Arabs from Hadhramawt, now southeastern Yemen.
  •  They settled in Spain at the beginning of Muslim rule in the eighth century.
  • After the fall of Seville (one of the cities in Spain), the family migrated to Tunisia.
  • Under the Tunisian Hafsid dynasty, some of his family members held high political positions.
  • Both his grandfather and great grandfather were men of literacy, talents and took active role in politics.
  • However, they later withdrew from political life and joined a mystical order.
  • He had a sister who died at a young age.
  • His brother, Yahya was a historian who wrote a book on the Abdalwadid dynasty.
  • When he was young, Ibn Khaldun was taught by his father Quran, Hadith and Fiqh.
  • At the age of 17, Ibn Khaldun lost his parents after the plague that struck Tunis in 1349 CE.
  • He was forced to leave studies because he had to assist his family start new life in Morocco after the outbreak of the great plague in Europe and North Africa.
  • Ibn Khaldun travelled widely and had adverse knowledge on the history of many places.
  • This helped him formulate his ideas on social and historical philosophy.
  • He used to offer lectures in mosques and other public centers on various theories.
  • These included theories of the society, theories relating to education, economics, taxation and the role of the city verses the country, bureaucracy verses military and what influences affect the development of both individuals and cultures.

His Educational background

  • We have seen that Ibn Khaldun’s family had a rich educational and political background.
  • He came from an illustrious family and enjoyed an excellent education in his youth.
  • His family’s high status in the society enabled Ibn Khaldun to study from the best teachers.
  • This motivated him to study the Islamic traditional education and other fields.
  • He joined a local school in Tunisia where he learnt Arabic language and other sciences from learned scholars.
  • He received a classical Islamic Education, studying the Qur’an which he memorized by heart.
  • He also proceeded to study Arabic Linguistics, Hadith, Sharia (law) and fiqh (jurisprudence).
  • He also studied Mathematics, Logic and Philosophy from Al-Abili.
  • His studies also included the Malik school of Islamic Law.


His Career

  • Ibn Khaldun’s career began at a very young age serving in a variety of administrative posts.
  • At the age of 20, he was given a position at the court of Tunis.
  • He later became the secretary to the sultan of Morocco.
  • In the late 1350s, he was imprisoned for two years on suspicion of participating in a rebellion.
  • After being released and promoted by a new ruler, he again disagreed with the ruler and he decided to move to Granada.
  • Ibn Khaldun then served as a Minister under the Muslim ruler of Granada, Sultan Abdul Ann.
  • He became a very close friend of his Prime Minister, Ibn al-Khatib, who was a renowned writer.
  • Irrespective of his position as a minister, he kept on increasing his knowledge through contact with learned scholars in Fez and visiting libraries during his free time.
  • In 1376 CE he left politics and started writing his historical works including, ‘Kitab-al-ibar’, Book of moral lessons.
  • In 1375, Ibn Khaldun sought refuge from the wild political sphere with the tribe of Awlad 'Arif.
  • They locked him and his family in a castle in Algeria for four years.
  • During this time, he wrote the Muqaddimah (A comprehensive book on the introduction to the history of the Arabs and Berbers and discussion on historical method and the development of philosophy of history.)
  • He fell ill and had to go back to Tunis, where he continued writing his book until he fell out with the ruler of Tunis.
  • In 1384 CE, he went to Egypt to spend the rest of his life in Cairo.
  • He was offered a position as a lecturer in Al-Azhar University.
  • He lectured Hadith and the Fiqh of Malik School of thought.
  • When the Sultan of Egypt, Al- Malik Alzahir learnt about him and the vast knowledge he had, he appointed him as a Chief Kadhi in 1386 CE.

The literary works of Ibn Khaldun

  • Al Muqaddima (The introduction)
  • Lubābu l-Muhassal, a commentary on the Islamic theology of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi.
  • Kitābu l-ʻibār -the Book of moral lessons.
  • The theory of social conflict.
  • Tahrir al Ahkam fi Tadbeer ahl al Islam-which is concerned with questions of political legitimacy in Islamic societies

His book, Al Muqaddima (The introduction)

  • This is a comprehensive book summarising Ibn Khaldun’s ideas about every field of knowledge during his life time.
  • It gives a deep coverage of the following areas:
    • Human society, its kind and Geographical distribution.
    • Nomadic society, tribes and savage people.
    • States, the spiritual and temporal powers, and political ranks.
    • Sedentary societies, cities and provinces.
    • Crafts, means of livelihood and economic activity.
    • Learning and the ways in which it is acquired.

Views and Contributions to Education

  • He believed that the Quran is the basis of Islam and forms the main source of Islamic Knowledge. Muslims should therefore study and understand its message.
  • Education should focus on developing strong religious beliefs and a firm foundation for good morals.
  • The teacher should acquire knowledge and sufficient training in order to master the art of teaching.
  • It is important for the teacher to know the psychology of his pupils and their capabilities.
  • Teaching at the early stages should be done in the learner’s mother tongue.
  • He is of the opinion that education of the young ones should be based on generalisation of knowledge until they reach a certain age when they can specialise.
  • Educational concepts should be not only memorised but also understood.
  • Before the lesson, the teacher should research on the areas he or she is going to teach and make necessary preparations.
  • He recommended Muslims to seek secular education in areas like Logic, Philosophy, Physics, Mathematics, Geography, History, Literature and Art.
  • He advocates for showing mercy towards the children and warns against overloading them with work beyond their capacity.
  • The education program should be such that students are engaged in interactive sessions like debates and arguments in a more scientific approach.
  • He held the view that seeking knowledge should be a continuous process.
  • He lays great importance on moral education and recommended that the best way of imparting morals is to set best living examples for the children to follow.

His views on writing History

  • A Historian should judge events on the basis of data. Ibn Khaldun considers History as a science where data should be collected and analysed before a conclusion is reached.
  • There should be equity while writing history. They should not be biased use favouritsm.
  • The Historians should properly verify information and should not misinterpret its fact to favour those in power.
  • Historical events given should match with the nature of civilization of a given place and also time.
  • The work of History is to record the life of human beings.
  • The Historians should judge the events using natural logic.
  • The natural environment shapes the characters of individuals and helps to determine the cause of history.
  • He advocates that since events are governed by laws of nature and sociology the natural environment should be put into account when writing history.

His contribution in Politics.

  • His vast knowledge and competence made him get appointed in various capacities as a Minister, Secretary of state, Political advisor to rulers in various countries in North Africa and Middle East.
  • He had Diplomatic skills which he used in strengthen relations between Egypt and her western neighbours.
  • He emphasised the importance of religion in unity of a state.
  • His political ideas in his book, Muqaddima guided leaders on political challenges.
  • He advocated for unity and togetherness of the citizens in order for the nation to prosper especially economically and politically.
  • He gave details on the factors which lead to the rise and fall of states in North Africa and offered solutions.



Achievements of Ibn Khaldun

  • He authored several books in different fields. Among them are Kitab-ul- Ibar (book of moral lessons) and Al Muqaddima (The introduction).
  • He served as a lecturer in the famous Al- Azhar University where he taught Hadith and explained his ideas on writing.
  • He was the first scholar to discover the science of sociology (human community).
  • He wrote comprehensively on the history of Barbers.
  • Ibn Khaldun formulated the theory on the rise and fall of states. According to him, all states pass through five stages: period of establishment; monopoly of power; luxury and leisure; period of satisfaction; decline and fall.

Muslims Contribution to Science

  • Islamic science was developed and practised in the Islamic world during the Islamic Golden age (750 CE – 1258 CE).
  • During this period, most Indian, Asyriac, Iranian and Greek works were translated into Arabic.
  • These translations laid a strong foundation for scientific innovations and advances to the Muslim scientists.
  • Sciences were viewed holistically.
  • The individual scientific disciplines were studied in terms of their relationships to each other and as whole.
  • The most important scientists of Islamic civilization were known as hakim.
  • These scientists played a big role in the transmission of the science knowledge to the people.
  • Islamic contribution to Science did not come from Arabs only but included other nationalities like Persians, Moors, Assyrians, Egyptians and the Spanish Muslims.
  • Muslims distinguished themselves in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, cosmology, medicine among other scientific disciplines.
  • We shall now study some of the Muslim scholars and their scientific discoveries.
    • In 830 AD, Al-Mamun established his famous Bayt al Hikmah (house of wisdom) in Baghdad. This was a combination of a library, academy a translation bureau, and an astronomical observatory. He discovered an object used in measuring the length of a terrestrial degree. This object was to determine the size of the earth and its circumference on the assumption that the earth was round. Among those who took part in this operation were the sons of Musa ibn Shakir and al-Khawarizmi.
    • Abu Ishaq ibn Jundub made observations of the heavenly bodies. He devised rules for observing distant objects and he invented a telescopic instrument in accordance with those rules. It is from this initial telescope that other scientists perfected it to the modern electric telescope.
    • Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi was a physician who wrote extensively on medicine. His greatest work, Al-Havi, was translated into Latin as the Continens, (the comprehensive book). It was the first encyclopaedia of all medical science up to that time. For each disease, he indicated the views of the Greek, Indian, Syrians, Persian and Arabic authors, and then added some notes on his clinical observations before giving his final decision.
    • Ibn Sina is among the greatest writers on medicine. He wrote a book titled Al-Qanun fi't- Tib (Canon of Medicine) which contained prescriptions for various diseases. This book was translated into Latin in the 12th Century and dominated the teaching of medicine in Europe until the end of the sixteenth century.
    • Abul Qasim az-Zohrawi usually known in Latin as Abulcasis had his own great contribution in the field of medicine. He was the chief Arabic writer on surgery and surgical instruments. His most important surviving work is referred to as al-Tasrif (Medical Knowledge). It contains 30 volumes discussing medical symptoms, treatments, and mostly pharmacology. This last volume is a surgical manual describing surgical instruments, supplies and procedures.
    • Abu Bakar Zakariya Al Razi, a well-known Arab physician from Iran. He identified smallpox and measles, and recognized fever was part of the body's defence. He therefore researched on the remedy for small pox and wrote the first medical book on smallpox called, Al-Judri wa al-Hasba. This was translated into Latin and later into English version, A Treatise on Smallpox and Measles. It was used as a reference book all over Europe.
    • Abdullah ibn Baytar was the best known botanist and pharmacist of Spain and the Muslim world. He used to travel in Spain and throughout North Africa as a herbalist. He wrote three books on medicine entitled: Al-Mughni fi al Aswiyah al-Mufradah (The Ultimate on material medica), Al-Jami`fi al-Adwiya al-Mufradah (a collection of simple remedies from the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds) and Mizan al-Tabib (The hhysician’s Balance)
    • The Arabs made their greatest scientific contribution in chemistry. Jabir bin Hayyan wrote two thousand books on different sciences. He recognised and stated the importance of experimentation. He described scientific processes like sublimation, reduction and distillation. He also discovered many substances including sulphuric and nitric acid. His written accounts were translated and transmitted to Europe and were used as the final authority in matters related to Chemistry until the fifteenth century.
    • Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi was a philosopher and a scientist who engaged himself in the translation of Greek works into Arabic. He worked on cryptography (the Art of writing in codes) for the caliphate, and even wrote a piece on the subject of time, space and relative movement.
    • Hunayn ibn Ishaq was a physician (opthamologist) and a writer on medicine. His translations interpreted, corrected and extended the works of the ancient Greek. Some of his translations in medical work were used in Europe for centuries. He wrote a book called ‘Ten Treatises on the Eye on the human eye’ which was influential in the West until the 17th century.
    • bbas ibn Firnis was a scientist and an inventor from the town of Andalusia. He used stones to develop a clear glass used for making drinking vessels, and lenses used for magnification to improve vision.
    • Al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician, geographer and astronomer. He is known to be the greatest mathematician of Islamic civilization. He wrote many books that played significant roles in Arithmetic. He was instrumental in the adoption of the Indian numbering system, (0-9) later known as Arabic numerals. He developed algorithm which referred to the rules of performing arithmetic using Hindu-Arabic numerals. He also developed the concept of algebra and wrote a book entitled ‘ilm al-jebr wa'l-muqabala,’ which contains the ideas of opposition and comparison, or resolution and equation. Jebr being derived from the verb jabara, to reunite, and muqabala, from gabala, to make equal.
    • Al-Battani was an astronomer who accurately determined the length of the solar year (365 days 5 hours 46 minutes and 24 seconds). He contributed to numeric tables, such as the Tables of Toledo, used by astronomers to predict the movement of the sun, moon and planets across the universe. The numeric tables were also used to find the direction of Makka from different locations. He wrote a book called Kitāb az-Zīj, or the book of astronomical tables. In this book, he provided descriptions of a quadrant instrument i.e. an instrument for measuring angles upto 90 degrees.
    • Ibn Rushd known as Averroes in the west is the greatest Aristotelian Philosopher. He is the author of 16 medical works. Among the most famous work, ‘Kitab al Kulyat fi Tibb’ dealing with general rules of medicine. This book had various aspects of medicine such as diagnosis, cure and prevention of several diseases. It was translated into Latin as ‘Colliget.’
    • Ibn Haytham was an Iranian scientist born in Basra, Iraq. He is known mainly for his achievements in astronomy and principles of optics. He studied the effects of refraction and suggested that the mathematics of reflection and refraction should to be consistent with the anatomy of the eye. His most important work is Kitab al Manazir (the book of optics).
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Read 1846 times Last modified on Monday, 17 January 2022 12:44
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