Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi

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Ali ibn Mohammed ibn Abbas
TitleAbū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī
ReligionIslam (Shafi'i)[1]
EraIslamic golden age
(4th Islamic century)
Main interest(s)Literature, and philosophy
Notable work(s)Al-Imtāʿ wa al-Mu’ānasa (Enjoyment and Conviviality)
Senior posting
Influenced by

ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbbās (923–1023) (Arabic: علي بن محمد بن عباس) also known as Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī (Arabic: أبو حيان التوحيدي) was an Arab[2][3] or Persian[4][5] and one of the most influential intellectuals and thinkers of the 10th century. Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī described him as "the philosopher of litterateurs and the litterateur of philosophers." However, he was neglected and ignored by the historians of his era. This neglect continued until Yāqūt wrote his book Muʿjam al-Udabāʾ (معجم الأدباء), which contained a biographical outline of at-Tawḥīdī, relying primarily on what al-Tawḥīdī had written about himself.


There are differing views on the dates of al-Tawḥīdī's birth and death. According to Tārīkh-i Sistān, he was born in 923 Near Baghdad or Fars.[6] Al-Tawḥīdī had a difficult childhood. He was born into a poor family that sold dates called tawḥīd (hence his surname), and spent much of his childhood as an orphan in the care of his uncle, who treated him poorly.

After completing his studies, al-Tawḥīdī worked as a scribe for various parties in various cities in the Muslim world. His last known regular assignment was for Ebn Saʿdān, who he worked for from 980 until Saʿdān's execution in 985. During this time, he was a member of a literary circle centered around Abū Solaymān Manṭeqī Seǰestānī, and most of what is known about the circle is through al-Tawḥīdī's.[7]

After Saʿdān's execution, al-Tawḥīdī doesn't appear to have had regular work as a scribe, although he continued to write. During his final twenty years of life, he lived in poverty and unrecognized. He is known to have been alive in 1009, and likely died in 1023 in Shiraz.[7]


Al-Tawḥīdī was highly critical of himself and unsatisfied with much of his work, and he burned many of his own books later in life. Nevertheless, he left a set of literary, philosophical, and Sufi works, which were distinctive in the history of the Arabic literature. Perhaps the most important works are:

  • Al-Baṣā’ir wa al-Dhakhā’ir
  • Al-Hawamil wa al-Shawamil
  • Al-Imtāʿ wa al-Mu’ānasa, Book of Enjoyment and Bonhomie, is a collection of anecdotes[8] and includes a chapter on zoology perhaps based on Timotheus of Gaza's book on animals.[9]
  • Al-Isharat al-Ilahiyya
  • Al-Muqabasat
  • Al-Sadaqa wa al-Sadiq
  • Mathalib al-Wazirain, Book on the Foibles of the Two Ministers, is a commentary on the political and cultural infighting of his day[8]


  1. ^ Pernilla Myrne. Discussing 'Ghayra' in Abbasid Literature: Jealousy as a Manly Virtue or Sign of Mutual Affection. 'Journal of Abbasid Studies'
  2. ^ "ABÛ HAYYÂN AL-TAWHÎDÎ - les traits de caractère des hommes et des animaux dans le Kitâb al-Imtâ' wa-I-mu'ânasa - Présenté, traduit de l'arabe et annoté par Faisal Kenanah - livre, ebook, epub - idée lecture".
  3. ^ Bergé, Marc (1977). "LES ÉCRITS d'ABŪ ḤAYYĀN AL-TAWḤĪDĪ: Problèmes de chronologie". Bulletin d'Études Orientales. 29: 53–63. JSTOR 41604607.
  4. ^ "Incest and Inbreeding". Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  5. ^ Van Gelder, Geert Jan (2005). Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature. I.B. Tauris. p. 40. ISBN 1850438552.
  6. ^ Meri, Josef W. (January 2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization, Volume 1 An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 798. ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7. Al-Tawhidi was probably born in Iraq or Fars sometime between AH 310/922 CE and AH 320/932 CE, and he died in Shiraz (Iran) in 414/1023.
  7. ^ a b "ABŪ ḤAYYĀN TAWḤĪDĪ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  8. ^ a b "Arabic literature - Belles lettres and narrative prose". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  9. ^ Kopf, L. (1956). "The Zoological Chapter of the Kitab al-Imta' wal-Mu'anasa of Abu Hayyan al-Tauhidi (10th Century)". Osiris. 12: 390–466. doi:10.1086/368605. S2CID 147651396.
  • Salah NATIJ, "La nuit inaugurale d'al-Imatâ' wa l-mu'ânasa d'Abu Hayyân al-Tawhidi,une leçon magistrale d'adab", Revue Arabica, Vol. 55, No.2, 2008 = http://maduba.free.fr/Sur_Tawhidi.pdf
  • I. Keilani, Abú Hayyán al-Tawhidi (in French), Beirut, 1950.