Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari

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Ali ibn Sahl Rabban
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari
علي بن سهل ربَّن طبري
Samarra, Abbasid Caliphate
EraIslamic Golden Age
Main interests
Medicine, philosophy, calligraphy and astronomy
Notable ideas
The produced one of the first encyclopedia of medicine entitled Firdous al-Hikmah [Paradise of wisdom]. He first discovered that the pulmonary tuberculosis was contagious.

Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari (Persian: علی ابن سهل ربن طبری) (c. 838 – c. 870 CE; also given as 810–855[1] or 808–864[2] also 783–858[3]), was a Persian[4][5] Muslim scholar, physician and psychologist, who produced one of the first encyclopedia of medicine titled Firdous al-Hikmah ("Paradise of wisdom"). Ali ibn Sahl spoke Syriac and Greek, the two sources of the medical tradition of Antiquity which had been lost by medieval Europe, and transcribed in meticulous calligraphy. His famous student Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi has darkened his fame. He wrote the first encyclopedic work on medicine. He lived for over 70 years and interacted with important figures of the time, such as Muslim caliphs, governors, and eminent scholars. Because of his family's religious history, as well as his religious work, al-Tabarī was one of the most controversial scholars. He first discovered that the pulmonary tuberculosis was contagious.[6][7]

Outside the rational sciences, as a convert from Christianity to Islam he was also involved in interreligious polemics, writing two works critical of his former religion, Al-Radd ´alā l-Nasārā (The Refutation of the Christians) and Kitāb al-dīn wa-l-dawla (The Book of Religion and Empire), both of which having been published by Brill in 2016 in a single book, The Polemical Works of ʿAlī al-Ṭabarī.


Ali came from a Persian[8] or Syriac[3] family of Tabaristan Amol (hence al-Tabari – "from Tabaristan"). Hossein Nasr states that he was a convert to Islam from Zoroastrianism,[8] however Sami K. Hamarneh and Franz Rosenthal state he was a convert from Christianity.[3][9] His father Sahl ibn Bishr was a state official, highly educated and well respected member of the Syriac community.[3] Rabbān received his educational bases in the medical field, natural sciences, calligraphy, mathematics, philosophy and literature from his father Sahl.[10]

The Abbasid caliph al-Mu'tasim (833–842) took him into the service of the court, which he continued under al-Mutawakkil (847–861). Ali ibn Sahl was fluent in Syriac and Greek, the two sources for the medical tradition of antiquity, and versed in fine calligraphy.

His works[edit]

Although few of them are still found today, Al-Tabarī left 12 books to mankind. Most of them were about medicine. In addition to medicine, he was known as a scholar of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.[11]

  1. His Firdous al-Hikmah ("Paradise of Wisdom"), which he wrote in Arabic called also Al-Kunnash was a system of medicine in seven parts. He also translated it into Syriac, to give it wider usefulness. The information in Firdous al-Hikmah has never entered common circulation in the West because it was not edited until the 20th century, when Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui assembled an edition using the five surviving partial manuscripts. There is still no English translation. A German translation by Alfred Siggel of the chapters on Indian medicine was published in 1951.[12]
  2. Tuhfat al-Muluk ("The King's Present")
  3. a work on the proper use of food, drink, and medicines.
  4. Hafzh al-Sihhah ("The Proper Care of Health"), following Greek and Indian authorities.
  5. Kitab al-Ruqa ("Book of Magic or Amulets")
  6. Kitab fi al-hijamah ("Treatise on Cupping")
  7. Kitab fi Tartib al-'Ardhiyah ("Treatise on the Preparation of Food")

Firdous al-Hikmah[edit]

Firdous al-Hikmah or Paradise of Wisdom is one of the oldest encyclopedias of Islamic medicine, based on Syriac translations of Greek and Indian sources (Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, and others).It is divided into 7 sections and 30 parts, with 360 chapters in total.[13][14][15]

  • Part I. general philosophical ideas, the categories, natures, elements, metamorphosis, genesis and decay.subdivided into I2 chapters, treats of general philosophical ideas, mostly following Aristotle.
    • On the Name of the Book and its Composition. The author mentions among his sources Hippocrates, Galen and Aristotle Hunayn ibn Ishaq
    • On Matter Shape, Quantity and Quality
    • On simple and compound Temperaments
    • On the Antagonism of these Temperaments and the Refutation of the Opinion of those who allege that the Air is cold (of temper.). diagram of the four temperaments and their antagonistic action.
    • On the Genesis of Temperaments one from another.
    • On Metamorphosis Plato is quoted.
    • On Genesis and Decay.
    • On Activity and Passivity
    • On the Genesis of Things from the Elements, the Action of the Celestial Sphere and the Luminous Bodies therein.
    • On the Effects of the Action of the Elements on the Air and subterranean Conditions
    • On shooting Stars and the Colors which are generated in the Air. (rainbows)
  • Part II embryology, pregnancy, the functions and morphology of different organs, ages and seasons, psychology, the external and internal senses, the temperaments and emotions, personal idiosyncrasies, nervous affections, tetanus, torpor, palpitation, nightmare, the evil eye, hygiene and dietetics.
    • Book I
    • Book II
    • Book III
    • Book IV
    • Book V
  • Part III. Treats of nutrition and dietetics. 3 chapters
  • Part IV. (The longest, 107 out of 276 folios and 152 chapters. Each chapter is short, often less than one page and seldom more than two. There is little beyond the signs and symptoms of each disease and the treatment recommended there are no references to actual cases, or clinical notes. ) general and special pathology, from the head to the feet, and concludes with an account of the number of muscles, nerves and veins, and dissertations on phlebotomy, the pulse and urinoscopy.
    • Book 1 (9 chapters) on general pathology, the signs and symptoms of internal disorders, and the principles of therapeutics.
    • Book 2 (14 chapters) on diseases and injuries of the head; and diseases of the brain, including epilepsy, various kinds of headache, tinnitus, vertigo, amnesia, and nightmare.
    • Book 3 (12 chapters) on diseases of the eyes and eyelids, the ear and the nose (including epistaxis and catarrh), the face, mouth and teeth.
    • Book 4 (7 chapters) on nervous diseases, including spasm, tetanus, paralysis, facial palsy, etc.
    • Book 5 (7 chapters) on diseases of the throat, chest and vocal organs, including asthma.
    • Book 6 (6 chapters) on diseases of the stomach, including hiccup.
    • Book 7 (5 chapters) on diseases of the liver, including dropsy.
    • Book 8 (14 chapters) on diseases of the heart, lungs, gall-bladder and spleen.
    • Book 9 (19 chapters) on diseases of the intestines (especially colic), and of the urinary and genital organs.
    • Book 10 (26 chapters) on fevers, ephemeral, hectic, continuous, tertian, quartan and semi-quartan; on pleurisy, erysipelas, and smallpox; on crises, prognosis, favorable and unfavorable symptoms, and the signs of death.
    • Book 11 (13 chapters) on rheumatism, gout, sciatica, leprosy, elephantiasis, scrofula, lupus, cancer, tumours, gangrene, wounds and bruises, shock, and plague. The last four chapters deal with anatomical matters, including the numbers of the muscles, nerves and blood-vessels.
    • Book 12 (20 chapters) on phlebotomy, cupping, baths and the indications of the pulse and urine.
  • Part V. of tastes, scents and colors. 1 book, 9 chapters
  • Part VI materia medica and toxicology.
  • Part VII. climate, waters and seasons in their relation to health, outlines of cosmography and astronomy, and the utility of the science of medicine: and a summary of Indian Medicine in 36 chapters.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prioreschi, Plinio (2001). A History of Medicine: Byzantine and Islamic medicine. Horatius Press. p. 223. ISBN 9781888456042.
  2. ^ "Greece x. Greek Medicine in Persia – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Selin, Helaine (1997). Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures. Springer. p. 930. ISBN 978-0-7923-4066-9.
  4. ^ Frye, R.N., ed. (1975). The Cambridge history of Iran (Repr. ed.). London: Cambridge U.P. pp. 415–416. ISBN 978-0-521-20093-6. The greatest of these figures, who ushered in the golden age of Islamic medicine and who are discussed separately by E. G. Browne in his Arabian Medicine, are four Persian physicians: 'All b. Rabban al-Tabarl, Muhammad b. Zakariyya' al-Razl, 'All b. al-'Abbas al-Majusi and Ibn Sina.
  5. ^ Selin, Helaine (2008). Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures. Berlin New York: Springer. p. 2179. ISBN 9781402049606. The work is quoted in the Firdaws al-Hikma or "Paradise of Wisdom" composed in AD 850 by the Persian physician 'Alī Ibn Sahl Rabban at-Tabarī who gives a very complete summary of the āyurvedic doctrines.
  6. ^ Adang, Camilla, Muslim Writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible: From Ibn Rabbān to Ibn Hazm, Leiden: 1996, pp. 23-30.
  7. ^ Arnaldez, R., Le Paradis de la sagesse du medecin 'Ali b. Rabbān al-Tabarī," Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica médiévale, 8 (1997), pp. 389-402.
  8. ^ a b Frye, Richard Nelson (27 June 1975). The Cambridge History of Iran: The period from the Arab invasion to the Saljuqs. Cambridge University Press. pp. 415–416. ISBN 978-0-521-20093-6. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  9. ^ Ṭabarī (1989). The History of Al-Tabari. Vol. 1. SUNY Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-88706-563-7.
  10. ^ Flügel, G. L., Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Leipzig/Wiesbaden, 1846, XIII, 559.
  11. ^ Reddy, D. V. Subba, "Indian Medicine in Firdausu'l-hikmat of Ali Raban-al-Tabarī," Bulletin of the Departmen of History of Medicine, I (1963), pp. 26-49.
  12. ^ Siggel, Alfred (1951). Die indischen Bücher aus dem Paradies der Weisheit über die Medizin des' Alī ibn Sahl Rabban al-Ṭabarī. Übersetzt und erläutert. Wiesbaden: Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur.
  13. ^ Meyerhof, Max (1931). "'Alî at-Tabarî's Paradise of Wisdom, one of the oldest Arabic Compendiums of Medicine". Isis. 16 (1): 6–54. doi:10.1086/346582. JSTOR 224348. S2CID 70718474. He extracted his summary from the books of CHARAKA (Arabic: Jarak), SUSHRUTA (Arabic: Susrud), the Nidana (Arabic: Niddin), and the Ashtafigahradaya (Arabic Ashtdnqahrada).
  14. ^ "Meyerhof Ali Tabari Paradise Wisdom". Scribd. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  15. ^ Browne, E. G. (2011). Arabian Medicine: The FitzPatrick Lectures Delivered at the College of Physicians in November 1919 and November 1920. Cambridge University Press. p. 38. ISBN 9781108013970.
  16. ^ Meyerhof, Max (1931). "'Alî at-Tabarî's Paradise of Wisdom, one of the oldest Arabic Compendiums of Medicine". Isis. 16 (1): 6–54. doi:10.1086/346582. JSTOR 224348. S2CID 70718474.


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