Translated by Mahmood Alimohammadi

Avicenna (b.980, Afshanaheh, Bukhara, Iran—d. 1037, Hamadan) is a Persian physician and the most famous and influential philosopher-scientist of the Islamic world.He distinguished himself in the field of science by Kitab ash-shafa(Book of Healing), a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and the Canon of Medicine, which is the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West.

As a child, Avicenna was able to profit from the company of masters in his days as his father home was the meeting place of learned men. He began his education with the Holy Quran and literature under the guidance of his father. A precious boy with exceptional memory, he was only 10 years old when he had memorized the whole Quran and much poetry.Being an Ismailian follower, Avicenna’s father encouraged his son to do the same. He would listen to thepreachers buthe was never attracted to that faith. He learned Indian arithmetic from MahmoodMassahi, an Indian greengrocer. Then Ismail Zahed taught himIslamic jurisprudence and its traditions. Later on he gained knowledge of the basics of Aristotle’s logic from a scientist named Abdullah Natelli.  He was so successful in his studies thathe outgrew his teacher. He even explored certain new points so much so that his master was surprised. As a consequence, Natelli persuaded Avicenna’s father to encourage his son to pursue a scientific career. 

Therefore Avicenna began his self-educationby reading different texts ranging from natural sciences to theology. When he was 18,he was a master in logic, natural sciences, and mathematics. Returning to theology, he read Aristotle’s metaphysics. Subsequently he turned to medicine. At the time the ruler of Bukhara was Nooh ibn Mansoor Samani.  He was suffering from a disease and no physician could cure him. Avicenna succeeded in treating the ruler. Then heenjoyed his favor to the extent that he was allowed to use his library.  The access to the rich royal library was particularly helpful in his intellectual development.  By the time he was 21, he was accomplished in all branches of formal learning and had already gained a wide reputation as an outstanding physician.

In 1001. he went to Garganj in the north west of Kharazm. There he was introduced to one of the rulers of Aleh Mamoon as a jurist. Afterwards he was forced to leave Garganj. Meanwhile he was accompanied by his faithful disciple,Aboo Obaid Jozjani, who never left Avicenna until the end of his life. He wrote the autobiography of Avicenna as he himself narrated it. In 1013, Avicenna returned to Rey from Gorgan to be at the service of Shirin, daughter of Sepahbod Shervin. Avicenna managed to cure Majdo Doleh, Shirin’s son, who was suffering from melancholia. Avicenna went to Ghazvin and Hamedan then. Shamso Dolleh Abootaher, son of Fakhro Doleh, ruler of Hamadan and Kermanshah, was suffering from spasm at the time. This was cured by Avicenna. As a reward he was appointed as minister of Shamso Doleh.

Later on a riot broke out by the troopers who plundered Shamso Doleh’s wealth and properties and told him to kill Avicenna. But he refused to do so and only dismissed him. Once again, Shamso Dolleh complained of Spasm and was cured by Avicenna for a second time.Not surprisingly he became court physician and then appointed as minister for a second term. At this point, Avicenna was writing The Book of Healingand The Canon of Medicine.The former is probably the largest work of its kind ever written by one man.It treats of logic, the natural sciences including psychology, geometry, astronomy, arithmetic and music and metaphysics. The latter is a systematic encyclopedia based on the achievements of Greek physicians of the Roman imperial age and on other Arabic works as well as his own experience.

After the death of Shamso Doleh in 1022, Avicenna left that city and lived as a wanderer while writing his books. Avicenna’s enemies accused him of treason and as a consequence he was imprisoned in Fardjan Castle. There he wrote four treatises. Eventually, by the assistance of his brother, Avicenna was released from the prison and fled to Isfahan. Here he lived the last 14 years of his life in relative peace. He completed his two major works, composed Ketab al-Nejat (Book of Salvation), and most of his nearly 200 treatises in that city.


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