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Ibn Zuhr,Abu Marwan ?Abd Al-Malik Ibn Abi?l-?Ala? (Latin,Abhomjeron or Avenzoar)


(b. Seville, Spain ca.1092;d.Seville, 1162)

medicine toxicology, medical botany theology.

Ibn Zuhr was the patronymic of a family of famous scholars and physicians from the Arabian tribe of Iyad who had settled in Moorish Spain in the tenth centruy, if not earlier. Most important and influential among then was the physician Abu Marwan ibn Zuhr. He first studied medicine under his father, Abu’l-’Alā’ Zuhur, and excelled at an early age. Like his father, Ibn Zuhr served the Murabit dynasty (Almnoravids.1090-1147) in Spain and was well called to served in the palace of his patron, ’Alī ibn Tashfīn (regined 1106-1143)at Marrakesh, Morocco.

Apparently as the result of a misunderstanding,. his patron insulted Ibn Zuhur, removed him from his office about 1141, and threw him in prison. As a result of the many indignities he suffered. Ibn Zuhur retained both physical scars and bad feelings after his eventual pardon and release. Therrefore, as he said in his later writings, it was not difficult, after the fall of the Murābits, to establish friendhips with their enemies, the Muwahhids (Almohads). The new ruler,Abū Muhammad ʿAbd al-Muʿmin (d.1163), welcomed Ibn Zuhur and appointed him not only as his court physician but also as a counseling vizier. Ibn Zuhur dedicated two works to him: his treatise on theriaca,al-Tiryāq alsab īnī and one on diet, al-Aghadhiya.

During this later period, Ibn Zuhr accumulated much prestige and wealth and became a very close friend of Ibn Rushed, to whom he dedicated his best-known book, al-Taysīr Ibn Rushd had asked Ibn Zuhr to write this book on the treatment of particular diseases of the organs of the body and methods of therapy. He personally compiled and wrote his al-Kulliyyät on the generalities of medicine as a supplement to al-Taysīr as he explained in the introduction.

Ibn Zuhr’s daughter became one of the better known midwives in Islam, and a son became a physician, poet,and man of letters. On one occasion, when Ibn Zuhr was away from his office, the son treated patients. In recognition of the son,’s excellent performance and to encourage him, Ibn Zuhr dedicated to him al-Tadhkira a book on therapeutics, fevers, and the careful use of laxatives-which he considered to be poisons when abused.

After a career in medical teaching, practifce and writing Ibn Zuhr died of a malignant tumor and was buried outside the victory gate in Seville. he exerted a considerable influence on Westerjn as well as Arabic medicine, after his works were translated and widely circulated in Latin and Hebrew. Although a true follower of Hippocrates and Galen, he developed numerous original ideas through his medical experimentation and observation. Ibn Zuhr wrote on the therapeutic value of good diets and on antidotes against poisons, and cautioned against deliberate uses of purgatives in treating the sick, who needed curing medications, not “poisons” . He urged physicians to use mild drugs and to watch the reactions of the patiuent, especially for the first three days; if the drug was found useful, a larger dose could then be adminsiterede. He explained that drugas mixed with honey or sugar were carried to the liver, which reacted to these substances.

Ibn Zuhr described in more detail than his predecessors mediastinal tumors and the appearance of abscesses on the pericardium, paralysis of the pharynx, scabies, inflammation of the middle ear, and intestional erosions. He also recommended tracheotomy, first described and illustrated by Abulcasis al-Zahrāwī, almost a century and a half earlier, artificial feeding through the gullet or the rectum and the use of cold water to reduce fevers. Ibn Zuhr realized the noxiousness of air coming from marshes and, like Hunayn ibn Ishaq(d.877), Galen’s competent tranlator, he emphasized the importancer of clean, “good” air for health. As a clinician and medical therapist, he was one of the best Muslim physicians in Moorish Spain; and his influence on medicine in the West continued until the Renaissance.


I. Original Works. All of Ibn Zuhr’s nine knwon works, which were widely circulated inthe twelfth century and after, were medical. A century later Ibn Abī Usabiʿa, in ʿAyūn al-anbāʿ Būlāqed., II (Cairo, 1882), 66-67, mentioned only seven:āq al-sab ʿīnī This apparently lost work is on theriaca, which incorporates 70 drugs, and its abstraction into seven and or ten ingredianats, known also as al-Antala theriaca. He prepared this antidote for his patron, ʿAbd al-Muʿmin, as a safeguard against poisoning by his enemies.

2.Fi al-zīna Little is known about this lost work, except that the title suggests recipes for beautification, cosmetics, and skin medication. He wrote it during his early life as a medical author and practitioner and was ashamned of somme of its contents when he matured in experience and knowledge. Zuhr wrote this work on diet at the request of his patron,Abd al-Mu min to provide information on accessible foods and their therapeutic advatages. The writer of this article consulted a 14th century MS of it in Istanbul (Ahmad III Library at the Suliemaniye Library)in 58 fols. Other copies of this dietetic text are also extant.

4.FīʿIlal al-kilā Lost treatise on kidney diseases that Ibn Zuhr wrote at the request of colleagues in Sevile.

5.Fī ʿIllatay al-Baras waʿl-ʿbahaq A lost treatise on leprosy and vitiligo (known also as piebald skin and leukoderma), how they differ, and their treatment. A thesaurus for his son, then a young doctor, concerning the treatment of diseases. Studied by Gabriel Colin in his Avenzoar, sa vie et ses oeuvres(Paris, 1911).īr fiʿ l-mudʿwʿt wa’ l-’tadbīr (Latin Alteisirʿ [or Teissir]scilicet regiminis et medelae), Ibn Zuhrs best-known medical text in 30 treatise, written at the instigation of Ibn Rushd, who copied it. A few copies exist in Arabic and several more survive in Latin and Hebrew, an indicatioin of its wide circulation in Europe. See the list in Ludwig Choulant Handbuch der Bucher kunde für dir ältere Medicin. (Leiopzig 1841), 375-376.Copies examined by the author were in the National Library Rabat (Q159), and the Royal Library, Rabat (no.1538). In it Ibn Zuhr as was the practice of the time, mixed astrology with pharmacological and experimental observations, and superstitions with ratioinal and objective reasoning. The book was highly praised by Ibn Rushed as the best available on particulars in medicine and therapeutics. See Kitāb al-kulliyyāt(Larache, Moracco, 1939), 230. Nonetheless. Ibn Zuhr was definetly influenced by the works of such predecssors as Hunayn ibn Ishāq, al-Rāzī, and al-Zahrāwī.ād fī Islāh al-Anfus waʿl-ajsād This work (“On the Ecology of the Treatment and Healing of Body and Soul”) is not mentioned by Ibn Usaybiʿa. It was written for the Murābit Prince Ibrāhīm ibn Yūsuf ibnm Tashfīn after he moved to Morocco in 1121. It discusses therapeutics and hygiene and was written for the lay reader. At least in spirit and in title this work followed a similar one for treatment of body and soul, Kitāb al Irshād li-masālih al-Anfus waʿkl-ajsād by the Egyhptian Jewish physician Hibat Allagh ibn Jumayʿ(d.1198). Two extant copies of al-lqtisad1(Leiden, 1943),642and Supp. I(Leiden,1937), 890. It was studied by H.P,J,Renaud in “Trois études…” in Hesperis12 (1931), 91-105; and 20 (1935),87.

9.Jāmiʿ Asrār al-Tibb The other book not mentioned by Ibn usabiʿa, a copy which is in the National Library, Rabat (D532), is a compendium (“The Comprehendsive Text oin the Mystery or Secrets of the Healing Art”) It discusses human physioilogy especially in regards to the digestive system, physical therapy, and dietetics. It also describes the functions of other bodily organs including the liver,. spleen, bladder, as well as general diseases such as fevers, gout and hemorrhoids. It further includes a formulary on syrups electuaries, and other pharaceutical preparations, which erroneously was thought to be composed as an appendix to al-Taysīr and of which other copies are extant. Upon a thorough examinations of the text this author discovered that it was the contribution of his father Abū al-ʿAlāʿ ibn Zuhr,who died in Cordoba, 525/1131. This same Rabad copyincludes another text entitleed al-Shāfī min al-Amrād wāʿl-ʿIlal (“The Healer of All Diseases”) on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. It was dedicated, and most probably by the father, Abū alʿ-Alāʿ ibn Zuhr, to the Murābit prince al-Mansūr Abū al-ʿAbbās Ahmad, divided into forty discourses with frequent quotations from ancient sages and religious sayings.

II. Secondary Literature. Ibn Abī Usaybiʿa’s contemporary, Muhammed Ibn al-Abbar (1199-1260), gave one of the earliest brief biographies of Ibn Zuhr and other members of his family in Takmilat al-sila, edited by F. Codera in Bibliotheca arabico-hispana, II (Madrid, 1889), 616. He was also mentioned in Abuʿl Falāh ibn al- ʿImād (d. 1679), Shadharāt al-dhahab, IV (Cairo, 1350 A.H.), 179; and his Taysīr and Jāmiʿ are listed in Hājjī Khalīfaʿs Kashf al-zunūn,1 (Cario, 1892), 354, and (Istanbul, 1941) 520. The most useful and reliable later references are the following, listed chronologically: F. Wustenfeld, Geschichte der arabischen Aerzteund Naturforscher (Göttingen, 1840), 90-91; L. Leclerc, Histoire de la médecine arabe. II (Paris, 1876), 86-93; Gabriel Colin, “Ibn Zuhr,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam II (Leiden, 1927), 430-431; George Sarton, In troduction to the History of Science, II (Baltimore, 1931), 231-234; Aldo Mieli, La science arabe et son rôle dans lʿévolution scientifique mondiale, 2nd ed. (Leiden, 1966), 188-215; R. Arnaldes, “Ibn Zuhr,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., III (Leiden, 1969), 976-979; Sami Hamarneh, Index of Mss. in the Zahiriyyah (Damascus, 1969), 174-176, in Arabic; and the commemorative volume, Al-Tabib Ibn Zuhr (Aleppo, 1972), esp. Michael Khorury, “Banu Zuhr,” pp. 159-203.

Sami Hamarneh

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