Abū Maʿshar Al-Balkhī, Jaʿfar Ibn Muḥammad
also known as Albumasar
(b. in or near Balkh in Khurasan, 10 August 787; d. al-Wāiṭ, Iraq, 9 March 886)
The ancient city of Balkh, where Abū Maʿshar grew up, had once been an outpost of Hellenism in central Asia, and then had become a center for the mingling of Indians, Chinese, Scythians, and Greco-Syrians with Iranians during the Sassanian period; when it was conquered by Aḥnaf ibn Qays during the caliphate of ʿUthmān (644–656), its religious communities included Jews, Nestorians, Manichaeans, Buddhists, and Hindus, as well as Zoroastrians. In the revolution of the middle of the eighth century, the people of Khurasan provided the Abbasids with their army, their general, and many of their intellectuals.
These intellectuals, like those from other frontier areas of the former Sassanian empire, were politically inclined toward pro-Iranism and against their Arab masters, and religiously inclined toward heresy, especially the Shīʿa sect. They were called upon, despite these tendencies, to play a large role in the activities of the libraries and translation institutes established at Baghdad by the early Abbasids; and they succeeded in making a generous portion of their Sassanian heritage of syncretic science and philosophy an integral part of the Muslim tradition.
Abū Ma‘shar was a member of the third generation of this Pahlavi-oriented intellectual elite. he retained a strong commitment to the concept of Iranian intellectual superiority (expressed most vehemently in his Kitāb ikhtilāf al-zījāt and Kitāb al-ulūf), but he himself relied entirely on translations for his knowledge of Sassanian science. He mingled his already complex cultural inheritance with various intellectual trends current in Baghdad in his time, and became a leading exponent of the theory that all different national systems of thought are ultimately derived from a single revelation (thus, in a sense, paralleling in intellectual history the Neoplatonic doctrine of emanation, which he accepted philosophically in its Ḥarrāanian guise). This theory could be used to justify the most astonishing and inconsistent eclecticism; it also permitted an advocate to adopt wildly heretical views while maintaining strict adherence to the tenets of Islam. Abū Ma‘shar’s great reputation and usefulness as the leading astrologer of the Muslim world also helped to preserve him from persecution; there are reports of only one unfortunate incident, a whipping administered because of his practice of astrology, during the caliphate of al-Mustaʿīn (1862–866)
Abū Maʿshar began his career in Baghdad, probably at the beginning of the Caliphate of al-Maʾmūn (813–833), as an expert in ḥadīth, the sayings traiditonally ascribed to Muḥammad and his companions. It was undoubtedly in studying this subject that he developed his proficiency in such subjects as the pre-Islamic Arabic calendar and the chronology of the early caliphs. But, in his forty-seventh year (832–833) according to the biographical traditional, but actually in about 825, an event occurred that completely changed his scholarly career. He became involved in a bitter quarrel with the Arabs’ first “philosopher,” Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī (ca. 796–873), who was interested at once in Plato, in Aristotle and his commentators, in various Neoplatonists, in the works that the “Sabaeans” of Ḥarrān attributed to Hermes and Agathodemon, and, in general, in “mathematics” (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy, and astrology). It was his urging that made Abū Maʿshar realize the necessity of studying “mathematics” in order to understand philosophical arguments. He henceforth devoted his energies to expounding the philosophical and historical justifications of astrology, and to discoursing on and exemplifying the practical efficacy of this science. In this effort he drew upon elements of all the diverse intellectual traditions to which he was almost uniquely heir: upon the Pahlavi Greco-Indo-Iranian tradition in astrology, astronomy, and theurgy as preserved in Buzurjmihr, Andarzghar, Zaradusht, the Zīj al-Shāh, Dorotheus, and Valens; upon a Sanskrit Greco-Indian tradition in astrology and astronomy from varāhamihira, Kanaka, the Sindhind, the Zīj al-Arkand, and Āryabhaṭa; upon the Greek tr and and dition in philosophy, astrology, and astronomy through Aristole, Ptolemy, and Theon; upon the Syriac Neoplatonizing philosophy of astral influences and theurgy from al-Kindī and the books of the Ḥarrānians; and upon the earlier, less complete attempts at such vast syntheses among Persian scholars writing in Arabic as repersented by those of masha’-allāh Abū Sahl al-Faḍl ibn Nawbakht, ʿUmar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī, and Abū Yūsuf Yaʿūb al-Qaṣrānī
Abū Maʿshar’s renown as an astrologer was immense, both among his contemporaries and in later times. He cast the horoscope of an Indian (Rāṣṭrakūṭa?) prince who was born 11 January 826; he advised several rebels against the authority of the caliph; and he accompanined al-Muwaffaq on his expedition against the Zanj in Basra in 880–883. To Ibn al-Qifṭī, as to most students of Islamic astrology, he was “the teacher of the people of Islam concerning the influences of the stars.”
Abū Maʿshar’s philosophical proof of the validity of astrology was probably most elaborately presented in his lost Kitāb ithbāt ʿilm al-nujūm (“Book of the Establishment of Astrology”), but it is also discussed at length in the first maqāla of his Kitāb al-madkhal al-Kabīr (“Great Introduction”), which was written in 849/850. The argument, as has been Pointed out by Lemay, is largely Aristotelian, with some Neoplatonic elements; but Lemay, working only with the Latin translations, failed to realize that the immediate sources of Abā Maʿshar’s Aristotelianism were not the Arabic translations of the De caelo, the Physica, and the De generatione et corruptione, but the purported writings of the Ḥarrānian prophets, Hermes and Agathodemon. That the “Sabaeans” of Harrān depended on Aristotle’s Physical, De Caelo, De generatione et corruptione, and Meteorologica for their theories regarding the material universe is clearly stated by Aḥmad ibn al-Ṭayyib al-Saraksī (ca. 835–899), another student of al-kindī (fr. 1 B1 in F. Rosenthal). Since the Ḥarrānians were interested in the laws of perceptible nature precisely because they saw the same relationships between the ethereal spheres and the sublunar world of change that Abū Ma’shar seeks to prove (as well as a further relationship between the ethereal spheres and the One which Abū Ma’shar only hints at), it is an easy step to the conclusion that this justification of astrology is, in its main outline, taken by Abū Maʿshar from the books of the Ḥarrānians, and is thus only a part of a much more elaborate universal philosophy of emanation
That philosophy, closely similar to doctrines common to number of religious movements of the first half-millennium of the Christian era (they are found, for example, in the Corpus Hemeticum, in the Chaldaean Oracles, and in the writings of various Neoplatonists), and not unlike the philosophical background Jābirian alchemy, posits three levels of being analogous to three concentric spheres: the divine (the sphere of light), the ethereal (the eight celestial spheres), and the hylic (the sublunar core, in which matter is involved in constant process of change due to the motions of the four Empedoclean elements).
This view of the universe gains religious content when there is added to it the idea that man’s soul has decended from the sphere of light to the hylic sphere and now must strive to return to union with the divine But, according to “Sabaean” doctrine in cannot leap over the ethereal sphere and attain this union without the assistance of intermediaries, which are the celestial spheres; therefore man’s religion—his liturgy and his ritual—must be addressed to the deities of the planets and of the constellations rather than to the one. The form of this worship is determined by the attributes, qualities, and conditions of the intermediaries; these are known by the study of astrology and astronomy.
The religious view of the Ḥarrāanians, then, assumes an Aristotelian physical universe in which the four Empedoclean elements are confined to the sublunar world, and the celestial spheres consist of a fifth element. The normal astrological view is concerned to some extent with schematic correlations between celestial figures and (a) the four Empedoclean elements and (b) the various Pythagorean contrasting principles. Primarily, however, it works with somewhat arbitrary associations of planets, zodiacal signs, decans, and so on; with the psychological factors governing man’s behavoier; with the attributes and characteristics apparent in material objects; and with various selected species of plants, animals, stones, fish, and so on. The Ḥarrāanians, followed by Abū Ma‘shar, attempted to validate the scientific basis of these arbitrary associations between the celestial and sublunar worlds in astrology by casting over the whole system a peculiar interpretation of Aristotelian physics. According to this interpretation, the nature of the influence of the superior spheres on the inferior is not restricted to the transmission of motion alone; terrestrial bodies each possess the potentiality of being moved by particular celestial bodies, and the celestial bodies similarly each posses the possibility of influencing particular terrestrial bodies. The precise details of the mode of this influence need not detain us here; suffice it to say that the practical effect of this elaborate development of theory in the Kitāb al-madkhal al-kabīr was the reassertion of the truth of the astrological doctrines already long current.
For the Ḥarrāanians the Kitāb al-madkhal al-kabīr also provided the justification for the elaboration of a theory of talismans and planetary theurgy which made them the recognized masters of these esoteric practices (although they had, of course, been popular for centuries in the Roman and Sassanian empires). Abū Ma’shar is among those who helped, in his Kitāb al-ulūf and Kitāb fi buyūt, al-ʿibādāt, to establish their reputation. From time to time he refers to talismans (see especially his Kitāb ṣuwar al-daraj), but in general he is interested more in predicting the future than in manipulating it.
For Abū Maʿshar, however, the validity of astrology is determined not only by the Neoplatonizing Aristotelianism of the Ḥarrāanians; it also rests on an elaborate world history of the transmission of science which permits one to trace back the fragments of truth about nature scattered among the peoples of the earth to a pristine divine source: it is a sort of prophetology of science.
Man’s knowledge of the relationship between the three spheres comes not from his own powers of reasoning, but from revelation. For the Ḥrrānians, the prophet of revelation was Hermes Trismegistus. Abū Maʿshar, however, desired to universalize the personality of the prophet and to demonstrate the essential unity of human thought, and identifies a first Hermes with the Iranian Hūshank and the Semitic Enoch-Idrīs; following this composite figure are a succession of pupils of various nations (including two more named Hermes) who spread the revealed truth among the nations of the oecumene. Abū Maʿshar’s cultural background helps to explain this universalism, although it must be noted that in certain details his elaborate history of science had been anticipated by Persian scholars of the preceding generation. It was his theory of an original “Sabaeanism” followed by all of mankind, however, which became the basis of much of Muslim historiography of philosophy and religion.
In conformity with this theory as expounded in his Kirāb al-ulūf, and on the alleged basis of a manuscript said to have been buried at Isfahan before the Flood, Abū Maʿshar produced his Zīj al-hazārāt, which was to restore to mankind the true astronomy of the prophetic age. The mean motions of the planets are computed in this zīj by the Indian method of the yuga and by using Indian parameters; in this section Abū Maʿshar depended largely on the Zij al-Sindhind of al-Fazārī and the Zīj al-Arkand (both of Indian origin), although his yuga of 360,000 years, while Indian, was also used by the Ismāʿīlīs. His prime meridian and the parameters for his planetary equations were taken from the Persian Zīj al-Shāh, which is greatly indebted to Indian sources. His planetary model, however, was evidently Ptolemaic. Thus this “antediluvian” Zīj proves by its mixture of Indian, Persian, and Greek elements that the theory of the original unity of the intellectual traditions of mankind is a true one; each has preserved a bit of the revelation.
Accompanying this astronomical work and history of science was an elaborate astrological interpretation of history expounded in the Kitāb al-qirānāt, which, being originally of Sassanian (Zoroastrian) origin, reached Abū Maʿshar through the works of Māshāʾallāh, ʿUmar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī, and al-Kindī. This theory, based on periods of varying length under the influence of the several planets and zodiacal signs, on the recurring conjunctions at regular intervals of Saturn and Jupiter and of Saturn and Mars, on the horoscopes of year transfers, and on transits, postulated the inherent impermanence of all human institutions–including the religion of Islam and the rule of the Arab caliphate. It was particularly popular among the Iranian intellectuals of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, who delighted in predicting the imminent downfall of the Abbasids and restoration of the royal house of Iran to the throne of world empire. And it is one other element in Abū Maʿshar’s system that links him with the Ismāʿīlīs.
Parallel to these methods of universal astrological history, Sassanian scientists had developed similar techniques of progressive individual genethlialogy based on periods, the horoscopes of birthdays, and transits. Their sources had been Hellenistic, the primary one being the fourth book of Dorotheus. Abū Maʿshar, like many other Muslim astrologers, has elaborately dealt with this type of astrology (in his Kitāb taḥāwīl sinī al-mawālīd). He also composed a number of other works on nativities, some mere compilations of the sayings of the wise men of India, Persia, Greece, Egypt, and Islam, intended to demonstrate again their fundamental unity (the Kitāb al-jamhara and the Kitāb aṣl al-uṣūl), and some more orthodox compositions modeled on the Hellenistic textbooks that had been translated into Arabic (the two versions of the Kitāb aḥkām al-mawālīd).
In these writings, as in his other works listed in the critical bibliography (see below), Abū Maʿshar did not display any startling powers of innovation. They are practical manuals intended for the instruction and training of astrologers. As such, they exercised a profound influence on Muslim intellectual and social history and, through translations, on the intellectual and social history of western Europe and of Byzantium. Abū Maʿshar’s folly as a scientist has been justly pointed out by al-Bīrūnī (Chronology, ed. C. E. Sachu, repr. Leipzig, 1923, pp. 25–26; trans. idem, London, 1879, pp. 29–31). One gains the strong impression from his pupil Shādhān’s Mudhākarāt that even as an astrologer he was not intellectually rigorous or honest (no matter what the situation may be now, it certainly was possible to be an intellectually honest astrologer in the ninth century). He is an interesting and instructive phenomenon, but is not to be ranked among the great scientists of Islam
1. Original Works. There are two old lists of Abū Maʿshar’s works. The first and most complete is that in the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm, who wrote ca. 987. G. Flügel, ed. (Leipzig, 1871–1872), p. 277; this I call N. The second is a shorter catalog preserved in the Taʾrikh al-ḥukamāʾ of Ibn al-Qifṭī, who wrote before 1248, J. Lippert, ed. (Leipzig, 1903), p. 153; this I call Q I. Ibn al-Qifṭī (p. 154) adds a list of those works found in Ibn al-Nadīm’s list which he could not identify in Q I; this I call Q II. There are some repetitions of titles in Q I and Q II where Ibn al-Qifṭī has been led by differences in wording to believe in the existence of separate works. Note that Ibn al-Nadīm (p. 275; copied by Ibn al-Qifṭī, p. 154) claims, on the authority of Ibn al-Jahm (is this Muḥammad ibn al-Jahm al-Barmaki? See Fihrist, p. 277) that Abū Maʿshar plagiarized nos 1, 4, 8, and 16 from Sanad ibn “Alī, who flourished under al-Maʾmūn; but this seems to be a mistaken allegation (cf. Ibn Yūnis, Zīj al-ḥākimī, Caussin de Perceval, ed., in Notices et extraits des manuscrits, VII [Paris, 1803], 58).
In this catalog, I refer in general only to manuscripts which I have personally examined, and not to all of these. The reader should realize that this list is as exhaustive as it can be made at present, and he should be particularly aware that all of the genuine works listed by Brockelmann Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, I2-II2 [Leiden, 1943–1949]; and Supplementum I-III [Leiden, 1937–1942], henceforth referred to as GAL) are included.
(1) Kitāb al-madkhal al-kabīr ʿalā ʿilm aḥkām al-nujūm (“Great Introduction to the Science of Astrology”). N 1; Q I, 3; Ḥājjī Khalīfa (Kashf al-ẓunūn, ed. G. Flügel [London, 1835–1858], henceforth referred to as Ḥājjī Khalīfa). V. 475. I have examined Leiden Or. 47 and NO 2806. This is a work in eight magālāt covering the following: (1) the philosophical and historical justifications of astrology; (2) the numbers and characteristics of the fixed stars and the zodiacal signs; (3) the influence of the seven planets, and particularly of the two luminaries, on the sublunar world; (4) the astrological natures of the planets; (5) the lordships of the planets over the zodiacal signs and their parts; (6) the zodiacal signs in relation to each other and to man; (7) the strengths of the planets, their relations to each other, and their chronocratories; and (8) astrological lots. It was written in 849/850 or shortly thereafter. Only one chapter (6,1—on the decans) has been published of the original Arabic version: see K. Dyroff, in F. Boll, Sphaera (Leipzig, 1903), pp. 490–539; cf. D. Pingree, “The Indian Iconography of the Decans and Horās,” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 26 (1963), 223–254.
Lengthy selections from the “Great Introduction” were translated into Greek ca. 1000; they form the bulk of the third book of the Mysteries of Abū Maʿshar, of which the present writer is preparing an edition. The whole of the “Great Introduction” was translated into Latin by John of Seville in 1133 and (with some abridgments) by Hermann of Carinthia in 1140; the latter translation was printed by Erhard Ratdolt at Augsburg in 1489 and 1495, and by Jacobus Pentius Leucensis (de Leucho) at Venice in 1506. From the Latin versions were derived a Hebrew version by Yakob ben Elia in the late thirteenth century, which is referred to in M. Steinschneider, Die hebräischen Übersetzungen des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1893), pp. 567–571 (henceforth referred to as Steinschneider), and the Liber Albumazarus, written by Zothorus Zaparus Fendulus in the fourteenth century, as well as German and English translations. The most recent discussion of the Latin translations, in which a strong case has been made for their influence on western European philosophy in the twelfth century, is R. Lemay, Abū Maʿshar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century (Beirut, 1962); cf. also J. C. Vadet, “Une défense de l’astrologie dans le madhal d’Abū Maʿšar al Bal ī,” in Annales islamologiques, 5 (1963), 131–180. The Peripatetic and Neoplatonic background of Abū Maʿshar’s theory of tides is discussed by P. Duhem, Le systéme du monde, II (Paris, 1914), 369–386 (henceforth referred to as Duthem). For the date of the “Great Introduction,” see H. Hermelink, “Datierung des Liber Introductorius von Albumasar (Kitāb al-mudal al-kabīr von Abū Maʿšar),” in Sudhoffs Archiv, 46 (1962), 264–265.
(2) Kitāb al-madkhal al-ṣaghīr, also called Kitāb mukhtaṣar al-madkhal (“Little Introduction”). N 2; Q II, I. I have consulted British Museum Additional Manuscript 7490, pt. 4 (Yeni Cami 1193, pt. 6, listed by Brockelmann, is the Kitāb al-madkhal fī ʿilm al-aḥkām al-falakiyya, in seventy-three chapters, of Abū’l-Qāsim ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad al-Balkhī, also known as Abū Maʿshar, but this has nothing to do with the “Little Introduction”). This work was written after the “Great Introduction,” which it epitomizes at the expense of all philosophical and historical passages. It consists of seven fuṣül: (1) on the natures, conditions, and indications of the zodical signs; (2) on the conditions of the planets alone and with respect to the sun; (3) on the twenty-five conditions of the planets; (4) on the strength and goodness of the planets and their dodecatemoria; (5) on the natures of the planets and their indications; (6) on lots; and (7) on the planetary chronocratories. It was translated into Latin by Adelard of Bath in the early twelfth century.
(3) Zīj al-Hazārāt (“Tables of the Thousands’). N 3; Q I, 12; Q II, 2; Ḥājjī Khalīfa, III, 558–559. This work, composed between 840 and 860 in “sixty and some” chapters, is now lost. However, an attempt at recovering its planetary parameters and some of its astronomical theories has been made by the present writer in his The Thousands of Abū Maʿshar (London, 1968). Note that the pharase et ego Albumasar in tabulis nostris maioribus in fine richene elchebir [Zījinā al-kabīr] celestium discursus persecutus sum, which is found in Hermann of Carinthia’s translation of the “Great Introduction” (1,1), does not appear in the Arabic manuscripts I have examined.
(4) Kitāb al-mawālīd al-kabīr (“Great Book of Nativities”). N 4; Q II, 3. According to Ibn al-Nadīm, Abū Maʿshar never finished this book. Perhaps it is identical with the “Book of the Multitude”; cf. also the “Book of Judgements About Nativities.”
(5) Kitāb hayʾat al-falak wa-ikhtilāf ṭulūʾihi (“Form of the Sphere and Differences in Rising-times”). N 5; Q 1, 7 (?); Q II, 4. Ibn al-Nadīm informs us that this book, of which no copies have survived, was in five fuṣūl. Its subject is clear.
(6,7) Kitāb al-kadkhudāh (“Book of the Kadkhudāh”) and Kitāb al-hayalāj (“Book of the Haylāj”). N 6 and N 7; Q I, 8. Ibn al-Nadīm treats these as two separate books; Ibn al-Qifṭī, more naturally, as one. The Haylāj (“Prorogator”) and Kadkhudāh (“Lord of Life”) are frequently discussed in Abū Maʿshar’s other works (e.g., in the “Book of Judgments About Nativities,” chs. 4 and 5), and were often treated by his predecessors—most notably by Dorotheus in his third book. The Persian terminology, of course, indicates a Sassanian background, and we know that the Arabic version of Dorotheus was translated from Pahlavi ca. 800. It is at least possible that Abū Maʿshar’s work was the source of the Kitāb al-zāʾirjāt fī istikhrāj al-hayalāj wa ’l-kadkhudāh, which forms the fourth part of the Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī of Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Jalīl al-Sijzī, which was written in the second half of the tenth century (I have used British Museum Or. 1346, Esad Ef. 1998, and Hamidiye 837). The original of al-Sijzī’s work relied on Hermes, Ptolemy, Dorotheus, and “the Moderns.”
(8) Kitāb al-qirānāt (“Book of Conjunctions”), also known as the Kitāb al-milal wa ’l-duwal). N 8; Q I, 4; Q I, 5; Ḥājjī Khalīfa, V, 136. I have used British Museum Or. 7716 and Escorial 937. This work, in eight maqālāt, as is the “Great Introduction,” was written after 869 or perhaps even after 883 (cf. 1,3, which mentions events in Basra predicted for the fifteen years after the sixtieth year following the conjunction of 809; in 2,7 he refers to the murder of al-Mutawakkil, which occurred in December 861). The subjects of the eight maqālāt are as follows: (1) the appearance of prophets and their laws; (2) the rise and fall of dynasties and kings; (3) the effects of planetary combinations; (4) the effects of each zodiacal sign’s being in the ascendant; (5) the lordships of the planets; (6) transits; (7) each zodiacal sign as muntahā and as ascendant of the revolution of the year; and (8) the revolutions of the years and the intihāʾāt.
Ibn al-Nadīm claims that this work was dedicated to Ibn al-Bāzyār, a pupil of Ḥabash al-Ḥāsib (fl. 829–864); this statement is perhaps supported by the fact that one manuscript of the “Book of Conjunctions” ascribes it to Ibn al-Bāzyār (GAL Suppl. I, 394; cf. also al-Bīrūnī, Chronology, ed. C.E. Sachau, repr. Leipzig, 1923, p. 21; trans. idem, London, 1879, p. 25; and Fihrist, p. 276). It was translated into Latin by John of Seville; this translation was printed by Erhard Ratdolt at Augsburg in 1489, and reprinted by Jacobus Pentius de Leucho at Venice in 1515 (these are the same two printer-scholars to whom we owe the editions of Hermann’s translation of the “Great Introduction”). One chapter of this Latin translation (2,8), which Abū Maʿshar had plagiarized from al-Kindī, was reprinted by O. Loth in his article “Al-Kindī als Astrolog,” in Morgenländische Forschungen (Leipzig, 1875), pp.261–310. For Abū Maʿshar’s reference to trepidation in this work, see Duhem, II, 503–504.
(9) Kitāb taḥāwīl sinī al-ʿālam, or Kitāb al-nukat (“Book of Revolutions of the World-years,” or “Book of Subtleties”), N 9; Q I, 10; Ḥājjī Khalīfa, I, 171. I have used Bodleian Marsh 618, Escorial 938, and Fatih 3426. This is a relatively short work on the nature of a year (or month or day) as determined by the horoscope of its beginning. It was translated into Latin by John of Seville under the title Flores: cf. J. Vernet, “Cuestiones catalográficas referentes a autores orientales: Problemas bibliográficas en torno a Albumasar,” in Biblioteconomia (Barcelona, 1952), 12–17. This is undoubtedly identical with the De revolutionibus annorum mundi seu liber experimentorum, also translated by John of Seville; for this, see F. J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation (Berkeley–Los Angeles, 1956) p. 94 (henceforth referred to as Carmody). Flores was published by Erhard Ratdolt at Augsburg in 1488, 1489, and 1495, and by the house of Sessa in Venice in 1488 and 1506.
(10) Kitāb al-ikhtiyārāt (“Book of Elections”). N 10; Q 11, 5; Ḥājjī Khalīfa. I, 198. This may be the fifth text in British Museum Additional Manuscript 7490, which is entitled Kitāb al-ikhtiyārāt and which follows Abū Maʿshar’s “Little Introduction”; it contains fifty-five chapters quoting from many sources that were favorites of Abū Maʿshar (e.g., Dorotheus). There is also a Kitāb al-ikhtiyārāt which is the eighth component of al-Sijzī’s Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī, but its relation to Abū Maʿshar remains obcsure. There are also many chapters on elections in the first book of the Byzantine Mysteries of Abū Maʿshar and, in Latin, an Electiones planetarum and a De mode eligendi (Carmody, p. 96), Cf. also Steinschneider, p. 571.
(11) Kitāb al-ikhtiyārāt ʿalā manāzil al-qamar (“Book of Elections According to the Lunar Mansions”). N 11; Q II, 6. This is perhaps different from the preceding work. There is in Latin a Flores de electionibus which is based on the moon (Carmody, p. 97) and a De electionibus lunae (Carmody, p. 101; cf. Steinschneider, p. 571), both ascribed to Abū Maʿshar. Compare also the Kitāb masāʾil al-quamar in Berlin oct. 1617 (not seen by me).
(12) Kitāb al-ulūf (“Book of the Thousands”). N 12; Q 1, 2; Ḥājjī Khalīfa, V, 50; cf. I, 22. This, one of Abū Maʿshar’s most important works, is lost; but we do have summaries of it by al-Sijzī (part 9 of Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī cf. the Dastūr al-munajjimīn in Paris Bibliothèque Nationale 5968), al-Tanūkhī (in British Museum Or. 3577), and an anonymous author (in Berlin 5900). Unfortunately, the epitome by Abū Maʿshar’s pupil Ibn al-Māzyār (Ibn al-Bāzyār?) is lost. All the available material has been assembled and discussed by the present writer in his The Thousands of Abū Maʿshar. The Kitāb al-ulūf is not to be confused with the Kitāb fī buyūt al-ʿibādāt (“Book of Temples”) mentioned by al-Bīrūnī in the Chronology, despite what Ḥājjī Khalīfa, who had no copy, says of its nature.
(13)Kitāb al-ṭabāʾiʿ al-kabīr (“Great Book of Natures”). N 13; Q I, 1; Q II, 7. According to Ibn al-Nadīm, this apparently lost work was divided into five ajzāʾ. According to at a least one manuscript, the “Book of the Foundation of Foundations” was called the Kitāb al-ṭabāʾiʿ, but this identification is probably to be taken seriously. If it refers to any part of that work, it could not only be to the first section, which precedes the quotations from ancient authorities.
(14) Kitāb al-sahmayn wa-aʿmār al-mulūk wa ’l-duwal (“Book of the Two Lots and the Lives of Kings and Dynasties”) N 14; Q II, 8. The two lots must be the Lot of Fortune and the Lot of the Demon; their relevance to astrological history is not yet clear. The text of this book has not been found.
(15) Kitāb zāʾ irjāt [wa] al-intihāʾ āt wa ’l-mamarrāt (“Book of Tables of the Intihāʾāt and of the Transits”). N 15. This work, too, must have been on astrological history; cf. books 6 and 8 of the “Book of Conjunctions.” No manuscripts of it are known.
(16) Kitāb iqtirān al-naḥsayn fī burj al-Saraṭān (“Book of the Conjunction of the Two Malefics in Cancer”). N 16; Q II, 9. The particularly maleficent effects of conjunctions of Saturn and Mars in Cancer are also treated extensively in the “Book of Conjunctions” (2, 8, which is largely copied from al-Kindī). There seem to be no copies of this book extant.
(17, 18) Kitāb al-ṣuwar wa ’l-ḥukm ʿalayhā (“Book of the Images and Their Influences”). N 17; Q II, 10. Kitāb [al-] ṣuwar [wa] al-daraj wa ’l-ḥukm ʿalayhā (“Book of the Images of the Degrees, and Their Influences”). N 18. This is most likely one work, as Ibn al-Qifṭī assumes, and seems to be on talismans (“Zaradusht’s” work on talismans, which forms the thirteenth part of Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī, is entitled Kitāb ṣuwar darajāt al-falak). Again, the Arabic is lost; but there is in Latin a De ascensionibus imaginum ascribed to Abū Maʿshar (Carmody, p. 100). Cf. the first part of the “Small Book of Nativities.”
(19) Kitāb taḥāwīl sinī al-mawālīd (“Book of the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities”). N 19; Q I, 11; Ḥājjī Khalīfa. VI, 242. I have consulted Escorial 917. This work contains nine maqālāt rather than just eight, as Ibn al-Nadīm claims: (1) introductory; (2) on the various astrological lords as signifiers; (3) on the direction and the division; (4) on the planetary periods; (5) on the transits of the planets; (6) on various planetary and zodiacal signifiers; (7) on the effects of the planetary motions; (8 on the effects of the planets being in each other’s houses and terms; and (9) on casting monthly and daily horoscopes. Al-Sijzī summarized this work in his Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī (part five; cf. Ḥājjī Khalīfa, II, 46); he also translated this summary into Persian, cf. C. Storey, Persian Literature, II, 1 (London, 1958), 39 (henceforth referred to as Storey). The original Arabic was also translated into Greek; the first five books survive (see the present writer’s edition of them [Leipzig, 1968]). These five books were translated from Greek into Latin and were published by H. Wolf at Basel in 1559.
(20) Kitāb al-mizājāt (“Book of Mixtures”). N 20; Q II, 11, Ibn al;-Nadīm states that this work is rare, and so it is. But perhaps it is identical with the Kitāb mizājāt al-kawākib summarised by al-Sijzī (Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī, part 6); this deals with combinations of two, three, four, five, six, and seven planets.
(21) Kitāb al-anwāʾ (“Star-calender”). N 21; Q 11, 12. This work of Abū Maʿshar I find mentioned nowhere else. The contemporary Kitāb al-anwā of Ibn Qutayba (d. 879) has been edited by Hamidullah and Pellat (Hyderabad- Deccan 1956) a List of twenty of authors of Kutub al-anwāʾ in the ninth and tenth centuries will be found on p.14 of their introduction.
(22) Kitāb al-masāʾil (“Book of Interrogations”). N 22; Q II, 13. Ibn al-Nadīm calls this a compendium; it his Probably, then, identical with the “Perfect Book.” There is a work entitled Abwäb al-masāʾil wa-mā baʿdaha min al-ikhtiyaārāt in Mingana 922.
(23) Kitaāb ithbāt ʿillm al-nujūm (“Book of the Proof of Astrology”). N 23; Q II, 14. This Work, which presumably expounded in detal Ḥarrānian theories found in the “Great Introduction,” was perhaps written against ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā al-Ḥarrāni’s Risāla fī Ibṭāl ṣināʿat aḥkām al-nujūm, which is mentioned by al-Qabīṣī (d. 967) in the preface to his Al-madkhal ilā ṣināʿat aḥkām al-nujūm; ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā participated in the measurement of a terrestrial degree carried out at Sinjar under al-Maʾmūn, and made observations in Baghdad in 843–844.
(24) Kitāb al kāmil of Kitāb al masāʾil (“Perfect Book”) or “Book of Interrogations”) N 24; Q II, 15. This unfinished compendium is perhaps identical with the “Book of Interrogations.”
(25) Kitāb al jamhara (Book of the Multitude). N 25; Q I, 9; Q II, 16. Ibn al Nadīm informs us that this was a collection of sayings of earlier astrologers concerning nativities. It was, then, perhaps the original form of the second part of the “Book of the foundation of Foundations.”
(26) Kitāb aṣl al-uṣūl (“Book of the Foundation of Foundations”). N 26; Q II, 17; Ḥājjī Khalīfa, I, 282–283 (?). As Ibn al-Nadīm states, this compendium of sayings about genethlialogy is also attributed to Abū’l-ʿAnbas al-Ṣaymarī (828–888/889). Most manuscripts (e.g. Hamidive 829 and British Museum Or. 3540) ascribe the work to al-Ṣaymarī (apparently correctly), but its title in work to al-Ṣaymarī (apparently correctly), but its title in Hamidiye 824 is Al-aṣl fī ʿilm al-nujüm and Sirr al-asrār by Abū Maʿshar, which is the Kitāb al-ṭabāʾiʿ (cf. also Migana 921); this confusion of three titles does not inspire confidence in the manuscript’s accuracy. The “Book of the Foundation of Foundations” is an extremely valuable work, especially its second part, which contains extensive excerpts from such authorities and Antiochus, Teucer, Dorotheus, Valens, Democritus, zeno, Jina (?) the Indian Ṙṡi̇ (?) the Indian, Buzurjmihr, and Zaradusht.
(27) Kitāb tafsīr al-manṣmṣt min al-nujūm (“Book of the Explanation of Dreams From the Stars”). N 27; Q II, 18. This work, whose purpose was probably to predict dreams from astrological indications rather than to expound oneiromancy is not metntiond in the inventory of oneirocritical treatises drawn up by T. Fahd, La divination arabe (Leiden, 1966). pp. 329–93. The attribution on Abū Maʿshar of Muḥammad ibn Sīrīn’s Tafsīr al-manāmāt by J. Leunclavius in his Latin translation of the greek version (Frankfurt, 1577) is, of course, false.
(28) Kitāb al-qawāṭiʿ ʿala ’l-haylājāt (“Book of Severances [of Life] According to the Haylāaāt”). N 28; Q I, 6 (?); Q II, 19. This book on what The Greeks call the άψαιρε´της is lost.
(29) Kitāb al-mawālīd al-ṣaghīr (“Small Book of Nativities”). N 29; Q II, 20. According to Ibn al-Nadīm this work consists of maqālāt and thirteen fuṣūl. It is not, then, identical with the “Book of Judgments About Nativities,” but it does coincide with the state of the so-called “Book of the Meticulous Investigator, the Greek Philosopther Known an Abū Maʿsharal al-Falakī” (Kitāb al-muḥaqqiq al-Mudaqqiq al-Yūnānī al-faylasūf al-Shahīr bi-Abī Maʿshar al-Falakī). This curious work has several times been published in Cairo, and J.-M. Faddegon has given a brief description of it in “Notice sur un petit traité d’astrologie attribué à Albumasa (Abū-Maʿšar),” in Journa asiatique, 213 (1928), 150–158. The First four fuṣūl are no magic and astrology related to various times; the next five fuṣūl are on the science of prediction from the numerical equivalents of proper names which classical antiquity commonly ascribed to Pythagoras or Petosiris; and the last four fuṣūl are concerned with nativities. Faṣl 12 is a zodiologion for men, and faṣl 13 a zodiologion for women; this last is introduced with a basmala, and therefore represents the second maqāla mentioned by Ibn al-Nadīm.
(30) Kitāb zīj al-qirānāt wa ’l-ikthirāqāt (“Tables of Conjuctions and Tansists”). N 30; Q I, 13; Q II, 21. Ibn al-Qifṭī, who also calls this work Kitāb Zīj al-ṣaghīr (“Small Tables”), asserts that it gives the mean longitudes of the planets at the times of the (mean) conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter since the epoch of the Flood (17 February 3102 b.c.). The Work, then, is closely related to the “Tables of the Thousands,” the “Book of the Conjunctions,” and the “Book of the Thousands,” The editions’ iḥtirāfāt I take to be a scribal error for ikhtirāqāt. This was a zīj in the normal sense of the term.
(31, 32) Kitāb al-awqāt (“Book of Times”). N 31. Kitāb al-awqāt ʿalā ithnā ʿashariyyat al-kawākib (“Book of Times According to the Dedecatemoria of the Plantets”). N 32; Q II, 22. This is clearly one work, as Ibn al-Qifṭī perceived, and was presumably concerned with the proper times for commencing vaious activities as determined from the ascendant dececatemorion (a well-known Greek technique of καταρχαì). This may be the Kitāb al-masʾala [ʿalā] al-ithnā ʿasharivva in Aya Sofya 2672 (not seen by me).
(33) Kitāb al-sihām (“Book of Lot”). N 33; Q II, 23. This work covers the special lots governing the material objects utilized by man : it must, then, to a large extent duplicate the contents of the eight maqāla of the “Great Introduction.” It is possible that at least the first tract in the Latin De partibus et eorum causis (Carmody, p. 98) is translated from this work. The work entiled Liber Albumazar de duodecim domibus astrorum (Carmody, pp. 98–99) also seems to be a translation of the “Book of Lots,” and much of this sort of material is found in the first book of the Byzantine Mysteries. See also al-Bīrūnī, Book of Instructions in the Elements of he Art of Astrology, ed. R. R. Wright (London, 1934), pp. 282–289
(34) Kitāb al-amṭār wa ’l-riyāḥ wa-taghayyur al-ahwiya (“Book of Rains and Winds and of Changes in the Weather”). N 34; Q II, 25; Ḥājjī Khalīfa I, 147, and V, 94. This probaly the Kitāb al-sirr (“Book of the Secret”) which is found in Escorial 938 (ff. Iv-28) and in Bodleian Marsh 618 (ff. 162v-173v and 198v et seq.); its first part deals with meteorological astrology, its second with the astrology of prices. This work includes a horoscope cast by Abū Maʿshar in Nīshāpūr on 5 March 832.
(35) Kitāb ṭabāʾiʿ al-buldān wa-tawallud al-riyāḥ (“Book of the Natures of Places and the Generation of Winds”). N 35; Q 11, 24. This title brings to mind those of two older books: Hippocrates’ Airs, Waters and Places, and the Book of the Laws of the Regions of Bardesanes’ pupil Philip. But Abū Maʿshar’s work was probably a technical astrological discussion of why the same celestial influences simultaneously cause different meteorological phenomena in the various regions of the world.
(36) Kitāb al-mayl fī taḥwīl sinī al-mawālīd (“Book of the Obliquity [of the Ecliptic] in the Revolution of the Years of Nativities”). N 36. In this lost work Abū Maʿshar must have tried to explain the differences between the lives of several individuals born at the same time as due in part to the effect of different terrestrial latitudes on the interpretation of the revolutions of their birth anniversaries.
(37) Kitāb fī buyūt al-ʿibādāt (“Book of Temples”). This work, which is mentioned by al-Bīrūnī (Chronology, C. E. Sachau, ed. [Leipzig, 1923], p. 205; trans. idem [London, 1879], p. 187), described the curious planetary temples of the “Sabaeans”; cf. the “Book of Conjunctions,” 1,4. One wonders about the extent to which al-Dimashgī has relied on Abū Maʿshar’s work in his description of the temples of Ḥarrān. The “Book of Temples,” it should be noted, is different from the “Book of Thousands.”
(38) Kitāb ikhtilāf al-zījāt (“Book of the Differences Between Tables”). The fragments of this work have been discussed in the present writer’s The Thousands of Abū Maʿshar.
(39, 40) Kitāb aḥkām al-mawālīd (“Book of Judgments About Nativities”). Two versions of this work were written by Abū Maʿshar. The first is found on the last twenty-four ff. of Hamidiye 856, and consists of thirty-one abwāb; the second is preserved on ff. 1–64v of Bodleian Huntington 546, and originally contained eighteen maqālāt (only 1–15 and the beginning of 16 survive). Both works are traditionally Hellenistic; the second is based on the opinions of Dorotheus, Ptolemy, and Valens, and gives as examples a nativity of 128 of the era of Diocletian (a.d. 412) and the nativity of Paulus of Alexandria in 145 of the same era (a.d. 429). This second work is summarized by al-Sijzī as the third part of Al-Jāmiʿ al-Shāhī. The first work has apparently been translated into Persian (Storey, p. 39).
(41) Kitāb qirānāt al-kawākib fī ’l-burūj al-ithnā ʿashara (“Book of Conjunctions of the Planets in the Twelve Signs”). Ḥājjī Khalīfa, V, 136. I have used Bodleian Hyde 32. This work—differing from the “Book of Conjunctions”—discusses the effects of combinations of the planets in each of the zodiacal signs. This work has evidently been translated into Persian (Storey, p. 40). It is also apparently the work included in the first book of the Byzantine translation of the Introduction to Astrology of Aḥmad the Persian, and published in Catalogus codicum astrologorum Graecorum, II (Brussels, 1900), 123–130.
(42) Mudhākarāt Abī Maʿshar fī asrār ʿilm al-nujūm (“Sayings of Abū Maʿshar on the Secrets of Astrology”). I have used Bodleian Huntington 546 and Cambridge University Gg. 3, 19. (I have not yet seen the manuscript in Ankara.) The Mudhākarāt was not written by Abū Maʿshar himself, but by his pupil Abū Saʿīd Shādhān. It contains much valuable information on the practice of astrology in ninth-century Baghdad, and therefore is frequently cited by Muslim historians of the period. It was translated into Greek (it constitutes most of the second book of the Mysteries) and into Latin (see L. Thorndike, “Albumasar in Sadan,” in Isis, 45 , 22–32, which is very inadequate). The present author is preparing an edition of the Arabic to accompany his edition of the Byzantine Mysteries.
II. Secondary Literature. Besides the evidence of his own writings and the rich anecdotes of his pupil Shādhān, neither of which has yet been adequately explored, biographical information about Abū Maʿshar comes from two Muslim sources. The most important of these is the Fihrist of lbn al-Nadīm (G. Flügel, ed. [Leipzig, 1871-1872], p. 277). Much of this was copied by Ibn al-Qifṭī (Ta’rīkh al-ḥukamaʾ. J. Lippert, ed. [Leipzig, 1903], pp. 152–154), but with some important additions taken from Shadhan and other sources, including the allegations that he was a drunkard and an epileptic. Ibn al-Qifṭī’s biography was partially copied by Abū’l-Faraj in Taʾrīkh mukhtaṣar al-duwal (Beirut, 1958), p. 149.
Modern discussions of Abū Maʿshar are generally unreliable compilations based on secondary sources. The most authoritative of these is that by H. Suter, “Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke,” in Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der mathematischen Wissenschaften (Leipzig), 10 (1900), 28–30. His list of Abū Maʿshar’s works, however, is extremely unreliable. Most recent is a brief article by J. M. Millás in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, I (Leiden, 1960), 139–140.
"Abū Ma." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/abu-ma
"Abū Ma." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/abu-ma
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.