Ibn Sina, known as the 'doctor of doctors', was born in
370/980 in Afshana, his mother's home, near Bukhara.
His native language was Persian. His father, an official of the Samanid
administration, had him very carefully educated at Bukhara. Ibn Sina is
known in the West as Avicenna. He displayed exceptional intellectual prowess
as a child and at the age of ten was already proficient in the Qur'an and
the Arabic classics. During the next six years he devoted himself to Muslim
Jurisprudence, Philosophy and Natural Science and studied Logic, Euclid, and
the Almeagest. His intellectual independence was served by an extraordinary
intelligence and memory, which allowed him to surpass his teachers at the
age of fourteen.
He then shifted his attention to Medicine at the age of 17 years and found
it, as described by him, "not difficult". He did, however, find difficulty
in understanding Aristotle's Metaphysics, which he grasped only with the
help of al-Farabi's commentary. Having cured the prince of khurasan of a
severe illness, he was allowed to make use of the splendid library of the
Samanid princes. At the age of eighteen he had mastered all the then known
sciences. His subsequent progress was due only to his personal judgment.
He became a reputable physician at the age of 18 and was summoned to attend
the Samani ruler Nuh ibn Mansur (reigned 976-997 C.E.), who, in gratitude
for Ibn Sina's services, allowed him to use the royal library, and there he
found as many rare and unique books as he wanted. His training through
contact with life was at least equal to his development in intellectual
speculation. At the age of twenty-one he wrote his first philosophical book.
The death of his father forced him to enter the administration in order to
earn his living. His judgment was swiftly appreciated. Having consulted him
on medical matters, the princes had recourse to him also in matters of
politics. He was a minister several times, his advice being always listened
to and appreciated; but people started to envy him, and he was sometimes
persecuted by his enemies and sometimes coveted by princes opposing those to
whom he wished to remain loyal. He took flight and was obliged to hide on
several occasions, earning his living by medical consultations.
He then moved to Ray, near modern Teheran and established a busy medical
practice. When Ray was besieged, Ibn Sina fled to Hamadan where he cured
Prince Shamsud-Dawala of colic and was made Prime Minister. A mutiny of
soldiers against him caused his dismissal and imprisonment, but subsequently
the Prince, being again attacked by the colic, summoned him back, apologized
and reinstated him! His life at this time was very tiring: during the day he
was busy with the Prince's services, while a great deal of the night was
passed in lecturing and dictating notes for his books. Students would gather
in his house and read parts of his two great books.
Following the death of the prince, Ibn Sina fled to Isfahan after a few
brushes with the law, including a period in prison. He spent his final years
in the services of the ruler of the city, Ala al-Daula whom he advised on
scientific and literary matters and accompanied on military campaigns.
His friends advised him to slow down and take life in moderation, but this
wasn't his character and so he rejected their advice. "I prefer a short
life with width to a narrow one with length", he used to say.
Al-Qifti states that Ibn Sina completed 21 major and 24 minor works on
philosophy, medicine, theology, geometry, astronomy and the like. Another
source (Brockelmann) attributes 99 books to Ibn Sina comprising 16 on
medicine, 68 on theology and metaphysics 11 on astronomy and four on verse.
Most of these were in Arabic; but in his native Persian he wrote a large
manual on philosophical science entitled Danish-naama-i-Alai and a small
treatise on the pulse.
Among Ibn Sina's scientific works, the leading two are the Kitab al-Shifa
(Book of Healing), a philosophical encyclopaedia based upon Aristotelian
traditions and the al-Qanun al-Tibb which represents the final
categorisation of Greco-Arabian thoughts on Medicine.
Of Ibn Sina's 16 medical works, eight are versified treatises on such matter
as the 25 signs indicating the fatal termination of illnesses, hygienic
precepts, proved remedies, anatomical memoranda etc. Amongst his prose
works, after the great Qanun, the treatise on cardiac drugs, of which the
British Museum possesses several fine manuscripts, is probably the most
important, but it remains unpublished.
The most famous and most important of Ibn Sina's works is the Qanun. It
recognizes the contagious nature of phthisis (tuberculosis of the lung) and
the spread of disease by water and soil. It gives a scientific diagnosis of
ankylostomiasis and attributes the condition to an intestinal worm. The
Qanun points out the importance of dietetics and how far the environment can
affect the health and the surgical use of oral anaesthetics. Ibn Sina
advised surgeons to treat cancer in its earliest stages, ensuring the
removal of all the diseased tissue. The Qanun's materia medica considers
some 760 drugs, explaining their application and effectiveness. He
recommended the testing of a new drug on animals and humans prior to general
Ibn Sina stressed the close relationship between emotions and the physical
condition and felt that music had a definite physical and psychological
effect on patients.
The Arabic text of the Qanun was published in Rome in 1593 and was therefore
one of the earliest Arabic books to see print. It was translated into Latin
by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century. This 'Canon', with its
encyclopedic content, its systematic arrangement and philosophical plan,
soon worked its way into a position of pre-eminence in the medical
literature of the age displacing the works of Galen, al-Razi and al-Majusi,
and becoming the text book for medical education in the schools of Europe.
In the museum at Bukhara, there are displays showing many of Ibn Sina's
writings, surgical instruments from the period and paintings of patients
undergoing treatment. An impressive monument to the life and works of the
man who became known as the 'doctor of doctors' still stands outside Bukhara
museum and his portrait hangs in the Hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the
University of Paris.
Ibn Sina got imprisoned, escaped, lived for fourteen years in relative peace
at the court of Isfahan and died at Hamadan, during an expedition of the
prince 'Ala' al-Dawla, in 428/1037. He was buried there; and a monument was
erected to him to celebrate the (hidhri) millenary of his birth.
Syria like many other countries around the world
witnessed, during this period, the flood of refugees
from war troubled nations like Somalia, arrival of
people from Algeria during the brutal struggling between
the Mujahidun and the government, resettlement of the
Palestinians fleeing from sophisticated guns of the
Israelis as well as adventure of African migrants for