The Facilitator of Utility on Medicine and Wisdom; including the Curing of Bodies and the Book of Mercy


This 1898 printing of a 15th-century work by a Yemeni author, Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Abū Bakr al-Azraq, or al-Azraqī, is a book of remedies dealing with medicinal uses of seeds, grains, and other foods and their nutritional value. The material is based in part on two earlier works:  Shifā’ al-ajsām (The curing of bodies) by Muḥammad ibn Abū al-Ghayth al-Kamarānī, and Kitāb al-raḥmah (The book of mercy) by Ṣubunrī. Included in the margins is yet another work, Kitāb al-ṭibb al-nabawī (The book of Prophetic medicine) by the celebrated historian Muḥammad al-Dhahabī (1274−1348), which is in the tradition of al-ṭibb al-nabawī (Prophetic medicine). This genre of medical writing addresses instances of ḥadith that deal with illness, therapy, and hygiene and is thus somewhat distinct from the main Galenic or Avicennan currents of Islamic medicine. In the introduction, al-Azraq writes: "In the words of the Prophet . . . there are two classes [of persons] which people will always need, doctors for their bodies and the ‘ulamā for their religion." The book is arranged in five sections: natural science topics; description of various seeds; the nature of foods and medicines and their benefits; means to keep the body wholesome during times of health, including the ḥadith and recommendations by learned men; treatment of illnesses confined to each member of the body; treatment of general illnesses; and other topics including the (therapeutic) recitation of scriptural and other religious verses. The Facilitator of Utility is listed in the bibliographic encyclopedia of Kātip Çelebi (1609−57), but despite this and the appearance of several modern printings, little is known about al-Azraq.

Last updated: July 21, 2014