The Facilitator of Utility on Medicine and Wisdom


This manuscript copy is a 15th-century work by a Yemeni author, Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Abū Bakr al-Azraq, or Azraqī. It 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 at the end is yet another work, Burʼ al-sāʻah (Speedy recovery), a short treatise by the renowned Persian polymath Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyā al-Rāzī (also known by Latinized versions of his name, Rhazes or Rasis, circa 865−925). In the introduction, al-Azraq writes: "In the words of the Prophet . . . there are two classes [of persons] that people will always need, doctors for their bodies and the ulamā for their religion." Al-Azraq further drew on additional works, namely Laqṭ al-manāfi’ (The picker of benefits) by al-Jawzī (circa 1116−1201) and Al-tadhkirah (The reminder) by al-Suwaydī (circa 1203−91). He arranged the book so that he would cite Ṣubunrī first, followed by al-Kamarānī and then his own commentary. An addendum at the end provides a glossary defining the seeds, foods and other substances mentioned in the book. Al-Azraq claims he included in his work only the medicinal foods that were known and available to his fellow Yemenis at that time, a claim that could have interesting research implications if proven. According to a note at the end of the main work, this manuscript was copied for a scholar friend by the name of Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Jumuʻa al-Būsa’īdī, on Rabia al-Akhar 20, 1200 AH (February 19, 1786). 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: October 17, 2014