Commentary on the Little Canon


The Qānūnjah (also commonly known by its Persian name, the Qānūncha), a medical book by Mahmud ibn Muhammad al-Jaghmini, was written in the late-12th or early 13th century and, as the name indicates, was inspired by Avicenna's encyclopedic work, al-Qānūn fī al-ibb (The canon of medicine). Al-Jaghmini's work was itself the subject of great interest and in turn inspired numerous commentaries. The present commentary on the Qānūnjah was composed by ʻAli ibn Kamal al-Din al-Astarabadi during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512) and is dedicated to this ruler. The nisba (name indicating provenance) Astarabadi identifies the author as from Astarabad (Gorgan, in modern-day Iran). Kamal al-Din lists this town as his birthplace in the colophon to his work, although he provides, as well, the nisba al-Makki (i.e., the Meccan), perhaps referring to the city of his forebears. The present manuscript was completed in Constantinople (Istanbul) on Shawwal 24, 1174 AH (May 29, 1761). The scribe, Muhammad Tahir, was an important administrator in the Ottoman administration. He adds as a postscript a Persian quatrain beseeching God to “preserve the belief of those who read this script and pray [for the copyist].” The manuscript contains an addendum, which treats the “perceptive faculties,” i.e., the senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. The author of this short tract identifies himself as Muhammad, the premier physician at the Dar al-shifaʼ (hospital, or literally, house of healing), and states that he means to facilitate learning about the topic of “the senses” for students studying the Qānūnjah. Although the particular Dar al-shifaʼ is not identified, it should be noted that the Dar al-shifaʼ that was part of the vast medical complex founded by Sultan Bayezid in Edirne in 1488 served as teaching hospital as well as a medical center.

Date Created

Title in Original Language

شرح قانونجه

Type of Item

Physical Description

104 folios ; 218 x 160 millimeters



  1. A.Z. Iskandar, A Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1967).

Last updated: August 15, 2016