The Book of Choice on Medicine


Abu al-Hasan ʻAli ibn Ahmad ibn Hubal al-Baghdadi al-Khilati (circa 1121‒1213) was a celebrated 12th century physician who was born in Baghdad and died in Mosul. Well known as a doctor, he also distinguished himself in many of the other branches of knowledge of his era, particularly in Islamic law and jurisprudence. In addition, he had great command of Arabic belles lettres and wrote poems, some of which have survived. Ibn Hubal appears to have composed his major medical work, Kitāb al-Mukhtār fī al-ṭibb (The book of choice on medicine), in 1165. The work is similar to al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb (Canon of medicine) by Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sina (980–1037, commonly known as Avicenna), in that it presents a compendium of Galenic medicine together with information gleaned as a practicing clinician. The book is divided into three parts. The first discusses anatomy and general principles, the second presents a list of medicines, and the third consists of a list of illnesses organized according the afflicted organs, starting from the head and ending at the feet. The present manuscript has sustained heavy damage (caused by insects and other factors) affecting virtually all of the surviving leaves. It is also missing a number of pages at the end. The last surviving pages belong to the third section of the work and contain a discussion of various fevers. Several modern editions of Ibn Hubal’s text have been published, and parts of the work have been translated into French.

Last updated: August 15, 2017