The Key to Ibn al-Nafis’s “al-Mūjiz”


Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Aqsaraʼi, a 14th century Shafiʻi scholar from Anatolia, wrote on a number of topics, including Sufism, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and tafsīr (exegesis). His Ḥall al-mūjiz fī al-ṭibb (The key to al-Mūjiz) is a medical work consisting of a commentary on al-Mūjiz by Ibn al-Nafis (circa 1210–88). Al-Mūjiz was the epitome or abstract written by Ibn al-Nafis on his own commentary of al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb (The canon of medicine) by Ibn Sina (i.e., Avicenna, 980–1037). Ibn al-Nafis’s work consists of four sections called fann (art). The first fann contains the principles of the theory and practice of medicine. The second fann is a study of materia medica and foods followed by a treatise on compound drugs. The third fann deals with diseases specific to each organ, as well as their causes, symptoms, and treatments. The last fann is on symptoms that are not specific to certain organs, such as fevers and swellings. Al-Aqsaraʼi’s commentary is interspersed within Ibn al-Nafis’s original text using the formula qala … aqul (“He has said … I say....”). In the introduction to his work, al-Aqsara’i credits a number of earlier authors as influences, including Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (circa 865–925), Ali ibn al-Abbas al-Majusi (died 994), and Najib al-Din al-Samarqandi (died 1222). In addition to al-Aqsara’i’s work, several other commentaries were written on Ibn al-Nafis’s epitome. Two well-known commentaries on the Epitome of Medicine are in the World Digital Library, Sharḥ al-mūjiz, by Sadid al-Din Kazaruni, and Ḥall al-mūjiz by Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Aqsara’i. The appellation al-Aqsara’i refers to the city of Aksaray (in present-day Turkey) and Jamal al-Din’s association with this city (perhaps as the place of birth). In his Hadiyyat al-‘ārifīn, Ismaʻil Basha Babani (died 1920 or 1921) states that al-Aqsara’i was a descendent of the great Persian philosopher Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (died 1210) and that he died in 771 AH (1369 –70); however, he died in 1389. The present manuscript is undated. It has sustained notable damage but has been expertly repaired and rebound. Copious marginal notes in Persian and Arabic, including many medicinal preparations, suggest that this manuscript served as a reference for practicing clinicians.

Last updated: June 16, 2016