Medical Questions


The title of the manuscript presented here is listed in the colophon as al-Masā’il al-ṭibbīya (Medical questions). Its catechismal form can be traced to the great ninth century physician al-Hunayn ibn Ishaq al-‘Ibadi (circa 809‒73) and his Masāʾil fī al-ṭibb li al-mutaʿllimīn (Questions on medicine for learners). Al-Hunayn composed his influential text with its question-and-answer format—imitated in style and content by subsequent authors—primarily for medical students. Among the best-known works inspired by al-Hunayn’s work is Talkhī al-Masā’il (The abridgment of al-Masā’il) written by Abu Sahl Saʿid al-Nili (died 1029) in three treatises: al-Umūr al-ṭabīʿīya (On matters pertaining to nature); al-Adwīya (On pharmacology); and al-Nabḍ (On the pulse). Also well known is the text by Abu Nasr Saʿid al-Masihi (died 1223 or 1224), al-Iqtiḍāb ʾalā ṭarīq al-masʾala wa al-jawāb (Summary of medicine by means of questions and answers), written in the form of seven medical treatises. Abu Nasr also wrote a second and similar work, Intikhāb al-iqtiḍāb (Selections from al-Iqtiḍāb). The manuscript presented here belongs to the same genre of medical texts inspired by al-Hunayn’s work but is incomplete. It is missing the first 25 chapters (out of a total of 279) as well as other portions of the text. The table of contents appended to the end of the manuscript refers to the work as al-Iqtiḍāb (The summary), and indeed this work shares some chapter headings and portions of the text from al-Masihi’s work. Despite these similarities, the two works are distinct, as can be seen from their tables of contents, which differ considerably. The present manuscript, which was copied in 1808, appears to be shorter than al-Masihi’s al-Iqtiḍāb, raising the possibility that it is a copy of Intikhāb al-iqtiḍāb, though this identification is uncertain because of the incomplete nature of the manuscript.

Last updated: September 29, 2017