The Medicine of the Imams


Ṭib al-aʼimmah (The medicine of the imams) is a collection of reports on medicine attributed to such Shiite spiritual authorities as Imam Ali, his twin sons al-Hassan and al-Husayn, and their imam descendants. The reports prescribe the medicinal use of many foods and herbs, warn against the harmful substances in some others, and recommend Qur’anic verses and prayers for healing and spiritual wellbeing. The work follows Greek and Muslim traditions of the time that take a holistic approach to healing by caring for both the body and the spirit. The work’s co-authors were the brothers Husayn and Abdallah ibna Bistam of Nishapur, two Shiite hadith narrators who were active in the ninth‒tenth centuries. The original work probably was comprised of more than 400 reports, complete with their full isnad (chain of narration up to the imam to whom the statement is attributed). This copy, however, might be incomplete, as the last page seems to suggest the reports continue further. It also lacks an end colophon, which typically is in the form of an upturned triangle indicating the completion of the composition. The text is in clear, black nastaʻliq script. The end of a report and the beginning of another are indicated by a gap in the otherwise unbroken text. No completion date or scribe name is given. The Twelver Shiite character of the work and the nastaʻliq script might suggest a Persian provenance. The work is also known to have influenced such later Twelver Shiite scholars as al-Majlisi (died circa 1699) in his Bihar al-anwar (Seas of lights), and al-Hurr al-ʻAmili (died 1693) in his Wasa'il al-Shi'ah (Shiite methods).

Last updated: January 10, 2018