World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Medieval Science and Magic Squares (156) - Panel

· Date: TUE, 20 / 5:00 - 7:00 pm

· Language: English

· Description: Paper presenter: Lena Ambjörn (Lund University), “References to book-titles in al-Mu'alajat al-Buqratiyya, an Arabic medical encyclopedia from the 10th Century”
This paper presents part of the results of a three-year project funded by the Swedish research Council. The project focusses a hitherto neglected Arabic medical encyclopedia from the 10th century: al-Mu'aladjat al-Buqratiya (Hippocratic treatment) attributed to Abu al-Hasan at-Tabari. The handbook, which comprises 700 pages and is extant only in handwritten form, can be expected to contribute substantially to our knowledge of the standard and scope as well as on the successive development of formal Medieval medicine in the Islamic cultural sphere, thus throwing light on several of the missing links in the history of medicine. The aim of the project is to make the contents of the unique source that al-Mu'aladjat al-Buqratiya constitutes known and increase its availability for further research by preparing a survey of the entire text, where the content of each main section is summarised, as well as indices of the personal names, book-titles and geographical places mentioned in the text. This presentation focusses references to book-titles in particular: more than 90 books, ancient and medieval, are explicitly referred to, quoted from and discussed in the encyclopedia.

Paper presenter: Nour Kibbi (Harvard University), “The Cautionary Tales: Al-Rāzī’s Epistle to One of his Pupils and the Role of Physicians in the Abbasid Court”
Drawing on his experiences serving the courts of Baghdad and his hometown Rayy, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (864-925) wrote a letter of advice to a student who had been newly appointed as a court physician.1 In the process, al-Rāzī tells three “cautionary tales”: the scholar’s, the practitioner’s, and the advocate’s. Firstly, as a scholar, and in stressful and competitive situations at the court, the physician refined an image of self-restraint and promoted himself by producing scholarship. Secondly, the physician cultivated trust and fidelity in his patient, who in turn allowed him to adhere to high standards of medical practice. Finally, in the absence of sustained state regulation, the court physician advocated for his profession against the practices of folk tradition and the shrewdness of tricksters. In short, in a competitive environment, al-Rāzī’s court physician was tirelessly engaged in politic behavior to protect himself and his distinguished position.
Keywords: Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, court physicians, Islamic courts, courtly conduct, Galenic physician, medieval medicine.

Paper presenter: Amir M. Gamini (Iranian Institute of Philosophy), “The Golden Age of Science in Islamic Period and the Role of non-Ptolemaic Models”
According to the ''Classical Narrative'', al-Ghazali and ash'arian anti-philosophy attack ended what is commonly called golden age of science. But the discovery of non-Ptolemaic Models and their important role in development of the Copernican models of universe raised serious doubt concerning the validity of this claim. It showed that not only astronomical traditions in Islamic period did not finish in the thirteenth century, but also they contributed immensely to the intellectual heritage of that period. Technical innovations and complex mathematical models used by astronomers at this time made this period golden age of science. As recently argued by Saliba and some other historians, contrary to what the ''Classical Narrative'' states varieties of methods and techniques used by Islamic astronomers during this period demonstrate high level of creativity and innovations. This paper consists of two parts. In the first part, I will consider these models in details and will explain complicated and intelligent mathematical methods used in them. Using Kuhn's terminology, I will describe this period as a crisis time in which different solutions to anomalies have been offered by Islamic astronomers to rescue the original paradigm. These models are originated and developed from a philosophical and theoretical tension within the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian framework. On the other hand, some known points connect these models with the Copernicus's heliocentric models. In the second part, I will raise the following questions: 1.These models, except the Ibn al-Shatir's sun model, were not developed to correct any quantified observational problems which are the original goal of astronomical activities. I suspect there are two criteria by which we can identify a golden period. These criteria are plenitudes of new models in Hay'a books, and mathematical and observational considerations in Zijes. The main question is according to which criterion the ''Golden Age'' should be chosen.2.Can progress in a special aspect of astronomy mean a progress in other abstract aspects of astronomy and also in other sciences? Having raised the above questions, I will express my reservations regarding whether it is appropriate to call that period golden age of science.

Paper presenter: Michal Moroz (University of Wroclaw), “Magic Squares in the Works of Ahmad Al-Buni”
A magic square is a mathematical structure which has come from China through India to the Arab world. These squares have usual the same sum of all its numbers: horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Usually the numbers are also consecutive, like 1 to 9 or 1 to 16. The first magic squares are found in the treatises of Al-Ghazali and are known as the Al-Ghazali seal. At first they are used in magical practices performed during childbirth. They are also associated with the talismanic word BUDUH formed from the letters in the corners of a 9 field magic square. More sophisticated rituals using magic squares are seen in the times of Al-Buni and At-Tilimsani. Often squares are built to include the mystic number 111, as the mathematical sum of the letters of the Alif, (Alif 1 + Lam 30 + Fa' 80). Alif, with the numerological designation 1 is also a representation of the oneness of Allah. The most famous work of the Sufi writer Ahmad Al-Buni (died 1225 AD) is the Shams al-ma'arif al-kubra. This gnostic treatise is one of the most important works on Arabic magic next to the (Ghayat al-hakim) also known as Picatrix by Pseudo Al-Majriti. In his works Al-Buni concentrates among others on occult practices involving magic squares. These are created using for example Koranic verses, the 99 divine names (Al-asma' al-husna) or the fawatih letters (the mysterious letters appearing before various Koranic surahs). This paper analyzes the magic squares comparing the ones included in Shams al-ma'arif al-kubra with magic squares in less known works of Al-Buni, like Khawass ayat al-Qur'an or Manba' usul al-hikma. The Khawass is an unedited hand-written treatise. As for Manba', this is a modern printed edition allegedly written by Ahmad Al-Buni, which is available in Egyptian book stores. This paper will present the preliminary results of research for a Ph.D. thesis under the same title.

Paper Presenter: Guido Mensching and Gerrit Bos (Full Professors, Freie Univ. Berlin and Univ. of Cologne), “The Tradition of Arabic-Romance Medico-botanical Synoynym Lists Revisited in the Light of Hebrew Manuscripts from the Iberian Peninsula”
Arabic medicine and botany flourished on the Iberian Peninsula, in particular from the 10th to the 12th centuries. Works such as those by Ibn al-Jazzar, Ibn Wafid of Toledo, Ibn Janah, Ibn Juljul, Ibn Biklarish, Ibn al-Baytar, and Al-Zahrawi, reflect a diverse linguistic landscape, containing vocabulary in Classical and Hispano-Arabic as well as in the Romance varieties commonly known as Mozarabic or ''rom(ance) andalusí''. As is well known, also dictionaries, glossaries and synonym lists of the medico-botanical nomenclature in these linguistic varieties were composed. The most well-known of these lists is the ''Umdat at-tabib'' by Abulkhayr of Seville (see the editions and commentaries by Asín Palacios 1943, Alkhattabi 1990, Corriente 2001, Bustamante, Corriente and Tilmatine, 2004, 2007).After the 12th century, however, this lexicographic praxis seems to have disappeared for obvious historical and cultural reasons. What is not generally known is the fact that the tradition of Arabic-based medico-botanical synonym lists had passed to Jewish authors and compilers, who, already in the 13th century but in particular during the 14th and 15th centuries, left a wealth of mostly Arabic-Romance glossaries and synonym lists written in the Hebrew alphabet (with a few exceptions unedited up to now). In our paper, we will present and analyze several of such unedited lists from the Iberian Peninsula, showing the following basic points: 1. They transmit part of the lexicographic knowledge of the flourishing period of Ibero-Arabic sciences. This can be seen in the use of a) Hispano-Arabic, and, b) Mozarabic words that can be traced back to Ibn al-Baytar, Ibn Biklarish, Ibn Juljul and others. 2. The Hispano-Arabic lexicographic tradition is merged with the corresponding Latin tradition, a fact that can be seen in the integration of elements of works such as the ''Alphita'' (see the recent edition by García Gómez 2007).3. The Romance component shows different languages that have not been sufficiently described and are often wrongly identified in the literature and catalogues. Whereas a Mozarabic stratum is still visible, the Romance varieties in these synonym lists are mostly Catalan and Occitan (even in mss. of the Iberian Peninsula)and sometimes Castilian. Now and then, the compilers even offer translations in several Romance languages for one and the same Arabic lemma. We will illustrate and discuss these points with concrete examples from around ten Arabic-Romance synonym lists in Hebrew characters stemming from the following manuscripts: Munich cod. hebr. 87, Parma Palat. 2279, Vat. Hebr. 356, 361, 365, 374, 417.