ASFEZĀRĪ, ABŪ ḤĀTEM MOẒAFFAR B. ESMĀʿĪL, 5th/12th-century astronomer, of whose life almost nothing is known. His nesba indicates that he was from Asfezār, a town in Sīstān between Herat and Farāh. According to Ebn al-Aṯīr (X, p. 98) he was among the leading astronomers commissioned by the Saljuq Sultan Malekšāh (r. 465-85/1072-92) to revise the calendar. Neẓāmī ʿArūżī (Čahār maqāla, p. 100) claims to have encountered Asfezārī in the company of ʿOmar Ḵayyām at Balḵ in 506/1112-13. References by his contemporary Šahmardān b. Abi’l-Ḵayr and his pupil ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḵāzenī (apud Moʿīn in Čahār maqāla, pp. 367-69) put his death before 515/1121-22. According to Bayhaqī (no. 68, p. 71, tr. Wiedemann, I, p. 653, tr. Meyerhof, pp. 175-76), Asfezārī constructed a “balance of Archimedes” which was used at the court of Sultan Sanǰar (r. 511-52/1118-57) until it was smashed by Saʿāda, the royal treasurer. It is alleged that, on hearing the news of the destruction of his instrument, Asfezārī died of grief. If this is true, then Asfezārī must have spent the last years of his life in Marv where Sanǰar held his court.
Asfezārī’s work on the balance was continued by ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḵāzenī (fl. early 6th/12th century). In his Ketāb mīzān al-ḥekma Ḵāzenī devotes the second section of the maqāla to a description of Asfezārī’s results in this field (ed., pp. 38-54, tr. Wiedemann, pp. 141-58; ibid., in tr. E. Wiedemann, Aufsätze I, pp. 500-17), and the beginning of the fifth maqāla describes his uncompleted project of an elaborate balance with five pans, which was eventually completed by Ḵāzenī himself and called the “balance of wisdom” (mīzān al-ḥekma) (ed., p. 93).
In addition to his work on balances Asfezārī wrote an epitome of Euclid’s Elements entitled Eḵteṣār fī oṣūl Oqlīdes, of which only the fourteenth maqāla survives in a manuscript in Paris copied in Šawwāl, 539/March-April, 1145, which was translated into French by Sédillot (“Notice,” pp. 146-48). He also wrote a Moqaddema fi’l-mesāḥa (Introduction to surveying), preserved in a manuscript in Istanbul (Krause, “Handschriften,” p. 483), and an epitome of the Ketāb al-ḥīal (Book of stratagems) of Banū Mūsā, which survives in a manuscript at Manchester (Brockelman, GAL, S. I, pp. 383, 856). His Resāla-ye āṯār-e ʿolwī, completed before 500/1106-07 and dedicated to Faḵr-al-molk b. Neẓām-al-molk, the vizier of Sultan Berk-yaruq (Barkīāroq), has been edited by M. ʿA. Modarres Rażawī (Tehran, 1320 Š./1941). Finally a manuscript in Malek Library (no. 3183) in Tehran includes a Resālat al-šabaka which is specifically ascribed to him (see Moʿīn’s note in Čahār maqāla, pp. 372-73). No further works of Asfezārī have come to light, although Bayhaqī claims that he wrote many books on geometry, meteorology, and other subjects.
See also Ẓahīr-al-dīn Bayhaqī, Tatemmat ṣewān al-ḥekma, Eng. tr. M. Meyerhof in Osiris 8, 1948, pp. 122-216; partial Germ. tr.
E. Wiedemann in Sitzungsberichte der Physikalisch-Medizinischen Sozietät in Erlangen 42, 1910, pp. 59-77; repr. in E. Wiedemann Aufsätze zur arabischen Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Hildesheim and New York, 1970, I, pp. 641-59.
ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḵāzenī, Ketāb mīzān al-ḥekma, Hyderabad, Deccan, 1359/1940; partial Germ. tr.
E. Wiedemann, in Sb. der Physikalisch-Medizinischen Sozietät in Erlangen 40, 1908, pp. 133-59; repr, in E. Wiedemann, Aufsätze I, pp. 492-518.
M. Krause, “Stambuler Handschriften islamischer Mathematiker,” Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Mathematik, Astronomie und Physik III, Berlin, 1936, pp. 437-532.
Nafīsī, Naẓm o naṯr, pp. 55, 60, 70.
Neẓāmī ʿArūżī Samarqandī, Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Moʿīn, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 364-73; tr. E. G. Browne, JRAS, 1899, pp. 613-63, 757-845.
Ṣafā, Adabīyāt II, pp. 313, 967-69.
L. Sédillot, “Notice de plusieurs opuscules mathématiques qui composent le manuscrit arabe no. 1104, ancien fonds de la Bibliothèque du Roi,” Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque du Roi 13/1, 1838, pp. 126-50.
Sezgin, GAS V, p. 110.
Suter, Mathematiker, pp. 114 (no. 268), 225-26.
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 16, 2011
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