ʿALĪ B. ʿABBĀS MAJŪSĪ ARRAJĀNĪ, physician from Fārs and author of an Arabic work on medicine (d. 384/994 [?]); probably the most important medical writer between Rāzī and Ebn Sīnā. Except for his own al-Malakī, the only sources of information are short notices in Ebn al-Qefṭī’s Eḵbār al-ʿolamāʾfī aḵbār al-ḥokamāʾ and Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa’s ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, supplemented by Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa, who mentions the date of his death as given above. The information they furnish can be summarized as follows: ʿAlī b. ʿAbbās Maǰūsī was of Persian extraction and a student of Abū Māher Mūsā b. Sayyār. He studied the works of the ancients and was the author of the well-known medical encyclopedia (konnāš) Kāmel al-ṣenāʿat al-ṭebbīya, known as al-Malakī, which he composed for ʿAżod-al-dawla (r. 338-72/949-83). In all likelihood this information is simply an abstract of the introductory paragraph of ʿAlī’s work (I, p. 2). The dearth of information in Ebn al-Qefṭī is all the more surprising since he includes numerous notices on physicians and other scholars of the Buyid period. Apparently the chronicler(s) whom he excerpted did not mention ʿAlī any more than did Ebn al-Nadīm in his Fehrest. The silence of contemporary Baghdad-based authors may indicate that ʿAlī never left Iran. In his Ḏayl to Meskawayh’s Taǰāreb al-omam, al-Rūḏrāwarī at least mentions al-Konnāš al-ʿAżodī fi’l-ṭebb as a work dedicated to ʿAżod-al-dawla, but he does not name its author. Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa’s source for the date of ʿAlī’s death remains unknown.
Most of our information about ʿAlī’s life has to be gleaned from al-Malakī. The nesba Arraǰānī, found in many manuscripts, indicates that at least his ancestors came from Arraǰān, a flourishing district and town in Fārs on the border with Ḵūzestān. (There seems to be no reason to reject this reading in favor of Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa’s unique reference to Ahvāz.) The nesba Maǰūsī has always been understood as a reference to his forefathers’ religion; Zoroastrians still formed flourishing communities in Fārs in the 4th/10th century (see, e.g., Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 118-19, 139; Moqaddasī, p. 439). His father’s name, ʿAbbās, is not the kind of name typically taken by a neophyte, a fact which suggests that conversion to Islam took place in the generation of ʿAlī’s grandparents, if not earlier. He seems to have been lacking in Muslim zeal, since no mention is made of the prophet Moḥammad in his introductory remarks (I, p. 2), while his argument for the excellence of medicine is based entirely on pragmatic reasoning without recourse to the Koran or the Sunna. Moreover, by calling himself ʿAlī b. ʿAbbās Maǰūsī, the author intentionally calls attention to his Zoroastrian background (I, p. 12). The source of the konya Abu’l-Ḥasan, which is found in some manuscripts and the colophon of the printed text (I, p. 434), is not known. ʿAlī’s teacher in medicine was Abū Māher Mūsā b. Yūsof b. Sayyār, whom he kept in respectful memory (I, p. 12). Nothing is known of his life, except that he worked as a practitioner whose treatments of “fevers” were particularly successful, and that he was active as an author on medical subjects. The fact that he calls himself al-motaṭabbeb points to medical practice, and he may have been associated with the hospital at Shiraz founded by ʿAżod-al-dawla, who was, after all, the dedicatee of al-Malakī. A terminus ante quem for the date of its composition is furnished by the fact that in 367/977-78 the caliph Ṭāʾeʿ granted ʿAżod-al-dawla a second laqab, Tāǰ-al-mella, which the author would not have left out. A terminus post quem is less easy to establish; his use of alqāb compares to that of Ebrāhīm Ṣābī, who addresses ʿAżod-al-dawla as al-malek al-ǰalīl, in his correspondence of the years 364-67/975-78 (ed. Š. Arslān, Beirut, n.d., passim). ʿAlī’s reference to the dedicatee’s ḵezāna, for which he wrote his work, calls to mind the splendidly furnished library that ʿAżod-al-dawla founded in Shiraz (Moqaddasī, p. 449).
Kāmel al-ṣenāʿat al-ṭebbīya accurately describes ʿAlī’s intentions: to compose a textbook containing everything a physician should know, from a knowledge of the four elements, to anatomy and physiology, pathology, diagnosis, therapy by medicines, and surgery. In his introduction he gives a survey of works by major medical authors and reviews each of them. While it was a commonplace for authors to expose the shortcomings of their predecessors in the prefaces to their own works, ʿAlī gives a relatively detailed and balanced account of medical works available in his time. He begins with Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, mentions Galen’s numerous monographs, and passes to the handbooks by Oribasius, Paulus Aegineta, Ahrun, Yūḥannā b. Sarābīūn, Masīḥ Demašqī, and Rāzī. He discusses in most detail Ebn Sarābīūn’s Konnāš and Rāzī’s al-Manṣūrī and al-Ḥāwī; apparently these were the works he considered most important or, perhaps, knew best. One book he did not mention in his survey but made extensive use of is the Aqrābāḏīn by Sābūr b. Sahl; other sources not named by ʿAlī could most probably be determined by more detailed studies of particular sections of the Kāmel.
In the two parts of al-Malakī, on theoretical and on practical medicine, both divided into ten maqālas, ʿAlī gives a well-organized, comprehensive account of medical knowledge. But his book was soon superseded by Ebn Sīnāʾs Qānūn, which supposedly presented medical theory in a clearer fashion, though it was not held to equal the Kāmel in the presentation of the practical part. In both Arabic and Persian medical literature, the Qānūn’s influence was much greater than that of the Kāmel, as is shown, e.g., by the number of commentaries written on the Qānūn. In Persian medical writing, ʿAlī’s work was acknowledged as a source, e.g., in Esmāʿīl Jorǰānī’s Ḏaḵīra-ye Ḵᵛārazmšāhī (504-06/1110-13), by the anonymous author of the non-datable compendium Mūǰaz-e kommī (9th/15th century?), in ʿAbd-al-Razzāq’s equally non-datable Ḵolāṣat al-tašrīḥ (10th/16th century?), and in the extensive pharmacopoeia Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn by Moḥammad Moʾmen b. Moḥammad Moqīm Tonokābonī (1090/1679). While this is certainly a less than complete list of authors who made use of the Kāmel, it presents a picture of an influence far less all-pervading than that of Ebn Sīnā’s Qānūn. ʿAlī was not quoted by Abū Manṣūr Mowaffaq b. ʿAlī Heravī and Abū Bakr Rabīʿ b. Aḥmad Aḵawaynī Boḵārī, two Persian writers from the late 4th/10th century (Abū Manṣūr does, however, mention Abu Māher, ʿAlī’s teacher). Although it seems possible that Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī used al-Malakī for his Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm (E. Seidel), it had evidently not yet become widely known in eastern Iran. Though Neẓāmī ʿArūżī does recommend the Kāmel to the advanced student as an outstanding work in the field, he holds that the Qānūn outshines all other efforts by far.
In the West, the Kāmel was first introduced by Constantinus Africanus (ca. 1015-87) in his Liber pantegni (printed, e.g., in Opera omnia Ysaac, Lyon, 1515); in 1127, Stephanus of Antioch translated it anew and titled it Regalis dispositio or Liber regius (printed, e.g., Venice, 1492).
1. ʿAlī b. ʿAbbās, Kāmel al-ṣenāʿat al-ṭebbīya, 2 vols., Būlāq, 1294/1877.
2. Arabic sources: Ebn al-Qefṭī, Eḵbār al-ʿolamāʾ (Moḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Zawzanī’s epitome ed. by J. Lippert as Ibn al-Qifṭī’s Taʾrīḫ al-ḥukamāʾ, Leipzig, 1903), pp. 232, 317.
Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ, ed. Emraʾ-al-qays b. Ṭaḥḥān [A. Müller], Cairo/Königsberg i. Pr., 1884, I, pp. 236-37.
Kašf al- ẓonūn (Istanbul), II, p. 1380.
Margoliouth and Amedroz, Eclipse III, p. 68.
Ẓahīr-al-dīn Abu’l-Ḥasan al-Bayhaqī, Taʾrīḵ ḥokamāʾ al-Eslām2, ed.
M. Kord-ʿAlī, Damascus, 1396/1976, pp. 80ff.
Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī, Ketāb mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten, Leiden, 1895, pp. 152-83.
3. Persian sources: Abū Manṣūr Mowaffaq Heravī, al-Abnīa ʿan ḥaqāyeq al-adwīa, ed.
A. Bahmanyār, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
Abū Bakr Rabīʿ Aḵawaynī, Hedāyat al-motaʿallemīn fi’l-ṭebb, ed. J. Matīnī, Mašhad, 1344 Š./1965.
Neẓāmī ʿArūżī, Čahār maqāla3, ed.
M. Qazvīnī and M. Moʿīn, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 110, 390-92.
Abu’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. Abi’l-Ḵayr Zarkūb Šīrāzī, Šīrāz-nāma, ed. B. Karīmī, Tehran, 1310 Š./1931, p. 33.
4. Secondary sources: M. Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam, HO 6, Leiden and Cologne, 1970, pp. 140-46 (with translation of introduction and bibliography).
Idem, “Ein Fragment des Kitāb al-Malakī von al-Mağūsī,” Der Islam 52, 1975, pp. 109-11.
R. Degen and M. Ullmann, “Zum Dispensatorium des Sābūr ibn Sahl,” Die Welt des Orients 7, 1974, pp. 241-58.
Idem, Islamic Medicine, Islamic Surveys 11, Edinburgh, 1978, passim.
Sezgin, GAS III, Leiden, 1970, pp. 320-22 (latest census of manuscripts).
E. Seidel, “Die Medizin im Kitâb Mafâtîḥ al-ʿUlûm,” Sitzungsberichte der Physikalisch-medizinischen Sozietät in Erlangen 47, 1915, pp. 1-79, esp. pp. 4, 6, 9, 12, 23.
L. Richter-Bernburg, A Descriptive Catalogue of Persian Medical Manuscripts at the University of California, Los Angeles, Humana Civilitas 4, Malibu, 1978, indices, s.vv.
ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās and Kāmil aṣ-Ṣināʿa.
Idem, “Masāʾel maǰūsīya—molāḥaẓāt fī moʾallef al-Ketāb al-malakī,” Journal of the History of Arabic Science 4, 1980, pp. 282-94.
H. Schipperges, Die Assimilation der arabischen Medizin durch das lateinische Mittelalter (Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin . . ., 3), Wiesbaden, 1964, index, s.v. ʿAlī al- ʿAbbās.
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 1, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 837-838
L. Richter-Bernburg, “ʿALĪ B. ʿABBĀS MAJŪSĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, pp. 837-838, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-b-abbas-majusi (accessed on 30 December 2012).