Medieval Arabic medical autobiography.
His name is 'Ali b. Ridwan b. 'Ali b. Ja'far, the physician. In his time he was a scholar in Egypt during the caliphate of al-Mustansir (2) in the mid-fifth [mid-eleventh] century. In his early days he was an astrologer, sitting by the side of the road and earning his living, but not by any method of verification (tahqiq), as is usual with astrologers. Then he read a little medicine and a little logic, but he was one of those scholars who obfuscate (mughliq) instead of clarify (muhaqqiq). Neither his face nor physique was attractive. (3) Nonetheless, a group of students did study with him and transmit knowledge on his authority and his reputation spread. He wrote books, but not the best in their genre; rather they were plagiarisms (mukhtatafa) (4) and composites of others' words (multaqata), deceitful (mutanakkir) and derivative (mustanbata). Ibn Butlan [d. 444/1052] had public debates, dialogues and disputes with him, some of which I have mentioned in the reports about Ibn Butlan. (5) I saw a book by Ibn Ridwan on astrology in which he comments on Ptolemy's Quadripartitum (6) but adds nothing significant. I saw a work of his on the order of Galen's books on medicine and on how to read them when studying, in which he hovers (7) around the words of the Alexandrians. (8) As for his students, the things they used to transmit on his authority about medical aetiologies (ta'lil tibbiyya), astrological doctrines, and logical terms were laughable, if the reports are to be believed. (9) Ibn Ridwan remained in Egypt, at the forefront of dispensing the types of science for which he was infamous, until he died sometime in the 460s [1060s-1070s]. Ibn Ridwan wrote in the mediocre script common to physicians (hukama'), [but] straight and with clear letters. I saw [copied] in his hand al-Hasan b. al-Hasan b. al-Haytham's Treatise on the Light of the. Moon (10) and he had vowelled it correctly and well, which shows his thorough study of such matters. He wrote at the end of it: 'Ali b. Ridwan b. 'Ali b. Ja'far al-tabib wrote this for himself; [the copy] was completed on Friday, mid-Sha'ban 422 [early August, 1031]. (11)
Such a dim portrayal in a collection of biographies devoted to outstanding physicians, medical practitioners, and philosophers can be taken only as an admonition among encomia. In al-Qifti's view, Ibn Ridwan was something of a dilettante, correctly trained in neither astrology nor medicine; a dubious "compiler" of greater authors' works; perhaps physically grotesque; a transmitter of mediocre knowledge to students of poor skill; nonetheless possessed of reputation, but not by virtue of mastering the disciplines to which he lays claims; and, in the final judgment, naught but a tolerably reliable scribe.
The castigation of Ibn Ridwan by later biographers, perhaps beginning with al-Qifti, (12) is, of course, to be contrasted with their relative endorsement of his "nemesis" Ibn Butlan (d. 444/1052), the Christian physician from Baghdad, student of Abu l-Faraj b. al-Tayyib (d. 434/1043). That such contrast would be made by the biographers is in itself not surprising, given that the oral (so reported) and written controversies between Ibn Ridwan and Ibn Butlan form not only the most titillating aspect of both careers (and thus irresistible to biographers (13)), but also, as will be investigated here, the major source of biographical information that later biographers had of the two men. Important in this regard is the second question to be addressed here: why would the biographers opt to champion Ibn Butlan rather than Ibn Ridwan, insofar as both present equally disparaging portraits of each other in their correspondence? The answer to this question is to be located in the very purpose of medical "autobiography" in the medieval Islamic world as inherited from the Classical Greek authors and how the result of such purpose was perceived--at least in Ibn Ridwan's case--by those either unaware of or less willing to recognize this particular type of self-representation.
Ibn Ridwan is certainly not unknown to modern scholarship. He had something of a banner year in 1937, when Franz Rosenthal provided a brief study of Ibn Ridwan's "autobiography" in his Die arabische Autobiographic, (14) the first detailed evaluation of this genre of writing among medieval Arab authors, and Joseph Schacht and Max Meyerhof presented nearly all of the texts associated with the Ibn Ridwan-Ibn Butlan debacle in their The Medico-Philosophical Controversy between Ibn Butlan of Baghdad and Ibn Ridwan of Cairo. (15) Rosenthal provided a German summary of parts of the "autobiography" and correctly noted its "idealistic" character: "Ibn Ridwan does not give a mere curriculum vitae; rather he sets down his "manner of living" [Lebensfuthrung] (sira) as an ideal and exhortation. ... He has little to report about the outer events of his life" (p. 22), and made the percipient reference to Galen as one of the main inspirations for Ibn Ridwan's construction of identity and way of life. The scholarly collaboration of Schacht and Meyerhof resulted in what remains the fundamental sourcebook for the lives, careers, and contentious correspondence of Ibn Ridwan and Ibn Butlan. In addition to an introductory chapter that places this correspondence in its intellectual and historical context, the authors provided translations of the major biographies of the two physicians (along with a first attempt to rationalize the bibliographical information from the medieval sources) and established the Arabic text of five of the letters of the correspondence, (16) accompanied by paraphrastic English translations and excerpted summaries.
In the years since Rosenthal's study, many of Ibn Ridwan's medical works have been published and some attention has been directed to the so-called autobiography. While Rosenthal's analysis of Ibn Ridwan's "autobiography" is brief and somewhat schematic, he deserves credit for recognizing that the genre in which Ibn Ridwan was working has virtually nothing to do with the genre of autobiography as modern authors understand it. In perhaps the singular instance that Rosenthal missed the mark in his brief evaluation of Ibn Ridwan's "autobiography," the reason is easily identified: he did not find any thematic correlation between a given trope in Ibn Ridwan and those of the classical medical literature that Ibn Ridwan could have known. The example here is the amount of attention Ibn Ridwan gives to accounting for his financial acumen, which Rosenthal first found pedantisch and later perhaps a sign of financial greediness. (17) Much later, in 1984, Michael Dols presented an equally brief analysis of Ibn Ridwan's text and astutely noted the juxtaposition of it and the main elements of the Hippocratie Oath (in Ibn Ridwan's version) as presented in the biography compiled by Ibn Abi Usaybica. Like Rosenthal, Dols highlighted the apparent inconsistency between Ibn Ridwan's obsession with his finances and the spirit of the Oath. (18) However, it can be said that both Rosenthal and Dols operate on the assumption that there is more connection between the deontological literature of classical Greek medicine than with any modern concepts of "self-revelation."
An indication that the study of medieval Arabic "autobiographical" literature again attracted scholarly attention was the publication in 1996 of an issue of the journal Edebiyat (7.2) devoted to papers on the genre, guest-edited by Dwight Reynolds, which was followed in 2001 by the collective evaluation in monograph form, titled Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition, again headed by Reynolds. (19) Like Rosenthal (and his predecessor, the classicist G. Misch), this collective undertaking takes as one presupposition that a motivation for writing "autobiography" in medieval Islam was to present the individual as an example of a highly esteemed predecessor (pp. 3-4). This is emphasized by the observation that the term sira--which is what Ibn Ridwan's later biographer Ibn Abi Usaybic'a employed to introduce Ibn Ridwan's text--carries the "connotation of an exemplary life" (p. 39). Finally, the connection between Ibn Ridwan's self-presentation and the Greek physician Galen is made (p. 45).
In the case of Ibn Ridwan, all of the observations made in past scholarship are quite correct. Here the intention is threefold: to confirm these findings; to give a detailed examination of Ibn Ridwan's literary influences; and, finally, to examine the later Arabic biographers' reaction to the framework and premises at work in Ibn Ridwan's autobiography.
We are served especially well by Rosenthal's observations in the case of Ibn Ridwan for a number of reasons. First, the sira composed by Ibn Ridwan was not intended to be read as an independent "tell-all" report about his own life. Rather, it was designed to be read as a protreptic to the study of medicine and, as such, originally formed one part of his major work al-Kitab al-nafi' fi l-tibb, (20) in which he outlined the correct way to study medicine, in its ethical, practical, and theoretical aspects. Such deontological treatises as Ibn Ridwan's sira formed a common genre of medieval medical literature, which found its origin in imitation of the Galenic tradition and its purpose in providing professional standards of conduct for physicians, akin to the Hippocratic Oath and Code. Second, and perhaps equally a part of the Galenic tradition, the inclusion of seemingly personal remarks in such ethical writings was intended to serve simply as an example of imitable conduct and attainable virtuous reputation. Finally, with the exception of those individual-specific examples, the entirety of Ibn Ridwan's so-called autobiography consists of paraphrastic renderings of classical Greek ethical, medical, and philosophical works. In other words, there is no indication that Ibn Ridwan presented historical facts of his life in the composition of such an ethical work; and there is no indication that such genre as "autobiography" as modern authors know it existed in the medieval Arabic medical literature, just as there was no such genre in the Greek literature from which the former took its cue. We can properly conclude that Rosenthal's identification of this form of ethical writing in the Arabic medical literature, and the conclusions reached by him on its nature, scope, and aim, are pertinent. At any rate, our understanding of the aims of Ibn Ridwan's sira can be elucidated by his own sources of influence, that is, the classical medical texts. This corpus, both in classical as well as medieval Arabic texts, constituted, for the theorist of medicine, a sufficient guide to the outlines of moral and behavioral standards in the absence of institutionalized forms of assessment and implementation of such. (21) Other literary frames, especially those of self-revelation, historicity, or, indeed, record of personal thoughts, can be dismissed.
The framework of Ibn Ridwan's sira evinces close reading of two seminal texts of medical ethics: the Horkos, or Oath, of the Hippocratic corpus, called in its Arabic translation al-Qism, al-Wasiya, or al-Ayman; and the Nomas (Ar. Namus), the Canon or Law, of Hippocrates. (22) The virtues of character adumbrated in these sources, when not equally common to other classical texts, address the physician's interaction with the patient specifically and his participation more broadly in the construction of a public image. In his text, Ibn Ridwan addresses humility, compassion, fair treatment of rich and poor, discretion with others' secrets (both of health and home life), the purity of intentions, and the chastity of inclinations. All of these qualities find their physical manifestations in the physician's personal health, achieved by daily physical exercise, and hygiene, evident in his spotless clothes and pleasant perfume (here Ibn Ridwan had the literary portrait of Galen himself, who was nazif al-thiyab and tayyib al-ra' iha). (23)
Galen, as commentator of Hippocrates and in other ways the point of departure for Ibn Ridwan's understanding and explication of the medical tradition, could not but leave his stamp on the latter's sira. Two other minor texts by Galen, the abridged ethical work Peri ethon [or Peri aithon] (Fi l-akhlaq) (24) and the Protreptikos (Fi l-hathth), (25) inform Ibn Ridwan's conceptualization of the evolution in the individual of a natural interest in and a rational determination of one's suitability for medical study. However, these texts may have served Ibn Ridwan merely as further confirmation of the statement of the Namus that "Anyone who wishes to learn the discipline of medicine must be possessed of an excellent suitable nature, intense aspiration, and total desire. The most important of all of these is nature." (26)
What is most curious, or at least singled out as such by modern scholars, is the seemingly obsessive attention Ibn Ridwan directs to outlining his management of personal finances. He tells us that the toil and impoverishment suffered by the student of medicine will eventually result in a practice that provides sufficient funds for a life of moderate financial stability, and then addresses the uses to which such stability should be put. That Ibn Ridwan's financial deliberations take, in their specific recommendations, inspiration from ps.-Aristotle's Oeconomica, translated into Arabic as Fi tadbir al-manzil by 'Isa Ibn Zur'a (d. 398/1008), and commented by Ibn al-Tayyib, (27) is clear, but the reason Ibn Ridwan would devote such attention to the matter is less so. Here the underlying tension between the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen on the issue of monetary fortune in relation to the practice of medicine must play a role in Ibn Ridwan's concerns. He learned the following from Galen's That the Best Physician is a Philosopher. "The student cannot arrive at the aim of [medicine] if he argues that material wealth is more noble than virtue. [Thus, he is] not only obliged to look down upon wealth, but he should also have the utmost desire and preference for hardship over the easy life." (28) In addition, Ibn Ridwan also quotes Hippocrates in his own The Path to Happiness Through Medicine: "There is nothing in the world that would equal the rate of the physician since there is no life but through one's health and none of life's tasks could be completed but as a result of one's health. Safety from illness is naught but safety from death. For this reason nothing compensates, not even if the physician's rate is greatly inflated." (29)
That Ibn Ridwan would perceive this dichotomy of values as a dilemma is all but certain, given the space he devotes to the question of finances in the sira. However, we can also be certain that, since Ibn Ridwan was as well versed in reconciling apparent inconsistencies in the medical literature as the neoplatonist philosophers were with Plato and Aristotle, (30) we can imagine a number of ways in which he could resolve this one. At least one way would be to observe that Galen speaks of the student of medicine where Hippocrates has in mind the practicing physician. Thus, the statements might suggest an evolutionary attitude toward money on the part of the student and then of the accomplished physician. However, Galen likely provided Ibn Ridwan with the answer, albeit in the form of a challenge, again from the Best Physician: "Are you able to say that we would find anyone in our time whose moderation in acquiring money has reached such a stage that he does not restrict himself simply to saying that sufficiency is achieved by the amount required to provide for one's needs, but also corroborates it in [his] actions?" (31) That the life of the physician Ibn Ridwan outlines in the sira rises to this challenge is clear from Ibn Ridwan's assertion: "[With the money I make] I spend on my health and the maintenance of my household in amounts that are neither profligate nor miserly, but which adhere to the middle amount according to what rational discernment deems necessary in each instance." (32)
The moderate path in financial acumen certainly reflects those other values of temperament adumbrated in the sira; Ibn Ridwan's source for this assertion, however, points us to the other tradition noted as influence in the sira by Rosenthal: the Neopythagorean. In the commentary by Iamblichus on the so-called Golden Verses (another version of which Rosenthal first identified in Arabic literature in Miskawayh's Tahdhib al-akhlaq (33)), Ibn Ridwan located that "middle amount" crucial to the acquisition and disbursement of money. Although the Arabic terms for the extremes of that moderation--tabdhir and taqtir--are shared with the Arabic Nicomachean Ethics, (34) the passage that Ibn Ridwan employs has affinity with Iamblichus's commentary: "Your aim in acquiring money [should] be to spend (sarf) and dispense (infaq) it in the correct ways on those things necessary for your welfare and for those in need of what you possess. ... Striving for moderation (i'tidal) and sticking to the middle (wasat) is most suitable." (35)
This, however, is not the locus of the influence Rosenthal saw of the Golden Verses on Ibn Ridwan's sira. Rather, it was another practice esteemed by Ibn Ridwan, the daily review of one's actions and thoughts, that suggested itself. The Pythagoras of the Golden Verses says: "Do not grant your eyes sleep before you review (tasaffaha) the actions you committed during the day. ... When you have done something reprehensible, let it be cause for great alarm; when you have done something decent, let it be cause for joy. For this [practice] will pave the way to your approximation of divine excellence." (36) As Ibn Ridwan restates: "In my private time, I review my actions and sentiments of the day; I take pleasure in those that were noble, good, or beneficial and I regret and swear to avoid in the future those that were evil, useless, or harmful." (37)
In this particular case of influence, we find the happy pairing of Neopythagorean ethics with the personal practice of Galen who, as Ibn Ridwan's student Mubashshir b. Fatik (eleventh century) notes, used to recite the Golden Verses nightly. It is no coincidence that Ibn Fatik, in his Mukhtar al-hikam puts in the mouth of Galen--Ibn Ridwan's "model" for the sira--the very admonition to daily moral review found in the Golden Verses. (38) The neopythagoreanism we see as the defining mark of the Hippocratic Oath is met again, then, with Ibn Ridwan.
Thus, there is little of Ibn Ridwan's personal voice in the sira, and this comes as no surprise, given the function of that genre as ethical protreptic in the medical literature. What should occasion some interest, since less observed, is the implementation on the part of Ibn Ridwan's biographers of what I have termed "literary subversion" or "literary retribution." (39) The process of undermining Ibn Ridwan's ethical model began with al-Qifti, but without its necessary context. It is taken up with determination by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a in a much more detailed manner. (40) The strategy employed by him to this end is both subtle and well conceived, and is directed toward denying the Ibn Ridwan of history the virtues of the first-person paradigm of his sira. An outline of the relevant passages follows here, after discussion of the more salient features.
Ibn Abi Usaybi'a begins with what are ostensibly "biographical" additions to the sira. (41) Such "biographical" re-creation, containing what appears to be a dispassionate record of "historical facts" about Ibn Ridwan's own life, is a marvelous example of collusion and subversion. Collusion because, inasmuch as it functions as an addition to the sira, we are to understand that yet more "facts" are being presented of Ibn Ridwan's own life; Ibn Abi Usaybi'a is, we are to think, filling in details left unaccounted in the sira. Equally, however, it is subversion because, if read carefully, each of those putative facts are intended to deny Ibn Ridwan the virtues of the physician as he reconstructed them in his ethical tract.
We can be confident that Ibn Abi Usaybi'a is, in fact, aware that Ibn Ridwan's sira should not be understood as historical and that he consciously sought to divest Ibn Ridwan of the virtues the latter assigns himself (understood by the biographers) as model physician in the sira. This is clear from the tactics he employs; and from his use of other texts by Ibn Ridwan as ammunition against Ibn Ridwan. For example, he quotes the very text on which Ibn Ridwan constructed his sira (that is, the Hippocratic Oath) and here in Ibn Ridwan's own paraphrastic commentary, "The Seven Hippocratic Virtues." (42) In Ibn Abi Usaybia's quotation of that paraphrase, we find all of the essential virtues of the model physician found in Ibn Ridwan's sira. The physician has the natural qualities necessary for study (physical fitness, sharp wits, and wholesome nature); the rational ability to refine those natural qualities into moral ones, including compassion for his fellowman (rich or poor, enemy or friend); a chaste intention in his dealings with others; a sincerity of speech and action; and the willingness to be discrete about others' private lives, all of which moral qualities preclude any possibility of inflicting harm, and all of which manifest themselves in what we now call the "image" of the doctor: clean--preferably white--and spotless clothes accompanied by exemplary hygiene, both pointers to private moral excellence.
However, one crucial item is missing from Ibn Abi Usaybia's quotation of Ibn Ridwan's commentary on the Oath. We find oblique reference to it in his strategy of undermining the image presented in Ibn Ridwan's sira. Where others have located the disjunct between the physician of the Oath and the ethical model of the sira in the obsessive attention given to personal finances of the latter, Ibn Abi Usaybi'a finds offense in a much more significant contradiction. His first parry against Ibn Ridwan is found in his "biographical" sketch: Ibn Ridwan was dismissive of past masters because he had no teacher that might serve as the model voice of that traditional authority. (43) Moreover, in order to legitimate that claim, that there can be no true scholar without mentor, Ibn Abi Usaybi'a quotes the entire text of Ibn Butlan's refutation of autodidactism, seven, paragraphs originally composed by Ibn Butlan as part of his correspondence with Ibn Ridwan. (44)
The focus of Ibn Butlan's insistence on study with a master lies in epistemological claims (oral teaching employs more of the senses, allows for question and response, and so forth); he argues that such study is more likely to lead to correct knowledge. This is not Ibn Abi Usaybi's concern, however; in fact, elsewhere he tells us that, of Ibn Ridwan and Ibn Butlan, the former was the better physician and philosopher. (45) Rather, for Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, as for Ibn Butlan before him, the method of study between master and student ensures the development of a moral requisite for scholarship. It invests its recipient with a respect for past authority. In other words, what Ibn Abl Usaybi'a, and his predecessor al-Qifti, found so offensive about Ibn Ridwan was his caricature of the medical teachers of his time and his vigorous refutation of past medical authorities such as Hunayn b. Ishaq, Abu Bakr al-Razi, and Ibn Butlan's own master, Abu 1-Faraj b. al-Tayyib. (46)
If we return for a moment to Ibn Ridwan's commentary on the Hippocratic Oath, we find two crucial elements missing in Ibn Abi Usaybi's quotation. The first is, of course, the very first condition of that Oath. I quote from the Arabic translation: "I will consider the one who teaches me this discipline as my parent and I will share with him my livelihood." (47)
That Ibn Abi Usaybi'a did not include this in his quotation from Ibn Ridwan's commentary is, needless to say, significant. (48) It also provides a clue as to why he would follow his record of Ibn Ridwan's death date with yet another one of Ibn Ridwan's reformulations of the Oath:
When one has a discipline in which his limbs are well trained and because of which people praise him and by means of which he earns a sufficient amount in the course of a part of his day, the best thing that he should do with the rest of his day is to spend it in obedience to his Lord, and the best form of such obedience is to reflect on the heavens and praise their Master (glory to Him!). ... (49)
This is clearly meant to call to the mind of the reader the final part of the Hippocratic Oath, indeed, the crowning apodosis of all its conditions (again from the Arabic): "Whoever fulfills this oath and does not violate any part of it will be perfect in his private and professional life in the best and finest manner; people will praise him for all time. Whoever violates it will incur the opposite" [my emphasis]. (50)
We are to understand that Ibn Abi Usaybi'a construed Ibn Ridwan's valorization of autodidactism, of learning on one's own from books, as the singular violation of the Hippocratic Oath, the very text that served Ibn Ridwan as the scaffolding for his ethical sira. In retribution for that violation, Ibn Ridwan was to receive not the praise of future biographers, but their damnation.
One final question-, can we view Ibn Ridwan's scorn for the medical teachers of his day and his refutation of past authority as the only instance of the "uniquely personal" in his sira? In other words, does such skeptic derision of the past constitute that "consciousness of self" that Rosenthal found absent from medieval Arabic sira literature, and which made that literature not "autobiography" but "idealization"? Not really, no. What his biographers deemed to be Ibn Ridwan's departure from the normative ethics of the Hippocratic ethical literature, Ibn Ridwan conceived to be representative, not of his own life, but of Galen's ideal model of the philosopher-physician. In his The Order of [My] Own Books, Galen decried what he saw as the blind obedience of his contemporaries to the past authority of a given medical or philosophical sect and set forth the counter-example of his own process of arriving, through independent reasoning, at his own beliefs. (51) In the end, then, little of Ibn Ridwan's so-called autobiography stems from consideration of the "uniquely personal." It turns out that skeptical individualism is itself a topos of the classical medical tradition. The fact that Ibn Ridwan's earliest biographers, writing at least two centuries after him, were unaware or chose to be unaware of this aspect of the Galenic tradition in Ibn Ridwan's sira represents an interesting development in later authors' conception of the aims and articulations of earlier autobiographical literature.
(1.) Ed. J. Lippert (Leipzig: Th. Weicher, 1903), 443-44. An alternative English translation of the entry by J. Schacht and M. Meyerhof can be had from their The Medico-Philosophical Controversy between Ibn Butlan and Ibn Ridwan of Cairo (Cairo: Egyptian Univ. Faculty of Arts, 1937 [hereafter S/M]), 33-34.
(2.) 427-87/1036-94. Compare this to the statement of Ibn Abi Usaybi'a below.
(3.) There may be a pun here: he was good at neither [astrological] sightings nor astronomy (hasan al-manzar wa-la al-hay'a), in which case this statement compares his looks to his shortcomings in the method of verifying astrological data by correct sightings of stars (and mastery of cosmology in general).
(4.) Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, s.n.), 2: 1200, defines this as "stealing": wa-khatifa al-shaytan al-sam'a wa-khatatafa: istaraqa, wu-fi l-tanzil al-'aziz: illa man khatifa al-khatfata, citing Q 37:10.
(5.) al-Qifti, Ta'rikh al-hukuma', 298-314 and see Treatise No. III in S/M.
(6.) See GAL, 1: 484, no. 16; and GAS, 7: 42, 44.
(7.) hamma fihi hawla, p. 444, 1. 9, reading with manuscripts marked BM in S/M.
(8.) This must be a reference to Ibn Ridwan's al-Kitab al-nafi' fi kayfiyyat ta'lim sina'at al-tibb, ed. K. as-Samarra'i (Baghdad: Wizarat al-Ta'lim al-'Ali wa-l-Bahth al-'Ilmi, 1986). See A. Z. Iskandar, "An Attempted Reconstruction of the Late Alexandrian Medical Curriculum," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 20 (1976): 235-58, and Dimitri Gutas, "The 'Alexandria to Baghdad' Complex of Narratives: A Contribution to the Study of Philosophical and Medical Historiography among the Arabs," Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale 10 (1999): 155-93, for the significance of Ibn Ridwan's "Alexandrian" narrative.
(9.) Al-Qifti's "reports" are likely those recorded by Ibn Butlan about Ibn Ridwan's students; see S/M, 90ff.
(10.) This is likely his Maqala fi daw' al-qamr; see GAS, 6: 255, no. 3, which lists a 1927 German translation by K. Kohl. Is the mention of Ibn al-Haytham (d. 432/1041) here connected in some way to the later report, by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, that Ibn Ridwan served the caliph al-Hakim? Both (in fact, all three) are reported to have gone insane.
(11.) This record of Ibn Ridwan's colophon to his copy of Ibn al-Haytham's work is to be contrasted with the note by Ibn Butlan, recorded also by al-Qifti (pp. 314-15), in his copy of his master Abu l-Faraj b. al-Tayyib's Thimar al-burhan [Excerpts of Posterior Analytics], in which Ibn al-Tayyib gives Ibn Butlan license (ijaza) to teach his work. Ibn Ridwan's copy of Ibn al-Haytham's work, lacking as it does any record of teaching and licensing, is no more than the work of a scribe (we should note also that Ibn al-Haytham was an older contemporary of Ibn Ridwan and like him in Cairo; the biographers would find it odd that there is no such license in such fortuitous circumstances). It is likely no coincidence that al-Qifti would make such a contrast, given that he was aware of Ibn Butlan's treatment of the master-student relationship in one of his letters to Ibn Ridwan, also recorded at length by al-Qifti (although interestingly not the portion relevant here; see S/M, Ar. 53, Engl. 85-86), particularly on the trustworthiness of manuscripts that contain master-student licenses.
(12.) I am not aware of any earlier biographical sketches of Ibn Ridwan.
(13.) We are reminded here of Abu Bakr al-Razi's statement, in his own "autobiography," The Philosopher's Way of Life (Kitab al-Sira al falsafiyya), that "people love to spread the rare and odd report and avoid the mundane and customary ones," ed. P. Kraus, Opera philosophica fragmentaque quae supersunt (Cairo, 1939), 100. An excellent study of a different sort of medieval Arabic biography and its motives and aims is M. Cooperson's Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophet in the Age of al-Ma'mun (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000).
(14.) Stadia Arabica I (Rome: Pontificum Institutum Biblicum, 1937); rpt. in F Rosenthal. Muslim Intellectual and Social History: A Collection of Essays (Aldershot: Variorum, 1990).
(15.) Subtitled A Contribution to the History of Greek Learning among the Arabs (Cairo: Egyptian Univ. Faculty of Arts, 1937).
(16.) Three other letters to Ibn Butlan are listed in Ibn Abi Usaybi'a's bibliography of Ibn Ridwan's works (see S/M, nos. 59, 61, 101), which S/M were unable to identify; they may simply represent variant titles gathered by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a.
(17.) In offering a reason for why Ibn Ridwan would choose, between storing or selling books, the latter, Rosenthal says: "It is not clear whether he meant that it was better to put unneeded books back into circulation rather than keeping them out of sight. It is, however, more likely, given Ibn Ridwan's great concern with his finances, that he was unwilling to pass up an opportunity to make some more money." From "'Of Making Many Books There is No End': The Classical Muslim View," in The Book in the Islamic World, ed. G. N. Atiyeh (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1995), 38. This may, of course, be an instance of Rosenthal's dry wit, given his identification of the correct reason (stated there as mere hypothesis).
(18.) M. W. Dols, Medieval Islamic Medicine: Ibn Ridwan's Treatise "On the Prevention of Bodily ills in Egypt" (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1984). 35.
(19.) Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 2001. While the publication edited by Reynolds takes as presumption the findings of Rosenthal and Dols, the post-modernist perspective introduces yet another facet of interpretation to be studied in further accounts of autobiographical literature. Two reviews of the publication can be of use as a comparative analysis: W. Ouyang, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 65 (2002): 574-76; and S. Selem, Biography, 25 (2002), 687-90.
(20.) Rosenthal, Die arabisdw Autobiographic, 22 n. 4, suggested that the sira may originally have been part of Ibn Ridwan's Maqala fi l-tatarruq bi-l-ila sabil al-sa'dda. It would seem that S/M, 46 n. 51, also suggested this connection. It makes sense, given that the entry in Ibn Abi Usaybi'a's bibliography (aside from the title Maqdla fi siratihi proper [Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, ed. M. Muller, Cairo: n.p., 1882], 103) is Maqala fi sabil al-sa'ada wa-hiya al-sira allari ikhtaraha li-nafsihi, "Discourse on the way to happiness, that is, the manner of life which he had chosen for himself "(ibid., 104,1, 32; S/M, 46 no. 72), but the distinction between the two is the absence of the word tatarruq in the latter. Moreover, Ibn Abi Usaybic'a records the actual tille Maqala fi l-tatarruq bi-l-tibb ild al-sa'ada (sic; missing sabil) a few lines above (104, II. 28-29). We must imagine that S/M made the identification on the basis of a very casual reading of Ibn Abi Usayb'a. However, Ibn Abi Usaybi'a introduces his excerpt of Ibn Ridwan's "sira" by stating: Ibn Ridwan recorded the following text about his way of life on [from?] "how he learned the discipline of medicine and its conditions," wa-qad dhukaru 'All ... fi siratihi min kayfiyyat ta'allumihi sina'at al-tibb wa-ahwaliha ma hadha nassuhu (Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, op. cit., 99) and records the title as al-Kitab al-nafi fi kayfiyyat ta'lim sina'at al-tibb (103. 11. 29-30). The similarity between the words of Ibn Abi Usaybica's introduction and his record of the title is unmistakable (although not exact). Now, in the colophon to MS Chester Beatty 4026 of Ibn Ridwan's al-Kitab al-nafi', the anonymous scribe notes that "[this work] has a third part, as we learn from [Ibn Abi Usaybi's] biographies of physicians" (wa-lahu maqala thalitha, hakadha wajadtu fi tabaqat al-atibba'. 37v). This is correct. Ibn Abi Usaybi'a includes in his bibliography of Ibn Ridwan's works: "al-Kitab al-nafi' fi kayfiyyat ta'lim sina'at al-tibb, in three parts." M. C. Lyons, "The Kitab al-Nafi of 'Ali ibn Ridwan," IQ 6 (1961), 65 n. 3, has suggested that this miscount may be the result of Ibn Abi Usaybi'a's misreading of the heading for part two, which states that the part is divided into three chapters (abwab): this hypothesis seems difficult, to accept as Ibn Abi Usaybi'a seems to have known the text better than that. In his biography of Galen, he excerpts a good portion of the first chapter of al-Kitab al-nafi', dealing with Galen's books, and introduces it as that which Ibn Ridwan said in his al-Kitab al-nafi' fi kayfiyyat ta lim sina' at al-tibb (ed. N. Rida' Beirut: n.p., n.d., 154,11. 10ff.). From all of this, we know that Ibn Abi Usaybi'a (I) knew of an al-Kitab al-nafi' in three parts and (2) knew of an independently circulating Maqala fi siratihi. Furthermore, we know that (3) when the scribe of MS Chester Ready 4026 came to copy the Kitab al-nafi' (sometime after Ibn Abi Usaybi'a wrote his 'Uyun al-anba'; the MS itself lacks a date but Arberry dates it to the eighth/fourteenth century in his catalogue of the library), it lacked the third part. No such discrepancy seems to have been attached to the transmission history of the Maqala fi l-tatarruq bi-l-tibb. Furthermore, the trope of autodidactism in the "sira" seems more consonant with the subject-matter of al-Kitab al-nafi' than with the Maqala ft l-tatarruq (although see the discussion by A. Dietrich in Uber den Weg zur Gluckseligkeit durch den arztlichen Beruf [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1982], 8-9, on the Greek influence detectable in that work in light of the argument I make below).
(21.) Certainly, the market-place inspector (muhtasib) of medieval Islamic cities would have had as one of his responsibilities the identification of medical quackery (for more of his unsavory responsibilities, see S/M, 57), but this should not be understood as examination of the medical student's entry into the profession. I thank Dimitri Gutas for the reference to the office of muhtasib; I cannot be certain that my conclusion here conforms to his unstated inference.
(22.) I read the Arabic translations of these two works in Ibn Abi Usaybi'a's 'Uyun al-anba' fi tabaqat al-atibba' in the edition of N. Rida', 45-46.
(23.) He had a similar literary portrait as that in Mukhtar al-hikam wa-mahasin al-kalim by his contemporary Mubashshir b. Fatik (ed. 'A.-R, Badawi, Madrid, 1958) in which Galen was described as tayyib al-ra'iha and naqiyy al-thiyab (p. 293), and Ptolemy (p. 252) as tayyib al-ra' iha and nazif al-thiyab. Cf. the statement attributed to Pythagoras in Hunayn b. Ishaq's Nawadir al-faldsifa: "The one who freshens his odor increases his intellect" (ed. Badawi, as Adab al-falasifa, Kuwait, 1985, 209).
(24.) See the edition and study by P. Kraus, "Kitab al-Akhlaq li-Jalinus," Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts of the Egyptian University 5 (1939): 1-52; the studies by S. M. Stern, "Some Fragments of Galen's On dispositions ([Peri Ethon]) in Arabic," Classical Quarterly n.s. 6 (1956), 91-101; and J. N. Mattock. "A Translation of the Arabic Epitome of Galen's Book Peri Ethan," in Islamic Philosophy and the Classical Tradition, ed. S. M. Stern, A. Hourani, and V. Brown (Oxford, 1972), 235-60 (containing an English translation of the text established by Kraus).
(25.) See the Arabic summary Mukhtasar Maqalat Jalinus fi l-hathth 'ala ta'allum al-'ulum wa-sina' at in Dirasat wa-nusus fi l-falsafa wa-l-'ulum 'inda l-'arab, ed. 'A.-R. Badawi (Beirut: al-Mu'assasa al-Arabiyya li-1-Dirasat wa-1-Nashr, 1986), 187-89.
(26.) Namus, op. cit., 46, 11. 7-8.
(27.) The text is edited by L. Maalouf in Traites inedits d 'anciens philosophes arabes, musulmans et Chretiens: Avec des traductions de traites grecs d'Aristote, de Platon et de Pythagore par Ishaq ibn Honein, publies dans la Revue, al Machriq. ed. L. Cheikho et al. (Frankfurt am Main: Minerva. 1974). 50-52. This work, or the first book at least (1343a1-1345b4) was paraphrased by Ibn al-Tayyib in Thamarat [incipit: Thimar] maqalat Aristatalis fi Tadbir al-manzil, MS Escorial 888, 145v-149r. Cheikho attributes the actual translation to Ibn Zur'a. A discussion of the attribution to Ibn al-Tayyib is found in the German translation by Z. Shunnar, in U. Victor, Oikonomikos: Das erste Buch der Okonomik-Handschriften. Text, Ubersetzung, und Kommentar, and seine Beziehungen zur Okonomik-literatur (Konigstein/Ts.: A. Hain, 1983), 66-68. Cf. F. E. Peters, Aristoteles Arabus: The Oriental Translations and Commentaries on the Aristotelian Corpus (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1968), 62-63, where the work is classified as pseudepigraphy.
(28.) Galeni Quod optimus medicus sit quoque philosophus, Arabic Maqalat Jalinus fi annahu yajihu an yakuna al-tabib al-fadil faylasuf, trans. Hunayn b. Ishaq, ed. with Ger. trans. P Bachmann, "Galens Abhandlung daruber, dass der vorzugliche Arzt Philosoph sein muss," Nuchrichten der Akademie Jer Wissenschaften in Gottingen (1965), 1-67; the quotation is found on p. 18.
(29.) Maqala fi l-tatarruq bi-l-tibb ila sabil l-sa'ada, ed. Dietrich, 35. Dietrich identifies the source of this quotation in his notes, p. 54.
(30.) For a prime example of this "harmonization" in Arabic philosophical texts, see al-Farabi's al-Jam'bayna ra'yay al-hakimayn, ed. and trans. F. M. Najjar and D. Mallet as L'harmonie entre les opinions de Platon et d'Aristote: Texte arabe et traduction (Damascus: Institut Francais de Damas, 1999).
(31.) Galeni Quod optimus medicus, op. cit.
(32.) Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba', ed. Muller, 100.
(33.) See Rosenthal, "Some Pythagorean Documents Transmitted in Arabic," Orientalia n.s. 10(1941), 104-11, 383-95.
(34.) The process of just evaluation of action and statement in Ibn Ridwan's description of his spending habits with relation to his household may be related to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics--consider especially the translations tabdhir (prodigality) and taqtir (meanness), cf. al-Akhlaq, ed. Badawi, 131,1. 11 = 1119b27); but more to the general spirit of the Pythagorean injunction from the Carmina aurea [CA] (13-15), ed. H. Daiber (Neuplatonische Pythagorica in arabischem Gewande: Der Kommentar des lamblichus zu den Carmina aurea. Ein verlorener griechischer Text in arabischer Uberlieferung (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1995), 52: "Pythagoras said: You should constrain yourself to impartial judgment (insaf) in your speech and action and for no reason should you take on the responsibility of doing anything without discernment, (tamyiz). Know that death assuredly falls upon everyone." Cf. Ibn al-Tayyib's translation, ed. N. Linley, Pruclus' Commentary on the Pythagorean Golden Verses: Arabic Text and Translation, Arethusa monographs 10 (Buffalo, N.Y.: Dept. of Classics, State Univ. of New York, 1984), 72-73.
(35.) This is a combination of two passages of Iamblichus's commentary; CA 16, ed. Daiber, 54, comm. 106-13: "With regard to property, let your aim be that as soon as you acquire it (iktisab), you spend it (itlaf). The Commentator said: In saying this, [Pythagoras] does no) teach greed (hirs) in the acquisition and accumulation of property. Rather, he means that your aim in seeking and acquiring property [should] not be to amass (iddikhar) and hoard (ihtikar) it. Instead, your aim in acquiring it [should] be to spend (sarf) and dispense (infaq) it in the correct ways on those things necessary for your welfare and for those in need of what you have; for when one makes this his aim with property, he does not seek more than what he needs and gathers and seeks what comes to him in the correct ways"; and also CA 37-38, ed. Daiber, 70-74: "Pythagoras said: Do not be a spendthrift (mutlif), like one who has no idea what he has in his possession, nor should you be stingy (shahih) so that you lose liberality (hurriyya). Rather, the most noble [way] in all things is moderation (qasd). The Commentator said: He says this to prevent profligacy (saraf) and miserliness (taftir) and to encourage moderation, which is spending in the correct ways. He says that you should not at any time waste (tabdhuru) what you have like one who, while striving for rank and status, is not aware of what he has, and so finds himself lacking what he needs at a time when he needs it. But neither does [Pythagoras] promote accumulating (jam') and hoarding (ihtikar) and he forbids you to apply what you possess in the wrong ways, thus taking leave of liberality and equity ('adl) in spending (infaq). In both cases, striving for moderation (i'tidal) and sticking to the middle (wasat) is most suitable and requisite. [Pythagoras] does not limit himself to making moderation (gasd) in the case of [spending] alone praiseworthy; rather, He praises it in all affairs, because by his preference for moderation, Plato also came to make God the cause of moderation and equity in all things."
(36.) This is the reformulation of Ibn Ridwan's contemporary Mubashshir b. Fatik in his Mnkhtar al-hikam; see ed. Badawi, 65 (sub Pythagoras).
(37.) Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba', ed. Muller, 100.
(38.) Mukhtar al-hikam, ed. Badawi, 296.
(39.) See D. C. Reisman, "Stealing Avicenna's Books: A Study of the Historical Sources for the Life and Times of Avicenna," in Before and After Avicenna, ed D. C. Reisman, Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science 52 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 90-127.
(40.) See the entry for Ibn Ridwan in Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba, ed. Muller, 99-105.
(41.) His quotation of the sira is found at 99, 1, 20-101,1. 4, after which, at 101, 1. 5-105,1. 14, Ibn Abi Usaybi'a inserts his "retribution."
(42.) 'Uyun al-anba, ed. Muller, 102, 1. 28-103, 1. 6.
(43.) This he does by baldly describing Ibn Ridwan as contentious, and then quoting Ibn Butlan's refutation of autodidactism, 101,1. 1-102, 1. 25 (the latter is translated by S/M, 83ff.).
(44.) This can be found in S/M, Arabic text, 50ff.
(45.) See S/M, 60.
(46.) 'Uyun al-anba,' ed. Muller, 101.11. 17-21.
(47.) 'Uyun al-anba', ed. Rida'. 45, 1. 7.
(48.) In fact, we cannot know that this theme actually played a part in Ibn Ritdwan's commentary; it exists now only in Ibn Abi Usaybi's lemmata.
(49.) 'Uyun at-anba, ed. Muller, 102, 11. 25-27.
(50.) 'Uyun al-anba', ed. Rida' 45, 11. 22-23.
(51.) See Galenou peri tes taxeos ton idion biblion, in Claudii Galeni Pergameni scripta minora, ed. I. M. Recensuerunt Ioannes Marquart, Georgius Helmreich (Lipsiae: B. G. Teubner, 1884-1893; rpt. Amsterdam, 1967), 2: 91-124.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
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|Title Annotation:||Ibn Ridwan|
|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2009|
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