ALI IBN RABBAN AL-TABARI
ALI IBN RABBAN AL-TABARI
This accomplished Hakim was the tutor of the unparalleled physician Zakariya
favoured the disciple more than the teacher in terms of celebrity. As compared
to Razi people know very little about his teacher Ali.
Ali Bin Rabban's surname was Abu al-Hasan, the full name being Abu al-Hasan
Ali Bin Sahl Rabban al-Tabari. Born in 838 C.E. his father Sahl hailed from a
respectable Jew family. The nobility and sympathy inherent in his very nature
soon endeared him to his countrymen so much so that they used to call him Rabban
which implies "my leader".
Professionally Sahl was an extremely successful physician. He had command
over the art of calligraphy too. Besides he had a deep insight into the
disciplines of Astronomy, Philosophy, Mathematics and Literature. Some
complicated articles of Batlemus's book al-Mijasti came to be resolved by
way of Sahl's scholarly expertise, translators preceding him had failed to solve
Ali received his education in the disciplines of Medical science and
calligraphy from his able father Sahl and attained perfection in these fields.
He had also mastered Syriac and Greek languages to a high degree of
Ali hailed from a Israelite family. Since he had embraced Islam, he is
classified amongst Muslim Scholars. This family belonged to Tabristan's famous
The fame acquired by Ali Bin Rabban did not simply account for the reason
that a physician of the stature of Zakariya al-Razi was
amongst his disciple. In fact the main cause behind his exaltation lies in his
world-renowned treatise Firdous al-Hikmat.
Spread over seven parts, Firdous al-Hikmat is the first ever Medical encyclopedia
which incorporates all the branches of medical science in its
folds. This work has been published in this century (20th century) only. Prior
to this publication only five of his manuscripts were to be found scattered in
libraries the world over. Dr. Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui compared and edited the
manuscripts. In his preface he has provided extremely useful informa- tion
regarding the book and the author and, wherever felt necessary, explanatory
notes have been written to facilitate publication of this work on modern
Later on this unique work was published with the cooperation of English and
German institutions. Following are the details of its all seven parts:
1. Part one: Kulliyat-e-Tibb. This part throws light on
contemporary ideology of medical science. In that era these principles formed
the basis of medical science.
2. Part two: Elucidation of the organs
of the human body, rules for keeping good health and comprehensive account of
certain muscular diseases.
3. Part three: Description of diet to be
taken in conditions of health and disease.
4. Part four: All diseases
right from head to toe. This part is of profound significance in the whole book
and comprises twelve papers:
i) General causes relating to eruption of diseases. ii) Diseases
of the head and the brain. iii) Diseases relating to the eye, nose, ear, mouth
and the teeth. iv) Muscular diseases (paralysis and spasm). v) Diseases of the
regions of the chest, throat and the lungs. vi) Diseases of the abdomen. vii)
Diseases of the liver. viii) Diseases of gallbladder and spleen. ix) Intestinal diseases. x) Different kinds of fever. xi) Miscellaneous diseases--Brief
explanation of organs of the body. xii) Examination of pulse and urine. This
part is the largest in the book and is almost half the size of the whole
5. Part five: Description of flavor, taste and color.
six: Drugs and poison.
7. Part seven: Deals with diverse topics.
Discusses climate and astronomy. Also contains a brief mention of Indian
Though he wrote Firdous al-Hikmat in Arabic but he simultaneously
translated it into Syriac. He has two more compilations to his credit namely
Deen-o-Doulat and Hifdh al-Sehhat. The latter is available in
manuscript-form in the library of Oxford University. Besides Medical science, he
was also a master of Philosophy, Mathematics and Astronomy. He breathed his
last around 870 C.E.