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June 12, 2014


Avicenna (Arabic, Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina) (980-1037), Iranian Islamic philosopher and physician, born near Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan). The son of a government official, Avicenna studied medicine and philosophy in Bukhara. At the age of 18 he was rewarded for his medical abilities with the post of court physician to the Samanid ruler of Bukhara. He remained in this position until the fall of the Samanid Empire in 999. After that he traveled and lectured on astronomy and logic at Jurjan, near the Caspian Sea. He spent the last 14 years of his life as scientific adviser and physician to the ruler of Eşfahān (Isfahan).

Regarded by Muslims as one of the greatest Islamic philosophers, Avicenna is an important figure in the fields of medicine and philosophy. His work The Canon of Medicine was long preeminent in the Middle East and in Europe as a textbook. It is significant as a systematic classification and summary of medical and pharmaceutical knowledge up to and including Avicenna's time. The first Latin translation of the work was made in the 12th century, the Hebrew version appeared in 1491, and the Arabic text in 1593, the second text ever printed in Arabic.

Avicenna's best-known philosophical work is Kitab ash-Shifa (Book of Healing), a collection of treatises on Aristotelian logic, metaphysics, psychology, the natural sciences, and other subjects. Avicenna's own philosophy was based on a combination of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. Contrary to orthodox Islamic thought, Avicenna denied personal immortality, God's interest in individuals, and the creation of the world in time. Because of his views, Avicenna became the main target of an attack on such philosophy by the Islamic philosopher al-Ghazali. Nevertheless, Avicenna's philosophy remained influential throughout the Middle Ages.
Although the major writings on Arab music appeared after the spread of Islam in the beginning of the 7th century, the music tradition had already begun. Before the spread of Islam, Arab music incorporated music traditions of the Sassanid dynasty (224-651) in Persia and the early Byzantine empire (4th century to 6th century) and of sung poetry from the Arabian Peninsula. Arabic-speaking scholars also studied the treatises of ancient Greek philosophers on music. Music theorists of the 10th century and 11th century, such as al-Farabi and Avicenna, produced their own theories of music based on what they had learned from the Greeks and on the music of their own times. Greek works translated by the Arab scholars were later studied by European scientists and philosophers.

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