ABU’L-ḴAYR B. AL-ḴAMMĀR, ḤASAN B. SOVĀR B. BĀBĀ B. BAHNĀM (or BAHRĀM), Nestorian Christian physician, philosopher, theologian, and translator, b. Rabīʿ I, 331/November, 942 in Baghdad. In philosophy he was a student of Yaḥyā b. ʿAdī (d. 364/974), head of the Aristotelian school then known as the logicians (manṭeqīyūn). It is unknown with whom he studied medicine. He is described, however, as an associate of the physician Ṯābet b. Senān (d. 363/973), who may have been his teacher in this art. Most likely he is identical with the Abu’l-Ḵayr mentioned by ʿObaydallāh b. Jebrāʾīl as a surgeon (ǰarāʾeḥī) at the great hospital (bīmārestān) of ʿAżod-al-dawla in Baghdad after its inauguration in 372/982; Ebn al-Qefṭī appears to be mistaken in according a separate entry to an otherwise unknown Abu’l-Ḵayr Jarāʾeḥī (Taʾrīḵ al-ḥokamāʾ, p. 407). He was known at this time to Ebn al-Nadīm, who mentions meeting him in the presence of the logician and secretary Abu’l-Qāsem ʿĪsā b. ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā and praises him as an outstanding logician.

Abu’l-Ḵayr held philosophical discussions with Abū Solaymān Seǰestānī, whose view about the forms of the elements he refuted in a treatise, and associated with the logician Abū ʿAlī b. al-Samḥ. Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī also was acquainted with him and quotes him in his books; his judgment of Abu’l-Ḵayr is somewhat critical, perhaps on account of the rivalry between Abu’l-Ḵayr and Abū Solaymān Seǰestānī, Tawḥīdī’s admired teacher. Tawḥīdī mentions that the historian and philosopher Meskawayh found refuge (laǰaʾa) with Abu’l-Ḵayr, evidently about the years 373-75/983-86. Both the Christian Abu’l-Faraǰ b. al-Ṭayyeb and the Muslim Abu’l-Faraǰ b. Hendū were his students, probably while he still lived in Baghdad. Ebn Sīnā in one of his treatises spoke with admiration of him and expressed his hope of meeting him, a hope which apparently was never realized. It is unknown when and under what circumstances he left Baghdad. A treatise of his was addressed to the vizier Abū Saʿd Hamaḏānī. If the latter is identical with Abū Saʿd b. Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl of Hamadān, who is mentioned as vizier of the Buyid Maǰd-al-dawla in Ray in 392/1002, it may indicate that Abu’l-Ḵayr was present there about this time (Helāl al-Ṣābī, Taʾrīḵ, ed. H. Amedroz, Cairo, 1334/1916, pp. 452f.). It is certain that he lived in Ḵᵛārazm under the reign of Ḵᵛārazmšāh Abu’l-ʿAbbās Maʾmūn b. Maʾmūn (399-407/1009-17), to whom he dedicated his Maqāla fī emteḥān al-aṭebbāʾ. After the murder of Maʾmūn and the conquest of Ḵᵛārazm by the Ghaznavid Maḥmūd, he was taken, together with Bīrūnī and other scholars, to Gazna. Maḥmūd urged him to accept Islam, but he refused. Later, however, he did convert, reportedly after seeing the Prophet in a dream. He was killed in an accident, when he was called to attend Sultan Maḥmūd and his horse bolted. Thus he must have died not later than 421/1030.

Titles of his works, comprising books on philosophy, Christian theology, ethics, medicine, and translations from Syriac, are listed by Ebn al-Nadīm and Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa. His comments on Aristotle’s Categories have been published (Kh. Georr, Les Catégories d’Aristote dans leurs versions Syro-Arabes, Beirut, 1948, pp. 362ff. and index s.v. Ḥasan b. Siwār) and his treatise Maqāla fī anna dalīl Yaḥyā ʿalā ḥadaṯ al-ʿālam awlā be’l-qabūl men dalīl al-motakallemīn aṣlan has been edited (ʿA. Badawī, Neoplatonici apud Arabes, Cairo, 1955, pp. 243-48) and analyzed and translated into French (B. Lewin, “La notion de muḥdath dans le kalam et dans la philosophie,” in Donum Natalicum H. S. Nyberg oblatum, Uppsala, 1954, pp. 84-93). The following treatises are known to be extant in manuscript: 1. Ketāb al-tawfīq bayn ārāʾ al-falāsefa wa’l-naṣārā. 2. Maqāla fi’l-tawḥīd wa’l-taṯlīṯ. 3. Maqāla fi’l-ṣadīq wa’l-ṣadāqa. 4. Maqāla fi’l-saʿāda. 5. Maqāla fi’l-aḵlāq. 6. Maqāla fi’l-ṣaṛʿ (see P. Sbath, al-Fehres, Cairo, 1938-40, I, p. 42). 7. Al-Āṯār allatī taẓhar fi’l-ǰaww wa ʿelalohā men al-hāla wa qaws qozaḥ wa amṯāl ḏālek (see M. T. Dānešpažūh, Fehrest-e mīkrofilmhā-ye ketābḵāna-ye Markazī-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969, p. 683). 8. Fī ṣefat al-raǰol al-faylasūf (see H. Ritter, “Philologica III,” Der Islam 18, 1929, p. 46). Numerous quotations of his Ketāb al-aḡdīa and of his notes (ḥawā š ī) to the eighth book of Paul of Aegina devoted to pharmaceutics are contained in Bīrūnī’ Ketāb al-ṣaydana (Izbrannye proizvedeniya IV, Tashkent, 1974, pp. 103f. and index, s.v. Abu’l-Ḵayr). In his Ketāb al-ǰamāher fī maʿrefat al-ǰawāher (Hyderabad, 1355/1936-37, p. 100), Bīrūnī refers to a translation of the mineralogy of Aetios (Aṭyūs al-Āmedī) by Abu’l-Ḵayr. His book on the medical profession, Ketāb emteḥān (or meḥnat) al-aṭebbāʾ, is quoted expressly, and probably often without reference, by Ẓahīr-al-dīn Bayhaqī in his Tatemma ṣewān al-ḥekma.


Fehrest, pp. 245, 265.

Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī, al-Emtāʿ wa’l-moʾānasa, ed. A. Amīn and A. al-Zayn, Cairo, 1939-44, I, pp. 32-35; II, pp. 38, 83; III, p. 106.

Idem, al-Moqābasāt, ed. Ḥ. Sandūbī, Cairo, 1347/1929, pp. 160f., 205.

Abū Solaymān Seǰestānī, Montaḵab ṣewān al-ḥekma, ed. ʿA. Badawī, Tehran, 1973, pp. 335f., 353-55.

Bayhaqī, Tatemma ṣewān al-ḥekma, ed. M. Shafiʿ, Lahore, 1935; repr. of Cairo ed., Beirut, 1955-56, pp. 12-14 and index.

Ebn Abī ʿOṣaybeʿa, Ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, pp. 310, 322f., and index.

Ebn al-Qefṭī, Taʾrīḵ al-ḥokamāʾ, ed. J. Lippert, Leipzig, 1903, pp. 164, 301, 313.

M. Meyerhof, Von Alexandrien nach Bagdad, Berlin, 1930, p. 421.

G. Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, Vatican City, 1944-53, II, pp. 156f.

R. Walzer, “New Light on the Arabic Translations of Aristotle,” Oriens 6, 1953, pp. 91f., especially, p. 97.

Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 322f.

A. Dietrich, Medicinalia Arabica, Göttingen, 1966, pp. 199-202.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 330-331

Cite this entry:

W. Madelung, “ABU’L-ḴAYR B. AL-ḴAMMĀR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 330-331; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-kayr-b (accessed on 31 January 2014).