ḎAḴĪRA-YE ḴᵛĀRAZMŠĀHĪ, a Persian encyclopedia of medical knowledge compiled by Sayyed Esmāʿīl b. Ḥosayn Jorjānī and dedicated to his patron, the ruler of Ḵᵛārazm, Qoṭb-al-dīn Moḥammad Ḵᵛārazmšāh (r. 490-521/1097-1127). It is the most comprehensive medical treatise written in Persian up to that date, incorporating the findings of earlier physicians recorded in Arabic and Persian books, as well as observations from Jorjānī’s own medical practice. It is also a fine example of early Persian prose, simple and unornamented, lucid and graceful. Fragmentary manuscripts of the work are numerous, but, because of its great length, complete manuscripts are rare. The text has not yet received a critical treatment, though editions of the first two books are available. ʿAlī-Akbar Saʿīdī Sīrjānī published a facsimile edition of one manuscript of the entire work; it is dated 603/1206 and is apparently the oldest surviving complete manuscript.
The Ḏaḵīra consists of ten books (ketāb). Book 1 includes six discourses (goftār) comprising seventy-one sections (bāb); the discourses are devoted to the practical and scientific aspects of medicine, its benefits, and the elements of which the human body is composed (i.e., the four humors); definition of different temperaments (mezāj) as the product of particular combinations of humors; description of the four fluids (ḵelt)—blood, phlegm, and yellow and black bile—that constitute the four humors and the reasons why they appear; the anatomy of the parts and organs of the body; and the vital or animal force (qowwat-e ḥayawānī), the psychic force (qowwat-e nafsānī), and the parts of the body related to each.
Book 2 contains nine discourses on states of health. The first is devoted to definitions of good health and disease; diseases affecting particular parts of the body; the distinction between disease, its cause, and its side effects (ʿawāreż); hereditary diseases, and so on. The second is focused on such symptoms and adjuncts of ill health as hyperemia, disorders of the humors, inflammation, and the like. The third includes a description of the pulse and discussion of pulse rates. In the fourth normal and abnormal breathing are treated, in the fifth the color and smell of urine as diagnostic symptoms. The sixth discourse is devoted to the digestive system and effects on defecation resulting from various diseases. In the seventh the effects of various disease on perspiration are treated and in the eighth expectorated fluids and types of sputum. The final discourse encompasses such symptoms of disease as abnormally high or low temperatures, excessive or insufficient moisture, inflammations, aches, and acquired deformities; changes and conditions occurring in the healthy body (menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, sexual differentiation, growth, etc.); and causes of death.
Book 3 consists of two parts on maintaining good health. The first part contains seven discourses, of which the first treats the atmosphere, environments for human life, weather and its effects, and seasons and seasonal diseases. The second discourse is on water, its kinds, testing and filtering, and bathing; the third is on food, the nutritional properties of different types (cereals, meats, seasonings, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, wild herbs, sugary substances, and oils), methods of preservation, and effects of diet on temperament. In the fourth book alcoholic drinks, their medical aspects and harmful effects, reasons for preferring those made from grapes to other kinds, characteristics of some other drinks, the incidence and degrees of drunkenness and its prevention, the etiquette of drinking wine, and methods of making various kinds of wine are treated. The fifth book is devoted to sleep, its nature and function, and treatment of insomnia, the sixth to physical exercise, its necessity and side effects. The final book of the first part is devoted to the choice of clothing and merits and demerits of various perfumes and cosmetics. The first discourse of the seven included in the second part is devoted to the need for emetics, purgatives, and phlebotomy; causes and types of vomiting, its effects, and means of inducing and preventing it; use of laxatives and means of preventing diarrhea; a list of laxative and purgative drugs, their composition, and advice on prescription; phlebotomy and the associated implements and procedures, cupping, and use of leeches; normal evacuation through urination, perspiration, expectoration, defecation, and sexual intercourse; and enemas and suppositories. In the second disorders of the temperament and different types of distemper are treated, in the third emotions and their effects on the body. In the fourth discourse the causes and effects of numbness, spasm, itch, vertigo, excessive flow of fluid from the eyes and nose, excessive perspiration, fatigue, exhaustion, craving or revulsion for particular foods, and various kinds of swelling are treated. Childbirth and infant health, birth and care of the infant child, choosing a wet nurse, lactation deficiencies, weaning, teething, and diseases of young children and their treatment are covered in the fifth discourse. In the sixth the diseases and treatment of old people, their temperaments, and appropriate diet are covered. Finally, in the seventh proper precautions, diets, and drugs for travel by land and sea are discussed, as well as treatment for sunstroke, frostbite, and exhaustion from walking.
Book 4 contains four discourses on diagnosis. The first three deal respectively with diagnosis of diseases, changes in the patient’s physical condition, and indications of crises. The fourth discourse is devoted to diagnosis of illness through careful observation of the patient’s mental state, complexion, temperature, defecation, and urine and examination of ears, mouth, nose, throat, skin, and other organs; physical changes in a dying person; and detailed description of the causes of sudden death in apparently healthy people.
Book 5, consisting of six discourses, is entirely given over to a discussion of fevers. The first discourse is devoted to causes, climaxes, and declines of types of fever; the second to sudden fevers, physical and psychic causes, and treatment; the third to causes and treatments of infectious fevers; the fourth to hectic fevers and wabāʾ (see cholera) and their treatment; the fifth to smallpox and measles; and the sixth to causes and prevention of recurrent illness and care of patients during convalescence.
Book 6 includes twenty-one discourses on diseases of particular parts of the body.
The seven discourses of Book 7 are devoted to diseases not specific to parts of the body: the first to swellings, inflammations, and skin diseases; the second to such cold swellings as tumors, cancers, and scrofula; the third to purulent scratches and burns; the fourth to leprosy; the fifth to wounds and hemorrhages; the sixth to cauterization in the treatment of certain diseases; and the seventh to setting broken bones and dislocations.
In Book 8 three discourses are devoted to the exterior health of the body, the first to causes and prevention of hair loss, treatment of dandruff, and methods of dyeing hair; the second to care of the skin, gum in the eyes, sunburn, types of leprosy, foul-smelling sweat, chilblains, and the like; and the third to causes of emaciation and obesity, reducing or fattening particular parts of the body, and care of the nails.
Book 9 contains five discourses on poisoning. In the first discourse various poisons and dangerous drugs, as well as diagnosis and treatment of poisoning are treated. The second is devoted to treatment of snakebites and other poisonous bites, the third to different species of poisonous snakes and their venom. In the fourth treatment of bites by humans, dogs, wolves, and the like is discussed and in the fifth treatment of insect bites.
After Book 9 there is a section in which Jorjānī apologized for his long delay in bringing out the Ḏaḵīra, caused by his responsibilities as a practicing physician and his appointment by Qoṭb-al-Dīn to head the court pharmacy, as well as by his own concern that the book be comprehensive. His failure to treat the properties of simple drugs he explained by the absence of books containing adequate descriptions; sufficient knowledge could thus be acquired only through personal observation and oral tradition, and he did not have time to travel collecting herbs and consulting experts. He therefore decided to describe only such common drugs as aperients and emetics, as well as some foods known to be beneficial or harmful during illness. As for compound drugs, every physician had his own formulas, and there were too many varieties to include.
Book 10, described as a supplement (tatemma) follows; in most manuscripts it is entitled Ketāb-e qarāfādīn (Book on compound drugs). Whether it was added soon after the completion of Book 9 or many years later is not known. In the first discourse medical aspects of excreta and living tissue, human saliva, milk, urine, feces, and semen, as well as animal marrow, blood, fat, and flesh, are discussed; the material is arranged alphabetically by the names of animals. The first part of the second discourse contains a list of specific drugs, including poultices, ointments, gargles, enemas, and remedies for delirium and jaundice; they are generally herbal (leaves, seeds, and flowers of various plants) and are classified in thirty-eight sections by names of diseases. The second part, in thirty-one sections, is devoted to preparing compound drugs; Jorjānī claimed to have used formulas from Greek, Indian, and Persian physicians and pharmacists.
Beside various editions of the first two books, see ʿA.-A. Saʿīdī Sīrjānī, ed., Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976, esp. pp. 2-3, 646, 652.
(ʿAlī-Akbar Saʿīdī Sīrjānī)
Originally Published: December 15, 1993
Last Updated: November 11, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 609-610