EBN HENDŪ, ABU’L-FARAJ ʿALĪ b. Ḥosayn, also known as Ostāḏ (b. in Ṭabarestān, no later than the early 350s/960s; d. in or after 422/1031), author of, inter alia, propaedeutic epistles on philosophy and medicine and of a gnomology of Greek wisdom, and generally renowned as a litterateur. Of Qomī origin (Ebn Esfandīār, p. 125, tr. Browne, pp. 54, 77f., n. 5) or of “ancient” Rāzī stock (Yāqūt, Odabāʾ V, pp. 168 f.), Ebn Hendū came from a family in the secretarial profession; he can be said to be a representative of the well-educated scribal class so prominent during the ʿAbbasid period.

To his contemporaries, and consequently to later authors as well, Ebn Hendū was perhaps better known as a poet, wit, and Buyid courtier than as a scholar, as witnessed by Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī (Emtāʿ I, p. 63, II, p. 135), Ṯaʿālebī (Ḵāṣṣ al-ḵāṣsá, p. 167; Yatīma, Damascus, III, pp. 212-14; Tatemma I, pp. 155-65), Bīrūnī (pp. 113, 132), Bāḵarzī (Domya, pp. 113 ff.). Of his early career not much is known; if there is no confusion between him and an elder Ebn Hendū, he was employed in ʿAżod-al-Dawla’s dīvān (Abū ʿAlī Tanūḵī apud Yāqūt, Odabāʾ V, pp. 168 f.) and sojourned in Baghdad during the years 373-75/984-86 (Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī, Emtāʿ I, p. 63, II, 135). At Ray, he is said to have reaped great benefits as a member of the poetic coterie around the Ṣāḥeb Esmāʿīl b. ʿAbbād (d. 385/995; Cahen and Pellat; cf. Kraemer, p. 312; Ṯaʿālebī, Yatīma III, pp. 394-96). Probably, he stayed at Ray during the regency of Majd-al-Dawla’s mother “Sayyeda” (d. 405/1014; Bayhaqī, p. 87). At one point he paid his respects to Faḵr-al-Molk the vizier in Baghdad (400-06/1009-15[?]; Yāqūt, Odabāʾ V, pp. 169 f.). During the second decade of the century, he served as secretary in Gorgān, where he probably dedicated a panegyric to the Ziyarid Manūčehr b. Qābūs (r. 403-20/1012-29), only to lampoon him for miserliness when his reward fell short of his expectations. In consequence, he had to slip away to Nīšāpūr (ibid., pp. 168, 172). In the philosophical disciplines and, especially, in medicine, Ebn Hendū’s teachers were Ebn Ḵammār in Nīšāpūr and, reportedly, Ḥasan ʿĀmerī (Ebn Hendū apud Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, I, p. 323; Kotobī, II, p. 13).

In his writings, Ebn Hendū highlights the literary and intellectual environment of philosophy and science, particularly medicine, rather than contributing to these disciplines in a highly technical, “academic” fashion. His best known work in medicine is the introductory Meftāḥ al-ṭebb, in which he sets forth the theoretical principles of medicine in ten sections; according to the preface, he composed it in response to the wishes of medical scholars among his colleagues who had much appreciated his previous introduction to philosophy (Dietrich, pp. 198-202, no. 92, with quotations; cf. Ullmann, pp. 65ff.; Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 140-50). An issue hotly debated at the time is reflected in the author’s argument against pious bigotry and for the validity of medicine (apud Bayhaqī, pp. 86f.; Ebn Abī ʿOṣaybeʿa, I, pp. 323; cf. Kraemer, p. 124). The work is important not least for its discussion of the late pre-Islamic Alexandrian Galenists and of their activity as editors and redactors of sixteen Galenian treatises for the purposes of medical instruction (Dietrich, pp. 200 f.; cf. Ebn Abī ʿOṣaybeʿa, I, pp. 108-09).

Ebn Hendū’s interest in philosophy—here taken with some latitude—manifested itself in [al-Maqāla/al-Resāla] al-Mošawweqa fi’l-madḵal elā ʿelm al-falsafa, a propaedeutic tract. Excerpts, moltaqaṭāt, are extant in MS Rampur 2845 (Kraemer, p. 111, n. 22). However, his major extant philosophical work is the ‘Graeco-Arabic’ gnomologium, al-Kalem al-rūḥānīya men al-ḥekam al-yūnānīya (ed. Qabbānī, Cairo 1318/1900; Ebn Abī ʿOṣaybeʿa, apud Gutas, p. 41). Bayhaqī lists two more philosophical titles, Ketāb al-nafs and Onmūd¨aj al-ḥekma, unless the latter is a mere variant of al-Kalem (pp. 85-88, no. 46, esp. p. 86). The epistle to Abū ʿAlī Rostam b. Šīrzād, which aimed at easy accessibility and understandability (ʿalā sabīl al-taqrīb wa’l tafhīm), would suggest a scholarly subject as well (ms. preserved in Tehran; see Brockelmann, GAL, S I, pp. 425 f.). His treatise on nafs, presumably Aristotelian psychology, has not been preserved (title in Bayhaqī, p. 86). With the exception of indirectly transmitted fragments, Ebn Hendū’s further works appear to be lost as well.

Ebn Hendū’s wide reputation in Persia is attested by manuscripts of his works preserved in Persian libraries and by the authors here called upon. However, express quotations in Persian medical treatises appear to be rare (cf. Richter-Bernburg, p. 204).


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Sources: Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAlī Bāḵarzī, Domyat al-qaṣr wa ʿoṣrat ahl al-ʿaṣr, ed. M. R. Ṭabbāḵ, Aleppo, 1348/1930.

Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī, Aḵlāq al-wazīrayn, ed. M. Ṭanjī, Damascus, 1965.

Idem, al-Emtāʿ wa’l-moʾānasa, eds. A. Amīn and A. Zayn, 3 vols., Cairo, 1939-44.

Idem, al-Ṣadāqa wa’l-ṣadīq, ed. E. Kaylānī, Damascus 1964.

ʿAlī b. Zayd Bayhaqī (Ebn Fondoq), Tatemmat ṣewān al-ḥekma, ed. M. Shafīʿ, Lahore, 135/1932.

Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-jamāher fī maʿrefat al-jawāher, ed. F. Krenkow, Hyderabad, Deccan, 1355/1936.

Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, ed. ʿEmraʾ-al-Qays b. al-Ṭaḥḥān [i.e., August Müller], Cairo, 1299/1882; Königsberg, 1884.

Ebn Hendū, Meftāḥ al-ṭebb wa menhāj al-ṭollāb, ed. M. Moḥaqqeq and M.-T. Dānešpažūh, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

Moḥammad b. Šāker Kotobī, Fawāt al-wafayāt, ed. E. ʿAbbās, 5 vols., Beirut, 1973-74.

Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd Šahrazūrī, Rawżat al-afrāḥ wa nozhat al-arwāhá, Hyderabad, 1396/1976.

Ṯaʿālebī, Ḵāṣṣ al-ḵāṣsá, n. p., 1326/1909.

Idem, Tatemmat al-Yatīma, ed. M. M. Qomayma, Beirut, 1403/1983.

Studies: C. Cahen and Ch. Pellat, “Ibn ʿAbbād” in EI ² III, pp. 671-73.

A. Dietrich, Medicinalia Arabica. Studien über arabische medizinische Handschriften in türkischen und syrischen Bibliotheken, Abh. der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, 3rd ser. 30, Göttingen, 1962.

D. Gutas, Greek Wisdom Literature in Arabic Translation, New Haven, 1975. “Ibn Hindū” in EI ² III, p. 800 (confuses Abū Moḥammad and Abu’l-Faraj b. Hendū).

“Ebn-e Hendū” in DMBE V, pp. 124-27.

J. L. Kraemer, Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam, 2nd ed., Leiden etc., 1992.

L. Richter-Bernburg, Persian Medical Manuscripts at the University of California, Los Angeles, Humana Civilitas 4, Malibu, Calif., 1978.

M. Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam, Leiden and Cologne, 1970.

(Lutz Richter-Bernburg)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

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Vol. VIII, Fasc. 1, pp. 29-30