HEDĀYAT AL-MOTAʿALLEMIN FI’L-ṬEBB, the complete title of the oldest extant treatise on medicine written in Persia, which is also commonly referred to simply as Ketāb-e Hedāyat. Although it is not known exactly when the author Abu Bakr Rabiʿ ebn Ah-ámad Aḵawayni Boḵāri lived, he appears to have written the book before 373/983-4 (Minovi, Yaḡmā 3/12, 1950, pp. 497-510). Aḵawayni was the student of Abu’l-Qāsem Maqāneʿi Rāzi, who himself studied under Moḥammad b. Zakariā Rāzi (d. 313/925 or 323/935; Aḵawayni, p. 303). He apparently composed the Hedā-yat at the request of his son, who did not know Arabic, as a “light and simple” text (p. 14). Although this work, which was based on Rāzi’s principles of medicine, appeared before the more famous Qānun of Ebn Sinā (Avicenna, d. 428/1037; q.v.), the Hedāyat did not become obsolete in subsequent centuries. Neẓāmi ʿArużi (fl. 1110-61) mentions it as an intermediate medical text that every physician ought to study thoroughly under a professor’s tutelage (Neẓāmi ʿArużi, pp. 109-10). The author of Mujaz-e kommi also cites the Hedāyat as one of the sources of his work, several times ranking Aḵa-wayni’s ideas on medicine alongside those of celebrated, contemporary clinicians (fols. 264b, 272b, 280b, 295b).

The Hedāyat is divided into three major parts and two hundred sub-sections. Aḵawayni describes his twenty-three years of experience as a clinician, during which he tested the views of his predecessors with his own experiments. While he points out their errors several times, he also freely admits when his own experimental treatments fail. Aḵawayni relates that due to his own success in treating melancholy, he is known as the “physician to the insane.” His innovations in the treatment of diseases and the understanding of medical issues are also remarkable. For example, he invented around ten chemical remedies, which he lists by their names, and he also fashioned an instrument for force-feeding the sick out of a bull horn.

Besides being of major important for the history of medicine in Iran, the Hedāyat is exceptionally valuable as a Persian text. A work which perfectly exemplifies the simple and expressive prose style of the Samanid period, the Hedāyat is also valuable on account of the Persian medical terminology that Aḵawayni has translated from Arabic. The author’s pioneering efforts in this respect preceded those of the more celebrated Abu Rayháān Biruni and Ebn Sinā.

See also AḴAWAYNI.



Aḵawayni, Hedāyat al-motaʿallemin fi’l-ṭebb, ed. Jalāl Matini, Tehran, 1965.

Neẓāmi ʿArużi, Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Moʾin, Tehran, 1954.

Jalāl Matini, “Mujaz-e kommi,” Haftād sālagi-e Farroḵ, ed. M. Minovi, Tehran, 1965, pp. 165-79.

Mojtabā Minovi, Yaḡmā 3/12, 1950, pp. 497-510.

(Jalal Matini)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

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