Abu Ali al Husain ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan ibn Ali ibn Sina – which became Europeanized into AVICENNA, was born in August 980 (safar 370 AH) in a village near Bukhara called Kharmaithan (The Land of the Sun) where his father was an administrator.
His father was from Balkh. It was an important commercial and political metropolis, and an intellectual and religious capital.
The name of his mother was Setarah ( a pure Persian word meaning star) and she came from the village of Afshanah.
“My father” says Avicenna “ was one of those who had responded to the invitation of the Fatimids, and was counted amongst the Isma’ilis. ‘ His teacher was Nateli, who was engaged by his father to teach young Avicenna philosophy, and the lessons started with EISAGOGE of Porphry, followed by EUCLID, ALMAGEST of Ptolemy. By the age of sixteen he has mastered many books.
An interesting episode in the life of Avicenna is narrated by his biographer and pupil Juzani that it was a book by Farabi brought from a street vendor, that helped him in understanding the Metaphysics of Aristotle, which he had previously read 40 times over to get an inkling of the subject.
Avicenna was greatly influenced by the works of Abu Nasr Al Farabi (d 339AH /950-951) who came to be regarded as the ‘second teacher’ (Aristotle being the first) He was a Turk born in Transoxiana. Farabi was greatly influenced by the Greek philosophers, Aristotle, Ammonius, Themistius, Porphyry.
KINDI was another ‘falasifa’ whose works were known to Avicenna. Kindi’s Therory of Soul is derived from PHADEO – a book deeply appreciated by Islamic thinkers. Kindi was inspired by the personality of Socrates.
The work which was known as Theology of Aristotle, was in fact parts of ENNEADS of Plotinus (Book IV-VI) This was translated by Ibn Naima and Kindi helped him in polishing up Arabic. Thus the philosophy of Plotinus greatly affected the thinking of Muslim philosophers, although it was wrongly ascribed to Aristotle.
KITAB al FIHRIST composed in 987 gives us valuable information about the extent to which Greek learning was rendered in Arabic. Source book for almost all our knowledge of the works, written and translated from Syriac, Greek, Persian and Indian. HUNAIN (d: 873) was a great translator of Greek and Syriac books. He also had a good command of the Persian language.
Contemporaries of Avicenna :
BERUNI (d: 1048) was a contemporary of Avicenna, had correspondence with him, and was closely associated with Avicenna’s associates and fellow philosophers. Beruni’s 27 works have survived. Of the two outstanding intellectual figures of the 10th Century and beginning of 11th Century, Beruni chose science and scholarship, and Avicenna, medicine and philosophy.
Both of them shared a total lack of racial prejudice, a broad humanity, a fearless devotion to truth, an insatiable intellectual curiosity, as well as physical restlessness, that kept them continuously on the move.
IBN –AL – KHAMMAR was a Christian, his father was a wine merchant and hence his name. He was the author of many medical works and became known as ‘ the second Hippocrates’ He lived to a good old age and became Muslim towards the end of his life.
Avicenna had a high opinion of him, and in one place says : ‘ may God grant us to meet him, either to benefit from him, or to benefit him’
ABU SAHL-AL-MASIHI (the Christian) was another physician – philosopher who was bought up and educated in Baghdad. Among his famous work was a compendium called “The Hundred” which became a manual for medicine used all over Persia. He became very intimate with Avicenna.
NASIR KHOSROW (d: 1061) was another famous contemporary, but much younger. He was born in Balkh. A gifted poet, his extensive travels took him to Egypt, where he was converted to the Ismaili heterodoxy
Avicenna wrote mostly in Arabic and it was more lucid than that of Kindi and Farabi. He wrote a number of books and Rasa’ils, herein below are some of his famous works.
At the age of 21 at Bukhara he wrote his first book - Majmu (Compedium)
2. Al Hasil wa al Mahsul ( the Import and the Substance ) 20 volumes
3. al Bisr wa al Ithm (Good works and Evil) a book on Ethics, which he presented to his neighbour, a jurist, and never made a copy of it.
4. al-Mukhtasar – al – Awsat ( The Middle Summary) dictated to Juzani and written at Gurgan.
5. al- Mabda wa al – Ma’ad (The Beginning and the Return) written at Gurgan.
6. al- Arsad al – Kulliyah (The General Observation ) dedicated to his benefactor.
7. The first part of his famous al Qanun (The Canon) his chief medical work was started in Gurgan, thereafter he left for Raiy.
8. Kitab al – Shifa (The Book of Healing)
9. Kitab al- Hidaya (The Book of Guidance)
10. Kitab al – Najat ( the Book of Deliverance) is an abridgment of Shifa
11. Kitab al – Insaf (The book of Equitable Judgment)
Book Refrence : AVICENNA - His Life and Works
SOHEIL M AFNAN - PHD: CANTAB