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Catalogue: Prophetic Medicine

Blue arrow pointing to the right A Note on al-ibb al-nabawī   (MS A 79; MS A 32)
(Prophetic Medicine)
الطب النبوى
by Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muammad ibn Amad ibn ‘Uthmān al-Dhahabī (d. 1348/748)
ابو عبد الله محمد ابن احمد ابن عثمان الذهبى

The treatise on prophetic medicine by al-Dhahabī, an adherent of the Shafi‘i school of jurisprudence, apparently circulated in two versions: a short and a long format. NLM has copies of both versions (MS A 79 and MS A 32). The basic treatise in both versions is divided into three chapters (fanns): on general principles, on drugs and foodstuffs, and on the therapy of diseases. The shorter version lacks the final section on listening to music that is found in the longer versions, and the chapter on smallpox and measles occurs earlier than in the longer version.

The treatise has been wrongly attributed to a later writer on prophetic medicine, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūī, also of the Shafi‘i school of law. A preserved copy with an owner's note dated 793 H [= 1391], however, precludes the treatise having been composed by al-Suyuti, who died in 1505/911 (see Ahlwardt, Berlin, vol. 5, entry no. 6298, MS We. 1200). Most extant manuscript copies are either anonymous or give the author as Dā’ūd ibn Abi al-Faraj (Berlin, MS We. 1200 and NLM MS A 79) or simply as Dā’ūd al-hakim ('Dā’ūd the doctor') as in one of the NLM manuscripts (MS A 32).

The incorrect attribution occurred primarily because Cyril Elgood translated the treatise into English under the name of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūī, though he stated that the manuscript used for his translation was attributed to one Abū Sulayman; see Cyril Elgood, '-ul-Nabbi or Medicine of the Prophet: Being a Translation of Two Works of the Same Name. I: The ibb-ul-Nabbi of al-Suyūī. II: The ibb-ul-Nabbi of Mahmud bin Mohamed al-Chaghayni, together with Introduction, Notes and a Glossary', Osiris, vol. 14 (1962), pp. 33-192. An earlier French translation by A. Perron, La médecine du prophète (Paris: Bailliere, 1860), was also attributed to al-Suyuti, even though the manuscript used by Perron gave the author as Jalal-ul-Din abu Sulayman Dawud. Elgood's translation has been recently edited and re-published, again under al-Suyuti's name: As-Suyūī's Medicine of the Prophet (London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1994). Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūī did in fact compose a treatise on prophetic medicine, but a different one, and NLM has an important copy of al-Suyūī's treatise (MS A 41).

The attribution of this treatise to al-Dhahabī is based on the fact that one copy now in the Bodleian library, Oxford, specifies the author as al-Dhahabī, and the fact that the text corresponds to that printed in the margins of Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abī Bakr al-Azraq's Tashil al-manafi fī al-tibb wa-al-hikmah (Cairo, 1887, p. 2-185) and in a later edition (Cairo, 1948, p. 2-203), where it is ascribed to Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muammad ibn Amad ibn ‘Uthmān al-Dhahabī. It was also lithographed by itself under al-Dhahabī's name (Cairo: n.p. 1870; the rare copy now in the British Library is incorrectly catalogued under al-Suyūī's name). The attribution to al-Dhahabī seems reasonable, given the beginning of the treatise.

The longer version is represented by NLM MS A 79, which is an anonymous Syrian/Egyptian copy made in 1464/868, while the short version is found in NLM MS A 32, was copied in 1550/957 by the copyist Amad ibn Muammad Ismā‘īl al-Ghazzī, known as al-Balmūfī and attributed to Dā’ūd.

For other copies of the longer version, see Berlin MS We. 1200 (Ahlwardt, Berlin entry no. 6298, attributed to Dā’ūd ibn Abi al-Faraj al-mutatabbib, with owner's noted dated Jumadá II 793 [= May-June 1391]) and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Oriental Collections MS Arab. d. 148, which is anonymous.

For other copies of the shorter version of this treatise, see Oxford, Bodleian Library, Oriental Collections, MS Marsh 89, where no author is given, and Berlin MS We. 1199 (Ahlwardt, Berlin, entry no. 6297) where it is attributed toJalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūī.

For copies whose version has not been determined, see New Haven, Yale University, Beineke Library, Arabic MS 537, undated, possibly 19th century copy, attributed to Dā’ūd ibn Abi al-Faraj (uncatalogued); Damascus, Dar al-Kutub al-Zahiriyah, MS 4590 giving al-Dhahabī as the author (see S.K. Hamarneh, Fihris makhtutat Dar al-Kutub al-Zahiriyah: al-tibb wa-al-saydalah, Damascus, 1968 pp. 508-9); and Salah al-Din Munajjid, 'Masadir jadidah ‘an ta'rikh al-ibb ‘inda al-‘arab,' Revue de l'Institut de Manuscrits Arabes, vol. 5 (1959), pp. 229-348, esp. p. 298, where four manuscripts in Cairo are listed and one in Baghdad, under the name of al-Dhahabī.

Printed editions: In the margins of Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abī Bakr al-Azraq's Tashil al-manafi fī al-ibb wa-al-hikmah (Cairo, 1887/1304, p. 2-185) and in a later edition (Cairo, 1948/1367, p. 2-203. It is not known what manuscript formed the basis of this printed edition. It was also lithographed by itself under al-Dhahabī's name (Cairo: n.p. 1870; the rare copy now in the British Library is incorrectly catalogued under al-Suyūī's name).

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