Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari (Persian: علی ابن سهل ربان طبری) (c. 838 – c. 870 CE; also given as 810–855 or 808–864 also 783–858), was a Persian Muslim hakim, scholar, physician and psychologist, who produced one of the first encyclopedia of medicine. His stature, however, was eclipsed by his more famous pupil, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (“Rhazes”).
Ali came from a Persian or Syriac family of Merv but moved to Tabaristan (hence al-Tabari – “from Tabaristan”). Hossein Nasr states that he was a convert from Zoroastrianism, however Sami K. Hamarneh states he was a convert from Christianity. His father Sahl ibn Bishr was a state official, highly educated and well respected member of the Syriac community.
The Abbassid caliph Al-Mu’tasim (833–842) took him into the service of the court, which he continued under Al-Mutawakkil (847–861). Ali ibn Sahl was fluent in Syriac and Greek, the two sources for the medical tradition of antiquity, and versed in fine calligraphy.
- His Firdous al-Hikmah (“Paradise of Wisdom”), which he wrote in Arabic called also Al-Kunnash was a system of medicine in seven parts. He also translated it into Syriac, to give it wider usefulness. The information in Firdous al-Hikmah has never entered common circulation in the West because it was not edited until the 20th century, when Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui assembled an edition using the five surviving partial manuscripts. There is still no English translation. A German translation by Alfred Siggel of the chapters on Indian medicine was published in 1951.
- Tuhfat al-Muluk (“The King’s Present”)
- a work on the proper use of food, drink, and medicines.
- Hafzh al-Sihhah (“The Proper Care of Health”), following Greek and Indian authorities.
- Kitab al-Ruqa (“Book of Magic or Amulets”)
- Kitab fi al-hijamah (“Treatise on Cupping”)
- Kitab fi Tartib al-‘Ardhiyah (“Treatise on the Preparation of Food”)
On the Quran he said: “When I was a Christian I used to say, as did an uncle of mine who was one of the learned and eloquent men, that eloquence is not one of the signs of prophethood because it is common to all the peoples; but when I discarded (blind) imitation and (old) customs and gave up adhering to (mere) habit and training and reflected upon the meanings of the Qur’an I came to know that what the followers of the Qur’an claimed for it was true. The fact is that I have not found any book, be it by an Arab or a Persian, an Indian or a Greek, right from the beginning of the world up to now, which contains at the same time praises of God, belief in the prophets and apostles, exhortations to good, everlasting deeds, command to do good and prohibition against doing evil, inspiration to the desire of paradise and to avoidance of hell-fire as this Qur’an does. So when a person brings to us a book of such qualities, which inspires such reverence and sweetness in the hearts and which has achieved such an everlasting success and he is (at the same time) an illiterate person who did never learnt the art of writing or rhetoric, that book is without any doubt one of the signs of his Prophethood.”
Firdous al-Hikmah is one of the oldest encyclopedias of Islamic medicine, based on Syriac translations of Greek sources (Hippocrates, Galen Dioscorides, and others).It is divided into 7 sections and 30 parts, with 360 chapters in total.