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Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi محمد زکریای رازی (according to al-Biruni, born in Rayy, Iran in the year 251/865.; died in Rayy, Iran, 313/925), was a versatile Persian Philosopher (hakim), who made fundamental and lasting contributions to the fields of medicine, chemistry (alchemy) and philosophy. He is also known as Al-Razi, Ar-Razi, and Ibn Zakaria (Zakariya); or (in Latin) as Rhazes and Rasis.

Al-Razi had no organized system of philosophy, but compared to his time he must be reckoned as the most vigorous and liberal thinker in Islam and perhaps in the whole history of human thought. He was a pure rationalist, extremely confident in the power of reason, free from every kind of prejudice, and very daring in the expression of his ideas without reserve. He believed in man, in progress, and in God the Wise, but in no religion whatever.

He is credited with, among other things, the discovery of sulfuric acid, the "work horse" of modern chemistry and chemical engineering; and also of ethanol (in addition to its refinement) and its use in medicine.

Razi was a prolific writer, writing 184 books and articles in several fields of science. According to historian Ibn an-Nadim, Razi distinguished himself as the best physician of his time who had fully absorbed Greek medical learning. He traveled in many lands and rendered service to many princes and rulers. As a medical educator, he attracted many students of all levels. He was said to be compassionate, kind, upright, and devoted to the service of his patients, whether rich or poor.

The Razi Institute near Tehran, Iran was named after him (of course around one thousand years later). Razi Day (Pharmacy Day) is commemorated in Iran every August 27.



In Persian, Razi means "from the city of Rayy (also spelled RAY, REY, or RAI, old Persian RAGHA, Latin RHAGAE, formerly one of the great cities of World)" near Tehran, Iran, where he was born and (like Avicenna) did much of his work. Like many other Islamic figures who were Iranian he is often but incorrectly said to be an Arab in Western literature, despite the fact that he was Iranian.

In his early life, he was a jeweller (Baihaqi), money-changer (ibn abi Usaibi'ah), or more likely a lute-player (ibn Juljul, Sa'id, ibn Khallikan, Usaibi'ah, al-Safadi) who first left music for alchemy, and then at the age of thirty or (as Safadi says) after forty left alchemy because his experiments in it gave him some eye disease (al-Biruni), which obliged him to search for doctors and medicine. That was the reason, they (al-Birflni, Baihaqi and others) say, he studied medicine. He was very studious and worked day and night. His master was 'Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari (al-Qifti, Usaibi'ah), a doctor and philosopher, who was born in Merv about 192/808.and died some years after 240/855. With ibn Rabban al-Tabari he studied medicine and perhaps also philosophy. It is possible to trace back al-Razi's interest in religious philosophy to his master, whose father was a rabbinist versed in the Scriptures.

Al-Razi became famous in his native city as a doctor. Therefore, he directed the hospital of Rayy (ibn Juljul, al-Qifti, ibn abi Usaibi'ah), in the times of Mansur ibn Ishaq ibn Ahmad ibn Asad who was the Governor of Rayy from 290-296/902-908 in the name of his cousin Ahmad ibn Isma'il ibn Ahmad, second Samanian ruler. It is to this Mansur ibn Ishaq ibn Ahmad that Razi dedicated his al-Tibb al-Mansuri, as it is attested by a manuscript4 of this book, as against ibn al-Nadim's assumption, repeated by al-Qifti and ibn abi Usaibi'ah, that this Mansur was Mansur ibn Isma'il who died in 365/975. From Rayy al-Razi went to Baghdad during the Caliph Muktafi's time (r. 289/901-295/907) and there too directed a hospital.

It seems that after al-Muktafi's death (295/907) al-Razi came back to Rayy. Here gathered round him many students. As ibn al-Nadim relates in Fihrist, al-Razi was then a Shaikh "with a big head similar to a sack"; he used to be surrounded by circle after circle of students. If someone came to ask something in science, the question was put to those of the first circle; if they did not know the answer, it passed on to those of the second, and so on till it came to al-Razi himself if all others failed to give the answer. Of these students we know at least the name of one, i.e., abu Bakr ibn Qarin al-Razi who became a doctor. Al-Razi was generous, humane towards his patients, and charitable to the poor, so that he used to give them full treatment without charging any fee, and even stipends. When not occupied with pupils or patients he was always writing and studying.

It seems that this was the reason for the gradual weakening of his sight that finally brought blindness to his eyes. Some say that the reason for his blindness was that he used to eat too much of broad beans (baqilah). It began with cataract which ended in complete blindness. They say that he refused to be treated for cataract saying that he "had seen so much of the world that he was fed up." But this seems to be more of an anecdote than a historical fact. It was one of his pupils from Tabaristan that came to treat him, but, as al-Biruni says, he refused to be treated saying that it was useless as his hour of death was approaching. Some days after, he died in Rayy, on the 5th of Sha'ban 313/27th of October 925."

Al-Razi's Masters and Opponents.

We have already mentioned that al-Razi studied medicine under 'Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari. Ibn al-Nadim says that he studied philosophy under al-Balkhi. This al-BalkM, according to ibn al-Nadim, had travelled much, and knew philosophy and ancient sciences well. Some even say that al-Razi attributed to himself some of al-Balkhi's books on philosophy. We know nothing else about this al-Balkhi, not even his full name.

Al-Razi's opponents, on the contrary, are known better. They were the following:

1. Abu al-Qasim al-BalkM, chief of the Mu'tazilah of Baghdad (d. 319/931), was a contemporary of al-Razi; he composed many refutations of al-Razi's books, especially his 'Ilm al-Ilahi.He had controversies with him especially on time.

2. Shuhaid ibn al-Husain al-Balkhi, with whom al-Razi had many contro versies; one of these controversies was on the theory of pleasure. His theory of pleasure is expounded in his Tafdll Ladhdhat al-Nafs from which abu Sulaiman al-Mantiqi al-Sijistani gives some extracts in Siwan al-Hikmah. Al-Balkhi died before 329/940.

3. Abu Hatim al-Razi, the most important of all his opponents (d. 322/933-934) and one of the greatest Isma'ili missionaries. He reproduced controversies between him and al-Razi in his A'lam al-Nubuwwah. Thanks to this book, al-Razi's ideas about prophets and religion are preserved for us.

4. Ibn al-Tammar, whom Kraus believes to be perhaps abu Bakr Husain al-Tammar.He was a physician and had some controversies with al-Razi as is reported by abu Hatim al-Razi in A'lam al-Nubuwwah. Ibn al-Tammar refuted al-Razi's al-Tibb al-Ruhani and al-Razi answered this refutation. In fact, al-Razi wrote two refutations:

(a) refutation of al-Tammar's refutation of Misma'i concerning matter;

(b) refutation of al-Tammar's opinion on the atmosphere of subterranean habitations.

5. Those of whom we know from the titles of the books written by al-Razi:

(a) al-Misma'i, a Mutakallim who had written against the materialists and against whom al-Razi wrote a treatise;

(b) Jarir the doctor who had a theory about the eating of black mulberry after water-melon;

(c) al-Hasan ibn Mubarik al-Ummi, to whom al-Razi wrote two epistles;

(d) al-Kayyal, a Mutakallim, against whose theory of the Imam, al-Razi wrote a book;

(e) Mansur ibn Talhah, who wrote a book on "Being" refuted by al-Razi;

(f) Muhammad ibn al-Laith al-Rasa'ili whose writing against alchemists was answered by al-Razi.

6. Ahmad ibn al-Tayyib al-Sarakhasi (d. 286/899), an elder contemporary of al-Razi. Al-Razi refuted him on the question of bitter taste; al-Razi refuted also his master, Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, who had written against the alchemists.

7. We should add to all those known by names many others who were refuted by al-Razi, especially the Mu'tazilah and different Mutakallimin.

Contributions to medicine

Smallpox vs. measles

As chief physician at the Baghdad hospital Razi formulated the first known description of smallpox:

"Smallpox appears when the blood boils and infected so that extra vapors may be driven out to turn childhood blood, which looks like wet extracts, into youth blood, which looks like ripe wine. Essentially, smallpox is like the bubbles found in wine at this time ... this disease might also be present apart from such times. The best thing to do at such times is to avoid it, that is, when the disease is seen to become epidemic."

This is acknowledged by the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911), which states: "The most trustworthy statements as to the early existence of the disease are found in an account by the 9th-century Arabian physician Rhazes, by whom its symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoral or fermentation theory, and directions given for its treatment.".

Written by Razi, the al-Judari wa al-Hasbah was the first book on smallpox, and was translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and its Hippocratic reliance on clinical observation show Razi's medical methods:

"The eruption of the smallpox is preceded by a continued fever, pain in the back, itching in the nose and terrors in the sleep. These are the more peculiar symptoms of its approach, especially a pain in the back with fever; then also a pricking which the patient feels all over his body; a fullness of the face, which at times comes and goes; an inflamed color, and vehement redness in both cheeks; a redness of both the eyes, heaviness of the whole body; great uneasiness, the symptoms of which are stretching and yawning; a pain in the throat and chest, with slight difficulty in breathing and cough; a dryness of the breath, thick spittle and hoarseness of the voice; pain and heaviness of the head; inquietude, nausea and anxiety; (with this difference that the inquietude, nausea and anxiety are more frequent in the measles than in the smallpox; while on the other hand, the pain in the back is more peculiar to the smallpox than to the measles) heat of the whole body; an inflamed colon, and shining redness, especially an intense redness of the gums."

Razi was the first to observe smallpox and measles. He also was the first to distinguish the difference between them.

Allergies and fever

Razi is known to have discovered allergic asthma, and was the first person to have ever written an article on allergy and immunology. In the Sense of Smelling he explains the occurrence of rhinitis when smelling a rose in the spring ("An Article on the Reason Why Abou Zayd Balkhi Suffers from Rhinitis When Smelling Roses in Spring"). In this article he talks of seasonal rhinitis, which is the same as allergic asthma or hay fever. Razi was also the first to realize that fever was a natural defense mechanism, the body's way of fighting disease.


Rhazes contributed to the early practice of pharmacy by compiling texts, but also in various other ways. Examples are the introduction of mercurial ointments, and the development of apparatus like mortars, flasks, spatulas and phials, as used in pharmacies until the early twentieth century.

Ethics of medicine

On the professional level, Razi introduced many useful, progressive, medical and psychological ideas. He also attacked charlatans and fake doctors who roamed the cities and the countryside selling their nostrums and 'cures'. At the same time, he warned that even highly educated doctors did not have the answers for all medical problems and could not cure all sicknesses or heal every disease. Humanly speaking, this is an impossibility. Nonetheless, to be more useful in their services and truer to their calling, Razi exhorted practitioners to keep up with advanced knowledge by continually studying medical books and exposing themselves to new information. He distinguished between curable and incurable diseases. On the latter, he cited advanced cases of cancer and leprosy which the doctor should not be blamed for if uncured. Then, on the humorous side, Razi pitied physicians caring for the well being of princes, nobility, and women, for they did not obey doctor's orders for restricted diet and medical treatment, thus making most difficult the task of being their doctor.

Books and articles on medicine

  • The Virtuous Life (al-Hawi).
This monumental medical encyclopedia in nine volumes — known in Europe also as The Large Comprehensive or Continens Liber — contains considerations and criticism on the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, and expresses innovative views on many subjects. Because of this book alone, many scholars consider Razi the greatest medical doctor of the Middle Ages.
The al-Hawi is not a formal medical encyclopaedia, but a posthumous compilation of Razi's working notebooks, which included knowledge gathered from other books as well as original observations on diseases and therapies, based on his own clinical experience. It is significant since it contains a celebrated monograph on smallpox, the earliest one known. It was translated into Latin in 1279 by Faraj ben Salim, a physician of Sicilian-Jewish origin employed by Charles of Anjou, and from then on had considerable influence in Europe.
  • A medical advisor for the general public (Man la Yahduruhu Tab)
Razi was possibly the first Islamic doctor to deliberately write a home medical manual (remedial) directed at the general public. He dedicated it to the poor, the traveler, and the ordinary citizen who could consult it for treatment of common ailments when a doctor was not available. This book, of course, is of special interest to the history of pharmacy since books on the same theme continued to be popular until the 20th century. In its 36 chapters, Razi described diets and drugs that can be found practically everywhere in apothecary shops, in the market place, in well-equipped kitchens, and in military camps. Thus, any intelligent mature person can follow its instructions and prepare the right recipes for good results.
Some of the illnesses treated are headaches, colds, coughing, melancholy, and diseases of the eye, ear, and stomach. In a feverish headache, for example, he prescribed, "two parts of duhn (oily extract) of rose, to be mixed with one part of vinegar, in which a piece of linen cloth is dipped and compressed on the forehead". For a laxative, he recommended "seven drams of dried violet flowers with twenty pears, macerated and well mixed, then strained. To the filtrate, twenty drams of sugar are to be added for a draft". In cases of melancholy, he invariably recommended prescriptions including either poppies or their juices (opium) or clover fodder (Curcuma epithymum) or both. For an eye remedy, he recommended myrrh, saffron, and frankincense, two drams each, to be mixed with one dram of yellow arsenic and made into tablets. When used each tablet was to be dissolved in a sufficient quantity of coriander water and used as eye drops.
  • Doubts About Galen (Shukuk 'ala alinusor)
Rhazes's independent mind is strikingly revealed in this book. As quoted from G. Stolyarov II:
"In the manner of numerous Greek thinkers, including Socrates and Aristotle, Rhazes rejected the mind-body dichotomy and pioneered the concept of mental health and self-esteem as essential to a patient's welfare. This "sound mind, healthy body" connection prompted him to frequently communicate with his patients on a friendly level, encouraging them to heed his advice as a path to their recovery and bolstering their fortitude and determination to resist the illness and swiftly convalesce."
In Doubts about Galen, Razi rejects several claims of the Greek doctor, from the alleged superiority of the Greek language to many of his cosmological and medical views. He places medicine within philosophy, inferring that sound practice demands independent thinking. His own clinical records, he reports, do not confirm Galen's descriptions of the course of a fever. And in some cases he finds that his clinical experience exceeds Galen's.
He also criticized Galen's theory that the body was possessed by four separate "humors", liquid substances whose balance was the key to health and normal temperature; and that the sole means of upsetting such a system was to introduce into the organism a liquid of a different temperature, which would bring about an increase or decrease in bodily heat identical to the temperature of the particular fluid. In particular, Razi noted that a warm drink may heat the body to a degree much hotter than its own. Thus the drink must trigger a response from the body, rather than simply communicating its own warmth or coldness to it. (I. E. Goodman)
This line of criticism had the potential, in time, to bring down the whole of Galen's Theory of Humours, and the Aristotelian scheme of the Four Elements, on which it was grounded. Razi's alchemical experiments suggested other qualities of matter, such as "oiliness" and "sulphurousness", or inflammability and salinity, which were not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth, and air schematism.
Razi's challenge to the current fundaments of medical theory was quite controversial. Many accused him of ignorance and arrogance, even though he repeatedly expressed praises and gratitude to Galen for his commendable contributions and labors, saying:
"I prayed to God to direct and lead me to the truth in writing this book. It grieves me to oppose and criticize the man Galen from whose sea of knowledge I have drawn much. Indeed, he is the master and I am the disciple. But all this reverence and appreciation will and should not prevent me from doubting, as I did, what is erroneous among his theories. I imagine and feel deep in my heart that Galen has chosen me to undertake this task, and if he was alive, he would have congratulated me on what I am doing. I say this because Galen's aim was to seek and find the truth and to bring light out of darkness. Indeed I wish he was alive to read what I have published."
Thereafter, Razi, with a view to vindicate Galen's greatness and to justify his criticism of him, lists four reasons why great men make more errors than lesser ones:
  1. Negligence, as a result of too much self confidence.
  2. Unmindfulness (indifference) which often leads to errors.
  3. Temptation to follow one's own fancy or impetuosity in imagining that what he does or says is right.
  4. Crystallization of ancient knowledge, and refusal to accept that new data and new ideas mean that present day knowledge must of necessity surpass that of previous generations.
Razi believed that contemporary scientists and scholars, because of accumulated knowledge at their disposal are, by far, better equipped, more knowledgeable, and more competent than the ancients. Razi's attempt to overthrow blind reverence and the unchallenged authority of ancient sages encouraged and stimulated research and advances in the arts, technology, and the sciences.

Books on medicine

This is a partial list of Razi's books and articles in medicine, according to Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah. Some books may have been copied or printed under different names.

  • The Large Comprehensive (al-Hawi, al-Hawi al-Kabir) Also known as The Virtuous Life, The Continent, Continens Liber
  • An Introduction to Medical Science (Isbateh Elmeh Pezeshki)
  • Dar Amadi bar Elmeh Pezeshki
  • Rade Manaategha 'tibb jahez
  • Rade Naghzotibbeh Nashi
  • The Experimentation of Medical Science and its Application
  • Guidance
  • Kenash
  • The Classification of Diseases
  • Royal Medicine
  • For One Without a Doctor
  • The Book of Simple Medicine
  • The Great Book of Krabadin
  • The Little Book of Krabadin
  • The Book of Taj or The Book of the Crown
  • The Book of Disasters
  • Food and its Harmfulness
  • The Book of Smallpox and Measles
  • Ketab dar Padid Amadaneh Sangrizeh (Stones in the Kidney and Bladder)
  • Ketabeh Dardeh Roodeha
  • Ketab dar Dard Paay va Dardeh Peyvandhayyeh Andam
  • Ketab dar Falej
  • The Book of Tooth Aches
  • Dar Hey'ateh Kabed
  • Dar Hey'ateh Ghalb (About Heart Ache)
  • About the Nature of Doctors
  • About the Earwhole
  • Dar Rag Zadan
  • Seydeh neh/sidneh
  • Ketabeh Ibdal
  • Food For Patients
  • Soodhayeh Serkangabin
  • Darmanhayeh Abneh
  • The Book of Surgical Instruments
  • The Book on Oil
  • Fruits Before and After Lunch
  • Book on Medical Discussion (with Jarir Tabib)
  • Book on Medical Discussion II (with Abu Feiz)
  • About the Menstrual Cycle
  • Ghi Kardan
  • Snow and Medicine
  • Snow and Thirst
  • The Foot
  • Fatal Diseases
  • About Poisoning
  • Hunger
  • Soil in Medicine
  • The Thirst of Fish
  • Sleep Sweating
  • Warmth in Clothing
  • Spring and Disease
  • Misconceptions of a Doctors Capabilities
  • The Social Role of Doctors


Razi's notable books and articles on medicine (in English) include:

  • The Book for the Elite (Mofid al Khavas)
  • The Book of Experiences
  • The Cause of the Death of Most Animals because of Poisonous Winds
  • The Physicians' Experiments
  • The Person Who Has No Access to Physicians
  • The Big Pharmacology
  • The Small Pharmacology
  • Gout
  • The Doubt on Galen (Al Shakook ala Jalinoos)
  • Kidney and Bladder Stones


The Transmutation of Metals

Razi's interest in alchemy and his strong belief in the possibility of transmutation of lesser metals to silver and gold was attested half a century after his death by Ibn an-Nadim's book (The Philosophers Stone). Nadim attributed a series of twelve books to al-Razi, then seven more, including his refutation to al-Kindi's denial of the validity of alchemy. Last come Razi's two best-known alchemical texts, which largely superseded his earlier ones: al-Asrar("The Secrets"), and Sirr al-Asrar ("The Secret of Secrets"), which incorporates much of the previous work.

Apparently Razi's contemporaries believed that he had the secret of turning iron and copper into gold. Biographer Khosro Moetazed reports in Mohammad Zakaria Razi that a certain General Simjur confronted Razi in public, and asked whether that was the reason for his willingness to treat patients without charging. "It appeared to those present that Razi was reluctant to answer; he looked obliquely at the general and replied:

"I understand alchemy and I have been working on the characteristic properties of metals for an extended time. However, it still has not turned out to be evident to me, how one can transmute gold from copper. Despite the research from the furthermost scientists that have undergone in the past centuries, there has been no reply. I very much doubt if it is possible..."

Chemical instruments and substances

Razi developed several chemical instruments that remain in use to this day. Rhazes is known to have perfected methods of distillation and extraction. This work led to his discovery of sulfuric acid (from the dry distillation of vitriol) and alcohol. These discoveries paved the way for the work of other Islamic alchemists, such as the discovery of several other mineral acids by Jabir Ibn Hayyam (known as Geber in Europe).


Razi's alchemy, like his medical thinking, struggles within the cocoon of hylomorphism. It dismisses the idea of potions and dispenses with an appeal to magic, if magic means reliance on symbols as causes.

But Razi does not reject the idea that there are wonders in the sense of unexplained phenomena in nature. His alchemical stockroom, accordingly, is enriched with the products of Persian mining and manufacture, and the Chinese discovery, sal ammoniac. Still reliant on the idea of dominant forms or essences and thus on the Neoplatonic conception of causality as inherently intellectual rather than mechanical, Razi's alchemy nonetheless brings to the fore such empiric qualities as salinity and inflammability-the latter ascribed to 'oiliness' and 'sulphurousness'. Such properties are not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth and air schematism, as al-hazali and other later comers, primed by thoughts like Razi's, were quick to note.

Major works on alchemy

  • The Secret (Al-Asrar)
This book was written in response to a request from Razi's close friend, colleague, and former student, Abu Mohammed b. Yunis of Bukhara, a Muslim mathematician, philosopher, and a natural scientist of good stature In Sirr al-Asrar, Razi divides his subject matter into three categories as he did in his book al-Asrar.
  1. Knowledge and identification of drugs from plant, animal, and mineral origins and the choicest type of each for utilization in treatment.
  2. Knowledge of equipment and tools used, which are of interest to both the alchemist and the apothecary.
  3. Knowledge of the seven alchemical procedures and techniques such as sublimation and condensation of mercury, precipitation of sulfur and arsenic calcination of minerals (gold, silver, copper, lead, and iron), salts, glass, talc, shells, and waxing.
This last category contains, in addition, a description of other methods and applications used in transmutation: the admixture and uses of solvent vehicles, the amount of heat (fire) used, 'bodies and stones' that can or cannot be transformed into corporal substances of metals at Id salts, and the liquid mordant that quickly and permanently colors lesser metals for better sales and profits.
Similar to the discussion on the third/ninth-century text on amalgams ascribed to Jabir, Razi describes methods and procedures or coloring (gold leafing) a silver object to imitate gold. Also described is the reverse technique for removing the color and returning it to silver. Gilding and silvering of other metals (alum, calcium salts, iron, copper, and tutty) are also described, as well as how colors will stay for years without tarnishing or changing. The procedures involved no deceptive motive, but rather technical and economic deliberations. This is evident from the author's quotation of market prices and the technical triumph of artisan, craftsman, or alchemist in declaring the results of their efforts so that "it will look exactly like gold!". There was, however, another similar motive involved, namely, to manufacture something to resemble gold for easy sale to help a good friend who happen to be in need of quick money. It could be due to this trend in Razi's alchemical technique for silvering and gilding of metal that many Muslim biographers concluded that he was first a jeweler before he turned to alchemy.
Of interest in the text is Razi's classification of minerals into six divisions, giving his discussion a modern chemical connotation:
  1. Four spirits: mercury, sal ammoniac, sulfur, and arsenic.
  2. Seven bodies; silver, gold, copper, iron, black lead (plumbago), zinc, and tin.
  3. Thirteen stones including marcasite, magnesia, malachite, tutty, talcum, lapis lazuli, gypsum, and glass (then identified as made of sand and alkali of which the transparent crystal Damascene is considered the best).
  4. Seven vitriols including alum, and white, black, red, and yellow vitriols (the impure sulfates of iron, copper, etc.).
  5. Seven borates including the tinkar, natron, and impure sodium borate.
  6. Eleven salts including brine, common (table) salt, ashes, naphtha, live lime, and urine, rock, and sea salts. Then he separately defines and describes each of these substances and their choicest kinds and colors and possible adulterations.
Concerning the tools and equipment of the alchemist, Razi classifies them into two kinds:
  1. Utensils used for the dissolving and melting of bodies such as the furnace, bellows, crucible, holder (tongue or ladle), macerator, pot, stirring rod, cutter, and grinder.
  2. Utensils used to carry out the operation of transmutation, such as the retort, alembic, receiver, other parts of the distilling apparatus, oven (stove), cups, bottles, jars, pans, and blowers.
  • Secret of Secrets (Sirr Al-asrar)
This is Razi's most famous book which has gained a lot of recognition in the West. Here he gives systematic attention to basic chemical operations important to the history of pharmacy.

Books on alchemy

Here is a list of Razi's known books on alchemy, mostly in Persian:

  • Modkhele Taalimi
  • Elaleh Ma'aaden
  • Isbaate Sanaa'at
  • Ketabeh Sang
  • Ketabe Tadbir
  • Ketabe Aksir
  • Ketabe Sharafe Sanaa'at
  • Ketabe Tartib, Ketabe Rahat, The Simple Book
  • Ketabe Tadabir
  • Ketabe Shavahed
  • Ketabe Azmayeshe Zar va Sim (Experimentation on Gold)
  • Ketabe Serre Hakimaan
  • Ketabe Serr (The Book of Secrets)
  • Ketabe Serre Serr (The Secret of Secrets)
  • The First Book on Experiments
  • The Second Book on Experiments
  • Resaale'ei Be Faan
  • Arezooyeh Arezookhah
  • A letter to Vazir Ghasem ben Abidellah
  • Ketabe Tabvib


On existence

Razi believed that the competent physician must also be a philosopher well versed in the fundamental questions regarding existence:

"He proclaimed the absolutism of Euclidean space and mechanical time as the commonsense basis for the world in which men lived, but resolved the dilemma of existent infinities by synthesizing this outlook with the atomic theory of Democritus, which recognized that matter existed in the form of indivisible and fathomable quanta. The continuity of space, however, holds due to the existence of void, or a region lacking matter... This is remarkably close to the systems yielded by the discoveries of such later European scientists as John Dalton and Max Planck, as well as the observational and theoretical works of modern astronomer Halton Arp and Objectivist philosopher Michael Miller. Progress, in the view of all these men, is not to be obstructed by a jumble of haphazard and contradictory relativistic assertions which result in metaphysical hodge-podge instead of a sturdy intellectual base. Even in regard to the task of the philosopher, Rhazes considered it to be progressing beyond the level of one's teachers, expanding the accuracy and scope of one's doctrine, and individually elevating oneself onto a higher intellectual plane." (G. Stolyarov II)

Razi is known to be a free-thinking Islamic philosopher, since he was well-trained in the Greek sciences. He was also well versed in the musical theory, as were many other Islamic scientists of the time, although his approach in chemistry was naturalistic.


His ideas on metaphysics were also based on the works of the great Greeks:

"The metaphysical doctrine of al-Razi, insofar as it can be reconstructed, derives from his concept of the five eternal principles. God, for him, does not 'create' the world from nothing but rather arranges a universe out of pre-existing principles. His account of the soul features a mythic origin of the world in which God out of pity fashions a physical playground for the soul in response to its own desires; the soul, once fallen into the new realm God has made for it, requires God's further gift of intellect in order to find its way once more to salvation and freedom. In this scheme, intellect does not appear as a separate principle but is rather a later grace of God to the soul; the soul becomes intelligent, possessed of reason and therefore able to discern the relative value of the other four principles. Whereas the five principles are eternal, intellect as such is apparently not. Such a doctrine of intellect is sharply at odds with that of all of Razi's philosophical contemporaries, who are in general either adherents of some form of Neoplatonism or of Aristotelianism. The remaining three principles, space, matter and time, serve as the non-animate components of the natural world. Space is defined by the relationship between the individual particles of matter, or atoms, and the void that surrounds them. The greater the density of material atoms, the heavier and more solid the resulting object; conversely, the larger the portion of void, the lighter and less solid. Time and matter have both an absolute, unqualified form and a limited form. Thus there is an absolute matter - pure extent - that does not depend in any way on place, just as there is a time, in this sense, that is not defined or limited by motion. The absolute time of al-Razi is, like matter, infinite; it thus transcends the time which Aristotle confined to the measurement of motion. Razi, in the cases of both time and matter, knew well how he differed from Aristotle and also fully accepted and intended the consequences inherent in his anti-Peripatetic positions." (Paul E. Walker)

It is quite evident that most of his thoughts derived from Islam, this is demonstrated clearly in his writing of The Metaphysics.

Excerpt from The Philosophical Approach

"In short, so far while I am writing the present book, I have written around 200 books and articles on different aspects of science, philosophy, theology, and hekmat (wisdom)... I was never at the service of any king as a military man or a man of office, and if I ever did have a conversation with a king, it never went beyond my medical responsibility and advice ... those who have seen me know that I have never gone to excess in eating, drinking, and doing blamed things, as for my interest in science, people know well and have witnessed how I have devoted all my life to science since my youth ... and my patience and persistence in the pursuit of science have been to such extent that about only one special matter I have written 20,000 pages in small letters, and I spent fifteen years of my life—day and night—writing the big collection entitled Al Havi, and during this time, I lost my eyesight, my hand got paralyzed, and thus, now I am deprived of reading and writing as a result. Nonetheless, I never gave up, but kept on reading and writing with the help of others instead. Practically speaking, I can make concessions to my enemies and admit my shortcomings, but I wonder what they would say scientifically. If they find my approach defective, they can put forward their views and make their points clear so that I may study them. If I found their views right, I would admit it, and if I found them wrong, I could discuss the matter and prove my case. However, if this is not the case, and if they merely disagree with my approach and my way of life, I hope they would make use of my knowledge and not interfere with my attitude."
"In his book "Philosophical Biography", he defended his personal biography and the philosopher's life and he laid out a framework based on the idea that there is life after death containing happiness or misery. Thus, rather than being self-indulgent, man should seek knowledge, utilise his intellect and apply justice. According to Al-Razi, "This is what our merciful Creator wanted to whom we pray for reward and whose punishment we fear." In brief, man should be kind, gentle and just. Al-Razi believed that there is a close relationship between spiritual integrity and physical health ... Al-Razi does not forget to try to make the soul avoid distress due to death. He states that this psychological symptom cannot be avoided completely without the individual being convinced that, after death, the soul will lead a better life. This subject needs a detailed study of doctrines and religions. He focuses on the opinion of those who think that the soul perishes if the body perishes. As a result, fear of death has no basis in the mind. Death, undoubtedly, is inevitable. So, the person who continuously thinks about death is distressed and time after time will feel as if he is dying whenever he thinks about it. Therefore, he should forget it in order to avoid upsetting himself. Thinking about his destiny after death, the benevolent and good man who performs the ordinances of the Islamic Shari`ah should not fear because he is promised comfort and permanent bliss in the Hereafter. As for the one who doubts the Shari`ah, he can only contemplate. If he spares no effort in this, he will not deviate from the right way. If he deviates, Allah will excuse him and forgive his sins because he is not requested to do something that he cannot bear." (Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Hadi Abu Reidah)

Books on philosophy

This is a partial list of Razi's books on philosophy. Some books may have been copied or published under different titles.

  • The Small Book on Theism
  • Response to Abu'al'Qasem Braw
  • The Greater Book on Theism
  • Modern Philosophy
  • Dar Roshan Sakhtane Eshtebaah
  • Dar Enteghaade Mo'tazlian
  • Delsoozi Bar Motekaleman
  • Meydaneh Kherad
  • Khasel
  • Resaaleyeh Rahnamayeh Fehrest
  • Ghasideyeh Ilaahi
  • Dar Alet Afarineshe Darandegan
  • Shakkook
  • Naghseh Ketabe Tadbir
  • Naghsnamehyeh Ferforius
  • Do name be Hasanebne Moharebe Ghomi

Notable Books (in English): Spiritual Medicine, The Philosophical Approach (Al Syrat al Falsafiah), and The Metaphysics

Quotes from Rhazes

"Let your first thought be to strengthen the natural vitality."
"Truth in medicine is an unattainable goal, and the art as described in books is far beneath the knowledge of an experienced and thoughtful physician."

Asked if a philosopher can follow a prophetically revealed religion, al-Razi openly retorts:

"How can anyone think philosophically while committed to those old wives' tales, founded on contradictions, obdurate ignorance, and dogmatism?"

"gentility of character, and nicety and purity of mind, are found in those who are capable of thinking deeply about abstruse matters and scientific minutiae."

"Man should hasten to protect himself from love before succumbing and wean his soul from it if he falls."

"The self-admirer, generally, should not glorify himself nor be so conceited that he elevates himself above his counterparts. Neither should he belittle himself to the extent that he becomes inferior to his counterparts or to those who are inferior both to him and to his counterparts in the sight of others. If he follows this advice, he will be free of self-admiration and feelings of inferiority, and people would call him the one who truly knows himself."

When asked of envy, Razi retorts: "It results from the gathering of niggardliness and avarice in the soul." "one of the diseases that cause grave harm to the soul."

Quotes on Rhazes

"Rhazes was the greatest physician of Islam and the Medieval Ages." – George Sarton
"Rhazes remained up to the 17th century the indisputable authority of medicine." – The Islamic Encyclopaedia
"His writings on smallpox and measles show originality and accuracy, and his essay on infectious diseases was the first scientific treatise on the subject." – The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (May 1970)
"In today's world we tend to see scientific advance as the product of great movements, massive grant-funded projects, and larger-than-life socio-economic forces. It is easy to forget, therefore, that many contributions stemmed from the individual efforts of scholars like Rhazes. Indeed, pharmacy can trace much of its historical foundations to the singular achievements of this ninth-century Persian scholar." — Michael E. Flannery

See also: List of Persian scientists

References and further reading

  • M. M. SHARIF , A History of Muslim Philosophy
  • I recommends all to refer to this book:

Paul Kraus, Opera Philosophica

The only edition of al-Razi's philosophical books and fragments, still extant, is the one by Paul Kraus: "Abi Bakr Mohammadi Filii Zachariae Raghensis," Opera Philosophica, fragmentaque quae superssunt. Collegit et edidit Paulus Kraus. Pars Prior. Cahirae MCMXXXIX. Only the first volume was published; suicide prevented P. Kraus from publishing the second volume for which he had collected a good deal of material. This material was transferred, after Kraus' death, to the Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale, in Cairo. It remains to be published.

  • Walker, P. (1992) "The Political Implications of al-Razi's Philosophy", in C. Butterworth (ed.) The Political Aspects of Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 61-94.
  • Motazed, K. Mohammad Zakaria Razi
  • Stolyarov II, H. (2002) "Rhazes: The Thinking Western Physician", in: The Rational Argumentator, Issue VI. [1] (


A. Ancient Sources

Ibn al-Nadim, Fihrist, ed. Flugel, pp. 299 et sqq.;'Sa'id al-Andalusi, Tabaqat al- Umam, p. 33; ibn Juljul, Tabaqat al-Atibba w-al-Hukama', ed. Fu'ad Sayyid, Cairo, 1355/1936, pp. 77-78; al-Biruni, Epitre de Beruni, contenant le repertoire des ouvryesde Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi, publiee par P. Kraus, Paris, 1936; al- Baihaqi, Tatimmah Siwan al-Hikmah, ed. M. ghafi', Lahore, 1351/1932; al-Qifti, Tarikh al-Hukama', ed. Lippert, pp. 27-177; ibn abi Usaibi'ah, 'Uyun al-Anba' fi Tabaqat al-Atibba', Vol. I, pp. 309-21; abu al-Faraj ibn al-'Ibri (Bar-Hebraeus), Mukhtasar Tarikh al-Duwal, ed. A. Salhani, p. 291; ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-A'yan, ed. Muhyi al-Din 'Abd al-Hamid, Cairo, 1948, No. 678, pp. 244-47; al-Safadi, Nakt al-Himyan, pp. 249-50; ibn al-'Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab, Vol. II, p. 263; al- 'Umari, Masalik al-Absar, Vol. V, Part 2, ff. 301-03 (photostat copy in Dar al- Kutub al-Misriyyah).

B. Modern Studies

G..S. A. Ranking, "The Life and Works of Rhazes," in Proceedings of the Seventeenth International Congress of Medicine, London, 1913, pp. 237-68; J. Ruska, "Al- Biruni als Quelle fur das Leben und die Schriften al-Razi's," Isis, Vol. V, 1924, pp. 26-50; "Al-Razi als Bahnbrecher einer neuer Chemie," Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 1923, pp. 118-24, "Die Alchemie al-Razi's," Der Islam, Vol. XXII, pp. 283-319; "Uber den gegenwartigen Stand der Razi-Forschung," Archivio di stori della scienza, 1924, Vol. V, pp. 335-47; H. H. Shader, ZDMG, 79, pp. 228-35 (see translation into Arabic by Abdurrahman Badawi in "al-Insan al-Kamil," Islamica, Vol. XI, Cairo, 1950, pp. 37-44); E. O. von Lippmann, Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie, Vol. II, p. 181; S. Pines, "Die Atomenlehre ar-RSzi's" in Beitrdge zur islamischen Atomenlehre, Berlin, 1936, pp. 34-93; Dr. Mahmud al- Najmabadi, Sharh Hal Muhammad ibn Zakariya, 1318/1900; Encyclopaedie des Islams, s. v. (by Ruska); Gamil Bek, 'Uqud al-Jauliar, Vol. I, pp. 118-27; Izmirli Haqqi, Ilahiyat, Fak. Macm., Vol. I, p. 151; Vol. II, p. 36; Vol. Ill, pp. 177 et sqq.; Abdurrahman Badawi, "Min Tarlkh al-Ilhad fi al-Islam," Islamica, Vol. II, Cairo, 1945, pp. 198-228; Hirschberg, Geschichte der Augenheilkunde, p. 101; E. G. Browne, Arabian Medicine, Cambridge, 1921, pp. 44-53; M. Meyerhof, Legacy of Islam, pp. 323 etsqq.; F. Wustenfeld, Geschichte der Arabischen Arzte und Nalurforscher, n. 98; L. Leelerc, Histoire de la medicine arabe, Paris, 1876, Vol. I, pp. 337-54; H. P. J. Renaud, "A propos du millenaire de Razes," in bulletin de la societe irancaise d'Histoire de la medicine, Mars-avril, 1931, pp. 203 et sqq.; A. Eisen, "Kimiya al-Razi," RAAD, DIB, 62/4; Aldo Mieli, La science arabe, Leiden, 1938, pp. 8, 16.

C. Editions of Philosophical Works

For the manuscript of al-Razi's extant books in general, see Brockelmann, GAL, I, pp. 268-71 (second edition), Suppl., Vol. I, pp. 418-21. The only edition of al-Razi's philosophical books and fragments, still extant, is the one by Paul Kraus: "Abi Bakr Mohammadi Filii Zachariae Raghensis," Opera Philosophica, fragmentaque quae superssunt. Collegit et edidit Paulus Kraus. Pars Prior. Cahirae MCMXXXIX. Only the first volume was published; suicide prevented P. Kraus from publishing the second volume for which he had collected a good deal of material. This material was transferred, after Kraus' death, to the Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale, in Cairo. It remains to be published.

See also

External links

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