Ibn Sina (Persian: ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (ابوعلی سینا), Pur Sina (پورسینا), and often known in the west as Avicenna (/ˌævɪˈsɛnə, ˌɑːvɪ-/; c. 980 – June 1037) was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, and the father of early modern medicine. Avicenna is also called “the most influential philosopher of the pre-modern era”. He was a peripatetic philosopher influenced by Aristotelian philosophy. Of the 450 works he is believed to have written, around 240 have survived, including 150 on philosophy and 40 on medicine.
His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia which became a standard medical text at many medieval universities and remained in use as late as 1650.
Besides philosophy and medicine, Avicenna’s corpus includes writings on astronomy, alchemy, geography and geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics and works of poetry.
Avicenna was born c. 980 in Afshana, a village near Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan), the capital of the Samanids, a Persian dynasty in Central Asia and Greater Khorasan. His mother, named Sitāra, was from Bukhara; While, according to most scholars, most of Avicenna’s family were Sunnis, his father, Abdullāh, was a respected scholar from Balkh who converted to Ismailism. It was an important town of the Samanid Empire, in what is today Balkh Province, Afghanistan. His father worked in the government of Samanid in the village Kharmasain, a Sunni regional power. After five years, his younger brother, Mahmoud, was born. Avicenna first began to learn the Quran and literature in such a way that when he was ten years old he had essentially learned all of them.
According to his autobiography, Avicenna had memorised the entire Quran by the age of 10. He learned Indian arithmetic from an Indian greengrocer, Mahmoud Massahi and he began to learn more from a wandering scholar who gained a livelihood by curing the sick and teaching the young. He also studied Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) under the Sunni Hanafi scholar Ismail al-Zahid. Avicenna was taught some extent of philosophy books such as Introduction (Isagoge)’s Porphyry (philosopher), Euclid’s Elements, Ptolemy’s Almagest by an unpopular philosopher, Abu Abdullah Nateli, who claimed philosophizing.
As a teenager, he was greatly troubled by the Metaphysics of Aristotle, which he could not understand until he read al-Farabi’s commentary on the work. For the next year and a half, he studied philosophy, in which he encountered greater obstacles. In such moments of baffled inquiry, he would leave his books, perform the requisite ablutions, then go to the mosque, and continue in prayer till light broke on his difficulties. Deep into the night, he would continue his studies, and even in his dreams problems would pursue him and work out their solution. Forty times, it is said, he read through the Metaphysics of Aristotle, till the words were imprinted on his memory; but their meaning was hopelessly obscure to him until he purchased a brief commentary by al-Farabi from a bookstall for three dirhams (a very low price at the time). So great was his joy at the discovery, made with the help of a work from which he had expected only mystery, that he hastened to return thanks to God, and bestowed alms upon the poor.
He turned to medicine at 16, and not only learned medical theory, but also by gratuitous attendance of the sick had, according to his own account, discovered new methods of treatment. The teenager achieved full status as a qualified physician at age 18, and found that “Medicine is no hard and thorny science, like mathematics and metaphysics, so I soon made great progress; I became an excellent doctor and began to treat patients, using approved remedies.” The youthful physician’s fame spread quickly, and he treated many patients without asking for payment.