In the very heart of the city of Hamedan there is an elliptic, beautiful square that holds a magnificent and sky-high mausoleum. The bulk of the square is loaded with colorful flowers and tall trees that stretch up to the heavens.
The mausoleum belongs to Avicenna (Hojjat-ol-Haq Sheikh-ol-Rais) the great Iranian philosopher, scholar and physician (980-1037 CE).
The towering dome of mausoleum that can be seen from every corner of the square is supported by extremely high stony columns. It is a needle tower that shows the scholarly figure of Avicenna.
On the other side of the square, Avicenna’s colossal statue is observable that creates a respectful sensation in observers because, as a man of genius, he was the preeminent philosopher and physician of the Muslim world, flourishing during the Islamic Golden Age, serving in the courts of various Iranian rulers, and he is often described as the father of early modern medicine. It is a title bestowed upon him by Europeans, and some historians have likened him to Aristotle.
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 CE.
Avicenna created an extensive body of work during what is commonly known as the Islamic Golden Age, in which the translations of Byzantine Greco-Roman, Persian and Indian texts were studied extensively. He wrote most of his philosophical and scientific works in Arabic, but also wrote several key works in Persian. Besides philosophy and medicine, Avicenna’s work includes writings on astronomy, alchemy, geography and geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics and poetry.
In Avicenna’s time, the Samanid dynasty in eastern Iran and the Buyid dynasty in western Iran provided a thriving atmosphere for scholarly and cultural development. Avicenna had access to the great libraries of Balkh, Khwarazm, Gorgan, Rey and Hamedan.
Due to his intelligence, he was first schooled in the Qur’an and literature and, by the age of 10, he had memorized the entire Qur’an. He was later sent by his father to an Indian greengrocer, who taught him arithmetic. Afterwards, he was schooled in jurisprudence and sometime later Avicenna’s father invited the physician Abu Abdallah al-Natili to their house to educate Avicenna. After Avicenna had read the Almagest of Ptolemy and Euclid’s Elements, Natili told him to continue his research.
By the time Avicenna was 17, he was well-educated in Greek sciences.
He was employed as the head of the royal library in the Samanid court. At this time, some of his adversaries were concerned about his genius, and an accusing finger was pointed at him constantly, especially when the library caught fire and, unexpectedly, in the dead of night a conflagration consumed the whole library and the flames spread to all parts within minutes of ignition and everything was badly damaged. All of his malevolent rivals imputed this ruination to him because they strongly believed that Avicenna had memorized all of the books, and now he had set a light to the library to prevent other scholars from using it.
His professional status in treating pains and illnesses was so significant that many biographers believe that the emergence of the new medical era began with the nullification of Avicenna’s era.
At the age of 17, Avicenna cured Nuh II, a Samanid prince who suffered from hallucination, a form of psychiatric disorder. The prince dreamed up that he had transformed into a bull, mooing like the animal.
All physicians did their best to cure the prince, but it didn’t come to anything. Ultimately, they begged Avicenna for help. He examined the mentally-ill prince and noticed that his poor diet had led to his illness. So, by feeding him a good diet, he nursed him back to health.
Among a wide circle of his devotees and students, Avicenna’s friendship with Abu Ubayd al-Juzjani was a significant event in his life because he remained as a constant assistant and a bosom friend. He encouraged Avicenna to write many of his treatises and collected many of his works.
Avicenna lived in continual escape from the hands of cruel sultans during his entire life. Because they were showing open hostility towards his ideas and philosophy.
It is a well-known story regarding Avicenna and his three constant companions escaping from the claws of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni’s agents, as he was sentenced to life imprisonment because of his scientific beliefs.
In spite of his perpetual escape, he wrote most of his works on horseback. He drafted 450 books, about 240 of which have survived, including 150 on Islamic philosophy and 40 on medicine.
Avicenna went to the city of Rey, where he entered into the service of Majd al-Dawla, a Buyid ruler to work as a court physician. During this period, he finished his ‘Canon of Medicine’, and started writing his ‘Book of Healing’.
In 1037, while Avicenna was accompanying Ala al-Dawla to a battle near Isfahan, he was hit by a severe colic, from which he had been constantly suffering throughout his life. He died shortly thereafter in Hamedan, where he was buried.