Great Ancient Arab and Persian Poets, Philosophers and Polymaths


Ibn Roshd (Averroes): Abu l-Walid Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Rud, better known just as Ibn Rushd, and in European literature as Averroes; b. April 14, 1126 December 10, 1198), was an Andalusian Muslim polymath ; a master of Aristotelian philosophy , Islamic philosophy , Islamic theology , Maliki law and jurisprudence , logic , psychology , politics , Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine , astronomy , geography , mathematics , physics and celestial mechanics . He was born in Córdoba , Al Andalus , modern-day Spain , and died in Marrakesh , Morocco. His school of philosophy is known as Averroism .

Ibn Rushd was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against claims from the influential Islamic theologian Ghazali who attacked philosophy so it would not become an affront to the teachings of Islam.

Ibn Sina : Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā (Persian پور سينا Pur-e Sina [ˈpuːr ˈsiːnɑː] "son of Sina"; c. 980 – 1037), commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. In particular, 150 of his surviving treatises concentrate on philosophy and 40 of them concentrate on medicine.

His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia, and The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many medieval universities. The Canon of Medicine was used as a text-book in the universities of Montpellier and Leuven as late as 1650. Ibn Sīnā's Canon of Medicine provides a complete system of medicine according to the principles of Galen (and Hippocrates).

His corpus also includes writing on philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics, as well as poetry. He is regarded as the most famous and influential polymath of the Islamic Golden Age.

Al Ghazali: Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (1058 – 1111; Persian: ابو حامد محمد ابن محمد الغزالی‎), known as Al-Ghazali or Algazel to the Western medieval world, was a Persian Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic.

Ghazali has sometimes been referred to by historians as the single most influential Muslim after the Islamic prophet Muhammad.Others have cited his movement from science to faith as a detriment to Islamic scientific progress. Besides his work that successfully changed the course of Islamic philosophy—the early Islamic Neoplatonism developed on the grounds of Hellenistic philosophy, for example, was so successfully refuted by Ghazali that it never recovered—he also brought the orthodox Islam of his time in close contact with Sufism. The orthodox theologians still went their own way, and so did the mystics, but both developed a sense of mutual appreciation which ensured that no sweeping condemnation could be made by one for the practices of the other.

Al Farabi : Al-Farabi (Arabic: ابونصر محمد بن محمد فارابی‎‎ / Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Fārābī; for other recorded variants of his name see below) known in the West as Alpharabius (c. 872 in Fārāb – b. between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951 in Damascus), was a renowned scientist and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age. He was also a cosmologist, logician, and musician.

Through his commentaries and treatises, Al-Farabi became well known among medieval Muslim intellectuals as "The Second Teacher", that is, the successor to Aristotle, "The First Teacher".

Ibn Khaldoun: Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun (full name, Arabic: أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي‎, Abū Zayd ‘Abdu r-Raḥmān bin Muḥammad bin Khaldūn Al-Ḥaḍrami, May 27, 1332 AD/732 AH – March 19, 1406 AD/808 AH) was a Muslim historiographer and historian who is often viewed as one of the fathers of modern historiography, sociology and economics.

He is best known for his Muqaddimah (known as Prolegomenon in English), which was discovered, evaluated and fully appreciated first by 19th century European scholarship, although it has also had considerable influence on 17th-century Ottoman historians like Ḥajjī Khalīfa and Mustafa Naima who relied on his theories to analyze the growth and decline of the Ottoman empire. Later in the 19th century, Western scholars recognized him as one of the greatest philosophers to come out of the Muslim world.

Al Mutannabi (Poet) : Abu at-Tayyib Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Mutanabbi (Arabic: أبو الطيب أحمد بن الحسين المتنبّي Abū aṭ-Ṭayyib ʾAḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Mutanabbī‎) ‎ (915 – 23 September 965) was an Arab from the Arabian peninsula but was born within the modern-day boundaries of Iraq, which was then part of the Abbasid caliphate. He is considered as one of the greatest poets in the Arabic language. Much of his poetry revolves around praising the kings he visited during his lifetime. Some consider his 326 poems to be a great representation of his life story. He started writing poetry when he was nine years old. He is well known for his sharp intelligence and wittiness. Al-Mutanabbi had a great pride in himself through his poetry. Among the topics he discussed were courage, the philosophy of life, and the description of battles. Many of his poems were and still are widely spread in today's Arab world and are considered to be proverbial.

His great talent brought him very close to many leaders of his time. He praised those leaders and kings in return for money and gifts. His powerful and honest poetic style earned great popularity in his time.

Ibn Al Muqafa': Abū-Muhammad Abd-Allāh Rūzbeh ibn Dādūya/Dādōē (Persian: ابومٰحَمَّد عبدالله روزبه بن دادویه‎), known as Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (Arabic: ابن المقفع‎), Ibn Muqaffa (Persian: ابن مقفع‎ Ebn-e Moqaffa), or in Persian Rūzbeh pūr-e Dādūya (Persian: روزبِه پورِ دادویَه‎) (d. c. 756), was a Persian thinker and a Zoroastrian convert to Islam.

Ibn al-Muqaffa's translation of the Kalīla wa Dimna from Middle Persian "is considered the first masterpiece of Arabic literary prose." "Ibn al-Muqaffa' was a pioneer in the introduction of literary prose narrative to Arabic literature. He paved the way for later innovators such as al-Hamadani and al-Saraqusti, who brought literary fiction to Arabic literature by adapting traditionally accepted modes of oral narrative transmission into literary prose." Ibn al-Muqaffa was also an accomplished scholar of Middle Persian, and was the author of several moral fables.

Ibn Al Rumi (Poet) : Ali ibn Al-Abbas ibn Jurayj, also known as Ibn al-Rumi (born Baghdad 836 died 896) was the son of a Persian mother and a half-Greek father. By the age of twenty he earned a living from his poetry which would culminate in his masterpiece Diwan. His many political patrons included the Tahrid ruler Ubaydallah ibn Abdullah, Abbasid Caliph Al-Mu'tamid's minister the Persian Ismail ibn Bulbul, and the politically influential Nestorian family Banu Wahd. He was Shiite with Mutazilite leanings. He died of illness at the age of 59 although some have suggested that poison or suicide may have been the cause.

Antara Bin Shaddad (Poet): 'Antarah Ibn Shaddād al-'Absī عنترة بن شداد العبسي was a pre-Islamic Arabian hero and poet (525-608) famous for both his poetry and his adventurous life. What many consider his best or chief poem is contained in the Mu'allaqat. The account of his life forms the basis of a long and extravagant romance.

Antara Ibn Shaddad was born in Najd (the northern Saudi Arabia). He was the son of Shaddād, a well-respected member of the Arabian tribe of Banu Abs, his mother was named Zabibah, an Ethiopian woman, whom Shaddad had enslaved after a tribal war. The tribe neglected Antara at first, and he grew up in servitude. Although it was fairly obvious that Shaddad was his father. He was considered one of the "Arab crows" (Al-aghribah Al-'Arab) because of his jet black complexion. Antara gained attention and respect for himself by his remarkable personal qualities and courage in battle, excelling as an accomplished poet and a mighty warrior. He earned his freedom after one tribe invaded Banu Abs, so his father said to Him: "Antara fight with the warriors". Then he looked at his father in resentment and said: "The slave doesn't know how to invade or how to defend, but the slave is only good for milking goats and serving his masters". Then his father said: "Defend your tribe and you are free", then Antarah fought and expelled the invading tribes. The way Antarah responded to his father in Arabian culture does not mean that he was afraid of fighting, rather that when Antarah's father did not acknowledge him for all those years, Antarah was aiming to get his freedom and to be acknowledged by his society, and he earned that.

Antarah fell in love with his cousin Abla, and sought to marry her despite his status as a slave. To secure allowance to marry, Antarah had to face challenges including getting a special kind of camel from the northern Arabian kingdom of al-No'man Ibn al-Munthir Ibn Ma' al-Sama'.

Antarah took part in the great war between the related tribes of Abs and Dhubyān, which began over a contest of horses and was named after them the war of Dāhis and Ghabrā. He died in a fight against the tribe of Tai.

Antarah's poetry is well preserved, and often talks of chivalrous values, courage and heroism in battle, as well as his love for Abla. It was immortalized when one of his poems was included in the Hanged Poems. The poetry's historical and cultural importance stems from its detailed descriptions of battles, armour, weapons, horses, desert and other themes from his time.

The Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Symphony No. 2 based on the legend of Antar.

One of the seven clans (tribes) of Bethlehem is called the Anatreh, named after Antarah, and in past centuries acted as guardians of the church of the nativity.

Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān (al-Barigi / al-Azdi / al-Kufi / al-Tusi / al-Sufi), often known simply as Geber, (Arabic: جابر بن حیان‎) (born c. 721 in Tus, Persia; died c. 815 in Kufa, Iraq) was a prominent polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geographer, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician. Born and educated in Tus, he later traveled to Kufa. Jābir is held to have been the first practical alchemist.[7]

As early as the tenth century, the identity and exact corpus of works of Jābir was in dispute in Islamic circles.[8] His name was Latinized as "Geber" in the Christian West and in 13th century Europe an anonymous writer, usually referred to as Pseudo-Geber, produced alchemical and metallurgical writings under the pen-name Geber.


Compiled by Rami E. Kremesti M.Sc.