World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi

Abū Maʿshar
A Latin translation of Abū Maʿshar's De Magnis Coniunctionibus ("Of the great conjunctions"), Venice, 1515.
Full name Abū Maʿshar, Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad al-Balkhī
Born c. 787
Balkh, Khurasan[1]
Died c. 886
Wāsiṭ, Iraq
Era Islamic Golden Age
Region Balkh, Baghdad
Main interests
Astrology, Astronomy

Abū Maʿshar, Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad al-Balkhī (also known as al-Falakī or Ibn Balkhī, Latinized as Albumasar, Albusar, or Albuxar) (10 August 787 in Balkh, Khurasan – 9 March 886 in Wāsiṭ, Iraq),[3] was an astrologer, astronomer, and Islamic philosopher, thought to be the greatest astrologer of the Abbasid court in Baghdad.[2] He was not a major innovator and as an astrologer he was not intellectually rigorous. Nevertheless, he wrote a number of practical manuals on astrology that profoundly influenced Muslim intellectual history and, through translations, that of western Europe and Byzantium.[3]


  • Life 1
  • Astrology and natural philosophy 2
  • Works 3
    • Introductions to astrology 3.1
    • Historical astrology 3.2
    • Genethlialogy 3.3
    • Books available in Latin and Greek translations 3.4
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Abū Ma‘shar lived in Baghdad. Early in his work as an academic he studied the hadith. It wasn't until he was 47 years old that he started studying astrology.[4]

Astrology and natural philosophy

He found influence in the work of Greek, Mesopotamian, Islamic and Persian scholars.[4] Richard Lemay has argued that the writings of Albumasar were very likely the single most important original source of Aristotle's theories of nature for European scholars, starting a little before the middle of the 12th century.[5]

It was not until later in the 12th century that the original books of Aristotle on nature began to become available in Latin. The works of Aristotle on logic had been known earlier, and Aristotle was generally recognized as "the master of logic." But during the course of the 12th century, Aristotle was transformed into the "master of those who know," and in particular a master of natural philosophy. It is notable that the work of Albumasar (or Balkhi), in question, is a treatise on astrology. Its Latin title is "Introductorium in Astronomiam", a translation of the Arabic Kitab al-mudkhal al-kabir ila 'ilm ahkam an-nujjum, written in Baghdad in the year 848 A.D. It was translated into Latin first by John of Seville in 1133, and again, less literally and abridged, by Herman of Carinthia in 1140 A.D. Amir Khusrav mentions that Abu Maʿshar came to Benaras (Varanasi) and studied astronomy there for ten years.[6]


His works on astronomy are not extant, but information can still be gleaned from summaries found in the works of later astronomers or from his astrology works.[2]

Introductions to astrology

A sample of Abū Maʿshar's manuscript on astrology, 850 AD
  • Kitāb al‐mudkhal al‐kabīr, an introduction to astrology which received many translations to Latin and Greek starting from the 11th-century. It had significant influence on Western philosophers, like Albert the Great.[2]
  • Kitāb mukhtaṣar al‐mudkhal, an abridged version of the above, later translated to Latin by Adelard of Bath.[2]

Historical astrology

  • Fī dhikr ma tadullu ʿalayhi al‐ashkhāṣ al‐ʿulwiyya ("On the indications of the celestial objects"),
  • Kitāb al‐dalālāt ʿalā al‐ittiṣālāt wa‐qirānāt al‐kawākib ("Book of the indications of the planetary conjunctions"),
  • Kitāb al‐ulūf ("Book of thousands"), preserved only in summaries by Sijzī.[2]
  • Kitāb taḥāwīl sinī al-‘ālam (Flowers of Abu Ma'shar), uses horoscopes to examine months and days of the year. It was a manual for astrologers. It was translated in the 12th century by John of Seville.[4]


  • Kitāb taḥāwil sinī al‐mawālīd ("Book of the revolutions of the years of nativities"). translated into Greek in 1000, and from that translation into Latin in the 13th century.
  • Kitāb mawālīd al‐rijāl wa‐ʾl‐nisāʾ ("Book of nativities of men and women"), which was widely circulated in the Islamic world.[2]

Books available in Latin and Greek translations

  • De magnis coniunctionibus, ed.-transl. K. Yamamoto, Ch. Burnett, Leiden, 2000, 2 vols. (Arabic & Latin text)
  • De revolutionibus nativitatum, ed. D. Pingree, Leipzig, 1968 (Greek text)
  • Liber florum Translated by James Herschel Holden in Five Medieval Astrologers (Tempe, Az.: A.F.A., Inc., 2008): 13-66.
  • Introductorium maius, ed. R. Lemay, Napoli, 1995–1996, 9 vols. (Arabic text & two Latin translations)
  • Ysagoga minor, ed.-transl. Ch. Burnett, K. Yamamoto, M. Yano, Leiden-New York, 1994 (Arabic & Latin text)

See also


  1. ^ The Arrival of the Pagan Philosophers in the North:A Twelfth Century Florilegium in Edinburgh University Library, Charles Burnett, Knowledge, Discipline and Power in the Middle Ages, ed. Joseph Canning, Edmund J. King, Martial Staub, (Brill, 2011), 83;"...prolific writer Abu Ma'shar Ja'far ibn Muhammad ibn 'Umar al-Balkhi, who was born in Khurasan in 787 A.D. and died in Wasit in Iraq in 886..."
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Yamamoto 2007.
  3. ^ a b Pingree 1970.
  4. ^ a b c "Flowers of Abu Ma'shar".  
  5. ^ Richard Lemay, Abu Ma'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century, The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Iranian Astrology, 1962.
  6. ^ "Introduction to Astronomy, Containing the Eight Divided Books of Abu Ma'shar Abalachus".  


  • Pingree, David (1970). "Abū Ma'shar al-Balkhī, Ja'far ibn Muḥammad".  
  • Yamamoto, Keiji (2007). "Abū Maʿshar Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar al‐Balkhi". In Thomas Hockey; et al. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer. p. 11. (PDF version)  

External links

  • Abu Ma'shar: Prince of Astrologers by Robert Zoller
  • Aḥkām Sinī al-maxālīd. Taḥāwīl.(1515) From the Early Printing Collection at the Library of Congress
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.