History of Science and Technology in Islam

Arabic Alchemy 'Ilm al-San'a: Science of the Art



The Art of alchemy (ʿIlm al-Ṣanʿa) as we shall discuss here, is a theoretical and a practical science and it aimed at the transmutation of metallic bodies such as iron, copper and lead into silver and gold by using chemical preparations and with the help of the elixir. On the other hand, practical industrial chemistry discusses the production of industrial products by using chemical processes and this will be the subject of a separate article. Our discussion here does not deal with the occult or mystical aspects of alchemy.

The Origin of the Word Alchemy

The Arabic word al-kimiya الكيمياء is composed of the article al  (the) and kimiya’ (chemistry). This word reached the West with the translation movement which took place in the twelfth century. The Arabic form al-kimiya’  is the origin of the word alchemy which is used to denote the science of alchemy which preceded modern chemistry. Kimiya’ without the Article “al “ is the origin of the word chemistry. In Arabic the word al-kimiya’ means both alchemy and chemistry, Some contemporary Arab writers try to differentiate between alchemy and chemistry by using the word al-khimiya’ الخيمياء  to denote alchemy.

The word khemeia occurred for the first time in a decree issued by the Roman Emperor Diocletian (c. 245c. 312), to burn all Egyptian books of khemeia that deal with alchemy and the manufacture of gold and silver.

This word is most probably derived from the name of Egypt. Plutarch (c. 46 - 127) mentions in a treatise written about 100 C.E. that Egypt is called Khemia because of the colour of its black soil. Some think that the word is of Greek origin, and others think that it is of Chinese. [1]

Although this branch of science was called al-kimiya’  in Arabic, yet it was called also the Science of the Art ‘ílm al-san’a   علم الصنعة and the practitioner of this Art was called sahib al-san’a, and alchemists were called hukama’ or philosophers.

Alchemy and Chemistry in Ancient Civilizations

Chemical knowledge started with the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt since the fourth millennium B.C.E.  Metallic bodies such as gold, silver, copper and iron were used from an early date for various purposes. The technique of mining the ores, extracting the metals, alloying and forming them was mastered quite early. The industries of glassmaking, glazing, dying, tanning, oils and fats extraction, detergents and perfumes were developed also.

Several kinds of raw materials that were used in the chemical industries were known. Among these were alums, various kinds of salts and nitrates [2]

This indicates that chemical knowledge was known since the rise of ancient civilizations. It was however an empirical knowledge and alchemy and chemistry were not yet developed into sciences.

It is well established that the beginnings of science in general started in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and from thence they were transferred into Greece. It is useful therefore to investigate the beginnings of chemistry in these two ancient civilizations since this may reveal to us the origin of several theoretical concepts in both alchemy and chemistry.

The Babylonians believed that the universe originated from water. They noticed also that the universe contains opposite elements. Thus there is day and night; light and darkness; male and female; hot and cold; wet and dry. There is also the good and the evil, and in general, there is for every feature an opposite one. It is also possible to divide matter into two opposite elements, and from these two opposite elements everything can be generated. 

The Babylonians were keen observers of the stars; and from their early history they believed that the gods are in control of the planets. They believed also that the sun, the moon and the other planets have influence on what happens on earth. This was the beginning of astrology. The influence of the planets involves metals; thus sun influences gold, and the moon influences silver, and the other planets control the remaining metals. This linkage between the planets and metals was the biggest contribution of the Babylonians to alchemy or the Art.

The principle of the two opposites of the Babylonians was inherited by Greek philosophers who were thinking about the nature of matter and whose theories were based in part on the Babylonian concept.

Aristotle was one of the latter Greek philosophers who benefited from those who preceded him and believed in the existence of four principal properties which are composed of two opposites: hot and cold, wet and dry, If we combine a pair of these opposites we obtain four main elements; fire (from hot and dry); earth (from dry and cold); water (from cold and wet) and air (from wet and hot).  This theory of Aristotle prevailed until the middle of the seventeenth century and it exerted a great influence on the possibility of transmuting one element into another.

Alchemy and Chemistry before Islam

Most historians of science believe that the science of alchemy and chemistry started and developed principally in the Nile Valley, and that it was practiced also in Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.

Stapleton had advanced the idea that the origin of alchemy is to be traced to Syria (especially Harran), Mesopotamia and Persia, rather than Egypt, and he suggested that Syrian refugees from the Persian invasion had carried their ideology and technique into Egypt and practiced alchemy there using the Greek language; and this is how Egyptian alchemy had originated according to him. [3]

Alchemy became a prominent science in Alexandria in the early years of the Christian era. The language if culture in Egypt was Greek and most alchemical treatises that were translated into Arabic were from Greek, yet it was Egyptian alchemy and it will be misleading to describe it otherwise.

The majority of the inhabitants of Alexandria and the other cities in Egypt were Egyptians, with small communities of Syrians and Greek. The Egyptian industrial skills in metallurgy, dying and glass making were combined with the Syrian, Babylonian and Greek philosophical contemplations in formulating the science of alchemy. It is of great significance to know that the most important Greek alchemical treatises were found in Upper Egypt and that Zosimus was a native of Akhmim in that part of egypt.[4]

During the first centuries C.E. there existed in Egypt several Gnostic groups and philosophy degenerated unto Hermetic spiritualism and beliefs in magic and hidden powers.

We find in the writings of early Arabic alchemists many quotations attributed to pre-Islamic persons and there are several Arabic alchemical treatises attributed to them.  These works were the subject of research by historians of science who concluded that most of these works were attributed to pseudo authors.

These pseudo authors include Hermes, Iflatun (Plato), Aristo (Aristotle), Phythagoras, Agathodaimon, Ostanes, Hiraql (Heraklius, Byzantine emperor 610–41), Cleopatra,  Mary, Zosimos, Isis, Krates, Markos, Jamasp, Furfuriyus and many others. They come from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece and Asia Minor.

Sezgin gave a list of the Arabic treatises attributed to each of these pseudo authors. It is probable that these works were written before Islam and were translated into Arabic from Greek or Syriac. Stapleton,[5]  Sezgin and others are of this opinion. Other historians are of the opinion that these works were written by pseudo Arabic authors after Islam. And whether these pseudo alchemical works are pre-Islamic or Islamic, they are a chief source for Arabic alchemy.

Most of the Greek and Syriac originals of these works are lost and very scanty fragments has survived. Of these fragments is a Greek text attributed to the Hellenized Egyptian alchemist Bolos of Mende.  (Mende is called now Tall al-Rab’a in the Egyptian Delta). The treatise is called Physica et mystica (“Natural and Mystical Things”), a kind of recipe book for dyeing and colouring but principally for the making of gold and silver.

Alchemical texts, mostly recipes, written on papyrus and going back to 300 C.E. were found in a cemetery in Luxor in Upper Egypt [6]. These leaves are distributed between Leiden and Stockholm.

However, the most important alchemical extant texts are those attributed to the Egyptian alchemist Zosimus, a native of Ikhmim in Upper Egypt who lived probably between 350 and 420 C.E. Zosimus had compiled the works preceding him and he mentions the names of several pseudo authors such as Hermes, Ostanes and Mary.

Because of the scarcity of Greek texts and the abundance of Arabic ones, the main source for the study of pre-Islamic alchemy is Arabic sources. And again, since most Western historians of science are not familiar with Arabic, the serious study of pre-Islamic alchemy remains deficient.

The works attributed to Hermes are one important source for Arabic alchemy, and his name became linked to it. His fame reached the Latin West after the translation of the Arabic works attributed to him. He is called in Arabic “Hermes al-Muthallath bi al-Hikma” which means Hermes the thrice endowed with Philosophy. Hikma or philosophy indicates here the great Art of alchemy. From the Arabic name came the Latin Trismegistus

Of the important texts attributed to Hermes is the Tabula Smaragdina. This is a very short text of few sentences that was given by Apollonius of Tyana at the end of his book The Secret of Creation which was translated from Arabic in the twelfth century. Jabir Ibn Hayyan gave this text also in one or more of his works. The short text of Tabula Smaragdina occupied a prominent place in the alchemical literature of the Latin West.

About Hermes Trismegistus (of the Triple Wisdom) Arabic sources say that the first Hermes was the Prophet Idris (the Biblical Enoch) who preceded the Flood and built the pyramids of Egypt. Hermes the second was from Babylon and he lived in Mesopotamia after the Flood and he had given life to sciences. Hermes the third lived in Egypt after the Flood and he developed several sciences and crafts. These three personalities of Hermes combined are the source of alchemy, astronomy, astrology, philosophy and the remaining sciences. [7]

Balinas, or Apollonius of Tyana [8] helped in spreading the alchemy of Hermes in his book Sirr al-Khaliqa (The Secret of Creation).

Most historians of science and chemistry believe that the alchemy of India and China did not exert any significant influence on the development of alchemy and chemistry in the western half of the ancient world. They believe that chemistry and alchemy, like other sciences, started in ancient Babylonia and Egypt, and they continued their historical development within the western half of the ancient world until the rise of modern science. [9]


The Beginnings of Arabic Alchemy and Khalid Ibn Yazid

Khalid Ibn Yazid was the first Arab to work on alchemy or ‘ilm al saná ( the Art). His exact birthday is not accurately known, but we know that when his brother Mu’awiya Ibn Yazid had died in 64/683, Khalid was not able to become a caliph because of his young age.

The year of his death was estimated by some historians to be 84/703 or 90/708. But Stapleton determined his year of death at 102/720 on the basis of some Arabic manuscripts.

According to Ibn al-Nadim, Khalid summoned from Egypt a number of Greek scholars[10] who are well versed in Arabic and commissioned them to translate works on the Art of alchemy into Arabic.[11]

Khalid learnt the Art of alchemy under Maryanus the Hermit, who was either an Egyptian or a Syrian, and a follower of the Melkite Church which was loyal to the Byzantine Emperors. Maryanus was in turn a pupil of Istfan (Stephanus) of Alexandria. [12]

The treatise Liber de compositione alchimiae whose Arabic original was known recently, "رسالة مريانس الراهب الحكيم للامير خالد بن يزيد", gives an account of the encounter between Khalid and Maryanus and the dialogue which took place between them.[13]

Arabic sources that are close in time to Khalid reported his interest in alchemy. Thus Jabir Ibn Hayyan reported in Kitab al-rahib how Khalid summoned Maryanus.

Al-Jahiz (c.776868) reported in Kitab al-bayan wa al-tabyin that Khalid Ibn Yazid was an orator, a poet, and was eloquent, comprehensive, of sound judgment and extremely well-mannered. He was the first (in Islam) who ordered the translation of works on astronomy, medicine and alchemy.

Khalid occupies a high standing among Arabic alchemists, and most Arabic works on alchemy give citations from his writings and poems on ‘ilm al san’a (the Art).

Khalid occupies also the same high standing in Latin alchemy. Ruska raised doubts about Khalid’s work in alchemy. But Sezgin refuted Ruska’s assumptions on the basis of original Arabic sources.

The recent discovery by the present writer of the Arabic original of Liber de compositione alchimiae had proved conclusively that Ruska’s speculations were groundless.[14]  We have discussed this discovery in a separate article.

Arabic Alchemists after Khalid

After Khalid, more translations of alchemical works emerged in Arabic, and many Arabic alchemists appeared. We shall mention only the most eminent ones according to the chronology of their appearance.

Ja’far al-Sadiq

He is Abu ‘Abd Allah Ja’far al-Sadiq Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, (d. 148/765). He was the sixth Shi’i Imam, and was the coach of Jabir Ibn Hayyan. Jabir referred to him in many of his works. There are several alchemical treatises attributed to him. It is not certain whether Ja’far had written them or they were collected or edited by his disciples,[15] but, nevertheless,  they form an important part of Arabic alchemical literature.

Jabir Ibn Hayyan

He is the greatest Arabic alchemist, and the most celebrated, East and West, until the rise of modern chemistry. He is Abu Musa Jabir Ibn Hayyan al-Sufi, also called al-Azdi, al-Kufi, al-Tusi. He was born in about 103/ 721 in Tus, Khurasan, when his father was residing there, and died in 200/815 in Kufa.

Jabir is from the Arab tribe of Azd, and Kufa was his principal residence. He is known as al-Sufi because he was a follower of one of the Sufi orders.

After the death of his father, Jabir was sent to Arabia where he became a pupil of Harbi al-Himyari, according to what Jabir had mentioned in some of his works. He studied the Qur’an, mathematics and other sciences, in addition to the Himyaric language.  Jabir mentions also that he studied alchemy under a monk (rahib), who was a pupil of Maryanus, the tutor of Khalid Ibn Yazid.

We do not know much about the early life of Jabir; but we know that he was an alchemist at the court of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. He was an intimate friend and a disciple of Ja’far al-Sadiq the sixth shi’ite Imam. We find in many of Jabir’s works expressions of his deep love and respect to Ja’far where he refers to him always as sayyidi “my master”.

Jabir had a close relationship with the Barmakids, the ministers of the Abbaside caliphs. Ja’far al-Barmaki, the minister, introduced Jabir to the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, for whom Jabir composed a treatise on alchemy. After the misfortune of the Barmakids in 187/803 Jabir resided in Kufa in seclusion until he died. It is reported that a copy of Kitab al-Rahma was found under his pillow when he died.

Erick John Holmyard, the historian of chemistry, is credited with investigating the historical identity of Jabir, in elucidating his high standing and in indicating his contribution to developing alchemy into an experimental science.  Holmyard realized that Jabir’s importance in the history of chemistry is equal to that of Boyle and Lavoisier.[16]

Ibn al-Nadim in his Fihrist gave a list of Jabir’s works. He relied on two of the three catalogues prepared by Jabir himself for his works. One of these catalogues listed all Jabir’s works, while the other gave only his works on alchemy. Ibn al-Nadim says that he selected from the two catalogues those books which he had seen actually or which were testified for him by trusted scientists.

The number of books attributed to Jabir is great. Paul Kraus gave a detailed account of those works which he was able to investigate whether extant or not.  Later, Sezgin added to Kraus’s list a number of newly discovered titles.

The fame of Jabir is due mainly to his works on alchemy, but he wrote also on industrial chemistry, medicine, physics, mathematics, philosophy and all branches of science that were known at his time.

Historians of chemistry had investigated the works attributed to Jabir, and it is believed that Jabir had written a considerable number of them, while the remainder was written by others and were attributed to him. The whole Jabirian corpus was completed between the second/eighth and the fourth/tenth centuries.[17]

It seems that the most important works in the corpus are the following:

1-      The collection of the One Hundred and Twelve Books. There are extant books from this collection, but the majority of titles are still missing.

2-      The Seventy Books or the Book of Seventy.[18] Several of these booklets or Articles were translated into Latin and they are known as the Septuaginta.[19] The Arabic original was missing until the first two decades of the twentieth century.

3-The collection of the Balance Books. These are 144 treatises and few of them are extant.

4-      The collection of the Corrections Books. These are ten treatises in which Jabir had criticized and corrected the works of ancient authors and the works of some contemporary ones including his own. One treatise only had survived (Musahhahat Iflatun), and we know about some others through citations by various authors.

5-      The Great Book of Properties (Kitab al-Khawass al-Kabir).

This list does not represent all of Jabir’s important works. Most of the extant works are not studied and are still in manuscript form; and the greater part is still missing and some more titles may be found.

There are at least seven Latin treatises that carry the name of Geber  (Jabir’s Latin name) for which the Arabic originals are not yet identified. This gave some western historians of alchemy and chemistry the occasion to ascribe them to pseudo Latin authors. We have discussed this question in separate articles in this site

Dhu al-Nun

Dhu al-Nun, Abu al-Fayd Thuban Ibn Ibrahim al-Misri (d. 246/861) was a Sufi mystic from Egypt, and was a master of asceticism and self-discipline.  He was one of the earliest Sufis and he influenced its development; and was involved also in medicine, alchemy and magic. As a mystical alchemist, he was much quoted by Ibn Umayl and several later alchemists. Ibn al-Nadim listed some of his works. It was Stapleton who discovered eight of his alchemical treatises.

Abu Bakr al-Razi

Al-Razi was the greatest Arabic alchemist after Jabir. He was also one of the greatest physicians in Islam and was an accomplished philosopher. He is known as Rhases in Latin and like Jabir (Geber), he influenced greatly the development of Latin alchemy. His influence on the development of Latin medicine was immense.

Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya al-Razi was born in Rayy in Iran about 251/865 and died in 313/ 925. He received his education in Rayy, and at a later date he directed his attention to medicine and excelled in it.

In his earlier years, before turning to medicine, he was devoting his attention to alchemy, gained prominence in it and wrote several important works. Al-Razi was renowned by his brief practical recipes and his brief descriptions of materials and apparatus. His writings are of experimental nature and are considered as an important step in the direction of modern chemistry.

There are thirteen known Arabic treatises on alchemy for al-Razi, most of which are extant, and nine treatises in Latin. The renowned Arabic treatises are Kitab al-asrar, Kitab sirr al-asrar [20]  and Kitab al-madkhal al-ta’limi.[21]  One of the missing treatises is Kitab ithbat al-san’a wa al-radd ‘ala man ankaraha (A book on proving the Art and a refutation of those who deny it).

Ibn Wahshiyya

Ibn Wahshiyya is Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Qays Ibn Wahshiyya. He lived in the third/ninth century, and was active in alchemy, astrology and agriculture, among other things.

The most important of his works is undoubtedly the K. al-filaha al-nabatiyya  on agriculture as it was practiced in Mesopotamia before Islam. About eight treatises on alchemy are attributed to him, the most prominent of which is Kitab al-usul al-kabir, also known as Usul al-hikma.

Ibn Umayl

Ibn Umayl was one of the foremost allegorical, philosophical and spiritual alchemists. His works are of interest in the analytical psychology of Carl Jung. [22]

Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Umayl al-Tamimi lived in Egypt in the first half of the fourth/tenth century. One of his Latin names is Senior Zadith filius Hamuel. He wrote several treatises and poems on alchemy. The most important of his poems is Risalat al-shams ila al-hilal (The message of the sun to the crescent),[23] which was translated into Latin under the title Epistola solis ad lunam. This poem was explained by the author himself in his treatise Kitab al- ma’ al-waraqi wa al-ard al-najmiyya.(The Silvery Water and the Starry Earth), which is known in Latin as Tabula Chemica.

Abu Maslama al-Majriti

Abu Maslama Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn ‘Abd al-Da’im al-Majriti was from Majrit (Madrid) in al-Andalus. He lived in the first half of the fifth/eleventh century. He is not the same person as Abu al-Qasim Maslama Ibn Ahmad al-Majriti who died on 398/1008. The confusion arose because of the similarities in their names.

Abu Maslama wrote several works on alchemy and magic. His most important work on alchemy is Kitab rutbat al-hakim and madkhal al-ta’lim This work gives accurate information on the purification of gold and silver, and describes several accurate chemical operations.[24]

The second important book of Abu Maslama is Ghayat al-hakim, (The Goal of the Sage), which is a work on magic. It is one of the most important books ever written on astrological magic. It was translated into Spanish and then into Latin. The Latin treatise carries the title Picatrix and it occupies a unique place in Latin literature on Magic.


He is Mu’ayyid al- Din Abu Isma’il al-Husayn Ibn ‘Ali al-Tughra’i. He was a great poet and an accomplished alchemist. He entered the service of Saljuqids at the time of Malik Shah and went on to become chief secretary under that ruler’s son, Muhammad I. He was the second most senior official in the civil administration of the Saljuqid empire. During a struggle for power among the Saljuqid princes he was executed in 516/1122 unjustly according to historians.

As an alchemist, al-Tughra’I was a prolific writer. One of his most interesting works appears to be Kitab Haqa’iq al-istishhad, a response to Ibn Sina’s refutation of alchemy. Another important work is Kitab mafatih al-rahma.

Al-Jildaki held a great esteem for al-Tughra’i and considered him to be next to Jabir only as an alchemist. He always refereed to him as the Martyr.

Ibn Arfa’ Ra’s

He is Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali Ibn Musa al-Jayyani al-Andalusi, better known as Ibn Arfa’ Ra’s. He lived in Fas and died there in 593/1197. He was am allegorical alchemist like Khalid Ibn Yazid. Ibn Umayl and al-Tughra’i, and became renowned because of his eloquent alchemical poem, shudhur al-dhahab (nuggets of gold), which is composed of 1460 verses in rajaz form which covered all letters of the alphabet. Ibn Arfa’ Ra’s wrote a treatise in which he explained his poem. Others also wrote treatises in its explanation including al-Jildaki.

Abu al-Qasim al-‘Iraqi

Abu al-Qasim Ahmad Ibn Muhammad al-‘Iraqi al- Simawi lived in Iraq in the middle of the seventh/thirteenth century. One of his most important works is Kitab al-‘ilm al-muktasab fi zira’at al dhahab (Book of Knowledge Acquired Concerning the Cultivation of Gold) which was edited, translated and published by Holmyard.


‘Izz  al-Din Aydamir Ibn ‘Ali al-Jildaki had lived in both Cairo and Damascus, and died in Cairo in  743/ 1342. He is considered one of the prominent Arab alchemists. His importance, however, is due to his most extensive volumes of explanations and commentaries on the works of those alchemists who preceded him such as Jabir, Ibn Umayl, Ibn Arfa’ Ra’s, al-Tughra’I, Dhu al-Nun, Abu al-Qasim al-‘Iraqi and others. He quoted extensively from the works of his predecessors both pre-Islamic and Arab. It is possible to write a complete history of Arabic alchemy by studying his works only.

Al-Jildaki says that he had spent seventeen years in studying all works on alchemy before embarking on writing his books, and during this period he visited several Islamic countries and met the most prominent alchemists there.

Al-Jildaki’s works give us very important information on some of those earlier Arabic alchemical works whose originals were lost.

He wrote not less than twenty five books some of which are in several voluminous tomes: Kitab nihayat al talab, which is one of his most important works, was studied in a Ph.D. thesis.[25] But the majority of his other works are not yet investigated. 

Later Alchemists

Interest in alchemy continued in Islamic lands until later centuries. Limitations of space do not allow us to give a due account of later activities. One of the most important alchemists after al-Jildaki was ‘Ali Bek al-Izniqi (from Izniq in Anatolia) who was known as ‘Ali Chelebi or al-Mu’allif al Jadid (the New Author). He lived in the ninth/fifteenth century and left important works that can be quite useful in any study of Arabic alchemy.

One of the later alchemists who left serious works also was Hasan Agha Sirdar. He was from Jirja in Upper Egypt, and lived in the eleventh/seventeenth century.

The Debate about the Validity of the Art

The debate about the validity of al-San’a (the Art) and the possibility of the transmutation of base metals into gold started since the beginning of Arabic alchemy. Among the great Islamic scientists and philosophers who denied the possibility of transmutation were al-Kindi, Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Ibn Khaldun and several others. It seems that the debate was acute before and at the time of Jabir Ibn Hayyan. This prompted Jabir to write a treatise in defense of the Art under the title: Al-Burhān wa ithbāt al-ṣan’a (The Proof and the Verification of the Art).  Al-Kindi wrote a treatise against the Art with the title:  Ibtal da’wa al mudda’in san’at al-dhahab wa al-fidda min ghayr ma’adiniha  (refutation of the claim of those who allege that gold and silver can be made from other than their minerals).  Al- Jildaki gave a detailed account of this debate in Kitab nihayat al-talab.

The Theory of Arabic Alchemy

Most people dismiss alchemy as the fake Art of transmuting base metals, such as tin and lead, into silver and gold. This superficial view may be contrasted with the notion of some modern historians of science and chemistry who assert that alchemy was never anything different from chemistry and that it was essentially the chemistry of the Middle Ages.[26]

According to alchemical theory, all forms of matter are one in origin; and are transmutable. These views bear a close resemblance to those of modern physical science. Indeed modern science has shown the possibility of bringing about many transmuta­tions of elements.  Nuclear experiments have successfully transmuted lead into gold, albeit at great cost.

The sulphur–mercury theory was the basis upon which the alchemy of Jabir was based. This theory appears basically as a derivative of the Greek theory that matter was composed of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.

Balinas, and Jabir after him, believed that, under the influence of the planets, metals were formed in the earth by the union of sulphur (which would provide the hot and dry natures) and mercury (providing the cold and moist). This theory which was adopted and generalized by Jabir, and which appears to have been unknown before Balinas, is generally considered as one of Jabir’s principal contributions to alchemical thought.

The reasons for the existence of different kinds of metal are that the sulphur and mercury are not always pure, and that they do not always unite in the same proportion. If they are perfectly pure, and if also they combine in the most complete natural equilibrium, then the product is the most perfect of metals, namely gold. Defects in purity and, particularly, proportion result in the formation of silver, lead, tin, iron, or copper; but since these inferior metals are essentially composed of the same constituents as gold; the accidents of combination may be recti­fied by suitable treatment. Such treatment, according to Jabir, is to be carried out by means of elixirs.

This concept that the metals are composed of mercury and sulphur was generally accepted by later generations of alchemists and chemists and remained a part of alchemy and chemistry even into the eighteenth century. The idea of the presence of an inflammable principle -sulphur- in metals and indeed in almost all bodies is the ancestor of the notion of phlogiston.  

The sulphur-mercury theory is related to the two terrestrial exhalations concept of Aristotle. One of these vapours given off by the earth under the influence of the sun, was hot and fiery, dry and gaseous, the other moist, cool and aqueous. The former generated the idea of the sulphur component, the latter that of mercury. The two exhalations concept and its relationship to the sulphur - mercury theory is elaborated in several Arabic treatises such as those of Balinas, Jabir (including the Latin work Summa Perfectionis), Ikhwan al-Safa, Ibn Sina, al-Tughra’i, al-Jildaki and others.

It is of interest to give one Arabic text outlining the theory of alchemy. Appendix B is an edited text based on Holmyard’s translation of al-‘Iraqi’s Kitab al-‘ilm al-muktasab fi zira’at al dhahab (Book of Knowledge Acquired Concerning the Cultivation of Gold).



Appendix A

Substances, Apparatus and Processes

 in Arabic Alchemy and Chemistry

The following account is taken mainly from the paper of Stapleton et al. on the chemistry in Iraq in the tenth century [27] which is based mainly on al-Razi’s Kitab al-asrar. We utilized also the Karshuni manuscript.[28] The same information occurs in other Arabic alchemical treatises, but these two sources summarize this knowledge in a convenient form.

Substances (Aqaqir) were classified into: (a) Earthy; (b) Vegetable; and (c) Animal.

Earthy Substances

Earthy substances were divided into:

i- Spirits;  ii-  Bodies;  iii-  Stones; iv- Vitriols; v- Boraces ; and  vi- Salts.

1-     Four Spirits, viz. Mercury, Sal ammoniac; Arsenic; and Sulphur.

2-     Seven fusible Bodies or Metals, viz.: Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron, Tin, Lead and Kharsini.3.  Later Arab alchemists removed Kharsini  from the list as we have seen in al-’Iraqi’s account, and some had replaced it with mercury.

3-     Thirteen Stones, viz. : Marqashisha;  Maghnisiya ; Daws (one of the constituents of iron and steel) ; Tutiya ; Lazaward ; Dahnaj (Green Malachite); Fairuzaj (Turquoise); Shadanj (Haematite); Shakk (Arsenic Oxide); Kuhl (Lead Sulphide); Talq (Mica and Asbestos); Gypsum; and Glass.

4-     Six Vitriols (Zajat), viz.: Black vitriol; Alum; Qalqand ; Qalqadis ; Qalqatar ; and Suri.

5-     Seven Boraces [29]: Bread Borax; Natrun ; Goldsmith’s Borax which is white and is similar to al-shiha ; al-Shiha which is found at the feet of walls (potassium nitrate); Tinkar; Zarawandi ; and Buraq al-Gharb.

Al-Shiha which is found at the feet of walls was translated by Duval (in Berthelot vol. II), as saltpetre,

6-            Thirteen Salts : Sweet ; Bitter  ; Andarani  ; Tabarzad ; Natrun;  Naphthic ; Indian : Salt of Egg; Salt of al-Qali ; Salt of Urine; Salt of Lime (slaked lime) ; and Salt of Oak Ashes; Natrun which is the nitra salt (potassium nitrate) also called Milh al- Hayt (Salt of Wall). [30]

It is obvious that the two kinds of natrun denote here two different kinds of salts, in one of which, the word nitra salt denotes potassium nitrate according to Duval, (Berthelot volume II), who translated it as sel de nitre.

Vegetable Substances

Al-Razi notes in Kitab al-Asrar that these are seldom used, with the exception of the ashes of the Ushnan plant, which was found in arid places and from which al-Qali and salt al-Qili were produced.           

Animal Substances

These numbered ten, and included : Hair, Skulls, Brains, Bile, Blood, Milk, Urine, Eggs, Mother of Pearl, and Horn : the best—as a means of preparing the valuable reagent Sal-ammoniac—being, in order, Hair, Brains, Bile, Eggs, Skulls and Blood.

Derivative, or Artificial Substances

Information about derivative materials are to be found in various treatises of al-Razi, Mafatih al-‘Ulum, the Kashuni MS and other Arabic treatises.

The following is a partial list:—

(1)      Martak or Murdasanj. Lead Oxide, PbO.

(2)      Usrunj or isrinj . Red Lead, Pb3O4.

(3)      Isfidaj. Tin or Lead Oxide.

(4)      Zaniar. Copper Acetate.

(5)      Rusukhtaj. Pro­bably Copper Oxide, CuO.

(6)      Tutiya. As this Artificial form is defined as ‘the Smoke of Copper and of Kuhl’ (Lead Sulphide), it should be either Copper Oxide or Lead Oxide. it may have also included Zinc, Bismuth, and Antimony Oxides.

(7)      Za‘fran al-Hadid. This can refer to iron rust, iron acetate  or to any red combustion product of iron or its compounds.

(8)      Daws. A constituent of steel, called by al-Razi ‘ Water of Iron’ and described also by al-Biruni,

(9)      Zunjufr (Cinnabar, HgS).

(10)      Shakk. Probably the white Arsenic Oxide, As2O3, or lead oxide.

(11)      Qalimiya (otherwise, Qalmiya or Iqlimiya) is defined as anything that separates from metals while they are being purified.

(12)      Salt of Al-Qili and Lime (Caustic Soda).


Instruments and Apparatus for Melting Bodies

(I)      Blacksmith’s Hearth (Kur):

(2)            Bellows (Minfakh, or Ziqq):

(3)            Crucible (Butaqah):

(4)            Descensory (But-bar-but, literally ‘crucible on a crucible,’ the upper one having its bottom perforated with holes)1:

(5)            Ladle (Pers. Mashu ; Ar. Mighrafah or Mil’aqah).

(6)            Tongs ( Ar. Masik : or Kalbatan—the last named being large blacksmith’s pincers) :

(7)            Shears (Muqatti’ : or Miqta’ : pl. Maqati’):

(8)            Hammer, or Pestle (Mukassir).

(9)            File (Mibrad): and

(10)            Semi-cylindrical Iron Mould (Rat : or Misbakah).


Instruments and Apparatus Used in Alchemical Processes

(1)      The Cucurbit (Qar’): and Alembic (Ambiq) with a delivery tube. Several kinds of Ambiq are known.

(2)      Receiving flask (Qabilah).

(3)      Cucurbit, and ‘Blind Alembic’ (i.e., an ambiq without any delivery tube).

(4)      Aludel (Uthal).

(5)      Beakers (Ar. Aqdah: sing. Qadah: Pers. Jam: arabised pl. jamat). A similar, though perhaps larger, vessel was called the Batiyah.

(5a) Glass cups (Kizan : sing. Kuz).1

(6)      Bottles or Flasks (Qannani: sing. Qinninah).

(7)      Phials (QawArtir : sing. Qarurah).

(7a) Rose-water phials (Ma’wardiyah).

(8)      Earthenware Jars (Barani: sing. Barniyah) with lids, in which substances were heated.

(9)      Cauldron (Mirjal: or Tinjtir), in which substances were dissolved.

(10)      Earthenware Pots (Qudur), glazed inside, for the Long Uthal used in volatilising Tin ; with corresponding covers (mikabbat).

(11)      Bain-marie, or sand-bath (apparently these had no special names beyond that of earthen Pot—Qidr).

(12)      Tannur or large Baker’s oven.

(13)      Mustauqad, or Mauqid, a small cylindrical stove, used for heating the Aludel.

(14)      Atun, a small model of the potter’s or lime-maker’s kiln.

(15)      Tabashdan, or Kanun: brasier or chafing dish, similar to that used by food-hawkers, the glowing charcoal being contained in a tray on top of an oven.

(16)      Nafikhu nafsih—a stove with perforated sides, half-filled with charcoal, and mounted on 3 legs—in which the receptacle containing the substances to be calcined, or brought into combination, was placed.

(17)      Mortar (Pers. hawan: Ar. mihras): and its Pestle (nisab). , The mortar was sometimes made of glass.

(18)      (a) Sallayah (flat stone Mortar) : and (b) Fihr (stone Roller, for use with the Sallayah).

(19)      Durj, or Clay box in which layers of substances to be calcined or treated were placed. After the box had been closed by a luted cover, fire was kindled over it to heat the contents.

(20)      Round Mould (Kurah), in which filings, mixed with suitable reagents, were placed in order to subject the mixture to the action of fire.

(21)      A covered Iron pan (miqlat : usual meaning frying pan ‘) used for calcining hair in the preparation of Sal-ammoniac.

(22)      Hair Cloth, in which substances were tied and left in a moist warm atmosphere, so that the substances slowly deliquesced and were removed in the form of a strong solution.

(23)      Glass Funnel (Qim‘) in which the drippings from the hair cloth were caught. The funnel was inserted in the mouth of a glass bottle.

(24)      Sieve (Minkhal), of Hair or Silk.

(24a) Filter (Rawuq), of Linen cloth (Khaish).

(24b) Filter made of a cup (kuz) with perforated bottom, the holes being covered with a layer of pieces of hair or fibre.

(25)      Dish, or Platter (Sukurrujah).

(26)      Basket (Sallah): or felt-covered Cage (Qafas) used in the process of ‘Inhumation’ under Dung.

(27)      Lamps (Qanadil: sing. Qindil), to impart a gentle heat.

Processes followed in Alchemical and Chemical Practice

Al-Razi’s entire scheme of work did not differ from that of Jabir and other Arab alchemists and it is summarized as follows:

(I)      Cleansing and Purification of the substances to be employed by means of (a) Distillation, Decantation or Filtration (Taqtir): (b) The use of the Descensory (Istinzal): (c) Assation (or Roasting - Tashwiyah) ; (d) Coction (or Digestion—Tabkh) ; (e) Amalgamation ; (f) Lavation ; (g) Sublimation ; and (h) Calcination ; the last-named being used only in the case of Metals and Stones.’ Calcination included Rusting ; and another process—allied apparently to both Calcination and Lavation—was Taswil (a word which may be translated by Lixiviation).

(2)            Having freed the crude materials from their impurities, the next step was to reduce them to an easily fusible condition. This was done by a process known as Ceration (Tashmi’, which resulted in a product which readily melted, without any evolution of fumes, when dropped on a heated metal plate.

(3)            The next step was to bring the Cerated products to a further state of disinte­gration by the process of Solution (Hall ).

(4)            Solutions of different substances, suitably chosen in proportion to the amount of Body,” Soul ‘ and ‘Spirit ‘ they were supposed to possess, were brought together by the process of Combination (Tamzij). Sometimes, however, admixture of solutions was replaced by Trituration with various liquids, followed by either Assation or Ceration : but al-Razi expressly mentions .that combination of Solutions is the best.

(5)            Finally the combined Solutions underwent the process of Coagulation (‘Aqd), the product which resulted 1 being the Elixir. This was a substance of which a small quantity, when projected (tarh) on a larger quantity of baser metal, was believed to be capable of converting it (by a process analogous to Fermentation) into silver, or if silver was used, of converting it into gold.[31]



Appendix B

The Theory of Alchemy According to al-Iraqi

I - Metallic Minerals Are One Species

KNOW, may GOD have mercy on thee that the materials used in the Art of Chemistry are of one species essentially. They are called the metallic minerals and subdivided into six sorts varying in form and in properties, but not immutable as are individual animals and plants.

They are gold, silver, copper, iron, lead and tin. Each of them is marked off from the others by accidental distinguishing pro­perties, and it should be possible to effect the necessary removal of these properties the specific nature remaining constant.

We say and maintain that two species of natural things which differ radically and essentially cannot be changed and converted one into the other by the Art as, for example, man and the horse. But these six bodies can be mutually converted.

It is possible (for example) for a part of the lead to be changed into silver. In the same way silver may be converted into gold. But if silver differed from gold in species it would not be possible to convert it into it, just as it is impossible to convert a horse into the human species by the Art, because they differ radically and essentially.

These six metallic forms are all of one species, distinguished from one another only by differentiating accidental qualities; their extreme limit is reached when they become gold. Now that which is free from any accidental quality is gold, while what possesses these becomes either silver or the two leads if it has the quality of coldness, or copper or iron if it has the quality of hotness. And these six forms of a single species are similar merely to health and fever in man. When the fever is trea­ted so that it departs and the man returns to freedom from disease, he regains the most perfect state of health.

II - Removing the Accidental Qualities

Know, may GOD, the Most Exalted, have mercy on thee that we began by saying that these six forms are all gold by species, and gold is their limit. Now that which is composed in the right pro­portion quantitatively, and in agreement therewith, in the right proportion qualitatively, and whose nature has reached its highest point, has become gold; while that in which the qualitative (composition) is varied comes forth from the ore in the state of im­perfection.

But the quantitative (composition) of these six individuals does not vary; for this composition in them depends upon moistness and dryness, whereas the qualitative composition depends upon hotness and coldness.

Now the moistness and dryness of which minerals are composed are nothing but watery steam and earthy smoke; if compounded

together in right proportion, they give rise to these six metallic substances, while if the dryness, that is, the smoke, is in too great proportion, then are formed brittle stones such as the marcasites, magnesia, tutias, and the stones related to the mineral substances from kuhl and zarnikh, etc. If the moistness, that is the steam, is in too great proportion, mercury and nothing else will result. This occurs only in particular districts of the earth in places which are very near to equilibrium, that is, equilibrium of climate.

Hence it has been established that the quantitative composition of these six metallic substances is constant; understand this, there­fore, and know that the cause of the existence of gold is nothing but the equilibrium of the hotness, and that reason why the rest of the six substances fall short of being gold is excess either of hotness or of coldness.

When scientists considered these six ductile mineral substances and found them to be of one species, part imperfect and part perfect, and when they found imperfect ones in the ores of the perfect, they knew that the difference between them was only qual­itative; and they found that the accidental qualities which mark­ed off one from another were only distinguishing unessential qualities which could be removed by means of a proper remedy.

And they said: One of the two following things is necessary — (a) that we remove the accidental properties of these five substances

by the fire; or (b) that we make a compound which if projected upon them will perfect in them that which is imperfect, and remove from them what is in excess of equilibrium or falls short thereof.

Now if we use fire alone, it must be either violent or gentle; and the time of each of these fires must be either long or short.

When silver is placed in a light fire, no success is acquired by a short action, but a long period is necessary — even to years: a thing which human nature makes difficult.

So there is no benefit at all to the silver neither by a long action nor by a short one, for a long action is difficult and life is too short for it, while a short action does not succeed. Moreover, when silver is placed in a violent fire, if the time is shorter than necessary there is no success, while if long, it is certainly tinctured in the fire and is strengthened, but only after removal of the greater part, and so small a part is left that it was not worth transmuting it into gold on account of the loss incurred and the outlay required. Thus there is no advantage in converting silver into gold by fire alone.

[The author gives then the same argument for copper, iron and the two leads]

When this made itself clear to scientists, necessity drove them to make a compound from a single drug, or from drugs either differing in species, or differing in form, but nevertheless included in a single species essentially, though not relatively. And they made two Elixirs, one of them for whiteness and the other for redness, fusible, miscible, soluble, permeating, stable and assimilable. For if there be no fusion there can be no mixing, and if there be no mixing there can be no assimilation, and if there be no assimi­lation there can be no solution, and if there be no solution there can be no permeation, and if there be no permeation there can be no stability in the fire. And if one of these qualities is lacking the com­bination is ruined, and if the combination is ruined then the Art is vain.

It is necessary that one of the Elixirs should be hot and red, in order that it may remove the quality of coldness and may tincture the substance with its colour, red ; and the second cold and white, to remove the quality of hotness and to tincture the substance with its colour, white. In this way, upon whatever of these (metallic) forms it is projected, it dissolves in it with effervescence, and will be an aid to the fire in shortening the operation. It will be such a substance that it removes the accidental qualities, and at the same time preserves the (metallic) form and the equilibrium of its moistness with its dryness.

Now to whatever of these (metallic) forms is cold, is added the hot Elixir, and it heats it and tinctures it red ; while to those which are hot with a heat in excess of equilibrium is added the white Elixir, and it cools them and tinctures them white, and gives equi­librium to their constitution which was disordered.

For that which renders necessary the heating of these (metal­lic) forms in the refining fire is only the qualitative variation; thus there occur among them the soft and the hard and the heavy and the light.

As for silver, the Elixir of Redness when projected upon it fixes it not by its heaviness but by its stability and ready fusibility and by protecting it from the fire. Thus the fire is able to accelerate

the action and completes the maturing of the silver and fixes it and tinctures it, and it becomes gold when the lightness and whiteness have disappeared from it. For the whiteness in silver is the neces­sary consequence of the coldness and small degree of maturing, and when the cause disappears there disappears with it the effect. Understand that, therefore, for it is one of the foundations of this Art, and the Sages one and all were very jealous of it even with their sons, and more so with the rest of men.

As for the two leads, that which prevents them from being silver is only their coldness, which is in excess of that of silver. Their constitution is rendered imperfect by the paucity of their hotness and maturing.

And since it is known that the Elixir of Whiteness is hotter than the two leads, in the same way that the hotness of silver is greater than that of the two leads, then the Elixir of Whiteness may be projected upon the two leads and will increase them in hotness and cohesion until it transforms them into the just proportion of silver and its hotness, which falls short of gold and goes beyond the two leads.

Thus the Elixir of silver is not excessively cold, and the Elixir of gold is not excessively hot.

The two coppers, as far as concerns their relationship to gold and silver, are hotter and drier than the latter. Now things will strengthen their like and weaken their opposite, so that if the Elixir of Redness is projected upon the two coppers, it increases them in heat and dryness, and converts them into powders from which no advantage whatever can be gained. It is therefore neces­sary that the Elixir of silver should first be projected upon them, to moisten them and cool them and convert them into silver: if the Elixir of gold is then projected upon them it will convert them into gold, after their transformation into silver. So understand that and think thereon.

These bodies change at first only into the form of silver, and then into gold ; and this follows uniformity of specific nature, for what is right for any one of all these forms is right for the others, since they are all varieties of the metallic mineral.

When the Elixir is projected upon mercury it coagulates it not to a hard mineral but to an elixir in the form of powder, such that when it is pro­jected upon a mineral form of an imperfect degree it makes it reach perfection of the species.

Understand, therefore, the hidden things of the secrets of this Art, and thou wilt attain to a high degree, if GOD, the Most Exalted, will.

And Know, may GOD the Exalted have mercy upon thee that I intended, in composing this prologue in two sections, only to guide aright him who looketh into this book of mine. For every Art must have given materials upon which it is based, and we found that materials of this Art are these six substances, — nay, five rather, since gold, even if it is of their number, is perfect, and the Art of Chemistry was founded only to raise the remaining substances to its level. I have treated the whole matter thoroughly, in order that the reader may easily enter their town and speak their language and know their Art and copy their royal and philosophical procedure. And from GOD - may He be exalted and magnified — I ask aid and guidance and right direction to the Path, by His grace and munificence. Verily, He is powerful over whatsoever He willeth.


Berthelot, M., Archeologie et Histoire de Sciences, 1906, pp. 310-363

Berthelot, M., La Chimie au Moyen Age, vols.I, II and III, Paris, 1893.

Halleux, Robert, “The reception of Arabic alchemy in the West”, Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science: Volume III, ed. Roshdi Rashed, and Regis Morelon, Routledge, 1996, pp.886-902 

Hashimi, Muhammad Yahya, Al-Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq mulhim al-kimiya’, Aleppo, 1958.

Hassan, Ahmad Y. al-, et al.,  Science and Technology in Islam, Vol. 4, Part 2, of the multivolume work on The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture, ,UNESCO, 2002.

Holmyard, Eric J,  Alchemy, Dover, 1990

Holmyard, Eric J.., “Jabir Ibn Hayan”, Proc. of the Royal Society of Medicine, Section History of Medicine vol. 16, 1923,

Ibn al-Nadim, Kitab al-fihrist, Arabic edition, Cairo, no date.

Al-‘Iraqi, Kitab al-‘ilm al-muktasab fi zira’at al-dhahab, Book Of Knowledge Acquired Concerning The Cultivation Of Gold.
 Edited with a Translation and Introduction by E. J. Holmyard , 1923,  reprinted by Fuat Sezgin, Vol. VII,  (Natural Sciences in Islam. 61), Frankfurt, 2001.

Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Kitab al-sab’in, re-produced by offset, Fuat Sezgin, Frankfurt, 1986.

• Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Kitab al-Rahib, Mukhtarat Jabir Ibn Hayyan, edited by Paul Kraus, Cairo, 1936, p. 529.

Al-Jildaki, Nihayat al-talab fi sharh al-muktasab, MS Berlin 4184.

· Jung, C.G., Psychologie und Alchemie, Zurich, 1952.

· Kraus, P., Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Contribution à l’histoire des idées scientifiques dans l’Islam, Vo. I;  Le corpus des écrits Jabiriens, Kairo 1934, Vol. II, Jabir et la science grecque, Kairo 1942.

Leicester, Henry M. The Historical Background of Chemistry, New York, 1956.

Levey, Martin, Chemistry and Chemical Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia, Elsevier, 1959.

• Multhauf, Robert, The Origins of Chemistry, London, 1966.

• Al-Razi, Kitab al-asrar and Kitab sirr al-asrar, edited by Muhammad Taqi Danishpazhuh, Tehran, 1343(1964).

Read, John, From Alchemy to Chemistry, Dover, 1995.

• Rulandus, Martinus, A Lexicon of Alchemy, 1612, translated by A. E. Waite, London, 1964, Reproduced by Kessinger, USA.

- Sezgin, Alchemie-Chemie-Botanik-Agrikultur bis ca 430 H. [Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol.  IV ]. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971). Also: the Arabic edition, translated by ‘Abd al-Allah Hijazi, King Sa’ud University, 1986.

Siggel, Alfred,, Arabisch- Deutsches Worterbuch der Stoffe, Berlin, 1950.

Stapleton, H. E., Azo, R. F. & Husain, M. H. “Chemistry in ‘Iraq and Persia in the tenth century A.D.”, Asiatic Society of Bengal Mem., Vol 8, 1927, pp. 315-418

• Stapleton. Ambix , vol.5, 1953-56, p.1-43

Stillman, John Maxson, The Story of Alchemy and Early Chemistry, Dover, 1960

Al-Tughra’i, Haqa’q al-istishhad, Baghdad, 1982.

· Ullmann, Manfred, Die Natur und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam, Leiden, 1972

·Von Franz, Marie Louise, .Alchemy, Inner City Books; 1981





[1] For the origin of the word alchemy see Leicester, p.45

[2] Levey, 1959. (pp. 128 & 152) says that potassium nitrate was known in Ancient Mesopotamia.

Forbes in Studies in Ancient Technology, (Brill, 1965, volume III, p. 188), says also that saltpetre was known and was used in ancient Mesopotamia. It was obtained as an efflorescence of the soil in certain places where organic matter decayed. It was collected and treated to obtain the crystals of saltpetre.  It seems that this ancient practice in these pre-Islamic lands continued into Islamic times.

[3] Multhauf, Origins of Chemistry, p. 115 ; H.E. Stapleton: “The antiquity of alchemy”, AMBIX, 5,  (1953); reproduced by Fuat Sezgin, Chemistry Texts and Studies Vol. II, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 56), Frankfurt, 2001.

[4] Akhmim which was called Panopolis in Greek is 700 kilometers south of Alexandria.

[5] Stapleton,H. E.,’The Antiquity of Alchemy’,  Ambix,  vol.5, 1953-56, p.1-43

[6]  Luxor is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.

[7] Plessner, M,  Artcle “Hirmis”, in Encyclopaedia of Islam (EI), New Edition, Brill.

[8] Tyana is a town in kilikya in Asia Minor on the borders with Syria

[9] See for example Robert Multhauf , p. 15;  Stapleton, 1953, op. cit. p.38.

[10] These are Egyptians or Syrians who were followers of the Melkite Byzantine Greek church.

[11] Ibn al-Nadim, Arabic edition, p. 352 

[12] Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Kitab al-Rahib, Mukhtarat,edited by Paul Kraus, p. 529.

[13]   Al- Hassan. Ahmad Y. , “ The Arabic Original of Liber de compositione alchimiae - The Epistle of Maryanus, the Hermit and Philosopher, to Prince Khalid ibn Yazid.” , Arabic Sciences and Philosophy,  (2004), 14: 213-231 Cambridge University Press.

[14] Al-Hassan, The Arabic Original …, op. cit. See Ruska : Arabische Alchemisten. I. Châlid ibn Jazîd ibn Mu'âwija. (1924), Re-printed by Fuat Sezgin,  Natural Sciences in Islam, 59, Frankfurt, 2001.

[15] Al-Hashimi had written a book about Ja’far al-Sadiq in which he refuted the assumptions of Ruska about Ja’far in Ruska’s book: Arabische Alchemisten. II. Ga'far Al-sâdiq, der sechste Imâm,  (1924) , reprinted by Fuat Sezgin in Natural Sciences in Islam,  59, Frankfurt, 2001.

[16] Holmyard, Eric John, ’Jabir ibn Hayan’, Proc.of the Royal Society of  Medicine, Section History of Medicine, vol. 16, 1923, pp. 46-57. It was re-produced by Fuat Sezgin, in Jabir ibn Hayyan, Texts and Studies.  Vol. I, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 69), Frankfurt, 2002. In the same volume see also Holmyard’s article:  “The identity of Geber”. (1923).

[17]  A good discussion about Jabir and the assumptions of Kraus and Ruska is given by Sezgin in Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol.  IV.

[18] Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Kitab al-sabin.

[19] Berthelot, Archeologie.

[20] These two books were published in Tehran. See bibliography.

[21] Stapleton, H. E., Azo, R. F. & Husain, M. H. “Chemistry in Iraq and Persia in the tenth century A.D.”, Asiatic Society of Bengal Mem, Vol 8, 1927, pp. 315-418

[22]  Jung, C.G., and   Von Franz , Marie Louise.

[23] H.E. Stapleton; M.H. Husein: Report on the Mâ' al-Waraqî. (1932); and H.E. Stapleton; M.H. Husein: Three Arabic treatises on alchemy by Muhammad ibn Umail, (1933). Both re-printed by Fuat Sezgin in Ibn Umayl (fl. c. 912). Texts and Studies, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 75), Frankfurt, 2002.

[24] Holmyard. Alchemy, pp. 101-102

[25] Taslimi, M., Ph. D. Thesis University of London, 1954, (written at University College London, under Holmyard.)

[26] John Read, From Alchemy to Chemistry.

[27] Stapleton, H. E., Azo, R. F. & Husain, M. H.

[28]  The Karshuni MS was published by Berthelot in volume II of La Chimie au Moyen Age. Duval translated the Arabic text that is written in Syriac script (the Karshuni) , into French. The Syriac script was converted into Arabic script in Aleppo by the Rev. Al-Khurfasqfus Barsum Yusuf Ayyub. The converted text is in the possession of the author of the present work and is utilized here.

[29] Al-Razi gave the number as six, but al-Karshuni gave the number as seven. The shiha which was mentioned by al-Razi without a number, was given a number in the Karshuni MS. (written in Arabic with Syriac script), which belongs to the period ninth to eleventh century according to Berthelot and Duval. Duval translated al-shiha which is found at the feet of walls as saltpetre.

[30]  Karshuni, Arabic script, item no. 74.


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