Marginal note on Ibn Sīnā in a sixteenth-century Syriac manuscript   Leave a comment

Ibn Sīnā (see also here, here, from the Enc. Iranica here, and specifically for metaphysics, here) stands among the most well known and most influential of philosophers who have written in Arabic, and his influence was hardly confined to the intellectual worlds where Arabic or Persian were the means of communication. From the twelfth and thirteenth centuries he was read in Latin — several volumes of the Latin witness to Ibn Sīnā have appeared since 1972 in editions by Simone van Riet (Brill) — and reflections of his work can be found in the writers of the Syriac Renaissance of the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, especially in the voluminous work of Bar ʕebrāyā. Alongside the Qānūn fī ‘l-ṭibb may be mentioned especially his encyclopedic Kitāb al-šifāʔ, Dāneš-nāma (or Dānišnāma-i ʕalāʔī, in Persian, for the prince ʕalāʔ al-Dawla see here), and the Kitāb al-išārāt wa-‘l-tanbīhāt; the last mentioned work was translated into Syriac by Bar ʕebrāyā and there are two late copies with parallel Garšūnī and Syriac available at HMML: CFMM 550 and MGMT 20 (both twentieth century). John bar Maʕdani (d. 1263), a contemporary of Bar ʕebrāyā, penned two poems on the soul, one (or both) of which goes by the name of “The Bird” (pāraḥtā). I have recently cataloged an East Syriac manuscript of the sixteenth century that contains these two poems (and another, “On the Way of the Perfect”): it was copied in Gāzartā and completed on Aug. 10, 1866 AG/962 AH (= 1555 CE). The scribe, named Yawsep, rightly notes in the margin at the beginning of both of these poems that Bar Maʕdani is following Ibn Sīnā on this theme. The latter had written “a treatise, the Bird, an allegory in which he describes his attainment of the knowledge of the truth” (risālat al-ṭayr. marmūza yaṣif fīhā  tawaṣṣula-hu ilá ʕilm al-ḥaqq; see Gohlman, pp. 98-99). Here is the marginal note to the first poem, that to the second being much less legible:

CCM 24, f. 112v, marginal note

CCM 24, f. 112v, marginal note

Bar Sini [sic], the Muslim [hāgārāyā] philosopher, made a treatise [Syr. eggartā = Arb. risāla], the thought of which he somewhere directs to the subject at hand.

Here are the rubric and first lines of Bar Maʕdani’s first poem on the soul from this manuscript:

CCM 24, f. 112v.

CCM 24, f. 112v.

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