The Influence of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi on Ottoman Scientific Literature

The works of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi have always attracted the interest of Ottoman scholars as early as the 14th century. Some of his works were translated into Turkish and various annotations or commentaries were written upon them. They were also introduced in the school curriculum as textbooks, which testify to the wide scope of his impact on Ottoman scholarship. Another aspect of his remarkable influence is represented by the presence of very numerous manuscript copies of al-Tusi's works in many libraries of Turkey, especially Istanbul, and in many countries previously governed by the Ottomans. This article examines al-Tusi's work on scientific fields practiced under the Ottomans such as mathematics, astronomy, scientific instrumentation, and mineralogy and demonstrates how important he was to the scholarship of the Ottoman world.

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Dr. Salim Ayduz*

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Short biography

3. The impact of Al-Tusi on the Ottoman world

3.1. Si Fasl dar Ma'rifat-i Taqwim

3.1.2. Commentaries on ‘Si Fasl' during the Ottoman Period

3.1.2. Turkish Translations of Si Fasl

3.2. Tahrir Kitab usul al-Handasa li-Uqlidis

3.2.2. Commentaries on Tahrir Usul al-Handasa

3.3. Risala-i bist bab dar ma'rifet-i asturlab

3.3.1. Commentaries on Bist bab

3.3.2. Translations of Bist Bab

3. 4. Al-Tadhkira al-Nasiriyya fi ‘ilm al-hay'a

3.4.1. Commentaries during the Ottoman Period

3. 5. Tansuq-nama-yi Ilhani

3. 6. Tahrir al-Majisti

3. 7. Kashf al-qina' ‘an asrar al-Shakl al-qatta'

3. 8. Tarjama-i al-Bah al-Shahiyya wa al-tarkibat al-Sultaniyya

3. 9. Al-'Ikd al-Yamani fi Hall-i Zij Ilhani

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

Nasir al-Din Abu Ja'far Mu?ammad ibn Mu?ammad ibn al-?asan Muhammad ibn Muhammad b. Hasan Abu Bakr al-Tusi (1201–1273/74) was a polymath scholar of science and philosophy who wrote many books in diverse areas of learning such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, music, logic, physiology, philosophy, literature, geography, theology and occult sciences. He also founded and directed the famous Maragha observatory, one of the largest astronomical observatories in the Islamic world [1].

2. Short biography

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was born in 1201 in the city of Tus. He spent his childhood and early youth in Tus, and received his primary education from his father. He learnt mathematics from a well-known scholar of the era, Kamal al-Din Muhammad Hasib, and received his logarithm, logic, philosophy and cognition tuition from Abul-?asan Bahmanyar ibn Marzuban ‘Ajami Adarbayijani (d. 1067) who was an Azerbaijani scholar and also Ibn Sîna's student. We have the impression that he was a passionate, freethinking researcher with an expansive wisdom, wide imagination and a sharp memory even at a young age.

After completing his education, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi arrived in Kuhistan at the invitation of Nasir Muhtasham, the Ismaili governor, and gained a great deal of respect amongst the Ismailis, also influencing them with his ideas. However, their relationship soured with time, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was then kept under surveillance in the castle of Alamut under the control of the Ismaili's for twenty-two years. There, despite his harsh living conditions, he produced his most important works on astronomy, philosophy, logic and related areas of science.

In 1256 when the Ismaili's were defeated by Hulagu, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi regained his freedom and became advisor to the Moghol ruler. In 1258, he obtained permission from Hulagu to build the Maragha observatory and began to make observations there after its completion in 1259. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi remained in his position during the regency of Abaka Khan, Hulagu's successor, and died in Bagdad in 1274 [2]. He was a great figure in the Islamic scientific tradition and a key contributor to both political and intellectual life during a century that witnessed enormous changes in the world.

3. The impact of Al-Tusi on the Ottoman world

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was one of the most prolific authors of the Islamic medieval period, writing in both Persian and Arabic, over 150 works (excluding his poetry). He wrote on both religious and secular topics. He was a well-recognised scholar in the Ottoman world, as well as other parts of the Islamic world. The fact that al-Tusi held an important place in the Ottoman scientific literature is well understood from the fact that his books were introduced into the madrasas as textbooks and numerous copies were kept in many Ottoman libraries [3].

Furthermore, his works were utilised and translated into Turkish by many Ottoman scholars from the time of the formation of the Empire. His works including annotations were copied and translated, and several works based upon them were produced. In addition to Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's actual written legacy, some observational tools that he had developed in the Maragha Observatory were also been copied and revised by Taqi al-Din Rasid in Istanbul in the late 16th century [4]. This shows that al-Tusi was not only influential in the literature of the Ottoman world, but also in developing astronomical devices.

In addition to commentaries and translations of al-Tusi's works, direct copies of them were made, including copies of the so-called "Middle-books" or Mutawassitat, a collection of various works redacted by al-Tusi in astronomy, mechanics and music [5]. One such copy was produced at the request of the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II in 1477–1478 [6].

In short, it can be said that the source of works that influenced the Ottoman astronomy and that comprised Ottoman astronomical literature are the works of scholars who were members of the Maragha, the Samarkand and the Egyptian astronomy-mathematic schools. Amongst these are the important works of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, the head of the Maragha School. Some of the works that we will be discussing in this paper are Zij Ilhani, al-Tadhkirat al-Nasiriyya, Si Fasl, Bist Bab and Tahrir al-Majisti.

3.1. Si Fasl dar Ma'rifat-i Taqwim

The title of this treatise, which was written initially in Persian, namely Si Fasl dar Ma'rifat-i Taqwim (Thirty Chapters on the Knowledge of the Calendar) show clearly its subject and purpose [7].

This is also known as Risala-i Si Fasl. As one can guess from the title, this work is made up of thirty chapters and is one of the most famous and widely known works of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi on calendar making. This work was written in the State of Assassins. The treatise chapters concern the following topics: 1) on literal numeration, 2-6) on calendars and eras including Jalali calendar of Khayyam (1048–1131), 7-16) on the Sun, the Moon, and the planets, 17-30) on astrological problems.

The book was translated into Turkish by Ahmed-i Dai of Germiyan [8] (d. after 1421). It was used by Ottoman scholars in the madrasas as a textbook on astronomy and especially on calendar making. The number of annotations from both the pre and post Ottoman era and the relatively high number of translations made during the Ottoman era indicates how commonly and frequently it was used. Twenty-six copies of this book are being displayed in various libraries throughout Turkey. Ibrahim Hakki of Erzurum also mentions Tartib al-Ulum in his book Ma'rifatnama. These citations show how common this work was at madrasas in the 18th century. Between 1649 and 1650, similarly, Hajji Khalifa advised his students to read Si Fasl [9].

3.1.2. Commentaries on ‘Si Fasl' during the Ottoman Period

a. Sharhu Si Fasl (in Arabic), written by ‘Abd al-Wacid b. Muhammad al-Kutahi (d. 1435); it was translated later on into Turkish by Ahmed-i Raci [10].
b. Muvadhdhih al-Rusum fi ‘ilm al-Nujum (in Persian), with a commentary by Dellakoglu (d. 1495) in 1478 and dedicated to Sultan Muhammad II (1451-1481) [11].
c. Mukhtasar dar Ma'rifat Taqwim (in Persian), written by Hizir-Shah al-Mantashavi (d. 1449) [12].

3.1.2. Turkish Translations of Si Fasl

A. Tarjama-i Si Fasl [13]: Translated by Ahmed-i Dai of Germiyan [14]. A note in the introduction to the book shows that it was a textbook in the Ottoman madrasas [15]. In the introduction, Ahmed-i Dai said that he dedicated the translation to Sultan Celebi Muhammad [16]. There are two different editions of this translation [17]. I. H. Ertaylan first published the translation of the book with Turkish transliteration as Eskâl-i Nâsir-i Tûsî Tercümesi (Istanbul 1952). Later on, it was published again by Muammer Dizer and T. N. Gencan with Turkish transliteration, footnotes and explanations [18].
B. Tarjama-i Mukhtasar dar Ma'rifat-i Taqwim: A translation of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's book on calendar making. Since it has seven chapters, it might be an abridged version of Si Fasl. It is the first book on calendar making during the Ottomans period. The only copy of the book contains the year 1397 [19].
C. Tarjama-i Sharh-i Si Fasl [20]. The Turkish translation of Abd al-Wacid Kutahi's (d. 1435) commentary on Si Fasl (Sharh Si Fasl). It was translated by Ahmed-i Raci (c. 1621) with the encouragement of Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha's son Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha (d. 1622) [21].

In the Ottoman world, al-Tusi's tables were also extensively used for calendar making and other activities related to astronomy and astrology. In the book Istikhraj Dustur by Osman Efendizade Abdullah Efendi (d. 1780) for instance, there are ru'yat al-ahilla's (crescents observation) tables for the year 1754–55 according to al-Tusi's tables for Istanbul's longitude [22].

3.2. Tahrir Kitab usul al-Handasa li-Uqlidis

This famous book is a very important teatise of the Arabic Euclidean tradition of geometry. It is the recension (tahrir) in Arabic by Al-Tusi of the Elements of Euclid. Known in general under the title Tahrir Kitab usul al-Handasa li-Uqlidis (Recension of the Book "Elements of Geometry" of Euclid), it had also the following title in some copies: Tahrir Uqlidis fi ‘ilm al-Handasa (Recension or Exposition of Euclid on the Science of Geometry") [23].

Euclid's' Elements (Kitab al-Usul) was extensively used and commentaries made on it in the Islamic world. Among them Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's commentary Tahrir Usul al-Handasa completed in 1248 is the most successful and valuable work focussing on Euclidean geometry [24].

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's Tahrir and the commentaries of al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Jurjani were used since the 13th century as the main course book for geometry lessons among the madrasa students in both the Islamic world and the Ottoman State [25].

Kawakib-i Sab'a reports that students were taught Euclid's' Book ranking at istiksâ, after Sharhu Ashkâl al-Ta'sis ranking at iktisar. Here, what is meant by "Euclid's' Book" is Tahrir Usul al-Handasa [26].

In the geometry section of his De La Littérature des Turcs, Abbé Toderini provides the following information on the Ottoman teaching of geometry:

"Geometry falls under the group of Turkish studies. In academies (madrasa), there are professors (mudarris) for teaching it [geometry] to young people. The time period between mathematics and rhetoric classes is allocated to this mathematical branch... This science is taught in a special manner. I have been to the Valide Madrasa twice, during which time students had gathered to listen to the geometry class. They used an Arabic translation of Euclid. There are many versions as well as commentaries of this book. Nasir al-Din et-Tusi's commentary, which is regarded as the best of these, has already become popular thanks to the Medicis Publishing House. This copy contains a copy of the Turkish license granted by Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) in Istanbul in 1587 [27]. "He has granted permission for the sale of this book without any tax or liability within the entire Ottoman territory..." [28].

image alt text 
Figure 1: Sultan Murad III's firman about al-Tusi's book Tahrir Kitab usul al-Handasa li-Uqlidis printed in Italy in 1594.

There are also other records which show that the Tahrir Usul al-Handasa was used at Ottoman madrasas. For example Munajjimbashi Mustafa Zeki al-Istanbuli (d. 1739) was tutored with this book in 1712 by La'lizade ‘Abdülbaki b. Muhammad b. Ibrâhim (d. 1746); Yanyali As'ad Efendi with Usul-i Uqlidis by Müneccimek Muhammad Efendi; and Hasan al-Jabarti at his home (d. 1774) with Tahrir Uqlidis by Husam al-Din al-Hindi in 1731 [29].

3.2.2. Commentaries on Tahrir Usul al-Handasa

Hajji Khalifa reports that the Ottomans scholars Al-Sayyid al-Sharif and Kadizade-i Rumi had written one commentary each on Tahrir Usul al-Handasa, and that Kadizade's commentary went as far as the seventh treatise [30].

During the Ottoman period, the first study on the Tahrir is Ilhaku Abu Ishaq by Abu Ishaq Abdullah al-Kirmani (15th century). This work meticulously annotates the first four treatises of the Tahrir [31].

Another study on the Tahrir is the Ta'lik of the chief astronomer Munajjimbashi Darwish Ahmed Dede b. Lütfullah (d. 1702) titled Tahrir al-Fawa'id (in Arabic). It is referred to as Ta'likat ‘ala Uqlidis (Notes on Euclid) in some sources [32].

An additional work on the Tahrir is the Sharh Ba'd al-Makalat al-Uklidisiyya (in Arabic) by Bedruddin Muhammad b. As'ad b. Ali b. ‘Osman b. Mustafa al-Yanyavi al-Islamboli (d. 1733), son of Yanyali As'ad Efendi [33]. However, this work is not covered in the literature. Containing some problems on Euclidian geometry, this book is one of the most important works on Euclidian geometry produced during the Ottoman period [34].


Figure 2: First pages of Bist bab dar ma'rifat-i asturlab, Istanbul, Suleymaniye Library, Ayasofya, MS 2620.

3.3. Risala-i bist bab dar ma'rifet-i asturlab

This work of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi in the field of the astrolabe is one of the books most used, studied and taught in Ottoman madrasas [36]. It is titled Risala-i bist bab dar ma'rifet-i asturlab (in Persian), that is Treatise in Twenty Chapters on the Knowledge of the Astrolabe) [37]. There are fifty-two copies of this book in Turkish libraries. Erzurumlu Ibrahim Hakki recommended this book to madrasa students by saying "regard the astrolabe as one of the applied sciences / Fly with Bist Bab to watch the solar system" in his Tartib-i Ulum. The book was taught by Hajji Khalifa many times to students between 1649 and 1650.

3.3.1. Commentaries on Bist bab

a. Sharh-i bist bab dar ma'rifat-i asturlab (in Persian): This commentary was written by Muhammad b. Haci b. Suleyman al-Bursavi (d. c. 1495) also known as Efezade, and presented to Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) [38].
b. Sharh-i bist bab dar ma'rifat-i asturlab (in Persian): Authored in Persian by al-Birjandi in 1494, this work was taught at madrasas. There are around 30 copies of it [39].

3.3.2. Translations of Bist Bab

A. Tarjama-i bist bab (in Turkish): This was translated into Turkish by an anonymous translator who explains in the introduction that the translation was done for Ayaz Aga, one of the entourage of the sultan of the time. This person is probably Ayaz Pasha, who served as Janissary Aga and Grand Vizier in the time of Yavuz Sultan Selim and Suleiman the Magnificent [40].
B. Nuzhat al-Tullab fi ‘ilm al-asturlab (in Arabic): Translated by Haydar b. ‘Abdurrahman al-Husayni al-Jazari (d. c. 1689) from Persian into Arabic, there are currently forty three copies of this book [41].
C. Risala-i fi ma'rifet-i sihhat al-Asturlab (in Arabic): The chapters on whether the astrolabe was built with accurately, and showing of fixed stars on the orbit of the spider, it was translated in 1716 by an unknown person [42].

Bist Bab was also partly translated. For example, Ibrahim b. Halil al-Erzurumi al-Haddadi, also known as "Yekdest," translated into Turkish the section on "Signs of Twenty Seven Stars" at the end of Bist Bab [43].


Figure 3: First pages of Sharh-i bist bab dar ma'rifet-i asturlab, Istanbul, Süleymaniye Library, Ayasofya, MS 2641.

3.4. Al-Tadhkira al-Nasiriyya fi ‘ilm al-hay'a

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's Al-Tadhkira fi ‘ilm al-hay'a (Memoir on the Science of Astronomy) [44] (in Arabic) is one of the most original and influential Arabic works in astronomy. It is a text devoted to disclose the general principles of astronomy for the general reader, whence its title as Tadhkira (Memoir). The treatise described Ptolemaic concepts such as the epicycle theory and introduced new planetary models. Al-Tadhkira is one of the two books which the Samarkand school of mathematics/astronomy studied, read, taught, discussed and commented on the most. It is placed at the heart within the Islamic astronomical tradition. At the same time, it was also taught as a textbook at Samarkand Madrasa [45].

Used in the Ottoman world as an astronomy textbook at the madrasas, this book of al-Tusi consisted of four chapters. Having many commentaries, the most famous of which in the Muslim world is that of al-Birjandi. The book has kept its popularity until today. It too was taught at Iranian madrasas. A commentary on Al-Tadhkira was produced on by its author under the name Tavdhih Al-Tadhkira.

While Taskoprülüzade also places this work in the group