Ibn al-Wafid

Full name: 
Abū 'l-Mutarrif ‘Abd al-Rahmān al-Lakhmī Ibn Wāfid
Arabic name: 
أبو المطرّف عبد الرحمن اللخمِي ابن وافد
Latin name: 
Date of birth: 
Date of death: 
At the court of Emir al-Mamun lived the celebrated doctor Ibn al-Wafid to whom Al-Mamun granted the high position of vizier. Ibn Al-Wafid (Latin name: Abenguefit) was from Toledo where he was born in 997 and where he died in ca 1074. He was a Hispano-Muslim physician and pharmacologist who applied himself to studying simples - a field where he surpassed all his contemporaries. What characterised Ibn Wafid was his immense knowledge of medical matters and therapeutics and his skills in treating grave diseases and afflictions. He preferred to use dietetic measures, and if drugs were needed, he gave preference to use the simplest ones before he recommended composed medicines. When he did use composed medicines, he gave priority to those less complex.
His main work on simple drugs (Kitab al-adwiya al-mufrada) is partly existing in a Latin translation (De medicamentis simplicibus). According to a later Muslim writer, Ibn al-Wafid spent twenty-five years
gathering the information he included in his treatise which was five hundred pages long and of which the Latin translation is only a fragment. There are also translations of it in Catalan and Hebrew. De medicamentis simplicibus has been printed frequently together with the Latin translation of the works of Masawaih al-Mardini39 or of Ibn Jazla's Taqwim (Dispositio corporum de constitutione hominis).

Ibn Wafid is also the author of a pharmacopoeia and manual of therapeutics entitled al-wisad fi’l Tib (book of the Pillow on Medicine), which according to Vernet could be a misreading of the Arabic title Kitab al Rashad fi’l tibb (Guide to Medicine). This work can be considered complementary to the preceding one because Ibn Wafid describes compound medicines in it and it is a practical book as the information given is based on experience. Ibn Abi Ussaybiya, the Muslim medical historian, attributes to Ibn Wafid a work entitled Mujarabat fi’l Tibb (Medical experiments) which could probably be identified with this book just cited. Ibn Wafid is also the author of two works entitled Tadqiq an-Nazar fi ilal hassat al-Bassar (Observations on the treatment of illness of the eyes) and Kitab al-Mughith (Book on Assistance) which are not preserved and a treatise on balneology which is preserved in a Latin version entitled De balneis sermo printed in Venice in 1553. Amongst the matters Ibn Wafid investigates is the action of drugs, sleep, bathing and he also writes on farming.

On this latter point, the early nucleus of the school formed in Toledo where Ibn Wâfid was employed in the royal garden of al-Ma'mûn. But after the conquest of the city in 1085, Ibn Wafid's student Ibn Luengo and Ibn Bassâl, his colleague in the royal garden moved to Seville where they came into contact with another nucleus of agronomists: Ibn al-Hajjâj, Abu'l-Khayr and the mysterious "anonymous botanist" of Seville (studied by Asín Palacios) as well as al-Tignarî of Granada.47 The pattern of their personal contracts and citations of one another’s works illustrates the kind of complex network that was bound to underlie the "dense climate of botanical study and experimentation" described by J. M. Millás Vallicrosa.