Research Programs: Fellowships

Period of Performance

7/1/2021 - 6/30/2022

Funding Totals

$60,000.00 (approved)
$60,000.00 (awarded)

In Ibn al-Nafis’s Shadow: Arabic Medical Commentaries in the Post-Classical Period (1200-1520)

FAIN: FEL-273093-21

Nahyan Abdul Ghaffar Fancy
DePauw University (Greencastle, IN 46135-1736)

Research and writing leading to a book on Late Medieval Arabic medicine and the Arab scholarly critique of the Galenic school of Avicenna/Ibn Sina,

This project analyzes, for the first time, medical issues that attracted the interests of eight Islamic commentators on the *Canon of Medicine* and its abridgment, *The Epitome*, between 1200 and 1520 CE. It helps define the main contours of medical thought during a period often mischaracterized as one of “decline.” It highlights the intellectual rigor of the commentarial discussions that helped modify and transform existing medical theory. The project also situates the debates and discussions of these Arabic commentaries within the intellectual, institutional and social contexts of post-1200 Islamic societies, revealing the intertwined nature of medicine, philosophy and religion. Finally, by studying both the textual content and manuscript marginalia and notes, the project pays close attention to how medical commentaries were produced, disseminated, used and studied.

Media Coverage

DePauw Prof is First Scholar to Study Ancient and Ignored Islamic Medical Commentaries (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Mary Dieter
Publication: DePauw Stories
Date: 2/22/2020

Associated Products

Commentaries and the Emergence of non-Galenic, non-Avicennan Medical Theories (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Commentaries and the Emergence of non-Galenic, non-Avicennan Medical Theories
Author: Nahyan Fancy
Abstract: Using examples from 8 Arabic medical commentaries composed between the 1160s and 1520, I show that: a) Medicine did not go into decline in the post-1200 period in Islamic societies; b) Ibn al-Nafis (d. 1288) and his new interventions and transformations of medical theory were engaged with, accepted and/or subsequently transformed in the later period taking Arabic medicine beyond the pale of the Greek tradition; c) these new developments were themselves indebted to a new style of commentary that encouraged such systematic investigations and evaluations of theory; and d) far from medicine and philosophy going their separate ways in this period, physicians remained conversant in philosophy in this period since at least three of these 8 commentaries were the most copied and used medical works by medical practitioners for the next 500 years across the Islamic world.
Date: 11/29/2021
Conference Name: Medicine, Magic and Healing (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter)

Infertility in the Arabic Medical Commentaries, 1240–1520 (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Infertility in the Arabic Medical Commentaries, 1240–1520
Author: Nahyan Fancy
Abstract: This will be a preliminary survey of how infertility, in both men and women, was discussed in the Arabic medical commentaries on the Canon of Medicine and its abridgment, the Epitome. These texts and their commentaries were the mainstay of Arabic medical education from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and were well-known to and frequently cited in the works of religious scholars and belles-lettrists. Having a firm grasp of this tradition thus is essential to understanding the persistence and changes in understandings of and practices associated with infertility in post-classical Islamic societies.
Date: 5/25/2022
Conference Name: Premodern Fertility: Global Perspectives, University of Exeter, UK

In Ibn al-Nafīs's Shadow: Philosophical Verification (Taḥqīq) and the Emergence of non-Galenic/non-Avicennan Medical Theory (Conference/Institute/Seminar)
Title: In Ibn al-Nafīs's Shadow: Philosophical Verification (Taḥqīq) and the Emergence of non-Galenic/non-Avicennan Medical Theory
Author: Nahyan Fancy
Abstract: The Arabic medical commentators were well-versed in philosophy. Many of them had received philosophical training at the hands of some of the leading philosophers of their time. Moreover, they adopted the very specific method of philosophical investigation, verification (taḥqīq), developed by the philosopher-theologian Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1210) and deployed in his medical commentary. Using examples from the discussion on the definition of medicine, this talk will highlight the philosophical sophistication of the Arabic medical commentaries on the Canon.
Date Range: 6/16/2022
Location: Online webinar through Iran University of Medical Sciences

Muslim Change-Makers in Medicine (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Muslim Change-Makers in Medicine
Abstract: Discussed some key physicians and their education and medical understandings for a wider audience.
Author: Nahyan Fancy
Date: 5/6/2022
Location: Online; World Hijab Day Organization, USA.
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Video of the Presentation and discussion with another panelist and a moderator.