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BuAli Sina Mausoleum

(Aramgah-e Buali Sina; 6-8am-6pm summer, 3am-4pm winter) Hamadan's icon is the BuAli Sina (Avicenna, Ibn Sina) Mausoleum, located south of Khomeini Square on Bu Ali Sina Avenue. Built in the years 1946-1951, this tower is composed of a conical roof held up by twelve tall pillars around an empty central space. Paying the entry fee (entry from west) allows you to see the single-room museum of Avicenna memorabilia, his tombstone, a small library and a display on medicinal herbs. But the tower itself is better observed from a distance.

BuAli Sina

Had you studied advanced medicine in XVII century Europe, your 'text book' would have been the great medical encyclopaedia, Canon Medicinae. Incredibly, this had been written 600 years earlier. Its author, remembered in the West as Avicenna, was in fact the great Iranian philosopher, physicist and poet Abu Ali Hosein ibn Abdollah ibn Sina, or Avicenna, (AD 980-1037), 'BuAli' Sina for short.

BuAli was one of the most influential and criticized scholars both in the Islamic world and in the West. One hundred and fifty-seven works have been attributed to him on such diverse subjects as metaphysics, mechanics, acoustics, astronomy, and geometry. In Europe, Avicenna is best known for his al-Qanum fit'tibb, or 'Canon of Medicine', translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the XII century. This encyclopaedic work in five volumes is the sum total of Islamic medical knowledge at the time; its scope, clarity, layout and particularly its synthesis of ideas from Galen and Aristotle were to make it one of the most important texts in European medical faculties until the XVII century.

Born in Bukhara (now Uzbekistan) around 980, BuAli studied medicine in Bukhara where his sharp mind and photographic memory had him running rings around his teachers. Political intrigues in Bukhara meant BuAli fled westwards to Gonbad-e Kavus, only to arrive as Qabus, his illustrious prospective sponsor, dropped dead. Initially BuAli proved luckier in Hamadan, where he arrived in about 1015 to practise as a doctor for some nine years and successfully treated the ailments of the ruling emir and was promoted to vizier. However, when his patron died, Avicenna was thrown into prison for corresponding with Abu Jafar, a rival ruler based in Esfahan. Four months later the Esfahanis stormed Hamadan releasing BuAli who thereupon worked with Abu Jafar for the rest of his life, coincidentally dying while on a return trip to Hamadan some 14 years later.

Most of his 130 or so books have been lost but fragments remain to show he wrote knowledgeably on economics, poetry, philosophy (influencing St Thomas Aquinas) and music as well as physics, mathematics and astronomy. His Book of Healing and Canon of Medicine became the standard medical textbooks in Europe until the mid-17th century; it is from such Muslim scientists that we get such words as algebra, alchemy, alcohol and alkaline. His ideas on momentum and inertia were centuries ahead of Newton's. And (following al-Kindi and al-Farabi), his blending of Aristotle's ideas with Persian philosophy helped inspire a golden age of Islamic scholarship. However, this philosophy rapidly led to a polarisation of views about the man whose ego was reputedly as great as his intellect. But such peripatetic philosophy and logic were criticized by many schools of thought, and Avicenna's writings in particular were strongly attacked by the great Sufi scholar al-Ghazali (1058-1111). Even in Europe, Avicenna did not escape criticism: in 1526, Paracelsus is said to have burnt a copy of the Canon at Basel University.