The Chapter on Rasāyana (Medications for Rejuvenation) in Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ, a Shiʿite Text from the 12th/18th Century

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
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  • 1 Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel

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Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ wa-mirʾāt al-dawāʾ (“The Ascent of Prayer and the Mirror of Medication”) by Muḥammad ʿAlī al-Qazwīnī, a Shiʿite presumably working in eastern Iraq in the eighteenth century, gathers information on methods for rejuvenation and longevity from different traditions: traditional Islamic (mainly Shiʿite), Greek, and Indian. The last of these are a set of recipes for rasayanas, herbal and chemical recipes drawn from Indian sources. Though some rasayanas are mentioned in earlier Arabic treatises, the collection displayed in Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ is by far the most extensive. Hardly any are mentioned in earlier Arabic texts. Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ, then, contributes an important chapter to the ongoing interchange between India and the eastern Islamic world. Unlike the majority of treatises which deal with India, it is written in Arabic rather than Persian, though not a few loan words are employed. I present here an edition, translation, and analysis of the relevant chapter.

  • 1

    Samāwī, Majālī al-luṭf, p. 76.

  • 6

    Ray, History of Chemistry, pp. 166–167. For a critique of Ray, see Wujastyk, “Alchemical Ghost”. Note that the criticism in this article focuses upon the emphasis Ray places upon Nâgârjuna’s Rasaratnâkara, a text which Wujastyk proves to be a ghost. Nonetheless, in the opening paragraph Wujastyk observes that “P.C. Rây charted the subject for us, remarkably fully, and for this we must be grateful.”

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  • 7

    al-Ṭabarī, Firdaus, p. 595; see also Meyerhof’s review in Isis, pp. 6–54, especially p. 46.

  • 8

    Kahl, Sources of Rhazes, pp. 150–151.

  • 10

    Pines and Gelblum, “Al-Bīrūnī’s Yogasūtra”, p. 267; see notes 24 and 25 as well.

  • 11

    Kalkutta, 1830, no page numbers; the entries are ordered alphabetically. The word for electuaries, maʿājīn, is misprinted. It appears correctly in Harvard University Library, Houghton MS Arab 424 (no pagination). Interestingly, two other manuscripts that I was able to consult, UCLA 65 and Yale Med. 47, are missing this entry, and several other nearby entries as well. This popular book apparently absorbed many accretions over the centuries.

  • 15

    For the Persian meanings, see Steingass, p. 245. For the other languages, see Mathurā-Prasāda, Trilingual Dictionary, pp. 24, 704, and 625 for “maintain;” and, indeed, when translating a couplet from Rūmī, Steingass (p. 1523) chooses “subsistence.” Leigh Chipman kindly informs me that the late Sorour Soroudi, professor of Persian literature at the Hebrew University, considered that Steingass’ dictionary often reflected Indian usages of Persian, rather than Iranian ones.

  • 18

    Schmuchter, no. 48; Ullmann, Medizin, p. 295.

  • 19

    Caraka Samhita, vol. 5, p. 788.

  • 21

    Ibid., 33.

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