A 14th Century Revision of the Avicennian and Ayurvedic Humoral Pathology: The Hybrid Model by Šihāb al-Dīn Nāgawrī

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*The fundamental concepts of the theory of humours of Avicennian thought are often seen as static and a-historical entities whose identity and function were defined once and for all in the classical sources. This article questions this view by looking at the Šifāʾ al-maraż, a Persian medical handbook written in India by Šihāb al-Dīn Nāgawrī in 790/1388. In the first chapter, Nāgawrī proposes a shift of perspective in the classical categorisation of humoural pathology of the Arabic and Persian texts. His proposal is based on a combination of Avicennian and Ayurvedic physicians’ views through the assimilation of notions of the latter into the conceptual framework of the former. Nāgawrī’s audacious proposal addresses a key question, since the classification of humours constitutes a central element of the doctrinal identities of both the Avicennian and the Ayurvedic schools. Moreover, a closer reading of this chapter raises the question of whether Nāgawrī’s intent was to revise both doctrines at the base of his hybrid nosography. His model can be read not only as a key adjustment to the Avicennian view but also as a reconsideration of the Ayurvedic theory which does not count blood among the humours.




See Jean Filliozat, La doctrine classique de la médecine indienne. Ses origines et ses parallèles grecs (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1949), 196–237; Guy Mazars, La médecine indienne (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995), 43; Antonella Comba, “La medicina āyurvedica.” In Cina, India, Americhe. Storia della Scienza Vol. II (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2001), 836–837.


Lutz Richter-Bernburg, “Bād.” Encyclopædia Iranica, vol. 3, 1989, 350–351.


  • Table A

    The classification of humoural pathology proposed in the first chapter of the Šifāʾ al-maraż

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  • Table B

    A reconstruction of the ambivalent relations between the humours and the four natural qualities of the Avicennian thought, based on Nāgawrī’s description. The Ayurvedic bād is closely associated with sawdāʾ since they share the same properties, cold and dry. At one instance talḫa is described as hot and dry, i.e. equivalent to Avicennian ṣafrāʾ, while in another passage talḫa can be understood as referring to Ayurvedic bile that Muslim physicians interpreted as hot and wet, which were also the qualities associated with blood.

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