ARISTUTALIS or ARISTU, i.e., Aristotle, the 4th century B.C. Greek philosopher, the
study of whose works became permanently established in the Greek philosophical schools from
the first century B.C. onwards.
I. The commentators Nicolaus of Damascus (saec. I B.C.) Alexander of Aphrodisias (± A.D. t00),
Themistius (saec. IV), John Philoponus and Simplicius (saec. VI) show the way in which Aristotle
was understood in such late Greek teaching. With very few exceptions (cf. below), most of the
writings of Aristotle eventually became known to the Arabs in translation, and a great number
of the commentaries (which are partly familiar to us in the Greek original, partly only preserved
in Arabic versions or even in Hebrew versions from the Arabic) were also thoroughly studied by
Arabic teachers of Aristotle and by Islamic philosophical writers. The oriental tradition of
Aristotle reading follows his late Greek interpreters without a gap, and the medieval Western
tradition depends as much on the Islamic study of Aristotle (particularly in the huge sections of
Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd made available to the Schoolmen) as on the late Greek and
Byzantine expositions of his thought. A. is without reservation considered by most Arabic
philosophers as the outstanding and unique representative of philosophy from al-Kindi (cf. Rasa'il
I, 103, 17 Abu Rida) to Ibn Rushd's unqualified praise (Comm. Magnum in Arist. De anima III, t,
433 Crawford): Aristotle is 'exemplar quod natura invenit ad demonstrandumqultimam
perfectionem humanam'. A. is often referred to as 'the philosopher'. He is by implication 'the
first teacher', al-Farabi being described as the second (al-mu'allim al-thani).
Since a full survey of Muslim Aristotelianism would virtually constitute a complete history of
Islamic philosophical thought, it must be sufficient to point out the main facts and name the
instruments of study at present available. In agreement with the Greek commentators Aristotle
is understood as a dogmatic philosopher and as the author of a closed system. He is, moreover
(again in a way not unknown to the Greek neo-Platonic teachers), supposed to agree with Plato
in all the essential tenets of his thought or, at least, to be complementary to him. The Arabs
could even go as far as to credit Aristotle himself with neo-Platonic metaphysical ideas, and it is
hence not altogether surprising that extracts from a lost Greek paraphrase of Plotinus and a
rearrangement of a number of chapters of Proclus's Elements of Theology could pass as Aristotle's
Theology and Aristotle's Book of the Pure Good or Liber De Causis respectively.
The Arabs eventually became acquainted with almost all the more important lecture-courses of
Aristotle, with the exception of the Politics, the Eudemian Ethics and Magna Moralia. They had no
translation of the Dialogues, which had become less popular in post-Hellenistic times. Their
knowledge of Aristotle thus went far beyond the few logical writings known to the early Latin
Middle Ages in Boethius's translation, and comprehended the whole late Greek syllabus (cf. also
the interesting passage Comm. in Arist. Graeca iii/1, xvii f.). Surveys of the treatises and the
ancient commentaries known are to be found in Ibn al-Nadim, Fihrist, t48-5t, Flügel (347-5t in
the Egyptian edition) and Ibn al-qifti, Ta'rikh al-Hukama, 34-4t Lippert. It is odd that Ibn al-qifti
op. cit., 4t-8 (cf. Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-Anba' fi tabaqat al-Atibba' I 67 ff.) has preserved an
otherwise lost but originally Greek list of Aristotle's writings ascribed to a Ptolemy, cf. A.
Baumstark, Syrisch-Arabische Biographien des Aristoteles, Leipzig 1900, 61 ff. and P. Moraux, Les listes
anciennes des ouvrages d'Aristote, Louvain 1951, t89 ff.
Aristotle's lecture courses did not become known to the Arabs in their entirety at once, but in
stages. The first texts translated of which we are informed are, in conformity with the syllabus
followed in the Syrian monastic schools and by Greek patristic writers, limited to formal logic,
i.e. Porphyry's Isagoge, Categories, De Interpretatione and part of the Prior Analytics. The first
translator of Aristotle whose work is known (although still unedited) is Muhammad Ibn
'Abdallah, the son of the famous Ibn al-Muqaffa' (cf. P. Kraus, RSO 1933). The Topics and the
Posterior Analytics and Rhetoric and Poetic (which belong to the logical writings in late Greek
tradition) were soon added but it was not before the foundation of the bayt al-hikma during the
reign of al-Ma'mun that non-logical writings by Aristotle were made accessible as well. Details
about the history of the early translations are still scarce, but 'ancient' versions of the books On
the Heaven, the Meteorology, the main zoological writings, the greater part of the Metaphysics, the
Sophistici Elenchi and (most probably) the Prior Analytics have survived until the present day; whilst
the so called Theology of Aristotle (cf. above) was also translated at this early stage. Al-Kindi's
understanding of Aristotle is based on these translationsq(cf. M. Guidi-R. Walzer, Studi sual-Kindi
I, Uno scritto introduttivo allo studio di Aristotele, Rome 1940). Hunayn b. Ishaq and his son Ishaq and
other associates of this renowned centre of translations of philosophical, medical and generally
scientific Greek works produced a great number of partially improved and partially first
translations of Aristotle. The translators sometimes worked from the Greek original, sometimes
from older or recent intermediate Syriac translations. The better ones were eager to establish a
Greek text before they started upon their task. We eventually find a well established tradition of
Aristotle reading in the 10th century, in Baghdad, upheld by Christian Arabic philosophers such
as Abu Bishr Matta and Yahya b. 'Adi and others who considered themselves, probably correctly,
as late descendants of the Greek philosophical school of Alexandria. The syllabus which they
followed was partly based on earlier translations and partly on translations of their own (made
from older or recent Syriac translations), since most of the representatives of this school were no
longer able to read Greek. Al-Farabi's acquaintance with Aristotle presupposes the achievement
of this circle (his treatise On Aristotle's Philosophy will be published by Muhsin Mahdi), and all the
subsequent Islamic philosophers equally base themselves on the same corpus of translations
which had eventually emerged (after an activity of almost t00 years) in Baghdad and spread
from there all over the Islamic world, from Persia to Spain. The work of these translators seems
to have surpassed even Ibn Rushd in accuracy and knowledge of textual variants. These Arabic
versions of Aristotle are certainly not without importance for the establishment of the original
Greek text, and they deserve the same attention as a Greek papyrus or an early Greek MS. or
the variants recorded in Greek commentators. They help us moreover to get a more common
sense view of the history of texts in general.
The Greek commentators became known to the Arabs together with the text of Aristotle. We
meet their influence in different forms: Full texts comprising the lemmata of the Aristotelian
groundwork, terse paraphrases by Themistius and his like, shorter surveys of the argument of
individual treatises, and marginal notes in manuscripts which quote sentences and views taken
from the larger works. Not many of the translations of these Greek commentaries have survived,
since they were used by the Arab successors of the Greek Aristotelian scholars who wrote
commentaries and monographs in their own name. Of these, again, not very many have come
down to us in the original text. Not one of Al-Farabi's commentaries on Aristotelian treatises has
yet been traced in any library. Ibn Badhdha's elaborate summaries of works of Aristotle are still
unedited. A certain number of Ibn Rushd's shorter and more elaborate commentaries are also
known, whilst more survive only in Hebrew and Latin translations.
A list of the works of Aristotle (mentioning the more important spurious ones as well) which are
at present available for study is following.
Al-Hasan b. Suwar's edition of Ishaq b. Hunayn's translation was published, with all the marginal
comments to be found in Paris Bibl. Nat. Ar. t346, a French translation of the notes and an
index of terms by Khalil Georr, Les Categories d'Aristote dans leurs versions Syro-Arabes, Beirut 1948
(cf. Oriens 6, 1953, 101 ff.). Other editionq(without the marginal notes) by A. Badawi, Mantiq
Aristu, 1-55, 307 f., 673 ff. Ibn Rushd's Middle Commentary is available (together with a critical text
of the groundwork) in an edition by M. Bouyges, Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum, tom. IV, Beirut
Best edition of Ishaq b. Hunayn's translation by I. Pollack, Leipzig 1913. Other edition by A.
Badawi, op. cit., 57-99.
Al-Hasan b. Suwar's edition of Theodorus' (Abu Qurra's?) translation with copious marginal
comments was published for the first time by A. Badawi, op. cit., 103-306 (cf. Oriens 6, 1953,
First edition of Abu Bishr Matta's translation (based on Ishaq b. Hunayn's Syriac version) and later
scholars' marginal comments published by A. Badawi, op. cit., 309-46t (cf. Oriens 6, 1953, 1t9
First editions of Abu 'Uthman ad-Dimashqi and Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah's translations and later
scholars, marginal comments published by A. Badawi, op. cit., 467-733.
First edition of three translations (Yahya b. 'Adi, 'Isa b. Zur'a and Ibn Na'ima) by A. Badawi, op.
cit., 736-1018. C. Haddad, Trois versions inedites des Refutations Sophistiques, Thesis, Paris 195t.
No edition of cod. ar. t346 Paris exists, cf. S. Margoliouth, Semitic Studies in memory of A. Kohut
(Berlin 1897), 376 ff. S. M. Stern, Ibn al-Samh, JRAS 1956, 41 ff. F. Lasinio, Il commento medio di
Averroee alla Retorica di Aristotele (Florence 1877--edition of part of book I). A. M. A. Sallam,
Averroes' commentary on the third book of Aristotle's Rhetoric, Thesis (Oxford 195t), Typescript.
Editions of Abu Bishr's translation by D. S. Margoliouth (1887, Latin translation 1911), J.
Tkatsch (Die arabische Übersetzung der Poetik und die Grundlage der Kritik des griechischen Textes, t vols.,
Vienna 19t8-193t) and A. Badawi (Aristutalis. Fann al-Shi'r, Cairo 1953, 85-143). The texts of the
Poetics by Al-Farabi (fi Kawanin ‘ina'at al-Shu'ara', ed. Arberry, R.S.O. 16, 1938), Ibn Sina (from the
Shifa, ed. Margoliouth) and Ibn Rushd ('Middle Commentary', ed. Lasinio) are reprinted in the
About the Leiden MS (no. 1443) of Ishaq ibn Hunayn's translation cf. S. M. Stern, Ibn al-Samh, in
JRAS, 1956, 31 ff. A critical edition will be published in the Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum. Ibn
Rushd's 'Middle Commentary' is available in a Hyderabad edition of 1947: Rasa'il I.R., fasc. 1.
: cod. Brit. Mus. Add. 7453 (Yahya b. al-Bitriq). A critical edition will be published in the
Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum. The Hebrew text of Themistius's otherwise lost commentary was
edited (with a Latin translation) by S. Landauer, Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca V 4, Berlin
190t. Ibn Rush's 'Middle Commentary': Rasa'il (cf. above) fasc. t.
De gen. et corr.:
cf. Rasa'il Ibn Rushd, fasc. 3. For a fragment of Alexander of Aphrodisias's lost commentary cf.
MS. Chester-Beatty 370t, fol. 168b.
Translation by Yahya b. al-Bitriq in cod. Yeni Cami 1179 and Vat. Hebr. 378. Rasa'il Ibn Rushd,
De naturis animalium (= On the parts of animals, On the generation of animals, History of Animals):
Translation by Yahya b. al-Bitriq in cod. Brit. Mus. Add. 7511 and cod. Leyd. 166 Gol. G.
Furlani, R.S.O. 9, 19tt, t37.
De plantis (by Nicolaus of Damascus):
Ishaq b.qHunayn's translation, as revised by øhabit b. qurra, was edited (from cod. Yeni 0ami
1179) by A. J. Arberry, Cairo 1933-4, and edited a second time by A. Badawi, Islamica 16, Cairo
1954, t43 ff. Cf. H. J. Drossaart Lulofs, Journal of Hellenic Studies 77, 1957, 75 ff.
First edition of Ishaq b. Hunayn's Arabic version by A. Badawi, Islamica 16, Cairo 1954, 1-88
(from cod. Aya Sofya t450). Anonymous Paraphrase, ed. Ahmad Fouad al-Ahwani, Cairo 1950
(cf.Oriens 6, 1953, 1t6 ff. and JRAS 1956, 57 ff.). Arabic translation of sections of Themistius's
paraphrase (Comm. in Arist. Graeca V 3), cf. M. C. Lyons, BSOAS 17, 1955, 4t6 ff. Ibn Badhdha,
Paraphrase of Aristotle's De anima, edition and English translation by M. S. Hasan, Thesis, Oxford
195t (Typescript). Rasa'il Ibn Rushd fasc. 5 (other edition Cairo 1950). Averrois Commentarium
Magnum in Aristotelis De anima Libros, rec. F. S. Crawford, Cambridge Mass. 1953 (critical ed. of
the Latin translation). Cf. also Ibn Sina, Kitab al-Insaf 75-116 (ed. Badawi, Aristu 'inda-l-'Arab, Cairo
De sensu et sensato. De longitudine et brevÌtate vitae:
Ibn Rushd's paraphrases were edited by A. Badawi, Islamica 16, Cairo 1954, 191 ff. Averrois
Compendia Librorum qui Parva Naturalia vocantur, rec. A. L. Shields, Cambridge Mass. 1949 (Latin
First edition of Arabic text (from MSS. Leiden or. t074 and t075) of books a, A 5, 987a 5 ff.,
B-I and L by M. Bouyges, in Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum V-VII, Beirut 1938-195t (together
with Ibn Rushd's Great Commentary). Part of the Arabic version of the commentary on book L by
Themistius was published by A. Badawi, Aristu 'inda' l-'Arab, Cairo 1947, 3t9 ff.; 1t ff., the full text
in Hebrew and Latin by S. Landauer, Comm. in Aristotelem Graeca V 4, Berlin 1903 (the Greek
original is lost). For Alexander of Aphrodisias cf. J. Freudenthal, Die durch Averroes erhaltenen
Fragmente Alexanders zur Metaphysik des Aristoteles, Berlin 1885. Cf. also Badawi, Aristu etc., 3-11 and
Ibn Sina, Kitab al-insaf, tt-33 (ed. Badawi, Aristu etc.).
The last four books have been traced in Morocco, together with a paraphrase of another
section of the work ascribed to Nicolaus of Damascus, cf. A. J. Arberry, BSOAS 1955, 1 ff. Books
1, 7 and 8 of the 'Summaria Alexandrinorum' are available in cod. Taimur Pasha, Akhlaq t90.
Translation from the Syriac (by 'Isa b. Ibrahim al-Nafisi) in cod. Princetonianus RELS 308, ff.
t93v-303v. Cf. W. L. Lorimer, American Journal of Philology 53, 193t, 157 ff.
Fragments of lost works
R. Walzer, Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica, N.S. 14, 1937, 1t5 ff.; Sir David Ross, The Works of
Aristotle translated into English XII, Oxford 195t, t3 (cf. Al-Kindi, Rasa'il I, 179; t81).
R. Walzer, JRAS 1939, 407 ff.; Sir David Ross, op. cit., t6.
S. Pines, Archives d'Histoire doctrinale et litteraire du Moyen Age, 1957 (from Miskawayh, Tahdhib
al-Akhlaq, ch. 3).
De philosophia (?):
S. van den Bergh, Averroes' Tahafut al-Tahafut, London 1954, II 90.
Books attributed to Aristotle in Arabic tradition.
De pomo (Kitab al-Tuffaha):
J. Kraemer, Das arabische Original des 'Liber de pomo' (Kkprülü 1608), Studi Orientali in onore di G.
Levi della Vida, Romeq1956, i, 484 ff. D. S. Margoliouth, The Book of the Apple, ascribed to Aristotle,
ed. in Persian and English, JRAS 189t, 187 ff.
J. Ruska, Das Steinbuch des Aristoteles, Heidelberg 191t.
Secretum Secretorum (Sirr al-Asrar):
ed. A. Badawi, Islamica 15, Cairo 67-171.
Per‹basile¤aw, ed. J. Lippert, Dissert. Halle 1891. Cf. I. Goldziher, Der Islam 6, 1916, 173 ff.
'Theology of Aristotle', based on a probably Greek paraphrase of sections of Plotinus, ed. F.
Dieterici, Leipzig 188t (German translation, ibid. 1883); new edition by A. Badawi, Islamica t0,
Cairo 1955. Ibn Sina's comments are published by A. Badawi, Aristu 'inda-l'Arab, 37 ff. and
translated into French by G. Vajda, Revue Thomiste 1951, 346 ff. Cf. also S. Pines, Revue des Etudes
Islamiques 1954, 7 ff. 'Liber de causis', based on Proclus' Elements of Theology, ed. O. Bardenhewer,
Freiburg i. Br. 188t (with German translation); new edition by A. Badawi, Islamica 19, Cairo
II. The Arabic 'Lives of Aristotle' add almost nothing to the information available in Greek
texts. To be mentioned are the accounts of his life in the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim (cf. above), in
Mubashshir b. Fatik's Mukhtar al-Hikam (cf. J. Lippert, Studien auf dem Gebiet der griechisch-arabischen
Übersetzungs-literatur I, Berlin 1894, 4 ff. and F. Rosenthal, Orientalia 6, 1937, t1 ff.), ‘a'id
al-Andalusi, Tabaqat al-Umam, t4 ff., Ibn al-qifti, Ta'rikh al-Hukama, t7 ff. Lippert, Ibn Juljul,
Tabaqat al-Atibba' wa-l-Hukama (ed. Fu'ad Sayyid, 1955), t5 ff., Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-Anba' I 54
ff. Müller. Sections from these biographies were translated and compared by A. Baumstark, op.
cit., 39 ff., 117 ff., 1t8 ff. A very comprehensive list of all the works and commentaries translated
into Arabic (cf. above), to be found in Ibn al-Nadim and Ibn al-qifti was discussed by A. Müller,
Die griechischen Philosophen in der arabischen Überlieferung, Halle 1873 and M. Steinschneider, Die
arabischen Übersetzungen aus dem Griechischen, Beihefte zum Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen V, 1893. The
lost Greek catalogue by a still unidentified Ptolemy (cf. above) was published by A. Müller,
Morgenlaendische Forschungen, Festschrift Fleischer, Leipzig 1875, 1 ff., by M. Steinschneider in vol. 5
of the Berlin edition of Aristotle, 1870, 1469 ff. and in Aristotle, Fragmenta, ed. V. Rose, 18 ff., by
A. Baumstark and P. Moraux (cf. above). A new and comprehensive treatment of the whole
Arabic biographical tradition is to be found in I. Düring, Aristotle in the Ancient Biographical
Tradition, Gkteborg 1957.
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Source: from the Encyclopedia of Islam --© 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands