When the period of great conquests in the history of Islam ended, the Arabs directed their efforts to various aspects of knowledge with all enthusiasm, and they translated all the Greek, Persian, or Indian manuscripts they could find.

Christians and Jews played a role in accomplishing this work under the shadows of Islamic civilization, including Hunayn ibn Ishaq, whose efforts we will discuss in this regard.

A century and a half after the emergence of Islam, both the cities of Baghdad under the Abbasids, and Cordoba during the reign of the Umayyads, became global educational centers, especially for medicine.

Among the famous doctors during the Umayyad era, we find Ibn Wissal and Abu al-Hakam al-Dimashqi. Ibn Wissal was a Christian and a doctor to the first Umayyad caliph Muawiyah, and he was proficient in toxicology.

Likewise, Abu al-Hakam al-Dimashqi was a Christian doctor skilled in medicine and a wise man for the Umayyad Caliph Yazid.

His life

He is Abu Zaid Hunayn bin Isaac Al-Abadi (known in Latin as Johannitius) and was born in Al-Hira in the year (194 AH = 810 AD).

He was born in Al-Hira, Iraq, to an Arab Nestorian Christian father who belonged to the Abbad tribe, who became Christian in the first centuries of Christianity, and a portion of which settled in Al-Hira.

Al-Hira, the capital of the Lakhmids tribes in southern Iraq, was made up of a third of the Christian tribe of Banu al-Abbad, and belonged to the Church of the East, called Nestorianism.

His father was a pharmacist who made drugs from weed and sold them, so Hunayn grew up passionate about the medical industry, he works in pharmacy and banking, and his original language was Syriac.

Hunayn's teacher in this school was the famous doctor Yahya bin Masawayh, but he was arrogant to a great degree, which prompted Hunayn to leave his studies, and he retreated to an unknown place for several years, during which he learned the Greek language, which Ibn Masawayh criticized him for his ignorance.

Then he moved to the city of Basra, Iraq, where he joined the largest institute for Arabic language sciences and learned the Arabic language at the hands of Al-Khalil bin Ahmed Al-Farahidi, the greatest and most famous scholar of the Arabic language.

Then he went to Jundisapur and learned Persian, then he moved to Baghdad, where he heard the lectures of John Ebo Massawh and was satisfied with him, Hunayn was thirsty for knowledge and was devoted to medicine.

He traveled to the Roman lands, learned medicine, and mastered Greek and its objectives until he excelled it, then he returned to Basra to study Arabic, and his interest in translating Greek antiquities reached a great extent, so he traveled around the countries seeking and obtaining them.

Hunyan Ibn Isaac, translator

In his book Arab medicine, the famous orientalist Leclere says: 

Hunayn is considered the most powerful personality produced by the ninth century, and even one of the most intelligent  and the best moral, the scope of his researches are wide-raging, their kinds are various and importance is distinguished, he endured adversity with courage and nobility in the beginning of his scientific life And during it,, all of them arouse  interest and attracts hearts to it.    

He added that:

Although he was not the instigator of the renaissance in the East, no one participated in that renaissance as effectively, firmly, and fruitfully as Hunayn did.

Hunayn bin Isaac, as a historian and translator, is considered one of the great translators of the Abbasid era. He is one of the leading doctors who transferred medical and other books from the Greek language to the Arabic language.

those to whom he transmitted mentioned, that he was knowledgeable in the four foreign languages and the ones he used, Arabic, Syriac, Greek, and Persian, and his translation was of the utmost quality.

Hunain was known for his accuracy in translation, especially from Greek into Arabic, as it did not require correction.

His books and translations exceeded one hundred, and he was the reference among all translators.

The impact of his translation was wonderful, as a result of which all Arab doctors were familiar with all the medical innovations of their time.

We note that Hunayn Ibn Isaac, after he became dean of the House of Wisdom, which was established in 512 AH/038 AD, assisted many young translators by translating Greek books first into Syriac and then into Arabic. He translated seven of Hippocrates’ books into Arabic, and he was also attributed to having translated Arabic: All of Galen’s medical works and his comments on Hippocrates.

Thanks to him, Galen enjoyed the great fame that he gained among thinkers of the Islamic and Christian Middle Ages, and to him is also credited with writing the Arabic translation of the book “Materia Medica” by Dioscoridesx, and these translations indicate his keen interest in medicine.

Hunayn compiled a list of Galen's works that were available in his time, and selected about a hundred works from them, which he translated himself into Syriac or Arabic. In addition to these translations, his huge production included translations of Hippocrates and other doctors.

Haneen made the most important contribution to presenting Arabic culture through his successful efforts in creating a technical dictionary of Arabic and Syriac vocabulary.


Recognizing the necessary need for good texts, he worked with his colleagues to compare and contrast the translated texts, taking in different readings after differences in meanings emerged, and in this way he established a methodology against which subsequent translations could be measured.

His writings and achievements

His achievements were not limited to translation, but rather his contributions in various fields went beyond the custom of scholars in Islamic civilization, with their distance from narrow specialization and their tendency toward encyclopedism.


 the anatomy of the eye by Hunayn

He was the head of ophthalmology, his ten articles on the eye are the oldest scientific work on ophthalmology and the oldest systematic textbook known for scientific research on eye diseases.

This book is considered the oldest written book on eye diseases, and it was published by Max Meyerhof and verified its texts.

It is one of the oldest ophthalmology books in teaching ophthalmology, in a systematic educational manner, and it contains the oldest picture of the anatomy of the eye.

The orientalist Meyerhof was interested in studying its influence on medical books in Europe, and Hunayn states in the introduction to this book that it is the result of his experience in ophthalmology for thirty years.

He is credited with unifying medical expressions and terminology, especially in the field of the eye, after they were different among translators and authors in his time.

He has other important medical books, such as: “On Choosing Eye Medicines,” “A Book on Ophthalmia,” and “The Eye or the Hujja.”


Hunayn bin Isaac’s book “On the Preservation and Restoration of Teeth and Gums” is considered the first independent book dealing with dentistry among the Arabs, and the importance of the book stems from the fact that the author wrote it down after he had a variety of medical experiences.

The content of the book revolves around two axes:

The first: examines ways to prevent and protect teeth, or what is known as preventive dentistry.

The second: medicinal treatment by reviewing and describing diseases of the teeth and gums, mentioning the appropriate medicinal treatment.

The pharmacy

Hunayn Ibn Isaac wrote books on pharmacy: “ in the names of individual medicines on lexicon letters,” “in the secrets of compound drugs,” “Incendiary Drugs,” “Properties of Single Drugs,” and materia medica “Aqrabadhin.”

Natural Sciences

He also has other books, including “A Brief History of Chemists,” “Articles,” “On the Reason Why Sea Water Became Salty,” “On the Tides,” “On the Generation of Fire between Two Stones,” and letters “On Light and its Reality,” “Weights and Measures,” and “Excerpts from the Comets’ Message.


Hunayn's interest was not limited to medicine alone, but he also focused on philosophy, mathematics, and science.

He was the one whom Caliph Al-Ma'mun relied on in translating the books of Aristotle, and he translated them proficiently, he also translated Plato, Archimedes, Euclid, Otolycus, Menelaus, Abisclaus, and Theodosius.

He corrected the transmission of the previous translators during the time of Al-Mansur and Al-Rashid, perhaps he also reconsidered the transmission of his contemporaries, as he corrected Al-Hajjaj’s translation of Ptolemy’s “Almagest.” He also repaired Al-Batriq’s translation of the book “The Four Essays on the Making of the Rulings of the Stars” by Ptolemy as well.

He completely translated the Torah into Arabic, citing the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, made by seventy or seventy-two translators between the years 082-031 BC.

As for his writings in philosophy, they include “The Words of the Philosophers on Music and Philosophical Anecdotes,” “Saying About the Months of the Year That Are Suitable or Unresponsive,” “Assemblies of the Wise,” “Meetings of Philosophers in the House of Wisdom on Holidays and Wisdom Negotiates Among Them,” and “Etiquette.”



The movement of translation and transmission is considered one of the important matters in the history of the Arab-Islamic civilization. It is a fundamental pillar of its corners, in fact, it is its pillar and one of its original components, through it, the Arabs were able to obtain the main books of the most famous civilizations of the ancient world (Greece - India - Persians), which had an impact, in the process of the emergence and development of our Arab-Islamic civilization.