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Arabic Theories of Astral Influences: Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi

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Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic book series (PHSWM)

Abstract

The astrologer Abu Ma’shar Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Balkhi was definitely one of the most influential astrologers in the Middle Ages and the early modern period, in the Islamic world and Europe.1 From Kitab al-mudhakkarat (Book of Reminiscences) written by his pupil Shadhan, we know he was born in Balkh in Khurasan on 21 Safar 171 AH/10 August 787 AD; and according to Ibn al-Nadim he died in al-Wasit in central Iraq on 29 Ramadan 272 AH/9 March 886.2 His works on astrology display his masterful syncretic knowledge, drawing from Greek, Persian and Indian sources.3 Among his most influential works are Kitab al-milal wa al-duwal (Religions and Dynasties) also known as Kitab al-qiranat (On Conjunctions) which deals with the effects of celestial conjunctions on nations, dynasties and rulerships; Kitab tahawil sini al-mawalid (The Revolutions of the Years of Nativities), which describes casting horoscopes for the birthdays of clients and how to derive information for the following year by comparing these horoscopes with the clients’ birth charts; and Kitab al-madkhal al-kabir ila ’ilm ahkam al-nujum (The Book of the Great Introduction to the Science of the Judgements of the Stars) in which he provides a comprehensive philosophical model for astrology, presenting it as a natural science.4 The strategies for the naturalization of astrology that Abu Ma’shar adopts in his Great Introduction led Richard Lemay to assert that ’Abu Ma’shar alone attempts to justify the validity of astrological science by the use of natural philosophy.

Keywords

  • Celestial Body
  • Islamic World
  • Early Modern Period
  • Heavenly Body
  • Divine Nature

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Notes

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© 2015 Liana Saif

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Saif, L. (2015). Arabic Theories of Astral Influences: Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi. In: The Arabic Influences on Early Modern Occult Philosophy. Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137399472_2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137399472_2

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