Alchemy in Islam

  • Karin Ryding
Reference work entry

Arabic alchemical writing and documentation emerges in approximately the second half of the eighth century (750–800 AD), a period that witnessed substantial growth in intellectual activity and methodological refinement for all the known sciences. With the rapid expansion of the Islamic empire, knowledge from civilizations such as the Greek, Persian and Indian was melded and shared by means of the new lingua franca, Arabic. The unifying force of the Arabic language enabled scholars of diverse ethnic and disciplinary origins to exchange ideas, to transmit those ideas to their students, and to develop conceptual frameworks for exploring and expanding knowledge of the natural world. The Arabic term al‐kīmyā˒ appears morphologically to be non‐Arabic in origin, most likely a borrowing from Syriac kīmīyā, which may derive from Greek khemeia, or khymia, prefixed with the definite article al‐ in Arabic (Ullman 1965: 110; Wild 1965: 4). This word has survived as the term for the entire...

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  • Karin Ryding

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