Astrology in Islam

  • Richard Lemay
Reference work entry

A few considerations about the historical development of the term and concept of astrology as an intellectual discipline are in order, so as to avoid the many misconceptions that prevail in this field of historical enquiry.

The first question concerns the terminology applicable in medieval Arabic culture. What we consider astrology in our epistemology has very little connection with its medieval definition. Horoscope‐making and interpreting are of course part of the game but with a rather remote bearing on its definition as a science in medieval eyes. In the mind of medieval Arab writers there is but one science of the sky with the moving bodies set in it. It was called ˓īlm an‐nujūm (science of the stars) and it consisted of two distinct treatments of the subject matter of the heavens: a purely mathematical one or ˓īlm al‐falakcorresponding to our astronomy, and a humanistic but rather conjectural one which aimed at deducing from the celestial motions their probable significance for...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baigent, Michael and Richard Leigh. L'elisir e la pietra (The Elixir and the Stone). Trans. Silvia Lalia. Milano: M. Tropea, 2001.Google Scholar
  2. Between Demonstration and Imagination: Essays … Presented to John D. North. Ed. Lodi Nauta, Arjo Vanderjagt. Leiden: Brill, 1999. 101–24.Google Scholar
  3. Kennedy, Edward S., ed. Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, Variorum, 1998.Google Scholar
  4. Lemay, R. L'Islam historique et les sciences occultes. Bulletin d'Études Orientales, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. Lines of Faith: Instruments and Religious Practice in Islam. Sphæra: The Newsletter of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford No. 7, 1998. 4–5: ill.Google Scholar
  6. Makariou, Sophie. L'apparence des cieux: Astronomie et astrologie en terre d'Islam. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1998.Google Scholar
  7. Nallino, C. A. “Astrology” and “Astronomy.” Encyclopedia of Islam. Leiden: Brill, 1913–1934. 494–501.Google Scholar
  8. Nallino, C. A. ‘Ilm al‐falak. Arabian Astronomy. Its History during the Medieval Times. Baghdad: Maktabat al Mathna, 1960.Google Scholar
  9. Saliba, G. Astronomy, Astrology, Islamic. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 1. Ed. J. R. Strayer. New York: Scribner's, 1978.Google Scholar
  10. Samsó, Julio. Horoscopes and History: Ibn ‘Azzuz and His Retrospective Horoscopes Related to the Battle of El Salado (1340).Google Scholar
  11. Steinschneider, M. Die Europāischen Übersetzungen aus dem Arabischen bis mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts. Vienna: C. Gerold's Sohn, 1905–1906.Google Scholar
  12. Ullmann, Manfred. Die Natur‐ und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Lemay

There are no affiliations available