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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 238-239

The ophthalmologist of the Timurid Era: Abu Zayn Kahhal

1 Department of History, Dr. Ali Shariati 's Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran
2 Department of History, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran

Date of Submission22-Dec-2018
Date of Acceptance19-Jan-2019
Date of Web Publication19-Apr-2019

Correspondence Address:
Javad Abbasi
Department of History, Dr. Ali Shariati's Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jovr.jovr_307_18

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How to cite this article:
Golshani SA, Abbasi J, Imanpour MT, Foroozani SA. The ophthalmologist of the Timurid Era: Abu Zayn Kahhal. J Ophthalmic Vis Res 2019;14:238-9

How to cite this URL:
Golshani SA, Abbasi J, Imanpour MT, Foroozani SA. The ophthalmologist of the Timurid Era: Abu Zayn Kahhal. J Ophthalmic Vis Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 27];14:238-9. Available from: http://www.jovr.org/text.asp?2019/14/2/238/256554

Dear Editor,

Abu Zayn Kahhal

The real name, birth place, and date of death of the person known only by his nickname, “Abu Zayn Kahhal,” are not known. He was an Iranian physician and surgeon who lived from the mid-14th century to the mid-15th century during the reign of two Timurid rulers, Tamerlane (1336-1405 AD) and Shah-Rukh (1376-1447 AD). He travelled to Herat during the reign of Shah-Rukh. Little information is available about his life, but as his name suggests, he was a skilled ophthalmologist.[1],[2],[3] He has been mentioned in the Encyclopædia Iranica.[1] He penned a book titled Šarāyeṭ-e Ĵarrāáī (Surgical Conditions), which consisted of 10 articles.[4]

Seemingly, Abu Zayn Kahhal also authored two other books titled Resaleh Noreyeh and Mesbah al-Ayan about ophthalmology, but they have not yet been discovered.[4] However, a manuscript called Šarāyeṭ-e Kahhali, which dates back to the Safavid era, is kept in the Malik library. This manuscript is ascribed to Abu Zayn Kahhal [Figure 1].
Figure 1. The image of the manuscript titled Šarāyeṭ-e Kahhali in Malik library and museum. Web: http://malekmuseum.org.

Click here to view

Nevertheless, there is no reference to eye disease or surgery in Šarāyeṭ-e Ĵarrāáī, because he believed that the delicacy of eye surgery did not match the bold approaches adopted by his contemporary surgeons. An important consideration regarding the medical viewpoints and approach of Abu Zayn Kahhal is the emphasis he put on understanding the different parts and powers of the body, as well as the sections of the body organs in surgery. Abu Zayn Kahhal described dissection as a dignified and honorable science and as the most essential surgical technique.[1]

According to Professor Lutz Richter-Bernburg, Šarāyeṭ-e Ĵarrāáī has been preserved in three incomplete manuscripts. It was apparently never quoted in other Persian works on medicine. Abu Zayn Kahhal's work cannot be compared with that of his great predecessors in the field of surgical practice and writing, such as Zahrāwī, but it merits detailed study as one of the very few examples of its kind in Persian medical writing.[1]

According to Abu Zayn Kahhal, physicians can become surgeons without training, by learning from their teachers, gaining experience, and using their wit. He extensively described his personal experiences.[3]

Regarding personality traits, he argued that a surgeon should make attempts to be friendly to patients. The surgeon must be righteous, and not be greedy and corrupt, and should not befriend wrongdoers. He must also not greed to take advantage of the wife of other Muslims and he must wake up early in the morning and even if the patient is poor and underprivileged he must not spare any efforts and he must treat strangers, orphans, and widows compassionately.[3]

Abu Zayn Kahhal's books include Šarāyeṭ-e Ĵarrāáī and Tib Shah Rukhi, which was penned in Herat during the reign of Shah Rukh (1376-1447 AD) and consists of two articles.[2]


The present studyfunded by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and Iran's National Elites Foundation.

Financial Support and Sponsorship


Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Richter-Bernburg L. “ABŪ ZAYN KAḤḤĀL,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, p. 401; an updated version is available from: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-zayn-kahha-autho-of-the-medical-text-sarayet-e-arrahi-its-dedication-to-the-timurid-sahrok-r. [Last accessed on 2014 Jan 31].  Back to cited text no. 1
Tadjbakhsh H. History of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine of Iran, vol 2. Tehran: Tehran University Publication; 2006. p. 376.  Back to cited text no. 2
A Group of Writers in the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences. [Dayer al-Maaref Islam va Iran], vol 2. Tehran: Amirkabir; 2011. p. 471-473.  Back to cited text no. 3
Ghassemlou F, Shams-Ardekani MR, Mokhber Dezfouli MR. [Taghvim Tarikh: Farhang va Tamadon Islam va Iran], vol 1. Tehran: Amirkabir; 2013. p. 1306.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Figure 1]


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