Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī

Muslim scholar
Ali ibn Mohammed ibn Abbas
Title Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī
Born 923CE
Died 1023CE
Ethnicity Arab
Era Islamic golden age
Region Iraq
Main interest(s) Literature, and philosophy
Notable work(s) Al-'Imta' wa al-Mu'anasa (Enjoyment and Conviviality)

Ali ibn Mohammed ibn Abbas (Arabic: علي بن محمد بن عباس‎) also known as Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī (أبو حيان التوحيدي) (923–1023) was one of the most famous intellectuals and thinkers in the 10th century. Yaqut Al-Hamawi described him saying: "the philosopher of adibs and the adib of philosophers". However, it was neglected and ignored by the historians of his era. This disregard continued until Yaqut wrote his famous book Mu'jam Al-'Udaba' (معجم الأدباء), which consists of a biography of at-Tawhidi including expression of surprise and astonishment of ignoring an eminent person such as al-Tawhidi, and was adopted in the biography a lot of what al-Tawhidi wrote on himself in his books.


In spite of the turmoil and different views on the at-Tawhidi's dates of birth and death, and his origin, the most correct that he is from an Arab origin, was born in 923 in Baghdad, and died in 1023 in Shiraz. Al-Tawhidi long lived a hard life and tormented. He was born in a poor family that works in the sale a sort of dates called Tawhid (hence his surname comes), and spent the rest of his childhood as an orphan in bail of his uncle which was always offending him.


Al-Tawhidi received learning in Baghdad at the hands of senior scientists and writers of that era, and the culture of his time taking the same encyclopedic which gleaned from the following sources:

1. Apprenticeship at the hands of senior scientists and writers. The Nahw Arabic grammar and Sufism on Abu Said Al-Sirafi, and studied the Arabic language and Kalam on Ibn Isa Al-Rummani, and studied philosophy on Abu Zakaria ibn Yahia Uday al-Mantiqi.
2. His eagerness to attend the councils of literature, science, and philosophy, which was convened a lot in his era.
3. Read many books on various subjects of the knowledge of that era, and that because of his long years of work as a handwriter for the manuscripts, a job which often complained about it in his writings.

Contact with statesmen

In spite of that al-Tawhidi tried hard to improve his status when he contacted some of the high-ranking statesmen, such as the viziers: Al-Muhallabi, Ibn al-'Amid, Sahib ibn 'Abbad and others, but it was disappointing every time, probably because of lack of luck. No exaggeration in saying that the life of al-Tawhidi is a series of successive failures and frustrations, the most cause is al-Tawhidi himself; he had a melancholic and depressed mood, and he was sad, pessimistic, and had resentment against others, alluring defamatory distinguished from the good people in his time, the envier own them. It was, in addition to all this, the aggressors themselves, the most literary self, somewhat ambitious rashness, so he lived most of his life suffering from violent conflict between over-ambitious and painful reality is full of all the colors of failure and deprivation. This conflict has forced him eventually to succumb to despair and Thrown resorted to Sufism to escape the bitter reality. Perhaps the burning of his books by himself which happened later in his life is a good evidence that the despair of himself and people and that he choose to live the life of asceticism in his remaining days.


In spite of the incident of burning his books collectively (which was symbolic of course) by himself, he have left to us a set of literary, philosophical, and Sufi works, which were distinctive in the history of the Arabic literature. Perhaps the most important works are: ِ

  • Al-'Imta' wa al-Mu'anasa
  • Al-Sadaqa wa al-Sadiq
  • Mathalib al-Wazirain
  • Al-Hawamil wa al-Shawamil
  • Al-Basaer wa al-Dhakha'ir
  • Al-Muqabasat
  • Al-Isharat al-Ilahiyya

And also he wrote a series of letters, all are verified and printed.

Literary Style

In terms of writing style, al-Tawhidi has never yield to the technique of Saj' and Badi' (Arabic Eloquence) which was prevailed in his era, but his style was mostly Jahizian style; and relies on reasoning, duplication, division, cynicism and redundancy, and in his writings pay a careful attention.


  • Salah NATIJ, "La nuit inaugurale d'al-Imatâ' wa l-mu'ânasa d'Abu Hayyân al-Tawhidi,une leçon magistrale d'adab", Revue Arabica, Vol. 55, No.2, 2008 = http://maduba.free.fr/Sur_Tawhidi.pdf
  • I. Keilani, Abú Hayyán al-Tawhidi (in French), Beirut, 1950.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.