wrote his six famous texts in Syriac.]

For example, Jurjis son of Bukht-Yishu was awarded 10,000 dinars by al-Mansur after attending to his malady in 765CE. [Edward Granville Browne, "Islamic Medicine", Goodword pub., 2002, ISBN 81-87570-19-9, p23] It is even said that one of the members of this family was received as physician to Imam Sajjad (the 4th Shia holy Imam) during his illness in the events of Karbala. ["Imam Hossayn va Iran" (امام حسین و ایران), by Zabihullah Mansouri (ذبیح الله منصوری). Tehran. Also: http://www.nabegheha.ir/imamsadegh/valid3.htm]

Like all physicians in the Abbasid courts, they came from the Academy of Gundishapur in Persia (in modern-day southwestern Iran). They were well versed in the Greek and Hindi sciences, including those of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Galen, which they aided in translating while working in Gondeshapur. [Max Meyerhof, “An Arabic Compendium of Medico-Philosophical Definitions,” Isis 10, no. 2(1928): 348. http://links.jstor.org]

Their family was originally from Ahvaz, near Jondishapur. Like all scholars of their day, they eventually moved to the new cosmopolitan city of Baghdad, and later on to Nsibin Northern Syria, which was part of the Persian Empire in the Sassanid era. [Donald R. Hill, "Islamic Science and Engineering". 1993. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748604553 p.4]

The continuing welcome received by the Nestorian Christian Bukhtishus into the court of Baghdad can be partially attributed to Yahya al-Barmaki, the vizier and mentor to Harun al-Rashid before his son, Jafar, became vizier. Yahya’s patronage to the academy and hospital in Gondeshapur helped assure the promotion and growth of astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, not only in Persia but also in the Abbasid empire in general. [Maz Meyerhof, "An Arabic Compendium"]


The name Bukhtishu according to "Kitab oyoon al anbaa fe tabaqat al-atebaa" (كتاب عيون الأنباء في طبقات الأطباء) of the 12th century for the Arab historian Ibn abi usaybia (ابن أبي أصيبعة) means "servant of Jesus" (في اللغة السريانية البخت العبد ويشوع عيسى عليه السلام) in Syriac language.

Many modern scholars consider the word to be a derivation from the pre-Islamic Pahlavi root word of "bukhtag" (بُختَگ: رهایی یافته) meaning "that who is freed" and "Yushu" (یَشُوع) meaning "Jesus Christ". This claim is supported by Dehkhoda [Dehkhoda Dictionary] , MacKenzie [MacKenzie, D. N.: A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London, OUP, 1971] , Azartash Azarnoush [ [http://www.cgie.org.ir/shavad.asp?id=130&avaid=381 دانره المعارف بزرگ اسلامی - آل بختيشوع ] ] , Theodor Nöldeke [Geschichte des Artachšir i Pâpakân aus dem Pehlewi...] , and Edward G. Browne.


There are no known remaining records of the first two members of the family. And the remaining records of the chain start from Jurjis. But the genealogical sequence follows as:

Bukhtishu I (بختیشوع اول)

Jibrail I (جِبرائیل اول)

Jurjis (جرجیس)

Jurjis, the father of Bukhtishu II and grandfather of Jibril ibn Bukhtishu, was a scientific writer and was the director of the hospital in Gondeshapur, which supplied physicians to courts in Iraq, Syria, and Persia. [Majid Fakhry, “Philosophy and Theology,” The Oxford History of Islam, ed. by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article.] Due to his medical renown, he was called to Baghdad in 765 CE to treat the stomach complaint of the Caliph al-Mansur. After successfully curing the caliph, he was asked to remain in attendance in Baghdad, which he did until he fell ill in 769 CE. [H.A.R Gibb, J.H. Kramers, E. Levi-Provencal, and J. Schacht, eds. Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, vol. 1, (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1960), s.v. “Bukhtishu.”] Before allowing him to return to Gondeshapur, the caliph invited him to convert to Islam but he declined, saying that he wanted to be with his fathers when he died. Amused by his obstinacy, the caliph sent an attendant with Jurjis to ensure he reached his destination. In exchange for the attendant and a 10,000 dinar wage, Jurjis promised to send his pupil Isa ibn Sahl to the caliph, since his son, Bukhtishu II, could not be spared from the hospital at Gondeshapur. [Edward G. Browne, Arabian Medicine (Cambridge: University Press, 1921), 23.]

Bukhtishu II (بختیشوع دوم)

Bukhtishu II was the son of Jurjis ibn Bukhtishu and the father of Jibril ibn Bukhtishu. He was left in charge of the hospital at Gondeshapur when his father was summoned to treat the stomach complaints of Caliph al-Mansur. Jurjis never intended for Bukhtishu II to go to Baghdad and tend to the caliphs and had offered to send one of his pupils in his stead. Nevertheless, Bukhtishu II was in turn called to the city to treat the Caliph al-Hadi, who was gravely ill. He was unable to establish himself in Baghdad until 787 CE, when Caliph Harun al-Rashid was suffering violently painful headaches. He successfully treated Harun al-Rashid and in gratitude the caliph made him physician-in-chief, a post he held onto until his death in 801 C.E. [H.A.R. Gibb, ed. Encyclopedia of Islam]

Jabril ibn Bukhtishu (جبرائیل دوم)

Alternate Spellings:Djibril b. Bukhtishu’, [Ibid.] Jibril ibn Bakhtishu', [Andras Hamori, “A Sampling of Pleasant Civilities,” Studia Islamica, no. 95(2002): 9, http://links.jstor.org.] Jibra’il ibn Bukhtyishu, [De Lacy O’Leary, How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs (London: William Clowes and Sons, Lmtd, 1957), 151.] Djabra’il b. Bakhtishu [Timothy S. Miller, “The Knights of Saint John and the Hospitals of the Latin West,” Speculum 53, no. 4(1978):725. http://links.jstor.org]

Jibril ibn Bukhtishu was the son of Bukhtishu II, who served the caliphs in Baghdad from 787 CE until his death in 801 CE. In 791 CE, Bukhtishu II recommended Jibril as a physician to Jafar the Barmakid, the vizier of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Despite the recommendation, Jibril did not succeed his father until 805 CE, after he successfully treated one of Harun al-Rashid’s slaves, thereby winning the confidence of the caliph. [H.A.R. Gibb, ed. Encyclopedia of Islam] During Jibril’s time in Baghdad, he advised Harun al-Rashid in the building of its first hospital. [Timothy S. Miller, “The Knights”] The hospital and connected observatory was modeled after the one in Gondeshapur where Jibril had studied medicine and served as the director. [Majid Fahkry, “Philosophy”] Jibril also served as the director of this new hospital, which Harun al-Rashid named after himself. [Timothy S. Miller, “The Knights”] The Abbasid court physicians gained high standing and trust once accepted and employed by the caliph, as illustrated by the anecdote in which Harun al-Rashid used Jibril to try to humble his vizier Yahya al-Barmaki on an occasion when Yahya entered the caliph’s presence without first gaining permission. In his collection of prose, Tha'alibi cites a story he heard from al-Babbagha:

“Bakhtishu’ ibn Jibril relates from his father…Then al-Rashid turned to me and said, ‘Jibril, is there anyone who would come before you without your permission in your own house?’ I said: ‘No, nor would anyone hope to do that.’ He said: ‘So what is the matter with us that people come in here without permission?’”
After this exchange, Yahya skillfully reminds Harun al-Rashid that he had been granted the privilege of entering his presence without permission by asking the caliph if a change had been made in court etiquette. [Andras Hamori, “A Sampling”] Being a part of such court interactions, Jibril would occasionally approach the caliph with a level of frankness not allowed most attendants. During Harun al-Rashid’s final illness, Jibril’s matter-of-fact responses to the caliph won him disgrace and soon after he was condemned to death. He was saved from execution by Alfadl ibn al-Rabi and subsequently became the physician of al-Amin. After al-Ma'mun gained power, Jibril again faced imprisonment, but was needed to treat Hasan ibn Sahl and thus was released in 817 CE. Three years later he was replaced by his son-in-law, Mikha’il, but was again called to Baghdad in 827 CE when Mikha’il was unable to treat the caliph. He died in the favor of the caliph sometime between 827 and 829 CE and, being Christian, was buried in the Monastery of St. Sergius in Ctesiphon which is in modern-day Iraq, on the east bank of the Tigris. [H.A.R. Gibb, ed. Encyclopedia of Islam] During the ninth and tenth century, the Bukhtishus had a virtual monopoly on the practice of medicine in Baghdad. [P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis, eds. The Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 2, The Further Islamic Lands, Islamic Society and Civilization (Cambridge: University Press, 1970), 767.] Jibril’s estimated career income of 88,800,000 dirhams reflected this, being the total of after serving Harun al-Rashid for 23 years and the Barmakids for 13, not including his fees from lesser patients. [Edward G. Browne, Arabian Medicine, 57] Another famous Nestorian physician and translator, Hunayn ibn Ishaq, gained entrance to the good graces of the academy at Gondeshapur and subsequently to the court at Baghdad by attaching himself to Jibril. Ishaq was able to impress Jibril and gain his recommendation after studying Greek for several years, which allowed him to become known in later centuries in both the Near East and in Europe for his translations. [Ibid., 24.]

Bukhtishu III (بختیشوع سوم)

Yuhanna ibn Bukhtishu

=Ubeidullah ibn Bukhtishu (عبیدالله اول)=

Jibrail III (جبرائیل سوم)

Jibrail III was the son of Ubayd Allah ibn Bukhtishu, a finance official for the Caliph al-Muktadir. After his father’s death, his mother married another physician. Jibrail III began studying medicine exclusively in Baghdad, where he went penniless after the death of his mother. After treating an envoy from from Kirman, he was called to Shiraz by the Buwayhid 'Adud al-Dawla but soon after he returned to Baghdad. He only left Baghdad for short consultations, even declining an offer from the Fatimid al-Aziz who wished to establish him in Cairo. Jibrail III died on June 8, 1006. [H.A.R. Gibb, ed. Encyclopedia of Islam]

Ubeidullah II (عبیدالله دوم)


Further reading

* [http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk/britishlibrary/controller/textsearch?text=Bakhtishu&x=10&y=7| British library, Bukhtishu's family books]
* [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/bioA.html National Library of Medicine of The United States]

ee also

* List of Iranian scientists

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