From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, p. 627 Courtesy of Springer.

Y. Tzvi Langermann

Kharaqī: Shams al‐Dīn Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al‐Kharaqī [al‐Khiraqī]

FlourishedMarw (Merv near Mary, Turkmenistan)


Kharaqī is the author of two works on hayʾa, a genre of the Arabic astronomical literature that placed its main emphasis on explaining the physical structure of the Universe. The shorter of these, al‐Tabṣira fīʿilm al‐hayʾa (Conspectus of the science of astronomy), achieved considerable popularity. Altogether, about a dozen manuscripts survive (including several copied into Hebrew letters). Two commentaries were written, one by the Yemeni Jew Aluʾel ben Yeshaʿ, the other anonymous; and a Hebrew translation has been identified. Only a few manuscript copies of the longer work, Muntahā al‐idrāk fī taqāsīm al‐aflāk (The utmost attainment in the configuration of the orbs) survive. Neither work has been published or even been the subject of a close study.

Kharaqī's work constitutes an important stage in the physical investigations of Islamic astronomers. He acknowledges the work of predecessors such as Ibn al‐Haytham who had put their minds to this task. Yet, Kharaqī proclaims, people still do not know how the stars carry out their motions. It is like knowing that a person went from one city to another, but not knowing whether he went by foot or on horseback. His own work aims to rectify the matter. Although no specific advances can yet be credited to al‐Kharaqī, his writings were an influence upon Naṣīr al‐Dīn al‐Ṭūsī.

Selected References

Ragep, F. J. (1993). Naīr al‐Dīn al‐ūsī's Memoir on Astronomy (al‐Tadhkira fīʿilm al‐hayʾa). 2 Vols. New York: Springer‐Verlag. (See his index for occasional references and citations from the writings of Kharaqī.)

Wiedemann, E. and K. Kohl (1926/1927). “Einleitung zu Werken von al‐Charaqī.” Sitzungsberichte der Physikalisch‐Medizinischen Sozietät in Erlangen 58–59: 203–218. (Reprinted in Wiedemann, Aufsätze zur arabischen Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Vol. 2, pp. 628–643. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1970. German translations of introductions to Kharaqī's two books.)

Wiedemann, E. and J. Samsó (1978). “Al‐Kharakī.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd ed. Vol. 4, p. 1059. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

References in ISMI