From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, p. 941

Courtesy of

Qabīī: Abū al‐aqr ʿAbd al‐ʿAzīz ibn ʿUthmān ibn ʿAlī al‐Qabīī

Keiji Yamamoto

Alternate name


Flourished(Iraq), second half of the 10th century

Qabīī, an astronomer and astrologer, came from one of two villages called Qabīa in Iraq. He studied Ptolemy's Almagest under ʿAlī ibn Amad al‐ʿImrānī of Mosul, a mathematician and teacher, and dedicated several works (nos. 2, 3, 4, and 6, as given below) to Sayf al‐Dawla, the amdānid Emir of Aleppo between 945 and 967. Otherwise, details of Qabīī's life are little known.

Qabīī's extant works are the following:


A commentary on Farghānī's Kitāb al‐fuūl (also referred to as Kitāb fī jawāmiʿ ʿilm al‐nujūm).


A treatise on the distances and volumes of the planets (Risāla fī al‐abʿād wa‐ʾl‐ajrām). This treatise provides distances and volumes for the planets other than those of the Sun and the Moon, which had already been given in the Almagest. Qabīī's account of Mercury was quoted twice by Bīrūnī in his al‐Qānūn al‐masʿūdī (Vol. X, Chap. 6).


Book on the introduction to astrology (Kitāb al‐mudkhal ilā ināʿat akām al‐nujūm), comprising five chapters. Qabīī's most famous work, this book is preserved in several Arabic manuscripts and in a Latin translation of which there are more than 200 manuscripts as well as 12 editions printed between 1473 and 1521. His text was the main book used in universities in the medieval Latin world where astrology was taught as part of the curriculum in medicine.


A treatise for the examination of astrologers (Risāla fī imtiān al‐munajjimīn). This treatise contains 30 astronomical or astrological questions and answers. Qabīī divides astrologers into four categories according to their intellectual level: The complete astrologer; the one who knows facts such as the shape of the celestial sphere but can not prove them; the astrologer who accepts things uncritically, like a blind man – the majority of astrologers fall into this category; and one who does not know anything about astronomy and astrology, relying only upon the operations of instruments.


A work on the conjunction of the planets in the zodiacal signs and their prognostications for the revolutions of the years is attributed to Qabīī in Latin (De coniunctionibus planetarum in duodecim signis et earum pronosticis in revolutionibus annorum).


A mathematical work in Arabic on numbers.

Qabīī wrote several other works that are not extant. We know of them because he refers to them in his surviving works. These include a treatise on the size of the Earth, referred to in (2) and (6) as Risāla fī masāfat al‐ar, part of which is quoted at the end of (6); a book on the explanations of astronomical tables, referred to in (2) as Kitāb fī ʿilal al‐zījāt; a book on affirming the validity of astrology, referred to in the preface of (3) as Kitāb fī ithbāt ināʿat akām al‐nujūm, which was a response to the criticism of astrology by ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā, an astronomical instrumentmaker of the 9th century; Kitāb fī al‐namūdārāt, i. e., a book on the namūdārs, the method to fix a person's ascendant when the time of birth is unknown, referred to in the fourth chapter of (3); and a book referred to in the introduction of (4) as Shukūk al‐Majisī (Doubts on the Almagest).

Selected References

Al‐Qabīsī (2004). The Introduction to Astrology, edited and translated by Charles Burnett, Keiji Yamamoto, and Michio Yano. London: Warburg Institute.

Ibn al‐Nadīm (1970). The Fihrist of al‐Nadīm: A Tenth‐Century Survey of Muslim Culture, edited and translated by Bayard Dodge. 2 Vols. New York: Columbia University Press.

Pingree, David (1975). “Al‐Qabīsī.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 11, p. 226. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

——— (1978). “Al‐Kabīsī.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd ed., Vol. 4, pp. 340–341. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Sesiano, Jacques (1987). “A Treatise by al‐Qabīsī (Alchabitius) on Arithmetical Series.” In From Deferent to Equant: A Volume of Studies in the History of Science in the Ancient and Medieval Near East in Honor of E. S. Kennedy, edited by David A. King and George Saliba, pp. 483–500. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 500. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Sezgin, Fuat. Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Vol. 5, Mathematik (1974): 311–312; Vol. 6, Astronomie (1978): 208–210; Vol. 7, Astrologie – Meteorologie und Verwandtes (1979): 170–171. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Yāqūt, Shihāb al‐Dīn Abū ʿAbd Allāh al‐Rūmī (n.d.). Mujʿam al‐buldān. Vol. 4, pp. 308–309. Beirut.