From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, p. 1008

Courtesy of

Samarqandī: Shams al‐Dīn Muammad ibn Ashraf al‐usaynī al‐Samarqandī

İhsan Fazlıoğlu

BornSamarqand, (Uzbekistan)


Shams al‐Dīn al‐Samarqandī, who lived in the 13th century, wrote books on kalām (theology), logic, mathematics, and astronomy; his works were taught for many centuries in the madrasas (schools) throughout the Islamic world.

Little is known about his life. After studying the standard curriculum in the basic religious sciences, Samarqandī mastered kalām, (logic, and geometry). His works in these fields cover the standard material of Hellenistic and Islamic knowledge, but they also contain contributions that are original both in content and method. One of the most striking features of his works is that they set forth the idea of a universe based upon geometrical forms. In this sense, he can be regarded as the founder of the movement that might be named “geometrical” kalām in the Islamic world.

In the field of theoretical astronomy, Samarqandī wrote a (commentaroy) shar on Naīr al‐Dīn al‐ūsī's tarīr (Recension) of Ptolemy's Almagest. He also wrote a general astronomy book, no longer extant, reportedly entitled al‐Tadhkira fī ʿilm al‐hayʾa. Finally, he prepared the ʿAmāl al‐taqwīm li‐ʾl‐kawakīb al‐thābita, which was a star calendar for the year 1276–1277. Unfortunately, most of Samarqandī's astronomical works have not been studied yet.

Samarqandī was most influential for his various textbooks, which provided a wealth of information about the content and methods of past scholars and greatly influenced future generations, who studied these books in various madrasas. His geometrical work entitled Ashkāl al‐taʾsīs contains 35 propositions from Euclid's Elements; the first 30 propositions are strictly geometrical, while the last five deal with what has been called “geometrical algebra.” Regarding the problem of the fifth (“parallels”) postulate, he supported Euclid and considered the criticisms of earlier Islamic mathematicians to have been misplaced. The most important aspect of the book was Samarqandī's view that a study of geometry was a propaedeutic to the study of the forms of Platonic philosophy. It was used as a “middle‐level” textbook for Muslim scholars in the madrasas, later most often with īzāde's commentary. Samarqandī also wrote widely used textbooks in the fields of kalām, logic, rhetoric, and philosophy.

Selected References

Al‐Samarqandī, Shams al‐Dīn (1985). al‐aaʾif al‐ilāhiyya, edited by Amad ʿAbd al‐Raḥmān al‐Sharīf. Kuwait: Moktaba al‐Fatāḥ. pp. 13–28.

Bağdadlı İsmail Paşa (1955). Hadiyyat al‐ʿārifīn. Vol. 2, p. 106. Istanbul: Milli Egition Bahaanlīge Yayinlare.

Bingöl, Abdulkuddüs (1991). “Shams al‐Din Muhammad b. Ashraf al‐Samarqandi ve Qistas al‐Afkar'ı.” Edebiyat Bilimleri Arastırma Dergisi 19: 173–182.

Brockelmann, Carl. Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 2nd ed. Vol. 1 (1943): 615–617; Suppl. 1 (1937): 849–850. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Dilgan, H. (1960). “Démonstration du Ve postulat d'Euclide par Shams‐ed‐Din Samarqandi.” Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 13: 191–196.

——— (1975). “Al‐Samarqandī.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 12, p. 91. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Kātib Čelebī. Kashf al‐unūn ʿan asāmī al‐kutub wa‐ʾl‐funūn. Vol. 1 (1941), cols. 39–40, 105; Vol. 2 (1943), cols. 1074, 1075, 1326. Istanbul: Milli Egition Bahaanlīge Yayinlare.

Qurbānī, Abū al‐Qāsim (1986/1987). Zindagī‐nāmah‐i riyādī'dānān dawrah‐i Islāmī. Tehran: Markaz‐i Nasr‐i Danişgah, pp. 275–288.

Suwaysī, Muḥammad (ed.) (1984). Ashkāl al‐taʾsīs li‐ʾl‐Samarqandī (with the Sharḥ of Qāḍīzāde al‐Rūmī). Tunis: al‐Dār al‐Tunîsiyya, pp. 23–26.