From: Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, pp. 1055-1056

Courtesy of

Shirwānī: Fatallāh ibn Abū Yazīd ibn ʿAbd al‐ʿAzīz ibn Ibrāhīm al‐Shābarānī al‐Shirwānī al‐Shamāhī

İhsan Fazlıoğlu

BornShirwān, Shamāh, (Azerbaijan), 1417

DiedShirwān, Shamāh, (Azerbaijan), February 1486

The astronomer, mathematician, and teacher Fatallāh al‐Shirwānī was part of the Samarqand school of mathematics and astronomy, which was composed of scholars who pursued the mathematical sciences including astronomy. Through his works many students were educated in the sciences, thus disseminating them in the Ottoman lands, especially in Anatolia.

Shirwānī received his primary education from his father and subsequently continued his education in Serakhs and ūs. In ūs, Shirwānī studied al‐Sayyid al‐Sharīf al‐Jurjānī's Shar al‐Tadhkira fī ʿilm al‐hayʾa, a commentary on Naīr al‐Dīn al‐ūsī's seminal work on astronomy, under the Shīʿī scholar al‐Sayyid Abū ālib. In mid‐1435 he left for Samarqand and studied mathematics, astronomy, Islamic theology (kalām), and the linguistic sciences under īzāde at the madrasa (school) of Samarqand. Among the works he studied was Niām al‐Dīn al‐Nīsābūrī's Shar al‐Tadhkira fī ʿilm al‐hayʾa, yet another commentary on ūsī's work. Clearly the Tadhkira occupied an important place in the school of Samarqand as well as in Shirwānī's education. Shirwānī received his diploma on 13 September 1440. During his education in the madrasa, he no doubt participated in astronomical activities, primarily the astronomical observations at the Samarqand Observatory. During his stay in Samarqand, he also wrote a commentary on a work of Islamic law, which he presented to Ulugh Beg.

In 1440, after his 5‐year long education in Samarqand, Shirwānī returned to Shirwān where he lectured for some time at the madrasas there. On the advice of his former teacher Qāḍīzāde, he left for Anatolia (toward the end of the reign of Sultan Murād II [reigned: 1421–1451]) and was warmly received by Çandaroğlu Ismail Bey in Kastamonu. Subsequently, he started teaching in the madrasas there. Shirwānī lectured on mathematical and astronomical works, especially those of his teacher Qāīzāde, and on al‐Tadhkira. Muyī al‐Dīn Muammad ibn Ibrāhīm al‐Nīksārī (died: 1495) and Kamāl al‐Dīn Masʿūd al‐Shirwānī (died: 1500) were among his prominent students.

In 1453, Shirwānī dedicated a commentary (tafīr) on the Qurʾān to the Ottoman Grand Vizier Çandarlı Khalīl Pasha in Bursa. That same year, he presented a work on music (a subdivision of the mathematical sciences) to Sultan Mehmed II. However, later in the year after the conquest of Istanbul, Khalīl Pasha was executed; having lost his patron, Shirwānī returned to Kastamonu. After these events, Shirwānī wrote a work on theoretical astronomy, which was a supercommentary on Qāīzāde's Shar al‐Mulakhkha. This he presented to Sultan Mehmed II in the hopes of establishing closer ties with the Ottoman court, but he was unsuccessful.

In 1465, Shirwānī set off on a pilgrimage for Mecca; en route he continued pursuing scientific activities, first stopping in Iraq and teaching at the madrasas in the region. He remained in Mecca for a time, continuing to give lectures. Shirwānī returned to Istanbul, via Cairo. Not receiving the attention he thought his due, he returned to his hometown of Shirwān in 1478.

Shirwānī wrote works on literature and linguistics, kalām, music, Islamic law, Qurʾānic exegesis, optics, and logic as well as the rational sciences. In the field of geometry, he wrote a gloss (āshiya) to Qāīzāde's commentary (shar) on Shams al‐Dīn al‐Samarqandī's Ashkāl al‐taʾsīs. Unfortunately this work is not extant.

In the field of astronomy, al‐Farāʾi wa‐ʾl‐fawāʾid fī tawī shar al‐Mulakhkha was Shirwānī's first important work on theoretical astronomy (hayʾa), which was a gloss (āshiya) on Qāīzāde's commentary (shar) to Mamūd al‐Jaghmīnī's al‐Mulakhkhaʿilm al‐hayʾa al‐basīa. In order to explain the difficult parts, Shirwānī made use of other commentaries and class notes he took during Qāīzāde's lectures at the Samarqand madrasa; he completed the work after many rough drafts.

Shirwānī's most noteworthy work on theoretical astronomy is undoubtedly his commentary (Shar) to Naīr al‐Dīn al‐ūsī's al‐Tadhkira fī ʿilm al‐hayʾa, which he completed on 11 January 1475. He emphasized that he wrote his commentary for advanced‐level students to whom he lectured in the field of astronomy. His sources were other commentaries, the lecture notes of his teacher Qāīzāde, and his own insights.

The Shar contains a great deal of information that often has little to do with ūsī's Tadhkira. For example, Shirwānī provides comprehensive information about the Turkish calendar as well as other calendar systems. He also discusses Euclid's Elements based upon discussions he had with Qāīzāde, Ulugh Beg, and students at the Samarqand madrasa. Shirwānī also includes a registered copy of his license to teach (ijāza) that he obtained from Qāīzāde. He has a lengthy discussion on optics (ʿilm al‐manāir), which was considered an ancillary branch of astronomy. He cites numerous works and authors throughout, pointing out his own views when appropriate. Although a thorough analysis of Shirwānī's text has not been yet been made, his style indicates that he was aware of the attempts by Ibn al‐Haytham and his follower Kamāl al‐Dīn Fārisī to combine physical and geometrical approaches within optics, and that this was the subject of ongoing debates in the Samarqand school.

In his Shar, Shirwānī discusses ūsī's innovative cosmology in detail. He agrees with Ibn al‐Haytham in combining mathematical and natural philosophical approaches; he disagrees with his Samarqand contemporary ʿAlī Qūshjī, who attempted to purge the science of astronomy of Aristotelian principles of physics and metaphysics. Further research into Shirwānī's work promises to provide important information on the history of late medieval Islamic astronomy.

Selected References

Akpınar, Cemil (1995). “Fethullah es‐Sirvani.” In Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Ansiklopedisi. Vol. 12, pp. 463–466. Istanbul: Tūrkiye Diyanet Vakfi Yayinlare.

Bağdadlı, İsmail Pasa (1951). Hadiyyat al‐ʿārifīn. Vol. 1, p. 815. Istanbul: Milli Egition Bahanligh Yayinlare.

Brockelmann, Carl. Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 2nd ed. Vol. 2 (1949): 269, 279; Suppl. 2 (1938): 290. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Bursalı, Mehmed Tahir (1923). Osmanlı Müellifleri. Vol. 3, p. 392. Istanbul: Mat‐baa‐i Amire.

Fazlıoğlu, İhsan (2003). “Osmanlı felsefe‐biliminin arkaplanı: Semerkand matematik‐astronomi okulu.” Dîvân İlmî Arastırmalar 1: 1–66.

İhsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin et al. (1997). Osmanlı Astronomi Literatürü Tarihi (OALT) (History of astronomy literature during the Ottoman period). Vol. 1, pp. 42–45 (no. 16). Istanbul: IRCICA.

Kātib Čelebī. Kashf al‐unūn ʿan asāmī al‐kutub wa‐ʾl‐funūn. Vol. 1 (1941), cols. 36, 67, 443; Vol. 2 (1943), cols. 1819, 1893. Istanbul.

Neubauer, Eckhard (1984). “Neuerscheinungen zur arabischen Musik.” Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch–Islamischen Wissenschaften 1: 288–311, esp. 290–296.

Ragep, F. J. (1993). Naṣīr al‐Dīn al‐Ṭūsī's Memoir on Astronomy (al‐Tadhkira fī ʿilm al‐hayʾa). 2 Vols. New York: Springer‐Verlag, Vol. 1, pp. 62–63.

Sakḥāwī, Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al‐Raḥmān. al‐Dawʾ al‐lāmiʿ fī ahl al‐qarn al‐tāsiʿ. Vol. 4, p. 340; Vol. 6, pp. 166–167. Cairo: 1353–1355 [1935–1937].

ashköprüzāde (1985). Al‐Shaqāʾiq al‐nuʿmāniyya fī ʿulamāʾ al‐dawlat al‐ʿuthmāniyya, edited by Ahmed Subhi Furat. Istanbul: pp. 15–16, 107–108, 273. Istanbul ūniversitesi, Edebiyat‐ Falutteyi Yayinlare.