Al-Mamoon Asked the Imam to Write It
The story of this dissertation is that al-Mamoon had a very inquisitive mind eager for knowledge, fond of obtaining more of it. During one of his scientific debates, a group of physicians and philosophers in Nishapur, including Yohanna (John) ibn Masawayh the physician, Jibraeel (Gabriel) ibn Bakhtishoo' the physician, Salih ibn Salhama the Indian philosopher, in addition to others, had gathered. Discussion turned to medicine and how in it the bodies are improved. Al-Mamoon and his attendants were involved in a very lengthy discussion of the subject, and how God created the human body and the contradictory things in it, the four elements, the harms and benefits of various types of food, while the Imam (A.S.) kept silent and did not take part in any of that. Al-Mamoon, therefore, said to him, "What do you have to say, O father of al-Hassan, in today's subject of our discussion?" Abul-Hassan (A.S.) said, "I have of this the knowledge of what I have personally tested and came to know about its accuracy by experience and by the passage of time in addition to what I was told by my ancestors of what nobody can afford to be ignorant of nor excused for leaving out. I shall compile that with an equal share of what everyone need know."
Al-Mamoon then rushed to Balkh and Abul-Hassan (A.S.) did not accompany him; therefore, al-Mamoon sent him from there a letter asking him to fulfill his promise and make that compilation, so al-Rida (A.S.) wrote him saying:"In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful; My reliance is upon Allah
I have received the letter of the commander of the faithful regarding what he ordered me about acquainting him with what is needed of matters I have tested and heard about foods and drinks, medicines, venesection, blood letting, bathing, poisons, what should be avoided, and other things which manage the health of the body, and I explained what is needed to be done regarding one's own body, and God is the One Who gives success."
After that he initiates the dissertation.
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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