The portrayal of Ibn Sina in the mural fresco adorning the grand lecture hall of the Parisian School of Medicine, a space dedicated to commemorating the most illustrious figures in the history of medicine, in fact, reveals more about the medieval Islamic civilization to today’s people than volumes of books could ever convey.

One might posit the following question: Why would a depiction of a Muslim scholar, born in the village of Afshana near Bukhara circa 980- 81, be placed within a well-established Western university?

The answer is, in fact, quite clear. This Muslim scholar, Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Sina, known to the West as Avicenna and revered in the East as Ibn Sina, stands as one of history’s great intellectual and scientific figures. His contributions to the edifice of humanity’s shared knowledge are nothing short of monumental.

A scholar is born 

Ibn Sina was born in a small village called Afshana, near Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan. His father was the commander of a nearby fortress. The environs of Ibn Sina’s birthplace, Afshana, flourished as a renowned center of Islamic learning during his era. Following his family’s relocation to Bukhara, a vibrant hub of learning, Ibn Sina embarked upon an educational odyssey that would propel him toward vast frontiers of knowledge.

Exhibiting extraordinary intellectual aptitude, Ibn Sina distinguished himself in his youth by memorizing the Holy Qur’an at the age of ten and reading many of the esteemed works of Arabic literature. Indeed, by the young age of fourteen, Ibn Sina’s intellectual prowess had surpassed that of his local instructors. Unsurprisingly, he soon began to apply his burgeoning medical knowledge to those who placed their faith in his abilities. A turning point in his life arrived when he successfully treated a prince from the Samanid royal family. Deeply impressed, the prince granted Ibn Sina unrestricted access to the palace library. This patronage empowered Ibn Sina to embark on independent studies in law, medicine, and metaphysics.