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BYU publishes classic text written by 11th-century Islamic philosopher

One of the greatest Islamic philosophers is getting some help from BYU. Avicenna, who died in 1037 A.D., may not be a familiar name to many people in the West, but his multivolume masterwork, "The Healing," is well-known in the Islamic and Arabic world.

A section of Avicenna's work from "The Healing" called "The Physics" was translated by Jon McGinnis, an associate professor in the department of philosophy of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The resulting two volumes, titled "Avicenna: The Physics of 'The Healing,' " are now available as part of BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.

"(Avicenna) was one of the greatest minds to walk this earth," Daniel C. Peterson, a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, said in a phone interview.

BYU published another portion of "The Healing" in 2005 titled "Metaphysics of 'The Healing.' " The current translation is a brilliant synthesis of Aristotelian ideas and Avicenna's own philosophy, Middle Eastern Texts Initiative director Morgan Davis said in a press release from BYU's Maxwell Institute, and is a crucial text for understanding many of the concepts Avicenna develops more fully in the "Metaphysics."

BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has published 16 works — including Islamic works, Eastern Christian texts and a series of works by Jewish rabbi Moses Maimonides. "Physics" is the seventh volume in the Islamic Translation Series of this initiative.

The publication of Avicenna's work is "an acknowledgment of the great contributions Arabic and Islamic civilization have made to the world," Peterson said. "It is an expression of respect for Muslim tradition on the part of Latter-day Saints."

The book is published by BYU Press and distributed by the University of Chicago Press.