Meet the first Kurdish Alchemist

08/08/2022
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Himdad Mustafa

Kurdish affairs commentator and Kurdologist.

Akhlati was an occultist, Sufi master, philosopher, scholar of Islamic studies, geometric, and personal physician-alchemist to Sultan Barquq of Egypt.

The first known Alchemist in history is Mary the Jewess, also called Mary the Hebrew. She lived in Egypt's port city of Alexandria, probably in the first century CE (or between the 1st and 3rd centuries). She invented processes and apparatuses that were copied centuries after that. Mary composed her work in Greek, and her books were later translated into Latin, and Arabic, among other languages. Her seminal works caught the eyes of a Kurdish Alchemist.

More than a millennium later, a Kurdish alchemist, Sayyid Husayn Akhlati (1310- 1397 CE), whowas from Akhalt in Northern Kurdistan, rose to prominence in Egypt and became the leading figure of the Islamic renaissance in the late 14th century.

Akhlati was an occultist, Sufi master, philosopher, scholar of Islamic studies, geometric, and personal physician-alchemist to Sultan Barquq of Egypt. According to the Mamluk historian al-'Ayni (d.1451), "he [Akhlati] practiced alchemy and studied astrology, geomancy, and wisdom. He also consumed a lot of alcohol and drugs.”

Some of his followers believed him to be the expected Messiah. He became a worry for anti-occultists like Ibn Khaldun and Ibn al-Qayyim, who sharpened their criticism of Ahlati, but they failed to convince Barquq since he liked to have Sufis and occultists about him.

Akhlati composed his books in Arabic and Persian. The scholar of Persianate studies DSilva remarks, "Akhlati inspired a wave of occultism through Persephone Islamdom."

The Kurdish historian Sharafkhan Bidlisi, a 16th-century historian who was the first Kurd to recount the history of Kurdistan and Kurds, mentions Huseyn of Akhlat with great respect and writes, "the most prominent among the 'ulama ("Muslim scholar") of his age in both the exoteric and esoteric sciences."

 

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