Arkan and mizaj: elements and temperament
As four simple, indivisible entities—arz (earth), maa (water), nar (fire), and hawa (air)—arkan not only constitutes the primary components of the human body but also makes up all other creations in the universe. There are predictable consequences to the actions and interactions (imtizaj) of the four arkan. As these elements act upon and react with each other, they continually undergo change into various states of “genesis and lysis” (generation and deterioration), due to ulfat-e-keemiyah (acceptance of a medicine by the body) and nafarat-e-keemiyah (rejection of a medicine). Skilled hakims claim that they can perceive, recognize, and observe such states. The four essential mizaj (temperaments) are hot, cold, moist, and dry. Four more are compounded of those single temperaments—namely, hot and dry, hot and moist, cold and dry, and cold and moist. Possessed in different proportion, mizaj is balanced by all entities in the cosmos, including all plants, minerals, and animals. The equilibrium of the individual’s elemental combination and resulting mizaj, as determined by tabiyat, provides a stable constitution to that individual—in other words, health. Just as elemental balance keeps an individual in a healthy state, changes in natural temperament cause the health of an individual to suffer. Therefore, mizaj plays a pivotal role in Unani in characterizing a person’s normal state (physical, mental, and social), as well as the nature of a disease .