“Alchemy.” The word is supposed to be derived from the Greek, which signifies “juice,” and to be properly confined to the study of extracts and essences of plants. It is now, however, applied more especially to a pretended science, which had for its object the transmutation of the baser materials into gold or silver, or the discovery of a panacea or universal remedy for diseases. Although this so-called science has now fallen into deserved contempt, it was held in high repute, and much cultivated from the 13th to the 17th century, especially amongst the Saracens. The first Muslim of reputation who is said to have given his attention to the subject, was Khalid, a son of the Khalifah Yazid (A.D. 683), and the first who wrote on the subject was Jabir ibn Abban as-Sufi, who was a disciple of Khalid.
Haji Khalfah, the celebrated author of the Kashfu ‘z-Zunun, says “the word Kiniyah comes from the Hebrew, kim and yah and means ‘from God.’ There is some discussion regarding this science. Many people do not believe in its existence, amongst others the celebrated philosopher Shaikh ‘Ali ibn Sina’, who wrote against it in his book, the Kitabu ‘sh-Shafa’: also Ya’qub al-Kindi, and many others. But, on the other hand, many learned men have believed in its existence; for example, Imam Fakhru ‘d-din ar-Razi, and Shaikh Najmu ‘d-din al-Baghdadi.” (Kashfu ‘z-Zunun, in loco.)
‘Ahlu Kimiya’, is a term used not only for an alchemist, but for a deceiver, and also a lover.
Al-Kiniya’u ‘l-Akbar, the philosopher’s stone, or some celebrated tincture.
Kimiyau ‘l-Ma’ani, the chemistry of meanings, that is, the study of truth.
II. – Amonst the Sufi mystics, the term al-Kimiya, is used for being satisfied with the things in possession, and not yearning after things which we do not possess. Kimiya’u ‘l-’Awam, the alchymistry of the ordinary people, is the exchange of spiritual things for the things which perish. Kimiya’u ‘l-Khawass, emptying of the heart of everything except God. Kimiya’u ‘s-Sa’adah, the alchymistry of felicity, is the purification of one’s heart from all things that are evil by the attainment of special graces. (‘Abdu r-Razzaq’s Dict. Of Suf i Terms.)
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam