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al- azwn(2,571 words)

Lewicki, T.
, zakariyy b. muammad b. mamd Ab Yay (Hddjdddjdi Kdhdalfa, iv, 188-9: Muammad b. Mamd
al-Kf al-azwn), famous Arab cosmographer and geographer. He drew his origin from an Arab
family (his ancestor, Sdhdaykdhd Abu l-sim b. Hibat Allh al-azwn, was probably descended from
Anas b. Malik [q.v.]), who had been Persianised after settling at Kawn in Persia. Judging from certain
solecisms to be found in al-azwns works, Arabic does not seem to have been his mother tongue.
He was born at azwn, probably towards 600/1203 and seems to have received there his legal
education. At a moment difficult to establish he left his native town, went to Bagdhddd and stayed also
some time in Damascus where he met, probably towards 630/1233, the well-known philosopher and
mystic Ibn al-Arab (d. 638/1240 [q.v.]). It was apparently at this period that he visited al-Mawil
where he met iy al-Dn Ibn al-Atd hdr (d. 637/1239 [see ibn al-atd hdr ], and perhaps also the town of
Sinddjdr. Al-azwn travelled also in Persia and paid a visit to the town of Ddjdannba. According to Ibn
Tagdhdrbird, he stayed for a long time in al-Wsi and al-illa, where he fulfilled the function of
under the reign of the last Abbsid caliph al-Mustaim (640-56/1240-58). We do not know where he
met the Arab philologist and geographer Ibn Sad al-Gdhdarn [q.v.] who went to the East in 648/1250.
From al-Kf, one of his nisbas , it would follow that he lived for a certain time in Kfa. After Bagdhddd
had taken by the Mongols in 656/1258, he retired from public life to devote himself entirely to
scientific activities. It is quite probable that he found a Maecenas in the Persian historian and statesman
al-Ddjduwayn (d. 682/1283 [q.v.]), from 661/1262 governor of Bagdhddd on behalf of Hlg and his
successor Ab. It is perhaps because of his presumed protection that he dedicated his cosmographical
work to al-jduwayn. He died in 682/1283. (On his name and life, see his Cosmography , ii; tt htr albild , ed. F. Wstenfeld, Gttingen 1848, 121, 232, 263, 293, 310, 334, 349, 367-8 and Adtjtib almakthtlt , in margins of al-Damr, yat al-ayawn , Cairo 1319/1901-2, 3; S. de Sacy,
Chrestomathie arabe2 , iii, 447, 448 ff.; F. Wstenfeld, in Gttinger Gelehrte Anzeigen , i (1848), 349
ff.; M. Reinaud, Gographie dAboulfda , tr. i, Paris 1848, pp. cxliii-cl; Brockelmann, GAL I, 481; M.
Streck, al-azwn , in EI1 ; I. Ydud. Krakovsky, Arabskaytat geografieskaytat literatura, in idem,
Izbrannye soineniytat , iv, Moscow-Leningrad 1957, 359-60.)
Al-azwn is the author of two works, a cosmographical one and a geographical one. The first,
commonly named Cosmography, has the title Adtjtib al-makthtlt wa-gthtarib al-mawdtjtdt
Prodigies of things created and miraculous aspects of things existing. This work is divided into two
parts, the first of which treats of supraterrestrial things, and the second of terrestrial ones. In the first
part the author describes the celestial phenomena, i.e. the moon, the sun, the stars, and speaks then of
the inhabitants of heaven, the angels. At the end of this part he explains the problems of chronology and
of the Arabic and Syrian calendars. The second part begins with a treatise on the four elements, the
meteors and the winds. The author then describes the division of the earth into seven climates and gives
a description of all the known seas and rivers. Having explained the causes of earthquakes and of the

formation of mountains and wells, he passes in review the three kingdoms of nature: the mineral, the
vegetable and the animal. The description of the animal kingdom is preceded by that of man, his
character and anatomy, and by a characteristic of human tribes. The other living beings are discussed
after dtjtinns and gthtls have been dealt with.
Al-azwns Cosmography, the first systematic exposition of cosmography in Muslim literature,
enjoyed great popularity in the whole of the Islamic world, as is attested by a great number of
manuscripts representing several Arabic versions, by Persian and Turkish translations and by the
revisions of the work. J. Ruska ( azwn-Studien , in Isl ., iv (1913), 14-66, and 236-62) has shown
against Wstenfeld (see the latters edition of the Adtjtib , Kosmographie i. Gttingen 1849, pp. viixii) that there were four different Arabic versions of the Cosmography, the second of which,
represented by Cod. Monac. 464, the oldest manuscript known so far, and by many others, seems to be
the best. Wstenfeld however, for his edition of the Adtjtib, has chosen the most recent version (iv)
which is only an 18th century recast of al-azwns original work. This recast is represented by ms.
Gotha 1508. Besides, Wstenfeld has greatly complicated his edition by rejecting several fragments of
version (iv) and replacing them with fragments taken from manuscripts belonging to other versions of
the Adtjtib. Thus he has fabricated a completely new text which does not represent any of the existing
versions of the work. Besides Wstenfelds edition, there is also a Cairo edition (n.d., 8, 416 pp.),
based on a manuscript related to Cod. Monac. 464 and analogous to the edition of the Cosmography
published in the margins of the edition of al-Damrs ayt al-ayawn (Cairo 1319/1901-2).
The manuscripts of the Cosmography are often illustrated with i.a. geometrical tables and miniatures
representing plants, animals and various monsters, which have sometimes a high artistic value (on the
Arabic versions, the Persian and Turkish translations and the manuscripts of these versions, see alazwn, Kosmographie . i, ed. Wstenfeld, iii-xii; Streck, op. cit.; A.M. Ad, al-Ful , 123-7;
Brockelmann, S I, 883; Krakovsky, op. cit., 362-5; M. Kowalska, Eine unbekannte Handschrift alazwns Kitb Aib al-malt , in Folia Orientalia , i/2 (1959), 326-32).
The sources of the Adtjtib al-makthtlkt have not yet been studied (see on this problem Pertsch, Kat.
d. arab. Handschr. zu Gotha , iii, 431). Going through Wstenfelds edition one can discover some
twenty-odd authors whose works have been used, from al-Ddjdi and Ibn al-Fah down to Ibn alAtd hdr, the most often-quoted being the one by Ab mid al-Andalus and the anonymous treatise
entitled Tufat al-gthtarib (see M. Kowalska, Remarks on the unidentified Cosmography Tufat alarib , in Folia Orientalia, ix (1967), 11-8). The connexions between the Cosmography and Yts
Mudtjtam al-buldn are still to be established.
From what has been said above, it is evident that there does not yet exist any critical edition of the
Cosmography. Wstenfelds edition stimulated a translation by H. Eth (Leipzig 1868) which
comprises, however, only the first part. At the beginning of the 19th century A. L. de Chzy translated
the chapters on the minerals, the vegetables and the human being (see S. de Sacy, op. cit. iii, 385-516).
In his ber die Ursprung und die Bedeutung der Stemnamen (Berlin 1809), L. Ideler published an
annotated edition of the chapter on the stars. Of the partial editions, translations and studies of the
Cosmography the following are mentioned here by way of example J. Ruska, Das Steinbuch aus der

Kosmographie des . .. al-azwn , Heidelb. Prog. d. Oberrealschule, Kirchhain N.-L. 1896; ber den
falschen und den echten azwn , in Mitt. Gesch. Naturwiss ., xiii (1914), 183-8; S. J. Anbacher, Die
Abschnitte ber die Geister u. die wunderbaren Geschpfe aus Qazwns Kosmographie . . . ,
Kirchhain N.-L. 1905; F. Taeschner, Die Psychologie azwn , thesis Kiel, Tbingen 1912; E.
Wiedemann, ber die Kriechtiere nach al-Qazwn , dans SB Phys.-med. Soc. Erlangen , xlviii-xlix
(1916-7), 222-85; bersetzung und Besprechung des Abschnittes ber die Pflanzen von Qazwn , ibid.,
286-321; G. Jacob, Studien in arabischen Geographen , Berlin 1892, iii, 94-124: Ornithologisches zu
Qazwn ; G. Ferrand, La Tufat al-albb de Ab mid al-Andalus al-arn , dans JA, (Oct.-Dec.
1925), 230-35; A. Seippel, Rerum normannicarum fontes arabici , Oslo 1896-1928, 102-3 and 140-1
and Adnotationes criticae , pp. XLVI and LXVI-LXVII.
Al-azwns second work, commonly called Geography , is known from several manuscripts
belonging to two different versions. The oldest, entitled Adtjtib al-buldn Prodigies of the Countries
(see ddjdddjd Kdhdalfa, iv, 186) was composed in 661/1262-3 (see Reinaud, op. cit. cxliv). The second
completely revised version dates from 674/1275-6. It carries the title tt htr al-bild wa-akthtbr al-ibd
Monuments of the Countries and History of their Inhabitants (see ddjdddjd Kdhdalfa, i, 154). The four
manuscripts of the second version served Wstenfeld as the basis for his edition of the Geography /
Cosmography , ii: tt htr al-bild , Gttingen 1848. Another edition, Beirut 1380/1960-1, is in fact only
a reproduction of Wstenfelds publication.
The description of the earth in the tt htr al-bild follows the Ptolemaic division of the oikoumene into
seven climates. The cities, countries, mountains, rivers etc. situated in each of these climates are
described in alphabetical order. The description of each city or country contains geographical and
historical facts and also biographical data on famous personalities originating from them. Thus the
Geography resembles the Mudtjtam al-buldn of Yt so far as the disposition of the material is
concerned (except that in al-azwns work the material is distributed over seven different dictionaries
according to the division in climates). Certain articles of the Geography, concerning e.g. various
mountains, rivers etc. can also be found in the Cosmography, often with exactly the same tenor.
Besides the two Arabic versions, several Persian revisions and Turkish abridgements of the Geography
are known. Towards 808/1403 al-Bkuw gave a new version of it, which is independent of the two
Arabic versions mentioned above (on the various versions and translations of the Geography and on the
manuscripts of this work, see Wstenfeld, Kosmographie. ii, pp. iii-x; Streck, op. cit., Brockelman, S I,
882-3).
As opposed to the sources of the Cosmography, those of tt htr al-bild have been object of some
studies. Already F. Wstenfeld had compiled a list (very incomplete, however) of the sources used by
al-azwn ( Gtt. Gelehrte Anzeigen , i, (1848), 351). He returned to this problem in. his edition of
Yts Mudtjtam al-buldn (Leipzig 1866-70, v, 46-7) where he propounded the opinion that alazwn made extensive use of this work, without mentioning this use. W. Jwaideh ( The Introductory
Chapters of Yqts Mujam al-Buldn , Leiden 1959, 44, n. 1) has shown that al-azwn borrowed
from Yt the preliminary descriptions of all seven climates. In 1967 M. Kowalska published the first
serious study on the sources of the Geography in an article entitled The Sources of al-Qazwns tt htr

al-Bild , in Folia Orientalia , viii (1966), 41-88, in which she gives a detailed analysis of those
sources. From this it appears that nearly 360 articles out of the ca. 600 which form the total of alazwns geographical dictionary contain data borrowed from the Mudtjtam al-buldn, and that a very
considerable part (viz. 157) of these 360 articles contain nothing else but extracts from Yts work.
Thus the Mudtjtam al-buldn forms the principal source of the tt htr al-bild. M. Kowalskas study
shows also that all quotations from al-Yab, Ibn al-Fah, Ibn Faln, Ibn awal, al-Muaddas
and from the two rislas of Ab Dulaf to be found in al-azwns Geography, have been borrowed by
the latter not from the original works of the geographers in question but from the Mudtjtam al-buldn.
She has also established an almost complete list of the fragments al-azwn has extracted from other
Arabic sources, from which are cited here the works of Ibrhm b. Amad al-ursh ( = Ibrhm b.
Yab al-ursh; see T. Kowalski, Relatio Ibrahim ibn Jakb de itinere slavico , Cracow 1946, 2135), al-Brn, al-Uddhdri. Ab mid al-Andalus and an anonymous cosmographical treatise of the
12th century entitled Tufat al-gthtarib . Finally, she has compiled a list of al-azwns oral
informants. The author of the tt htr al-bild owes his knowledge of West Africa to two of these
informants (see M. Kowalska, Zwei wenig bekannte muslimische Reisende in West-Sudan im 13. Jh., in
Folia Orientalia, iii (1961), 231-4).
Although rather uncritical and lacking an index, Wstenfelds edition of the tt htr al-bild became
nevertheless the starting-point of several partial editions, translations and special studies on the various
chapters of the work. These studies are: G. Jacob, Studien in arabischen Geographen, Berlin 1892, ii,
38-9, 60-1; idem, Arabische Berichte von Gesandten an germanische Frstenhfe aus dem 9. und 10.
Jarhhundert , Berlin-Leipzig 1927, 21-33; A. Seippel, Rerum normannicarum fontes arabici, 24-5, 44
and Adnot. crit ., pp. XII-XIII, XX; G. Ferrand, Le Tufat al-albb dAb mid al-Andalus alarn , in JA (1925), 235-9; M. C. Lyons, Some Aspects of Al-Qazwns tt htr al-Bild , in Glasgow
Univ . Or. Soc. Trans ., xx, (1963-4), 63-76; M. Kowalska, Namensregister zu azwns tt r al-Bild ,
in RO, xxix/1, (1965), 99-115, xxx/1, (1966), 119-34; idem, Al-Qazwns tt htr al-Bild and the
quotations from Ab Dulaf s Narrative , in Atti del III Congresso di Studi Arabi e Islamici , Ravello
1966, Naples 1967, 427-35.
Al-azwn was the greatest of Arabic cosmographers. He was at the same time astronomer,
geographer, geologist, mineralogist, botanist, zoologist and ethnographer. Like all his predecessors
(who appeared already in the 6th/12th century), he was only a good compiler who neither produced a
new fact nor created any new theory. Being, however, very learned and very cultivated at the same
time, he succeeded in synthesizing all the facts known in his time about the above-mentioned
sciences. His principal merit lies in his having accomplished the raising of cosmography to a literary
genre of extremely high level. He was also a talented vulgariser who knew to express himself clearly
and realized that erudition should not exceed certain limits, in order not to discourage the general
public. His language is clear, simple and varied, although he often does not give anything but a mosaic
of extracts from sources, arranged nevertheless in a skilful way. Highly appreciated by certain modern
Arabists who sometimes compare him to Herodotus and Pliny (Reinaud, op. cit. p. cxliv; see also
Streck, op. cit. and Krakovsky, op. cit. 358-9), al-azwn has been judged far too severely by other
scholars. G. von Grunebaum ( Medieval Islam , Chicago 1947, 301-2, 304) quotes two passages from

the Adtjtib al-makthtlt to illustrate the decline of critical science in the 7th/13th century, and G.
Wiet ( Introduction la littrature arabe , Paris 1966, 210) looks upon al-azwns Cosmography as a
work devoid of critical mind and lacking originality. Accordingly, M. Kowalska ( The Sources ,
87-8) calls him an amateur geographer ... [who] selected the available data rather uncritically often in
a quite accidental way. She also insists that he has plagiarized the writing of the older geographers
and historians. Indeed, the impression cannot be resisted that al-azwn surpassed all the other Arabic
cosmographers and geographers in plagiarism. This results clearly from the way in which he
unscrupulously plundered the Mudtjtam al-buldn without even mentioning the name of the author of
his main source.
Al-azwn exerted a great influence on the Arabic cosmographers and geographers of later periods.
His two works, have been turned to account by authors like Sdhdams al-Dn al-Dimasdhd (d. 727/1327),
Amad b. amdn al-arrn (writing ca. 732/1332), amd Allh. azwn (d. towards 750/1349), alDamr (d. 808/1405), Ibn al-Ward (d. 861/1457) and several others, down to Mamd b. Sad alSafus (d. after 1233/1818). On this question, see inter alia, A. F. Mehren, Manuel de la
cosmographie du moyen ge , Paris-Copenhagen-Leipzig 1874, 165, 168, 179, 186-91, 198 and
passim ; Krakovsky, op. cit., 365, 385-6, 493, 598, 618 and 748-9.
(T. Lewicki)

Bibliography
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