Filed Under: Great Books 17 comments
Mujam-al-Buldan contains the geographical names in alphabetical order. The listing includes the names of various countries, towns, mountains, rivers, seas, valleys, monuments and grave sites. For each entry, wherever applicable, Yaqut provides the various variants of the name, etymology, precise pronunciation (for Baghdad, as an example, the book provides seven different pronunciations), spelling, longitude and latitude, population, renowned scholars, mention of the place in Quran and Hadith, history, and customs. The book not only provides relevant geographical information, but is a great resource of history and literature as well. It contains numerous anecdotes and over 5000 poetic quotations. According to George Satron , in the 'Introduction to the History of Science’:
“The Mujam al Buldan is one of the most important works of Arabic literature. It is a store house of information not simply on geography, but also on history, ethnography and natural history. It is preceded by an introduction dealing with mathematical, physical and political geography, the size of the earth, seven climates, etc.”
Yaqut decided to write this geographical encyclopedia after he attended a gathering of Imam al-Samani where people disagreed on the correct pronounciation of an Arabic place mentioned in a Hadeeth. He traveled widely studying the customs and geography of various places including Merv, Mosul, Aleppo, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq.
The introduction of Al-Buldan is very insightful where yaqut discusses the importance of geography for poets, rulers, physicians, Hadith scholars and administrators . He also explains the geographical, astronomical and economical terminology and discusses the shape of the earth (spherical).
Al-Buldan quotes and provides references of the works of prior historians and geographers as well. A very important reference is that of the 10th century Geographer Al-hasan bin Mohammad Al-Misri Al-Muhallabi who had written a geographical book ‘Kitab Al-Aziz’ that is now entirely lost and is known only through the works of Al-Hamawi besides that of Al-Fida.
A few lines from one of the entries of Mujam-al-Buldan:
“Al-Tibr: One of the countries of Sudan known as Bilad al-Tibr. Pure gold is ascribed to it. It is situated south of the Maghrib. Merchants travel from Sijilmasa to a town on the frontiers of the Sudan, called Ghana. Their wares are salt, bundles of pine wood (this is one of the kinds of woods from which tar is made, but its smell is not unpleasant, being more aromatic than rank, blue glass beads, bracelets of copper, bangles and signet rings of copper, and nothing else. All this is carried by numerous camels in heavy loads ……….”
Mujam-al-Buldan was translated and published in 6 volumes in Leipzig (Germany) between 1666- 1873 by the German Historian, Ferdinand Wustenfeld .
Yaqut also wrote another encyclopedia ‘Mu'jam al-udaba' , (The Dictionary of Learned Men) in 1226. The length of both these encyclopedia, combined, is 33,180 pages!
Filed Under: Education 11 comments
In the 14th century, Zain Din al Amidi, who had become blind in childhood, developed his own system for reading and writing by the sense of touch. He was a professor at the university 'Mustansiriya Madrasahin', Baghdad, established in 1227 by caliph Al-Mustansir. His area of interests were jurisprudence and foreign languages. Al-Amidi died in 1314.
Filed Under: Selections 7 comments
Taxation and the reason for low and high (tax revenues).
It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments.
The reason for this is that when the dynasty follows the ways (sunan) of the religion, it imposes only such taxes as are stipulated by the religious law, such as charity taxes, the land tax, and the poll tax. They mean small assessments, because, as everyone knows, the charity tax on property is low. The same applies to the charity tax on grain and cattle, and also to the poll tax, the land tax, and all other taxes required by the religious law. They have fixed limits that cannot be overstepped.
When the dynasty follows the ways of group feeling and (political) superiority, it necessarily has at first a desert attitude, as has been mentioned before. The desert attitude requires kindness, reverence, humility, respect for the property of other people, and disinclination to appropriate it, except in rare instances. Therefore, the individual imposts and assessments, which together constitute the tax revenue, are low. When tax assessments and imposts upon the subjects are low, the latter have the energy and desire to do things. Cultural enterprises grow and increase, because the low taxes bring satisfaction. When cultural enterprises grow, the number of individual imposts and assessments mounts. In consequence, the tax revenue, which is the sum total of (the individual assessments), increases.
When the dynasty continues in power and their rulers follow each other in succession, they become sophisticated. The Bedouin attitude and simplicity lose their significance, and the Bedouin qualities of moderation and restraint disappear. Royal authority with its tyranny, and sedentary culture that stimulates sophistication, make their appearance. The people of the dynasty then acquire qualities of character related to cleverness. Their customs and needs become more varied because of the prosperity and luxury in which they are immersed. As a result, the individual imposts and assessments upon the subjects, agricultural laborers, farmers, and all the other taxpayers, increase. Every individual impost and assessment is greatly increased, in order to obtain a higher tax revenue. Customs duties are placed upon articles of commerce and (levied) at the city gates, as we shall mention later on. Then, gradual increases in the amount of the assessments succeed each other regularly, in correspondence with the gradual increase in the luxury customs and many needs of the dynasty and the spending required in connection with them. Eventually, the taxes will weigh heavily upon the subjects and overburden them. Heavy taxes become an obligation and tradition, because the increases took place gradually, and no one knows specifically who increased them or levied them. They lie upon the subjects like an obligation and tradition.
The assessments increase beyond the limits of equity. The result is that the interest of the subjects in cultural enterprises disappears, since when they compare expenditures and taxes with their income and gain and see the little profit they make, they lose all hope. Therefore, many of them refrain from all cultural activity. The result is that the total tax revenue goes down, as (the number of) the individual assessments goes down. Often, when the decrease is noticed, the amounts of individual imposts are increased. This is considered a means of compensating for the decrease. Finally, individual imposts and assessments reach their limit. It would be of no avail to increase them further. The costs of all cultural enterprise are now too high, the taxes are too heavy, and the profits anticipated fail to materialize. Thus, the total revenue continues to decrease, while the amounts of individual imposts and assessments continue to increase, because it is believed that such an increase will compensate (for the drop in revenue) in the end. Finally, civilization is destroyed, because the incentive for cultural activity is gone. It is the dynasty that suffers from the situation, because it (is the dynasty that) profits from cultural activity.
If (the reader) understands this, he will realize that the strongest incentive for cultural activity is to lower as much as possible the amounts of individual imposts levied upon persons capable of undertaking cultural enterprises. In this manner, such persons will be psychologically disposed to undertake them, because they can be confident of making a profit from them.
God owns all things.
Filed Under: Great Books 4 comments
Al-Karaji had discussed the complete hydrological in al-Khafiyya; the description is scattered throughout the book. At one place in his book, he mentions:
“The transformation of water into air in the hot regions and air into water in the cold regions creates a constant cycle which guarantees the prosperity of the lands”.He concludes that clouds stem from evaporation on the sea; the sun taking only the freshest water from the surface of sea. For this reason, according to karaji, the water remaining on the surface is the most saline, whereas with increasing depth, the sea water becomes progressively fresher, with fresh water being at the bottom of the sea. Karaji also distinguishes between three types of sub water: original (juveline) water, condensed water and common ground water.
Discussing various techniques for searching for water, Karaji mentions one such technique that involved geology, now called Hydrogeology as follows:
“The higher the ratio of the amount of stone to the amount ofsoil in a particular mountain, the less the chance to find a supply of groundwater. Thereis no groundwater in the small and separated mountains especially those which havehard rocks, because no snow can last long on their tops. In case there would be a chainof mountains covering a vast area, it is more likely to find a good supply ofgroundwater, because such mountains enjoy many valleys that can hold ice and snowuntil summer. If a mountain has a flat top with thick vegetation casting shadow on theground and protecting the soil moisture from sun, there would be a better chance tocome across an aquifer……….all the lands linked to the aforementioned mountains contain a good supply ofgroundwater, especially the land which is the lowest as well as the closest to the Earth’score….”
In al-khafiyya, al-karaji provides information on ditch lining that is inline with modern theories:
“If waterway is loose and permeable, the bed should be covered with large bricks and dark lime… or they have to dig the bed about a meter down, and then refill it with clay and compact it by beetle as the bed ditch stands at the same level. Both sides of the ditch should he inclined and built with the same material. Adding some water to clay makes the ditch more efficient. But the water shouldn’t be cut so that its original moisture remains. Lining the ditch with compacted mixture of clay, sand and loam increase its firmness. Our ancestors said, “let the quadrupeds go through ditches to trample”. Lining the ditches with compacted mixture of slaked lime, sand and clay with original moisture became very stiff after a while. Sometimes the bed of canals became so stiff that well sinkers are not able to dig it. Many times those loose lands are covered with rocks and their porous filled with the mixture of clay, lime and sand.”
In the modern science of hydrology, the amount of the bound of well or Qanat is correlated with the type of ground, the amount of seepage and a steady coefficient. Karaji has shown this knowledge in this regard by writing about the role of depth, seepage and ground in designating a bound.
Karaji has also discussed various aspects of earth sciences in his book. He described the earth as spherical ( not flat):
“The Earth with all the mountains and plains on it has a spherical shape. The earth is doomed to spin all the time. Every element on the earth is being drawn toward the center of the earth….”He also writes in his book:
“whatever higher than the Earth surface such as a building may fall down, and it is attributable to the same attracting force inherent in the Earth and its sphericity.”
Karaji, thus, succeeded Newton by several centuries in knowing that the earth has a force he named “the tendency to the center” the same that Newton called gravitation! According to Karaji, water is also affected by the force of gravity like every object on the earth.
Filed Under: Engineering 7 comments
One such magnificent dam was the Band-i Amir dam, built in 960AD over the River Kurr between Shiraz and Istakhr in the province of Fars, Iran by Amir Adud al-Dawla. Band-i Amir dam is 250 feet long and 30 feet high and is considered one of the earliest example of the use of dams for hydropower. The water from this dam powered water-raising wheels and watermills – technology pioneered during medieval Islamic civilization.
Al-Muqaddasi , the notable 10th century geographer, wrote about this dam in his famous book ‘Ahsan at-Taqasim fi Ma`rifat il-Aqalim’ (The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions):
‘Adud al-Dawla closed the river between Shiraz and Istakhr by a great wall, strengthened with lead. And the water behind it rose and formed a lake. Upon it on the two sides were ten water-wheels, like those we mentioned in Khuzistan, and below each wheel was a mill, and it is today one of the wonders of Fars. Then he built a city. The water flowed through channels and irrigated 300 villages.’
Badi-i-Amir was constructed with solid masonry blocks that were connected with iron bars set in lead. Cement mortar was used in the joints that binded the structure and made it watertight. The engineers were thus aware of the importance of the quality of mortar and as Al-Balkhi , wrote ”even an iron tool could not scratch it”.
Owing to this high quality of construction, this dam even after more than 1000 years of construction still survives, although it is now silted up.
Filed Under: Selections 6 comments
"Indeed, the human art which is higest in degree and most noble in rank is the art of Philosophy, the definition of which is knowledge of the true nature of things, insofar as is possible for man. The aim of the philospher is, as regards to his knowledge, to attain the truth, and as regards his action, to act truthfully; not that the activity is endless, for we abstain and the activity ceases, once we have reached the truth. We do not find the truth we are seeking without finding the cause; the cause of the existence and continuance of everything is The True One, in that each thing which has being has truth. The True One exists necessarily, and therefore beings exist. The noblest part of philosophy and the highest rank in the First Philosophy, i.e. knowledge of the First Truth who is the cause of all truth."
Arguments against Eternity of the World:
"Now, if there is an infinite body, then whenever a body of finite magnitude is separated from it, that which remains of it will either be a finite magnitude or an infinite magnitude. If that which remains of it is a finite magnitude, then whenever that finite magnitude which is separated from it is added to it, the body which comes to be from them both together is a finite magnitude; though that which comes to be from them both is that which was infinite before something was separated from it. It is thus finite and infinite, and this is an impossible contradiction.”On Truth:
"We ought not to be embarrassed of appreciating the truth and of obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nations different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself, and there is no deterioration of the truth, nor belittling either of one who speaks it or; conveys it."Seeking Knowledge:
"Our residence in this phenomenal world is transitory; it is a journey towards the eternal one. The most miserable man, is he who prefers for himself the material above the spiritual, for the material, apart from its ephemeral nature, obstructs our passage to the spiritual world. Man should not `disregard any means to protect himself against all human vices, and he should seek to rise to the highest ends of human virtues..., that is, to the knowledge by means of which we protect ourselves against spiritual and bodily disease, and acquire the human virtues in whose very essence goodness is grounded"
Filed Under: Maths 2 comments
... operating on unknowns using all the arithmetical tools, in the same way as the arithmetician operates on the known.
Filed Under: Selections 9 comments
In creation of one essence and soul.
The above is written on the entrance of the united Nations building in New York.
"A learned man who has got into an argument with the ignorant can have no hopes of supporting his own dignity; and if an ignoramus by his loquacity gets the upper hand it should not surprise us, for he is a stone and can bruise a gem. No wonder if his spirit flag; the nightingale is cooped up in the same cage with the crow.---If the man of sense is coarsely treated by the vulgar, let it not excite our wrath and indignation; if a piece of worthless stone can bruise a cup of gold, its worth is not increased, nor that of the gold diminished."
"Whoever does no good in the time of ability will see distress in the time of inability."
"Two men took useless trouble and strove without any profit, when one of them accumulated property without enjoying it, and the other learnt without practising what he had learnt.
However much science thou mayest acquire
Thou art ignorant when there is no practice in thee.
Neither deeply learned nor a scholar will be
A quadruped loaded with some books.
What information or knowledge does the silly beast posses
Whether it is carrying a load of wood or of books?"
"A scholar without diligence is a lover without money; a traveler without knowledge is a bird without wings; a theorist without practice is a tree without fruit; and a devotee without learning is a house without an entrance."
"Whatever is produced in haste goes hastily to waste."
In Conclusion of the Book:
"The book of the "Gulistan, or Flower-Garden," has been completed through the assistance and grace of Allah, the Almighty. Throughout the work the custom of authors to insert verses from ancient writers by way of loan, has not been followed.
To adorn oneself with one's own rag
Is better than to ask for the loan of a robe.
Most of the utterances of Sa'di being exhilarant and mixed with pleasantry, shortsighted persons have on this account lengthened the tongue of blame, alleging that it is not the part of intelligent men to spend in vain the kernel of their brain, and to eat without profit the smoke of the lamp; it is, however, not concealed from enlightened men, who are able to discern the tendency of words, that pearls of curative admonition are strung upon the thread of explanation, and that the bitter medicine of advice is commingled with the honey of wit, in order that the reader's mind should not be fatigued, and thereby excluded from the benefit of acceptance; and praise be to the Lord of both worlds.
We gave advice in its proper place
Spending a lifetime in the task.
If it should not touch anyone's ear of desire
The messenger told his tale; it is enough.
O thou who lookest into it, ask Allah to have mercy
On the author and to pardon the owner of it.
Ask for thyself whatever benefit thou mayest desire,
And after that pardon for the writer of it.
If I had on the day of resurrection an opportunity
Near the Compassionate one I should say: 'O Lord,
I am the sinner and thou the beneficent master,
For all the ill I have done I crave for thy bounty.'
Gratitude is due from me to God that this book is ended Before my life has reached its termination."
Filed Under: Engineering 7 comments
In Al-Qayrawan, alone, there were hundreds of water reservoirs to supply water to the towns, the many gardens and for irrigation purposes. One of the most famous water reservoirs were the the Aghlabids Basins - the remains of which are a tourist attraction today. These were basically two large basins; the smaller one 37.4m in diameter and the larger one having 128m diameter. Water was delivered from mountains located 36km west of the city, by an aqueduct, into the smaller seventeen-sided settling basin that had a capacity of 4000 cubic meters. This smaller basin filtered the water from debris before decanting it into the larger basin. The larger basin was the main reservoir with a holding capacity of 57000 cubic meters that was connected to a vaulted cistern for pumping purposes. More than 180 buttresses were used in these water basins.
Islamic gardens and landscapes By D. Fairchild Ruggles
Museum with No Frontiers: http://www.museumwnf.org
Tunisia By Anthony Ham, Abigail Hole
Muqarnas, Volume 3: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture By Oleg Grabar
Filed Under: Misc. 9 comments
After the establishment of first paper mill in Samarqand in 751, many more paper mills were established in the 8th century in Baghdad and other cities and thus paper books became common. A large number of books were being written and published. In al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) alone, 60,000 books were published each year.
One large bookshop and renowned during the medieval period was that owned by Al-Nadim and his father in the 10th century, Baghdad. His bookshop, built on an upper storey of large building, had thousands of books on a wide variety of subjects including philosophy, religion (not only limited to Islam but other religions as well), medicine, literature and others. Al-Nadim and his father had their own scribes for the coping of books. Their bookshop was popular among scholars who also had academic discussions while having refreshments there. Al-Nadim himself was a highly learned man having acquired education from famous scholars including Ibn-Isfahani. In 987, Al-nadim wrote kitab al-Fihrist (‘The Catalogue’ or ‘Book of the Index’) that was an attempt to list all titles of books known till his time.
These bookshops and the great libraries were the result of a great desire for the quest of knowledge and love of books. Quoting Ibn al-Arabi, the 12th century Muslim philosopher.
"A book is the only orchard, I have ever seen which can be put in one's sleeve and the only park which accompanies a man as he goes. The book is the tongue of the dead and the voice of the living. He is an evening visitor who never sleeps until you sleep and never utters a word except what pleases you, never reveals a secret or abuses a deposit."
Filed Under: Misc. 7 comments
Al-Masudi started traveling in the year 915 (or earlier) and spent the remainder of his life in travel. He visited East Africa, China, Arabia, Indus valley and other parts of India, Sri Lanka, Syria, Egypt, Central Asia and Turkistan. Al-Masudi sailed on the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Caspian Sea.
Al-Masudi wrote the accounts of his travels, the history and geography of the places he visited and the people he met in his books. His last book was ‘Al-Tanbih’ in which he mentioned that thirty-four books had been written by him; unfortunately only four out of his thirty four works have survived. Two of his most important works are ‘Akhbar az-zaman’ (The History of Time) - a 30 volume book and ‘Muruj adh-dhahab wa madin al-jawahir’ (The Meadows of Gold and the Mines of Gems) that established his reputation as Historian and he was compared with the ancient Greek Historians ‘Herodotus’. Az-Zaman is now almost completely lost; Muruj adh-dhahab contains abridged text from Az-Zaman besides other text. The earliest translation of Muruj adh-dhahab is that in French, by Barbier de Meynard and Pavet de Courteille, between 1861-77.
In ‘The Meadows of Gold and the Mines of Gems’, Al-Masudi writes:
“The object of these journeys has been to satisfy our thirst for knowledge, and to learn the peculiarities of the various nations and parts of the world, by witnessing them, and the state of foreign countries, by seeing them; in this way we travelled to India , Ez-Zinj , Es-Sinf, Ez-Zanij. We have also traversed the East and the West. Sometimes we were in the extremity of Khorasan, other times in the centre of Armenia and Adherbuan , Er-Rin And El- Bailkax , then again in EL-Irak and in Esh-Sham (Syria). We went from one quarter of the earth to the other as the sun makes his revolutions. As some poet says: " We rambled through the different parts of the country, sometimes we were in the extreme east and other times in the west, like the sun, the ardour of the mind which remains unimpaired, is unsatisfied until it reaches the region (the other world,) which cannot be approached by traveling." "
On his travels, he met and interacted with people from religions other than Islam. Camilla Adang in ‘Muslim writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible: from Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm’ writes about Al-masudi:
“Wherever he went, Al-Masudi sought the company of the representative of different religions and sects. Thus he visited fire temples in Iran and discussed Zoroastrianism with mobeds and herbads; he consulted Christian priests and laymen in Takrit and Antioch, and met Sabians in Harran. It is therefore not surprising to find him in discussion with eminent Jewish scholars in Raqqa, Tiberias and Baghdad.”