The Life, Travels, And Literary Works Of Yakut Al-Hamawi

In some recent researches I have discovered one of the more interesting travelers and scholars of the medieval Islamic world.  I have been encouraged to review what sources are available; and the more we learn, the more impressive his story becomes.  His name is Yakut Al-Hamawi, and his career and achievements tell us much about the geographical and social mobility of the age in which he lived.  His career also confirms the truth of the adage that a man of ability will always find a way to rise to the top, regardless of the obstacles placed in his path.

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Al-Farra And The Three Obligations Of Respect

Abu Zakariyya Yahya Ibn Ziyad is one of the more famous of the early Arabic grammarians.  Known to history by his moniker Al-Farra, he was born in the city of Kufa around A.D. 761 and received an intensive education there in rhetoric, law, and theology.  His biographer Ibn Khallikan calls him “the most eminent of all the doctors of Kufa and also the most distinguished by his knowledge of grammar, philology and the various branches of literature.”

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The Eloquence of Ali Ibn Al-Athir

Ali Ibn Al-Athir (علي عز الدین بن الاثیر الجزري) was an Arabic historian, poet, and scholar who served for a time under Saladin.  Born in 1160 in the city of Jazeera Ibn Omar (the modern Turkish town of Cizre), he received his education there and in Mosul, Iraq.  From an early age, he showed an uncanny aptitude for literary work, composing verses and prose with fluent ease; he was soon able to master the essentials of grammar, philology, rhetoric, and law.

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Ibn Qalaqis On The Importance Of Travel

The poet Nasrallah Ibn Abdallah Al-Qalaqis (نصر اللّه بن عبد اللّه القاضي الأعزّ ابن قلاقس) was born near Alexandria, Egypt in 1137.  He was a master of language and a composer of many exquisite verses, and was also an intrepid traveler.  The name by which he is generally known (Ibn Qalaqis) is derived from the Arabic word for colocasia, a plant cultivated in his day for its medicinal qualities.  His biographer tells us (with a twinkle in his eye) that “He had so little beard that his face was quite bare and, for that reason, verses were composed against him, which I abstain from mentioning on account of their indelicacy.”  One wishes that these lampoons might have been preserved, if only to see how little insults have changed over the centuries.

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The Pride Of Mihyar Al Daylami

The poet Mihyar Al Daylami (?–1037) came from that region of Persia which bordered the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.  He wrote in Arabic, and his works were so copious that his biographer says they filled four volumes.  He was originally a Zoroastrian, but converted to Islam around the year 1003 under the influence of one of his professors.

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The Wise Sayings Of Al Muhallab

The Arab military commander Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra (المهلّب بن أبي صفرة الأزدي) was born around A.D. 632, but not much is known of his early life beyond anecdotes.  His biographer Ibn Khallikan tells us on good authority that “His surnames al-Azdi, al-Ataki, [and] al-Basri indicate that he descended from al-Atik, member of the tribe of al-Azd, and that he was a native of Basra.”  We are also told that he was distinguished for his generosity and graciousness.  His military prowess was beyond question; he defended the city of Basra so effectively from its enemies that some took to calling the city “The Basra of Al Muhallab.”

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