Shihāb al-Dīn Abū 'l-Abbās Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī ibn Aḥmad ‘Abd Allāh al-Qalqashandī al-Fazari[1] or al-Qalqashandī (Arabic شهاب الدين أحمد بن علي بن أحمد القلقشندي) (1355 or 1356 – 1418), was a medieval Egyptian encyclopedist, polymath and mathematician. A native of the Nile Delta, he became a Scribe of the Scroll (Katib al-Darj), or clerk of the Mamluk chancery in Cairo, Egypt. His magnum opus is the voluminous administrative encyclopedia Ṣubḥ al-Aʿshá.

Ṣubḥ al-aʿshāEdit

Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā, published 1193 AH

Ṣubḥ al-Aʿshá fī Ṣināʿat al-Inshāʾ ('The Dawn of the Blind' or 'Daybreak for the Night-Blind regarding the Composition of Chancery Documents'); a fourteen-volume encyclopedia completed in 1412, is an administrative manual on geography, political history, natural history, zoology, mineralogy, cosmography, and time measurement. Based on the Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣar of Shihab al-Umari,[2] it has been called "one of the final expressions of the genre of Arabic administrative literature".[3] Selections on "Seats of Government " and "Regulations of the Kingdom " from Early Islam to the Mamluks' have been published separately.[4]

The Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā was cited by David Kahn as the first published discussion of the substitution and transposition of ciphers, and the first description of a polyalphabetic cipher, in which each plaintext letter is assigned more than one substitution. The exposition on cryptanalysis included the use of tables of letter frequencies and sets of letters which cannot occur together in one word. [5] Kahn therefore cited it as the first work in human history that described cryptology, because it described both cryptography and cryptanalysis. Al-Qalqashandi quoted the text relevant to cryptology from the work of Ibn al-Durayhim (1312–1361) that was once considered lost. Later discoveries in Istanbul‟s Sulaimaniyyah Ottoman Archives did not just find the work by Ibn Duraihim, but also works of Al Kindi in the 9th century that is now considered the oldest work on cryptology.[6]


  1. ^ "al-Ḳalḳas̲h̲andī".
  2. ^ Meisami, Julie Scott; Starkey, Paul, eds. (1998). "al-Qalqashandi". Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature. 2. Routledge. p. 629.
  3. ^ Maaike van Berkel (2009). "al-QALQASHANDĪ". In Roger M. A. Allen; Terri DeYoung (eds.). Essays in Arabic Literary Biography II: 1350-1850. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 331–40. ISBN 978-3-447-05933-6. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  4. ^ Heba el-Toudy and Tarek Galal Abdelhamid (eds), Selections from Ṣubḥ al-A‘shā by al-Qalqashand ī, Clerk of the Mamluk Court: Egypt: “Seats of Government ” and “Regulations of the Kingdom ”, from Early Islam to the Mamluks', Al-Masāq: Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean (2017)
  5. ^ Lennon, Brian (2018). Passwords: Philology, Security, Authentication. Harvard University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780674985377.
  6. ^ Kathryn A. Schwartz (2009): Charting Arabic Cryptology's Evolution∗, Cryptologia,33:4, 297-304

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