Muḥammad Abū’l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal (محمد أبو القاسم بن حوقل), also known as Abū al-Qāsim b. ʻAlī Ibn Ḥawqal al-Naṣībī, born in Nisibis, Upper Mesopotamia;[1] was a 10th-century Arab[2] Muslim writer, geographer, and chronicler who travelled from AD 943 to 969.[3] His famous work, written in 977, is called Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ [ar] (صورة الارض; "The face of the Earth"). The date of his death, known from his writings, was after AH 368/AD 978.

Ibn Hawqal
Nisibis, Abbasid Caliphate
(modern-day Nusaybin, Mardin, Turkey)
Diedafter 978
Academic background
Academic work
EraIslamic Golden Age
School or traditionBalkhi school
Main interestsIslamic geography
Notable worksṢūrat al-’Arḍ
10th century map of the World by Ibn Hawqal. For an English version, see here.
10th century map of the Caspian sea by Ibn Hawqal
10th century map of the Caspian sea by Ibn Hawqal



Details known of Ibn Hawqal's life are extrapolated from his book. He spent the last 30 years of his life traveling to remote parts of Asia and Africa, and writing about different things he saw during his journey. One journey brought him 20° south of the equator along the East African coast where he discovered large populations in regions the ancient Greek writers had deemed uninhabitable.[citation needed]

Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ


Ibn Hawqal based his great work of geography on a revision and augmentation of the text called Masālik ul-Mamālik by Istakhri (AD 951), which itself was a revised edition of the Ṣuwar al-aqālīm by Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi, (ca. AD 921).[4][5] However Ibn Hawqal was more than an editor, he was a travel writer writing in the style followed later by Abu Ubaydallah al-Bakri in his Kitab al-Masālik wa-al-Mamālik, a literary genre which uses reports of merchants and travellers. Ibn Hawqal introduces 10th century humour into his account of Sicily during the Kalbid-Fatimid dynasty. As a primary source his medieval geography tends to exaggeration, depicting the "barbaric and uncivilised" Christians of Palermo, reflecting the prevailing politics and attitudes of his time. Yet his geographic accounts of his personal travels were relied upon, and found useful, by medieval Arab travellers.

The chapters on al-Andalus, Sicily, and the richly cultivated area of Fraxinet (La Garde-Freinet) describes in detail a number of regional innovations practiced by Muslim farmers and fishermen.

The chapter on the Byzantine Empire—known in the Muslim world as, and called by the Byzantines themselves, the "Lands of the Romans"—gives his first-hand observation of the 360 languages spoken in the Caucasus, with the Lingua Franca being Arabic and Persian across the region. With the description of Kiev, he may have mentioned the route of the Volga Bulgars and the Khazars, which was perhaps taken from Sviatoslav I of Kiev.[6] He also published a cartographic map of Sindh together with accounts of the geography and culture of Sindh and the Indus River.



An anonymous epitome of the book was written in AD 1233.[4]

In the 1870s, the famous Dutch orientalist Michael Jan de Goeje edited a selection of manuscript texts by Arab geographers, which was published by Brill, Leiden in the eight-volume series Bibliotheca geographorum Arabicorum. Ibn Haukal's text was the second volume published in 1873 under the Latin title Viae et Regna, descriptio ditionis Moslemicae auctore Abu'l-Kásim Ibn Haukal - "Routes and Realms, a description of Muslim territories by the author Abu'l-Kásim Ibn Haukal".[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ Soucek, Svat, A History of Inner Asia (Cambridge University Press:2000), p.73.
  2. ^ Jean-Charles, Ducène (January 2017). "Ibn Ḥawqal". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three.
  3. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec (2009), Historical Dictionary of Islam, p.137. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810861615.
  4. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ibn Hauḳal" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 221.
  5. ^ Şeşen 1999, p. 35.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of Ukraine

Further reading