Ibn Wahshiyya

Ibn Waḥshiyyah (Arabic: ابن وحشية; full name Abū Bakr Aḥmad ibn ʿAlī Ibn Waḥshiyyah, Arabic: أبو بكر أحمد بن علي ابن وحشية), died c. 930, was a Nabataean agriculturalist, toxicologist, and alchemist born in Qussīn, near Kufa in Iraq.[2] He is the author of the Nabataean Agriculture (Kitāb al-Filāḥa al-Nabaṭiyya), an influential Arabic work on agriculture, astrology, and magic.[3]

Attempted translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs by pseudo-Ibn Wahshiyyah (from Shawq al-mustahām, Paris MS Arabe 6805, fol 92b–93a).[1]

Already by the end of the tenth century, various works were being falsely attributed to him.[4] One of these spurious writings, the Kitāb Shawq al-mustahām fī maʿrifat rumūz al-aqlām (“The Book of the Desire of the Maddened Lover for the Knowledge of Secret Scripts”, c. 985),[5] is notable as an early proposal that some Egyptian hieroglyphs could be read phonetically, rather than only logographically.[6]

WorksEdit

Ibn Wahshiyya's works were written down and redacted after his death by his student and scribe Abū Ṭālib al-Zayyāt.[7] They were used not only by later agriculturalists, but also by authors of works on magic like Maslama al-Qurṭubī (died 964, author of the Ghāyat al-ḥakīm, "The Aim of the Sage", Latin: Picatrix), and by philosophers like Maimonides (1138–1204) in his Dalālat al-ḥāʾirīn ("Guide for the Perplexed", c. 1190).[8]

Ibn al-Nadim, in his Kitāb al-Fihrist (c. 987), lists approximately twenty works attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya. However, most of these were probably not written by Ibn Wahshiyya himself, but rather by other tenth-century authors inspired by him.[9]

The Nabataean AgricultureEdit

Ibn Wahshiyya's major work, the Nabataean Agriculture (Kitāb al-Filāḥa al-Nabaṭiyya, c. 904), claims to have been translated from an "ancient Syriac" original, written c. 20,000 years ago by the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia.[10] In Ibn Wahshiyya's time, Syriac was thought to have been the primordial language used at the time of creation.[11] While the work may indeed have been translated from a Syriac original,[12] in reality Syriac is a language that only emerged in the first century. By the ninth century, it had become the carrier of a rich literature, including many works translated from the Greek. The book's extolling of Babylonian civilization against that of the conquering Arabs forms part of a wider movement (the Shu'ubiyya movement) in the early Abbasid period (750-945 CE), which witnessed the emancipation of non-Arabs from their former status as second-class Muslims.[13]

Other WorksEdit

The Book of PoisonsEdit

One of the works attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya is a treatise on toxicology called the Book of Poisons, which combines contemporary knowledge on pharmacology with magic and astrology.[14]

CryptographyEdit

The works attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya contain several cipher alphabets that were used to encrypt magic formulas.[15]

Later influenceEdit

One of the works attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya, the Kitāb Shawq al-mustahām fī maʿrifat rumūz al-aqlām (“The Book of the Desire of the Maddened Lover for the Knowledge of Secret Scripts”, c. 985),[16] has been claimed by Egyptologist Okasha El-Daly to have correctly identified the phonetic value of a number of Egyptian hieroglyphs.[17] However, other scholars have been highly sceptical about El-Daly's claims on the accuracy of these identifications, which betray a keen interest in (as well as some basic knowledge of) the nature of Egyptian hieroglyphs, but are in fact for the most part incorrect.[18] The book may have been known to the German Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680),[19] and was translated into English by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall in 1806 as Ancient Alphabets and Hieroglyphic Characters Explained; with an Account of the Egyptian Priests, their Classes, Initiation, and Sacrifices in the Arabic Language by Ahmad Bin Abubekr Bin Wahishih.[20]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ El-Daly 2005, p. 71.
  2. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2018. On Qussīn, see Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-buldān, IV:350 (referred to by Hämeen-Anttila 2006, p. 93).
  3. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2006, p. 3.
  4. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2018.
  5. ^ For the spurious nature of this work, see Hämeen-Anttila 2006, pp. 21–22. See also Toral-Niehoff & Sundermeyer 2018.
  6. ^ El-Daly 2005, pp. 57–73. Stephan 2017, p. 265 affirms that the author correctly deciphered a few signs and that he showed some knowledge on the nature of Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, according to Stephan, El-Daly "vastly overemphasizes Ibn Waḥshiyya’s accuracy". El-Daly's characterization of pseudo-Ibn Wahshiyya's and other contemporary Arabic authors' interest in the decipherment of ancient scripts as representing a coordinated research program, and as lying at the foundations of modern Egyptology, was found lacking in evidence by Colla 2008. On pseudo-Ibn Wahshiyya, see also Toral-Niehoff & Sundermeyer 2018.
  7. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2006, p. 87.
  8. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2018. On the authorship of the Ghāyat al-ḥakīm, see Fierro 1996, recently confirmed by De Callataÿ & Moureau 2017.
  9. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2018.
  10. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2006, p. 3.
  11. ^ Rubin 1998, pp. 330–333.
  12. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2006, pp. 10–33.
  13. ^ Hämeen-Anttila 2006, pp. 33–45.
  14. ^ Iovdijová & Bencko 2010.
  15. ^ Whitman 2010, p. 351.
  16. ^ For the spurious nature of this work, see Hämeen-Anttila 2006, pp. 21–22. See also Toral-Niehoff & Sundermeyer 2018.
  17. ^ El-Daly 2005, pp. 57–73.
  18. ^ Stephan 2017, p. 265. According to Stephan, El-Daly "vastly overemphasizes Ibn Waḥshiyya's accuracy". El-Daly's characterization of pseudo-Ibn Wahshiyya's and other contemporary Arabic authors' interest in the decipherment of ancient scripts as representing a coordinated research program, and as lying at the foundations of modern Egyptology, was found lacking in evidence by Colla 2008.
  19. ^ El-Daly 2005, pp. 58, 68.
  20. ^ Hammer 1806. Cf. El-Daly 2005, pp. 68–69.

BibliographyEdit

  • Colla, Elliot (2008). "Review of El-Daly 2005". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 40 (1): 135–137.
  • De Callataÿ, Godefroid; Moureau, Sébastien (2017). "A Milestone in the History of Andalusī Bāṭinism: Maslama b. Qāsim al-Qurṭubī's Riḥla in the East". Intellectual History of the Islamicate World. 5 (1): 86–117. doi:10.1163/2212943X-00501004.
  • El-Daly, Okasha (2005). Egyptology: The Missing Millennium. Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings. London: UCL Press.
  • Fierro, Maribel (1996). "Bāṭinism in Al-Andalus: Maslama b. Qāsim al-Qurṭubī (d. 353/964), Author of the Rutbat al-Ḥakīm and the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm (Picatrix)". Studia Islamica. 84: 87–112.
  • Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko (2006). The Last Pagans of Iraq: Ibn Wahshiyya And His Nabatean Agriculture. Leiden: Brill.
  • Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko (2018). "Ibn Waḥshiyya". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_32287.
  • Hammer, Joseph von (1806). Ancient Alphabets and Hieroglyphic Characters Explained; with an Account of the Egyptian Priests, their Classes, Initiation, and Sacrifices in the Arabic Language by Ahmad Bin Abubekr Bin Wahshih. London: Bulmer.
  • Iovdijová, A.; Bencko, V. (2010). "Potential risk of exposure to selected xenobiotic residues and their fate in the food chain--part I: classification of xenobiotics" (PDF). Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine. 17 (2): 183–92. PMID 21186759. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  • Rubin, Milka (1998). "The Language of Creation or the Primordial Language: A Case of Cultural Polemics in Antiquity". Journal of Jewish Studies. 49 (2): 306–333.
  • Stephan, Tara (2017). "Writing the Past: Ancient Egypt through the Lens of Medieval Islamic Thought". In Lowry, Joseph E.; Toorawa, Shawkat M. (eds.). Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-34329-0.
  • Toral-Niehoff, Isabel; Sundermeyer, Annette (2018). "Going Egyptian in Medieval Arabic Culture. The Long-Desired Fulfilled Knowledge of Occult Alphabets by Pseudo-Ibn Waḥshiyya". In El-Bizri, Nader; Orthmann, Eva (eds.). The Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Cultures. Würzburg: Ergon. pp. 249–263.
  • Whitman, Michael (2010). Principles of Information Security. London: Course Technology. ISBN 1111138214.

External linksEdit