Ibn al-A'rabi

Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ziyād (ابو عبد الله محمد بن زياد), surnamed Ibn al-Aʿrābī (ابن الاعرابى) (ca. 760 – 846, Sāmarrā); a philologist, genealogist, and oral traditionist of Arabic tribal poetry. A grammarian of the school of al-Kūfah, who rivalled the grammarians of al-Baṣrah in poetry recital. He was famous for his knowledge of rare expressions and for transmitting the famous anthology of ancient Arabic poetry, Al-Mufaḍḍalīyāt.[n 1]

Ibn al-Aʿrābī (ابن الاعرابى)
Bornca. 760
Died846
Surra Man Ra’ā (Sāmarrā), Iraq
Other namesAbū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ziyād ibn al-Aʿrābī (ابو عبد الله محمد بن زياد الاعرابى)
Academic background
Academic work
EraAbbasid Era
School or traditionGrammarians of Kufa
Main interestsphilology, natural science, Ḥadīth, tafsir, poetry

The meaning of the word A'rābī, and its difference to the word Arabī, is explained by the exegete al-Sijistānī,[n 2] in his book on rare Qur’ānic terms: A'rābī is a non-Arab desert inhabitant, whereas Arabī is a non-desert dwelling Arab.

LifeEdit

Ibn al-Aʿrābī was born in al-Kūfah in 760. His father, Ziyād, had been captured from Sindh, probably by the Banū Hāshim, or possibly by the Banū Shaybān or some other tribe. He himself was a mawla (client) of al-Abbās ibn Muḥammad ibn Alī ibn ʿAbd Allāh. He was said to have a cast.[n 3] His mother had been a servant of, and later married, al-Mufaḍḍal ibn Muḥammad al-Ḍabbī, the author of Al-Mufaḍḍalīyāt, and as his stepson, Ibn al-Aʿrābī received a broad education in the Ḥadīth, poetry, history, theology, genealogy and literature. The centres of scholarship in these fields encompassed by the term ʿphilology’ were at al-Baṣrah, al-Kūfah, and later at Baghdād. Apart from al-Mufaḍḍal, Ibn al-A'rābī's principal tutor was the qāḍī (judge) al-Qāsim ibn Ma’n ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān.[1] Abū Mu’āwiyah al-Ḍarīr[n 4], and al-Kisā’ī,[n 5] also tutored him.

Ibn al- Aʿrābī became a scholar of the Arab tribes and of the poets of the Jahiliya (pre-Islamic) and Islamic era, up to the beginning of the rule of the Banū al-ʿAbbās.[n 6] Other scholars were Abū ʿAmr al-Shaybānī, Khālid ibn Kulthūm [n 7], Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb, al-Ṭūsī,[n 8] and al-Aṣma’ī.[2]

His lectures were very popular and Abū al-Abbās Tha’lab,[n 9] who was his student of ten years, reports that a hundred people typically attended his lectures,[1] coming from as far afield as Isfījāb in Transoxiana, and from Spain. [3] A glimpse into the setting for scholarly debate occurring at this time is indicated in an anecdote told by Thaʿlab, where a group of scholars, that included al-Sukkarī,[n 10] Abū al-ʿĀliyah and Ibn al-A'rābī, had assembled at the home of Aḥmad ibn Sa’īd. It appears that Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd and Ibn al-Aʿrabi were astonished, presumably impressed, by Thaʿlab’s precocious critique of a poem by al-Shammākh.[4]

Ibn al-Aʿrābī quoted such Arabian linguistic authorities as al-Ṣamūtī,[n 11] al-Kalbī, and Abū Mujīb[n 12]. His pupils included Ibrāhīm al-Ḥarbī,[n 13] Ibn al-Sikkīt,[n 14] and Ibn al-Azhar.[n 15] As a leading philologist, Ibn al- Aʿrābī was critical of rival scholars of rare linguistic expressions (al-kalām al-gharīb), and in particular of Abū Ubaydah[n 16] and al-Aṣma’ī.[n 17] He proposed orthographic liberalisation and urged permissiveness in the substitution of the letter dād (ض) for the letter (ظ).[5] Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb,[n 18] quoted Ibn al-A’rābī, along with Quṭrub, Abū ʿUbaydah, Abū al-Yaqẓān,[n 19] et al.[6]

Tha’lab[n 20] and al-Ṭabarī wrote Ibn al-A'rābī's biography, while anecdotes about him and his philological commentaries were popular. Thaʿlab reports never seeing a book in his hand, even when he was over eighty years old. This was a huge tribute as scholars attached great importance to facility of memorisation. Tha'lab also claims no one surpassed Ibn al-A'rābī in his knowledge of poetry.[1] Al-Nadīm read Ibn al-Kūfī ʿs[n 21] account that Thaʿlab had heard him say he was born the night Abū Ḥanīfah died. Al-Qāsim had met, and was an admirer of, Abū Ḥanīfah.[5] [1]

Ibn al-Aʿrābī died in 846 (231 AH), in Surra Man Ra’ā, (i.e. the ancient name of Sāmarrā), Iraq, aged eighty years, four months and three days.

WorksEdit

Among his books there were:

  • Kitāb Al-Nawadir (كتاب النوادر); (ʿAnecdotes’), a large book; Rare Forms, which was quoted by a group of scholars among whom were al-Ṭūsī, Thaʿlab, and others —some say there were twelve and some say nine quotations (transcriptions);
  • Al-Anwā’ (كتاب الانواء) Al-Anwā’;[n 22]
  • Ṣifat al-Khayl (كتاب صفة النحل); ʿDescription of the Horse’;
  • Ṣifat al-Zara’ (كتاب صفة الزرع) ʿDescription of the Palm (or Corn in the Blade)’;
  • Al-Khayl (كتاب الخيل) ʿHorses’;
  • Madh al-Qabā’il (كتاب مدح القبائل) ʿTribute of the (History [epochs] of the) Tribes’;
  • Ma’anī al-Sha’ir (كتاب معانى الشعر) ʿMeaning of Poetry’;
  • Tafsīr al-Amthāl (كتاب تفسير الأمثال) ʿExplanation of Similes’, or ʿExposition of Proverbs’
  • Al-Nabāt (كتاب النبات) 'Plants';
  • Al-Alfāz (كتاب الالفاظ) ʿPronunciations (Dialects)’ or ʿVocabulary’;
  • Nisba al-Khail (كتاب نسب الخيل) ʿPedigrees of Horses’;
  • Nawadir al-Zabīrīyīn (كتاب نوادر الزبيريين) Rare Forms of the Inhabitants of Dabīr; [n 23]
  • Nawādir banī Fakās (كتاب نوادر بنى فقعس) ʿAnecdotes of the Banū Faqʿas;[n 24]
  • Al-Dabāb – bi khaṭ al-Sukkarī (كتاب الذباب – بخط السكرى); ʿFlies' – copied in the handwriting of al-Sukkarī. [n 25]
  • Al-Nabāt wa-al-Baqal (كتاب النبت والبقل) ʿPlants and Herbs’;[n 26]
  • Gharīb al-Ḥadīth (غريب الحديث) The Strange in the Ḥadīth[7]

LegacyEdit

Al-A'rābī's importance as a philologist, or linguistic scientist, of the Arab language, and his milieu, can be estimated by the account given by the tenth-century bibliophile Al-Nadim, who writing about a hundred and fifty years after the death of Ibn al-A'rābī, describes visiting the library in the city of al-Ḥadīthah of Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥusayn, known as ʿIbn Abī Baʿrah’, who had received a collection of ancient writings from a Shī’ī book-collector of al-Kūfah. Among the material on the sciences of Arabs and other nations, there were documents written on double parchment, deeds, taʿlīqāt,[n 27] poems, papers on grammar, anecdotes, historical traditions, names, genealogies, etc., on adam[n 28] skins and on paper from Egypt, China, Tihāmah, and Khurāsān; notes written in an ancient calligraphy by ʿAllān the Grammarian and al-Naḍr ibn Shumayl; and Ḥadīth authorities, such as Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah, Sufyān al-Thawri, al-Awzāʿī.[8]Of the scholars, whose handwritten notes on Arabic grammar and philological literature, and other ancient works, he lists are Abū ʿAmr ibn al-ʿAlā', Abū ʿAmr al-Shaybanī, al-Aṣma’ī, Ibn al-Aʿrābī, Sībawayh, al-Farrā’, al-Kisā’ī, Abū al-Aswad (in the handwriting of Yaḥyā ibn Yaʿmar).[9]

Ibn al-Aʿrābī transmitted the authorised edition of the Al-Mufaḍḍalīyāt, one hundred and twenty-eight poems, that begins with a poem of Ta’abbaṭa Sharran Thābit ibn Jābir, where others selected, extended, and reordered the poems.[n 29] [10]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 379
  2. ^ Muḥammad ibn ʿUzayr Abū Bakr al-Sijistānī; See Dhahabī (al-), Ta’rīkh al-Islām, n.646; Khallikān, Wafayāt, III, 27, n.9; Nadīm (al-) Al-Fihrist, 77-8, 1101; Ziriklī, Al-A’lām, VII, 149
  3. ^ A strabismus was considered a mark of beauty. See Slane (de), vol.I, 26, n.1.
  4. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, I. 187; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 67, 154
  5. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, II, 237; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 152-3
  6. ^ For well-known translations of some of these ancient poems, see Mufaḍḍal, Mufaḍḍalīyāt (Lyall) and Tammām, Al-Ḥamāsah.
  7. ^ Khālid ibn Kulthūm al-Kalbī al-Kūfī, tribal genealogist, poetry scholar and folklorist of Kūfah in 8th-century; Suyūṭī (1909), Bughyat, 241; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 145, 344
  8. ^ Al-Ṭūsī, Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn ʿAbd Allāh of Ṭūs; Zubaydī, Ṭabaqāt al-Naḥwīyīn wa-al-Lughawīyīn, 225; Khallikān, Wafayāt, IV, 262, 269, n.1; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 153, 156, 158, 345–6, 1113.
  9. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 83; Nadīm (al-) Al-Fihrist, 86, 191, 345, 348, 1110.
  10. ^ Flügel gives the name 'al-Sukkarī'. In Beatty MS of Al-Fihrist the name is illegible. Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd was probably Ibn Shāhīn of al-Baṣrah, who, like Ibn al-Aʿrābī, was older than Thaʿlab.
  11. ^ Al-Ṣamūtī, tribal linguist; Nadīm (al-), ed. Dodge, Al-Fihrist, 153.
  12. ^ Abū Mujīb, or Abū al-Muḥabbib al-Rabaʿī, or Ribʿī, a scholar of tribal language; Durayd, ed. Wüstenfeld (1854) Geneal., 170, l.7.; Nadīm (al-), ed. Dodge, Al-Fihrist, 218
  13. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 46; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 81, 304, 557; Taghrī-Birdī, III, 116,118.
  14. ^ See Khallikān, Wafayāt, IV, 293; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 158-60, 345–8, 1101
  15. ^ Ibn al-Azhar Jaʿfar ibn Abī Muḥammad, (ca. 815 – 892) historian, traditionist; Mas'ūdī, tr. Meynard (de), Courteille (de)VII, 379; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 248.
  16. ^ See Khallikān, Wafayāt,III, 388; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 115-9, 1116; Yāqūt, Irshād, VI, 164.
  17. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt,II, 123; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 119, 345–8, 965.
  18. ^ Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb, Abū Ja'far (d. 860), scholar of tribal dialects and poetry, and folklorist. Khallikān, III, 622, 627, n.36; Nadīm (al-), 98, 104, 191, 234, 344, 1053.
  19. ^ Abū al-Yaqẓān, ʿĀmir ibn Ḥafṣ, Suḥaym (d. 876), a genealogist and traditionist; Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (4) 226; Ṭabarī , ed., de Goeje (1879–90) Annales, I, 3134, 3190.
  20. ^ Tha’lab, Abū al-Abbās Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyā al-Baghdādī (815–904); the Grammarian; Khallikān, Wafayāt I, 83–90 ;Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 86, 191, 345, 348, 1110.
  21. ^ Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿUbaud ibn al-Zubayr al-Asadī; (868–960); Khaṭīb Baghdādī, XII , 81, § 6489; Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (5), 326; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 6, 145, 151–158, 162, 173–4, 192, 864, 1033.
  22. ^ Anwā, i.e. mansions of the moon. Many authors wrote works with this title on astronomical and meteorological influences.
  23. ^ Dabīr is a Persian village. See Yāqūt, Geog., II, 547. The name is clearly written in the Beatty MS, but Flügel gives al-Zubayrīyīn.
  24. ^ Banū Faqʿas Tribe, See Durayd, Geneal., p. III.
  25. ^ Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, p.xxiii.
  26. ^ Omitted in Beatty MS of Al-Fihrist.
  27. ^ TaʿLīqāt: ʿfinancial accounts’, ʿsupplements’ or ʿmarginal notes’.
  28. ^ Adam is plural of adīm, a type of parchment. See ed., Dodge, B., Al-Fihrist, p.90, n.12.
  29. ^ See Mufaḍḍal, Die Mufaddalījāt (Thorbecke), p. I n., and Mufaḍḍal, Al-Mufaḍḍalīyāt (Lyall), p. 25.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 152.
  2. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 344.
  3. ^ Khallikān (ibn) 1868, p. 24, III.
  4. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, pp. 162–3.
  5. ^ a b Khallikān 1868, p. 24, III.
  6. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 234.
  7. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 190.
  8. ^ Khallikān 1843, pp. 666–7, n7., I.
  9. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 90.
  10. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 151.

BibliographyEdit

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  • Flügel, Gustav (1862). Die Grammatischen Schulen der Araber (in German). Leipzig: Brockhaus. p. 653.
  • Khallikān (ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikān's Biographical Dictionary (tr., Wafayāt al-A'yān wa-Anbā'). Vol. III. Translated by MacGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Britain and Ireland. pp. 23–27.
  • Khallikān (Ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikān's Biographical Dictionary (translation of Wafayāt al-A'yān wa-Anbā'). Vol. III. Translated by MacGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Britain and Ireland. pp. 29–30.
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