Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ziyād (ابو عبد الله محمد بن زياد), surnamed Ibn al-Aʽrābī (ابن الاعرابى) (ca. 760 – 846, Sāmarrā); a philologer, 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-A‘rābī (ابن الاعرابى)
|Other names||Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ziyād ibn al-A‘rābī (ابو عبد الله محمد بن زياد الاعرابى)|
|School or tradition||Grammarians of Kufa|
|Main interests||philology, 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.
Ibn al-A‘rābī 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 ‘Abd 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-A‘rābī received a broad education in the Ḥadīth, poetry, history, theology, genealogy and literature. The centres of scholarship in these fields encompassed by the term ‘philology’ 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 ‘Abd al-Raḥmān. Abū Mu’āwiyah al-Ḍarīr[n 4], and al-Kisā’ī,[n 5] also tutored him.
Ibn al- A‘rābī 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-‘Abbās.[n 6] Other scholars were Abū ‘Amr al-Shaybānī, Khālid ibn Kulthūm [n 7], Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb, al-Ṭūsī,[n 8] and al-Aṣma’ī.
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, coming from as far afield as Isfījāb in Transoxiana, and from Spain.  A glimpse into the setting for scholarly debate occurring at this time is indicated in an anecdote told by Tha‘lab, where a group of scholars, that included al-Sukkarī,[n 10] Abū al-‘Āliyah and Ibn al-A'rābī, had assembled at the home of Aḥmad ibn Sa’īd. It appears that Aḥmad ibn Sa‘īd and Ibn al-A‘rabi were astonished, presumably impressed, by Tha‘lab’s precocious critique of a poem by al-Shammākh.
Ibn al-A‘rābī 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- A‘rābī 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 zā (ظ). Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb,[n 18] quoted Ibn al-A’rābī, along with Quṭrub, Abū ‘Ubaydah, Abū al-Yaqẓān,[n 19] et al.
Tha’lab[n 20] and al-Ṭabarī wrote Ibn al-A'rābī's biography, while anecdotes about him and his philological commentaries were popular. Tha‘lab 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. Al-Nadīm read Ibn al-Kūfī ‘s[n 21] account that Tha‘lab had heard him say he was born the night Abū Ḥanīfah died. Al-Qāsim had met, and was an admirer of, Abū Ḥanīfah. 
Among his books there were:
- Kitāb Al-Nawadir (كتاب النوادر); (‘Anecdotes’), a large book; Rare Forms, which was quoted by a group of scholars among whom were al-Ṭūsī, Tha‘lab, 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); ‘Description of the Horse’;
- Ṣifat al-Zara’ (كتاب صفة الزرع) ‘Description of the Palm (or Corn in the Blade)’;
- Al-Khayl (كتاب الخيل) ‘Horses’;
- Madh al-Qabā’il (كتاب مدح القبائل) ‘Tribute of the (History [epochs] of the) Tribes’;
- Ma’anī al-Sha’ir (كتاب معانى الشعر) ‘Meaning of Poetry’;
- Tafsīr al-Amthāl (كتاب تفسير الأمثال) ‘Explanation of Similes’, or ‘Exposition of Proverbs’
- Al-Nabāt (كتاب النبات) 'Plants';
- Al-Alfāz (كتاب الالفاظ) ‘Pronunciations (Dialects)’ or ‘Vocabulary’;
- Nisba al-Khail (كتاب نسب الخيل) ‘Pedigrees of Horses’;
- Nawadir al-Zabīrīyīn (كتاب نوادر الزبيريين) Rare Forms of the Inhabitants of Dabīr; [n 23]
- Nawādir banī Fakās (كتاب نوادر بنى فقعس) ‘Anecdotes of the Banū Faq‘as;[n 24]
- Al-Dabāb – bi khaṭ al-Sukkarī (كتاب الذباب – بخط السكرى); ‘Flies' – copied in the handwriting of al-Sukkarī. [n 25]
- Al-Nabāt wa-al-Baqal (كتاب النبت والبقل) ‘Plants and Herbs’;[n 26]
- Gharīb al-Ḥadīth (غريب الحديث) The Strange in the Ḥadīth
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 ‘Ibn Abī Ba‘rah’, 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, ta‘līqāt,[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 ‘Allān the Grammarian and al-Naḍr ibn Shumayl; and Ḥadīth authorities, such as Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah, Sufyān al-Thawri, al-Awzā‘ī.Of the scholars, whose handwritten notes on Arabic grammar and philological literature, and other ancient works, he lists are Abū ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alā', Abū ‘Amr al-Shaybanī, al-Aṣma’ī, Ibn al-A‘rābī, Sībawayh, al-Farrā’, al-Kisā’ī, Abū al-Aswad (in the handwriting of Yaḥyā ibn Ya‘mar).
Ibn al-A‘rābī 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] 
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 379
- 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
- A strabismus was considered a mark of beauty. See Slane (de), vol.I, 26, n.1.
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, I. 187; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 67, 154
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, II, 237; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 152-3
- For well-known translations of some of these ancient poems, see Mufaḍḍal, Mufaḍḍalīyāt (Lyall) and Tammām, Al-Ḥamāsah.
- 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
- Al-Ṭūsī, Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd 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.
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 83; Nadīm (al-) Al-Fihrist, 86, 191, 345, 348, 1110.
- Flügel gives the name 'al-Sukkarī'. In Beatty MS of Al-Fihrist the name is illegible. Aḥmad ibn Sa‘īd was probably Ibn Shāhīn of al-Baṣrah, who, like Ibn al-A‘rābī, was older than Tha‘lab.
- Al-Ṣamūtī, tribal linguist; Nadīm (al-), ed. Dodge, Al-Fihrist, 153.
- Abū Mujīb, or Abū al-Muḥabbib al-Raba‘ī, or Rib‘ī, a scholar of tribal language; Durayd, ed. Wüstenfeld (1854) Geneal., 170, l.7.; Nadīm (al-), ed. Dodge, Al-Fihrist, 218
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, 46; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 81, 304, 557; Taghrī-Birdī, III, 116,118.
- See Khallikān, Wafayāt, IV, 293; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 158-60, 345–8, 1101
- Ibn al-Azhar Ja‘far ibn Abī Muḥammad, (ca. 815 – 892) historian, traditionist; Mas'ūdī, tr. Meynard (de), Courteille (de)VII, 379; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 248.
- See Khallikān, Wafayāt,III, 388; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 115-9, 1116; Yāqūt, Irshād, VI, 164.
- Khallikān, Wafayāt,II, 123; Nadīm (al-), Al-Fihrist, 119, 345–8, 965.
- 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.
- Abū al-Yaqẓān, ‘Āmir ibn Ḥafṣ, Suḥaym (d. 876), a genealogist and traditionist; Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (4) 226; Ṭabarī , ed., de Goeje (1879–90) Annales, I, 3134, 3190.
- 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.
- Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Ubaud 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.
- Anwā, i.e. mansions of the moon. Many authors wrote works with this title on astronomical and meteorological influences.
- Dabīr is a Persian village. See Yāqūt, Geog., II, 547. The name is clearly written in the Beatty MS, but Flügel gives al-Zubayrīyīn.
- Banū Faq‘as Tribe, See Durayd, Geneal., p. III.
- Khallikān, Wafayāt, I, p.xxiii.
- Omitted in Beatty MS of Al-Fihrist.
- Ta‘Līqāt: ‘financial accounts’, ‘supplements’ or ‘marginal notes’.
- Adam is plural of adīm, a type of parchment. See ed., Dodge, B., Al-Fihrist, p.90, n.12.
- See Mufaḍḍal, Die Mufaddalījāt (Thorbecke), p. I n., and Mufaḍḍal, Al-Mufaḍḍalīyāt (Lyall), p. 25.
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 152.
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 344.
- Khallikān (ibn) 1868, p. 24, III.
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, pp. 162–3.
- Khallikān 1868, p. 24, III. sfn error: no target: CITEREFKhallikān1868 (help)
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 234.
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 190.
- Khallikān 1843, pp. 666–7, n7., I. sfn error: no target: CITEREFKhallikān1843 (help)
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 90.
- Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 151.
- Dhahabī (al-), Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn ‘Uthmān (1948). Ta’rīkh al-Islām. Cairo: Al-Qudsī.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Flügel, Gustav (1862). Die Grammatischen Schulen der Araber (in German). Leipzig: Brockhaus. p. 653.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Khallikān (ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikān’s Biographical Dictionary (tr., Wafayāt al-A’yān wa-Anbā’). III. Translated by MacGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Britain and Ireland. pp. 23–27.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Khallikān (Ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikān’s Biographical Dictionary (translation of Wafayāt al-A’yān wa-Anbā’). III. Translated by MacGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Britain and Ireland. pp. 29–30.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Nadīm (al-), Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq Abū Ya’qūb al-Warrāq (1970). Dodge, Bayard (ed.). The Fihrist of al-Nadim; a tenth-century survey of Muslim culture. New York & London: Columbia University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Nadīm (al-), Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq (1872). Flügel, Gustav (ed.). Kitāb al-Fihrist (in Arabic). Leipzig: F.C.W. Vogel. p. 653.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Taghrī-Birdī (Ibn), Abū al-Maḥāsin Yūsuf (1963). Popper, William (ed.). Al-Nujūm al-Zāhirah fī Mulūk Miṣr wa-al-Qāhirah (in Arabic). III. Cairo: Dār ak-Kutub al-Miṣrīyah. pp. 116, 118.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- al-Ziriklī, Khayr al-Dīn (2007). al-Aʻlām, qāmūs tarājim li-ashhar al-rijāl wa-al-nisāʼ min al-ʻArab wa-al-mustaʻribīn wa-al-mustashriqīn (in Arabic). VII (17 ed.). Bayrūt: Dār al-ʻIlm lil-Malāyīn. p. 149.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)