Al-Biruni

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[pp. 227-232]

AL-BĪRŪNĪ

(d. 1048 A.D.)

Abū-r-Rayḥān Muḥ. b. Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī. A Persian by origin; probably the most eminent Muslim scientist in the Middle Ages. Many of his 120 works still unpublished.

Brockelmann 1, 475/6; EI (s.v.)

K. al-āthār al-bāqiya

[p. 228] Ed.: C.E. Sachau, Alberuni's Chronology of ancient nations, Leipzig 1876/8, 1923; Engl, transl.: id., London 1879.

K. fī taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind (Ar.)

Ed.: C.E. Sachau, London 1887, Leizpig 1925 ; Engl, transl.: id., Alberuni's India. 2 vols., London 1888.

K. at-tafhīm

Ed.: R. Wright, London 1934.

K. al-jamāhir fī ma'rifat al-jawāhir (Ar.)

Ed.: Krenkow (Arabic) Hyderabad 1936.

al-Qānūn al-mas'ūdī (Canon Masudicus, on Astronomy)

Ed.: Dayratu-l-ma'arifi l-Osmania, 3 Vols., Hyderabad 1954-1956.

Exc. and French transl.: MC 710 v - 715 r.

T.: MC and Ar.Ist.II, pp. 109 - 143 A:0


From Alberuni's Chronology

Kings their Titles

The kings of the Ḥabashah an-Najāshī

The kings of the Nūba kābīl

The Nile rises from the Jabal-al-Qamar, as it was said, behind Uswānja, a town of southern Ḥabashah. (Sachau, K. al-āthār, p. 261).

From Alberuni's India (Arabic text)

Crocodiles are found in the rivers of al-Hind of the same kind as those which are in the Nile. This led al-Jahīz, in his simplicity of mind and his ignorance of the [p. 229] course of the rivers and of the configuration of the seas, to believe that the river Mahrān was a branch of the Nile. (Sachau, ""K. fī taḥqīq"", p. 101; MC 710).

Those deserts [of the Sūdān and Maghrib] push the sea back and [rather] extend into it as far as certain places beyond the mountains of the Moon and the sources of the Nile: there are places which we have never seen, because, overland they are dry and impassable, and by way of the sea [they lie] beyond Sufāla<ref>A town of this name (“Nova Sofala”) in the Gulf of Beira, Mozambique has preserved the name of the ancient Sufāla, to be located not far from the modern one.</ref> of the Zanj; they are also impassable. (ibid., p. 135).

From Kitāb at-tafhīm

[In the First Climate ... there are] Dunqula the town of the Nūba, and Ghāna a town of the Sūdān of the Maghrib. (Quoted from: Ar.Ist.II, p. 113).

From Kitāb al-Jamāhir

[On the Pseudo-Jacynth]

Abdalla b. Marwān b. Muḥammad had a precious red stone valued at one thousand dīnārs ... He was going on foot during his flight from the country of the Nūba and said: "Oh! Had I here a mount to ride on!" Some of his relatives said to him: "In our flight we have nothing more precious than a small stone of little value, the price of which does not exceed five dīnārs, if the servant were to take it out and sell it. But we cannot dare to take out the [other] stone, the more precious one, because it may be of no use to us. On the contrary, it may lead us into trouble, in the same way as happened to [p. 230] Yezdegerd<ref>Allusion is made to a story, told by several Arab writers, according to which Yezdegerd, while fleeing in disguise, was requested to pay a small coin in return for the hospitality he received in the house of a miller. As Yezdegerd had no coin, he offered a precious stone, and was thus discovered and killed.</ref> who could not make any use of all the precious stones he possessed in his own country at the moment when the miller asked him for a four-dīrham piece. (ibid., p. 66).

[On the Emerald]

Al-Kindī says that the [emerald] mine is found above Egypt ... in the country of the Blacks (Sūdān) behind which lies the territory of the Buja, near the gold mine between the Nile and the Red Sea, on the mountain situated in the land of the Nūba.

Now this location is faulty, because if one takes into account the complexion of the Buja, one would not say that their land is [part of] the land of the Blacks (Sūdān), from which slaves (khadam) are imported, and these possess both; the gold and emerald mines; yet, they are not situated on a mountain far inside the territory of the Nūba, but in the desert plains stretching between the Nile and the Red Sea. (Jamāhir, p. 162; Ar.lst.II, p. 129).

In the land of those Blacks (Sūdān)<ref>Probably today’s Ghana.</ref> there are mines, richer in shining, pure gold than any gold-mine elsewhere, but the roads [leading there] are very uncomfortable because of the sand deserts. The people of those countries refrain from mixing with our own people; therefore, merchants from Sijilmāsa in the territory of Tahart, in the extreme Maghrib, make the journey taking [p. 231] enough provisions and water and bring to the Sūdān who live beyond those deserts, cloth from Basra (?) (athwāb baṣriyyah) called mubajbajāt. since they know that the Blacks long for this kind of cloth, bordered with red and striped with different colours, marked (mu'allama) with gold. They sell them for gold and the whole transaction is made by signs (ishārāt), from afar, under the sight of watchmen (mu’āyyanāt) [who witness] the agreement, because of the ignorance (ʿujma) of each other's language and the great aversion they feel for the Whites, as much as the domestic animals have great aversion to lions. They do not desire anything other than those pieces of cloth (athwāb), and rush upon them.

As for those mines (maʿādin) which are situated between the interior (bawātin) of the Sūdān and Zawīla in the Maghrib, certainly the land of the Buja is very similar to those churches (Kanā'is) [glowing with gold]. The remotest (awākhir) [mines] between the Nile and the Red Sea were specially designated as the Gold Mines because of this; [these mines] are some ten days distant from Uswān, as mentioned in the book "The Features of the Climates" (Ashkāl al-Aqālīm). Their frontier is at a fortress called 'Aydhāb which belongs to the Ḥabasha. The meeting place of the men who go there to search for gold from the sand and the gravel (radrād) under a flat land without mountains is called 'Allāqī and it faces toward Egypt. (Jamāhir, pp. 241-242; Ar.Ist.II, pp. 131-132).

From Al-Qānūn al-Mas'ūdī (Book 5, Ch. 9)

South of the Equator Longitude Latitude
Sufāla of the Zanj,<ref>cf. note 1</ref>

there are opposite to Alexandria and Miṣr

55° 0’ 10° 0'

[p. 232]

Longitude Latitude
Qanbalū (Qanbalah) residence of the king

of the Zanj; on an island

52° 0' 8° 0'
Zaghāwa one of their territories 56° 0' 1° 0'
North of the Equator
First Climate: Longitude Latitude
Jarmā (Jarmī), a town of the

Ḥabasha

41° 40' 19° 40'
Dunqula, town of the Nūba 53° 40' 14° 0'
Second Climate:
Uswān, frontier of the Ṣa'īd 56° 0' 22° 30'
ʿAllāqī towards the Nūba 55° 0' 27° 0'
'Aydhāb 58° 0' 21° 0'

(MC 710 v : Berlin, Staatsbibliothek MS or. acc. 1927, nr. 213 fol. 92r.)

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