Ibn Sa'id

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[pp. 245-247]


(1029 - 1070 A.D.)

An Arab-Spanish historian.

K. Tabaqat al-umam ("The Categories of Nations"). Here the ability of different peoples to cultivate Science is discussed. The author divides the peoples into two groups: the first includes the peoples who made achievements in the various fields of Knowledge (Indians, Jews, Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs); the second those unfit for Science.

Ed.: L. Cheikho, Beyrouth 1912. French transl.: R. Blachere, Livre des Categories des Nations, Paris 1935.

Exc.: Ar.Ist: Cheikho II, pp. 191-194.

T.: Ar.Ist.; Blachére A:0 and A: 1

From "Arabskiye Istochniki"

(The fourth nation) includes the Copts (Qibṭ), who are the indigenous population of Egypt, and other peoples dwelling south (of Egypt) and are divided into different branches of Blacks (Sūdān), such as the Ḥabasha, the Nūba, the Zanj<ref>Of East Africa.</ref> and others in the Maghrib and among the Berbers (barābir) and their neighbours. (Cheikho, p. 7; Ar.Ist.II, p. 193).

As for the category (tabraqra) which is unfit for cultivating any branch of Science (al-‘ulmūm), this includes all the other peoples (umam) not mentioned in the list (of the learned peoples)<ref>See the list in the biographical introduction, above (“Indians” etc.).</ref>, viz. the peoples of Gog and Magog, the Turks, al-Burtās (in the Volga basin)<ref>Unidentified.</ref> [p. 246] as-Sarīr, the Khazar, Hawran (Jurjān), Kashal (Kossack?), al-Lān (Alains), the Slavs, the Bulgars, al-Burjān (a branch of Bulgars), the Berbers and such kinds of Sūdānese, such as the Ḥabasha, the Nūba, the Zanj and the others.

As for those (Nūba and Sūdān), who dwell in regions near the equator, as well as the natives (of the land lying beyond) as far as the southern end of the inhabited Earth, the climate (hawāʾ) of their countries is very hot and the surrounding atmosphere (jaw) is burning, because they have the sun over their heads for long spells of time. For this reason they have hot tempers, ardent humours, black complexion and curly hair. Also for the same reason, they do not enjoy the benefit of the power of the mind, intelligence and steadiness of character; consequently ignorance and laziness are common among them. Such is the condition of those Blacks (Sūdān) who live in the remotest parts of the country of the Ḥabasha, the Nūba, the Zanj etc. ...

As for those peoples in this category whom I have not mentioned on any account, they are similar to these, in ignorance (jahl), although in different degrees. Yet, a trait which is common to them all is that they have never endeavoured to acquire Wisdom (ḥikma), nor do they like to learn Philosophy (falsafah). Despite all this, certain groups, who live in towns and abhor nomadic life possess in some regions, whether east, or west, north or south, some form of monarchic rule (siyyāsah mulūkiyya), which they follow at present and also observe some divine laws (nāmūs ilāhī). Among them, no man who is endowed with reason (alīf al-'aql), dares to trespass this human order or break these laws (ta’līf). If an exception is made it is for some desert dwellers and the inhabitants of waterless plains such as the scattered multitude (rumāqh) of the Beja, the barbarians (hamaj) of the 'Anah [p. 247] (Ghāna?), the remotest Zanj and the like. (Cheikho, pp. 8-9; Ar.Xst.II, pp. 191 - 194).

From "Le Livre des Categories"

Some scientists well versed in Astrology propose the following reason (in order to explain the ability of Indians to cultivate Science). They say that Mercury and Saturn exercise a certain influence on the physical destiny of the Indians, so that these, under the influence of Saturn have a dark complexion, and under the influence of Mercury, a sound mind and a bright intelligence. The scientists also claim that (the influence of) Saturn is responsible for their steadiness of character and their profundity in philosophical research. Therefore, thanks to this double influence, the Indians have reached a high degree of mental capacity and a perfection of reasoning, by which they differ so much from all the peoples who dwell among the sūdān, the Nūba, the Zanj and Ḥabasha. (Blachère, p. 44).

Since then (the conversion of Emperor Constantine) the Christian religion never ceased expanding so far and wide as to conquer the majority of the peoples (bordering on the Roman Empire), viz. the Galicians (?) (jalāliqa), the Slavs, the Burjān, the Russians, all the Copts of Egypt, as well as the sūdān such as the Ḥabasha, the Nūba and others. (ibid., p. 79).