Ibn Al-‘Awwām Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā Ibn Muḥammad
(fl. Spain, second half of the twelfth century; nothing more is known of his life)
Ibn Khaldun mentions Ibn al-’Awwāam in his Muqaddima as the author of a treatise on agriculture, the Kitāb al-filāḥa, which was, according to him, a summary of the Nabatean Agriculture of Ibn Waḥshiyya. The work of Ibn al-’Awwām, published in Spanish at the beginning of the nineteenth century, consists of thirty-five chapters, of which thirty are devoted to agronomy and the rest to related matters. It deals with 585 plants and more than fifty fruit trees, and is generally limited to a repetition of the doctrines of his predecessors, although there are a few observations, made by Ibn al-’Awwām in the Aljarafe of Seville, that are introduced by the term lī.
Among the classical writers he mentions Democritus, the Pseudo Aristotle. Theophrastus, Vergil, Varro, and especially Columella (the format of the Kitab at-filaha is similar to that of the De re rustica). The Oriental Arabs are represented by Abū Ḥanifa al-Dīnawarī (the tenth-century botanist who wrote the Kitāb al-nabāt)and the Nabatean Agriculture. The most extensive quotations, however, are from the Hispano-Arab agriculturists, among them Albucasis, possibly the author of a Mukhtaṣar kitāb al-filāha; the Sevillian Abū ’Umar ibn Hajjāj (d. ca.1073), author of the Muquni’; Ibn Baṣṣāl, a Toledan who was the director of the botanical garden of al-Ma’ mūn and later that of al-Mu’tamid, as well as author of the al-Qasd wa’l-bayān; Abu’l-Khayr al-Shajjār of Seville; and Abū ’Abd Allāh Muḥammad al-Tijnarī, author of the Zahr al-bustān wạ-nuzhat al-adhhān. Most of the works of these authors were known, until very recently, only through the quotations of Ibn al-’Awwām.
The Kitāb al-filāḥa is an excellent manual that was designed to increase the value of land through the education of the farmer. Therefore the Spanish governments of the Enlightenment, advised by Pedro Campomanes (1723–1802), incited the Arabists of the period ot publish its translation.
The first Spanish edition of the Kitāb al-filāḥa was prepared by José Antonio Banqueri, a canon from Tortosa who was a disciple of Casiri: Libro de agricultura, su autor el doctor excelente Abu Zacaria...,2 vols. (Madrid, 1802). There is also a résumé of this translation by D. C. Boutelou, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1878), and a translation into French by J. J. Clément Mullet (Paris, 1864–1867) that is not definitive. Interesting observations about the text have been made by J. J. Clément Mullet, in Journal asialique, 1 (1860), 449–454; E. M. Chehabi, in Revue de l’Académie arabe, 11 (1931), 193 ff,; and C. C. Moncada, “Sul taglio della vita di’Ibn al-’Awwām,” in Actes du VIIIe Congrès des orientalistes (Stockholm, 1889), Sec. I. 215 ff.
There are no Arabic sources for Ibn al-’Awwam’s life, except for the quotation by Ibn Khaldūn in his Muqaddima, trans. De Slane, III (Paris, 1863–1868), 165. For the manuscripts, consult Ziriklī, A’lām, IX (1954–1959), 208; Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litterateur, I (Weimar, 1898), 494, and Supp. I (Leiden, 1937), 903; and George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, II, 424.