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Ibn Ḥawqal Ab

Ibn Ḥawqal Abū’l-Qāsim Muḥammad

(b. Nisibis, Upper Mesopotamia [now Nusaybin, Turkey]; fl. second half of the tenth century)


Information on Ibn Ḥawqal’s life is far from complete. He was a merchant and possibly a Fāṭimid missionary. Beginning in 943 he traveled through much of the Muslim world: between 947 and 951 he was in the Maghrib and visited the southern limit of the Sahara and Spain. In Spain he met the Jewish physician Ḥasdāy ibn Shaprūt, vizier of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III. The vizier gave him information on the countries of northern Europe in return for data on the Jews of the Orient and, possibly, on the Khazars. In 955 he passed through Egypt, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; in 961–969 he crossed Iraq and Persia, and from there covered Transoxiana and Khwarizm. In 973 he was in Sicily.

Ibn Ḥawqal’s extant work on geography is Kitāh al-masālik wa’l-mamālik (“Book of Routes and Kingdoms”). Its form is that of the works called Atlas of Islam and its closest antecedent is the book written by al-Iṣṭakhrī (ca. 930), who probably led Ibn Ḥawqal to devote himself to the study of geography. Originally, Ibn Ḥawqal intended only to bring al-Iṣṭakhrī’s book up to date, but the successive incorporation of new material reflected in the three revisions of the Kitāb al-masālik (that of 967, dedicated to Sayf al-Dawla; that of ca. 977, in which he criticizes the Ḥamdanids; and that of ca. 988) led to a new book whose descriptive portion greatly surpassed the works of earlier authors. He added details about non-Muslim towns in the Sudan, Turkey, Nubia, and southern Italy and also gave chronological precisions and much information of economic interest on raw materials, things which, as a general rule, were not mentioned in works of this nature. The stylized maps he inserted were not to be taken as exact representations of the particular lands and seas named.


I. Original Works. An inventory of MSS is in C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arubisehen Literatur, I (Weimar, 1898), 263, and Supplementband, I (Leiden, 1944), 408. The text of Kitāb al-masālik was published by M. J. de Goeje as Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum, II (Leiden, 1873); and by J. H. Kramers (Leiden, 1938). The latter is the basis of the French translation by the same author, revised by G. Wiet, as Configuration de la terre, 2 vols. (Paris-Beirut, 1964).

II. Secondary Literature. There are various regional studies based on the work of Ibn Ḥawqal. Lists of them can be found in the works mentioned above. See also F. Gabrieli, “Ibn Ḥawqal e gli Arabi di Sicilia,” in L’Islam nella storia (Bari, 1966), pp. 57–67; and A. Miquel. La géographie humaine du monde musulmane jusqu’au milieu du XIe siècle (Paris, 1967), esp. pp. 299–309; and “Ibn Ḥawqal,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., III (1968), 810–811.

J. Vernet

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