Jaghmini, Sharaf Al-Din Mahmud Ibn Muh?ammad Ibn ’Umar Al

views updated


(fl. Khwarizm [now northwest Uzbekistan], first half of thirteenth century),


Jaghmīnī is best known as the author of the elementary astronomical text al-Mulakhkhas fī al-hay’a al-basita (Epitome of simplified theoretical astronomy). This extremely popular work inspired the writing of at least twenty commentaries and supercommentaries; thus Jaghmini’s Mulakhkhas and commentaries provide an example of an active, continuous tradition of astronomical learning within Islamic societies, one that spanned a period of at least five centuries.

There has been some confusion about Jaghmini’s dates, but he can safely be situated in the early thirteenth century. Several sources give the date of composition of the Mulakhkhas as 618 H/1221–1222 CE, and an extant Istanbul manuscript (Laleli, 2141.3, ff. 61b–81a) contains a copy dated 644 H/1246–1247 CE. Claims that Jaghmini lived circa 1344–1345 CE were due in part to mistaking him for another Jaghmini, a physician who lived at that time. Also contributing to this dating error is the fact that the Mulakhkhas was modified over time, by copyists in such a way that it incorporated material from later sources, thus making it appear that it was dependent on these later sources. In one case, for example, Jaghmini’s original list of Ptolemaic values for maximum daylight and latitudes of climes was replaced with a list of values derived later from Nasīr al-Dīn al-TŪsī’s Tadhkira fi’ilm al-hay’a.

Jaghmīnī’s Mulakhkhas is a simplified textbook on astronomy written in Arabic. It is part of a genre of elementary theoretical astronomical literature within Islam explaining the physical structure (hay’a) of the universe for nonspecialists. The Mulakhkhas contains a summary of the configuration of both the celestial and terrestrial worlds, providing the arrangement of the Ptolemaic celestial orbs as well as the sublunar levels. It is composed of an introduction and two sections. The introduction explains the divisions of the bodies in general; section one (divided into five parts) presents an explanation of the celestial orbs and what pertains to them; and section two (divided into three parts) provides an explanation of Earth and what pertains to it. The Mulakhkhas contains no mathematical proofs, for which one would presumably look in Ptolemy’s Almagest. And unlike some of the other existing elementary and intermediate theoretical astronomical textbooks, the Mulakhkhas does not contain any treatment of distances between Earth and the celestial bodies or their sizes, thus distinguishing it from works by Shams al-Dīn al-Kharaqī (d. 1138–1139), Mu ayyad al Dīn al- Urdī (d. 1266), and Nasīr al-Dīn al-TŪsiī (d. 1274). Jaghmīniī apparently wrote a separate treatise on this subject in a unique manuscript (Cairo, Dīr al-kutub MS Tal’at majmī 429.2, f. 4a–4b).

Among the eleven known commentators on the Mulakhkhas are Fadlallāh al- Ubaydi (d. 1350), Kamāl al Dīn al-Turkmānī (fl. 1354), the theologian al-Sayyid al Sharīf al-Jurjānī (d. 1413), and Qādīzāde al-Rumi (d. c. 1440). Qādīzaāde’s commentary deserves particular mention since it became the subject of numerous super-commentaries that were widely circulated. Qadizade completed the work in 1412 and dedicated it to Ulugh Beg, the Timurid sultan whose madrassa (school) in Samarqand was a place where astronomy and mathematics were taught. It was probably used as an intermediate astronomy textbook to be read with Jaghmini’s original text (often the commentary contained the text within it). Qādīzāde’s commentary eventually became part of the madrassa curriculum in Ottoman lands. This transmission was facilitated by Alī Qushjī, who had been a key scientist at Samarqand but spent his last years in Istanbul, and by Qādīzāde’s student Fathallāh al-Shīrwanī (d. 1486), who wrote a supercommentary on it (which he presented in 1473 to Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople). Qādīzaāde’s commentary was used in eighteenth-century Cairo as well as in Muslim India (along with its Persian translation), where it was lithographed and where Indian scholars wrote glosses on it.

In addition to the eleven commentators, eight super-commentators have been identified. Fathallāh al-Shirwani’s super commentary contains references to other Mulakhkhas commentaries as well as notes from his lectures at Samarqand. Two other authors are Bahā al Dīn al āAmilī (d. 1622) and ’Abd al- Alī al-Birjandī (d. 1525–1526), both attendees of Isfahan courts and whose works also surface in India. The supercommentary of Birjandi, who was a second-generation scholar of the Samarqand school, became an advanced-level textbook in the Ottoman madrassas.

Jaghmīnī’s Mulakhkhas exists in thousands of copies, either independently or as part of commentaries, super-commentaries, and glosses some of these were translated into Persian and Turkish. Needless to say, these numbers are overwhelming; unfortunately the vast majority of these works and their exemplars, many containing significant marginalia, have yet to be seriously examined. In addition to providing information on teachers and students of astronomy, as well as the institutions in which this subject was taught during the latter period (1200–1900) of Islamic science, these notes and annotations give an indication of how early modern European science was assimilated in the Islamic world. Jaghmini’s Mulakhkhas, its transformation, and its wide dissemination clearly demonstrate that scientific texts were actively being taught in the madrassas. As such the Mulakhkhas’ and its commentary tradition provide an important means to understand some of the dynamics of learning within Islamic societies.



al-Mulakhkhas fī al-hay’a al-basīta. Istanbul, Laleli MS, 2141.3, ff. 61b–81a.

Rudloff, G., and A. Hochheim. “Die Astronomie des Mahmûd ibn Muhammed ibn ’Omar al-Gagmînî.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morganländischen Gesellschaft 47 (1893): 213–275.

Reprinted in Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy, vol. 77, Miscellaneous Texts and Studies on Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy II, edited by Fuat Sezgin. Frankfurt, Germany: 1998. A German translation based upon a later version of the text.


Fazlioğlu, İhsan. “Osmanli felsefe-biliminin arkaplani:

Semerkand matematik-astronomi okulu.” Dîvân’Ilmî Arastirmalar 14 (2003): 1–66.

İhsanoglu, Ekmeleddin, et al. Osmanli astronomi literatürü tarihi (OALT) [History of astronomy literature during the Ottoman period]. 2 vols. Istanbul: IRCICA, 1997. For a listing of Mulakhkhas manuscripts by Ottoman commentators, see vol. 1, pp. 8–21, 23, 24, 27, 40–41, 47, 54, 135, 141, 249, 291, 330, and vol. 2, pp. 463–464, 744–745, 786.

——, ed. History of the Ottoman State, Society, and Civilisation. 2 vols. Istanbul: IRCICA, 2002. For a discussion of the tradition of the Mulakhkhas in the Ottoman Empire see vol. 2, pp. 522–523, 525, 533, 535, 545–546, 548, 586–587.

İzgi, Cevat. Osmanli Medreselerinde & İBlim. Vol. 1, pp. 370–392.

Istanbul: Iz, 1997. On the teaching of the Mulakhkhas in the Ottoman madrassas.

Kātib Čelebī. Kashf al-zunŪn an asāmī al-kutub wa-’l-funŪn. Vol. 2, collections 1819–1820. Istanbul, 1943.

King, David A. A Survey of the Scientific Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library, p. 150. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1986.

Ragep, F. Jamīl. Nasir al-Dīn al-TŪsī’s Memoir on Astronomy (al-Tadhkira fī’ilm al-hay’a). 2 vols. New York: Springer, 1993.

——. “On Dating Jaghmīnī and His Mulakhkhas.” In Essays in Honour of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, edited by Mustafa Kaçar and Zeynep Durukal, 461–466. Istanbul: IRCICA, 2006. An overview of the controversy on dating Jaghmīnī.

Ragep, Sally P. “Jaghmiīnī.” In Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, general editor Thomas Hockey. New York: Springer, forthcoming.

Storey, Charles A. Persian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey Vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 50–51. London: Luzac, 1972.

Suter, Heinrich. “Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke.” Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der mathematischen Wissenschaften 10 (1900): 164–165.

——; revised by Juan Vernet. “al-Djaghmīnī.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd ed. Vol. 2, p. 378. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1965.

Tāshkubrīzade, Ahmad b. Mu⋅tafī. Miftīh al-sa’īda wa-misbah’al-siyada. Vol. 1, p. 349. Beirut: ’Dar al-kutub al- ilmiyya, 1985.

Sally P. Ragep