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?Umar Ibn Al-Farrukhan Al-T?abari


(fl. Baghdad, Iraq, 762–812)

astrology, astronomy.

Abū Ḥafṣ ‘Umar was the son of a native of Tabaristān, the Iranian province just south of the Caspian Sea, who bore the ancient Persian name Farrukhān:he was thus one of those Persian scholars who made the early Abbasid court a center forthe translation of Pahlavi scientific texts into Arabic. He first appears on the scene as one of the group of astrologers, including Nawbakht, Māshā’allāh, and al-Fazārī, whom al-Mansūr asked to select an auspicious time for the foundation of Baghdad: they chose 30 July 7621. The latest date that we have for him is Shawwāl of A. H. 196–that is, 15 June-13 July of A.D. 812– when he finished his version of Ptolemy’s K itāb al-arba’a (Tetrabiblos). These dates makes it evident that Abū Ma’shar was wrong in stating, as reported by his pupil Shādhān in his Mudhākarāl2 and repeated by Sā‘id al-Andalusī3 and Ibn Qiftī,4, that ‘Umar was called to Baghdad by the wazīr al-Fadl ibn Sahl (d. 818), and introduced to al-Ma‘mūn. Abū Mashar’s other statment5 that he was devoted to Yahyā ibn Khālid ibn Barmak (d. 807) may well be true.

Of ‘Umar’s personal life nothing else is known save that he had a son. Abā Bakr Muhammad, who also wrote extensively on astrology and astronomy. Unfortunately, Ibn al-Nadīm6 has often confused the father and son in his lists of their works. The following titles of ‘Umar’s works, therefore, belong primarily to those texts known to us from more reliable sources.

1. A tafsīr or paraphrase of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos finished between 15 June and 13 July of 812. This is preserved in Uppsala, Universitetsbibliotheket MS Arab. 203. According to the introduction. ‘Umar himself translated the text, presumably from a Pahlavi version; Ibn al-Nadī states that he used the translation of Abū Yahyā al-Batrīq, presumably from the original Greek. The truth may be that he wrote his paraphrase. based on the Pahlvi, at the request of al-Baṭrīq.

2. A tafsīr of the astrological work of Dorotheus of Sidon, based on a Pahlavi recension of the early fifth century. This is preserved in two manuscripts: Yeni Cami 784 and Berlin or. oct. 2603. The present author is preparing an edition of this text.

3. Mukhtasar masā’il al-Qaysarānī (“Abridgment of the Caesarean (?) Interrogations”) in 138 chapters. This work has been preserved in many manuscripts: I have examined Berlin Ar. 5878 and 5879,Escorial Ar. 938, and Beirut, Univ. St. Joseph Ar. 215. Though the name Qaysarānī remains obscure, it certainly has nothing to do with the jāmi‘ al-kitāb of Abū Yūsuf Ya’qub ibn ‘Alī al-Qasrānīwho flourished at the courts of Jurjān and Astarābād in the late ninth century. The Mukhtasar may be identical with the Kitāb al-ikhtiyārār(“Book of Elections) at Alexandria, MS Ḥurū 12.

4. Kitāb fi’l-mawālīd (“Book About Nativities”), a short treatise on genethlialogy preserved in Arabic in only one manuscript (Nuru Osmaniye 2951, ff. 162v–172). This is probably identical with the Latin De nativitatibus secundum Omar in three books, translated by Iohannes Hispalensis (and a second time by Salomon with the help of the son of Abaumet the Jew in 1217?); see F. J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation (Berkeley-Los Angeies, 1956), 38–39 (Carmody’s De iudiciis astrorum is obviously al-Farghānī’s, and Laurentius Beham de ascensione termini Haomar does not necessarily have any connection with ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān). I have counsulted the edition by Nicolaus Prückner, Iulii Firmici Materni . . . Libri VIII (Basel, 1551), pt. 2, pp. 118–141. ‘Umar’s sources are Ptolemy, Dorothus, and Māshā’allā, as might have been expected.

5. Kitāb al-‘ilal. This work is known to us only through a citation by al-Bĩrūnĩ in his treatise on the solar equation (Rasā‘nĩ al-Bĩrūnĩ [Hyderabad, 1948], pt. I, p. 132), in which he gives approximate methods by which the sine of the solar equation corresponding to α is made to vary with sin λ (α). and by which the solar equation corresponding to α is made to vary with the declination of λ (α). These methods are described by E. S. Kennedy and A. Muruwwa, “Bĩrūnĩ on the Solar Equation,” in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 17 (1958), 112–121, esp. 118–119. Al-Bĩrū seems to have devoted a treatise to exposing the ineptitude of ‘Umar’s astronomy, as he lists in his bibliography (D. J. Boilot, “L’oeuvre d’al-Beruni: essai bibliographique,” in Mélanges de l’Institut Dominicain d’Etudes Orientales, 2 [1995], 161–256) as no. 62 a Fi’l–fahs ‘an nawā abĩ Hafs ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān(“On Inquiring About the Rarities of Abū Hafs ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān”), which, he claims, covers 240 folios.


1. D. Pingree, “The Fragments of the Works of al-Fazārī,” in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 29 (1970), 103–123, esp. 104.

2. I have not succeeded in locating this story in the imperfect manuscripts of the Mudhākarāt available to me.

3.Kitāb tubayāt al-umam, R. Blachère, trans. (Paris, 1935), 1 1 1. sā‘ also elsewhere (p. 117) reports that ‘Umar wrote for al-Ma ‘mūn.

4.Ta‘rĩkh al-hukamā’. J. Lippert. ed. (Leipzig,1903), 242.

5.Ibid. , the Greek translation is published by F. Cumont in Catalogus codicum astrologorum graecorum, 1 (Brussels. 1904), 150–151.

6.Fihrist, G. Flügel, ed. , 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1871–1872), I , p. 273; copied by Ibn al–Qifţi. p.242.


There are short articles on ‘Umar in H. Suter, Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber und ihre Werke (Leipzig, 1900), 7–8; and in C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, I (Leiden, 1943), 249, and supp. I (Leiden, 1937), 392, where several additional treatises alleged to exist in manuscript are listed.

David Pingree

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