The Fihrist of al-Nadīm, A Tenth-century survey of Muslim culture

Bayard Dodge



The system of transliteration from Arabic into English

Vowels and diphtongs

The bibliography

The glossary

The biographical index

The general index

Llife of the author

The manuscritpts: sources for the translation




The system used is the one described in Bulletin 49, November 1958, issued by the Cataloging Service of the Library of Congress.


alif (see note below)    

bā’ — b

tā’ — t

thā’ — th

jīm — j

ḥā’ — ḥ

kha’ — kh

da’l — d

dha’l — dh

rā’ — r

zā’ — z

sīn — s

shīn — sh

ṣād — ṣ

ḍād — ḍ

ṭā’ — ṭ

ẓā’ —ẓ

‘ayn — ‘

ghayn — gh

fā’ — f

qāf — q

kāf — k

lām — l

mīm — m

nūn — n

hā’ — h

wāw — w

yā’ — y


 As a rule alif is transliterated according to the vowel which governs it. But alif with a maddah or a maqsūrah is a form transliterated as ā.

















Shaddah is indicated by a doubling of the consonant, but a double yā’ after kasrah is written as in kullīyah. The definite article is not written with a capital, except at the beginning of a sentence. The nisbah is written ī. Final hā’ is written with h, rather than t, except when it is in construct state or in a few words like ṣalāt, zakāt, and Ghulāt.





In the Arabic text the titles of an author’s books are listed after the account of his life. In the translation each list is as a rule preceded by the phrase “among his books there were.” Moreover, before each book title the Arabic version has kitāb (book). This word is usually omitted in the English translation.


Words in brackets are explanatory material, added to clarify the meaning of the original text. Parentheses are used for equivalents of Arabic and English words, as well as for alternative translations and interpretations. There are few paragraph divisions and no quotation marks in the Arabic text.


There are two devices to indicate gaps in the text. When a word or a phrase has been purposely omitted by al-Nadīm, who hoped to be able to fill the space at a later time, a long dash is used. When a word or a phrase is omitted because the original copy is garbled or missing, an ellipsis is inserted to indicate missing material.





The bibliography follows the main text of the book. It is strictly limited in size, with only a selected number of books mentioned. The authors are listed alphabetically, with the titles of their books placed after their names. All references in the footnotes, Glossary, and Biographical Index are to the names of these authors. When the titles of more than one book are given after the name of an author, the reference indicates which one of these books is involved. The size of the Bibliography has been limited by omitting most of the recently published editions of the medieval books mentioned in the text of Al-Fihrist.





Coming immediately after the Bibhography is the Glossary. It should be studied in connection with the religious sects and for an understanding of numerous technical terms. It also explains the significance of many of the book titles.





The names of men and women mentioned in Al-Fihrist are included in the Biographical Index, which comes directly after the





Glossary. It is in the form of a Who’s Who. In the main text of the book the part of the man’s name by which he is listed in the Biographical Index is printed in italics, unless the name is repeated in the same passage. Names which are garbled in the manuscripts or belong to unimportant characters of fiction are omitted.


It may seem strange to list Greek and Latin scholars with the Arab ones, but they belonged to the Muslim culture of medieval tirnes, just as truly as they do to the scholarship of our modern world.


References will be found in the Biographical Index to throw hght on the names of the persons included. The Encyclopaedia of Islam and standard works on history, literature, and biography give further information about the men and women mentioned in Al-Fihrist.





The General Index is placed at the end of the book, after the Biographical Index. It includes numerous topics and technical terms, as well as the names of tribes and geographical localities.





The author of Al-Fihrist was Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq ibn Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq, but as a rule he is called al-Nadīm because he had the distinction of being a nadīm or court companion. As the surname of his father was Abū Ya‘qūb, he evidently had an elder brother named Ya‘qūb and probably had other brothers and sisters as well.


The year of his birth is unknown, but it cannot have been much after A.D. 935 and more likely was somewhat earlier. In Chapter VI, section 8, the author tells about meeting a scholar named Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Bardha‘ī, [1] who explained the doctrine of the Mu‘tazilah and gave him a hst of his legal books. If al-Nadīm, the author of Al-Fihrist, was mature enough to be interested in the doctrine of an unorthodox sect and books about the law, he must have been at least sixteen years of age, or probably a number of years older. Because this meeting occurred during the year 340 (A.D.



1. The men’s names mentioned in the Introduction can be found in the Biographical Index, where they are listed according to the part of the name given in italics. For information about al-Nadīm, see Goldziher, ZDMG, XXXVI (1882), 27884; Fück, ZDMG, New Ser. IX, No. 2 (1930), 11124; Ritter, Der Islam, XVII, No. I (February 1928), 1528.





951/952), it is evident that al-Nadīm’s birth was about 935. He was, therefore, almost certainly born during the reign of al-Muqtadir, 908-932, or of al-Qāhir, 932-934, or, less likely, of al-Rādī, 934-940.


The author’s father was called a warrāq, which in his case evidently meant that he was a book dealer. As he seems to have been prosperous, it is likely that he presided over a large bookstore, which was almost certainly at Baghdād. It is easy to imagine how he commissioned his sons to buy manuscripts from other dealers and had his own scribes make copies of manuscripts for his customers.


A medieval manuscript was about the size of a modern book, but it was written by hand instead of being printed. The leaves were made of a paper of good quahty, with writing on both sides. As a rule these pages were bound in a leather cover. The bookshop, hke the old shops in al-Najaf, was probably on an upper story, where it formed a meeting place for scholars who came to examine the books, enjoy refreshments, and discuss academic problems.


Most authorities have taken it for granted that the father, as well as the son, was a nadīm, or court companion. Ibn Ḥajar [2] refers to the author as Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq ibn al-Nadīm. Ibn Abī Uṣaybi‘ah mentions the author thirteen times. [3] On pages 57, 175, 207, 208, 209, 220, 244, and 309 he calls him Ibn al-Nadīm, but on other pages he refers to him as al-Nadīm. Yāqūt calls him Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq al-Nadīm. [4]


The main title of the authoritative Beatty manuscript is Kitāb Al-Fihrist li-al-Nadīm. In the heading of Chapter II of this manuscript there is a curious clause, which also appears in the headings of the last three chapters of MS 1934. Following the words “The composition of Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq al-Nadīm” there is this clause, “Isḥāq being known as Abū Ya‘qūb al-Warrāq.”


One wonders if the author of Al-Fihrist added this ungrammatical phrase in order to make it clear that whereas he himselfwas a nadīm, or court companion, his father was merely a warrāq, or book dealer. What seems to be certain is that both the father and the son were men of considerable importance and social standing.



2. See Bibliography, Ḥajar, Lisān al-Mīzān, Part 5, p. 72, I.15.


3. See Uṣaybi‘ah, ‘Uyūn al-Anbā’.


4. See Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (6), p. 408.





When he was about six years old the author undoubtedly attended an elementary class attached to a mosque. One can visuahze the little boy sitting on the ground in a group of other children, swaying back and forth as he repeated the verses of the Qur’ān, which his teacher recited to be memorized. The child also must have learned how to write the verses on his board, erasing each verse when he learned how to copy it, in order to make the board clean for a new quotation. By the time he was ten years old he had probably memorized the entire Qur’ān, so as to be prepared for study of a more mature nature.


It is reasonable to believe that al-Nadīm joined a study circle in some important mosque to learn the intricacies of Arabic grammar and rhetoric as well as something about Qur’ānic commentary, the Ḥadīth or traditions of the Prophet, and rules for reciting the Qur’ān in an authorized way. Before long he undoubtedly worked as an apprentice in his father’s book shop, copying manuscripts, entertaining scholars, and helping to sell what they wanted to buy. Yāqūt endorsed this idea when he wrote: “It is not unreasonable that he was a warrāq who sold books.” [5]


Al-Nadīm, however, was so much interested in his studies that he did not spend all of his time in the book store. An inscription on the title page of the Beatty MS records that he quoted, or was a pupil of, ‘Abū Sa‘īd al-Sīrāfī the jurist, Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī the famous compiler of poetry and literary anecdotes, and Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Marzubānī, who was interested in history. Ibn Ḥajar [6] says that al-Nadīm had permission to quote Isma‘il al-Ṣaffar, who was an authority for the Ḥadīth, and Ibrāhīm al-Abyārī points out that he also studied with al-Ḥasan ibn Sawwār, a logician who translated scientific books; [7] Abū Aḥmad, who was perhaps al-Ḥusayn ibn Isḥāq ibn Karnīb the theologian and natural scientist; Yūnus al-Qass, who translated classic works on mathematics, and Abū al-Ḥasan Muḥammad ibn Yūsufal-Nāqiṭ, a scholar interested in Greek science.


Ibn Abī Usaybi‘ah remarks that al-Nadīm was a kātib, [8] which may mean that he was simply a writer. On the other hand it may



5. See Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (6), 408.


6. See Ḥajar, Lisān al-Mīzān, Part 5, p. 72.


7. See Abyārī, Turāth al-Insānīyah, III (Mardi 5, 1965), 196.


8. Uṣaybi‘ah, Part 1, p. 57.





imply that he was a government secretary, perhaps in the library or in the bureau for correspondence. Because al-Nadīm was surnamed Abū al-Faraj he must have been married, with at least one son and a home of his own in Baghdād.


Ibn Ḥajar says that al-Nadīm was a Shī‘ite, [9] which statement is confirmed by the text of Al-Fihrist. In Chapter VI the author speaks of the Shī‘ah as al-khaṣṣī or elite, while he refers to persons who were not Shī‘ites as al-‘āmmī or ignorant. In Al-Fihrist, moreover, the Sunnites are referred to as al-ḥashwīyah, which is a contemptuous term for persons who blindly accept anthropomorphic ideas. [10]


When speaking about the father of al-Zubayrī Mus‘ab ibn ‘Abd Allāh, al-Nadīm says that he was one of the most wicked of men, because he maligned the descendants of ‘Alī. [11]


In the same passage in which Ibn Ḥajar calls al-Nadīm a Shī‘ite he also states that he was a Mu‘tazilī. Even if he was not an official member of this heretical sect, al-Nadīm must have been very much interested in it, because such a large part of the fifth chapter of Al-Fihrist is devoted to it.


Because he met an Ismā‘īlī leader and attended an Ismā‘īlī meeting, [12] some people have claimed that al-Nadīm was one of the Ismā‘īlīyah, but this idea does not seem to be a true one.


Al-Nadīm mentions that he wrote one other book in addition to Al-Fihrist. In speaking about the excellencies of books he says, “I have dealt with this subject and similar ones in the chapter on writing and its instruments in a book which I have composed about descriptions and comparisons (al-awsāf wa-al-tashbīhāt).” [13] Evidently al-Nadīm was so much interested in books and government work that he did not attempt to become a teacher. The inscription on the title page of the Beatty MS says that no one quoted him, which implies that he did not have students.


It is probable that while he was still a young man al-Nadīm began to make a catalogue of authors and the names of their compositions for use in his father’s bookstore. At the beginning of Chapter IV,



9. Ḥajar, Lisān al-Mīzān, Part 5, p. 72.


10. Chap. VI, section 6, n. 47 and n. 66 of the translation.


11. Chap. III, section 1, near n. 208.


12. Chap. V, section 4, near n. 93 and n. 96.


13. Chap. I, section 1, following n. 35.





section 2, he explains that, as other scholars have given details about the poets, what he himself aims to do is “to present the names of the poets and the amount of verses written by each poet among them . . . so that whoever desires to collect books and poems can have this information.”


It is reasonable to believe that al-Nadīm wrote notes about each author on a piece of paper. When dealing with a man who was a scholar rather than a poet he tried to give some biographical material, as well as the titles of the author’s books. When speaking about the books of the Zaydīyah [14] he says, “If some observer sees one of them while we are writing, I will add it in its proper place.” In the course of time the notes must have been arranged according to subjects and in chronological sequence. Then, when enough of them had been collected, the author undertook to compile them in the form of chapters for his book.


As he grew older, al-Nadīm evidently became interested in so many subjects about which he read in books, or which he learned about from friends and chance acquaintances, that he included a great deal of additional material with his notes about the poets and scholars. Thus, instead of being merely the catalogue for a bookshop, Al-Fihrist became an encyclopaedia of medieval Islāmic culture.


We do not know to what extent al-Nadīm searched for information in places other than Baghdād. He very likely visited al-Baṣrah and al-Kūfah, as scholarship flourished in those cities during the eighth century. He may have gone to Aleppo, where Sayf al-Dawlah, during the middle of the tenth century, created a center of literature and culture. It is not very likely that he visited Damascus or the famous cities of Persia and Khurāsān. What is certain, however, is that he spent some time at al-Mawṣil, probably when Nāṣir al-Dawlah was ruler of the region, between A.D 929 and 968.


Al-Fihrist mentions that he met a book collector there. He also saw the tutor of the sons of Nāṣir al-Dawlah [15] and a man named Muḥammad ibn Hāshim, who was brought up in the environs of al-Mawṣil. [16] He evidently visited the libraries of al-Mawṣil, as he



14. Chap. V, setion 4, near n. 140.


15. Chap. II, section I, near n. 9, and section 3, near n. 79.


16. Chap. IV, section 2, near n. 95.





found a fragment of one of Euclid’s books in a private collection. [17] Apparently in addition to searching for books, he learned what he could about religious sects. He associated with an Ismā‘ilī leader and attended an Ismā‘īlī meeting, which may have inspired him to include his long passage about the Ismā‘īlīyah in Al-Fihrist. [18] It is obvious that al-Nadīm was at al-Mawṣil before he completed his chapter about the poets, because he says that he saw a certain amount of poetry there. [19] Sarton states that al-Nadīm went to Istanbūl, taking it for granted that Dār al-Rūm referred to the Byzantine city of Constantinople. But this is an error, as Dār al-Rūm really refers to the Greek Orthodox section of Baghdād. [20]


Nāṣir al-Dawlah, the ruler of al-Mawṣil, was a Shī‘ite who was anxious to make his city a center of culture and learning. As al-Nadīm was also a Shī‘ite, it is possible that his service as a court companion was at al-Mawṣil. It is much more likely, however, that he went to al-Mawṣil to obtain books and that his life as a court companion was spent at Baghdād. What seems probable is that al-Nadīm became attached to the court at the time of Mu‘izz al-Dawlah, who, with the title of Amīr al-Umarā’, overshadowed the puppet caliph and ruled at Baghdād from A.D. 945 to 967. He was a member of the Buwayh family and a sympathizer with the Shī‘ites, so that it would have been natural for him to make a Shī‘ite like al-Nadīm a member of his court, perhaps connected with the royal library. If al-Nadīm was a court companion in the palace of Mu‘izz al-Dawlah, it is likely that he also served ‘Izz al-Dawlah, the weak son and successor of Mu‘izz al-Dawlah, until this son died in A.D. 977. Unfortunately we can only guess about these events in the life of al-Nadīm, as we do not have accurate information about his biography.


It cannot have been very long after the death of ‘Izz al-Dawlah that al-Nadīm undertook the laborious task of arranging his mass of notes and compiling them in the form of a book. Near the end of Chapter I [21] of Al-Fihrist, the author records: “This is the end of



17. Chap. VII, section 2, near n. 5.


18. Chap. V, section 4, near n. 93 and n. 96; also Chap. V, section 5.


19. Chap. IV, section 2, near n. 5.


20. Chap. IX, section 2, n. 40; Sarton I, 662.


21. Chap. I, section 3, near n. 133.





what we have composed of the first chapter of the book Al-Fihrist, until the time of the appearance of the new moon on Saturday of Sha‘bān during the year three hundred and seventy-seven.” This was probably December, 987.


Yāqūt cites this same year for the writing of Al-Fihrist. [22] Near the end of Chapter II [23] al-Nadīm gives this date also for completion of the account of the scholars of grammar and language. Two other statements can be mentioned to confirm the accuracy of this date. In speaking about Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Naṣr, the author of Al-Fihrist says, “who died a few months ago.” Ibn Taghrī-Birdī gives the year three hundred and seventy-six (A.D. 986/987) as the time of this man’s death. [24] Then at the end of Chapter VI there is the statement in Al-Fihrist, “until our time, which is the year three hundred and seventy-seven.” [25]


It is possible that al-Nadīm did not complete the last chapters of his book until a year or two later. In Chapter IX he tells the story of a Christian monk who returned from China. As this monk did not reach Baghdād before the year three hundred and seventy-seven (A.D. 987/988), it is possible that Chapter IX was not written in its final form before A.D. 988 or 989. [26] It seems to be certain that Al-Fihrist was completed by the year A.D. 990 at the latest, probably twelve or eighteen months before that time. This was just at the time when higher education was being established at the al-Jāmi‘ al-Azhar in Cairo and a little less than a century before the First Crusade. Hugh Capet was King of France, and Aethelred the Second was ruling in England.


Ibn Ḥajar says that a certain Abū Ṭāhir al-Karkhī gave the date for al-Nadīm’s death as the year four hundred and thirty-eight (A.D. 1047), but he said of this statement, “he was not reliable about this.” Ibn Ḥajar also quotes other assertions which seem to be equally unreliable. [27]



22. Yāqūt, Irshād, VI (2), 63; VI (3), 54.


23. Chap. II, section 3, near n. 87.


24. Chap. III, section 2; Taghrī-Birdī, Part 4, p. 149, 1.5. Shujā‘, VI (H), 438 (408), gives a later date, which must be an error.


25. Chap. VI, section 5.


26. Chap. IX, section 2, n. 39.


27. Ḥajar, Lisān al-Mīzān, Part 5, p. 72. Although the date A.D. 1047 seems to be inaccurate, numerous authorities have given it as the year of al-Nadīm’s death. The





It seems inevitable that if al-Nadīm had lived until A.D. 1047 he would have added to Al-Fihrist some of the great names of the eleventh century, such as Ibn Sīnā and al-Bīrūnī, as well as something about the famous Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’. Furthermore, al-Nadīm left blank spaces in his manuscript, to be filled in as he could obtain further information. Evidently he died before he was able to include new data in these blank spaces.


Accordingly, the note on the title page of the Beatty manuscript is probably correct. It says of al-Nadīm that “he died on Wednesday, the tenth [day] from the end of Sha‘bān in the year three hundred and eighty (A.D. 990/991).” [28] As this note was almost certainly written by the great historian al-Maqrīzī, it has real importance and seems to be reliable. [29]


It is reasonable to believe that when al-Nadīm died the original copy of his manuscript was placed in the royal library at Baghdād, while other copies made by scribes about the time of his death were assigned to his family bookstore, where some of them were probably sold to customers who came to purchase interesting books. Farmer says: “Yāqūt (d. 626/1229) averred that he used a copy of the Fihrist in the handwriting of al-Nadīm himself. The lexicographer al-Ṣaghānī (650/1252) made a similar claim. Either of these autograph copies may have been in the Caliph’s library, which was destroyed utterly at the sacking of Baghdād in 656/1258).” [30]



Beatty MS has been made available so recently that these authorities have obviously never had a chance to study it. As many of the persons mentioned in this paragraph and those which follow lived after Al-Fihrist was written, their names are not included in the Biographical Index, although some of them are mentioned in the Bibliography.


28. This passage probably means that al-Nadīm died on the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar year, which began March 31, 990. The first seven lunar months have 207 days, which added to the nineteenth day of the eighth month makes a total of 226 days. The solar calendar date for 226 days after March 31 is November 12, 990. This seems to have been the true date for al-Nadīm’s death.


29. Abū al-‘Abbās Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Maqrīzī was born at Ba‘albek in 1365. He was an official at Damascus but later lived in Egypt, where he died in 1441. He was one of the greatest of the medieval Egyptian historians. See Ziriklī, I, 172; “al-Maḳrīzī,” Enc. Islam, IV, 175.


30. Farmer, Annual of Leeds University Oriental Society, II (19591961), 47.





Ibn al-Qifṭī and Ibn Abī Uṣaybi‘ah depended upon Al-Fihrist for information. Khalīl ibn Aybak and other authorities also alluded to al-Nadīm, who in medieval times seems to have been highly regarded.


In order to sum up what has been said, it is reasonable to assume that al-Nadīm was born about A.D. 935, very likely a few years earlier. He profited by an unusually comprehensive education, as he not only mastered the conventional Islāmic studies but also learned something about history, geography, comparative religion, and the Greek sciences. He undoubtedly served as an apprentice in his father’s book business, at the same time that he attended the lectures and classes of some of the leading scholars of the tenth century.


When grown, al-Nadīm married and had at least one son. About the time that he married it is likely that he started to help his father by collecting data about books and their authors. Evidently he wished to assemble a catalogue to show customers and to help with the procuring and copying of manuscripts to be sold to scholars and book collectors.


Although he visited al-Mawṣil and perhaps other cities, most of his research was almost certainly done at Baghdād, where he may have been one of the directors of the great government library. His position of court companion was probably, but not certainly, during the reigns of Mu‘izz al-Dawlah and his son.


Perhaps because his work at the library and the court came to an end, or else because of some illness which threatened him, al-Nadīm decided that it was time to collect his notes, so as to compile them in book form. Accordingly, during the years 987 and 988 he completed his difficult task so as to form the book Al-Fihrist. He evidently hoped to live for a number of years longer in order to fill in blank spaces in his manuscript, but this hope was not realized. During the autumn of 990 his life came to an end.





When Gustav Flügel published his Arabic edition of Al-Fihrist in 1871 he included a vorwort in German, in which he described the





manuscripts available for his use. [31] The principal manuscripts upon which Flügel based his text were: (i) the old Paris manuscript, containing four chapters; (ii) the copy of a manuscript in Istanbūl, which de Slane had transcribed, by a scribe named Aḥmad al-Miṣrī for use in Paris; (iii) two copies in Vienna; (iv) several fragments in Leyden. Flügel realized that his manuscripts were incomplete, and it is true that he lacked part of the material about the Mu‘tazilah sects, given in Chapter V, section i, of the translation, as well as source material for other less important passages. As Flügel has described the manuscripts which he used in detail, it does not seem to be worth while to repeat what he wrote in his vorwort.


The principal manuscripts available for use at the present time are the following.



The Beatty Manuscript. Tliis manuscript is No. 3315 in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. It comprises the first half of the book, ending with an account of al-Nāshī al-Kabīr in Chapter V, section 1. There are 119 folios, with writing on both front and back of each leaf. As several pages are left blank, there are 234 pages of text, each measuring 22 by 16.5 cm and averaging twenty-five lines to the page. The handwriting is in the form of an old naskh script, clear, well marked, and transcribed with a good quality of black ink. The titles are also written in black, in a similar script but in large letters. The paper is fairly thick, smooth, and of a dark cream color. As the Chester Beatty Library has had the pages bound in leather and carefully repaired by a skilful technician, the manuscript does not appear to be as old as it really is. It contains the material about the Mu‘tazilah omitted by Flügel, but even in this excellent manuscript certain pages are lacking. [32]


The main heading of the Beatty Manuscript is Kitāb Al-Fihrist li-al-Nadīm. It is in an oblong design with white letters and a gold background somewhat decorated. Alongside this oblong space there are two lines of notes, written in a small script. The upper line is not clear enough to be read accurately. The lower hne has, “Aḥmad ibn



31. See also Flügel, ZDMG, XIII (1859), 559650; Fück, Ambix, IV, Nos. 3 and 4 (February 1951), 81144.


32. Some of the missing segments are Chap. I, section 1, see n. 59; Chap. I, section 3, see also n. 59; Chap. IV, section 2, see n. 103; Chap. V, section 1, see n. 1.









‘Alī al-Maqrīzī 824.” [33] This evidently means that the manuscript became the possession of the farnous historian Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī al Maqrīzī. [34]


Somewhat below the main heading there are two other notes in small script. One of them reads “from the books of Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī”; the other, “at Damascus 825.” It is known that al-Maqrīzī went to Damascus about 810 (A.D. 1407/1408) to serve in government posts and returned to Cairo some ten years later. He may have written these notes at Cairo or perhaps on some occasion when he returned to Damascus for a visit.


There is also written on the title page, going from the bottom to the top and in the right-hand margin, a longer inscription, which was probably written by al-Maqrīzī. This inscription has been translated as follows:



The author of this book was Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Abī Ya‘qūb Isḥāq ibn Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq al-Warrāq known as al-Nadīm. He quoted Abū Sa‘īd al-Sīrāfī, Abu al-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī, Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Marzubānī and others, but nobody quoted him. He died on Wednesday, the tenth (day) from the end of Sha‘bān, in the year three hundred and eighty (A.D. 990). He was suspected of being a Shī‘ī, may Allah forgive him. [35]



There are certain other notes on the title page, but they are evidently not in the handwriting of al-Maqrīzī and are illegible.


Below the main heading on the title page and in large handwriting, written over a small inscription of al-Maqrīzī, there is the following statement, which designates the manuscript as a mortmain, established by Aḥmad Pāshā al-Jazzār, who died in A.D. 1804.



A Waqf of Allāh Almighty


Al-Hājj Aḥmad Pāshā al-Jazzār has made this book a waqf, pious foundation and trust in the Mosque of al-Mubārak at ‘Akkā, the praiseworthy,



33. For al-Maqrizī, see n. 29.


34. The signature should be compared with the copy given in Part I, section 3, p. 961, of al-Maqrizī’s history. Kitāb al-Sulūk li-Ma‘rifat Duwāl al-Mulūk, edited by Muṣṭafā Ziāde, Cairo, Lajnat al-Ta’lif, 1956.


35. For the significance of this passage, see the preceding statement about the life of al-Nadīm.





the Aḥmadīyah, for the seeking of learning .... He establishes it as a true and legal waqf, so that it will not be removed, sold or exchanged . . . upon Allāh, for Allāh is the hearing and knowing.



This inscription was deciphered with the help of a scholar from ‘Akkā, but even he could not translate accurately the two places which have been left blank.


On the title page of each chapter other than the first there is written under the heading and close to the left hand margin, ḥikāyat khaṭṭ al-muṣannif, which means “an imitation of the hand-writing of the author.” Under this inscription there is a copy of the signature of the author, “His (God’s) servant, Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq.” [36]


Beginning with the back of folio 9 and at the end of every tenth folio which follows, there is written on the lower margin, ‘ūriḍ (compared). This means that the copy was compared with the original manuscript at the end of each lot of paper. For some reason the same word appears at the end of folio 8 and also at the termination of Chapter IX. At the bottom of folio 69 the inscription is extended to read: “Compared with the original of the author, transcribed from it and confirmed, thanks be to Allāh, Lord of the Knowing.” At the end of folio 99, there is a similar inscription with the following variation: “Compared with the original, which is in the handwriting of the author, transcribed from it and confirmed.”


Arabic scholars have explained that when a medieval scribe copied a manuscript he reproduced not only the words but also the handwriting of the author and the arrangement of the page. These inscriptions in the Beatty Manuscript were evidently made by a scribe who transcribed the book from the original copy, which was written by al-Nadīm himself in his own handwriting. It is not certain, but not unlikely, that the Beatty Manuscript was transcribed before al-Nadīm died, under his personal supervision. As he was a court companion, probably connected with the royal library, he very naturally may have deposited the original copy of Al-Fihrist in that institution. At the same time, he almost certainly would have had



36. See Arberry, Islamic Research Association Miscellany, I (1948), 20, where he states: “The author signed his copy in this manner at the beginning of each separate part. The transcription has moreover been collated with the author’s autograph.”





copies made for the family bookstore, so that they could be used as catalogues and sold to customers. Thus it is reasonable to guess that the Beatty Manuscript was transcribed during the final months of the life of al-Nadīm or soon afterwards. The manuscript, for instance, lacks the statement that al-Sābī “died before the year three hundred and eighty (A.D. 990),” although this item of information is in the Flügel edition. [37]


If the original manuscript, written in al-Nadīm’s own handwriting, was placed in the royal library at Baghdād, it undoubtedly was destroyed when the Mongols sacked the city in A.D. 1258. The Beatty Manuscript, on the other hand, was evidently a copy, which was probably sold to some customer and taken to Damascus, where it escaped the destruction of Baghdād and during the year A.D. 825 became the possession of the historian al-Maqrīzī.


We know nothing about the history of the manuscript until it was placed in the library of the great mosque at ‘Akkā, when the notorious Aḥmad Pasha al-Jazzār was ruling there at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. After the fall of Aḥmad Pasha, the manuscript was evidently stolen from the mosque. It was probably at this time that it became divided, as the Beatty Manuscript includes only the first half of Al-Fihrist. In the course of time the dealer Yahudah sold this first half to Sir Chester Beatty, who placed it in his library at Dublin. [38]



Manuscript 1934. This manuscript comprises the last half of Al-Fihrist. It begins with an account of al-Wāsiṭī in Chapter V, section 2, and continues to the inscription, which indicates the completion of the book. An Arabic number is on top of each page, and a modern number has also been stamped for each of the one hundred and eighty-eight folios. As there are some empty pages, only three hundred and sixty-two of them contain writing. There is no proper title page. The first page contains only an Ottoman seal, a recent rendering of the name of the book and its author, with some notes which are too indistinct to be deciphered accurately.



37. See Chap. III, section 2, n. 207.


38. See the catalogue of the Beatty Libraty, in the section entitled “A Handlist of the Arabic Manuscripts,” Vol. II, p. 31 (Dublin, Walker, 1955 ff.).








This manuscript is identical with the Beatty Manuscript in almost every detail. The handwriting is the same, the pages are the same size, and similar inscriptions are introduced to show that the copy has been checked with the original. The same ungrammatical form appears in Chapter II of the Beatty Manuscript and Chapters VIII, IX, and X of Manuscript 1934. This is the phrase already mentioned, “Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq al-Nadīm, Isḥāq known as Abū Ya‘qūb al-Warrāq.”


Many scholars think that this manuscript is the other half of the Beatty Manuscript, but Professor Mojtaba Minovi of Tihran, who saw the Beatty Manuscript before it was repaired, considers that copy to be much older than Mānūscript 1934.


Manuscript 1934 forms part of the Shadīd ‘Alī Pasha collection, which is now cared for in the library adjacent to the Sulaymānīyah Mosque at Istanbūl. In the library catalogue it is described as “Suleymaniye G. Kütüphanesi kismi Shetit Ali Pasha 1934.”


The Beatty Manuscript, which comprises the first half of Al-Fihrist, and Manuscript 1934, which contains the last half, are the two most authoritative and important sources for a knowledge of the book.



Manuscript 1135. This manuscript contains Chapter I, section 1, of Al-Fihrist, as well as the last four chapters of the book. Both the table of contents and the numbering of the chapters are incorrect. Chapter I, section 1, and Chapter VII are grouped together as the first part of the book, and the last three chapters are designated II, III, and IV, instead of eight, nine, and ten.


There are a hundred and eighteen folios, written on the front and back, with modern numbers stamped on them. There are no empty spaces to be filled in, as is the case with the other manuscripts. Each page is 25.5 by 18.5 cm in size. The handwriting is well formed, similar to the naskh script of the manuscripts already mentioned. As this copy is incomplete, it was evidently transcribed from parts of some older version. It contains some book titles omitted in the earlier sources.


This manuscript is located in the Köprülü Library at Istanbūl, where it is catalogued as No. 1135. A date is ascribed to it, which is given as “Rabī‘ al-Thānī 600.” This is equivalent to the fourth





month of A.D. 1203/1204. Stamped on the manuscript are numerous seals of the Ottoman period, the principal one containing the name Kubrili. The title page bears the heading given at the beginning of Chapter I in the translation. It is written in black ink, whereas the subtitles and names of authors are in red.



Manuscript 1134. This manuscript is in the Köprülü Library at Istanbūl, catalogued as No. 1134. It is written on good paper, each page measuring 20.3 by 15 cm, and is divided into two separate parts. The first might easily be a copy of Chapter I, section 1, as given in Manuscript 1135. The second part contains what is probably most of Manuscript 1934. This version does not seem to be as old and authentic as the other copies.



The Tonk Manuscript. This transcription of a portion of Al-Fihrist is in the Sa‘īdīyah Library at Tonk, where it originally belonged to the Nabob of the region. Tonk is a city of Rajastān, a hundred and twenty-five miles southwest of Agra. The manuscript contains forty-four folios, with writing on the front and back of each page. At the beginning there is a page which is empty except for some blurred seals and a title, written in small letters: “Fihrist of Accounts of the Scholars and the Names of Their Compositions,” followed by the name of al-Nadīm partially blotted out.


After a pious phrase this copy starts with a poem in Chapter III. It ends with a short passage about an unimportant author named Plutarch in Chapter VII. [39] There is a postscript which reads:



The second section of the Book Al-Fihrist has ended, with the help of Allāh Almighty and his kindness. If Allāh Almighty so wills, there will follow it in the third section an account of Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī. It has been transcribed by Ḥunayn ibn ‘Abd Allāh, the nephew of Yaḥyā al-Jawharī, thanks be to the Lord of the Knowing.



The numbering of the sections does not correspond with that of the other manuscripts, but in all of the versions an account of Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī comes directly after the point where the Tonk manuscript ends. The name mentioned at the end of the postscript is evidently



39. Chap. III, section 3, near n. 52, and Chapter VII, section 1, near n. 168.





that of the copyist. This manuscript is so well described in an article written by Johann Fück [40] that it is necessary to mention only a few facts in this introduction.


The manuscript lacks a segment of material from Chapter IV and Chapter V. [41] The point in Chapter V, section 1, where the manuscript recommences corresponds to folio 10, at the top of the reverse side. Between that point and the beginning of manuscript 1934 [42] the Tonk Manuscript contains material lacking in the other versions. It is because of this additional material that this transcription is valuable.


The Tonk Manuscript, moreover, gives the list of book titles of Ibn al-Mu‘allim. [43] This list is lacking in the Flügel edition at the bottom of page 197, as well as in the other manuscripts and in the compilation of al-Ṭūsī. [44] For other material which is unique in the Tonk Manuscript, see Chapter V, section 5, notes 145, 188, and 189. Note 198 indicates that al-Ṭūsī drew upon sources similar to those used by the scribe of the Tonk Manuscript. Ibn Ḥajar [45] also quotes items which he evidently found in the part of Al-Fihrist unique to the Tonk Manuscript. Except for this additional material, this manuscript is not as valuable as the others, as the handwriting is not always clear and there are many clerical errors.



Manuscript 4457. This is in La Bibliothéque nationale in Paris, Fonds Arabe, 1953 catalogue, page 342 (cf. 5889, fol. 128, vo. 130), No. 4457. This transcription contains the first part of Al-Fihrist and is dated six hundred and twenty-seven (A.D. 1229/1230). It has 237 folios, each page measuring 20 by 13.5 cm, with sixteen lines to the page. It ends with a statement of intention to continue with the fifth chapter and a prayer for Muḥammad and his family. This is probably the copy referred to by Flügel in his vorwort as the “Old Paris Manuscript,” comprising Chapters I to IV. Flügel must have depended to a large extent on this manuscript for the part of his



40. See Fück. ZDMG, New Ser. XV, No. 2 (1936), 298321.


41. Chap. IV, section 2, n. 100, and Chap. V, section 1, n. 237.


42. Chap. V, section 1, near n. 266.


43. Chap. V, section 5, n. 210.


44. Ṭūsī, Fihrist al-Ṭūsī, p. 315.


45. Ḥajar, Lisān al-Mīzān.





text between his pages one and a hundred and seventy-two. In fact the pious ending is exactly like that given in the Flügel edition on the top of page 172.



Manuscript 4458. This is also in La Bibliothéque nationale, Fonds Arabe, 1953, catalogue page 342 (cf. 5889, fol. 128, vo. 130), No. 4458. This copy starts with Chapter V, section 5. The title is identical with that given by Flügel. There are 246 folios, each measuring 24 by 16 cm. It continues to the end of the book and closes with a note stating that it was confirmed as correct by the copyist Aḥmad al-Miṣrī. The manuscript is marked as being copied in 1846 under the supervision of de Slane, from a manuscript in the Library Kieuprulu in Istanbūl. The handwriting is clear, but the headings are not separated as distinctly as they are in the Flügel text and there seem to be numerous clerical errors. In the headings for the last three chapters the name of al-Nadīm is given in the same specialized and ungrammatical way that it is given in Manuscript 1934. De Slane evidently had this copy made by a scribe at Istanbūl from Manuscript 1134 or perhaps from the more accurate Manuscript 1934, which originally was in the Köprülü Library before it was moved to the library by the Sulaymānīyah Mosque.



Vienna Manuscript No. 33. This manuscript comprises part of Chapter V, but omits part of the material about the Mu‘tazilah. It continues to the end of the book. This manuscript and the two which follow are described in greater detail by Flügel in his vorwort.



Vienna Manuscript No. 34. This copy contains part of Chapter I, part of Chapter VII, and the last three chapters.



The Leyden Manuscript. Flügel gives this as No. 20 and explains that it contains Chapters VII to X. He also found at Leyden some unimportant and unsatisfactory fragments.



The Ṭanjah Manuscript. This is a recent and unimportant copy, which is described in Majallat Ma‘had al-Khuṭūṭ al-‘Arabīyah, published by the League of Arab States at Cairo, Vol. I, Part 2, p. 179.





Aḥmad Taymūr Pasha Appendix. This consists of some extra pages purchased by Aḥmad Taymūr Pasha after his attention had been directed to them by a publication issued in Germany in 1889. These pages were pubhshed as an appendix to the Egyptian edition of Al-Fihrist at Cairo, by the Raḥmānīyah Press, in 1929.



Because of the wars and revolutions in medieval times and the insects which thrive in warm climates, great numbers of valuable manuscripts have been lost. It is unfortunate that no complete manuscript exists of a book as important as Kitāb Al-Fihrist of al-Nadīm.


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