Left: Al Muqaddasi's view on the world
in which the center of the world is the Ka'ba in Mecca.

And the qibla for the land of the Zendj
Taken from : Mappae Arabicae by Miller Konrad

Back to Table of Contents 2          To next page
Al-Muqaddasi: Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Ma'rifat al-Aqalim (The best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions) (985)
from Jerusalem florished in Bust, Sijistan

Taken from; Ahsanu-t-tagasim Fima Rifati-l-aqalim of Al-Muqaddasi translated: G.S.A. Ranking

Al-Muqaddasi, Description de l'Occident Musulman au IVe-Xe siecle tr.Ch Pellat

كتاب أحسن التقاسيم في معرفة الأقاليم by المقدسي البشاري   al-maktaba.org

(I follow these page-numbers)

Also called Al- Maqdisi, Al-Makdisi.

Under another type of world map found in his work;

similar maps aree found in Qazwini'z Athar al Bilad


Some of them have taken, it to be in the form of a semicircular tailasan, at one end of which is China, and at the other end the country of the Abyssinians, with arms stretching to al-Qulzum and Abbadan. Abu Zaid, on the other hand, has given it the form of a bird with its beak at al-Qulzum — he takes no notice of the gulf of Wailah — its neck in al-Iraq and its tail between Abyssinia and China. I have also seen a representation of it, on a sheet of paper, in the library of the Prince of Khurasan; and another on fine linen in the possession of Abu-l Qasim ibnu-l Anmati in Naisabur,as also in the libraries of Adhudu-d Daulah and as Sahib.


Indeed it may be urged further that you must, according to this interpretation, allow the existence of even more than ten seas, seeing that you have omitted the Sea of China, the Sea of India, and the Sea of al-Zanj.


The Nile issues forth from the country of the Nubians; then passes through the middle of Egypt, divides below al-Fustat into two branches falling into the sea, the one at al Iskandariyyah [Alexandria] and the other at Dimyat [Damietta]. According to al-Jaihani, it rises in the mountain of the Moon; is then discharged into two lakes to the south of the equator ; and thence flows through the land of the Nubians. Others have said that it is not known where it begins or whence it comes.

Abu Salih , the amauneusis of al-Laith ibn Sa‘d, has reported the following tradition on the authority of al-Laith himself: — It is related— whether in accordance with the real state of things God only knows — that there was a man of the children of al-ls, named Ha’idh ibn-Abi Shalum ibn al-Is, who, in apprehension of danger from a certain king of theirs, fled the country and came into the land of Egypt, where he resided many years. At last, struck with the wonders of the Nile and the marvellous results it produced, he resolved in the name of God not to leave the riverside till he gained the extremity of it where it issues from its fountain-head, unless death should overtake him in the meanwhile. So he set out on his journey till arrested in his progress by a green sea, through which the Nile continued its course uninterrupted. [This sea, al-Muqaddasi says, is the circumambient ocean.] He turned to walk along the sea-shore; and having gone some distance, he lighted upon a man standing in prayer under an apple-tree. And when he saw him he yearned towards him ; and, approaching, accosted him with the salutation of peace. Then said the man, Who are thou ? He replied, I am Ha’idh, the son of Abu Shalum, son of al Is, son of Isaq [Isaac], on whom be the blessing and peace of God I And who art thou? I am Imran, the son of al-Is son of lsaq. Peace be with him. And what has made thee come hither, O Imran ? That brought me hither which has been the occasion of thy coming, but when I had reached thus far, God commanded me and said,

Stay thou in this place till my will shall be made known to thee. Then said he, O Imran, do thou tell me all about the Nile. He answered; I will not tell thee aught, unless thou doest what I shall ask thee. And what is that ? said he. If, on thy return, I should be still alive, thou shalt stay with me till the Lord shall reveal to me what to do or else shall take away my life, and then I trust to thee for burial. He replied, I agree to this ; whereupon Imran said : If thou continuest thy course along the shore of this sea thou shalt come to where thou findest a quadruped which confronts the sun and, at its rising, rushes forward with the object of swallowing it. Have thou no fear of it, but bestride it and it shall carry thee to the other side of the sea : arriving there walk back along the shore till thou again comest to the Nile. Then follow its course and thou shalt reach a region of iron, where the mountains, the trees and the plains are all of iron. Pass on and thou shalt reach a region of silver, where the mountains, the trees and all other objects are of silver. Pass on again and thou shalt come to a region of gold, where everything is of gold. At the end of this region thou shalt see a vaulted chamber of gold and here will the secret of the Nile be disclosed to thee. Accordingly, he went his way till at last he came to the vaulted chamber, and lo ! water flowed down the wall into the chamber, and having divided, issued forth through the four doors. Three of the channels, however, penetrated below the surface and only one flowed on the face of the earth, and this was the Nile. He drank of its waters and rested, then advanced to the wall and was about to ascend it when an angel appeared to him and said, ‘0 Ha’idh stay where thou art, for now thou knowest fully the secret of the Nile, and this is Paradise,’ — and so on to the end of the tradition.

Left: a map of the Indian Ocean from this work and under from from a manuscript in Istanbul.

Under an istakhri like worldmap from the Istanbul manuscript


The First Climate. Extent., 38,000 parasangs ; breadth, 1995 parasangs. It begins where the shadow at noon in the equinox is 1-37/60 feet; and ends where it is at this time, 2-5/6 feet. The distance laterally from one side to the other us about 390 miles; a mile measuring 4,000 cubits. Its middle lies near San’a, Adan and al-Ahqaf, and that extremity which is adjacent to Syria passes through Tihamah, near Makkah. It thus contains such principal towns as San’a, ‘Adan, Hadhramaut, Najran. Jurash, Jaishan, Sa‘dah, Tabalah, Uman and al-Bahrain, the southernmost of the country of the Sudan (Blacks), to al -Maghrib, and also parts of the continents of India and China, adjoining the sea-coast. All places having the same latitude as these, to the east or to the west, are likewise contained in this climate.


Abu-l-Jild: the extend of the earth is 24.000 parasangs; the Blacks occupy 12.000, the Greeks 8.600, the Persians 3.000 and the Arabs 1.000 parasangs.


…..Al-Maghrib extends from the borders of Misr to the Encircling Ocean, as a strip compressed between the Sea of the Romaeans on the north and the countries of the Blacks to the south. The region of al-Sham extends from the border of Misr northwards to the country of the….


(about Yaman) The commerce of this province is important, for there are the two chief ports of the world, as well as the fair of Mina, and there is the sea which stretches as far as China. There are also Juddah and al-Jar, the two granaries of Egypt, and Wadi-Qura, the mart of both Syria and al-Iraq, and al-Yaman, the country of kerchiefs, cornelian, leather and slaves. To Uman the

following articles are exported: apothecaries’ drugs, all kinds of perfumery, musk even included, saffron, sappan wood, teak wood, the wood of the sasam tree, ivory, pearls, brocade, onyx, rubies, ebony, coconut, sugar, sandarach, aloes, iron, lead, canes, earthenware, sandalwood, glass, pepper, and other articles. Aden receives in addition ambergris, (fine linen cloth called) shurub, leather bucklers, Abyssinian slaves, eunuchs, tiger skins and other articles, which were we to mention them in detail, would unduly prolong the book. Chinese wares are proverbially famous. Once, as I had embarked on the sea of al-Yaman, it so happened that I encountered Abu Ali al-Hafidh al-Marwazi on board ship. When we had become well acquainted with each other he said to me, "In truth you have made me concerned about you. Said I, "In what way?" Said he, "I see in you a man who walks in the path of goodness. You love virtue and those who practice it, and you aspire after the acquisition of knowledge You are now bound for a country that has beguiled many people and diverted them from the way of piety and contentment. And I am afraid that when you will have entered Adan and shalt hear of this man going away with a thousand dirham and returning with a thousand dinars and of that man coming with a hundred and going back with five hundred, and of another going out with

frankincense and returning with the same quantity of camphor, then thy hart will incline to jealous rivalry. I said, "I pray God that He preserves me!" However, when I did enter it, and heard even more than what he had told me, by heavens I hungered after the same thing as the others, and prepared to go to the lands of the Zanj (Negroes). So I brought whatever it was necessary for me to buy, and put it in the hands of shipping agents. But God—exalted be His name—caused my interest in the venture to cool, with the death of my partner. I had made a contract with him, but my spirit was shattered at the remembrance of death, and what comes after that. And you may as well realize—may you be guided aright—that for every gain we have mentioned there is a hazard; profits are always attended with dangers;


The Country of the Blacks.

Situated in the south. The Land of the Blacks (Ard as-Sudan) is bordering on the Maghrib and Egypt: it is made up of desert lands, vast and difficult. The population belongs to many races. The mountains produce most of the mountain fruits of the Muslim world, but the majority of blacks do not eat it; they have other fruits, foods, nourishment and herbs that do not exist here. For transactions, they do not use gold or silver, but Qarmat'iyyn use salt, Nubians and Abyssinians, use textiles as money. The Nubians have their habitat beyond Egypt, the Badjas beyond Aydhab and the Abyssinians beyond Zayla. The black eunuchs that may be encountered are of three kinds: the first species, which is the best, is exported to Egypt; the second, that of the Barbarins is sent to Adan; it is the worst kind of eunuchs. The third resembles the Abyssinians.

As for the white eunuchs, they belong to two categories: the Saqaliba whose country is located beyond Khawarizm but which are led to Spain where they are castrated and then sent to Egypt; the Itum that windup in Syria and in the province of Aqur but there are none since the Marches (Thaghur) were ravaged. I interviewed a group of eunuchs about the castration process and I knew that the Rum castrated their children and cloistered them in monasteries to prevent them from caring for women and to spare them the torture of carnal desire; during their expeditions, the Muslims attacked these cloisters and took the children out. As for the Saqaliba they are led, to be castrated, in a city located beyond Pechina and inhabited by Jews. But the opinions on the method employed are divergent. According to one of them, penis and purses are incised at the same time; according to another, the two purses are opened and the testicles removed, then a rod is placed under the penis and it is incised shortly after birth.

I interviewed Urayb the eunuch who is learned and sincere: Mu'allim, I tell him, inform me about the eunuchs, because the scientists do not agree about them: Abu Hanifa says that they can marry and attribute to them the paternity of the children whom their wives give birth to; this is a point on which we can only be informed by you. Abu Hanifa is right, he answered, and I'll tell you what's going on. Know that when they approach to undergo the operation, they cut into the two bags and the remove the testicles, it happens that the child is frightened and that one of his testicles  goes back in the abdomen; we try to bring it back, but we do not always find it immediately and it comes down when the incision is healed. If it is the left testicle, the eunuch feels desires and secretes sperm; if it is the right, the beard grows, as it is the case for so-and-so. Abu Hanifa put into practice the word of the Prophet: The child belongs to the marriage bed and the father may well be one of those eunuchs who have kept a testicle. As I reported Urayb's explanation to Abu Sald al-Juri in Nichapur; he said to me: It is possible, because one of my testicles is small and, in fact, he had a rare and scanty beard. After the operation, a lead rod is placed in the meatus that is removed to urinate, but which is preserved until complete healing, so that the tissues do not grow together.