The Info List - El-Edrisi

Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Idrisi
Muhammad al-Idrisi
al-Qurtubi al-Hasani as-Sabti, or simply Al-Idrisi /ælɪˈdriːsiː/ (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد الإدريسي القرطبي الحسني السبتي‎; Latin: Dreses; 1100 – 1165), was an Arab
Muslim geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist who lived in Palermo, Sicily
at the court of King Roger
King Roger
II. Muhammed al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta, then belonging to the Almoravids.


1 Early life 2 Tabula Rogeriana

2.1 Description of islands in the North Sea 2.2 Description of Chinese trade

3 Nuzhat al-Mushtaq

3.1 Publication and translation 3.2 Andalusian-American contact

4 In popular culture 5 Gallery 6 See also 7 References 8 Sources 9 Further reading 10 External links

Early life[edit] Al-Idrisi was born into the large Hammudid family of North Africa
North Africa
and Al-Andalus, which claimed descent from the Idrisids
of Morocco
and ultimately the prophet Muhammad.[1] Al-Idrisi was born in the city of Ceuta, where his great-grandfather had been forced to settle after the fall of Hammudid Málaga
to the Zirids
of Granada.[2] He spent much of his early life travelling through North Africa
North Africa
and Al-Andalus
(Muslim Spain of the times) and seems to have acquired detailed information on both regions. He visited Anatolia
when he was barely 16. He studied in Córdoba. His travels took him to many parts of Europe including Portugal, the Pyrenees, the French Atlantic coast, Hungary, and Jórvík
(now known as York). Tabula Rogeriana[edit] Main article: Tabula Rogeriana

The Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by al-Idrisi for Roger II of Sicily
in 1154, one of the most advanced ancient world maps. Modern consolidation, created from al-Idrisi's 70 double-page spreads, shown upside-down as the original had South at the top.

Because of conflict and instability in Al-Andalus
al-Idrisi joined contemporaries such as Abu al-Salt in Sicily, where the Normans had overthrown Arabs formerly loyal to the Fatimids. Al-Idrisi incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Islamic merchants and explorers and recorded on Islamic maps with the information brought by the Norman voyagers to create the most accurate map of the world in pre-modern times,[3] which served as a concrete illustration of his Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq, (Latin: Opus Geographicum), which may be translated A Diversion for the Man Longing to Travel to Far-Off Places.[4] The Tabula Rogeriana
Tabula Rogeriana
was drawn by Al-Idrisi in 1154 for the Norman King Roger
King Roger
II of Sicily, after a stay of eighteen years at his court, where he worked on the commentaries and illustrations of the map. The map, with legends written in Arabic, while showing the Eurasian continent in its entirety, only shows the northern part of the African continent and lacks details of the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
and Southeast Asia. For Roger it was inscribed on a massive disc of solid silver, two metres in diameter. On the geographical work of al-Idrisi, S.P. Scott wrote in 1904:

The compilation of Edrisi marks an era in the history of science. Not only is its historical information most interesting and valuable, but its descriptions of many parts of the earth are still authoritative. For three centuries geographers copied his maps without alteration. The relative position of the lakes which form the Nile, as delineated in his work, does not differ greatly from that established by Baker and Stanley more than seven hundred years afterwards, and their number is the same. The mechanical genius of the author was not inferior to his erudition. The celestial and terrestrial planisphere of silver which he constructed for his royal patron was nearly six feet in diameter, and weighed four hundred and fifty pounds; upon the one side the zodiac and the constellations, upon the other-divided for convenience into segments-the bodies of land and water, with the respective situations of the various countries, were engraved.[3]

Al-Idrisi inspired Islamic geographers such as Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun and Piri Reis. His map also inspired Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
and Vasco Da Gama.[citation needed] Description of islands in the North Sea[edit] Al-Idrisi in his famous Tabula Rogeriana
Tabula Rogeriana
mentioned Irlandah-al-Kabirah (Great Ireland).[5] According to him, "from the extremity of Iceland to that of Great Ireland," the sailing time was "one day." Although historians note that both al-Idrisi and the Norse tend to understate distances, the only location this reference is thought to have possibly pointed to, must likely have been in Greenland.[6] Description of Chinese trade[edit] Al-Idrisi mentioned that Chinese junks carried leather, swords, iron and silk. He mentions the glassware of the city of Hangzhou
and labels Quanzhou's silk as the best.[7] In his records of Chinese trade, Al-Idrisi also wrote about the Silla Dynasty (one of Korea's historical Dynasties, and a major trade partner to China at the time), and was one of the first Arabs to do so. Al-Idrisi's references to Silla led other Arab
merchants to seek Silla and its trade, and contributed to many Arabs' perception of Silla as the ideal East-Asian country. [8] Nuzhat al-Mushtaq[edit] As well as the maps, al-Idrisi produced a compendium of geographical information with the title Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq fi'khtiraq al-'afaq. The title has been translated as The book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands[9] or The pleasure of him who longs to cross the horizons.[10] It has been preserved in nine manuscripts, seven of which contain maps.[11] The translated title of this work (in the "pleasure of him ..." form) attracted favourable comment from the team selecting lists of names for features expected to be discovered by the New Horizons probe reconnoitring the Pluto
system. The Al-Idrisi Montes
Al-Idrisi Montes
is a geographical feature in that system named after him.[12] In the introduction, al-Idrisi mentions two sources for geographical coordinates: Claudius Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy
and "an astronomer" that must be Ishaq ibn al-Hasan al-Zayyat; and states that he has cross-checked oral reports from different informers to see if geographical coordinates were consistent.[11] Publication and translation[edit] An abridged version of the Arabic text was published in Rome in 1592 with title: De geographia universali or Kitāb Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī dhikr al-amṣār wa-al-aqṭār wa-al-buldān wa-al-juzur wa-al-madā’ in wa-al-āfāq which in English would be Recreation of the desirer in the account of cities, regions, countries, islands, towns, and distant lands.[13][14] This was one of the first Arabic books ever printed.[10] The first translation from the original Arabic was into Latin. The Maronite's Gabriel Sionita and Joannes Hesronita translated an abridged version of the text which was published in Paris in 1619 with the title of Geographia nubiensis.[15] Not until the middle of the 19th century was a complete translation of the Arabic text published. This was a translation into French by Pierre Amédée Jaubert.[16] More recently sections of the text have been translated for particular regions. Beginning in the 1970 a critical edition of the complete Arabic text was published.[17] Andalusian-American contact[edit] Al-Idrisi's geographical text, Nuzhat al-Mushtaq, is often cited by proponents of pre-Columbian Andalusian-Americas contact theories. In this text, al-Idrisi wrote the following on the Atlantic Ocean:

The Commander of the Muslims Ali ibn Yusuf ibn Tashfin sent his admiral Ahmad ibn Umar, better known under the name of Raqsh al-Auzz to attack a certain island in the Atlantic, but he died before doing that. [...] Beyond this ocean of fogs it is not known what exists there. Nobody has the sure knowledge of it, because it is very difficult to traverse it. Its atmosphere is foggy, its waves are very strong, its dangers are perilous, its beasts are terrible, and its winds are full of tempests. There are many islands, some of which are inhabited, others are submerged. No navigator traverses them but bypasses them remaining near their coast. [...] And it was from the town of Lisbon
that the adventurers set out known under the name of Mughamarin [Adventurers], penetrated the ocean of fogs and wanted to know what it contained and where it ended. [...] After sailing for twelve more days they perceived an island that seemed to be inhabited, and there were cultivated fields. They sailed that way to see what it contained. But soon barques encircled them and made them prisoners, and transported them to a miserable hamlet situated on the coast. There they landed. The navigators saw there people with red skin; there was not much hair on their body, the hair of their head was straight, and they were of high stature. Their women were of an extraordinary beauty.[18]

This translation by Professor Muhammad Hamidullah
Muhammad Hamidullah
is however questionable, since it reports, after having reached an area of "sticky and stinking waters", the Mugharrarin (also translated as "the adventurers") moved back and first reached an uninhabited island where they found "a huge quantity of sheep the meat of which was bitter and uneatable" and, then, "continued southward" and reached the above reported island where they were soon surrounded by barques and brought to "a village whose inhabitants were often fair-haired with long and flaxen hair and the women of a rare beauty". Among the villagers, one spoke Arabic and asked them where they came from. Then the king of the village ordered them to bring them back to the continent where they were surprised to be welcomed by Berbers.[19][verification needed] Apart from the marvellous and fanciful reports of this history, the most probable interpretation[citation needed] is that the Mugharrarin reached the Sargasso Sea, a part of the ocean covered by seaweed, which is very close to Bermuda
yet one thousand miles away from the American mainland. Then while coming back, they may have landed either on the Azores, or on Madeira
or even on the westernmost Canary Island, El Hierro
El Hierro
(because of the sheep). Last, the story with the inhabited island might have occurred either on Tenerife
or on Gran Canaria, where the Mugharrarin presumably met some Guanche tribe. This would explain why some of them could speak Arabic (some sporadic contacts had been maintained between the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
and Morocco) and why they were quickly deported to Morocco
where they were welcomed by Berbers. Yet, the story reported by Idrisi is an indisputable account of a certain knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean by Andalusians and Moroccans. Furthermore, Al-Idrisi writes an account of eight Mugharrarin all from the same family who set sail from Lisbon
(Achbona) in the first half of that century and navigated in the seaweed rich seas beyond the Azores.[20] Idrisi describes an island of cormorants with which Corvo, Cape Verde has been tentatively identified, but on weak grounds.[21] In popular culture[edit]

Al Idrisi was the main character in Tariq Ali's book entitled A Sultan in Palermo. Al Idrisi is a major character in Karol Szymanowksi's 1926 opera King Roger. Al Idrisi's ideas on Mare Tenebrarum are alluded to in Pascal Mercier's book entitled Night Train to Lisbon. Al-Idrisi's works had a profound influence on European writers such as: Marino Sanuto the Elder, Antonio Malfante, Jaume Ferrer
Jaume Ferrer
and Alonso Fernández de Lugo. The popular IDRISI
GIS system, developed by Clark University, is named after Muhammad al-Idrisi In 2010, the Government of Mauritius
unveiled a planisphere of Al Idrisi at Travellers's Lane, initiated by semiologist Khal Torabully, at the Jardin de la Compagnie, Port-Louis, to pay hommage to the work of the geographer.[22]


Al-Idrisi's map of the Indian Ocean.

Al-Idrisi's map of what is modern day Azerbaijan
and the Caspian Sea.

Al-Idrisi's map of the northern shoreline of Marmara Region.

Al-Idrisi's map of the Balkans.

Al-Idrisi's map of the Balkans.

Al-Idrisi's map of the Iberian peninsula.

Al-Idrisi's map of the Iberian peninsula.

Al-Idrisi's description of Finland

Map of the Senegal River
Senegal River
according to Al-Idrisi.

See also[edit]

Atlas portal

Al-Bakri Ibn Jubayr Abu al-Salt History of cartography Islamic geography List of Arab


^ Pierre Herman Leonard Eggermont (1 January 1975). Alexander's Campaigns in Sind and Baluchistan and the Siege of the Brahmin Town of Harmatelia. Peeters Publishers. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-90-6186-037-2.  ^ Helaine Selin (16 April 2008). Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Springer. pp. 128–. ISBN 978-1-4020-4559-2.  ^ a b Scott, S.P. (1904), History of the Moorish Empire in Europe (Vol. 3), Philadelphia: Lippincott, pp. 461–462  ^ Title as given by John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and their Food (New York, 2008) p. 17. ^ Dunn, 2009, p. 452. ^ Ashe, 1971, p. 48. ^ http://www.muslimheritage.com/uploads/China%201.pdf ^ http://theme.archives.go.kr/next/oldmap/sun02_8.do http://en.unesco.org/silkroad/sites/silkroad/files/knowledge-bank-article/early_korea-arabic_maritime_relations.pdf ^ Ahmad 1992 ^ a b Levtzion & Hopkins 2000, p. 104 ^ a b Ducène, Jean-Charles (2011). "Les coordonnées géographiques de la carte manuscrite d'al-Idrisi". Der Islam. 86: 271–285.  ^ Horizons, New. "Team". Pluto
Name Bank Proposal 2015-07-07. NASA. Retrieved 2015-08-05.  ^ Ahmad 1960, p. 158. ^ Al-Idrisi 1592. ^ Sionita & Hesronita 1619. ^ Jaubert 1836–1840. ^ Al-Idrisi 1970–1984. ^ Mohammed Hamidullah (Winter 1968). "Muslim Discovery of America before Columbus", Journal of the Muslim Students' Association of the United States and Canada 4 (2): 7–9 [1] ^ Idrisi, Nuzhatul Mushtaq – "La première géographie de l'Occident", comments by Henri Bresc and Annliese Nef, Paris, 1999 ^ The journal: account of the first voyage and discovery of the Indies, p. 197, at Google Books ^ Land to the West: St. Brendan's Voyage to America, p. 135, at Google Books ^ http://www.demotix.com/news/407798/tribute-sharif-al-idrisi#media-407785 Archived 3 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.


Ahmad, S. Maqbul, ed. and trans. (1960), India and the neighbouring territories in the "Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq fi'khtiraq al-'afaq" of al-Sharif al-Idrisi, Leiden: Brill . Ahmad, S. Maqbul (1992), " Cartography
of al-Sharīf al-Idrīsī", in Harley, J.B.; Woodward, D., The History of Cartography
Vol. 2 Book 1: Cartography
in the traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (PDF), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 156–174, ISBN 978-0-226-31635-2 . Al-Idrisi (1592), De Geographia Universali : Kitāb Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī dhikr al-amṣār wa-al-aqṭār wa-al-buldān wa-al-juzur wa-al-madā' in wa-al-āfāq, Rome: Medici . Al-Idrisi (1970–1984), Opus geographicum: sive "Liber ad eorum delectationem qui terras peragrare studeant." (9 Fascicles) (in Arabic), Edited by Bombaci, A. et al., Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale . A critical edition of the Arabic text. Jaubert, P. Amédée, trans. & ed. (1836–1840), Géographie d'Édrisi traduite de l'arabe en français d'après deux manuscrits de la Bibliothèque du roi et accompagnée de notes (2 Vols), Paris: L'imprimerie Royale CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) . Géographie d'Édrisi, Volume 1 at Google Books ; Volume 2. Gallica: Volume 1; Volume 2. Complete translation of Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī ikhtirāq al-āfāq into French. Levtzion, Nehemia; Hopkins, John F.P., eds. (2000), Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West Africa, New York, NY: Marcus Weiner Press, pp. 104–131, ISBN 1-55876-241-8 . First published in 1981. Section on the Maghrib and Sudan from Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq. Sionita, Gabriel; Hesronita, Joannes, trans. & eds. (1619), Geographia nubiensis: id est accuratissima totius orbis in septem climata divisi descriptio, continens praesertim exactam vniuersae Asiae, & Africae, rerumq[ue] in ijs hactenus incognitarum explicationem, Paris: Hieronymi Blageart CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) . Ferrer-Gallardo, X. and Kramsch, O. T. (2016), Revisiting Al-Idrissi: The EU and the (Euro)Mediterranean Archipelago Frontier. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 107: 162–176. doi:10.1111/tesg.12177 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tesg.12177/abstract

Further reading[edit]

Beeston, A.F.L. (1950), "Idrisi's Account of the British Isles", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 13 (2): 265–280, doi:10.1017/S0041977X00083464, JSTOR 609275 . Edrisi (1866), Description de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne, Arabic text with notes and French translation by R. Dozy et M.J. de Goeje, Leiden: E.J. Brill . Oman, G. (1971), "Al-Idrīsī", Encyclopaedia of Islam
Encyclopaedia of Islam
Volume 3 (2nd ed.), Leiden: Brill, pp. 1032–1035 .

External links[edit]

Ahmad, S. Maqbul (2008) [1970–80], "Al-Idrīsī, Abū, 'Abd Allāh Muḥ̣ammad Ibn Muḥ̣ammad Ibn 'Abd Allāh Ibn Idrīs, Al-Sharīf Al-Idrīsī", Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Encyclopedia.com . Britannica Online exhibition, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Bibliothèque nationale de France
(French) Idrisi's world map, Library of Congress. Konrad Miller's 1927 consolidation and transliteration, with high-resolution zoom browser. Online Galleries, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries High resolution images of works by al-Idrisi in .jpg and .tiff format. IDRISI
GIS home page "Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa: Containing a Description of the Several Nations for the Space of Six Hundred Miles up the River Gambia" features English translations of work by al-Idrisi. The manuscript dates from 1738. Original Nuzhatul Mushtaq text

v t e

Geography and cartography in medieval Islam


9th century

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī Abū Ḥanīfa Dīnawarī Ya'qubi Sulaiman al-Tajir

10th century

Ibn Khordadbeh Ahmad ibn Rustah Ahmad ibn Fadlan Abu Zayd al-Balkhi Abū Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdānī Al-Masudi Istakhri Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad Ibn Hawqal Ibn al-Faqih Al-Muqaddasi Al-Ramhormuzi

11th century

Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī Abu Saʿīd Gardēzī Al-Bakri Mahmud al-Kashgari Domiyat

12th century

Al-Zuhri Muhammad al-Idrisi Abu'l Abbas al-Hijazi

13th century

Ibn Jubayr Saadi Shirazi Yaqut al-Hamawi Ibn Said al-Maghribi Ibn al-Nafis

14th century

Al-Dimashqi Abu'l-Fida Ibn al-Wardi Hamdollah Mostowfi Ibn Battuta Lin Nu

15th century

Abd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī Ghiyāth al-dīn Naqqāsh Ahmad ibn Mājid Zheng He Ma Huan Fei Xin

16th century

Sulaiman Al Mahri Piri Reis Mir Ahmed Nasrallah Thattvi Amīn Rāzī

17th century

Evliya Çelebi


Book of Roads and Kingdoms (al-Bakrī) Book of Roads and Kingdoms (ibn Khordadbeh) Tabula Rogeriana Kitab al-Rawd al-Mitar Mu'jam Al-Buldan Rihla The Meadows of Gold Piri Reis
Piri Reis


Geography (Ptolemy)

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 210905324 LCCN: n82146476 ISNI: 0000 0001 1439 431X GND: 119093529 SELIBR: 32955 SUDOC: 030061989 BNF: cb121554181 (data) BIBSYS: 90221514 SN