Al-Maqdisi Al-Bushari Abu Abdullah Shams e-Deen Mohammed Ibn Abi Bakr (380H.-990AD)'s Ahssan at-Takasim fi Ma'rifat Al-Aqaleem, A study of Economic, Social, Religious Administrative and Urban Sides

Discussion Committee: 
Dr. Adnan Milhem
Amal Hisham Ahmed Nassar
Abstract Al-Maqdisi (the Jerusalemite) Abu Abdallah Shams e-Deen Mohammed Ibn Ahmed Abi Bakr al-Banna, whose father was one of the most skillful engineers and participated in building the port of Acre during Ahmed Ibn Touloun's era (270H/ 883 AD), was of Palestinian origin and resided in Jerusalem. His mother was from e-Shawa family which emigrated from Biyar (city), Dailam Province, to Southern Sham and became related by marriage with Al-Albanna. Al-Maqdisi received higher education, for he learned reading, writing and memorized the Holy Qur'an. Then he moved to Iraq and received there instruction on Abi Hanifa e-Nu'man's orthodox rite of fiqh (150H/767AD) at the hands of Al-Qadi Abi Al-Hassan Al-Qazweeni (442H./1050AD). He was taught grammar sciences and language. He also excelled in poetry writing. Al-Maqdisi's trip to Jerusalem, from the Arabian Peninsula, began at the outset of 356H. / 966 AD with the intention of pilgrimage making. He then visited Iraq, Aqwar, Greater Syria, Egypt, Maghreb. He also visited Persian provinces: Al-Mashreq, e-Dailam, e-Rihab, Al-Jibal, Khouzistan, Persia, Karman and Sind. Apparently, his travels became to an end around 375H./985AD. This was according to personal information which indicated that by that time he had completed the writing of his book in Shiraz city, capital of Persia Province. At the time, he was forty years old. During his travel, Al-Maqdisi was careful to provide full details on the Muslim world and its provinces in terms of its divisions, borders and administrative agencies. He, for example, provided accurate information about the weights and measures as well as money used (circulated) in each province. He also dwelt on the distances between cities and villages. In collection of this information, Al-Maqdisi depended on first hand observation and perusal of events before writing on them, and through interviews with reliable sources in addition to geography and religious books and libraries. Al-Maqdisi divided the Muslim world administratively into fourteen provinces. Of these, six were Arab (Arabian Peninsula, Aqwar, Iraq, Greater Syria, Egypt and Maghreb, and eight were Persian: Province of Al-Mashreq, Janeb Kharasan, Hibtel, Khouzistan, Persia, Karaman, Dailam, Al-Jibal and Sind. In this regard, Al-Maqdisi presented the branches of each province: capital, cities, citadels, villages, districts and regions. He used some administration terms to make use of them in finding out the distance between one area and another. For example, he used al-marhala to measure the distances between the Arabian Peninsula's cities. He also used al-farasekh, al-meel, e-lhiraa' and al-ayyam. These distances were cited in passing when talking about the regions or separately at the end of each province. In addition, Al-Maqdisi dwelt on the factors which contributed to the creation and prosperity of cities. Of these, the religious factor was the leading factor which significantly helped in the creation of cities. These cities included Mecca, Mina, Muzdalifa, Arafa, Yethrib, in the Arabian Peninsula's province; Jerusalem, Jericho; Beit Jibril, Greater Syria province. The administrative factor also played a significant role in population concentration and economic and trade activities. Examples of cities which emerged against this background included Zbeida, Aleppo, Fustat and Baradseir. The strategic locations of some cities also helped in their prosperity. These cities, lying in plains, on mountains and in deserts, controlled transportation routes. Ramlah, Beit Jibril in Greater Syria; Qairoun, Maghreb; Basra, Iraq and Alexandria, Egypt. The agricultural activity, like other factors, contributed to the creation of the cities of Khbeis and Sawarqiyyah (the Arabian Peninsula), Amman, Baghdad and Hula. In this respect, Al-Maqdisi surveyed the urban design of these cities, their planning and arrangement of their architectural elements. Parallel to these factors, Al-Maqdisi also cited a number of factors which led to the collapse and destruction of these cities. One factor was the negligence of the irrigation system in the city of Tabaran, Kharrasan Province. Fanaticism and religious strife between different groups led to the destruction of Nasa city in Al-Mashreq Province as well as the Sarkhas city due to the struggle between al-Arousiyyah, (followers of Abi Hanifa e-Numan) (150H./767AD), and Al-Ahliyah (followers of Shafi'i) (204H./819AD). Further, the weakness of the political authority and fading of its strength had a significant impact on the collapse of Junidisapur, Samerra and Baghdad. Floods, a nature-made disaster, led to the devastation of the city of Hamathan. An earthquake also destroyed the city of Siraf. Al-Maqdisi was also interested in documenting economic conditions of the Province's populations. Depending on first hand information and observation, Al-Maqdisi wrote about quality of soil, people's dependence on springs, pools, wells, open canals and dams-necessary for agricultural activities. Several cities, in these provinces, were famous for the growing of agricultural crops. For example, Nowa, a city in Egypt, and Baja, a city in the Maghreb, Al-Mashreq Province, Janib Kharrasan, e-Rihab, Khouzistan and Persia were famous for production of grains. Fruit trees, such as grapes, apples, almond, pear, were planted in cities of Greater Syria, e-Rihab, Sind, Karaman, Persia, Khouzistan, pomegranates were planted in Dailam Province; Khouzistan, Kasab Istakher, Persia Province. The Maghreb Province, Dailam, Persia, Egypt were famous for the planting of olive and walalmond trees in Greater Syria, Dailam and Sind. He also referred to the planting of palm trees in the cities of the Arabian Peninsula, Aqwar, Egypt and the Maghreb. Al-Maqdisi had also an interest in the provinces which had raised livestock such as camels, sheep and goats, cows, fish, birds and bees. These provinces were e-Rihab, Persia, Karaman as well as Sind and Greater Syria. Marw Shahjan, a city in Kharassan Province, was famous for raising pigeons. Besides, Al-Maqdisi also paid attention to cities which had mineral resources such as gold found in Marwa and Yanbu', the Arabian Peninsula; Fustat, Egypt; Saljamasa, the Maghreb, and silver in Banjahir, Kharassan; Baraman, Karaman Province; iron in Beirut mountains, al-Jibal Province; Puna and Saljamasa, the Maghreb. Mumia mineral was rich in Kahistan city, al-Jibal Province, Nushader, Barman (Kharassan) and Al-Aqiq, Sana'a (the Arabian Peninsula). He also referred to pearls, in the Arabian Peninsula, close to Awal and Kharak Islands and al-Murjan in the Maghreb Province. Gas and oil were found in Kharrassan and Khouzistan Provinces while sulfur was found in Greater Syria Province. Al-Maqdisi also discussed the various industries in the different provinces of the Muslim world. He particularly highlighted handicrafts necessary at the time, and included weaving, textiles, foodstuff, glassware blowing and mineral materials. There were very popular in Khouzistan, e-Rihab Egypt, Persia, Greater Syria provinces. These industries largely depended on primary materials available in these provinces. Al-Maqdisi shed light on common trade movement, transportation means, and different goods exported from one province to another. The raw materials and the availability of the produce and its quality played an important role in determining the standard of living of the people in the various regions in terms of low and high prices depending on availability or scarcity of raw materials. As mentioned earlier, Al-Maqdisi dwelt on the heights and the measures which, surprisingly, differed from one city to another as well as from one province to another. In addition, he talked about the money circulated and taxes imposed on land yield/out put on goods and imported goods such as textiles and slave trade. Al-Maqdisi also had the time to talk about the languages and dialects of the people of the different regions and cities. He also described the common traditional clothes and uniforms of the different sections of the societies. He, besides, elaborated on traditions and habits of the different regions. These included marriage ceremonies, feasts (Christian and Islamic) people's practices in Ramadan, daily prayers, funerals and burial procedures. Religious information, in Al-Maqdisi's book, centered on history and emergence of sects and faiths, prevailing in the different provinces, which began with the schism of the Muslim nation in the wake of the killing of Caliph Othman Ibn Afan. Al-Maqdisi classified the faiths into fiqh denominations: Hanafi, Shafi'i, Da'oiyah and Maliki. However, he didn't classify Hanbali Fiqh School as one of these denominations. Rather, he considered it as belonging to Prophetic teachings school. He also considered Sufian e-Thawri's faith as one of Al-Mundaris's faiths. He concluded by dwelling on the Shiite, Kharijite and Murji'a sects. In this regard, he highlighted the strife between the followers of these faiths which took social and economic dimensions. Concerning the religions, Al-Maqdisi divided them into four: Judaism, Christianity, Sabianism and Magism. He also showed their concentrations in the various provinces.
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