December 25, 2010

Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya MS 21620 ب, fol. 4r



...that al-Lahabi said: "Muhammad ibn al-Mukandar related that according to Jabir ibn 'Abd Allah, the Prophet (God's blessings and peace be upon him) ordered his followers to keep a white rooster." But al-Bayhaqi says this chain of transmission is to be rejected, being related by al-Lahabi only, and that a similar tradition with a discontinuous chain of transmission is also related. Al-Bayhaqi goes on to report that Abu Ahmad 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn [al-]Hasan al-Mahrajani related on the authority of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Isma'il that on the authority of Yahya ibn Yahya, Ibrahim ibn 'Ali al-Dhuhli said: "Ibn Isma'il ibn 'Ayyash related that on the authority of 'Abd Allah, son of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (may God Exalted be pleased with him), 'Amr ibn Muhammad ibn Zayd reported that the Prophet (God's blessings and peace be upon him) said: 'Roosters sound the call to prayer, and whoever keeps a white one enjoys threefold protection from the harm of every devil, sorcerer and soothsayer.' "

In his Middle Compilation, al-Tabarani says that Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-Abar related on the authority of Mu'al[lal that] Muhammad b. Mihsan heard from Ibrahim ibn Abi 'Abla that Anas ibn Malik said: "The Prophet, God's blessings and peace be upon him, said: 'Take for yourselves a white rooster, for no devil nor any sorcerer will approach a house with a rooster in it, nor the houses surrounding it.' " And in the collection entitled al-Firdaws, al-Daylami says: "We are informed by Abu Talib al-Husayn that Mansur [ibn Wamish] heard Yusuf ibn ['Umar] ibn Masrur say: 'Muhammad ibn Makhlad said' 'Under the tutelage of Muhammad ibn Makhlad I recited a report by Sa'id ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Ajib that Wahb ibn Hafs related on the authority of 'Uthman ibn 'Abd al-Rahman that 'Anbasa heard from Muhammad ibn Zadan that Umm Muhammad bint Zayd ibn Thabit said: "The Prophet, God’s blessings and peace be upon him, said: 'There are three voices that God loves: the voice of a rooster, the voice of someone reciting the Qur'an, and the voice of those who pray for forgiveness in the hour before daybreak.' " ' "

Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrate on Masruq's authority that he asked 'A'isha: "At what times did the Prophet pray, God’s blessings and peace be upon him?" She said: "Whenever he heard al-sārikh, he would stand up and pray.” Al-Nawawi said: "The consensus of the learned is that al-sārikh here means the rooster, so called by the frequency of its crowing at night." And Ibn 'Adiyy relates on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that the Prophet (God’s blessings and peace be upon him) forbade castration of the rooster, along with the goat and the horse.

Abu 'l-Shaykh said: "Ahmad ibn Ruh reported on the authority of Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Yazid that al-Fadl ibn Dawud al-Wasiti said: 'I heard 'Abd Allah ibn Salih al-'Ijli enumerate ten [sic] characteristics of the rooster: "Of all birds, it is the most beloved by God, be He exalted and Magnified. Its voice carries the furthest, it is the most jealous, the fiercest in battle, and the most magnanimous. It is best-informed about the times of prayer, and keeps watch over its neighborhood. Of all the birds, it is the best, and mates more frequently than any other." ' And Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Salt said: 'Wahb ibn Baqiya related on the authority of Khalid that Humayd reported that a man of Muzayna said: "I heard a rooster praising God."'

"Ja'far ibn Ahmad related on the authority of 'Ali ibn Bishr that 'Abd al-Rahim reported that Hammād ibn ['Amr] quoted 'Abd al-Hamīd ibn Yusuf as saying: 'A rooster crowed in the presence of Solomon son of David, blessings and peace be upon them both. He asked: "Do you know what it is saying?" "No," his companions said. "It says: 'Remember God, O heedless ones!" ' And on the authority of Ahmad al-Dawraqi, Ahmad ibn al-Hasan [al-Hadda'] related that Ibrahim ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi heard from Mujalid ibn 'Ubayd Allah that al-Hasan ibn Dhakwan heard the story from Farqad al-Sabkhi: 'Solomon the son of David (blessings and peace be upon them both) passed by a nightingale that had alighted in a tree, wagging its head and dipping its tail. He said to his companions: "Do you know what this one is saying?" They said: "God and His prophet know best." He said: "It is saying: 'I have eaten half a piece of fruit, so let the world go to its ruin!' " Then he passed by a rooster that was crowing, and said: "Do you know..." ' "

From In Praise of the Rooster by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti

December 11, 2010

Names of the Sun

Among the names of the sun are al-Ilāha and al-Alāha ["The Goddess"]. Ibn 'Abbas recited: wa-ilāhataka [i.e. "your goddess," a variant of the orthodox reading wa-ālihataka, i.e. "your gods," in Surat al-A'rāf where the question is put to Pharaoh: "Will you give Moses leave to spread corruption in the land and take leave of you and your gods?"]. And a poet said:

    "We fanned ourselves of an afternoon at al-La'bā'
        and sped al-Ilāha in her setting."

The "orbit" around an axis of the sky is called al-falak. God, be He exalted and magified, says [in Surat al-Anbiyā']: "All are in a falak swimming."
        The phenomenon called "devil's snot" [mukhāt al-shaytān], which occurs when dust and gossamer come together, is also called "sun snot" [mukhāt al-shams].
        The 'ab of the sun is its illumination and its beauty; or 'abb is said with the same meaning. As a man's name or a tribal name it is a shortening of 'Abd Shams ["Servant of the Sun"]. Alternately, this name is said as 'Aba Shams, and is altogether undeclined, as in the verse:

    "When 'Aba Shams saw the sun in its brisk rise
        over their people, with al-Julhumi at their head..."

Al-Dihh ["The Glare"] is the sun. Dhu 'l-Rumma said:

    "You see its hills blaze in the glare of al-Dihh,
        abetted by winds hot like sparks on dry tinder."

Al-ayā is the illumination and beauty of the sun, and is also applied to the beauty of plants in bloom. Al-iyā' is heard with the same meaning, as in the verse:

    "Two colors - red and dusty black - are in competition
        for the iyā' of the sun whose going down you see."

Also said for the sun's brilliance is al-iyāh, as in the verse by Tarafa:

    "[So bright were her teeth, it was as if] she had sipped the sun's iyāh,
                except for her gums
        which were painted with kohl she took pains not to smudge
                with the work of her teeth."

[...] After the sun has set, it is called Barāhi ["The Departer"]. Birāhi too is heard. A poet said:

        "Here stood the two feet of Rabah
         who journeyed until the setting of Barāhi."

"O you," they say when the sun has ceased shining, "Barāhi has gone down."

From The Book of Seasons and Invocation in the Time before Islam by Abu 'Ali Muhammad al-Mustanir, known as Qutrub

December 10, 2010

Agriculture in Ancient Egypt

Oleiferous plants. The Egyptians devoted a lot of care to pressing oils from different plants, as required by their cuisine, the blending of their ointments, perfumes and drugs, and their need for illumination. In Arabic, the word for "oil" [zayt] is primarily applied to the oil of the olive [zaytūn], whose Coptic name is dʒi:t. Oils were also pressed from seeds of flax and safflower, juniper berries, and the nuts of the thorn tree, cedar, castor plant and Egyptian willow.

Medicinal plants. Although the advancement of ancient Egyptian botanical learning is best appreciated from their use of plants in fighting disease - most importantly anise (Arabic yansūn, Egyptian ytkwn), cumin, dill, thistle, peppermint, boxthorn, poppy, juniper, henbane, pomegranate, fig, onion, garlic, coriander, the milk of the sycamore and the various oils - space does not permit the mention of all the medical uses listed in the various papyri.

Fibrous plants. Flax was known in Egypt since the earliest times, and fragments of linen cloth have been discovered in the [Neolithic-era] graves of Merimde and Maadi. The stages in the production of linen are represented on the walls of the Beni Hasan tombs, from maceration, pounding and combing to its spinning, weaving and dyeing. The flax seeds preserved in the Fouad I Agricultural Museum and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin attest to the nobility of the ancient species.
        The special importance of papyrus was not limited to writing surfaces, as it was also used to line the bottoms of boats.

Garlands and bouquets. Flowers were of the highest importance in Egypt for their use in religious and funerary ceremonies. The flowers of the papyrus, lotus, acacia, and willow were bundled into garlands and bouquets, along with shoots of sycamore, celery and artemisia and sprays of camomile and saffron.

Timber. The most widespread of the big trees in Egypt were the sycamore, which was held sacred, and the acacia. The wood of the acacia was used in boat-building, its fruit (known in Arabic as qarad) was used in medicine and tanning hides, and its flower (called fotna) was woven into garlands for the dead. Most agricultural tools were made from acacia wood and from the tamarisk (known in Arabic by its ancient Egyptian name of athl). The leaves of the weeping willow were used in funeral garlands, and knife handles made from its wood have been found to pre-date the Dynastic period. And pieces made from henna wood were among the finds of Schweinfurth.
        When the timber reserves of Egypt were no longer sufficient, trade with Lebanon was established in order to import lumber in pieces large enough for building their sarcophagi, ships and funerary and domestic furniture. Egypt's ebony came from Sudan, and myrrh was imported from the Somali land of Punt.

Peasant Life in Ancient Egypt. We end our account with a tale out of old Egypt. It comes from a story about the life of two brothers, tillers of the earth named Anubis and Bata. According to this story [here begins an abridged passage from The Literature of Ancient Egypt (Cairo, 1945), ed. & tr. by Selim Hassan]:
        Bata was a skilled farmer who made clothes for his brother and pastured his brother's herds. He broke the soil for his brother and harvested his brother's crops, and was filled to overflowing with a god's breath, which increased his stature. Every day he went out with the herds to pasture, and every evening he returned to his brother's house with a load of milk and greens and dry kindling, and rendered them unto his older brother, bringing him pleasure as he sat with his wife. After eating and drinking his rations, Bata made his bed in the corral to watch over the cattle. At night's end, the new day's dawn found him preparing his older brother's meal. Then he would set it before him, and set off for pasture with his own, driving the cattle to lead him to the fertile fields. And the cattle grew fat, and their offspring were stout and numerous.
        When the time for plowing had come, the older brother said to Bata: "Yoke a pair of oxen to the plow, for the earth is no longer saturated, but ready for the plow. Prepare also the grain for sowing, and we will break ground in early morning." And the younger brother was delighted at all he commanded. At the new day's dawn, they went into the field, and took their place behind the bulls with firm resolve: and gladness filled their hearts, for they had begun the task of the new year. But their grain ran out before all the ground was seeded, and the older brother sent the younger to the farm after another load of grain.
        The young man entered the house "at a time of distraction of its folk", and found his brother's wife combing her hair. When he came out of the granary bearing his load, "she in whose house he was sought to seduce him," saying: " 'Come on, you,' " and promising him finer clothes and a better station. When he scorned her, she contrived to accuse him to his brother, and played the liar after the fashion of the well-known story of our master Joseph, peace be upon him.

From al-Filāha (a publication of the Agricultural Club), vol. 28 no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1948), 28-30.

December 6, 2010

Veterinary Medicine in Ancient Egypt

Enclosed within the temple complexes of ancient Egypt (among them the temple of Memphis which predates 3000 BCE) were structures called "Houses of Life," where teachers and students were trained in the life sciences. Dissection and anatomy, chemistry, diagnosis of diseases and their remedies, the principles of mummification - the Houses of Life presented an ideal opportunity for study in all these fields, thanks to the embalming process which required the cutting open of human cadavers and animal carcasses, and the removal of their innards in preparation for mummification. This was the job of the medical diviners, who also tended to the sacred animals and to the animals fattened for slaughter, whether as offerings to their gods or for human consumption.

Animal care flourished in ancient Egypt, and livestock wealth increased among peasants and the landowners who kept big herds of cattle, sheep, goats and other ungulates. For horses and asses great care was also taken. They used to set up canopies in the fields, so that the animals might find rest and tranquility in their shade. Meanwhile, the herdsmen sat in the shade of trees, from where they would watch over them and apportion their feed - a scene that appears in the [tomb paintings representing the] fields of Ti, ca. 2550 BCE. In these settings, this class of herdsmen gained experience in the care and husbandry of animals, and in tending to the pregnant and supervising their delivery, seeing to their milking and the nursing of their calves, and isolation of the ailing and their cure.

mastaba of ti
Mastaba of Ti, Saqqara. Detail from a photo by Richard T. Mortel

As the care of sick animals was left up to shepherds with experience and knowledge of cures, it was from their ranks that the veterinary doctor emerged, as affirmed by the English scholar Wilkinson in his book of 1878.

Since the floruit of the traveler Khuf Har is dated to the Sixth Dynasty, it was 2350 years before Christ that he made his famous journey to the upper regions of Nubia in search of incense and ivory. For transport and communication outside the country he used 300 asses, and that same season he brought them all back, loaded down with wonderful treasures. This reflects the level of the ancient Egyptians' ability and their skill in tending animals.

In 1889, the English archaeologist Flinders Petrie discovered a Twelfth-Dynasty papyrus on veterinary medicine, whose date goes back to 2000 BCE, in the Ilahun subdistrict of the province of Fayyum. This papyrus indicates remedies for bulls that suffered from tear duct infections, as well as taurine depression and sadness, and for dogs afflicted with internal parasites.

From Veterinary Medicine Between Past, Present and Future,
a 1990 publication of the Egyptian Veterinarians Syndicate.

December 2, 2010

Avicenna on the same

The rainbow is an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs during conditions of humidity, in no position other than standing upright. At its height, it traverses the sphere of [sublunar frigidity called] al-zamharīr, while its extremities hang just above the surface of the earth. Its appearance is limited chiefly to the beginning and end of the day, opposite the rising or the setting of the sun. The visible share of the rainbow amounts to no more than half a circle, and is always a lesser segment unless the sun is on the horizon. In that case, a semicircular rainbow is seen, such that a ray emerging from the center of the sun will graze the surface of the earth until it meets the geometric center of the rainbow standing on the opposite horizon. With any elevation of the sun above the horizon, less than half a circle's worth of rainbow will be seen. Since the area occupied by the rainbow is defined inversely by the sun's position, its height and length decrease according to the increase in the solar elevation angle.

Know that between the apex of the rainbow and the circular area of the solar halo (mentioned earlier in our treatise) there is a certain equivalence. They have the same cause, which is the impact of sunshine on particles of humid vapor that are present, and its reflection back in the direction of the sun.

The visible hues are four. These correspond to the four qualities which are heat, humidity, cold and dryness; and also to the elements which are fire, air, water and earth; and also to the seasons which are summer, autumn, winter and spring. And also to the four humors - which are the black and yellow bile, the phlegm, and blood - do they bear a similarity. To the colors of the flowers of plants and trees they bear a formal analogy, for when the seven colors of the rainbow come out it is a sign of the air's humidity, the proliferation of rain, and the increase of the grasses, orchard fruits and grain crops. Its appearance is as a joyful proclamation which nature presents to animals and humans, announcing the fecundity of the season.

As for those vulgar interpretations of the rainbow which read indications of the coming year into the relative intensity of its colors - with predominance of red for the spilling of blood, yellow for victims of illness, blue for war and green for fertility - these are altogether a matter for omen-readers.

From his treatise On the Cosmos