Sunday, 24 July 2011

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Biography of Abul Hasan Ali Al-Masu’di

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Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Ali Al-Masu’di was a descendant of Abdallah Ibn Masu’d, a companion of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). An expert geographer, a physicist and historian, Masu’di was born in the last decade of the 9th century C.E., his exact date of birth being unknown. He was a Mutazilite Arab, who explored distant lands and died at Cairo, in 957 C.E.

He travelled to Fars in 915 C.E. and, after staying for one year in Istikhar, he proceeded via Baghdad to India, where he visited Multan and Mansoora before returning to Fars. From there he traveled to Kirman and then again to India. Mansoora in those days was a city of great renown and was the capital of the Muslim state of Sind. Around it, there were many settlements/townships of new converts to Islam. In 918 C.E., Masu’di traveled to Gujrat, where more than 10,000 Arab Muslims had settled in the sea-port of Chamoor. He also travelled to Deccan, Ceylon, Indo-China and China, and proceeded via Madagascar, Zanjibar and Oman to Basra.

At Basra he completed his book Muruj-al-Thahab, in which he has described in a most absorbing manner his experience of various countries, peoples and climates. He gives accounts of his personalcontacts with the Jews, Iranians, Indians and Christians. From Basra he moved to Syria and from there to Cairo, where he wrote his second extensive book Muruj al-Zaman in thirty volumes. In this book he has described in detail the geography and history of the countries that he had visited. His first book was completed in 947 C.E. He also prepared a supplement, called Kitab al-Ausat, in which he has compiled historical events chronologically. In 957 C.E., the year of his death, he completed his last book Kitab al-Tanbih wa al-Ishraf, in which he has given a summary of his earlier book as well as an errata.

Masu’di is referred to as the Herodotus and Pliny of the Arabs. By presenting a critical account of historical events, he initiated a change in the art of historical writing, introducing the elements of analysis, reflection and criticism, which was later on further improved by Ibn Khaldun In particular, in al-Tanbeeh he makes a systematic study ofhistory against a perspective of geography, sociology, anthropology and ecology. Masu’di had a deep insight into the causes of rise and fall of nations.

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