An ijāza for Ibn Mufliḥ

Akmal al-Dīn, a scion of the prominent Ḥanbalī Ibn Mufliḥ family, was mentioned here several times before and was probably the most visible of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s students in terms of engagement with his writings. Ibn Mufliḥ copied them, annotated and rubricated them, and also added material to some of them.

Among the evidence of their student-teacher relationship survives an ijāza Ibn Ṭūlūn penned for Ibn Mufliḥ after the latter’s discussion of some chains of transmission he had received from him (for the transcripts, see github). This document survives in the Istanbul manuscript MS Laleli 3747, fols. 192b-193a. Unfortunately, I have no further information about the other contents of this manuscript except that it did not contain any other writings by Ibn Ṭūlūn.

The two folios that I have seen carry a number of textual items. Two are directly concerned with acts of transmission. The ijāza proper documents a session on 9 Shawwāl 941 in the Umayyad Mosque and covers about one and a half pages. It is followed by a shorter ‘update’ of about three lines, which testifies to Ibn Mufliḥ’s discussion of an introductory work (muqaddima) on logic by one al-Sāghūjī about two years later (25 Rabīʿ II 943).

In addition, there are three items to be considered for the history of the document’s own transmission. On the originally empty recto of the first folio (192b) Ibn Mufliḥ added title information:

اجازة كاتبه اكمل 
من الامام محمد بن طولون 
رحمه الله نعم
تم
To its left, a different hand added a note stating the date of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s death (13[?] Jum. I 953) and the place of his grave (near the Cave of Abel on the slopes of the Qāsyūn). (I leave aside here a note in pencil that gives Ibn Ṭūlūn’s authoritative name and must be more recent). It is clear from the wording of the title that Ibn Mufliḥ added it after Ibn Ṭūlūn’s death and thus at least a decade after the transmission. Finally, below the end of the text a waqf stamp can be found testifying to the movement of the manuscript to Istanbul. I read the inscription as follows.
Library Stamp, Süleymaniyye Kütüphanesi, MS Laleli 3747, fol. 193a

هذا وقف سلطان الزمان / الغازي سلطان سليم خان / ابن السلطان مصطفى خان / غفى عنهما الرحمان / ١٢١٤

The two names mentioned here refer to Ottoman sultans of the 18th to early 19th centuries. The stipulator of this book endowment was Selīm III, known as a reformer and patron of the arts. As his father, the mentioned Muṣṭafā III, he was buried in the Laleli Mosque in Istanbul, which Muṣṭafā had constructed and where Selīm’s book endowment remained until its transfer to the Süleymaniyye Library. The date on the stamp indicates the addition to the endowment of this manuscript occurred in 1799.

The trajectory emerging from this information suggests that Ibn Mufliḥ acquired the ijāza at some point following the second iteration of transmission or, more probable, following Ibn Ṭūlūn’s death. Whether he took it with him to Istanbul or whether Selīm III bought the manuscript from Damascus cannot be ascertained without an analysis of the entire codex. The identification of the other scribe on fol. 192a might also help to pinpoint the transfer.

Back to the ijāza itself. It stands out among Ibn Ṭūlūn’s documents on transmission in that it starts out with panegyrics whose length is comparable to those of many of his writings. The Hamdallah covers three-and-a-half lines. It is separated from the following by a baʿd which leads into another seven-and-a-half lines of elaboration of Ibn Mufliḥ’s name and pedigree (as well as Ibn Ṭūlūn’s connections to members of that family).

Following this the presentation itself is lauded and finally we learn the subject of the session: the Ḥanbalī legal compendium (mukhtaṣar) of “the shaykh, the imām Abū al-Qāsim ʿUmar b. al-Ḥusayn al-Kharaqī” (d. 334 in Damascus; Onomasticon Arabicum, note ID: 12269). Until today, the importance of this work is overshadowed by that of Muwaffaq al-Dīn al-Maqdisī’s al-Mughnī ʿalā mukhtaṣar al-Kharaqī. Muwaffaq al-Dīn and his brother Abū ʿUmar, founder of the ʿUmariyya Madrasa, also have a part in the chain of transmission given by Ibn Ṭūlūn (fol. 192b).

The rest of the ijāza is concerned with the transmission through several chains (musalsal). One goes through Ḥanbalīs or, more specifically, through those residing in Ṣāliḥiyya or belonging to the Maqdisī family. Another goes through Shafiʿīs and Egyptians. And it obviously these chains which were the reason for documentation. This ijāza was one of riwāya, not teaching. Garrett Davidson describes this expansion of hadith transmission into other fields (Davidson 2014, 209):

The transmission of books through chains of transmission according to the protocols of hadith, has its roots in the idea that, like a hadith, it was only though a chain of transmission of trustworthy transmitters that the attribution of a text to an author could be reliably established. The chains of transmission it would be stated, “are the genealogies of books,” without a chain of transmission, to follow the analogy, a book was like a fatherless child cut off from sources of legitimacy.

This stands in stark contrast to the second, much shorter note following the ijāza proper. It seems to have been written much more hastily and is bare of visual aids to navigate the text—in the ijāza red ink is used to indicate new sections. Even the black ink is not as even. More importantly, this note documents only the subject, place and date of the act of transmission but omits information on its chain.

One possible reason is that this was session on a “muqaddima … fī ʿilm al-manṭaq” was in fact part of a more formal education for jurists. Therefore, its main concern was to record Ibn Mufliḥ’s successful exam on this text. The juxtaposition of both ijāzas could explain the terseness of this record, since all the necessary background information on Ibn Mufliḥ is given on fol. 192b. But the difference in what is recorded in both cases is striking.

Ijāzas or Samāʿāt?

Almost a year ago, I first wrote about Ibn Ṭūlūn’s teaching certificates (ijāzāt) and made a somewhat loose promise:

I could identify five teaching certificates (ijāza) in Ibn Ṭūlūn’s handwriting. The four I have seen are between two and five pages long and were all written between 922/1516 and 943/1536. I hope to present all of them here in the near future.

In the meantime, one more item has received an entry and in March 2018 I finally got my hands on the final one I had not seen yet (I have uploaded the file to github like the others). It is part of a Majmūʿa kept at the library of the Baladiyya of Alexandria which I have already mentioned in a recent entry (“A whole Majmūʿa copied? MS Majāmīʿ 315”).

The inclusion of this new item requires a modification to the above-quoted assessment: Are all of these really ijāzas or are samāʿāt among them? In short, yes there are and they have been misidentified in the catalogues. And I found out, go me!

More precisely, two items are samāʿāt: the one in the Alexandria manuscript (Baladiyya al-Iskandariyya, MS Alex. Fun. 183, fol. 104a) and the second one is actually the first one to have received an entry, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, MS Wetzstein I 134, fols. 30a-b. That means that out of three entries about ijāzas (this one included) only one was actually devoted to ijāzas.

But it makes sense to discuss here how ijāzas and samāʿāt differ from one another, even where such a small corpus is concerned. The length of the text seems to qualify as a criterium in the case of the item from Alexandria which is only half a page/nine lines long. However, it does not hold up in the other case from Berlin, whose 36 lines are equal to those of an ijāza Ibn Ṭūlūn granted to Akmal al-Dīn Ibn Mufliḥ in 943 (Süleymaniyye U Kütüphanesi, MS Laleli 3747, fols. 192a-193a). Yet, as I have explained in the entry on the Berlin manuscript, the text has a lot to say about the context of this act of transmission, which might account for the greater length. This has to be seen against the background that in this case Ibn Ṭūlūn received and did not transmit knowledge.

The second criterium, which is more solid, is the wording in introducing the respective item. The items from Alexandria and Berlin begin with a simple al-ḥamdu li-llāh on a separate line, whereas the other three items are introduced with bi-sm Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm wa-huwa ḥasabī, also on a separate line, followed by the Hamdallah within the text body.

The third criterium is the terminology in the beginning of the text proper. In fact, I should have noticed already a year ago that the item in MS Wetzstein I 134 begins with the word samiʿa. But it took a second instance in the Alexandria manuscript for me to notice it. It might help to restore my credentials that both texts mention the issuing of ijāzas.

The other three items, however, show a different and more active engagement with works that are mentioned in the respective texts. They either recite (qaraʿa) or discuss (ʿaruḍa) them and receive a license for these endeavours. If we connect this to Garrett Davidson’s distinction between transmission for devotional purposes and and as part of structured education (on Davidson’s work, see entries here and here), a clear functional distinction between these samāʿāt and ijāzas emerges.

This distinction is supported by the diverging venues where these reading sessions took place. The ijāzas were issued exclusively in established institutions of learning: the Umayyad Mosque and the Ottoman Salīmiyya Mosque. Compare this to the sites of the Berlin and Alexandria items: the former records a recitation “in a garden (bustān) in Qaṣr al-Labbād, an area in the vicinity of Barza and Qābūn” (see Tuluniana 3: A teaching certificate) and the latter records recitations at the sultan’s maṣṭaba near Qābūn and the Shrine of Abraham (maqām al-khalīl) close to Barza.

The last place, in particular, was integrated in the sacred landscape of Damascus and Ibn Ṭūlūn himself devoted two treatises to it: Qudrat al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām Khalīl and Manḥ al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām al-Khalīl.

One aspect that I have not yet addressed is obviously the content of transmission. In both the cases from Berlin and from Alexandria, the content appears more devotional than part of a formal education. The subject of the Berlin samāʿ is “a work elaborating on the merits of Damascus (faḍāʾil)”. The other samāʿ mentions two of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s smaller works. One is the ḥadīth treatise Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī manṭaq al-ṭayr wa-l-dawābb, which incidentally begins on the verso of the same folio (fols. 104b-105b). The second work, Sharḥ al-ṣudūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr, is likewise concerned with animals.

I was recently made aware that this text might even be a rendition of a classic tale. In any case, the contents are another clear indicator that these two documentations were concerned with transmission outside of formal education.

Tuluniana 2: Works on plants

A while back, I introduced a first cluster of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s works (on animals). A second interesting cluster consists of his works which are concerned with plants. More than the earlier one, this is connected to a third cluster, which comprises works on food and food consumption. All these clusters draw heavily on ḥadīth as a source.

The cluster on plants includes 18 works.  Most of those deal with dangers or benefits of consuming certain parts or fruits of plants. These works could be situated either in the legal literature or in the realm of (Prophetic) medicine.

The dependence on ḥadīth and akhbār could also suggest their belonging to Sufi ādāb literature. Even for those works that do not survive, the latter is indicated in their title’s thematic phrase, which is usually introduced with either “li-/fī-mā warada fī” (on what is found about) or “ʿan-/fī-mā qīla fī” (on what is said about). The text of such a title is rarely more than a list of statements by earlier authorities (transmitted directly or in writing) on the subject.

Moreover, this nature of the works reiterates my earlier understanding of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s minor works as “seminar papers”:

One possible explanation would be that the writing of such works was indeed part of the education process. An aspiring scholar had to prove his knowledge of the tradition in thematic exams. On the other hand, those works could also attest – to a certain extent – to an entertainment value, and thus everyday relevance, of the science of ḥadīth.

This does not mean that Ibn Ṭūlūn penned these works at an early stage of his career. On the contrary, I would say that in their simplicity they betray his intimate knowledge with the scholarly literature of his times.

Therefore, I would argue that he wrote these works for the benefit of his own students. These seem to have been works to be studied early on since they made it easier to arrange the different source items around one subject (a different approach from that described recently by Maxim Romanov for his own classroom use of ḥadīth).

Perhaps this would also explain why animals, plants, or food were used—they were part of everyday life and therefore also an object of legal/moral questions. In any case, the format of the works does preclude their use (or value) as political (e.g. polemical) texts. Their repetitiveness bespeaks their use in educational and devotional settings.

Within the cluster on plants, two general groups can be distinguished. One is concerned with plants, including flowers, and the other with their fruit or produce. The latter is by far the larger group. The first group includes works:

  • Ibtisām al-thughūr ʿammā qīla fī nafʿ al-zuhūr (on the benefits of flowers/blossoms)
  • Tasliyyat al-ḥazīn fīmā qīla fī al-yāsmīn (collection of akhbār/ḥadīth on Jasmin)
  • ʿArf al-nadd fīmā qīla fī al-ward (collection on the rose)
  • Ḥadīqat al-azhār fī faḍl ghars al-ashjār (on the merits of planting trees)
  • Ṭard al-aḥzān fīmā qīla fī al-bān (collection on the moringe)
  • Ẓarāʾif al-naḥla li-mā warada fī al-nakhla (collection on the palm tree)

The second group also includes a number of “mā qīlā“- and “mā warada“-collections:

  • al-Iʿlān li-mā warada fī faḍl al-rummān (on merits of pomegranate)
  • al-Qawl al-murtajal fīmā warada fī al-safarjal (on quinces)
  • Haḍm al-ṭabīkh bi-mā warada fī al-baṭīkh (on melons)
  • Hidāyat al-nujabā ilā mā warada fī al-hindibā (on wild chicoree)
  • Tanwīr al-ghalas fīmā warada fī al-ʿadas (on lentils)
  • ʿArf al-bān fīmā warada fī al-bādhinjān (on aubergines)
  • Jalab al-inshirāḥ bi-faḍl al-tuffāḥ (on the merits of apples)
  • Juzʾ imtithāl li-amr bi-akhbār al-tamr (akhbār on dates)
  • Ṣaḥn al-ṣīn fī faḍl al-tīn (on the merits of figs)

There is, however, also one item which was organized in a different way. The first, Talkhīṣ buhgyat al-ṭalab wa-nihāyat al-arab fī al-munāẓara bayn al-tīn wa-l-ʿanab, seems to be a comparison of the properties of the fig and the grape. The title’s guiding phrase alludes to two works on which this comparison might have been based: Ibn al-ʿAdīm’s (d. 1262) Bughyat al-ṭalab fī tārīkh Ḥalab (Everything desirable about the History of Aleppo) and the encyclopedia Nihāyat al-arab fī funūn al-adab (translated both as “The Aim of the Intelligent in the Art of Letters” and as “The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition“) by the Egyptian scholar al-Nuwayrī (d. 1333). The term talkhīṣ indicates that Ibn Ṭūlūn simplified their discussion. Alas, the work has not survived, and therefore the hypothesis cannot be tested.

It should be noted here that, in contrast to Ibn Ṭūlūn’s works on animals, much more of his cluster on plants has indeed survived. All of these manuscripts are today to be found in Egypt, either in Alexandria or the Dār al-Kutub in Cairo (see Conermann 2004).  The work on melons has survived even in two autographs in Cairo.

The one Ibn Ṭūlūn autograph multiple-text manuscript held in Alexandria betrays the close connection between the three clusters mentioned above. Among others (in total 14 titles), it contains Ibn Ṭūlūn’s works on the palm tree and on the benefits of flowers/blossoms, as well as four works on animals (Conermann 2004, 124). In addition, this manuscript begins with a teaching license (ijāza), indicating that these texts were not only taught and transmitted but together.

 

A gunsmith in 15th-century Cairo

The Mamluks’ affinity to firearms, both handheld (muskets, rifles) and mounted (cannons) has been long debated in the field. Personally, I find Robert Irwin’s (2004) interpretation much more convincing than other studies, which presume a stubbornness on the Mamluks’ part against adopting this new kind of weapon.

As Irwin can indeed show, the Mamluks did see the potential of firearms of all sizes early on, as one would expect of professional soldiers. Yet, they also saw that they did not really suit their own established fighting style. 15th-century muskets were just not made to be used on horseback. Thus, the Mamluks would conscript other soldiers to carry them into battle or to man their cannons. One famous case are the ʿabīd, a regiment of African slaves raised by sultan Qānṣūh al-Ghawrī, but in the earlier campaigns on the Northern front, conscripts from among the rural and urban population of Syria seems to have played a more decisive role. They apparently kept these weapons – more often than not – after one war and would use them also against the Mamluks in internal strifes (Toru 2006).

Ibn Tulun showed himself astonished, in his chronicle, by the Ottoman display of firearms, in particular the wagons on or between which cannons were mounted (Wollina 2016). In his entries on the rebellious governor Jānbirdī al-Ghazālī’s siege of Aleppo in 926 AH, he even shows some advanced knowledge of different calibers of cannons and their ability to knock down gates or walls (Ibn Tulun: Iʿlām, 249). His interest in the technological aspects of firearms seems to go beyond their simple effect on event-based political history.

Still, it is somewhat surprising that Ibn Tulun brings up the same issue in his biographical dictionary al-Ghuraf al-ʿāliyya fī tarājim al-mutaʾakhkhirī al-ḥanafiyya. Perhaps, however, this may serve to demonstrate the fascination these weapons – the cannons in particular – held for him. The biography in question is on one Ibrāhīm b. Aḥmad al-Ḥalabī al-Ḥanafī, who later moved to Egypt and gained as well the nisba al-Miṣrī. There, he built a makḥala for sultan Khushqadam (reg. 1461-1467) “which could propel a missile of one Damascene qinṭar, i.e. four Egyptian qinṭār, over more than two postal mīl”. Yet, the sultan deemed his price to high; so he went bankrupt. His contraption finally only served the chief judge al-Dayrī to shoot sparrows.

The following is a transcript of the full biography. While it is based on the Istanbul MS of the text (MS Şehid Ali Paşa 1924, f. 14b), which is a copy, I have compared it as well to its counterpart in the partial Dār al-Kutub MS (MS Taymūr Tārīkh 631, p. 21). The one difference I found is in the spelling of the name of “al-Ḥajar”. I must admit that neither interpretation I have given here fully convinces me, based on the script. I presume that the copyist was facing similar problems and did his best to transcribe the signs from the original.

ابراهيم بن احمد الحلبي ثم المصري الحنفي كان عنده فضيلة و لازم الحجر بن الحفم/الشحنة(؟) وهو الذي عمل المكحلة للسلطان خشقدم التي ترمي بقنطار دمشقي وهو اربع قناطر بالمصري الي بعد نحو ميلين سدس بريد ورمي عليها لكن لم ينصفه السلطان فانه قيل انه انفق عليها نحو اربعماية دينار فاعطاه السلطان نصفها وهذا البعد العظيم يستفاد من طول عنق المحكلة و كان قاضي القضاة السعد بن الديري اخذ ذلك من الزبرطانة وهي عصا طويلة جدا مجوفة يوضع فيها بندقة وتنفخ فيبعد مداها ويصاد بها العصافير ونحوها من الطير وتوفي في المحرم سنة سبعين وثمانماية ودفن بالقرافة.

________________________
Bibliography:

  • Ibn Ṭūlūn, Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn ʿAlī. Iʿlām al-warā bi-man waliya nāʾiban min al-Atrāk bi-Dimashq Aal-Shām al-kubrā. Edited by Muḥammad Aḥmad Duhmān. Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1984.
  • Irwin, Robert. “Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Sultanate Reconsidered.” In The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian Politics and Society. Edited by Michael Winter and Amalia Levanoni. The Medieval Mediterranean. Leiden; Boston, MA: Brill, 2004, 117-139.
  • Toru, Miura. “Urban Society in Damascus As the Mamluk Era Was Ending.” Mamluk Studies Review 10, no. 1 (2006): 157-193.
  • Wollina, Torsten. “Sultan Selīm in Damascus: The Ottoman Appropriation of a Mamluk Metropolis (922-924/1516-1518).” In The Mamluk-Ottoman Transition: Continuity and Change in Egypt and Bilād Al-Shām in the Sixteenth Century. Edited by Stephan Conermann and Gül Şen. Göttingen: Bonn University Press 2016, 199-224.

Tuluniana 1: Animals

Muḥammad Ibn Ṭūlūn (d. 1546), one of the protagonists of this blog, was quite a prolific writer, according to the work list he provided himself in his autobiography al-Fulk al-mashḥūn fī aḥwāl Muḥammad Ibn Ṭūlūn. Judging by the given titles, his complete oeuvre encompasses well above 700 works. Many of those remain only in manuscript–or are regarded as lost.

In the future, I will address groups of these works in thematic clusters. Some of them are based on my own distinctions; for instance the role of women in ḥadīth transmission is not always elaborated upon in separate works (although some biographical dictionaries have their separate chapter / bāb al-nisāʾ); the grouping rather follows categories important to current scholarship.

Another aspect is the distinctions made by the author himself in the titles of his work. As in the case of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s works on animals, not many of the works themselves have survived. We know of them through his own book list or those provided in biographies of him, or from cross references in other of his works. Thus, their inclusion in a certain group rests on the presumption that the title actually reflects the topic they deal with. While this is an uncertain method, I would argue that it is one that might have been applied in contemporary libraries and book lists, as well.

I have not always distinguished clearly between both criteria. This blurriness rests on the divergent access to works. Where access to their texts is possible, I have included works that treat a certain topic, even if the title does not give it away. In my opinion, this improves the lists’ value to researchers interested in a topic, especially where extensive use of manuscripts is necessary.

Two recurring themes struck me in particular: animals and plants (also in the context of food, which will both be topics of future posts). Of course, the literary treatment of both topics is well attested in Arabic literature since Abbasid times (in particular, al-Dīnawarī comes to mind). Ibn Ṭūlūn seems to have addressed both topics mostly on the basis of Prophetic traditions and later reports (akhbār).

The recent environmental turn in history and the rise of new subjects such as human-animal relations have recently directed our attention to the non-human actors in history. In Islamic Studies, Sara Tlili’s 2009 dissertation “From an ant’s perspective: The status and nature of animals in the Qur’an” and Alan Mikhail’s monograph “Nature and empire in Ottoman Egypt: an environmental history” (2011) have taken up these tendencies from different perspectives. They could also build on a framework – ‘endemic’ to the field –, one that has been established by seminal studies of Herbert Eisenstein and others.

Among Ibn Ṭūlūn’s corpus, 18 works indicate their treatment of animals in their title. Some of them are dedicated to one animal, others to the comparison of two or several animals; yet others deal with the treatment of animals. However, as far as I can see, nothing has survived of these works except their titles. Animals are also discussed in some other works. I have excluded his chronicle Mufākahat al-khillān and other historical works where animals appear simply to serve a narrative that is essentially about human actors, from this list.

There are four works on different birds:

  • Sharḥ al-ṣudūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr (how to trap animals with snares?)
  • Irshād al-barara ilā mā warada fī al-ṭayra (on female birds?)
  • Ghāyat al-iḥtirām fīmā warada fī al-ḥammām (collection of akhbār on doves)
  • Rafʿ al-Lithām ʿan aḥkām al-ḥammām (opinions on the dove?)
  • al-Tazmīk li-akhbār al-dīk (collection of akhbār on the rooster)

On quadrupeds, including mounts and pack animals, he wrote another three works:

  • Ifādat al-ṣawāb fī ḍarb al-dawāb (on the proper occasions when to beat a pack animal?)
  • Ṭahārat al-dhayl fīmā warada fī al-khayl (collection of akhbār on the horse)
  • Al-ightinām li-raʿy al-aghnām (opinions on the sheep)

Two works are concerned with the distinction of categories of animals; one distinguishes between birds and quadrupeds (literally pack animals), another between birds, wild beasts and domestic animals:

  • Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī manṭaq al-ṭayr wa-l-dawāb (the distinction between birds and pack animals)
  • Al-nujūm al-zāhirāt fī al-riwāya ʿan al-wuḥūsh wa-l-ṭuyūr wa-l-bahāʾim wa-l-ḥasharāt wa-l-sawākin wa-l-jamādāt (collection of ḥadīth on wild beasts, birds, domestic animals)

Other quadruped animals were, at the time, treated separately. Among those which received their own treatises, dogs and mice were treated as a nuisance or even vermin, whereas cats certainly stood apart:

  • Ikhbār al-aṣḥāb bi-akhbār al-kilāb (collection of akhbār on dogs)
  • Iʿlām al-jār bi-mā warada fī al-fār (collection of akhbār on mice)
  • Aẓhār al-sirr fī faḍl al-hirr (on the graciousness / superiority / beneficial qualities of the cat)

The remaining four works concern animals that today are regarded insects. Apart from the bee, the ones discussed would fall under the category of ‘vermin’, as well:

  • Al-Nakhla li-mā warada fī al-naḥla (collection of akhbār on the bee)
  • Ṭarāʾif al-nakhla fī laṭāʾif al-naḥla (collection of witty anecdotes / pleasant stories on the bee)
  • Ṭard al-taghthīth fī aḥwāl al-barāghīth (on the flee)
  • Iṣlāḥ al-fasād fīmā warada fī al-jarād (collection of akhbār on locusts)

I could identify one other work – which has survived – that treats several animals in the context of “the beauties of the world”. The treatise Laṭāʼif al-minnah fī muntazahāt al-jannah is part of MS Garrett 1011H (Princeton, Firestone Library) and collects akhbār on a number of animals, including several birds (nightingale, raven, blackbird, sparrow), the gazelle, as well as dogs and wild cats. Throughout the respective chapter, the treatment of the animals is indicated by remarks in the margins (their names are given). Yet, between the long isnāds, this work has preciously little to say about the animals themselves. It is concerned more with displaying the author’s extensive knowledge on akhbār and ḥadīth in general.

So how should we understand these works on animals? They were certainly no comprehensive attempt at zoography or zoology. Judging from their titles, they were completely immersed within the study of Prophetic traditions. I have no final answer. One possible explanation would be that the writing of such works was indeed part of the education process. An aspiring scholar had to prove his knowledge of the tradition in thematic exams. On the other hand, those works could also attest – to a certain extent – to an entertainment value, and thus everyday relevance, of the science of ḥadīth. While this interpretation can never be completely be distinguished from the serious academic side of the discipline (and its larger implications about the world). This certainly differed from animal to animal, but certainly not every subject could claim a legal or religious relevance?