‘Ilm al-malāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah,
‘The science of elegance within the science of agriculture’

‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl al-Nābulusī, born in Damascus on 5th Dhu’l Hijja 1050 (March 19th 1641), was a mystic, theologian, poet, traveller and prolific writer on a variety of subjects. From an early age ‘Abd al-Ghanī developed an interest in mysticism and joined the Qādirīyah and Naqshbandīyah sufi orders. He spent seven years in isolation in his house, studying the works of Ibn al-‘Arabī, Ibn Sab‘īn and ‘Afīf al-Dīn al-Tilimsānī. An early work, a badī‘iyya in praise of the Prophet, was of such virtuosity that his authorship was doubted, until he vindicated himself by writing a commentary on it. Al-Nābulusī soon became the leading figure in the religious and literary life of Syria in his time. He travelled extensively throughout the Islamic world, visiting Istanbul in 1664, Lebanon in 1688, Jerusalem and Hebron in 1689, Egypt and Ḥijāz in 1693, and Tripoli in 1700. He died in Damascus on 24th Sha‘bān 1143 (March 5th 1731).

Al-Nābulusī’s works (including short treatises) number from 200 to 250, most of which concern mysticism, poetry, and travel. His sufic works are mostly in the form of commentaries on the works of Ibn al‑‘Arabī, Al‑Jīlī, Ibn al-Fāriḍ and others. The Dīwān al-dawāwīn, which contains the main body of Al-Nābulusī’s poetical work, comprises, as well as the first volume on mysticism, three other volumes, all unpublished, containing eulogies of the Prophet, general eulogies and correspondence, and love-poems respectively. He had a great reputation as a poet both in his lifetime and after. Al-Nābulusī’s travel narratives do not present a conventional description of topographical or architectural detail, but are rather records of the author’s mystical experiences. However, they shed valuable light on the religious and cultural life of the age. These narratives are also important because they served as models for later travellers, such as the Damascene Muṣṭafā al-Bakrī and the Egyptian As‘ad al-Luqaymī. In addition, Al-Nābulusī wrote other works, some vast and encyclopaedic, on tafsīr, ḥadīth, kalām, fiqh, the interpretation of dreams, agriculture, and many other subjects (all information above from Khalidi, ‘Al-Nābulusī’, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd Ed.)

Al-Nābulusī’s agricultural work entitled Kitāb ‘ilm al-malāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah or Kitāb ‘alam al-milāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah (Brockelmann, 1938 and 1949, always transcribes the word as malāḥah), ‘The science of elegance (malāḥah) within the science of agriculture’, or ‘The science of navigating (milāḥah) the science of agriculture’, is, according to the author himself, a summary of the earlier, larger work on agriculture entitled Jāmi‘ farā’id al-malāḥah fī jawāmi‘ fawā’id al-filāḥah written by the Damascene author Raḍī al-Dīn al-Ghazzī al‑‘Amirī (1457/8‑1528/9). According to I. A. Maalouff (R.A.A.D., 3, 1923, p. 362), two other later authors also wrote summaries of Raḍī al-Ghazzī al‑‘Amirī’s work: Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsá ibn Kannān (1663/4-1740/1) and ‘Abd al‑Qādir al-Khalāṣī (d. 1785/6?).

Al-Nābulusī writes in his introduction:

“In the name of Allah, the most Generous, the most Merciful.”

“For Allah is well-acquainted with everything.”

“All praise be to Allah, who sent down water from the sky and gave thereby life to the earth and brought forth fruits of every kind by His omnipotence, just as He will bring forth (all) creatures on the Day of Judgment. And peace and blessings upon our liege-lord Muḥammad, who made the lawful and the unlawful clear to us, completed (it) with (his) sunnah and charged (us) with (carrying out) our religious duties, and upon all his family, his companions, his followers, his helpers and the groups supporting him, who lent Allah a goodly loan and He increased it for them many times. And what a loan that is! To proceed: The slave by the name of ‘Abd al-Ghanī, in dire need of his self-sufficient master and hoping for good acceptance by the Benefactor, - may Allah Exulted is He take his hand and provide him with His assistance - says: Since I had found the book on agriculture called “Jāmi‘ fawā’id al-malāḥah” (The comprehensive collection of useful lessons in elegance), (written) by the most erudite scholar, shaykh and imām, the most perceptive pillar and proof, Raḍī ad-Dīn Abū al-Faḍl Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Ghazzī al-‘Āmirī the Shafiite - may Allah shelter him in His mercy and His pleasure and lodge him in His spacious gardens - to be a book of outstanding scope and great benefit for anyone who occupies himself with farming lands and cultivating trees, yet (found it) to belong to those works that are best abridged by mentioning (only) those useful lessons that are necessarily worth considering and omitting things the omission of which is important, criticism and repetition(s), I rallied my ambition and condensed the majority of the important issues mentioned therein; I have contented myself with that which concerns itself with the topic at hand and have omitted all the additional material included therein by way of digression. I have called (this treatise) “‘Ilm al-malāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah” (The science of elegance within the science of agriculture). And from Allah I ask assistance and success, and that He guide me on the straightest path”.  

Published Editions & Printed Copies (Arabic)

  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, Kitāb ʻalam al-malāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah, edited by ʻĀdil Muḥammad ʻAlī al-Shaykh Ḥusayn, Amman: Dār al-Ḍiyāʼ, 2001.
The following appear to be printed copies, rather than editions, of Al Nābulusī’s work:

  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, Kitāb ʻalam al-milāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah, Beirut, 1881 or 1882. 
  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, ʻIlm al-malāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah, Damascus, 1882.
  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, Kitāb ‘alam al-milāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah, Beirut: Dār al-Āfāq al-Jadīdah, 1979.
  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, al-Milāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah. Amman: Dār al‑Bayāriq, 2001.
  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, ʻAlam al-milāḥah fī ʻilm al-filāḥah. Beirut: Dār al‑Kutub al‑ʻIlmīyah, 2004.
  • Nābulusī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā’īl, Kitāb ʻalam al-malāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah, Cairo, 2007 (?)


At least 15 manuscripts of Al-Nābulusī’s agricultural work are known, all referenced to Ṣālihīyya, R.A.A.D., 59:3 (1984), pp. 568-569, except where otherwise indicated.

  • 1) Cairo, Egyptian National Archives (Dār al-Kutub al-Watha’iq al-Qawmīyah), no. 3 زراعة تيمور   (zirā‘at Taymūr)
  • 2) Cairo, Egyptian National Archives (Dār al-Kutub al-Watha’iq al-Qawmīyah), no. 38 زراعة تيمور   (zirā‘at Taymūr)
  • 3) Cairo, Egyptian National Archives (Dār al-Kutub al-Watha’iq al-Qawmīyah), no. 101 زراعة طلعت
  • 4) Cairo, Egyptian National Archives (Dār al-Kutub al-Watha’iq al-Qawmīyah), no. 102 زراعة طلعت
  • 5) Cairo, Al-Azhar University Library, no. 8 Abaẓa [6524]
  • 6) Cairo, Al-Azhar University Library, no. 32 Abaẓa [23074]
  • 7) Cairo, Al-Azhar University Library, no 730726 Ḥusayn Pāshā
  • 8) Cairo, Al-Azhar University Library, no 57546, no. 57547
  •  9) Damascus, Ẓāhirīya National Library, no. 11218.
  • 10) Berlin, Staatsbibliothek (formely Königliche Bibliothek), Ldbg 456 [6209] (Ṣāliḥīya 1984 and Brockelmann 1949).
  • 11) London, Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, no. 530121
  • 12) Leipzig, Leipzig (University?) Library, no. 136
  • 13) Istanbul, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, Aḥmad III no. 136.   
  • 14) Tübingen, Königlichen Universitäts-Bibliothek??, no. 136. (Brockelmann, 1949, Geschichte, II, p. 366)

  • Brockelmann gives only Tüb. 136 as a reference, without qualifying “Tüb” in his list of abbreviations. The Königlichen Universitäts-Bibliothek is a probable location, since there are several catalogues of Oriental manuscripts of this library, for instance Ewald 1839 and Seybold 1907 (see bibliography).

  • 15) Another manuscript, apparently a copy of al-Nābulusī’s work, marked E 379, from an unknown library, has been digitized and is available online at                                                    

    The library card pasted on the inside front cover reads (in English): E 379. Hasan (al-Nabul[?], known as Abdul Ghani), a treatise in Arabic on agriculture, composed from the works of various ancient authors, written in good Naskh, on 109 ll, rubricated. According to the colophon, this is a copy from the original mss., and was transcribed by Abdullah…. the son of the author, in the month of Rajab, the year 1270 A.H. = A.D. 1853, in leather binding with flap. A most interesting work of its kind.


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