Al-Nahrāwī / Al-Zahrāwī

Kitāb al-filāḥa

A number of texts, all within miscellaneous manuscripts, are attributed by an explicit therein to a certain Abū ’l Qāsim ibn ‘Abbās al-Nahrāwī, who has been identified by Ullmann (1972, p. 399), Millás Vallicrosa (1955, p. 98, no. 3) and Garciá Gómez (1984, p. 396) with the well-known physician, surgeon and pharmacologist, Abū ’l Qāsim Khalaf ibn ‘Abbās al-Zahrāwī of Cordoba. Unfortunately, few facts are known about Al-Zahrāwī’s life. He was born, probably between 936 and 940, in Madīnat az-Zahrā’ near Cordoba into a family in the service of the government of Al-Andalus and lived most of his life in the city, where he studied, taught and practiced medicine and surgery, serving as court physician to the caliph Al-Ḥakam II and his successor Al-Manṣūr; he died between 1009 and 1013. As Albucasis, Abucasis, Abbucassa (and similar corrupted forms of his name, such as Bulchasis or Bulcaris) Abū’l Qāsim became renowned in Europe after his great medical encyclopedia, the Kitāb al-taṣrīf, was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century. For perhaps six hundred years the Kitāb al-taṣrīf was a primary source for European medical knowledge, serving as a reference for doctors and surgeons. (cf. García Sánchez, 1992, p. 988; Sezgin, Gesch. III, p. 323f.)

Although no agricultural work under the name of Al-Zahrāwī is mentioned in the Arabic sources, in light of the typical inter-relatedness of natural sciences at this time he may well have been interested in agronomy through his work on botanical pharmacology. Some have even argued that he was the initiator of the Andalusian school of agronomy, due to his having been the teacher, even if only indirectly, of later agronomist authors (García Sánchez, 1992, pp. 988, 998 n. 4; Vernet and Samsó, 1981).

The title of Al-Nahrāwī/Al-Zahrāwī’s compendium is variously given as Mukhtaār kitāb al-filāḥah (literally ‘The abridged book of agriculture’) or simply as Kitāb al-filāḥah (‘The book of agriculture’) or even shorter, Al-Filāḥah (‘Agriculture’). Not much information is available regarding the contents of this work or rather the contents of the fragments thought to be part thereof. However something at least may be recovered from critical editions of other works, where the editor may have wrongly ascribed the fragments to be the work of some other author. According to Colin, 1965, p. 902, Al-Nahrāwī’s treatise was discovered by Henri Pérès, who intended to publish it, but apparently nothing has ever emerged (unless as part of the work of another author). In the end, it seems that all texts ascribed to Al-Nahrāwī /Al-Zahrāwī, either in the manuscripts themselves or by recent scholars, are also ascribed either to Ibn Wāfid or to Ibn Ḥajjāj or to both.

Published Editions & Translations

No critical edition or translations exist.


The following manuscripts include texts and fragments ascribed to Al-Nahrāwī:

  • Bibliothèque National d’Algiers, no. 1550, folios 154v – 193v. (Fagnan, 1893, p. 426f.)
    Folios 154v – 180r are ascribed by the explicit on fol. 180r to Abū l-Qāsim ibn ‘Abbās al-Nahrāwī. This text is identical, disregarding some textual divergences, with the first part of the Jordanian edition of Ibn Ḥajjāj’s Al-Muqni‘ (see there). The identification with Al-Zahrāwī appears to be implicitly accepted by Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1131, while Carabaza & García, 1998, p. 399 and Carabaza & García Sánchez 2001, p. 103 identify the text as part of Ibn Wāfid’s Majmū fī l-filāḥah (cf. below regarding Paris ms. 5754).

    For more information on this miscellaneous manuscript see Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1130f.

    Folios 180r – 193v are identical to the second text ascribed to Al-Nahrāwī in the Paris ms. no. 5754. This text has been identified as a summary or parts thereof of Ibn al-‘Awwām’s treatise. See below.
  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, ms. no. 5754, folios 152v – 176v. The names of the work (Kitāb al-filāḥah) and the author (Abū l-Qāsim ibn ‘Abbās al-Nahrāwī) and mentioned twice, on folios 176v and 186r respectively. For more information see Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1120f.

    Folios 152v – 176v are, taking some textual variation into account, identical with the first part of the Jordanian critical edition of Ibn Ḥajjāj (see there), although Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1121 seem to agree with the identification of the author as Al-Zahrāwī, an opinion vehemently rejected by Attié, 1969, p. 261.

    Later Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez, 2001, p. 104, claim that this text is actually part of Ibn Wāfid’s Majmū fī l-filāḥah. According to Attié, 1969, p. 261 and Carabaza & García, 1998, p. 407ff., the ms. no. 10106 of the National Library of Madrid and the ms. no. 93 of the Spanish and Portuguese collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris contain medieval Castilian versions of this text, the identification of which as Spanish versions of Ibn Wāfid has persuaded Carabaza & García, 1998, pp. 409-412, to identify the corresponding text of the Arabic codices likewise as part of Ibn Wāfid’s opus; cf. also Millás Vallicrosa, 1942, pp. 92-96. (The Arabic text apparently also appears in the manuscripts used for the Fez edition of a Kitāb al-filāḥah under the name of Abū ’l-Khayr (al-Andalusī) by Sīdī al-Tuhāmī al-Nāṣirī al-Ja‘farī, and the Tunis edition of a work entitled Kitāb mukhtaṣar al-filāḥah al-ifriqīyah/ Kitāb mukhtaṣar al-filāḥah ‘alà l-kamāl wa-l-tamām, ascribed to Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn al-‘Awwām al-Andalusī and edited by Shaykh ‘Alī al-Shannūfī from the Al-Zaytūnah mosque (Attié, 1969, p. 261; Carabaza & García, 1998, pp. 409-412.

    Folios 176v – 186r, which are in this manuscript ascribed to Al-Nahrāwī/Al-Zahrāwī, have been identified as a summary or parts thereof of the agronomical treatise of Ibn al-‘Awwām (see there); cf. Attié, 1969, p. 261; also Vajda, p. 342.
  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, ms. no. 4764, folios 151r – 160r.

    Although the ms. itself seems to attribute the folios 64v – 151r to Abū ’l-Khayr, Attié Attié, 1969, p. 254 regards it as part of Al-Nahrāwī’s treatise, known from the above two mss. as well as from the ms. Paris no. 5013, which is anonymous, while the Jordanian edition of Ibn Hajjāj regards it as fragment of Al-Muqni‘ (see there). However, Carabaza & García, 1998, p. 405 and Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez, 2001, p. 104f. attribute these folios to Ibn Wāfid’s work; cf. also Vajda, 1953, p. 493, and Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1122f.
  • Bibliothèque National de France, Paris, ms. no. 5013, folios 1v-47v.

    While folios 72v-161v clearly contain Ibn Baṣṣāl’s treatise, the identity of the first part of the ms. is contested. According to Attié Attié, folios 1v-47v belong to Al-Nahrāwī/Al-Zahrāwī and the rest to Ibn Ḥajjāj; Millás Vallicrosa, Carabaza & Sánchez are of the opinion that the first part belongs to Ibn Wāfid’s opus, and the rest to Ibn Ḥajjāj. The Jordanian edition of Al-Muqni‘ regards all of these folios (1v-47v) as part of Ibn Ḥajjāj’s treatise; cf. Carabaza Bravo, García Sánchez & Llavero Ruiz, 1991, p. 1119f.; Attié, 1969, p. 256f.; Carabaza & García, 1998, p.406; Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez, 2001, p. 104; Vajda, 1953, p. 342. See more on Bibliothèque National de France ms. no. 5013.
  • Private manuscript of M. ‘Azīmān, Tetuan, folios 106v-130v.

    This ms. is described in Millás Vallicrosa, 1954, 87-96. There seems to be no reference in the text regarding any authorship. In the opinion of B. Attié (1982: 321), these folios are the work of Al-Nahrāwī but Millás Vallicrosa, 1954, as well as Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez, 2001, p.104 ascribe this portion to Ibn Wāfid. See more on this manuscript.
Thus it appears that all manuscripts ascribed to Al-Nahrāwī/Al-Zahrāwī are ascribed also to Ibn Wāfid and/or Ibn Ḥajjāj.

  • There is, however, an additional ms. in the Chester Beatty Collection, Dublin (no. 3630, folios 162-184 ?, written in naskhī script) with the title Mukhtaṣār Kitāb al-Filāhah though with an unknown author. The ms. is dated to 849/1445-6 and was copied by the scribe ‘Īsā ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsā ibn Abī ’l-Fatḥ al-Sharmīnī. I have not seen this ms. mentioned elsewhere as being ascribed to any other author.


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