An Anonymous Andalusi Almanac of the 13th century

Risāla fī awqāt al-sana

The anonymous Risāla fī awqāt al-sana, ‘Epistle regarding the times (seasons) of the year’, belongs in the tradition of medieval Arabic almanacs, from the late 9th century Kitāb al-anwā’ fī mawāsim al-‘arab of Ibn Qutayba al-Dīnawarī to the early 14th century Risāla fī ’l-anwā’ of Ibn al-Bannā’, which sought, essentially, to provide a calendar of astronomical changes and their effects on nature, especially the weather, which in turn regulated farming operations and other human activities. Although the author of this work is not named in the only extant manuscript, the geographical setting is clearly Andalusian, and Navarro, the editor and Spanish translator, believes that it must date from the early 13th century, sometime between the defeat of the Almohads in 1212 and the beginning of the Nasrid dynasty in 1232. Citations in the text are from the 10th century Calendar of Cordoba, the Kitāb al-anwā’ of ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn Abī’ l-Ḥusayn al-Kaṭib (d. 1029) and his Kitāb tashbīhāt min ash‘ār ahl al-Andalus, from which the Risāla borrows liberally.  A peculiarity of this almanac is its frequent allusion to political troubles and civil strife among the Berbers, perhaps referring to Almohad military turmoil in Al-Andalus at that time.

The text consists of an introduction followed by thirteen chapters. It begins with a general discussion on the influence of the stars on the weather, and the conceptions of the ‘ancient’ philosophers and scientists on the division of the year and the progression of the sun, the moon, and the zodiacal constellations. The first twelve chapters correspond to the months of the Julian year with their Syriac and Coptic equivalents (except for June, September and December which lack these). The entry for each month follows a similar pattern, combining astronomical information with predictions on the weather and other phenomena, advice on the times and methods of cultivation and matters of animal husbandry, notices on Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy days, and dietary prescriptions. Throughout the calendar there is a particular emphasis on Christian feasts and festivals.

In the spectrum of Arabic almanacs the Risāla fī awqāt al-sana tends towards the predictive and superstitious. It is also somewhat repetitive. For example, part of the entry for the month of January reads: “If it thunders during the course of the second half of the month, murders (assassinations) will be committed in the coastal areas, and people will be affected by ophthalmia. It will be a very fertile year… some livestock will die, and there will be earthquakes in the Levante”. This is followed by dietary advice and an enumeration of Christian holy days during the month. Similarly, in February: “If it thunders in the first half of the month, prices will rise and there will be violent clashes among the people; if it thunders during the second half of the month, the year will be hot and the fruits abundant; some livestock will die, and the earth will tremble”.  Then come numerous notices on religious feasts, the progression of the stars, agrarian activities, crafts and dietary matters.

The Risāla fī awqāt seems to be a particularly regional almanac, referring to agrarian activities in various agricultural localities in Al-Andalus, being especially relevant perhaps to the Andalusian peasant farmer.

Published Editions & Translations

  • Navarro, M. Ángeles (1990). ed. and trans. Risāla fī awqāt al-sana: un calendario anónimo andalusí. Granada: Escuela de Estudios Árabes.


The Risāla fī awqāt al-sana is preserved in only one manuscript to date:

  • Bibliothèque Royale, Rabat, Ms. nº 6699.


Lagardère, V. (1993). Review of M.A. Navarro, Risāla fī Awqāt al-Sana: un Calendario Anónimo Andalusí (Granada, 1990). Bulletin Critique des Annales Islamologiques 10, pp. 203-204. See Anonymous (1990b).
Navarro, M. Ángeles (1990). ed. and trans. Risāla fī awqāt al-sana: un calendario anónimo andalusí. Granada: Escuela de Estudios Árabes.