Ibn Luyūn

Urjūza fī ’l-filāḥa

Abū ‘Uthmān Sa‘d ibn Abī Ja‘far Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Luyūn al-Tujībī is mentioned in the biographical sources as an ascetic, philosopher, jurist, mathematician and amateur poet from Almería. Born in AH 681/AD 1282 he died of the plague in AH 750/AD 1349 (Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez 1998, p. 394). Among the many masters from whom he received ijāza-s or authorizations to teach, he cites two from Fez and Egypt, from which we can deduce that he travelled in North Africa and the Middle East (Ibn Luyūn 1975, p. 31). According to Al-Maqqarī, Ibn Luyūn wrote nearly one hundred works (Ibn Luyūn 1975, p. 32). He composed his Kitāb ibdā’ al-malāḥa wa-inhā’ al-rajāḥa fī uṣūl ṣināat al-filāḥa, ‘Book on the principles of beauty and the purpose of learning, concerning the fundamentals of the art of agriculture’, also known simply as Urjūza fī ’l-filāḥa, ‘Poem on agriculture’, in 1348, making it the last known Andalusī agricultural work. It is also one of the few that have come down to us more or less complete. It covers a wide range of agricultural and horticultural themes, mostly referenced to the works of Ibn Baṣṣāl and Al-Ṭighnarī, and is composed as a rhyming didactic poem of 1365 couplets in an easy rajaz metre (García Sánchez 1992, p. 992). Ibn Luyūn himself declares in the first lines of his poem that he wrote it as such to facilitate the learning of agricultural knowledge (Ibn Luyūn 1975, p. 43). To his credit Ibn Luyūn “avoids all romantic sentimentality and poetic adornment and treats his subject with unshakable objectivity”, according to Fleischer (Ibn Luyūn 1975, p. 39). In the opinion of Ruggles, however, “The verses are rather prosaic and amateurish, for Ibn Luyūn was neither a good poet nor a skilled agronomist” (Fairchild Ruggles 2000, p. 25).

Ibn Luyūn organizes his work around the principal ‘elements’ of agriculture – land, water, manures, and agricultural/horticultural skills, operations and techniques, noting regional differences in farming practice. Of particular interest, he discusses how to assess the nature of the land by its taste and smell, describes an underground water-harvesting qanāt, and recommends fertilizing the land with sheep dung, the debris from old mud-brick buildings, sludge removed from the bottom of ponds and watercourses, and various plant wastes. Concerning horticultural skills Ibn Luyūn pays particular attention to propagation – by means of softwood and hardwood cuttings, layering (including air-layering), various types of graft, pits and stones, seeds, bulbs, stolons and transplanted roots. In fact, unusually, he tends to classify crops and plants according to their means of propagation. Like other Andalusi agronomists before him, he includes instructions on the preparation and preservation of foodstuffs such as raisins and other dried fruits, vinegar, capers and mustard, pickled fish, olives, and methods to improve oil when it has spoiled (Ibn Luyūn 1975, pp. 43-49). Lastly, in perhaps the most unique part of his work, Ibn Luyūn gives advice on where to place houses, pavilions, wells and large trees within a large country garden, details which are of particular interest to the study of garden history (Fairchild Ruggles 2000, pp. 25-26):
“When building your house in your garden you should choose the dominant point from which defence and look out can best be kept. It should face south, with the door to the side, and the position of the well and washing area (or tank, ṣihrīj) should be slightly raised; or better still, instead of a well have a conduit of water running through the shade. By the washing area, plant banks of greenery, of all the varieties that delight the eye, and further away plant mixed flowers and evergreen trees. Vines will be planted to bound the estate, while in the centre arbours will shade the pathways that encircle the flowerbeds as with a border. In the middle, for the hours of rest, build a kiosk that is open on all sides; surround it with climbing roses, myrtle and all the flowers that give a garden its beauty; make it longer than it is wide, so that its contemplation does not tire the eye. At the very bottom, a building will be set aside for the guests who come to visit the master of the place; it will have its door, its washing area concealed from afar by a grove of trees. Adding a dovecote and a habitable tower will only make it more agreeable” (Lerchundi & Simonet 1881, pp. 136-37)

Published Editions & Translations

  • Ibn Luyūn, Saʻd ibn Aḥmad (1975). Tratado de agricultura. Edited with Spanish translation by J. Eguaras Ibáñez. Granada: Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife.

    “The work by Ibn Luyūn was the theme of the doctoral thesis of Joaquina Eguaras in 1944, although it was not edited and translated into Spanish until 1975. A second edition was published in 1988. This study was based on manuscript nº XIV in the Escuela de Estudios Árabes in Granada, written in 1348, one year before Ibn Luyūn’s death, which adds to its interest. It was evidently not copied by Ibn Luyūn himself as an explicit states that it was done by a contemporary copyist.

    The edition could be improved, as some of its readings are not entirely correct. It also omits the useful and abundant marginal notes of the manuscript which contribute interesting philological explanations relating to some of the terminology used in the text, as well as other biographical notes on some Andalusī agronomists. We know that these notes were not included by J. Eguaras in her edition, perhaps because they were in a rather poor state and therefore difficult to read (some of these notes were translated by Lerchundi & Simonet, 1881).

    We consider that the translation should be thoroughly revised, especially in regard to the identification of botanical species where there are some serious errors in interpretation such as the identification of ubbār as cactus or prickly pear (Ficus indica L., Opuntia ficus indica Mill), which is a species originating from America and therefore cannot have been grown in Al-Andalus. In the text of Ibn Luyūn, ubbār should be taken as a Mahgrebi dialectal term referring to the aloe (Aloe vera L.).

    We now know of four more manuscript copies, and among these we have made a detailed comparison of manuscript nº 11872 from the Royal Library of Rabat with that in the Escuela de Estudios Árabes in Granada and can confirm that the first is very similar to the second. Unfortunately this copy from Rabat does not include the marginal notes from the original. In spite of this, however, we consider a new publication of the treatise by Ibn Luyūn is essential, since although a lack of originality is attributed to it, it nevertheless has points of interest, as is shown from the fact that it was used by later authors.”
  • Victor Barraso is working on a new edition and Spanish translation of the treatise of Ibn Luyūn, scheduled to be published in 2012.
    (Sources: Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez 2001, and 2009)
  • An abridged Arabic edition was published in Casablanca in 2001:
    Ibn Luyūn, Saʻd ibn Aḥmad (2001). Ikhtiārāt min Kitāb al-Filāa. Edited by A. Tahiri. Casablanca: Maṭba‘at al-Najjāḥ al-Jadida.
  • Phoebe Luckyn-Malone, PhD candidate at Cambridge University, whose research topic is Arabic Agronomical Manuals and the Agriculture of Islamic Spain, is currently working on Ibn Luyūn and Ibn al-Raqqām and plans to produce an Arabic edition and English translation of their works.


Ibn Luyūn’s Urjūza fī ’l-filāḥa is preserved in the following manuscripts:

  • Bibliothèque Nationale, Nuakchot, nº 65 (Rebstock et al. 1988, pp. 94-95)
    It is attributed to Abū Uthmān b. Abī Ja‘far b. Laiyūn (sic) al-Tujībī.

  • Bibliothèque Générale, Rabat, nº 39 (M. al-Manūnī) (Ṣālihīyya 1984, p. 566)
  • Bibliothèque Royale, Rabat, nº 11872
    Very similar to Ms. XIV of the Escuela de Estudios Árabes in Granada, but lacking the marginal notes of the latter.
  • Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, Rabat, nº 26 (Ṣāliḥiyya 1984, p. 566)
  • Biblioteca de la Escuela de Estudios Árabes (C.S.I.C.), Granada, nº XIV (Castillo 1984pp.  230-231).
    Copied in 1348, one year before Ibn Luyūn’s death. It was not copied by the author himself - an explicit states that it was done by a contemporary copyist. [J. Eguaras Ibáñez used this manuscript as the basis for her edition and translation of Ibn Luyūn. She notes that it consists of fifty folios, making one hundred pages, of parchment-like paper, paginated with Arabic numbers in the bottom margin. The script, in black, is of a maghrebi character and headings are in larger letters. Each sheet measures 22 x 16 cm. There are some 352 marginal notes but many are difficult to read. The text is marked with some vowels, though they are very rare in the marginal notes. See Ibn Luyūn 1975, p. 35]. This manuscript has been digitized by the C.S.I.C. and can be accessed at http://aleph.csic.es/imagenes/mad01/0006_PMSC/html/001349506.html#page/1/mode/2up.
(Sources: Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez 2001, and 2009)


Carabaza Bravo, J.M. & García Sánchez, E. (1998). ‘Códices Misceláneos de Agronomía Andalusí’. Al‑Qantara 19, pp. 393-416.
Carabaza Bravo, J.M. & García Sánchez, E. (2001). ‘Estado actual y perspectivas de los estudios sobre agronomia andalusi’. In: Tawfik et al. (eds.). El Saber en al-Andalus: Textos y Estudios 3, pp. 101-118. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla.
Carabaza Bravo, J.M.  & García Sánchez, E. (2009). ‘Studies on the agronomy of Al-Andalus’. Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée [Online] 126.
Castillo, C. (1984). ‘Manuscritos arábigos que se conservan en la Escuela de Estudios Árabes de Granada’. Cuadernos de Historia del Islam 11, pp. 213-238.
Fairchild Ruggles, D. (2000). Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
García Sánchez, E. (1992). ‘Agriculture in Muslim Spain’. In: Jayyusi, S. K. (ed.). The Legacy of Muslim Spain, vol. 2, pp. 987-999. Leiden: Brill.
Ibn Luyūn, Saʻd ibn Aḥmad (1975). Tratado de agricultura. Edited with Spanish translation by J. Eguaras Ibáñez. Granada: Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife.
Ibn Luyūn, Saʻd ibn Aḥmad (2001). Ikhtiārāt min Kitāb al-Filāa. Edited by A. Tahiri. Casablanca: Maṭba‘at al-Najjāḥ al-Jadida.
Lerchundi, J. & Simonet, F.J. (1881). Crestomatia arabigo-espagnola. Grenada: Imprenta de Indalecio Ventura.
Rebstock, U. et al. (1988). Katalog der Arabischen Handschriften in Mauretanien. Beirut: Orient‑Institut der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft-Steiner.
Ṣālihīyya, M.‘I. (1984). ‘Mulāḥazāt ‘alā makhṭūṭāt al-filāḥa: al-taṭbīqīya al-maḥfūza fī ‘l-maktabāt al-‘arabīya wa’l-ajnabīya’. Majallāt Mujmaal-Lugha al-Arabīya (Revue de l'Académie Arabe de Damas) 59 (3), pp. 566‑586.