Khayr al-Dīn ibn Ilyās

Falāḥ al-fallāḥ, ‘The Success of the Farmer’

We know very little about Khayr al-Dīn and his agricultural treatise entitled Falāḥ al-fallāḥ. According to the Library of Congress he was born in 1675/6 and died in 1715, but Ṣāliḥīyya (1984) says that he was alive in the year 1134 of the Hijri calendar, that is, the year 1721/2 of the Gregorian calendar. In the Riyadh manuscript the author writes his own name as Khayr al-Dīn ibn Tāj al-Dīn Ilyās [or al-Yāsi] Zādah. He is known also as Khayr al-Dīn ibn Tāj al-Dīn ibn Ilyās or Ilyās-zāde and Khayr al-Dīn ibn Tāj al-Dīn Ilyās al-Madanī in the sources, which names shed some light on his origin and life. The name Ilyāszāde (given in Brockelmann’s Geschichte and in Ṣāliḥīyya, 1984) points to a Turkish origin, and indeed Brockelmann treats this author in the chapter Rumelien und Anatolien (Rumelia and Anatolia, both in today’s Turkey) of his Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, though he doesn’t specify any location in particular (Geschichte, Supplement I, p. 488 and Supl. II, p. 667). Khayr al-Dīn’s nisba al-Madanī (given by Brockelmann and Ziriklī), however, must refer to the city of Madinah, now in Saudi Arabia, and this connection is confirmed by the fact that in his manuscripts Khayr al-Dīn’s name is accompanied by the title of imām and khaṭīb of al-Masjid al-Nabawī al-Sharīf, that is, the renowned Mosque of the Prophet in Madinah. We may therefore conclude with some certainty that Khayr al-Dīn’s family was of Turkish origin and that he lived in Madinah, where he attained the highest position amongst scholars and preachers.

Khayr al-Dīn’s agricultural treatise Falāḥ al-fallāḥ or ‘The Success of the Farmer’ survives in three manuscripts ascribed to his name, although there is some uncertainty as to whether it is an original work or an abridgement or copy of an unknown treatise apparently written by his Madinan predecessor Kibrīt al-Ḥusaynī (died about AH 1070/AD 1659-60) also entitled Falāḥ al-fallāḥ (Serjeant, 1950, p. 599). However, Serjeant may be mistaken in ascribing a work with this name to Kibrīt al-Ḥusaynī, for in the Riyadh manuscript of Khayr al-Dīn the author makes clear that he wrote the book himself, giving it the title Falāḥ al-fallāḥ , ‘Farmer’s Success’, and dividing it into 15 chapters whose titles are identical to those given by Serjeant for Kibrīt’s work.  


See complete transcription here

Chapter One: Methods for discovering groundwater

Chapter Two: Digging wells

Chapter Three: Increasing the supply of water in wells

Chapter Four: Constructing irrigation canals (qanawāt) and water reservoirs (aḥwāḍ), and matters relating to machines for raising water (sawāni)

Chapter Five: Identifying fertile and infertile lands

Chapters Six and Seven: Changes in the wind and signs of rain

Chapter Eight: Seasons for crops

Chapter Nine: Protecting crops against disease

Chapter Ten: Cultivating tree crops and vegetables

Chapter Eleven: The proper times for sowing, planting and cultivating, including some astronomical matters relating to agriculture and what the farmer needs to know concerning stars and making prognostications based on arithmetical calculations   

Chapter Twelve: Repelling pests

Chapter Thirteen:  What the farmer sorely needs concerning protective supplications (ruqan) and medicines for combating toxins and poisons in general – and Allah knows best

Chapter Fourteen: Cucumbers, fruits, and removing stains from clothes

Chapter Fifteen: Farmers’ songs and chants to encourage the camels used for drawing water

Published Editions

  • Ibn Ilyās, Khayr al-Dīn ibn Tāj al-Dīn (2000). Falāḥ al-fallāḥ. Edited by Muḥammad Saʻīd ʻUbayd and Adīb ʻUmar Ḥuṣarī,Jiddah. (Arabic)


  • Berlin, Staatsbibliothek (formely Königliche Bibliothek), no. 6212 Pet 543. (Ṣāliḥīyya, 1984, p.576)
  • Leiden, Leiden University Library, no. 7102 (collection no. 2). (Ṣāliḥīyya, 1984, p.576)


Brockelmann, C. (1937). Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, Supplement Volume I. Leiden: Brill, p. 488.
Brockelmann, C. (1938). Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, Supplement Volume II. Leiden: Brill, p. 667.
Kaḥḥālah, ʻUmar Riḍā (n.d.). Muʻjam’ al-muʾallifīn: tarājim muṣannifī al-kutub al-ʻArabīyah.
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.   
Serjeant, R.B. (1950). ‘Materials for South Arabian History: Notes on New MSS from Haḍramawt (Continued)’. BSOAS 13, pp. 581-601.
Ullmann, M. (1972). Die Natur- und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam. Leyden: Brill, p. 451.
Ziriklī, Khayr al-Din (1970): al-A‘lam: Qamus tarajim li-ashhar al-rijal wa-al-nisa’ min al-‘arab wa-al-musta‘ribin wa-al-mustashriqin. Beirut.