Ismāʿīl b. ʿAlī b. Maḥmūd b. Muḥammad b. ʿUmar b. Shāhanshāh b. Ayyūb b. Shādī b. Marwān (Arabic: إسماعيل بن علي بن محمود بن محمد بن عمر بن شاهنشاه بن أيوب بن شادي بن مروان‎), better known as Abū al-Fidāʾ (Arabic: أبو الفداء‎, Latinized Abulfeda; November 1273 – 27 October, 1331), was a Mamluk era Kurdish geographer, historian, Ayyubid prince and local governor of Hama.

The crater Abulfeda on the Moon, is named after him.


Abu'l-Fida was born in Damascus, where his father Malik ul-Afdal, brother of Emir Al-Mansur Muhammad II of Hama, had fled from the Mongols. Abu'l-Fida was thus a grandson of Al-Muzaffar II Mahmud, who was himself the grandson of Al-Muzaffar Umar, a nephew of Saladin and grandson of Ayyub (and as such originally of Kurdish extraction).

In his boyhood he devoted himself to the study of the Qur'an and the sciences, but from his twelfth year onward, he was almost constantly engaged in military expeditions, chiefly against the crusaders.

In 1285 he was present at the assault of a stronghold of the Knights of St. John, and took part in the sieges of Tripoli, Acre and Qal'at ar-Rum. In 1298 he entered the service of the Mamluk Sultan Malik al-Nasir and after twelve years was invested by him with the governorship of Hama. In 1312 he became prince with the title Malik us-Salhn, and in 1320 received the hereditary rank of sultan with the title Malik ul-Mu'ayyad.

For over twenty years he reigned in tranquillity and splendour, devoting himself to the duties of government and to the composition of the works to which he is chiefly indebted for his fame. He was a munificent patron of men of letters, who came in large numbers to his court. He died in 1331.



Taqwim al-Buldan ("A Sketch of the Countries") is, like much of the history, founded on the works of his predecessors, including the works of Ptolemy and Muhammad al-Idrisi. A long introduction on various geographical matters is followed by twenty-eight sections dealing in tabular form with the chief towns of the world. After each name are given the longitude, latitude, climate, spelling, and then observations generally taken from earlier authors. Parts of the work were published and translated as early as 1650 in Europe. In his works Abu'l-Fida correctly mentions the latitude and longitude of the city of Quanzhou in China.

The book also contains the first known explanation of the circumnavigator's paradox. Abu'l-Fida wrote that a person who completed a westward circumnavigation of the world would count one fewer day than a stationary observer, since he was traveling in the same direction as the apparent motion of the sun in the sky. A person traveling eastward would count one more day than a stationary observer. This phenomenon was confirmed two centuries later, when the Magellan–Elcano expedition (1519–1522) completed the first circumnavigation. After sailing westward around the world from Spain, the expedition called at Cape Verde for supplies on Wednesday, 9 July 1522 (ship's time). However, the locals told them that it was actually Thursday, 10 July 1522.


His Concise History of Humanity (Arabic: المختصر في أخبار البشرTarikh al-Mukhtasar fi Akhbar al-Bashar, also An Abridgment of the History at the Human Race , or History of Abu al-Fida تاريخ أبى الفداء) was written between 1315 and 1329 as a continuation of The Complete History by Ali ibn al-Athir (c. 1231). It is in the form of annals extending from the creation of the world to the year 1329.

It is divided into two parts, one covering the history of pre-Islamic Arabia and the other the history of Islam until 1329. It was kept up to date by other Arab historians, by Ibn al-Wardi until 1348, and by Ibn al-Shihna until 1403. It was translated into Latin, French and English and was the main work of Muslim historiography used by 18th-century orientalists including Jean Gagnier (1670–1740) and Johann Jakob Reiske (1754).

See also


General sources

  • Gibb, H. A. R. (1986). "Abu'l Fidā". The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume 1: A-B. Leiden: Brill. pp. 118–119.
  • Studies on Abul-Fida' al-Ḥamawi (1273–1331 A.D.) by Farid Ibn Faghül, Carl Ehrig-Eggert, E. Neubauer. Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science (Institut für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften) at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1992.
  • Encyclopedie de l'Islam, 2nd ed. E.J. Brill, Leiden and G.P. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1960. (in French)

Further reading

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Abulfeda, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.