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Ibn Wāsil

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Abū ʿAbdallāh Jamāl ad-Dīn Muhammad ibn Sālim Ibn Wāsil (Arabic.أبو عبد الله جمال الدين محمد بن سالم ابن واصل, DMG Abū ʿAbdallāh Ǧamāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Sālim Ibn Wāṣil; * 20 April 1208 in Hama, Syria; † 1 August 1298 in Hama) was an Arab politician, diplomat and historian.

Life

Ibn Wasil was the son of a respected judge in his hometown of Hama. In 1225, the family moved to Jerusalem, where his father became a teacher at the Madrasa as-Salahiya, while ibn Wasil received philological and theological training. In this, ibn Wasil was so successful that in 1228, when his father went on pilgrimage to Mecca, he was able to take over teaching duties on his behalf, which was unusual for such a young man. In 1230-1231 ibn Wasil stayed in Aleppo for purposes of study. In 1231, father and son came to al-Karak to the court of the Ayyubid ruler an-Nasir Dawud there. There, ibn Wasil gained insight into court life and entered into a closer relationship with some courtiers, especially scholars.

In 1244 ibn Wasil moved to Egypt. He had already sought the favor of the Egyptian ruler as-Salih and had been diplomatically active for him in Mosul. He made such an advantageous impression on as-Salih that in 1247 he entrusted him with the direction of the mosque of al-Aqmar and with teaching there. At the same time, ibn Wasil was one of the respected courtiers. Also under the son and successor of as-Salih, the young and inexperienced Turan Shah, ibn Wasil belonged to the ruler’s inner circle. He survived the downfall of the Ayyubid dynasty and its replacement by the Mamluks well; the new ruler Baibars I also favored him.

In 1261 he travelled as Baibars’ ambassador to southern Italy, where he spent two years at the court of King Manfred of Sicily. This familiarized him with the political conditions in Europe.

Around the mid-1960s, he returned to his native Syria. He took on a judgeship in Hama and worked as a writer. At the end of his life he went blind. He died on August 1, 1298 and was buried in Hama.

Apparently ibn Wasil remained unmarried and childless, which was unusual for a Muslim and Arab at the time. Studies and teaching were the focus of his life. His extraordinary diligence and outstanding education impressed contemporary scholars.

Works

Ibn Wasil was considered a universal scholar. He not only excelled as a historian, but was also a poet and, in addition to writings on philosophical and theological subjects, also produced philological and astronomical works, some of which have not survived. Among the lost works are four writings on logic whose titles have survived.

He owes his reputation as a historian primarily to his annalistic work “The Dispeller of Fears Concerning the History of the Ayyubids”(Mufarrig al-kurub fi ahbar bani Ayyub), a history of the Ayyubids (the dynasty of Saladin), which he continued into the Mamluk period; it covered the period up to 1261. Two additional annual reports on 1262 and 1263 were inserted by a later continuator. The Mufarrig is an important source for the Damiette Crusade and Frederick II’s sojourn in the Orient, and for conditions at the Egyptian court. It also provides valuable information on the history of culture, literature and education.

Text editions

  • Gamal ad-Din ibn Wasil: Mufarrig al-kurub fi ahbar bani Ayyub. Cairo 1953-1977 and Sayda-Beirut 2004;
    • Volumes 1-3, edited by Gamal ad-Din as-Sayyal. Maṭbaʿat ǧāmiʿat Fuād al-auwal, Cairo 1953-1960;
    • Volumes 4-5. edited by Hasanayn Muhammad Rabi. Maṭbaʿat dār al-kutub, Cairo 1972-1977;
    • Vol. 6. edited by Umar Abd as-Salam Tadmuri. al-Maktabah al-ʿAṣrīyah, Sayda-Beirut 2004, ISBN 9953-34-295-4 (erroneous, outdated).
  • Mohamed Rahim (ed.): The Chronicle of ibn Wasil. Critical edition of the last part (646/1248-659/1261) with commentary. Decline of the Ayyubids and beginning of Mamluk rule. = Mufarriǧ al-kurūb fī aḫbār Banī Ayyūb (= Arabic Studies. vol. 6). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-447-06149-0 (Accessory: Jena, University, Dissertation, 2006: Ibn-Wāṣil, Muḥammad Ibn-Sālim: Mufarriǧ al-kurūb fi aḫbār Banī Ayyūb.).

Translations

  • Francesco Gabrieli (ed.): The Crusades from an Arab Perspective. Selected and translated from Arabic sources. German by Barbara von Kaltenborn-Stachau and Lutz Richter-Bernburg. Licensed edition. Bechtermünz-Verlag, Augsburg 2000, ISBN 3-8289-0371-1.