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(2,548 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
A perennial woody plant with a main trunk. The Lisān al-ʿArab defines the term shajar as the “kind of plant that has a trunk or stem.” In the Qurʾān, the denominative shajara (nomen unitatis) is the form used most frequently (nineteen times) to designate this concept. The nominal shajar is found generally in a collective sense of trees, bushes or plants; in two instances ( q 56:52; 36:80), however, it refers to specific trees, of which more below. For mention of other trees (date palm [q.v.], olive, etc.) see agriculture and vegetation . The contexts in which the collective sense of shajar appe…


(719 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
The putrefying flesh of a carcass. The Arabic term is mayta, from the verbal root meaning “to die.” Hence the word is used ¶ in an adjectival sense as in q 36:33: “The dead earth (al-arḍ al- mayta) is a sign for them. We have brought it to life [i.e. by means of rain]…” In all other qurʾānic instances, the term refers specifically to carrion, one of the Islamic food taboos supported also in prophetic traditions (see food and drink; forbidden). E. Lane's definition of mayta includes both animals which have died a natural death (explicitly mayta, as in q 2:173; 5:3; 6:139, 145; 16:115) and those kil…


(529 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Extreme hunger, denoted in the Qurʾān by the synonymous terms, makhmaṣa and masghaba. Makhmaṣa occurs at q 5:3 (cf. Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, iv, 424-5) and q 9:120. The first instance is situated in the context of food taboos (see food and drink; forbidden) where it is stated, “Whoever is constrained by hunger ( makhmaṣa, i.e. to eat of what is forbidden) not intending to commit transgression, will find God forgiving and merciful (see forgiveness; mercy).” The second instance suggests hunger suffered for the cause of God ( fī sabīli llāhi, see path or way ). The full sense of the word in both pa…

Food and Drink

(4,765 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Nourishment, in solid and liquid form, that sustains life. This topic may be examined in contexts where the following verbal roots frequently occur in the Qurʾān: ṭ-ʿ-m, “to eat,” (fourth form “to feed, nourish”), ʾ-k-l, “to eat,” and sh-r-b, “to drink.” (See agriculture and vegetation for additional terms related to food and drink that deal with some of the major food resources available to the peoples of early Islam, and with vegetation in general.) The qurʾānic terms treated here are those that are related to food consumption. These ke…


(757 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Nutritional or financial support. In its various and numerous nominal-verbal forms, the root consonants r-z-q provide the key qurʾānic sense of “sustenance” understood more particularly as that which sustains life (q.v.) and health (see illness and health) but in places suggests, too, that which provides a livelihood (see wealth ). Another word signifying “sustenance” (aqwāt, sing. qūt) occurs once only ( q 41:10) in a description of God's creation (q.v.) of the world. The great provider or sustainer ( q 5:114; 22:58; 62:11) is, of course, God (see god and his attributes), who orders …


(959 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Sweet viscous material produced by bees out of the nectar of flowers. Honey ( ʿasal) appears only once in the Qurʾān ( q 47:15), in a description of paradise (q.v.) through which run rivers of the purest water (q.v.), milk (q.v.), wine (see intoxicants ) and honey. Additionally, in a second passage ( q 16:69, Sūrat al-Naḥl, “The Bee”), God inspired the bee to build homes in the mountains and trees and to feed on every kind of fruit, for from its belly would come a syrup of varied hues, “a cure for ¶ humankind” (see animal life; food and drink; illness and health). In the ḥadīth literature (see …


(761 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Fluid secreted from the mammary glands of female mammals for the nourishment of their young. The two verses in which the Arabic word for milk, laban, occurs are q 16:66 and 47:15. They have distinct contextual references, though they share the sense of belonging to the signs (q.v.) of God's bounty (see blessing ) toward humankind and of being a reward for ¶ believers' acknowledgment of the divine economy (see belief and unbelief; reward and punishment). The first verse refers to terrestrial existence. “In cattle (see animal life ) too you have a worthy lesson. We give you to drink …

Date Palm

(953 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Phoenix dactylifera, a widely-cultivated tree of great economic importance in the Middle ¶ East: nakhl (collective noun), nakhīl (plural), and nakhla (nomen unitatis). These forms appear in the Qurʾān a total of nineteen times. The date palm is mentioned in two general contexts. The first is as one of the signs (q.v.) of God's munificence towards his creation, occurring often with the olive and the grape, e.g. q 6:99; 16:11; 80:29. The second is in a metaphorical sense, likening God's punishment of sin (see sin, major and minor; chastisement and punishment) to the “uprooted trunks of…


(361 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Plants distinguished by their jointed stems, narrow and spear-shaped blades and fruits of a seedlike grain; also, the green herbage affording food for cattle and other grazing animals. The Qurʾān does not contain spe-¶ cific words for grass(es) as used in the modern Arabic language such as ʿushb and ḥashīsh. The word ḍighth in q 38:44, rendered in some translations as “a handful of (green or dry) grass,” can also refer to a mixture of herbs or a handful of twigs from trees or shrubs; Lane conveys a gloss of the term in the same passage as “a bundle of rushes.” Al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) understands…

Agriculture and Vegetation

(7,550 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
The production of crops and plants in general. Agriculture and vegetation figure prominently in the Qurʾān, reflecting their significance in the environment in which the text was revealed. The Arabic root f-l-ḥ carries the basic meaning of “cleaving” or ¶ “splitting.” When applied to the land, it carries the sense of “furrowing,” “tilling” or “plowing.” “Filāḥa,” therefore, is the art of plowing and cultivating and is the term used in the general sense of “agriculture” in the titles of medieval Arabic treatises on agronomy. The qurʾānic references t…


(672 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
In general terms, the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, involving the variables of heat, cold, moisture, wind and pressure, and referring both to beneficial and destructive consequences. In the Qurʾān there are a number of words covering many of these aspects, some phenomena having more than one term. In the vast majority of contexts, the agency of God is explicit (e.g. q 30:48). ¶ Rain, for example, is expressed in several ways. The most frequent is the mention of God's “sending down water from the sky” thereby giving life (q.v.) to or restoring it on earth (q.v.; see also …

Ibn Baṭṭūṭa

(2,084 words)

Author(s): Waines, David
Ibn Baṭṭūṭa Shams al-Dīn Abī ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh al-Lawātī al-Ṭanjī (703–770 or 779/1304–1368 or 1377) was the author of the most famous mediaeval travel account ( riḥla) in Arabic, entitled Tuḥfat al-nuẓẓār fī gharāʾib al-amṣār wa-ʿajāʾib al-asfār (“A gift for the curious, concerning the wonders of cities and marvels of the journeys thereto”). His name indicates Arabised Berber stock. He was born on 17 Rajab 703/25 February 1304 in Tangier and died in his native Morocco. He was a younger contemporary of the equally fa…
Date: 2019-11-11


(416 words)

Author(s): Waines, David | Krauss-Sánchez,Heidi R.
[ʾAbū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Masʿūdī] ca 280-345 ah (893-956 ad). Mesopotamia. Born in Baghdad, died in Egypt. From the two surviving works out of three dozen known titles, only a general impression of a biography is possible. His interests were eclectic, reflected in the vast number of sources which he used. These concerns could have been stimulated by early contact in Baghdad with many of the most respected scholars of his day. Al-Masʿūdī was also a resolute traveller who visited many countries between North Africa and India, including Arabia and the east coast of Africa.His maj…
Date: 2016-10-17

Ibn al-ʾAthīr

(553 words)

Author(s): Waines, David | Krauss-Sánchez,Heidi R.
[ʿIzz al-Dīn ʾAbū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm Ibn al-ʾAthīr] 555-630 ah (1160-1233 ad). Mesopotamia. ʿIzz al-Dīn was born near Mosul in northern Iraq. One of three brothers, each of whom achieved fame in a different scholarly discipline, ʿIzz al-Dīn was the noted historian among them. Their father was an official of the ruling Zangid Atabeg dynasty of Mosul which provided the family with sufficient comfort for ʿIzz al-Dīn to lead the life of a private scholar working from a country home. The f…
Date: 2016-10-17


(246 words)

Author(s): Waines, David | Krauss-Sánchez,Heidi R.
[Abū Ḥanīfa ʾAḥmad ibn Dāwūd al-Dīnawarī] d. 281/90 ah (894/902 ad). Persia. Al-Dīnawarī lived in Dinavar, at the time an important town in Jibal, ancient Media (modern Iran). Of twenty titles attributed to al-Dīnawarī, only one for certain was a historical work which has survived complete, entitled al-Akhbar al-Tiwal (The Book of Lengthy Accounts). In his own time, Al-Dīnawarī was not known as a historian, even less as an astronomer-mathematician, but rather as a botanist or philologist.The chronicle al-Akhbar al-Tiwal is a universal history, concisely written from an Ira…
Date: 2016-10-17


(986 words)

Author(s): Waines, David | Krauss-Sánchez,Heidi R.
[Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Jarir] 224-310 ah (839-923 ad). Persia, Mesopotamia. A native of Amol in Tabaristan (modern Iran), whence his name is derived. His academic interests spanned most of the Muslim sciences of his day but he is remembered chiefly for his enormous compendia of early Islamic history and an equally extensive Qurʾan commentary. He travelled from his native town to study in the major centres of learning in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, demonstrating an extraordinary resourcefulness in collecting…
Date: 2016-10-17


(371 words)

Author(s): Waines, David | Krauss-Sánchez,Heidi R.
[Ahmad bin Yaʿqūbī bin Jaʾfar] 3rd century ah (9thad). Mesopotamia. Abu al-Abbās Ahmad al-Yaʿqūbī was born in Baghdad, and died in Egypt some time after 292 ah (905 ad). Like his contemporary al-Dīnawarī, he also wrote a universal history ( Taʾrīkh), a longer text than that of al-Dīnawarī.Volume one, about a third of the total, covers the pre-Islamic period from Adam and his descendants and deals with, in addition to Middle Eastern peoples, those inhabiting regions beyond such as Indians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese. He also accurately cites …
Date: 2016-10-17