Thursday, May 29, 2014

A00074 - Yaqut ibn 'Abdullah al-Rumi al-Hamawi, Islamic Biographer and Geographer

Hamawi, Yaqut ibn 'Abdullah al-Rumi al-
Yaqut ibn 'Abdullah al-Rumi al-Hamawi (1179–1229) (Arabic: ياقوت الحموي الرومي‎) was an Islamic biographer and geographer renowned for his encyclopedic writings on the Muslim world. "al-Rumi" ("from Rum") refers to his Greek (Byzantine) descent; "al-Hamawi" is taken after Hama, Syria, and ibn-Abdullah is a reference to his father's name, Abdullah. The word yāqūt means ruby or hyacinth.

Yaqut was working as a slave to a trader, Askar ibn Abi Nasr al-Hamawi, who lived in Baghdad, Iraq.  His master taught him accounting and trading and sent him to trade on his behalf. He later freed him of his obligations and that enabled Yaqut to dedicate himself to his scholarly tasks. He was one of the last scholars who had access to the libraries east of the Caspian Sea before the Mongol invasion of Central Asia. Yaqut travelled to the peaceful scholarly city of ancient Merv in present-day Turkmenistan. There Yaqut spent two years in libraries, learning much of the knowledge he would later use in his works. Yaqut spent the last few years of his life in Aleppo and died there.

The works of al-Hamawi include the following:

  • Kitab mu'jam al-buldan (معجم البلدان "Dictionary of Countries")
  • Mu'jam al-udabā', (معجم الأدباء "Dictionary of Writers") written in 1226.
  • al-Mushtarak wadh'ā wal-Muftaraq Sa'qā (المشترک وضعا والمفترق صعقا )

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