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I B N A L - K H AT· ¯I B
Alexander Knysh

The great Andalusi polymath and statesman Abu¯ Abd Alla¯h Muh·ammad ibn 
Abd Alla¯h ibn Saı¯d al-Salama¯nı¯, better known as Lisa¯n al-Dı¯n ibn alKhat·¯ıb, was a bright star in the pleiad of great minds of his age, which consisted of such luminaries as Abd al-Rah·ma¯n and Yah·ya¯ ibn Khaldu¯n, Ibn
Marzu¯q, Ibn Bat·t·u¯ta, and Ibn Zamrak.1 He was born in 713/1313 in the town
of Loja of a family of Arab notables, whose members had traditionally been
employed in the religious and civil service of Andalusi rulers (al-Maqqarı¯
5:50). When Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb was only several weeks old, his father was invited
to take a high post at the court of the new emir of Granada, Isma¯ı¯l I (r.
713/1314–725/1325), and the family moved to the capital. In Granada, Ibn alKhat·¯ıb received an excellent education under the guidance of the best scholars of the epoch, whose biographies he gratefully included in his works
(al-Maqqarı¯ 5:189–251, 350–603). He studied a broad variety of subjects:
Arabic language and grammar, sharia and exegesis, adab and poetry, medicine
and falsafa, history, and Sufism. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s breadth of background is mirrored in a dazzling multiplicity of the topics treated in his writings. His vast
knowledge, noble pedigree, and the high post of his father, combined with his
unique literary talent and extraordinary memory, destined him for a splendid
career at the Granadine court.
In 741/1340, Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb suffered a severe personal crisis, when his father
and elder brother were killed in the battle of T·arı¯f (Salado). Fortunately,
despite Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s young age, his former teacher Ibn al-Jayya¯b, vizier of
the emir Yu¯suf I (r. 733/1333–755/1354), decided to appoint Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb his
personal secretary. Upon Ibn al-Jayya¯b’s untimely death of plague in
749/1349, Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb became head of the royal chancery with the title of
vizier.2 He was put in charge of the emir’s diplomatic correspondence and was
occasionally sent as ambassador to Andalusi and Maghribi rulers. In addition,
he was responsible for formulating and editing royal decrees and edicts,
which he later collected in the book Rayh·a¯nat al-kutta¯b wa-nujat al-munta¯b
(Sweet Basil of the Secretaries and the Provision of the Seekers) and which,

Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2012

and political affairs of the Granadine court and state as a whole (Ih·a¯·ta 1:22. as doyen of the deposed regime. Ih·a¯·ta 1:25–27. immersed in writing and pious meditation yet not neglectful of his mundane interests. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb finally settled in a quiet town of Salé. After a brief stay in Fez. in the long run. In Fez they were welcomed by Abu¯ Sa¯lim and his retinue. 2:17–18). which featured such consequential figures of Western Islamdom as Ibn Marzu¯q and Abd al-Rah·ma¯n ibn Khaldu¯n (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. With a generous monthly stipend of five hundred silver dinars awarded to him by Abu¯ Sa¯lim he lived a life of ease. At the same Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press.3 While in Salé. his former disciple and confidant. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb frequented local Sufi lodges and cemeteries and was favorably received by Salé’s most popular walı¯. “Ibn A¯ shir. which in his own words gave him full authority over the financial. “la¯m”). Moreover. landed in prison with his property confiscated by the new ruler. the reclusive Ibn A¯ shir (al-Na¯s·irı¯ 30–32. When in 760/1359 Muh·ammad V was deposed by his half brother Isma¯ı¯l and a group of disloyal courtiers and narrowly escaped with his life. military. pledged to support the Granadine emir in his struggle against the Reconquista (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. His calm was shattered by the sudden death of his wife. ¯i b 359 along with his diplomatic epistles. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb asked the emir’s permission to tour his vast realm.” EI 2 ). However. He further distinguished himself by successfully accomplishing an important diplomatic mission to the Marinid ruler Abu¯ Ina¯n. it appears that Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb was instrumental in ensuring the young emir’s ascent to the throne and soon became his right-hand man (Bencheneb 76). Ibn alKhat·¯ıb. impressed by Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s spirited panegyric. He spent almost two years there. From then on. His colorful impressions of this trip are described in a travelogue (rih·la) titled Nufa¯d·at al-jira¯b fı¯ ula¯lat al-ightira¯b (The Shaking of the Bag: On the Diversion of the One Who Travels Abroad) – a mine of illuminating information on the political and cultural life of the Marinid Far Maghrib with an informative excursus into its recent history (alTit·wa¯nı¯ 114–40). Arié 108–9). which he had visited on an earlier diplomatic trip to Morocco. he was soon released thanks to the interference of the Marinid sultan Abu¯ Sa¯lim and joined his fugitive sovereign in his Maghribi exile. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb retained all these posts and titles under the new emir Muh·ammad V al-Ghanı¯ bi-lla¯h (from 755/1354 to 760/1359). To these functions he later added those of master of the royal household. Tarı¯kh al-maghrib p. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb’s residence in Salé was a rare occasion for nurturing his personal predilection for Sufi spirituality. were praised by the historian al-Maqqarı¯ as the pinnacle of literary perfection (5:404–46). 2012 . whom he bemoaned in moving elegies.ibn al-khat. union with the powerful Marinid state (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb invariably steered Granada’s foreign policy toward a closer cooperation and. Ih·a¯·ta 1:23–24). administrative. who.

the Marinid prince Ibn Yaflu¯sı¯n and the exvizier Masu¯d ibn Masa¯y.” EI 2 ). began to resent the vizier’s overbearing control over the affairs of the state as well as his single-minded loyalty to the Marinids. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s seclusion ended in 763/1362. his luxurious lifestyle drew the criticism of a local notary whom Ibn alKhat·¯ıb rebuffed in a lengthy treatise against the men of this legal profession (Turki). In a similar vein. whom he viewed as a rival. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb returned to Granada to assume his former post at the head of the civil and military authority (dhu¯ l-wiza¯ratayn) of the Granadine kingdom. although this time he was driven by the desire to please the Marinid sultans of Fez (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. Tarı¯kh al-maghrib pp. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb launched a series of intrigues aimed at besmirching the reputation of this general in the eyes of the ruler. “la¯m” and “mı¯m”. he ran afoul of the able commander of the Maghribi volunteer troops stationed in Granada. his position at the Granadine court began to erode due to the intrigues and hostile rumors instigated by his disciples and aides Ibn Zamrak and Ibn Farku¯n. In a drive to secure his undivided influence on the emir. who had successfully accomplished a delicate diplomatic mission to the court of Peter the Cruel of Seville. alienated his friends and disciples. Ih·a¯·ta 1:30. 2012 . in the emir’s mind. In the meantime. Apprehensive of the emir’s growing displeasure. moreover. who joined hands with his powerful enemy. when Muh·ammad V regained his throne with the help of the Marinid sultan. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb entered into secret negotiations with the Marinid sultan Abd al-Azı¯z. His intense scheming aroused the hatred of the emir’s courtiers sympathetic with the banished Maghribi émigrés and. the grand qadi of Granada. the emir. Alı¯ al-Nuba¯hı¯. More important. The former two secretly craved their teacher’s position. His efforts led to the expulsion of Yah·ya¯ ibn Alı¯ and his supporters. Thus. Soon after his return to the capital. whereas the latter was offended by Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s mystical ideas expounded in the Rawd·at al-tarı¯f as well as his leniency toward those whom the qadi condemned as “heretics” (al-Maqqarı¯ 5:118–22). In an effort to maintain his undivided control over the state politics and the military. leaving Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb the sole senior executive of the Granadine state (Arié 205). already in his forties. Having secured the sultan’s support. when Muh·ammad V showed favor to the Maghribi vizier Abd al-Rah·ma¯n ibn Khaldu¯n. who resided in Tlemcen. he disposed of the ambitious Maghribi émigrés.360 alexander knysh time. “Ibn Khaldu¯n. was detrimental to Granada’s own interests (Bencheneb 77). which. Yah·ya¯ ibn Alı¯. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb left the capital Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s envy sent his old friend packing to the Maghrib in 766/1365 (Arié 441. Arié 440). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb did not hesitate to trample even his most loyal friends.

Muh·ammad V demanded that the sultan Abd al-Azı¯z either extradite or execute his heretical protégé. where they received another letter from the Nasrid emir demanding the extradition of the fugitive vizier. whom the Granadine emir had deliberately cultivated at his court. and propagated the incarnationist doctrine (h· ulu¯l ) of the monistic Sufis. espoused the “atheistic” teachings of the fala¯sifa. ¯i b 361 in 773/1371 with his youngest son. Although the Marinid ruler died soon afterward. al-Nuba¯hı¯ issued a fatwa that called for the destruction of the vizier’s works and the confiscation of his property. The latter also declared him a heretic who had belittled the reputation of the Prophet. grossly ignorant of the nuances of the Islamic tradition. and detraction from the reputation of living and deceased scholars. he headed for Gibraltar. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb wrote a refutation of his detractor titled Khal al-rasan fı¯ l-tarı¯f bi-ah·wa¯l abu¯ l-h·asan (Giving Free Rein to the Exposition of the Condition of Abu¯ l-H·asan). The new ruler and his retinue moved to Fez. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s sudden departure infuriated his enemies. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb continued to enjoy the patronage of vizier Abu¯ Bakr ibn Gha¯zı¯. in which he ridiculed alNuba¯hı¯ as an impish. 2012 . or disregard for. The books were put to torch in Granada’s market square. which apart from heresy and desertion accused Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb of venality. The ad hominem nature of this letter. At al-Nuba¯hı¯’s instigation. Ibn Gha¯zı¯’s blunt refusal to grant his request infuriated Muh·ammad V and may have contributed to his decision to support the opponents of Ibn Gha¯zı¯ and his young ward. who hastened to accuse him of treason. suggests that al-Nuba¯hı¯ had a personal grudge against the disgraced vizier. The qadi then sent Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb a letter exposing the vizier’s alleged “abominations” and excommunicating him from the community of the faithful. Alı¯. who became regent on behalf of Abd al-Azı¯z’s minor son. Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. from where he set sail for the Maghribi coast (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. apelike dwarf. With his military and political support the rebels soon gained the upper hand in the dynastic struggle that ensued and proclaimed Abu¯ l-Abba¯s Ah·mad alMarı¯nı¯ the new sultan. especially Ibn Zamrak and al-Nuba¯hı¯. Ih·a¯·ta 1:33–36). Unconvinced by alNuba¯hı¯’s accusations. Instead. His ungenerous treatment of the qadi contrasts sharply with Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s earlier portrayal of al-Nuba¯hı¯ as the greatest scholar of the epoch (Katı¯ba 146–53. on the pretext of inspecting fortresses in the western part of the Granadine kingdom.ibn al-khat. the Marinid sultan declined the request as motivated by personal hatred. Shortly after Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s escape to the Maghrib. legal rulings and criminal verdicts meted out by al-Nuba¯hı¯. Stung by these accusations. Ih·a¯·ta 1:40–41). unscrupulousness. This impression is corroborated by his reference to the instances of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s unsolicited interference with.

whereupon his charred remains were finally laid to rest. Although some ulama pronounced Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb guilty of heresy. But. whom Ibn alKhat·¯ıb had denied a lucrative post in the Granadine military a few years earlier (al-Maqqarı¯ 5:110–11). his body was buried at Ba¯b al-Mah·ru¯q in Fez. Unsatisfied. his vengeful enemies exhumed his body and threw it on a bonfire. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb was sent back to prison. where he was strangled in the night by thugs sent by the vizier Sulayma¯n ibn Da¯u¯d. who remained his friend and admirer despite the brief alienation that occurred between them at Granada. the new sultan ordered a public hearing of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s case. who acted in collusion with Ibn Zamrak’s Andalusi delegation. Ibn Khaldu¯n quotes the poignant verses that the imprisoned vizier reportedly composed on the eve of his assassination: We travel far away. but lo. Undaunted by the intimidation and torture. a modest mausoleum was erected over his grave under the orders of the Moroccan king Muh·ammad V (al-Na¯s·irı¯ 80. which was conducted by a council of scholars loyal to him as well as the members of the Granadine delegation. 2012 . lo. we have turned into a stack of dry bones4 We used to feed others. the vote was far from unanimous and no conclusive decision was reached by the council.362 alexander knysh With Ibn Gha¯zı¯ no longer by his side. They threw the disgraced vizier into prison until the arrival of a delegation from Granada headed by Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s discipleturned-enemy Ibn Zamrak. His plight was aggravated by the fact that the person in charge of the trial was his old enemy Sulayma¯n ibn Da¯u¯d. 141). who had served as vizier since the former’s escape to the Maghrib. A detailed account of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s last ordeal was left by Abd alRah·ma¯n ibn Khaldu¯n. we remain speechless Our breath suddenly stopped As if a loud prayer was followed by a silent recitation Of noble ancestry we were. The next morning (the end of 776/May–June 1375). Upon the delegation’s arrival in Fez. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb was left face to face with the victors who owed their triumph to the Granadine emir and were eager to repay their debt. now we ourselves are food [for worms] We were like shining suns that travel high in the sky above. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb protested his innocence and flatly denied the accusations of heresy and unbelief leveled at him by Ibn Zamrak. alas. the suns have set and been lamented by the [orphaned] stars Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. albeit the dwellings are near Although we have a message to deliver. but. Soon after Morocco wrested its independence from France (1956). At the close of his narrative.

Kita¯b ama¯l alala¯m fı¯ man bu¯yia qabl al-ih·tila¯m (Deeds of the Great: On Those Who Came to the Throne before Reaching Maturity). 2012 . cf. From the outset. al-Ih·a¯·ta fı¯ akhba¯r gharnat·a (Comprehensive Book on the History of Granada). which are indeed a real mine of variegated information on the kingdom of Granada and its Andalusi predecessors. and the Maghrib respectively. 1041/1632). grammar. finally. in addition to dynastic history. veterinary medicine. In a vast corpus of an estimated sixty works he treated such diverse subjects as history. Dı¯wa¯n 1:185.6 Of these writings. His literary heritage was popularized by the great champion of Andalusi culture al-Maqqarı¯ (d. a political history of the Nasrids of Granada (634/1237–897/1492) up to 765/1364 arranged according to the dynastic principle. European scholars tended to focus on his historical writings. Sufism. Arié 179–80). poetics. provides detailed biographies of the celebrities connected with Granada from the earliest days of the Muslim conquest up to Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s own time. and. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb was introduced to the European reader. music. politics. but is there anyone who will not be gone one day?” And tell those of you who rejoice at this news: “Only he who thinks he will never die can rejoice on a day like this!” (Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. which Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb started in Tlemcen between 774/1372 and 776/1374 and completed shortly before his death (Dunlop. agriculture. theology.5 who dedicated the second part of his monumental historical and literary encyclopedia Nafh· al·t¯ıb min ghus·n al-andalus al-rat·¯ıb wa-dhikr wazı¯riha¯ lisa¯n al-dı¯n ibn al-khat·¯ıb (Breath of Perfume from the Tender Branch of al-Andalus and an Account of its Vizier Lisa¯n al-Dı¯n ibn al-Khat·¯ıb) to the Granadine vizier (1:15). al-Andalus.7 Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb made Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. the art of government. ¯i b 363 Many a warrior armed with the sword was felled by a rain of sharp-pointed arrows Many a lucky one was suddenly failed by his good fortune Many a young nobleman. tell the enemies: “Yes. biography. and falconry (al-Maqqarı¯ 7:97–102). Arab Civilization 146. With the first European edition of al-Maqqarı¯’s work in 1855. fiqh. which. was put in his grave wrapped in rags So. In these and other works. three have received the lion’s share of scholars’ attention: alLamh·a al-badriyya fı¯ l-dawla al-nas·riyya (Flash of Moonlight: On the History of Granada). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb is gone.ibn al-khat. al-Maqqarı¯ 5:111–12) ibn al-khat· ¯i b’s legacy Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s work provides ample evidence of his unusual versatility and places him squarely among Islam’s greatest polymaths. who used to don the royal mantle. a general Muslim history in three parts dealing with the central lands of Islam. geography. medicine.

Ibn Sahl. the best samples of which he collected in a special anthology titled Jaysh al-tawshı¯h· (The Striking Army of Stanza Poetry) (see Stern). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb revised the earlier laudatory biographies of some of his friends-turned-enemies from the Ih·a¯·ta. which was designed by the author as a guide to good poetry and literary taste and featured numerous excerpts from the occasional. Ibn H·ayya¯n. wine poetry (khamriyya). He also composed political and didactic verses that lavishly adorn his historical works and travel- Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. Ibn Dih·ya’s al-Mut·rib (The Delightful). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb compiled specialized biographical dictionaries of Andalusi literati. especially Ibn al-Qu¯t·iyya. and ascetic and devotional poems. whose contribution he readily acknowledged. epigram (tah·akkum). especially at the early stage of his career. On the occidental side. Ibn Abı¯ Zar. lamentation (ritha¯  ). satire (hija¯  ). displays his intimate knowledge of. al-Katı¯ba al-ka¯mina (A Troop in Ambush). His concern for proper poetic style and imagery is even more pronounced in his poetic anthology al-Sih·r wa l-shir (Enchantment and Poetry). and ascetic poetry by distinguished oriental authors: Abu¯ l-Ata¯hiya. the Quran reciters and instructors. which were patterned on Ibn Bassam’s al-Dhakhı¯ra (Treasury). and Ibn alZubayr. Ibn al-Labba¯na. written toward the end of his life. and alMutanabbı¯. Ibn Saı¯d al-Maghribı¯.364 alexander knysh extensive use of the historical and biographical writings of his predecessors. court panegyric (madh·). Ibn Idha¯rı¯. Abu¯ Nuwa¯s. the work of the great court poets of the Muslim East. and dependence on. Abu¯ Nuwa¯s. love lyric (ghazal ). 2012 .10 By citing selected poetic pieces from the works of his predecessors. Ibn al-Abba¯r. and the functionaries in the royal chancery. and Ibn H·amdı¯s (Arié 454). He was also fond of the indigenous poetic forms such as zajal and muwashshah. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s own poetry.8 In addition to the biographies of Granadine notables in his historical works. Ibn Amma¯r. Ibn al-S·ayrafı¯. and Ibn Saı¯d’s al-H · ulla al-siyara¯  (The Garment of Pure Silk) in propagating the achievements of Andalusi litterateurs among Eastern Muslims. Ibn al-Mutazz. This collection of 103 biographies in florid rhymed prose is arranged according to the professional background of the men of letters treated in it: the preachers and the Sufis. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb implicitly attempted to convey his own standard of good poetic taste as well as his personal sympathies and antipathies (17). presenting them in unfavorable light. the judges. namely.9 In one such work. al-Mutamid. al-Fath· ibn Kha¯qa¯n’s Qala¯ id al-iqya¯n (Gold Necklaces) and Mat·mah· al-anfus (The Desire of Souls). descriptive. Ibn Bashkuwa¯l. Ibn alRu¯mı¯. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb gave preference to Ibn Rashı¯q. The themes and genres of his poetic works are also quite traditional: description of nature (was·f ). Abu¯ Tamma¯m.

Mufa¯kharat ma¯laqa wa-sala¯ (Boasting Match between Málaga and Salé) and Miya¯r al-ikhtiya¯r (The Preferred Measurement). alHamadha¯nı¯ and al-H·arı¯rı¯– the Islamic precursors of the picaresque novel. in meticulous and colorful detail. as in many other of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s works. which served as models for occidental Muslim diplomats and writers for centuries to come. we witness a typical Muslim travelogue (rih·la).ibn al-khat.” Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb brings forth the advantages of the Nasrid metropolis against its less sophisticated and spectacular Maghribi Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. in the “passages that are eminently balanced” and marked by “the [skillful] choice of synonyms and the [smooth] progression of rhythmical units. we observe a hybridization and intertwining of several traditional genres and trends of medieval Arabic literature – a fact that alerts us to the inherent limitations of conventional taxonomy. In his other maqamat. The exquisitely refined narrative of this “geographic” maqama is put in the mouth of the courtly companion of the royal traveler – an astute observer of the customs. Rather. A great master of rhymed prose (saj ). Although an impeccable and refined saj runs like a red thread across the texture of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s entire literary production. which had been dispersed throughout his vast corpus of writings. in which the author recounts. in line with the exigencies of adab literature. was only recently gathered under one cover (Dı¯wa¯n). Ibn alKhat·¯ıb was a resuscitator of this long-neglected genre (Arié 448). landscape. In a sense. His diplomatic epistles range from the transparently lucid and concise to the deliberately equivocal and obscure – evidence of the author’s remarkable ability to adapt to rapidly changing political circumstances and shifting diplomatic alliances. In Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s Khat·rat al-t·ayf fı¯ rih·lat al-shita¯  wa l-s·ayf (The Trembling of the Apparition: On Travel in Summer and Winter) we find neither a picaro nor a traditional picaresque plot. In the latter work. the stylistic and imaginative sophistication of which often verges on preciosity. Here. the sultan’s trip across his Andalusi domain. The rhymed prose of the maqama is interspersed with poetic quotations and rare pieces of erudition that. ¯i b 365 ogues. and cultural characteristics of his native country (Abba¯dı¯). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb draws an extended comparison between the respective merits of Andalusi and Maghribi cities. Much of his poetic output. although his interpretation of it was quite distinct from that of its classical exponents. 2012 . his mastery of this form reaches its culmination in his “assemblies” (maqamat). are designed both to entertain and to edify. written during his stay in Salé. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb collected the most elegant and involved samples of his diplomatic correspondence with the Maghribi rulers as well as the royal edicts he had edited in the anthologies Kuna¯sat al-dukka¯n (The Sweeping of the Shop) and Rayh·a¯nat al-kutta¯b.

in the rather ungenerous remark of a contemporary investigator. . 721/1321). 2012 . politics. is his work with the odd name. It was a city. and the swift streams that arched their silver bosoms. Nufa¯d·at al-jira¯b fı¯ ula¯lat al-ightira¯b. such as Muthla¯ al-t·arı¯qa fı¯ dhamm alwathı¯qa (The Exemplary Path: On the Condemnation of the Notaries). accounts for an unfortunate combination of “the exuberance of expression with the poverty of idea and of the search for an exquisite and rare word with the banality of the theme” (Turki 170). as established by Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s famous compatriot Ibn Jubayr (d. . . Then the sheikh [of the tribe] appeared. he greeted us and talked to us eloquently and with great affection. Apart from the usual poetic quotations and melancholic reflections on the transience of life inspired by the sight of ancient ruins. Finally. Composed during the vizier’s first exile to the Maghrib following the aforementioned coup d’état. after the hardship we had endured and the arduous labor we had accomplished – we could enjoy the award of a long-awaited rest. Ibn Rushayd (d. the meadows intricately embroidered [with herbage]. whose hearths were camel dung. whose mounds were crowded like the [houses] of a city made of wool. historical monuments. cemeteries. which makes it a precious source for the historical geography of medieval Morocco. Typical of this genre is the following vivid description of Bedouin life in the Sahara desert cast in the usual florid and sonorous saj: The sun descended and waned. In its vicinity [we found] the ponds overflowing with water. his Andalusi homeland” (Arié 450). then [suddenly] melted and plunged headlong into the lap of the twilight. He was a mature man. Much more typical of the rih·la genre in its traditional sense. . it provides unique information about places in the Far Maghrib visited by the author. the dwellings full of people.366 alexander knysh counterpart and – perhaps unwittingly – evinces his “secret preference for . whose walls were acacias. whose hair was whitened by his age . this work abounds in illuminating descriptions of local notables. So we dismounted next to the tents that arched [on the horizon] like the camel’s hump – the tents with tangled ropes. and whose vegetation was not free from mud. The influence of the maqama genre is evident in Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s other works. madrasas and riba¯·ts. which. 614/1217) and developed by another Andalusi. mosques. Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press.

the police. roots. Each tree corresponds to an institution or constituency of the monarchical state: the sultanate. leaves. The divisions and subdivisions of each institution are. Dunlop to be a paraphrase of the Book of the Greek Testaments Extracted from . falconers.] 367 (al-Tit·wa¯nı¯ 1:128) In returning to the maqama genre. and greed. boldly proclaims the personal sympathies and antipathies of its author. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb succeeded in furnishing a lively picture of Andalusi history. finally. this conceit is too schematic to add to our understanding of the real Andalusi state in Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s epoch. fear. trunk. . Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb moves away from this classical prototype and presents the functioning of the state government in the allegory of the garden of ten trees. veterinarians. who leaves his “testament to his son. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s chronicles are often compared unfavorably with the monumental history of the Maghrib by his great contemporary Ibn Khaldu¯n. Although he may have lacked Ibn Khaldu¯n’s analytical depth. royal hunters. In his historical Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. . This short treatise on the art of government was shown by D. mention should be made of Ibn alKhat·¯ıb’s Maqa¯ma¯t al-siya¯sa (Maqamat on Politics) (al-Maqqarı¯ 6:431–45) that brings out the political spectrum of his multifaceted literary work. the governorship. allegorized as the tree’s branches. the chancery. passion. who constitute the bulk of the sultan’s subjects. love. 2012 . Although ingenious. together with the parallel testaments of other fathers” (“Work” 52–53). To gain a better insight into the realpolitik of the Granadine court. which provide a wealth of concrete data absent from his theoretical writings on the art of government. chess players. the ministry of war including the navy and the cavalry. including the physicians. In the Busta¯n al-duwal (Garden of the States). and musicians. the tree of the commoners. down-to-earth individuals driven by the universal human impulses of hatred. This vivid and at times openly subjective historiography deliberately discards the appearance of historical objectivity. boon-companions. . the Politics of Plato by the Tulunid historian Ah·mad ibn Da¯ya11 – about a certain king of the ancient Greeks. poets. whose actors are real. blossoms. M. astrologists. in turn.ibn al-khat. and so on. and passes candid judgments on historical figures. the royal entourage. . and. The well-being of all the trees is dependent on the tree of the sultanate. bark. ¯i b [Fa-za¯lat al-shams wa-ma¯lat//thumma sa¯lat wa-nha¯rat//fı¯ h·ijr al-maghrib wa-nha¯lat// wa baada layi ma¯ balaghna¯//wa-min al-kadd faraghna¯//wa-minh·at al-ra¯h·a tasawwaghna¯// wa-nazalna¯ bi-iza¯i khiya¯m//istada¯rat fı¯ sanam//wa-qad ishtabakat h·iba¯luha¯// wa-tara¯s·s·at jiba¯luha¯//. the judgeship and religion. the vizierate. one should look to Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s chronicles and biographical collections.

Islamische Geschichte 33–34. which had been almost totally absent from the historical scene in earlier dynastic chronicles. dumb. however. Islamische Geschichte 68–69) never comes to the rescue of its royal benefactor in times of crisis and takes gleeful delight in his downfall. which was scarcely completed before his death.” almost “positivistic Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. which is equally beneficial to everyone and therefore held sacred by all his subjects. As the struggle over succession unfolds.368 alexander knysh works Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb focuses on the underlying motives. the aristocratic adventurers and princely pretenders. in the vizier’s view. when the sultanate becomes the bone of contention of the three politically active groups – that is. The activities of the five social strata (s·inf . all dynastic principles and rights. 2012 . Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s vision of historical process receives its most mature articulation in his Ama¯l al-ala¯m. are overshadowed by the base instincts of greed. The complex interplay of these social forces and their egoistic instincts. is determined by the recurrent patterns of human responses to similar historical circumstances. the retiring religious scholars and jurists. the history of the Muslim states of the East and the West provides valuable lessons to be learned by every ruler and statesman. Ungrateful and hard to please. This “deaf. if not entirely independent and invariably negative. and strengths and weaknesses of the characters whose outward actions had previously been the sole subject of traditional Islamic historiography (Bencheneb 59). “Historiador” 54–56). combined with the passivity and aloofness of the others. and mindless” mass (Hoenerbach. are allotted a substantial. and political expediency (Hoenerbach. Remarkably. quickly vanishes at the time of succession. role in Ibn alKhat·¯ıb’s Ala¯m – a fact that can be explained by the vizier’s aristocratic disdain for profanum vulgus (Hoenerbach. In analyzing the causes of the rebellious spirit of the Andalusi populace. answer to their position in the five-stage class structure he establishes through a perceptive analysis of historical phenomena. To Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. they hate and vilify the ruler. self-aggrandizement. This repetition. not to mention elementary human decency. The ignorant populace falls easy prey to sedition by all manner of troublemakers and is quick to rebel against the legitimate government at the first sign of its weakness. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb offers a remarkably “modern. the rapacious and unscrupulous courtiers. intellectual and moral qualities. the masses. in turn. pl. determine the course of human history. The other strata – the apolitical government officials and administrators. and the materialistic and ignorant masses (awba¯sh) – each pursuing its vested interests. vanity. “Historiador” 57). especially because of history’s tendency to repeat itself in broad outlines as well as in details. which. and the idealistic ascetics and mystics – remain aloof and passively accept the outcome of the wicked court politics. This outward propriety. as·na¯f ) are seen as turning around the office of the sultan. even when he acts for their own good.

and (3) the circumstantial – the destabilizing and intrusive presence of the Christian states of the north. bore fruit. and the townsfolk and petty bourgeoisie (who correspond to Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s awba¯sh. are described in positive terms) (Hoenerbach. “Historiador” 61). in Ayala’s work. The political views of Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb display remarkable parallels with those of his younger contemporary on the Christian side. Like Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. who. implicitly deemphasizes the fideistic belief in the arbitrary will of God as the sole cause of historical process that had been taken for granted by earlier Islamic historians (Hoenerbach. the generally apolitical officials of the royal administration. “Historiador” 51–52). there are a few differences also. Ayala singles out five “estates” (estados). 37–38): the courtiers and the king’s confidants (priuados del rey e los sus allegados). The vizier’s scheme includes three major factors: (1) the geopolitical – the mountainous terrain and relative isolation of some provinces vis-à-vis the central government. the noble adventurers driven by political ambitions. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb’s ulama and fuqaha¯  ). yet. and undisciplined character of the Andalusi Arabs and Berbers. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb agrees with his Maghribi colleague in discerning several distinct cycles that dominate the evolution of Muslim dynasties. he describes the Umayyad state in al-Andalus as a living organism or plant.ibn al-khat. which form the foundation of the monarchical state (Hoenerbach. and eventually withered. Islamische Geschichte 32). Whereas Ayala is generally optimistic regarding the human character and Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s political ideal rests on the notion of a legitimate dynastic rule supported by an all-powerful vizier personified by the great Almanzor (Ibn Abı¯ A¯ mir al-Mans·u¯r). the aloof men of religion who serve as the king’s counselors and the judiciary (cf. At the same time. This Machiavellian concept of social and political organization. ruling with the iron fist on behalf of the minor caliph. Ibn alKhat·¯ıb all but ignores the role of religion and messianic movements in instigating large-scale social and political transformations – the role that is so critical to Ibn Khaldu¯n’s understanding of historical process (Ibn Khaldu¯n 2:192–220). In his El rimado de palacio Ayala summarizes his ideas regarding the politics and internal life of the Spanish courts and provides a number of theoretical observations that bear close resemblance to the conclusions reached by his Muslim counterpart. (2) the psychological – the stiff-necked. “Historiador” 56). 2012 . Islamische Geschichte 16–17. revived the decaying caliphal state and forestalled the impending anarchy (Hoenerbach. Curiously. Thus. Despite these striking resemblances. based on the empirical observation of human activities and psychology. which developed from a small sprout to a full-grown tree that blossomed. obdurate. Pero López de Ayala – a professional court functionary who served under five kings of Aragon. ¯i b 369 explanation” (Hoenerbach.

” EI 2.g. 708/1308). 2012 . 2nd edn. for these Andalusi authors. and mayhem. 11. See respective articles in Encyclopaedia of Islam. For the office of the vizier in the Granadine administration. 4. For this loyalty he eventually paid the ultimate price. notes 1.. See EI 2. see articles in EI 2. al-Tit·wa¯nı¯ 76–78. which means both “nobility” and “bones. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb did not learn from his misadventures and remained loyal to the familiar courtly environment after his escape from al-Andalus. A pun based on the ambiguity of the word iz·a¯m. Müller. see EI 2. alIklı¯l al-z·a¯hir (The Flowery Wreath). 6. Simonet. following the Kita¯b ·silat al-s·ila (Continuation of the Continuation) by Ibn al-Zubayr (d.. 8. not inferior. I. see Arié 198–208. anarchy. T · urfat al-as·r fı¯ dawlat banı¯ nas·r (The Wonder of the Age: On the History of the Nasrid State) (no longer extant). Unlike Ibn Khaldu¯n. unlike Ibn Khaldu¯n. Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb’s views of Sufism and its various trends are laid out in his Rawd·at al-tarı¯f bi l-h·ubb al-sharı¯f (Garden of Instruction: On Chaste Love) – a work in which he treats Sufism as a sympathetic outsider rather than as a practicing Sufi. Katı¯ba 17–18.e. See. He seems to resign himself to human imperfection and to accept the cyclical notion of history with its vicious circle of rebellion.” EI 2 ). especially his eventual disgrace after long years of faithful service at the Granadine court. 7. for further references see al-Wara¯gilı¯ 16–18. 1954–) (hereafter EI 2). and Raqm al-h·ulal fı¯ naz·m alduwal (The Ornamentation of the Garments: On the Organization of States). See “al-Makkarı¯. who judiciously withdrew from active political life into a legal career (“Ibn Khaldu¯n. 2. cowardice. Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press. 9. See Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb. 10. See Santiago Simon. His pessimistic world outlook must have been influenced by his own tragic experiences. This structure was apparently borrowed from the poetical anthologies of al-Fath· ibn Kha¯qa¯n. the Granadine vizier was more concerned with the role of the human factor in history – a concern that makes his approach complementary. to that of the Maghribi thinker.” 5. 3.370 alexander knysh condition and even tries to improve them in the pious sermons included in El rimado. Yet. who was preoccupied primarily with establishing the general laws and stages of historical progression. e. treachery. Among the works of this genre are al-Ta¯j al-muh·alla¯ (The Adorned Crown). Ibn al-Khat·¯ıb takes a much more disillusioned view of mankind. A¯id al-s·ila (A Revision of the Continuation). and al-Niqa¯ya baad al-kifa¯ya (The Selection from the Sufficient Amount). (Leiden.

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exterior of apse Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press.8 Monreale Cathedral. 2012 .