Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn Al-Qutiyah

Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn Al-Qutiyah

Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn Al-Qutiyah

Early Islamic Spain: The History of Ibn Al-Qutiyah


This book is the first published English-language translation of the significant History of Islamic Spainby Ibn al-Qutiya (d. Cordova 367 / 977). Including extensive notes and comments, a genealogical table and relevant maps, the text is preceded by a study of the author and his work, and is the only serious examination of the unique manuscript since Pascual de Gayangos' edition in 1868.

Ibn al-Qutiya's work is one of the significant and earliest histories of Muslim Spain and an important source for scholars. Although like most Muslims of al-Andalus in this period, Ibn al-Qutiya was of European origin, he was a loyal servant of the Iberian Umayyads, and taught Arabic, traditions (hadith) and history in the Great Mosque of Cordova. Written at the height of the Umayyad Caliphate of Muslim Spain and Portugal (al-Andalus), the History describes the first 250 years of Muslim rule in the peninsula. The text, first fully translated into Spanish in 1926, deals with all aspects of life, and includes accounts of Christians, Jews and Muslim converts.

This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of the history of Spain and Portugal, Islamic history, and Mediaeval European history.


The History of the History

The manuscript

There is only one manuscript copy of the History, MS 1867 in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris whose only reliable title is that given by the anonymous scribe in his colophon Ta'rīkh Ibn al-Qūṭīya, ‘The History of Ibn al-Qūṭīya’. All other versions are derived from that unique manuscript. These are: MS 996 Leiden; MS 987 Munich; MS 4996 Madrid; MS Ta'rīkh 2837, Cairo. In the most serious study of the History published so far, María Isabel Fierro comes to this conclusion. After examining all the evidence, she convincingly dismisses all editions of the text which, until the publication of her study of Ibn al-Qūṭīya and his History in 1989, were thought to be based – somehow – on variants of the text that have disappeared. Thus, the un-dated Cairo edition of ʽAbd al-Muṭʽāl al-Kutubī (al-Tawf īq Press) is only a reprint of the 1889 Paris partial edition of Houdas, while the ‘editor’ is actually the bookseller. Similarly, the partial edition published in 1952 by Muḥammad ibn ʽAzzūz, supposedly based on another ‘lost’ manuscript, is, according to Fierro’s findings, also based on Houdas’s edition of the Paris manuscript.

The only ‘hard’ evidence for the existence of a second copy of Ibn al-Qūṭīya’s work has always been the rumour – repeated by almost all scholars who have studied the History – of one which Cherbonneau is said to have found in Constantine in Algeria and used for his partial translations published in Paris in 1853 and 1856. However, when we come to look at what Cherbonneau actually wrote in the Journal Asiatique of 1853, the Constantine manuscript disappears like a mirage of the Saharan desert. Cherbonneau says that he worked only on the Paris manuscript, MS Arabe 706, located in those days of the Second Empire at the re-named Bibliothèque Impériale. In his article he does, it is true, refer to a manuscript in Constantine. He says that Sidi Hamouda ben El ferkoun has a copy of the grammatical work Kitāb taṣārīf al-af ʽāl of Ibn al-Qūṭīya in his fine collection of manuscripts. But there is no mention of another copy of the History. The first person to mention that Cherbonneau used a copy of the History that he had found in Constantine seems to have been Houdas in a footnote to his 1889 partial edition. This has been repeated ever since.

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