Classical Arabic Reading Class

Classical Arabic Reading Class
22 February 2018, 3.00pm - 4.30pm
Research Training
Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB

Ibn Hawqal Reading Class (2017-8)

The Kitāb Sūrat al-ard of Abū’l-Qāsim Muammad b. awqal is one of the most important texts in the canon of classical Arabic geographical and historical writing. Composed in around 378/988, it presents a description of the Muslim world as he found it in the second half of the tenth century of the common era, a time when the Abbasid caliphate had already fragmented and new states and polities were emerging from al-Andalus in the West to Transoxania in East.

We know almost nothing of Ibn awqal’s life but much of his information seems to be based on first hand information and personal experience. It has been suggested that he was a merchant, or a Fatimid spy or both, and his descriptions are certainly especially rich in information about trade, economy and taxation. The work has been edited (J. H. Kramers, Leiden, 1939) and translated into French (J. H. Kramers and G. Wiet, La Configuration de la Terre,Paris, 2001) but never into English.

In this reading group we shall look at the text and the way it sheds light on many aspects of the classical Arbic civilisation of the period. The class is intended to be both educational and fun. We shall begin with a discussion of the author, the manuscript tradition of the text before detailed group reading of chosen chapters.

This group will be interesting to students of Arabic literature, the history and economy of the Arab Middle east, and students of material culture, including archaeology. A moderate reading knowledge of Arabic, say one year at University is necessary but the emphasis will be on encouraging reading skills and understanding. Photocopied texts will be provided.

The group will meet at the Warburg Institute in Classroom 2 between 15.00 and 16.30 on selected Thursdays in the Autumn and Spring terms. No prior registration is required but enquiries about the class and its content can be addressed to

The first meeting will be on 5 October and then every Thursday except 2 and 9 November until 14 December.

In 2018 the first meeting will be on 11 January then every Thursday except 15 February and 8 March. The last meeting will be on 22 March.



Warburg Events Office
020 7862 8910