Abu’l-Husayn al-Basri: al-Mu'tamad fi Usul al-Fiqh

(Reliable sources of Jurisprudence) (d1044)

Taken from : Philosophers on Race : critical essays by Julie K. Ward

(in a theoretical discussion about language)

If it were possible for a speaker not to intend his speech to be understood, then it would be possible for a black person to
address an Arab in his language (bi-zinjiya), even through the Arab did not speak this language inasmuch as it is unnecessary
to make the addressee understand; for the Arab has no apparent meaning (to attach to ) the language of Blacks.


Al Biruni: Kitab al-Saydanah fi Al-Tibb

(Book on Pharmacy) (1050)
Taken from : Hamdard foundation : Al Biruni's book on pharmacy and materia medica

Abnus (Ebony) There are two varieties of this plant. One is black, tinted with green, and glistens like a coral. It possesses straight clean strands of wood, but there may be present crooked strands. This variety is brought from the coast of Zanj and the islands of that country. Its tree resembles jujube and its seed that of henna. In Zanj is also found a beautiful variety possessing the whiteness of sandal wood and the redness of shellac. Its seeds are like those of black pepper. The hasps of knives and arrow bows are also made of ebony. It is also called shauhat and the Arabs make their strings from it......

Abu Hanifah Dinawari writes in the Kitab-al-nabat that balsam from which platters are made is not a longish tree but its wood is hard and patterned with yellow and blackish tints. At times the yellowish tint is substituted by reddish. It grows in the valleys of Rome and around the Gulf. This is an excellent variety. The other variety of ebony is that which has no color except the black. This is brought from Waqwaq in the islands of Qamir. The people of Waqwaq are blackish; they prefer the golden complexioned Turkish slaves.

Utrujj and Utrunj(Citron, Adam's apple) ....
The Egyptian variety of this herb produces a striped fruit like water melon. Many have exaggerated about its bigness, notably Jahiz. It is said that if it is placed between two people, they can not see each other. The bigness of the variety produced in Zanjibar is especially exaggerated beyond all permissible bounds. It is said that if the fruit is cut in the middle, two people can pass over it, as they would pass over a boat.....

Baqqam (the red wood tree).
The people of Sawahil say that there are two kinds of baqqam; one variety is brought from Sanf. It is known as the black-backed and possesses a red-dish tinge. The other brought from Lamri is known as the white-backed and its redness is more apparent....

Ibrahim Sandani once traveled in the desert of China with a nomadic tribe. He has narrated that when the sun was about to set, the people accompanying him dismounted from their horses and prostrated themselves. He also prostrated himself. The orison continued till the sun disappeared completely from the view. On Ibrahim's enquiry why this was done, the people explained that they considered the sun to be a god in the form of a very big bird whose habitat is a barren and uninhabited desert, between Zanj and China, feeding on huge elephants which can not be tamed and which they called Khutu....

Dar Sini (Ceylon Cinnomon)
The Zinzibarian variety is malodorous; it is admixed with a fragrant herb. Sometimes a thing resembling Ceylon cinnamon is found; it is a vegetable but less fragrant.....

Zanjabil; The moist plant is known as adrak and the dry plant as sundh in Hindi. The Persian synonyms are shinkrir, zangbir, and shanklil. In Syriac it is zangabil and in Takhari Shank-ranir.

Dioscorides writes; It is a galingalelike root, white, and pungent like black pepper, and fragrant. Take the root that has not undergone desiccation. Galen says that it is brought from Barberry and this herb, as well as long pepper, are infested easily by worms because of moistness. Among the perfumeries it is said to comprise the Hindi and Zangi varieties. It is also known as Chini.
Abu Hanifah says: it is endemic to the villages of Oman. The bundles found underground are the rhizomes and not the plants. It is a plant like elecampane. The Chinese or the Zangi is appreciated more then the other varieties.

Sandarus (gum copal).....
The tree grows in the region of the Zanj. It is scrapped and tied till the exudate commences to flow and ultimately congeals. Insects and other creatures are found in the exudate for this reason. There are two varieties of sandarus. One is of every-day use. The other variety which is far purer is rare. The distinction between the two is that the former, when heated, contracts and cracks, while the later, like gum, softens and, like the latter become viscid.....

Siyah Dawaran
It is a synonym for the terebinth tree. Some claim it to be oak. In Syriac it is maqar and this is, in fact, sabir (aloe)...
It is associated with Socotra which is near Zanzibar and Arabia.

Subar. This is tamar-i-Hindi (tamarind). This name was given to it because its sourness demands patience. Hamzah says; In Persian it is jinjah, and grows plenty in Zing. In Sind it is imbli. Its tree is large like that of mulberry and its grain, like that of broad bean, very slender. When it ripens and its rind becomes paler, tamar-i-Hindi remains. In the Zinji language it is called makojuwa....

Tabashir (english Tabasheer this is young shoots, seeds and siliceous concretion of a bamboo kind plant)
It is known in Hindi as bain-sharochan and tushir. It is said to be Zangi (from Zanzibar) A commodity that looks like wheat flour is brought from India and is called lakur. It is claimed that this is tabashir-i-Hindi. In Syriac it is known as qamhadarza, tabaqshir, and tawakhshir...

Fuwah al-sabbaghin; (heart-leaved madder, it is the roots that are used)
It is munt in Hindi ruin in Persian and roghnaz in Jurjani. There are two varieties of the plant: one is copiously knotted, the other is sparsely so. The former is known as kardan, followed by the Zinjani which is called yazduni. It is slenderer and finer than the Qabadhi variety. The best variety is the bardai from Armenia which is supplied to Jurjan, Sistan, Makran, India and Zanj. These are very thick red subers. The Qabadhi variety is the next, and is preferred by the Indians. One variety of it is indigenous to Balkh and is called hafsawi. It is inferior to the Qabadhi variety but resembles the barda'i. It is therefore roasted in a hot empty oven, so that its color becomes firmer. It is then mixed with the bardha'i variety.

Qaqullah; (greater cardamon)
Yahya and Khushki write, in the purity of the fragrance it is like cubeb and in odor somewhat like camphor. Brought from sufalah, the seeds are like those of a big gram which are sheathed and, which when cloven, reveal white and small grains....

Qaranful (clove)
Yahya and Khushki write; The most excellent kind is desiccated, pungently odorous, and sweet. It is the fruit of a tree that is brought from Sufalah. The male is like the stone of fartha. of the two kinds, it is the more potent....

In the Ashkal al-Aqalim it has been said : There is a two-day long journey from the Syrian coast towards Cyprus in the direction of Zinzibar. In the other direction the journey is long. From this place may'ah (a resin from a tree) and mastic are brought to Cyprus........

Wada' (cowrie).......
The people of Zanjibar collect shells during the times of the ripening of walnut. They are buried in a pit till all the fleshy portion putrefies and disappears, after which they are sent to India.


Ann; Kitab Ghara'ib al-funun wa-mulah al-'uyun (The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes; The Book of Strange Arts and Visual Delights) (1050AD) written in Egypt

Chapter 2.3
fol. 24b,
The first clime, called Diyamaris: It begins near the Land of the Scorching Heat (Africa). Its zodiacal signs are Sagittarius and Virgo, and its planet is Jupiter. This is the clime of India and Far China.
It starts in the east and ends in the west, spanning 180 degrees of longitude. Its width, from the vicinity of the Land of the Scorching Heat to Sarandib (Ceylon), is 285 farsakhs.
Its inhabitants are the people of Far China. These people go around naked like animals, and have frightful appearances, repulsive colors, deformed bodies, sparse beards and masculine women. But they possess knowledge of incantations and omens, live long lives, and are skilful in applying herbs and minerals.
In their clime one finds animals with huge bodies, and enormous birds with frightful bodies compounded from these beasts, as well as elephants, dragons, wild beasts and snakes of terrible forms, giraffes, and various types [of animals].
It is said that the phoenix is to be found in their lands. They know how to benefit from poisons and vipers’ bites.

Chapter 2.3
fol. 25b,
In the regions south of the Equator there are nine adjoining mountains, 400 to 500 [miles] high; another mountain, which is 900 miles high.
And the Mountain of the Moon, which is 1,000 miles high, and situated partly in the first clime and partly beyond the Equator, and is the source of the Nile which gushes out and branches out from it.

Chapter 2.5
fol. 26b
As for the scorching regions, which stink from the excessive heat, no animal or plant has any moisture there because of the intense heat. No stream is running there except the source of the Nile.
As for the Sudanese and the Ethiopians, which are the inhabitants of the lands between the Circle of Aries [that is, the equator] and Tropic of Cancer. When the sun is rising and setting in this part of the ecliptic it is in the middle of the sky right above their heads.
The air becomes hot, and burns them. Heat and dryness dominate in them, their color becomes black, their hair curly, their bodies lean and their disposition hot. The same is true for their beasts and trees.

Chapter 2.15
fol. 37a
The island of K.d.m.w.h [Karimata ?] One of the islands of the Zanj. Its inhabitants are a Black people called Bumiyyun. They wear waist-wrappers, and engage in piracy. Their weapons are swords and spears, and they eat whomever they lay their hands on. [ The island of Bartayil] . At night one can hear tambourines and the sound of entertainments, and the sailors say that the Devil (al-dajjal) is imprisoned on that island.

Chapter 2.15
fol. 37b
The island of Socotra. It is 80 miles long, and has three cities. Its inhabitants are Christians, of the Nestorian sect. They are excessively … [SPACE], and use decapitation as method of punishment. They are generally under the rule of black pirates. This island is the source of the Socotran aloe, which is pressed from plants found there. The island is near the cities of the Zanj and near a land called Mahhkuh.

Chapter 2.16
fol. 38a
The island of al-Dasbi [the Andaman Islands ?] . Its inhabitants are Negroes (Zanj), with pepper-like hair. When a foreigner falls in their hands, they eat him alive. They devour human flesh like dogs. They share their women. They have long faces, long legs, and a deformed appearance.

Chapter 2.17
Sources of The Nile
(1) This lake is known as the Marsh. It is on the equator. Within it there is a mountain covered with snow in winter and summer. Some say that the rise of the Nile is caused by the floods coming from this mountain in the summer. The floods of the Nile are drawn out from this lake towards its mouths and outlets, of which there are eight.
(2) This lake is called the eastern Marsh. Five rivers flow into it from the Mountain of the Moon, and three rivers flow from it into the great Marsh. It is one of the three Marshes.
(3) This lake is called the Western Marsh. Three rivers flow from it into the Great Marsh, and five rivers flow into it from the Mountain of the Moon.
(4) This lake is called the Marsh of the Zanj. Ptolemy called it the flask. It is near one of the cities of the Zanj called Qanbalu. This is the source of the Nile crocodile, which is called by the Zanj Susmar.
(5) This lake is called the Marsh of the Zanj. Ptolemy called it the flask. It is near one of the cities of the Zanj called Qanbalu. This is the source of the Nile crocodile, which is called by the Zanj Susmar.
(6) A large river flows from this lake across deserts, savannahs and sands until it reaches the land of the Nubians, then joins the Nile near the city of Dongola. It is one of the biggest and largest of the marshes.
(7) A large river flows from this lake across deserts, savannahs and sands until it reaches the land of the Nubians, then joins the Nile near the city of Dongola. It is one of the biggest and largest of the marshes.

Chapter 2.17
fol. 39b
The seventeenth chapter on the description of the lakes. The largest lake on the face of the Earth is the lake known as the Marsh (al-batihah) on the Equator, which is the source of the Nile and its floods. It is ---- long and wide. It has a mountain that is covered with snow during winter and summer. Most Copts maintain that the sun, when in the summer it is at its zenith over this mountain, melts the snow away and causes the rise of the Nile and its perennial flow.
The explanations for the rise and ebb of the Nile vary greatly. We have chosen only that which will be readily understood by the listeners, and that which is as certain as possible within the limits of our human ability. Power is with God, and we ask Him to reprieve us of any mistake or error.
Map of the largest of the Nile Marshes, which is on the Equator

Chapter 2.18
River Nile

(1) Map of the Nile. Its course consists of ten streams, of which five are to the east and five to the west. Then it empties into two marshes, and from the two marshes into one large marsh at the equator. Then it descends to its eight outlets. It is joined [by a river] coming from the land of Zanj from a lake which is called the flask (al-qarurah) and is also known as Lake Qanbalu. Another river reaches it from the area of the Maghrib, from a spring flowing under the white sand dunes along the seacoast of the Encompassing Sea. Many rivers pour into it [this spring]. Its [the Nile’s] flow is vigorous, even when all other rivers on the surface of the land ebb - so much so that it is possible to say that it [this spring] provides it [the Nile] with waters when the it is rising.
(2) Mountain of the Moon


Chapter 2.20
Fol. 45b
In the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and Oman there is a fish called the al-wal [the whale]. It is 100 ba [fathoms] in length, more or less. It is accustomed to ships, and likes to follow them, but can cause them to sink, as it may capsize the ship when it only tries to cross from one side of the ship to the other. Therefore, when the sailors see it, they blow the horn and hit drums and pails against each other so that it might go away.
When it opens its mouth, water comes down as if in the slope of a valley. When it closes its mouth, it blows the water from between its teeth so that it goes up in air as if it is a fountain. The fish remain in its body.
Its adversary among the fish is a fish called lashak [shark sucker]. This is a small fish, no more than a cubit or two, but it is the enemy of the wal. It follows the wal, and, when the wal is unaware, it grasps the inside of its ear and stays there. When the wal notices this, it swims to the bottom of the sea in irritation, but the fish clings in its place without budging. That causes distress to the wal, which goes on diving to the bottom and emerging on the surface with the fish clinging to it, or it dies.
The Zanj often use this fish to catch large marine animals. They attach to its tail a long rope, as thick as the thong of a whip. Then they carry it near the boat in underwater cages, they chant [to the fish] songs that arouse it, and they watch over it so it does not get eaten or harmed.
When the fisherman wants to go fishing, he takes it [the lashak] out of its cage, holds the rope by its end, and then sends it towards the large fish just as the falconer sends off a sparrow hawk (bashiq). The fish then clings to the ear [of the larger fish], which then dives into the sea with it [the lashak] sticking to it, and then emerges and dives again, while the fisherman loosens the rope.
Then the large fish keeps diving up and down until its body weakens, without being able to harm the fish that eats its ear. At that point the fisherman takes the lashak in his hand, tears it away from the larger fish's ear and returns it to its cage.

In this sea there is a marine animal that goes over land, where it climbs the coconut palm and feeds on it. When the wal gets stuck in the mud, the men of the sea call him 'the springtime', since it is a source of profit for them. They find in its belly ambergris that it had swallowed, and this ambergris harms the wal and intoxicates it. The ambergris that is found above the stomach is pure, while the amber found in the abdomen is [called] manidd ambergris. [which is] fetid and decayed. The meat of this fish consists solely of fat. The seamen draw out the oil from its corpse using jars. They find that the fat had solidified around its brain and cannot be extracted without a bow and iron bars. They also take the bones of its skeleton and use them as chairs.

Chapter 2.21
Fol. 46b
In the land the Zanj there are creatures that look human, but have tails, talk in whistles, and jump from tree to tree.

Chapter 2.23
Fol. 48a
The twenty-third chapter on strange plants In the land of the Zanj there is a tree that grows from a trunk, but then its upper half branches out into four boughs, and from each of these another trunk emerges, which shoots up four boughs carrying a citrus-like fruit. The body of this fruit is filled with something resembling carded silk, like the fruit of the ushar. In its cavity are many seeds.
After it is cleaned of its seeds it is used as filling for mattresses and pillows, but only for half of the filling. When it warms up under a person's body the material swells and fills up the entire mattress or pillow. It is impossible to fill it entirely, but only up to a half. When a person sleeps on the mattress, the material grows and increases until it fills it entirely.
If the mattress or the pillow gets dirty, the filling can be washed, and it does not become matted or spoilt. I have witnessed this at [the house] of one our shaykhs, a man from Harran called Abu al-Qasim al-Harrani, who has travelled extensively to the land of the Zanj. I examined it and found it to be a marvellous thing.

Chapter 2.23
Fol. 48a
The Waq Waq trees. On the Waq-Waq Island, which is an island bordering on Sofalah, one of the Islands of the Zanj, there is a tree bearing fruits that look like women suspended by their hair as if by green cords. They have breasts, female sexual organs, and curvaceous bodies, and they scream waq waq. When one of them is cut off the tree, it falls down dead and does not talk any more. Their insides and outsides, their faces and their limbs, are entirely made of something resembling the down of a feather.
When a person advances further into the island, he finds a tree with more attractive fruits with plumper posteriors, bosoms, genitalia, and faces, which scream louder than the ones described above. If this fruit is cut off, it survives for a day or part of a day before it stops talking and screaming. The person who cuts down this second type of fruit may sometimes have sexual intercourse with it and derive pleasure from it.