Abu Hanifa Dinawari
Dinawar, Jibal, Abbasid Caliphate
|Era||Islamic Golden Age|
|Main interest(s)||botanist, historian, geographer, metallurgy, astronomer and mathematician|
Abū Ḥanīfa Aḥmad ibn Dāwūd Dīnawarī (Persian: ابوحنيفه دينوری; died 895) was a Persian Islamic Golden Age polymath, astronomer, agriculturist, botanist, metallurgist, geographer, mathematician, and historian.
Dinawari was born in the (now ruined) town of Dinawar in modern-day western Iran. It had some importance due to its geographical location, serving as the entrance to the region of Jibal as well as a crossroad between the culture of Iran and that of the inhabitants on the other side of the Zagros Mountains. The birth date of Dinawari is uncertain; he was seemingly born during the first or second decade of the 9th-century. He was instructed in the two main traditions of the Abbasid-era grammarians of al-Baṣrah and of al-Kūfah. His principal teachers were Ibn al-Sikkīt and his own father.[n 1] He studied grammar, philology, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy and was known to be a reliable traditionist. His most renowned contribution is Book of Plants, for which he is considered the founder of Arabic botany.
Dinawari's Kitāb al-akhbār al-ṭiwāl, written from a Persian point of view, is possibly the most apparent early effort to combine Iranian and Islamic history. While historians such as al-Tabari and Bal'ami devoted the introduction of their work to long discourses on the duration of the world, Dinawari did it by attempting to set up the importance of Iranshahr ("land of Iran") as centre of the world. In his work, Dinawari notably devoted much less space to the Islamic prophet Muhammad compared to that of Iran. Regardless, Dinawari was a devoted Muslim, as indicated by his commentary on the Qur'an. He concludes the history with the suppression of Babak Khorramdin's rebellion in 837, and the subsequent execution of the Iranian general Khaydhar ibn Kawus al-Afshin.
Besides having access to early Arabic sources, Dinawari also reportedly made use of Persian sources, including pre-Islamic epic romances. Fully acquainted with the Persian language, Dinawari occasionally inserted phrases from the language into his work.
Dinawari's spiritual successor was Hamza al-Isfahani (died after 961).
The tenth century biographical encyclopedia, "al-Fihrist" of Al-Nadim, lists sixteen book titles by Dinawari:
His General History (Al-Akhbar al-Tiwal) has been edited and published numerous times (Vladimir Guirgass, 1888; Muhammad Sa'id Rafi'i, 1911; Ignace Krachkovsky, 1912; 'Abd al-Munim 'Amir & Jamal al-din Shayyal, 1960; Isam Muhammad al-Hajj 'Ali, 2001), but has not been translated in its entirety into a European language. Jackson Bonner has recently prepared an English translation of the pre-Islamic passages of al-Akhbar al-Tiwal.
Al-Dinawari is considered the founder of Arabic botany for his Kitab al-Nabat (Book of Plants), which consisted of six volumes. Only the third and fifth volumes have survived, though the sixth volume has partly been reconstructed based on citations from later works. In the surviving portions of his works, 637 plants are described from the letters sin to ya. He describes the phases of plant growth and the production of flowers and fruit.
The first part of the Book of Plants describes astronomical and meteorological concepts as they relate to plants, including the planets and constellations, the sun and moon, the lunar phases indicating seasons and rain, anwa, and atmospheric phenomena such as winds, thunder, lightning, snow, and floods. The book also describes different types of ground, indicating which types are more convenient for plants and the qualities and properties of good ground.
Al-Dinawari quoted from other early Muslim botanical works that are now lost, such as those of al-Shaybani, Ibn al-Arabi, al-Bahili, and Ibn as-Sikkit.
Abu Hanlfah al-DInawarl was a Persian of liberal outlook, who took an interest in botany among other sciences.
At the same time, these treatises were being translated, the Persian botanist Abu Hanifa al-Dinawari (ca. 815-95) was compiling his botanical lexicon Kitab al-Nabat (The book of plants), which represented the culmination of a tradition in which autonomous botanical writings were part of the sciences of the Arabic language.