Halab [said Al-Muqaddasi, in 985] is an excellent, pleasant and well fortified city, the inhabitants of which are cultured and rich, and endowed with understanding. The city is populous and built of stone, standing in the midst of its lands. It possesses a well fortified and spacious castle, provided with water. The great mosque stands in the town. The inhabitants drink the water of the Kuwaik river, which flows into the town through an iron grating, near the palace of Saif al-Dawla.

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Figure 1. Aleppo by Matrakci (Source)

The castle is not very large, but herein the Sultan has his abode. The city has seven gates: Bab Hims (Emessa gate), Bab ar Rakkah; Bab Kinnasrin; Bab al-yahud; Bab al-Iraq; Bab al-Batikh; and Bab Antakiyyah; The Bab Arba’in (gate of the Forty) is now closed.[1]

Idrisi (1100-1165) writes:

Halab is the capital of the Province of Kinnasrin. It is a large town, and very populous, lying on the high road to Iraq and Fars and Khurasan…. Water is led therefrom by means of underground channels going into the town, and is distributed through the markets, streets, and houses. In the castle of Halab is a spring of excellent water".[2]

Ibn Jubayr, who visited Aleppo in 1185, said:

Halab is a place of saintly remains, with a celebrated and impregnable castle. It was the city of the Hamdanite princes, whose dynasty is now passed away. Saif al-Dawla made it a bride for beauty of appearance. The castle stands on the hill, whither, in ancient times, Abraham was wont to retire at night with his flocks there to milk them (Halaba) giving away the milk in alms. Hence as it is said, is the name of Halaba… A copious spring water rises in the castle, and they have made two cisterns there to store water. On the city side of the castle is a deep ditch, into which the surplus water runs. In the town are fine and wide markets covered with wooden roofs. Shady streets with rows of shops lead up to each of the gates of the Jami mosque.  Very fine is this mosque, and beautifully paved is its court. There are fifty and odd doors opening therein. In the court of the mosque are two wells. The wood work of Halab is of excellent renown. The Mihrab (or prayer niche) of the mosque is very beautiful with wood work up to the roof, ornamentally carved, and inlaid with rare wood and ivory and ebony. The mimbar (or pulpit) is also most exquisite to behold. On the western side of the mosque is the madrasa of the Hannafites, with a fine garden. In the city are four or five madrasas like to this one, also a hospital. Suburbs lie around the city, with numberless khans and gardens."’[3]

Early in the 13th century, the geographer Yaqut (d.1229) gave an account of the city’s original name:

Halab, Hims, and Bardh’ah, were three sisters of the Bani Amalik, and each of them founded a city, which was called after their name.[4]

A surname of Aleppo is al-Baida, the White, because of the whiteness of the ground in its neighbourhood.[5]

Yaqut went on:

Verily, I, Yaqut, have visited Halab, and it was of the best of all lands for agriculture. They cultivate here cotton, sesame, water melons, cucumbers, millet, maize, apricots, figs and apples. They only have the rains to water their lands, and yet they raise abundant crops, and of such richness as I have not seen in other lands."[6]

All witnesses who saw Aleppo in the middle ages before the Mongol onslaught (in 1260) agree on its thriving trades and wealth, Ibn Hawqal, in the later half of the tenth century stating:

It was very populous and the people were possessed of much wealth and commerce thrives, for the city lies on the high road between Iraq and the fortresses, and the rest of Syria…. The city had originally five markets and baths, and hostels and quarters and broad squares…. The drinking water of the population comes form the river, and there is a little sediment in it. The prices here are still cheap, for in old days its prosperity was great and its food stuffs abundant." [7]

However, writing about 1300, Al-Dimashki tells us:

Halab is a city that has been laid in ruins by the Tartars. Of old, Halab was the equal in size of Baghdad and Al-Mawsil, and its people prided themselves on their fine raiment and personal comeliness and horses and houses."[8]

Al-Dimashki thus writes of the glory of Halab in the past, and also speaks of the woes inflicted upon it by the Mongols. This is part of a history of Halab which will form the focus of the last section of this work after it has been looked at the city’s contribution to science and civilisation.

Figure 2. Aleppo citadel crowd (Source)

Aleppo: Its Imposing Sites

When the Muslim armies captured Aleppo in the year 16 of Hijra, Abu ‘Udaiba, the commander in chief entered the town via the Antioch Gate. This is one of the imposing structures of Aleppo, a city of great sites.

The traveller Nasir I-Khusraw, who visited the town in 1047, wrote in his diary:

Halab is in appearance a fine city. It has great walls, whose height I estimated at 25 cubits (or fifty feet); also a strong castle, entirely built on the rock, which I consider to be as large as the castle of Balkh. All the houses and buildings of Aleppo stand close one beside the other. This city is where they levy the customs (on merchandises passing) between the lands of Syria and Asia Minor and Dyar al-Bakr and Egypt, and Iraq, and there come merchants and traders from all these lands to Aleppo." [9] 

The physician Ibn Butlan wrote a few years later, in 1051:

Halab is a town walled with white stones. There are six gates; and besides the wall is a castle, in the upper part of which is a mosque and two churches…. In the town is a mosque and six churches, also a small hospital…. Of the wonders of Halab we may mention that in the Kaisaryah (or bazaar) of the cloth merchants are twenty shops for the wakils or brokers. These men, every day, sell goods to the amount of 20,000 dinars (£10,000), and this they have done for twenty years. No part of Halab is at all in ruins." [10]

The Citadel of Aleppo is one such great sites, its role highly stressed by the fact that, Aleppo is, with Mosul and Cairo, the city of Eastern Islam that played not just a central, but a decisive, role in the destinies of Islam, a role that will be amply looked at in the final part of this paper. The Citadel is a natural mound with its slopes artificially sharpened and deep ditch; its form is oval, about 300 yards by 150 in area at the top, while the ditch encloses an area of 500x350, its height above the bottom of the ditch is 100 feet. The mound does not lie equidistant from the city walls but near the centre of the east wall. The only entrance is in the south.[11] The deep well on the north side, around whose cylindrical shaft is a staircase winds, was built in the Seljuk period as an inscription of Malik Shah found in a passage bellow, near the steps, shows. After the earthquake of 565 (hijra), Nur Eddin Zangi (ruled 1145-1178) instituted great works of restoration, of which several inscriptions have survived on towers on the west side. In the interior, Nur Eddin built the lower sanctuary of Ibrahim al-Khalil with a splendid mirhab carved in wood, one of the finest examples of this branch of art. The celebrated minbar of the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was also originally designed for this sanctuary.[12] Briggs observes that `the remarkable and incontrovertible fact about Muslim architecture is that in all countries, and in all centuries it retained an unmistakable individuality of its own.'[13]  He also explains how much military architecture was produced by the Muslims between the 9th and 12th centuries, and was copied by the Crusaders. One such feature of military architecture was the `right angled' or `crooked' entrance to a fortress through a gateway in the walls, whereby an enemy who had reached the gateway could not see or shoot through it into the inner courtyard. These crooked entrances were first used in places such as the `Round City' of Baghdad (8th century,) at Salah Eddin's citadel at Cairo, and at the citadel of Aleppo.[14]

According to Yaqut, writing early in the 13th century:

The castle of Halab is a wonder to behold, and has become proverbial for strength and beauty. Halab lies in a flat country. In the centre of the city rises a perfectly circular and high hill, which has been scarped artificially, and the castle is built on its summit. It has a deep ditch, which has been dug sufficiently deep to reach the water springs. Inside the castle is a reservoir which is filled with pure water. Also within the castle is a Jami Mosque, and maidan (race course), and garden of considerable exten." [15]

Not long after, in 1260 Hulagu captured and destroyed the fortress so that it had to be entirely restored under the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf al-Khalil; but in the devastating invasion by Timur Lang, The Lame, which took place in the late 14th century, and from which Aleppo never recovered, his hordes destroyed the walls as they devastated the city, slaying its population, and raping its women (see further down).[16] Despite the destruction by both Mongol and Timur’s hordes, the Mamluks kept repairing the citadel.[17] Moreover, the Mamluks contributed the throne hall above the Ayyubid entrance gate. The Mamluk governor, Jakam bin ‘Iwad put much effort to repair Timur’s devastation. He was helping out in person, and the Muslim historian, Ibn al Shihna, notes how his father, and he himself, as a young boy, observed the Grand Emirs carrying stones on their back.[18]

Figure 3. Aleppo Bazaar (Source)

Another imposing site is the Great Mosque of Aleppo, which lies in the bazaars to the west of the citadel. It was founded during the reign of the Umayyad ruler, Suleyman Ibn Abd al-Malik. No traces have however survived of this building built after the plan of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.[19] According to tradition, partly confirmed by inscriptions, the present edifice was first begun by the Kadi Ibn Al-Khashab, a great personality of Aleppo, to whom it will be returned, whilst the Seljuk ruler Malik Shah was also responsible for the construction of part of the edifice.[20] The lower storey of the minaret bears the date 483H and its inscriptions mention both Malik Shah and Ibn al-Khashab.[21] The architecture of the whole building and the absence of later inscriptions show that in appearance the whole mosque has remained practically unaltered for centuries, Qalawun, the Mamluk sultan, who succeeded Baybars (d. 1277) built its mihrab as the old one had been destroyed in 1260 during a fire begun by the Armenians who were allied with the Mongols.[22] Four Mamluk maksurahs, which were still seen in 1908, have been removed except the maksurah al-Khatib during the repairs since undertaken.[23] The haram consists of a hall of three naves each with 18 cross vaultings on solid quadrangular pillars, in Malik Shah’s time the hall is said to have had marble pillars.[24] The mirhab is a simple deep, round niche, whilst before the haram lies the splendid wide court with old decorative marble pavement, two roofed wells, a sundial and an open prayer estrade.[25] Around it are halls similar to the haram. The two naved east hall belongs to the architectural period of Malik Shah. The north hall with a large reservoir has two naves, it was restored by the Mamluk Sultan, Barkuk, in 797H.[26]     

Like everywhere else in Islam, mosques and learning went together. Mosques did not just dispense learning, but also provided books in large numbers in their libraries. In Aleppo, the largest and probably the oldest mosque library, the Sufiya, located at the city's Grand Ummayad Mosque, contained a large book collection of which 10 000 volumes were reportedly bequeathed by the city's most famous ruler, Prince Sayf al-Dawla.[27] Muslims considered that the duty of librarian was only for the best scholars amongst them.

According to Mackensen only were chosen:

Men of unusual attainment as custodians of their libraries. In fact, much of the splendid activity of Arabic libraries is probably due to the quality of men who were pleased to act as librarians. It speaks highly for the generosity of the patrons as well as for the really important work carried out in these libraries that men of marked ability in various fields felt it worth their while to undertake the duties of custodian".[28]

The Sufiya of the Grand Mosque of Aleppo library, for instance, had Muhammad al-Qasarani, an accomplished poet and a man well versed in literature, geometry, arithmetic and astronomy in charge of it as librarian prior to his death about 460 H/1153.[29] 

The madrasas, the precursors of our modern university colleges,[30] were first established by the Seljuk leader, Nizam al-Mulk (murdered by the Ismailis in 1092). Following his madrasa, their spread was so rapid that at some point in the medieval times, according to Tawtah,[31] there were 14 of them in Aleppo.[32] The madrasa al-Halabiya was founded by Nur Eddin Zangi the ruler of Aleppo. This Madrasa lies to the west of the Great Mosque from which it is separated only by a narrow bazaar street. It is in 517 hijra that Kadi Ibn al-Khashab (also to be assassinated by the Ismailis) transformed this church into a mosque in revenge for the destruction of Muslim tombs by the crusaders.[33] In 543H, Nur Eddin made it a madrasa. The first madrasa in Aleppo, however, was the madrasa al-Zadjdjadiya built by Sulaiman b. Abd al-Djabbar b. Ortuk (510-517 hijra) of which no traces have survived (a generation later than the Nizamiyah of Baghdad).[34] Close behind the Antioch gate lie the remains of a building which is the remains of the madrasa al-Shuaibiya built by Nur Eddin in 545, which occupies the site of the oldest mosque in Aleppo, built by Abu ‘Ubaida, the Muslim general who conquered Syria. This building distinguishes itself thanks to its architectural features and Kufic inscriptions.[35] Ibn al-Adim (1192-1262) lists a good number of madrasas around his time, briefly outlined here by Blochet.[36]  The madrasa al-Attabakiya was founded by the Seljuk Shihab Eddin Toghril, a madrasa which was subsequently burnt down by the Mongols. The madrasa Tumaniya built by Emir Hussam Eddin Ibn Tuman, Emir of Nur Eddin Zangi. Ibn Shihna remarks that in this madrasa there was a section reserved for women. The madrasa Ghoutaisyia built by Saad Eddin Masud, son of Emir Izz Eddin Aibek known under the name of Ghoutais. This madrasa was destroyed by Timur the Lame when he devastated the city in the ca. 1401. The madrasa Djamaliya built by Djamal al-Dula Ikbalath Thahiri, who attributed to it waqfs made of three wells, and eight oven bakeries.[37]

Figure 4. The fountain in Achik Bash House in Aleppo (Source)

Many madrasas were for women or were financed by them, especially under the Mamluks, and in all parts of Islam, such as the one established in Cairo in 634 A.H by the daughter of the Mamluk Sultan Tahir, whilst the daughter of Malik Ashraf, known as Khatun, erected a women's Madrasa in Damascus, and another Madrasa was founded by Zamurrad, wife of Nasiruddin of Aleppo.[38]

Throughout the land of Islam, and despite the crusades (1095-1291) and the Mongol invasions and devastation (13th century), the Mamluks added many buildings to those erected before them by the Seljuks, and this combined effort is visible in Aleppo. Thus, there the Mamluks added many mosques, a beautiful hospital, a whole series of large warehouses and shops, dwellings, baths and public wells, which have survived.[39]

With regard to hospitals, medieval Aleppo had four of them, as recorded by Ahmed Issa Bey, who gives us the followings outline on the history of some of them.[40]  The Hospital al-Nuri, also known as the old hospital in Aleppo, some say, was built under the reign of Nur Eddin Zangi. The physician, who later built the hospital in Antioch, tradition has it that he chose the most favourable site for the hospital by hanging pieces of meat in various parts of the city, and selecting the site where the meat showed the least decomposition. The hospital was built near the market of al-Hawa, in the street which is now called Zukak al-Bahramia. The area above the gateway or entrance to the hospital was decorated with an inscription. It praises the sultan who ordered the hospital to be built, and lauds him as ‘the protector of the faithful, and the enemy of the infidel and the atheist.’ From the l'lam al-Nubala, a work written in 1880, Issa Bey quotes: 'Today this bimaristan has fallen completely in ruins, and the only thing left is the entrance gateway, or portal, and the outside walls inside which poor strangers live."[41]

The New Bimaristan in Aleppo, Issa Bey says referring to the work, l'lam al-Nubala, that Prince Arghun al-Kamili, Viceroy of Aleppo, built this hospital in 1344, inside the Porte of Qinnasrin. The prince insisted that it should be as perfect as possible. It was built on solid foundations, with wards most carefully planned. It was staffed with physicians and attendants to provide for every need of the sick inhabitants of the city as well as strangers. Flowing water was supplied to the hospital in abundance. The hospital was endowed with many waqfs which provided funds in excess of the needs of the institution. High officials were appointed at different times to manage the affairs of the hospital. But decades later as the waqfs and endowments were greatly reduced the hospital rapidly went from bad to worse. Until the end of the seventeenth century the hospital had functioned regularly, but after that time it was neglected and part of the building was in ruins. The same work described in detail the condition of the building as in partial ruin, and noted that ‘the rooms formerly used to house the insane patients were so dreadful that the fetid air and darkness would drive a sane person insane if he were kept in them for more than a few hours.’[42]

The medical historian, Whipple, inspected the ruins of these two hospitals when he visited Aleppo in December, 1959, in his search for the sites and ruins of the hospitals that had been built in the Near and Middle East during the Middle Ages. The Director of the Museum of Antiquities in Aleppo spoke of the remains of the only two ancient hospitals in that city. There was little of the Old Hospital remaining, although the inscription over what was left of the entrance gate was still visible. There were three rooms inside the outer wall that may have been part of the original building, but the few more recently built rooms were occupied by indigent Arab families.[43]

The New Hospital was in a less ruined state; the entrance gate was still intact. Opening off it was a courtyard, with a small fountain in its centre. On the eastern side of the court was a passageway which led to a smaller court. Opening from this were three small rooms that must have been used for the insane patients, for there were iron rings in the walls, and the single small window in each room was protected with iron bars. There were a number of other rooms in a more ruined state, which could not be inspected because they were occupied by three poor Arab families. The description of the remains of this building, the two courts and the passageway between them, as given by the author of l'Iam al-Nubala, corresponded closely with what Whipple saw.[44]

Issa Bey mentions briefly two other hospitals in Aleppo, but gives very little data regarding them.[45] The Hospital of Bani al-Daqqaq was incorporated into the residence of Sa'dun al-Dawadar at a later date. It was situated west of al-Halawiyah. No date for the construction of the hospital or its builder is given. Issa Bey quotes the author of l'Iam al-Nubala as saying that at the portal of the Great Northern Mosque in Aleppo there existed a hospital, having a large entrance gate. It was founded by Ibn-Kharkhar (date not given), but was closed at the time of writing the above statement.[46]

Leading dynasties, including Seljuk and Mamluk, and their architects contributed decisively to the building of hospitals, madrasas, bridges, parts of the citadel, fortifications, and other structures. Yet, modern historians such as Ashtor demean their contributions. He says:

The attentive reader of the Arabic chronicles of the Seljukid age becomes aware of these facts at time and again he comes across reports of bridges falling down and dams bursting. For often the chronicler reveals that it was not simply the consequence of negligence but of bad construction and ineffective repairs.[47]

He adds:

The technological knowledge possessed in former times by Persian and Babylonian engineers was lost." [48]

The execution of great constructions in Egypt at the end of the twelfth century, does not contradict the supposition of technological decline. For the citadel and the new walls of Cairo, which were constructed by order of Saladin, were built by Christian prisoners.[49]

Yet, reality shows such construction skills were preserved and even improved all over the Muslim world. One will not dwell on Seljuk accomplishments in their own realm, primarily Konya, and all over the Seljuk realm, which can be consulted by anyone reading on Seljuk architecture.[50] Also, as can be consulted in the work by Mayer, there are hundreds of names of Muslim architects.[51] This is obvious in relation to Aleppo.[52] Hence, Hasan B. Mufarraj as-Sarmani in 1091 erected the upper part of the minaret of the great mosque of Aleppo. In the following century, in 1112, Fahd B. Salman as-Sarmani erected the mihrab of the Maqam Ibrahim at Salihin, perhaps even the whole building. In 1150-1; Said B. Abd’Allah erected the Madrasa Shu’aibiya at the Bab Antakiya. In 1159, Isa B. Ali built the Khanqah of Sunqurjah for Nur Eddin Zangi. In 1193, Abu Abdallah and Abu Radja, two brothers, stone cutters and wood workers put in place the mihrab of the madrasa Shadhbakhtiya. In 1203-4 Abu Thabit Yaqut erected a building opposite the mausoleum of the Al-Khashab Family. In 1225-6, Abu Ali Al-Halabi worked at the restoration of the main entrance gate and other parts of the Citadel of Sinop in Asia Minor undertaken by Kaikawus B. Kaikhusrau, and in 1231, he built the Red Tower at Alanya. In 1236-7, Abu’l Farradj Al-Banna constructed part of the walls of Dyar Al-Bakr according to designs made by Ja’Afar b. Mahmud al-Halabi. In 1245-6, the architect Muhammad B, Al-Jarrar rebuilt the Hallayiyya Madrasa. Muhammad B. As-Sawwaf who was a master who flourished in the late 15th century, in 1494-5 built the mosque known as Jami ad-Daraj. Ahmad B. Al-Athar, in the years 1508-1514 restored the Citadel of Aleppo by orders of the Mamluk ruler, Qansuh al-Gawri.[53]

In Aleppo there also thrived many scholars, of which the following is only an outline. It must be noted, however, that very often it is difficult to locate the scholars of Islam in one place, for they lived and worked in different places, as they went on pilgrimage, or moved according to the woes of history.

Figure 5. Frontal view of the Citadel of Aleppo, taken in May 2010. (Source)

The Scholars of Aleppo

The ruler Sayfu'l-Dawla provided a house at Aleppo for al-Farabi, known in Latin as Alpharabius. Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzlagh al-Farabi was born in Wasit, near Farab, Turkestan, of a Turkish family; studied in Baghdad; flourished chiefly in Aleppo; died in Damascus 950-51, aged c. 80.[54] Al- Farabi, who was keenly interested in the relation between logic and language, also studied Arabic grammar with the noted grammarian Ibn al-Sarraj (d. 929). For reasons not fully known, al-Farabi left Baghdad for Syria in 942,[55] where he is said to have been sponsored by the Arab prince of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla (who came to power in 945).[56] "He (Al-Farabi) was the most indifferent of men to the things of this world," says Ibn Khallikan; "he never gave himself the least trouble to acquire a livelihood or possess a habitation."[57] Sayf al-Dawla asked him how much he needed for his maintenance; al-Farabi thought that four dirhems ($2) a day would suffice; the prince settled this allowance on him for life.[58]

Thirty-nine works by al-Farabi survive. Some of his works, notably The Enumeration of the Sciences and the Treatise on the Intellect, were translated into Latin and known to medieval Scholastics and to philosophers of the Italian Renaissance.[59]

He wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle (physics, meteorology, logical treatises…), on Porphyry's "Isagoge," on Ptolemy's Almagest," but his own writings deal chiefly with psychology and metaphysics.[60] His own philosophy is developed in such works as Tahsil al-Sa'ada (The attainment of happiness), which forms the first part of a trilogy, Ihsa al-'ulum (The enumeration of the sciences), Kitab al-milla (The book of religion), al-siyasa al-madaniyya (The political regime), and Ara ahl al-madina al-fadila (The opinions of the citizens of the virtuous city).[61] The Bezels of Philosophy, (Risala Fusus al-Hikam) is a short philosophical introduction.[62]

Al-Farabi is the author of a treatise on the classification and fundamental principles of science, Kitab ihsa al-'ulum, "De Scientiis," and "De ortu scientiarum".[63] It summarizes the knowledge of his time in philology, logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, and politics.[64] This work was translated in the 12th century by the Latin translator, Gundisalvi.[65] A much later translation of this work is into Spanish by G. Palencia who published the Arabic text of Ihssa al-Ulum or catalogue of the sciences according to MS. Escorial Arab 646.[66]

Al-Farabi was conversant with the whole scientific thought of his day. He wrote a treatise on the theory of music (Kitab al- musiqi), where he demonstrated knowledge of mensural music and recognized the major third (4:5) and the minor third (5:6) as consonances.[67]

His work Al-Medina al-Fadila—The Ideal City; (The Model City) (Risala fi mabadi ara ahl al-Madina al-Fadila); the organisation of an ideal city, is of great sociological interest.[68] Al-Farabi discusses the structure of the "virtuous" city, the qualities its leadership must have, and the various types of "non virtuous" cities. The majority of these latter are characterized as "ignorant" because of their leaders’ ignorance of the true nature of happiness. Related to this is al-Farabi's eschatology, according to which immortality is confined to those souls that have knowledge of what constitutes true happiness.[69]  Durant outlines the contents of this work.[70] It opens with a description of the law of nature as one of perpetual struggle of each organism against all the rest—; every living thing, in the last analysis, sees in all other living things a means to its ends. Some cynics argue from this, says al-Farabi, that in ‘this inescapable competition the wise man is he who best bends others to his will, and most fully achieves his own desires. How did human society emerge from this jungle law? Some thought that society had begun in an agreement, among individuals, that their survival required the acceptance of certain restraints through custom or law; others laughed this "social contract" out of history, and insisted that society, or the state, had begun as the conquest and regimentation of the weak by the strong. States themselves struggle with one another for ascendancy, security, power, and wealth; war is natural and inevitable; and as in the law of nature, the only right is might.’ Al-Farabi counters this view with an appeal to his fellow men to build a society not upon envy, power, and strife, but upon reason, devotion, and love. He recommends a monarchy based upon strong religious belief.[71]

During the crusades, Aleppo remained a great centre of Muslim scholarship where many scholars retired to form a sort of fraternity, especially as this city remained protected by the might of the armies of Nur Eddin Zangi (1145-1173).  This fraternity was symbolised by Djamal Eddin Ibn Al-Qifti, a vizier around whom much scholarship thrived in Aleppo.  He was born in Egypt, in the year 1172. At a young age, his father took him to Cairo to learn to read and write, then he left Cairo for Jerusalem then, finally Aleppo, where he spent the rest of his life,[72] first by the side of Emir Maymun al-Kasry. In Aleppo Ibn al-Qifti met another great scholar, who was close to the Emir: Youssef al-Sibti (d. 1226).[73] When the Emir Al-Maymun died, Ibn al-Qifti retired from his functions into utmost solitude, running away from the world, and instead devoting all his time and energies to studies, still, subsequent rulers called upon him to resume his ministerial functions until he died in 1248.[74]

Figures 6-7. Before (Source) and After (Source) the destruction of the Great Mosque of Aleppo 

Ibn Al-Qifti enjoyed the company of scholars and their discussions, and was also the patron of scholars, and he became scholar himself, helped by his own assiduous efforts.[75] He is a singular character who only found pleasure amongst books, so much so he never acquired a house despite his ministerial functions, and his morality remained impeccable to the end.[76] And such was his love for books, he collected them in all their large numbers and variety, and his private library amounted to 50,000 books, which were legated to Malik AnNasir, a collection estimated after his death at 60000 Dinars,[77] or by Leclerc at the end of the 19th century at nearly a million Francs.[78] His books collected from all parts of the world, are all masterpieces, the authorship of the greatest scholars, even written by their own hand. Once, Ibn al-Qifti bought a book, which was missing a part. One day a tradesman brought him some pages of this part, which Ibn al-Qifti purchased, asking for the rest. When the tradesman told him he had used them to wrap his goods for sale, Ibn Al-Qifti mourned so much the loss that he suspended his ministerial functions.[79]

Ibn al-Qifti’s own scholarship concerns lexicology, grammar, jurisprudence, tradition, the Qur’an, logic, astronomy, mathematics, history, and medicine. He is famed for his biography of scholars, called Kitab Ikhbar al-Ulama bi Akhbar al-Hukama, or (information given to the learned on the history of the wise).[80] This work is known through the summary made in 1249-50 by Al-Zawzani in a work generally known as Tarikh al-Hukama (the history of the wise).  The Tarikh al-Hukama was edited on the basis of August Muller’s investigations by Julius Lippert.[81] The Spanish orientalist, Casiri, was the first to bring to light this work. The work contains information on the life and works of more than 414 very unequal biographies of ancient and Muslim physicians, men of sciences and philosophers.[82] The work is very substantive, including very useful and rich information on the lives of such scholars. To have an idea of the length and volume of information in the work, it ought to be reminded that the manuscript at the Escurial in Madrid contains 500 pages, with fifteen lines each of small writing.[83] The richness of this work on the life of Islamic scholarship is obvious, yet, as Sarton rightly observes, there has never been a full English translation of this work, something that is very much needed.[84]

 Ibn al-Qifti was also the author of other works, which include:

  • Annals of grammarians.
  • Annals of Egypt from the beginning to the time of Salah Eddin
  • History of the Yemen
  • Discourse on Sahih al-Bukhari
  • History of the Seljuks
  • Response to the Christians
  • The best transcriptions since the invention of writing.[85]

Kamal Eddin Ibn al-Adim (1192-1262) is the historian of his native city, Aleppo, most especially through his enormous biographical work, not yet published in modern times: Bughyat al-Talab (The student’s desire), which is a collection of biographies of the famous men of Aleppo arranged alphabetically,[86] of which only a part remains. He also wrote his history of the city: Zubdat al-Halab fi ta’arikh Halab (The cream of the history of Aleppo), which describes the history of Aleppo up to 1243.[87] Ibn al-Adim also wrote a guide for the making of perfumes, Kitab al-wuslat (or wasilat) ila-l- habib fi wasf al-tayibat wal-tibb.[88]

Ibn al-Adim was appointed professor in a madrasa of Aleppo in 1219-20, and later Qadi and Visier to the Ayyubid rulers of Aleppo, Al-Aziz and Al-Nasir.[89] It is with the latter that he fled to Egypt when the Mongols captured and devastated the city in 1260.[90] This is only one episode of the very dramatic history of the city, which had earlier played a decisive role in Muslim history during the Crusades as the final heading will show. Ibn al-Adim gives a very interesting and enlightening account, which is briefly summed up here, of one of the most decisive battles of the first crusade, at Balat in 1119, a battle that saved Aleppo from the crusader onslaught, which by then had already devastated much of Syria and Palestine:

Il-Ghazi and Tughtikin (The Muslim commanders) went together to Mardin and from there sent messages to the Muslim armies and to Turcoman soldiers far and near to join them in the great army they were mustering…. Messengers arrived from Aleppo begging Il-Ghazi to hurry there as the Franks were raiding al-Athrib, south of Aleppo, and morale was low… Sir Roger, the crusade ruler of Antioch assembled the Frankish and Armenian armies and made straight for the iron bridge (over the Orontes) and went from there to take up his position at Balat, between the two mountains near the Sarmada pass, north of al-Atharib. He camped there on Friday 20 June 1119. The Muslims waited for Tughtekin to arrive but he did not.  Il-Ghazi was thus goaded into immediate action against the enemy. He made all the emirs and commanders renew their oath to fight bravely, to stand firm without retreating, and to offer their lives in Holy War. To this they cheerfully swore… At the head of the Muslim army was Ibn al-Khashab, the Qadi of Aleppo, mounted on a mare and carrying a lance, and urging the Muslims on to war. A soldier seeing the Qadi said: `So we left home and come all this way to march behind a turban.’ But the Qadi at the head of the troops rode up and down the lines haranguing them and using all his eloquence to summon every energy and rise to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, until men wept with emotion and admiration. Then Tugha Arslan Ibn Dimlaj (Amir of Arzan in the Jazira, and vassal of Ilghazi) led the charge, and the army swept down on the enemy tents, spreading chaos and destruction. God gave victory to the Muslims. The Franks who fled their camp were slaughtered. The Turks fought superbly, charging the enemy from every direction like a man. Arrows flew thick as locusts, and the Franks, with missiles raining down on infantry and cavalry alike, turned and fled…. Roger was killed, and so were 15,000 of his men… A signal of victory reached Aleppo as the Muslims were assembled for the noon prayer in the Great Mosque…. When the prisoners were brought in front of Il-Ghazi, he noticed one of magnificent physique who had been captured by a small, thin, ill armed Muslim. As he passes before the Prince the Turcoman soldiers said to him: `are not you ashamed to have been captured by this little man with a physique like yours? The Frank replied: `By God, this man did not capture me; he is not my conqueror. The man who captured me was a great man, greater and stronger than I, and he handed me over to this fellow. He wore a green robe and rode a green horse.’[91]

Syria gave rise to a number of eminent writers in the field of eye surgery, such as a certain Salah al-Din, who wrote Kitab Nur al-uyun wa-Jami al-Funun (light of the eyes..), which is most particularly interesting in its mentioning all preceding authorities and their works, including Ali. b. Isa, Ammar al Mawsuli, Ibn Jazla... Better known, though, is Khalifa Ben Abi Al-Mahassin (13th century) of Aleppo, who is the author of a large work of 564 pages in which he describes and gives drawings of various surgical instruments including 36 instruments for eye surgery.[92] He is known to us through his Mss No 1043 containing 250 pp., on eye surgery; the treatise entitled: Kitab al-Kafi fi’l Kohl (The Sufficient Book on the Collyrium),[93] where he mentions eighteen major ophthalmologic texts; his work very practical, too, with very good descriptions of cataract operations, and the instruments used, and also the steps to be taken after the operation.[94] A Ms of it was written by another hand in 1275 (At the BN of Paris); the author was a Muslim the copyist, Abd Al-Aziz, was a Christian.[95] The treatise deals with diseases, their definitions, descriptions, varieties, causes, symptoms, treatment, and medicines and cures for them.[96] Some chapters deal with the qualities an eye surgeon must have, and also chapter where surgery for the removal of the cataract is described in good detail, including the author’s own experience. The last one hundred pages of the Mss deal with simples and diets.[97]   In the introduction the author cites all his predecessors in eye surgery; the authors cited representing diverse aspects of the science.[98] The treatise subdivides into two halves: Anatomy and therapeutic Hygiene, and also includes a particular chapter for affections and treatment which is for general medical surgery.[99] The work’s first main parts on the anatomy of the eye is subdivided as follows:

  • Definition, colour of the eye.
  • Tunics of the eye;
  • The fluids of the eye.
  • Visual power and its nerves.
  • Motive nerves.
  • Muscles of the eye, eyelids and eyelashes.

The second part on treatment is also divided into six chapters:

  • Generalities.
  • Hygiene of the eye; things which are useful and things which are harmful.
  • How to open the eye and introduce drugs into it.
  • The best kind of probe and its use.
  • Tools for the handling of the collyria.
  • Best garments for the eye doctor.[100]

The text of the Mss generally consists of two vertical texts on the same page progressing in parallel.[101] The illustrations found in the Manuscript of this treatise are very remarkable, chiefly a schematic figure representing the brain with its membranes, together with the eyes and eye nerves (the latter are shown crossed; i.e; the right eye is controlled by the left part of the brain and vice versa).[102] The schema of the brain and eyes occurs only in a late MS., but it goes back undoubtedly to an old Arabic tradition and it is the earliest drawing of its kind which has come down to us.[103] 

There are in the work synoptic tables relative to the diseases of the eyes and eyelids, giving for each disease the definition, description, varieties, causes, symptoms, treatments, drugs including narcotics; other tables relative to surgical cases, and a list of drugs.[104] The most remarkable synoptic table is the one related to instruments; each table contains 18 such instruments, with its name and its usage.[105] The instruments are in colour, and perfectly drawn; some instruments are for the operations on cataract others for eye infections which do not affect the senses.[106] The author himself is so confident in his own talents as eye surgeon that he did not fear to operate the cataract of a one eyed man.[107]

Al Urdi (died 1266) (from Aleppo) is famed for his Kitab al-Hayah (A Book on astronomy). He was the first astronomer associated with Maragha to initiate constructing planetary models.[108] He built astronomical instruments and wrote The instruments of the observatory of Maragha.[109] Al-Urdi was also an architect and engineer who began his technical career in Syria, doing some engineering (Hydraulic) work in Damascus and constructed an astronomical instrument for the King of Hims, Al-Mansur Ibrahim (ruler of Hims 1239-45).[110] Following the invasion of Syria by the Mongols in 1259-60, Al-Urdi was taken to Maragha to work in the observatory there.[111]

Al-Urdi also wrote two other treatises:

  • Risala fi amal al-Kura (Construction of the perfect sphere)
  • On the Determination of the distance between the centre of the sun and the apogee.[112]

Ibn al-Lubudi was a physician, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, born in Aleppo in 1210-1; died after 1267.[113] He studied medicine in Damascus under the famed al-Dakhwar, then entered the services of Mansur Ibrahim ruler of Hims (1239-45), and then Najm Eddin Ayyub who appointed him Government inspector in Alexandria, a post he later occupied in Syria after his return from Egypt.[114]

Ibn al-Lubudi wrote a number of medical works: treatises on rheumatism, on Hippocrat’s aphorisms, on the questions of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq. Only two of his works have survived: Collection of discussions relative to fifty psychological and medical questions (discussions which are merely theoretical not experimental); Commentary on the generalities (Kulliyat) of Ibn Sina’s Qanun.

The first work (Collection of discussions) is of interest to us. This work is found in the Escurial in Madrid. In this work the author deals with such matters as:

  • Question 19: The body and its preservation depend upon blood exclusively, and not upon the four humours as held by the majority of scholars and philosophers.
  • Question 25: That contrary to what Galen holds, women do not produce sperm.
  • Question 27: that the movement of the arteries is proper to them and does not depend upon the movements of the heart.
  • Question 29: That the first limb that forms in the body is the heart, which is contrary to what Hippocrate hold, which in his opinion is the brain.
  • Question 34: That the bones forming the skull can grow into tumours.
  • Question 58: That in cases of extreme fever, releases are not advised.[115]

Ibn al-Lubudi’s mathematical writings include:

  • -An extract from Euclid; An Arithmetical Textbook; A Treatise on Algebra.[116]
  • He also compiled astronomical tables: al-Zahir (the brilliant) extracted from the tables of Habash Al-Hasib who lived in the early 9th century; and al-Muqarab (the approximate) based on his observations.[117]

In the year 1325, Ibn Sarraj flourished in Aleppo. He devised two kinds of universal astrolabes; developed several varieties of markings for the almucantar quadrant, and devised various highly ingenious trigonometric grids as alternatives to the simple sine quadrant.[118]

Ahmad al-Halabi (d. 1455), an astronomer from Aleppo, wrote on instruments, including: Bughyat al-Tulab fi’l amal bi rub al-astrulab, which translates as Aims of pupils on operations with the quadrant of astrolabe, which can be located at Leyden (1001/8); Paris (2524/10); Princeton (Yehuda 1168), and the Garrett Collection. The description of the Leyden manuscript was accomplished by Ruska and Hartner.[119]

Another treatise of his is titled Nubdha fi’l amal bu jawdal al-nisba al-sittiniya, which is a concise exposition of operations with tables with sexagesimal ratio, which is now found at Oxford University (Oxford I 1035/1).[120] A third treatise is on the operations with the sine quadrant titled: Risala fi’l amal bu rub al-mujayyab, a treatise that can be located at Princeton University (Yehuda 1168, after A1).[121] Al-Halabi also wrote Jadwal irtifa al-kawakib al-thabita inda tulu al-Fajr (table of the fixed stars on the ascension of dawn) which is now at Cairo (Falak 8525/2), and a final work to mention here is his table for the Azimuth for the latitude of Damascus, which is also located in the same Cairo library.[122]

Al-Halabi: Ibrahim B. Muhammad was a native of Aleppo, where he studied, on top of his other learning in Cairo, then came to Istanbul where he filled the office of preacher and professor and died in 1549 at the age of 90. He was a jurist author of a handbook, according to the Hanafi school much used in Turkey, and often annotated.[123]  Its title is Multaka ‘l-Abkur; printed in Istanbul repeatedly. The French translation of this work has been made by Sauvaire, in Marseilles, in 1882, whilst the Turkish translation was by H. Raghib (printed in Bulak in Istanbul in 1889.)[124]

Figure 8. The middle gate of Qabliya (Source)

Aleppo, City of the Great and Valorous

Aleppo symbolises, and by far, some of the greatest events of Islamic history. It was the city which, with Mosul, played the decisive role in the survival of the Muslim world during the worst moments of the crusades. It was the home of the great Muslim leader of the crusades: Nur Eddin Zangi (ruled 1146-1173). Aleppo also symbolises the collapse of Muslim civilisation due to the repeated attacks and devastation caused by the Mongols in the 13th century and after, and by Timur Lang in 1401.

The Crusaders sought to take Aleppo, and its fate would have been the same as in Ma’arat Unu’man, Antioch, Jerusalem, Tyre, and anywhere else, the massacre of its population. The Muslim victory at Balat in 1119 (seen above) saved it from such a fate. Then in 1124, Aleppo was besieged by Baldwin, St Giles of Tripoli, Joscelyn Count of Edessa and their Muslim allies (led by Dubais ibn Sadaqa.)[125] The siege lasted nine months, Aleppo reaching the verge of starvation when it was rescued in January 1125 by Il-Bursuqi, governor of Mosul, who forced the Franks and their Muslim allies to retreat to Antioch.[126] Il-Bursuqi counter offensive was cut short on 26 November 1127 when he was murdered by the Ismailis.[127]

In these early stages, resistance to the crusades was mostly from Mosul, and all the great leaders of the Muslim resistance came from that city, the last great amongst them being Imad Eddin Zangi, who also died assassinated in 1146. Imad Eddin Zangi left two sons, and the greatest amongst them, Nur Eddin, became the ruler of Aleppo, and with him the Muslim fight back against the crusades shifted straight from Mosul to Aleppo.

Before Nur Eddin, Aleppo had already produced one of its most valorous men: The Qadi Ibn Al-Khashab (d. 528/1133-4). Not content to sit back in the mosque or madrasa and to preach and teach jihad, Ibn al-Khashab was also closely involved in the running of affairs in Aleppo at a time when the city was extremely vulnerable to external attacks.[128] Indeed, in the early twelfth century the Aleppan notables had sought military support from Baghdad against the Franks, before turning in desperation to the Turcoman ruler of Mardin, Il-Ghazi.[129] In these negotiations Ibn al-Khashab was prominent. According to the town chronicler of Aleppo, Ibn al-'Adim, Ibn al-Khashab was responsible for the defence of the city and for taking care of its interests. In difficult times it was prominent religious figures who were ready to shoulder administrative duties and assume civic leadership.[130] Ibn al-Khashab is known to have been present amongst the troops just before the Battle of Balat 1119, preaching to them. At this stage, however, his presence was obviously not welcome to everybody. As Ibn al-'Adim writes:

The qadi Abu'l Fadl b. al-Khashab came, spurring the people to fight, riding on a mare and with a spear in his hand. One of the troops saw him and belittled him saying: '[So] we have come from our lands only to follow this man in a turban! He [Ibn al-Khashab] went up to the people and amongst the ranks preached them eloquent sermon in which he awakened their resolutions and sharpened their resolves. He made the people weep and there was agony in their eyes.[131]

It was Ibn Al-Khashab, who in 1111 led people in riots against the inept caliph of Baghdad to demand intervention against the Franks, but was finally assassinated by the Ismailis in 1134.[132]

Aleppo soon, though, became the home of the great leader, who was, for the first time able to reunite the Muslim world into a strong power, by bringing Egypt and Syria together, the ruler of Aleppo: Nur Eddin Zangi (d. 1173). It is needless to dwell on Nur Eddin Zangi’s character, nor on his military achievements, which will deserve a large book. Readers, that is those amongst them fortunate to understand French, are advised to consult the best work on him by Elisseeff.[133]  Like his father, Imad, and just like the Mamluk leader, Baybars, a century after him, Nur Eddin led Muslim armies in the field of battle from the youngest age until death.[134] Nur Eddin won crushing victories against the crusaders, such as in June 1149, when he defeated a combined army of Franks and Ismailis.[135] The year after Nur-Eddin recaptured many advanced positions around Antioch.[136] It was thanks to Nur Eddin that Damascus survived crusader attacks, and it was under his command that rose the young officer, Salah Eddin, who was sent by the Sultan to Egypt to terminate Fatimid power there, and unite at last the Muslim world against the crusaders.

Aleppo having resisted the crusades was, however, to fall to the Mongols in 1260. The city, once one of the thriving trading centres of Syria, rich in crafts and craftsmen, scholars and scholarship, was thrice occupied by the Mongols, and reduced to destitution. In 1260 the citadel, the walls, the grand mosque, and surrounding structures were destroyed; according to accounts, the population was systematically massacred.[137] On this devastating Mongol invasion we have more details. Hulagu, in alliance with the Christians, sought to invade the Holy Land and return it to Christendom.[138] He sought advice from the Armenian King, Hethoum, who advised the capture of Aleppo, first, for, by taking it, the road to the rest of Syria was open.[139] Thus, on 18 January 1260, Aleppo was besieged. The city was bravely defended.[140] The city walls were strong, and inside there was a good stock of weapons. The besiegers made in one night a firm counter wall; twenty catapults rained their projectiles on the city, which was taken by assault on January 25 1260.[141] In the wake of its capture, as elsewhere, Runciman notes, the Muslim citizens were exterminated en masse whilst the Christians were spared except for some Orthodox, whose church had not been recognised in the heat of the carnage.[142] When Aleppo had been sacked during five days and nights, and most of the inhabitants had been cut down, Hulagu proclaimed an end to the massacre. The streets were blocked up with corpses.[143] One hundred thousand women and children were taken as slaves.[144] King Hethoum of Lesser Armenia, like his crusader son in law, Bohemond VI of Antioch-Tripoli, assisted Hulagu in the siege and the storming of the city with an army of Christian warriors.[145] Hethoum set fire to the Great Mosque with his own hands.[146] As a reward for his substantial support, Hulagu presented Hethoum with a share of the booty, and restored to him territory that the Muslims had taken from the Armenians.[147] Bohemond VI also regained territory that Salah Eddin had originally conquered in the principality of Antioch such as Darkish, Kafr Dubbin and Kafr Balmis.[148]

When the city began to rise again a second invasion in 1280 by the Mongols based in Iran, who had supposedly become Muslim, finished the city off. Mosques, madrassas, trades, and the sultan’s palace were pillaged and burned.[149]

Then, just as it began to recover under the Mamluks, Aleppo was devastated by further Eastern invasions, the worst by Timur the Lame in 1401.

Here is the narration by the historian Gibbon:

Timur's front was covered with a line of Indian elephants, whose turrets were filled with archers and Greek fire: the rapid evolutions of his cavalry completed the dismay and disorder; the Syrians fell back on each other: many thousands were stifled or slaughtered in the entrance of the great street; the Moguls entered with the fugitives; and after a short defence, the citadel, the impregnable citadel of Aleppo, was surrendered.  Among the suppliants and captives, Timur distinguished the doctors of the law, whom he invited to the dangerous honour of a personal conference… During this peaceful conversation the streets of Aleppo streamed with blood, and re-echoed with the cries of mothers and children, with the shrieks of violated virgins. The rich plunder that was abandoned to his soldiers might stimulate their avarice; but their cruelty was enforced by the peremptory command of producing an adequate number of heads, which, according to his custom, were curiously piled in columns and pyramids: the Moguls celebrated the feast of victory, while the surviving Moslems passed the night in tears and in chains." [150] 

But these continuous woes never lessened the valorous tradition of the city and its population. Centuries on, the city produced one of the great and little known heroes of Islam: Suleiman Al-Halabi. This man came in the wake of the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. In that year, the French invaded Egypt claiming that they had come ‘to liberate it from the despotic rule of the Mamluks.’[151] In truth, other than seeking to conquer the Holy land, the French had come to loot Egypt, attracted by its wealth and commerce.[152] Instead of the promised liberation of Egypt from the despotic Mamluks, the French pursued a systematic policy of loot and slaughter, also despoiling Al-Azhar. The French invasion of the Holy Land, however, failed in front of a concerted resistance by the Mamluks, the Turks, and Arab volunteers. The French were forced to retreat back to Egypt on 13 June 1799. Forced to return to France, Napoleon left Egypt, leaving command in the hands of General Kleber. Kleber was assassinated by a Syrian Muslim, Suleiman al-Halabi; a man, which Western historians, as Morsy points out, fail to tell us, that he was not guillotined nor shot, but was, instead impaled; his slow, long drawn out death intended to strike terror into the hearts of Muslims.[153] Suleiman was condemned to have his right fist cut off and burned, and to be impaled alive. At the moment of his execution, and while it lasted, four hours, he showed courage and calmness which only the knowledge of having committed the most praiseworthy and glorious act, and the assurance of having earned the palm promised to martyrs could give him.[154] Suleiman showed no change of expression as his wrist was cut off, though he did cry when a burning fragment struck his neck.[155] Suleiman uttered no cry as the stake was driven in, and when it was raised and set in its hole he called out the shahadah and verses from the Qur’an.[156]  Suleiman al Halabi

Was one of many heroes [Morsy adds] whom official history tends to bypass with embarrassment, not so much because their acts were bloody, as because they are an implicit indictment not only of foreign oppression, but also of the betrayal of political leaders engaged on the path of compromise.[157]

Figure 9. Aleppo Pine and the sandspit (Source)


-Ibn Abi Usaibiya: Wafayat al-Iyan; Muller’s edition; vol 2; 1884.

-Ibn al-Athir: Kitab al-kamil; ed K.J. Tornberg; 12 vols; Leiden; 1851-72.

-E. Blochet: l’Histoire d’Alep de Kamaladdin; Revue de l’Orient Latin; 1896 to 1899; French Translation.

-M.S. Briggs: Architecture, in The Legacy of Islam, edited by T. Arnold and A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first edition, 1931, pp. 155-79.

-R. Burns: Aleppo, A History; Routledge; 2017.

-Y. Eche: Les Bibliotheques Arabes, Publiques et Semi Publiques en Mesopotamie, en Syrie et en Egypte au Moyen Age. Damascus: Institut Francais. 1967.

-Kamal Eddin: Histoire d’Alep; translated with additional notes by E. Blochet; Paris; Ernest Leroux; Editeur; Paris; 1900.

-J. Gonnella: The Citadel of Aleppo: Recent Studies; in H. Kennedy ed: Muslim Military Architecture in Greater Syria, Brill; 2006; pp. 165-175.

-G. Hanotaux: (vol 5 written by H. Deherain): Histoire de la Nation Egyptienne; Paris; Librairie Plon; 1931.

-Yaqut al-Hamawi: Mu’Ajam al-Buldan; Wustenfeld Edition; in six volumes; Leipzig; 1866.

-B. Hetherington: A Chronicle of Pre-Telescopic Astronomy; John Wiley and Sons; Chichester; 1996.

-J. Hirschberg; J. Lippert, and E. Mittwoch: Die arabischen Lehrbucher der Augenheilkunde; Abhdl. Der preussischen Akademie, Chiefly pp. 12; 73-84; 1905.

-A Issa Bey: Histoire des hopitaux en Islam; Beirut; Dar ar ra’id al’arabi; 1981.

-Ibn Jubayr: Rihla; W. Wright edition; Leiden; 1852.

-L. Leclerc: Histoire de la Medecine Arabe; 2 vols; Paris; 1876.

-G. Le Strange: Palestine under the Moslems; Alexander P. Watt; London; 1890.

-R.S. Mackensen: `Background of the History of Muslim libraries,' in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 52 (October 1935); pp. 22-33.

-G. Makdisi: The Rise of Colleges, Edinburgh University Press; 1981.

-M. Marmura: Al-Farabi: Dictionary of the Middle Ages; Dictionary of the Middle Ages; J.R. Strayer Editor in Chief; Charles Scribner’s Sons; New York; 1982 fwd.

-L.A. Mayer: Muslim architects and their works; Albert Kundig; Geneva; 1956.

-M. Morsy: North Africa 1800-1900; Longman; London; 1984.

-J. Pedersen: The Arabic Book, (1928) tr., by Geoffrey French; Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey (1984).

-B. Rosenfeld and E. Ihsanoglu: Mathematicians, astronomers and other scholars of Islamic civilisation; Research Centre for Islamic History, art and Culture; Istanbul; 2003.

-S. Runciman: A History of the Crusades; Cambridge University Press; 1951 fwd.

-G. Sarton: Introduction to the History of Science; The Carnegie Institute; Washington.

-J. Sauvaget: Alep, Essai sur le development d’une Grande Ville; Geuthner; Paris; 1941.

-M. Sibai: Mosque Libraries: An Historical Study: Mansell Publishing Limited: London and New York: 1987.

-M. Sobernheim: Halab; Encyclopaedia of Islam; Old Series; vol 3; 233-7.

-Y. Tabba: Monuments with a message, in The Meeting of Two Worlds; ed V.P. Goss; Kalamazoo; Michigan; 1986; pp. 223-40.

-D. Talbot Rice: Islamic Art; Thames and Hudson; London; 1979.

-The First and second Crusades from an Anonymous Syriac Chronicle: Translated by A.S. Tritton; with notes by H.A.R. Gibb; Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society (JRAS) 1933; pp. 69-101.

-A. Whipple: The Role of the Nestorians and Muslims in the History of Medicine. Microfilm-xerography by University Microfilms International Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. 1977.

-F. Wustenfeld: Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze und Naturforscher; Gottingen; 1840.

Figure 10. Aleppo Citidel (Source)


[1] Al-Muqaddasi: Ahssan Attaqassim; p. 155; in G. le Strange: Palestine under the Moslems; Alexander P. watt; London; 1890; pp. 360-1.

[2] Idrisi; p. 25 in G. Le Strange; p. 363.

[3] Ibn Jubayr: Rihla; W. Wright edition; Leiden; 1852; p. 252.

[4] Yaqut al-Hamawi: Mu’Ajam al-Buldan; Wustenfeld Edition; in six volumes; Leipzig; 1866; ii; 304.

[5] Yaqut; 1; 792.

[6] Yaqut; ii; 308.

[7] Ibn Hawqal; p. 117; in G. Le Strange: Palestine; op cit; p. 361.

[8] Dimashki: Kitab nukhbat al-dahr fi ajaib al-barr wal bahr (Selection of the age on the wonders of the land and the Sea); edited by A.F. Mehren; quarto, 375 p.  St Petersburg; 1866; at p. 202.

[9] Nasir Khusraw; 2 in G. Le Strange; Palestine; op cit; p. 362.

[10] Ibn Butlan in Yaqut Al-Hamawi: Mu’ajam; op cit; ii; pp. 306-308.

[11] M. Sobernheim: Halab; Encyclopaedia of Islam; 1st Series; Vol 3; 233-7; at p. 234.

[12] Ibid; at p. 235.

[13] M. S. Briggs: Architecture, in The Legacy of Islam, edited by T. Arnold and A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first edition, 1931, pp. 155-79; at p. 157.

[14] Ibid, pp. 167-8.

[15] Yaqut al-Hamawi: Mu’Ajam al-Buldan; Wustenfeld Edition; in six volumes; Leipzig; 1866; ii; 310.

[16] M. Sobernheim: Halab; op cit; p. 235.

[17] J. Gonnella: The Citadel of Aleppo: Recent Studies; in H. Kennedy ed: Muslim Military Arachitecture in Greater Syria, Brill; 2006; pp. 165-175; at p. 166.

[18] Ibn al Shihna: al Dur al muntakhab; 49; in J. Gonnella; p. 172.

[19] M. Sobernheim: Halab; p. 235.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid; p. 236.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] M. Sibai: Mosque Libraries: An Historical Study: Mansell Publishing Limited: London and New York; 1987, p. 71.

[28] R.S. Mackensen: `Background of the History of Muslim libraries,' in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 52 (October 1935) 22-33, p. 24.

[29] Y. Eche: Les Bibliotheques Arabes, Publiques et Semi Publiques en Mesopotamie, en Syrie et en Egypte au Moyen Age. Damascus: Institut Francais. 1967, p. 134.

[30] G. Makdisi: The Rise of Colleges, Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

[31] B. Dodge: Muslim Education in Medieval times; The Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C. 1962, p. 23.

[32] J. Pedersen: The Arabic Book, (1928) tr., by Geoffrey French; Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey (1984), p. 128.

[33] M. Sobernheim: Halab; p. 236.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Kamal Eddin: Histoire d’Alep; translated with additional notes by E. Blochet; Paris; Ernest Leroux; Editeur; Paris; 1900, pp. 235-7.

[37] Ibid.

[38] S.M Hossain: A Plea for a Modern Islamic university: Resolution of the Dichotomy; in Aims and Objectives of Islamic education: Edited by S M al-Naquib al-Attas: Hodder and Stoughton, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah. 1977, pp. 91-103; at p. 100.

[39] M. Sobernheim: Halab; p. 236.

[40] A Issa Bey: Histoire des hopitaux en Islam; Beirut; Dar ar ra’id al’arabi; 1981; p. 190.

[41] Ibid 205.

[42] Ibid 205 fwd.

[43] A. Whipple: The Role of the Nestorians and Muslims in the History of Medicine. Microfilm-xerography by University Microfilms International Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. 1977, p. 91.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Isa Bey: Histoire; op cit; p. 208.

[46] Ibid.

[47] E. Ashtor: A Social and Economic History of the Near East in the Middle Ages; Collins; London; 1976, p. 244.

[48] Ibid; p. 245.

[49] Ibid.

[50] As can be found, for instance, in D. Talbot Rice: Islamic Art; Thames and Hudson; London; 1979.

[51] L.A. Mayer: Muslim architects and their works; Albert Kundig; Geneva; 1956.

[52] Ibid; pp. 35; 36; 37; 42; 60; 66; 74; 96; 103; 117; and 133.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Carra de Vaux: Al-Farabi; in Encyclopaedia of Islam; vol. 2, 1913; pp. 53-5.

[55] M. Marmura: Al-Farabi: Dictionary of the Middle Ages; Dictionary of the Middle Ages; J.R. Strayer Editor in Chief; Charles Scribner’s Sons; New York; 1982 fwd., p. 9.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibn Khallikan: Wafayat al-Ayan wa-Anba Abna al-Zaman, Biographical Dictionary, tr., M. De Slane Duprat, Paris and Allen & Co., London, 1843; iii. 309-10.

[58] W. Durant: The Age of Faith, Simon and Shuster, New York; 6th printing; 1950; p.  253.

[59] M. Marmura: Al-Farabi; op cit; p. 10.

[60] G. Sarton: Introduction to the History of Science; The Carnegie Institute; Washington; vol 1; p. 628.

[61] M. Marmura: Al-Farabi; op cit; p. 10.

[62]  Friedrich Dieterici: Alfarabi's philosophische Abhandlungen; in Die Philosophie der Araber, vols. 14-15, Leiden, 1890-1892. Arabic text and German translation of nine small treatises, including "the bezels of philosophy." p.  219).

[63] P.M. Bouyges: Sur le De scientlis recemment edite en arabe a Saida et sur le De divisione philosophiae de Gundissalinus; in Melanges de l'Universite St. Joseph, vol.9, pp. 49-69, Beirut; 1924.

[64] W. Durant: The Age; op cit; p. 253.

[65] See Liber Alpharabii de ortu scientiarum, as translated c. 1130-1150 by Gundisalvi; ISIS, IV, 135.

[66] A. Gonzales Palencia: Alfarabi Catalogo de las Ciencias. Edicion y traduccion Castellana, Madrid 1932.

[67] H.G. Farmer: The Arabian Influence on musical theory; in Journal of Royal Asiatic Society; 1925; pp. 61-80. and Sarton I; p. 628.

[68] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 1; op cit; p. 628.

[69] M. Marmura: Al-Farabi; p. 10.

[70] W. Durant: The Age; op cit; p. 254.

[71] Ibid.

[72] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[73] L. Leclerc: Histoire de la Medecine Arabe; 2 vols; Paris; 1876; vol II; p. 193.

[74] Ibid; p. 194.

[75] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[76] L. Leclerc: Histoire; II; op cit; p. 194.

[77] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[78] L. Leclerc: Histoire; II; op cit; p. 194.

[79] Ibid; p. 195.

[80] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[81] 518 pp; Berlin; 1903.

[82] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[83] L. Leclerc: Histoire; op cit; II; p. 196.

[84] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 684.

[85] L. Leclerc II; p. 198.

[86] G. Sarton: Introduction; op cit; vol 2; p. 683.

[87] See: E. Blochet: l’Histoire d’Alep de Kamaladdin; Revue de l’Orient Latin; 1896 to 1899; French Transation.

[88] G. Sarton: Introduction; op cit; vol 2; p. 684.

[89] Ibid; p. 683.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Kamal Eddin: Zubdat al-Halab fi ta’arikh Halab; II; pp. 187-90.

[92] M. Levey: Early Arabic Pharmacology; E. J. Brill; Leiden, 1973, p. 129.

[93] L. Leclerc: Histoire; op cit; vol 2; p. 145.

[94] M. Levey: Early Arabic; op cit; p. 129.

[95] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1101.

[96] Leclerc: Histoire; vol 2; p. 146.

[97] Ibid; p. 147.

[98] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1101.

[99] L. Leclerc: Histoire; op cit; vol 2; p. 146.

[100] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1101.

[101] L. Leclerc: Histoire; op cit; vol 2; p. 146.

[102] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1102.

[103] Ibid.

[104] See J. Hirschberg; J. Lippert, and E. Mittwoch: Die arabischen Lehrbucher der Augenheilkunde; Abhdl. Der preussischen Akademie, 1905; Chiefly pp. 12; 73-84.

See also G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; pp. 1101-2.

[105] L. Leclerc: Histoire; op cit; vol 2; p. 146.

[106] Ibid.

[107] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1101.

[108] B. Hetherington: A Chronicle of Pre-Telescopic Astronomy; John Wiley and Sons; Chichester; 1996, p. 159.

[109] See: A. Jourdain: Memoire sur l’observatoire de Maragha et les instruments employes pour y observer; in Magasins encyclopedique; vol 6; 43 etc; 1809; Paris; 1810.

[110] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; op cit; p. 1013.

[111] Ibid.

[112] Ibid; p. 1014.

[113] See F. Wustenfeld: Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze und Naturforscher; Gottingen; 1840; p. 120.

[114] Ibn Abi Usaibiya: Wafayat al-Iyan; Muller’s edition; vol 2; 1884; p. 185.

[115] In L. Leclerc: Histoire; vol 2; op cit; p. 161.

[116] G. Sarton: Introduction; vol 2; p. 624.

[117] Ibid.

[118] B. Hetherington: A Chronicle; op cit; p. 172.

[119] B. Rosenfeld and E. Ihsanoglu: Mathematicians, astronomers and other scholars of Islamic civilisation; Research Center for Islamic History, art and Culture; Istanbul; 2003; p. 281.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Unauthored note in Encyclopaedia of Islam; first series; vol 3; p. 236.

[124] Ibid.

[125] The First and second Crusades from an Anonymous Syriac Chronicle: Translated by A.S. Tritton; with notes by H.A.R. Gibb; Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society (JRAS) 1933; pp. 69-101; at p. 96.

[126] Ibid.

[127] S. Runciman: A History of the Crusades; Cambridge University Press; 1951 fwd; vol ii; p. 175.

[128] C. Hillenbrand: The Crusades; Islamic Perspectives; Edinburgh; 2001; p. 109.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Ibn al-'Adim: Zubda, op cit; Dahan edition; vol II, p. 185.

[131] Ibid, 188-9.

[132] C. Hillenbrand: The Crusades, op cit; p.110.

[133] N. Elisseeff: Nur Ad Din, Un Grand Prince Musulman de Syrie au Temps des Croisades; Damascus; 1967.

[134] See, for instance:

 The First and second Crusades from an Anonymous Syriac Chronicle; op cit.

Ibn al-Qalanisi: Dayl tarikh Dimashk; ed. H.F. Amedroz; Leiden; 1908.

S. Runciman: A History of the Crusades, Cambridge University Press; 1951 fwd.

[135] S. Runciman: A History; vol ii; op cit; p. 326.

[136] Ibid; p. 328.

[137] I.M. Lapidus: Muslim Cities in the later Middle Ages: Harvard University Press; Cambridge Mass; 1967; p. 14.

[138] For details on Christian-Mongol alliance, and Mamluk opposition to it, see:

  • J. Curtin: The Mongols; A History; Greenwood Press Publishers; Westport; 1907.
  •  Ibn Taymiyya: Majmuat fatawa Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad b. Taymiyya, Riyadh, 1383 H.
  • Ibn Taghri Birdi: Al-Nujum al-Zahira fi Muluk Misr wa’l Qahira; Cairo; 1938; vol vii.
  • A.A. Khowaiter: Baibars the First; The Green Mountain Press; London; 1978.
  • P. Pelliot: Mongols and Popes; 13th and 14th centuries; Paris; 1922.
  • P. Pelliot: Les Mongols et la Papaute; in Revue d’Orient Chretien; 1923-4; and 1931-2.
  • Baron Henrion: Histoire generale des missions Catholiques depuis le XIII siecle jusqu'a nos jours (1846).
  • J. Fiey: Chretiens Syriaques entre Francs et Mongols, in Orientalia Chris. Analecta, no197, 1974, pp. 334-41.
  • Kirakos de Gantzac; in Journal Asiatique; 1858.
  • Grigor of Akanc:  History of the Nation of the Archers; tr. R.P. Blake; and R.N. Frye; in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies; 12; 1949; pp. 269-399.
  • Ibn Abd Al-Zahir: Al- Rawd al-zahir fi sirat al-malik al-zahir; ed. A.A. Khuwaiter, Riyadh; 1976.
  • Ibn Wasil: Mufarrij al-Kurub fi Akhbar bani Ayyub; text Ms Paris Ar. 1702. There is also a three volume edition of the work by al-Shayyal; Cairo 1954-62.
  • J.M. Fiey: Chretiens Syriaques sous les Mongols; Louvain; 1975.
  • J.J. Saunders: The History of the Mongol Conquests; Routlege & Kegan Paul; London; 1971.
  • G. D’Ohsson: Histoire des Mongols; Les Freres Van Cleef; Amsterdam; 1834.
  • L. Hambis: Saint Louis et les Mongols; in JRAS; 1970; pp. 25-33.

[139] Bar Hebraeus: The Chronography of abu’l Farradj… Bar Hebraeus; 2 vols; English tr. E.A. Budge Wallis; Oxford University Press; 1932; vol 1; p. 555.

[140] J. Glubb: A Short History of the Arab People; op cit; p. 207.

[141] J. Curtin: The Mongols A History; Greenwood Press Publishers; Westport; 1907; p. 265.

[142] S. Runciman: A History; op cit; p. 306.

[143] J. Curtin: The Mongols; op cit; p. 265.

[144] J. Glubb: A Short History; op cit; p. 207.

[145] P. Thorau: The Lion of Egypt; tr. by P.M. Holt; Longman; London; 1992; p. 67.

[146] Ibid.

[147] Bar Hebraeus: Chronography; I; p. 435; Ibn Wasil: Mufaraj; BN 1703; ff. 148v-150v.

[148] Ibid.

[149] I.M. Lapidus: Muslim Cities; op cit; p. 14.

[150] E. Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Methuen and Co Ltd; vol VII; 1920; pp. 55-6.

[151] G. Hanotaux: (vol 5 written by H. Deherain): Histoire de la Nation Egyptienne; Paris; Librarie Plon; 1931. p. 254.

[152] G. Hanotaux/H. Deherain; p. 204.

[153] M. Morsy: North Africa 1800-1900; Longman; London; 1984; p. 94-5.

[154] J. Miot: Memoires pour servir a l’Histoire des expeditions en Egypte et en Syrie; Paris; 1814; in N. Daniel: Islam, Europe and Empire; Edinburgh University Press; 1966; p. 106.

[155] N. Daniel: Islam, Europe and Empire; Edinburgh University Press; 1966, p. 107.

[156] Ibid.

[157] M Morsy: North Africa; op cit; pp. 94-5

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