Abstract - The Stellar and Lunar keys to Medieval Muslim Agriculture
Dr Zohor Idrisi
This lecture examines the origins of the lunar zodiac, known as manazil al-qamar, and traces its development between the 8th and 11th centuries from a mere system of Arab folkloric asterisms, used as seasonal markers, to a coherent concept for fixing locations and determining agricultural almanacs.
The lunar Zodiac consists of 28 mansions comprising the constellations in which the moon is stationed each night. Muslim scholars named these constellations, thereby creating a basic tool with a plethora of information for the farmer, wherever he might be. The literary evidence shows how this lunar Zodiac calendar was put into poetry to guide him in recognising the risings and the settings of the constellations crossed by the moon, in order to complete his tasks on the ground and to help him recognise the positive or negative influence of the constellations on the environment. He knew that the moon moves from one constellation to another, thus influencing the taste, the colour, the juice and the eventual shelf-life of the plant products. Thus, guided by stars he would know when to plough, to plant, to fertilise, to graft and to harvest. Also he knew when to make jams and syrups, when to start the distillation of his perfumes, what to wear, what to eat, when to exercise and where in the house he should reside. Hence his relationship with the environment was always in harmony with the sky map he carried in his head.
In this context, the heavens were approached as a map, as a guide to accomplish given tasks, whilst the astronomers focused on theoretical matters such as time-reckoning, determining coordinates for navigation, and fixing the location of the qibla.
by: Dr. Zohor Idrisi, Sat 19 June, 2010